23 September 2019

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Politics

Sunday September 8, 2019
Kabul (BNA) U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said he called off peace negotiations with the Taliban after the group claimed responsibility for the Kabul car bombing which killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
In a series of tweets, Trump said he also cancelled a "secret meeting" with the Taliban representatives and a separate meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David on Sunday.
"Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight," he said.
"Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great-great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations," Trump said in another tweet.
Attacking the Taliban, the U.S. President said, "What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn't, they only made it worse! If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don't have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway. How many more decades are they willing to fight?", Trump also said in another tweet.
The U.S. has been negotiating with the Taliban in the last few months at Doha despite the group's reluctance to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, which it views as a US puppet.
Earlier this week, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said that the Trump administration had reached a deal 'in principle' to withdraw over 5,000 troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees by the Taliban to not allow the war-torn country to be used as a base for attacks abroad.
M.A.Ansari

 

Saturday September 7, 2019
Kabul (BNA) President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said that has “regretfully” accepted the resignation of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief after four members of a family were killed in an operation in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province and a separate blast martyred 10 civilians and injured 42 others in Shashdarak area of Kabul on Thursday. President Ghani made the announcement in a tweet on September 5, insisting that Mohammad Masoum Stanekzai, the head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), “had success in other areas of his work.” “As a responsible state, we have zero tolerance for civilian casualties,” he also said. The move comes after officials and residents of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, said that NDS forces had killed four brothers in an overnight raid for allegedly having links with the extremist group Islamic State (IS). But some officials and local residents rejected any suggestion the brothers were linked to IS militants.
There has been no let-up in violence in the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan, even though U.S. and Taliban officials are said to be in an intense final phase of efforts toward a peace deal to end the conflict. More than 3,800 civilians were killed or injured during the first six months of this year along, according to the United National Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). In a separate tweet, President Ghani said he had “ordered the attorney general to investigate this incident immediately and to bring the perpetrators to justice.” “The tragic incident in Jalalabad occurred despite previous assurances and changes in guidelines vis-à-vis security and search operations,” he also wrote. Also, on September 5, at least 12 people were killed including a U.S. and a Romanian soldier and dozens more injured when a car bomb strucked a checkpoint in Kabul in an area that houses, embassies, government buildings and local NATO headquarters. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing the second major Taliban attack in the city in a single week.

Saturday, September 07, 2019
Kabul (BNA) India and Russia on September 4 supported all efforts for inclusive peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan.
Addressing a joint press meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “India wants to see an Afghanistan which is safe, stable, peaceful, independent, undivided and democratic.”
He also underlined that both the countries are against “outside influence” in the internal matters of any nation.
“India and Russia support all efforts for an inclusive peace and Afghan-led and Afghan-=owned reconciliation in Afghanistan,” according to a joint statement issued by the two countries.
Both the sides expressed their commitment to an early peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, it said.
India and Russia expressed their “determination to achieve this goal by continuing cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Afghanistan Contact Group and other internationally recognized formats, and their support for the intra Afghan dialogue launched in Moscow in February 2019”.
Calling for immediate cessation of violence in Afghanistan, the two countries said they will continue intensive discussions on the Afghan issue and encourage all interested states in their efforts to make peace process in Afghanistan broad based, preserve the constitutional order, bring durable peace and to turn Afghanistan into a peaceful, the US envoy leading efforts to forge a deal with the Taliban, has spent about a year meeting with the Taliban in Doha in a series of talks aimed at ending America’s 18-year old war in Afghanistan.
The deal which is closer to being clinched centers on a US troop withdrawal in return for several security guarantees from the Taliban, broader peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government, and an eventual ceasefire.

Friday September 6, 2019
Kabul (BNA) The United States is negotiating its withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban but after 18 years, several thousand US personnel could remain to prevent the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda from using the country as a base for staging global attacks.
The negotiations aim to bring an end to fighting against the Taliban, who controlled the country when Al-Qaeda, based in the southern city of Kandahar, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
Still protected by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda remains active in parts of Afghanistan, complemented by jihadists from IS, and Washington experts say pressure has to be maintained on them through an ongoing US counter-terrorism presence.
"The Taliban at the end of the day wants the entire US military footprint to disappear," said Michael Kugleman, senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center think tank.
However, he said, the US needs to continue pressuring Islamic State and Al-Qaeda from inside the country "just as, if not more, robustly as it has been tackling it over the previous years."
"You certainly don't need a huge a military footprint to tackle the current terror threat in Afghanistan," he said.
"You need at least a few thousand. A lot of it depends on the capacity of the Afghan security forces."
The first outlines of an agreement under negotiation in Qatar have Washington reducing its current 13-14,000 troop levels to 8,600, and completely exiting five bases, over 135 days.
- Avoiding 'withdrawal' word -
That would be contingent on the Taliban meeting their commitment to reducing the level of violence -- basically halting their attacks on US and Afghan government targets.
Further drawdowns would depend on negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
But General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that not every American would leave, because of the ongoing threat from designated terror groups operating in Afghanistan.
"I'm not using the 'withdrawal' word right now," Dunford said.
"I'm using, we're going to make sure that Afghanistan is not a sanctuary, and we're going to try to have an effort to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan."
Trump came into office promising a full withdrawal from the seemingly unending wars in the Middle East and South Asia.
But the reality is that groups like Al-Qaeda and IS, which is also known as ISIS and has a potent branch in Afghanistan, require constant pressure.
How much pressure depends a lot on the strength of Afghan government forces and whether the Taliban are willing to give up their support for Al-Qaeda and even cooperate in fighting Islamic State, said Kugleman.
"The biggest terrorism threat in Afghanistan right now is ISIS," he said, describing Al-Qaeda as "a shadow of its former self."
One key worry, he said, is whether Taliban hardliners who disagree with striking a deal with the United States and the Kabul government, will defect to join IS.
Still, he added, "I really don't see ISIS posing the global threat that you had with Al-Qaeda back in the 1990s. There are too many constraints."
Former US ambassadors to Afghanistan on Tuesday sounded their own warning against a full withdrawal.
"While some reduction of troop numbers is possible to start negotiations, counterterrorism forces and US/NATO airpower need to remain to deal with the terrorist threat of IS (and al-Qaeda) as much as the Taliban," they said in a joint statement.
A post-deal US security presence in Afghanistan would mean less uniformed regular military troops and more focus on Special Forces, CIA paramilitary units, intelligence collectors and analysts, and air support.
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggests that the US and allies could still need to have 3,000 to 6,000 people on the ground, dispersed based on the location of threats, surveillance demands and air support operations.
"I think that three or four large bases (Bagram, Kandahar, ideally Khost and Jalalabad, with some allied capability up north and west) would roughly do it," he told AFP in an email.
"If you think of 1,000 to 1,500 people per base in rough numbers that gives a sense of the needed scale," he said.
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