Afghanistan Situation: Working To – Latest news headlines

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Doing All To Evacuate Indians In Afghanistan: Centre At All-Party Meet

Afghan Crisis: Control over Kabul airport has been split between occupying Taliban forces and US troops.

The government has told 31 opposition parties that the immediate priority is the evacuation of all Indians stranded in Afghanistan, sources said on Thursday afternoon. This was after an all-party meet called by Prime Minister Modi to brief the opposition on the “critical” Afghanistan situation.

Around 15,000 people have contacted the government seeking assistance in fleeing from Afghanistan, sources said, adding that Foreign Minister S Jaishankar had also briefed the opposition about evacuation steps being taken by other nations, such as the United States, Russia and China.

India is trying to evacuate as many people as possible from Afghanistan, Mr Jaishankar was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. He underlined that evacuating Indians is the “top priority”.

“We have undertaken evacuation operations in extremely difficult conditions, especially at the airport. Our immediate concern and task is evacuation, and the long-term interest is the friendship for the Afghan people,” Mr Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.

Sources also said the government had told opposition leaders the Taliban broke promises made to the United States and its allies in Doha in the weeks up to its occupation of Kabul.

Last week – before the Taliban took control of Kabul – news agency Reuters said the Islamist group had agreed to a two-week cease-fire in exchange for President Ashraf Ghani’s resignation and the start of talks on setting up a transitional government.

Apart from Mr Jaishankar, the meeting was attended by Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.

Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge (Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha) and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (party chief in the Lok Sabha) were among the opposition leaders present, as were NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the DMK’s TR Baalu, and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.

India, which has been allowed to operate two flights per day from Kabul, has evacuated over 300 of its citizens so far. A similar number of citizens from other nations have also been brought back.

However, evacuations have been slowed by the volatile security situation in and around the airport in Kabul, control of which is split between occupying Taliban forces and the United States.

The Foreign Ministry has said the government is committed to their safe return, adding that the main challenge is the operational status of the airport. Evacuations have also been affected by the fact that some Indians had not registered on arrival in Kabul, making it difficult to locate them.

The last batch of evacuation flights from Kabul landed in India on Sunday – a special Air Force plane carrying around 168 people, including 107 Indian citizens, was among those flights.

The evacuees also included some Indian Sikhs who had taken refugee at a gurudwara in Kabul.

An Afghan woman who was on the Air Force flight told ANI the situation in her country was “deteriorating”, and that the Taliban had burned down her house.

Indians were also flown in on three other flights – operated by Air India, IndiGo and Vistara. These flights were routed via Tajikistan and Qatar, due to safety concerns over some flight paths.

On August 17, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to monitor the safe evacuation of Indians stranded in Afghanistan.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan 10 days ago, after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the group walked into Kabul with no opposition. This was after a staggeringly fast rout of major cities, and following two decades of war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Since then at least 20 people have died at Kabul airport as thousands rush to flee the country, according to a report by Reuters that quoted an unnamed NATO official.

With input from PTI, Reuters



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Latest News Today – Taliban Hideouts Destroyed In Afghanistan Airstrike

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Video: Taliban Hideouts Destroyed In Afghanistan Airstrike

A hideout used by Taliban insurgents is seen being destroyed in an airstrike by defense forces in a video released by the Afghanistan government on Twitter. Tens of terrorists were killed and wounded in the attack in Zherai district of Kandhar province, it said.

At least 250 such insurgents have been killed while nearly 100 were wounded in battles at several major cities over the past 24 hours, the government has said.

These developments come as the Taliban makes rapid territorial gains amid the US military’s final stage of withdrawal from the war-torn country.

After seizing large tracts of rural territory and capturing key border crossings, the Taliban have besieged provincial capitals. Last night they fired three rockets at the airport in Kandhar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city and a former bastion of the insurgents.

The attack at the airport, an installation vital for the logistical and air support needed to keep the Taliban from overrunning, came as they inched closer to capturing at least two other provincial capitals, including nearby Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.

The Afghanistan government has repeatedly dismissed the Taliban’s steady territorial gains over the summer as “lacking strategic value”.

With inputs from AFP



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Latest News Today – Afghanistan Counting On Indian ‘Military Assistance’ If

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Afghanistan Says May Seek India 'Military Assistance' If Taliban Talks Fail

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government look to be fizzling out.

Highlights

  • But the aid sought would not involve sending troops, Afghan envoy said
  • He said India’s help could be sought for training and technical support
  • One-third of Afghanistan is in active fight with Taliban, said the envoy

New Delhi:

The government of Afghanistan may, at some future point, seek India’s military assistance if talks with the Taliban fail amid a withdrawal of US troops from there, the country’s Ambassador to India has said. He, however, made it clear that the aid sought would not involve sending troops but could be in areas like training and technical support.

Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghanistan government have been holding talks amid the insurgents’ increasing control over the country even as the US looks to wind up its almost two-decade war there by the end of August.

However, the peace talks supposedly taking place in Doha have largely fizzled out, and the Taliban now appear set on a complete military victory, AFP reported today.

“Should we not get to a stage in the peace process with the Taliban, then maybe a time (will come) where we would be seeking India’s military assistance, more military assistance in the years ahead,” Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, told NDTV.

“We are not seeking India’s assistance with sending troops to Afghanistan. Their footprint in Afghanistan to fight our war would not be needed at this stage,” he clarified.

He explained how, for instance, how the Air Force is an area where his country would require assistance in and that more opportunities could be explored on this front. The envoy cited pilot training, for which India is “naturally a place” it would want involvement from.

“India has also, again, helped us with two key components, one was to help with providing us military training (and) scholarships for our cadets,” Mr Mamundzay said.

On the civilian front, he listed the 1,000 annual scholarships India provides, the 20,000-odd Afghan students studying here now, the building of the new Afghan parliament, and the construction of dams, besides other infrastructure projects.

The current situation in Afghanistan is “very dire” and “very problematic”, with the government forces actively fighting the Taliban in around 150 of the 376 districts, the Ambassador said.

“So one-third of the country is in active fight… Over two lakh people have been displaced internally in the country since April 2021 alone, with close to 4,000 killed,” he said.

The insurgents have swept through much of northern Afghanistan in recent weeks and the government now holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be reinforced and resupplied by air, AFP reported today.

The Taliban have, however, said they do not want to battle government forces inside cities.

Referring to the recent killing of 22 government forces personnel, Mr Mamundzay said: “This happened in the province of Faryab last month where 22 of our special forces were brutally murdered by Taliban at a time when they were surrendering.”

“We were under the assumption that Taliban would take the peace process seriously and they would negotiate a lasting and dignified peace with the Afghan government, yet they chose the path of violence.”

On Sunday, India evacuated diplomats and security personnel from its Kandahar consulate in the wake of intense fighting.

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Latest News Today – Joe Biden To Begin US Afghanistan Exit On May 1

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'Time To End Forever War': Joe Biden To Begin US Afghanistan Exit On May 1

“And it’s time to end the forever war,” Joe Biden added.

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he will begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan on May 1 to end America’s longest war, rejecting calls for US forces to stay to ensure a peaceful resolution to that nation’s grinding internal conflict.

In a White House speech, Biden acknowledged that US objectives in Afghanistan had become “increasingly unclear” over the past decade. He set a deadline for withdrawing all 2,500 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan by Sept. 11, exactly 20 years after al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States that triggered the war.

But by pulling out without a clear victory, the United States opens itself to criticism that a withdrawal represents a de facto admission of failure for American military strategy.

“It was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking. We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives,” Biden said, noting that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in 2011 and saying that organization has been “degraded” in Afghanistan.

“And it’s time to end the forever war,” Biden added.

The war has cost the lives of 2,448 American service members and consumed an estimated $2 trillion. U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan peaked at more than 100,000 in 2011.

The Democratic president had faced a May 1 withdrawal deadline, set by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who tried but failed to pull the troops out before leaving office in January. Instead, Biden said the final withdrawal would start on May 1 and end by Sept. 11.

In withdrawing, Biden is embracing risks at the start of his presidency that proved too great for his predecessors, including that al Qaeda might reconstitute itself or that the Taliban insurgency might topple the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”

Meeting NATO officials in Brussels, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said foreign troops under NATO command in Afghanistan will leave in coordination with the U.S. withdrawal by Sept. 11, after Germany said it would match American plans.

Blinken also spoke by phone with Pakistan’s army chief on Wednesday and discussed the peace process, the media wing of Pakistan’s military said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wrote on Twitter that he spoke with Biden and respects the U.S. decision. Ghani added that “we will work with our U.S. partners to ensure a smooth transition” and “we will continue to work with our US/NATO partners in the ongoing peace efforts.”

A conference is planned on Afghanistan starting on April 24 in Istanbul that would include the United Nations and Qatar.

The Taliban, ousted from power in 2001 by U.S.-led forces, said they would not take part in any meetings involving decisions about Afghanistan until all foreign forces have left. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Wednesday called on the United States to adhere to the deal the group reached with Trump’s administration.

“If the agreement is committed to, the remaining problems will also be solved,” Mujahid wrote on Twitter. “If the agreement is not committed to … the problems will certainly increase.”

Biden rejected the idea that U.S. troops could provide the leverage needed for peace, saying: “We gave that argument a decade. It has never proven effective.”

“American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries,” Biden said.

Biden also said the threat of terrorism was not limited to a single country and that leaving American forces in one foreign land at great financial cost does not make sense.

The president made the decision personal, invoking the memory of his late son who served in Iraq and showing a card he carried with the number of U.S. troops killed and wounded in Afghanistan. Visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Biden later said the decision to withdraw was not hard.

“To me, it was absolutely clear,” Biden said.

In Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, officials said they would carry on with peace talks and their forces defending the country.

“Now that there is an announcement on foreign troops withdrawal within several months, we need to find a way to coexist,” said Abdullah Abdullah, a top peace official and former presidential candidate. “We believe that there is no winner in Afghan conflicts and we hope the Taliban realize that too.”

U.S. officials can claim to have removed al Qaeda’s core leadership in the region years ago, including killing bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan in 2011. But ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda elements persist and peace and security remain elusive.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, was among Biden’s fiercest critics, saying the withdrawal would backfire by prolonging the conflict and possibly even breathing new life into al Qaeda.

“What do we lose by pulling out? We lose that insurance policy against another 9/11,” Graham said.

Still, critics of the U.S. military involvement say it clearly failed to get the Taliban to end the conflict on America’s terms. Some experts blame endemic corruption in Afghanistan, Taliban safe havens across the border in Pakistan and overly ambitious goals for training Afghan security forces.

Biden criticized past U.S. aspirations to somehow unify Afghans, a goal that defied the lessons of history over centuries.

“It’s never been done,” Biden said.

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