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Afghan Taliban to help earthquake victims

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Kabul: The Taliban on Tuesday urged charity organisations not to hold back in delivering aid to Afghan victims of a devastating earthquake, saying militants in the affected areas were ordered to provide “complete help”.

The Taliban has also ordered Mujahideen to help the victims of yesterday’s earthquake in northern Afghanistan, as the official death toll rises to more than 300.

This morning local media reported that the death toll had risen to 311, of which 237 fatalities were in Pakistan.

The earthquake, registered at a magnitude of 7.5, occured in the province of Badakhashan in Afghanistan’s far north. It hit at 1:39pm local time, at a depth of 132 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.afg 2

 

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan issued a statement early this morning, saying the organisation “shares in the tragedy of all countrymen affected by the earthquake and asks Almighty Allah for Jannat ul Firdaws (highest Paradise) for the killed, immediate recovery for the injured and a blessed substitute, patience and great reward for everyone affected”.

“The Islamic Emirate calls on our good willed countrymen and charitable organisations to not hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies to the victims of this earthquake,” the group added. ”

The fundamentalist organisation also “declares its empathy with the affected Muslim brothers” of other countries, adding that it “asks Allah Almighty to bestow patience and great reward on their relatives”.

However the relief effort is being complicated by unstable security caused by the Taliban insurgency, which has made large parts of the affected areas unsafe for international organisations and government troops.

“We have insufficient food and other aid,” said Abdul Habib Sayed Khil, chief of police in Kunar, one of the worst-hit provinces, where 42 people were confirmed dead.

“It has been raining for four days and the weather is very cold. If we don’t provide aid very soon it may turn to another disaster.”

Roads and communications were cut off to many areas at the epicentre of the earthquake and authorities and international relief organizations were still trying to assess the extent of the damage.

In Pakistan, where landslides and heavy rain and snow over the weekend had already left thousands of tourists stranded in mountainous areas of the north, the country’s well-equipped military was heavily involved in the relief effort.

Several helicopters had been dispatched to affected areas to assess damage and run rescue operations, the National Disaster Management Authority said.

“Rescue work is ongoing and tents, blankets and sleeping mats are being provided,” Latif ur Rehman, a Pakistani disaster management official, told agencies.

he United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) said roads between the Afghan cities of Taloqan and Kunduz in the north and between Jalalabad in the east and the capital Kabul had been cut by landslides.

The United States and Iran were among countries that offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that have wrecked its economy and infrastructure.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. Agency for International Development was ready to provide emergency shelter and relief supply kits.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in London en route from an official visit to the United States, said he would oversee rescue efforts.

“We will try our best to deal with this disaster using our own resources,” he said.

(INPUT FROM VARIOUS AGENCIES)

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U.S. Envoy Advances Peace Talk Efforts In Afghanistan

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process.

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USA, afghanistan, taliban, peace talks
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Zalmay Khalilzad, the man responsible for overseeing America’s negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, arrived Tuesday night in Kabul, after making stops in India, the United Arab Emirates, and China. He is expected to visit Islamabad next.

His outreach to regional players continues despite what seems like a setback in talks with the Taliban.

“The [dialogue] process has halted for now so the venue and the date for a future meeting are not known,” a senior Taliban official who is privy to the developments confirmed to VOA earlier this week when asked whether their peace talks with the U.S. were still on track.

Talks scheduled with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia earlier this month were called off by the insurgent group after it came under pressure by the host government to meet with representatives of the current Afghan government.

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, May 2, 2015, site of several past negotioations with the Taliban. VOA

The insurgent group pushed to change the venue to Doha, Qatar, but later canceled those talks as well over disagreements on the agenda.

The last significant round of talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban was held in December in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the host government also took part in that round.

The Afghan government sent a delegation to Abu Dhabi in hopes of joining the talks, but the Taliban refused to meet them.

The group so far has resisted pressure from multiple actors, including the U.S., to meet with the Kabul administration, calling it a “puppet” regime unable to deliver on their demands.

The U.S. goal, according to a statement issued by its embassy in Kabul, is to “encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement.”

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, right in backgroud, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, left in background, meet in Kabul, Nov.10, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad will meet with President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah, and political leaders to “discuss the next steps in U.S. efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the statement added.

 

A feud among Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar also seems to be damaging the process, say various media reports. According to the Reuters news agency, Saudi and UAE diplomats refused to take part in any meeting held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an unofficial political office. The two countries severed ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing the Gulf state of funding militants – a charge Doha denies.

In December, it was reported that President Donald Trump told the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American military personnel from Afghanistan, which would reduce the U.S. presence in the country by half.

Also Read: Peace Talks With The U.S. Stalled: Taliban

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process. Since then, several rounds of negotiations between the two have been held, albeit without the Kabul administration.

Meanwhile, security in Afghanistan continues to present a major challenge. An attack in Kabul Monday killed several people and wounded dozens of others. (VOA)