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Taliban: Work on agreement with US complete

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Zabihullah Mujahid Taliban spokesperson

Kabul, Aug 13 (IANS) The Taliban on Tuesday said that work on the agreement with the US to seek a way out of nearly two decades of conflict in Afghanistan is complete, although it added that the sides would meet after final consultations and the agreement will be signed in the presence of international guarantors.

“Work on agreement (has been) completed,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe news, a day after the eighth round of peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban concluded in Doha, Qatar.

However, he added that “there will be another meeting” between the two sides after final consultations.

“Signing of the agreement will be taking place later in the presence of (international) guarantors,” Mujahid said, without giving any further details.

The spokesperson on Monday had tweeted about the end of the eighth round of negotiations after 10 days of “tedious and effective” work, although he did not say anything about the finalization of the agreement.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad also tweeted on Monday, confirming the conclusion of this round of negotiations and said: “I am on my way back to DC to consult on next steps.”

The Taliban want an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops and the US seeks guarantees that the country does not become a refuge for terrorists.

According to a report on Monday by American magazine Newsweek citing Pentagon sources, US troops on Afghan soil have received orders to draw back their operations against the Taliban and to stop assisting the Afghan military as Washington proposes to cut its troops to 6,000.

However, in response to the report, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and US Forces, General Scott Miller, in a statement denied having received any of the orders that appear in what he said is an “inaccurate and speculative” article.

“We have no such orders and have made no such changes,” Miller said.

It is expected that an agreement with Washington would pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban, the government and Afghan leaders.

In July, some 60 Afghans – many of them government members – and 17 Taliban members took part in the seventh round of negotiations in Qatar.

The Afghan government announced a 15-member team to directly negotiate a peace agreement, a process that insurgents say will not begin until they first reach an agreement with the US on the withdrawal of international troops.

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Dozens killed as blast rocks Afghan wedding hall in Kabul – reports

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Blast wedding hall Kabul

An explosion has killed dozens of people at a wedding hall in Western part of Kabul, on Faiz Muhammad Kateb street,at least 20 people killed. At least more than 30 people wounded.

Victims have been taken to hospitals, details on casualties will be announced later – Interior Ministry spokesman.

The explosion shattered more than a week of calm in the Afghan capital. Ten days ago a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces ripped through a busy west Kabul neighborhood, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.

The attack has yet to be claimed by any group

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US cuts Pakistan’s aid by USD 440 million

The agreement was signed in 2010 to make operational the Kerry Lugar Berman (KLB) Act that was passed by the US Congress in October 2009 to disburse $7.5 billion to Pakistan over a period of 5 years.

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Donald Trump

Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) The US has cut its aid to cash-strapped Pakistan by $440 million, bringing its commitments to just $4.1 billion.

The decision to cut Pakistan’s economic assistance was officially conveyed to Islamabad about three weeks before the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US, the Express Tribune reported.

The aid was disbursed under Pakistan Enhanced Partnership Agreement (PEPA) 2010. The agreement was signed in 2010 to make operational the Kerry Lugar Berman (KLB) Act that was passed by the US Congress in October 2009 to disburse $7.5 billion to Pakistan over a period of 5 years.

However, soon after PEPA agreement was made effective the relations between Pakistan and the US started deteriorating and reached nearly its lowest ebbs in decades. This also affected the actual commitments and disbursements under the KLB Act.

The report said the commitments under the KLB earlier stood at nearly $4.5 billion. Now, after the cut the aid will come down to $4.1 billion.

The KLB was aimed at making investments in Pakistan’s economic infrastructure, particularly in energy and agriculture, to help the country recover from its energy and water crises, improve the daily lives of the Pakistani people and increase opportunities for economic growth.

In September 2018, the US military cancelled $300 million in aid to Pakistan over its failure to take action against militant groups.

Washington has long complained that Pakistan provides a safe haven to militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda, allowing them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

During his meeting with Imran Khan in July, US President Donald Trump had hinted that he was unlikely to lift the freeze of security assistance to Islamabad till the time he was satisfied with Islamabad’s actions against terrorist network.

“We were paying $1.3 billion to Pakistan in aid for many years. The problem was Pakistan was not doing anything for us,” Trump had told Khan.

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Pakistani PM Imran Khan welcomes UNSC meeting on Kashmiris

He said there were 11 UNSC resolutions reiterating the Kashmiris’ “right to self-determination”.

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Imran Khan

Islamabad, Aug 17 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday welcomed the UN Security Council’s informal consultation on the Kashmir issue and said that addressing the “suffering of Kashmiri people” was the responsibility of the world body.

The cricketer-turned-politician said in a tweet: “I welcome the UNSC meeting to discuss the serious situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. It is for the first time in over 50 yrs that the world’s highest diplomatic forum has taken up this issue.”

He said there were 11 UNSC resolutions reiterating the Kashmiris’ “right to self-determination”.

“The UNSC meeting was a reaffirmation of these resolutions. Therefore addressing the suffering of the Kashmiri people and ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body,” he added.

The UNSC meeting was held on Friday after China’s insistence to hold a discussion on the current situation of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir following India’s decision to revoke its special status.

In a setback to Pakistan, the UNSC in its informal consultation on Kashmir acknowledged India’s measures to bring normalcy and development to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, according to India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin.

“We are gratified that the UNSC in its closed consultations appreciated these efforts, acknowledged them, and indicated that this is the direction that it would like the international community to move. We are committed to gradually removing all the restrictions,” he said.

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