– remind President of role in creating enabling environment for successPresident David Granger’s speech last week at Beterverwagting, East Coast Demerara (ECD) castigating persons for not seeking betterment for themselves is not sitting well with political thinkers, with at least two of them tackling the matter head on in simultaneous columns.Working People’s Alliance (WPA) heavyweight and political commentator, Dr David Hinds reminded the President in his column “Hinds sight” that he was voted into office, most likely by the very people he rebuked, to set policies that would help persons to help themselves. Instead, Hinds noted that Granger’s message was “go help yourself”, without identifying policies that would bring economic benefit.“No, Mr President, that is not right or fair or just. We have to go back to these veryPresident David Grangerpeople in 2020 and ask for their votes. You, Mr President, have the power to make a difference in the lives of those poor Black people. Having rebuked them, you promised them no big policy to help them own the “boats, buses and bicycles” you urged them to aspire to. Where are they going to get the loans or start-up capital from, for example?“Some of them put down the bottle and the hustle, stopped liming and voted for him and the coalition in May 2015. Many of them voted for us, because they wanted an opportunity to do better. President Granger and the coalition promised them that if we won power, we would help them. Now that we have the power, we seem to be telling them ‘go help yourselves,” Dr Hinds observed.Dr Hinds noted the importance of avoiding the perception that one was talking down to a community and pointed out that Granger, a successful man, may have exuded an anti-poor perception with his message.“Mr President, your brilliant career as a military man came because of Government investment in you and your generation. Now that you hold the reins of Government, you should do the same for the present generation – invest in them. Rebuke them, but when you are done, tell them what your government will do to help them to do better. Government policy is not hand-out –it is part of what Government was created for.”“There is no country in the world where the descendants of the enslaved liftedVeteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewisthemselves without the deliberate intervention of Government. Even the most stubborn of them, the USA, saw it fit to enact an affirmative action policy. It is my considered view that the bad habits which the President correctly identified and criticised would decrease if and when his government put in place policies that target the structural problems of the black community.”Besides this, Hinds also drew attention to the apparent intolerance for criticism by the Government. He cited the example of both he and Lincoln Lewis being removed from their posts as columnists for the State paper, and pointed to the irony of the President now coming to critique communities.ResponsibilityLewis, a veteran trade unionist, took an even harder line in his criticism of Granger’s speech in his “Eye on Guyana” column titled “Govt must not rebuke when govt taketh away, deprives or denies its citizens”.According to Lewis in his column, the National Development Strategy (NDS) of former President Dr Cheddi Jagan was one of the last efforts to push for a strategy for the betterment of the people, with a consultative buy-in.“For subsequent leaders to castigate citizens for their failure to put in place mechanisms for ensuring productive endeavours can be considered dereliction of duties. This nation’s President has Executive responsibility, that is day-to-day responsibility for the citizens’ welfare, which includes the realisation of a programme to address deficiencies in every community and across every demographic.“Inherent in this must be a plan of action, which includes a strategy to bring peopleWPA heavyweight, Dr David Hindson board.An idea in the head and telling people to buy into it without putting structures in place that can facilitate their involvement will see no transformation,” he said.Lewis stressed that Government must lead a concerted national effort to correct systemic discrimination in the system. The trade unionist pointed to the Government’s refusal to re-establish the Ministry of Labour as backward, since it was seen as a working-class Ministry and could lead the effort in developing a national plan to alleviate unemployment.“Correcting these challenges require Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Laws buttressed by public education and enforcement. And it is Government’s responsibility to do this. The talk that citizens must get prepared to capitalise on oil and gas – as though these will be the panacea to end all problems and create all opportunities – remains just that.“Talks are yet to be buttressed with a National Programme as to what is required to productively participate. We still don’t know what skill sets are needed, how these will be acquired, and Government’s role in making it possible for local labour. There is high youth unemployment and no national plan to alleviate it, either through employment or self-employed opportunities.”The Head of State made the speech while addressing residents at Beterverwagting on Tuesday evening, at a Cultural Evening hosted to commemorate the 180th Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery.President Granger said that even though he could have the profits and benefits from oil production equitably shared, it was up to citizens to empower themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that would become available.
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Festivals, festivals, festivals … South Africa has a celebration for every event, art form, food, drink and agricultural commodity.The pupils from Chris Hani High School welcome festival goers on day two of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in March 2017. (Image: Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Facebook)Here’s a comprehensive month-by-month guide to some of South Africa’s best excuses for a party. You can browse the whole list, or click on the links below to jump to a specific month:FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecemberFEBRUARYDance UmbrellaWhere: Johannesburg, GautengWebsite: Dance UmbrellaA festival of contemporary choreography and dance, the Dance Umbrella presents work ranging from community-based dance troupes to international companies. Since it started in 1988, it has launched many South African choreographers into international dance, including Vincent Mantsoe, Robyn Orlin and Boyzie Cekwana.Up the CreekWhere: Up the Creek campsite, Breede River, near Swellendam, Western CapeWebsite: Up the CreekThe Up the Creek campsite is situated on the banks of the Breede River and during the four-day festival offers three stages: the main stage, the river stage and the all-night-long Breede River bar stage. Visitors can frolic in the river during the day and then move up to main stage as the day progresses.Prickly Pear FestivalWhere: Uitenhage, Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern CapeThe Prickly Pear Festival is held in late February or early March every at Cuyler Hofstede farm near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay. It’s a day of traditional food, such as ginger beer, pancakes, potjiekos, home-made jam, a spit braai and fish braai, bunnychow and home-made pudding.MARCHCape Town International Jazz FestivalWhere: Cape Town, Western CapeWebsite: Cape Town International Jazz FestivalCape Town International Jazz is a two-day festival held during March or April featuring some 40 international and African acts performing on five stages to an audience of 15 000. It also features photographic and art exhibitions.Lambert’s Bay KreeffeesWhere: Lambert’s Bay, West Coast, Western CapeWebsite: KreeffeesKreef is Afrikaans for crayfish, and a fees can be both festival and feast. It is held every March in the West Coast town of Lambert’s Bay, where you’ll feast on fresh crayfish and get festive at rock concerts by some of South Africa’s favourite musicians. There’s also bungee jumping, aerial displays, a half-marathon, beer tents and more.The Rotary River FestivalWhere: Vanderbijlpark, GautengWebsite: Rotary River FestivalThe Rotary River Festival takes place on the banks of the Vaal River at Stonehaven on Vaal in Vanderbijlpark and has been running since 1995. It’s a fun fund-raising occasion, with the money raised going to a large number of local charities. The festival features top musicians, dance, fashion, raft racing, tasty eats, and plenty of fun for the kids and those that are young at heart.Scifest AfricaWhere: Grahamstown, Eastern CapeWebsite: Scifest AfricaSciFest Africa, or the National Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology, is held in late March in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. Over seven days it features some 600 events: lectures, game drives, a laser show, workshops, sunset shows, robotics competitions, science olympics, school quizzes, interactive exhibitions, the PlayFair, field trips, talkshops and a film festival. Attendance now exceeds 35 000 visitors every year.Tonteldoos Country FestivalWhere: Tonteldoos, MpumalangaThe Tonteldoos Country Festival, previously known as the Peach Festival, happens in late March or early April in the village of Tonteldoos, some 20km northwest of Dullstroom and two hours from Johannesburg. It offers peaches and pretty much everything that can be made from the fruit, including peach mampoer.APRILKlein Karoo Nationale KunstefeesWhere: Oudtshoorn, Western CapeWebsite: Klein Karoo Nationale KunstefeesThe Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn features well-known and young up-and-coming artists in dance and theatre. Started as an Afrikaans alternative to the mainly English National Arts Festival, KKNK has 200 different shows on three different stages.AfrikaBurnWhere: Tankwa Karoo, Northern CapeWebsite: AfrikaBurnAfrika Burn is based on The Burning Man festival which grew out of a loose grouping of individuals and organisations who questioned, and continue to question mainstream, highly commercialised society and what it does to the notion and workings of community. In a nutshell, it’s about radical self-expression.Splashy FenWhere: Underberg, KwaZulu-NatalWebsite: Splashy FenEvery year the Splashy Fen music festival attracts thousands of people to a farm near Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal for a feast of mainstream and alternative rock and pop. It offers plenty of facilities, but there are great bed-and-breakfasts in nearby towns for those who believe music festivals can be enjoyed without mud.Philippolis Witblits FestivalWhere: Philippolis, Free StateThe Philippolis Witblits Festival, held in early April, will give you a taste of a proud local tradition – witblits (Afrikaans for “white lightning”) is South African moonshine. Held in the oldest town in the Free State, the festival has boeresport (literally “farmers sport”) for the kids, food, drink and more witblits.Prince Albert Town and Olive FestivalWhere: Prince Albert, Western CapeWebsite: Prince Albert Town and Olive Festival The Prince Albert Town and Olive Festival, held in the Swartberg region of the Western Cape in April, offers a whole lot more than just the region’s famous olives and wine. There’s an art exhibition, beer tents, live music, witblits tastings, crafts for kids, historic tours, a cycle race, an olive pip-spitting competition, culinary demonstrations, a midnight ghost walk, stalls, cabaret, a dance and more.MAYPink Loerie Mardi GrasWhere: Knysna, Western CapeWebsite: Pink Loerie Mardi GrasThe Knysna loerie is a green bird, but the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras is different. A gay festival held in the beautiful coastal town of Knysna in May, the Mardi Gras offers four days of non-stop entertainment for anyone who enjoys a party.Riebeek Kasteel Olive FestivalWhere: Riebeek Kasteel, Western CapeWebsite: Riebeek Kasteel Olive FestivalThe Riebeek Kasteel Olive Festival takes place in the Swartland area of the Western Cape in May. A feast of wine and the best olives in South Africa, the festival also has an art competition, live entertainment, stalls and lots of food.JUNECalitzdorp Port and Wine FestivalWhere: Calitzdorp, Western CapeWebsite: Calitzdorp Port and Wine FestivalThe Klein Karoo town of Calitzdorp is the port-wine capital of South Africa. Its annual port festival, held over a weekend in June, is hosted by the eight wine cellars of Calitzdorp. There’s a historical treasure hunt around the town, local arts and crafts, lifestyle market stalls to suit all tastes, the Port Dance, restaurants, food stalls and the annual South African boules championships, plus much more.National Arts FestivalWhere: Grahamstown, Eastern CapeWebsite: National Arts FestivalThe Grahamstown National Arts Festival, held in late June or early July every year, is South Africa’s oldest, biggest and best-known arts festival. The 10-day event offers culture hounds every indulgence of theatre, music, song, dance, film and a whole lot more. If there’s one South African festival you have to attend, this is it.JULYHow artists will help South Africa reflect, critique and reimagine our national aspirations: https://t.co/LnXQ2DnchJ #NAF2016— National Arts Fest (@artsfestival) October 30, 2015Dullstroom Winter FestivalWhere: Dullstroom, MpumalangaWebsite: Dullstroom Winter FestivalHeld annually in July, the Dullstroom Winter Festival is historically themed as Christmas in Winter. Activities during the festival include a golf day, a tagged trout event – Dullstroom is a fly-fishing hotspot – chocolate and wine tastings, art exhibitions, whiskey tastings and themed restaurant evenings. Live music shows showcasing roots, blues and folk music from top South African performers take place at various venues around town.Knysna Oyster FestivalWhere: Knysna, Western CapeWebsite: Knysna Oyster FestivalThe coastal town of Knysna is famous for its oysters, and increasingly famous for the July festival that celebrates them. In addition to oyster braais, oyster tasting, oyster-eating competitions and other molluscular activities, there’s live entertainment and lots of sporting events.VryfeesWhere: Bloemfontein, Free StateWebsite: VryfeesFormerly the Volksblad Arts Festival, this is a lovely festival with lots of live shows, stage productions, and an art market with lots of stalls. This festival is the big showcase for artists from all over the country who want to perform in the Free State.Ellisras Bushveld FestivalWhere: Lephalele (Ellisras), LimpopoThe Ellisras Bushveld Festival takes place in early July in the heart of the bushveld, in the Waterberg district of Limpopo. The festival includes cattle shows, a game auction, horse jumping, dog shows, agricultural activities, a three-day battle for the best 4×4 competition, a game farms expo, hunting opportunities, bird- and tree-identification competitions, traditional food, a beer tent and huge camp fires.AUGUSTOppikoppi Bushveld FestivalWhere: Northam, North WestWebsite: OppikoppiHeld on the bushveld farm of Oppikoppi (“op die koppie” in Afrikaans, or “on the hill”), this festival offers three permanent thatched stages, a smaller comedy stage and a stage for more chilled music at the top of the koppie. Oppikoppi has helped establish many South African musicians’ careers, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. This is real bushveld: hot and dry, and everywhere red dust and thorn trees. Expect to shower a lot when you get home. (Oppikoppi also hosts an Easter Festival in March.)Standard Bank Joy of JazzWhere: Johannesburg, GautengWebsite: Standard Bank Joy of JazzJohannesburg’s biggest annual jazz festival is an ideal family outing, featuring a range of musical styles but with a strong emphasis on jazz. Over 200 local and international artists perform at different venues across the city, particularly in Newtown.Hantam VleisfeesWhere: Calvinia, Northern CapeWebsite: Hantam VleisfeesCalvinia in the Northern Cape is sheep country, and this festival celebrates meat. There’s meat braaied, stewed, curried, in pita, on sosaties, in potjies – you can even pick up a done-to-perfection sheep’s head for a mere R30. First held in 1989, the three-day Hantam Vleisfees has a music concert, street party, vintage car rally and, a highlight for many, the Miss Vleisfees competition – a glittering affair with dinner and dancing.Cellar Rats Wine FestivalWhere: Magaliesburg, GautengWebsite: Cellar Rats Wine FestivalTaste South Africa’s best wines in a tranquil outdoor setting in Magaliesburg. Held every year in August, the Cellar Rats Wine Festival is a day of wine tasting, with picnic baskets for sale and many activities for the kids. Enjoy huge shady trees, lush green grass and an abundance of birdlife on the banks of the picturesque Magalies River. Designated drivers get in for free.SEPTEMBERArts AliveWhere: Johannesburg, GautengWebsite: Arts AliveArts Alive, held every September since 1992, features a heady mix of dance, visual art, poetry and music at venues in the Joburg inner city. The main concert, held at the Johannesburg Stadium, headlines international superstars such as 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes. Over 600 artists perform during the four-day festival, with most shows at various venues in Newtown. The ever-popular Jazz on the Lake is held on the final day.Aardklop Arts FestivalWhere: Potchefstroom, North WestWebsite: Aardklop Arts FestivalAardklop Arts Festival offers a feast of arts and an all-round good jol for five days in late September and early October. First held in 1998, Aardklop – Afrikaans roughly translated as “earth beat” – has over 90 productions, with classical music, jazz, hard rock, cabaret, visual arts, theatre, circus performances, opera, African and World music, poetry and more, ending with the OppiAarde rock festival on the final day.Southern Cross Music FestivalWhere: Mooi River, KwaZulu-NatalEvery September the Southern Cross Music Festival showcases South African music in a three-day event in Hidden Valley on the banks of KwaZulu-Natal’s beautiful Mooi River. First held in 1998, the festival donates part of its proceeds to charity. In addition to music, there’s fishing, swimming, white water rafting, abseiling, hikes, walks, mountain biking and 4×4 courses. The farm caters for 6 000 festival-goers.Woodstock Music FestivalWhere: Hartbeeshoek, North WestWoodstock, first held in 1999, is the largest youth-oriented music and lifestyle festival in South Africa. In addition to mainstream music, the festival offers a market of crafters and alternative lifestyle products over four days. It is held at Hartbeeshoek Holiday resort near Hartbeespoort Dam in North West.Boertjie KontreifeesWhere: Bultfontein, Free StateWebsite: Boertjie KontreifeesThe Boertjie Kontreifees is an agricultural festival, featuring 340 stalls, which draws about 20 000 people over four days. It includes plenty of sport, plenty to eat and drink, lots of competitions, and many entertainers. It being an agricultural festival, you can expect to find horses, cattle, sheep, buck, greyhounds, tractors, and cars as well.Gariep KunstefeesWhere: Kimberley, Northern CapeWebsite: Gariep KunstefeesThe Gariep Kunstefees (arts festival) features an impressive line-up of local musicians, a film festival showcasing South Africa’s new filmmakers, as well as art exhibitions and children’s theatre.Hermanus Whale FestivalWhere: Hermanus, Western CapeWebsite: Hermanus Whale FestivalEvery year, southern right whales travel thousands of miles to the Cape south coast to mate and calve in the bays. Join the villagers of Hermanus for an entertainment-packed festival, in the town with the best land-based whale watching in the world.Awesome Africa Music FestivalWhere: Midmar Dam, KwaZulu-NatalThe Standard Bank Awesome Africa Music Festival, first held in 1999, takes place at the Midmar Dam in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands after calling Durban home for many years. Its focus is on collaboration with musicians from Africa and beyond.Prince Albert Agricultural ShowWhere: Prince Albert, Western CapeWebsite: Prince AlfredJoin the people of Prince Albert as they celebrate their agricultural heritage in September. Homecrafts, art and flowers, horses, motorbikes, sheep and angora goat competitions, local products, delicious food, bar facilities and entertainment for young and old are all on the menu.MacufeWhere: Bloemfontein, Free StateWebsite: MacufeMacufe, the 10-day Mangaung African Cultural Festival, showcases the cream of African and international talent. It features jazz, gospel, kwaito, hip-hop, R&B, rock and classical music, as well as dance, drama, cabaret, musical theatre, poetry, fine art and traditional arts and crafts. The festival attracts up to 140 000 people and is presented in late September and early October by the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State.It’s great to see our female musicians get so much support. A prove that they are being recognized #Macufe2015 pic.twitter.com/ksgrjNzKR1— Arts & Culture (@ArtsCultureSA) October 9, 2015White Mountain FestivalWhere: Estcourt, KwaZulu-NatalWebsite: White Mountain FestivalThe White Mountain Folk Festival in the Central Drakensberg mountain range offers great music in an awesome setting for three days in September. Featuring acoustic performances by some of South Africa’s top folk musicians, it is held at White Mountain Lodge in the foothills of the Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve. Camping in a beautiful site at the edge of a dam is free, with hot shower units at the ready, plus lots of “executive” loos. There’s also a variety of food stalls, and a beer market offering naturally brewed local ales and lagers.Vrede Paddadors FeesWhere: Vrede, Free StateThe full name of Paddadors, the Free State town of Vrede’s annual festival, is the Vrede Paddadors Rooivleis en Kultuurfees – which translates literally as the Peace Frog-Thirst Red-Meat and Culture Festival. The story goes that the dry land on which the town was established was originally called Paddadors (“frog thirst” in Afrikaans), until peace came and the place was named Vrede. The festival offers live music, traditional food, a beer garden, children’s activities and more.OCTOBERLekkerhoekie OpskopWhere: Polkadraai Festival Ground, Zwartkops, CenturionThe Lekkerhoekie Opskop brings together many of South Africa’s best-loved Afrikaans singers. There is also plenty of other entertainment on the side, including things for the kids to do.Herman Charles Bosman WeekendWhere: Groot Marico, North WestWebsite: Herman Charles Bosman WeekendHerman Charles Bosman was one of South Africa’s greatest writers, and this weekend festival celebrates his work in the desert town of Groot Marico, the setting for many of his stories. Some of South Africa’s top actors read from and perform Bosman’s work; there’s also good food, good company – and lots of mampoer.Rocking the Daisies Music and Lifestyle FestivalWhere: Cloof Wine Estate, Darling, Western CapeWebsite: Rocking the Daisies Music and Lifestyle FestivalRocking the Daisies features top South African bands performing a wide variety of music, as well as comedy, burlesque dancing, acoustic jams, and giant African puppeteering. The Food Village looks after the stomach and the Traders Market offers exciting goodies. Other attractions include swimming, wine tasting, the Daisy Den and Art Field, and activities for the kids.NOVEMBERFicksburg Cherry FestivalWhere: Ficksburg, Free StateWebsite: Ficksburg Cherry FestivalOne of the oldest festivals in South Africa – first held in 1969 – the Ficksburg Cherry Festival now attracts around 20 000 visitors to this small eastern Free State town every November. The scenery is magnificent, and the festival offers cherry and asparagus tastings, tours, picnics, music, and the Miss Cherry Blossom and Miss Cherry Pip competitions.DECEMBERRustler’s Valley New Year’s GatheringWhere: Ficksburg, Free StateWebsite: Rustler’s Valley New Year’s GatheringRustler’s Valley in the eastern Free State hosts some of its best trance, dance and drumming festivals in late November and December, including a New Year celebration. The majestic scenery in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains alone is worth the trip.Updated November 2015Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Dry today with full sunshine over the entire state. We may end up dealing with a few lingering showers this morning in far northeast Ohio, but they leave quickly. Today will be a “one-off”, as we return to a wet pattern tomorrow. Temps today will be warmer than yesterday by a long shot, but we will still be only normal to below normal over the state. Rain develops overnight tonight, and then we see showers and even a few thunderstorms each of the next 3 days. Saturday, Sunday and Monday we can see combined rain totals from 1” on the bottom end of the range all the way up to 3.5 inches or more for the top end. The upper end of the range will come with thunderstorms, and at this point, we are not going rule thunderstorms out anywhere. We see rain coverage at 100% of the state for that 3 day period. This will just be way too much water. If you want to spin our forecast positive, you can look at the fact that we have a little less moisture in the forecast from next Tuesday forward through next weekend. However, after the big rains tomorrow through Monday, we need multiple days back to back to get things dried down, and we just don’t see that. For Tuesday, we are dry over most of the state, and a majority of areas outside of far south central Ohio will see a mix of clouds and sun. In far southern Ohio, we can still see scattered showers with .1”-.5” rain potential. We are dry statewide for next Wednesday, with partly sunny skies. Thursday sees the return of showers, with rain totals from .05”-.5” across 70% of the state. Then we do go dry again for next Friday and Saturday with full sunshine. On Sunday the 23rd, we can start with sun, but look for clouds to increase, and there is a threat of rain later in the day and into Sunday night. The map at right shows 10 day rain potential. For the extended period, we have a mix of clouds and sun on Monday the 24th with only a renegade shower in one or two spots. On Tuesday the 25th clouds increase, and we still look for showers overnight that night through Wednesday. We finish the extended period with sunshine returning for the 27th and 28th. The forecast overall may have less moisture from Tuesday of this week forward. However, we do see showers moving in with only a couple of day days in between events at best. That means if we do pick up big rain totals here to start off this forecast window, it really puts us behind the 8 ball going forward, to dry down, especially with next Thursday being the 20th. Planting looks like it will be tough to accomplish in the days ahead. Our forecast remains just too wet.
Kabul: The Afghan government expressed doubts Wednesday about a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban, saying officials need more information about the risks it poses. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in Kabul this week, when he shared with Afghan officials an agreement “in principle” that Washington has forged with the Taliban and would lead to a pull-out of American troops. The prospect of a US-Taliban deal has caused much concern among many Afghans, who feel sidelined from the process, worry the hardline Islamists will return to power, and see a beaten America selling out their interests in a bid to escape Afghanistan after 18 years of gruelling war. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USSediq Sediqqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, said that while the Kabul administration supports any progress in an eventual peace process, it wants to prevent any negative consequences. Kabul is “concerned, therefore we seek clarification about this document so that we can carefully analyse the risks and potential negative consequences, and prevent any danger it may cause,” Sediqqi said on Twitter. The statement is Kabul’s first such reaction to the prospective deal, which Khalilzad presented on Monday. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsGhani and his government have until now been largely sidelined in negotiations between the US and the Taliban, who see the Afghan president as illegitimate and have insisted on dealing first with the Americans. Kabul’s concerns build on a position expressed Tuesday by former US ambassadors to Afghanistan, who warned in a joint statement against a major troop withdrawal without a comprehensive peace accord. “A major withdrawal of US forces should follow, not come in advance, of (a) real peace agreement,” the former envoys wrote. According to parts of the deal made public so far, the Pentagon would pull thousands of its 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year, provided the Taliban hew to their security pledges. The insurgents have said they will renounce Al-Qaeda, fight the Islamic State group and stop jihadists using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Ultimately, though, Kabul has no say on whether the US and the Taliban make a deal, and can only hope the insurgents honour a pledge to sit down with the Afghan government to build a separate accord. Afghans have been on tenterhooks for weeks while the US and the Taliban flesh out what are thought to be the final details of their deal. President Donald Trump was due to look at the proposed pact this week. If he and Taliban leaders approve, it could be signed and announced any day. But even as negotiations for an accord have entered an apparent end phase, violence has surged across Afghanistan. On Monday, the Taliban launched a massive attack in Kabul, where they targeted a fortified compound used by foreign aid groups and agencies. At least 16 people were killed, with more than 100 wounded. On Saturday, the Taliban attempted to seize the provincial capital of Kunduz in the north, and on Sunday, they launched an operation in the city of Pul-e Khumri, the capital of neighbouring Baghlan province.