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India Rules Out Troops Deployment in War Torn Afghanistan

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Niramala sitharam and James Mattis
The Union Minister for Defence Nirmala Sitharaman and the US Secretary of Defence, Mr. James Mattis iduring a press conference in New Delhi on September 26, 2017.

New Delhi, Sep 26:  India on Tuesday, made clear that it will not send its forces in the war-torn region of Afghanistan. “There shall not be boots from India on the ground (in Afghanistan),” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a joint media conference with visiting US Defence Secretary James Mattis after talks with him.

The Minister was replying to a question about India’s contribution in Afghanistan and whether it would deploy its troops there.

Mattis is the first high-ranking official of the Trump administration to visit India amidst expectation from the US that India could change its stand on a possible military presence in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump while unveiling his new policy on Afghanistan last month asked India to help more with the troubled country, battling decades of the Islamist insurgency.

Sitharaman said India’s contribution to Afghanistan has been there for a very long time in development activities like building dams, schools, hospitals, roads and any institution which the country may require.

“We are also at the moment training their officials in good governance… India’s contribution has been there and we shall expand if necessary,” she said.

She also said India welcomed Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy and added she had “useful discussions” with Mattis on “how we can strengthen our cooperation bilaterally as well as with the government of Afghanistan in pursuit of our common objective of a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan”.

Mattis lauded India’s efforts in Afghanistan. “In particular, we applaud India’s invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability and security. We seek to expand our cooperation in building partnerships across the region.”

Mattis said the two countries recognized the threat to global peace from terror and both agreed that there should be “no tolerance to safe havens for terrorists”.

“As global leaders, India and the United States resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge,” he said.

Mattis said both India and the US have suffered losses due to terrorism and “one aspect of this is universally shared by all responsible nations that there shall be no safe havens for terror”.

The US Defence Secretary did not name Pakistan but Sitharaman minced no words in saying that terror attacks in Mumbai or in New York originated from Pakistan.

“The very same forces which did find safe haven in Pakistan were the forces that hit New York as well as Mumbai,” she said.

She urged the US Defence Secretary to “speak out and raise this issue” on his next visit to Pakistan.

Replying to a question, Mattis appreciated India’s efforts along with the international community for increasing pressure on North Korea over nuclear activities.

The two sides discussed maritime security in the India Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region.(IANS)

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Fighting Has Intensified Across Many Afghan Provinces

The insurgents had tried to capture the city in August but were beaten back by Afghan forces with the help of American special forces and airstrikes. Most of the districts in the province are controlled or contested by the Taliban.

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Afghanistan
Fighting Spikes Across Many Afghan Provinces. VOA

A mortar attack on a school Saturday in the volatile southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan killed at least four school students and injured more than a dozen. The assault comes on the heels of the Taliban capturing a strategically important northeastern district in Afghanistan and inflicting fresh casualties on government forces elsewhere in the country.

A provincial government spokesman, Arif Noori, told VOA that two teachers also were among 15 other people injured in the incident. It was not known immediately whether Afghan forces or Taliban rebels fired the mortar shell on the school in the Andar district.

Noori said a government investigation has been launched into the incident.

Afghanistan
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for what he described as an “infiltrator operation” that killed eight pro-government forces and detained another. Pixabay

Fighting has intensified across many Afghan provinces with the advent of spring amid U.S.-led efforts to find a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end the 18-year-old Afghan war.

Within the past week, about 35 Afghan civilians, including 20 children and six women, have died in conflict-related incidents across the country.

The United Nations has confirmed that almost 90 percent of the casualties were caused by Afghan security forces and U.S. airstrikes. The world body says the armed conflict last year killed more than 3,800 civilians, including 927 children, the highest number of civilian deaths recorded in the past 10 years.

Officials confirmed Saturday that Afghan security forces retreated overnight from the Arghanj Khwa district center in Badakhshan province following fierce clashes with Taliban assailants.

A provincial government spokesman told VOA the fighting killed at least four police personnel. A provincial council member, Tahira Alamyar, said clashes Friday night killed about a dozen Afghan forces. She told VOA Taliban insurgents also captured at least five security forces.

FILE - Afghan border police walk the Afghanistan side of the border with Tajikistan, in Ishkashim, Badakhshan province, far northeastern Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2016.
Afghan border police walk the Afghanistan side of the border with Tajikistan, in Ishkashim, Badakhshan province, far northeastern Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2016. VOA

An insurgent spokesman said the Taliban has consolidated its control over the district after overrunning the district police headquarters, seizing several military vehicles and a “huge quantity of weapons-equipment.”

Separately, officials in southern Zabul province confirmed that at least eight police officers were killed Saturday morning at a security outpost in the Shahr-e-Safa district when one of their colleagues with suspected links to the Taliban turned his gun on them.

A provincial police official told VOA on condition of anonymity that the whereabouts of eight other Afghan forces were not immediately known. A provincial police spokesman, Asif Tokhi, confirmed the incident to VOA but would not share further details immediately.

The post is located on the main highway linking the national capital, Kabul, to southern Afghan provinces.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for what he described as an “infiltrator operation” that killed eight pro-government forces and detained another.

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Afghan officials also confirmed a Thursday night Taliban attack on the provincial capital, Ghazni, killed at least 15 security forces, including a district police chief.

The insurgents had tried to capture the city in August but were beaten back by Afghan forces with the help of American special forces and airstrikes. Most of the districts in the province are controlled or contested by the Taliban. (VOA)