Taliban reject UN team’s report on Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan

Special Taliban reject UN team’s report on Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, right, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 30, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 01 February 2024
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Taliban reject UN team’s report on Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan

Taliban reject UN team’s report on Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan
  • UN team says Al-Qaeda reportedly established eight new training centers
  • Taliban spokesman denies the group’s presence in Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban government rejected on Thursday a recent UN Security Council report claiming that new Al-Qaeda training centers have been established on its soil.

The report was released this week by a UNSC committee pursuant to resolutions concerning Daesh, Al-Qaeda and associated individuals.

It was based on assessments by the UN sanctions monitoring team, which cites intelligence provided by member states to warn that Al-Qaeda “was reported to have established up to eight new training camps in Afghanistan” and that it “maintains safe houses to facilitate the movement between Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The report also said that Al-Qaeda maintained a “holding pattern in Afghanistan under Taliban patronage.”

Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the allegation was “false” and a part of “propaganda” by the countries that supported Afghanistan’s previous pro-US administration.

“There is no one related to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, nor does the Islamic Emirate allow anyone to use the territory of Afghanistan against others,” he said.

The UN sanctions team found that a regional affiliate of Daesh — known as Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K — remained the “greatest threat within Afghanistan,” while there was an observed strengthening of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban reported to be operating from the country.

The reports said the TTP was “increasing attacks with a broader degree of autonomy to manoeuvre” and that “possibly with support” from Al-Qaeda it was “able to operate from Afghan territory across borders.”

Mujahid rejected the assessments as coming from sources that “stood by the occupation for their own interests for the past 20 years,” as he referred to two decades of US-led war, in which NATO forces were stationed in Afghanistan until the Taliban takeover in 2021.

The war was triggered by an American invasion, which toppled the first Taliban regime, after Washington accused them of sheltering Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

The US invasion led to 20 years of bloody fighting between Afghanistan’s new government supported by NATO troops and Taliban forces.

“We know that some member states of the Security Council have been defeated in Afghanistan, they will naturally spread their hatred and rumors,” Mujahid said.

“We hope that the UN Security Council remains neutral and does not reflect some opportunistic political and economic goals in its reports, which will ultimately question its status and credibility.”


Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Updated 13 June 2024
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Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • The 175 million tons estimate was the equivalent to the annual emissions produced by 90 million cars

KYIV: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has directly caused or paved the way to the emission of 175 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, a joint report said on Thursday.
The report, published by Ukraine’s environment ministry and climate NGOs, said their estimate included both emissions that had been released and those that would be produced during repair work following the destruction caused by the February 2020 invasion.
It laid out some of the main carbon-emitting activities caused by fighting.
“Billions of liters of fuel used by military vehicles, nearly a million hectares of fields and forests set ablaze, hundreds of oil and gas structures blown up and vast amounts of steel and cement used to fortify hundreds of miles of front lines,” it said.
The 175 million tons estimate was the equivalent to the annual emissions produced by 90 million cars, or the whole of the Netherlands in a year, it said.
The war launched by Moscow has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, but it has also caused vast environmental damage as two armies engage in the biggest European land war in 80 years.
The report, which seeks to quantify the war’s carbon footprint, was put together in cooperation by Ukraine’s environment ministry and climate researchers from Ukraine and other countries.
The report used a measure called the Social Cost of Carbon to calculate the approximate financial cost of the additional emissions.
“The total climate damage that the Russian Federation has caused after 24 months of the war amounts to more than USD 32 billion,” it said.
The report said that the war emissions could be divided approximately into three thirds: military activity, the steel and concrete needed to rebuild damaged infrastructure, and the final third being made up of several disparate factors including fires and movement of people.
“In the early months of the war, the majority of the emissions were caused by the large scale destruction of civilian infrastructure requiring a large post-war reconstruction effort,” the report said.
“Now, after two years of war, the largest share of emis- sions originate from a combination of warfare, landscape fires and the damage to energy infrastructure.”
Military activity was responsible for 51.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent emmmisions, the report said.
The majority of that number, 35.2 million tons of CO2 equivalent, was caused by the Russian military’s fuel consumption, with a further 9.4 milion tons from the Ukrainian military’s use of fuel.
Among the world’s biggest consumers of fuel, militaries worldwide account for 5.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2022 estimate, opens new tab by international experts.
According to the report, the war has significantly increased the frequency of landscape fires in the affected areas.
It said a million hectares of land had been scorched by 27,000 war-related fires, causing the equivalent atmospheric damage of 23 million tons of CO2.
The report also calculated that the closure of airspace over Ukraine and some parts of Russia, as well as the restrictions on certain carriers’ use of Russia’s airspace, have created just over 24 million tons of CO2 of additional emissions.
“Restrictions or caution has largely cleared the skies above some 18 million km2 of Ukraine and Russia, adding hours to journeys between Europe and Asia that consume additional fuel,” it said.


Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Updated 13 June 2024
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Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Study details huge emissions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Aside from killing tens of thousands and displacing millions of people, the war launched by Russia has has also caused vast environmental damage

KYIV: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has directly caused or paved the way to the emission of 175 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, a joint report said on Thursday.

The report, published by Ukraine’s environment ministry and climate NGOs, said their estimate included both emissions that had been released and those that would be produced during repair work following the destruction caused by the February 2020 invasion.
It laid out some of the main carbon-emitting activities caused by fighting.
“Billions of liters of fuel used by military vehicles, nearly a million hectares of fields and forests set ablaze, hundreds of oil and gas structures blown up and vast amounts of steel and cement used to fortify hundreds of miles of front lines,” it said.
The 175 million tons estimate was the equivalent to the annual emissions produced by 90 million cars, or the whole of the Netherlands in a year, it said.
The war launched by Moscow has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, but it has also caused vast environmental damage as two armies engage in the biggest European land war in 80 years.
The report, which seeks to quantify the war’s carbon footprint, was put together in cooperation by Ukraine’s environment ministry and climate researchers from Ukraine and other countries.
The report used a measure called the Social Cost of Carbon to calculate the approximate financial cost of the additional emissions.
“The total climate damage that the Russian Federation has caused after 24 months of the war amounts to more than USD 32 billion,” it said.
The report said that the war emissions could be divided approximately into three thirds: military activity, the steel and concrete needed to rebuild damaged infrastructure, and the final third being made up of several disparate factors including fires and movement of people.
“In the early months of the war, the majority of the emissions were caused by the large scale destruction of civilian infrastructure requiring a large post-war reconstruction effort,” the report said.
“Now, after two years of war, the largest share of emis- sions originate from a combination of warfare, landscape fires and the damage to energy infrastructure.”
Military activity was responsible for 51.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent emmmisions, the report said.
The majority of that number, 35.2 million tons of CO2 equivalent, was caused by the Russian military’s fuel consumption, with a further 9.4 milion tons from the Ukrainian military’s use of fuel.
Among the world’s biggest consumers of fuel, militaries worldwide account for 5.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2022 estimate, opens new tab by international experts.
According to the report, the war has significantly increased the frequency of landscape fires in the affected areas.
It said a million hectares of land had been scorched by 27,000 war-related fires, causing the equivalent atmospheric damage of 23 million tons of CO2.
The report also calculated that the closure of airspace over Ukraine and some parts of Russia, as well as the restrictions on certain carriers’ use of Russia’s airspace, have created just over 24 million tons of CO2 of additional emissions.
“Restrictions or caution has largely cleared the skies above some 18 million km2 of Ukraine and Russia, adding hours to journeys between Europe and Asia that consume additional fuel,” it said.


NATO to take over coordination of arms deliveries to Ukraine ahead of possible Trump win

NATO to take over coordination of arms deliveries to Ukraine ahead of possible Trump win
Updated 13 June 2024
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NATO to take over coordination of arms deliveries to Ukraine ahead of possible Trump win

NATO to take over coordination of arms deliveries to Ukraine ahead of possible Trump win
  • Russia-leaning Trump and his MAGA allies in Congress feared to block US aid to Ukraine should he return to power
  • UK to announce about $310 million Ukraine aid in G7 summit

BRUSSELS, Belgium: NATO is set to take over the coordination of arms deliveries to Ukraine from the US, the alliance’s chief said on Wednesday, in a bid to safeguard the military aid mechanism as NATO-skeptic Donald Trump bids for a second term as US president.

“I expect that ministers will approve a plan for NATO to lead the coordination of security assistance and training to Ukraine,” Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.Hours before, Hungary had given up its resistance to the Ukraine support package NATO aims to agree at its Washington summit in July, comprising a financial pledge and the transfer to NATO of the coordination of arms supplies and training.
During a visit by Stoltenberg to Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country would not block NATO decisions on providing support for Ukraine but had agreed that it would not be involved.
He added he had received assurances from Stoltenberg that Hungary would not have to provide funding for Ukraine or send personnel there.
Hungary has been at odds with other NATO countries over Orban’s continued cultivation of close ties to Russia and refusal to send arms to Ukraine, with Budapest’s foreign minister last month labelling plans to help the war-torn nation a “crazy mission.”
Stoltenberg had proposed that NATO take on coordination of international military aid for Ukraine, giving the alliance a more direct role in the war against Russia’s invasion while stopping well short of committing its own forces.
The move is widely seen as an effort to provide a degree of “Trump-proofing” by putting coordination under a NATO umbrella.
But diplomats acknowledge such a move may have limited effect, as the US is NATO’s dominant power and provides the majority of weaponry to Ukraine. So if Washington wanted to slash Western aid to Kyiv, it would still be able to do so.
Stoltenberg has also asked allies to keep up funding military aid for Ukraine at the same level as they have since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, adding up to some 40 billion euros per year.
On Wednesday, he said he was hopeful allies would find agreement on a financial pledge before the summit to make the support for Ukraine more robust and more predictable.

Britain's Prime Minister leader Rishi Sunak. (Pool/AFP)

UK readies $309.69 million aid

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will announce up to 242 million pounds ($309.69 million) in bilateral assistance to Ukraine in the G7 summit, his office said on Wednesday, to support immediate humanitarian, energy and stabilization needs for Ukraine.
“We must be decisive and creative in our efforts to support Ukraine and end Putin’s illegal war at this critical moment,” Sunak said ahead of the summit.
The Group of Seven nations and the European Union are also considering how to use profits generated by Russian assets immobilized in the West to provide Ukraine with a large up-front loan to secure Kyiv’s financing for 2025.
 


UK’s Sunak, Starmer face televised grilling by unhappy voters

UK’s Sunak, Starmer face televised grilling by unhappy voters
Updated 13 June 2024
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UK’s Sunak, Starmer face televised grilling by unhappy voters

UK’s Sunak, Starmer face televised grilling by unhappy voters

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer were grilled by voters at a televised event on Wednesday, with both challenged over past decisions, pledges and how they would fund policies if they won a July 4 election.

At their last meeting in television studios before the poll, the two men took turns to face an interviewer and then an audience, whose questions and responses underscored the everyday struggles of many in Britain and the mistrust of politicians.

With just over three weeks until an election opinion polls suggest Labour will easily win, Sunak was booed and heckled over doctors’ strikes, migration and his policy to introduce national service for young people.

Starmer was taken to task for what one audience member said was his avoidance of answering questions, and over his previous support of his predecessor, left-wing veteran Jeremy Corbyn.

A poll taken after the event in the northern English town of Grimsby said 64 percent believed Starmer had won the event on Sky News.

Starmer told the audience that he would start implementing his policies from ‘day one’ if he won the election but shied away from answering whether he was being honest when in 2019 he said his left-wing predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, should become prime minister.

“I want to get the place when I can roll up my sleeves and work with you ... to say the government is on your side,” Starmer said to applause. “That will be a massive difference to the last 14 years.”

SUNAK BOOED

Sunak was challenged over some of his policies, which audience members said had yet to solve their inability to get dentist appointments, reduce waiting lists in the National Health Service or stop the arrival of migrants in small boats.

“I know we’ve been through a tough time, of course we have... its been tough for all of you here tonight, all of you watching, but I do believe we have turned a corner and we’ve got a clear plan for the future,” he said.

“I am going to keep fighting hard until the last day of this election.”

The event came a day after Sunak unveiled 17 billion pounds of tax cuts in his governing party’s manifesto, trying to convince voters’ that he had a plan to make them better off while Labour’s policies are vague and ill-thought through.

He said again on Wednesday that a vote for Starmer was akin to writing him a blank cheque, repeating the contested accusation that a Labour government would increase taxes by more than 2,000 pounds. Starmer denied that was the case.

On Thursday, Labour will be try to set the story straight with its own manifesto, a document which sets out the policies the party will pursue in government, an agenda Starmer said would put wealth creation and economic growth at its heart.

Labour has repeatedly said it will stick to strict spending rules — a line Labour, traditionally seen as the party of tax and spend, has adopted not only to try to show it has changed since being led by Corbyn but also to challenge Conservative attacks that it will increase taxes.

But it was Corbyn who came back to haunt Starmer on Wednesday, when he was asked whether he believed what he said when in 2019 he said the veteran leftist would make a good prime minister and when he made 10 left-wing pledges to become Labour leader a year later, several of which he has since dropped.

“Have I changed my position on those pledges, yes I have,” said Starmer. “I think this party should always put the country first.”


US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children

US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children
Updated 13 June 2024
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US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children

US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday again accused Russia of taking Ukrainian children, some of whom were put up for adoption, after fresh media accounts detailed alleged abductions.

“This is despicable and appalling. These Ukrainian children belong with their families inside Ukraine,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.

“Russia is waging a war not just against the Ukrainian military — but against the Ukrainian people.”

An investigation by the Financial Times, published Wednesday, identified and located four Ukrainian children allegedly transferred to Russia, then offered for adoption on the website usynovite.

The children are aged between 8 and 15 years old.

According to the report, the name of one child was changed to Russian and no mention is made on the site of their Ukrainian origins.

Ukraine is demanding the return of nearly 20,000 minors it says have been illegally taken by Russia since the start of Moscow’s invasion in 2022.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, over the allegations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told AFP last month that he planned to make the return of children a top priority at this weekend’s summit in Switzerland on ending the war.