The United States will resume discussions with the Taliban in Qatar next week to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and counterterrorism.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on November 23 that the US delegation would be led by US special envoy for Afghanistan Tom West. The discussions, expected to last for two weeks, will focus on the “important national interests” of the two sides.
Discussions are expected to include counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda, humanitarian assistance, Afghanistan’s devastated economy, and a safe route out of Afghanistan. for US citizens and Afghan nationals who have worked for the US for the past 20 years.
Two weeks ago, special envoy West also met with representatives of the Taliban in Pakistan. After the US withdrew its forces completely from Afghanistan and the Taliban took control of the country in August, the two sides held their first meeting in early October in the Qatari capital Doha, where American diplomats considered relations with Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover of power.
West on November 19 reiterated the US conditions for the Taliban to receive financial and diplomatic support from them to fight terrorism, build an inclusive government, respect the rights of minorities, women and girls, and provide equitable access to education and employment. The special envoy said the US will continue to negotiate with the Taliban and is currently only providing humanitarian aid.
Amir Khan Muttaqi, the foreign minister of Afghanistan’s unrecognized interim government, last week sent an open letter to the US Congress calling for the return of frozen US assets from Afghanistan. After the Western-backed government collapsed in August, Afghanistan fell into a financial crisis, with banks imposing a withdrawal limit of $200-400 a week for each account.
The situation is exacerbated by Afghanistan’s lack of cash from abroad, when the United States imposed a blockade of $ 10 billion in its reserves. Financial institutions such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also prevent the Taliban government from accessing development aid committed to the previous government.
Mohammad Yaqoob, defense minister in the Taliban’s interim government, has vowed not to tolerate members taking revenge on former regime soldiers.
Yaqoob on September 24 posted an audio message warning the commanders of several Taliban units that had received “notorious villains and veterans” to carry out a series of mistreatment of civilians.
“We ask you to remove them from your ranks, or you will be severely dealt with,” Yaqoob said. “We don’t want people like that in our ranks.”
The Taliban has recently received reports of retaliation against former government officials or soldiers and some activists, despite the group’s pledge to pardon them. Yaqoob said there was a lot of information about illegal executions and insisted the Taliban would not tolerate militants who commit such acts.
“As you all know, under the general amnesty in Afghanistan, which has been granted, no mujahideen has the right to take revenge on anyone,” Yaqoob said. The details of the revenge cases that Yaqoob mentioned in his message are not clear.
Mujahideen is a term used by Muslim armed groups to refer to its member fighters, originating during the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
Yaqoob demanded that patrols be conducted only in designated areas, and criticized the Taliban’s preference for entering government offices, where they were not supposed to, and taking selfies there.
“This is very much opposed because people take their phones and take pictures of important and sensitive organs for no reason,” Yaqoob said. “Walking around, taking pictures and filming like that won’t help you both now and in the future.”
Some residents of Kabul complain of harassment and mistreatment by members of the Taliban, who are often from other provinces in Afghanistan and are not used to life in the big cities.
The Taliban’s hardline field commanders are said to have repeatedly clashed with the group’s political leaders, who are willing to compromise with foreign governments and want to build a peaceful rule. than.
Yaqoob’s message shows that the Taliban still have some problems controlling member fighters, as they transition from insurgency to peacetime government.
AfghanistanSenior Taliban officials said a major scuffle broke out between members of the group over the formation of a new government.
A Taliban source said on September 14 that group co-founders Abdul Ghani Baradar and Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, interim minister in charge of refugees, have great influence in the Haqqani Network (an important armed branch). within the Taliban), arguing bitterly while subordinates got into a scuffle.
A senior Taliban member in Qatar and another source confirmed the row between the group’s leaders that broke out over the weekend. Sources said the reason was that interim deputy prime minister Baradar was unhappy about the government structure.
The controversy is said to have started from a split over which Taliban members should be credited after the group took control of Afghanistan. Baradar argues that diplomatic actors like his subordinates must be noticed, while Haqqani Network members and supporters say the Taliban win through fighting.
Baradar was the first Taliban leader to speak directly to an American president, then Donald Trump. Earlier, Baradar signed the Doha agreement on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Haqqani Network has been implicated in a number of violent attacks against the Afghan military and its Western allies over the years. The United States considers the Haqqani Network a terrorist organization. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the network’s leader, is the interim interior minister in the government formed by the Taliban.
Rumors of the altercation had been circulating since the weekend before Baradar disappeared from public view. Some have suggested that Baradar may have died. However, Taliban sources said Baradar left the capital Kabul for the city of Kandahar after the scuffle. In the recording released on September 13, Baradar said he was away on business and insisted he was fine no matter where he was.
The Taliban insists there has been no argument or scuffle and that Baradar is safe, but has made conflicting statements about the group’s co-founder’s activities. A spokesman said Baradar had traveled to Kandahar to meet Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, but later said he was “tired and wanted to rest a bit”.
The Taliban’s claims about Baradar are questioned by many. The Taliban admitted in 2015 to covering up the death of Mohammed Omar, the group’s first leader, for more than two years and continued to make statements on his behalf during this time.
Sources said Baradar is expected to return to Kabul and appear in front of the media to deny reports of any controversy or altercation that is believed to have taken place. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has never appeared in public and there are still many rumors surrounding him. Akhundzada is in charge of the political, military and religious affairs of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on September 14 called on the international community to restart aid, saying aid should not be politicized.
The international community pledged more than a billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan on September 13, after the United Nations warned that disaster was lurking for the Central Asian country.
The Taliban want the German chancellor to visit Afghanistan, insisting it “always reserve a special place” for her.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told German newspaper Bild on September 6 that the force “really welcomes” German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Afghanistan.
“We want to create a strong, secure environment in Afghanistan, which will be accepted by every country in the world and trusted by world leaders. They will come to visit our country and be sure to visit our country,” he said. I’m sure we always have a special place for Angela Merkel,” Mujahid said.
The Taliban official stressed that strong ties with Germany served Afghanistan’s interests.
“First of all, we want to create a good relationship with Germany. The Islamic Emirate (Taliban government) will be the government that the Afghan people want. We want the German government to build diplomatic relations. be as good as possible with the new government,” he said.
Berlin has yet to recognize Afghanistan’s new government but has expressed readiness to provide humanitarian aid to the war-torn country. Germany has closed its embassy in Kabul since the Taliban took over on August 15 and moved its ambassador Markus Potzel to Doha, the Qatari capital.
However, the Merkel administration maintains diplomatic contact with the Taliban. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently said that Germany could reopen its embassy in Kabul “if the political situation is feasible and the security situation allows”.
Merkel’s government is focused on evacuating many eligible Afghan nationals, where thousands of locals who had worked for German agencies and political organizations are hoping to leave the country.
The flight took the last American troops out of Afghanistan amid the devastation of the Kabul airport, while Taliban fighters waved goodbye.
The last American transports took off from Afghanistan on the night of August 30, while the sky was lit with fireworks and bullets marked the Taliban’s celebratory route, and Hamid Karzai International Airport was littered with wreckage and wreckage. weapons destroyed.
Wild dogs run all over the plane parking lot. Through the night glass, American soldiers could clearly see the Taliban fighters slowly entering the airport and waving to the planes that were about to leave.
Queuing to take off at Kabul airport that night were five C-17 transports. Pilots of these transports had to depart without protection from C-RAM air defense systems and with no one to coordinate the flight at air traffic control.
“The scene was like the end of the world, like in the zombie movies. All the planes were destroyed, the doors were open and the landing gear was damaged. There was a plane that burned down. You can see the cockpit. still intact, while the rest burned to the frame,” Lieutenant Colonel Braden Coleman, a member of the C-17 crew that left Kabul on the night of August 30, recalled.
This is the first time the pilots of the 816th Expeditionary Transport Squadron of the US Air Force have told about the final hours of US forces in Afghanistan.
“The situation was very tense, we had to keep an eye on everything to make sure we were ready,” said Captain Kirby Wedan, pilot of a Moose 81 aircraft, leading a squad of five C-17s. , said.
Pressure is heightened when American planes are parked in areas where they have been attacked or broken into. That night, a group of civilians infiltrated the airport and attempted to board C-17s, but were stopped by American soldiers guarding the aircraft.
Directly behind Wedan’s plane was a C-17 bearing the designation Moose 92, in which Lieutenant Colonel Coleman was checking the take-off process. When asked to back the plane a little further from where it was parked, Coleman stepped outside to direct the crew. “I wear night-vision goggles and have a security guard with me for safety. To be honest it was quite stressful, but I don’t think about it while on duty. You do what you’ve been trained to do. “, the lieutenant colonel recalled.
Over three hours, the crews checked more than 300 items on the list, loaded and unloaded four Little Bird armed helicopters and made sure all American forces at Kabul airport were on board.
General Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of US Air Force Command, watched the entire process via video at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. She could hear the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Alex Pelbath, the pilot in command of the last squadron to leave Afghanistan.
Each C-17 was ordered to close the cargo door. “Start,” Pelbath ordered. Wedan then started moving the plane to the runway. “It’s really different. I’ve never taken off from an airport without asking for permission to do so,” she said.
The squadron of 5 quickly left the runway, while cheers rang out from the cargo hold, mostly special forces soldiers and soldiers of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. “The relief is obvious. They’ve worked so hard, many of them haven’t showered for weeks. They’re all very tired. Obviously they’re all very excited to be out of there and the mission is over. done,” Wedan said.
After the last C-17 left Kabul airspace, Lieutenant Colonel Pelbath broadcast the message “MAF Safe”.
“Good job. I’m proud of everyone,” said General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, the last American soldier to board the plane leaving Afghanistan, sending a message when the entire plane had taken off. wing.
Tired soldiers huddled on the floor of the plane and sought to rest, most fell asleep after only 30 minutes. “Everyone was almost sitting on top of each other. I got down from the cargo hold and they told me not to go to the bathroom, there were too many people lying in front of the toilet door. One soldier even used a water bottle as a pillow, I didn’t know it. comfortable, but at least he was fast asleep,” Wedan recalled.
The flight from Kabul to Kuwait took about 4 hours. Coleman says his plane is lucky to have multiple toilets, while Wedan’s C-17 has only one.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be a C-17 pilot, to see everyone work together to complete a mission in such a time, to get 124,000 people out of there in less than three weeks. Possibly. see the real reason why so many of us enlist,” said Coleman, who joined the US Air Force after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Amidst the chaos of Afghanistan, economist Ashraf Haidari received a call from a Taliban commander, asking him to return to work.
Like thousands of others who have worked for the Western-backed government, Haidari, an economist at Afghanistan’s finance ministry, feels worried about the risk of retaliation after the Taliban took control of most of the land. country, overthrowing the old government.
After picking up the phone, on the other end of the line, a Taliban commander called on Haidari to return to the Finance Ministry, where the 47-year-old man was in charge of allocating funds to the country’s 34 provinces.
“He told me not to panic or try to run away, because the officials needed my expertise to run the country after the crazy foreigners had left,” Haidari said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on August 24 that “it is time for everyone to work for their country”. In addition to Haidari, several other mid-level officials at the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank of Afghanistan also said they had received offers to return to work from the Taliban, amid economic turmoil and cash shortages. .
The widespread damage caused by the 20-year war between US-backed Afghan government forces and the Taliban, combined spending cuts due to the departure of foreign troops and a devaluation of the currency are thought to lead to a financial crisis. challenge to the Taliban’s rule. More than a week since the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul, banks and currency exchanges remained closed, and economic activity gradually stopped.
An official from the Central Bank of Afghanistan, who did not want to be named, said he had returned to work, adding that the Taliban had so far summoned only a few officials, mainly in the Finance and Interior Ministry. The Pajhwok news agency also reported that the Taliban had appointed several key positions, including the governor of Kabul, the acting minister of finance and interior, and the director of intelligence.
However, Sohrab Sikandar, who works at the Afghan Ministry of Finance, said he has not seen any female colleagues since returning to the office. During the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001, women were not allowed to work, had to cover their faces and accompany men if they wanted to leave the house.
The Taliban have reassured people that they will allow women to work, committed to ensuring women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law, and vowed to investigate cases of women forced out of work. Mujahid also said the Taliban was carrying out procedures to return female government employees to work, but noted that they should now stay home for “security” reasons.
Faced with the Taliban’s alleged efforts to create an atmosphere of restraint and peace, Haidari decided to return to work. In keeping with the rules when the Taliban ran the country before, Haidari wore a beard and wore traditional Afghan clothes, instead of a vest, to meet his new superiors.
On August 23, Haidari entered his first day of work under the Taliban. He did not discuss this with his family when he left home to “avoid causing panic”.
At the office, Haidari was greeted by three Taliban officials. They said other colleagues will soon join the work, with a focus on the task of transferring money to the provinces. An official in charge of security at work told Haidari that prayer is obligatory.
“They didn’t bring guns into the building. One person told me they could learn from my expertise,” Haidari said.
Unlike many people who are trying to find a way to leave the country in fear and despair, Haidari intends to stay in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Johnson said the British soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan did not die in vain as the Taliban took over the former British base in the country.
“I don’t think it’s in vain,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on television on August 13 when discussing British soldiers who have died over the past two decades in Afghanistan.
“To a large extent, the threat from all-Qaeda on the streets of our capital, around the UK, around the entire West Coast has been greatly reduced,” Johnson added.
Some 457 British soldiers died in the operation in Afghanistan, most of them in Helmand province between 2006 and 2014.
This is the first time the British Prime Minister has spoken in public since sending about 600 troops back to Afghanistan to help evacuate British people. Johnson said it was the “right” and “worthy” intervention.
Speaking after an emergency meeting with security and defense advisers to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Johnson also insisted Britain “not turned its back on this country”.
Johnson added that Home Office officials had been sent to help evacuate Afghans who had helped British forces during their years in the country, including interpreters.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on August 12 that the US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan had “left a huge problem”, giving the Taliban more impetus as well as helping to promote the threatening extremists. world.
The Taliban seem intent on using military means to restore power that was ousted 20 years ago, after the withdrawal of US and foreign forces. The Taliban now control 14 of the 34 capitals of Afghanistan. Several major cities, including Kandahar and Herat, were captured this week.
The MP in the city of Kunduz said that hundreds of Afghan troops retreating to an airport surrendered after the Taliban took over the city.
Amruddin Wali, a council member for Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, said today that soldiers, police and militias have surrendered their weapons to the Taliban. The provincial capital Kunduz fell to rebels over the weekend.
An army officer, who asked not to be named, said they were attacked by mortar fire at Kunduz airport and had no choice but to surrender.
“There’s no way to fight back,” he said. “My unit with 20 soldiers, three humvees and four pickup trucks just surrendered. We’re all waiting for the amnesty. A lot of people are waiting.”
Kunduz is still considered the greatest achievement of the Taliban. The surrender of hundreds of soldiers means that a counterattack to retake the capital is now highly unlikely. An unknown number of government troops are holding out at the army barracks near the city of Kunduz.
The information about Kunduz came after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flew to Mazar-i-Sharif, a city besieged by the Taliban, to rally forces to stem the insurgency’s advance. The loss of Mazar-i-Sharif would be a catastrophic defeat for the Afghan government and represent the complete collapse of their control over the north of the country.
“Taliban never learns,” said General Abdul Rashid Dostum after arriving in Mazar-i-Shari, vowing to destroy Taliban fighters. “Taliban has attacked the north many times but always got stuck. It’s not easy for them to get out.”
The Taliban seems intent on using military means to restore power that was ousted 20 years ago, after the US military intervention campaign. After the US and foreign forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Taliban continued to advance in many areas and now control more than 65% of the territory of Afghanistan. Experts warn that if the Taliban take control of the entire north, Afghanistan risks completely falling into the hands of this insurgent group.