Pakistan yesterday rejected accusations that it was secretly supporting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, while the Taliban denied plans for peace talks with the Afghan government in Saudi Arabia.
The statements came as a leaked NATO report charged that Pakistan’s security services were backing the Taliban militia, who consider victory inevitable once Western combat troops leave in 2014.
The leak was spectacularly bad timing for Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who was in Kabul for the first time since taking office last year in a bid to thaw frosty ties between the two neighbors.
“We have no hidden agenda in Afghanistan,” Khar told reporters after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “These claims have been made many, many times. Pakistan stands behind any initiative that the Afghan government takes for peace.”
The Taliban chose the same day to deny that they would soon hold talks with Karzai’s government in Saudi Arabia to end the decade-long war since they were toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001.
“There is no truth in these published reports saying that the delegation of the Islamic Emirate would meet with representatives of the Karzai government in Saudi Arabia in the near future,” the Taliban said on their Web site.
Afghan officials had suggested that talks in Saudi Arabia would be in addition to contacts in Qatar between the Taliban and the US.
However, it was never clear whether the Taliban, who have resisted talks with the Afghan government, or the Saudis, who have conditioned involvement on the Taliban renouncing al-Qaeda, would come on board.
The “State of the Taliban” document claims that Islamabad, via Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, is “intimately involved” with the insurgency and that the Taliban assume victory is inevitable once Western troops leave in 2014.
The Times quoted the report as saying the Taliban’s “strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact,” despite setbacks last year.
“Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban,” it said.
“Once ISAF [NATO’s International Security Assistance Force] is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable,” it said.
The ISAF, however, appeared to distance itself from the contents of the document.
The document “may provide some level of representative sampling of Taliban opinions and ideals, but clearly should not be used as any interpretation of campaign progress,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister said “we consider any threat to Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty as a threat to Pakistan’s existence.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look forward to a relationship based on trust,” she said.
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
‘HEROIC’: A lack of personal protective equipment has led to high infection rates among health workers in places like Spain and Italy, a nurses’ association said More equipment is needed to protect the world’s nurses working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic to save lives, the head of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said. “They are heroic. I think there is no other way to describe what they are doing at this moment,” said Howard Catton, a British nurse who is the council’s CEO. Infection rates of 9 percent and 12 to 14 percent have been reported among health workers in Italy and Spain respectively, he said, adding that nurses have died in the two nations, as well as Iran and Indonesia. “We have no doubt
Japan’s ruling party yesterday proposed the nation’s biggest-ever stimulus package of ￥60 trillion (US$554 billion) as the COVID-19 pandemic locks the economy in a recession. The sum includes ￥20 trillion in fiscal measures with private initiatives and other elements likely making up the rest, the proposal by the Liberal Democratic Party showed. More than ￥10 trillion, or the equivalent of a 5 percentage point cut in the sales tax rate, would be handed out to the public in a combination of cash, subsidies and coupons, the plan showed. The proposal puts an initial figure on a stimulus package that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo