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Monday, September 20, 2021

Afghanistan Highlights: Taliban says it has surrounded resistance fighters in Panjshir, calls for peace

Afghanistan Highlights: Since the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Islamist group, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 2, 2021 7:18:57 am
Taliban forces patrol near the entrance gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport, a day after U.S troops withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan Aug. 31, 2021. (Reuters)

Afghanistan Highlights: The Taliban has surrounded the only remaining province resisting its rule, a senior leader said on Wednesday, calling on rebels to negotiate a settlement with the group. According to Reuters, in a recorded speech addressed to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels to put down their weapons.

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Islamist group, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.

Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the US military intervention in Afghanistan had achieved nothing but tragedy and loss of life on all sides and showed it was impossible to foist foreign values on other nations. In other news, around the time the last US soldier was exiting Kabul, the United Nations Security Council, under India’s presidency, adopted a resolution that gave de facto recognition to the Taliban as a state actor in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan Highlights: Islamabad fears rise in militant attacks along Afghan-Pakistan border; US completes withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years; India officially talks to Taliban in Doha. Follow updates here:

20:28 (IST)01 Sep 2021
New era for Afghanistan starts with long queues, rising prices

As Kabul began a new era of Taliban rule, long queues outside banks and soaring prices in the bazaars underlined the everyday worries now facing its population after the spectacular seizure of the city two weeks ago.

For the Taliban, growing economic hardship is emerging as their biggest challenge, with a sinking currency and rising inflation adding misery to a country where more than a third of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

Even for the relatively well-off, with many offices and shops still shut and salaries unpaid for weeks the daily struggle to put food on the table has become an overwhelming preoccupation. Read the full report here.

Afghans line up outside a bank to take out their money after the Taliban takeover in Kabul, Afghanistan September 1, 2021. (Reuters)
19:02 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Intelligence was Afghan capital would not fall this year, UK foreign minister says

Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab said the intelligence assessment was that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year as he defended Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban swept across the country much more quickly. "The central assessment that we were operating to... is that the most likely, the central proposition was that, given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point, and that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year," Raab told an emergency session of the foreign affairs select committee. (Reuters)

17:34 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Panjshir: Taliban says it has surrounded Afghan resistance fighters, calls for peace    

The Taliban has surrounded the only remaining province resisting its rule, a senior leader said on Wednesday, calling on rebels to negotiate a settlement with the group. According to Reuters, in a recorded speech addressed to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels to put down their weapons.

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Islamist group, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.

Militiamen loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, take part in a training exercise, in Panjshir province, northeastern Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (AP)
17:27 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Afghanistan situation: Jaishankar speaks to British counterpart 

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his British counterpart Dominic Raab on Wednesday on the situation in Afghanistan, their second such conversation in a week. India has been in constant touch with all major countries on the fast-paced developments in Afghanistan, particularly after the Taliban took control of the country on August 15. (PTI)

16:14 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Russia's Putin says US Afghan foray achieved nothing but tragedy

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the US military intervention in Afghanistan had achieved nothing but tragedy and loss of life on all sides and showed it was impossible to foist foreign values on other nations.

"US forces were present on this territory for 20 years and for 20 years tried ... to civilise the people who live there, to instil their own norms and standards of life in the widest possible sense of this word, including when it comes to the political organisation of society," Putin was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"The result is only tragedies and losses of life for those who did it, the United States, and even more so for those people who live on the territory of Afghanistan. The result is zero, if not a negative one all round."

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP)

15:40 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Afghanistan central bank board member urges Biden, IMF to release funds    

A senior board member of Afghanistan's central bank is urging the US Treasury and the International Monetary Fund to take steps to provide the Taliban-led government limited access to the country's reserves or risk economic disaster, news agency Reuters reported.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, but it appears unlikely that the militants will get quick access to most of the roughly $10 billion in assets held by Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), which are mostly outside of the country.

14:29 (IST)01 Sep 2021
UK in talks with Taliban for evacuations as it launches Operation Warm Welcome

The UK government is in discussions with the Taliban to secure safe passage for remaining British nationals and eligible Afghan evacuees and has launched "Operation Warm Welcome" for refugees from Afghanistan, Downing Street said on Wednesday.

The talks, involving UK officials and "senior" Taliban members, are said to be taking place in Doha, Qatar, and additionally, Britain is also sending 15 "crisis response specialists" to neighbouring Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to assist British diplomats in their work to allow people to reach the UK via third countries.

The focus is on helping UK nationals, interpreters and other Afghans who were employed by the UK. (PTI)

14:26 (IST)01 Sep 2021
In photos: Anas Haqqani visits Bagram prison

Social media posts show Anas Haqqani, a Taliban commander, visiting Bagram prison in former US military base.

13:55 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Pope Francis criticises imposition of democracy

Pope Francis has criticised the West's recent involvement in Afghanistan as an outsider's attempt to impose democracy — although he's done so by citing Russia's Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting Germany's Angela Merkel.

In a radio interview aired Wednesday, Pope Francis was asked about the new political map taking shape in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies withdrew from the Taliban-controlled country after 20 years of war. The pope said he would answer using a quote that he attributed to the German chancellor, who he described as "one of the world's greatest political figures."

"It's necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing its own values on others and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people's traditions," the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish. But the quote was pronounced last month by the Russian president in the presence of Merkel, during her visit of the German to Moscow. (AP)

13:03 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Islamabad fears rise in militant attacks along Afghan-Pakistan border

There is growing concern among Pakistani officials about security in neighbouring Afghanistan, as the Taliban tries to form a government and stabilise the country following the departure of US and other foreign forces. Islamabad is particularly worried about militant fighters from a separate, Pakistani Taliban group crossing from Afghanistan and launching lethal attacks on its territory.

“The next two to three months are critical,” a senior Pakistani official said, adding that Islamabad feared a rise in militant attacks along the Afghan-Pakistan border, as the Taliban tried to fill a vacuum left by the collapse of Afghan forces and the Western-backed administration. (Read more)

12:20 (IST)01 Sep 2021
India's month-long Presidency of powerful UNSC ends with 'substantive' outcomes on key global issues

India's month-long Presidency of the powerful UN Security Council has ended with 'substantive' outcomes on key global issues including a strong resolution on the situation in Afghanistan that reflected India's views and concerns, and demanded that the Afghan territory not be used to threaten any country or shelter terrorists.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield congratulated India for a successful presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August. 'Your leadership and resilience saw us through many challenging issues — especially the situation in Afghanistan,' she said. (Read more)

11:43 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Shahid Afridi’s remarks about Taliban’s love for cricket cause uproar

As thousands of Afghans are desperately fleeing the country after Taliban took over, Pakistan’s former cricket captain Shahid Afridi is drawing flak online after finding “positivity” in the militant’s attitude. The cricketer said that compared to the past, Taliban seem to be “positive” this time as they are “allowing women to work, including politics”. As the world seemed concerned with Taliban seizing control, Afridi shared his opinion about the future of cricket in Afghanistan, adding “Taliban support and love cricket.”

Afridi made the remarks while he was speaking to the media in Karachi and said that the next Pakistan Super League (PSL) might be his last. He said he would love to play for Quetta Gladiators, GEO News reported. (Read more)

11:14 (IST)01 Sep 2021
In photos: With no evacuation flights, Afghans weigh risky overland trips to borders

With US troops gone and commercial fights avoiding Kabul's airport, which has no air traffic control, ad hoc private efforts to save thousands of Afghans unmoved by Taliban security assurances are increasingly focused on arranging safe passage across the land-locked country’s borders. 

People arriving from Afghanistan gather at the Friendship Gate crossing point in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan on Aug. 27, 2021. (Reuters)

Many have already set out for Pakistan to the east and south, while others are trying to reach Afghanistan’s borders with Central Asian states.

Afghan nationals stand at the Dowqarun border crossing between Iran and Afghanistan, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran on Aug. 29, 2021. (West Asia News Agency via Reuters)
11:04 (IST)01 Sep 2021
US congressman involved in unauthorised evacuation missions from Afghanistan, says media report

A US congressman Markwayne Mullin reportedly tried to travel to Afghanistan in an unauthorised evacuation mission, according to a Washingtion Post report. Mullin persisted despite efforts by the Pentagon & State Dept to discourage him, it adds.

A statement attributed to his staff says that the lawmaker is safe and "will continue his efforts".

10:36 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Withdrawal from Afghanistan best decision for America, says Joe Biden

United States President Joe Biden said withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan to end the 20-year war was the 'best' and the 'right' decision for America. He said there was no reason to continue in a war that was no longer in the service of the 'vital national interest' of the American people. 

'I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America,' Biden said in his address to the nation from the White House on Tuesday.

'We've been a nation too long at war. If you're 20 years old today, you have never known an America at peace. So, when I hear that we could've, should've continued the so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost, I don't think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation,' he said. (PTI)

10:29 (IST)01 Sep 2021
TOLOnews journalist, who came into limelight after her interview with Taliban leader, flees Afghanistan

A female journalist from Afghanistan Beheshta Arghand, who came into the limelight following her interview with a senior Taliban leader for TOLOnews, has fled the country, according to reports.

Screenshot of Beheshta Arghand's interview with a senior Taliban representative. (Youtube/TOLONews)

Days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the wake of the withdrawal of US troops from the country, Arghand interviewed the leader on August 17. Arghand told The New York Times that she was briefed by her producers to elicit information without challenging the guest. However, in the interview, she questioned him about door-to-door searches in Kabul and the group’s plans for the future. (Read more)

09:54 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Afghans at Indian defence institutes can finish training

Around 120 Afghan nationals, who are training either at defence academies in India or pursuing specialised military courses here, will be allowed to continue with their training. Once they complete their courses, they will be allowed to apply for refugee status in one of the 98 countries that have announced they will accept Afghan nationals.

Sources in the security establishment said on Tuesday that currently there are around 80 Afghan nationals completing their courses in academies such as the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA), Officers Training Academy (OTA), and another around 40 who are pursuing other specialised military courses.

The sources said the Indian government will also “keep supporting financially” all those who are already part of the defence institutes or training academies, as has been the practice with Afghan candidates. (Read more)

09:00 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Post-Afghan withdrawal, India and US can together fight terrorism, says Krishnamoorthi

After the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan bringing to an end its longest war in history, an influential Indian-American lawmaker has said that India and the US can assist each other in the fight against terrorism.

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said the US should continue its counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan so that it will not become a safe haven for terror groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

"India and US can collaborate in fight against terrorism in many ways, including through intelligence gathering and sharing, and also assisting each other with augmenting capabilities to act against terrorists and thwart their plots," he told PTI in an interview.

08:42 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Australia still planning Afghanistan test, says board

Australia are still planning to host Afghanistan in the countries' first ever test, Cricket Australia (CA) said, despite uncertainty raised after the Taliban seized power in the South Asian country. A CA spokesperson said their planning for the Nov. 27 test in Hobart was "well underway".

"There is goodwill between CA and the Afghanistan Cricket Board to make the match happen, which immediately follows the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE in which the Afghanistan team is due to play," the spokesperson said. "CA will continue to work with the Australian and Tasmanian governments ahead of the Afghanistan team’s arrival planned for later this year."

The Taliban have said they will not interfere with the Afghan men's national cricket team, the country's biggest sporting success of recent years, though the fate of the more modest women's cricket programmes remains unclear. (Reuters)

08:20 (IST)01 Sep 2021
Biden says US committed to safe passage for last 100-200 Americans left in Afghanistan

The White House on Tuesday said 98% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to do so, and President Joe Biden affirmed that the United States remained committed to helping the remaining 100 to 200 US citizens who had some intention to leave.

Speaking at the White House, Biden told reporters that most of those people were dual citizens and longtime residents, who had earlier decided to stay in the country given their family roots in Afghanistan.

"For those remaining Americans there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out," Biden said.In his remarks, he noted that 90% of Americans who were in Afghanistan and wanted to leave were able to leave. The White House later updated a transcript of his remarks to show that the correct figure was 98%. (Reuters)


Taliban now control Kabul airport. Will commercial airlines be allowed to operate?

Ever since the US announced that it is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, the Kabul airport has been a nerve centre of activity, witnessing a frenzied, chaotic evacuation. But with the Taliban now having taken control of the airport, speculations are rife about how operations will be run and who will take care of the logistics involved.

According to a Reuters report, the Taliban are holding talks with governments in Qatar and Turkey to seek assistance to continue civilian flight operations. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that repairs need to be made at Kabul airport before it can be reopened to civilian flights.

Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 30, 2021, as the final American service member to depart Afghanistan. (U.S. Central Command via AP)

Leaving Afghanistan, US general’s ghostly image books place in history


Carrying his rifle down by his side, Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, became the last US soldier to board the final flight out of Afghanistan a minute before midnight on Monday.

Taken with a night vision device from a side window of the C-17 transport plane, the ghostly green and black image of the general striding toward the aircraft waiting on the tarmac at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport was released by the Pentagon hours after the United States ended its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.

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