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Focus on growing threat within as Taliban expands its hold

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Lanka’s former Amb. in Teheran discusses Afghan crisis

The latest US State Department announcement, quoted by Washington Examiner indicates that 99 countries, including the US, EU and NATO have worked out a deal with the Taliban, while honouring the 31st August evacuation deadline, to permit all foreign nationals, employees and Afghans who had worked with the foreign forces and missions and Afghans at risk, to leave freely, even after the deadline,in a safe and orderly manner, to any destination providing travel authorisation, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador in Iran M.M. Zuhair, PC told The Island yesterday.

Sri Lanka, though not in the list of 99 countries, and international entities named in the joint agreement with the Taliban, was unlikely to face problems, in view of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s post August 15 initiatives with the Taliban for a working arrangement with Afghanistan pending the formation of a care taker government, the former MP said.

“It is clear that the Taliban is in the process of enhancing its global credentials but dangerously constrained by possible terror attacks from Afghan violent extremist entities, like the Afghan Khorasan (IS-K) and to a lesser extent Ahmed Massoud’s National Resistance Front (NRF), believed to be under British handlers,” he said.

Zuhair said: “Meanwhile agents of the Western arms industry, operating from the US as well as Scandinavian countries, and Singapore, are decrying even a working relationship with the Taliban, raising issues of electoral legitimacy of the Taliban, obviously irrelevant at the moment. They continue to label Taliban as a “terrorist” outfit, ostracizing and alienating the freedom fighter movement’s efforts to regain the transitional administration of the country, ignoring the several positive statements of the new Taliban leadership that have come out of Kabul since August 15.”

“Some among them have gone far in fake fear mongering that dealing with the new Taliban will send wrong signals to the Tamil and Muslim minorities here, looking at all minorities divisively and thereby creating distrust and conflict at the expense of Sri Lanka’s national interest. They have also attempted to link the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks to the ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which terror outfits are widely believed to be linked to Western handlers. For more on this please see my article in The Island/Features of 30 August 2021 titled, AL Qaeda and ISIS will get buried if US and NATO stop invading other nations.

“These prophets of doom and gloom must stop fear-mongering that the Sri Lankan minorities are inimical to Sri Lanka. If this country had taken the advice of these prophets, Sri Lanka would have got isolated as against the 99 countries who have thought it fit to deal with the Taliban, the movement which is exercising power in Afghanistan today.

“However the The Island of 27.08.2021 has stood out with a commendable editorial, “Afghans deserve help” and may I add “not hate”.

Responding to The Island questions Zuhair said:

*Both the US and Sweden, according to Western media reports, had received intelligence of a likely attack at the Kabul airport, prior to the August 26 carnage that killed close upon 200 persons in the airport. Having resumed control of almost all parts of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban on August 15, resumed control of the Afghan capital Kabul, following Afghanistan’s US-backed President Ashraf Ghani abdicating post unannounced and escaping overseas, leaving the country without a government or facilitating a transitory administration. The US contingent expedited their departure from Kabul even faster.

According to the head of the US Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth F McKenzie Jr, the Taliban had thwarted several attacks in Afghanistan since resuming control of the country in mid-August. While the US forces were in full control of the Karzai airport, reports indicate that Taliban had enhanced security checks and posts, outside the airport, possibly aware of likely attacks targeting those flying off from the country.

The Afghan- Khorasans, identified by Western media as ‘IS-K’ and described as a        sworn enemy of the Talibans, with an estimated 2000 fighters said to be operating to the North East of Kabul, had been identified as responsible for the deadly August 26. With the threat of a further attack, targeting the airport, both the US and the Taliban had been seen anxious to complete the exit of primarily foreign forces, before the August 31st deadline expires on Tuesday. Taliban has also announced that others wanting to leave could leave thereafter on commercial flights.

*    The Afghan-Khorsans attack must be condemned. I do not claim any expertise on the dastardly events in Afghanistan but two possibilities must be considered. The Khorsans, much weaker than the Taliban, may want to strengthen their cadre, by showing that the Taliban were betraying the Afghans in allowing the free exit of those who treasonably worked for the country’s “enemies”. The other possibility for launching the attack may be to show the world that the Taliban, though in the seat of power, are not in effective control of the country and possibly will not be allowed to have their own way. With Western powers invariably keeping their options open, the Khorsans may be hoping desperately to gain Western attention to serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.

A good example is the 32-year-old Ahmed Massoud, anti -Taliban leader of the National Resistance Front (NRF) based in the Tajik ethnic stronghold of Panjshir valley, 33 miles to the North of Kabul. Massoud was quoted in the Washington Post this month seeking Western support for him to lead the fight against the Taliban. Ahmed Massoud is the son of the legendary leader of the Panjshir valley Shah Massoud who successfully thwarted the Russians from the valley in the 1980s. He was killed in 2001 and was succeeded by his son; picked up by the British, educated at King’s College, London and trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst!

*   Massoud’s offer for the West to back him against the Taliban may be seen as another attempt to serve as a counterweight to the Taliban. There is no doubt that the 20 year US-NATO rule of Afghanistan has led to widespread corruption in a country doomed for years to come economically. The US pull out will close the insidious pipelines of corruption and Massoud needs to show that his Sandhurst training must be put to good use. Massoud may thereafter either follow the footsteps of run- away President Ashraf Ghani or follow his own father’s footsteps.

*    The Easter Sunday carnage has no comparison to the developments in Afghanistan. Easter Sunday carnage appears to centre around majoritarian discrimination over the minorities, according to the Parliamentary Select Committee report as well as the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. Afghanistani issues centre on unceasing foreign invasions of a country under various unsubstantiated pretexts. The twain will never meet! In the war in Afghanistan the Taliban were left with an economically crashing country while the Western arms industry is the solitary winner. There is nothing in Afghanistan for anyone to admire or be inspired by. These are dangerous fear mongering against the Sri Lanka Muslims, the only community that stood with the majority against LTTE terrorism.

*    One needs to look dispassionately at Norway’s role in Sri Lanka which led to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe signing a peace accord not with the moderate TNA but with the terrorist LTTE and Norway’s likely disappointment with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. We need also to look at the role of Norway and possibly its Oslo University, in brainwashing BBS against the Muslims in 2011/12, which led to the exposure of the Norwegian’s despicable role in pitting the majority community against the country’s demonstrably loyal Muslim minority. Muslims in Sri Lanka today are an utterly disappointed community and that is not good for the economic advancement of the country (SF)



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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