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Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman and a member of the negotiation team gestures while speaking during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia on March 19, 2021.— AP/File

The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolise power, but they insist there won’t be peace in Afghanistan until there is a new negotiated government in Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani is removed.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in a country on the precipice.

The Taliban have swiftly captured territory in recent weeks, seized strategic border crossings and are threatening a number of provincial capitals, as the last US and NATO soldiers leave Afghanistan.

This week, the top US military officer, Gen. Mark Milley, told a Pentagon press conference that the Taliban have “strategic momentum,” and he did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover. But he said it is not inevitable. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

Memories of the Taliban’s last time in power some 20 years ago have stoked fears of their return among many. Afghans who can afford it are applying by the thousands for visas to leave Afghanistan, fearing a violent descent into chaos. The US-NATO withdrawal is more than 95 per cent complete and due to be finished by Aug 31.

Shaheen said the Taliban will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone.

“I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolise power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen, apparently including the Taliban’s own five-year rule in that assessment. “So we do not want to repeat that same formula.”

But he was also uncompromising on the continued rule of Ghani, calling him a “war monger” and accusing him of using his Tuesday speech on the occasion of Eidul Azha to promise an offensive against the Taliban.

Shaheen dismissed Ghani’s right to govern, resurrecting allegations of widespread fraud that surrounded Ghani’s 2019 election win. After that vote, both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah declared themselves president. After a compromise deal, Abdullah is now the second top official in the government and heads the reconciliation council.

Ghani has often said he will remain in office until new elections can determine the next government.

His critics — including ones outside the Taliban — accuse him of seeking only to keep power, causing splits among government supporters.

Last weekend, Abdullah headed a high-level delegation to the Qatari capital Doha for talks with Taliban leaders. It ended with promises of more talks, as well as greater attention to the protection of civilians and infrastructure.

Shaheen called the talks a good beginning. But he said the government’s repeated demands for a ceasefire while Ghani stayed in power were tantamount to demanding a Taliban surrender. “They don’t want reconciliation, but they want surrendering,” he said.

Before any ceasefire, there must be an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans,” he said. Then “there will be no war.”

"Under this new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics, but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf", says the Taliban spokesman

He said women won’t be required to have a male relative with them to leave their home, and that Taliban commanders in newly occupied districts have orders that universities, schools and markets operate as before, including with the participation of women and girls.

However, there have been repeated reports from captured districts of Taliban imposing harsh restrictions on women, even setting fire to schools. One gruesome video that emerged appeared to show Taliban killing captured commandos in northern Afghanistan.

Shaheen said some Taliban commanders had ignored the leadership’s orders against repressive and drastic behavior and that several have been put before a Taliban military tribunal and punished, though he did provide specifics. He contended the video was fake, a splicing of separate footage.

Shaheen said there are no plans to make a military push on Kabul and that the Taliban have so far “restrained” themselves from taking provincial capitals. But he warned they could, given the weapons and equipment they have acquired in newly captured districts. He contended that the majority of the Taliban’s battlefield successes came through negotiations, not fighting.

“Those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us ... were through mediation of the people, through talks,” he said. “They (did not fall) through fighting ... it would have been very hard for us to take 194 districts in just eight weeks.”

"The Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, and while they have yet to capture any of the 34 provincial capitals, they are pressuring about half of them," Milley said.

In recent days, the US has carried out airstrikes in support of beleaguered Afghan government troops in the southern city of Kandahar, around which the Taliban have been amassing, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Thursday.

The rapid fall of districts and the seemingly disheartened response by Afghan government forces have prompted US-allied warlords to resurrect militias with a violent history. For many Afghans weary of more than four decades of war, that raises fears of a repeat of the brutal civil war in the early 1990s in which those same warlords battled for power.

“You know, no one no one wants a civil war, including me,” said Shaheen. He also repeated Taliban promises aimed at reassuring Afghans who fear the group.

Washington has promised to relocate thousands of US military interpreters. Shaheen said they had nothing to fear from the Taliban and denied threatening them. But, he added, if some want to take asylum in the West because Afghanistan’s economy is so poor, “that is up to them.”

He also denied that the Taliban have threatened journalists and Afghanistan’s nascent civil society, which has been targeted by dozens of killings over the past year.

The Islamic State group has taken responsibility for some, but the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban for most of the killings while the Taliban in turn accuse the Afghan government of carrying out the killings to defame them. Rarely has the government made arrests into the killings or revealed the findings of its investigations.

Shaheen said journalists, including those working for Western media outlets, have nothing to fear from a government that includes the Taliban. “We have not issued letters to journalists (threatening them), especially to those who are working for foreign media outlets. They can continue their work even in the future,” he said.

15 July 2021 (Geneva) -- The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that the reliance on taxation as the solution for cutting aviation emissions in the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposal is counter-productive to the goal of sustainable aviation. EU policy needs to support practical emission reduction measures such as incentives for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and modernization of air traffic management.

“Aviation is committed to decarbonization as a global industry. We don’t need persuading, or punitive measures like taxes to motivate change. In fact, taxes siphon money from the industry that could support emissions’ reducing investments in fleet renewal and clean technologies. To reduce emissions, we need governments to implement a constructive policy framework that, most immediately, focuses on production incentives for SAF and delivering the Single European Sky,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Comprehensive Approach

Achieving aviation decarbonization requires a combination of measures. These include:

  • Sustainable Aviation Fuels which reduce emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional jet fuel. Insufficient supply and high prices have limited airline uptake to 120 million litres in 2021—a small fraction of the 350 billion litres that airlines would consume in a ‘normal’ year.
  • Market-based measures to manage emissions until technology solutions are fully developed. The industry supports the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) as a global measure for all international aviation. It avoids creating a patchwork of uncoordinated national or regional measures such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, that can undermine international cooperation. Overlapping schemes can lead to the same emissions being paid for more than once. IATA is extremely concerned by the Commission’s proposal that European States would no longer implement CORSIA on all international flights.
  • Single European Sky (SES) to reduce unnecessary emissions from fragmented air traffic management (ATM) and resulting inefficiencies. Modernizing European ATM through the SES initiative would cut Europe’s aviation emissions between 6-10%, but national governments continue to delay implementation.
  • Radical new clean technologies. While it is unlikely that electric or hydrogen propulsion could have a significant impact on aviation emissions within the EU ‘Fit for 55’ timeframe of 2030, the development of these technologies is ongoing and needs to be supported. 

“Aviation’s near-term vision is to provide sustainable, affordable air transport for all European citizens with SAF-powered fleets, operating with efficient air traffic management. We should all be worried that the EU’s big idea to decarbonize aviation is making jet fuel more expensive through tax. That will not get us to where we need to be. Taxation will destroy jobs. Incentivizing SAF will improve energy independence and create sustainable jobs. The focus must be on encouraging the production of SAF, and delivering the Single European Sky,” said Walsh. 

Promoting SAF

The most practical near-term solution to reducing emissions is SAF. Energy transitions are successful when production incentives drive down the price of alternative fuels while driving supplies up. The EU ‘Fit for 55’ proposal does not include direct measures that will achieve this. Without specific measures to reduce SAF costs, it does, however, propose a mandate to increase SAF utilization to 2% of jet fuel use by 2025 and at least 5% by 2030.

“Making SAF cheaper will accelerate aviation’s energy transition and improve Europe’s competitiveness as a green economy. But making jet fuel more expensive through taxation scores an ‘own goal’ on competitiveness that does little to accelerate the commercialization of SAF,” said Walsh.

Mandating a gradual transition to SAF is a less efficient policy compared to comprehensive production incentives, but it may contribute to making SAF more affordable and widely available in Europe, but only under the following key conditions:

  • It is limited to EU-only flights. This will limit the negative impacts on the competitiveness of European air transport and potential political challenges from other countries
  • It is accompanied by policy measures to ensure a competitive market and appropriate production incentives. The mandated use of SAF must not allow energy companies to engage in uncompetitive practices with the resulting high costs being borne by airlines and passengers.
  • It is targeted at locations which have substantial airline operations and close proximity to SAF refineries.

Concrete actions on Single European Sky are urgently needed

The SES has been on the drawing board for 20 years but has made little progress despite the promise of a 6-10% improvement in environmental performance, safer operations and reduced delays.

“Europe’s national politicians are quick to lecture airlines on the efforts industry should be making on the environment. But they are silent when it comes to areas of their own responsibility. Just recently the European Council failed to show any leadership to cut emissions by harmonizing European air traffic management. Moreover, the constant absence of political support from states on the SES proposals undermines the credibility of the ‘Fit for 55’ proposal and the credibility of Europe’s determination to drive real solutions for sustainability,” said Walsh.

  • Al Ain International Airport to connect with Cairo International Airport through scheduled flights by Nile Air every Monday and Friday

Abu Dhabi, UAE – 15 July 2021: Al Ain International Airport (AAN), owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Airports, has welcomed two new weekly flights between Al Ain and Cairo, the capital of Egypt. The inaugural flight, operated by Nile Air landed at Al Ain International Airport on Monday, July 12 at 21:15 Local Time (LT).

Francois Bourienne, Chief Commercial Officer at Abu Dhabi Airports, said: “We are pleased to welcome two new weekly flights between Al Ain and Cairo, which strengthens our connectivity with the Egyptian capital and facilitates the travel journey of passengers between the UAE and Egypt. The introduction of the new flights comes as part of the expansion of Al Ain International Airport and the introduction of new routes, to increase our airlines network and offer our passengers the best travel experience.”

Nile Air CEO, Captain Mohamed Sadek, said: “It has been just over five years since we first started flying between Cairo and Al Ain, UAE, and despite the massive impact of the pandemic affecting travel, Nile Air remains committed to operating to Al Ain, preserving the important relationship between United Arab Emirates and Egypt.”

Outbound flights will depart from Cairo International Airport on Mondays and Fridays at 15:40 LT and land at Al Ain International Airport at 21:15 LT. Return flights will depart from Al Ain International Airport on Mondays and Fridays at 22:15 LT, landing in Cairo International Airport the following day at 00:05 LT.

Flight #

Days of operation

Route

Arrival

UAE Time

Flight #

Days of operation

Route

Departure

UAE Time

 

NP171

Mon and Fri

CAI AAN

21:15

NP172

Mon and Fri

AAN

CAI

22:15

 

A civil defense team in Dubai is currently dealing with a fire resulted from an explosion at a container on a ship at Jebel Ali Port, Dubai government’s media office said on Wednesday. No deaths or injuries have been reported so far, the office said in a statement carried by UAE’s news agency (WAM). It added that the fire is under control.(KUNA)

Health regulators in several countries have been investigating cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after a shot of Pfizer or Moderna. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: The US drug regulator on Friday added a warning to the literature that accompanies Pfizer Inc /BioNTech and Mod­erna Covid vaccine shots to indicate the rare risk of heart inflammation after its use.

For each vaccine, the fact sheets for healthcare providers have been revised to inc­lude a warning that reports of adverse events suggest increased risks of myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly after the second dose and with onset of symptoms within a few days after vaccination, the FDA said.

As of June 11, more than 1,200 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis have been reported to the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, out of about 300 million mRNA vaccine doses administered.

The cases appear to be notably higher in males and in the week after the second vaccine dose. The CDC identified 309 hospitalisations from heart inflammation in persons under the age of 30, of which 295 have been discharged.

The latest update from FDA follows an extensive review of information and the discussion by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices meeting on Wednesday.

Pfizer and Moderna did not immediately respond to requests for comment after business hours.

Published in Dawn

‘Kuwait in forefront of global efforts’

 

NEW DELHI, June 24: Kuwait Ambassador to India Jassem Al-Najem revealed on Thursday that the largest oxygen shipment has arrived from Kuwait at the Indian port of Mumbai to confront the coronavirus. In a statement to KUNA, Ambassador Al-Najem said that an Indian naval ship carrying 7,500 medical oxygen cylinders arrived Mumbai port to help the country fight the mutated version of the virus.

Part of the largest oxygen shipment from Kuwait to India, carried by an Indian Navy ship

The ambassador renewed keenness of the State of Kuwait to alleviate the suffering of the friendly people of India during the health crisis it is going through. Kuwait is in the forefront of global efforts providing India with oxygen and other medical supplies in the wake of massive health crises following the spread of the new strain. During his recent visit to Kuwait, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had thanked the Kuwaiti leadership and people for the aid. (KUNA)

State Department spokesperson Ned Price also indicated that US financial assistance to Afghanistan could only continue if the country has a government that’s recognised by all. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: The United States has cautioned the Taliban that the world will not accept a government imposed by force in Afghanistan as an intelligence report warned that the current setup in Kabul could collapse within six months after the American withdrawal.

At a Tuesday afternoon news briefing in Washington, State Department spokesperson Ned Price also indicated that US financial assistance to Afghanistan could only continue if the country has a government that’s recognised by all.

“The world will not accept the imposition by force of a government in Afghanistan,” said Mr Price while referring to media reports about Taliban victories against the Kabul government. “You’ve heard this from Ambassador (Zalmay) Khalilzad; you’ve heard this from Secretary (Antony) Blinken and from others.”

Earlier at the briefing, a journalist reminded Mr Price that the militants have expanded their control over Afghanistan to more than 50 districts since President Joe Biden announced his plan to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by Sept 11.

“Legitimacy and assistance for any Afghan government can only be possible if that government has respect for human rights, if that government has credibility, if that government has legitimacy, including in the eyes of its own people,” Mr Price said.

According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s structural trade deficit, equal to around 30 percent of GDP, is financed almost entirely from grant inflows. Grants continue to finance around 75 percent of public spending. Security expenditures too were high at around 28 percent of GDP in 2019.

The United States is the biggest aid donor, spending $35.5 billion last year, followed by Germany ($28.4bn), Britain ($18.6bn), Japan ($16.3bn) and France ($14.1bn).

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US intelligence community had informed the Biden administration that the government of Afghanistan “could collapse as soon as six months after the American military withdrawal” from the country.

“American intelligence agencies revised their previously more optimistic estimates as the Taliban swept through northern Afghanistan last week, seizing dozens of districts and surrounding major cities,” WSJ reported.

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