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US troops withdrawal now 50 percent complete: CENTCOM chief

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(Last Updated On: June 8, 2021)

The US has completed about half of its withdrawal from Afghanistan and remains on track to meet the September 11 deadline to leave, US General Frank McKenzie said on Monday.

The head of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said the coming months would be critical for Afghanistan’s future and urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to resume stalled peace talks in Doha.

“We’ve completed about half of the entire retrograde process and we will meet the September deadline to complete the full withdrawal from Afghanistan,” McKenzie said in a call with Middle East-based reporters, the UAE’s The National reported.

“We are on pace and it is continuing very smoothly,” he added.

He said the US would maintain an embassy in Kabul for as long as the Afghan government wanted it there, repeating the Pentagon’s vow to continue supporting the Afghan security forces and to conduct counter-terrorism operations from “over the horizon.”

McKenzie said it was “critical” the Afghan Republic and the Taliban resume peace talks.

“As we pull out, there needs to be something political that’s left in place,” he said.

“The government of Afghanistan is willing to do that. I am not sure the Taliban [are] willing to do that. Now is the time, and unfortunately, time is now becoming very short.”

McKenzie also raised the issue of Iran on Monday and said its “destabilising” activity was the biggest threat to Middle East security.

“Our posture in the region has had a deterrent effect on Iran and made it more difficult for them to deny attribution for their malign activities,” McKenzie said.

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Herat residents welcome much needed food parcels from Bayat Foundation

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

Following the donation of food supplies in southern Kandahar province last week, the Bayat Foundation, an Afghan Charity Organization, has also stepped in to help desperate families in western Herat Province.

The foundation distributed food packages, which included cooking oil, flour, and rice, to dozens of vulnerable families this week.

Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Chairman of the Bayat Foundation, said: “The Bayat Foundation has distributed aid in provinces. We already distributed to vulnerable people in Kandahar. Fortunately, we came here to Herat to distribute aid including flour, cooking oil, and rice to the most vulnerable and displaced people.”

“Inshallah, additional aid from us will be distributed to other zones and provinces as well,” he added.

Zarin Sultani, Head of Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) in Herat, which is working in coordination with the Bayat Foundation, stated: “A list (of other vulnerable families) will be prepared and will be handed over to a committee for assessment.”

“This list will be finalized and then the list will be shared with elders such as Haji Sahib Bayat and Haji Sahib Ismail; thereafter, aid will be provided to them (the families),” he said.

The recipients of the latest delivery expressed their gratitude for the food supplies and thanked the foundation.

Again, recipients appealed to other organizations to step forward with urgent humanitarian aid.

One Herat recipient said she was “very happy” to receive the food parcel as she was a widow with children.

“I am very happy for this aid. I have children and am widowed and there is no place to work,” she said.

Gul Ahmad, a recipient of Bayat Foundation’s aid was another grateful recipient. “We had nothing to cook for four or five days. I am going out [of the house for work] but cannot find any [job]. Now, I am very happy…for this aid that I received.”

The Bayat Foundation started helping needy families months ago and the organization plans to distribute aid to as many vulnerable people in other provinces as it can.

This comes amid a crushing economy that has put millions of Afghans at risk of starvation.

As winter looms, international organizations including the UN have warned of dire consequences unless Afghans get immediate help.

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Pentagon offers payment to families of victims of botched drone strike

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

The Pentagon has offered unspecified condolence payments to the family of 10 civilians who were killed in a botched U.S. drone attack in Afghanistan in August in the final days before American troops withdrew from the country.

The U.S. Defense Department said it made a commitment that included offering ex-gratia condolence payments, in addition to working with the U.S. State Department in support of the family members who were interested in relocation to the United States.

The Pentagon had said the strike targeted an Islamic State (Daesh) suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to U.S.-led troops as they completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The intelligence failure raised hard questions about future risks, particularly whether the United States can keep track of threats from Afghanistan without a presence in the country.

The confirmation of civilian deaths provided further fuel to critics of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal, which generated the biggest foreign policy crisis yet for President Joe Biden’s administration.

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NASA probe will study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)
NASA launched a first-of-its kind mission on Saturday to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of primordial material that formed the solar system’s outer planets. Matthew Larotonda reports.
 
NASA launched a new space probe on Saturday (October 16) morning in a special 12-year mission designed to visit more asteroids than ever before.

It focuses on the Trojan asteroids, which are two large clumps of space rocks orbiting the sun. One floats ahead of Jupiter and the other behind it.

Scientists believe the rocks are leftovers from the formation of our solar system.

The probe is called “Lucy” and NASA hopes it will help us learn more about our solar system’s history.

The asteroids are also rich in carbon compounds, and may provide insights into organic materials and life on Earth.

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