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    Nancy Pelosi defends Taiwan trip as ‘more important today than ever’ amid China tensions – live

    US House speaker Nancy Pelosi has put out a statement explaining her trip to Taiwan, saying “America’s solidarity” with the island “is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”Here’s the full text of the statement:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;} Our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.
    Our visit is part of our broader trip to the Indo-Pacific – including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan – focused on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance. Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region. America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.
    Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances. The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.If Joe Biden is less than delighted that Nancy Pelosi is in Taiwan, quite a lot of Republican senators feel quite the opposite. Twenty-five of them – half the caucus in the evenly divided chamber – released a statement earlier, in support of the House speaker, otherwise a much-demonised figure throughout the GOP:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We support Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. For decades, members of the United States Congress, including a previous Speaker of the House, have travelled to Taiwan. This travel is consistent with the United States’ One China policy to which we are committed. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.The supportive senators are: Susan Collins (Maine), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), John Thune (South Dakota), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Jim Risch (Idaho), Roy Blunt (Missouri), John Cornyn (Texas), John Barrasso (Wyoming), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Tommy Tuberville (Alabama), Steve Daines (Montana), Deb Fischer (Nebraska), Todd Young (Indiana), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Richard Burr (North Carolina), John Boozman (Arkansas), Tim Scott (South Carolina), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania).There weren’t many Trumpian fire-eaters among the 25 but one senator who has been known to blow hot in such a fashion, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, had harsher words for Biden, tweeting: “The world overlooked Wuhan’s role in the Covid pandemic. The world overlooked Beijing’s human rights record during the genocide games. Now, Biden is pressuring the world to forget all about Taiwan’s freedom.”At the White House, the spokesman John Kirby said: “We will continue to support Taiwan, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific and seek to maintain communication with Beijing”. He also said the United States “will not engage in sabre-rattling”.China’s opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s trip has been well known and very well signaled by its government. The visit has plunged the Asia-Pacific region into a diplomatic crisis – though how much is just sabre-rattling is hard to tell. One person who will be told for sure is the US ambassador to China. This story is moving on the Chinese news wire Xinhua: CHINESE VICE FOREIGN MINISTER XIE FENG URGENTLY SUMMONED US AMBASSADOR TO CHINA NICHOLAS BURNS LATE TUESDAY NIGHT.
    Washington to China and everywhere in between reacted to House speaker Nancy Pelosi arriving in Taiwan as the first speaker of the house to do so in a quarter of a century.
    The justice department filed a lawsuit against the restrictive abortion law in Idaho, arguing that by prohibiting individuals from receiving abortions even if it may save their lives violated the federal emergency medical treatment and labor act, which requires every hospital that receives Medicare funds to provide necessary stabilizing treatment.
    The senate is purportedly gearing up for a vote on the Honoring our Pact Act, the bipartisan legislation that would make it easier for veterans to access military care related to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam and toxins from burn pits used to get rid of military waste in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer believes will pass after senators reached an agreement on amendments. There was widespread anger last week after Senate Republicans abruptly halted a procedural vote to advance the legislation. Veterans have been protesting outside the US Capitol since last week, camping outside the building and refusing to leave until lawmakers pass the legislation.
    Joe Biden is on his fourth day of his rebound case of Covid-19 and is still testing positive, and is suffering from a return of a loose cough.
    Senate Democrats remained optimistic on the $740bn reconciliation bill, officially known as Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Senator Joe Manchin was seen speaking to his fellow moderate Democrat, senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose position on the package is still unknown.
    Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan has caused a headache for Joe Biden who most likely would prefer not to be dealing with a foreign policy crisis when he has some – rare – successes to boast about at home and abroad. Here is some Reuters copy on the White House’s mixed feelings about the trip with what sounds like pleading to not “amp this up”. Its a delicate tightrope between not wanting to be seen to be critical of Pelosi, but also kind of wishing this was not happening..css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The Biden administration wants to keep tensions between Washington and Beijing inflamed by a high level visit to Taiwan from boiling over into a conflict, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday.
    In a briefing with reporters, Kirby noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was within her rights to visit Taiwan on Tuesday but also stressed that the trip did not constitute a violation of Chinese sovereignty or America’s longstanding “one-China” policy.
    “What we don’t want to see is this spiral into any kind of a crisis or conflict,” Kirby said. “There’s just no reason to amp this up.”
    Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said shows an unwavering American commitment to the Chinese-claimed self-ruled island, but China condemned the highest-level US visit in 25 years as a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.White House national security spokesman John Kirby spoke vaguely about the efforts to negotiate the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan, two high-profile Americans currently detained in Russia. “We are working hard, government to government, to get Paul and Brittney home,” he said. “We made a serious proposal. We made a serious offer,” Kirby said. “We urge the Russians to take that offer because it was done with sincerity and we know we can back it up.”Read more here: US’s proposed swap for Griner and Whelan met with skepticism and furyRead moreWhite House national security spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that the killing of top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri signifies a violation of the Doha agreement – the landmark peace agreement in which the Taliban agreed to sever ties with al-Qaida and other international terror groups. Secretary of state Antony Blinken had previously said the Taliban “grossly violated the Doha Agreement and repeated assurances to the world that they would not allow Afghan territory to be used by terrorists to threaten the security of other countries”.While Kirby said he could not speak to what steps the US was going to take to hold the Taliban accountable for violating the agreement, “we made it very clear that that was a violation of the Doha agreement”. “We made it clear to the Taliban that we know what they did,” he said. “We know who they harbored. We know some of the steps they tried to take after the strike to cover up the evidence of it. We’re mindful of it. But I’m not going to get ahead – policy decisions haven’t been made. We’re not going to take the Taliban at their word. They claim they want a relationship with the United States and the West. They claim they want to open up and be part of the international community. They claim they want financing. If that’s true and if that’s what they really want, it would behoove them to pay close attention to what we just did over the weekend and meet their agreements under the Doha agreement.”He said he felt that with or without the Taliban’s cooperation, this weekend’s drone strike proved that Afghanistan would not be a safe haven for terrorists. “The strike itself shows how serious we are about accountability,” Kirby said. “It shows how serious we are about defending our interests. We’re going to maintain this over-horizon capability. We’re going to continue to improve that capability going forward.”Later, Kirby said, “Mr Zawahiri’s death is good for everyone in the world. He was a killer. It’s a good thing that he’s no longer walking the face of the earth.” As to House speaker Nancy Pelosi and her trip to Taiwan, White House national security spokesman John Kirby reiterated much of what he said at yesterday’s briefing. He put some distance between her and Joe Biden, saying that Congress was its own separate branch of government that could make its own travel decisions, but that her trip was in line with US policy and China was out of line for reacting with threats. “Let me be clear: the speaker’s visit is totally consistent with our long-standing One China policy. We have been very clear that nothing has changed with our One China policy,” Kirby said. “We have said that we do not support Taiwan independence and we said that we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.”He said China’s reaction – China put its military on high alert and announced a series of targeted military operations – was “right in line with what we anticipated”. “There’s no reason for Beijing to turn this visit, which is consistent with long-standing US policy, into some sort of crisis, or use it as some kind of pretext to increase aggressiveness and military activity in or around now or beyond her travel,” Kirby said. Kirby continued: “The United States will not seek and does not want a crisis. We are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do. At the same time, we will not engage in sabre rattling. We will continue to operate in the seas and the skies of the western Pacific as we have for decades. We will continue to support Taiwan, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific and seek to maintain communication with Beijing.” White House national security spokesman John Kirby kicked off today’s press briefing by addressing the US drone strike in Afghanistan that killed the top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Joe Biden has described Zawahiri as one of the world’s most wanted men who was the deputy and successor to Osama bin Laden.“President Biden has consistently said that we will not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists who might bring harm to Americans and the homeland,” Kirby said. “We have met that commitment. This action demonstrates that without American forces on the ground in Afghanistan and in harm’s way, we still remain able to identify and locate even the world’s most wanted terrorists and take actions to remove them from the battlefield.”An update on the reconciliation bill, officially known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the $740bn legislative package that seeks to enact deficit reduction to fight inflation, lower energy costs, reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030 and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, among other things.This week, Senate Democrats must meet with the Senate parliamentarian, who will parse through the text of the bill to make sure it meets all the rules of what’s allowed within the scope of reconciliation. That’s not the only challenge they face though: Senate Republicans have vowed to thwart the bill, and it’s still unclear whether moderate Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema is on board or not. But two days into the week, Democrats remain optimistic. “On track,” Schumer says of passing their reconciliation bill later this week. “All text and CBO and JCT scores have been submitted for review” to the Senate parliamentarian, he said. Parl has yet to rule— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 2, 2022
    Democrats taking a bit of a preemptive victory on the reconciliation package:Schumer it “breathtaking,” noting “it gives Democrats real happiness “”Democrats will pass this bill in the coming days.”— @lindsemcpherson (@lindsemcpherson) August 2, 2022
    Manchin chatting up Sinema in the chair right now— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) August 2, 2022
    Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said senators have reached an agreement on the Honoring our Pact Act, the bipartisan legislation that would make it easier for veterans to access military care related to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam and toxins from burn pits used to get rid of military waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.He said he’s planning to call a vote at 5pm local time. Schumer just announced an agreement with amendments on the PACT Act. Says he’s planning a vote around 5pm today and he expects it will pass.— Jessica Dean (@jessicadean) August 2, 2022
    Several Senate Democrats have introduced a bill seeking to impose term limits on supreme court justices. Several Democratic senators just introduced a bill to impose term limits on Supreme Court justices.Under their bill, a new justice would take the bench every 2 years and spend 18 years in active service.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) August 2, 2022
    Senators sponsoring this bill:Sheldon WhitehouseCory BookerRichard BlumenthalBrian SchatzMazie Hirono— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) August 2, 2022
    This is the Senate version of the bill introduced last week by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga).https://t.co/C8YZqmOPEZ— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) August 2, 2022
    Don’t see bill text, but here’s an overview of it. It’s called… the Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act.Or, the TERM Act. Nailed the acronym. pic.twitter.com/K7AxpmxzQ8— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) August 2, 2022
    “Speaker Pelosi was right.” “Speaker Pelosi was right,” Roy Blunt says, noting he rarely says those words, referring to her decision to go to Taiwan— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 2, 2022 More

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    How Ayman al-Zawahiri’s ‘pattern of life’ allowed the US to kill al-Qaida leader

    How Ayman al-Zawahiri’s ‘pattern of life’ allowed the US to kill al-Qaida leader After a decades-long hunt the simple habit of sitting out on the balcony gave the CIA an opportunity to launch ‘tailored strike’ In the end it was one of the oldest mistakes in the fugitive’s handbook that apparently did for Ayman al-Zawahiri, the top al-Qaida leader killed, according to US intelligence, by a drone strike on Sunday morning: he developed a habit.The co-planner of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 had acquired a taste for sitting out on the balcony of his safe house in Sherpur, a well-to-do diplomatic enclave of Kabul. He grew especially fond of stepping out on to the balcony after morning prayers, so that he could watch the sun rise over the Afghan capital.According to a US official who briefed reporters on Monday, it was such regular behavior that allowed intelligence agents, presumably CIA, to piece together what they called “a pattern of life” of the target. That in turn allowed them to launch what the White House called a “tailored airstrike” involving two Hellfire missiles fired from a Reaper drone that are claimed to have struck the balcony, with Zawahiri on it, at 6.18am on Sunday.It was the culmination of a decades-long hunt for the Egyptian surgeon who by the time he was killed had a $25m bounty on his head. Zawahiri, 71, was held accountable not only for his part as Bin Laden’s second in command for 9/11, with its death toll of almost 3,000 people, but also for several other of al-Qaida’s most deadly attacks, including the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000, which killed 17 US sailors.The mission to go after the al-Qaida leader was triggered, US officials said, in early April when intelligence sources picked up signals that Zawahiri and his family had moved off their mountainside hideaways and relocated to Kabul. Following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last August, and with the support of the Haqqani Taliban network, Zawahiri and his wife, together with their daughter and grandchildren, had moved into the Sherpur house.MapIn their telling of events, US officials were at pains to stress that under Joe Biden’s instructions the mission was carried out carefully and with precision to avoid civilian casualties and US officials said no one else was killed or wounded in the attack.Social media images of the strike suggested the use of a modified Hellfire called the R9X with six blades to damage targets, sources familiar with the weapon told Reuters. They caused surprisingly little damage beyond the target, suggesting they may be a version of the missile shrouded in secrecy and used by the US to avoid non-combatant casualties.The US president was first apprised of Zawahiri’s whereabouts in April, and for the next two months a tightly knit group of officials delved into the intelligence and devised a plan. A scale model of the Sherpur house was built, showing the balcony where the al-Qaida leader liked to sit. As discussions about a possible strike grew more intense, the model was brought into the situation room of the White House on 1 July so that Biden could see it for himself.The president “examined closely the model of al-Zawahiri’s house that the intelligence community had built and brought into the White House situation room for briefings on this issue”, a senior administration official told reporters.The White House made further claims to bolster its argument that the attack was lawful, flawless and with a loss of life limited to Zawahiri alone. Officials said that engineers were brought in to analyse the safe house and assess what would happen to it structurally in the wake of a drone strike.Lawyers were similarly consulted on whether the attack was legal. They advised that it was, given the target’s prominent role as leader of a terrorist group.Biden, by now quarantined with Covid, received a final briefing on 25 July and gave the go-ahead. It was a decision in stark contrast to the advice he gave Barack Obama in May 2011 not to proceed with the special forces mission that killed Bin Laden in a raid on his safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.On Monday evening, Biden stood on his own balcony – this one in the White House with the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as his backdrop – to address the nation.“I authorized the precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield once and for all,” Biden said. “This measure was carefully planned, rigorously, to minimize the risk of harm to other civilians.”Biden’s insistence that no one other than the al-Qaida leader was killed in the attack was amplified repeatedly by US officials. The narrative given by the White House was that Zawahiri was taken out cleanly through the application of modern technological warfare.Skepticism remains, despite the protestations. Over the years drone strikes have frequently proved to be anything but precise.In August last year one such US drone strike in Kabul was initially hailed by the Pentagon as a successful mission to take out a would-be terrorist bomber planning an attack on the city’s airport. It was only after the New York Times had published an exhaustive investigation showing that the strike had in fact killed 10 civilians, including an aid worker and seven children, that the US military admitted the mission had gone tragically wrong.Perhaps mindful of the doubts that are certain to swirl around the Zawahiri killing for days to come, the White House said that the Sherpur safe house where the drone strike happened had been kept under observation for 36 hours after the attack and before Biden spoke to the nation. Officials said that Zawahiri’s relatives were seen leaving the house under Haqqani Taliban escort, establishing that they had survived the strike.TopicsAyman al-ZawahiriAfghanistanTalibanSouth and central AsiaJoe BidenBiden administrationUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    'Justice has been delivered': al-Qaida leader killed in US drone strike, Biden says – video

    US President Joe Biden  has announced  the top al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan. The US president described the death of al-Zawahiri, who was Osama Bin Laden’s deputy and successor, as a major blow to the terrorist network behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.
    The CIA strike will be seen as a proof of the US’s ability to conduct ‘over-the-horizon’ operations despite last year’s military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. But it also raised questions over al-Qaida’s continued presence in the country since the Taliban regained power

    Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri? The al-Qaida leader who helped plot their deadliest attacks
    Al-Qaida enjoying a haven in Afghanistan under Taliban, UN warns More

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    US withdrawal triggered catastrophic defeat of Afghan forces, damning watchdog report finds

    US withdrawal triggered catastrophic defeat of Afghan forces, damning watchdog report findsReport by special inspector general blames Trump and Biden administrations, as well as the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani Afghan armed forces collapsed last year because they had been made dependent on US support that was abruptly withdrawn in the face of a Taliban offensive, according to a scathing assessment by a US government watchdog.A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) on the catastrophic defeat that led to the fall of Kabul on 15 August, blamed the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden as well as the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani.“Sigar found that the single most important factor in the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces’ (ANDSF) collapse in August 2021 was the decision by two US presidents to withdraw US military and contractors from Afghanistan, while Afghan forces remained unable to sustain themselves,” said the congressionally mandated report, which was released on Wednesday.Afghanistan stunned by scale and speed of security forces’ collapseRead moreThe Sigar account focused on the impact of two critical events that it said doomed the Afghan forces: the February 2020 Doha agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, and then Biden’s April 2021 decision to pull out all US troops by September, without leaving a residual force.“Due to the ANDSF’s dependency on US military forces, these events destroyed ANDSF morale,” the inspector general said. “The ANDSF had long relied on the US military’s presence to protect against large-scale ANDSF losses, and Afghan troops saw the United States as a means of holding their government accountable for paying their salaries. The US-Taliban agreement made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population.”The ANDSF were dependent on US troops and contractors because that was how the forces were developed, the report argued, noting “the United States designed the ANDSF as a mirror image of US forces”.“The United States created a combined arms military structure that required a high degree of professional military sophistication and leadership,” it said. “The United States also created a non-commissioned officer corps which had no foundation in Afghanistan military history.”It would have taken decades to build a modern, cohesive and self-reliant force, the Sigar document argued. The Afghan air force, the main military advantage the government had over the Taliban, had not been projected to be self-sufficient until 2030 at the earliest.Within weeks of Biden’s withdrawal announcement, the contractors who maintained planes and helicopters left. As a result, there were not enough functioning aircraft to get weapons and supplies to Afghan forces around the country, leaving them without ammunition, food and water in the face of renewed Taliban attacks.The US had begun cutting off air support to the Afghan army after the Doha agreement was signed. Exacerbating its impact on morale was the fact that the deal had secret annexes, widely believed to stipulate the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments and restrictions on fighting for both the US and Taliban. They remain secret, apparently, even from an official enquiry.“Sigar was not able to obtain copies of these annexes, despite official requests made to the US Department of Defence and the US Department of State,” the report observes.The secrecy led to unintended consequences, the report said.“Taliban propaganda weaponised that vacuum against local commanders and elders by claiming the Taliban had a secret deal with the United States for certain districts or provinces to be surrendered to them,” it said.The Sigar report also blames the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who changed ANDSF commanders during the Taliban offensive, appointing aged loyalists from the communist era, while marginalising well-trained ANDSF officers aligned with the US.It quotes one unnamed former Afghan government official as saying that after the Doha agreement, “President Ghani began to suspect that the United States wanted to remove him from power.”According to the former official and a former Afghan government Ghani was afraid of a military coup. He became a “paranoid president … afraid of his own countrymen” and particularly of US-trained Afghan officers.Ghani fled Afghanistan on the day Kabul fell.TopicsAfghanistanAshraf GhaniUS foreign policyTrump administrationBiden administrationSouth and central AsiaUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Appeal to the UN to Protect Hazaras in Afghanistan

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    India Must Contain Afghanistan-Pakistan to Survive

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    Taliban reversal on girls’ education derails US plan for diplomatic recognition

    Taliban reversal on girls’ education derails US plan for diplomatic recognitionJoint event had been planned ahead of Doha Forum that would have set process in motion to grant group diplomatic recognition The US was poised to set the Taliban on the path to diplomatic recognition before the plan was derailed by the Afghan rulers’ sudden U-turn on a promise to allow girls’ education, the Guardian understands.The group prompted international outrage and confusion on Wednesday when it reneged on a deal to allow teenage girls to go to secondary school, just a week after the education ministry announced that schools would open for all students.Taliban decide against opening schools to girls in Afghanistan beyond age of 11Read moreUS diplomats had been so optimistic that the Taliban would make good on the promise that a joint event had been planned ahead of this weekend’s Doha Forum in Qatar that would have set the process in motion to grant diplomatic recognition to the group.A seat had been reserved for the Taliban at a panel at the forum dedicated to girls’ education in which a Taliban representative would have addressed the role of women with Afghan female activists.The sudden reversal undermined the argument that a more “moderate” leadership now dominates the Taliban, and such optimism was further clouded this weekend when the group ordered Afghanistan television stations to remove BBC news bulletins in Pashto, Persian and Uzbek.In a statement on Sunday the BBC said “This is a worrying development at a time of uncertainty and turbulence for the people of Afghanistan. More than 6 million Afghans consume the BBC’s independent and impartial journalism on TV every weekWestern officials made it clear that diplomatic recognition will be impossible unless the decision on girls’ education is reversed. The move will also make it harder the international community to raise money for an international pledging conference next week, and require tighter handling of any cash raised so that it does notThomas West, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, said: “I was surprised by the turnaround this last Wednesday and the world has reacted to it by condemning this move. It is a breach first and foremost of the Afghan people’s trust.“I believe hope is not all lost. I am hopeful we will see a reversal of that decision in the coming days.”But West defended the US engagement with the Taliban saying that a complete diplomatic rupture would mean abandoning 40 million Afghans amid growing concerns over a possible famine in the country.“We are talking about the modalities of an urgent humanitarian response, the need for more than a humanitarian response, a policy not just an admire the problem of a broken banking sector but find ways to fix it, a professionalisation of the Central Bank so that the international financial community can begin to have confidence in it, we are talking about terrorism and we are talking about women’s rights.“One of the first times we sat down in October in a formal setting they had a request of us ‘please put our civil servants – 500,000 – back to work’. We thought a logical place to start given the sector resonated so much in the international community was education. We had requests of them, as well. Number one, women and girls could attend at all levels across large swathes of Afghanistan. Number two we wanted to see a monitoring mechanism and third there be a serious and rigorous curriculum. Over the following the months the international community receive the necessary assurances, and more importantly the Afghan people were told on March 23 we would see girls attend secondary education and that did not occur.”Hosna Jalil, a former interior minister was one of many Afghan women at Doha to claim the Taliban will not be able to keep a lid on the demand for education. She said the last 20 years had not been a waste but left a positive legacy. “We facilitated a generation, two thirds of the population, that knows what a better life looks like. That is why we will not give up. They are loud, they believe in freedom and democracy.”Malala Yousafzai, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for all children’s right to education, told the Forum that times had changed since the Taliban first banned girls’ education in 1996. Taliban U-turn over Afghan girls’ education reveals deep leadership divisionsRead more“It is much harder this time – that is because women have seen what it means to be educated, what it means to be empowered. This time is going to be much harder for the Taliban to maintain the ban on girls’ education. They are learning in the hide-outs. They are protesting on the streets. This ban will not last forever. They were waiting outside the school gates in their uniforms and they were crying. Seeking education is a duty of every Muslim,” she said.Dalia Fahmhy, an Afghan professor of political science said in 1999 no girls were in secondary schools. “Within 15 years later there were 3.7 million girls. Over that period a thousand women became business owners. This cannot be curtailed. We live in a digital age and 68 % have cellphones and 22 % are connected to each other and to the world. This cannot be curtailed. 27 % of the parliament were women.”TopicsTalibanAfghanistanUS foreign policyUS politicsSouth and Central AsianewsReuse this content More

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    The Prospects of Peace in Afghanistan

    The Doha Agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban on February 29, 2020, not only set a date for the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, but it also included certain obligations for the Taliban.

    Under this agreement, the Taliban are obligated to take measures to prevent terrorist groups from threatening the security of the US and its allies and to engage in a comprehensive intra-Afghan dialogue that would produce a political settlement. The hasty US troop withdrawal in August 2021 emboldened the Taliban to disregard their obligations under the deal and encouraged them to prioritize political takeover instead of a sustainable peace mechanism for Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan’s Public Intellectuals Fail to Denounce the Taliban

    READ MORE

    The Doha Agreement and its contents undermined the sovereign government of Afghanistan at the time and provided an upper hand to the Taliban in both war and peace. Certain assurances in the deal enabled the Taliban to become stronger in both battlefield action and narrative propagation.

    These include the agreement’s references to a “new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government”; clauses on the release of Taliban combatants referred to as “political prisoners”; indirect legitimization of the Taliban shadow government by virtue of stipulations such as “the Taliban will not provide visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents”; and a complete lack of any mention of human rights protections in Afghanistan.

    Another Case of Failed Peacemaking

    The agreement is not the only pact that was expected to bring a peaceful end to the conflict in the country. In 1988, the Geneva Accords concluded under the auspices of the UN between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the US and the Soviet Union serving as state guarantors, provided an overall framework for the settlement of the Afghan conflict and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Likewise, the Bonn Agreement in 2001 — irrespective of whether it is categorized as a peace deal —established a process to manage the political transition in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. It briefly outlined steps from the formation of an interim administration to the development of a new constitution and holding elections.

    Embed from Getty Images

    However, neither the Geneva Accords nor the Bonn Agreement were successful and ultimately failed to foster conditions necessary for enabling a comprehensive settlement to Afghanistan’s complicated problem. More recently, the Taliban’s abject disregard for their commitments under the Doha Agreement, combined with the United States’ rushed exit, sped up the Taliban’s reemergence, once again closing an already narrow window of opportunity for achieving a durable political solution to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan.

    There is indeed a qualitative difference between the Geneva Accords, the Bonn Agreement and the Doha Agreement. However, one of the key reasons for their failure, among other factors, is that they are silent on the main cause of the conflict in Afghanistan — i.e., ethnic conflict.

    Afghanistan is a multiethnic country where the various ethnic groups are also geographically fragmented. Historically, divisions over who should lead the country and how have been among the core contentious issues in Afghanistan. Disagreements on this matter have manifested in violent ways in the 1990s and non-violent ways in the outcome of four presidential elections held based on the 2004 constitution. Overlooking of the main cause of the conflict and an absence of a viable mechanism for power redistribution among ethnic groups is a common thread that connects each of the three agreements that failed and continued to fuel instability.

    The Current Situation

    Less than two years since the Doha Agreement was signed, in August 2021, Kabul, the Afghan capital, fell to the Taliban. In the aftermath of this development, residences of several former government officials, particularly those from the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), were raided and these personnel members were either killed or imprisoned. A UN report found that over 100 personnel from the Afghan security forces and others associated with the former Afghan government have been killed in the country, despite the Taliban announcing a general amnesty. 

    Moreover, despite the demands from the international community for the formation of an inclusive government, respect for human rights and counterterrorism assurances, the Taliban have refused to make any concessions. They have brazenly continued suppressing all dissenting voices, severely limiting women’s rights and persecuting civil society members and journalists.

    Peace in Afghanistan?

    It was apparent from day one that the prospects of the post-July 2018 efforts for a political settlement in Afghanistan were uncertain at best. The Doha Agreement simply laid out a possible schedule for the US withdrawal instead of guarantee or measures enabling a durable political settlement or peace process. The Taliban too negotiated the deal with the US with the aim of winning the war rather than seeking a peace deal or political settlement with their opponents.

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    The chaotic withdrawal of American forces and the mayhem at Kabul airport — which was reminiscent of the US pullout from Vietnam — has not only damaged the image of a powerful country like the US around the world, but has also established its reputation as an unreliable ally in times of difficulty. Given historical patterns and the Taliban’s track record, in the absence of any qualitative change of circumstances on the ground, the international community’s positive overtures to the Taliban might be yet another folly.

    As it stands, the prospects for peace in Afghanistan will remain distant for as long as the Taliban own the entire political apparatus rather than participate as a party in an inclusive and representative government and respect dissenting voices. In the meantime, the international community should use sanctions mechanisms and official recognition as the few remaining tools of leverage to hold the Taliban accountable to their commitments and to international legal standards.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. More