US negotiates its own exit from Afghanistan

US negotiates its own exit from Afghanistan
A Soviet soldier waves on his way back to the USSR along a north Afghanistan highway on Feb. 7, 1989. (AP)
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Updated 16 February 2020

US negotiates its own exit from Afghanistan

US negotiates its own exit from Afghanistan
  • Taliban, Washington agreed on Friday to a temporary truce

KABUL: Afghanistan on Saturday marked the 31st anniversary of the last Soviet soldier leaving the country. This year’s anniversary came as the US negotiates its own exit after 18 years of war, America’s longest.

Some of the same Afghan insurgent leaders who drove out the former Soviet Union have been fighting the US, and have had prominent seats at the negotiating table during yearlong talks with Washington’s peace envoy.

Moscow pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, a decade after invading the country to support an allied communist government. Afghan mujahideen, or holy warriors, received weapons and training from the US throughout the 1980s to fight the Red Army. Some of those mujahideen went on to form the Taliban.

The US and the Taliban agreed on Friday to a temporary truce. If successful, it could open the way for another historic withdrawal that would see all American troops leave the country.

The chief negotiator for the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was once an American ally against the Soviets. So was another Taliban negotiator, Khairullah Khairkhwa. He spent 12 years detained at Guantanamo Bay until his release in 2014 in exchange for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The Taliban are now at their strongest since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan ousted them from power.

Kabul’s streets were quiet on Saturday, normally the busy start of the Afghan workweek. There were no official public celebrations marking the anniversary, and most people took the holiday off.

Shakeb Rohin was only seven years old when the Soviets pulled out. Now a graduate of Kabul University’s economics department, he said he can’t remember the Soviet occupation. Since then, he said he’s witnessed only war.

“We are so tried of war, we want a peaceful solution for Afghanistan’s problems,” he said.

Abdul Shakor Ahmadi, 56, recalled how people were very happy on the day of the pullout. But he said the civil war that followed was worse.

With the Cold War over, the US lost interest in Afghanistan. The mujahideen government — which included many of the warlords in Kabul today — eventually turned their guns on each other in the early 1990s. 

The fighting killed tens of thousands of civilians. It also led some former mujahideen to regroup into the Taliban, who rose to power in 1996.

“I hope peace comes this time,” Ahmadi said. “At least once in our lifetime we would be able to see peace in our country. We’re so worried about the future of our children.”


Pygmies, soldier killed in clashes over DR Congo park

Updated 02 December 2020

Pygmies, soldier killed in clashes over DR Congo park

Pygmies, soldier killed in clashes over DR Congo park
  • In 2018, Pygmies began to move onto land inside the perimeter of Kahuzi-Biega National Park and started to cut down trees, mainly to make charcoal
  • According to park authorities, Pygmies have destroyed vast acres of woodland — an act of deforestation that gnaws away at the habitat of endangered gorillas

BUKAVU, DR Congo: Three Pygmies and a soldier were killed in clashes near DR Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park, military sources and local officials said Wednesday, as calls grow for protection of the country’s indigenous peoples.
The national park, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Monday, is a haven for critically endangered gorillas but faces an emerging threat from a conflict between rangers and local Pygmies, who claim they were robbed of ancestral lands when the park was extended in the 1970s.
The central African country’s parliament is currently considering a law to guarantee the rights of Pygmies.
Clashes erupted on Monday in the nearby village of Kabamba in South Kivu province, military sources and the territory’s administrator Thadee Miderho said Wednesday.
In addition to the four killed, others were wounded, they said.
The Pygmies wanted to retrieve bags of charcoal seized by the military, according to Miderho.
In 2018, Pygmies began to move onto land inside the park’s perimeter and started to cut down trees, mainly to make charcoal.
According to park authorities, Pygmies have destroyed vast acres of woodland — an act of deforestation that gnaws away at the gorillas’ habitat.
Their return led to open conflict between Pygmies and rangers in which people on both sides have been killed.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park celebrated 50 years of existence on Monday, priding itself as “a sanctuary and refuge” of eastern lowland gorillas.
Meanwhile a civil society group in the territory of Kabare wrote an open letter to UNESCO asking for it to help “save” the Pygmies.
“Fifty years later, the existence of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park = 50 years of suffering of our Pygmies brothers and sisters,” the group wrote.
In the capital Kinshasa, the National Assembly passed a bill on November 26 for the “protection and promotion of the rights of the indigenous Pygmy peoples,” which will now be considered by the Senate.
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, unlike other indigenous ethnic groups, the Pygmies have not always received special attention as an indigenous group,” parliament acknowledged in a memorandum.
The proposed law guarantees the recognition of the culture of the Pygmies, easy access to justice and social services, and “full access to the land.”