West Meets With Afghan Leaders, Traders in UAE

The US envoy said that he also held talks with some Afghan political leaders, including former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. 

The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, met with Afghan leaders and members of the Afghan business community during a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates.  

Referring to his meeting with Afghan businesspeople, West said he discussed “continuing challenges as well as progress achieved for bankers, construction interests, entrepreneurs, airlines, and more.”

“Banking transactions remain a challenge that requires improvements in the Taliban’s financial and monetary policies and personnel. Must continue to discuss for benefit of the Afghan people. Some banks have improved access,” West said on Twitter.

The US envoy said that he also held talks with some Afghan political leaders, including former Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

“I met with Afghan political leaders including Hamid Karzai and several colleagues. Heard them echo plea of Afghan people for Taliban to respect rights of women and girls and initiate a national dialogue on future of the country,” West said.

He also held talks with UAE officials.

“In Abu Dhabi today, met with UAE government colleagues to discuss shared interests in Afghanistan, including protection of Afghans’ fundamental rights, economic stabilization, guarding against re-emergence of terrorist threats, and robust humanitarian response,” West said.

The US special envoy said that the UAE is playing an important role in diplomacy and as a hub for Afghan businesses looking to build the economy.

West Meets With Afghan Leaders, Traders in UAE
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Facing Intl Condemnation, Islamic Emirate Defends Sharia Executions

The public execution was the first since the Islamic Emirate came to power. The individual was killed by the father of the victim.

Following widespread reactions over a recent execution, the Islamic Emirate said that the execution of guilty people is a divine command and that no one should be concerned about it.

A spokesman for the Islamic Emirate, Bilal Karimi, said that the execution, which happened on Wednesday in the western province of Farah, was carried out after many investigations and assessments.

“The execution yesterday took place after many investigations, which were aligned with Islamic (law). All sides should not have any concern in this regard and should respect it,” said Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Islamic Emirate.

“The supreme leader spoke and said we have struggled this much and fought for 20 years with the pagans to ensure an Islamic system and that now that God has given it to us, (God) means for us to ensure his divine commands,” said Mohammad Ismail Rahmani, a senior member of the Islamic Emirate.

The public execution of a man charged with murder and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court faced widespread reactions by human rights organizations and other countries.

“The UN strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and calls on de facto authorities to establish immediate moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Twitter.

“The implementation of (Hudud) is a Sharia command and its implementation is a must, but only if the situation warrants it,” said Aziz Maarij, a former diplomat.

This comes as Afghanistan’s supreme court in a statement issued on Thursday said 27 people–18 males and 9 females–were punished by court order in Parwan.

The flogging was in public, sources said.

“Some of them were involved in depravity, running away from home, or being in (illegal) relationships, and some of them were involved in robbery,” said Obaidullah Ameenzada, governor of Parwan.

The public execution was the first since the Islamic Emirate came to power. The individual was killed by the father of the victim.

Facing Intl Condemnation, Islamic Emirate Defends Sharia Executions
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Taliban official: 27 people lashed in public in Afghanistan

By RAHIM FAIEZ

Associated Press
8 Dec 2022

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Twenty-seven people were lashed in public on Thursday in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as punishment for alleged adultery, theft, drug offenses and other crimes, according to a court official.

Afghanistan’s new authorities have implemented hard-line policies since they took over the country in August 2021 that have underlined their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

The country’s Supreme Court issued the final rulings after appeals. In a statement, the court said the lashings took place in the northern province of Parwan, with 18 men and nine women punished in all.

Abdul Rahim Rashid, an official with the court, said the men and women were each lashed between 25 to 39 times. An unspecified number of those punished also received two-year prison terms in Charakar, the provincial capital, he added.

The lashings were carried out before a “public gathering of locals and officials,” Rashid added.

Provincial officials and local residents attended the public punishments, during which officials spoke about the importance of Sharia law, added the court statement.

Thursday’s lashings come a day after the Taliban authorities executed an Afghan convicted of killing another man, the first public execution since the former insurgents returned to power last year.

The execution, carried out with an assault rifle by the victim’s father, took place in western Farah province before hundreds of spectators and many top Taliban officials, according to Zabihullah Mujahid, the top government spokesman. Some officials came from the capital Kabul.

The execution was met with international criticism. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life,” spokeswoman Stephanie Tremblay said.

In comments late Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. condemned the public execution. Price said the Taliban’s future relationship with Washington depended “largely on their actions when it comes to human rights.”

No foreign state has officially recognized the Taliban government that took over as U.S. and NATO troops withdrew last year. The Taliban formerly ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion of 2001.

On Thursday, spokesman Mujahid rejected international criticisms of the Taliban government.

“Unfortunately, a number of countries and institutions still do not have a proper knowledge and understanding of Afghanistan,” he said.

Mujahid pointed out that capital punishment was practiced in many other countries including the United States.

A separate court statement said that earlier this week, three men convicted of theft were lashed in public in the eastern province of Paktika.

During the previous Taliban rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the group carried out public executions, floggings and stonings.

After they overran Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban initially promised to allow for women’s and minority rights. Instead, they have restricted rights and freedoms, including imposing a ban on girl’s education beyond the sixth grade.

The former insurgents have struggled in their transition from warfare to governing amid an economic downturn and the international community’s withdrawal of aid.

Taliban official: 27 people lashed in public in Afghanistan
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Afghan nationals in Australia fear for loved ones in grim wait for split-family visas

The Guardian
Mon 5 Dec 2022
Wives, children and vulnerable parents have been left at mercy of Taliban as promises of swift family reunions fade

A daughter, born in the calamitous days of August last year, as the Taliban swept north to reimpose its brutal control, remains in Afghanistan.

Pictures and videos on Sahak’s phone show his little girl learning to crawl, speaking her first words, celebrating her first birthday. All of these he has missed.

Sahak was a journalist working for an international news agency when Afghanistan’s 20-year republican experiment came crashing down, the capital falling meekly back into the hands of the Taliban in a single morning.

His association with western media made him a target for the Taliban. He faced an immediate threat to his life, and was urged to flee, assured his family could soon follow him.

“I and a number of my fellow journalist colleagues that had shared a list of vulnerable staff members with the Australian government were assured swift family reunion visas after we were issued the humanitarian visas,” he says.

“But when we arrived in Brisbane in November [2021] we were asked to wait for our own permanent resident visas, and now it has been months since then but we have heard nothing back from the ministry … for our family visas.”

Sahak says he is unable to concentrate on improving his English, or building a career in Australia. He says the cost of living leaves little left over: every dollar he can scrape together, he sends home to his wife and children.

“I constantly remain under stress and keep thinking about the safety and wellbeing of my family members who are counting days,” he says.

Despite promises of a more benign rule, the Taliban are resolutely unreformed, and their rule of Afghanistan grows more oppressive daily.

Women and girls have had their rights savagely curtailed; ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted; and those who sided with the west or the former republican government have been ruthlessly targeted.

From the relative comfort of Australia, Sahak says he feels helpless.

“My wife and children are constantly changing addresses and hiding from the Taliban. They have been skipping one meal every day to make ends meet and hiding [at] home out of fear of the Taliban.

“It is getting very desperate for them and myself, we have become mental patients and whatever happens to us, we will hold the Australian government responsible for giving us false hope and promise.”

‘Everyone has a breaking point’

Sahak’s story is not unique. The Guardian is aware of dozens of Afghan nationals now living in Australia, grateful they were rescued, but frustrated and fearful they have not been able to reunite with their families.

A former Afghan parliamentary staff member, who cannot be named because of the risk to his family, says he has considered leaving Melbourne and returning to Kabul, such is his concern for those he was forced to leave behind.

“I can’t sleep at night and keep crying and praying during the day for my family stranded in Kabul. I am losing hope for life and often think about going back to face the death threat awaiting me in Afghanistan, because I cannot leave my wife and four young children.

“It has been a year since I have seen my wife and children and it is more frustrating and stressful for them because life is getting absolutely difficult with the brutal Taliban rule, poverty and harsh winter in Afghanistan.”

He says his family struggles daily in Kabul: he has no idea when he might see them again, and under what circumstances.

“My children are growing up and they need me. My wife too. As a woman under Taliban rule, she is unable to go out of the house alone for any needs of life for herself and the children, anything can happen to them.

“I request the Australian government to create a separate and fast-track system for split families.”

Another man, who can be identified only as SKK, fled Kabul after being directly threatened by the Taliban for his work alongside foreign journalists. He says he left without knowing he would be separated from his family for so long.

“The bureaucracy and the uncertainty is so grim and complicated that it can cost someone’s life in the saddening wait. I am trying to carve a new life in this lovely country, hanging in there in wait, but everyone has a breaking point.”

Most of the Afghan nationals evacuated to Australia arrived in the country on 449 visas. Most have since converted to permanent resident visas, and have been told it could take months to lodge a split-family visa, and several more months for a decision from the home affairs department. They could face years of separation.

Hundreds of people camped in a dusty field near Kabul airport in August 2021 as a US military plane takes off in the background
‘You called us brothers’: Afghans who fought with Australian troops still live in fear of Taliban

More than 170,000 Afghan nationals have applied for a humanitarian visa for Australia since 17 August 2021 – two days after the fall of Kabul.

The home affairs department has established a dedicated team to process “family stream” visa applications from Afghan nationals.

The department declined to comment directly on the situation of Afghans who fled Kabul last year.

“We give immediate family of people who have resettled under the humanitarian program highest priority,” the department’s website says.

Assessing the identity, relationship claims, health and security criteria in each application has been made more difficult since the fall of the democratically elected government in Afghanistan.

Since July last year, more than 2,400 first-stage partner and family migration visas have been granted to Afghan nationals. There are just over 8,000 first-stage partner and family migration visa applications onhand with the department.

Reshad Sadozai knew Australia. In his 20s, he studied in Brisbane on a scholarship, before returning to Kabul to work for the republican government.

In August 2021, he narrowly escaped the Taliban, but had to leave his homeland without his ageing parents or the young sister he cared for.

“As an Australian-educated individual with many years of experience of working with the western government in Afghanistan at key positions, I was under threat after the Taliban takeover.

“My parents are nearly 70 years old and need constant support and care. My sister alone cannot do it in Afghanistan where women are excluded from public life by the Taliban.”

His father suffers from chronic health issues, Sadozai says, and Afghanistan’s public health system remains in crisis.

“For him this winter without me in Kabul could be extremely dangerous. I understand there are many applications pending with the government, but one year’s wait is more than enough for a family reunion visa.”

Afghan nationals in Australia fear for loved ones in grim wait for split-family visas
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Interior Ministry Denies Presence of Terrorist Groups in Afghanistan

The ministry’s spokesperson, Abdul Nafi Takoor, stressed that there is no group in Afghanistan that can pose a threat to other countries.

The Ministry of Interior in a press conference held in Kabul denied the presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Abdul Nafi Takoor, stressed that there is no group in Afghanistan that can pose a threat to other countries.

“I should tell you about the cultivation of narcotics, that you will not find a single acre of land where poppy is cultivated in the entire geography of Afghanistan,” Takoor said.

“Unfortunately, Afghanistan is still leading the world in the cultivation and processing of drugs, and the rise in drug addicts is very serious,” said Sadiq Shinwari, a military expert.

According to the ministry’s spokesperson, security in Afghanistan is better now than in the past. No one will be permitted to cultivate poppy, and there is no drug production anywhere in Afghanistan, he said.

“Afghanistan’s current security situation, which is now ensured, was not like this in the past forty, fifty, or sixty years,” Takoor said.

According to the ministry’s spokesperson, over 1,200 complaints of criminal activity were received over the course of the previous two months and more than 800 of them have been addressed.

Interior Ministry Denies Presence of Terrorist Groups in Afghanistan
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Acting Defense Minister Meets With US Envoy For Afghanistan

During his visit to the UAE, Thomas West talked with some Afghan businessmen about resolving their commercial problems.

In a meeting with US special representative for Afghanistan Thomas West in Abu Dhabi, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, the acting defense minister, stressed the need to uphold Afghanistan’s territorial integrity.

The acting defense minister assured West of the security of Afghanistan, and ensured that Afghan soil will not be used against other countries, the ministry of defense’s spokesman said.

“The acting minister of defense met with US special representative Thomas West and discussed issues related to Afghanistan,” said Enayatullah Khwarazmi, defense ministry spokesman.

Earlier, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid met with Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Minister of Finance and Deputy Ruler of Dubai, on strengthening ties between Afghanistan and the UAE and promoting trade between the two nations’ businesspeople.

According to political experts, the meeting between the acting minister of defense and the special envoy of the US for Afghanistan will help resolve Afghanistan’s current issues.

“The trip of the acting defense minister of Afghanistan to Abu Dhabi and Dubai is not related to the presence of other Afghan political officials there. However, the meeting of the acting defense minister with Thomas West is very important,” said Tariq Farhadi, a political expert.

“The representative Afghan government, which is presently in power in Afghanistan, should solve its problems with America and the world via understanding and dialogue, and this will be a good step and a good achievement for the recognition of Afghanistan,” said Abdul Jamil Shirani, a political expert.

During his visit to the UAE, Thomas West talked with some Afghan businessmen about resolving their commercial problems.

“We asked him to find a solution to the sanctions on the banks, including the central bank, so that these sanctions would be removed,” said Haji Obaidullah Sader Khail, head of the Afghan Business Council in the UAE.

Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, the acting defense minister, discussed improving ties between Kabul and Abu Dhabi and problems facing Afghan immigrants who live in the UAE, with Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, during the acting defense minister’s official visit to the country.

Acting Defense Minister Meets With US Envoy For Afghanistan
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Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover

By RAHIM FAIEZ

Associated Press

7 Dec 2022

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban authorities on Wednesday executed an Afghan convicted of killing another man, the first public execution since the former insurgents took over Afghanistan last year, a spokesman said.

The announcement underscored the intentions by Afghanistan’s new rulers to continue hard-line policies implemented since they took over the country in August 2021 and to stick to their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

The execution, carried out with an assault rifle by the victim’s father, took place in western Farah province before hundreds of spectators and many top Taliban officials, according to Zabihullah Mujahid, the top Taliban government spokesman. Some officials came from the capital Kabul.

The decision to carry out the punishment was “made very carefully,” Mujahid said, following approval by three of the country’s highest courts and the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

The executed man, identified as Tajmir from Herat province, was convicted of killing another man five years ago and stealing his motorcycle and mobile phone. The victim was identified as Mustafa from neighboring Farah province. Many Afghan men use only one name.

Taliban security forces had arrested Tajmir after the victim’s family accused him of the crime, said a statement from Mujahid, the spokesman. The statement did not say when the arrest took place but said Tajmir had purportedly confessed to the killing. Mujahid added that Tajmir was shot three times by the victim’s father Wednesday with an assault rifle.

During the previous Taliban rule of the country in the late 1990s, the group carried out public executions, floggings and stoning of those convicted of crimes in Taliban courts.

After they overran Afghanistan in 2021, in the final weeks of the U.S. and NATO forces’ pullout from the country after 20 years of war, the Taliban had initially promised to allow for women’s and minority rights.

Instead, they have restricted rights and freedoms, including imposing a ban on girl’s education beyond the sixth grade. They have also carried out public lashings across different provinces, punishing several men and women accused of theft, adultery or running away from home.

The former insurgents have struggled in their transition from warfare to governing amid an economic downturn and the international community’s withholding of official recognition.

Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover
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Uzbekistan NSA: It is Important Afghanistan Not Be Isolated

But the Islamic Emirate said that there will be no threat from Afghan soil to other countries.

Uzbekistan National Security Advisor Victor Mohammadov said that it is “important” to not allow Afghanistan to be Isolated or to leave it on its own.

He made the remarks at the first India-Central Asia Meeting of the National Security Advisers/Secretaries of Security Councils.

“Afghanistan is one of the important factors of security and steady development of Central Asia and South Asia,” he said. “It is important that we do not allow Afghanistan to be isolated and leave it on its own to deal with the social, economic, and humanitarian crisis. It is important… because this will lead to increasing poverty in the region which we are already feeling ourselves. I would stress that peace in this country is very important not only for our region but also so this country has new strategic possibilities, opportunities, so it can be an area of growth and transport corridors in markets,” he said.

Speaking at the same meeting, the Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval urged the UN  member states to fulfill obligations inside of relevant counter-terrorism conventions and protocols and refrain from providing any form of support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts.

But the Islamic Emirate said that there will be no threat from Afghan soil to other countries.

“There is no threat from Afghanistan to any country. Security and stability have been ensured in our country. The policy and stance of isolation, and the creation of distance, has not brought any good results,” said Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Islamic Emirate.

Analysts said that the isolation of Afghanistan will affect the region and the world and that the neighboring and Central Asian countries should play their role in the improvement of the situation in Afghanistan.

“The isolation of Afghanistan has a negative impact on the world and if the world forgets Afghanistan, it will certainly have its effects on us,” said Mohammad Omar Nuhzat, a political analyst.

“The existence of stability, discipline and prosperity in Afghanistan means stability, discipline and prosperity in Asian countries and beyond,” said Yaseen Habib, a political analyst.

The India-Central Asia Meeting of the National Security Advisors was attended by the NSAs from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

The comes as the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, who visited India, said on Twitter that he met with Vikram Misri, deputy National Security Advisor, Arindam Bagchi, spokesman for the Indian MoFa, and the External Affairs Ministry’s joint secretary, JP Singh and discussed “shared interests in Afghanistan.”

Uzbekistan NSA: It is Important Afghanistan Not Be Isolated
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Taliban allow high school graduation exams for Afghan girls

By RAHIM FAIEZ

Associated Press
6 Dec 2022

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghan girls will be allowed to take their high school graduation exams this week, an official and documents from the Taliban government indicated Tuesday — even though they have been banned from classrooms since the former insurgents took over the country last year.

According to two documents from the Taliban ministry of education, obtained by The Associated Press, the decision applies to 31 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces where the winter school break starts in late December.

Ehsanullah Kitab, head of the Kabul education department, said the exams would take place on Wednesday. He provided no other details and it was not clear how many teenage girls would be able to take the exam.

One of the documents, from the Kabul education department, said the exams would last from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A second document, signed by Habibullah Agha, the education minister who took office in September, said the tests would be held in 31 Afghan provinces. The three excluded provinces — Kandahar, Helmand and Nimroz — have a different timetable for the school year and high school graduation exams typically take place there later.

“This is ridiculous,” said 18-year-old Najela from Kabul, giving only her first name for fear of reprisals. She would now be in twelfth grade and eligible for the exam. “We spent a whole year under tension and stress and haven’t read a single page of our textbooks.”

“How can we possibly take an exam after a year and a half that the Taliban have kept school doors closed,” she added.

The Taliban overran Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war. Despite initially promising a more moderate rule and women’s and minority rights, they have restricted rights and freedoms and widely implemented their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

They have banned girls from middle school and high school, restricted women from most employment, and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks, gyms, and funfairs.

Women have not been denied access from universities under the Taliban and the implication of the latest development is that Afghan girls who obtain a high school diploma after Wednesday’s exam would be able to apply for universities.

A Kabul high school principal said she was informed that twelfth grade girls will have just one day to take exams in 14 subjects, with 10 questions from each subject. The principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said most girl students lacked textbooks.

“Giving an exam is meaningless,” she said.

The students and their female teachers will all have to wear the hijab, or headscarf, under the Taliban dress code for women, and cellphones are banned during the exam. Girls who cannot attend or who fail Wednesday’s exam would be allowed to retake the test in mid-March, after the winter vacation.

The Taliban treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan has come under heavy criticism. Earlier this month, a team of U.N. experts said it may amount to a crime against humanity and should be investigated and prosecuted under international law, an allegation rejected by the Taliban.

Taliban allow high school graduation exams for Afghan girls
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At least seven killed in northern Afghanistan roadside blast

Al Jazeera

At least seven people have been killed in a roadside blast in northern Afghanistan, according to local officials, the latest attack in the violence-racked country.

Those killed in the 7am (03:00 GMT) blast on Tuesday in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif included employees of a petroleum company on a bus, said the local officials.

“The bomb was placed in a cart by the roadside. It was detonated as the bus arrived,” said Asif Waziri, of the Balkh police department in Mazar-i-Sharif.

The northern Balkh province contains one of the country’s main dry ports at the town of Hairatan near the border with Uzbekistan, containing rail and road links to Central Asia.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, which comes amid repeated pledges from the Taliban government to bring security to Afghanistan following decades of war.

The Taliban government swept to power in August last year amid a withdrawal by United States-led foreign troops, who had invaded the country and toppled the group from power in 2001.

Last month, at least 19 people were killed and 24 others wounded by a blast at a school in Aybak, a city in Samangan province that abuts Balkh province.

In May, at least nine people were killed in a series of explosions in Mazar-i-Sharif, while two others were killed in a simultaneous attack at a mosque in the capital, Kabul.

ISIL (ISIS) – the Taliban’s main rival in Afghanistan – had claimed responsibility for the attack in Mazar-i-Sharif, but not for the Kabul blast.

Recent violence has also included a suicide bombing that killed four at a mosque at Afghanistan’s interior ministry building complex in October.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
At least seven killed in northern Afghanistan roadside blast
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