Tuesday March 19, 2019
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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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US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

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US, Taliban, Pakistan
FILE - Taliban political chief Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, in the first row, second from left, Abdul Salam Hanafi and other Taliban officials pray during the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.

A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, center, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Afghan media at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.

Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (3rd L) during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this handout photo released Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.

Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.

President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.

“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.

Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.

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The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.

“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)