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US not in Afghanistan to rebuild the nation, says Pompeo

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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.


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International

India-Pak set to fight it out over Kashmir at UNHRC session

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India and Pakistan are set to battle it out over Kashmir during the ongoing 42nd UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session here on Tuesday. Both the countries have deployed their big guns for the “diplomatic offensive.”

The Indian delegation is led by Ajay Bisaria, the India High Commissioner to Pakistan who was sent back after Pakistan unilaterally downgraded ties, and Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary East. The delegation had recently met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and briefed her about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir since after the abrogation of Article 370.

On Monday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi embarked on a three-day visit to Geneva. He is expected to lead the Pakistani charge over Kashmir issue at the UNHRC session. On Monday, Qureshi in a tweet said Pakistan will speak “definitively” at UNHRC sessions over the Kashmir issue.

 

“Pakistan will speak definitively at the UNHRC Session in Geneva on the continued Indian atrocities in #Kashmir. As High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said: The People of Kashmir must be consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes,” he said in a tweet. During her address to the Human Rights Council, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday said that she was “deeply concerned” over the “impact of recent actions” by the Indian government on the “human rights of Kashmiris” including the detention of political leaders and activists in Jammu and Kashmir.. (ANI)

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Trump cancels peace talks with Taliban after Kabul bombing

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Washington/Islamabad, September 8: US President Donald Trump on Saturday said he cancelled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the insurgent group said it was behind an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

Trump said he had planned a secret meeting with the Taliban’s “major leaders” on Sunday at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he also planned to meet with Afghanistan’s President.

But Trump said he immediately called the talks off when the insurgents said they were behind the attack.

 

“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said on Twitter.

Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since 2001, launched fresh assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e-Khumri over the past week and carried out two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.

One of the blasts, a suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, took the life of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico, bringing the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 16.

A spike in attacks by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan has been “particularly unhelpful” to peace efforts there, a senior US military commander said on Saturday as he visited neighbouring Pakistan, where many Taliban militants are based.

US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees American troops in the region, declined to comment on the diplomatic negotiations themselves.

Earlier this week, US and Taliban negotiators struck a draft peace deal which could lead to a drawdown in US troops from America’s longest war. But a wave of Taliban violence has cast a long shadow over the deal.

“It is particularly unhelpful at this moment in Afghanistan’s history for the Taliban to ramp up violence,” McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters travelling with him.

McKenzie said for the peace process to move forward, “all parties should be committed to an eventual political settlement” which, in turn, should result in reduced violence.

“If we can’t get that going in, then it is difficult to see the parties are going to be able to carry out the terms of the agreement, whatever they might or might not be,” McKenzie said.

Under the draft accord, thousands of U.S. troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.

However, a full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on subsequent “intra Afghan” talks. The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire and instead stepped up operations across the country.

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333 Pak Twitter accounts suspended over Kashmir content

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Islamabad, Sep 5 : Pakistan has admitted that 333 Twitter accounts have been suspended for writing on Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.

The handles were suspended by Twitter following the objection by the Indian authorities in view of false and provocative content being disseminated through the accounts.

The Pakis­tan Telecommuni­cation Authority (PTA) raised the issue of suspension of tweets and blocking of Twitter accounts with the Twitter administration on Wednesday, reported Dawn news.

 

The PTA has termed the Twitter administration’s approach as biased. According to the statement issued by the regulator, it has also requested Pakistani social media users to report any Twitter account suspension on the pretext of posting Kashmir content to the PTA.

The PTA has already received 333 such complaints which were sent then to Twitter to be restored, however, only 67 accounts were restored, reported Dwn news.

The PTA said Twitter has not responded officially nor given any reason for the suspension of these accounts.

The regulator said it is already making efforts to engage with Twitter to ensure freedom of expression for social media users in Pakistan.

It said it has invited Twitter’s administration for a meeting in Pakistan or anywhere they prefer in order to have meaningful discussions and devise a workable arrangement. But Twitter is yet to respond, PTA said.

Dawn reported in August that some 200 Twitter accounts were suspended for apparently posting about Kashmir. The claim came from journalists, activists, government officials and fans of the military tweeting.

Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor had then said the authorities had taken up with Twitter and Facebook regarding the suspension of Pakistani social media accounts.

Under The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, PTA is the sole body that can officially block access to unlawful online content on the internet and take it up with relevant platforms in cases where the PTA is unable to block them because of technical grounds.

The telecom sector regulator has also asked the users of the microblogging site to register their concerns about the suspension of their tweets or blocking of their accounts at the email address [email protected] (IANS)

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