Afghan spymaster claims Russia, Iran are assisting Taliban

In this file photo, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai speaks during an interview in Kabul December 31, 2012. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Afghan spymaster claims Russia, Iran are assisting Taliban

KABUL: The head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, claimed over the weekend that Russia and Iran are aiding the Taliban.
The militant group is currently regaining its grip on the country, with the BBC reporting last week that it is now openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan — “much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.”
“There is evidence that Russia and Iran are somehow helping the Taliban, but not to the extent that the propaganda reports claim,” Stanekzai told the BBC’s Dari service in an interview this week.
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters this week that Iran is not interfering in Afghanistan’s “internal affairs.”
The Russian Embassy in Kabul did not respond to Arab News’ requests for comment.
Moscow has, in the past, confirmed ties with the Taliban, but claims it maintains that relationship solely to safeguard Russian nationals in Afghanistan and in the hope of restarting stalled Afghan peace talks.
Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Moscow and Tehran of providing both money and weaponry to the Taliban. However, Stanekzai is the first high-level government official to publicly accuse them of supporting the insurgents.
The emergence of Daesh in Afghanistan and its expansion in pockets of northern areas in recent months has been a source of concern not just for Afghans, but also for regional players, including Russia and Iran.
Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Russia’s Sputnik news agency at the end of last year that pro-Daesh militants fleeing Iraq and Syria were entering Afghanistan.
Members of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission told Arab News at the time that it had no evidence of the migration of foreign fighters into Afghanistan from Syria or Iraq.


Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

Migrants from poor Central American countries -mostly Hondurans- moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

ZURICH: The Swiss diplomat who helped negotiate a United Nations migration pact has defended the accord against mounting criticism, saying it helps small countries like Switzerland defend their interests.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was instigated after the migration crisis in Europe in 2015, which saw the biggest influx of refugees and migrants since World War II. The crisis strained resources and triggered fear of foreigners and nationalist tensions.

It was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the US, which backed out last year.

The comments from Pietro Mona, Swiss ambassador in charge of development and migration policy, come amid growing opposition to the accord, with Hungary’s right-wing government saying it will not sign the final document at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

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Austria pulled out too last month, and the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic have cast doubt on their countries’ joining.

Mona said Swiss negotiators deserved credit for having the pact become the first international document to set out states’ obligation to cooperate in taking back citizens.

“The migration pact gives us an additional instrument that helps us negotiate repatriation agreements, for instance with countries like Eritrea,” he said in an interview with the Blick tabloid, published on Monday.

After some hesitation, the Swiss government said last month it would sign the compact while clarifying its position on detaining minors from the age of 15 pending deportation, which Swiss law allows but the non-binding UN pact discourages.

Since then, committees in both houses of Parliament have called for delaying the Swiss signature and giving Parliament — and perhaps voters in a referendum — the chance to decide the matter.

Some politicians, especially from the right, complain that the pact could blur the line between legal and illegal migration and undermine countries’ sovereignty.

UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour has called moves to shun the accord regrettable and mistaken and said the compact simply aimed to improve the management of cross-border movements of people.

The UN pact addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them into new countries and how to return them to their home countries. The UN has hailed it as a historic and comprehensive pact that could serve as a basis for future policies.