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ejaz007

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Taliban Guarantee Security of Foreign Diplomats in Mazar-i-Sharif, Spokesman Says
© AP Photo / Raumat Gul
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14:45 GMT 05.07.2021Get short URL
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Taliban guarantee security of foreign diplomats in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, the movement's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Sputnik.
"Now I cannot say whether Mazar-i-Sharif would be handed over to the Taliban, but for reasons of security of embassies, consulates and foreign diplomats, I must say that they will ensure their safety and there will be no problems for them. We are in touch with the countries, who have embassies and consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, they trust us", Mujahid said.
The Taliban, which control over 70% of the border with Tajikistan, guarantee security and non-interference, while the percentage of controlled territories may grow, Mujahid added.
"We confirm this [control over part of the border with Tajikistan]. We have occupied even more than 70% of the border with Tajikistan. We will have good relations with our friendly country Tajikistan. Security will be established at the borders, and no interference will occur", Mujahid said.
The percentage of territories controlled by the Taliban "may increase", he said.
"Yesterday evening, large territory in the province of Badakhshan [was occupied], and those who spoke from the government of Kabul at the border fled from there, and as a result the territory came under our control", the spokesman explained.
Earlier, local broadcaster 1TV News reported that the consulates of Turkey, Pakistan and Iran had temporarily suspended work in Mazar-i-Sharif over fears that the area could be unsafe amid the advance of the Taliban militants. The Russian Embassy in Kabul told Sputnik that the Russian Consulate General in Mazar-i-Sharif was closed "until the situation is clarified."

Due to rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan it is better to have one dedicated thread then a thread appearing after every few minutes.
 

ejaz007

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Afghans say recent Taliban advances forced them to take up arms
At least 500 residents in Parwan province pick up guns as the September 11 withdrawal deadline of US forces creeps closer.

Abdul Quayom Rahimi, governor of Logar province, gathered hundreds of men this week [Courtesy of Mujtaba Haris]

Abdul Quayom Rahimi, governor of Logar province, gathered hundreds of men this week [Courtesy of Mujtaba Haris]
By Ali M Latifi
6 Jul 2021

Ghorband Valley, Afghanistan – Zahir Salangi, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament from the northern province of Parwan, had hoped to settle down on a “doshak” (cushion) to catch a quick nap when the sound of gunfire came pouring through the already damaged house he had set up as a base.

“I haven’t slept in four days,” he told Al Jazeera last week as he sat up to give orders to the nearly two dozen volunteer fighters he had recruited in the fight against the Taliban.

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The volunteers say Taliban fighters routinely fire on them from the mountains surrounding the lush valley.
As Salangi rose to his feet, one of the fighters started to shout commands into the walkie-talkie. Piles of glass shards from previous gunfights broke into smaller pieces under the weight of his boots as he paced from one side of the room to the other.

“Respond! Don’t stop firing! Don’t leave them without an answer,” he said while the sounds of gunfire echoed from the mountaintops.

The men are among at least 500 local residents who have picked up guns in recent weeks as the September 11 withdrawal deadline of the United States’ forces creeps closer.

On Monday, Abdul Quayom Rahimi, governor of Logar province, gathered hundreds of men carrying guns and Afghanistan’s tricolour flag in the provincial capital, Pol-e Alam.

Logar province’s Governor Abdul Quayom Rahimi, second from right [Courtesy of Mujtaba Haris]While anti-Taliban volunteers had begun to appear in Logar earlier this year, Rahimi said he has had hundreds of men asking to join his force in recent weeks.

Rahimi said Monday’s gathering was a “deliberate, public show of strength”.

“The people know what is at stake and they want to show the Taliban that even if no one else is around to help, the people of Logar and every province themselves will take the fight directly to them,” he told Al Jazeera,

‘They spared no one’

Though the Ghorband Valley, 120km (74 miles) north of capital Kabul, has long been one of the most insecure districts of Parwan, the volunteers say recent events have compelled them to take up arms and defend their people against the Taliban.

In recent weeks, dozens of districts, including in Parwan, fell into Taliban hands. Many of those districts were retaken by Afghan forces within days.

But these men, most of them from Salang district, 95km (59 miles) to the east, say the stories they had heard of the Taliban’s actions in the days they held sway over the areas were too much to handle.

“They shot directly at houses. They burned people’s homes, their fields, their stores. They spared no one and nothing,” Daoud, a volunteer fighter in his 50s who arrived in Ghorband more than two weeks ago, told Al Jazeera.



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To prove his point, Daoud mentioned two recent incidents in which Taliban fighters and Afghan troops were killed.

“We gave the Taliban’s body back, they covered him with garlands and called him a martyr,” he said, standing near a military check post on the outskirts of the valley.

But Afghan forces were not accorded the same respect, said Daoud.

“A couple of days ago, Afghan soldiers were killed by one of their (Taliban) mines. We asked for what was left of the bodies back. They refused.”

Politicians such as Salangi and officials in Kabul are also trying to ease fears of discord between the fighter groups and the Afghan security forces.

Khan Agha Rezayee, a legislator from Kabul who has been in contact with the volunteer groups taking up arms in the northern provinces, said it is not uncommon to see them working with the traditional security forces.



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“When you go to these areas, you will see that the volunteers are there to assist the army and police in their operations,” he told Al Jazeera.

In the twenty years of US-led invasion, the Afghan security forces have also struggled with funding and supply shortfalls. The uprising forces are meant to act as a way of mitigating these shortfalls.

Amir Amiri, an Afghan soldier originally from the neighbouring province of Panjshir, commended the commitment of the volunteer forces.

“They are putting their lives at risk with no pay to protect their homeland,” he said, standing next to a white-bearded man in his late 60s.

“Look at him, he is so old and he is still willing to defend the nation against the enemy.”
Legislator Salangi said the admiration goes both ways. “It boosts the morale of our troops to see people leave their lives and families to come and support them in their fight.”



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The idea of volunteer groups providing a morale boost to troops came up several times during conversations with civilian fighters who spoke to Al Jazeera.

The volunteers said the brazenness of recent Taliban attacks compelled them to join the fight.
Defence ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said the fact that Afghans are willing to pick up guns and fight alongside their security forces is a clear sign of the “hate and disgust” the Afghan people have for the Taliban and their practices.

Aman said the common people are ready to fight alongside the security forces because the forces are willing to make the “ultimate sacrifice” against the Taliban’s “unholy war”.

Many Afghans back a recent wave of nearly 30,000 people taking up arms across the country, while others question the wisdom of arming so many people in a country where millions of dollars were poured into disarmament and reintegration programmes.



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Both Salangi and Rezayee say people should not fear the volunteer groups. “These people are just protecting what’s theirs,” said Rezayee.

Rezayee added that the Taliban’s efforts to take major cities was another driving factor that led to the rise of armed volunteer groups.

He said volunteer forces are nothing new in the country and simply an extension of previous efforts such as the Afghan Local Police, which saw the establishment of US- and UK-funded forces who were responsible for repelling Taliban attacks at the village level.

There have also been other people’s movements to remove armed opposition groups from the country. In 2017, residents in several districts of the eastern province of Nangarhar took up arms against forces claiming to belong to the so-called Islamic State.

Back in Ghorband, the yellow house continues to shake from the constant sounds of gunfire. The fighting, which began at about 10 in the morning, continued into the afternoon.

But to the volunteer forces, no fear or fatigue could keep them from their job.

“We are here to protect the people,” said Salangi as he placed his pakol hat on his head and walked out of the door to command his fighters to retaliate.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

 

ejaz007

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Taliban attacks capital of northwest Afghan province of Badghis
Taliban launches assault on Qala-e-Naw, causing civilians to flee and Afghan forces to surrender, local officials say.

Negotiations between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Qatar have failed to make substantive progress in recent months [Jalil Rezayee/EPA]


Negotiations between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Qatar have failed to make substantive progress in recent months [Jalil Rezayee/EPA]
7 Jul 2021

The Taliban has launched its first assault on a provincial capital in Afghanistan since waging a major offensive against government forces, local officials said, causing panic among local people and prompting prisoners to break out of the city’s prison.

Fierce fighting erupted on Wednesday in the western city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of northwestern Badghis province, after the armed group fighters captured all the surrounding districts of the province.
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“The enemy has entered the city, all the districts have fallen. The fighting has started inside the city,” Badghis Governor Hessamuddin Shams told reporters in a text message.

Badghis provincial council chief Abdul Aziz Bek and council member Zia Gul Habibi confirmed that fighting between the Taliban and government forces had erupted inside the city.

“Fighting continues in different parts of the city right now,” Bek told the AFP news agency, adding that some security officials had surrendered to the Taliban during the night.

“Qala-e-Naw was in a state of disarray as security forces and people do not know what to do now,” Bek told Reuters news agency.

“More than 200 prisoners in the central prison of the Badghis broke the prison gate and escaped,” he said.
Provincial council member Habibi said the Taliban fighters were inside the police headquarters of the city and the local office of the country’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.

“The provincial council officials have fled to an army camp in the city. Fighting continues in the city,” she said.



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Since mid-April, when US President Joe Biden announced the end to Afghanistan’s “forever war”, the Taliban has made strides throughout the country.

But its most significant gains have been in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of the US-allied strongmen who helped defeat them in 2001.

The Taliban now controls roughly a third of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan.

Their advances have been forcing soldiers to surrender and civilians to flee.

Shams said other districts of Badghis outside the capital were in the hands of the Taliban as security forces evacuated.

Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said in a statement the war was entering a “difficult” stage and security forces were “defending Afghanistan and our compatriots with all their might and resources under all circumstances”.

The latest advancement comes days after US and NATO forces vacated their main Bagram airbase near Kabul, from where they led operations for 20 years against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies.

The areas under Taliban control, especially in the north, are increasingly strategic, running along Afghanistan’s border with Central Asian states. Last month, the group took control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province opposite Uzbekistan and gained control of a key trade route.

Earlier this week, the Taliban seized the northeastern Badakhshan province, as well as its former bastion of Kandahar.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban negotiators in Qatar have failed to make substantive progress in recent months, though the warring sides have been holding meetings in recent days.

Iran on Wednesday told Taliban and Afghan government representatives it stood ready to help end the crisis in Afghanistan, urging the country’s people and politicians to make “difficult decisions” about its future.

Hosting a meeting of Afghan government representatives and a high-level Taliban political committee, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “committing to political solutions is the best choice”.

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SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

 

ejaz007

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Biden defends Afghanistan pullout as Taliban gains ground
Joe Gould
7 hours ago
In this April 15, 2021, photo, President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington.(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the military mission in Afghanistan will end Aug. 31, saying the rapid exit protects U.S. troops from attacks by the Taliban.

Biden faces questions about whether the hasty military exodus by his country and its NATO allies leaves Afghanistan vulnerable to the Taliban, who have made advances in many northern districts. But Biden argued the war couldn’t be resolved my military means and that the Afghan people must decide their future.

“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden said, answering questions from reporters at the White House. The session followed his first formal address since the near-complete pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“No nation has ever unified Afghanistan. Empires have gone there and not done it,” Biden said.

While Biden said there was no “mission accomplished” moment, he argued the U.S. achieved its main goal of denying terrorists a haven in Afghanistan. Twenty years after the U.S. and other Western countries sent troops to Afghanistan, it was no longer worth the cost in lives and money.

Biden said the pace of the withdrawal was about protecting troops ― “Speed is safety” ― and that the drawdown’s been managed such that no U.S. or allied forces have been lost.

“Our military commanders advised me that once I made the decision and the war, we needed to move swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown,” Biden said, adding: “Conducting our drawdown differently would have certainly come with increased risk of safety to our personnel, and to me, those risks were unacceptable.”

U.S. military and humanitarian assistance would continue, he said, but counter terror assets would be refocused on Africa and other areas in the Mideast that he said present greater threats. After the U.S. and its allies trained and equipped some 300,000 Afghan forces, it was their time to defend their nation, he said.

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Biden said Kabul falling to the Taliban would not be an acceptable outcome. But he also pushed back against the notion that such a scenario was certain.

“Do I trust the Taliban? No,” Biden said. “But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.”

Afterward, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that U.S. aid would continue and include an added three A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, nearly 40 refurbished UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and overhauls of MI-17 helicopters, as well as logistics and maintenance assistance.

The U.S. is also working to expand its already “robust over-the-horizon capability” to support the Afghan government after the pullout, Kirby said, pointing to a carrier strike group in the region and additional military facilities throughout the Middle East. The goal is to build more options and emplace U.S. assets more closely.

However, neither Kirby nor the president provided details about which neighboring countries would agree to host American assets over the long-term, or the status of those talks.

“Make no mistake: Our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan,” Biden said, adding the over-the-horizon capability would “allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats on the United States in the region and act quickly and decisively if needed.”
Afghan security forces keep watch after the American military left Bagram air base, in Parwan province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, July 5, 2021. The U.S. left Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years, winding up its
Afghan security forces keep watch after the American military left Bagram air base, in Parwan province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, July 5, 2021. The U.S. left Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years, winding up its "forever war," in the night, without notifying the new Afghan commander until more than two hours after they slipped away. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

More than 2,400 U.S. troops have died and more than 20,000 have been wounded wounded in support of the war since 2001, according to the Defense Department. It’s estimated that over 3,800 U.S. private security contractors have been killed. The suffering has been even greater for Afghanistan with estimates showing more than 66,000 Afghan troops killed and more than 2.7 million forced to flee their homes — mostly to Iran.

Biden announced in April that the last 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. soldiers and 7,000 allied NATO soldiers would depart Afghanistan. Last month, the Pentagon said 650 troops would remain to protect the sprawling U.S. embassy in Kabul and to operate a counter-artillery system at the Kabul airport.

On Tuesday the U.S. military said 90 percent of American troops and equipment had already left the country, with the drawdown set to finish by late August. Last week, U.S. officials vacated the country’s biggest airfield, Bagram Air Base, the epicenter of the war to oust the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

Kirby acknowledged the Taliban had taken dozens of district centers and it’s expected to threaten provincial centers as well. Kirby stressed, however, that the U.S. is not seeing the same level of threat it faced from Afghanistan before 9/11.

“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still al Qaeda operatives or cells in Afghanistan, I’m not saying that there aren’t. But they are nothing like the organization they were on 9/11, 20 years ago,” Kirby said.

The president has faced criticism from some Republicans, but also a number of newspaper editorial boards, for pulling out of Afghanistan, even though President Donald Trump made the 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. forces by May 2021.

A Washington Post editorial last week said Biden ought to have reconsidered the swift withdrawal, citing the crumbling Afghan government and its forces. It called him “cold to the country’s plight,” particularly as he said last month that Afghans would have to “decide their future.”

“That future is likely to be bleak, if current trends continue. As U.S. advisers and air support melt away, Afghan army units are being wiped out by the Taliban, or are surrendering without a fight,” the editorial reads.

Biden said the administration is working with Congress to make it easier for thousands of Afghans who worked for the American military or NATO, and their families, to relocate to the U.S. Biden said the U.S. would be conducting flights for Afghan allies this month before the U.S. military mission concludes, housing some in third-party countries temporarily.

Biden said the law doesn’t allow for the visa applicants to wait in the U.S. and that he was working with lawmakers for a change.

Biden said that since he took office, some 2,500 Afghans have been offered visas, though fewer than half have decided to leave Afghanistan so far.

Speaking afterward, Kirby said it’s unclear as yet which countries overseas would host the evacuees. The process, led by the State Department, is taking a global look at U.S. and partner facilities.
This story contains information from the Associated Press.

 

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Afghan forces retake Qala-e-Naw after Taliban incursion

Afghan forces retake Qala-e-Naw after Taliban incursion

KABUL/MOSCOW/HERAT: Afghan government forces on Thursday wrest back control of a western provincial capital stormed by the Taliban a day earlier and hundreds of fresh troops have been deployed to the region, the defence ministry said.

It said some fighting was continuing on the fringes of Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis province, which borders the central Asian country of Turkmenistan. Insurgents had on Wednesday seized key government buildings in the city including police headquarters as part of a dramatic Taliban advance unfolding as foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan after a 20-year-long intervention.

“The city is fully (back) under our control and we are conducting operations against the Taliban on the outskirts of the city,” Defence Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said. The ministry said 69 Taliban fighters had been killed in fresh operations on the edge of Qala-e-Naw - the first major provincial capital entered by the Islamist insurgents in their latest offensive.

A large quantity of Taliban arms and ammunition was also seized by government forces, the ministry said on Twitter. The rest of Badghis province is in Taliban hands. Western security officials say the Taliban have captured more than 100 districts in Afghanistan; the Taliban say they hold over 200 districts in 34 provinces comprising over half the country. Main cities and provincial capitals remain under government control.

Meanwhile, the Taliban on Thursday seized another key Afghan border crossings, this time with Iran, according to an Afghan official and Iranian media. The seizure is part of a Taliban surge as American troops complete their pullout from Afghanistan.

It was the third border crossing the insurgents have taken in the past week, after previously seizing crossings with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. An Afghan official said the Taliban on Thursday took control the Islam Qala crossing point in western Herat province. Afghan soldiers in the border area of Islam Qala — a major transit route between Afghanistan and Iran — fled from their positions, crossing into Iran for refuge, Iranian media reported.

The crossing is around 120 kilometers west of the city of Herat, the provincial capital. Meanwhile, the Russian-led CSTO military bloc said on Thursday it was ready to mobilise its full capacity if the situation in Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan deteriorated as a Taliban delegation in Moscow told Russia it did not pose a threat to the region.

The CSTO, the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) dominated by Russia, said on Thursday it was ready to use all its resources if necessary to contain a crisis on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the Interfax news agency reported.

 

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