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India blames China’s deployment of large number of troops for tensions on LAC

NEW DELHI, Sept 30: India on Thursday blamed China’s deployment of a large number of troops and armaments for tensions along the Line of Actual Control and said it expected the Chinese side to work towards the early resolution of outstanding issues in Ladakh sector.

The Indian side has only made counter deployments in response to China’s “provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts to alter status quo” on the LAC and to fully protect the country’s security interests, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

Bagchi was responding to allegations by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday that the Indian side was pursuing a “forward policy” and had “illegally crossed the LAC to encroach on China’s territory”.

“It was the amassing of large number of troops by the Chinese side, their provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts to alter status quo in contravention of all our bilateral agreements that resulted in serious disturbance of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in eastern Ladakh,” he said.

“China continues to deploy large number of troops and armaments in the border areas,” he added.

India has already made its position clear and rejected statements from the Chinese side which “have no basis in facts”, Bagchi said.

“It was in response to Chinese actions that our armed forces had to make appropriate counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India’s security interests are fully protected,” he said.

Bagchi recalled external affairs minister S Jaishankar had told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during their meeting in Dushanbe on the margins of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit earlier this month that the Indian side expects China “will work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols”.

During a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, spokesperson Hua had responded to a question regarding the Indian Army deploying sophisticated artillery on the LAC by blaming the New Delhi for the military standoff.

“The Indian side has long pursued the ‘forward policy’ and illegally crossed the LAC to encroach on China’s territory, which is the root cause of tension in the China-India border situation,” she said.

“China opposes any arms race in the disputed border areas for the purpose of competition over control. We have always been firm in safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and security, and committed to peace and stability in the China-India border areas,” she added.

On Friday, India had blamed China’s “provocative behaviour” and unilateral attempts to alter status quo on the LAC for disrupting bilateral ties and rejected Beijing’s contention that the Indian side was responsible for the deadly Galwan Valley clash last year.

The brutal clash in Galwan Valley on June 15 last year, which saw troops from both sides fighting each other for several hours with rocks, rods and clubs covered with barbed wire, resulted in the first fatalities on the LAC in 45 years. The Indian side lost 20 soldiers while China has acknowledged four deaths.

The two sides withdrew frontline troops from the north and south banks of Pangong Lake in February and from Gogra in August after several rounds of diplomatic and military talks. India has insisted bilateral ties can be normalised only when disengagement and de-escalation is completed at other friction points on the LAC such as Hot Spring and Depsang.

100 Chinese Troops Crossed Over Into Uttarakhand In August: Reports

NEW DELHI, Sept 30: In yet another reminder that the de facto border between India and China remains contentious in several regions beyond Ladakh, details are emerging about the latest incursion by Chinese forces, this time in Uttarakhand's Barahoti region, North of the Nanda Devi biosphere reserve.

Close to 100 soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) transgressed 5 km across the Line of Actual Control or LAC last month, the Economic Times reported earlier this week.

The transgression took place on August 30, and the Chinese troops returned after a few hours from the area guarded by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), a news agency said.

The report cited people familiar with the matter who said Indian troops responded with a "tit-for-tat strategy" and "carried out patrolling".

There was no official comment on the Chinese transgression. Sources said that there was no damage to any infrastructure in the area.

The incident comes amid a continuing standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in several areas in eastern Ladakh though both sides completed disengagement in two sensitive locations.

According to sources, minor transgressions have been taking place in Barahoti because of differing perceptions about the LAC by both sides.

However, what surprised the Indian officials was the number of Chinese military personnel who transgressed on August 30, they said.

The Chinese side has also significantly ramped up infrastructure development along the LAC in the sector.

India has been maintaining a strict vigil along the nearly 3,500-km LAC following the eastern Ladakh standoff.

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year in eastern Ladakh following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area. Both sides gradually ramped up their presence by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the Gogra area last month.

In February, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in line with a disengagement agreement.

Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the sensitive sector.

India's Envoy Asks China To Avoid Shifting Goalposts On Bilateral Ties

BEIJING, Sept 26: India's envoy to China, Vikram Misri, has said "shifting of goalposts" should be avoided in bilateral relations as they serve as an obstacle that could block progress.

Speaking at a virtual dialogue organised by a Chinese university, Misri said challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, reviving economies and sweeping technological transformations have only served to amplify the importance of India-China relations.

He said the recent experience between the two countries suggests that at the ground level, when managing a difficult situation, finding a resolution hinges on mature minds and consistency between words and actions.

"The first is to avoid shifting goalposts. For long, the Indian and Chinese sides have adhered to a well-understood distinction between resolving the boundary question and managing border affairs," he said.

The ambassador highlighted how the pre-existing mechanism, agreements and protocols have helped both nations manage border affairs.

"...For managing border affairs on a daily basis, we evolved a mechanism, consisting of instruments such as the WMCC and a succession of agreements, protocols and CBMs, in order to govern behaviour on the ground and ensure peace and tranquillity," he said, referring to working mechanism for consultation and coordination and confidence building measures.

A serious violation of peace and tranquillity in the border areas "naturally requires us to apply our minds" on the basis of established agreements, protocols and mechanisms to resolve it, Misri added.

Pointing out another obstacle that affects bilateral ties, the ambassador argued against taking a one-sided view of concerns and sensitivities, where one's own preoccupations trump any of those flagged by the other side.

"As EAM (External Affairs Minister) Dr S Jaishankar has stated, India-China relations must proceed on the basis of the three mutuals - mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests," Misri said.

He spoke against viewing bilateral relations through the prism of relations with other countries. "We are two ancient civilizations and two modern Asian nations who have evolved their own independent foreign policies and cherish their own strategic autonomy."

During his address, Mr Misri raised concerns about terrorism in the region and the consequent threats to peace and security that have re-emerged with the unravelling of the situation in Afghanistan.

The virtual event was also attended by Chinese envoy to India, Sun Weidong.

Modi says 'mutual recognition of vaccine certificates' key to easier international travel

NEW DELHI, Sept 22: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the Global COVID-19 Summit on September 22, said "mutual recognition of vaccine certificates" is imperative to make international travel easier amid the ongoing pandemic.

Modi's remarks come amid the controversy over the United Kingdom making it mandatory for vaccinated Indian travellers to get quarantined, as it is yet to recognise the Indian vaccine certification system.

"We also need to focus on addressing the pandemic’s economic effects. To that end, international travel should be made easier, through mutual recognition of vaccine certificates," Modi said.

The prime minister, in his address, noted that the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet as a significant population of the world is still to be vaccinated.

The Global COVID-19 Summit was called by US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of 76th UN General Assembly, in a bid to rally world leaders, NGOs and civil society groups to adopt a "common vision to end Covid-19 together" by end of the year 2022.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented disruption and it is not yet over. Much of the world is still to be vaccinated. That is why this initiative by President Biden is timely and welcome," Modi said.

The prime minister highlighted the steps taken by India's pharmaceutical industry to aid the world's effort in combating the pandemic. The cost-effective options being provided by the Indian companies have helped the developing nations, he pointed out.

"India has always seen humanity as one family. India’s pharmaceutical industry has produced cost-effective diagnostic kits, drugs, medical devices, and PPE kits. These are providing affordable options to many developing countries," he said.

"We have shared medicines and medical supplies with over 150 nations," Modi added.

The prime minister also pointed towards his country's contribution towards vaccine development. "Two indigenously developed vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorisation in India, including world's first DNA-based vaccine," he said.

The first indigenously made Indian vaccine to be approved in the country was Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, followed by ZyCoV-D , the world's first DNA vaccine developed by drugmaker Zydus Cadila.

"Several Indian companies are also involved in licensed production of various vaccines," Modi added.

As newer Indian vaccines get developed, the country is also ramping up the production capacity of existing vaccines, he said.

"As our production increases, we will be able to resume vaccine supplies to others too. For this the supply chains of raw materials must be kept open," Modi underlined.

The prime minister also said that in coordination with India's Quad partners - Australia, Japan and the United States - the country's vaccine manufacturing strength will be used to increase supplies for the Indo-Pacific region.

Modi also used the summit to recall the demand for a temporary patent waiver, raised before the World Trade Organisation, for COVID-19 vaccine diagnostics and medicines. The waiver "will enable rapid scaling of the fight against pandemic", he said.

Justin Trudeau wins third term, but falls short of majority

TORONTO, Sept 21: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hung onto power on Monday as his main rival conceded defeat, but his Liberals fell short of his goal for a majority win.

Trudeau, in power since 2015 and governing with a minority of House of Commons seats since 2019, decided to gamble on an early vote and capitalize on his government’s handling of the pandemic, which included massive spending to support individuals and businesses and a push for high vaccination rates.

Instead, he will end up where he started after an unexpectedly tight election race characterised by a lackluster campaign and voter anger at an election during a pandemic.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, whose party placed second, conceded defeat as results trickled in late into the night. CBC and CTV projected that Trudeau’s Liberal government would hold a minority of seats in the House of Commons, meaning he will need another party’s support to govern.

Elections Canada showed the Liberals leading in 156 electoral districts nationally, one more than they held before the election, including 111 in vote-rich Ontario and Quebec. “It’s a Groundhog Day election,” said Gerald Baier, a professor of political science at University of British Columbia. “It seems that ambivalence has stayed (from the 2019 election).”

The House of Commons holds 338 seats and a party needs to win 170 to hold a majority. The Conservatives led in 121 districts.

The Conservatives looked on track to win the popular vote, attracting 34% support to the Liberals’ 32%, but Liberal support is centered around urban areas where there are more seats. “Our support has grown, it’s grown across the country, but clearly there is more work for us to do to earn the trust of Canadians,” O’Toole told supporters, while suggesting that he planned to stay on as leader. “My family and I are resolutely committed to continuing this journey for Canada.

“Polls reported results much more slowly than usual, with some stations forced to limit occupancy due to COVID-19 restrictions. Long lines forced some electors to wait hours to vote in southern Ontario, a critical battleground. The Canadian dollar strengthened against its US counterpart in Asian trading on Tuesday, in part as a projected election win for Trudeau’s Liberal party reassured investors that economic support would continue.

Trudeau, 49, a charismatic progressive and son of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, swept to power in 2015. But the Liberals dropped to a minority in 2019 after Trudeau was damaged in part by disclosures that he had worn blackface years ago.

Amid a fourth wave of COVID-19, Trudeau backed vaccine mandates while O’Toole, 48, opposed them, preferring a combination of voluntary vaccinations and rapid testing to stop the spread of the virus.

Trudeau had said he needed a new mandate to ensure Canadians approve of his plan for getting the country past the coronavirus pandemic. The Liberals, whose fiscal policy support for the pandemic exceed 23% of GDP, plan billions in new spending to support economic recovery if re-elected.

France Recalls US, Australia Envoys Over Submarine Row

PARIS, Sept 18: France on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations in a ferocious row over the scrapping of a submarine contract, an unprecedented step that revealed the extent of French anger against its allies.

President Emmanuel Macron ordered the recalling of the envoys after Canberra ditched a deal to buy French submarines in favour of US vessels, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Le Drian said in a statement that the decision was made to "immediately" recall the two French ambassadors due to "the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States."

The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that Australia and France had been working on since 2016 constituted "unacceptable behaviour among allies and partners," the minister said.

"Their consequences affect the very concept we have of our alliances, our partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe," he added.

US President Joe Biden announced the new Australia-US-Britain defence alliance on Wednesday, extending US nuclear submarine technology to Australia as well as cyber defence, applied artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities.

The pact is widely seen as aimed at countering the rise of China.

The move infuriated France, which lost a contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia that was worth Aus$50 billion (31 billion euros, $36.5 billion) when signed in 2016.

A White House official expressed "regret" over the French envoy's recall but added "we will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby meanwhile acknowledged that telephone talks earlier between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and French counterpart Florence Parly showed "that there is still much work to do in terms of our defence relationship with France."

The French ambassador recalls from the United States and Australia, key allies of France, are unprecedented. Withdrawing envoys is a last resort diplomatic step taken when relations between feuding countries are plunged into crisis but highly unusual between allies.

"I am being recalled to Paris for consultations," France ambassador to the US Philippe Etienne wrote on Twitter. "This follows announcements directly affecting the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe."

Paris sees itself as a major power in the Indo-Pacific due to overseas territories such as New Caledonia and French Polynesia which give it a strategic and military foothold unmatched by any other European country.

France had made no effort to disguise its fury even before the recalls and on Thursday Le Drian accused Australia of back-stabbing and Washington of Donald Trump-era behaviour over the submarines deal.

Series of explosions in Afghanistan's Jalalabad, Taliban officials among dead

KABUL, Sept 18: A series of three explosions killed at least three, including Taliban officials, and injured around 20 in Afghanistan's Jalalabad on Saturday, reports said.

The explosion that took place in the capital of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province was targeted at Taliban vehicles. Local officials in Nangarhar told Tolo News that the roadside bomb exploded when a Taliban ranger struck it.

Reports said two Taliban officials were among the dead while the injured comprised mostly civilians. On Saturday, a sticky bomb exploded in Kabul, wounding two people. The target of the Kabul bomb is not yet clear, but the Jalalabad landmine blast was targeted at the Taliban officials. No one has yet taken the responsibility for the Jalalabad attack.

Jalalabad is the fifth-largest city of Afghanistan which is about 80 miles from Kabul.

The explosion comes at a time when Afghanistan is at the centrestage of the world's attention after the Taliban took over the country in an unexpected coup on August 15. Since then, there have been several attacks in the country, including an operation conducted by teh United States, which the US has recently regretted.

The Pentagon said on Friday that its drone strike on August 29 was targeted an Islamic State suicide bomber but many civilians were killed. In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the drone strike had killed a Ahmadi who worked for a non-profit called Nutrition and Education International.

"We now know that there was no connection between Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced," Austin said in the statement.

India, Australia hold 2+2 dialogue

NEW DELHI, Sept 11: India and Australia began the high-level 2+2 foreign and defence ministerial dialogue in New Delhi on Saturday. External affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh held the closed-door talks with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton.

The dialogue is aimed at further ramping up the overall defence and strategic cooperation between the two countries, including in the Indo-Pacific amid China's increasing military assertiveness in the region.

Just before the beginning of the talks, Jaishankar welcomed Payne with a fist bump, which has become the new handshake during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

"EAM Dr S Jaishankar & Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomed their Australian counterparts FM Marise Payne & Australia Defence Minister Peter Dutton for the India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. Bilateral, regional and global issues on the agenda," ministry of external affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

The in-person talks are taking place at a time the global focus has been on the situation in Afghanistan and the issue is likely to figure in the deliberations.

The foreign and defence ministerial talks are taking place amid renewed efforts by the Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Besides India and Australia, the Quad comprises the US and Japan.

In an address at an event organised by the Observer Research Organisation, Payne on Friday said the Quad has evolved "swiftly" and very "effectively" and commended India for taking a strong leadership role in the region.

Former Afghan Vice-President’s brother executed by Taliban

KABUL, Sept 10: The Taliban have executed the brother of Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan vice president who became one of the leaders of anti-Taliban opposition forces in the Panjshir valley, his nephew said on Friday.

The news that Saleh’s brother Rohullah Azizi was killed came days after Taliban forces took control of the provincial centre of Panjshir, the last province holding out against them.

'Taliban have not taken Panjshir', says brother of late Afghan commander
Ahmad Wali Massoud, the brother of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, says that the Taliban have not taken over the entire Panjshir region of Afghanistan at a conference organised by a Swiss university and Afghanistan's UN mission in Geneva. The Panjshir Valley is the last pocket of resistance against the Taliban's rule.

“They executed my uncle,” said Ebadullah Saleh. “They killed him yesterday and would not let us bury him. They kept saying his body should rot.”

The Urdu language account of the Taliban information service Alemarah said that “according to reports” Rohullah Saleh was killed during fighting in Panjshir.

Saleh, a former head of the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence service of the Western-backed government that collapsed last month, is at large though his exact location remains unclear.

The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, which groups opposition forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, has pledged to continue opposing the Taliban even after the fall of Panjshir’s provincial capital Bazarak.

BRICS leaders adopt resolution, calling for peace in Afghanistan

NEW DELHI, Sept 9: Amid the escalating crisis in Afghanistan, leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries adopted a "New Delhi Declaration" on the war-torn country, calling for refraining from violence and settling the situation by peaceful means.

The leaders also called for an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue to ensure stability, civil peace, law and order in Afghanistan.

The summit was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and saw participation from his counterparts -- Vladimir Putin of Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro. The meeting was also attended by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This comes in the backdrop of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the US and its NATO allies withdrew from the country, leading to the collapse of the government.

"The withdrawal of the US forces and its allies from Afghanistan has led to a new crisis in Afghanistan," said the Russian President, while noting, "it is still unclear how this will affect global and regional security."

Speaking at the virtual summit, Putin also said, "It is for good reason that our countries have paid special attention to this issue."

Advocating for Afghanistan which has been ravaged by the years of war that has killed thousands of locals and plunged the country into a major humanitarian crisis, Putin also said that he wants the "world stay away from their internal affairs and respect their sovereignty".

"The citizens of this country have fought for decades and deserve to exercise the right of defining what their state will look like on their own," he noted.

Meanwhile, Modi in his opening remarks said the BRICS platform has been useful for focussing attention on the priorities of the developing countries.

"Today we are an influential voice for emerging economies of the world. This platform has also been useful for focussing attention on the priories of the developing nations as well," he said.

The theme for the Summit is 'BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus'. The summit this year coincides with the 15th anniversary of the BRICS.

The BRICS brings together five of the largest developing countries of the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade. This was the second time Modi chaired the BRICS summit. Earlier, he had chaired the Goa summit in 2016.

Not only PM; at least 14 members of Taliban govt are blacklisted by UN: Report

LONDON, Sept 8: As the international community is raising concerns over the track record of the members inducted into Afghanistan's new 33-member cabinet headed by Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, it has been found out that at least 14 members of this cabinet are blacklisted, a BBC report said.

Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund and his deputies, raising concern of the international community over the composition of the new Cabinet in Afghanistan. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Molvi Abdul Salam Hanafi are two of his deputies are on the UN Security Council's terrorism blacklist, reports said.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was arrested by Pakistani ISI in 2010 and was supposed to head the Taliban interim government before the Taliban made their final announcement on Tuesday.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is a specially designated global terrorist, who carries a reward of USD 10 million US bounty on his head. He is the acting interior minister while his uncle - Khalil Haqqani – has been named as acting minister for refugees.

Sirajuddin, the son of the famous anti-Soviet warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and chief of the notorious Haqqani Network, is wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul that killed six people, including an American citizen. He is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, reports said.

Acting defence minister Mullah Yaqoob, acting foreign minister Mullah Ameer Khan Muttaqi and his deputy Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai are all listed under the UNSC 1988 Sanctions Committee, also known as the Taliban Sanctions Committee.

The Taliban Five were long-term Afghan detainees at Guantanamo Bay. All these people held high ranks in the former Taliban government. The "Taliban Five" leaders were released from Guantanamo Bay prison by the Obama administration in 2014 in exchange for US Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

They include Mullah Mohammad Fazil (deputy defence minister), Khairullah Khairkhwa (information and culture minister), Mullah Noorullah Noori (Borders and Tribal Affairs minister) and Mullah Abdul Haq Wasiq (Director of Intelligence). The fifth member of the group, Mohammad Nabi Omari, is also in administration as he has been appointed as governor of eastern Khost Province recently.

Qari Din Hanif, acting minister of economy, and Maulvi Noor Jalal, deputy interior minister, are other members of the Cabinet who are on the UN blacklist.

Mullah Hassan Akhund Is Head Of Taliban's New Government In Afghanistan

KABUL, Sept 7: Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a lesser known Taliban leader who is on UN terror list, will lead a new 'acting' government in Afghanistan.

Akhund and other names were likely finalized after Pak ISI Chief Faiz Hameed visited Afghanistan at the weekend.

Mullah Hassan Akhund has headed Taliban's leadership council and decision-making body, the "Rehbari Shura", for 20 years.

He was minister in the Taliban government in Afghanistan before the war with US started in 2001.

He is known to be more of a religious than a military leader. He is from Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. He was among the founders of the armed movement.

He is said to have sanctioned the destruction of the iconic Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001, declaring it a "religious duty".

'Ready for talks,' says Massoud as Taliban claim to have entered capital of Panjshir holdout

KABUL, Sept 5: Panjshir leader Ahmad Massoud on Sunday said his Resistance Front is ready to stop fighting if the Taliban stop their attacks and the military movement on Panjshir and Andrab as the struggle between the Taliban and the anti-Taliban forces have been going on for days.

"The NRF in principle agree to solve the current problems and put an immediate end to the fighting and continue negotiations. To reach a lasting peace, the NRF is ready to stop fighting on condition that Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements on Panjshir and Andarab," Massoud said in a Facebook post.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter the police headquarters and district centre of Rukhah, adjacent to the provincial capital Bazarak, had fallen, and opposition forces had suffered numerous casualties, with large numbers of prisoners and captured vehicles, weapons and ammunition.

A number of religious scholars at a gathering in Kabul on Sunday asked the Taliban and the Resistance Front to halt the current conflict, calling it an illegitimate war in the country, Tolo News reported.

The struggle over Panjshir has escalated in the last few days as the Taliban are all set to announce their government in the country.

Former Afghanistan vice president Amrullah Saleh on Sunday wrote a letter to the United Nations highlighting the large-scale humanitarian crisis in Panjshir province. The Taliban, he alleged, blocked all humanitarian services in the valley, snapped telecommunication.

"If no attention is paid to this situation, a full-scale human rights and humanitarian catastrophe including starvation and mass killing, even genocide of these people are in the making," Saleh wrote.

Amid reports of Mullah Baradar and the Haqqani network not agreeing on several issues, some reports claimed that one of the issues of disagreement is the Panjshir situation. A report said the celebratory gun firing recently reported from Kabul was actually a power struggle between Mullah Baradar and Anas Haqqani.

Afghanistan will erupt in civil war: Top US General

WASHINGTON, Sept 5: Afghanistan will "likely" erupt in civil war, the top US general told US media Saturday, warning that those conditions could see a resurgence of terrorist groups in the country.

As American forces began their withdrawal, the Taliban took over Afghanistan in a lightning campaign, with only the northern province Panjshir holding out against the hardline Islamists.

"My military estimate... is that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war," General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News.

He questioned whether the Taliban -- who are yet to declare a government -- would be able to consolidate power and establish effective governance.

"I think there's at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then in turn lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of Al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other... terrorist groups," Milley said.

Emphasizing that he could not predict what would happen next in Afghanistan, he nonetheless gave a bleak assessment.

"The conditions are very likely," Milley told Fox News, "that you could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months."

The United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the first Taliban regime in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda, which had sanctuary in the country.

Western governments fear Afghanistan could again become a haven for extremists bent on attacking them.

The United States has said it will maintain an "over-the-horizon" capability to strike against any threats to its security in Afghanistan.

At least 17 killed in Kabul after Taliban fire weapons to celebrate ‘Panjshir fall’

KABUL, Sept 4: At least 17 people have been killed in Kabul after Taliban fighters fired weapons into the air in celebration, according to agencies. Taliban fired guns into the air Friday night to celebrate gains on the battlefield in Panjshir province, which still remains under the control of anti-Taliban fighters.

Sources in the Taliban said Saturday its fighters had taken Panjshir Valley, the final holdout in its quest to seize Afghanistan. “By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are in control of the entire Afghanistan. The troublemakers have been defeated and Panjshir is now under our command,” one Taliban commander was quoted as saying. Heavy fighting continues in the valley and has left hundreds dead till now.

However, resistance leaders denied the claim. “News of Panjshir conquests is circulating on Pakistani media. This is a lie,” said Ahmad Massoud, who is leading the rebels.

Meanwhile, former president Hamid Karzai in a statement has asked the Taliban and the “resistance front” in Panjshir to stop the fighting and resolve their issues through talks, TOLO news reported.

In other news, Taliban sources also said the group’s co-founder and head of political office Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would lead the new Afghan government. The co-founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai are likely to have senior positions in the government. Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme religious leader, will deal with religious matters and governance.

Taliban Co-Founder Mullah Baradar To Lead New Afghan Government: Report

KABUL, Sept 3: Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar will lead a new Afghan government set to be announced shortly, sources in the Islamist group said on Friday, as its fighters battled forces loyal to the vanquished republic in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul.

The new government's most immediate priority, however, should be to stave off the collapse of an economy grappling with drought and the ravages of a conflict that killed an estimated 240,000 Afghans.

Baradar, who heads the Taliban's political office, will be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, in senior positions in the government, three sources said.

"All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government," one Taliban official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.

Haibatullah Akhunzada, the Taliban's supreme religious leader, will focus on religious matters and governance within the framework of Islam, another Taliban source said.

The Taliban, which seized Kabul on August 15 after sweeping across most of the country, have faced resistance in the Panjshir Valley, where there have been reports of heavy fighting and casualties.

Several thousand fighters of regional militias and remnants of the government's armed forces have massed in the rugged valley under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, the son of former Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Efforts to negotiate a settlement appear to have broken down, with each side blaming the other for the failure.

While the Taliban have spoken of their desire to form a consensus government, a source close to the terrorist movement said the interim government now being formed would consist solely of Taliban members.

It would comprise 25 ministries, with a consultative council, or shura, of 12 Muslim scholars, the source added.

Also being planned within six to eight months is a loya jirga, or grand assembly, bringing together elders and representatives across Afghan society to discuss a constitution and the structure of the future government, the source said.

All the sources expected the interim government's cabinet to be finalised soon but differed over exactly when, with some saying it would be settled later on Friday while others felt it would take until the middle of next week.

Afghan women forced into marriage at evacuation camps to flee Kabul: Report

WASHINGTON, Sept 3: In a desperate bid to flee the country, many Afghan women were forced into marriages inside the evacuation camps outside the Kabul airport so that they become easily eligible for evacuation, the US state department was alerted.

According to a CNN report, the practice was brought to the notice of US diplomats who have also alerted the UAE over the issue. The report said some families even paid men eligible for evacuation in thousand of dollars. Some men were approached only to pose as husbands for women to flee, the CNN report said. This has triggered concern over the possibility of human trafficking flourishing around the evacuation from Kabul.

The report said that since the issue has been brought to the notice of the diplomats and the extent of this practice is not really known, US diplomats in the UAE would provide guidance to identify potential victims of human trafficking.

Where are these women now?

As the evacuation process is now over and the Taliban are all set to announce their new government in Afghanistan, the evacuees are mostly in transit. Many are in the UAE. Once these third countries process their travel to the US, they will be leaving for the United States

The Taliban coming to power after two remaining two decades in the shadows rang trouble for women as in the earlier regime, between 1996 and 2000, all rights were snatched from the women. This time, the Taliban promised women rights as permitted by the Sharia law, but it has already banned co-education, travelling without male guardians etc.

Hundreds of women associated with art, including journalists, have fled the country in the last few weeks. A report of Reporters Without Borders has said that women journalists are "disappearing" from Kabul and at present fewer than 100 of Kabul's 700 women journalists are still working.

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