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‘The victory was so strong’: Afghans celebrate Soviet pullout | Russia News

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Kabul, Afghanistan – Mohammad Wazir Razi “Kabuli”, now about 52, was very young when the Soviet Army invaded his country. But his memory of what followed in the years after is impeccable.

“I was in grade six and everything changed overnight, our school, our neighbourhood. The Soviets hadn’t just invaded the country, they invaded our culture and religion too,” he recalled.

“They imposed the national anthem on us, they made young boys forcefully attend pro-Soviet meetings and join national marches. They even tried to stop people from praying and attending religious events,” he told Al Jazeera.

The Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support a communist government that was facing internal threats.

The largely Muslim population did not welcome a Russian intervention in support of an already unpopular regime.

‘They jailed hundreds of people’ 

Armed Afghan fighters, labelled the mujahideen, launched a rebellion against the superpower that resulted in a decade of bloodshed and destruction.

For Kabuli, the horrors of the invasion came too close to home. As a family of religious scholars, they faced persecution from the Soviet-supported communist regime.

“They targeted not just the young men, but also women, children and the elderly. They tortured religious leaders, removed their nails. They jailed hundreds of people,” he said.

Witnessing the suffering of those around him convinced Kabuli it was his duty to join and fight the Russians, and at a very young age, he left school to help the fighters.

“Being young, I was mostly given logistical responsibilities and in the few battles that I did participate, I was given the role of a nurse to provide first aid to the injured,” he said.

“In the end, after nine years of fighting, we won. We defeated the Soviets, with few resources. And today, we celebrate that victory of Islam against the communists,” he added with pride.





As a family of religious scholars, Kabuli recalls how they faced persecution from the Soviet-supported communist regime [Ivan Flores/Al Jazeera]

Some of the prominent Mujahideen leaders went on to establish themselves as political actors.

Among them is Atta Mohammad Noor, a prominent leader of the Jamiat-i-Islami party and the former governor of Balkh province.

He celebrates the anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal as a victory not just for Afghans, but also for everyone in the former Soviet bloc.

“We are very proud of our fight and struggle against the Soviet Union. We are proud that we defeated one of the two major superpowers of that time, despite poverty and lack of resources,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The mujahideen victory brought freedom to so many other countries in the eastern bloc which was controlled by Soviet Union. They got freedoms because of the mujahideen. Because we took up weapons in our country, they were able to get freedoms,” he said.





Noor celebrates the anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal as a victory for Afghans and everyone in the Soviet bloc [Ivan Flores/Al Jazeera]

“Militarily the Soviet army was not defeated. They continued to control much of Afghanistan, at least the cities and also part of the countryside – not unlike the current situation,” said Thomas Ruttig, co-director, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), drawing a comparison with the potential withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

“But unlike the US now, they really were in an economic crisis,” he added.

The nine-year-long Afghan war was too costly for the Soviet Union. An estimated 15,000 Soviet troops lost their lives, with more than twice that wounded.

The financial burden ran into the billions. A number of historians say the withdrawal of the Soviet army dealt a blow to the national morale that contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

‘The Taliban emerged’

“The victory was so strong that its impact was felt in Germany with the fall of the Berlin wall, and in at least 10 other countries that eventually separated from the Soviet Union control,” Kabuli said.

He said Afghans didn’t get to experience the fruits of their struggle because of the persistent conflict that followed in their country.

After the Soviet withdrawal, the mujahideen descended into factions that fought brutally among themselves and reduced parts of the capital to rubble. 

“As a result, the Taliban emerged and gained dominance,” Noor said. “That not only undermined our achievements but also the name of the mujahideen to some extent.”

Thirty years after the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Kremlin is once again trying to have influence in Afghanistan.

Peace efforts

Last summer, US officials began to hold a series of peace talks with the Taliban representatives. 

Russia started its own parallel negotiating track, hosting meetings in Moscow in November and earlier in February. 

At that gathering, several Afghan politicians, many of whom were former mujahideen fighters, including Noor, represented Afghan interests, in a first of its kind meeting with the Taliban.

“Any country that helps in ensuring security and peace in Afghanistan, we welcome and support it,” Noor told Al Jazeera.

The Russian special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said on Wednesday that the US had “completely failed” in Afghanistan, and Moscow could be an honest broker.

He urged US troops to leave as quickly as possible.

“They could stay for another few years but in the end, they’ll have to go, and this time in disgrace,” Kabulov said.

Some of the former mujahideen, however, view Russia’s role in the peace talks with suspicion.

“I believe that Russians only want to take revenge from the US, for their defeat in Afghanistan. They want to once again be involved in our regional politics actively,” said Faizullah Jalili, a former mujahideen fighter.

“This is a good opportunity for the Taliban to have such a powerful partner on their side against the US,” he said.





Kabuli says whoever wants to make peace with Afghans, their arms are open for embrace [Ivan Flores/Al Jazeera]

 

“After the lessons that the Russian learned from their experience in Afghanistan, I don’t think they have the will to do what they did back then,” shared Kabuli.

“But whoever wants to make peace with us, our arms are open for embrace,” he added.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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