Senator: US does not want ‘precipitous’ withdrawal from Afghanistan

Afghan National Army officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Center. File/Reuters
Updated 15 April 2019

Senator: US does not want ‘precipitous’ withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • Women must have a place in talks with militants, says key American politician

The US does not want to pursue a “precipitous” withdrawal from Afghanistan, a top Democratic lawmaker said in Kabul on Monday amid an ongoing push to end the war.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the influential Senate Armed Services Committee that oversees the US military, also stressed that women must have a place at the table as the US tries to negotiate with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump last year told advisers he wanted to slash America’s 14,000-strong troop presence in Afghanistan by about half, prompting criticism he was seeking to rush a withdrawal.

“What we’ve heard here (is) that whatever negotiated settlement ends the conflict, that it be done in a way that’s very deliberate, that ensures a transition that all sides can participate in, and that there should not be a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Shaheen told reporters at the US Embassy.

Congressional colleagues agreed, she said, adding “that’s the position of the administration as well.”

“There is a deliberate position that may not always be reflected in the tweets that come from the White House,” she said, referring to Trump’s penchant of firing off unexpected foreign policy messages.

Foreign relations

Shaheen also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is the only woman on the panel.

She said it is vital for women to be included in talks with the Taliban, whose regime shredded any Western notion of women’s rights.

“What we know from the data is that when women are engaged, there is about a 35 percent more likely chance that those negotiations will ... endure for a longer period of time,” Shaheen said.

It’s important that “whatever comes out of any peace negotiations, that we support having women at the table.”

A fresh round of talks is expected to take place later this month between Afghan political leaders, including some officials from the Kabul government, and the Taliban.

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a “puppet” of the West.


Explosion as fire breaks out at Iranian industrial complex

Updated 29 min 34 sec ago

Explosion as fire breaks out at Iranian industrial complex

  • Six storage tanks had caught fire, including the one that exploded, an Iranian official said

Iranian police are investigating after a fire broke out at an industrial complex in northeast Iran where gas condensate storage tanks are sited, one of which exploded, the Mehr news agency reported on Monday.
Javad Jahandoust, the fire chief at the Kavian Fariman industrial complex, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the city of Mashhad, was quoted as saying six storage tanks had caught fire, including the one that exploded.
He said the fire was under control and there were no casualties, but police were investigating the cause.
There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June.
On Sunday, the official IRNA news agency reported a fire at a petrochemical facility in southwest Iran, which was blamed on an oil leak. There were no casualties.