Tag Archives: Taliban

Five ‘rest in pieces’ as early morning bombs rock Kabul.

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Peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government that began in September remain deadlocked.

Three explosions rocked Kabul Saturday morning, killing at least five people and injuring two others, authorities said, the latest in a series of similar recent attacks in the Afghan capital.

Police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said that three “sticky bomb” explosions had taken place in different locations between 08:00 and 10:00 am local time.

Targeted killings with remotely detonated bombs attached to vehicles have long been a favoured tactic of militants in Afghanistan, especially during the morning commute in cities, where civilians pay a disproportionate price for the violence.

No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, though Afghan and US officials have blamed the Taliban for previous similar incidents, a charge it rejects.

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Faramarz said the first explosion had injured two civilians, while the second blast had killed two soldiers, as well as a woman.

The third bomb left two police officers dead.

The details were confirmed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior.

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Security sources also said at least two of the victims in the second explosion worked for the defence ministry, though the ministry would not confirm.

Peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government that began in September remain deadlocked.

The latest rise in violence has led US President Joe Biden’s administration to launch a review of a deal signed between Washington and Taliban last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all American troops in coming months.

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Biden is reviewing whether to stick to a looming May 1 deadline to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops or risk a bloody backlash from the insurgents by staying.

General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, on Thursday indicated that conditions have not been met for a withdrawal.

While the Taliban had pledged to reduce violence under their deal with the US, they have not done so, McKenzie said on a plane to Pakistan.

“Certainly ISIS has launched some attacks. It pales against what the Taliban is doing,” McKenzie said, denouncing violence against Afghan forces, and “targeted assassinations in some of the urban areas.”

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“This is clearly the Taliban,” he said. “There is no way it’s anyone else. That’s very clear.”

The Taliban denies being behind escalated violence, saying those responsible are other jihadist groups.

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#Newsworthy

Taliban warns NATO … in Afghanistan.

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Joe Biden’s administration has said it would review the deal, with the Pentagon accusing the Afghan insurgent group of not meeting their commitment to reduce violence.

The Taliban on Saturday warned NATO against seeking a “continuation of war”, as the alliance weighs a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Defence ministers from the Washington-backed allies are to meet next week to discuss whether NATO’s 10,000-strong mission — mostly carrying out support roles — should stay or go, as Taliban violence rages.

“Our message to the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting is that the continuation of occupation and war is neither in your interest nor in the interest of your and our people,” the Taliban said in a statement.

“Anyone seeking extension of wars and occupation will be held liable for it just like the previous two decades.”

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Former US president Donald Trump struck a deal with the Taliban last year under which the United States agreed foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for conditions including cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and opening peace talks with the Kabul government.

Joe Biden’s administration has said it would review the deal, with the Pentagon accusing the Afghan insurgent group of not meeting their commitment to reduce violence.

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The Taliban in turn has accused the US of breaching the agreement and insisted it will continue its “fight and jihad” if foreign troops do not leave by May.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 07, 2019 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference with the German chancellor in Berlin. – US President Donald Trump will host NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Washington at a time of severe strain within the Atlantic alliance, the White House announced Saturday. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

In his final days in office Trump unilaterally reduced US forces in Afghanistan to just 2,500 — the lowest since the start of the war in 2001.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly insisted that NATO members must decide “together” on the future of their mission and he hopes Biden will coordinate more closely with allies.

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“If we decide to leave we risk to jeopardise the peace process, we risk to lose the gains we have made in the fight against international terrorism over the last years,” the NATO chief said earlier this month.

“If we decide to stay we risk to continue to be in a difficult military operation in Afghanistan and we risk increased violence also against NATO troops.”

The Taliban on Saturday said it was “seriously committed” to the US deal, claiming it had “significantly decreased the level of operations”.

Insurgents have launched a string of offensives threatening at least two strategic provincial capitals in southern Afghanistan in recent months.

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They have also been blamed by the US and the Afghan government for a wave of assassinations on journalists, politicians, judges and activists.

The warring sides launched peace talks in September year, but progress has been slow and overshadowed by the violence.

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#Newsworthy

Afghanistan: Tabilan fighters kill 12 pro-gov’t militiamen.

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Herat provincial council member Mohammad Sardar Bahaduri confirmed the attack and said it was carried out by two Taliban fighters who had infiltrated the base.

Two Taliban fighters who had infiltrated a base of pro-government Afghan militiamen killed 12 of them, officials and the insurgent group said Saturday.

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The night-time attack at a post manned by the militiamen occurred in the district of Ghorian in the western Herat province late on Friday, the governor for the district Farhad Khademi told AFP.

“Twelve pro-government militiamen were killed in the Taliban attack in Ghorian district last night,” he said.

“The militiamen were dining when the attack happened,” he said.

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The Taliban also said two of its fighters had carried out the attack and then returned.

In a separate incident, a vehicle carrying policemen was struck by a roadside bomb in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz told reporters.

Two policemen were killed and one wounded in the attack, he said.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months, especially in Kabul, which has been rocked by a new trend of targeted killings.

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The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two-decades-long war in the country.

Representatives from two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda for the talks.

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#Newsworthy

Afghanistan car bomb attack claim 12 lives.

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More than 100 people wounded in a powerful car bomb in Ghor province, interior ministry said.

At least 12 civilians have been killed and more than 100 people wounded after a car bomb targeting an Afghan police headquarters in the western province of Ghor went off on Sunday.

The attack took place in Feroz Koh, the capital of Ghor, a province that has not seen much violence compared with some other regions of the conflict-wracked country.


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The ministry of interior said the car bomb detonated in front of Ghor police headquarters at about 11am local time (06:30 GMT).

“The terrorists detonated an explosives-filled car… as a result 12 civilians were killed and more than 100 people were wounded,” the interior ministry said.

Mohammad Omer Lalzad, head of a hospital in Ghor, said emergency staff were treating dozens of people, adding that the death toll will rise.

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Juma Gul Yakoobi, a Ghor health official, told AFP news agency that the victims also included members of security forces.

Security personnel and residents gather around the site of a car bomb that targeted an Afghan police headquarters in Feroz Koh, capital of Ghor [AFP]

“The explosion was very powerful,” said Aref Abir, spokesman for the Ghor governor. “There are fatalities and casualties, and people are taking them to hospitals.”

He said the blast damaged nearby government offices handling social affairs.

Peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government began in Qatar last month but violence has continued unabated on the ground.

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The talks appear to be stalled as the Taliban and the Kabul administration have struggled to establish a basic framework for negotiations.

On Friday, the Taliban agreed to suspend attacks in southern Afghanistan that had displaced thousands of residents in recent days.

It came after the US said it would halt all attacks and night raids in keeping with the peace agreement it signed with the Taliban in February.

The US had been conducting air attacks in support of Afghan forces trying to repel Taliban assaults in Helmand province, which threatened to derail efforts to end Afghanistan’s war.


#Newsworthy…

Intra-Afghan talks opens in Qatar.

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Saturday marks start of long-delayed Doha talks with opening remarks from both sides; negotiations to begin on Monday.

After nearly two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands, peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have opened in Qatar’s capital.

Key speakers at Saturday’s opening ceremony at a hotel in Doha included Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.

For his part, Abdullah spoke about seeking a dignified and lasting peace.

“I believe that if we give hands to each other and honestly work for peace, the current ongoing misery in the country will end,” Abdullah said, calling for a “humanitarian ceasefire”.

The talks were set to take place in March but were delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Baradar, meanwhile, repeated his group’s demand for the country to adopt an “Islamic system”.

“We want Afghanistan to be an independent, developed country, and it should have a form of Islamic system, where all its citizens see themselves reflected.”

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Pompeo, for his part, told the Afghan sides that “the choice of your future political system is, of course, yours to make” as he urged them to “seize the opportunity” to secure peace.

“Each of you, I hope you will look inside your hearts; each of you carry a great responsibility, but know that you’re not alone. The entire world wants you to succeed and is counting on you to succeed,” he said.

Kicking off proceedings earlier on Saturday, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said both parties must “rise above all form of division … by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished”.

Delayed talks
The intra-Afghan talks were set to take place in March but have repeatedly been delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the United States-Taliban deal signed in February.

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In the agreement, the Taliban had agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops, while the government said it would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

France and Australia objected to freeing six of the Taliban prisoners who were involved in the killing of their nationals.

Taliban and Afghan government sources told Al Jazeera a compromise was reached by sending the six prisoners to Qatar. The prisoners arrived in Doha on Friday and will remain in custody there.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said although the talks raise hopes of the war ending in the country, many challenges remain.

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“This is a new phase in diplomacy for peace in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad told reporters in a telephone briefing on Friday.

“These negotiations are an important achievement, but there are … significant challenges on the way to reaching an agreement.”

It took almost six months to get the Taliban and the government to the negotiating table, and analysts said the challenging part is to get both sides to reach an agreement.

“The various delays since the first designated start of the talks in early March show how much mistrust the two parties need to overcome,” Thomas Ruttig, co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, told Noble Reporter‘s known Media.

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“It shows how difficult the talks will be in general, given the many issues they would have to solve, with the most difficult one being Afghanistan’s future political system.”

The Afghan negotiating team includes five female representatives who will carry the responsibility of defending and protecting women’s rights during the talks.

Abdullah Abdullah called for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

“While there is no other realistic option currently to find a negotiated end to the Afghan war, it is far from clear whether any peace deal will address major concerns of the Afghan population such as a preservation of the rights and freedoms that have been constitutionally guaranteed to them,” Ruttig said.

The Afghan government backs the current democratic political system, while the Taliban wants to reimpose its version of Islamic law as the country’s system of governance.

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The armed group has, however, given vague comments on adopting a less strict stance towards women and social equality than during their 1996-2001 rule, during which women were banned from attending school, working, taking part in politics or even leaving their homes without a male family member.

The Afghan government’s agenda for the talks is to secure a permanent ceasefire, but analysts said that will be difficult to achieve as the Taliban’s only bargaining chip has been their military strength on the ground.

“The Taliban should see these talks as a good political opportunity. If they continue to fight on the ground to exert pressure, there are less chances of the talks being successful,” Abdul Satar Saadat, a former adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

“Peace demands compromises from all sides and that means sacrifices should be made to acquire a political solution to end this war,” added Saadat.

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In the first six months of 2020, almost 1,300 civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.

In July, President Ghani said about 3,560 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) were killed and 6,780 more wounded in Taliban attacks between February 29 and July 21 this year.

“The suffering of the Afghan people has gone on for far too long,” UN envoy Deborah Lyons said on Friday.

“An inclusive peace process, involving the meaningful participation of women, youth and victims, upholding the human rights of every Afghan is the only path to peace.”


#Newsworthy…

Intra-Afghan Peace Talks to Begin as Taliban team returns to Doha.

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Negotiations are part of US-Taliban peace deal signed in February in the Qatari capital to end the 19-year conflict.

A Taliban delegation has returned to Qatar, paving the way for the start of peace talks with the Afghan government that are expected to take place in the Gulf state.

The delegation’s arrival early on Saturday was announced by Taliban officials, who were speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

The negotiations are part of a peace deal the United States signed with the Taliban in February in Doha.

Washington has ramped up pressure on Afghans on both sides of the conflict to get started with their negotiations to decide what a post-war Afghanistan might look like.

The US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien held a telephone call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week. The US officials have also pressed neighbouring Pakistan to get the Taliban to the table.

The delegation’s arrival early on Saturday was announced by the Taliban officials [File: Sorin Forcui/Al Jazeera]

Intra-Afghan talks
Relentless delays over the exchange of prisoners – 5,000 held by the Afghan government and 1,000 by the Taliban – have hindered efforts to get intra-Afghan talks started.

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In late August, a delegation led by the Taliban’s political office head and the chief negotiator of the February deal with the US, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, visited Pakistan.

While little was revealed about the details of his meetings with Pakistani officials, it is believed he was pressed to get started with intra-Afghan talks.

With many of the Taliban leadership council living in Pakistan, Islamabad has been pressed by Washington to use its influence to push negotiations forward.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly said he wants peace talks started and a military solution for Afghanistan is an impossibility.

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Pakistani officials reportedly met a second time with Baradar on Friday before his return to Doha, again pressing for a swift start to Afghan peace talks.

US and Afghan officials have said they want to see a reduction in violence in the conflict going into talks with the Taliban, but the group maintains that a ceasefire would only be on the agenda once talks begin.

Washington’s February agreement with the Taliban was reached to allow the exit of US troops after nearly 20 years at war in keeping with a promise President Donald Trump made during the 2016 US election campaign.

The withdrawal, which has already begun, is not dependent on the success of the Afghan negotiations but rather on commitments made by the Taliban to fight armed groups and ensure Afghanistan cannot be used to attack the US or its allies.


#Newsworthy…

Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani yes release of Taliban prisoners

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President Ghani’s statement comes after Afghan grand assembly passed a resolution on Sunday morning.


Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has agreed to release 400 Taliban prisoners after an Afghan grand assembly, known as the Loya Jirga, passed a resolution to approve the move.

The resolution recommending the release of the prisoners was passed on Sunday at the end of a three-day Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan meeting of tribal elders and other stakeholders held to decide on momentous issues.

“In order to remove the hurdles for the start of peace talks, stopping bloodshed, and for the good of the public, the jirga approves the release of 400 prisoners as demanded by the Taliban,” Jirga member Atefa Tayeb announced.

Following the announcement, President Ghani said: “Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.”

The prisoners’ fate was a crucial hurdle in launching peace talks between the two sides. The Afghan government has released almost all the Taliban prisoners on the list, but authorities have baulked at freeing the final 400.

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According to an official list seen by AFP news agency, many of the inmates are accused of serious offences, with more than 150 of them on death row.

The list also includes a group of 44 fighters of particular concern to the United States and other countries for their role in “high-profile” attacks.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday pushed for the release of the detainees while recognising the decision would be “unpopular”.

On Sunday, delegates at the Loya Jirga said they wanted international guarantees that the Taliban would not return to the battlefield.

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“The prisoners release was the only hurdle that has now been removed by the Jirga decision. The agreement was that once the 5000 Taliban members are released, the ceasefire will be discussed in the intra-Afghan talks,” Mushtaq Rahim, a founding member of Afghanistan Affairs Unit, an Afghan think tank, told Al Jazeera.

“So for the time being, we are all set for the intra-Afghan talks to discuss future outlook of Afghan political setup, agree on giving up the armed violence and engage in the political progress,” Rahmi further said.

The resolution recommending the release of the prisoners was passed at the end of a three-day Loya Jirga [Andalou]

Intra-Afghan peace talks
No date has been set, but negotiations between Kabul’s political leadership and the Taliban are expected to begin next week and will most likely be held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintains a political office.

The Afghan negotiations were laid out in a deal signed by the US and the Taliban in February. At the time of its signing, it was touted as Afghanistan’s best chance at ending decades of war.

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The deal called for the government to free 5,000 prisoners and for the Taliban to free 1,000 government and military personnel in its custody as a goodwill gesture ahead of the start of negotiations.

Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad spent more than a year and a half negotiating the deal with the Taliban to provide for the withdrawal of American soldiers after nearly 19 years in Afghanistan.

Some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered amid tight security in Kabul to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed [Andalou]

The withdrawal began earlier this year, but roughly 8,600 US soldiers remain in Afghanistan, and their return will depend on the Taliban honouring its commitment to fight against other armed groups and ensure Afghanistan is not again used to attack the US or its allies.

In an interview broadcast on Saturday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November.


#Newsworthy…

Afghan car explosion: 17 lose to death

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At least 17 people were killed in a car bomb explosion in an Afghan city south of Kabul on Thursday, officials and a medic said, just hours before the scheduled start of a ceasefire.

“Seventeen bodies and 21 wounded people were brought to our hospital,” Sediqullah, a senior doctor at a hospital in the city of Puli Alam in Logar province, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

The interior ministry confirmed the blast, which occurred ahead of a three-day ceasefire starting Friday between the Taliban and Kabul.


#Newsworthy…

Afghan girl kills 2 Taliban warriors | Details

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An Afghan girl shot dead two Taliban fighters and wounded several more after they dragged her parents from their home and killed them for supporting the government, officials said.

The incident happened last week when insurgents stormed the home of Qamar Gul, a teenager from a village in the central province of Ghor.

The fighters were looking for her father, the village chief, local police head Habiburahman Malekzada told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

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Her father was a government supporter, which is why the Taliban fighters went to his house and dragged him out, Malekzada said.

When his wife resisted, the Taliban fighters killed the couple outside their home, Malekzada said.

“Qamar Gul, who was inside the house, took an AK-47 gun the family had and first shot dead the two Taliban fighters who killed her parents, and then injured a few others,” he said.

Gul is aged between 14 and 16, according to different officials. It is common for many Afghans to not know their precise age.

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Several other Taliban fighters later came to attack her house, but some villagers and pro-government militiamen expelled them after a gunfight.

The Taliban regularly kill villagers who support the government and President Ashraf Ghani (pictured) and those they suspect of being informers for the government or security forces. HANDOUT / Office of Chief Executive of Afghanistan / AFP

Afghan security forces have now taken Gul and her younger brother to a safer place, said Mohamed Aref Aber, spokesman to the provincial governor.

Since the incident, social media networks have been flooded with praise for Gul’s “heroic” act.

A photograph of Gul, wearing a headscarf and holding a machinegun across her lap has gone viral in the past few days.

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“Hats off to her courage! Well done,” wrote Najiba Rahmi on Facebook. “Power of an Afghan girl,” wrote another Facebook user Fazila Alizada.

“We know parents are irreplaceable, but your revenge will give you relative peace,” said Mohamed Saleh in his post on Facebook.

The Taliban regularly kill villagers who they suspect of being informers for the government or security forces.

In recent months, the militants have also stepped up their attacks against security forces despite agreeing to peace talks with Kabul.


#Newsworthy…

Russia denies paid Taliban spy to attack NATO forces.

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The Taliban also denies the New York Times report, which it denounced as an attempt to defame the armed group.


Russia and the Taliban have denied a media report saying that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered money to Taliban-linked fighters to kill US troops and other members of the NATO coalition operating in Afghanistan.

Noble Reporters Media says that US intelligence officials concluded several months ago that the Russian unit had last year secretly offered rewards to the fighters in return for successful attacks. The information was later independently reported by the Washington Post.

The officials said the Taliban-linked fighters, or elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected at least some reward money from the Russians, although it remains unclear what attacks were connected to the scheme, according to the report.

Russia on Saturday denounced the accusations, with the Russian embassy in Washington, DC calling them "baseless and anonymous".

The tweet added the claims had “already led to direct threats to the life of employees of the Russian Embassies in Washington DC and London”.

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Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied to the New York Times that the group has “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and called the report an attempt to defame the armed group.

“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless – our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” he said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

In 2019, 20 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan but there have been no reported Taliban attacks on the US positions since the two countries reached an agreement in February that paves the way for the US to withdraw from the nearly 20-year long conflict.

Severe implications
US officials have previously linked the Russian intelligence unit in question to assassination attempts and operations in Europe meant to destabilise Western powers, according to the report.

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However, the most recent allegations, if true, would be the first time the unit has been proven to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops, the report said.

While the US and Afghan governments have previously accused Russia of supporting the Taliban, the allegation would represent a major escalation in Russia’s involvement during a time the Trump administration has been struggling to end the US presence in the country.

The report said the determination by intelligence officials is based, at least in part, on interrogations of captured Afghan fighters and individuals accused of crimes in the country.

‘Cozying up’ to Russia
The unnamed officials also told the newspaper that Trump and his National Security Council had been briefed on the intelligence in March, but had not yet authorised any action in response.

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“The story says that the Trump administration was told about this, including the president, in march, many many months ago, and that they debated several responses, including a diplomatic complaint up to sanctions, but so far have not acted,” NRM learnt

“Critics are pointing out that the president did do one thing, he invited Vladimir Putin to the now cancelled G7 summit, and that’s created its own kind of controversy today,” she said, referring to the so-called Group of Seven, an economic organisation composed of world powers from which Russia was expelled in 2014. The group is currently set to meet in the US in September, after delaying due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One critic is senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine who tweeted that Trump was "cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G7 all while his Administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill US troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban".

Officials told the Times it was not clear at what level in the government the Russian intelligence unit’s plan was authorised or what larger goal the scheme was meant to achieve.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Afghanistan leader vow to set 2000 Taliban inmates free


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has started the process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a “goodwill gesture”, his spokesperson said, in a move that came after the government welcomed the armed group’s surprise announcement of a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The decision to release the prisoners was taken “to ensure success of the peace process”, Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the ceasefire appeared to hold as there were no reports of clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces by the end of the first day on Sunday.

Ghani said a government delegation was “ready to immediately start the peace talks” with the Taliban.

Government negotiators would be headed by Ghani’s former rival Abdullah Abdullah after the two signed a power-sharing deal last week that ended a months-long political crisis.

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Pres. Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2000 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid.The AFG Gov is extending the offer of peace and is taking further steps to ensure success of the peace process.

A US-Taliban agreement signed in February in Qatar’s capital, Doha, stipulated that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban would free about 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel.

The prisoner swap was mentioned in the agreement as a “confidence-building measure” before long-awaited peace talks between the government and Taliban.

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Before Sunday’s announcement, Kabul had already released about 1,000 Taliban inmates while the Taliban had freed roughly 300 members of the Afghan security forces, according to reports.

The Taliban said they were committed to freeing prisoners, but reminded Kabul that the agreement was to “release 5,000” of their members as agreed with the US in Doha.

“This process should be completed in order to remove hurdles in the way of commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter.

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The Taliban’s offer of a ceasefire came just days after leader Haibatullah Akhunzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the Doha agreement that set the stage for the withdrawal of US troops from the country after more than 18 years.

US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered the February 29 agreement, said the ceasefire was “a momentous opportunity that should not be missed” while pledging that the US would “do its part to help”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also hailed the ceasefire, but said in a statement on Sunday that he expected “the Taliban to adhere to their commitment not to allow released prisoners to return to the battlefield”.

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He also urged the two sides to avoid escalating violence after Eid, the festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has made it a priority to end the country’s longest war and, in a bid to pull out foreign forces, US officials have been pushing the Taliban and government leaders to hold peace talks.

Analysts, however, say the Taliban has been emboldened by the agreement with the US, and attacks by the group have continued since the signing.

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War-weary residents in the capital, Kabul, expressed relief after the ceasefire was announced.

In a similar holiday truce in 2018, there were unprecedented scenes of fighters from opposite sides embracing and taking selfies.


#Newsworthy…

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16 Taliban militants dead from airstrike..


At least 16 militants have been confirmed killed as fighting planes struck Taliban hideouts in Balkh district of the northern Balkh province on Saturday, army spokesman in the northern region Mohammad Hanif Rezai said Sunday.

The sorties targeted Taliban hideouts in parts of the restive Balkh district on Saturday afternoon, killing 16 armed militants, the official asserted.

According to the official, the security forces in cleanup operations backed by fighting planes have also cleared several villages from the militants in Balkh district over the past couple of days.

Taliban militants have not commented.

Parts of Balkh province with Mazar-i-Sharif as its capital 305 km north of Kabul has been the scene of Taliban-led insurgency over the past few years


#Newsworthy…