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Spoils of war: Taliban put victory over US on display

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In the governor’s compound of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, a new exhibit is unveiled before a rapt audience of Taliban fighters — sections of blast walls from a former US military base.

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One concrete slab is inscribed with the names and regiments of US troops who served in the province during America’s longest war.

Like soldiers throughout history, US troops regularly daubed their names on the walls of bases and fixed positions they occupied.

But now the towering block is on public display — being used to bolster the Taliban’s narrative of toppling US-led forces after 20 years of fighting.

“We have to show this so that Afghans, the world, and future generations know that we beat the Americans,” Taliban provincial culture chief Mullah Habibullah Mujahid told AFP.

“Even if they called themselves the greatest power in the world.”

Taliban forces took the city of Ghazni — 150 kilometres (95 miles) south of Kabul — three days before the capital fell on August 15.

The region has 3,500 years of rich recorded history, and the Taliban are now busy writing the latest chapter with proof of their military triumph.

The propaganda push comes as Afghanistan’s new rulers struggle to evolve from an insurgency to a governing power in a country on the brink of economic collapse, with the UN estimating more than half the population is facing acute hunger.

On roads outside the city of nearly 200,000, another informal exhibition to the Taliban victory has been erected.

Rusting hulks of destroyed American armored vehicles are on display, their weapons removed, their tires flat and frayed.

Children clamber around and over the wreckage, which also features skeletons of abandoned Soviet tanks from the decade-long occupation of Afghanistan.

That invasion ended in humiliation for the Soviets, and — alongside the defeat of British troops in the 19th century — Afghans are quick to remind visitors that the country has now triumphed over three foreign empires.

“We are proud of our achievement when we see this,” said 18-year-old Taliban fighter Ozair, who like many in the country goes by only one name.

“We showed that Afghans born here could beat America, a powerful country,” he added, surveying the crumpled humvees and charred personnel carriers.

Reminders and relics of two decades of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan are scattered across the nation — some of them usable.

Much military hardware gifted to Afghan police and armed forces fell into the hands of the Taliban in the last chaotic days of the US-backed government.

The windfall of weapons, vehicles and uniforms has given the new rulers of Kabul tangible spoils of victory.

But curating those trophies into a credible homage to the Taliban’s return to power remains a challenge.

Standing at the blast walls, Mullah Habibullah Mujahid boasted that the 20 or so names inscribed included “important commanders and generals” killed in combat.

The ranks listed, however, were all junior — and none of the names feature on databases of Americans killed in the war.

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Saudi tourist killed by elephant in Uganda park

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A Saudi tourist was trampled to death by an elephant during a game drive at a popular park in Uganda, a wildlife official said Wednesday.

The attack happened on Tuesday at the Murchison Falls National Park when the man left the vehicle he was travelling in with friends, said Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesman Bashir Hangi.

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“They stopped along the way and the deceased went out of the car, an elephant charged at him, killed him on the spot,” Hangi said in a statement.

The victim was identified as Ayman Sayed Elshahany.

Park officials said police will investigate Elshahany’s death as they review security protocols to “avoid repeat of such incidents.”

Animal attacks are not unheard of in the East African country.

In 2018, a leopard snatched and ate the three-year-old son of a female game ranger at another park in the west of the country.

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US responds to Russia’s security demands in Ukraine crisis

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The US delivered its response to Russia’s security demands, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, the latest step in the high-stakes diplomacy over Moscow’s buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.

The response delivered by Ambassador John Sullivan on Wednesday sets out “a serious diplomatic path forward, Blinken told reporters in Washington. “We are open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way.

The report delivered to officials in Moscow largely sticks to points made by Blinken and other US officials: It rejects Russia’s demand that NATO close its door to potential Ukraine membership in the future, but offers suggestions for areas of mutual interest, such as arms control talks and greater transparency over troop movements and military exercises, Blinken said.

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“We will uphold the principle of NATO’s open door, Blinken said, repeating the US and European position that Russia shouldn’t get to dictate which nations join the military alliance.

“We also do lay out areas where we believe that together we could actually advance security for everyone, including for Russia, Blinken said.

The top US diplomat said he expects to speak with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the “coming days, adding that the US response won’t be released publicly.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to speak to reporters soon on the alliance’s response to Russia.

Tensions have soared as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, though officials in Moscow have repeatedly said they have no intention of invading the country.

Nevertheless, a top official of the pro-Kremlin ruling party who’s also a senior member of the Senate, Andrey Turchak, suggested it could send “certain weapons to the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Openly arming the separatists would undermine Russia’s claims — rejected by Ukraine and the West — that it’s not a party to the conflict.

Russia has said it will decide on whether to continue diplomatic efforts with the US and its allies based on the written answers.

The Kremlin has said it wants the US to respond to its key demands — no further expansion of NATO to the east, no deployments of weapons there that can strike Russia and a pullback of alliance forces in the region — even though Washington has made clear those are non-starters.

Moscow has said previously that the talks the US did offer publicly on limiting missiles and reducing risks around military maneuvers were positive, but not sufficient to address its security concerns.

Even as talks continued and Russia awaited the replies in recent days, the Kremlin continued its buildup of troops, tanks and equipment near Ukraine’s borders, with a major deployment to Belarus for exercises. Russia has said the forces aren’t a threat to anyone, but has refused Western calls to reverse the buildup.

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US to shut down Afghan embassy, strip diplomats of immunity: Sources

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The US government has informed Afghanistan’s diplomats that they will shut down the embassy in Washington and the consulate missions in Los Angeles and New York, sources familiar with the matter tell Al Arabiya English.

The Afghan diplomats will also be stripped of their diplomatic immunity, according to a memo sent to the Afghan diplomats at the beginning of the week.

– Developing

Read more: Once-bustling Afghan Embassy in US down to few diplomats

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