Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Best Photos from Emperor Naruhito's Enthronement Ceremony in Japan's Imperial Palace

Naruhito proclaimed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, and royals from around the world have come to celebrate.

Today, Japan's first enthronement ceremony in three decades took place. Representatives from nearly 200 countries, including members of many royal families, flew in to celebrate Emperor Naruhito's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The event comes after the 85-year-old Emperor Akihito abdicated the throne this past April, ending his 30-year reign. Akihito was the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in 200 years, making way for the then-Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako to acceed.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako during the ceremony in which the emperor officially proclaims his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne. - Read More

See Japanese Emperor Naruhito's Enthronement Ceremony ...

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Staying focused on better outcomes for the world’s poorest people - World Bank

Global growth remains subdued, with the pace of investment and trade softening, and downside risks persisting due to policy uncertainty, trade tensions, financial volatility, and rising debt. The World Bank Group, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, can help emerging and low-income countries bolster potential growth, increase their resilience to shocks, boost domestic revenues, and continue building policy buffers. The two organizations have an important role to play in addressing the increase in debt vulnerabilities, and they can help countries meet a range of challenges to the international financial system, including tackling corruption.  

These were key messages from the Development Committee, a ministerial-level forum of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, in a communiqué issued at the close of the institutions’ Annual Meetings in Washington.

The committee, which represents 189 member countries, noted that the Bank Group is uniquely placed to address global development challenges, and they encouraged it to help implement country platforms that will make better use of development resources and mobilize private sector solutions.  They also urged continued efforts to protect the most vulnerable, spur job creation, and strengthen public sector efficiency.

World Bank Group President David R. Malpass similarly stressed the urgency of the organization’s mission: the twin goals to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity.  But with 700 million people still living in extreme poverty around the world and the increasing risks posed by climate change and fragility, today’s global economy is making this mission even harder.  At the meetings’ opening press conference, Malpass called for “fresh thinking to ignite growth” while expressing optimism that “well-designed reforms can deliver meaningful gains.” He emphasized that this is especially true for emerging markets and developing countries: they can “unleash growth that’s broadly shared across all segments of society.”

Both the committee and Malpass underscored the leading role played by IDA, the Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, in reducing extreme poverty, a challenge that is becoming steadily more concentrated in Africa.  They noted IDA’s strong implementation of its current three-year program, and they urged continued strong support from donor countries in the replenishment of IDA’s funding for the next cycle, an effort that is well underway. In his plenary speech to the Board of Governors during the meetings, Malpass highlighted IDA’s growing focus on situations of fragility, conflict, and violence—where the poorest people are also increasingly concentrated.  In addition, both he and the committee noted IDA’s joint work with IFC and MIGA to scale up private sector development, including in fragile situations.

The Bank Group’s work supports better development outcomes across a wide range of sectors. Malpass mentioned a number of these: “We’re investing to help countries gain access to electricity and clean water, to ensure the full inclusion of girls and women, to address climate change and protect the environment, to improve health and nutrition, and to bolster infrastructure.” He also stressed the rule of law, transparency, and peace and security, along with more effective debt management. But he observed that effective country programs must fit the distinct needs of each economy: “Development cannot be imposed from outside—country leadership and ownership matter.”

The meetings also marked a further transition in leadership, with Anshula Kant recently arrived as Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer for the Bank Group and with Axel van Trotsenburg assuming a new role as Managing Director of Operations at the World Bank.  In welcoming them, Malpass also congratulated Kristalina Georgieva on her appointment as Managing Director of the IMF, expressed his appreciation for IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou becoming co-chair of the current IDA replenishment, and thanked Keiko Honda for her years of service as MIGA CEO.

In a statement after the Development Committee meeting, Malpass said, “We at the World Bank Group are staying focused on our mission. We’re helping countries build strong programs, tailored to the unique circumstances of their economies.” While acknowledging the risks posed by the global economy and the daunting issues that face individual countries, he expressed confidence that progress can be made: “We cannot let today’s challenges be a roadblock to better development outcomes.” - Read More
Staying focused on better outcomes for the world's poorest ...
 Annual Meetings - International Monetary Fund

Friday, September 13, 2019

Biden: Afghanistan is ‘Three Different Countries,’ ‘Cannot be Put Together’

( – Former Vice President Joe Biden said during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate that Afghanistan “cannot be put together,” is “three different countries,” with Pakistan controlling three provinces in the east.

He also suggested that American troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan, and that Pakistan then provide bases for the U.S. to use to ensure terrorists never again attack the homeland from Afghanistan.

The puzzling comments, one of which appeared to call into question the territorial integrity of a major non-NATO ally, came as the perceived campaign front-runner answered a question that had not been put to him, but had been asked minutes earlier of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Warren reaffirmed her pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan within her first year in office, and Buttigieg also called for “an end to endless war,” adding that ensuring that Afghanistan is never again used as a launching pad for an attack on the U.S. “does not require an open-ended commitment of ground troops.”

Biden was then asked about his role in withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, and whether their quick pullout from that country had helped ISIS to take hold.

Instead, he chose to answer the earlier Afghanistan question. (He did return to Iraq later.)

Biden began by laying out his credentials as someone who has been “in and out of Afghanistan” more than anybody on the stage. “Not with a gun,” he qualified, acknowledging Buttigieg’s combat service in Afghanistan.

(As a Navy reservist, Buttigieg served about seven months in Afghanistan in 2014 as an intelligence officer, part of a unit whose task was to identify and disrupt Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups’ financial support networks.)

“The whole purpose of going to Afghanistan was to not have a counterinsurgency – meaning that we’re going to put that country together,” Biden said.

“It cannot be put together. Let me say it again: It will not be put together. It’s three different countries. Pakistan owns the three counties – the three provinces in the east. They’re not any part of – the Haqqanis run it.” - Read More

Biden: Afghanistan is ‘Three Different Countries,’ ‘Cannot be Put Together’

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

George W. Bush lays wreath at 9/11 Pentagon Memorial ...The Hill

Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday laid a wreath on the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon.

Bush, who was president during the attacks, placed the wreath at the site where Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, killing 184 people. 

The former president was joined by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as taps was played. Bush then shook hands and talked with family members and first responders. - Read More

George W. Bush lays wreath at 9/11 Pentagon Memorial ...

America remembers 9/11 - CNN -

Here's what you need to know about today's anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks

Americans across the country marked the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks today.

Family members of those killed in the attacks gathered in New York City this morning at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.

The names of the victims were read and the crowds observed two moments of silence — for when each of the planes struck the World Trade Center. - Read More

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Trump says he canceled peace talks with Taliban over attack - NYTimes

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Saturday that he had canceled a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban leaders and the president of Afghanistan and was calling off monthslong negotiations that had appeared to be nearing a peace agreement.

“Unbeknownst to almost everyone,” Mr. Trump wrote in a series of tweets, Taliban leaders and the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, were headed to the United States on Saturday for what would have been a politically fraught meeting at the president’s official Camp David retreat in Maryland.

But Mr. Trump said that “in order to build false leverage,” the Taliban had admitted to a suicide car bomb attack on Thursday that had killed an American soldier and 11 others in the capital of Kabul. “I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,” he wrote.

“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Mr. Trump added. “How many more decades are they willing to fight?”

The president’s announcement was startling for multiple reasons. A surprise summit at Camp David with leaders of an insurgent group that has killed thousands of Americans since the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan would have been a sensational diplomatic gambit, on par with Mr. Trump’s meetings with the once-reclusive North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. A senior administration official said the meeting had been planned for Monday, just two days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which were plotted from Afghanistan and led to the United States’ invasion of the country.

Mr. Trump’s statement also appears to scuttle — for now — his longstanding hope to deliver on a campaign promise to withdraw American troops from an 18-year conflict that he has called an aimless boondoggle.

It comes amid stubborn resistance within Afghanistan’s government about the peace agreement that had been under discussion, not only for security reasons but also because Mr. Ghani has been determined to preserve a planned Sept. 28 election, which he is favored to win. The Taliban have insisted on postponing the election before proceeding with negotiations with the Afghan government. - Read More

Trump Says He's Called Off Negotiations With Taliban After ...

Trump says he canceled peace talks with Taliban over attack

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said he canceled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the insurgent group claimed responsibility last week for an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

Trump said he had planned a secret meeting with the Taliban’s “major leaders” on Sunday at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he also planned to meet with Afghanistan’s president.

But Trump said he immediately called the talks off when the insurgents said they were behind the attack.

“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said on Twitter.

The surprise announcement left in doubt the future of the draft accord worked out last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, for a drawdown of thousands of U.S. troops over the coming months.

There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban but the decision appeared to catch them by surprise. - Read More

Trump says he canceled peace talks with Taliban over attack ...

Trump abruptly cancels Afghan peace deal with Taliban

US President Donald Trump says he has called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that sought to end America's 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Mr Trump tweeted he had been set to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders on Sunday.

But he cancelled the secret meeting at his Camp David retreat after the militants admitted they were behind a recent attack that killed a US soldier.

The talks were due to take place a few days before the anniversary of 9/11.

The US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in the autumn of 2001, because the militants had given safe haven to the al-Qaeda network to plan the attacks on the US on 11 September.

A source from the Taliban's political office in Doha told the BBC that the group was set to hold an "urgent internal meeting" to discuss Mr Trump's decision.

Meanwhile the office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani - who would have met separately with Mr Trump at Camp David, according to the US president - said real peace would only be possible when the Taliban agreed to a ceasefire and direct talks with the Afghan government. - Read More

Trump abruptly cancels Afghan peace deal with Taliban - BBC ...

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Exclusive: Secretary of State Pompeo Declines to Sign Risky Afghan Peace Deal - TIME

The U.S. is closing in on a deal with the Taliban that is designed to wind down America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan, but the best indication of how risky the pact may be is this: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is declining to sign it, according to senior U.S., Afghan and European officials.

The “agreement in principle” that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has hammered out in nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar would take the first tentative steps toward peace since U.S. and allied forces deployed to Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11, according to senior Afghan and Trump Administration officials familiar with its general terms. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was scheduled to discuss the closely held details of the deal with President Donald Trump in a Sept. 3 meeting, according to senior administration officials. If Trump approves and a deal is struck, it could begin a withdrawal of some 5,400 U.S. troops, roughly a third of the present force, from five bases within 135 days.

But the deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions tell TIME. It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of U.S. counterterrorism forces to battle al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-U.S. government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan. “No one speaks with certainty. None,” said an Afghan official taking part in briefings on the deal with Khalilzad. “It is all based on hope. There is no trust. There is no history of trust. There is no evidence of honesty and sincerity from the Taliban,” and intercepted communications “show that they think they have fooled the U.S. while the U.S. believes that should the Taliban cheat, they will pay a hefty price.”

That may explain why Pompeo is declining to put his name on the deal. The Taliban asked for Pompeo to sign an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the government founded by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996, four U.S., Afghan and European officials familiar with the discussions tell TIME. Having the Secretary of State sign such a document would amount to de facto recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity, and he declined to do so, the Afghan officials say. Pompeo’s office declined to comment.

There are two alternatives. Khalilzad himself may sign it. Or the U.S. and the Taliban may simply issue a joint statement, supported in turn by the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and a number of other countries, including Japan, Russia and China, two Afghan sources familiar with the deliberations tell TIME. - Read More

Exclusive: Secretary of State Pompeo Declines to Sign Risky Afghan Peace Deal

Friday, August 16, 2019

Lindsey Graham pushes Trump to keep military presence in Afghanistan

(CNN) - As President Donald Trump prepared to receive a briefing on peace negotiations with the Taliban on Friday afternoon, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally and frequent voice in the President's ear, urged Trump to maintain an American military presence in Afghanistan.

"American service members are not acting as policemen in Afghanistan," Graham wrote in a statement Friday. "They are the front-line of defense for America against the reemergence of radical Islamist groups who wish to attack the American homeland."

"Any peace agreement which denies the US a robust counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal. Instead, it is paving the way for another attack on the American homeland and attacks against American interests around the world," the senator added. He urged Trump to "make sound and sustainable decisions" on the issue.

"A bad agreement puts the radical Islamist movement all over the world on steroids," Graham said.

Trump will meet with top national security advisers at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort to discuss the matter on Friday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford are all expected to attend the meeting. - Read More

Trump to meet security officials on Afghanistan as concerns mount about US withdrawal