Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The United States has seen a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan during the past six days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, one day before Washington hopes to sign a U.S.-Taliban deal on an American troop withdrawal.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Trump administration policies on Iran, Iraq and use of force.”
Pompeo’s remark suggested that if the lull continues for a full week as intended, it will be possible to sign the pact as part of a wider effort to promote intra-Afghan reconciliation and to end the United States’ longest war.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday warned Iran not to scuttle an upcoming agreement with the Taliban, accusing the US adversary of seeking to be a “spoiler.”
Pompeo confirmed that a one-week partial truce was holding with the Taliban, who are scheduled to sign the landmark accord with the United States in Qatar on Saturday.
“There is a history of Iran engaging in activity inside of Afghanistan to act as a spoiler,” Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“We’ve seen just these last six days a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan and we are watching closely to see if the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to take even more active measure that undermine our efforts at peace and reconciliation,” he said.
He warned that Iran could increase risks for US troops, whose numbers are expected to be sharply scaled down under the Doha agreement.
A day ahead of signing of a landmark peace deal between the US and the Taliban, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday travelled to Kabul and conveyed India’s unstinted support to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The foreign secretary held talks with acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Haroon Chakhansuri and apprised him about India’s views on the peace deal as well as its commitment for all-round development of the country.
The US and the Taliban are set to sign a peace deal at a ceremony in Doha on Saturday which will provide for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan nearly 18 years after their deployment in the country.
Because of fear of spreading of coronavirus, the Afghan government stopped 20 transit containers at Torkham border.
The clearing agent association, official in Torkham said that after clearing by the Pak custom center at the border when the containers approached the Pak-Afghan sharing border, Torkham to cross, the Afghan border security officials refused to let pass it towards Kabul on the plea that the imported items might have coronavirus that could spread in Afghanistan.
He said they had been told that on the direction of their highups, they blocked the entry of the 20 transit containers.
U.S. Central Command has issued travel restrictions for troops stationed within its area of responsibility across the Middle East and southwest Asia, citing fears about the fast-spreading coronavirus, a defense official said.
The command has canceled all leave and liberty travel planned within the CENTCOM area until further notice, said Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the command. The new restrictions do no impact official or temporary duty travel nor do they impact leave travel to destinations outside the CENTCOM area, such as the continental United States.
“U.S. Central Command is taking multiple prudent measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 coronavirus and to mitigate the operational risk such transmission would pose,” Urban wrote in an emailed statement. “One of those steps is to suspend leave and liberty for U.S. service members within the Central Command area of responsibility.”
Dozens of troops at Buckley Air Force Base were welcomed home on Thursday after spending months in Afghanistan. The Colorado Army National Guard Aviation Unit spent more than a year stationed there.
The 50 servicemen and women deployed in January 2019.
“It feels so good to be home. It’s an honor to see her again, she’s been fighting a good fight, holding it down … my son also,” said one Colorado Army National Guard member.
While overseas, the men and women completed 1,200 missions. This unit also helps in Colorado with floods and wildfires.
The U.S Secretary of Defence and NATO Secretary-General will be visiting Afghanistan as the U.S and Taliban are to sign the peace deal on Saturday, an official said.
Seddiq Seddiqi, a spokesperson to President Palace said the U.S Secretary of Defenses, Mike Esper and the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg will meet President Ghani tomorrow to announce a joint declaration in reference to the peace deal which is going to be signed on the 29th February in Qatar between the U.S and Taliban.
A joint declaration will be announced in Kabul tomorrow while the peace deal is being signed in Doha between the U.S and the Taliban.
Turkmen-Afghan Business Forum was held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan on Feb 27.
The heads and representatives of a number of ministries and agencies of Turkmenistan, including the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry participated to the Forum. Among the participants of the representative delegation of Afghanistan, there were specialists of trade-economic sector of the country and private entrepreneurs.
During the meeting, the parties touched upon a number of contemporary issues of trade and economic nature. The opportunities of expanding the variety of imports and exports between the two countries, enhancement of investments, facilitation of trade procedures, as well as the establishment of direct contacts between the business circles were discussed.
The parties expressed intent to intensify the trade relations in the field of energy, transport and logistics, communications and industry, as well as exchanged views on expanding the cooperation in the oil and gas sector.
The one-week period for a reduction of violence in Afghanistan comes to an end this Saturday and will likely pave the way for an initial agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban.
US officials are hailing a relative calm in the 19-year-old war over the past week, and see it as an opportunity for diplomatic breakthrough with the Taliban.
“In 19 years of war, this is the first week-long break in violence by all sides,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said from the State Department this week.
While the initial plan was to sign the agreement on Saturday, Mr Pompeo has hinted that the deadline may be pushed back by few days. “If it’s successful, we will sign the US-Taliban agreement coordinated with the Government of National Unity on or about February 29th.”
But the extent of the American withdrawal remains in question. While the US Defence Department confirmed that Washington would draw down its troops from the current 12,000 to 8,600 “over time”, the Taliban is expecting a full withdrawal of American forces from the country.
Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan, Ismatulla Irgashev, met with the Ambassador of China, Jiang Yan.
According to Uzbekistan MFA, at the meeting, efforts of Uzbekistan and China to resolve the Afghan crisis, the priority areas of Uzbekistan – China cooperation in implementation of various projects in Afghanistan were discussed.
The Chinese side, praising Uzbekistan’s efforts to launch a political negotiation process in Afghanistan, reaffirmed China’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Afghan crisis.
The Ambassador fully supported the opinion of the Uzbek side on the importance of further involving Afghanistan in regional projects, which will contribute to a general settlement of the situation in the country and restoration of its socio-economic infrastructure.