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Afghanistan war: Biden says he does not regret troop withdrawal

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Mr Biden urged Afghanistan’s leaders to unite and “fight for their nation”.

A US-led military campaign began in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on American soil – but now most of the foreign troops have pulled out.

The Taliban group has now seized nine of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, and are threatening more.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Mr Biden said the US was keeping the commitments it had made to Afghanistan, such as providing close air support, paying military salaries and supplying Afghan forces with food and equipment.

But he said: “They’ve got to fight for themselves.”

The Washington Post cited unnamed officials as saying the capital Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 90 days, based on US military assessments.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed amid fierce fighting between the Taliban and government forces in the past month, according to the UN. Its children’s agency Unicef warned this week that atrocities being committed against children were growing “higher by the day”.

In their latest major advances, Taliban militants seized three more provincial capitals in 24 hours – Faizabad, Farah and Pul-e-Khumri.

Officials said that on Tuesday the insurgents had raised their flag in the main square and on the governor’s office in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, which is located about 200km (125 miles) from Kabul.

A local journalist and provincial council member told the BBC that the western city of Farah had fallen.

And on Wednesday, the Taliban claimed to have taken Faizabad in the north-west of the country.

Other gains by the militant group this week include the key northern city of Kunduz. It is considered a gateway to mineral-rich provinces and is in a strategically important location close to the border with Tajikistan, which is used for the smuggling of opium and heroin.

Heavy fighting is continuing in other parts of the country, and US and Afghan planes have been carrying out airstrikes.

On Wednesday Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani flew to Mazar-i-Sharif in an apparent drive to rally the defenders in the key northern city which is now threatened by the militants.

Thousands of people have been fleeing their homes in recent days.

“We saw bodies lying near the prison… there were dogs next to them,” one woman who left Kunduz as the Taliban took control told AFP news agency.

Residents still in the city said shops had begun to reopen as Taliban militants focused their attention on government forces who had retreated to the airport.

“People are opening their shops and businesses, but you can still see fear in their eyes,” one said.

The Taliban have rejected international calls for a ceasefire.

UK Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Sir Nick Carter told the BBC that if the Afghan state fractured, the “ideal conditions” could emerge for international terrorism and violent extremism.
Sources:BBC news

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Taliban are carrying out mass executions, says Christian missionary helping Afghans

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Less than a month after the U.S. troops withdrew troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have started arresting, and in some instances executing, people they perceive as their enemies. Recent photos and video suggest they’re killing as many as 30 to 40 at a time, Christian missionary David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces and Ranger officer, said in a media interview.

The way the United States pulled out is “dishonorable, and a horrible breaking of promises … and leaving thousands of people behind that we promised we’d take out with us including American citizens,” Eubank, who is from Free Burma Rangers and provides humanitarian services in war-torn areas, told CBN News.

In some instances, the pull-out has been “cowardly,” he continued, speaking from Tajikistan, which neighbors Afghanistan and where many Afghans are arriving after fleeing the Taliban.

“Taliban are hunting down people right now, trying to get all the names of anyone they perceive as an enemy,” Eubank said, adding that the enemies include “people who work with the U.S. government, people who are with other governments, people who work with non-governmental organizations they don’t agree with.”

Eubank, who is in Tajikistan to help Afghans, also said that “many have been executed. … I’ve seen recent photos of 30 to 40 people [being executed].”

Eubank clarified that he doesn’t know the scale of the killings or the arrests, “but I believe it’s countrywide now.”

The Taliban are allowing American citizens who have identity cards to escape, he continued, adding that “anyone who doesn’t have papers, anyone they perceive as an enemy, they are going to arrest them, and, in many cases, execute them.”

The people in Afghanistan “are in terror,” Eubank added.

According to its website, Free Burma Rangers have helped 1.5 million displaced persons to date who would have otherwise died.

In an interview with The Christian Post last year, Eubank shared: “I am motivated by what Jesus does for me and want to share His love and encourage people to follow Him. We are not to be led by comfort, fear or pride, but go in the love God gives us. We go into areas of direct combat to save lives and share love.”

Following the drawing down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly seized control of much of the country, taking the capital Kabul last month and forcing the government to flee.

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern warned last week that as the Taliban is cracking down on protests and journalists, concerns are also being raised among religious minorities of increased oppression and persecution because the Taliban have promised strict enforcement of Sharia law.

Almost all Afghan Christians — estimated to be between 8,000 and 12,000 — are converts from Islam and remain largely closeted and hidden from the public eye due to severe persecution.

“Their status as converts makes Afghan Christians direct targets for persecution by both extremist groups and society in general,” ICC reports. “In Afghanistan, leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered.”
Sources:Christian Post

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ICC report on religious persecution of Christians in China over the past year

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International Christian Concern (ICC) has just published a new report on persecution in China. In it, ICC lists and analyzes over 100 incidents of Christian persecution between July 2020 and June 2021, a period marked by a significant campaign by the Chinese government to forcefully convert independent religious organizations into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This forceful assimilation—also called Sinicization—has continued to intensify since it was introduced as part of the Four Requirements campaign launched in 2018. Since then, the government has only increased its attempts to use the Church for political purposes. It has gone as far as converting church buildings into propaganda centers and even regulating the content of sermons in order to promote communist party values.

Three-Self churches are part of the legal framework the CCP uses to systemically curb Christianity, including Catholicism. If a church is not registered as a state-sanctioned church, it is violating the law and the CCP can step in at any time to shut it down, prosecute individuals, and put enormous social pressure on attendees. As described in last year’s report, registered churches are at the mercy of laws that were passed entirely in contradiction to the constitution and enforced by multiple departments, bureaus, and agencies using them to suppress house church activity.

A significant trend throughout the past year was church raids. In them, not only were churches shut down or demolished, but pastors and church attendees were often arrested. One example of a church raid was in September 2020, in Sichuan province, when China’s Public Security Bureau of Nanbu deployed over 30 police officers to raid an underground Protestant house church, known as Sola Fide. When police arrived on the scene, they arrested 50 Sola Fide members. Throughout this process, the police tore down crosses and other Christian symbols and destroyed hymnals and Bibles.

With the intensified crackdown against churches, both state-vetted and underground, there is no longer a safe place to be a Christian in China. Almost every province in China has seen an increase in Christian persecution over the last year.

The Religious Affairs Bureau and the CCP have a single goal: to prevent religious influence from threatening their communist control.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “China tightening down on people of faith comes as no surprise to observers. What is concerning is the depth and width of persecution and that it continues to expand. From Xinjiang to Sichuan, from state-sanctioned groups to underground churches, from verbal threats to imprisonment, believers in China are constantly watched and persecuted, as documented in ICC’s latest incident report. The international community should not appease Beijing and let it get away with its blatant disregard for human rights.”

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