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US lawmakers seek transparency in Afghan peace deal with Taliban

Agencies

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Washington: An influential group of three lawmakers on Friday sought assurance from the Trump administration that it will make available to the Congress the full text of any agreement signed with the Taliban.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three Congressmen also sought assurances that any deal signed would verifiably require the Taliban to break ties with all its terrorist allies, including in Pakistan, and that withdrawal of US troops will be conditioned on an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In the letter, the Congressmen — Tom Malinowski, Mike Gallagher and Brad Sherman — asked for written commitment that there will be no secret understandings or annexes with the Taliban that will not be share with the Congress.

 

“We believe that it is essential for the elected representatives of the American people to be able to review the exact language of any deal that is reached with the Taliban, given its profound implications for US national security,” they said in the letter dated August 30.

“It’s time for the administration to talk to the Congress, not just to the Taliban, about the future of Afghanistan. We need to make sure that any withdrawal of US forces does not come at the cost of everything they fought for,” said Malinowski.

Sherman said while it may be necessary to conduct these talks with the Taliban in secrecy, no agreement reached effecting the foreign policy of the US should be kept from Congress. “Congress, and ultimately the American people, need to know exactly what we have agreed to, especially given that we are dealing with the Taliban,” he said.

In their letter, the three lawmakers asked whether the Taliban’s commitment to break with international terrorists also extend to Taliban activities in Pakistan.

“Needless to say, it would be deeply troubling if the agreement fails to address the latter,” they said.

The Congressmen also sought to know if the Taliban pledge to repudiate and cease any cooperation with international terrorists encompass not only al-Qaeda, but the other twenty-plus US designated foreign terrorist organisations that operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, many of which have been responsible for murder of Americans.

“How will the Trump Administration verify that the Taliban is upholding its commitments under the agreement with respect to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, and how will it respond in the event of credible intelligence of a violation?” they asked.

The Congressmen asked if US troops leaving Afghanistan be brought home to the United States, or merely redeployed to countries neighbouring Afghanistan to enable continued counterterrorism operations.

“If the former, how will the US protect the homeland from the dozen-plus terrorist groups that continue to operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and that many analysts believe are poised to surge in the aftermath of a US exit?” they sought to know from Pompeo.

“If the latter, how will redeployment to regional bases meaningfully reduce burdens faced by our troops or costs to the US taxpayer, particularly since such a redeployment will likely require the construction of entirely new bases and other support infrastructure?” they asked.


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Kashmir may not be a major topic during PM Modi-Xi Jinping summit next month: China

Press Trust of India

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China on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue may not be a “major topic” of discussion during the planned 2nd informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

A senior Chinese official said it should be left to Modi and Xi on the issues they would like to discuss.

“As for Kashmir will be on the agenda, I’m not sure because this is kind of informal summit and leaders’ meeting I think better we need to give the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.

“For this kind of informal summit, I think it is better to leave the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” she said.

Hua said Kashmir may not be a major topic of discuss between the two leaders. “I think for those things like Kashmir, I don’t think it will be a major topic occupying the talks, that is my understanding,” she said.

“But for the leaders, they will be free to talk about whatever they like,” Hua said, responding to a question.

China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, already tried to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council last month. But a closed-door meeting of the UNSC, in a snub to both Beijing and Islamabad, ended without any outcome or statement.

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European Parliament set to discuss Kashmir

Agencies

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Brussels, Sep 17: The European Parliament is expected to hold discussions on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday, the media reported.

After India scrapped its Constitution”s Articles 370 and 35A, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and divided the state into two union territories, Islamabad has been crying foul over New Delhi”s move and continuously trying to highlight the issue on a global level.

However, Pakistan has failed to get the international community to censure India.

The report said that in early September, the European Parliament “had debated an urgent resolution for the horrible conditions, including human rights violations, in Indian-occupied Kashmir”.

The European Union”s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, delivered a detailed policy statement on the Kashmir situation on September 17, it said. (IANS)

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Modi did not ask me to return Zakir Naik: Malaysian PM

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Kuala Lumpur, September 17: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi did not request him to return controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is a fugitive in India and has taken shelter in the Asian nation.

Mahathir added that Modi, whom he met in Russia during an economic forum earlier this month, made no extradition request for Naik despite an official notice from New Delhi, reports Malay Mail.

“Not many countries want him. I met with Modi. He didn’t ask me for this man,” Mahathir told the Kuala Lumpur-based BFM Malaysia radio station on Tuesday morning.
He said that the city of Putrajaya is still looking for a place to send the 53-year-old Naik.

Mahathir also reaffirmed that Naik will no longer be allowed to publicly speak in Malaysia following his racially divisive remarks which include saying that the Chinese should be sent back to China.

“Well, he’s not a national of this country. He has been given, I think by the previous government, permanent residence status. A permanent resident isn’t supposed to make any comments on this country’s systems and politics. He has breached that. He is now not allowed to speak.

“We are trying to find some place he can go to but at the moment, no one wants to accept him,” the Prime Minister added.

Naik is wanted in India for serious charges related to terrorism after his name cropped in connection with a ghastly terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016.

The Mumbai-born founder of the controversial ‘Peace TV’ has been living in Malaysia since 2017 after fleeing from India.

Last month, Naik was banned from delivering public talks in every state in Malaysia by the police in the interest of national security.

On August 3, he said that Hindus in Malaysia get “100 times more rights” than the Muslim minority gets in India, and yet they support the “Prime Minister of India and not the Prime Minister of Malaysia”.

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