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India reacts to Pakistan’s statement of India’s no role in Afghanistan

January 19, 2019

Kabul- The government of India has reacted to the statement by the Pakistani officials that ‘India has no role in Afghanistan’, emphasizing that Pakistan cannot decide on behalf of an independent and sovereign country and dictate Afghanistan’s foreign policy.

“It is not for Pakistan to decide as to what role another country has in regional or global affairs. Pakistan also cannot decide on behalf of an independent and sovereign country Afghanistan and dictate them as to how to conduct their foreign policy,” the Ministry of External Affairs of India said in a statement.

The statement further added that “Pakistan should first and foremost introspect its own role and responsibility in the precarious situation in Afghanistan; put an end to all kind of support to cross border terrorism from territories under Pakistan’s control, and join international efforts to bring inclusive peace to Afghanistan.”

According to reports, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal on Thursday said that India has no role to play in Afghanistan.

Faisal also added that Islamabad played a key role in arranging direct talks between the Taliban and the US to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

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US, Afghan Officials Discuss Peace Process with Taliban

January 17, 2019

Kabul- The National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohib on Wednesday met US Special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad and discussed “developments in the peace process” over the past few months.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Tuesday and President Ashraf Ghani hosted his team for a dinner with a diverse set of Afghan leadership where the two sides discussed the peace process .

The National Security Advisor’s Office said in a statement that a regional consensus on peace and coordination between the two sides were also discussed in this meeting.

“There is a full consensus in Afghanistan regarding peace,” Mohib said in the meeting, adding that “the capacity and ability of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in safeguarding the values and national interests of the country have been proved”.

Moreover, President Ashraf Ghani also held a meeting with the US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation at Presidential Palace.

During the meeting  Khalilzad shed light over his visits to the regional countriesand talks with Taliban .

In a Twitter message, Khalilzad said, “We agreed military pressure is essential while we prepare to engage in negotiations for peace”.

Meanwhile, Khalilzad assured the Afghan people and the Afghan government that the people and government of the United States are standing by Afghans in peace efforts and that the efforts will continue, the statement said.

Acting Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid, Acting Interior Minister Amrullah Saleh and Gen. Scott Miller, Commander of US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan also participated in the meeting.

Mohib returned to Kabul from a regional tour on Afghan peace on Tuesday.

“Concluded my regional trip with a trip to #Saudi. Engaging our regional partners in a holistic spectrum of cooperation to accelerate the quest for the ultimate goal of lasting peace in Afghanistan which I believe is intimately linked to reinforcing long term regional stability,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

On Jan. 15, Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and “a diverse set of Afghan leaders” on Tuesday evening.

“We discussed the peace process & all agree that progress depends on Afghans sitting with each other, negotiating a future for all Afghan people,” Khalilzad tweeted.

This comes after Taliban in a statement on Jan. 15 said the United States is not discussing troop withdrawal with the group and that the US is bringing “new issues” in talks agenda.

Taliban warned that “they will have to suspend the peace talks if the situation prevails”.

Taliban criticized “tactical pressure” by the US on the group through other countries and says that the address for talks with the Taliban is their political office in Qatar.

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Chabahar port transits 120,000 tons of commodities to Afghanistan

December 29, 2018

Kabul- Deputy head of Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran on Saturday said, at least 120,000 tons of commodities were transited to Afghanistan from the Iranian port of Chabahar during the 14 months ending December 21.

Mohammad-Ali Hassanzadeh said that the shipments to Chabahar port — mostly wheat and cereal — were loaded in four Indian ports, IRNA reported.

He said that determining the transportation corridors and agreeing on executive protocols on port, road and customs areas were among the main achievements of the trilateral meeting of Afghanistan, India and Iran.

With the completion of the first phase of Chabahar port development plan, the capacity of this port grew from 2.5 million tons to 8.5 million tons a year so that it will play a significant role in transit of commodities from India to Afghanistan.

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President Ghani meets with Zalmay Khalilzad

Monday, November 12, 2018

Kabul- The US Special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalizad held a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Saturday evening, the Presidential Palace said in a statement.

According to the statement, Khalilzad briefed the president Ghani over his scheduled visit to a number of countries in the region including Pakistan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The diplomat said he will return to Kabul to give feedback to President Ghani after completing his visit of regional countries.

On his turn, President Ghani thanked Khalilzad for his hard work for prevailing peace and stability in Afghanistan and that the government welcomes any step being taken in the process of Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace talks.

The U.S. State Department said last week that Khalilzad will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar with an “interagency delegation” from November 8 to 20 to push for peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.

This comes as last month, Khalilzad visited Kabul after wrapping up his 10-day trip to regional countries and briefed the government on his visits. He also called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to introduce official negotiating teams.

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Khalilzad returns to region to jump-start Afghan peace talks

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Kabul- The United States is once again sending its special representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, to four nations, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates to advance the goal of an intra-Afghan dialogue, the State Department announced on Friday.

Mr Khalilzad is coming with an inter-agency delegation on his third trip to the region in less than two months.

He will stay in the region from Nov 8 to 20 and will meet Afghan government officials and other interested parties to “advance the goal of an intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that include the Taliban and lead to a sustainable peace,” the State Department said.

The statement, issued by the office of the State Department’s spokesperson, notes that “a sustainable peace requires that all Afghans have a say in their country’s future.”

On his last trip to the region in October, Ambassador Khalilzad called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to introduce authoritative negotiating teams, and “has been encouraged to see that both parties are taking steps in that direction,” the statement added.

The State Department said that the United States “remains committed to a political settlement that results in an end to the war and to the terrorist threat posed to the United States and the world.”

The statement reminded other regional actors that “a peaceful Afghanistan can play a catalytic role in regional trade and development.”

The United States sent an observer to an Afghan peace conference that took place in Moscow on Friday but it will send a high-level delegation to another Afghan conference in Geneva later this month.

Washington is sending Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells to Geneva to prepare for this ministerial conference on Afghanistan, on Nov 27 and 28.

The US hopes that 60 nations will attend this conference to express their support for Washington’s efforts to jump start the Afghan peace process.

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Democratic House Brings Uncertainty To Trump Foreign Policy

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Kabul- For the past two years, U.S. foreign policy has been roiled by Donald Trump’s presidency as he questioned long-standing tenets of Washington’s alliances and relationships.

Now it’s about be roiled yet again as Democrats, having won control of the lower chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, are poised to wield more influence on foreign and domestic policy.

The way the U.S. political system is structured, the executive branch — the White House — is dominant where U.S. foreign policy is concerned.

But congressional legislators have the most influence where money is concerned, controlling the budget strings to fund war, diplomacy, and intelligence operations, among other things.

Democrats in the House will be able to determine what bills can be considered in the chamber, and will have a bigger role in setting spending policy and writing legislation. That may include harder positions on Russia, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.

To be sure, the Democrats’ victory in the House is counterbalanced by the Republicans’ hold on the Senate, a hold that only tightened with the outcome of the November 6 vote.

At the very least, according to Marvin Kalb, a research fellow at the Brookings Institute and a former foreign correspondent, it may mean more confusion, and less coherence for foreign policy.

“There will be a great deal of talking, a great deal more of investigations, and meetings. But the more you have of those, the less chance there is of a formulated, counterargument, or counter-strategy that could be suggested to the president,” he says.

David Wade, a former chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry, said in a commentary published before the vote that Democrats will have to lay out a vision of their own.

“The Democrats will have to define a foreign policy…navigating thorny issues that include articulating an alternative to Trumpism globally while still reconnecting with persuadable Trump voters who feel left behind by globalization,” he wrote.

Ian Bond, who served as ambassador to Russia, NATO, and other posts in the British Foreign Office, says the U.S. midterms are seen in Europe as an indicator of where Washington is headed.

“Those in London, in Brussels who believe in the decades-old transatlantic relationship between Europe and North America are hoping that the midterms produce a Congress that values America’s European allies and puts some limits on President Trump’s ability to disrupt the transatlantic partnership,” he said.

Here’s a look at some foreign-policy issues that may or not shift in the new Congress.

Russia

Under Republican control, the two chambers of Congress had largely been united on the question of Russia going back to 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and fomented separatism in eastern Ukraine.

The 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions bill (CAATSA) was passed nearly unanimously by each chamber of Congress.

Under a Democratic-controlled House, that unity is unlikely to change. Representative Eliot Engel (Democrat-New York), an outspoken critic of the Kremlin and defender of Russia’s beleaguered human rights community, is likely to take chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Another Russia critic, Adam Smith (Democrat-Washington), is likely to take over as head of the House Armed Services Committee.

Eliot Engel is likely to take chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Eliot Engel is likely to take chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Prior to the election, the Senate was already losing a key figure in the effort — pushed by Republicans and Democrats alike — to keep pressure on Moscow. Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, decided to retire rather than face a challenge in the primary election.

As the senior Republican on that committee, Jim Risch of Idaho is widely expected to succeed Corker. He is not considered to be as hawkish on Russia policy as Corker, or as the other Republican who has expressed interest in the chairmanship — Marco Rubio of Florida. Risch is not known for challenging the White House, whereas Rubio ran against Trump in 2016 and may run again in 2020.

The Senate also lost one of its most authoritative voices on Russia — John McCain (Republican-Arizona), who died in August. As the chairman of the chamber’s Armed Services Committee, he also helped steer U.S. defense policy, including in Europe, where Washington has conducted a slow buildup of forces and equipment in response to Russian actions in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Chairmanship of that committee was taken over by James Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma) following McCain’s death, and he’s expected to remain in that position. Inhofe has voted alongside his Republican colleagues in favor of CAASTA, but is not nearly as outspoken as was McCain.

Some Senate Democrats, including Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who barely won reelection, have pushed to ratchet up pressure on Russia by, among other things, making it harder for Russia to issue sovereign debt.

Little change, if any, is expected in the congressional approach toward Ukraine, which has had mostly solid backing from both Republicans and Democrats over the past two years. House Democrats may consider funding for more weapons supplies to Ukraine’s armed forces.

Iran

The U.S. approach to Iran took a sharp tack to the right not long after Trump took office. Many Republican lawmakers, as well as many of Trump’s top advisers, were deeply skeptical of President Barack Obama’s approach toward Tehran, which included the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Many Democrats were supportive of the deal, under which world powers lifted crippling economic sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear ambitions.

Trump has since reimposed the U.S. measures dropped under the 2015 deal, and further targeted Iran’s ballistic-missile program and involvement in the Middle East with what his administration has called the “toughest-ever” U.S. sanctions against Tehran for its actions in the Middle East.

Even with the Democrats in control in the House, given that the authority to impose economic and other sanctions falls primarily to the White House, Trump is expected to continue tightening the screws on Iran.

Still, as with other matters, House Democrats will be able to call in Trump advisers to testify and explain the administration’s reasoning — potentially under oath — regarding Iran-related policy.

In Congress, Iran was included in the CAATSA legislation, and leading Republican senators such as Tom Cotton of Arkansas have endorsed the hard-line approach and pushed for even more punitive measures.

Still other Republican senators, such as Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, have been adamantly against any financing for any war effort that Trump’s most anti-Iranian advisers may be pushing.

The White House And The House Of Saud

Saudi Arabia is Washington’s closest Muslim ally in the Middle East, buying billions of dollars in U.S. armaments, keeping world oil markets stable, and playing an often behind-the-scenes role in the Middle East’s conflicts.

But relations with the United States have been severely strained following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Khashoggi, who also had legal residency in the United States, was allegedly killed by a special team of Saudi agents after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Trump is facing bipartisan pressure to take action against Riyadh. Last month, 20 senators, Democrat and Republican, signed a letter to the White House suggesting that sanctions be imposed on Saudi officials linked to Khashoggi’s killing under human rights legislation known as the Global Magnitsky Act.

A demonstrator holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of the consulate in Istanbul last month.
A demonstrator holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of the consulate in Istanbul last month.

As with other foreign-policy areas under Trump, relations with the Saudi kingdom have been managed largely through the White House; Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has had the portfolio over managing a large part of U.S. policy in the Middle East, and he cultivated close ties with Saudi leaders.

On the House side, expect Democrats to not only push the White House on the Khashoggi killing, but also pry deep into Kushner’s dealings with the Saudi leadership and business leaders.

Meanwhile, the civil war in neighboring Yemen — where U.S.-supplied jets are used by the Saudi Air Force to attack Iranian-backed Huthi rebels — is increasingly becoming a humanitarian disaster. A growing number of lawmakers have spoken about reining in Saudi-led operations, including Engel, the likely next chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A Democratic-led House could do myriad things to punish Riyadh, including voting to block arms deals or stymie any effort by the Saudis to reach a nuclear energy deal with the United States — something that has reportedly been discussed in the administration.

Still, in a further indication that the administration’s attitude to the Yemeni war may have already started shifting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on October 31 called for a participants in the Yemen war to agree to a cease-fire.

The Mueller Factor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election — as well as interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials — is the darkest shadow hanging over the Trump administration.

Mueller took over an existing FBI investigation that was started four months before the November 2016 election and his continuing efforts have infuriated Trump.

To date, Mueller’s team has netted seven guilty pleas or convictions and brought indictments against 26 more individuals and three Russian companies.

House Republicans have shown little inclination to buttress Mueller’s probes. Some Republicans have asserted that Mueller’s team is biased against Trump because, for example, some may have made campaign donations to Democratic political candidates in the past.

Under the leadership of Mike Conaway of Texas, House Republicans ended the Intelligence Committee investigation in March, concluding there was “no collusion” between Trump’s election campaign and Russian officials. Democrats on the panel largely boycotted the findings.

That will change immediately under House Democratic leadership.

Representative Adam Schiff of California is expected to take over leadership of the Intelligence Committee, and with many House Democrats — not to mention Democratic voters — pushing hard for aggressive digging, he’ll be under pressure to start subpoenaing witnesses and documents.

On the Senate side, the Intelligence Committee has worked more diligently, as the Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and the ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, have forged a collegial relationship. Warner is expected to assume control of the panel; Burr’s presence may or may not continue.

Regardless, the first test of the willingness of House Democrats and Senate Republicans to push back against Trump is expected to come within weeks. Trump has signaled he plans to fire, or push out, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who angered Trump when he recused himself from oversight of the Mueller probe.

If Sessions is forced out, the fate of his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who does have authority over Mueller’s probe, will also become an open question.

And if Trump moves to fire or otherwise pressure Mueller, House Democrats can be expected to initiate impeachment proceedings.

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Afghans Hail Exemption of Iran Port from US Sanctions

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Kabul- Officials in Afghanistan have hailed a U.S. decision to exempt from anti-Iran sanctions the development of the Iranian port of Chabahar in recognition of its role to grow the Afghan economy.

The exception granted by the Trump administration on Tuesday will allow the construction of a railway line connecting the port to Afghanistan. In addition the war-shattered country will be allowed to continue importing petroleum products from Iran.

President Ashraf Ghani’s engagement with the U.S. government “in the past six months in regards to Chabahar has accomplished the objective,” his spokesman tweeted Haroon Chakhansuri Wednesday.

Monday, Washington reimposed the sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, financial, shipping and ship building sectors that had previously been lifted as part of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran.

The India-led development of Chabahar port is aimed at opening a new transportation corridor for Afghanistan’s international trade and reduce the country’s dependence on Pakistan’s land routes and sea ports.

Kabul’s tense relations with Islamabad are blamed for hampering Afghan trading activity through the Hostile neighboring country.

U.S. officials argued the sanctions exception granted to Chabahar underscored Washington’s support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as the close partnership with India.

But the sanctions threatened New Delhi’s ability to obtain funds for the development of the Iranian port. Moreover, an intensified Taliban-led insurgency also poses a major challenge for international-backed efforts aimed at stabilizing and developing Afghanistan.

Insurgents have staged fresh attacks across the country during the past few days, killing scores of Afghan security forces and overrunning important military bases in several Afghan provinces. The Taliban controls or hotly contests nearly half of Afghanistan.

U.S. backed international efforts to initiate a peace dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban have yet to produced results.

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Democrats Retake House, Creating Divided Congress

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Kabul- Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives in midterm elections in the United States, while Republicans gained seats that solidify their control of the Senate.

As of Wednesday morning, the Democrats were on track to win at least 26 seats previously held by Republicans, with several races still undecided, which could give them as many as 230 seats in the 435-seat chamber. Among the winners were several first-time candidates, including two Native American women — one of them openly gay — and two Muslim women, a first in both categories. They will be among the 100 women who will be sworn in when the new Congress takes over in January, another first.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Washington Tuesday night, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Thanks to you, tomorrow, there will be a new day in America.” The veteran California lawmaker, who served as the nation’s first female House speaker from 2007-2011, said the victory was not about Democrats or Republicans, but about “restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration.” Democrats will now be able to launch numerous investigations of President Donald Trump, including his personal finances and allegations of his presidential campaign’s collusion with Russia to win the 2016 race.

 Despite the setback in the House, President Trump issued a self-congratulatory tweet Wednesday morning.

“Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!”

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nov. 5, 2018.

“It is a critical check on Trump,” says University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato. “Big legislation with an ideological tint, left or right, won’t pass for the next two years. Democrats now have the power of subpoena so Trump and his administration can expect to be investigated rather than protected by the House.”

Senate races 

In the Senate, Republican challengers handily defeated Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, while two Republican challengers in Florida and Montana held razor-thin leads as vote counting stretched into Wednesday morning. The race for an open Senate seat in Arizona was also undecided.

In one of the most watched races, Republican Ted Cruz fended off a strong challenge from rising Democratic star Beto O’Rourke to keep his Senate seat in Texas.

And former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, easily won an open Senate seat in Utah. The Mormon-dominated state has embraced Romney, who is himself a Mormon. Romney also helped turn around the scandal-plagued 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Each of the 435 seats in the House was being contested, as were 35 of 100 Senate seats.

Voter enthusiasm

Precincts across the country reported strong voter numbers for a midterm election.

The New York Times and Michael McDonald of the United States Election Project both estimated national turnout of at least 111 million, far surpassing the 83 million people who voted in the 2014 midterms.

Rebecca Gill, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said voter enthusiasm was the unusual aspect of Tuesday’s election.

“This probably has something to do with some of the rhetoric, particularly from the president. It’s been intended to rally his base, but at the same time, it ends up also rallying the base of the Democrats. It sort of polarizes folks, and it gets more people engaged on both sides,” Gill said.

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