Washington: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made it clear that the United States is not in Afghanistan to rebuild the nation or teach Afghans how to deal with their women.
The secretary’s remarks came during two days of congressional hearings this week on the US State Department’s budget proposals.
“Remember, the Afghans will ultimately decide,” said the top US diplomat when Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, urged him to ensure that the agreement between the US and the Taliban protects the rights of the Afghan women.
Examine: ‘We never want to go back’: Afghan women fear cost of peace under Taliban
“I hope they (Afghan women) will make their voices heard … I hope the women of Afghanistan will demand that of their leadership,” he said.
“We want every woman’s voice to be heard […] I hope they’ll all do that.”
During the two-day discussions, Secretary Pompeo explained the purpose behind talks with the Afghan Taliban. The US is talking to the Afghan Taliban because they control “significant resources” in Afghanistan, he said.
Meanwhile, senior lawmakers explained why Washington must leave the war-ravaged country now. Even those who criticised the administration’s Afghan policy said they too wanted a withdrawal but in a more orderly fashion.
Reminding the chief American diplomat that the US has been at war in Afghanistan for 18 years, Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said: “I think even you have admitted there’s no military solution to Afghanistan. It’s a mess. It’s nation-building at its worst. The president, like myself, complains endlessly about the $50 billion we are wasting there every year.”
Senator Shaheen questioned the wisdom behind the Trump administration’s decision to hold direct talks with the Taliban, pointing out that despite the talks, the insurgents had continued their attacks on both US and Afghan government forces and were also refusing to hold direct talks with Kabul.
The US has already held six rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, and is preparing for the next round later this month, which may also include representatives of the Afghan government as members of a larger Afghan delegation.
“With respect to why we are talking to the Taliban, they control a significant amount of resources. And to get the reconciliation we need, to take down the violence level, the Taliban are going to have a say,” Secretary Pompeo said.
“We have extensive daily conversations,” the secretary said when the senator asked why the Afghan government was kept out of the talks.
“But they are not on the table,” Senator Shaheen interjected.
“To the extent that the negotiations are taking place, they are as much part of the table as anybody else. We are talking with the National Unity Government and speaking with the Taliban,” Pompeo responded.
“We are working to get the two of them in the room together. We think we are closer than we have been anytime in the last decade in achieving that. This will ultimately be a resolution that the Afghan people will have to achieve.”
Senator Shaheen interrupted him and asked: “Why do we believe the Taliban would be honest with us anymore today than they have been in the last 17 years?”
“Trust, but verify. It will be about actions on the ground,” said the secretary while explaining the Trump administration’s approach to the talks.
Pakistan exporting ‘terror’, stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains: India at UNSC
UNITED NATIONS: India lashed out at Pakistan for raising the issue of women’s rights in Kashmir in the UN Security Council, saying the country represents a system that has been exporting militancy and “regressive” extremist ideologies and “stifling” women’s voices for narrow political gains.
India’s strong response came after Pakistan’s outgoing UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi commented on the situation in Kashmir, revocation of Article 370 and women’s rights in the Valley during the debate on October 29.
“As everyone today focuses on collective action, one delegation rhetorically regurgitates about women’s rights in my country,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said Monday at a Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security.
Without naming Pakistan, Tripathi said the delegation “represents a system that has been exporting terrorism and regressive extremist ideologies, and stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains. This has devastated lives of generations of women and their families, in our region and beyond.”
Alluding to Islamabad’s habit of raking up the Kashmir issue at various UN forums and committees, Tripathi said the country habitually makes baseless allegations without any relevance to the agenda under consideration and this has “become a staple for this delegation.”
She referred to Lodhi’s comments on Jammu and Kashmir during the October 29 debate as well as during a previous debate on the “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”.
Asserting that India firmly rejects the baseless allegations, Tripathi said “the Council has not paid attention to such deceitful narratives in the past, and we are confident that the Council will continue to do so, to ensure that its agenda is not used as a ploy for furthering territorial ambitions.”
In her remarks to the debate, Tripathi underscored that violence against women and girls perpetrated by terrorists remain rampant and subjugation of women in public and in private spheres continue across situations that are on the agenda of the Council.
“It is important that the Council strives to effectively integrate women, peace and security considerations into sanctions regimes, including by listing terrorist entities involved in violence against women in armed conflicts,” she said.
Further, Tripathi highlighted the positive impacts of greater participation of women in UN peacekeeping but voiced concern that women make up only 4.2 per cent of military personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.
“We ought to encourage participation of all women units to achieve the set targets in this regard,” she said.
Tripathi pointed out that a trend in which in order to accommodate those who cannot fulfill the commitments of providing all women units to peacekeeping missions, mixed units are being given preference by diluting the policy frameworks.
“If this continues, we possibly cannot achieve the set targets,” she said as she added that India remains committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers and has deployed a Female Engagement Team in UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) earlier this year.
Rajnath Singh arrives in Moscow to boost defence cooperation with Russia
Moscow: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday arrived in Moscow on a three-day visit to Russia where he will discuss modalities pertaining to defence co-production between the two countries.
During his visit, the Defence Minister will co-chair the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) here.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, Singh is expected to hold extensive discussions with Defence Minister of Russia General Sergei Shoigu covering all areas of military-to-military cooperation and defence industrial cooperation.
He will also inaugurate, along with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, ‘India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference’.
The Conference will discuss ways to promote defence industrial cooperation between India and Russia, technology transfer and investment in India in the defence industry under the ‘Make in India’ programme.
Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to visit St Petersburg where he will place a wreath at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery honouring the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the Second World War.
Last week, Singh had travelled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he represented India at the Council of Heads of Government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
India and Uzbekistan signed three MoUs pertaining to military education and military medicine.
UN chief continues to call for Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to call for the Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue, saying any solution should be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people living in the Valley, his spokesperson has said.
Guterres will engage whenever he can with the two nations on the issue, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing here Thursday.
“The Secretary-General… has discussed the issue of Kashmir with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the Prime Minister of India, during the General Assembly and before,” he said.
Responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir, Dujarric said the UN chief has called and will continue to call for “the situation to be resolved through dialogue and that any solution be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people who live in Kashmir. So, that continues to be his position”.
Last month, the UN chief said that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for resolving the Kashmir issue and his good offices are available if both sides ask for it while calling for the full respect of human rights.
India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan. The Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.
On August 5, India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. Several security restrictions were imposed in Kashmir as well as Jammu following the decision.