Afghanistan

Taliban Chief Promises Women Equal Rights if U.S. Leaves Afghanistan

In his address for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada – supreme leader of the Taliban as well as one of its top clerics – promised equal rights for men and women under fundamentalist Taliban rule after the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan. He also offered a general amnesty to the Taliban’s enemies, provided they “end their opposition” to the “establishment of an Islamic government.” Eid al-Fitr is the festival that concludes the month-long fast of Ramadan, the paramount Muslim holiday. Eid, which traditionally lasts for three days, will officially begin on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on when the crescent moon appears over each country where Muslims live. “To those sides and individuals that have reservations about the future political system following the end of occupation – the Islamic Emirate once again assures everyone that it does not have a monopolist policy, every male and female member of society shall be given their due rights, none shall feel any sense of deprivation or injustice and all work necessary for the welfare, durability and development of society will be addressed in the light of divine Sharia,” Akhundzada said in his Eid statement, delivered in advance of the holiday. The Taliban likes to refer to itself as the “Islamic Emirate.” Muslim religious law, which the Taliban interprets with infamous severity, is known as “sharia.” The Taliban chief denounced warnings about the horrors that await Afghans if his terrorist gang seizes power again as a foreign plot to sow dissent and slander the “Islamic Emirate.” “Some circles seeking nefarious goals and power through a plan given to them by foreign intelligence networks to promote hatred and bigotry under linguistic, tribal, sectarian and other titles and to threaten and endanger the unity of our country must understand that the Afghan nation and the Islamic Emirate will not permit such undertakings,” he said. “Just as it rescued our homeland from such dangers in the past, it still (Allah willing) retains such capabilities, hence, it would be better for the perpetrators of such activities to review their approach and refrain from troubling this nation with such evil actions and ideas,” he warned, somewhat undermining his previous message of tolerance and reconciliation. Mixed with the Taliban’s threats against foreigners was an offer of general amnesty to their domestic opponents, provided they submit to fundamentalist rule and “renounce their enmity” for the Taliban and its leadership. “We urge everyone to take full advantage of this amnesty by ending their opposition and not becoming an impediment for the establishment of an Islamic government which is the aspiration of millions of martyred, wounded, disabled, orphaned, widowed and suffering Afghans,” Akhundzada said. He also demanded the Afghan government speed up the release of Taliban prisoners, who he said were suffering under inhumane conditions in government prisons. Akhundzada called the Taliban’s peace deal with the United States a “historic agreement” and hailed the “resultant termination of occupation” as an “extraordinary accomplishment for the Islamic Emirate and the entire Afghan Mujahid nation.” Mujahid means “holy warriors.” “The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement signed with America and urges the other side to honor its own commitments and not allow this critical opportunity go to waste. The implementation of this agreement can prove to be a powerful instrument for bringing an end to the war between America and our country and for establishing peace and an Islamic system in our homeland,” the Taliban leader said. “On the basis of our policy, we seek to have brotherly relations with Islamic countries, neighborly relations with our neighbors and strengthening of constructive relations with all regional and world countries in order that obligations be discharged vis-à-vis regional and global economic prosperity, security and communal life,” he promised. The government in Kabul was not much impressed with Akhundzada’s Eid statement, noting that his ostensible call for peace and reconciliation included a good deal of language that could be construed as incitement to violence, such as instructing Taliban fighters to “remain focused on their objectives.” “The people of Afghanistan do not need to hear a message from the Taliban. The Taliban, unfortunately, is still sending the message of war, panic, and fear, the Taliban is the main source of devastations and the killing of civilians,” said Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. Akhundzada assumed leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed by a U.S. drone strike in the remote Balochistan region of Pakistan in 2016. The Obama administration said at the time that liquidating Mansour would destabilize Taliban leadership and hopefully bring a replacement who was more amenable to working out a peace deal with the United States. Such an agreement was not signed until well into the administration of President Donald Trump, and as Akhundzada’s Eid remarks demonstrate, the Taliban sees the agreement more as a victory against the U.S. “occupation” and a step toward reclaiming total power from the elected government in Kabul than an equitable peace deal. The deal has not brought a great deal of peace to Afghanistan, either. Fighting continues between the Taliban and government forces, most recently with a Taliban attack on the city of Kunduz on Wednesday. According to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the attack was repelled with air support, resulting in the death of over 50 Taliban fighters. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, a primary architect of the peace deal, followed up a round of intense shuttle diplomacy across the Middle East on Wednesday by calling on all sides in Afghanistan to reduce violence. “On violence, I told the Talibs, violence by all sides must fall,” Khalilzad said after meeting with both Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, his power-sharing partner Abdullah Abdullah, and Taliban leaders.

The notion that the Taliban would give equal rights to both men and women is not only a lie, but it’s ridiculous on its face, and laughable. After all, Islam doesn’t treat men and women differently; not by a very long shot.  And, the Taliban enforce Sharia Law, which is the harshest form of Islamic law.  Google what Sharia Law is, and you’ll get a sense of that.  As someone who has spent some time in Afghanistan as a “field grade” Army officer, I have seen up close and very personal what the Taliban did to those who were victimized by that evil, oppressive regime before we liberated Afghanistan.  It would be a travesty on many levels if we allowed the Taliban to retake control of Afghanistan after all the blood, money and treasure that we, and so many other countries, have invested in rebuilding that backward country which borders Iran.

Afghan peace deal on verge of collapse after Pompeo’s intervention fails

One of President Trump’s top foreign policy priorities appeared on the verge of collapse Monday after the U.S. announced it was slashing aid to the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan as a feud between its leaders threatens to undermine a delicate peace deal inked last month between the Trump administration and Taliban. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement in an unusually blunt statement after a whirlwind day of diplomacy in which he made an unannounced trip to Kabul. The half-day visit evidently failed to resolve a bitter power battle between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief rival Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom claim to have won the country’s disputed September presidential election. Despite separate and joint talks with the visiting American diplomat Monday, the two men “have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens,” the State Department said Monday evening. Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. was “disappointed” in both men and their conduct, which he said had “harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, American and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.” The State Department said aid this year would be slashed by $1 billion, and a similar amount could be cut in 2021. Other aid programs will also be reviewed for “additional reductions.” The impasse puts in doubt Mr. Trump’s plans to withdraw the bulk of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in the coming months, ending the combat role in what is now the country’s longest war

Afghan peace deal on verge of collapse after Pompeo’s intervention fails

One of President Trump’s top foreign policy priorities appeared on the verge of collapse Monday after the U.S. announced it was slashing aid to the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan as a feud between its leaders threatens to undermine a delicate peace deal inked last month between the Trump administration and Taliban. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement in an unusually blunt statement after a whirlwind day of diplomacy in which he made an unannounced trip to Kabul. The half-day visit evidently failed to resolve a bitter power battle between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief rival Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom claim to have won the country’s disputed September presidential election. Despite separate and joint talks with the visiting American diplomat Monday, the two men “have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens,” the State Department said Monday evening. Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. was “disappointed” in both men and their conduct, which he said had “harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, American and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.” The State Department said aid this year would be slashed by $1 billion, and a similar amount could be cut in 2021. Other aid programs will also be reviewed for “additional reductions.” The impasse puts in doubt Mr. Trump’s plans to withdraw the bulk of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in the coming months, ending the combat role in what is now the country’s longest war.

Disappointing news to be sure…but not surprising.  Hopefully these two Afghan leaders can put aside their petty personal differences for the good of the poor Afghan people.  Guess we’ll see…

US military targets Taliban forces in ‘defensive’ airstrike, first strike since historic peace deal

The U.S. military conducted a “defensive” airstrike against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, less than a week after signing a historic peace deal with the militant group. U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said in a tweet that the airstrike Wednesday was conducted against four Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, in the Helmand province, who he said were “actively attacking” an Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) checkpoint. “This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” he added. “This was our 1st strike against the Taliban in 11 days.” Leggett, who called on the militant group to uphold their commitments to the peace deal signed on Feb. 29, added that Taliban forces had conducted 43 attacks on Afghan troops on Tuesday in the same province. “To be clear – we are committed to peace, however, we have the responsibility to defend our ANDSF partners,” Leggett continued. “Afghans & US have complied (with) our agreements; however, Talibs appear intent on squandering this (opportunity) and ignoring the will of the people for peace.” Afghanistan’s interior ministry said four civilians and 11 troops were killed Wednesday in a wave of attacks attributed to the Taliban across the country in the past 24 hours. Afghan forces killed at least 17 Taliban members during those clashes. The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks so far and have not commented on the U.S. airstrike. President Trump said Tuesday he spoke on the phone to a Taliban leader, making him the first U.S. president believed to have spoken directly to the militant group responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops in nearly 19 years of fighting in Afghanistan. “I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “We had a very good talk.” He didn’t provide any more details, but Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed Trump spoke with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Taliban leaders and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad signed the historic peace deal in Doha, Qatar. It lays out a conditions-based path to the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

And it would seem it won’t happen right away…

Taliban Ends ‘Peace Deal’ with U.S. After Afghan President Balks

The prospects for the peace deal brokered between the United States and the Taliban looked grim less than 24 hours after it was announced, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani balked at releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners as specified in the agreement, and the Taliban responded by announcing it would resume “operations” against the Afghan government. Ghani said on Sunday he has not agreed to release any Taliban prisoners. The peace deal called for 1,000 government security forces held by the Taliban to be released in exchange for 5,000 Taliban fighters imprisoned by the government. “The release of prisoners is not the United States authority, but it is the authority of the government of Afghanistan,” Ghani declared. The Taliban responded that it would not engage in talks with the Afghan government scheduled for next week unless the prisoner swap was completed. The Taliban generally refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Ghani’s government, treating it as a puppet of the United States. When officials from Kabul traveled to Qatar over the weekend to discuss the prisoner exchange, Taliban negotiators refused to meet with them. “We have decided the issue of our 5,000 prisoners with the Americans. They have promised in the agreement that those prisoners will be released before the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations. For us, this issue is settled,” said senior Taliban negotiator Khairullah Khairkhwah. “We are fully ready for the intra-Afghan talks, but we are waiting for the release of our 5,000 prisoners. If our 5,000 prisoners – 100 or 200 more or less does not matter – do not get released there will be no intra-Afghan talks,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Monday. Zabihullah said the seven-day “reduction in violence” agreement that was a precondition for the peace deal with the United States was now over, and the Taliban could resume attacks against Afghan troops and civilians at any moment. “As we are receiving reports that people are enjoying the reduction in violence, we don’t want to spoil their happiness, but it does not mean that we will not take our normal military activities back to the level that we were before. It could be any time, it could be after an hour, tonight, tomorrow or the day after,” he said. An announcement from the Taliban on Monday said that its “operations” would resume shortly. Within an hour, an explosion that killed three people and wounded 11 others was reported in eastern Afghanistan. Local police said a motorcycle loaded with explosives was detonated near a soccer field in the Nadir Shah Kot district. The full effect of these developments on the U.S.-Taliban peace deal remains to be seen. Technically the Taliban’s hostile rhetoric and actions are directed at the Afghan government, not American forces. There were bombing attacks during the seven-day “truce,” although the Taliban denied involvement and suggested the unknown perpetrators were “trying to create distrust.” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Saturday promised the U.S. would forcefully respond to any Taliban violation of the peace deal. Esper met with Ghani before the U.S. signed the Taliban peace deal and described him as supportive of the arrangement. There was no immediate response from the Trump administration to Monday morning’s developments. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a CBS News interview on Sunday that the peace deal included “a detailed set of commitments that the Taliban have made about the levels of violence that can occur, the nature of what’s got to take place.” “It’s going to be rocky and bumpy,” Pompeo said. “No one – no one – is under any false illusion that this won’t be a difficult conversation. But that conversation for the first time in almost two decades will be among the Afghan people, and that’s the appropriate place for that conversation to take place.” “We’re prepared to do what it takes to ensure that we keep America safe. We’ve asked everyone there to reduce the levels of violence, both the Afghan National Security Forces and the Taliban,” he added. Pompeo, the first U.S. cabinet official to meet directly with a member of the Taliban, stressed that one of the most important American interests in the deal was getting the Taliban to renounce international terrorism and agree not to harbor groups like al-Qaeda in the future. He said the deal would be based on “actions,” not “trust.” “This deal doesn’t depend upon trusting anyone. It has a deep, complex, well-thought-out, multi-month-negotiated verification complex and mechanism by which we can observe and hold every member of the agreement accountable. We’ll do that. It’s not about trust. It’s about what happens on the ground, not only yesterday which was an important day, but in the days that follow,” he said. Pompeo was aware of Afghan President Ghani’s reluctance to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, but he did not see that as an insurmountable obstacle to the “inclusive process” initiated by the peace deal. He mentioned that Ghani’s government made a “commitment” to the deal, but did not specify the details of that commitment.

As someone who spent some time in Afghanistan, this doesn’t surprise me one bit.  In fact, it was entirely expected.  We’ll, of course, keep a close eye on this developing story…

U.S. to free 5,000 Taliban fighters, lift sanctions on leaders

The U.S. will free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and begin to remove economic sanctions on top Taliban leaders under the terms of a deal signed Saturday between the two sides. The Trump administration’s long-awaited peace agreement with the Taliban — which could see the U.S. remove all of its 13,000 troops from Afghanistan within the next 14 months — includes a host of major concessions that have drawn fire from critics who say American national security could suffer. Key U.S. officials officially signed the pact on Saturday and the four-page document was released publicly soon after. “The United States is committed to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides,” reads an important portion of the agreement.” Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations.” Throughout the past 18 months of negotiations, the Taliban had insisted the U.S. recognize it as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the official name of the government in the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The two sides appear to have compromised, and throughout the deal the U.S. refers to the Taliban as “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban.” In exchange for the removal of U.S. troops, the lifting of sanctions and the freeing of prisoners, the Taliban has agreed to permanently sever all ties with terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and to never allow Afghanistan to be used as a home base for extremist organizations. The Taliban also has agreed to formal talks with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which until now the Taliban has refused to recognize as legitimate. Those talks will begin March 10 in Norway. While most lawmakers are supportive of the concept of a deal to eventually bring U.S. forces home from Afghanistan, some argue that the administration has gone too far in offering concessions. The agreement “with the Taliban includes concessions that could threaten the security of the United States,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican and House GOP conference chair. “Releasing thousands of Taliban fighters, lifting sanctions on international terrorists, and agreeing to withdraw all U.S. forces in exchange for promises from the Taliban, with no disclosed mechanism to verify Taliban compliance, would be reminiscent of the worst aspects of the Obama Iran nuclear deal.” Indeed, the agreement explicitly guarantees the Taliban will not offer any assistance to terrorist groups or tolerate their presence in Afghanistan, but it’s not entirely clear how the U.S. and the international community will observe and enforce those promises.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), daughter of the former Vice President, is exactly right.  This is a VERY risky move by the Trump Administration.  Only time will tell if it was bold and right, or careless and ill-considered.  As someone who spent time in Afghanistan, I can say that our time there has definitely been well-worth it, and that a stable Afghanistan free from Iran’s influence is crucial to our national security.  We cannot allow Afghanistan to go backwards to the era of the Taliban when we toppled their evil government 18 years ago in the aftermath of 9/11.  We need to insist that our government not give one inch to the Taliban in this deal.  If they break it, then we tear up the agreement.

Child suicide bomber kills at least 9, wounds more than a dozen at Afghanistan wedding

As U.S. officials continue in Qatar to negotiate a peace agreement with the Taliban that would bring an end to the stalemate 18-year conflict – miles away in Afghanistan itself – bombings and bloodshed still define daily life. On Friday, at least nine people died and more than a dozen injured – according to the BBC – when a child was made to detonate a suicide bomb at a wedding celebration in the eastern province of Nangarhar near the Pakistan border. The child, provincial spokesperson Attaullah Khugyani stated, was used to specifically attack a militia aligned with the government. Pro-government groups routinely operate in conjunction with traditional Afghan forces to beef up measures and ensure that fragile territories do not fall into Taliban and ISIS control. While no outfit has yet claimed responsibility for Friday’s deadly onslaught, Taliban officials have denied involvement. The Islamic State branch, known as ISIS-Khorasan, also has clout in the area and routinely carries out fatal attacks. The bombing comes on the heels of a string of targeted explosions striking fear in feeble communities and claiming lives across the ravished nation. On Sunday, the Taliban executed a devastating suicide car bombing in the central Afghanistan province of Ghazni, claiming the lives of 12 people and wounding more than 150 others. Less than a week earlier, the Taliban rocked downtown Kabul, killing at least one person and wounding more than a hundred – at least 26 children were among the hurt, sliced by shards of glass when the bomb fragmented nearby windows.

As I used to say when I was in Afghanistan, myself..several years ago..   Another KaBOOM day in Kabul..    The Taliban, ISIS, and the rest of these Islamo-wakos don’t value life like we do here in America.  They would send out a child as a sacrificial suicide bomber..  Awful..