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Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | Afghan soil should not be used for anti-India activities, terrorism: India to Taliban
In the first formal and publicly acknowledged contact, Indian Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal met senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai on Tuesday and conveyed India's concerns that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the discussions also focused on the safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and the travel of Afghan nationals, especially members of minority communities to India. The meeting took place at the Indian embassy in Doha at the request of the Taliban side and came two weeks after the outfit seized control of Kabul.
The MEA said the Taliban representative assured the ambassador that "these issues" would be positively addressed. "Today, Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban's Political Office in Doha. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side," the MEA said in a statement.
It said the discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and the travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India also came up. "Ambassador Mittal raised India's concern that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.
People familiar with India's ties in Afghanistan said it was the first publicly acknowledged contact between the two sides in over at least two decades. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, replying to questions during his weekly briefing in the last few months on whether India has reached out to the Taliban, has been maintaining that New Delhi is in touch with all stakeholders.
It was learnt that India had opened a channel of communication with the Taliban but it was never acknowledged officially. The meeting between Mittal and Stanekzai took place hours after the US completed the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, ending its 20-year-long military campaign in the country.
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | Ex-Afghan minister says timing of US exit 'irresponsible'
Nargis Nehan, a former member of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani's cabinet who days ago fled Afghanistan for Norway, on Tuesday condemned the US handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"The US have been in Afghanistan for 20 years, staying one more year longer wouldn't have made any difference for them, at least financially as well as politically," Nehan told AFP from Oslo where she is staying in quarantine after arriving last week.
Nehan, who previously served as acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum, said the withdrawal was "mismanaged" and "irresponsible" and with a delayed exit evacuations could have been handled in an organised manner and enabled a real agreement between the government and the Taliban.
"President Joe Biden could have said that by end of September 2022 I want zero troops in Afghanistan. But until that time I want to make sure that we have a political settlement between the government and the Taliban and that we have also evacuated all our employees and local partners," Nehan said.
The former minister, who explained that she resigned in October of 2019 over frustration that she lacked the political support to enact reforms in the sector, said she fled to Norway after her driver was shot by unknown assailants the day the Taliban took over.
As her driver, who survived the attack, was not a high profile individual, Nehan and her family believed she had been the intended target.
"I had worked in the government as well as in the civil society and I have been a very vocal, activist and politician. So when you're very vocal you create enemies," Nehan said.
She also said the way things were left meant that a lot of the money and effort invested over the last two decades had been wasted.
"Basically, the over two trillion of investments that were done by the international community and as well as blood, and mostly blood of Afghans. They just let all of it go and it's very disappointing that we see nobody holds them accountable," Nehan said.
In addition, Nehan worried that the sense of abandonment experienced by many Afghans would foster a sense of grievance against the international community, leading to a breeding ground for extremism.
"That's my fear... we'll see much more extremism coming from Afghanistan," Nehan said, adding that it would be fuelled "out of poverty, and out of that feeling of betrayal and grievances that they have."
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | Fears of Afghan exodus boost pressure on EU ministers
EU ministers debated Tuesday how to prevent or contain a feared influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban, with Germany leading a call for migrants to stay in the region.
At the meeting, the ministers were expected to approve a declaration that includes support for countries in the region to take in refugees from Afghanistan, which has been in Taliban hands since mid-August.
The return of the hardline Islamist group to power has plunged the future of many Afghans into uncertainty and sparked concern that millions may seek refuge in neighbouring countries and Europe.
The goal of European refugee policy must be "that people stay close to home," German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said, as he arrived for talks in Brussels.
In 2015, Germany took in more than a million migrants fleeing conflict, mainly in Syria, in a decision that angered some of its EU partners, who were caught off guard.
On Tuesday, Seehofer urged the European Commission -- the EU executive -- to present an action plan "very quickly", making support for Afghanistan's neighbours, such as Pakistan and Tajikistan, dependent on their willingness to accept and care for refugees.
This would be based on the EU-Turkey model in which Ankara inked a deal with Brussels after the 2015 migration crisis to stem the flow of migrants to Europe by hosting arrivals in return for some incentives including financial assistance.
"The Turkish-Syrian model has been a good model for refugees ... France will ask to extend this model (to Afghanistan)," French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
For now, however, he added "there is no massive flow of Afghans at the European borders as was experienced in 2015. But it may happen in the coming weeks or months depending on the situation."
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | NATO chief vows will not 'forget' Afghans left behind
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Kabul airport must be kept open and vowed not to forget Afghans left behind when US and allied forces left.
"It's essential to keep the airport open, both to enable humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and also to make sure that we can continue to get people out -- those who wished to, but were not able to be part of the military evacuation," he told AFP in an interview.
"We will not forget them."
The last US military flight departed from Kabul's airport late Monday after a rushed airlift to rescue more than 123,000 allied personnel and Afghans who worked alongside them during the conflict.
But as the Taliban celebrated their victory, the NATO alliance is left to analyse what went wrong in its most important military mission since the Cold War.
And Stoltenberg swore the allies would maintain diplomatic pressure on the Taliban to allow the remaining Afghans, and their families, who worked to help the Western effort and now feel at risk, to leave the country.
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The symbolism of the airport was underlined Tuesday when the Taliban's top spokesman stood on its runway and declared victory over the United States. But what happens next remains unclear.
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | What lies ahead for Afghanistan under the Taliban?
Afghans on Tuesday woke to the start of another uncertain era after the last American forces left overnight, cementing victory for the Taliban after two decades of war.
Many are afraid that the group will once again impose their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, brutally punishing their opponents and locking away Afghan women as they did during their 1996-2001 regime.
And while many Afghans -- especially in rural areas -- are also relieved that the war has ended, the country still faces huge economic, political and security challenges.
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | India's Qatar envoy Deepak Mittal meets Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai in Doha
India's Qatar envoy Deepak Mittal on August 31 met the Head of Taliban's Political Office Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side.
The discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India also came up.
The Indian Ambassador raised India's concern that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.
While the Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed.
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | Music is on at Kabul weddings under the Taliban
At one of Kabul's upscale wedding halls, a celebration was in full swing around midday Tuesday. Afghan dance music could be heard from inside the hall. According to reception hall's manager, Shadab Azimi, 26, at least seven wedding parties have been held since the Taliban takeover of Kabul two weeks earlier, with festivities moved to daylight hours because of security concerns.
The Taliban, who during their previous rule between 1996-2001 had banned most music, except for devotional Islamic songs, did not announce a ban of live music, Azimi said. However, wedding singers canceled on their own, for fear of running afoul of possible new Taliban restrictions. He said in recent celebrations, couples played taped music. Azimi said business was down by 80 per cent over the past two weeks, presumably because of a sense of uncertainty. (PTI)
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | Taliban can assert independence from their Pakistani paymasters: William Dalrymple
Don't underestimate the Taliban, warns historian-author William Dalrymple, saying they have been unquestionably trained and funded by Pakistan but there is now the possibility of them asserting their independence from their paymasters.
The US government's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is strategically wrong-headed and emotionally ill-considered, the author of the bestselling "Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan'' said as the last American plane flew out of Kabul on Tuesday and the war-ravaged country was left in the hands of the Taliban. "If some Indian strategists/writers tag the Taliban as entirely a Pakistani movement, that's simply not right. It is an Afghan movement that reflects an extremely hardline ultra-puritan rural Afghan movement. But it is unquestionably funded, trained, armed, put into the field and sheltered by Pakistan, and it has been for 20 years, Dalrymple told. (PTI)
Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates | Eight Taliban killed in Panjshir fighting, Afghan militia forces say
Taliban forces clashed with militia fighters in the Panjshir valley north of the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday night, losing eight killed, a representative of the main anti-Taliban opposition group said. Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, the Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Taliban, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.
Fahim Dashti, a spokesman for the National Resistance Forces, a group loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said the fighting occurred on the western entrance to the valley where he Taliban attacked NRF positions. He said the attack, which may have been a probe to test the valley’s defences, was repulsed with eight Taliban killed and a similar number wounded, while two members of the NRF forces were wounded.
It was not immediately possible to reach a Taliban spokesman for comment. Massoud, son of the former anti-Soviet mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, has established himself in the Panjshir valley with a force of several thousand, made up of local militias and remnants of army and special forces units.He has called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban but has said his forces will resist if their province in the narrow and mountainous valley is attacked.
A significant force of Taliban fighters has been moved to the area but the two sides have so far been engaged in negotiations and have avoided fighting. Celebratory gunfire resounded across Kabul on Tuesday as Taliban fighters took control of the airport after the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops, marking the end of a 20-year war that left the Islamist militia stronger than it was in 2001.