Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Foreign Ministry of Norway has welcomed the joint declaration by Afghan, US and NATO officials in Kabul and the signing of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States.
“The Afghan people deserve peace. We urge the Afghan parties to move swiftly into inclusive peace talks and to end violence,” Norway Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said.
She congratulated the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs on successful mediation and stressed that Norway supports the process.
America should give the peace agreement with the Taliban a chance, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.
In an interview on “Fox & Friends Weekend” with hosts Dean Cain, Pete Hegseth and Jedidiah Bila, Graham said he will believe there is peace when he sees it, but he wants to applaud President Trump for getting the Taliban to the table.
“Let’s give it a try,” he urged. “Eighteen years is a long time, but you’ve gotta remember why we still talk about Afghanistan… That’s the place where the Al Qaeda was invited in by the Taliban as their honored guests to attack us. Without a safe haven in Afghanistan, there would be no 9/11.”
After nearly two decades of conflict, the United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement Saturday that is aimed at ending America’s longest war and will bring U.S. troops home more than 18 years after they invaded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The deal, which was signed by chief negotiators and witnessed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Doha, Qatar, could see the withdrawal of all American and allied forces in the next 14 months and allow the president to keep one of his key 2016 campaign pledges to extract the U.S. from an “endless war.”
The Uzbekistan delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov have held negotiations with the Special Representative of the Federal Government of Germany for Afghanistan Markus Potzel, in Doha, Qatar.
According to Uzbekistan MFA, efforts of Uzbekistan and Germany to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and speedy launch of a peaceful political process in this country were discussed at the meeting.
The Special Representative of Germany highly appreciated the steps taken by the President of Uzbekistan to resolve the Afghan crisis as soon as possible, and to provide practical assistance in implementing various economic projects in Afghanistan.
The German diplomat reiterated the importance of the International Conference on Afghanistan held in Tashkent in March 2018, which led to a noticeable intensification of efforts of the world community in the early launch of the peace negotiations in the IRA.
The United States has no legal standing to sign an agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday, referring to a deal signed between Washington and the insurgent group on Saturday.
Iran welcomes any initiative that helps to secure stability and peace in Afghanistan, but that will only be possible through domestic talks and by taking into consideration the interest of Afghanistan’s neighbours, the ministry said in a statement.
The deal, signed in Qatar, could pave the way towards a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan and represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in the nation.
Pakistan will close its border with Afghanistan for seven days from Monday to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, the country’s embassy in Kabul said.
The announcement came a day after two more people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Pakistan, taking the total number of infections in the country to four.
The border at Chaman in Balochistan will remain closed for seven days from March 2 “in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus on both sides of the border in the best interest of the people of the brotherly countries”, said a statement issued by the Pakistani Ministry of Interior.
“During the period, necessary measures will be taken to safeguard the health of the people of both countries,” it said.
The Pakistani authorities have shut schools in the southern province of Sindh, including in Karachi where the first case was reported, and the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran, The Express Tribune reported.
On February 28, 2020, a meeting of the delegation of Uzbekistan led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov with the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad was held in Doha, Qatar.
According to Uzbekistan MFA, the parties discussed the current situation in Afghanistan, the parties’ efforts to launch the peace political process in this country as soon as possible.
Zalmay Khalilzad noted that Uzbekistan, under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is implementing a completely new policy towards Afghanistan, based on the principles of friendship, good neighborliness and mutual understanding. This is recognized by both the Afghan people and other countries of the world, including the United States.
It was emphasized that U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s recent visit to Uzbekistan gave bilateral Uzbekistan – American relations a new powerful impetus for their further development and determined the main prospects and areas of bilateral cooperation in the Afghan direction.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has met Afghanistan’s acting Finance Minister Abdul Habib Zadran and Deputy Minister of Transport Mohammad Zekria and witnessed the signing of agreements for road projects being carried out with India’s assistance.
In a series of tweets, India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India remains committed to economic and human resource development partnership with Afghanistan.
“Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met Acting Finance Minister Abdul Habib Zadran and Deputy Minister of Transport Mohammad Zekria and witnessed the signing of agreements for road projects in Bamyan and Mazar-e-Sharif provinces of Afghanistan with Indian development assistance,” Kumar said in a tweet.
Shringla on Friday travelled to Kabul and conveyed to the top Afghan leadership India’s unstinted support to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says at least eight suspected cases of coronavirus have been reported during the past 24 hours in Herat, Farah and Logar provinves.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar declared that five cases of this virus were reported in Herat, two in Farah and one in Logar province.
According to the Mayar, the cases were sent to Kabul and their results will be announced in the upcoming 24 hours.
He noted that the so far the results of the examination of all cases of suspected cases have been the same in the laboratories.
This comes as since the outbreak of the virus in Iran, only one positive case has been reported in Herat province.
The Ministry of Communication and the Information Technology (MoCIT) says 700 telecom towers have been reactivated in all across the country during the seven-day Reduction in Violence.
MoCIT in a press release said that based on the statistics of Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) 700 government and private telecom towers have been reactivated.
The Ministry stated that most of these towers were not operating continuously due to the threat of the Taliban before the RiV week.
“The reactivation of the towers had a positive effect on the problems of the citizens in the rural areas,” the press release added.
US former National Security Adviser John Bolton has criticized US peace treaty with the Taliban, arguing it posed an “unacceptable risk to American civilians.”
“Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population,” Bolton tweeted.
“This is an Obama-style deal,” Bolton said, referring to Trump’s predecessor. “Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”
Bolton, long considered a foreign policy hawk, left the Trump administration last fall amid disagreements over the administration’s approach to Afghanistan and other countries.
During a press conference on Saturday, Trump defended himself against Bolton’s criticism. “He should have tried to do something better,” he said of Bolton. “He was here for a year. He could have done something better — I was all ears, and he wasn’t able to do that.”
He also criticized Bolton for his role in pushing conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. “He was very much in favor of going in. We should have never gone in in the first place … when they went into Iraq, when they went into the Middle East in such a fashion, I was very much against it, shouldn’t have gone in. He thought we should have — that’s been proven wrong.”
President Ashraf Ghani says there is no commitment on the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and their release cannot be considered as a pre condition.
Speaking in a press conference at the Presidential Palace, president Ghani said, “Taliban should think again when they call the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan the “Kabul administration.”
He reiterated that the US is facilitating the prisoners’ release, but it is the authority of Afghanistan government to decide on it.
President declared that a delegation that will go to Doha will represent Afghanistan’s basic values and the effectiveness of the team should be considered when it comes to the number of its members.
“The authority of the delegation is determined by Kabul–it will have relative authority,” he said.
Ghani emphasised that the discussions about a negotiating team have already begun, and he is confident that the team will be formed within the next nine days.
He added that the reduction in violence will continue and he hopes it will become a ceasefire.
Australia welcomes the announcement that the United States and the Taliban have signed an agreement on steps toward a political settlement in Afghanistan, and that the Afghan government and US representatives in Kabul have agreed on next steps.
“Australia supports agreements and processes that aim to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of conflict,” Australian Foreign Ministery said in a press release.
“We call on the Taliban to continue to reduce violence and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government in good faith,” the press release added.
In the meantime, François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed the peace deal between US and Taliban.
“Afghans deserve to be free from violence and conflict. After decades of war, there a need to forge a peaceful path forward as the country enters into Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace talks,” Champagne said.
“We encourage all parties to seize this moment for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Canada has always been a steadfast partner of Afghanistan,” the Canadian minister added.
On the other hand, Qatar welcomed the signing of the peace agreement by the United States and the Taliban in Doha, and considers it an important first step to complete the comprehensive and sustainable peace process in Afghanistan.
“Qatar is looking forward to completing the peace process in Afghanistan in the near future and considers it important that this process includes all the spectrum of the Afghani regions and societal sectors to ensure a prosperous future for the friendly Afghani people,” Qatar’s Foreign Ministery said in a statement.
The US and Taliban agreement includes direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including on a permanent ceasefire, and measures to prevent international terrorist organisations including Al Qaeda and Daesh from operating in Afghanistan.
U.S. President Donald Trump says American troops will “immediately” begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan following the signing of a historic agreement with the Taliban that could end the country’s 18-year war.
“Today — They will start immediately,” Trump told reporters at the White House on February 29 when asked when the soldiers will start to leave Afghanistan.
“No one should be criticizing this deal, after 19 years,” Trump said, adding that he will “be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not-so-distant future,” without being specific.
The comments came hours after an agreement was signed by the leader of the political wing of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and Washington’s chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The White House took a victory lap Saturday saying the president had come good on his promise of ending endless wars with the conclusion of the Afghan agreement, which, it said, was a “historic opportunity for peace” and the United States will be “closely” watching the Taliban to ensure compliance.
The White House said in a note released shortly after that the president “is making good on his promise to bring our troops home from endless wars overseas by working toward peace in Afghanistan”.
Trump ran for president on the promise of ending America’s long-running wars such as the one in Afghanistan and bring troops home.
He has appeared to have been in a hurry and faced criticism earlier for engaging with the Taliban directly in an unprecedented move, cutting out the Afghan government.
He was also criticized for wanting to withdraw troops from Syria after prematurely declaring victory against the Islamic State.