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Posts tagged as Kabul

Talks with Taliban in Doha productive: US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday said the latest talks with Taliban in Doha were “productive”. Khalilzad met with the Taliban’s top political leader in Doha starting Monday, in what is believed to be the highest level engagement between Khalilzad met with the Taliban’s top political leader in Doha starting Monday, in what is believed to be the highest level engagement between the US and the Taliban since the months-long peace push began.
Khalilzad had on February 25 tweeted that he and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had held a “working lunch” ahead of a fresh round of talks with the insurgent group as the US seeks a way out of its longest war.”Both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday.
All four key issues remain on the table,” he added.In another tweet, Khalilzad said, “As talks continue in Doha, there is also progress on forming a national team in Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban.
“Marathon talks last month saw the two sides walk away with a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international terror groups.There was no accord on a US withdrawal or a ceasefire, however, issues which have derailed attempts at peace talks in the past, while the government in Kabul has voiced increasingly loud fears it was being sidelined from the talks.
The latest negotiations came as violence soars in Afghanistan, with the UN reporting Sunday that more civilians were killed in 2018 than any other year since records began in 2009.US President Donald Trump has signalled his eagerness to end his country´s involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.
Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.

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Civilian deaths in Afghan war hit record in 2018

KABUL: More civilians were killed in the Afghan war in 2018 than during any other year on record after nearly two decades of fighting, according to a UN report released Sunday.
The report’s release comes a day before the US and the Taliban hold their next round of talks aimed at ending the conflict, raising tentative hopes for peace along with fears that an American withdrawal could spark an even bloodier civil war.The talks in Doha follow years of escalating violence in Afghanistan. According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade when the organisation began compiling the data.
The uptick in violence in 2018 coincides with a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by the “deliberate targeting of civilians”, according to the report, mostly stemming from suicide attacks by insurgents allied with the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).”It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.”The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting,” he said. At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018 — the majority hitting Kabul — with militants responsible for the death of more than 2,200 civilians across the country.
An increase in air strikes by US and Afghan forces also led to more civilian deaths in 2018, with more than 500 civilians killed by “aerial operations for the first time on record”, the report noted.The US intensified its air campaign against Taliban and IS fighters as Washington seeks to pile pressure on the militants, dropping twice as many munitions on insurgent positions in 2018 compared to the previous year.Yamamoto said the civilian casualties were “wholly unacceptable” and called on all parties to take “immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed”.Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.
The escalating violence comes as US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.Marathon talks held in Doha in January sparked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides agreed to a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.But US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is leading the American side negotiating with the Taliban — has emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Critics remain skeptical of the talks for a number of reasons, primarily because they have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.
Civilian deaths jumped by 11 percent from 2017 with 3,804 people killed and another 7,189 wounded, according to the UN figures, as suicide attacks and bombings wreaked havoc across the war-torn country.The report’s release comes a day before the US and the Taliban hold their next round of talks aimed at ending the conflict, raising tentative hopes for peace along with fears that an American withdrawal could spark an even bloodier civil war.
The talks in Doha follow years of escalating violence in Afghanistan. According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade when the organisation began compiling the data.
The uptick in violence in 2018 coincides with a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by the “deliberate targeting of civilians”, according to the report, mostly stemming from suicide attacks by insurgents allied with the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).”It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.
“The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting,” he said. At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018 — the majority hitting Kabul — with militants responsible for the death of more than 2,200 civilians across the country.An increase in air strikes by US and Afghan forces also led to more civilian deaths in 2018, with more than 500 civilians killed by “aerial operations for the first time on record”, the report noted.The US intensified its air campaign against Taliban and IS fighters as Washington seeks to pile pressure on the militants, dropping twice as many munitions on insurgent positions in 2018 compared to the previous year.
Yamamoto said the civilian casualties were “wholly unacceptable” and called on all parties to take “immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed”.Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.The escalating violence comes as US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.Marathon talks held in Doha in January sparked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides agreed to a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.But US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is leading the American side negotiating with the Taliban  has emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Critics remain skeptical of the talks for a number of reasons, primarily because they have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.

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The Pulwama aftermath

The deaths of Indian security personnel in a massive explosion on a busy highway at Lethpora in the Pulwama district was the first such successful fidayeen attack in the history of the Kashmiri militant resistance.
That it took Kashmiris another two decades to produce full-blown destruction is surprising because the raw state repression that drives Kashmiri youth, including intellectuals and scholars, to take up guns have ignored such an easy spectacle for quite a long time.
In fact, people have been talking about such possibilities for quite a while, given the amount of radicalisation caused by wanton state brutalities.Following such a high-impact attack, and the amount of negative reaction that it has generated from the Indian media, public and the government, there are apprehensions that such a method might catch the fancy of the new generation of Kashmiri fighters.If so, there is cause for much concern for more deaths those of both military personnel and resistance fighters and its possible spill over to civilian populations could be massive and devastating. Such a thought conjures up images of Baghdad or Kabul at the height of the insurgency following the US invasions.
The impact of the blast was so strong that those slain were blown to smithereens, catalysing the pain of the tragedy. The government put a ban on showing graphic footage of the destruction, and perhaps rightly so, but social media exhibited a limitless fetish to spread the gruesome images.It is beyond any doubt that none of those killed in the blast could be identified through their bodies.While I usually refrain from watching such graphic photos of violence,

I accidentally’ saw some of them for they came from a source never associated with such an activity.Frankly speaking, I felt sick to my core and for several days I remained under the spell of intense sadness. Many felt the same way, but the argument of those who justified such gruesome violence cannot be ignored either.One of them compared the incident with the growing incidents of the military blowing up houses and militants during encounters. The army could easily capture these rebels or at least fight them humanely.
Instead, they choose to blow them up in pieces, destroy houses and celebrate deaths.During the last few years, there has been a significant change in the rules of engagement military personnel are willing to increasingly jettison their professional behaviour and indulge in such profanities as taking selfies with dead militants, dancing with their cadavers while chanting Hindu religious slogans, and filming the beatings and torture of the Kashmiri youth.
Sometimes, such videos get leaked and reach the public domain only to provoke and further anger and hostility.The only consolations from the attack were that it did not target civilians or cause civilian deaths and that the military personnel did not go berserk after the incident to target civilians, an otherwise usual practice.
But the pessimistic view suggested that the paramilitary personnel were so frightened after the blast that they were unable to form any sort of reaction. Later, after an hour or so, the military personnel did target unsuspecting civilians and beat scores of them to exact revenge.The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the agency that was targeted in the suicide blast, also beat dozens of peoples in downtown Srinagar producing yet more anger and hate that will ultimately provoke many more Kashmiri youth down the path of militancy.The story of the alleged suicide bomber, Adil Ahmed Dar, is somewhat similar to the trajectory of other Kashmiris who take to the gun as a path to break the stalemate of oppression.
Adil had been continually harassed and humiliated by the Indian army and the personnel of Jammu and Kashmir Police. Knowing no escape, he took the extreme step with a dreaded determination to cause as much damage to the military as possible.Soon after the blast, the government took the extreme step to ban the internet, but the damage had been done as photographs carrying gruesome details had already been circulated with sensational and often fake news. This spread panic, hatred, and calls for open revenge.Several Indian news channels made consistent calls for revenge, preparing the ground for more violence primarily directed against Kashmiris spread across India. The speech made by Prime Minister Modi in the aftermath was also provocative and bordered on hate speech.
As the pliant Hindutva media whipped up a frenzy, violent mobs of people were galvanised to exact revenge amid chants of teaching Pakistan a lesson that ultimately boiled down to mass violence against Kashmiris. In Jammu, the winter capital of the province of Jammu and Kashmir, thousands of Hindutva youth attacked Kashmiri Muslims, vandalised their properties and burned more than a hundred of their vehicles.
Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, the police watched helplessly as the mobs ran amok and pillaged around for several hours. The Hindu mobs attacked government officials of Kashmiri origin, students and even women.Where are the pellet guns, asked several Kashmiris over social media. There were wide-scale attacks on Kashmiri students across India, and strangely there were no condemnations from any political party or any serious attempts to stop this from happening.
The only credible help these Kashmiri students received, and in abundance, were from Khalsa Aid, a leading international Sikh charity. Their volunteers offered aid, rescued students from mobs, provided shelter and later procured transport facilities to take those who were stranded back home.This has earned them instant yet massive following and admiration with social media flooded with messages of goodwill.Amarpreet Singh, the Asia-Pacific director of the charity, left a message on my WhatsApp that they were willing to provide more emergency aid and assistance for stranded Kashmiris.In an ocean of hate-filled frenzy, Khalsa Aid offered a glimmer of hope that must grow into a flame!

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