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Taliban will not Survive a Month if it lost its Sanctuary in Neighboring Pakistan, says Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

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Kandidat-kandidat presiden Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (kanan) dan Abdullah Abdullah menandatangani kesepakatan mengenai pembagian pemerintahan persatuan di Kabul (21/9). VOA

December 7, 2016: Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan President said on Sunday that the Taliban insurgency will not even survive a month if it loses its harbor in neighboring Pakistan.
Ghani made the remarks, at an international conference in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, which is not quite far from Pakistan border.

According to Reuters, “Pakistan said while violence had increased in Afghanistan, blaming another country for it didn’t help.”

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Last year, the highest number of civilian casualties and military-related deaths in the world was suffered in Afghanistan.

“This is unacceptable… Some still provide sanctuary for terrorists. As a Taliban figure said recently, if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month,” Ghani said.

Analysts say, “Pakistan has historically backed the Afghan Taliban as a hedge against the influence of arch-rival India, with whom Pakistan has fought three wars, in its backyard.”
Pakistan does not agree to it, rather claims itself to be a victim of terrorism.

Tehrik-i-Taliban is one of the main groups carrying out attacks inside Pakistan. And, they were operating from Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s top foreign-policy adviser, Sartaj Aziz said,” It was true that there had been an upsurge in violence in Afghanistan.”

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“We need to have an objective and holistic view rather blame one country,” he told the conference.

By the conflict in Afghanistan, a number of people have been displaced this year, and it has surpassed half a million people, according to the United Nations reported last month.

Not only Taliban, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks targeting minority Shi’ites in Afghanistan.

Ghani said, calling it an undeclared war in Afghanistan, “I don’t want a blame game, I want clarifications on what is being done to prevent the export of terror.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Regional players had to act against not only the militants but their sponsors. It must be backed by resolute action. Not just against forces of terrorism, but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them.”

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Indian officials said, “Islamabad has rejected the Indian allegations and said it was ready to hold talks with India on the dispute over Kashmir, but no talks are planned with Aziz while he is in Amritsar.”

– by NewsGram team

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Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

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FILE - U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters sit atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Fighters and families with the Islamic State terror group are clinging to one last sliver of land next to the Euphrates River in Syria, using women, children and possible hostages as human shields in an effort to postpone defeat.

Human rights observers and officials with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say IS followers have been pushed out of the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz and taken refuge in what they describe as a collection of tents. Various officials have described the size of the camps as covering less than one square kilometer.

But efforts by the SDF to deal a final defeat to the terror group’s self-declared caliphate have been slowed due to the presence of the civilians, and efforts to negotiate a surrender have also gone nowhere.

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President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

Speaking at the White House on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that’ll be announced over the next 24 hours and many other things.”

In Munich, the top U.S. defense official offered a cautious assessment.

“We have eliminated the group’s hold on over 99 percent of the territory it once claimed as part of its so-called caliphate,” acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said during a Friday news conference with his German counterpart at the Munich Security Conference.

“We have ensured ISIS no longer holds the innocent people of Syria or Iraq in their murderous, iron fist,” he said, using an acronym for the terror group. “We have destroyed its ability to mass forces, and we have eliminated most of its leadership and significantly diminished its resources.”

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FILE – Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

‘Despicable and ghastly acts’

Coalition officials Thursday described SDF efforts in and around Baghuz as “clearance operations,” warning that IS fighters had become so desperate that they were shooting at their wives and children as they sought to flee.

“These utterly despicable and ghastly acts further illustrate their barbaric nature and desperation,” Operation Inherent Resolve Deputy Commander, British Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, said in a statement.

“The end of the physical caliphate is at hand,” he added.

Some IS followers appear to have given up.

Monitors with the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 240 IS fighters surrendered this past week. The U.S.-led coalition and an SDF commander contacted by VOA could not confirm the claim.

They said the SDF also evacuated about 700 people, mostly women and children, from the terror group’s refuge outside Baghuz on Thursday, taking them by cars and trucks to secured areas away from the front.

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FILE – Women and children fleeing from the last Islamic State group’s tiny pocket in Syria sit in the back of a truck near Baghuz, eastern Syria, Feb. 11, 2019. VOA

The SDF itself says over the past several weeks, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from IS.

But they say about 300 hardened IS fighters, many of them foreign, still remain, willing to fight to the death. And some SDF commanders say more civilians are being brought to the tent city, apparently from underground tunnels.

Observers late Thursday reported a resumption of shelling by the SDF and coalition forces, saying it appeared to be another attempt to convince the remaining IS holdouts to give up.

IS threat to remain

Still, even once the last pocket of IS-held territory is taken, U.S. and coalition officials warn the fight will not be over.

Top U.S. military officials have warned the terror group still has 20,000 to 30,000 followers, including fighters, spread across Syria and Iraq. And they worry about the ability of their Syrian partners, in particular, to keep IS in check once U.S. troops withdraw under plans announced by Trump.

The commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, told CNN on Friday he disagreed with Trump’s decision to call for U.S. forces to leave.

 

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FILE – U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, speaks to reporters during an unannounced visit to a military outpost in southern Syria, Oct. 22, 2018. VOA

“It would not have been my military advice at that particular time. … I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,” he said. “[The caliphate] still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network.”

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave. But so far, other coalition members, many of whom have no troops on the ground in Syria, have been unwilling to make any specific commitments.

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“I think there’s a tremendous desire to have a security arrangement or mechanism that doesn’t result in a security vacuum. What that is … is still being developed,” a senior defense official said Friday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“We’ve been pretty clear that this is going to be a deliberate withdrawal,” the official added. “There’s a timeline associated with that that’s conditions-based. We’ve said publicly on a number of occasions that it will be here in months, not weeks and not years.” (VOA)