Taliban ‘more qualified’ to run Afghanistan than Kabul govt, says group spokesman

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Updated 16 July 2021

Taliban ‘more qualified’ to run Afghanistan than Kabul govt, says group spokesman

Taliban ‘more qualified’ to run Afghanistan than Kabul govt, says group spokesman
  • Afghanistan will not be ‘center of rivalries’ for neighboring countries

DUBAI: The Taliban are more qualified to run a future political set-up in Afghanistan than the current Kabul government, a spokesman for the group told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, amid a surge in violence and mounting doubts about the future of US-backed peace negotiations.

Taliban officials said last week that the group had taken control of 85 percent of territory in Afghanistan, a claim the Kabul government dismissed as a propaganda campaign launched as foreign forces, including from the US, withdrew after almost 20 years of fighting.

The Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said that “tens of districts” were surrendering to the insurgents daily, saying this was happening despite the “weapons and armaments” available with Afghan security forces.

In the last two weeks, the Taliban have overrun areas bordering five countries: Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan.

When asked if the Taliban had the expertise and budget to run the day-to-day affairs of the areas they were capturing, Shaheen replied: “We are the people of Afghanistan. We are living among the people. We have experience not only for one year (but) for the past 25 years. Our governors, security chiefs, provincial security chiefs, the judges ... and all commissions, which are equal to a ministry, have been working for the last 25 years. So all our people have experience. They are more experienced than those in the Kabul administration.”

He said there was no change in the movement of people and goods on the border crossings the Taliban had captured, and that traders were carrying on with businesses “normally.”

“Now, under the control of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, they are doing it without any corruption, easily and normally. They are very happy with that.”

Shaheen said schools, offices, and all other establishments in Taliban-captured territories had been asked to remain open and functioning.

However, he appealed to the UN and other international organizations and countries to assist the Taliban financially.

“That is important for the facilities to be provided to the common people,” he added. “We have almost 85 percent of the Afghan territory in our control. So, in order to keep all these offices intact, operative, and active, we do need financial assistance.”

Part of the US pullout deal signed by the Taliban and Washington in February last year was the group’s commitment to negotiate a ceasefire and a power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.

But little progress has been made on this front, even after several rounds of negotiations since September.

“First we should reach a solution about the political roadmap and then we (will) go for a ceasefire,” Shaheen replied when asked what the Taliban’s conditions were to agree to a ceasefire. “There is a sequence.”

He said no individual or group would be allowed to use Afghan soil to attack another country, including Al-Qaeda and the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is responsible for dozens of high profile attacks in Pakistan and whose leaders and foot soldiers are believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

“We had made a commitment that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against the United States, its allies, and other countries,” Shaheen said, saying the group had “sent our message” to Al-Qaeda.

“About TTP or any other group, we have a commitment that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against another country. Right now ... we do not have all the territory of Afghanistan in our control. When a new Islamic government will be in place, that policy (of not letting anyone use Afghanistan soil) will be implemented.”

He was also asked how a new Taliban government would balance its ties between archrivals Pakistan and India, both of whom have interests in Afghanistan.

“We do not want Afghanistan to be a field of rivalry or rivalries of any countries ... When there is an Islamic government in place in Afghanistan, I think we need reconstruction of the country. Therefore, we would like to have cooperation with other countries, which benefit our people, but, at the same time, we do not want Afghanistan to be a center of rivalries.”


German FM says Taliban ‘show’ at UN would serve no purpose

German FM says Taliban ‘show’ at UN would serve no purpose
Updated 22 September 2021

German FM says Taliban ‘show’ at UN would serve no purpose

German FM says Taliban ‘show’ at UN would serve no purpose
  • UN credentials committee is reviewing a request from the Taliban to address the General Assembly
  • "To schedule a show at the United Nations won't serve anything," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters

UNITED NATIONS, United States: Germany on Wednesday voiced opposition to the Taliban’s request to address the United Nations, saying the “show” by Afghanistan’s new rulers would serve no purpose.
The UN credentials committee is reviewing a request from the Taliban to address the General Assembly on behalf of Afghanistan, which is still represented at the world body by the ambassador from the government that collapsed last month.
“To schedule a show at the United Nations won’t serve anything,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.
“What’s important are concrete deeds and not just words, including on human rights and in particular the rights of women and on an inclusive government and distancing from terrorist groups,” he said.
Maas said it was important to communicate with the Taliban, but said: “The UN General Assembly is not the appropriate venue for that.”
A senior US official suggested that the credentials committee, which includes the United States, would not make a decision before the General Assembly ends on Monday.
“It will take some time to deliberate,” the official said.
No nation has recognized the Taliban, whose brutal 1996-2001 regime enjoyed recognition from only three countries — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


France's envoy to return to US after Macron, Biden talks

France's envoy to return to US after Macron, Biden talks
Updated 1 min 2 sec ago

France's envoy to return to US after Macron, Biden talks

France's envoy to return to US after Macron, Biden talks
  • The two heads of state “have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence,” the Elysee and the White House said in a joint statement.
  • The French ambassador will “have intensive work with senior U.S. officials” after his return to the United States

PARIS: France will send its ambassador back to Washington next week after French President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call Wednesday to meet next month over a submarine dispute.
The two heads of state “have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence,” the Elysee and the White House said in a joint statement. Macron and Biden will meet at the end of October in Europe, the statement said.
In an unprecedented move, France recalled its ambassador after the US, Australia and Britain announced a new Indo-Pacific defense deal last week. As part of the pact, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire US nuclear-powered vessels instead.
The French ambassador will “have intensive work with senior US officials” after his return to the United States, the statement said.
Biden and Macron agreed “that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners,” it said. Biden “conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard.”
Biden reaffirmed in the statement “the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The European Union unveiled last week a new strategy for boosting economic, political and defense ties in the vast area stretching from India and China through Japan to Southeast Asia and eastward past New Zealand to the Pacific.
The United States also “recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO,” the statement said.
Earlier Wednesday, Macron’s office said the French president was expecting “clarifications and clear commitments” from Biden, who had requested the call.
French officials described as a “crisis of trust” last week’s announcement of the Indo-Pacific deal, with Macron being formally informed only a few hours beforehand.
Paris is calling for “acts, not words only,” Macron’s office said.
France’s European Union partners agreed Tuesday to put the dispute at the top of the bloc’s political agenda, including at an EU summit next month.
The French presidency categorically denied a report by Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper published on Wednesday saying Macron could offer the country’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council to the European Union if the bloc backs his plans on EU defense.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed French anger over the submarine deal, saying French officials should “get a grip.” Using both French and English words, he added they should give him a “break.”
Speaking to reporters on a visit to Washington, Johnson said the deal was “fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder-to-shoulder, creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.”
“It’s not exclusive. It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial toward China, for instance.”
The deal has widely been seen as part of American efforts to counter a more assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region.


Afghan women MPs arrive in Greece on way to US

Afghan women MPs arrive in Greece on way to US
Updated 22 September 2021

Afghan women MPs arrive in Greece on way to US

Afghan women MPs arrive in Greece on way to US
  • The women, whose identities were not revealed, left Afghanistan with assistance from the New York-based NGO Zaka Khan
  • Greece is currently home to 40,000 long-term Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, making it the largest migrant population in the country

ATHENS: Greece on Wednesday said it was temporarily hosting six Afghan women MPs and their families who fled Afghanistan ahead of eventual resettlement in the United States.
Greece was hosting a “symbolic” number of Afghans who are “defenders of fundamental values, freedom of expression and gender equality,” the foreign ministry said.
“Six Afghan MPs arrived in Athens via Tbilisi (Georgia) a few hours ago, accompanied by family members,” it said, revising an earlier statement referring to seven MPs.
“(They) will be hosted in Greece for a short time until resettlement procedures to the United States are completed,” it said.
The women, whose identities were not revealed, left Afghanistan with assistance from the New York-based NGO Zaka Khan, the ministry said.
Greece took part in US-led evacuation efforts in August to remove a small number of people from Afghanistan following the Taliban return to power after two decades.
A ministry source said Greece has so far taken in around 65 Afghan evacuees, and evacuated three Greek nationals.
Greece is currently home to 40,000 long-term Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, making it the largest migrant population in the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

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UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways
Updated 22 September 2021

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways
  • Members of campaign group Insulate Britain have shut down parts of London's M25 highway
  • “Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter

LONDON: Environmental activists who have repeatedly blocked Britain’s busiest highway face possible imprisonment after a judge granted an injunction against the protesters, Britain’s transport secretary said Wednesday.
Members of campaign group Insulate Britain have shut down parts of London’s M25 highway, which circles the British capital, five times in just over a week by sitting on the ground, painting the name of their group on the road and raising placards in front of traffic. Some have also targeted other highways.
Police have arrested dozens of the protesters, who demand the government improve home insulation to reduce emissions from heating and powering homes.
“Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter. “I asked National Highways to seek an injunction against M25 protesters which a judge granted last night.”
The injunction means that activists will face contempt of court with possible imprisonment if they continue blocking roads.
Insulate Britain spokeswoman Zoe Cohen said protesters “understand that the risks they are taking are because that we have tried everything else to make the government protect us from the predicted impacts of climate chaos.”
“That involves the loss of all that we cherish, our society, our way of life and law and order,” she told BBC radio.
Cohen said her group wants the government to update insulation in social housing by 2025 and all homes by 2030, “because this is the most effective way to reduce emissions and save lives from fuel poverty.”
The group said it will end its campaign as soon as it hears a “meaningful commitment” by the government to its demands.
The High Court order, which officially came into force on Wednesday, prohibits anyone from “blocking, endangering, slowing down, preventing, or obstructing the free flow of traffic onto or along or off the M25 for the purposes of protesting.”


Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial
Updated 22 September 2021

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial
  • Carlos, who carried out several attacks in support of the Palestinian cause, was convicted of murder in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison
  • He became one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after leading a brazen attack on a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel in Vienna in 1975

PARIS: Carlos the Jackal, the Venezuelan militant who was behind some of the biggest terror attacks of the 1970s and 1980s, appeared in a Paris court Wednesday in an attempt to have one of his three life sentences reduced.

The self-styled revolutionary, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has been behind bars in France since 1994, when French police caught up with him in Sudan after two decades on the run.

“I’ve been on forced holiday in France for twenty-seven and a half years,” the moustachioed white-haired defendant, now 71, quipped at the start of the proceedings.

The trial is the third in four years over a grenade attack in Paris in 1974 that killed two people and injured dozens.

Carlos, who carried out several attacks in support of the Palestinian cause, was convicted of murder in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison, a verdict that was upheld on appeal.

But in 2019, France’s highest court sent the case back to court to reconsider his sentence, saying he should not have been convicted of both carrying and using a grenade because it amounted to being convicted twice of the same offense.

Three days of hearings have been scheduled.

Carlos has always denied responsibility for the attack at the Publicis Drugstore at Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in the heart of Paris’s Left Bank.

No DNA evidence or fingerprints were found after the bombing, but a former comrade-in-arms linked Carlos to the attack.

Investigators believe the assault was designed to pressure France into freeing a jailed militant from a far-left Japanese group.

Carlos is also serving life sentences over the 1975 murders of two French policemen and a police informer, as well as for a series of bombings in Paris and Marseille in 1982 and 1983 that killed a total of 11 people and left dozens injured.

Born into a wealthy family in Caracas on October 12, 1949, Carlos joined a communist group as a teenager and studied in Moscow before joining a hard-line Marxist Palestinian group.

“I am a professional revolutionary; revolution is my job,” he told a French court in 2018.

He became one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after leading a brazen attack on a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel in Vienna in 1975.

Carlos and five other gunmen took 11 energy ministers and dozens of others hostage.

Three people were killed before Austrian authorities agreed to supply Carlos with a plane to fly him and his team to Algiers with around 40 hostages.

The hostages were later released in return for a hefty ransom, and their abductors walked free.