‘US does not want precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan’

Unexploded mortar shell kills 7 kids in Laghman

15th April, 2019 10:42:20 printer

KABUL: The United States does not want to pursue a “precipitous” withdrawal from Afghanistan, a top Democratic lawmaker said in Kabul on Monday amid an ongoing push to end the war, reports AFP. 

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the influential Senate Armed Services Committee that oversees the US military, also stressed that women must have a place at the table as the US tries to negotiate with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump last year told advisors he wanted to slash America’s 14,000-strong troop presence in Afghanistan by about half, prompting criticism he was seeking to rush a withdrawal.

“What we’ve heard here (is) that whatever negotiated settlement ends the conflict, that it be done in a way that’s very deliberate, that ensures a transition that all sides can participate in, and that there should not be a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Shaheen told reporters at the US embassy.

Congressional colleagues agreed, she said, adding “that’s the position of the administration as well”.

“There is a deliberate position that may not always be reflected in the tweets that come from the White House,” she said, referring to Trump’s penchant of firing off unexpected foreign policy messages.

Shaheen also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is the only woman on the panel.

She said it is vital for women to be included in talks with the Taliban, whose regime shredded any Western notion of women’s rights and executed women for allegations of adultery.

“What we know from the data is that when women are engaged, there is about a 35 percent more likely chance that those negotiations will ... endure for a longer period of time,” Shaheen said.

It’s important that “whatever comes out of any peace negotiations, that we support having women at the table.”

Meanwhile, seven children were killed and 10 more wounded Sunday when an unexploded mortar shell blew up in eastern Afghanistan, an official said, reports AFP.

The incident appears to be the latest instance of discarded ordnance claiming civilian lives, in a country littered with landmines, homemade bombs and old shells.

Assadullah Dawlatzai, the Laghman governor’s spokesman, said the circumstances around how the children found the mortar and why it exploded were under investigation. All the victims were below the age of 15, he said. Abdul Marouf Jalili, the head of the Laghman provincial hospital, said seven bodies and 10 wounded victims had been brought to the facility. He confirmed all were children.

The blast occurred on the outskirts of Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman province, east of Kabul.

The United Nations Mine Action Service recently said that in 2017, about 150 people each month were killed or wounded in Afghanistan by mines and so-called explosive remnants of war.

Curious kids often pick up the devices.

While many landmines come from the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s and the civil war in the 1990s, casualties have increased from homemade bombs as a result of the intensifying fight between the Afghan government and the Taliban.