Saturday, May 31, 2014

Obama statement on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl --- The following is the text of a statement by President Obama on the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: --- Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years. On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal. Today we also remember the many troops held captive and whom remain missing or unaccounted for in America’s past wars. Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield. And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue. -- For his assistance in helping to secure our soldier’s return, I extend my deepest appreciation to the Amir of Qatar. The Amir’s personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries. The United States is also grateful for the support of the Government of Afghanistan throughout our efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release. -- This week the United States renewed its commitment to the Afghan people and made clear that we will continue to support them as their chart their own future. The United States also remains committed to supporting an Afghan-led reconciliation process as the surest way to achieve a stable, secure, sovereign, and unified Afghanistan. While we are mindful of the challenges, it is our hope Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground. -

پاکستاني جنګي الوتکو پر افغان خاوره بمباري کړي ده --- سره له دي چې د افغانستان پر خاوره د پاکستانيو ځواکونو له لوري راکټي بريدونو زور اخيستى ور سره سم د دغه هېواد جنګي الوتکو پر افغان خاوره بمباري کړي ده. -- دغه بريد نن سهار شاوخوا پنځه بجي سوى دى او ددي ولايت امنيتي مسولينو تاييد کړى دى. -- د کنړ ولايت د امنيې قومندانۍ د مطبوعاتو د دفتر مشر فرید الله وايې چې د پاکستان جنګي الوتکو د کنړ پر دانګام ولسوالۍ بمباري کړي ده او په ترڅ کې يې مرګ ژوبله را منځته کړي ده. -- په لومړنيو راپورنو کې ويل سوي دي چې په دي بمبار کې څلور تنه ولسي افغانان وژل سوي دي خو د کنړ د امنيي قومندانۍ وايې چې مرګ ژوبله سته ده خو په اړه يې کره جزيات په لاس کې نه لري. -- د کنړ والي شجاع الملک جلاله وايې چې دا بمباري له نن سهاره پيل سوي او دا مهال هم دوام کوي. -- دى وايې چې ددي بمبار پر مهال تر اوسه د څلورو تنو د وژل کيدو خبر ورکول سوى دى او ښايې دا مرګ ژوبله نوره هم لوړه سي. -- پر کنړ د پاکستانيو ځواکونو له لوري پر داسې وخت بمبار کيږي چې له دي وړاندي افغان ولسمشر حامد کرزي د پاکستان له لومړي وزير نواز شريف سره د ټليفوني اړيکي پر مهال د پاکستانيو پوځيانو د راکټي حملو په اړه خپله اندېښنه ښکاره کړي وه. -- د پاکستان ځواکونه د تېري يوي اونۍ را په دي خوا پر افغان خاوره څه باندي شپږ سوه راکټونه توغولي دي چې په ولسي جرګه کې ددي ولايت استازو يې د اته ويشت تنو د مرګ ژوبلي خبر هم ورکړى وو. -- د پاکستان وروستۍ حملي په افغانستان کې د ټاکنو د دوهم پړاو په درشل کې کيږي. -- پاکستان خپل دا بريدونه د تېرو دريو کلونو را په دي خوا روان ساتلي دي او په دي بريدونو کې يې افغانانو ته نه يوازي مالي بلکي زيات ځاني زيانونه هم اړولي دي. -- د پاکستان د وروستيو بريدونو په اړه افغان ولسمشر حامد کرزي د ناټو له قومندان جنرال جوزيف ډانفورډ څخه هم توضيحات غوښتي وه خو نوموړي قومندان په دي تړاو ناخبري ښودلي وه. -- عام افغانان او افغان حکومت د پاکستان راکټي حملو سخت انديښمن کړي دي په داسې حال کې چې افغان حکومت اوس هم د ديپلوماتيکو لارو نه ددي موضوع په اړه هڅي کوي. - خبریال ډات کام

Bowe Bergdahl, U.S. soldier held in Afghanistan, freed in apparent swap --- (CNN) -- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier held captive for nearly five years by militants during the Afghanistan war, has been released in an apparent swap for Guantanamo detainees, authorities said Saturday. -- "Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl," the White House said in a statement. -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a separate statement that he had informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar. -- "A few hours ago, the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was informed by President Obama that their long wait for his return will soon be over," Hagel said. -- "Sgt. Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan. We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal, and we are grateful that he will soon be reunited with his family." -- A statement from Bergdahl's parent's read, "We were so joyful and relieved [when] President Obama called us today to give us this news that Bowe is finally coming home. We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son." -- A senior Defense official told CNN that the U.S. military recovered Berghdahl from his captors around 10:30 a.m. ET in a peaceful handover in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. special operations forces conducted the rescue. -- The official said that once on the U.S. helicopter, Berghdal wrote on a paper plate, "SF?" meaning, "Special Forces?" He wrote because of the noise. The operators sitting with Bergdahl responded loudly, saying, "Yes, we've been looking for you for a long time." Berghdal broke down crying, the official recounted. -- In exchange for Bergdahl's release, five detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be released to Qatar. The US has "appropriate assurances" that Qatar will be able to secure the detainees there. They are under a travel ban for a year. -- The United States believes Bergdahl had been held for the bulk of his captivity in Pakistan, the official said. It was unclear when he was moved to Afghanistan. -- The transfer was brokered through the local Qatari government, the official said. Talks for the transfer began about a week ago. -- Bergdahl's parents happened to still be in Washington, in town for Memorial Day. -- Bergdahl, 28, was being held at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. -- Hagel said the United States "coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised." -- The White House said, "On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal." - More,

War documentary 'Korengal' explores consequences of combat --- (Reuters) - Director and writer Sebastian Junger took audiences into a combat zone with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in his first documentary and goes a step further in "Korengal," delving into their psyche to explore the experience and effects of war. -- The film, opening in New York on Friday and across the United States in June and July, is a follow-up to his 2011 Oscar-nominated film "Restrepo," which chronicled the lives of U.S. soldiers defending a hilltop outpost in the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. -- Junger also wrote about his experiences in his 2010 book titled "War." -- In "Korengal," Junger questions members of Battle Company, part of the Second Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, about fear, bravery, camaraderie and adrenalin rushes during combat. -- The soldiers also admit that despite counting the day until they can leave, they will miss the war and want to go back. -- "One of the things I wanted to communicate with this film is that combat is a lot of things. It is not just one thing. It is very exciting for everybody. It is very scary for everybody. It is incredibly meaningful. It is very, very sad if you stop and think about what you are doing," Junger said in an interview. -- "That mix is morally confusing to soldiers but also quite intoxicating," he added. "It really does get down to wanting to go back over and over again for more." -- Junger, 52, co-directed "Restrepo" with British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, using material gathered while the two were embedded with the combat team in Afghanistan from May 2007 to June 2008. -- The film, which had no musical score or narration, provided gripping images of firefights the soldiers encountered almost daily in the remote Korengal valley, an important passage used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. -- In 2011, Hetherington was killed while covering the Libyan civil war. After his death, Junger completed the second-part of the project, picking up where "Restrepo" left off, examining the impact of combat on soldiers. -- "It is a film about the emotional experiences of war and its consequences," said Junger, author of the best-selling book "The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea," which was made into a 2000 feature film starring George Clooney. -- Junger said the love-hate relationship with war dates back to ancient times. Soldiers miss the doses of adrenaline, the urgency and the brotherhood that exists in a small combat unit. -- "I think a journalist's job is to represent reality truthfully. If that is one of the reactions that men have in combat, I think it should be portrayed and understood," he said. -- "My hope was that if the soldiers understood their experience a little better, civilians might also and that both of those things would help in the process of reincorporating almost 3 million combat vets back into society back home." - Patricia Reaney,

Friday, May 30, 2014

نگرانی از قطع معاملات بانکی افغانستان با جهان --- سازمان نظارت بر پولشویی هشدار داده که اگر تا 22 جون قانون مبارزه با پولشویی تصویب نشود، معاملات بانکی افغانستان با کشورهای دیگر قطع خواهد شد. کارشناسان نسبت به فلج شدن اقتصاد افغانستان هشدار می دهند. -- آگاهان عرصه اقتصاد می گویند، در صورتی که افغانستان شامل لیست سیاه شود در دریافت کمک های مالی با مشکلات جدی مواجه خواهد شد. -- چین نخستین کشوری است که معاملات دالری با افغانستان را متوقف کرده است. به گفته اتاق تجارت، به همین دلیل قیمت اجناس در بازار 15 درصد افزایش یافته است. عتیق الله نصرت، سرپرست هیات عامل اتاق تجارت و صنایع افغانستان در گفتگو با دویچه وله گفت: «عملا تعدادی از تاجران شکایت دارند، پول خودرا انتقال داده نمی توانند و نمی توانند از چین مال بخرند.» -- اتاق تجارت نگران است که اگر افغانستان شامل لیست سیاه بانک داری شود، چهار تا پنج سال زمان می برد تا این کشور دوباره از این لیست خارج شود. --- «قانون دست کاری شده» -- پولشویی به معنای تلاش برای قانونی کردن پول هایی است که از راه های غیرقانونی مانند قاچاق مواد مخدر و دیگر اعمال خلاف قانون به دست آمده است. -- قانون مبارزه با پولشویی 10 سال پیش توسط بانک مرکزی تدوین شد، اما در مدت ده سال گذشته هیچگاه تطبیق نشد. به دنبال هشدار سازمان نظارت بر پولشویی، حکومت افغانستان هشت ماه پیش برخی از ماده های این قانون را تعدیل کرد و اوایل هفته جاری به پارلمان فرستاد. -- ولی نمایندگان پارلمان می گویند که مسوده قانون مبارزه با پولشویی دستکاری شده و برخی از ماده های اصلی آن حذف شده است و از این بابت اظهار نگرانی کرده اند.. انجنیر ذکریا، نماینده کابل در جلسه عمومی روز چهار شنبه ولسی جرگه گفت: «قانونی که ما تصویب می کنیم قانون بسیار ضعیف، لرزان و ناتوان پاس می شود و به نظر جهانیان اعتبار قوی ندارد. تا زمانی که با مواد مخدر، فساد اداری و تروریزم، مبارزه نشود، اعتبار تجارتی افغانستان در خطر است.» -- نگرانی دیگر این است که وقت قانونی رییس جمهور به پایان رسیده و آقای کرزی نمی تواند این قانون را توشیح کند. نورالله دلاوری، رییس بانک مرکزی افغانستان گفته است در صورتی که این قانون تصویب شود، افغانستان شامل لیست سیاه سازمان نظارت بر پول شویی نخواهد شد. -- حالا نگرانی اصلی این است که 30 ماده ی این قانون حذف شده و تصویب این قانون نیز نمی تواند مانع رفتن بانک های افغانستان به لیست سیاه شود. -- اما وزارت عدلیه گفته است، ماده هایی که حذف شده اضافی بوده، زیرا عین همین ماده ها در قوانین دیگر افغانستان وجود دارد. یکی از ماده های حذف شده جزایی است که برای معامله کنندگان پول های سیاه در نظر گرفته شده بود. --- تاجران پول سیاه -- براساس آمار اتاق تجارت و صنایع 36 درصد پول در افغانستان از تولید و قاچاق مواد مخدر به دست می آید. در صورتی که قانون مبارزه با پول شویی به صورت کامل تطبیق شود، قاچاقبران مواد مخدر، مافیای زمین و تمویل کنندگان تروریزم ضربه می بینند و نمی توانند پول های سیاه شان را به پول پاک و سفید تبدیل کنند. -- باورها این است که دلیل اصلی تصویب نشدن این قانون در ده سال گذشته، فشار قاچاق بران و جنایت کاران بر نهادهای دولتی بوده است. -- ناهید احمدی فرید، یکی از نمایندگان پارلمان گفت: «این قانون سه سال در زیر میز شورای وزیران بودو چرا چون اکثر وزیرانی که مصروف پول شویی هستند این قانون اگر تصویب می شد برای پول شویی آن ها مانع ایجاد می شد.» -- ولی امیرخان یار، رییس کمیسیون مالی و بودجه می گوید، مافیای اقتصادی هنوز مانعی برای تصویب این قانون خلق نکرده اند: «ما تاهنوز این موضوع را احساس نکردیم که به ما در باره ممانعت از این قانون چیزی گفته شده باشد. چیزی که به ما از طرف بانک مرکزی و وزارت مالیه گفته شده این است که این قانون باید به زودی تصویب شود.» -- آگاهان مسایل اقتصادی می گویند در صورتی که این قانون به طور کامل تصویب نشود، تجارت افغانستان به شدت صدمه می بیند، قیمت اجناس در بازار افزایش می یابد و کمک های بین المللی به افغانستان نیز محدود می شود. - صدای آلمان

U.S. Officials Say Most Russian Troops Have Left Ukraine Border --- SINGAPORE — Russia has withdrawn most of its troops from the Ukrainian border, Pentagon officials said, but cautioned that some seven battalions, amounting to several thousand men, remain. -- Speaking to reporters aboard his flight to a regional security conference in Singapore, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the U.S. Department of Defense knows that “thousands of Russian troops have been pulled back and are moving away.” But he added that “we also know that there are still thousands of Russian troops still there that have not yet moved.” -- Mr. Hagel called the initial pullout “promising” but said that “they are not where they need to be and won’t be until all their troops that they positioned along that border a couple of months ago are gone.” A senior military official traveling with Mr. Hagel noted pointedly that even if all Russian troops were withdrawn from the Ukraine border, it would not satisfy western concerns. “Well, they still have Crimea,” he said. -- NATO has estimated that Russia moved around 40,000 soldiers to Ukraine’s border this spring, in a sharp escalation of a crisis that began months ago with anti-government protests in Kiev and other cities. Ukraine’s new government has vowed to press ahead with a military offensive against pro-Russian rebels in the east. -- Separately, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported Friday that it had lost contact with a five-member team of observers in eastern Ukraine. A second team of observers was already being held by pro-Russian rebels in the region. - HELENE COOPER, NYTimes

Iran Hackers Dangle a Familiar Name to Fish for Data --- WASHINGTON — Over the years, John R. Bolton has played many roles in Washington. He was American ambassador to the United Nations, where he famously suggested the place could lose many of its floors — and the bureaucrats who worked on them. He was the State Department’s combative counterproliferation chief during George W. Bush’s first term, and these days he regularly appears on Fox News to denounce the Obama administration as weak and feckless. -- It turns out he is also the favorite neoconservative of Iranian hackers. -- Mr. Bolton said he learned this week that his identity had been stolen by hackers whom a Texas cybersecurity firm identified as a group of Iranians. It is not clear if they were government agents, part of the “cybercorps” that Iran organized after American- and Israeli-developed cyberattacks on its nuclear infrastructure, or whether they were “patriotic hackers.” -- But clearly they were in search of information about Washington’s elite. In the old days of the Cold War, they would have operated by hanging out at the Occidental Grill or cocktail parties at the French Embassy, hoping to pick up a bit of loose conversation. These days, they did it by faking a LinkedIn account for Mr. Bolton, and gradually engaging in chats with people who believed they were exchanging thoughts with a man who some conservatives hope will run for president. -- “I think the Iranians were after me to get all the secrets that the Obama administration has imparted to me about the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Bolton, now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute here, said dryly on Friday. -- “I’m honored they picked me,” he said. “They must have been looking for the most anti-Iranian regime person in Washington. I’m proud to win that award.” --- Mr. Bolton was hardly the only one; a report released this week by iSight Partners, a computer security firm in Dallas, said the attacks compromised the computers of roughly 2,000 users. “This marks the emergence of Iran on the cyberespionage landscape,” said John Hultquist, the head of cyberespionage intelligence at iSight. -- The campaign described by iSight appears to have started in 2011, just months after the discovery of the Stuxnet computer worm, which attacked Iran’s nuclear enrichment center at Natanz and destroyed upward of 1,000 centrifuges. Ever since, American intelligence officials have viewed Iran as a growing cyberthreat, even if it has a long way to go to catch up with its Russian and Chinese counterparts. -- But compared with other cyberattacks, the one aimed at Mr. Bolton — first reported by Foreign Policy magazine and The Daily Beast — was amateurish. It was a “spear-phishing attack,” an effort to get people to respond to an email or other invitation, in hopes of revealing their passwords or contact lists. Mr. Bolton may have been the target, or he may have been collateral damage in a broader attack on the American Enterprise Institute. -- Similar attacks have been directed at other think tanks, from the Council on Foreign Relations to the Aspen Institute. In each of those cases, the hackers seemed interested in power brokers, former power brokers, consultants, contractors and journalists, apparently on the theory that those targets have confidential insights into the American government. -- “This shows that the Iranians are energetic, and with relatively limited skills they take full advantage of what they can do,” said James Lewis, a cyberexpert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But it doesn’t show them entering the big leagues. This is pretty basic level stuff.” -- The iSight report did not say what types of data the hackers were able to steal, but the list of targets suggested that hackers may have been after plans for military weapons systems. A fake website used by the group,, was registered in Tehran and sites that hackers used to deploy their malware were hosted in Iran. The malware of the hackers contained several Persian words, and the time stamps of their activity tracked with professional working hours in Tehran. -- The hackers used a dozen fake personas and connected with victims over Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. They sent malicious links to their targets; the unlucky victims had malware downloaded on their machines. -- Among the fake personas employed by the hackers were the names of real journalists. In others, they claimed to be employees at military contractors, a tax adviser and reporters for the fake news organization set up by the hackers. -- Some experts said it was remarkable that such techniques still work. “You know, they say that on the Internet no one knows you are a dog,” said Jason Healey, who runs the Cyber Statecraft program at the Atlantic Council, referring to a famous New Yorker cartoon in which canine computer users are musing on the benefits of their anonymity. “But there are still a lot of stupid people when it comes to clicking on links.” - NYTimes

Google says its driverless car can probably drive better than you can --- Google has unveiled a new vision for the self-driving car, showing off its latest model on Tuesday at Re/Code's Code Conference. The vehicle, revealed in an interview with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, was conceived and designed by Google as part of its ongoing self-driving car project. Here's a closer look at Google's latest model: --- What's new about this car? - Google has had a self-driving car project for a while now, so you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. The difference is this: In the past, the company had always added its self-driving technology into existing car models. The little two-seater that Google is now showing off is designed completely by the tech giant. -- And you can tell, because Google has designed a car that's unlike any automaker would have created. The most obvious difference? There's no steering column. The car also doesn't have any brakes or accelerator. It's operated completely by software. -- It does have a flexible windshield, a foam front and two sets of braking and steering systems, reports Re/Code. Just in case. -- By design, it's also no luxury car. To quote Google's company blog post, the vehicle lacks "creature comforts," and is equipped with just two seats, a space for passengers' belongings, start and stop buttons and a screen to show passengers the route. - More, Hayley Tsukayama,

Letter to the Editor: U.S. leaving Afghanistan is ending a long commitment, not cutting and running --- President Obama’s caution and cool-headedness are strengths. He has learned from past leaders’ mistakes and thinks before he acts . As the nation is scandalized by the failure to care properly for our veterans, the president understands that the decision to send or keep troops in war zones bears a terrible price in lives and shattered bodies and minds. -- Mr. Obama also understands that we can’t create thriving democracies just by willing it in tribal, nonindustrial societies riven by religious and ethnic divisions. Yes, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan are unstable countries experiencing or threatened by civil war, but that is largely beyond our control. The Post seems stuck in a 1950s mind-set. The postwar occupation of Germany and Japan by the United States produced viable, stable democracies. But these were advanced, educated, centralized and ethnically and religiously homogeneous societies. -- The Post likened Mr. Obama’s decision to remove all troops from Afghanistan to “the last time the United States cut and ran from there” in the 1980s. I wouldn’t call ending a 15-year military intervention, costing hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of casualties, “cutting and running”; I’d call it the overdue end of a long-term commitment. - More,

Kabul's Bush Bazaar dwindles as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan --- In Kabul's Bush Bazaar, the mood these days is funereal. The black market where pilfered goods from Nato military bases are sold has become a shadow of its former self as the bases close down. -- The Bush Bazaar took its name from the US president who started the war after 9/11, and its demise serves as a metaphor for foreigners' dwindling presence in the region. -- At its peak, in 2011, Nato had 800 military bases to accommodate its 130,000 troops. By November 2013, that figure fell to 80. More have closed since then, and by the end of this year just five or six bases will remain open. -- Barack Obama's announcement on Tuesday that all American troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2016 has been met with consternation by many Afghans here. Many had not believed that foreigners would depart so early, leaving so few forces behind – just 9,800, and half that number by the end of next year. -- On a recent Monday, the market's alleyways, flanked by rows of shops selling curios, were empty of customers. Scraggy cats hunted for scraps. Tarpaulin flapped wetly in the wind. -- Hajji Toor Mohammad, the elder of the market, presided over a pile of stolen food items, a shrine to Nato's failed policies in Afghanistan. His shop was just one of the many manifestations of the corruption that this war had engendered. Most of the items on sale were a few weeks away from expiring. -- Mohammad, a portly man with a pakool hat and a forehead comb-over, explained how business came to a halt about a year ago. Just as his fellow shopkeepers started talking about 2014, the year when Nato's mission formally ends, the supply of goods started to dry up. His suppliers began to complain that fewer troops meant a dwindling number of what he euphemistically calls "gifts" from the military forces. -- To make up for short supplies, he has begrudgingly begun stocking goods from neighbouring countries. Shelves of Kraft cheese and Campbell's soup have been replaced by Iranian chocolate and Pakistani canned fruit. The customers have noticed the drop in quality, he said, and stopped coming. -- "If you sit with me for an hour, you still won't see any customers," Mohammad lamented. -- True to his word, in the course of that hour, not one customer entered his store. Among the 1,000 stalls in the market, some owners claimed they hadn't had a customer in three days. At Mohammad's, sales went from 200,000 afghanis (£2,112) a month over the course of last year to just 10,000 afghanis last month, a 95% decrease. -- True to his word, in the course of that hour, not one customer entered his store. Among the 1,000 stalls in the market, some owners claimed they hadn't had a customer in three days. At Mohammad's, sales went from 200,000 afghanis (£2,112) a month over the course of last year to just 10,000 afghanis last month, a 95% decrease. -- Despite the difficulties caused by the foreign troop departure, however, most merchants said they were glad to see them go. During a decade of war, hatred of foreign forces has been rising steadily. -- Among rural Pashtuns, and now in the market, where the tentacles of the US empire can be felt in all corners, with shops selling the most American of items such as jars of peanut butter and copies of Maxim magazine, even those who benefitted from Nato's presence say they want the troops to go. --- "We have managed before," he said, of the brief period of peace prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. "And we will again, if they will only let us be." - More, May Jeong in Kabul, Guardian

Fareed Zakaria - Obama’s leadership is right for today --- “Because of his unsure and indecisive leadership in the field of foreign policy, questions are being raised on all sides,” the writer declared, adding that the administration was “plagued by a Hamlet-like psychosis which seems to paralyze it every time decisive action is required.” Is the writer one of the many recent critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Actually, it’s Richard Nixon, writing in 1961 about President John F. Kennedy. Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard practice in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington can be blamed for them. But to determine what the United States — and Obama — should be doing, we have to first understand the nature of the world and the dangers within it. -- From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuaded countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount. In this context, presidents had to continually reassure allies. This is why Dean Acheson is said to have remarked in exasperation about Europe’s persistent doubts about America’s resolve, “NATO is an alliance, not a psychiatrist’s couch!” --- But the world today looks very different — far more peaceful and stable than at any point in decades and, by some measures, centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. Its military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington. The number of democracies around the world has grown by more than 50 percent in the past quarter-century. The countries that recently have been aggressive or acted as Washington’s adversaries are getting significant pushback. Russia has alienated Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Western Europe with its recent aggression, for which the short-term costs have grown and the long-term costs — energy diversification in Europe — have only begun to build. China has scared and angered almost all of its maritime neighbors, with each clamoring for greater U.S. involvement in Asia. Even a regional foe such as Iran has found that the costs of its aggressive foreign policy have mounted. In 2006, Iran’s favorability rating in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia was in the 75 percent to 85 percent range, according to Zogby Research. By 2012, it had fallen to about 30 percent. -- In this context, what is needed from Washington is not a heroic exertion of American military power but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values and push these positive trends forward. The Obama administration is, in fact, deeply internationalist — building on alliances in Europe and Asia, working with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, isolating adversaries and strengthening the global order that has proved so beneficial to the United States and the world since 1945. -- The administration has fought al-Qaeda and its allies ferociously. But it has been disciplined about the use of force, and understandably so. An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about. After all, just six years ago, the United States’ closest allies were distancing themselves from Washington because it was seen as aggressive, expansionist and militaristic. Iran was popular in the Middle East in 2006 because it was seen as standing up to an imperialist America that had invaded and occupied an Arab country. And nothing damaged U.S. credibility in the Cold War more than Vietnam. - More, Washingtonpost,

Obama says the U.S. will lead the world for the next 100 years. China disagrees. --- This week, President Obama said that the U.S. will remain the one indispensable nation in the century to come. One country who has its own dreams of leadership wasn't quite so sure, however. -- On Thursday, at a regular briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang commented with sarcasm. “It seems that the U.S. really enjoys being the leader of the world,” he said, before casting doubt on Obama's prediction by making reference to a World Cup-predicting sea creature. “However, in the field of international relations, I wonder if there exists a 'Paul the Octopus' who can predict the future.” -- His comments were a direct response to remarks delivered by Obama at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., commencement ceremony this Wednesday. In his speech, Obama reflected on America’s foreign policy agenda and articulated his vision of America’s role in the world. -- “America must always lead on the world stage," Obama declared. "If we don’t, no one else will.” -- Qin's comments weren't the only sign of an official reaction. The Global Times, China’s state-run nationalist-leaning newspaper, later published an editorial and challenged that view, asking, “America wants to lead the world for another 100 years, but with what?” - More, Washingtonpos,

Russia has withdrawn most troops from Ukraine border, Hagel says --- ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — Russia has withdrawn thousands of its troops massed on the border with Ukraine, even as violence escalated inside that country between government troops and pro-Russian separatists, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday. -- Hagel called the withdrawal “promising” but said that thousands of troops remained of the 40,000 Russia moved to the border in recent months. “They are not where they need to be and won’t be until all of their troops . . . are gone,” he said. -- A senior Defense official traveling with Hagel said that about seven Russian battalions remain of those that were deployed to the east and south of Ukraine. The Obama administration has repeatedly demanded the troop withdrawal, saying that any movement across the border would trigger another round of U.S. sanctions against Russia. -- NATO said Friday that more than two-thirds of Russia’s troops have now pulled back from the border zone. -- “Several thousand troops still remain in the vicinity, but most of these units appear to be preparing to withdraw,” a NATO military officer said via e-mail. -- Some of those units remain capable of carrying out a military operation, the officer said. -- A complete withdrawal from the area would be “a step in the right direction from Russia,” the NATO officer said. But it would not “erase or reverse what has happened in recent months.” -- Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region in March and its ongoing support of separatist militants in eastern Ukraine, along with its troop presence along Ukraine’s border, have “fundamentally changed” the security dynamic in the region, the officer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in accordance with NATO ground rules. -- Hagel spoke aboard his military aircraft en route to an Asian defense conference in Singapore, at the start of a 12-day, around-the-world trip, his longest since taking office early last year. -- After the gathering with his Asian counterparts and other officials from the region, Hagel will attend a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels next week. The alliance is expected to begin formalizing its plans to leave a residual force in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of the year. -- President Obama announced this week that a 9,800-strong U.S. force will remain in Afghanistan for one year for training and counterterrorism missions. Germany, Italy and Turkey are each expected to leave about 800 troops behind, along with smaller forces from other NATO and non-NATO forces that are currently part of the international military operation there. -- The U.S. force will be cut roughly in half in 2016 and be withdrawn by the end of that year. -- NATO ministers also plan to discuss the situation in Ukraine. From Brussels, Hagel will travel to Romania and visit the USS Vella Gulf, the naval cruiser that is patrolling the Black Sea, before joining Obama in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. - Karen DeYoung, Washingtonpost

Japan’s Abe pledges greater role in Asia-Pacific security, as Chinese power grows --- SINGAPORE — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that his country was ready to take a stronger role in collective defense in the Asia-Pacific area and beyond, and made clear that he views China as the most immediate threat to regional stability. -- “Japan intends to play an even greater and more proactive role than it has until now in making peace in Asia and the world something more certain,” Abe told a gathering of East Asian defense ministers and officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, gathered here for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on regional security. -- Abe’s muscular remarks echoed a nationally televised address he made in Japan this month calling for a reinterpretation of Japan’s post-World War II constitution to expand the role of its military to aid allies and in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The use of Japan’s military for anything other than self-defense has been banned since the aftermath of the war, and Abe’s proposed change is controversial there. -- He said that Japan’s “new banner” would be used to help “ensure the security of the seas and the skies, and thoroughly maintain freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight,” a direct challenge to China’s increasingly confrontational actions in disputed waters of the East China Sea and South China Sea. -- In recent weeks, China has flown military jets near the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands it claims in the East China Sea and has charged that Japanese fighters have entered a disputed air zone between the two countries. -- China is also in disputes with its neighbors farther south, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, over nearly all of the South China Sea, with its busy international shipping lanes and rich oil and gas resources. Nearly all those governments have had direct clashes with Beijing; the Philippines has asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to intervene, and anti-China riots broke out this month in Vietnam after China positioned an oil rig in waters claimed by both countries. -- The territorial and maritime disputes have stymied U.S. efforts to protect its own economic and defense interests in the region and to act as an honest broker, even as the Obama administration has called on China to respect international law and other accords it has signed with other Asian countries. -- “The least-desirable state of affairs is having to fear that coercion and threats will take the place of rules and laws, and that unexpected situations will arise at arbitrary times and places,” Abe said. “We do not welcome” conflict between “fighter aircraft and vessels at sea. What we should exchange are words.” -- Although many in the region view Abe as uncomfortably hawkish, he was clearly playing to a sympathetic audience of Asia-Pacific states in an increasingly volatile region that fears what it sees as growing Chinese power and North Korean aggression as rapidly growing threats. -- China has sent a second-tier military delegation to the conference, and Abe’s only applause line of the night came after his response to a Chinese officer who noted Abe’s controversial visit late last year to a shrine honoring Japanese war dead and asked if he had similar good wishes for the souls of the “millions and millions of people in China, Korea and many countries in this region that have been killed by the Japanese Army.” -- Abe responded that he had expressed remorse for World War II many times and, in a direct dig at China’s communist government, said Japan had subsequently “created a peaceful, free and democratic nation based on that reflection. We protect human rights and respect the law.” -- Asked whether Japan was willing to submit its maritime disputes with China to independent third-party arbitration called for in international law, he said “that is what China should think about. . . . China is the one challenging the status quo.” -- “There is no territorial dispute,” Abe said. “Japan effectively controls the islands.” - Karen DeYoung, Washingtonpost

د امریکا پخواني مرستیال ولسمشر له افغانستانه د امریکایي پوځیانو پر ایستلو سخت انتقاد وکړ --- د امریکا د متحد ایالتونو پخوانی مرستیال ولسمشر دیک چیني له افغانستانه د امریکایي ځواکونو د وتلو پریکړه وغندله او ویې ویل چې بارک اوباما ډیر کمزوری ولسمشر دی. -- دیک چیني فاکس نیوز تلویزیوني چاینل ته وویل چې اوباما په دې نه پوهیږي چې امریکا په نړۍ کې څه ډول تګلاره ولري او د ده دا پریکړه چې د ۲۰۱۶ کال تر پایه به ټول امریکایي پوځیان له افغانستانه وځي یوه احمقانه پریکړه ده. -- دیک چیني زیاته کړه چې ده په خپل ژوند کې په امریکا کې دومره کمزوری ولسمشر نه دی لیدلی لکه بارک اوباما. -- اوباما د سې شنبې په ورځ په سپینه ماڼۍ کې وینا وکړه او ویې ویل چې ټول محارب ځواکونه به روان کال له افغانستانه وباسي او ۹۸۰۰ عسکر به یې تر ۲۰۱۶ کال پورې په افغانستان کې پاتې شي. د اوباما له پریکړې سره سم د دغو پاته کیدونکو پوځیانو نیمایي به د راتلونکي میلادي کال تر پایه له افغانستانه وایستل شي او نور به یې بیا بل کال افغانستان پریږدي. د اوباما له پروګرام سره سم به په ۲۰۱۷ کال کې شاوخوا ۱۰۰۰ امریکایي عسکر بیا هم په افغانستان کې وي چې د امریکا سفارت او ځیني نور تاسیسات به ساتي، خو هغه وخت به امریکایي ځواکونه د افغانستان له ټولو پوځي اډو وتلي وي. -- د امریکا د جمهوري غوښتونکي د ګوند غړي او پخواني مرستیال ولسمشر وویل، اوباما ته پکار و چې سلامشوره وکړي څو یو شمیر امریکایي پوځیان په افغانستان کې تر ۲۰۱۶ کال وروسته هم پاتې شي. د دیک چیني په باور د اوباما پریکړه عاقلانه نه ده او خپل ولس ته داسې ښکاروي چې هغه کمزوری دی. دیک چیني بیا وویل چې امریکا باید په نړیواله کچه خپلې ژمني ترسره کړي او اوباما داسې نه کوي. -- دیک چیني بیا وویل، اوباما داسې پریکړه کړې ده لکه ده چې د سپتمیر یولسمه بیخي لیدلې نه وي او یا یې هیره وي. - تاند

Fox News' "Hannity," Exclusive: Dick Cheney says Obama is a 'very weak president' --- Former Vice President on America's standing in the world - More,

Once Again, Dick Cheney Thinks Obama Is 'Weak' --- Former Vice President Dick Cheney reinforced his belief on Wednesday that President Barack Obama is a "weak" commander-in-chief. -- In an interview with Fox News' "Hannity," Cheney hit Obama for announcing his plans to draw down U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He characterized the president as "certainly the weakest" he has seen in his lifetime. -- “He’s prepared to pull out, at this point, all of our capability in Afghanistan and not negotiate a stay behind agreement,” Cheney said. “That’s stupid, unwise and will in fact just reinforce the notion that we’re weak and that we have a president that doesn’t understand his obligations.” -- Those comments mark little change from Cheney's Dec. 2009 views on Obama's foreign policy. In a 90-minute interview with then-CNN host Larry King, Cheney accused Obama of projecting "weakness" by outlining a timetable for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. -- “Here’s a guy without much experience, who campaigned against much of what we put in place ... and who now travels around the world apologizing,” Cheney said at the time. “I think our adversaries — especially when that’s preceded by a deep bow ... — see that as a sign of weakness.” -- Wednesday's "Hannity" appearance marked the second time in as many weeks that Cheney hurled the "w" word in Obama's direction. In a May 18 interview with "Fox News Sunday," Cheney said Russia's actions with Ukraine show how Vladimir Putin is "taking advantage of this opportunity when he thinks we have a weak president to try to restore the old Soviet Union." -- "He's demonstrated repeatedly, I think, that he in fact can be pushed around, if you will, by Putin," Cheney said of Obama. - More, Huffingtonpost,

Thursday, May 29, 2014

As Obama Draws Down, Al Qaeda Grows in Afghanistan --- American forces are headed for the exit in Afghanistan. But new U.S. intelligence assessments say that the terrorist threat there is on the rise. -- As President Obama outlines what he promises to be the end of the war in Afghanistan, new U.S. intelligence assessments are warning that al Qaeda is beginning to re-establish itself there. -- Specifically, the concern for now is that al Qaeda has created a haven in the northeast regions of Kunar and Nuristan and is able to freely operate along Afghanistan’s only major highway—Route One, which connects the airports of Kandahar and Kabul. -- “There is no doubt they have a significant presence in northeast Afghanistan,” Mac Thornberry, the Republican vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a lot of speculation about exact numbers, but again part of the question is what are their numbers going to be and what are there activities going to be when the pressure lets up.” -- If Thornberry’s warnings prove correct, then Obama is faced with two bad choices. He either breaks his promise to end America's longest war or he ends up losing that war by withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan too soon, allowing al Qaeda to re-establish a base of operations in the country from which it launched 9/11. -- For years, the official intelligence community estimate was that a little more than 100 al Qaeda fighters remained in Kunar Province, a foreboding territory of imposing mountains and a local population in the mountains at least that largely agrees with al Qaeda’s ascetic Salafist philosophy. -- But recent estimates from the military and the U.S. intelligence community have determined that al Qaeda’s presence has expanded to nearby Nuristan and that the group coordinates its operations and activities with allies like the Pakistan-based Taliban and Haqqani Network. -- On Tuesday, in response to President Obama’s announcement that he would be leaving 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan past his original end of 2014 deadline for withdrawal, Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also warned about northeast Afghanistan. -- “Even now, an al Qaeda safe haven is emerging in northeastern Afghanistan,” Rogers said. “And I question whether the enemy will take further advantage of the announced timeline to renew its efforts to launch new operations, as we see them attempting in Iraq and Syria today.” --- Stephanie Sanok Kostro, the acting director for homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Daily Beast, “By reducing troop levels to under 10,000 [in Afghanistan], it will certainly create more space for al Qaeda in the north. The north has not seen a lot of attention given ISAF’s focus on the south and southeast of the country. So this has left the north vulnerable to al Qaeda influences and this is only going to get worse.” -- Those concerns are not universally held by Washington’s national security community, however. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, acknowledged the risk of al Qaeda’s re-emergence in Afghanistan, but he said today the threat from al Qaeda was far more worrisome in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. -- “I think there has always been a concern that when we leave Afghanistan that al Qaeda may be able to re-assert itself. While there is some al Qaeda presence remaining in Afghanistan that we should be worried about, there is far more to worry about in Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” he told The Daily Beast. -- Schiff said he thinks al Qaeda in Afghanistan has been “significantly degraded and repressed,” but he added that he did not believe the group’s presence has been “eliminated.” “That’s the reason why the president wants to keep 9,800 troops there,” he said. -- The White House had hinted earlier that it would agree to a much lower number, but in the end Obama agreed to nearly all of the troops requested by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Dunford pressed Obama for 10,000 troops with the hope of an additional contingent of a few thousand NATO forces as well. --- But Obama is nonetheless committed to ending the war by the end of his term. On Tuesday, he said half of the 9,800 troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2015 and those troops that remained would exit the country by the end of 2016. -- Dunford himself has warned publicly that al Qaeda would re-emerge if the White House withdrew all forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. --- For years, the military was content to leave the mountainous Kunar and Nuristan region to insurgents and their Islamist allies. “We made a calculated decision to pull out of the valleys of Kunar and Nuristan and to focus on securing the only meaningful route connecting the mountains to access to the rest of the world which is the Kunar River Valley,” Fred Kagan, an unofficial adviser to three ISAF commanders between 2009 and 2012, told The Daily Beast. -- Kagan served on the assessment group for former ISAF commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, that informed the 2009 counter-insurgency strategy for Afghanistan. That strategy deployed a surge in forces into the country with the goal of pacifying the Taliban and training up the Afghan security forces to the point where they could secure the country without assistance from the U.S. military. -- One U.S. intelligence officer whose focus is Afghanistan said al Qaeda and its allies have already gained access to the Kunar River Valley as U.S. forces began to draw down its presence this year. --- Another concern for the U.S. military and intelligence community is the access al Qaeda now has to Route One, the highway that runs through the provinces south of Kabul that connects the capital city to Kandahar. The U.S. intelligence official said there remains disagreement on the group responsible for a massive truck bomb that was intercepted last fall before it could detonate at its target, Forward Operating Base Goode near Gardez in Paktia Province. “There is a lot of evidence that this was al Qaeda,” this official said. -- Kagan said he was concerned because the military never cleared the provinces south of Kabul of the Haqqani Network and Taliban forces during the surge in 2009 and 2010. “The provinces south of Kabul were never fully cleared of Haqqani and Taliban forces because the president withdrew the surge forces prematurely,” Kagan added. - More, Daily Beast,

Obama defends Afghan pullback, outreach to Syria - Washington Times

Obama defends Afghan pullback, outreach to Syria - Washington Times

John Kerry: U.S. to start $5 billion anti-terrorist fund - Washington Times

John Kerry: U.S. to start $5 billion anti-terrorist fund - Washington Times

Obama signals foreign policy shift but insists: 'America must always lead' --- America should provide global leadership with less recourse to military might in future, Barack Obama announced on Wednesday, proposing a new foreign policy doctrine focused on soft power diplomacy and launching financial grants to fight terrorism through international partnerships instead. -- In a graduation speech to cadets at the US military academy in West Point, New York, the president sought to carve a middle way between the relentless US interventionism of recent decades and a growing isolationist tendency that some fear will leave the world less stable and without a dominant superpower. -- The much-anticipated foreign policy address came after Obama presented a delayed timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan but amid growing criticism from Republicans of foreign policy “weakness” after setbacks in Syria and Ukraine. -- Yet the president rejected the choice between fighting wars or withdrawing from foreign challenges, arguing it was possible for the US to lead through example and by creating international alliances. -- “We have been through a long season of war,” he told the first West Point class to graduate since 9/11 who are unlikely to be sent immediately into combat. -- In future, he said: “US military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” -- The promise of a less aggressive American foreign policy comes despite Obama's increased use of drone assassinations and continued failure to shut the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. -- Between the end of the cold war and 9/11, US presidents intervened militarily every 17 months on average, including Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, but Obama said the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq offered the chance of a new approach. --- “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will,” he said. -- “The question we face ... is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead,” he said. -- In one of the few concrete policy proposals of the speech, Obama gave an example of alternative ways to protect US national security from threats such as terrorism by calling on Congress to support a new $5bn Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund to train and support partner countries in areas such as the Sahel. -- “We must shift our counter-terrorism strategy – drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold,” said Obama. - More, Dan Roberts in Washington, Guardian,

Obama Administration Doesn't Have Formal Cost For New Afghanistan Policy Yet --- WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's proposal to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year was the product of lengthy deliberations. -- The president faced pressure from his military brass to maintain a robust military presence in the country; from his liberal base, to expedite the withdrawal; from his diplomatic corps, to foster good relations with the next Afghan government; and from his own political advisers, eager to dispel the criticism of a scattershot foreign policy. -- But for all the ingredients and deliberation that factored into the new Afghan policy, one major component remains vague: How much will it cost? -- Administration officials don't have an official answer yet. -- "We do not have a formal budget number to provide at this stage," said Caitlin Hayden, an administration spokeswoman, on Tuesday. --- In various interviews, Tony Blinken, the deputy national security adviser, has estimated that the price tag for Afghanistan will be around $20 billion next year. Placed in the context of the cost of the war so far -- one recent study pegged the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at $4 trillion to $6 trillion -- this is a drop in the bucket. -- But at a time when nearly every domestic program is subject to intense penny-pinching, a specific price tag could affect public opinion about the administration's plans to wind down America's presence in Afghanistan in the years ahead. -- Blinken's figure of $20 billion is just an estimate. Last year's request by the Pentagon for the Overseas Contingency Operations, the main source of funds for Afghanistan operations, was $79 billion. The U.S. at the time had 32,000 troops in the country. But just because the number of troops will be roughly 70 percent smaller at this time next year doesn't mean the OCO budget will be proportionally less. -- That assumption, said one administration official with knowledge of the discussions, "is not accurate," noting that OCO funds are used for many things beyond Afghanistan. - More, Huffingtonpost,

Americans Divided Over Obama's Afghanistan Timetable --- Americans are divided over President Barack Obama's plan to pull almost all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, but few want a commitment longer than the one the president has proposed. -- Obama announced Tuesday that he plans a gradual drawdown of troops that would leave about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year, cut that in half by the end of 2015 and remove most remaining troops by the end of 2016. -- Thirty-one percent of Americans in the new poll said the U.S. should stick to that timeline, while 35 percent want to withdraw all troops even sooner. Only 20 percent of Americans, though, said they want a commitment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan "as long it takes to accomplish [U.S.] goals." -- In fact, more Americans (40 percent) think it was a mistake to send troops to Afghanistan in the first place than think it wasn't (36 percent). --- The poll found a partisan divide on that issue. Democrats (46 percent to 30 percent) and independents (40 percent to 32 percent) were more likely to say that sending troops was a mistake, while a majority of Republicans (52 percent to 31 percent) said it was not a mistake. -- Republicans in the poll were also the most likely to say they wanted a more open-ended commitment of troops going forward, with 37 percent of Republicans but only 18 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats saying so. But a majority of each group, including 53 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats, said they support a timetable that removes all troops either by 2016 or sooner. -- Despite the bipartisan majority supporting Obama's drawdown timeline or wanting a shorter one, 47 percent of Americans in the poll said they disapprove of Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan, compared with 35 percent who approve. Republicans (72 percent to 19 percent) and independents (52 percent to 24 percent) mostly said they disapprove of Obama's handling of the issue, while Democrats mostly said they approve (64 percent to 21 percent). - Huffingtonpost,

Harvard awards George H.W. Bush honorary degree --- (CNN) - When Harvard University leaders awarded former President George H.W. Bush an honorary degree Thursday, they made sure to mention his alma mater. -- "It is seldom on this stage that we take the occasion to honor a former member of the cheerleading squad at Yale," Harvard Provost Alan Garber said in light-hearted remarks about the 41st president. -- Bush, sitting on stage, joined the audience as they laughed. Along with cheerleading, Bush played baseball for Yale University, a Ivy League rival of Harvard's, before graduating in 1948. -- He was awarded a doctorate of laws at the commencement event, just two weeks before his 90th birthday on June 12. -- Garber went on to highlight the president's storied career, noting his time not only as president, but as vice president, CIA director, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. congressman and navy pilot in World War II. -- When Garber mentioned that Bush married his wife, the former Barbara Pierce, in 1945, Bush looked out into the audience and excitedly pointed to someone in the crowd, presumably to the former first lady. Garber paused while Bush helped lead the audience in applause. -- The provost also recognized Bush's nonprofit work after the White House. -- "His cap was blue, his house was white, and now his robe is crimson: George H.W. Bush, doctor of laws," Harvard President Drew Faust said as Bush was presented the degree. -- Seven others received honorary degrees from Harvard Thursday, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and music icon Aretha Franklin. -- The former president has multiple other honorary degrees, including from Yale, Hofstra University and Dartmouth College. - CNN's Ashley Killough

Obama hails approaching end of U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan --- Calling the approaching end of America’s combat mission in Afghanistan an “enormous achievement,” President Obama on Wednesday seemed intent on shifting the burden squarely onto the Afghans and putting Washington’s longest war farther in the nation’s rearview mirror. -- “Our reduced presence there allows us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa,” Obama told the graduating class of West Point cadets, the first since Sept. 11, 2001, that is unlikely to see combat in the near future. -- Left largely unmentioned were the myriad goals the United States set out to accomplish in Afghanistan and, to varying degrees, is now quietly abandoning. While the president said future U.S. military engagements should avoid creating more enemies than they eliminate, he neglected to mention the formidable strength of the Afghan insurgency as the United States prepares to downsize from 32,800 troops to 9,800 by the end of the year, and then to nearly none by the time he leaves office. -- A small but consequential cell of al-Qaeda fighters also remains operational in northeastern Afghanistan despite a years-long, dogged effort by the United States to completely dislodge the group founded by Osama bin Laden. -- Al-Qaeda’s relationship with local factions of the Taliban “remains intact and remains an area of concern,” according to the Pentagon’s latest report to Congress on the state of the Afghan war. The report was released last month. The Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban that the Defense Department calls “the most virulent strain of the insurgency,” serves as a “critical enabler” of al-Qaeda, straddling the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. -- Afghan insurgent groups continue to operate with the acquiescence of segments of the Pakistani government, U.S. defense officials say. The prospect of a negotiated settlement to the conflict — something Washington explored by allowing the Taliban to open a political office in Qatar — appears entirely doomed. -- David Sedney, who served as the Pentagon’s top official overseeing policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan until last year, said the Taliban has proved to be a remarkably resilient foe. -- “Their core leadership is just as strong as they were before,” Sedney said in an interview Wednesday. “Their funding has gotten better because they are getting more and more opium profits by seriously taxing every stage.” -- Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion to combat the opium trade and deprive insurgents of drug proceeds, Afghanistan’s poppy industry is thriving, according to the latest assessment of U.S. defense officials, who said in the report that “insurgent penetration of that market is extensive and expanding.” -- The establishment of Afghanistan’s 340,600-strong security forces is arguably the U.S.-led international coalition’s signature achievement. Although they remain stymied by weak logistics systems, nepotism and widespread corruption, the Afghan army and police have in some ways exceeded expectations on the battlefield over the past year. They were instrumental in ensuring a relatively safe voting environment in April during the first round of Afghanistan’s presidential election, which was hailed as a success. - More, Ernesto Londoño, Washingtonpost,

Appointment of deputy heir to throne stirs controversy in Saudi Arabia --- RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — When Saudi Arabia’s elderly king took the unusual step of naming a deputy heir, the move initially was welcomed as a sign of continuity in a country that soon will confront major questions over the future of its leadership. -- But in subsequent weeks, the announcement has stirred a rare outburst of dissent, revealing previously unacknowledged strains within the royal family and casting into doubt prospects for a smooth transition from King Abdullah’s rule. -- The king’s youngest brother, Muqrin, who was named deputy crown prince on the eve of President Obama’s visit in March, appears to be popular among ordinary people, who say he is not corrupt. He also is well-regarded by foreign diplomats, who describe him as likable and smart. -- But behind closed doors, royal tongues have been wagging about the manner in which Muqrin was chosen, the validity of his newly created title and his pedigree as the son of a Yemeni concubine who was never formally married to his father. -- “He is not a real prince; his mother was a slave and there are other brothers who are more competent,” said a former Saudi official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because criticizing the royal family is imprudent. “Nobody believes Muqrin can become king.” -- Some of the dismay has found a public airing on Twitter, which is better known in the Middle East for its role in fomenting social unrest but here also has found a niche as an outlet for disgruntled royals. -- “He was picked for this post because he is easily used,” tweeted an account known as @mutjahidd, which has 1.4 million followers and is thought to belong to a palace insider because its information often is accurate. -- The griping may merely reflect sour grapes among those left out in a looming transfer of power, or perhaps just the increased opportunities afforded by social media for tensions to come to light. - More, Liz Sly, Washingtonpost

دانفورد: روابط نظامی ما با افغانستان پس از ۲۰۱۶ هم ادامه می‌یابد --- در پی اعلام برنامه خروج نیروهای امریکایی از افغانستان توسط باراک اوباما رییس جمهور ایالات متحده، جنرال جوزف دانفورد قومندان عمومی نیروهای بین‌المللی در کشور، می‌گوید که روابط نظامی میان امریکا و افغانستان پس از ۲۰۱۶ نیز ادامه خواهد یافت. او تاکید کرد که ۲۰۱۶ به مفهوم زمان اجرای انتخاب صفر نیست. -- اراک اوباما روز سه ‌شنبه، ۶ جوزا، اعلام کرد که پس از سال ۲۰۱۴ میلادی، ۹۸۰۰ سرباز امریکایی تا اخیر سال ۲۰۱۶ در افغانستان حضور خواهند داشت. آقای اوباما گفت که این نیروها در صورت امضای موافقت‌ نامه امنیتی میان کابل و واشنگتن باقی خواهند ماند. رییس جمهور ایالات متحده گفت که تنها یک هزار سرباز امریکایی پس از سال ۲۰۱۶ به منظور حفاظت از سفارت امریکا باقی خواهند ماند. -- با این‌حال، جنرال جوزف دانفورد می‌گوید که اعلام برنامه خروج نیروهای امریکایی از افغانستان توسط باراک اوباما، از سردرگمی‌ها نجات داد. آقای دانفورد که امروز چهارشنبه، ۷ جوزا، در یک کنفرانس خبری در کابل صحبت می‌کرد، افزود که سال ۲۰۱۶ به مفهوم پایان روابط نظامی میان افغانستان و ایالات متحده امریکا نیست بلکه این روابط پس از ۲۰۱۶ نیز ادامه خواهد یافت. -- قومندان عمومی نیروهای بین‌المللی در کشور گفت که نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان از ظرفیت‌ها و توانایی‌های خوبی برای مقابله با ناامنی‌ها و مبارزه با تروریستان برخوردار شده و این نیروها می‌توانند از عهده مسوولیت‌ها برآیند. جنرال دانفورد گفت که ایالات متحده امریکا به ادامه‌ی همکاری خود با افغانستان متعهد است و در نظر دارد تا اخیر سال ۲۰۱۷ نیروهای هوایی افغانستان را کامل تجهیز کند. به گفته‌ی او، ایالات متحده تصمیم دارد که هشتاد فروند طیاره برای نیروهای هوایی افغانستان آماده و این نیروها را مسلکی سازد. -- جنرال جوزف دانفورد می‌افزاید که طی سال‌های اخیر انکشافات زیادی در افغانستان صورت گرفته و نهادهای دولتی این کشور مسوولیت پذیر و حساب‌ده شده‌اند. -- این اظهارات در حالی بیان می‌شود که هنوز مساله امضای موافقت‌نامه امنیتی میان افغانستان و ایالات متحده امریکا روشن نشده است. امضای این موافقت‌نامه به بعد از انتخابات ریاست جمهوری توسط رییس جمهور جدید موکول شده است. - هشت صبح

Turnout Rises in Egypt, but the Vote Raises Doubts --- CAIRO — Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army field marshal who led last summer’s military takeover, won election as president with more than 90 percent of the vote, according to preliminary tallies Wednesday night. But it was the reported turnout that caught some by surprise. -- Officials said nearly 40 percent of the electorate had cast ballots, an unexpectedly strong showing after days of escalating panic in the government and the news media over the lack of voters at the polls. -- Supporters of Mr. Sisi had counted on a respectable turnout to legitimize his assumption of power after the ouster last summer of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s first fairly elected leader. But Mr. Sisi’s critics say the vote was so marred by irregularities that its outcome, including the turnout, was all but meaningless — except perhaps as the sign of a return to the era when strongmen like Hosni Mubarak won similarly predictable landslides. -- Mr. Sisi’s victory was never in doubt. A severely unbalanced and tightly restricted political process all but guaranteed it, driving away all but one opponent, Hamdeen Sabahi. -- Yet when Egyptians failed to show up in significant numbers for the scheduled two-day election on Monday and Tuesday, the military-backed government showed signs of desperation in its efforts to urge more people to the polls. Finally, as the scheduled two-day vote was about to end Tuesday night, election officials took the extraordinary step of adding a third day to the voting. -- The ultimate total was impossible to confirm independently. Mr. Sabahi abruptly withdrew all his monitors from the polls over the previous night, complaining that many were arrested or assaulted by the police for attempting to keep an eye on the ballots. Their pullout removed the last significant check on potential ballot stuffing. -- Around the same time, the website of the flagship state newspaper abruptly shifted to reporting “heavy turnout” in its banner headline even as private newspapers continued to report the opposite. -- “The state searches for a vote,” Al Masry Al Youm, a privately owned newspaper broadly supportive of Mr. Sisi, declared in its headline. -- “The ballot boxes searching for voters,” declared Al Shorouk, another private paper sympathetic to Mr. Sisi. - More, NYTimes

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sen. John McCain says Obama is telling Taliban: Hang on, were leaving - Washington Times

Sen. John McCain says Obama is telling Taliban: Hang on, were leaving - Washington Times

افغان ها در دو سال گذشته دو میلیارد دالر رشوت داده اند --- سازمان شفافیت افغانستان در یک تحقیق تازه اش نشان می دهد که در این کشور سقف فساد در دو سال گذشته حدود پنجاه در صد افزایش یافته است. فساد بعد از نا امنی مقام دوم را به خود گرفته است. -- در این تحقیق از 8700 نفر در سرتاسر کشور پرسش به عمل آمده است که نزدیک به 81 درصد این افراد پس از نا امنی، فساد را از همه مشکلات دیگر جدی تر می دانند. -- طبق این تحقیق از هر سه نفری که پرسش به عمل آمده است، دو تن آن ها به دلایل مختلف به رشوت دادن مجبور شده اند. -- یما ترابی، رئیس سازمان شفافیت افغانستان، روز چهارشنبه ( 28 می 2014) به مناسبت انتشار این گزارش به خبرنگاران گفت که چهار سال پیش درافغانستان 1.2 میلیارد دالر رشوت داده شده است، اما در دو سال گذشته این رقم به دو میلیارد دالر رسیده است. -- « دو سال پیش سقف رشوت دادن افغان ها 1.2 میلیارد دالر بود، اکنون این سقف به 2 ملیارد دالر بلند رفته است که این سقف فساد بسیار چشم گیر به نظر می رسد». -- آقای ترابی می افزاید که پیش از این، پس از امنیت، فقر وبیکاری معضلات بزرگ شمرده می شدند، اما امروز پس از امنیت فساد دومین مشکل بزرگ محسوب می شود. -- برمبنای این تحقیق، پس از نهاد های عدلی و قضایی بخش های تعلیم وتربیت و صحی نیز به فساد آغشته می باشند. -- « چیزی که جالب و تازه است آن است که درخدمات تعلیم وتربیت به درجه سوم و بخش های صحت عامه به درجه چهارم سقف فساد بلند رفته است». -- سازمان شفافیت افغانستان هردو سال در ارتباط با فساد یک تحقیق انجام می دهد. -- با وجود آن که حکومت افغانستان برای مبارزه علیه فساد یک سلسله ادارات را به وجود آورده است، با این هم دیده می شود که در این کشور سقف فساد روز تا روز بلند تر می رود. -- از نگاه آگاهان فقدان نهاد های ناظر موثر موجب آن شده است که افغانستان در سطح بین المللی یک کشور فاسد شناخته شود. -- عاشق الله یعقوب یک آگاه این مسائل در ارتباط با این موضوع به دویچه وله گفت که حکومت افغانستان برای از بین بردن فساد اراده سیاسی قوی ندارد. -- « در حکومت این اراده وجود ندارد که آن ها به طور واقعی ریشه فساد را برکنند. یک عامل دیگر آن این نیز هست که هرگاه حکومت اراده مبارزه با فساد را هم داشته باشد، قدرت آن را ندارد، زیرا در حکومت گروه های بسیار قدرتمندی هستند که خود در فساد دخیل اند». -- افزایش فساد اداری در افغانستان عوامل دیگری نیز دارد که مهمترین آن ها نا امنی، فقر و فرهنگ معافیت از قانون شمرده می شوند. -- صدای آلمان

Afghans anxious over Obama plan to end troop presence by 2016 --- KABUL, Afghanistan — For Americans, President Obama’s announcement of a rapid military drawdown in Afghanistan, due to conclude in 2016, means an end to the United States’ longest war. -- For Afghans, including those fighting the Taliban, it means they will soon lose their greatest asset: a U.S. military that has poured money and manpower into a war that is far from over. They knew that the support would fade but not that it would happen so quickly. -- For years, men and women here have been assured that the United States and its allies had a long-term interest in Afghanistan. That assurance came in capital-letter terms from military and diplomatic leaders. They were promised an Enduring Presence, a Strategic Partnership, and a Decade of Transformation, which was supposed to begin in 2015. -- But the lifeblood of those commitments was never articulated, leaving Afghans to posit questions to one another: How many U.S. troops would stay? How much financial assistance would endure? -- Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S. mission would end in 2016 revealed the disjunction between the White House’s plans and the hopes of many here. -- A bilateral security agreement crafted by top U.S. officials and released to the public last year outlined an American military mission that could remain active “until the end of 2024 and beyond.” -- Although that agreement has yet to be signed, many Afghans interpreted it to mean that the United States would maintain a troop presence here until at least 2024. And if the troops were here, their financial pipeline would remain intact, too. -- “That was the general perception,” said Najib Mahmood, a professor of political science at Kabul University. “But if Americans leave in 2016, we will be in full crisis.” -- Many here worry that the two-year drawdown could mean the loss of some foreign aid, with the U.S. Congress reluctant to approve funding if no troops remain in Afghanistan to monitor how the money is being spent. -- Others worry that the end of the U.S. counterterrorism mission here could lead to a resurgence in hardened militants, particularly in Afghanistan’s rugged east. As U.S. troops draw down from 9,800 in early 2015, it is likely that the counterterrorism effort will end long before the overall mission concludes, lacking sufficient troop strength to conduct those operations. -- The rapid withdrawal also means that American air support — both in terms of combat assistance and medical evacuation — will fade. -- “The Afghan army will not be prepared in terms of quality and quantity,” said one Afghan colonel who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media. “The withdrawal of American forces is risky for Afghanistan.” -- But as Afghans listened to bleak assessments of Obama’s announcement on television and radio, U.S. military officials were quick to argue that the post-2014 mission is a testament to America’s long-term commitment here. -- “I believe that decision was good news for the Afghan people. It eliminates the uncertainty about the future here in Afghanistan, in the region and within the coalition,” said Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. -- Dunford added in a news conference that the two-year mission would give the U.S. military time to “further develop the institutions, the systems and the processes that will allow the Afghan forces to be sustainable.” -- But Afghans wonder what will happen if those institutions and systems remain dangerously undeveloped in 2016, when troops depart. Already, it seems, that date has taken on a grim meaning. -- “Those who have invested in Afghanistan will decide to leave the country, fearing instability will worsen in a couple of years,” said Nahid Ahmadi Farid, a member of parliament. - More, Kevin Sieff, Washingtonpost

In Egypt election, low turnout undercuts Sissi’s goal of sweeping mandate --- CAIRO — Many polling stations were nearly deserted Wednesday on the third day of voting in Egypt’s presidential election, highlighting front-runner Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s lack of a formalized political base and threatening the overwhelming mandate sought by his campaign. -- With turnout figures from Egypt’s election commission unavailable, it remains unclear how many went to the polls. An election official told state media that participation had reached 37 percent Tuesday, but a local election monitoring group and the campaign of opposition candidate Hamdeen Sabahi said the initial turnout was as low as 15 percent. -- It was a dismal showing despite signs that the state machinery tried to boost voter participation. The two-day election, which began Monday, was extended by a day, and banks and state workers were given a public holiday Tuesday. -- Sissi, a former defense minister who has enjoyed unprecedented support since he ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last summer, is still widely expected to win the nation’s highest office. Partial results announced Wednesday showed him with 4.2 million votes compared with 133,548 for Sabahi, the Associated Press reported, after votes from 2,000 polling stations were tallied. -- But because Sissi’s campaign relied largely on his personal popularity and a disparate group of supporters to mobilize voters, there was no unified electoral machine to grant the former army chief the ballots he needed to claim sweeping success. Sissi refused to even release a formal political platform ahead of the vote. -- “What we’re seeing is the manifestations of there not being organized civilian politics in the country,” said Josh Stacher, a professor of Middle East politics at Kent State University. -- Some observers here attributed the dearth of voters at the polls to hot weather, political apathy and an election boycott called by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Morsi’s presidency and is now the prime target of a Sissi-led crackdown. -- But with little campaigning by Sissi, “people feel like they’re not being consulted” about the process, Stacher said Wednesday. “So, in that case, they just won’t go to the polls.” -- After the coup against Morsi, Sissi emerged as an admired strongman whom many here saw as the type of leader Egypt needed to end the political and economic turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising against the Hosni Mubarak government. -- Government and private media, as well as other state organs, lined up behind him as he spearheaded an oppressive security campaign, first against the Muslim Brotherhood and then against dissidents of all stripes. Supporters plastered Sissi’s image on posters, chocolates, T-shirts and more. In that sense, his campaign unofficially started months ago. -- But even supporters acknowledged there was little effort to engage in a coordinated way at the grass-roots level. This is in contrast to the Brotherhood, once the country’s largest and most organized political group. The Brotherhood tapped into its extensive and localized network of charities and social services during the 2012 presidential election, which Morsi won. Its disciplined political rallies targeted members with slick messaging. -- “We expected Sissi’s campaign to be organized like us. But we found ourselves hanging posters alone, holding conferences [with voters] alone,” said Sameh Abdel Hamid, a member of the Salafist Nour party in Alexandria. Nour, a former Brotherhood ally, supported Morsi’s overthrow and says it backs Sissi in this election, seeing him as a candidate capable of ending Egypt’s political instability. -- “We have millions of followers, but Sissi’s core campaign has just a few individuals,” Abdel Hamid said. “No one could see them on the ground.” -- Another constituency Sissi failed to exploit was the voting population linked to the National Democratic Party (NDP), the ruling party under Mubarak. The party was dissolved in the wake of the 2011 revolt, but its former lawmakers maintain influence among tribes and villages across the country — and can still translate that clout into political capital. - More, Erin Cunningham, Washingtonpost

Transcript of President Obama’s Commencement Address at West Point --- Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only, or even primary, component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. --- We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us. And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan. Together with our allies, America struck huge blows against Al Qaeda core and pushed back against an insurgency that threatened to overrun the country. -- But sustaining this progress depends on the ability of Afghans to do the job. And that’s why we trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police. Earlier this spring, those forces — those Afghan forces — secured an election in which Afghans voted for the first democratic transfer of power in their history. And at the end of this year, a new Afghan president will be in office, and America’s combat mission will be over. -- Now — (applause) — that was an enormous achievement made because of America’s armed forces. But as we move to a train-and-advise mission in Afghanistan, our reduced presence there allows us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa. So earlier this year I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel. -- Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new counterterrorism partnerships fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity and facilitate partner countries on the front lines. And these resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who’ve gone on the offensive against Al Qaeda, supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia, working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya and facilitating French operations in Mali. --- Now, ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty. We have to be prepared for the worst, prepared for every contingency, but American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be — a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters, where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in the direction of justice. And we cannot do that without you. -- More, - Following is the full text as delivered of President Obama’s commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point. -- NYTimes,

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WSJ - Obama Details Plan for Forces in Afghanistan --- WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama announced plans to keep a robust U.S. force in Afghanistan next year but then withdraw it by the end of 2016, as he prepared a major address Wednesday aimed at recalibrating American foreign policy and countering criticism that U.S. power has waned under his watch. -- As part of that effort, officials said Mr. Obama is close to approving, for the first time, a military training program for the armed Syrian opposition, in a reflection of growing criticism that the U.S. hasn't done enough to help moderate rebels counter the Assad regime and challenge the growing strength of al-Qaeda-linked militants. -- U.S. officials said the ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, which would remove most U.S. forces by the time Mr. Obama leaves office, will give the U.S. more flexibility to respond to growing terrorism threats from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa. It also is meant to promise a war-weary public that the 13-year-old conflict will end, while hoping to show anxious allies that America isn't abandoning them. --- Mr. Obama's West Point commencement speech on Wednesday will advocate for substituting the use of American military might with other types of U.S. power, including diplomacy and economic pressure, while still reserving the option to use force. The address begins a new effort by the White House to define Mr. Obama's foreign and national security policy, after critics have seized on his reluctance to intervene in the Syrian civil war and on his limited response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressiveness in Ukraine. -- Mr. Obama will follow up with a speech in Poland next week about U.S. engagement in Europe. In Normandy, he'll put current American leadership in a historical context, administration officials say. -- Mr. Obama's decision to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan next year adhered closely to the recommendations of his top military advisers and commanders in Afghanistan, who warned the White House that leaving fewer troops would make it difficult for them to secure bases outside of the capital. -- Other powerful voices within the administration, including Vice President Joe Biden, had urged Mr. Obama to pull all but a few thousand troops out of Afghanistan at the end of this year and to restrict their activities to conducting counterterrorism missions against the remnants of al Qaeda. -- The U.S. troops initially will be deployed across Afghanistan and tasked with two missions: counterterrorism and conducting training for Afghan forces with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. -- By the end of 2015, the U.S. will withdraw roughly half of the 9,800 troops and consolidate the remaining forces to posts in Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, which is near the capital. -- By the end of 2016, the U.S. will withdrawal virtually all of the remaining troops, leaving behind a limited military presence to oversee security cooperation and to secure the embassy. -- The announcement had clear political overtones for Mr. Obama, who has promised to take the U.S. off a war footing, pulling all troops out of Iraq and now laying the ground for a similar outcome in Afghanistan. The timetable also directs the military to draw down to a normal embassy presence just before he leaves office in January 2017. -- The president's plan for a post-2014 U.S. troop presence still hinges on the next Afghan president signing a bilateral security agreement, or BSA, with the U.S. The two candidates vying to succeed Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who must step down this year, publicly have said they would sign a BSA if elected. - Without a security agreement, Mr. Obama could withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. -- A runoff election is scheduled for June, with the swearing in of the next president expected later this summer. That leaves plenty of time for Mr. Obama and the new Afghan leader to seal an agreement, the senior administration official said. Neither could be reached for comment on the troop details Tuesday. -- Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Karzai Tuesday before his announcement, the White House said. -- He also informed British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of his plans in advance. -- The U.S. is counting on NATO allies and other international partners to send up to a few thousand of their own trainers to Afghanistan to supplement the 9,800 Americans. --- Some lawmakers criticized the withdrawal announcement, pointing to signs that al Qaeda in Afghanistan could pose a bigger threat than the administration seems to believe. -- "I question whether the policy reflected by these numbers and timelines truly confronts the threat we face," said the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan. --- Most Democratic leaders embraced the decision but some complained that Mr. Obama wasn't bringing all U.S. troops in Afghanistan home sooner. Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement that "keeping a residual force of 9,800 in the country after 2014 is not ending the war." -- In Afghanistan, Shukria Barakzai, a lawmaker who is a member of the Afghan Parliament's defense committee, said the announcement of a two-year commitment after 2014 was a blow to Afghan morale. "Two years is not enough," she said. "I believe the announcement today was good news for insurgents, and bad news for the people of Afghanistan." - More,

After seismic elections, EU leaders assess damage -- (Reuters) - European Union leaders, stunned by a big Eurosceptic protest vote in European Parliament elections, agreed on Tuesday to seek a package deal of appointments to top EU jobs with an economic agenda to win back public confidence. -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the 28-nation bloc's most powerful leader, acknowledged that her center-right party's candidate, former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, may not end up heading the executive European Commission. -- British Prime Minister David Cameron, under pressure after the anti-EU UK Independence Party won the European Parliament election in Britain, came to the EU summit in Brussels determined to block the nomination of Juncker, seen in London as an old-style European federalist. -- Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary also voiced reservations and the 28 leaders mandated European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs EU summits, to hold consultations on a slate of candidates for senior positions and a policy agenda for the next European Commission, Merkel told reporters. -- The aim was to wrap up the contentious appointments before the summer break, she said. EU leaders next meet on June 26-27. -- Merkel's center-right European People's Party won the most seats in the 751-member EU legislature but no party has a clear majority. She paid lip service to Juncker's candidacy for the top job but said other outcomes were possible. -- "As a member of the EPP, I supported Jean-Claude Juncker as our candidate for the presidency of the European Commission and I haven't forgotten that. But I still have to respect the treaty," she told a news conference, rebuffing questions from German reporters about breaking her word to voters. -- The Lisbon treaty governing the EU says leaders have to "take into account" the election results but does not specify that they have to nominate the so-called "Spitzenkandidat" of the biggest party as Commission president. -- Asked whether she was willing to outvote Cameron, she said it was important to preserve the good working atmosphere of the European Council of EU leaders, especially in times of crisis. -- With far-right, anti-EU parties sweeping to unprecedented victories in France, Britain and Denmark and populists gaining ground elsewhere, the leaders faced tough questions about the future direction of European integration. -- Drawing initial lessons from a bruising election, which handed a quarter of all parliament seats to Eurosceptic or protest parties, several leaders said they would seek ways to reorient the EU's work to make it more relevant to citizens. -- "The first thing we have to do is to formulate an answer," said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose liberal party came fourth, one place behind the anti-Islam Freedom Party, in the Netherlands. -- "As far as I'm concerned, that answer contains fewer rules and less fuss from Europe, and focusing Europe on where it can add value to things," he said. -- Cameron, whose Conservatives were beaten into third place behind the triumphant UKIP and the Labour opposition, said the EU needed to reform itself radically, -- "The European Union cannot just shrug off these results and carry on as before," he said. "We need change. We need an approach that recognizes that Europe should concentrate on what matters, on growth and jobs, and not try to do so much." -- Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi all focused on reviving the economy, but it remains to be seen if they can find common ground on how. - More,

کميسيون انتخابات خواهان برکناری مقامات حکومتی متهم به تقلب در انتخابات شد --- کميسيون مستقل انتخابات هشدار داد که اگر مقام های حکومتی متهم به تخطی و یا تقلب در انتخابات، تا دو روز دیگر برکنار نشوند، نام این افراد افشا خواهد شد. -- محمد یوسف نورستانی رئیس کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات، این موضوع را روز سه شنبه طى نشست خبری در کابل بیان کرد. -- وی گفت که این فهرست که شامل مقام های دولتی در سطح والى، قوماندانان امنيه و شاروال می باشد، در دور نخست انتخابات ریاست جمهوری، مانع از رای مردم به نفع نامزد مورد نظرشان شده اند و یا به نفع یک نامزد مشخص کار کرده اند. -- نورستانی، تعداد این مقام های حکومتی متهم به تخطی از قوانین انتخاباتی و تقلب در انتخابات را مشخص نکرد؛ اما خاطرنشان نمود که کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات، در این زمینه سکوت نخواهد کرد. -- رييس کميسيون مستقل انتخابات که در پایان هشتمين جلسه هماهنگی جندر و انتخابات صحبت می کرد افزود که فهرست نام های این مقامات، به ریاست جمهوری فرستاده شده تا در مورد برکناری آنها فیصله شود. -- وى هشدار داد؛ چنانچه رییس جمهور تا دو روز دیگر در زمینۀ برکناری این افراد تصمیم نگیرد، کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات این فهرست را افشا خواهد کرد. -- نورستانى با بیان اینکه دور نخست انتخابات با کمى وکاستى هایی دربخش هاى مختلف همراه بود، تاکید کرد که با توجه به آمادگى هایی که گرفته شده، دور دوم انتخابات به دور از تقلب وجنجال خواهدبود. -- ضياءالحق امرخيل رييس دارالانشاى کميسيون مستقل انتخابات نيزگفت که براى عدم تکرار مشکلاتی که در دور اول انتخابات(١٦حمل) وجود داشت، کميسيون متعهد است تا دور دوم انتخابات را بهتر از دور اول برگزارنمايد. -- وى افزود که زنان به عنوان نیمی از نفوس کشور، می توانند در برگزارى بهتر انتخابات وانتخاب زعيم خود نقش برجسته ای داشته باشند. -- به گفته امرخیل، باوجود مشکلات امنيتى واقليمى که در دور اول انتخابات وجود داشت، ٣٦ درصد از اشتراک کنندگان زنان بودند و حضور این تعداد زنان، درتاريخ کشور بى سابقه بود. -- رييس دارالانشاى کميسيون مستقل انتخابات گفت: "این کمیسیون متعهداست تا سهولتى را که زنان به آن نياز داشته باشند، فراهم بسازد و تلاش می شود براى محلات زنانه؛ کارمندان زن مقرر گردد." -- وی ابراز امیدواری کرد که زنان با شرکت گسترده تر در دور دوم، حضور شان را تا ٥٠درصد برسانند. - آژانس خبری پژواک

Obama: It's not America's responsibility to make Afghanistan a perfect place --- President Barack Obama announces that US troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2016, but warns the country will not be "a perfect place" -- US forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Barack Obama said Tuesday, unveiling a plan to end America's longest war 15 years after the September 11 attacks. -- Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama confirmed that the 32,000-strong US deployment in Afghanistan would be scaled back to around 9,800 by the start of 2015. -- As he announced the end of US involvement in a conflict which has claimed the lives of more than 2,300 US personnel, Obama said future security would hinge on the Afghans themselves. -- "We have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place," he said. "And it is not America's responsibility to make it one. The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans." -- US combat operations would draw to a close at the end of 2014, meaning US troops would no longer patrol Afghan cities, towns or valleys from next year, Obama said. - More, Telegraph,

The Post’s View: President Obama continues his retreat from Afghanistan --- YOU CAN’T fault President Obama for inconsistency. After winning election in 2008, he reduced the U.S. military presence in Iraq to zero. After helping to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, he made sure no U.S. forces would remain. He has steadfastly stayed aloof, except rhetorically, from the conflict in Syria. And on Tuesday he promised to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. -- The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama’s previous choices proved out. But what’s remarkable is that the results also have been consistent — consistently bad. Iraq has slid into something close to civil war, with al-Qaeda retaking territory that U.S. Marines once died to liberate. In Syria, al-Qaeda has carved out safe zones that senior U.S. officials warn will be used as staging grounds for attacks against Europe and the United States. Libya is falling apart, with Islamists, secularists, military and other factions battling for control. -- We hope Afghanistan can avoid that fate. But the last time the United States cut and ran from there, after the Soviet Union withdrew, the result was the Taliban takeover, al-Qaeda’s safe havens and, eventually, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, after which everyone said, well, we won’t make that mistake again. -- Mr. Obama said Tuesday that, assuming Afghanistan’s new president signs a basing agreement, the United States will keep 9,800 troops in the country next year for training and counterterrorism. This is fewer than ideal but better than the immediate “zero option” favored by some of his aides, and it will pave the way for allies to participate, too. But Mr. Obama also said the U.S. presence will shrink by half in 2015 and to zero by the time he leaves office. --- For years the United States promised to be a partner to a democratic Afghanistan, to help ensure that girls can keep going to school and to lock in the gains that have been won at such a high price by U.S. and other NATO troops. Mr. Obama’s implicit message Tuesday was: “Not so much.” If al-Qaeda can wait out the United States, it may get another chance. If Afghans have thrown their lot in with the Americans, they will be left on their own. -- Why commit to the zero option now? An administration official, speaking to reporters on the condition that he not be named, said it’s “necessary for planning purposes . . . for everybody to have predictability.” Given the small number of troops involved, that’s not persuasive. It may be, a year from now, that reducing the troops by half or even withdrawing them all seems a wise and prudent option. But why not examine conditions then and make a decision based on facts? Instead, an administration that faulted its predecessor for being ideological seems to have substituted ideology for reality-based foreign policy. -- “Ending wars.” “Nation-building at home.” The “pivot to Asia.” These are popular and attractive slogans, and they make a lot of sense in the abstract. But they don’t necessarily bring peace to a dangerous world, and a president can’t always safely choose which dangers he would rather confront. - Editorial Board, Washingtonpost

Author Anand Gopal: Afghanistan Is Not Much Better Off Than It Was In 2001 --- The scheduled departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year begs the question whether the country is better off than it was in 2001? According to acclaimed journalist and author Anand Gopal, the answer differs from region to region in the war-torn country. -- Gopal joined HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski to talk about his most recent book "No Good Men Among The Living." When asked what economic state Afghanistan is in today, Gopal said there are stark difference between urban and rural areas in the country, the latter of which has been hit the hardest by the war. -- "It’s a society in which, as an Afghan, you run the risk of hitting roadside bombs, of night raids, of drones, of airstrikes, of war lords and commanders who operate with impunity," Gopal said. "Women still aren’t really able to leave the house in those areas. [They] still don’t really have access to education in those areas." -- He added, "Some people will talk about how Afghanistan has improved but they’re really just talking about the cities. In the countryside where the war has been fought, it’s really not that much better than it was in 2001." -- Watch the full HuffPost Live segment with Anand Gopal below: - HuffPost Live | By Kira Brekke,

مقامات کنر: ۳۰۰ موشک از خاک پاکستان به افغانستان پرتاب شد --- مقامات ولایت مرزی کنر در شرق افغانستان می‌گویند که در دو روز گذشته بیش از سیصد موشک از خاک پاکستان به مناطق مرزی این ولایت شلیک شده‌است. -- عبدالحبیب سیدخیل، فرمانده پلیس کنر گفت که این موشک‌ها به ولسوالی‌های شیگل و دانگام فرود آمده که باعث زخمی شدن چهارده نفر و کشته شدن یک نفر شده‌است. -- به گفته او، این موشک پرانی سبب شده بیست خانواده، خانه خود را در ولسوالی شیگل ترک کنند. -- آقای سیدخیل برای بررسی بیشتر اوضاع، امروز به ولسوالی دانگام سفر کرده‌است. -- مقامات ولایت کنر می‌گویند از وزارت داخله/کشور و وزارت خارجه خواسته‌اند که برای قطع فوری این راکت پرانی‌ها دست به کار شوند. -- در دو سال گذشته مقام‌های دولت افغانستان بارها از شلیک موشک‌های مشابه به ولایت شرقی این کشور و از جمله کنر گزارش داده‌اند که به گفته آنها از پاکستان شلیک می‌شوند. -- مقامات پاکستانی در مواردی شلیک این موشک‌ها را تایید کرده و گفته‌اند که نیروهای امنیتی پاکستان در جنگ با طالبان در مناطق مرزی دست به عملیات توپخانه‌ای می‌زنند که گاهی ممکن است برخی از گلوله‌ها از هدف منحرف شوند، ولی درباره این ادعای اخیر فرمانده پلیس کنر اظهار نظری نکرده‌اند. -- موشک پرانی های پاکستان در روزهای نزدیک به انتخابات ریاست جمهوری افغانستان نیز شدت یافته بود. اکنون نیز هفده روز دیگر تا برگزاری دور دوم این انتخابات باقی مانده‌است. -- همچنین این رویداد در حالی رخ می‌دهد که حامد کرزی رئیس جمهوری افغانستان گفته است لشکر طیبه از گروه‌های مسلح غیرقانونی در پاکستان، در حمله به کنسولگری هند در شهر هرات دست داشته است. -- دست کم سه فرد مسلح روز جمعه دوم جوزا/خرداد به ساختمان کنسولگری هند در هرات حمله کردند. در پایان این رویداد تمام حمله‌کنندگان کشته شدند. گفته می‌شود که چهار پلیس در این حمله زخمی شدند. - BBC

US to keep 9,800 Afghanistan troops after 2014 --- The US will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the US concludes its combat mission at the end of this year, President Barack Obama has said.-- Under the plan he announced at the White House, the US will then gradually withdraw troops until only a small residual force remains after 2016. -- The remaining troops would guard the US embassy, train Afghan forces and support counter-terrorism operations. -- But the plan depends on the Afghans signing a joint security agreement. -- While current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign such an agreement, the Obama administration appears to be confident either of the two candidates seeking to replace him would do so. -- "This year, we will bring America's longest war to its responsible end," Mr Obama said. --- Mr Obama described the timing for the withdrawal: -- Beginning of 2015: 9,800 troops spread out across Afghanistan -- End of 2015: About half that number, concentrated in Kabul and at nearby Bagram Air Base -- End of 2016: Fewer than 1,000 troops remain to guard the US embassy, train Afghan troops, and a "security assistance component" -- "We will no longer patrol Afghan cities and towns, mountains or valleys," Mr Obama said. "That is a task for the Afghan people." -- The troop numbers Mr Obama announced are largely in line with what military commanders have sought. His announcement indicates the longest war in American history - launched by President George W Bush following the 11 September 2001 al-Qaeda attacks - will end by the time he leaves office. - More, BBC,

U.S. Will Complete Afghan Pullout by End of 2016, Obama to Say --- WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, a rapid drawdown that will end more than a decade of American military engagement in the country where the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were incubated. -- Under the plan, which Mr. Obama is set to announce in the Rose Garden on Tuesday afternoon, the United States would leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but reduce that number by roughly half in 2015, according to the official. By the end of 2016, the United States would be down to “a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul,” similar to what now remains in Iraq. -- All of these deployments hinge on the United States’ signing a security agreement with Afghanistan, which the administration has not yet been able to do. -- “We will only sustain a military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Both Afghan presidential candidates recently reiterated their intentions to sign the agreement quickly if elected.” -- During a surprise visit Sunday to troops at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, Mr. Obama said he hoped for some kind of residual American presence. But the new timetable indicates that the president is still determined to wind down the war swiftly and shift America’s resources to fighting a growing terrorism threat in the Middle East and North Africa. -- Mr. Obama is expected to offer a detailed foreign policy blueprint on Wednesday in a commencement speech at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., the same setting where he announced a troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009, pushing the total number of American troops past 100,000. -- There are currently about 32,000 American troops in the country, and military commanders had recommended leaving at least 10,000 after the formal end of the combat mission in 2014. The troops that remain will train Afghan security forces and support counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda, the official said. But from 2015 onward, they would be consolidated at the Bagram base and in Kabul. -- The American troops will be supplemented by those of NATO countries, but the alliance members are likely to follow the American lead in withdrawing from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. That would leave Afghanistan’s security largely in the hands of the Afghans. -- “I think it’s ambitious,” said Michèle A. Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy during Mr. Obama’s first term. “If all goes extremely well, it’s something that might be manageable, but I think that the truth is, the implementation of this will be informed by how events on the ground evolve.” -- A senior American official said the residual force would include trainers and Special Operations forces to fight the remaining Qaeda loyalists, most of whom are believed to be scattered in the mountains and remote districts of eastern Afghanistan. -- With both Afghan presidential candidates, who will face each other in a runoff, having pledged to sign a security deal with the United States, the official said the administration was now comfortable announcing a troop number. Officials had previously wanted to wait until the security deal was signed before making any announcement. -- The 9,800 troops left behind is a larger number than some in the administration had wanted, but the sharp decline in American combat deaths this year removed some of the pressure to bring the troops out faster. -- The new drawdown proposal also is receiving criticism from those who are concerned by the pace of the troop removal and the size of the residual force. -- Jack Keane, the retired Army general who served as vice chief of staff of the Army during the Bush administration, said the withdrawal schedule projected by Mr. Obama was too fast and too rigid. General Keane said that 9,800 American troops “is absolutely the bare minimum to get the job done” and that twice that number was what was required. -- The rapid shrinkage and consolidation of the force in Kabul and Bagram, he said, would make it harder for the United States to carry out counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and buttress the Afghan’s military effort. Any withdrawal, he said, should be based on the conditions on the ground and not rigid dates. -- “Just arbitrarily pulling those forces out absolutely risks successful completion of the mission,” he said. - More, MARK LANDLER, NYTimes,

Obama to leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, senior official says --- President Obama has decided to leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for one year beyond the withdrawal of combat forces in December, according to a senior administration official. -- The troops will include both forces to train and advise Afghanistan’s military and a separate group of Special Operations forces to continue counterterrorism missions against what the official called “the remnants of al-Qaeda.” -- The decision, to be formally announced Tuesday afternoon by Obama, is contingent upon Afghanistan’s new president signing a bilateral security agreement that current President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign. The two candidates in a runoff election scheduled for June 14 have both said they will sign the accord. -- The 9,800 troops will be based at various locations in Afghanistan until the end of 2015, after which the force will be reduced by roughly half and consolidated in Kabul and at the Bagram airfield north of the capital. -- At the end of 2016, most of those remaining troops will be withdrawn and the U.S. military presence will be confined to a defense group at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement. -- The decision is close to the recommendation of Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan, who had asked for 10,000-12,000 troops. -- Some of Obama’s national security advisers had proposed eliminating a residual U.S. force altogether when the final combat troops are withdrawn. -- The United States currently has approximately 32,800 troops in Afghanistan. Although both the Pentagon and the State Department have been pressing the White House for a post-2014 decision since late last year, Dunford has internally set September as a final decision deadline. As the drawdown continues over the summer, he plans to reconfigure the current force so that those remaining at the end of the year will fit the training and counterterrorism mission Obama plans to outline. -- Several NATO and non-NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan have said they will leave modest contingents behind for training if the United States decided to do so. Most prominently, Germany is expected to continue operating a base in Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north, and Italy will likely retain its base in Herat, in the west. -- During 2015, Obama’s plan will permit U.S. personnel to travel around the country from bases in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, in addition to Kabul and Bagram. Additional forces were perhaps be based in Jalalabad, near the Pakistan border. -- The relatively robust U.S. presence, and a specific commitment to counterterrorism operations, will leave open the possibility of continuing drone strikes on al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan. There have been no strikes in Pakistan since December, when the administration reached an agreement with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to greatly reduce the attacks. -- The U.S., German and Italian presence in Afghanistan will also allow other U.S. personnel, including from the State Department and the CIA, to remain in Afghanistan in greater numbers, with security for travel. -- Final post-2014 planning at both agencies has been on hold for months awaiting Obama’s decision. Negotiations on the bilateral security agreement were completed last fall, and a series of deadlines were set and ignored while Karzai’s signature was awaited. -- In early spring, the administration ended talks with Karzai over the document, and said it would await a new president. The initial election round in Afghanistan was held in early April and both leading candidates who are now headed for a runoff — Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani — have said they would sign it. -- “We have both made the case” to the White House in recent weeks, a senior State Department official said, “that since they’ve both said they’d sign, you can make the decision now.” -- Word of Obama’s decision was met with skepticism by some, who questioned the limited timespan of the deployment beyond the end of this year. -- “I’m pleased the White House met the military’s request for forces in Afghanistan,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement. -- “However, holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn’t make a lick of sense strategically...We are in Afghanistan because it was the spawning ground of al-Qaeda and the devastating attack on American soil,” McKeon said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks. “Those threats still exist. -- “We leave when the Afghans can manage that threat, rather than on convenient political deadlines that favor poll numbers over our security,” he said. -- In remarks to troops during his surprise visit to Afghanistan this past weekend, Obama said that the United States is drawing its mission there to a “responsible end.” -- “We want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win. And we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used to launch an attack against our country,” Obama said. -- In its latest report to Congress on the Afghan war, the Pentagon said that Afghan security ministries continued to suffer from widespread corruption and nepotism, but it lauded the country’s nascent security forces for preventing insurgents from expanding their territorial reach. -- The United States and other international donors have agreed to spend at least $4 billion a year to support the Afghan security forces between 2015-2017. Afghan security forces currently number 382,000. - More, Karen DeYoung, Washingtonpost

Afghans told to pass anti-money laundering law or face blacklist in June --- (Reuters) - Western countries have told Afghanistan its banks will be put on an international blacklist if it does not pass an anti-money laundering law within the next few weeks, the central bank governor told Reuters on Monday. -- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body that sets standards on how countries combat money laundering, is due to decide at its meeting on June 22 on whether to blacklist Afghanistan. -- That would cut Afghan banks off from most international financial institutions, causing a potentially devastating impact on the country's already weak economy. -- Afghan banks were dealt another blow last week when Chinese banks halted dollar transactions with most Afghan banks without warning, making it difficult for businesses to pay for imports. -- "We will wait and see what the parliament will come up with," central bank governor Noorullah Delawari told Reuters. -- He said he had hoped Western countries would support Afghanistan's bid to have the blacklist deadline delayed by the regulator because the country's presidential elections are underway. -- This was ruled out by Western ambassadors on Sunday at an emergency meeting with the country's top security advisor, the governor said. -- Western officials say Afghanistan has had plenty of time to meet the deadline and decisions by the regulator cannot be delayed for legal reasons. -- "I strongly encouraged the government to work closely together with parliament in the national interest of avoiding a financial crisis," EU ambassador Franz-Michael Mellbin told Reuters after the meeting, declining to comment on specific details. -- "It can be - and should be done." -- FATF has previously told Afghanistan to pass laws meeting global standards against money laundering and terrorist financing or face the blacklist at its June meeting. -- The central bank has drafted a law but it has been held up by discussions in cabinet for months, leading to some key provisions being removed from the draft. As a result, in its current form even if it is passed, it will not save Afghanistan from the blacklist, the central bank and Western diplomats say. -- It is unclear why some provisions were removed. Diplomats and analysts say it is possible that certain provisions were removed by Afghan officials worried about being targeted by international money-laundering laws. -- Afghan banks have been struggling since FATF put Afghanistan on a dark grey list early this year. They say the move has affected their ability to process transactions such as families sending money to students' abroad. -- Chinese banks were being used as a gateway by Afghan banks to process dollar transactions with other parts of the world. - More,

Monday, May 26, 2014

For Immediate Release - Remarks by the President to the Troops at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan --- Remarks by the President to the Troops at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan -- And can everybody please give it up to Brad Paisley? (Applause.) Now, I want to say this about Brad. First of all, he’s a great supporter of our troops, a great supporter of your families. Two years ago we had him at the White House to perform for troops and military families during the Fourth of July celebration. Him coming here today was not easy. He had just started a tour and he had to juggle a lot of stuff and had to try to figure out how to explain it to people without explaining it to people, and his wife and two young sons, and promoters and agents -- and without going into details, this was a big sacrifice for him. And he did it because he cares so deeply about you. So I'm so grateful to him. -- More, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary,

Technology Firms Press Congress to Tighten Privacy Law --- WASHINGTON — A Reagan-era law that allows the government to read email and cloud-stored data more than six months old without a search warrant is under attack from technology companies, trade associations and lobbying groups, which are pressing Congress to tighten privacy protections. Federal investigators have used the law to view content hosted by third-party providers for civil and criminal lawsuits, in some cases without giving notice to the individual being investigated. -- Nearly 30 years after Congress passed the law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, cloud computing companies are scrambling to reassure their customers, and some clients are taking their business to other countries. -- Ben Young, the general counsel for Peer 1, a web hosting company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said his customers were keeping their business out of the United States because the country “has a serious branding problem.” -- “We’ve enjoyed a competitive advantage in Canada,” he said, “because the public perception in the business community is that American law enforcement has more access to data than in other parts of the world.” -- Places like Germany, Switzerland and Iceland are trading on a reputation of stronger protections for companies, but such safeguards are not universally tighter than those in the United States. “Some countries are stricter on privacy, and some of them are not,” said Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology advocacy group. -- Privacy has been an increasing concern since Edward J. Snowden’s revelations last summer about bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, but an overhaul of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act has failed to break into the national conversation. “Because it’s not sexy,” said Katie McAuliffe, the executive director for digital liberty at Americans for Tax Reform. -- The United States’ image problem has caused “real, tangible harm” for businesses, said Christian Dawson, the chief operating officer at ServInt, a web hosting company based in Reston, Va. “It’s very easy for providers outside the country to say, ‘Hey, move your business offshore into an area that cares more about your privacy.’ They don’t have better laws necessarily, they have a better marketing department.” -- Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google say they will no longer hand over their customers’ data without a search warrant. But smaller web hosting and cloud computing companies may be outmuscled by law enforcement officials as they try to protect their customers, said Ron Yokubaitis, the co-chief executive officer of Data Foundry, a data center company based in Texas. -- “Mostly, they are going to comply because they don’t know their rights or can’t spend the money to resist,” he said. -- A coalition of technology companies, trade associations and lobbying groups, called Digital Due Process, is pushing Congress to bolster privacy rules. Bipartisan bills in the House and the Senate have brought together a hodgepodge of supporters, including liberals and Tea Party favorites. -- Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, co-sponsored the Senate bill. He said in a recent interview that “like most Americans,” he was shocked to find that the 1986 statute was on the books. -- “Almost every American thinks that it is frightening that we have a law that suggests that the government has the right to read your email after only 180 days,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s an easy issue in which to achieve bipartisan compromise and consensus.” -- The bill would require a search warrant for access to electronic communications, with exceptions for some emergency situations. It would also require the government to notify individuals within 10 days that their information was being investigated. However, it does not address rules for location data, like GPS information from an individual’s cellphone. -- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill a year ago, but it has since stalled. One reason is resistance from federal investigating agencies that use subpoenas to gain access to electronic communications in civil cases, particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission. --- “The S.E.C. cannot get a search warrant, so a bill that requires a warrant to obtain emails from an ISP would undermine the S.E.C.'s ability to protect American investors and hold wrongdoers accountable,” said Andrew Ceresney, the director of the Division of Enforcement at the S.E.C., referring to Internet service providers. Instead, the S.E.C. would have to rely on an individual’s voluntary disclosure of digital content. -- But some legal experts, and at least one appeals court, do not find that argument compelling. “The courts say that email on a server somewhere is like email in your virtual home,” said Orin S. Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School. “We wouldn’t say the S.E.C. should have the power to tell your landlord to break into your apartment and get evidence. The same rule should apply.” - More, ELENA SCHNEIDER, NYTimes,®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Home%20Page&pgtype=article

Obama, Honoring the Fallen, Says V.A. Problems Must Be Faced --- WASHINGTON — President Obama, just back from a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan, honored America’s fallen warriors in a solemn Memorial Day ceremony on Monday and acknowledged the need to confront the widening scandal at the nation’s veterans hospitals. -- “As we’ve been reminded in recent days, we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and their families to make sure they get the care and benefits and opportunities that they’ve earned and that they deserve,” Mr. Obama said to a military audience gathered under balmy sunshine in an amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. -- “These Americans have done their duty,” the president said, as the crowd broke out in applause. “They ask nothing more than that our country does ours, now and for decades to come.” -- The embattled secretary of veterans affairs, Eric Shinseki, was among those listening to Mr. Obama. But the president, unlike other officials who spoke before him, did not acknowledge his presence. Last week, Mr. Obama summoned Mr. Shinseki to the Oval Office and threatened to punish anyone found guilty of wrongdoing. -- The president, however, did not say more on Monday about the scandal, in which the hospitals have been accused of doctoring patient records to disguise long waiting times for treatment. Mr. Obama has dispatched his deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, to the agency to investigate. --- Having just returned from a 33-hour trip to Afghanistan — one that included a pep rally with American troops at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, but no meeting with President Hamid Karzai — the president celebrated the end of the 13-year war there. -- “Because of their profound sacrifice and because of the progress they have made, we’re at a pivotal moment: our troops are coming home,” Mr. Obama said, drawing the biggest applause of his speech. “By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end.” -- “Yesterday at Bagram and today at Arlington, we pay tribute to the nearly 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan,” he said. “We will honor them always.” -- On Wednesday, the president will deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Officials said he would lay out a detailed blueprint for American foreign policy in the post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan era. -- On Sunday, speaking to troops in a hangar at Bagram, Mr. Obama said the United States still wanted a long-term security agreement with Afghanistan, a potential sign that he has ruled out withdrawing all American troops after 2014, despite repeated warnings from other administration officials that the United States might do so. - MARK LANDLER, NYTimes

.اوباما: افغانستان کې خپله روانه جګړه پای ته رسوو --- امریکا ولسمشر بارک اوباما افغانستان ته د یوه ناڅاپي سفر پر مهال ژمنه کړې، چې په دغه هېواد کې به خپله روانه جګړه پای ته ورسوي. -- نوموړي په باګرام پوځي اډې کې امریکايي پوځیانو ته د خپلې وینا پر مهال وویل، چې د امریکا جګړه ییز ځواکونه به د ۲۰۱۴ کال تر پایه له افغانستانه ووځي. -- ' په تاسې کې به د ډېرو لپاره دا په افغانستان کې د ګومارنې وروستی پړاو وي. او د روان کال تر پایه به د لېږد بهیر بشپړ شي. افغانان به د خپل امنیت مسولیت پر غاړه واخلي او زموږ جګړه ییز ماموریت به پای ته ورسيږي. په افغانستان کې به د امریکا جګړه په مسولانه ډول پای ته ورسيږي.' -- نوموړي همداراز زیاته کړه، چې د افغانستان د راتلونکي ولسمشر لخوا له امریکا سره د امنیتي سند د لاسلیکېدو په صورت کې به امریکا له دغه هېواد سره خپله ژمنتیا روانه وساتي. -- ښاغلي اوباما په یو ناڅاپي سفر افغانستان ته لاړ او په بګرام کې یې امریکايي ځواکونو ته وینا وکړه. -- ښاغلي اوباما خپله وینا په افغانستان کې د امریکايي ځواکونو له قوماندان جنرال ډانفورد او امریکا د سفیر جیمز کنینګهم نه په مننې پیل کړه. -- ولسمشر بارک اوباما امریکايي ځواکونو ته په وینا کې وویل "زه د دې لپاره دلته راغلی یم چې له تاسو نه مننه وکړم." -- هغه امریکايي ځواکونو ته وویل هغه پوځیان چې دلته په افغانستان کې ماموریت ترسره کوي ښايي په دې ښه پوه نه شي چې په امریکا کې څومره یادېږي. -- ولسمشر اوباما وویل زه د همدې لپاره راغلی یم چې تاسو ته ووایم چې کله خبره ستاسو د ملاتړ شي نو ټول امریکایان ستاسو او ستاسو د کورنیو ملاتړ کوي. -- ولسمشر اوباما وویل دا د امریکايي ځواکونو لپاره د ویاړ خبره ده چې په لومړي ځل افغان امنیتي ځواکونو چې په خبره یې امریکايي ځواکونو روزلي دي د خپل امنیت ساتلو واګي په خپلو لاسونو کې واخیستې. -- هغه وویل زموږ جګړه ییز ماموریت به د روان کال تر پایه پای ته ورسېږي او د ملاتړ په ماموریت به بدل شي. -- د امریکا ولسمشر په نیویارک کې د سپتمبر د یولسمې نیټې د ترهګرو بریدونو په یاد جوړ شوي موزیم یادونه وکړه او امریکايي پوځیانو ته یې وویل "تاسو په دې خاطر دلته راغلي یاست چې د سپتمبر د یولسمې نیټې په څیر د نورو ترهګرو بریدونو مخنیوی شوی وي." -- ښاغلي اوباما افغانستان یو خطرناک ځای وباله امریکايي پوځیانو ته یې په خبرو کې وویل ستاسو د قربانیو او حضور له امله دلته ډېر پرمختګ شوی دی. -- ولسمشر اوباما د بېلګې په توګه د افغانستان د ټاکنو لپاره د خلکو نوم لیکنه یاده او ویې ویل چې له ټولو ګواښونو سره سره افغانانو د رایې اچونې لپاره خپل نومونه ولیکل او رایې یې ورکړې. -- افغانستان ته ولسمشر بارک اوباما په داسې حال کې سفر کوي چې په پام کې ده سبا (دوشنبه د غبرګولي په پنمځه) د هغو امریکايي پوځیانو یاد غونډه جوړه شي چې په افغانستان کې د ماموریت پرمهال وژل شوي دي. -- ولسمشر بارک اوباما وویل سره له دې چې د ۲۰۱۴ کال ترپایه به په افغانستان کې د امریکا پوځي ماموریت پای ته ورسېږي خو امریکا به له افغانستان سره د افغان ځواکونو د روزنې او القاعده شبکې په ځپلو کې همکاره پاتې شي. -- امریکا غواړي چې خپل یو شمېر پوځیان په افغانستان کې د افغان امنیتي ځواکونو د روزنې په موخه له ۲۰۱۴ کال وروسته هم پرېږدي خو دا د افغانستان او امریکا ترمنځ د امنیتي او دفاعي تړون په لاسلیک کېدو پورې اړه لري. -- ولسمشر حامد کرزي تر اوسه د یو لړ دلایلو له امله د دې تړون له لاسلیکولو ډډه کړې. -- ولسمشر بارک اوباما وویل هیله من دی چې دا تړون د افغانستان له نوي ولسمشر سره لاسلیک کړي او په دې توګه له افغانستان سره خپلو همکاریو ته دوام ورکړي. - BBC

Narendra Modi sworn in as Indian prime minister --- Narendra Modi has been sworn in as India's new prime minister in a ceremony in the forecourt of the presidential palace in Delhi. -- Mr Modi took the oath before thousands of guests, including his counterpart from rival Pakistan Nawaz Sharif. -- It is the first time since the two countries won independence in 1947 that a prime minister from one state has attended such a ceremony in the other -- Mr Modi led his BJP party to a landslide win in the recent election. -- The BJP won the biggest victory by any party in India for 30 years, gaining a majority in parliament and trouncing the outgoing Congress Party. --- Senior BJP leader LK Advani, former PM Manmohan Singh, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, several Bollywood actors and India's top industrialists were in attendance as Mr Modi walked up to take the oath as the 15th prime minister of India. -- "I, Narendra Damodardas Modi, swear in the name of God that I will maintain the integrity of India," Mr Modi said in Hindi at the ceremony. -- "I will work without fear, anger or hatred and will do justice to all as per the constitution," he added. --Besides Mr Sharif, other regional leaders attending the ceremony included Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldives' President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. -- The Congress party finished with just 44 of the 543 seats and under 20% of the vote in what was its worst-ever performance. - BBC,

Anti-establishment parties claim big wins in European parliamentary vote --- LONDON — Voters across Europe delivered a stinging rebuke to the political establishment in parliamentary elections Sunday, boosting formerly fringe parties to key wins and giving some of the European Union’s staunchest critics a prominent voice in the body’s future. -- Parties from the center-left and the center-right managed to maintain their majority in the 751-member European Parliament and will continue to hold sway for the next five years. But the strong showing by anti-E.U. parties reflected widespread anger toward mainstream politicians and the appeal of populists at either end of the spectrum, particularly the far right. -- Parties hostile toward the European Union were projected to come out on top in countries including Britain, Denmark, France and Greece. Continent-wide, they could be on pace to double their haul of parliamentary seats compared with the last election, in 2009. -- “The people have spoken loud and clear,” a jubilant Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, told cheering supporters after winning the French vote on a stridently anti-immigration message. “They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by E.U. commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalization and take back the reins of their destiny.” -- At stake in Sunday’s vote was the direction of Europe at a time when it is convalescing after four years of social and economic crisis. -- Although the European Parliament has considerably less power than national governments in determining the direction of the 28-member union, its authority has been growing. --- Among the issues on the agenda for the new Parliament will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a trade deal between the United States and Europe that the Obama administration has made a priority of the president’s second term. Far-left and far-right parties in Europe have been highly critical of the proposed agreement. -- The new Parliament also will have a say in electing Jose Manuel Barroso’s successor as president of the European Commission, the top job in the E.U. -- Results released Sunday night suggested that the center-right faction — the European People’s Party — would win more seats than any other. That would put it in prime position to advance its candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, a senior diplomat from Luxembourg and one of the European Union’s leading elder statesmen. -- But for Juncker to get the job, the center-right is likely to need help from the center-left to overcome opposition on the extremes. -- Despite the considerable stakes, the European campaign was marked by apathy, and turnout matched the record low set five years ago, at 43 percent. -- Mainstream parties struggled to generate enthusiasm with their message of a more closely integrated union bound by common laws and open borders. Instead, the focus of the campaign was on the backlash and fears that integration has perhaps gone further than many Europeans want. - More, Washingtonpost

Chocolate tycoon Poroshenko wins Ukrainian election --- KIEV, UKRAINE — Ukraine handed chocolate tycoon Petro Poro­shenko a commanding victory in its presidential election Sunday, giving the pro-European billionaire a chance to resolve a conflict that has created the greatest tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War. -- The new leader takes the office once held by pro-Kremlin Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after anti-government protests. That revolt led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the rise of a separatist movement in Ukraine’s east and a torrent of violence that increasingly looks like a low-grade civil war. All are massive challenges that will test a longtime politician who has promised to navigate between Russia and the West. -- Poroshenko immediately moved Sunday to paint himself as a conciliator, declaring that his first official act after inauguration would be to visit the heart of the separatist rebellion in the Donets Basin. -- “The first steps of our entire team at the beginning of the presidency will concentrate on ending the war, ending the chaos, ending the disorder and bringing peace to Ukrainian soil, to a united, single Ukraine,” he said at a victory rally Sunday. “Our decisive actions will bring this result fairly quickly.” -- He has also said he wants to lead Ukraine to closer ties with the European Union. -- But with violence preventing many citizens in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine from voting, it remained far from clear how much people there would accept Poroshenko’s mandate. Separatists in the region had vowed to disrupt the vote, and they largely succeeded Sunday, with many polling stations shuttered, ballots stolen, and election officials threatened and even kidnapped. Citizens in eastern Ukraine have long been skeptical of centralized power in Kiev, and many voted May 11 in a separatist-organized referendum in favor of autonomy. -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said a day before Ukraine voted that Russia would “cooperate with the authorities that will come to power as a result of the election,” but he added that he continued to consider Yanukovich the legitimate president of the country. -- Exit polls released immediately after balloting ended showed Poroshenko taking more than 55 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff that would have left Ukraine without an elected leader for three more weeks. His closest rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whom polls indicated garnered 12 to 13 percent, conceded. Official results will be announced Monday. -- Two far-right nationalist candidates appeared to do poorly. Oleg Tyagnibok of the Svoboda party and Dmitry Yarosh of the Right Sector party each received roughly 1 percent of the vote, according to the exit polls. - More, Washingtonpost

افغانستان: شنود مکالمات تلفنی افغانها از سوی آمریکا نقض حاکمیت ملی است --- اعضای هیات دولت افغانستان در جلسه امروز خود به گزارش‌های منتشر شده در رابطه با شنود مکالمات تلفنی شهروندان این کشور توسط آمریکا واکنش نشان داده و آن را نقض صریح حاکمیت ملی این کشور و نقض حقوق بشری و شهروندی افغان‌ها دانسته اند. -- اواخر هفته گذشته، جولیان آسانژ، مدیر سایت افشاگر ویکی‌لیکس، اعلام کرد که افغانستان کشوری است که واشنگتن پست و اینترسپت اخیرا بدون ذکر نام آن گزارش کرده بودند که تقریبا تمامی مکالمات تلفنی در آن، توسط آمریکا شنود می‌شده‌ است. -- آقای آسانژ در اطلاعیه‌ای گفته‌است که واشنگتن پست و اینترسپت به درخواست دولت آمریکا از ذکر نام افغانستان خودداری کرده‌اند. -- امیرزی سنگین، وزیر مخابرات افغانستان، در جلسه امروز هیات دولت این کشور گفت که مکالمات تلفنی شهروندان افغان از طریق دستگاه‌هایی صورت گرفته که توسط نیروهای آمریکایی و بریتانیایی برای استفاده در مبارزه با مواد مخدر در افغانستان نصب شده اند. -- هیات دولت افغانستان همچنین گفته است که این اقدام آمریکایی‌ها در تناقض با توافق‌ دو طرف مبنی بر استفاده فنی از این دستگاه‌ها است و از وزارت‌های داخله/کشور و مخابرات خواسته است تا فعالیت این تاسیسات را "فورا" متوقف کند. -- در این جلسه همچنین از مشاور امنیت ملی افغانستان خواسته شد تا "در رابطه با این فعالیت‌های خلاف قانون، نارضایتی شدید حکومت افغانستان را به جانب ایالات متحده آمریکا ابراز نموده و موضوع را جدا با آنها پی‌گیری نماید." -- سال گذشته نیز روزنامه عرب نیوز، چاپ عربستان سعودی گزارش داده بود که آژانس امنیت ملی آمریکا حدود ۲۲ میلیارد مورد شنود تلفنی در افغانستان انجام داده است. -- در آن زمان امیرزی سنگین، وزیر مخابرات افغانستان به بی‌بی‌سی گفت که هنوز حکومت افغانستان به شواهدی مبنی بر شنود غیر قانونی مکالمات تلفنی شهروندان خود از سوی آمریکا دست نیافته است. -- آقای سنگین گفت که موضوع شنود غیر قانونی یک موضوع جدی است و توقع ما این است که دوستان بین‌المللی به تمام قوانین کشور ما احترام بگذارند و در صورتی که شنود مکالمات برخلاف قانون انجام شده، باید در آینده وعده بدهند که این کار صورت نمی‌گیرد. - BBC

Here is the full transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks to troops Sunday during his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The transcript was released by the White House. -- Now, even as our combat mission ends later this year, I want everybody to know, in this country and across the region, America’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan will endure. With our strategic partnership, we’ll continue to stand with Afghans as they strengthen their institutions, as they build their economy, as they improve their lives — men and women, and boys and girls. --- I’ve made it clear that we’re prepared to continue cooperating with our Afghan partners on two security missions — training and equipping Afghan forces and targeting — counterterrorism targets against al Qaeda. And once Afghanistan has sworn in its new president, I’m hopeful we’ll sign a bilateral security agreement that lets us move forward. And with that bilateral security agreement, assuming it is signed, we can plan for a limited military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Because after all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win. And we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country. - More, WSJ,

As Afghan war draws to a close, Obama looks to reframe foreign policy approach in second term --- BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) -- For much of President Barack Obama's tenure in the White House, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have provided a well-defined framework for his foreign policy philosophy. He ran for the White House pledging to bring the conflicts to a close and promised the American people that he would seek to avoid unnecessary war. --- But as the second of those two wars winds down, Obama finds himself struggling to articulate what role he sees the U.S. playing on the world stage for the remainder of his second term. The ongoing conflict in Syria and Russia's threatening moves have also raised questions about how the U.S. can credibly threaten consequences against international foes when Obama so clearly wants to stay out of another large-scale military endeavor. -- The president's surprise trip to Afghanistan Sunday marked the start of a concerted White House effort that aims to answer some of those questions. Even as Obama heralded a drawdown of U.S. forces that will bring the war to "a responsible end" later this year, he said it was likely that a small contingent of U.S. forces would stay behind for counterterrorism missions, as well as to train Afghan security forces. -- "Because after all the sacrifices we've made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win and we're going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country," Obama said during remarks to hundreds of U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field, the main American base in Afghanistan. -- The president is expected to fill in details of his post-2014 Afghanistan plan during a commencement address Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Pentagon has been pressing for Obama to keep up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, though the White House also has been evaluating options that call for fewer forces. -- Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the Afghan drawdown, which follows the conclusion of the Iraq war in 2011, marks a "turning point" for Obama's foreign policy agenda. -- "Our foreign policy is going to look a lot different going forward than it did in the last decade when Iraq and Afghanistan really dominated the discussion," Rhodes told reporters traveling with Obama to Afghanistan. -- Yet it remains unclear exactly how a revamped foreign policy will take shape. Officials say Obama will continue to take a proactive approach to light-footprint counterterrorism operations the U.S. can undertake on its own, including drone strikes in places like Pakistan and Yemen. But he's also expected to emphasize his desire to have some measure of international consensus when large-scale military options are on the table. -- Obama's critics argue that his approach is too cautious and leaves the U.S. beholden to allies who are sometimes less willing to engage. The debate over launching a military strike on Syria last year shifted in part because British Parliament voted down the use of force, leaving the U.S. with few partners backing an attack. Rather than press forward, Obama decided to seek congressional approval, then signed on to a Russian effort to strip Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles. -- The president's opponents contend that Obama's Syria indecision not only emboldened Russia as it annexed Crimea and eyes more Ukrainian territory, but also China in its land and sea disputes with numerous Asian nations. -- White House officials reject the notion that Obama can only show strength by launching military action and argue that economic sanctions are proving to be a deterrent to Russia. They also cast the chemical weapons agreement with Syrian as a sweeping success, even if it has done little to end a civil war there that has left more than 150,000 people dead. -- White House officials say Obama will also address the U.S. response to those issues during his West Point speech, as well as during an upcoming trip to Europe. - More, AP White House Correspondent,

Sunday, May 25, 2014

اوباما در بگرام: نمی‌گذاریم افغانستان دوباره پایگاه هراس‌افگنی شود --- باراک اوباما رئیس جمهوری ایالات متحده امریکا، در یک سفر از قبل اعلام نشده وارد افغانستان شد و با سربازان امریکایی در پایگاه هوایی بگرام دیدار کرد.آقای اوباما در جمع سربازان امریکایی از «پایان مسوولانه» جنگ در اخیر سال ۲۰۱۴ میلادی در افغانستان خبر داد اما گفت که ایالات متحده نمی‌گذارد افغانستان بار دیگر به پایگاه هراس‌افگنی تبدیل شود.رئیس جمهور ایالات متحده امریکا در این سفر خود اعلام کرد که کشورش به حمایت از نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان و مبارزه با القاعده پس از سال ۲۰۱۴ ادامه می‌دهد. -- باراک اوباما از سربازان امریکایی در افغانستان به عنوان «قهرمانان اصلی» یاد کرد و گفت حضور این نیروها در افغانستان باعث به‌وجود آمدن تغییرات گسترده شده است. آقای اوباما همچنین در مورد امضای موافقت‌نامه امنیتی میان کابل و واشنگتن نیز یاد آوری کرد و افزود که این موافقت‌نامه با رییس جمهور جدید افغانستان امضا خواهد شد. به گفته‌ی رییس جمهور اوباما، با امضای موافقت‌نامه امنیتی چگونگی حضور نیروهای امریکایی پس از سال ۲۰۱۴ مشخص خواهد شد. -- رییس جمهور ایالات متحده افزود که سربازان امریکایی با ترک کردن افغانستان، از خود میراث‌های زیادی بجا خواهند گذاشت. او گفت که حضور این نیروها باعث تغییرات گسترده در افغانستان شده و حضور میلیون‌ها دانش‌آموز در مکاتب، از جمله میراث حضور این نیروهاست. -- باراک اوباما همچنین از فداکاری سربازان امریکایی در افغانستان ستایش کرد و گفت طی بیش از دهه اخیر، نزدیک به نیم میلیون امریکایی با یونیفورم و بدون یونیفور در افغانستان خدمت کرده‌اند. -- رییس جمهور اوباما به انتخابات ریاست جمهوری شانزدهم حمل نیز اشاره کرد و گفت که نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان موفقانه‌ توانستند امنیت این انتخابات را تامین نمایند. او گفت که نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان حالا آمادگی این را دارند تا مسوولیت‌های کامل را به عهده بگیرند. -- باراک اوباما در این سفر پنج ساعته خود در افغانستان، برنامه‌ای برای دیدار با رییس حامد کرزی و دو نامزد انتخابات ریاست جمهوری ۲۴ جوزا نداشت. این سفر در حالی انجام می‌شود که قرار است روز چهارشنبه این هفته، ایالات متحده امریکا سیاست خارجی‌اش در قبال افغانستان و تعداد نیروهای نظامی‌اش که پس از سال ۲۰۱۴ در افغانستان حضور خواهند داشت، اعلام کند. - هشت صبح

Ghani Says Afghanistan Will Face Crisis Without U.S. Pact --- Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, one of two candidates in Afghanistan’s June 14 presidential election runoff, is confident he’ll win and said he’d sign a security pact with the U.S. “within a week” of taking power. -- Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank economist, said in a May 24 interview that he wouldn’t make any changes to the bilateral security agreement with the U.S. that outgoing President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign. He said he’ll send the pact to parliament for approval within a week as well. -- “I was one of the chief negotiators and I know every word and I will not change anything,” Ghani, 64, said at his house in Kabul, referring to the agreement. “Without the BSA, our security sector will face a national crisis.” -- Ghani is challenging Abdullah Abdullah, who won the most votes in the first round on April 5. Both have pledged to sign the pact, which would allow U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond this year and secure billions of dollars in aid money for Asia’s poorest country, which spends nearly half of its budget on security after 13 years of war against the Taliban. -- U.S. President Barack Obama visited Afghanistan last night for the first time in two years, making an unannounced visit with troops during the weekend the U.S. honors members of the armed forces who died in the service of their country. --- Phone Call, Karzai declined to meet with Obama at Bagram Airfield, and said Afghanistan would welcome the U.S. president at the presidential palace, according to a statement from Karzai’s press office. Obama called Karzai from Air Force One on his departure from Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official. -- The $2 billion in revenue Afghanistan generates on its own falls short of the $4.1 billion it will need annually for security from 2015, Ghani said. Before running for president, he led a commission in charge of transferring security operations from the U.S.-led coalition to Afghan forces. -- “There is no alternative source of financing,” Ghani said, referring to the U.S. pact. “Our security forces must be confident that they are being paid, that they are being equipped, that they are being trained.” --- Obama in February asked the Pentagon to prepare plans for withdrawal of all forces by December, while waiting to see if the next Afghan leader will sign the BSA. The U.S. Congress cut Afghanistan’s aid budget by about half to $1.12 billion for 2014. Foreign grants pay for about 50 percent of the government’s expenditures, according to the World Bank. - More, Blooomberg,

Obama calls Karzai, says to conclude security pact with successor --- (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai from Air Force One after departing Afghanistan and said he wants to conclude a security agreement with Karzai's successor, a senior administration official told reporters. -- Obama and Karzai discussed progress that had been made by Afghan security forces, the official said, and the U.S. president promised to inform his Afghan counterpart about his decision on how many U.S. troops will remain in the country after 2014 before making it public. -- Obama is expected to announce that decision soon. -- The call lasted 15 to 20 minutes, the official told reporters traveling on the president's plane. - ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE

Pope calls for religious tolerance in visit to the Middle East --- AMMAN, Jordan — On the first day of The pope heads to Bethlehem on Sunday.a whirlwind visit to the Holy Land, Pope Francis spoke three times Saturday against the violence “lacerating” Syria and singled out for criticism those supplying and profiting from weapon sales to the embattled country. -- Straying from his prepared remarks, the pope told an audience of Syrian refugees: “May God convert those who have projects of war. May he convert weapons manufacturers and traffickers so they become constructors of peace.” -- The pontiff was not more specific. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been provided with weapons by Russia and Iran. The rebels have been supported with arms from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya. The U.S. Congress has approved transfer of “light weapons” to rebels, but a large flow of U.S.-supplied arms has not been reported. -- Francis, whose trip is designed in part to offer solace and support to dwindling Christian populations in the Middle East, praised Jordan for its atmosphere of religious tolerance and its care of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. -- “Such generosity merits appreciation by the international community,” he told Jordan’s King Abdullah II at a greeting ceremony. -- The pope called for a “peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and a just solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” -- Palestinian activists on social media immediately embraced the pope’s use of the term “just” as a sign he understands their position as the weaker power in the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict, which saw the most recent U.S.-brokered peace negotiations end in failure after nine months. -- In his remarks, Abdullah praised Francis for his commitment to bettering relations between Muslims and Christians. The monarch also told him: “Your humanity and wisdom can make a special contribution to easing the crisis of Syrian refugees and the burden on neighboring host countries like Jordan.” -- There are 600,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, as well as 700,000 who are unregistered, officials estimate. The refugee camps are now some of the largest cities in Jordan, and the influx has exacerbated the country’s economic problems. -- Jordanian officials hope that the pope’s trip will encourage tourists and Christian pilgrims to see Jordan as “the other Holy Land” and come for a visit — and leave some money behind. -- The pope called for greater “respect” for the religious freedoms of Christians across the Middle East, a minority whose numbers have shrunk because of sectarian violence and economic hardship. --- In a ceremony at a Catholic church still under construction on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, where Christians believe Jesus Christ was baptized, Francis blessed a group of 50 Iraqi and Syrian refugees who asked the pope to help protect some of the most ancient, and most threatened, communities in Christendom. -- “Pray for our future, blessed father,” Youssef, 38, a Syrian Christian who fled Damascus for Jordan late last year, told the pontiff as he received his blessing. Francis sprinkled the gathering with water from the river and told them, “Christ is with you.” -- The pope heads to Bethlehem on Sunday. - Washingtonpost

White House mistakenly identifies CIA chief in Afghanistan --- The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops. -- The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country. -- The disclosure marked a rare instance in which a CIA officer working overseas had his cover — the secrecy meant to protect his actual identity — pierced by his own government. The only other recent case came under significantly different circumstances, when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq. -- The Post is withholding the name of the CIA officer at the request of Obama administration officials who warned that the officer and his family could be at risk if the name were published. The CIA and the White House declined to comment. -- The CIA officer was one of 15 senior U.S. officials identified as taking part in a military briefing for Obama at Bagram air base, a sprawling military compound north of Kabul. Others included U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the country. -- Their names were included on a list of participants in the briefing provided by U.S. military officials to the White House press office. -- The list was circulated by e-mail to reporters who traveled to Afghanistan with Obama, and disseminated further when it was included in a “pool report,” or summary of the event meant to be shared with other news organizations, including foreign media, not taking part in the trip. -- In this case, the pool report was filed by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson. Wilson said he had copied the list from the e-mail provided by White House press officials and included it in a report that was sent to a distribution list with more than 6,000 recipients. -- Wilson said that after the report was distributed, he noticed the unusual reference to the station chief and asked White House press officials in Afghanistan whether they had intended to include that name. -- Initially, the press office raised no objection, apparently because military officials had provided the list to distribute to news organizations. But senior White House officials realized the mistake and scrambled to issue an updated list without the CIA officer’s name. The mistake, however, already was being noted on Twitter, although without the station chief’s name. -- It is unclear whether the disclosure will force the CIA to pull the officer out of Afghanistan. As the top officer in one of the agency’s largest overseas posts, with hundreds of officers, analysts and other subordinates, the station chief in Kabul probably has been identified to senior Afghan government officials and would not ordinarily take part in clandestine missions beyond the U.S. Embassy compound. -- The identities of at least three CIA station chiefs in Pakistan have been exposed in recent years. In one case, a CIA officer became a target of death threats after his cover was blown, forcing the agency to rush him out of the country. - Greg Miller, Washingtonpost,

Jeb Bush Gives Party Something to Think About --- As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush flew in Ivy League social scientists for daylong seminars with his staff and carved out time for immersive brainstorming sessions he called “think weeks.” -- A voracious reader, he maintains a queue of 25 volumes on his Kindle (George Gilder’s “Knowledge and Power” among them, he said) and routinely sends fan mail to his favorite authors. -- A self-described nerd, he is known to travel with policy journals and send all-hours inquiries to think tanks. (A sample Bush question: What are the top five ways to achieve 4 percent economic growth?) -- As Mr. Bush, 61, weighs whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he is dogged by fears of voter exhaustion with a family name indelibly linked to his older brother, a self-assured Texan who prized instinct over expertise and once acknowledged a lack of interest in slogging through long books. -- But in ways big and small, deliberate or subconscious, the younger Mr. Bush seems to have defined himself as the anti-George W. Bush: an intellectual in search of new ideas, a serial consulter of outsiders who relishes animated debate and a probing manager who eagerly burrows into the bureaucratic details. - More, MICHAEL BARBARO, NYTimes

Here is the full transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks to troops Sunday during his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The transcript was released by the White House. -- More, WSJ,

اوباما: تا آخر امسال تمامی سربازان آمریکایی از افغانستان خارج می‌شوند --- باراک اوباما، رئیس جمهوری آمریکا در سفری غیرمنتظره، شبانه وارد فرودگاه هوایی بگرام در شمال کابل شده است. -- براساس گزارشها او برای نظارت بر روند فعالیت نیروی نظامی آمریکا به افغانستان رفته و برنامه ای برای دیدار با مقامات افغان ندارد. -- آقای اوباما ساعاتی پس از ورودش به پایگاه هوایی بگرام برای نیروهای آمریکایی مستقر در این پایگاه سخنرانی کرد. -- او گفت به اینجا (بگرام) آمده است تا از نیروهای آمریکایی که هزاران فرسنگ دور از آمریکا برای کشور شان خدمت می‌کنند تشکر کند. -- او گفت به اینجا (بگرام) آمده است تا از نیروهای آمریکایی که هزاران فرسنگ دور از آمریکا برای کشور شان خدمت می‌کنند تشکر کند. -- آقای اوباما همچنین از خانواده سربازان آمریکایی در افغانستان تجلیل کرد. -- او گفت: "تا آخر امسال تمام سربازان آمریکایی از افغانستان خارج می شوند و افغان ها خود امنیت کشورشان را در دست می گیرند، ما توانستیم سران القاعده را از افغانستان خارج کنیم و به مناطق قبایلی نشین بفرستیم. با همه مشکلات موجود حالا افغان ها امید بیشتری به آینده کشورشان دارند." -- رئیس جمهوری آمریکا از نیروهای افغان تمجید کرد و گفت در همین انتخابات ریاست جمهوری نیروهای امنیتی از امنیت کشور دفاع کردند و مردم برای رای دادن صف کشیدند. اینها به گفته آقای اوباما نتیجه کار و "فداکاری های" نیروهای آمریکایی هم هست. -- او گفت که حالا دختران افغان به مدارس بازگشته اند. آقای اوباما از نامه یک نماینده زن مجلس افغانستان سخن گفت که به رئیس جمهوری آمریکا نوشته بازگشتن دختران به مدارس بزرگترین دستاورد حضور نیروهای آمریکایی در افغانستان است. -- آقای اوباما گفت: "امیدوارم در نخستین روزهای کاری رئیس جمهوری جدید افغانستان پیمان امنیتی با آمریکا را امضا کند." --- آقای اوباما گفت: "امیدوارم در نخستین روزهای کاری رئیس جمهوری جدید افغانستان پیمان امنیتی با آمریکا را امضا کند." -- اشرف غنی احمدزی و عبدالله عبدالله، که هردو به دور دوم انتخابات راه یافته اند، از قبل اعلام کرده اند که در صورت پیروزی این توافقنامه را امضا خواهند کرد. - BBC

Obama Makes Surprise Visit to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan --- WASHINGTON — President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Sunday to visit American troops there, landing at Bagram Airfield outside the capital, Kabul, for the first time since a visit in 2012 when he signed a strategic partnership agreement with the government there to bring the war to an end. -- The trip was unannounced, and Mr. Obama slipped out of the White House secretly on Saturday evening in advance of what White House officials said would be a Memorial Day rally with the troops. Officials said the president is also expected to get an on-site briefing from his military commanders and visit wounded service members. -- Officials said that Mr. Obama will rally with some of the 32,000 service members who are currently in Afghanistan, many of whom are due to return home at year’s end when the 13-year war is officially brought to an end. -- Brad Paisley, a country music singer, traveled on Air Force One with Mr. Obama to Afghanistan and will perform at the rally on Monday. The president is expected to use the appearance there to offer thanks to the members of the military, but is not expected to make any major policy announcements. -- Instead, Mr. Obama is expected to wait until he returns to the United States to offer his latest foreign policy and national security vision, during a speech that he is scheduled to give at the West Point graduation on Wednesday. --- In 2009, Mr. Obama used a similar setting at West Point to announce a decision to add more troops to the effort in Afghanistan, pushing the total United States presence there past 100,000, while at the same time saying he intended to draw down the effort there over several years. -- Mr. Obama has said that all United States combat troops will have left Afghanistan by the end of this year. But American officials had hoped to leave a small contingent of forces beyond that time for training purposes and to conduct anti terrorism operations. - More, MICHAEL D. SHEAR, NYTimes,

Obama arrives in Afghanistan for surprise visit --- BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — President Obama arrived in Afghanistan Sunday for an unannounced visit to mark Memorial Day with U.S. troops, now in the final months here of America’s longest war, and to begin final discussions over the size of the U.S. force that will remain beyond the end of the year. -- Obama departed from Washington on Saturday night under cover of darkness and arrived at this U.S. base outside Kabul, the capital, under the same secrecy. It is his fourth trip to Afghanistan as president and his first in two years. -- The visit will last only a few hours and end before sunrise. But it comes at a crossroads moment in Afghanistan’s political transition as the long tenure of President Hamid Karzai winds down, as well as for the Obama administration’s post-war strategy, which advisers say he will begin describing publicly in the coming weeks. -- Administration officials said Obama will meet first with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham to receive a battlefield update and discuss the civilian and military resources needed here after this year to continue training Afghan forces and to assist in specific counterterrorism missions. --Obama will begin outlining those plans Wednesday in a scheduled speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he intends to trace the broader shift underway, more than a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, from an American wartime foreign policy to a post-war one. -- “We are at a bit of a turning point in our foreign policy generally,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One. “Our foreign policy is going to be a lot different than it has been over the past decade, and the president will speak to what that transition will mean.” -- A similar transition is underway in Afghanistan, now in the midst of its first democratic transfer of power in the country’s long history. --- Obama will not meet with Karzai, with whom he has had a stormy relationship and is now, for the most part, biding his time until a tenure that has spanned the post-9/11 period ends this summer. The country’s presidential election in April produced two finalists — former Afghan foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and onetime World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani — who are on a runoff ballot scheduled for June 14. -- Rhodes said Obama will be careful not to inject his visit into the runoff campaign, remaining on this base and avoiding discussion of the candidates. -- “We are mindful that we are in the middle of an election season,” Rhodes said. But he added that Obama’s visit is also meant, in part, to assure the Afghan public that “no matter what happens we have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan.” --- Obama and his military command are eager for the election to be resolved. The winner will be asked immediately to sign a security agreement that will help determine how many U.S. forces, now numbering 32,000 troops, will remain in Afghanistan after the end of the year. The number could range as high as 10,000 troops to meet what Rhodes said would be a twin training and counterterrorism mission. -- Karzai confounded Obama last year by refusing to sign the agreement after months of negotiation, saying that such a significant step should be left to his successor. Both Abdullah and Ghani have stated publicly that they intend to do so within days of taking office, probably in July. -- U.S. officials say the agreement must be endorsed as soon as possible to give U.S. military planners time to complete drawdown schedules — including decisions on what bases to close here — and make arrangements for the next phase of the U.S. military presence after nearly 13 years of war. -- “Afghanistan is still a place that’s very violent,” Rhodes said. “We are not going to leave Afghanistan a perfect place.” --- On his return trip to Washington, Obama will stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he also will spend time with troops convalescing in the military hospital there. - More, Scott Wilson, Washingtonpost,

A Russian Strategy for Afghanistan After the Coalition Troop Withdrawal --- Twenty-five years after Soviet troops left the country, Afghanistan is facing another historical crossroads, this time on the eve of the withdrawal of U.S.-led international coalition combat troops, the International Security Assistance Force, scheduled to depart by the end of 2014. The country’s present is unstable, and its future is uncertain—will it develop progressively, or is it bound for chaos and regression, as was the case after the Soviet troop withdrawal? -- Potential threats and risks associated with post-withdrawal Afghanistan are a matter of concern for neighboring countries and the international community. In addition, reduced American military presence and weaker U.S. interest in the country will increase the role other great powers and neighboring nations—mainly Russia and China, as well as Pakistan, Iran, India, and states from both the Gulf and Central Asia—will play in Afghanistan. -- The future stability and development of Afghanistan will affect the interests of the Russian Federation. As coalition troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, Russia should consider a strategy that helps maintain stability in the region but that does not require Moscow to intervene in the domestic disputes that will likely characterize post-withdrawal Afghanistan. --- Afghanistan faces two major milestones in 2014: presidential elections, which took place on April 5, 2014, and the withdrawal of coalition combat troops by the end of the year. -- Presidential elections have not significantly strengthened Afghan statehood or definitively resolved the question of who will control the country. They may, however, help clarify the current ethno-political and clan balance of power in the country. The top brass of the regime may reconfigure itself after President Hamid Karzai leaves office, even if he remains an influential political figure. Essentially, the elections will trigger a power struggle in post-American Afghanistan. -- The question of continued foreign military presence in Afghanistan after coalition combat troops leave remains open. Complete withdrawal of foreign troops, as was done in Iraq, is still possible unless Washington and Kabul reach an agreement on the status of American troops in Afghanistan. However, unlike oil-rich Iraq, one of Afghanistan’s primary sources of income is foreign aid, and a complete troop withdrawal would do away with most of this international assistance. In this case, the onset of large-scale instability in Afghanistan would be quite likely, with internal Afghan conflicts becoming more intense and the country’s political forces radicalizing. -- The retention of a limited U.S. military contingent and continued U.S. support for the Afghan government would therefore help avoid instability and facilitate a softer resolution to the question of the country’s future regime. For Russia, which prioritizes a stable Afghanistan, this would be the most desirable solution, provided that foreign troops remain in the country under a UN Security Council mandate. -- But this may not be a feasible option. The administration in Washington is pursuing an exit strategy in Afghanistan, while the U.S. Congress intends to gradually reduce American aid to Kabul. Still, unexpected negative developments in the region—for instance, in Pakistan—may reverse this trend. -- If U.S. troops leave Afghanistan entirely, the Persian Gulf oil monarchies—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar—could step in as potential sponsors, but instability in the country would likely increase if this were to happen. Such a scenario poses risks to the Russian Federation and to Central Asian countries. -- Afghanistan’s major political and military-political forces will be focusing on the country’s internal affairs, primarily on the question of power. The domestic political and military-political struggle is unlikely to spill over Afghan borders or to cause large-scale hostilities in the north, closest to Russia. And of course there is no chance that the Taliban, should it gain power, would cross the Amu Darya River and invade Central Asia. -- However, destabilization in Afghanistan would probably trigger greater activity on the part of individual radical groups that are directed toward Central Asia, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This development would challenge some of Moscow’s broader interests in the region. --- Russia’s primary concern in Afghanistan is maintaining security in the Afghan–Central Asian region. Moscow seeks to prevent instability in Central Asian countries, some of which—Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan—are its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of post-Soviet states. In addition, Russia has a vested interest in stemming the flow of drugs coming from Afghanistan. -- But while a peaceful, stable, and developing Afghanistan would be in Russia’s interest, Moscow does not have vital stakes in any of the possible Afghan regimes. Thus, it would be dangerous and pointless for Russia to get involved in Afghanistan’s internal power struggle. Moscow can work with any potential leaders in Kabul and maintain ties with any regional or ethnic groups as long as they do not engage in activities directed against the Russian Federation. -- At the moment, Moscow has no significant economic interests in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, if the situation there stabilizes, the Russian Federation might take part in rebuilding the Afghan economy within the framework of international assistance efforts. But the prospects for and potential extent of this sort of aid remain unclear at this time, and it would be inexpedient for Russia to finance the rebuilding effort in Afghanistan on its own. -- Afghanistan does not currently pose a direct military threat to Russia, nor will it pose such a threat in the foreseeable future—even if the Taliban comes to power in Kabul and manages to gain control over the entire Afghan territory, including its northern regions. This is a fairly unlikely scenario. The Taliban’s influence and potential to take and maintain power in Afghanistan are not as great as many people think. The Taliban itself represents a complex sociopolitical group with a number of internal factions and conflicts, and the conservative Afghan society is not generally amenable to religious radicalism. All told, the 1996–2001 Taliban rule was an aberration. -- An unstable Afghanistan does, however, pose indirect risks to Russia’s security, primarily in the form of the drug traffic that originates on Afghan territory and reaches the Russian market through Central Asian countries. In the last decade, this threat has grown enormously. International Security Assistance Forces and U.S. troops essentially neglected the war on drugs, fearing backlash from a significant part of the Afghan population. - More,,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Beyond the Great Game: Towards a National Political Process in Afghanistan Post-2014 --- As the end of the drawdown of international forces approaches in Afghanistan, concerns are mounting about its potential impact on regional stability. By the end of 2014, all Western combat forces will have left the country. Yet despite official rhetoric, twelve years of war and billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan have neither eliminated the country’s insurgency nor dealt effectively with any of the regional irritants that have historically motivated Afghanistan’s neighbors to lend their support to various actors in the conflict. -- Regional involvement in Afghanistan has been pervasive since the end of the 1970s and the Soviet invasion of the country. For more than 30 years, India and Pakistan, in different ways, have projected their fierce rivalry into Afghanistan; Pakistan and Iran have done the same. China, Russia, and a number of states in Central Asia observe the evolution of the US presence in the country and the resurgence of the insurgency with equal anxiety. --- The nature of these rivalries is essentially political and geostrategic. India and Pakistan are not competing in Afghanistan over the country’s resources, but to prevent each other from using Afghanistan as a tool in their respective grand strategies, although there is, of course, a significant difference in the way India and Pakistan have projected these strategies in the last few years. Similarly, although Iran has undoubtedly developed an economic sphere of influence in Afghanistan’s west, it primarily aims at preventing Afghan soil from becoming a launchpad for anti-Iranian attacks. Despite the much-publicised investment of China in the Aynak copper deposit, Beijing’s main motivation seems to be to insulate its Xinjiang province from an Islamist contagion from Afghanistan. -- Yet, despite—or because of—the scale of the regional involvement in Afghanistan, the conflict is unlikely to be resolved through a regional approach alone. Neither bilateral negotiations between the actors involved nor any regional cooperation mechanism will end regional interference in Afghanistan. The Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan, launched in November 2011, or the New Silk Road initiative, can be effective and useful means of promoting cooperation on a wide range of technical and economic issues, but they are unlikely to result in a political settlement in Afghanistan or beyond. --- The level of mistrust between the regional actors is so great that it is impossible to expect them suddenly to abandon their respective games in Afghanistan unless they have striking new incentives to do so of a kind that are not currently on the horizon; such an expectation would be akin to asking them for a conversion to non-interference. Indeed, all past attempts to solve Afghanistan’s problems from the outside have failed. Any future policy based on a regional approach is likely to encounter the same fate unless the Afghan state is strong enough to impose a minimal degree of respect for its sovereignty. -- This paper argues, therefore, that the political consolidation of Afghanistan is the only way to avoid a return to the proxy wars of the 1990s and to preserve regional stability. Only the creation of a sustainable political system capable of resisting outside political interference and pressures can mitigate the risk for the region. Given the current configuration of the regional system and the domestic evolution of the security situation of most regional actors, such political consolidation is a prerequisite to resisting outside interference. -- The paper also argues that a sovereign and relatively stable and potentially neutral Afghanistan, is essential to mitigate the consequences of all pending regional issues. Its alternative—chaos—would deprive regional actors of the possibility of capitalising politically on their eventual gains and would therefore defeat their very purpose. -- As a consequence, a broadly-inclusive Afghan political process is not only acceptable but desirable for all regional actors, without exception. Such a process would include representatives from the government, but also from the opposition operating within the constitution, from civil society, and eventually from the insurgency. It would focus mainly on the definition of a political system better equipped to secure support from a wide range of Afghans than the post-2001 neo-patrimonial system has proved to be. --- This process should be disconnected from regional issues, which should be left to bilateral negotiations between the concerned parties or the existing regional forums. No regional solution, whatever the status of the future Afghanistan and no matter how desirable, will ever be implementable without an Afghan government capable of ensuring respect for its own sovereignty. At the same time, the injection in the Afghan political process of regional issues which are only indirectly linked to Afghanistan would unnecessarily complicate the negotiations and lead to a failure. It is inevitable that Afghanistan, even after the withdrawal is complete this year, and a new president has been elected, will remain an issue will remain an issue for regional security. Equally inevitable is the decline, already perceptible, in international interest in the issue. In these conditions, the United Nations could play a facilitating role. Finally the authors believe that such a process should start immediately after the election to delink it from any immediate electoral stake. -- The paper is divided into three parts. The first examines the likely consequences of the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan and identifies potential scenarios. The second analyses the interests and priorities of the regional actors in post-2014 Afghanistan and the consequences of the latter’s developing objectives and policies. In its final section, the paper proposes a mechanism to avoid the chaos likely to prevail in Afghanistan should events continue on their current trajectory. It advocates a standing ‘inclusive national conference,’ organised under the auspices of the United Nations, and examines its potential roles. -- This paper was originally published by the Australia India Institute. - Frederic Grare, William Maley, Amitabh Mattoo

UN applauds Uruguay's plan to take Syrian refugees --- MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — The United Nations' refugee commission expressed gratitude Wednesday that Uruguay is preparing to provide a new home for 100 children orphaned by Syria's civil war. -- Senior regional UNHCR official Michelle Alfaro said there are more than 2 million Syrian refugees in all, and Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan can't handle them all, so the agency hopes to relocate 30,000 this year. Germany took 5,000 Syrian refugees last year and has agreed to take another 5,000 this year. Brazil has granted humanitarian visas to 2,000. -- President Jose Mujica's offer to take 100 children "is a drop in the ocean, but each effort by each country is very important and welcome," Alfaro said. -- Mujica said the orphans could be housed at first at the presidency's summer retreat, a mansion and riverfront estate surrounded by rolling pastures. -- But Alfaro said the U.N. High Commission for Refugees almost never relocates orphans without their families — each child will have to come with at least one other relative. That means the total number Uruguay eventually accepts still must be worked out, particularly since Mujica's government would be responsible for all their expenses. -- "These children are with an uncle, a brother, a cousin," Alfaro said. --- Foreign Minister Luis Almagro said the first Syrian children could arrive as early as September from camps in the Middle East. -- Alfaro said there are 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, more than 700,000 in Turkey and more than 1 million in Lebanon. "Their situation is dramatic. These countries are overflowing," she said. -- Mujica proposed taking the children several weeks ago, and at first said he would like to consult the Uruguayan people about it. But preparations have advanced without even congressional oversight. Some opposition lawmakers have complained that the ruling Broad Front coalition should worry first about Uruguay's own poor children. -- Some opponents have accused Mujica of angling for the Nobel Peace Prize after his fellow coalition members sent in a nomination. Mujica told The Associated Press recently that he is not interested in that honor and doubted he could be a contender, but added that if he did win, he would use the prize money to build 50 houses for Plan Juntos, his government's subsidized housing program. -- Mujica's wife, Sen. Lucia Topolansky, said the idea for taking in orphans is to "motivate all the countries of the world to take responsibility for this catastrophe" in Syria. - LEONARDO HABERKORN

The World's Most Humble President Just Opened His House to 100 Syrian Refugee Children --- The news: One hundred children orphaned by the Syrian civil war could find a home in Uruguayan President José "Pepe" Mujica's summer retreat, "a mansion and riverfront estate surrounded by rolling pastures," according to Yahoo News. That would be a welcome sight for any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by Syria's political turmoil. -- The children could arrive as early as September, coming from refugee camps in the Middle East. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) does not relocate orphans without a family member; each child would arrive with at least one relative — like an uncle, cousin or sibling. The exact number of children expected at Mujica's summer residence is still being worked out, particularly since the Uruguayan government will be responsible for all of the expenses. -- More than 2 million Syrians have fled the country since the conflict began in 2011. Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have taken in the majority. More than 1 million Syrians have relocated to Lebanon, while 600,000 are in Jordan and 700,000 are in Turkey. Germany and Brazil have granted immigration visas to Syrian refugees, 10,000 from the former and 2,000 from the latter. --- U.S. President Obama's administration has been pretty listless in aiding Syrian refugees. Out of the estimated 2.3 million Syrians displaced, the U.S. only admitted 31 into the country in 2013. That number seems even worse when you take into account the fact that 135,000 Syrians have applied for asylum by January of this year. Most applications were rejected because of strict immigration laws instituted to prevent terrorists from entering the country. -- In February 2014, the Obama administration announced that it would ease up some of the immigration restrictions. According to a statement signed by Secretary of State John Kerry and Jeh Johnson, secretary of homeland security, the U.S. will grant exemptions to Syrian refugees "on a case-by-case basis to the 'material support' bar in U.S. immigration law," reported Reuters. --- Mujica is known as the sandal-wearing, VW Beetle-driving, farm-living "poorest president in the world." He donates most of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity and lives in a one-bedroom home, even though a recent report indicates his assets to be well into the six-figure range - More, PolicyMic,

Real Madrid win Champions League --- Real Madrid defeat city rivals Atletico Madrid to claim a 10th European Cup in extra-time at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. BBC Sport - More,

اتوبوس حامل تیم ملی فوتبال افغانستان در مالدیو تصادف کرد --- گزارش شده که اتوبوس حامل تیم ملی فوتبال افغانستان در راه بازگشت از استادیوم مسابقه امروز میان افغانستان و لائوس در مالدیو تصادف کرده‌است. -- علی عسکر لعلی، مشاور فنی تیم ملی فوتبال افغانستان که از مالدیو با بی‌بی‌سی صحبت می‌کرد گفت که در این حادثه اسلام امیری، مصطفی آزادزوی، آرش هاتفی و فیصل سخی‌زاده بازیکنان تیم افغانستان، یوسف کارگر، سرمربی تیم و سه کارمند اداری تیم زخمی شدند. -- او گفت که جراحات همه اینها سطحی است و وضعیت شان اکنون خوب است. -- آقای لعلی گفت: "در آغاز حادثه مصدومیت بچه‌های ما شدید معلوم می‌شد و مخصوصا نگران وضعیت مصطفی آزادزوی بودیم که شاید از ناحیه کمر آسیب دیده باشد اما عکس کمرش نشان می‌دهد که آسیب ندیده. تنها مچ پایش یک مقدار آسیب دیده." -- قای لعلی گفت که حادثه حدود ۷:۲۰ دقیقه شام به وقت محل و یک و نیم ساعت بعد از پایان مسابقه افغانستان و لائوس رخ داد. -- او گفت: "سرویس (اتوبوس) ما در یک کاروان از موترها/خودروها در حرکت بود و در پیشروی کاروان موترسیکلیت‌های پلیس هم قرار داشت. گفته می‌شود که یکی از موترسیکلیت‌ها با یک موتر تصادف می‌کند. اتوبوس بچه‌های افغان هم از جلو و هم از عقب با دو اتوبوس تصادف کرد." -- آقای لعلی گفت که حادثه امروز بدون تردید بر مسابقه بعدی افغانستان که در مرحله نیمه نهایی در برابر فلسطین برگزار می‌شود، تاثیر خواهد گذاشت. او گفت که مطمین نیست بازیکنان زخمی شده بتوانند در این بازی شرکت کنند. -- ساعاتی پیش تیم افغانستان در چارچوب مسابقات چلنج کاپ آسیا با لائوس روبرو شد و کلیک این مسابقه به تساوی بدون گل رسید. -- افغانستان پس از این بازی به نیمه نهایی چلنج کاپ راه یافت و قرار است روز سه شنبه با فلسطین روبرو شود. -- در همین حال دولت افغانستان نیز به حادثه تصادف اتوبوس حامل تیم ملی فوتبال افغانستان واکنش نشان داده‌است. محمد یونس قانونی، معاون اول رئیس جمهوری افغانستان در صفحه فیسوک رسمی‌اش نوشته که "به وزارت خارجه و فدراسیون فوتبال افغانستان هدایت داده شده تا به کمک تیم فوتبال افغانستان بشتابند." - BBC

Obama to Detail a Broader Foreign Policy Agenda --- WASHINGTON — President Obama, seeking to answer criticism that he has forsaken America’s leadership role, plans to lay out a retooled foreign-policy agenda on Wednesday that could deepen the nation’s involvement in Syria but would still steer clear of major military conflicts. -- In a commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Mr. Obama will seek, yet again, to articulate his view of the proper American response to a cascade of crises, from Syria’s civil war to Russia’s incursions in Ukraine, according to a senior administration official who is helping draft the speech. -- Sketching familiar arguments but on a broader canvas, Mr. Obama will emphasize his determination to chart a middle course between isolationism and military intervention. The United States, he said, should be at the fulcrum of efforts to curb aggression by Russia and China, though not at the price of “fighting in eight or nine proxy wars.” -- “It’s a case for interventionism but not overreach,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said in an interview. “We are leading, we are the only country that leads, but that leadership has to be in service of an international system.” -- Mr. Obama, however, will emphasize Syria’s growing status as a haven for terrorist groups, some of which are linked to Al Qaeda, officials said. That could open the door to greater American support for the rebels, including heavier weapons, though no decisions have been made. -- The president’s speech will kick off an intense, administration-wide effort to counter critics who say the United States is lurching from crisis to crisis, without a grand plan for dealing with a treacherous world. While such critiques slight Mr. Obama’s accomplishments, Mr. Rhodes said, he conceded the president had not put his priorities, from climate change to the nuclear talks with Iran, into a comprehensive framework. -- Mr. Obama plans to elaborate on his ideas during a trip to Europe in early June. Over the next few weeks, the White House will roll out issue-specific speeches from Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other senior officials. -- “We understand that there are a lot of questions swirling around not just our foreign policy but America’s role in the world,” Mr. Rhodes said. “People are seeing the trees, but we’re not necessarily laying out the forest.” -- The trouble is, as Mr. Obama takes a stage where his predecessors have signaled new directions in foreign policy — George W. Bush used a West Point speech in 2002 to revive the principle of pre-emptive military strikes — his ideas are likely to have a familiar ring. -- In a speech on terrorism last year, Mr. Obama warned of an arc of Islamic extremism stretching from the Middle East to North Africa, which he said was the successor to the Al Qaeda threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan that was fought with troops and drones. -- The president’s calibrated rationale for military intervention will draw on a speech he gave in 2011 justifying American backing for NATO airstrikes on Libya. And his broad definition of America’s responsibilities as a global power will inevitably echo the principles he outlined in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009. -- Critics are also likely to argue that the president’s words have not been backed up by actions. Administration officials, for example, have long promised to bolster support for the Syrian rebels. But they have so far refused to supply them with antiaircraft missiles because they fear that these weapons could fall into the hands of extremists. - More, MARK LANDLER, NYTimes,

Turkey's Erodgan slams critics in German speech --- (Reuters) - Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan told a cheering arena of 16,000 diaspora supporters in Germany on Saturday to integrate but not assimilate and slammed German criticism of his response to a mining tragedy, in a defiant hour-long speech. -- Earlier in Cologne some 45,000 protesters, had marched against the Turkish Prime Minister, according to authorities' estimates, some wearing miners' helmets and with banners calling Erdogan a dictator, laying bare Turkey's political divisions in the western German city. -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel had appealed to Erdogan to be sensitive in his address at a 10th anniversary rally of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), amidst criticism from German lawmakers that holding such a speech was insensitive 11 days after a mining accident in the southwestern Turkish town of Soma killed 301. -- The event also falls a year after anti-government protests swept Turkey, fired largely by a violent police crackdown on a small demonstration against development of a city park. -- "A certain type of media here and organizations have been trying to exploit the Soma disaster by insulting the prime minister of the Turkish Republic," Erdogan said. -- "Tayyip Erdogan knows the smell of those coal mines. I have been inside those mines and have walked 4-5 kilometers in them," he added. -- The government was widely criticized for its handling of the disaster. An Erdogan aide kicked a protester, for which he was sacked, and Erdogan himself became embroiled in angry altercations. -- The Turkish leader went on to condemn the "lies and intrigue" spread by his opponents, calling this "black propaganda". -- In power for more than a decade, Erdogan has weathered a bitter power struggle with an influential Islamic preacher, as well as a graft scandal he says was engineered to undermine him. -- Erdogan has often addressed mass audiences of expatriate Turks when visiting Germany in rousing patriotic affairs with thousands waving the Turkish flag. -- He repeated remarks made in 2008 in which he warned Germany's largest minority against assimilation. -- "Assimilation? No. I have said this before and I'm saying it again - we don't compromise our language, religion and culture." --- There is deep doubt in Europe about the direction Ankara is taking - two months before Erdogan is expected to stand for a presidency he aspires to turn from a largely figurehead role to that of a strong executive head of state. -- "Turkey, with its mission, values and its people is now part of Europe and European politicians should see and accept this. The problems of European politics will be solved with Turkey, not by using Turkey," Erodgan added. - Matthias Inverardi,

Obama to lay out defense of foreign policy in West Point speech --- (Reuters) - Stung by criticism, President Barack Obama will use a speech on Wednesday to launch a sweeping defense of his approach to foreign policy, one that he will say is reliant on multilateral diplomacy instead of military interventions. -- Obama is to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, the first in a series of speeches that he and top advisers will use to explain U.S. foreign policy in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and lay out a broad vision for the rest of his presidency. -- Obama has come under withering fire in recent months for what his critics say is a passive approach to foreign policy, one that has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to flex his muscle in Ukraine, and left the Syrian civil war to fester and China to threaten its neighbors in the South China Sea. -- Shortly after a trip to Asia late in April during which he strongly defended himself, he directed aides to frame a speech to explain his foreign policy and how he plans to handle world hot spots during his remaining two-and-a-half years in office. -- "You will hear the president discuss how the United States will use all the tools in our arsenal without over-reaching," a White House official said on Saturday. "He will lay out why the right policy is one that is both interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral." -- Obama, determined not to repeat what he views as the mistakes of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush - U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - has leaned heavily on diplomatic activity instead of military force. -- In the case of Ukraine, he has ordered sanctions against some of Putin's inner circle and businesses associated with the Kremlin power structure but has made clear he will not threaten military force for Moscow's seizure of Crimea. -- The fear among some in Washington is that Obama's handling of Russia will prompt China to flex its muscles in the South China Sea, where tensions have already been rising over such actions as the placement of a Chinese oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam. -- On Syria, Obama backed away from a threat to use military force over the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians by the Syrian government. While a deal struck with Russia is leading to the disarming of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, the Syrian civil war rages on and President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. -- The White House official said Obama will say the United States is the only nation capable of galvanizing action and why "we need to put that to use in an international system that is sustainable and enduring, and that can address challenges from traditional ones, like maritime and trade issues, to emerging ones, like climate change." - Steve Holland,

These wounded U.S. vets wanted closure. They found it back in Afghanistan. --- KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Four years and dozens of surgeries later, the soldiers were flying over the valley again, staring down at the patch of Afghanistan where they were maimed by land mines. -- This time, their camouflage uniforms bulged around prosthetic legs and braces. The four men were aboard two clattering U.S. Army helicopters, but they no longer carried M-16s. They weren’t here to fight. -- For years, Americans have returned to their old battlefields — from Normandy to Hue — to try to make sense of their wars. But the four men who had served with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division weren’t waiting for the war to end. They and dozens of other veterans have gone back to Iraq and Afghanistan to seek closure, with the encouragement of the U.S. military. -- This time, the four men would return home on their own terms. -- About 2.6 million service members fought in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and more than 800,000 returned to the United States with physical or psychological wounds. Many of those who were medically evacuated feel like they were shortchanged — forced to leave their units, plucked prematurely from battle. -- The guilt nagged at Capt. Matt Anderson, 30, whose foot shattered when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, or IED. -- “I was supposed to be with my men, not in a hospital,” he said. -- During his rehabilitation, Anderson heard about Operation Proper Exit, a privately funded program that has helped more than 70 wounded veterans return for visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. After months of planning, the former platoon leader and three of his soldiers arrived in Kabul on a recent morning. Two of the men had left the military; two were still serving. -- Back home, their families thought they were crazy. -- “My wife thinks the trip is going to bring it all back up again,” Sgt. Daniel Harrison said. -- “What if it makes you worse?” Sgt. Ryan McIntosh’s wife asked him. “What if it makes you relive it?” - More, Kevin Sieff, Washingtonpost

Iran hangs key figure in banking scandal --- TEHRAN — A key player in Iran’s biggest-ever banking scandal was executed here Saturday, according to state media reports. -- The office of Tehran’s public prosecutor announced that Mahafarid Amir-Khosravi, one of four co-conspirators given the death sentence in 2012 for their roles in embezzling the equivalent of $2.6 billion, was hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison. -- Among those accused in the case — in which a group of powerful businessmen conspired with bank managers to rob public coffers — were executives at seven of Iran’s largest banks. The managing director of the largest one, Melli Bank, is still at large, having fled the country soon after the details of the case were announced in September 2011. -- Amir-Khosravi was convicted of forging letters of credit, proceeds from which were later used to set up a private bank. -- Plans for his execution had not been made public, and his death caught many by surprise. -- When the scandal became public, it set off a months-long national controversy, with many contending that the case would result in little more than slaps on the wrist for those involved. -- At the time, much of the blame was directed at the administration of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and specifically his chief of staff and political confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, but ultimately no officials were convicted. -- When Hassan Rouhani succeeded Ahmadinejad last August, however, he pledged to combat financial corruption, which was rampant during his predecessor’s two terms. - Jason Rezaian, Washingtonpost

اساسي قانون:د ولسمشر حامد کرزي کاري دوره پاى ته رسيدلي --- د افغانستان د اساسي قانون له مخې د ولسمشر حامد كرزي كاري دوره پاى ته رسېدلې ده په داسې حال کې چې ټاکني دوهم پړاو ته ولاړي او کوم ولسمشر ونه ټاکل سو. -- د افغانستان د حقوقي چارو څيړونکي وايې چې د اساسي قانون له مخي د افغان ولسمشر حامد کرزي کاري دوره پاى ته رسيدلي ده او د قانون له مخي نه سي کولاى چې پر دنده پاته سي خو زياتوي چې د ولسمشر تر ټاکل پوري ولسمشر کولاى سي دنده پر مخ يوسي. -- د افغانستان په اساسي کې د جوزا(غبرګولي) لومړى د ولسمشر د واک پاى ته رسيدو وروستۍ ورځ ده او له همدي ورځي وروسته ولسمشر د پنځه کالو واک وروسته نور رسمي ولسمشر نه دى -- د افغانستان د اساسي قانون ۶۱ماده څرګندوي، چې، د ولسمشر دنده د پنځم كال د غبرګولي په لومړۍ نېټه له ټاكنو وروسته پاى ته رسيږي. -- دا هغه ماده وه چې د اساسي قانون له مخي د ولسمشر د واک پاى ته رسيدو لپاره يو سند دى خو د افغانستان د حقوقي چارو کارپوهان وايې چې رشتيا هم د اساسي قانون له مخي د ولسمشر واک پاى ته رسيدلى دى خو زياتوي چې لا هم ولسمشر نه دى ټاکل سوى ځکه حامد کرزى خپلي کاري دوري ته دوام ورکولاى سي. -- د حقوقي چارو کارپوه نصرالله ستانکزى وايې چې د اساسي قانون له مخي ولسمشر کرزى نور په رسمي ډول واک نه لري خو زياتوي چې ولسمشر نه دى ټاکل سوى ځکه خو اړ دى چې خپل کار ته دوام ورکړي. -- پر همدي مهال د افغانستان ولسمشريزو ټاکنو ته مخکښ نوماند د ډاكتر اشرف غني احمدزي د ټاكنيز ټيم غړى محمد صدیق پتمن وايې د ټاكنو تر پايه او د نوي ولسمشر تر رامنځته كيدو پورې ولسمشر كرزى د هېواد ولسمشر دى او كاري صلاحيت هم لري. -- هغه وايې چې په اساسي قانون کې د غبرګولي لومړى د ولسمشر د واک پاى ته رسيدو ورځ ده خو وايې چې اوس لا ولسمشر نه دى ټاکل سوى. -- له بلي خوا بيا د ډاكتر عبدالله عبدالله د ټاكنيز ټيم غړى سید فاضل سانچارکى وايې كه څه هم ولسمشر حامد كرزى اړ دى، چې خپل كار ته دوام وركړي، خو د مشروعيت تشه را منځته سوې ده. -- د دوهم پړاو ټاکنو لپاره کمپاين د غبرګولي په لومړى پيل سوى دى او شاوخوا شل ورځي به دوام ولري. -- له بلي خوا بيا د ولسمشر د دوهم دور ټاکنو وروستى اعلان به د چنګاښ د مياشتي په ٣١ نيټه کيږي. - خبریال دات کام

Jackie Kennedy’s Letters Taken Off the Auction Block --- BOSTON — It was an unlikely friendship, between a shy, 21-year-old American socialite and a 73-year-old Irish priest. But in 1950, they began an extraordinary correspondence in which the American revealed her private thoughts as she dated, then married, then witnessed the assassination of the president of the United States. Now the fate of their letters, which had been headed for the auction block, is in question. -- While Jacqueline Bouvier was being courted by John F. Kennedy, she wrote, she came to see that he was consumed with ambition, “like Macbeth.” She discussed his roving eye, describing him as someone who “loves the chase and is bored with the conquest.” -- The letters were uncovered in April at a financially strapped college in Ireland, which had planned to sell them at auction as part of a plan to raise money. But earlier this week, the auction was called off, and on Friday, officials at the college, All Hallows in Dublin, said they had learned that the institution did not own the letters after all, and announced that it was closing its doors. -- It seems doubtful that the Kennedy family, which stepped in to object to the auction, even knew of the letters’ existence until excerpts were published earlier this month in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. The letters’ recipient, the Rev. Joseph Leonard, a Vincentian priest, lived for many years at All Hallows. Phillip Sheppard, the head of the auction house that planned to conduct the sale, told news outlets that a “private source,” whom he has not identified, had brought the letters forward. -- Mr. Sheppard estimated that the letters from the famously private former first lady might fetch as much as $5 million. As they were being prepared for auction, excerpts were made available to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, igniting interest around the world. -- Mrs. Kennedy first met Father Leonard on a visit to Ireland in 1950. Through their correspondence, they forged a bond that extended over 14 years, until Father Leonard died at the age of 87. In elegant black script, Mrs. Kennedy shared her thoughts and fears. -- In 1952, a year before she married Mr. Kennedy, she wrote: “He’s like my father in a way — loves the chase and is bored with the conquest — and once married needs proof he’s still attractive, so flirts with other women and resents you. I saw how that nearly killed Mummy.” -- After her husband’s assassination, she wrote of being “bitter against God,” adding, “God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see Him.” -- On Wednesday, the auction was abruptly called off, and the college said that the Kennedy family had stepped in. A further twist emerged Friday, when the college announced that Father Leonard had bequeathed the letters in a will to his religious order, the Vincentian Fathers. The will, which had been presumed lost, had been discovered in recent days, the college said. -- Irish news outlets reported that the members of the order were in talks with the Kennedy family on how best to preserve and curate the archive. The family has not made any public comment. Officials at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston declined to comment. -- Whether the letters will ever become public remains unclear. The revelation of candid thoughts written to a priest, with the likely expectation that they would remain confidential, has roiled an age-old debate over privacy and the obligations of public figures to illuminate the historical record. -- “I don’t think they belong in the public domain unless her daughter, who is the copyright holder under U.S. law, felt they belonged there,” said Ellen Fitzpatrick, a historian at the University of New Hampshire who recently compiled a book of letters written to Mrs. Kennedy. She added, “As a historian, I would hope they would become part of Mrs. Kennedy’s papers at the John F. Kennedy Library, where they might be conceivably available at some point in the future to researchers.” - KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, NYTimes,

Friday, May 23, 2014

..Attack on consulate in Afghanistan: All gunmen killed, Modi talks to Karzai --- KABUL: Gunmen armed with heavy weapons including rocket propelled grenades on Friday attacked the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan's Herat province during which three attackers were killed, top Indian officials said. -- However, TV reports further claimed that the fourth gunman has also been killed by the security forces. -- All the diplomatic staff were safe. Three gunmen were killed, one by ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and two by Afghan police, out of four attackers who struck the Consulate which houses two buildings, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha said. -- PM-designate Narendra Modi spoke to Amar Sinha and assured all help. Modi also spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and thanked him for the efforts of Afghan forces in thwarting the attack. -- In a pre-dawn assault, the gunmen attacked the building which houses the residence of Consulate General, Sinha said, adding that there were nine Indians in the mission apart from local Afghans. - Times of India

Afghanistan's government split as Karzai suspends special forces chiefs --- Afghanistan's government has suspended the three police special forces commanders responsible for securing the capital during crucial presidential elections, and plans to try them in a court martial for making illegal detentions and desecrating a mosque. -- The three men have also been accused of collaborating with US and British commandos to serve foreign rather than Afghan aims, although they will not be tried as spies, according to an official source with first-hand knowledge of events. -- Since they were removed from their positions in late April, all special operations raids by police commandos have been suspended, raising questions about security in Kabul as insurgents arrive from safe havens in Pakistan and the country prepares for the annual "fighting season". -- The commanders come from one of the most respected parts of the Afghan security forces, which overall are still grappling with serious problems from corruption to drug addiction, despite years of western training and billions of dollars in funding. -- The charges they are expected to face appear to be relatively minor. They will be accused of temporarily holding a man without a warrant during a night raid on a group of suspected insurgents, and entering a mosque with dogs, the source said. They will deny both charges. -- President Hamid Karzai, who has for years been an outspoken critic of both night raids and illegal detentions, personally ordered the investigation and trial, in the face of opposition from top ministers and security officials. -- The allegations were made by a prosecutor who works with special forces and an intelligence official responsible for monitoring police behaviour. Both have since been promoted – one given the rank of general and the other the top prosecutor's job in Panjshir province, north of Kabul. -- A government official who asked not to be named confirmed that there was an investigation under way into the conduct of some special forces officers, but denied that anyone had been detained or suspended from his position. The interior ministry declined to comment on the case. -- The men facing trial, whom sources declined to name because of their position as commandos, were the officers leading two elite police squads, and a third senior official who organised their logistics. -- One officer headed the 333 commando unit which tackles threats nationwide, while a second was in charge of the crisis response unit, which tackles security emergencies in Kabul and also tries to preempt insurgent assaults by disrupting networks around the capital. -- The final man charged was director of operations for the special forces, who organised and signed off on all the logistics for their operations and briefed others about what they did. -- All three are in their early 30s, from ordinary families rather than the elite clans who dominate many sectors of Afghan politics, and have studied at military academies overseas. - More, Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul,

Kofi Annan: Syrians pay with their lives while regional powers wage proxy wars --- The world has let down the people of Syria, leaving tens of thousands to die as neighbouring nations wage proxy wars instead of working to prevent the bloodshed that has engulfed the country for the past three years, according to the former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan. -- In a bleak assessment of the global response to the crisis in Syria, but also those in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Nigeria, Annan said the international community seemed unable to focus on more than one emergency at a time and had become increasingly loath to stage military interventions. -- Annan resigned as UN envoy to Syria in August 2012, describing his role as a "mission impossible" because of growing militarisation and a lack of unity among world powers. -- The 76-year-old Ghanaian diplomat, who led the UN between 1997 and 2006, said the unwillingness or inability of the regional powers – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey – to co-operate with the UN security council, and the "almost proxy war" being conducted between Riyadh and Tehran, were jeopardising the search for peace. -- The UN can be as strong as the international community wants it to be and it means if they want it to be strong, they need to make the resources available, take the decisions and follow through," he said. -- "We used to complain about proxy wars, funded and encouraged by the US and Russia, now we are seeing proxy wars being undertaken by regional powers; as I look around, you have countries that are more afraid of the regional powers than the superpowers because the superpowers are far away – they are not as closely involved – and the regional powers can play a very disruptive role in any country when they decide to." -- Although Annan stressed that armed interventions were not the solution to every internal conflict – including in Syria – he said individual nations had become more reluctant to pledge troops. -- Despite the long and bloody campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, many countries had come to the conclusion that UN peacekeeping operations had to be risk-free enterprises, he said. -- "When you get into a situation like Syria, no country wants to go in," said Annan. "I haven't seen armies lining up, saying, 'We are volunteering'. And their own populations are telling them – the US in particular – 'No more military adventures'. And so your intervention has to be short of military." -- The problem, he said, was that diplomatic and political attempts to end the fighting in Syria were going nowhere either. "They have been stymied because of the divisions at the national level, the regional level, and the level of the UN security council," he said. -- "So we've let the people of Syria down. While we are divided and pointing fingers and accusing each other, they are paying with their lives." -- Speaking to mark the launch of a book of his key speeches as secretary general, Annan said the series of emergencies facing the international community reminded him of the mid-1990s, when violence erupted in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. -- The US's decision to pull its troops from Somalia after the killing of 18 American soldiers during a UN-sanctioned mission to capture warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed, he added, had contributed to international hesitation amid the growing carnage and genocide. -- "The US decided to withdraw and [then] all the western troops withdrew," said Annan. "They had the best capacity, so in a way, the operations in Somalia collapsed. And it was when they were withdrawing that the crisis in Rwanda started, so if you're running away from risk in Somalia, you're not going to rush into Rwanda and nobody wanted to go, so we had Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Somalia and then of course Kosovo came on top of that." -- He pointed out that, like Syria, all the current crises were further complicated by their regional dimensions. "The Central African Republic is close to [DR] Congo, which has very serious problems, and then of course, you have South Sudan and Sudan," he said. "And then you have Ukraine, which also is very serious." -- This month, Annan's successor, Ban Ki-moon, warned that if the conflict continued in South Sudan, half of its 12 million people would be either "displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year's end". - More, Guardian,

توقف معاملات انتقال پول بین بانک های چینی و بانک های افغانستان --- شماری از بانک های چینی فیصله کرده اند که از این به بعد معاملات انتقال دالر را با بانک های افغانستان قطع می کنند. مقامات دو بانک معتبر چینی گفته اند که این مسأله با حملات اخیر در "شین جیانگ" چین ارتباط دارد. -- منطقه شین جیانگ چین، که در بیش از 3000 کیلومتری غرب پیکینگ موقعیت دارد، بعد از تبت، بزرگترین منطقه بحرانی در جمهوری خلق چین محسوب می شود. از آغاز حکمروایی چین در قرن 19، ایغورهای مسلمان بارها در برابر پیکینگ دست به اعتراض زده اند. اعتراض هاییکه از آنزمان تا هنوز همواره ادامه دارند. خروج نیروهای شوروی سابق از افغانستان در سال 1990، احساسات ملی گرایانه را میان اقلیت ایغورها که از لحاظ زبانی و فرهنگی مربوط به اقوام ترکی می شوند، بیشتر برانگیخته است. -- گروه های شورشی از جمله جنبش اسلامی ترکستان شرق و حزب اسلامی ترکستان با اعمال خشونت و زور تلاش برای خودمختاری می کنند. بر اساس گزارشها از پیکینگ آنها اتصالاتی با شبکه تروریستی القاعده دارند. -- یکی از مقام ها بانکی چین اظهار داشته است که از دو سال به این طرف معاملات بانک های چینی با بانک های افغانستان تحت شرایط سخت امنیتی صورت گرفته است. این مقام اضافه کرده است؛ اما در سال جاری، به دلیل نا امنی ها در ایالت شین جیانگ چین، شرایط معاملات با بانک های افغانستان، به وخامت بیشتر گرائیده است. -- ایالت شمال غربی شین جیانگ با 1.6 میلیون کیلومتر مربع ششمین ایالت بزرگ چین است. این ایالت در کنار افغانستان به طور عمده با جمهوری های سابق شوروی، قزاقستان، تاجیکستان و قرغیزستان هم مرز می باشد. از حدود 20 میلیون نفر جمعیت حدود 8.3 میلیون آن ایغور ها اند و در مجموع 47 گروه مختلف قومی در این ایالت زندگی می کنند. -- در ماه های گذشته در ایالت شین جیانگ حملات زیادی با استفاده ازچاقو و بمب صورت گرفته است. حکومت چین این حملات را به مسلمانان جدایی طلب نسبت می دهد. مقامات به این نظر اند که مسلمانان جدایی طلب می خواهند منطقه شین جیانگ را تحت نام "ترکستان شرقی" به یک منطقه خودمختار مبدل کنند. آژانس خبری "رویترز" از قول یک مقام بانکی چینی که نامش گرفته نشده است، گزارش داده است که «این وضعیت باعث متوقف شدن معاملات بانکی با بانک های افغانستان گردیده است.» این مقام افزوده است که «محل آموزش مسلمانان جدایی طلب ترکستان شرقی، افغانستان است». به اساس اظهارات این مقام، همین مسأله باعث گردیده است. معاملات بانکی میان بانکهای افغانستان و بانکهای چین متوقف گردند. - صدای آلمان

WikiLeaks statement on the mass recording of Afghan telephone calls by the NSA, Friday 23 May 2014, 05:00 GMT --- The National Security Agency has been recording and storing nearly all the domestic (and international) phone calls from two or more target countries as of 2013. Both the Washington Post and The Intercept (based in the US and published by eBay chairman Pierre Omidyar) have censored the name of one of the victim states, which the latter publication refers to as country "X". --- Both the Washington Post and The Intercept stated that they had censored the name of the victim country at the request of the US government. Such censorship strips a nation of its right to self-determination on a matter which affects its whole population. An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed against the victim state and its population. By denying an entire population the knowledge of its own victimisation, this act of censorship denies each individual in that country the opportunity to seek an effective remedy, whether in international courts, or elsewhere. Pre-notification to the perpetrating authorities also permits the erasure of evidence which could be used in a successful criminal prosecution, civil claim, or other investigations. -- Although, for reasons of source protection we cannot disclose how, WikiLeaks has confirmed that the identity of victim state is Afghanistan. This can also be independently verified through forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs (see -- We do not believe it is the place of media to "aid and abet" a state in escaping detection and prosecution for a serious crime against a population. -- Consequently WikiLeaks cannot be complicit in the censorship of victim state X. The country in question is Afghanistan. - More,

'Country X': WikiLeaks reveals NSA recording 'nearly all' phone calls in Afghanistan --- The NSA records almost all domestic and international phone calls in Afghanistan, similar to what it does in the Bahamas, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange said. -- Reports in the Washington Post and the Intercept had previously reported that domestic and international phone calls from two or more target states had been recorded and stored in mass as of 2013. Both publications censored the name of one victim country at the request of the US government, which the Intercept referred to as 'Country X'. -- Assange says he cannot disclose how WikiLeaks confirmed the identity of the victim state for the sake of source protection, though the claim can be “independently verified” via means of “forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs.” -- The Intercept, which Glenn Greenwald, who first broke the Edward Snowden revelations helped to found, had earlier named the Bahamas as having their mobile calls recorded and stored by a powerful National Security Agency (NSA) program called SOMALGET. - More, RT,

9 Myths About Seasonal Allergies --- Like pollens that can spread quickly through the air, myths about seasonal allergies also seem to circulate widely. -- "I hear allergy myths all the time," said Dr. John Costa, medical director of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Allergy and Clinical Immunology Practice in Boston. -- To clear the air of these common misconceptions, here are nine allergy myths that may be making the rounds. --- Myth: Everybody has allergies. Only one in five Americans has allergic rhinitis, which in spring is also known as "rose fever" and in fall is called "hay fever," Costa said. While there has been a rise in the incidence of seasonal and food allergies in the United States over the last 20 to 30 years, people who don't have any allergies don't really worry about getting them, he said. And they often have no clue how miserable people with seasonal allergies feel, Costa said. --- Myth: If you didn't have seasonal allergies as a child, you won't develop them as an adult. The body comes in contact with new things all the time, and can become highly allergic to them at any time. There is nothing innately harmful about tree pollen, for example, but some people's immune systems look at tree pollens and say, 'I'm going to have a reaction to this,' Costa said. "If you didn't have allergies as a kid, it can happen to you as an adult," he said. "If you had them as a kid, allergies can gradually and unpredictably go away." --- Myth: Eating local honey helps relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. It's true that bees collect pollen from plants, Costa said, and honey has pollens in it from the local area. But, he said, the wind-carried pollens from trees, grasses and weeds that cause seasonal allergies are very light and stay airborne for a long time. The pollen in bee honey comes from flowers, and is very heavy and falls to the ground. "They are the wrong kind of pollens for causing seasonal allergies," Costa said. --- Myth: Scientists can accurately predict a bad pollen season. "Predictions about pollen seasons are disingenuous," Costa said, and he refrains from making them. For example, only when forecasters can predict a great number of dry days in a row without any rain (such as a severe drought), can pollen predictions be made. During that time, nothing is growing, so pollen can be ruled out, he explained. "Short of severe climactic change, it's hard to say anything meaningful about pollen season," Costa said. --- Myth: Moving to a different geographic area could ease seasonal allergies. "Moving is of little benefit to the seasonal allergy sufferer," Costa said, because pollens are actually shared over large areas. Ragweed in New England is the same as ragweed in Texas, and people who are allergic to grass pollen may just be miserable everywhere, because this type of pollen is incredibly cross-reactive, he said. [8 Strange Signs You're Having an Allergic Reaction] --- Myth: Flowers are a common trigger for seasonal allergies. "It's rare for flower pollen to contribute to seasonal allergies," Costa said. Flower pollens are relatively heavy and fall to the ground rather than lingering in the air. In contrast, pollens from trees (such as birch, oak, elm, maple and cottonwood), grasses and weeds are very light and stay airborne for a long time, he explained. "Unlike [with] tree and grass pollens, you can control your exposure to flowers," Costa said. --- Myth: All nasal sprays are bad. Patients need to use some nasal sprays selectively and judiciously, Costa told Live Science. Topical nasal steroids are usually best for people with seasonal allergies, he said. They work by reducing inflammation in the lining of the nose. Most are available by prescription and can be used safely for years without worry, Costa said. One brand, Nasacort AQ, is now available over the counter. - However, the sprays can have a downside. People sometimes call over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays addictive, Costa said, and it's true that when people use decongestant sprays for more than five days in a row, the blood vessels lining the nose can become dependent on the drugs, and rebound congestion is a common problem. To relieve the stuffiness, some may use even more nasal spray, and get caught in a vicious cycle of overuse. --- Myth: You only need to take allergy medication when you start feeling terrible. Allergies are an inflammatory response, and their effects can last for weeks. "It makes more sense to use allergy medications on a consistent basis to maintain control over moderate to severe allergies," Costa explained. People should know their allergic triggers and their seasons, and then use medications regularly when those pollens are in the air, he suggested. --- Myth: Allergy shots are not worthwhile. Over the last 20 years, allergy shots have become more sophisticated and fine-tuned, Costa said. The shots are typically given to people with the most severe symptoms. "In 2014, we have a much better chance of using the right dosages of allergens than we did with your grandfather's allergy shots," he said. The FDA has recently approved daily tablets that dissolve under the tongue as an alternative to allergy shots, but they are only available for ragweed or grass pollens. - More, Live Science,

اعلیحضرت بابای ملت در۴۰ سال حکومتش چه کرد؟ بخش ششم و آخر -- داکتر نجیب الله بارکزی

Exclusive: Afghanistan suffers trade blow as China halts dollar deals with its banks --- (Reuters) - Chinese banks have halted dollar transactions with most Afghan commercial banks, the central bank governor said on Thursday, making it difficult for businesses to pay for imports from one of Afghanistan's biggest trading partners. -- "China is a major country that was handling those bank transfers, and now they have told the banks they can't do it," governor Noorullah Delawari told Reuters. -- The impact on business had been felt immediately, he said. -- Despite intense pressure from Western backers, Afghanistan has so far failed to pass laws meeting global standards against money laundering and terrorist financing. -- That has prompted banks from various countries to halt trade with its commercial banks. -- The Chinese move was part of a trend that was making it increasingly difficult for the banks to execute international transactions, Delawari said. -- "Some of our banks cannot do any direct transactions" because their correspondent banks in the United States, Europe, Germany or Turkey had halted dealings, he said. "Now even transferring money to China to import goods has been affected." -- The Afghan government's failure to pass key measures means that it could in June be blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body that sets standards on how countries combat money laundering. -- Banks have been struggling since FATF threatened Afganistan with the punishment early this year. -- "That has been affecting our banks' ability to transfer money for anything," Delawari said, describing for example how students abroad were unable to receive money from their parents. -- Chinese banks and officials were not immediately available for comment. - More,

Militants attack on Indian consulate in western Afghanistan --- (Reuters) - A handful of heavily armed insurgents, including suicide bombers, launched a rocket propelled grenade and gun attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's western city of Herat hours before dawn on Friday, officials said. -- Indian staff at the mission escaped soon after the shooting began at around 3 a.m.. Police said Afghan security forces had killed the attackers, who were holed up in buildings overlooking the consulate, following a firefight that lasted several hours. -- "They fired a couple of RPG shots. It was dark and they couldn't verify where it was coming from," India's ambassador to Kabul Amar Sinha told Reuters by telephone. -- He said there had been around 10 staff resident at the consulate in Herat, which stands close to the border with Iran and is Afghanistan's third largest city. -- The attack underscored a worrying security picture as Afghanistan prepares to take over from foreign combat troops after more than 12 years of war against a Taliban insurgency and prepares for a presidential election run-off next month. -- The consulate was guarded by a team of commandos from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Afghan security forces form an outer ring, an Indian security official in New Delhi said. --- Herat police chief General Samihullah Qatra told Reuters four attackers, including suicide bombers, had entered houses close to the consulate before dawn and began shooting into the compound. -- "There were three suicide bombers armed with AK-47, RPG, hand grenade and suicide vests. Our security forces killed all of them. Only five of our security forces were wounded." -- It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and no one claimed responsibility, though suspicion would inevitably fall on the Taliban and other loosely associated groups . -- On the other side of the country, in the northeast province of Badakhshan, Taliban fighters were holding 27 police and officials hostage, and dozens of people have killed or wounded. - More,

U.S. military chief to Taliban: Seize the moment to negotiate --- (Reuters) - The Taliban should take advantage of what may be a shrinking window of opportunity to seek a negotiated end to the conflict in Afghanistan, the top U.S. military official said on Thursday. -- "I don't give military advice to the Taliban, but if I were giving them advice, I'd say, 'Your negotiating position is not going to improve; it's going to erode'," said Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. -- Dempsey spoke after meeting NATO military leaders in Brussels as the alliance plans for what is expected to be a continued Western training mission in Afghanistan after most NATO and allied forces depart late this year. -- If a continued troop presence and financial backing for Afghan forces can be secured, "it would seem to me that the Taliban would realize that their opportunity to reconcile or reintegrate is a wasting opportunity," Dempsey said in a interview with Reuters and the Pentagon's official news agency. "If they don't take advantage of it now, they will be in a weaker position later." -- The Taliban is intensifying its annual summer insurgent campaign as Afghanistan prepares for second-round voting in a presidential election that will pick the country's first new leader in more than a dozen years. -- Afghanistan's next president will face daunting challenges. Its security forces still lack in key areas such as intelligence and air power, and foreign assistance that has sustained the impoverished country is diminishing. -- Many Taliban leaders have been captured and killed, and the group has been pushed out of much of its southern heartland. But it remains potent in remote areas along the Afghan border with Pakistan and is still able to plan attacks from Pakistan's northwest tribal region. -- U.S. and NATO officials have pointed to a relatively peaceful first round of elections this spring, and other recent events for which Afghan forces provided security, as proof that Afghanistan is getting close to being ready to stand on its own after Western combat forces depart in December. -- Turnout was higher than expected in that vote despite Taliban warnings that Afghans should not take part. -- "They haven't been able to convince the people of Afghanistan that their future should be with the Taliban and not with an elected government," Dempsey said. -- "One might argue that I'm maybe trying to be a little overly optimistic about it because we've invested 12 years of our lives in it, but it does seem to me to be a clear statement on the part of the Afghan people," he said. -- It remains to be seen what the departure of President Hamid Karzai will mean for on-again, off-again Western efforts to broker a peace deal between the Taliban and Afghan authorities. -- The Obama administration has at several points appeared close to launching confidence-building measures that would enable peace talks, only to see the initiatives founder. The Taliban's leadership has consistently rejected direct talks with Karzai's government. - Missy Ryan

Thursday, May 22, 2014

وخت -- مجددی: داکتر عبدالله عبدالله شخص مناسب برای ریاست جمهوری نیست --- حضرت صبغت الله مجددی میگوید داکتر عبدالله عبدالله در وضعیت کنونی برای کرسی ریاست جمهوری شخص مناسب نیست. -- حضرت صبغت الله مجددی رئیس جمهور اسبق و رهبر جبهه نجات ملی امروز در محفل اغاز مبارزات انتخاباتی ضمن ابراز حمایت از نامزدی داکتر اشرف غنی احمدزی گفت که داکتر عبدالله عبدالله در وضعیت کنونی برای کرسی ریاست جمهوری شخص مناسب نیست. -- وی که پس از یک مدت کوتاهی بودوباش در کشور دنمارک، به کابل برگشته است، گفت که افغانها به رییس جمهور نیاز دارند که حمایت و پشتیبانی تمامی داشته باشد و این ظرفیت را در داکتر اشرف غنی احمدزی میبیند نه در داکتر عبدالله عبدالله. -- وی علاوه کرد: "پس از استخاره که انجام داده ام فهمیدم که تیم تحول و تداوم به خیر افغانستان است". -- آقای مجددی از هوا دارانش خواست که با تیم تحول و تداوم بپیوندد و به داکتر اشرف غنی احمدزی رای دهند. -- در مراسمی امروزی احمد ضیا مسعود برادر احمدشاه مسعود و معاون اسبق رییس جمهور کرزی نیز از نامزدی داکتر اشرف غنی اعلام حمایت کرد. -- احمد ضیا مسعود در صحبت هایش گفت: "پس از مشوره های زیاد تصمیم گرفتیم به تیم تحول و تداوم بپوندیم". -- وی افزود که استحکام وحدت ملی در افغانستان و هم چنین حل معضله ملی خواست او است و همه باید از حقوق یک سان برخوردار باشند. -- در عین حال پیر سید احمد گیلانی رییس حزب محاذ ملی و وحیدالله سباوون عضو شورا های حزب اسلامی نیز از هوادارانش خواستند تا در دور دوم انتخابات شرکت نموده به تیم تحول و تداوم رای دهند. --- از سوی دیگر داکتر عبدالله عبدالله نامزد اصلاحات و همگرایی در اولین روز مبارزات دور دوم انتخاباتی از کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات خواست که در دور دوم انتخابات ریاست جمهوری از تقلب جلو گیری نماید. -- مبارزات انتخاباتی دور دوم انتخابات ریاست جمهوری کشور امروز اول جوزا رسما اغاز و تا ۲۱ جوزا ادامه خواهد داشت. --- گفتنیست که دور اول انتخابات ریاست جمهوری هیچ یک از نامزدان ریاست جمهوری بیش از پنجاه در صد آرا را بدست نیآوردند و کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات با اعلام نتایج نهای گفت که دور دوم انتخابات در میان دو نامزد پیشتاز داکتر عبدالله عبدالله و داکتر اشرف غنی احمدزی به تاریخ ۲۴ جوزا برگزار خواهد شد.

ECONOMIC HEALTH CHECK - Economic Gains Prepare Afghanistan for Transition Year --- With the presidential elections and the drawdown of foreign troops under way, Afghanistan faces a year of transition. -- Despite prudent management of the economy and the economic gains made over the past decade, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world with very low human development indicators. -- To mark the publication of the IMF’s regular assessment of the Afghan economy—the Article IV report—IMF mission chief to Afghanistan Paul Ross reviewed the performance of the country - More, The International Monetary Fund (IMF),

IMF Executive Board Concludes Article IV Consultation with Afghanistan --- Over the past decade, Afghanistan has made enormous progress in reconstruction, development, and lifting per capita income. Important steps have been taken to lay the foundation for macroeconomic stability and growth, to reduce poverty, and to achieve social and development objectives. However, security conditions, political uncertainty, and weak institutions continue to constrain growth and weigh on social outcomes. The international community has delivered substantial financial support and pledged to continue doing so over the medium term. -- With significant domestic efforts and donor support, Afghanistan has maintained macroeconomic stability, implemented important structural reforms, and built policy buffers—namely a comfortable international reserves position, low debt and inflation, and balanced budget and external current account positions. Nonetheless, significant vulnerabilities remain and several reforms have been delayed. After the first review of Afghanistan’s IMF-supported program in June 2012 (Press Release No. 12/245), subsequent reviews were delayed due to missed quantitative targets and slower than planned implementation of structural reforms. -- Over the past two years, economic activity has been affected by political and security uncertainties and the drawdown of international troops. These uncertainties reduced confidence, discouraged private investment, and held back economic activity. Growth slowed from 14 percent in 2012 (boosted by a bumper harvest) to an estimated 3.6 percent in 2013. Inflation remained in single digits (5.6 percent year-on-year in March 2014). International reserves also remained at a comfortable level equivalent to over seven months of imports. -- Partly reflecting weaker economic activity, budget revenue performance deteriorated significantly in 2012–13, despite additional measures, and was short of the targets established in June 2012. The revenue shortfall resulted in a tight cash position for the treasury and required limiting expenditure. As a result, expenditure as a share of GDP declined in 2013. Progress was made in structural reform efforts, but implementation was slower than planned. Noteworthy accomplishments included: publishing the inquiry into the Kabul Bank crisis; submitting the new banking, value added tax (VAT), and tax administration laws to parliament; strengthening border control management; preparing a new sukuk law; and adopting a strategic plan for financial supervision. However, delays have been encountered in introducing the value added tax and submitting to parliament the laws on anti-money laundering and countering of financing of terrorism, and amendments to the central bank law. -- This year, 2014, is crucial in the political and security transitions and the run-up to the “transformation decade,” which starts in 2015. Assuming smooth political and security transitions, continued reform and donor financing, the outlook should be positive. Large security and development expenditure needs and a limited domestic revenue capacity mean that Afghanistan will remain dependent on donor financing for an extended period. In addition to donor support, macroeconomic stability, structural reforms, and political and security stability are needed to ensure durable and inclusive growth. Risks to the outlook are mostly on the downside. - More, Press Releases -

Thailand under curfew amid army coup --- A curfew is in place across Thailand after the army announced it had taken control and suspended the constitution following months of political turmoil. -- Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha imposed the 22:00 to 05:00 curfew along with a ban on political gatherings. -- Key political figures were detained while others, including the acting PM and ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra, were ordered to report to the military. -- The army said it needed to restore order and enact political reforms. -- It declared martial law on Tuesday and gathered political leaders together in Bangkok for talks on the crisis. -- However, Gen Prayuth went on TV on Thursday to announce the coup. -- Several key figures at the talks, including opposition protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and pro-government protest leader Jatuporn Prompan, were detained. -- Acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan was not at the talks and his whereabouts are unclear. -- His adviser, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, told Associated Press: "The rest of us who are outside are still fine and in safe places." -- More, BBC,

27 Afghan police officers kidnapped by Taliban in remote northern district -- KABUL — Taliban fighters kidnapped more than two dozen Afghan police officers during an assault in the northeastern corner of the country that also left eight officers dead, officials said. -- The attack in Badakhshan province’s Yamgam district began Tuesday and continued for more than a day. The number of Taliban fighters involved remains unclear, but Asadullah, the police chief of neighboring Jurm district, said there were 250 to 300 insurgents. -- “The police force, after fighting, had to retreat to a cave,” said Asadullah, who like many Afghans goes by one name. “They ran out of ammunition and food, and that is how the Taliban took 27 of them as captives.” -- Because the district is so remote, it was impossible to provide additional Afghan military or police support during the fighting, officials said. -- “The district headquarters has fallen to the Taliban after they launched an attack. Because of the bad weather, we could not send reinforcements. We are [now] sending police to take the district center,” Sediq Seddiqi, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said a day after the attack. He added that at least eight police officers were killed in the fighting Tuesday and Wednesday. -- Some Afghan officials said they were not yet ready to confirm the kidnapping. -- “A number of police have disappeared,” said the province’s deputy police chief, Abdul Qadir Sayad. “We do not know how many have been taken by the Taliban and how many have fled to their homes.” -- It is not the first time the Taliban has targeted a remote unit of police officers or troops. In February, 21 Afghan soldiers were killed when insurgents overran their outpost in Konar province. In September, a police unit in Badakhshan was attacked, leaving 18 officers dead. - More, Kevin Sieff, Washington Post

عبدالله نامزد پیشتاز در انتخابات از تشویشهای قومی اندیشه ندارد - سید خلیل الله هاشمیان - - washingtonpost Abdullah Abullah, front-runner in Afghan presidential race, seeks to quell ethnic fears

Letter From Europe - NATO Steps Back Into the U.S.S.R. --- LONDON — The best line about NATO was always the simplest: If NATO is the answer, what’s the question? -- After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the question was unclear. But it seemed resolved on Sept. 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda attacked the United States. NATO invoked Article 5, the red line of collective defense, for the first time. NATO went “out of area,” fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban alongside the United States military. -- Now, with Libya in chaos and Afghanistan winding down, NATO is having a vivid fight over its future, which is actually a vivid fight about its past. With Russian revanchism in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, are we back, back in the U.S.S.R.? Or as Marx said so trenchantly, is history repeating itself, not as the tragedy of the Soviet Union, but as farce? -- Stated more simply: Is the confrontation a Ukraine problem or a Russia problem? Is it a blip, which can be treated like a speed bump before returning to the straight, rich road of commerce, or is it something fundamental, not so much a challenge to the postwar order as a break with it, blowing a hole in that road? -- With a NATO summit meeting in Wales in early September, these questions matter, because an alliance communiqué must be negotiated among 28 member states. It would be impossible for NATO not to take a position on Ukraine and Russia in September, senior diplomats from NATO countries agree, but what should it say? -- How much should NATO pull back from its policy of cooperation with Russia and the 1997 Founding Act on mutual relations? Should it end the 2002 NATO-Russia Council? More concretely, should NATO reverse its pledge not to deploy troops permanently on the territory of countries once behind the Iron Curtain, like Poland and the Baltics? -- More fundamentally, should NATO now see Russia as it saw the Soviet Union — as the main antagonist that drives alliance thinking — or should it continue to hope for cooperation with Moscow, on the presumption that Vladimir V. Putin has just had a Ukrainian moment? -- After all, in 2008, when Russia trapped Georgia into a short war and occupied two Georgian territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, NATO only suspended “business as usual” with Russia, although “cooperation” continued on issues like counterterrorism and Afghanistan. Just a year later, business was back to normal, at little cost to Moscow. Mr. Putin did not, however, annex those territories — he just proclaimed their independence. Russia could argue that it had not changed Europe’s postwar borders by force. -- But that is precisely what Moscow has done in Crimea, and even NATO countries most sympathetic to Russia are having a hard time looking away. -- The early days of this debate within NATO are bitter, a NATO diplomat says. If resurgent Russia provides NATO a renewed raison d’être, it has also resurfaced the repressed differences between “old Europe” and “new Europe,” the former Soviet bloc countries. -- For old Europeans like Britain, France and Germany, the Russian threat is far away. And there is business to be done, from energy and arms deals (the Mistral, anyone?) to oligarchic wealth management. -- But for new Europeans, the threat feels existential, and they want reassurance from both NATO and their reluctant European Union partners. -- The NATO debate is not about the unacceptability of what has happened in Ukraine, but what it means and what to do about it. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia speaks for many when he says that Mr. Putin has broken the postwar order put in place with the 1975 Helsinki Accords and the end of the Cold War. The West, and NATO, this view goes, must create something new. -- Others fear that something new is really something old: the restoration of the Cold War. It’s too soon for that conclusion, they argue, and it would inflict too much pain on a Europe already suffering stagnant growth. -- NATO needs to find consensus on how to interpret Russia and what that means for military deployments. But the larger challenge remains: to define NATO’s future. - STEVEN ERLANGER, NYTimes,

House Votes to Limit N.S.A.’s Collection of Phone Data --- WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to rein in the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of telephone records, approving scaled-back legislation that sharply divided the technology sector and civil libertarians but united the White House, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. -- The 303-to-121 vote sent an unambiguous signal that both parties are no longer comfortable with giving the N.S.A. unfettered power to collect bulk surveillance data. A year ago, a divided House nearly voted to strip all money from the N.S.A. for such surveillance, over the protests of the Republican leadership. -- With anger over the leaks from Edward J. Snowden cooling, House Republicans and Democrats and the White House were able to work out a compromise that fully satisfied few but did advance a push to limit the surveillance efforts of the era ushered in by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. -- “People are a lot more comfortable with a government that is not storing all this metadata,” said Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, praising a bill that he said “makes it clear there will be no access to this data without a court decision and the standards for that decision are higher than they were.” -- But in the last days before the vote, intelligence and Obama administration officials watered down the original bill by the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, turning many technology companies and advocates against it. --- “If House leaders had backed up their members and stood behind the bill that passed unanimously out of two committees, rather than caving to the intelligence community’s list of demands, a much stronger reform bill would have passed the House this morning,” said Kevin Bankston, the policy director at the Open Technology Institute, a technology advocacy group. “This is not the surveillance reform that Americans deserve and have demanded.” -- But civil libertarians pleaded for patience as the political world moves toward more stringent controls. -- “While far from perfect, this bill is an unambiguous statement of congressional intent to rein in the out-of-control N.S.A. While we share the concerns of many — including members of both parties who rightly believe the bill does not go far enough — without it we would be left with no reform at all,” said Laura W. Murphy, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office. -- Civil liberties groups said the changes left the door open for the government to obtain enormous volumes of records. -- The bill’s centerpiece focuses on the power of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to issue orders allowing the government to obtain business records deemed relevant to a national security investigation. -- The court secretly interpreted that provision as allowing the N.S.A. to systematically collect calling records for the purpose of hunting for hidden associates of terrorism suspects. The bill instead would allow the agency to obtain only the calling records of people up to two links from a suspect, a change President Obama has endorsed. -- The bill also seeks to limit bulk collection more broadly by saying that such court orders — as well as administrative subpoenas for records, known as national security letters — may be used only to obtain records associated with a “specific selection term.” - JONATHAN WEISMAN, NYTimes,

لوی درستیز: د ډیورنډ کرښې په اړه افغانستان او پاکستان نقشې توپیر لري --- د افغانستان د دفاع وزارت یوه جګپوړي چارواکي وویل، تر څو چې د افغانستان او پاکستان ترمنځ سیاسي او ستراتیژیکې ستونزې حل نه شي له پاکستان سره سرحدي ستونزې پای ته نه رسېږي. -- د افغانستان لوی درستیز جنرال شېر محمد کریمي له ازادي راډیو سره په مرکه کې د افغانستان او پاکستان ترمنځ وروستیو سرحدي شخړو ته په اشارې وویل، د دې لانجو یو اساسي عامل دا دی چې د ډیورند کرښې په اړه د افغانستان او پاکستان نقشې سره توپیر لري. -- رنډ کرښه، چې ۲۶۴۰ کیلومتره اوږدوالی لري، په ۱۸۹۳ میلادي کال د بریتانیايي هند او افغانستان د هماغه وخت د پاچا ترمنځ کښل شوې وه. -- جنرال کریمي وویل چې باید لومړی د دواړو هیوادونو نقشې یوشان شي. -- لوی درستیز شېرمحمد کریمي دا څرګندونې د افغانستان او پاکستان د لوی درستیزانو او د ناټو د عمومي قومندان له درې اړخیزې غونډې وروسته له ازادي راډیو سره په یوه ځانګړې مرکه کې وکړې. -- ده د افغانستان، پاکستان او ناټو د غونډو په اړه وویل چې تراوسه پوري درو خواوو ۳۷ دا ډول غونډې کړي خو کومه څرګنده نتیجه ورڅخه نه ده ترلاسه شوې. -- د افغانستان لوی درستیز په عین حال کې درې اړخیزې غونډې د افغانستان او پاکستان په ګټه وبللې ځکه چې د ده په وینا د هیوادونوترمنځ ستونزې یوازې د خبرو له لارې اوارېدای شي. -- په وروستیو ورځو کې افغان سرحدي ځواکونو د ډیورنډ په کرښه کې له پاکستاني ځواکونو سره وروسته له دې نښته وکړه چې د دوی په وینا پاکستاني پوځیانو هڅه وکړه چې د کندهار ولایت په معروف ولسوالۍ کې پوستې جوړې کړي. -- تېر کال د ننګرهار په ګوشتې ولسوالۍ کې هم د پاکستاني پوځیانو له لوري د پوستو د جوړېدو پر سر د دواړو خواوو ترمنځ نښتې وشوې. - تاند

Afghan election body sacks thousands over fraud ahead of run-off --- (Reuters) - Afghanistan's election commission said on Wednesday it had fired more than 3,000 staff accused of fraud in the first round of the country's presidential election, as it sought to quell fears that it might fail to deliver a legitimate outcome. -- Afghans voted on April 5 in the first round of the election to pick a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term after more than a decade in power. -- The winner will take charge at a crucial time, with most foreign troops due to withdraw by the end of the year, the Taliban insurgency still raging and a pact with Washington permitting some U.S. forces to stay hanging in the balance. -- Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said the Independent Election Commission had blacklisted the fired staff, so that they would not be hired in the second round. -- "Some fraud was reported from those polling stations," he added, referring to the sites where the fired staff had worked. -- Independent election monitors say many complaints were ignored in the effort to meet deadlines and the decision making process lacked transparency. -- "The Complaints Commission must ensure to look into all the complaints so that the results are acceptable to all sides," said Jandad Spingar, director of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan. -- The run-off will be held on June 14 and the results will be announced on July 22. -- Both frontrunners, former opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, complain that widespread fraud undermined the first round, reinforcing concern that the loser on June 14 may reject the run-off result. -- "The worst-case scenario would be if the election is both polarizing and the results are not accepted by one of the candidates and that has the potential to lead to conflict," Nicholas Haysom, deputy head of the U.N. mission, told journalists this week. -- "The remedy to that is to make the election as transparent as possible." -- More than 900 complaints classed in the most serious category were recorded in the April 5 vote, more than in the previous election, when more than a million votes were thrown out. Around 300,000 were excluded this time around. -- Runner-up former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani said most fraudulently cast votes were included in the final tally because of threats from rival candidates. -- "Threats of violence, where the opposing team promised rivers of blood, created a chilling environment," Ghani said in a statement after the final results were released. -- "Close to 800,000 votes that should have been declared fraudulent were included in the final count." -- "The whole process would have been questioned had we gone further...exposing the faults of the process," Abdullah said. - More,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

تحلیلگران: روزانه هزاران تن مواد معدنی به پاکستان قاچاق میشود --- شماری از خبره گان و متخصصین بخش معادن می گویند که برخی حلقات در داخل حکومت، در قاچاق معادن به کشورهای همسایه به طور خاص پاکستان، دست دارند.اين گفته ها را شمارى ازمتخصصین بخش معادن، در يک نشست مطبوعاتى که به ابتکار مرکز مطالعات منطقوى مربوط اکادمى علوم افغانستان داير شده بود، ابراز نمودند. -- نجم الدین ترین معاون بخش علوم طبيعى اکادمی علوم گفت که معادن افغانستان، تا امروز به نحوه اى که باید از آن استفاده شود، نشده است. -- وی افزود که فعلا دو نوع تاراج در معادن کشور (یکی تاراج انفرادی و دیگرى تاراج سازمان یافته) توسط برخی حلقات مافیایى جریان دارد. -- موصوف علاوه کرد که حلقات سازمان یافته، برخی معادن را به شکل قرارداد در انحصار خود در آورده و با حمایت برخی کشورها، معادن را تاراج می کنند -- به گفتۀ وى، روزانه ده ها تن مواد معدنى چون بیروچ، کرومایت، لیتيم، سنگ رُخام و غیره از معادن ولایات، کنر، نورستان، هلمند، بدخشان، پنجشیر، لغمان، ننگرهار و خوست به شکل غيرقانونى، کندنکارى و به کشور پاکستان انتقال ميگردد. -- معاون اکادمی گفت: "تا زمانیکه حکومت امنیت را تامین نکند، شفافیت در قراردادها را به وجود نیاورد و معلومات دقیق مطابق بازار امروزی جمع آوری نگردد؛ جلو استخراج غیرقانونی و جلب سرمایه گذاری در بخش معادن را گرفته نمى تواند." -- در همین حال، محمد ابراهیم عادل کارشناس بخش معادن و وزیر پیشین وزارت معادن و پطرولیم، در قبال قاچاق موادمعدنی به شکل غیرقانونی به کشور پاکستان، ابرازنگرانى کرد و گفت تا زمانیکه نیروهای امنیتی به شکل درست امنیت معادن را نگیرند، مشکل است جلو استخراج و قاچاق معادن را گرفت. -- وی درادامه افزودکه اگرحکومت، بخاطرجلوگيرى استخراج غیرقانونی معادن و قاچاق آن به خارج از کشور اقداماتى را رويدست نگیرد، آیندۀ افغانستان به سرنوشت کشور افریقاى جنوبی گرفتارخواهد شد. -- عادل علاوه کرد که حکومت، باید همزمان با جلوگیری ازقاچاق و استخراج غیرقانونی معادن؛ زمینۀ استخراج قانونى معادن را مساعد بسازد؛ تا مواد معدنی استخراج شده در داخل کشور پروسس شود. -- به باوروى، اين کاراز يک طرف زمینۀ اشتغالزایی را مساعد نموده و از جانب دیگر، باعث رشدسرمایه گذاری در کشور می گردد. -- موصوف، نبود متخصصین در وزارت معادن پطرولیم را خیلی نگران کننده خواند و گفت که تعهد شکنی در قراردادها، عقدقراردادهای ضعیف و خلاف منافع ملی، عدم تعهد از سوی کمپنی ها و شیوۀ استخراج معادن قرارداد شده، از نارسايى هايى است که در این وزارت موجود مى باشد. -- جاوید نورانی کارشناس بخش معادن وعضو نهاد دیده بان شفافیت افغانستان گفت که روزانه به هزاران تن مواد معدنی، ازطريق سرحدات افغانستان به کشورهای همسایه به شکل غیرقانونی قاچاق می شود. -- وی افزود: "روزانه بیش از ٢٠هزار تن زغال سنگ؛ ٢ تا ٣ هزار تن کرومایت که در آن المونیم، تیتانیم و پتنالیم شامل میباشد؛ لیتيم، سنگ رُخام و برخی مواد معدنی دیگر به شکل غیرقانونی به کشورهای همسایه قاچاق می شود." -- افزون برآن موصوف خاطرنشان کرد که معدن لیتيم در ولایت نورستان، توسط یک گروه مشخص به شکل غیرقانونی استخراج و به پاکستان قاچاق می شود؛ اما هويت اين گر وه را افشا نکرد. -- وى گفت: "این معدن توسط افرادى استخراج می شود که حتى وزارت امور داخله، توانایی جلوگیری آن را ندارد." -- نگرانى ها درخصوص استخراج غيرقانونى معادن ازسوى کارشناسان درحالى ابراز ميگردد که آژانس خبرى پژواک نيز گزارشاتى را درمورد استخراج معادن بیروچ، لیتم و کرومایت ولايت نورستان و کنر که توسط افراد زورمند با همکارى شماری از پاکستانی ها صورت ميگرد، قبلاً منتشر نموده است. -- دراين گزارشات، شمارى از نماينده هاى مردم ولايت نورستان و کنر در ولسى جرگه نيز استخراج غيرقانونى معادن را در ولايات يادشده تاييد کرده اند. - Pajhwok

Why The Long-Term Jobless Probably Aren't Getting Their Benefits Back --- WASHINGTON -- The 2 million Americans who've missed out on long-term unemployment insurance since December probably won't be getting their benefits back. -- Last month, the Senate passed legislation that would give lump-sum payments to people cut off since December by reauthorizing federal programs retroactively from December through May. But even if the House moved on the Senate bill this week and allowed people to collect back-payments, the long-term jobless would only receive support for one more week before the benefits expired again. -- Now, the retrospective push is losing steam. Though they still say House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should allow a vote on the Senate bill, the senators advocating for the legislation are wondering if it remains practical after all this time. -- "Or have we reached a point because of the delay that the prospective option is the only one that's viable," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told HuffPost on Tuesday. -- In other words, Reed and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the two senators from the states with the highest rates of unemployment, might abandon back payments in favor of restoring the safety net for people who become unemployed for long periods of time in the future. -- "We haven't come to any conclusions," Reed said. -- Reed and Heller may try to attach the federal benefits to unrelated transportation or tax legislation, but those are long shots. --- Since 2008, Democrats have successfully won reauthorizations of unemployment a dozen different times. Usually, the benefits have been combined with some other urgent, Republican-friendly piece of legislation -- a key ingredient that has been missing this time. -- In 2010, lawmakers attached the unemployment benefits to a two-year reauthorization of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, and they added a one-year payroll tax break for workers. The payroll tax cut's looming expiration helped lawmakers cut another deal the following year, but Republicans also insisted on a slew of reforms to the unemployment system, including a reduction in the number of weeks of assistance. -- During recessions, Congress always gives extra weeks of benefits to people laid off through no fault of their own if they can't find work after using the standard 26 weeks of benefits offered by states. The deal cut early in 2012 pared the combination of state and federal benefits back from a maximum of 99 weeks to 73 weeks, and it set in motion more reductions that would happen automatically when state unemployment rates declined. At the end of 2012, the benefits once again hitched a ride with the Bush tax cuts in the "fiscal cliff" drama. -- Then, following a government shutdown last fall, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) got to work on a bipartisan budget agreement. Democrats did not insist on attaching the unemployment benefits to the budget deal, hoping they could be handled separately before the end of the year. The budget deal might have been their best chance to save the benefits from expiring at the end of December. --- "If they really wanted to get this done, they would've taken that week in December when the House was gone and the Senate was in and jammed us" by attaching the benefits and sending the bill back to the House, a House GOP leadership aide said, speaking anonymously in order to discuss the matter candidly. "We were certainly expecting them to do it, and that was their best chance." -- Instead, the Senate passed the budget deal clean, later addressing the benefits as standalone legislation. Democrats have been beating up Boehner for refusing to allow a vote on the Senate bill, hoping the pressure would change his mind. -- "The House could pass the legislation very quickly," Reed said Tuesday. "It is a bipartisan, fully paid-for Senate bill. It's more than ironic they were able to pass a multibillion-dollar tax bill unpaid for, but they can't deal with unemployment insurance for over 2 million Americans." --- The strategy hasn't worked. One reason for Boehner's impassiveness is that the national unemployment rate keeps going down. When the Labor Department announced the rate had sunk to 7 percent in November, Boehner seized on the news. -- “Today’s report includes positive signs that should discourage calls for more emergency government 'stimulus,'" Boehner said. Since then, the rate has declined to 6.3 percent. -- Yet the rate of long-term unemployment remains historically high. In April, 35.3 percent of the unemployed had been out of work six months or longer -- down from a peak of 45.3 percent in April of 2010, but still way higher than in any previous recession since World War II. The current percentage is also higher than at any other time that Congress has allowed long-term benefits to expire. -- After so many battles over reauthorizing unemployment benefits, it's possible some lawmakers are just getting tired of it. -- "Though there are many members on both sides of the aisle who would vote yes on an unemployment insurance bill that made it to the floor, the reality is that there is tremendous fatigue on this issue, especially on the right," Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project who routinely deals with lawmakers, said in an email. -- "Between the initial authorization of [long-term benefits] and all the expansions and reauthorizations, this is the 13th time Congress has been called on to deal with the benefits, including five different reauthorizations in 2010 alone," Conti said. "In fact, it's probably the case that members of Congress have dealt with unemployment insurance more than almost any other issue since even before the recession began." - More, Huffingtonpost,

رادیو آزادی -- امریکا موافقه کرد که به صدها ترجمان افغان، ویزه می دهد --- وزارت خارجه امریکا بطور ناگهانی در مورد دادن ویزه به افغان های که با قوای امریکایی در افغانستان به حیث ترجمان کار می کنند، موافقه نمود. -- یک گروه اعضای کانگرس از مجلس نماینده گان و مجلس سنای امریکا کوشش دارند که برنامه دادن ویزه به ترجمانان افغان گسترده تر شود. -- به گفته آنها برنامه فعلی مشکل دارد و به اساس آن یک تعداد زیادی از ترجمانان که در کشور خود به خطر حیاتی روبرو هستند از گرفتن ویزه امریکا محروم می شوند. -- در این رابطه اعضای مجلس سنا و مجلس نماینده گان کانگرس امریکا در نظر دارند که امروز پنجشنبه پروگرام ویزه خاص مهاجرت به افغانان را پیشنهاد کنند. -- به اساس این پروگرام مهلت مراجعه برای گرفتن ویزه ترجمانان که قرار است در خزان امسال به پایان برسد تا ختم سال 2015 تمدید می شود. -- به این ترتیب 3 هزار مراجعه کننده دیگر فرصت می یابند که برای گرفتن ویزای امریکا اقدام کنند. -- این لایحه برای آن عده ترجمانان که با والدین، اطفال و اقارب نزدیک خود می خواهند به امریکا بروند، زمینه مهاجرت را فراهم می سازد. -- اگر این لایحه تصویب شود به اساس آن افغانهای که با رسانه های امریکایی و موسسات غیر دولتی این کشور کار می کنند نیز می توانند اجازه اقامه امریکا را بدست آورند. -- عساکر امریکایی تا ختم سال جاری افغانستان را ترک می کنند، از این رو اعضای کانگرس می خواهند به آن افغان های که با خطر رو به رو می شوند، بیشتر کمک شود. -- سخنگوی وزارت خارجه امریکا ماری هیرف در یک ایمیل گفته است این وزارت در صدور ویزه به ترجمانان افغان در ماه های اخیر گام های بزرگی برداشته است. -- او همچنان گفته است در سال جاری تا حال وزارت خارجه امریکا به 1600 تقاضا کننده اصلی افغان و 2800 عضو خانواده هایشان ویزه صادر کرده است. -- در این افراد فرزندان سن زیر 21 سال شامل می باشند. -- به گفته سخنگوی وزارت خارجه امریکا تقاضای 5600 ترجمان دیگر افغان تحت غور بررسی قرار دارد. -- More, State Department approves more visas for Afghan interpreters, Washingtonpost

Stanley McChrystal On The Afghanistan War: 'We Made It Harder Than It Needed To Be' --- Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal discussed the war in Afghanistan on HuffPost Live Wednesday. -- Stanley McChrystal On The Afghanistan War: 'We Made It Harder Than It Needed To Be' -- "I think the United States went into Afghanistan in a reflexive way after 9/11, clearly, near where the first or the biggest tragedy occurred," McChrystal explained. "We went in to get rid of Al Qaeda, but then we found a deeply damaged nation for which we de facto had assumed some level of moral and physical responsibility." -- "I don't think we did everything right from 2001 to the present," McChrystal continued, "but I think we've done an awful lot of really good things." -- When pressed whether the U.S. presence in fact made things worse in Afghanistan, McChrystal defended American actions. -- "I think that we made it harder than it needed to be, I don't think we made it worse, because if you go in 2001, once the Taliban had left, there was a vacuum and there was chaos and there was physical destruction and the society was literally torn to pieces. So without outside help I don't think they could have suddenly put the pieces back together and moved forward." -- Ultimately, McChrystal concluded, "even though we have made it harder, we have made it better. It's just taken longer and been more costly than anybody would have liked." - More, Watch a clip of McChrystal's interview above, Huffingtonpost,

هشدار وزیر داخله در مقابل راکت پراگنی های پاکستان --- محمد عمر داودزی وزیر داخله افغانستان به پاکستان هشدار داد که اگر حملات را کتی را به افغانستان متوقف نسازد،مسوول هرگونه عواقب ناگوار افغانستان نخواهد بود. -- آقای داود زی، که در جلسه مقامها وقوماندانها وزارت داخله که در مورد امنیت انتخابات دور دوم برگزار شده بود صحبت میگرد، گفت که حملات راکتی پاکستان به پوسته های نیروهای امنیتی افغان همراه با آغاز عملیات خیبر طالبان آغاز شده است وافغانستان دیگر تحمل این راکت پراگنی ها را ندارد. -- آقای داود زی گفت"همین قدر بس است وسکوت ما معنی این را نمیدهد که ناتوان هستیم ،سکوت ما نمونه همسایگی خوب با شما است و این را ناتوانی فکر نکنید." -- وزیر داخله افزود، که نظامیان پاکستان نه تنها در کنر راکت پراگنی را ادامه داده بلکه شب گذشته در ولایت های خوست وپکتیکا هم راکت پرتاب نموده اند وپوسته های سرحدی را هدف قرار داده اند. -- آقای داود زی گفت "اگر پاکستان راکت پراگنی را متوقف نسازد هرگونه عواقب ناگوار آن به دوش پاکستان خواهد بود." -

China's Xi Warns Asian Countries on Military Alliances --- Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Asian countries against building what he sees as unhelpful military alliances, in what is seen as a swipe at nations that have developed closer defense ties with the United States. -- The comments came Wednesday in Shanghai at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA), a regional grouping China hopes to use to offset U.S. influence. -- "We should stick to the basic norms in international relations such as the respect for the independence of sovereignty and integrity of territory, mutual non-interference into internal affairs. We should respect the political systems and development methods different countries choose willingly. We should respect and look after the reasonable security concerns of every country. It is disadvantageous to the common security of the region if military alliances with third parties are strengthened,” said Xi. -- Many of China's neighbors have boosted their military cooperation with the U.S. in response to what they see as China's increasing use of force and intimidation in its many territorial disputes. -- In particular, Beijing's maritime spats with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea and Japan in the East China Sea have worsened in recent months. -- During a visit to Asia last month, President Barack Obama sought to reassure allies such as Japan and the Philippines that his long-promised strategic shift towards Asia and the Pacific, widely seen as aimed at countering China's rising influence, was real. --The CICA grouping includes Vietnam, while the Philippines and Japan are not members but had representatives at the meeting. The group also excludes the U.S., while including nations such as Iran and Russia. -- Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam last week after Chinese state oil company CNOOC deployed an oil rig 150 miles off the coast of Vietnam in waters also claimed by Hanoi. The rig was towed there just days after Obama left the region. -- The move was the latest in a series of confrontations between China and some of its neighbors over the potentially oil-and-gas rich South China Sea. Washington has responded with sharpened rhetoric toward Beijing, describing a pattern of “provocative” actions by China. -- The CICA is relatively obscure in comparison to other Asian regional groupings, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but Beijing, which took over as chair of the CICA from Turkey this week, hopes to use the group and others like it to help expand Chinese influence across the region. - More, VOA News,

Ghani Invites Abdullah to a Religious Debate --- The leading presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai invited his rivals and specifically those who accuse him for impiety to participate in a religious debate. -- Ghani said Wednesday that certain people have accused him for the lack of religious knowledge and impiety. -- He did not name any specific individual to participate in the religious debate; however it seems his remarks were aimed at challenging his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah. -- Ghani called on his rivals to take part in a debate in order to test the religious knowledge of each other. -- In the meantime, Abdullah Abdullah has said it is not necessary to participate in a religious debate in order to prove our religious knowledge to the people of Afghanistan. -- Abdullah called the remarks by Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai an unpleasant joke ahead of the election campaigns. -- Further accusations are expected by the presidential contenders as election campaigns formally starts tomorrow for the second round of election. -- Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai are the two leading candidates who will contest in election runoff which is expected to be organized on 14th June. - Khaama Press (KP)

Egypt's Mubarak convicted of embezzlement, sentenced to 3 years in jail --- Ousted Egyptian president convicted of stealing public funds; his two sons each sentenced to four years in prison on same charges; Mubarak and sons also fined nearly $3 million. -- CAIRO - An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced ousted president Hosni Mubarak to three years in prison on charges of stealing public funds. -- "The court orders Mohamed Hosni Mubarak to be sent to jail for three years," said judge Osama Shaheen as Mubarak looked on from a cage flanked by his sons, who were sentenced to four years in jail on the same charges. -- The court fined Mubarak and his sons 21.197 million Egyptian pounds ($2.98 million) and ordered them to repay about 125 million Egyptian pounds of funds the court said they had stolen. -- Mubarak's former intelligence chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is poised to be elected president next week. -- Mubarak has been under house arrest at a military hospital since August pending retrial in a case of complicity in killing protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his rule. -- It was not immediately clear if the three years Mubarak and his sons have already spent in jail would be counted toward the sentence and if Mubarak would return to the army hospital or be sent to prison. - The Jerusalem Post,

Chinese president meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai --- SHANGHAI, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Shanghai on Monday, vowing to back Afghanistan's efforts to maintain national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. -- Karzai is in China to attend the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia slated for Tuesday and Wednesday in Shanghai. -- Reiterating China's friendly policies toward Afghanistan, Xi told Karzai China remains a reliable friend of the country despite changes in the international and regional situation. -- "We are ready to maintain high-level exchanges with Afghanistan, step up cooperation in various areas and offer aid to the country's reconstruction of peace," Xi said. -- He vowed joint efforts with Afghanistan to facilitate the construction of a Silk Road economic belt, adding China supports its companies to invest in Afghanistan. -- Xi urged the Afghan government to take effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and organizations in the country. -- He vowed to enhance cooperation with Afghanistan in preventing and fighting the "three evil forces" of separatism, extremism and terrorism. -- "China hopes to see a unified, stable, developing and friendly Afghanistan," Xi said, vowing China's constructive role in backing the country's efforts to maintain national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned national reconciliation process. -- "We respect the Afghan people's choice, and hope the ongoing presidential elections will be a new starting point for the country's peaceful transition, solidarity and stability," Xi said. --- The Chinese president also vowed to promote a greater role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on the issue of Afghanistan. -- Xi praised the important contribution Karzai has made in promoting bilateral ties, and welcomed him to pay more visits to China and continue his positive role in facilitating Sino-Afghan relations. --- Karzai hailed the brotherhood of both countries and called China a reliable neighbor. Afghanistan appreciates China's valuable support for the country's peaceful reconstruction, he said. -- Afghanistan is committed to developing close good-neighborly ties with China no matter which candidate wins the election, Karzai said. -- He said he expects China's continued help for stability, reconciliation and development in Afghanistan, as well as for training Afghan personnel in various fields. -- Afghanistan is willing to make joint efforts with China to combat terrorism and transnational crimes, he added. --- Earlier the Chinese government announced it will offer 10 million yuan (1.62 million U.S. dollars) in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. - More,

Meeting with President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai --- Vladimir Putin met with President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai in Shanghai. -- PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr President, I am very pleased to see you and to have the opportunity to exchange views about developing our bilateral relations, as well as the situation in the region. --- There were different periods in the history of relations between our nations, but ultimately, the main trend in our relationship has always been an aspiration toward good neighbourly relations and developing cooperation. In recent years, with your direct participation and support, we have built very neighbourly, friendly relations, seeking ways to develop our contacts in the economic, political and humanitarian sectors. Thanks to your efforts, Afghanistan has made great strides in stabilising the domestic situation, developing the economic and social spheres, and building its armed forces. You have also done a great deal to successfully hold the first phase of the presidential election campaign. -- I want to thank you for our joint work in recent years and express my hope that the second phase of the elections will be achieved and your successor will do everything to continue all that you have done to build Russian-Afghanistani relations. - More,

روسای جمهور افغانستان و روسیه روی همکاری های دو جانبه گفتگو کردند ---- رییس جمهور افغانستان با ولادیمیر پوتین رییس جمهور روسیه ملاقات کرد. رهبران هر دو کشور برای اشتراک در یک کنفرانس منطقه یی به میزبانی چین دیروز در شهر شانگهای با هم دیدار کردند. -- رییس جمهور روسیه از اشتراک مردم در انتخابات ریاست جمهوری افغانستان ستایش کرده ابراز امیدواری نمود که دور دوم انتخابات نیز موفقانه برگزار شود. -- ولادیمیر پوتین همچنان گفت، امیدوار است که رییس جمهور آینده افغانستان در تقویت روابط کابل و مسکو تلاش زیاد کند. -- حامد کرزی رییس جمهور افغانستان گفت، موقعیت جغرافیه یی افغانستان و روسیه، روابط تاریخی و منافع مشترک، سبب می شود که حکومت آینده افغانستان برای انکشاف روابط و همکاری با روسیه گام های جدی بر دارد. -- روسای جمهور هر دو کشور دیروز در شهر شانگهای در آستانه برگزاری کنفرانس منطقه یی به میزبانی چین با هم ملاقات و گفتگو کردند. -- ولادیمیر پوتین در جریان دیدار اش از تلاش های حامد کرزی ستایش کرده گفت، افغانستان در پیشرفت اقتصادی – اجتماعی و همچنان در عرصه امنیتی راه طولانی را پیموده است. -- رییس جمهور روسیه یکبار دیگر حامد کرزی رییس جمهور افغانستان را مخاطب قرار داده گفت، در برگزاری موفقانه دور اول انتخابات تلاش های زیاد را به خرچ داده است. -- اکنون انتخابات ریاست جمهوری افغانستان به دور دوم رفته و در این دور انتخابات که بتاریخ 24 ماه جواز برگزار می شود، عبدالله عبدلله و اشرف غنی احمدزی به رقابت می پردازند. -- روسای جمهور افغانستان و روسیه تروریزم و افراطیت را تهدید جدی برای منطقه دانسته تاکید کردند که کشور های منطقه باید علیه این تهدید ها مشترکاً مبارزه کنند. -- در مورد ملاقات روسای جمهور افغانستان و روسیه در اعلامیه ریاست جمهوری افغانستان آمده است که آنها در این دیدار در مورد همکاری های اقتصادی و نظامی بین مسکو و کابل نیز بحث و گفتگو کردند. -- همزمان با این، روسیه و چین یک اعلامیه مشترک را در باره افغانستان به نشر رساندند. -- در این اعلامیه که دیروز به دسترس رسانه ها قرار گرفت، به یک افغانستان با ثبات که در آن صلح و امنیت تامین بوده و تروریزم و قاچاق مواد مخدر نباشد، تاکید شده است. - رادیو آزادی

Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations --- The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden. -- The award, announced in New York on Monday, comes 10 months after the Guardian published the first report based on the leaks from Snowden, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records. -- In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971. -- The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its "revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy". --- The NSA revelations have reverberated around the world and sparked a debate in the US over the balance between national security and personal privacy. On the back of the disclosures, President Obama ordered a White House review into data surveillance, a number of congressional reform bills have been introduced, and protections have begun to be put in place to safeguard privacy for foreign leaders and to increase scrutiny over the NSA’s mass data collection. - More, Ed Pilkington in New York, Guardian,

Thailand’s army declares martial law --- BANGKOK — Thailand’s army declared martial law before dawn Tuesday in a surprise announcement it said was aimed at keeping the country stable after six months of sometimes violent political unrest. The military, however, denied a coup d’etat was underway. -- The move effectively places the army in charge of public security nationwide. It comes one day after the Southeast Asian country’s caretaker prime minister refused to step down and follows six months of anti-government demonstrations that have failed to oust the government. -- Armed troops entered multiple private television stations in Bangkok to broadcast their message and surrounded the national police headquarters in the city center. Army jeeps mounted with a machine-guns diverted traffic on a major road in front of Central World, one of the country’s most luxurious shopping malls. But the vast metropolis of 10 million people appeared calm, and commuters could be seen driving and walking to work as usual. -- An army official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, told The Associated Press “this is definitely not a coup. This is only to provide safety to the people and the people can still carry on their lives as normal.” -- A ticker on Chanel 5, an army station, also denied the military was taking over and asked the public not to panic. -- Thailand’s army has staged at 11 successful coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. The last was in 2006. -- Thailand, an economic hub for Southeast Asia, has been gripped by off-and-on political turmoil since 2006, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. - More, Associated Press, Washingtonpost

Germany becomes world's top migration spot after U.S.: OECD --- (Reuters) - Germany has become the world's second most popular destination for immigrants after the United States, attracting many southern Europeans driven from the ravages of the euro zone financial crisis to overtake Canada and Australia. -- Germany soared to second place in the 2012 in a survey of permanent migration published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday. It ranked eighth in 2009. -- "This really is a boom - without any exaggeration ... no other OECD country experienced such a rise," said Thomas Liebig, an expert on international migration at the Paris-based OECD. -- The number of permanent migrants to Germany, defined as those with the right to stay longer than one year, rose by an annual 400,000 or 38 percent in 2012, with migrants from other European countries the main driver, the study showed. -- The OECD said immigrants to Germany now had better vocational skills than in earlier years and more were finding work. --Most people came from eastern Europe but an increasing number came from southern European countries, lured by Germany's strong economy and robust labor market, the OECD study showed. -- In Spain, Portugal and Greece - whose economies have been hit hard by the sovereign-debt crisis and government austerity programs - youth unemployment has soared, leaving many feeling they have no option but to leave. - More,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Narendra Modi appointed as India's prime minister --- New Delhi (CNN) -- India's president appointed Narendra Modi as the new prime minister of the world's largest democracy Tuesday, the presidential palace said in a statement. -- Modi succeeds Manmohan Singh, whose Congress party suffered its worst-ever defeat in the recent general elections. -- President Pranab Mukherjee will administer the oath of office and secrecy to Modi on May 26, the statement said. -- Earlier in the day, Modi made his maiden visit to the national parliament as a federal lawmaker. In a traditional gesture of supplication to what Indians call their temple of democracy, he bowed down on the first step of the building's entry stairs. -- After he was officially named leader of his Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) parliamentary group, Modi made a passionate speech in Hindi. -- In his televised address to BJP lawmakers, he broke down briefly as he hailed both the nation and his party as his "mother." -- "I have done no favor. Can serving the mother be called a favor?" he asked, pausing to sip water. "India is my mother and so is the BJP. You do no favor to your mother. You only serve her," he said, his voice choked with emotion. -- Modi vowed to increase efforts to eradicate poverty, create employment opportunities for the country's young workers and provide a safer environment for women. -- The BJP has swept the five-phase national elections that concluded on May 12, winning 282 of the 543 seats of the parliament's lower house on its own in what has been a historic mandate for any single party in decades in India. -- Together, the BJP-led coalition -- called the National Democratic Alliance -- comprises 335 elected members in the lower chamber called the Lok Sabha, or the House of People. - Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN,

Get Ready World: China and Russia Are Getting Closer --- Whenever Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with his Chinese counterparts, there is always dramatic talk about the intensifying special relationship between the two countries and the enunciation of bold goals to double trade and further expand security, political and diplomatic ties. There is just as often a noticeable lag between the rhetoric of summits and what is actually achieved. Of course, both countries have moved closer together in recent years, but Moscow and Beijing have also traditionally hedged their relations with each other. China, of course, does not want to damage its much more lucrative ties with the West by joining Russia on a bold anti-Western crusade, while Russia is fearful of being drawn into the Chinese orbit and eventually reduced to the position of Beijing's junior partner. --- Has the Ukraine crisis, however, changed the dynamic of the Sino-Russian relationship? If Russia's traditional "European vector" is now likely to be compromised—inhibiting further trade and investment—and if relations with the United States are more likely to be characterized by a "cold peace" rather than a reset for strategic partnership, is Putin now coming to Beijing as a supplicant, anxious to show that he is not isolated by Western pressure and has options? Or is he planning to offer the Chinese the vision of a new world order where the two great powers of Eurasia can, in concert, work to rewrite many of the rules of the international order laid down by the Euro-Atlantic world? --- When president Xi Jinping welcomes Putin on his return to the Middle Kingdom this week, we will have a better idea as to how to answer these questions. In particular, outside observers should consider utilizing the following checklist: - More, The National Interest,

China vents outrage over U.S. cyberspying indictment --- BEIJING — Outraged by U.S. cyberspying charges against members of a secretive Chinese military unit, China summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing for a dressing down, state media said Tuesday, and the Defense Ministry blasted the U.S. accusations as hypocritical. -- The government, meanwhile, published new statistics that it said showed massive cyberattacks on China originating from the United States. “Those activities target Chinese leaders, ordinary citizens and anyone with a mobile phone,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. “In the meantime, the U.S. repeatedly accuses China of spying and hacking.” -- A day after the U.S. Justice Department unveiled explosive criminal cyber-espionage charges against five Chinese military officers, Beijing was still sputtering with indignation. Late Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called the charges in a U.S. federal grand jury indictment “purely fictitious, extremely absurd.” China also announced it was suspending participation in the Sino-U.S. Cyber Working Group, formed to bridge differences over cyberspying. -- The U.S. charges are certain to strain Washington’s military relationship with China, which the Pentagon made a concerted effort to build up in recent years. A Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Tuesday that the Defense Department had been aware of the impending charges and hoped that they would not stymie cooperation on various fronts. -- “The degree to which this affects the relationship is up to the Chinese,” Kirby said, noting that Washington’s military relationship with Beijing has been built in “fits and starts.” -- “The degree to which this affects the relationship is up to the Chinese,” Kirby said, noting that Washington’s military relationship with Beijing has been built in “fits and starts.” -- Dempsey said the two leaders had mapped out possible steps they could take to build trust and avoid miscalculations, including by establishing a secure video conference system that would allow them to consult regularly. -- “All these initiatives are intended to continue to build a positive relationship, help us manage risk and reduce the chance of misunderstanding,” Dempsey said during a joint news conference last week. -- Kirby said it was too early to tell whether those initiatives are now on off the table. -- “These visits are an indication that we’re trying to build a better level of trust,” he said. -- China and Washington have tussled over territorial disputes in the region that involve close U.S. allies, including Japan and the Philippines. China has argued that its rivals in those cases have been emboldened by the Obama administration’s policy to shift more military assets to the region as an era of ground wars comes to an end. -- U.S. officials recently sought to gain insight into China’s cyber military doctrine by briefing Chinese officials about Washington’s — but Beijing did not reciprocate. - More, William Wan and Ernesto Londoño, Washingtonpost

د افغانستان د بهرنیو چارو وزیر د سرتاج عزیز څرګندونې وغندلې --- د افغانستان د بهرنیو چارو وزارت د افغانستان په راتلونکي حکومت کې طالبانو ته د یو شمېر ولایتونو د ورکولو په باب د پاکستان د ملي امنیت د سلاکار څرګندونې وغندلې او هغه یې د افغانستان په کورنیو چارو کې د پاکستان د لاسوهنې نښه وبللې. -- د افغانستان د بهرنیو چارو وزارت ویندوی شکیب مستغني پرون /دوشنبه/ له خبریالانو سره په خپله اوونیزي خبري غونډه کې وویل:«افغانستان هیڅ بهرني هیواد ته اجازه نه ورکوي چې په کورنیو چارو کې یې لاسوهنه وکړي.» --- سرتاج عزیز تېره اوونۍ د امریکا له وال ستریټ ژورنال ورځپاڼې سره په مرکه کې په ډاډ ویلي و چې د افغانستان راتلونکی ولسمشر له طالبانو سره د سولې او پخلاینې چانس لري. ده همداراز ویلي و چې پاکستان نه غواړي طالبان د پاکستان پولو ته نژدې جګړې ته دوام ورکړي یا سیمې لاندې کړي ځکه چې بیا به پاکستاني طالبان د افغان طالبانو تر کنټرول لاندې سیمو کې پناهځایونه جوړ کړي نو پاکستان غوره بولي چې طالبانو ته دې راتلونکی حکومت د افغانستان یو شمېر ولایتونه ورکړي او په حکومت کې دې شریک شي. -- د افغانستان د بهرنیو چارو وزارت ویندوی له ګاونډیو هیوادونو وغوښتل چې پر هغو ژمنو ودرېږي چې د توکیو په کنفرانس کې یې له افغانستان سره کړي دي. -- مستغني همدارز وویل چې هند وعده کړې چې د افغانستان ملي اردو ته به مالي او پوځي مرستې ورکړي. - تاند

Pakistan Officials Say Next Afghan President Will Have Better Chance of Making Peace --- Mr. Aziz, the Pakistani national security advisor, outlined the parameters of the peace discussions so far. -- He said it wouldn't be in Pakistan's interest to have the Afghan Taliban control swaths of territory across the border because those areas could become havens for the separate Pakistani Taliban insurgency. -- Instead, he suggested the Afghan Taliban should be offered a share of power through governorships of some provinces and other unelected appointments, something he said has been raised by Mr. Karzai. --- "Not territory, but participation. You have to make it worthwhile for them," Mr. Aziz said. "That kind of power sharing, certainly they are stakeholders," he added. -- The main thing is, we from the outside should not dictate to them what they should do and what they should not." - More, Wall Street Journal

محور ورځپاڼه: امریکا د پاکستان تر شا ولاړه ده او د افغانستان په ستوني یې پل اېښی --- اسلام آباد او ناټو غونډه پداسې حال کې دایره شوه چې تر هغه درې ورځې وړاندې د کندهار په معروف ولسوالۍ او تر هغه پنځه ورځې وړاندې په کونړ د پاکستاني پوځیانو بریدونو د تېر په څېر د ګاونډیتوب اصول وننګول. -- د ۳۷ درې اړخیزه غونډو د اغېزو په اړه همدا کافي ده چې ووایو؛ پاکستان د افغانستان د ځپلو لپاره د هېڅ وسیلې له استعمال مخ نه اړوي. -- څارونکي وایي، افغانستان دې درې اړخیزې غونډې بایکاټ کړي او په ځای دې د ملګرو ملتونو په امنیت شورا کې خپل اعتراض تعقیب کړي. -- د شنونکو په باور په کور دننه د کمزوري حکومت نتیجه داده چې په ملي حاکمیت او ځمکنۍ بشپړتیا تر بریدونو وروسته هم د زغم توصیه کېږي او د غږ پورته کولو قانوني چانس ضایع کېږي. -- د دوی په باور، د ناټو، پاکستان او افغانستان درې اړخیزه غونډه هغه وخت مثبته نتیجه لرلی شي، چې ناټو د دواړو هېوادونو ترمنځ په را منځته شویو تړونونو او التزاماتو سالم نظارت وکړي. -- حقوقپوه عثمان کامران محور ته وویل، ناټو د ملګرو ملتونو په استازیتوب حضور لري او باید ددې درې اړخیزه غونډې التزامات وڅاري: ((هغه تضمینونه چې پدې غونډو کې رامنځته کېږي باید ناټو یې د ملګرو ملتونو په استازیتوب تعقیب کړي، د سرغړونې په صورت کې افغانستان حق لري د ملګرو ملتونو امنیت شورا ته شکایت نامه وړاندې کړي. نړیوال له ملي حاکمیت د دفاع تر شعار لاندې په افغانستان کې اوسېږي او که پر پاکستان فشار رانه وړي، نو افغانان به دوی هم د نا امنیو یو اړخ وبولي.)) -- د افغانستان د سیمه ییزو مطالعاتو د مرکز مشر غفور لېوال وایي، تر هغو چې افغانستان له منځه قوي نشي، نه یې نړیوال غږ اوري او نه په چا التزامات وضع کولای شي. -- د ښاغلي لېوال په باور، ناټو او پاکستان په افغانستان کې ګډې ستراتیژیکې ګټې لري، ځکه خو ددې درې اړخیزې غونډې د تعهداتو عملي کېدو تمه نشي کېدای: ((۱ـ افغانستان د اعتراض وسایل او وس نه لري، د امریکا په شمول نړیوال له افغانستان سره سیاسي برخورد کوي، ځکه خو دوی زموږ عذر او سوال نه اوري. ۲ـ ملګرو ملتونو کله هم د افغان سولې په اړه هڅه نده کړې او نه یې د بهرنیو مداخلو مخنیوی کړی دی، دا د دوی له وس پورته خبره ده او نه پدې موقف کې دي. ۳ـ ددې حالاتو د مخنیوي لپاره په کور دننه د قوي حکومت رامنځته کول په کار دي، ناټو او پاکستان پخپله د قضیې یو طرف دي، نو له دوی به څنګه د عمل تمه ولرو؟)) -- خو د ولسي جرګې د نړیوالو اړیکو کمېسیون غړې آغلې ارین یون وایي، د افغانستان په تړاو د پاکستان دریځ معلوم دی او دا شان غونډې هسې د وخت ضایع کول دي. -- د مېرمن یون په وینا، پر کونړ او معروف ولسوالیو د پاکستان د وروستیو بریدونو په غبرګون کې باید حکومت دغه غونډه بایکاټ کړې وای: ((پر پاکستان د ملګرو ملتونو د امنیت شورا او ناټو غړو هېوادونو فشار نتیجه لري، ځکه دوی ښه خبر دي چې د ستونزو ریښه چېرته ده، خو یوازې په دې شان غونډو افغانستان مصروف ساتل غواړي.)) -- بلخوا سیاسي کارپوه عبدالرشید ارین بیا پرونۍ غونډه له پخوانیو ۳۶ درې اړخیزه غونډو متفاوته بولي او په وینا یې، پاکستان پخپله د ترورېزم قرباني دی او مجبور دی له افغانستان سره نور صادقانه چلند وکړي: ((پر پاکستان نړیوال فشارونه او پدې هېواد کې روانه نا امني به اوسنۍ غونډه له افغانستان سره صادقانه چلند ته یو پل وي. که ناټو او پاکستان په افغانستان کې ګډې ستراتیژیکې ګټې ولري، په سوله کې یې هم ترلاسه کولای شي، خو حقیقت دادی چې روان حالت نور د پاکستان له زغمه هم وتلی دی.)) - تاند

Abdullah Abullah, front-runner in Afghan presidential race, seeks to quell ethnic fears --- KABUL — Some called him the “Messenger of Death.” During Afghanistan’s brutal civil war of the 1990s, Abdullah Abdullah became famous as the government official who periodically announced how many rebels had been slain. -- The casualties were often Pashtuns, members of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group. The government was dominated by Tajiks, a smaller ethnic group. -- Two decades later, Abdullah is the front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential race, arguing that he can unite a country that has a history of ethnic strife. -- His first-place showing in the initial round of voting April 5 is being viewed as a potential sign of hope for Afghanistan amid a looming year-end pullout of international forces. -- But as Abdullah faces former finance minister Ashraf Ghani in a runoff election next month, the former Tajik warrior still must contend with the bitter memories of older Pashtuns. Some Afghans fear that his election could unsettle Pashtuns and even serve as a recruiting tool for the Taliban, which is largely made up of Pashtuns. -- Among those who still vividly remember Abdullah’s role in the 1990s is Abdul Qayyum Arif, a Pashtun and former governor of the Afghanistan National Bank. -- “He transferred the message: we have killed this much, we have killed this much, and we have killed this much,” said Arif, now an economics professor. “I never, never will believe that he has changed.” --- Pashtuns have historically lived on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and they make up about 40 percent of the Afghan population. Only twice in the past 250 years has a non-Pashtun ruled Afghanistan, once in 1929 and again in the early 1990s. -- Technically, Abdullah is of mixed heritage; his father was Pashtun. But for much of his political career, Abdullah has been more associated with his mother’s Tajik heritage. -- In the first round of voting, Abdullah won 45 percent of the vote. He swept predominantly Tajik provinces but also got support from about a quarter of Pashtun voters, according to a national poll conducted by ACSOR Surveys. Ghani, who is Pashtun, finished second with 31.6 percent of the vote. -- Abdullah’s strong showing in the election may have reflected his choice of a Pashtun, Mohammad Khan, as a vice-presidential candidate. But it also appeared to underline broad changes in Afghan society, analysts say, as memories of the civil war fade. -- The increased openness is particularly evident among younger people, who make up a majority of the population (68 percent of Afghans are under 25). --- Instead of worrying about decades-old battles, many Pashtuns say, they are looking for a candidate who can combat terrorism and crime and create jobs amid growing concern that Afghanistan’s economy could weaken dramatically as international aid declines. -- At a taxi stand in Kabul, where Pashtun drivers wait for passengers heading to distant villages, few even wanted to talk about the candidates’ ethnic heritage. Those who did stressed that it wouldn’t be a factor in their vote. --- “Historically, the Pashtun people have ruled this country,” said Wakil, 28, who, like many people in Afghanistan, goes by one name. “But in spite of this, I don’t care who wins the election. Just put an end to the violence.” --- Wadir Safi, a law professor at Kabul University and a Pashtun, said the importance of ethnicity had declined as neighborhoods in major cities such as Kabul became more ethnically diverse. -- When he started teaching at the university a dozen years ago, Safi said, students from different ethnic groups were “still sitting with guns and knives in the class” and getting into fights over girlfriends and political opinions. Now, he said, “their maturity is growing” — in large part because of access to the Internet and social media. -- “The young Tajiks, the young Uzbeks, the young Pashtuns, they are all friends,” Safi said. “The ethnic card doesn’t work anymore.” -- The ACSOR Surveys poll, conducted in March, found that ethnic and regional divisions were still important factors in voting. But at least seven in 10 Afghans surveyed said they would accept either of the two expected runoff candidates as the country’s next leader. --- Lingering unease, Still, some Pashtuns remain uneasy because of Abdullah’s past. -- “We could still see a lot of problems between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns, and it could be a big disaster,” said Waheed Mozhdah, a Kabul-based analyst and historian. --- After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Abdullah was spokesman for the Defense Ministry under President Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik. During that time, Afghanistan slipped into civil war, with ethnic Tajiks fighting Pashtuns and Hazaras, another group. -- The battles wrecked parts of Kabul, creating a backlash among Pashtuns that translated into support for the newly formed Taliban. When the Taliban seized control of Kabul in 1996, Abdullah and others fled and formed the Northern Alliance. Its forces were accused of ransacking Pashtun homes and carrying out kidnappings in Kabul. -- Now, Arif said, Pashtuns worry that some of those leaders will gain positions of authority if Abdullah is elected. “He will not be able to control those same commanders, and the same trends of kidnapping, robbery, will increase,” Arif said. --- In an interview, Abdullah refused to talk about his history, but he said Arif’s comments were “extremely poisonous” and represented “distorted ideas of the past.” “The people of Afghanistan didn’t vote for a ‘Messenger of Death,’” Abdullah said. -- If he wins, however, even some of his supporters say he will face huge challenges in governing. --- After more than a decade of war, many Pashtuns say they are frustrated by raids by the Afghan and U.S. militaries they say unfairly target their communities. --- Haji Amir Jan, a Pashtun tribal elder from southern Uruzgan province, was less alarmist. Abdullah had changed from his Northern Alliance days, the elder argued, adding: “I think we are ready for another Tajik ruler.” -- But he said Abdullah will have to treat Pashtuns differently from the way Karzai had. -- “If he continues the same policies as Karzai, to crush Pashtuns, I will guarantee you all Pashtuns will stand up against him,” he said. “And he will not finish his term as leader.” - More, Tim Craig, Washington Post

Monday, May 19, 2014

صدای آلمان -- هزینه ای که افغان ها به دلیل بلاتکلیفی کشور می پردازند --- تاجران و کسبه کاران افغان شاکی اند که معلوم نبودن سرنوشت کشور منجر به کاهش سرمایه گذاری شده است. بسیاری پروژه ها نیمه تمام باقی مانده و سازمان های بین المللی نیز برای تمویل این پروژه ها و سرمایه گذاری بی میل شده اند. -- همزمان با خروج نیروهای بین المللی و در آستانه دور دوم انتخابات ریاست جمهوری، نگرانی های امنیتی رو به افزایش است و فعالیت های اقتصادی نیز در بسیاری مناطق افغانستان کاهش یافته است. -- در پیش روی یک ساختمان 10 طبقه یی زیر کار در مرکز شهر کابل، صرفاً یک محافظ ایستاده است. این یکی از ده ها ساختمان زیر کار است که حتی یک کارگر در داخل آنها دیده نمی شوند. -- حمید الله عمر، مدیر بازاریابی یک ساختمان متروکه 9 طبقه یی در منطقه اصلی بازار خرید کابل می گوید: «سرمایه گذاری در چنین شرایطی دیوانگی خواهد بود.» -- تمویل کنندگان خارجی به دلیل ترس از بدتر شدن وضعیت امنیتی افغانستان را ترک می کنند و به این ترتیب حکومت افغانستان که هنوز به کمک های خارجی وابسته است، باید به تنهایی بتواند وجوه مالی اش را تامین کند. -- دو کشور از کمک کنندگان بزرگ افغانستان، ایالات متحده امریکا و بریتانیا قبلا کمک های خود به افغانستان را به نصف کاهش داده اند. سازمان های امدادی بین المللی که برای کمک به افغان ها فعالیت می کنند، می گویند که کمک ها به سرعت کاهش می یابند. یک سازمان غیرانتفاعی امریکایی که 13 مکتب دخترانه با سه هزار شاگرد را تمویل می کند، می گوید که بیشتر از یک سال است معاش معلمین را نپرداخته است. -- در برخی موارد قیمت املاک تا 50 درصد و کرایه ها حتی تا 75 درصد کاهش یافته است. سرمایه گذاران از تمویل پروژه های بازسازی دست کشیده اند. ارزش پول افغانی نیز کاهش یافته است. در اوایل سال 2013 هر دالر امریکایی با 52 افغانی تبادله می شد و حالا این نرخ به 57 افغانی رسیده است. -- جان محمد زی، صاحب اداره املاک "نوی افغان درانی" می گوید: «خانه ای که سال گذشته به هشت هزار دالر امریکایی کرایه داده می شد، حالا به دو هزار دالر داده می شود.» او حتی به این نظر است که اگر موافقتنامه امنیتی امضا شود و انتخابات به صورت درست برگزار گردد، باز هم وضعیت بهتر نخواهد شد. خان افضل هیوادوال، معاون بانک مرکزی افغانستان به رویترز گفت: «سرمایه گذاری اکثراً به صورت موقتی متوقف شده است.» -- سازمان های بین المللی پیش بینی کرده اند که رشد تولید ناخالص داخلی افغانستان از 14 درصد در سال 2012 به 3.5 درصد در سال جاری کاهش خواهد یافت. بانک جهانی گفته است که حالت بلاتکلیفی می تواند رشد اقتصادی افغانستان را در سال جاری صدمه بیشتر بزند. -- سازمان تحقیقی "گروه بین المللی بحران" هفته گذشته در گزارشی گفت که شمار حملات شورشیان از شروع برنامه خروج نیروهای بین المللی افزایش یافته است. این سازمان پیش بینی کرده است که اگر کمک های خارجی افزایش نیابد، افغانستان آینده خونینی خواهد داشت. -- نگرانی اصلی از اینجا ناشی می شود که افغانستان به موعد خروج نیروهای بین المللی در پایان امسال نزدیک می شود و موافقتنامه امنیتی دوجانبه میان کابل و واشنگتن که زمینه حضور شمار کمی از سربازان امریکایی را برای بعد از 2014 فراهم می سازد، هنوز به امضا نرسیده است. -- عمر می گوید: «بلاتکلیفی در مورد سرنوشت موافقتنامه امنیتی و دور دوم انتخابات به همه کسب و کارها خسارت وارد کرده است. تنها در کار ما این گونه نیست، بلکه مردم در سراسر کشور در چنین بلاتکلیفی به سر می برند.» -- هرچند دو نامزد دور دوم انتخابات افغانستان، داکتر عبدالله عبدالله و داکتر اشرف غنی احمد زی گفته اند که در صورت پیروزی در انتخابات موافقتنامه امنیتی با واشنگتن را به امضا می رسانند، اما تا نهایی شدن انتخابات افغانستان وقت زیادی باقی است. -- محمد اسماعیل افضل، مدیر شرکت ساختمانی "ضیا شجاع" می گوید که فعالیت های این شرکت از شروع سال روان تا حالا 80 درصد کاهش یافته است. او می افزاید: «بسیاری تاجران قبلاً پول های خود را از افغانستان خارج کرده اند و تاجران باقی مانده نیز چنین خواهند کرد.» اتاق صنایع و تجارت افغانستان گفته است که سرمایه گذاری در مجموع نسبت به سال گذشته 40 درصد کاهش یافته است. --- معاون بانک مرکزی افغانستان می گوید که گفتگو با چهار بانک غربی که مایل به سرمایه گذاری در بازارهای افغانستان بودند، متوقف شده است. او افزود: «آنها مایل اند که اینجا بیایند، اما برای هر سرمایه گذار این مهم است که ببیند چه اتفاق می افتد.» بیشتر کسانی از این وضعیت آسیب می بینند که به کمک های خارجی وابسته بودند. حدود نصف جمعیت افغانستان زیر خط فقر زندگی می کنند. -- براساس آمار سازمان ملل متحد، کمک ها از 894 میلیون در سال 2011 به 508 میلیون در سال 2013 کاهش یافت و کمتر از یک پنجم 406 میلیون دالر کمک های بشری سازمان ملل متحد در سال جاری تا حالا تهیه شده است. --هزینه-ای-که-افغان-ها-به-دلیل-بلاتکلیفی-کشور-می-پردازند/a-17646118

Aziz Rafiee: 'We Have Not Yet Diagnosed the Pathology of the Problems That Infect Afghanistan' --- When I first started working in a semi-governmental organization operating between the private sector and the state, I noticed that my educational background was not recognized. Despite my higher levels of education, I was working under a superior who had half of my level of education but much stronger relationships in the political sphere. -- I lost my wife during the civil wars and my son became disabled. I was injured during the fighting between the groups in Kabul and all of my family's possessions were looted, including a number of volumes of manuscripts of my book which I had been working on for several years. --- Freedom of expression as we are now experiencing it in Afghanistan is at an unprecedented level; we have never experienced this, not even during the 'decade of democracy'. Many taboos are being uncovered, for instance, about political groupings in Afghanistan and systems of governance. Other achievements are that Afghanistan has become a partner of the international community, and there is a level of citizenship accountability in the country. -- The newly established democratic environment has created space for tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Seeing previous enemies standing together sends a strong message. --- We have not yet diagnosed the pathology of the problems that infect Afghanistan. Quite serious and fundamental issues, such as questions of national unity and identity, the basic principles of our society, have not been discussed. My great fear is that we may not even confront these issues. Without going deeper, we might find that the present environment of tolerance is only superficial, which could have very dangerous consequences. --- The biggest challenge in Afghanistan is the expansion of the culture of impunity. This exists only for the rulers, the strongmen and the Mafia. Laws are not equally implemented -- they apply to the vulnerable but not to the strong men who are breaking them. When the son of a minister kills someone, he does not go to prison, not even for a day. Yet another person accused of murder spends five years in prison without even having a trial. -- There is a serious crisis of trust in society and the government of Afghanistan is to blame for it. War and internal miseries do create massive crises that seep into the culture of a country. -- It is not possible to live in the age of information technology and knowledge, and have the schools closed. --- The most important factor is the conservatism that prevails with respect to social issues. Lack of education and economic poverty are other factors. Women are consistently used as a means of labor in families. --- My eldest daughter is in her fourth year at university studying economics. I wish that she will be self-dependent, that she will not have to look to her family or her husband for her daily expenses and be able to earn a decent living through her own work. My second wish is that she will have the knowledge and the ability to comprehend the social and cultural issues she faces. -- During the past 25 years, I have engaged extensively in activities to raise awareness about human rights issues. - More, "Unveiling Afghanistan, the Unheard Voices of Progress" - Huffpost,

The House Armed Services Committee Has Spoken --- The actual bill that was passed is over 200 pages long, and that's without the appendix and funding tables included at the end of the legislation. There was no way I was going to read the entire bill with all its legalese, but thankfully Chairman Buck McKeon and his staff were generous enough to provide the public with a thorough summary in plain English. And, glancing at the summary, there are a few interesting tidbits that are worthy of pointing out. --- 2. Support For A Post-2014 U.S. Presence In Afghanistan: Amid news that the Obama administration is beginning to consider fewer U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the 2014 NATO mission ends -- some administration officials have been considered the withdrawal of all troops from the country after that date -- HASC members felt that they needed to put themselves on the record. Section 1217 of the bill expresses the sense of Congress that retaining a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014 is critical to meeting U.S. national security objectives in the country. And the committee also wants President Obama to be a far more active Commander-in-Chief on this issue: "The President," the bill reads, "should announce the United States residual presence for Operation Resolute Support to reassure the people of Afghanistan and to provide a tangible statement of support for the future of Afghanistan." The White House, as you might expect, has not made that announcement yet. --- 3. Support For Forward Deployment Of U.S. Forces In the Middle East: "It is the sense of Congress," the bill states, "that the United States should maintain a robust forward presence and posture in order to support United States allies and partners in the Arabian Gulf region, including Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Israel, and to deter Iran." Despite negotiations with the Iranians over its nuclear program, Congress remains highly concerned that Tehran is a destabilizing and dangerous actor in the region that deserves a strong U.S. response. But there is also a subtler message that the committee is sending to President Obama: even if Iran signs a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 negotiating team, Washington cannot afford to let down their guard. --- 3. Support For Forward Deployment Of U.S. Forces In the Middle East: "It is the sense of Congress," the bill states, "that the United States should maintain a robust forward presence and posture in order to support United States allies and partners in the Arabian Gulf region, including Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Israel, and to deter Iran." Despite negotiations with the Iranians over its nuclear program, Congress remains highly concerned that Tehran is a destabilizing and dangerous actor in the region that deserves a strong U.S. response. But there is also a subtler message that the committee is sending to President Obama: even if Iran signs a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 negotiating team, Washington cannot afford to let down their guard. --- 4. Russia Is An Adversary: Committee members are tough on Russia. According to the language, no funds made available through the 2015 NDA can be expended to promote U.S.-Russia military contact or cooperation unless the Secretary of Defense can certify to Congress that Moscow has met a series of requirements: That Russia has withdrawn troops from Ukrainian territory, that Russia is respecting Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that Russia is complying with missile defense and arms treaties that they have signed. Combined with the Obama administration's incremental sanctions on Russian individuals and entities, this no-contact clause will have the desired effect of further punishing Moscow for its activities in Eastern Europe and depriving the Russian military from benefiting from the world's most powerful military force. -- Fortunately, the committee had the fortitude to provide one exception to this clause: contact is allowed if that contact supports U.S. operations overseas. This means that the U.S. military will still be able to rely on the Northern Distribution Network as a transport and transit route to and from Afghanistan. - More, Huffingtonpost,

Defeated Congress party rejects Gandhi resignation offer --- (Reuters) - Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul on Monday offered to step down as leaders of the Congress party after it suffered its worst ever election defeat, but in a bid to snuff out dissent against the country's leading political dynasty, party bosses declined. -- Congress, which has ruled India for most of its 67 years of independence including the last decade, is reeling from a humiliating reverse to bitter rival Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). -- But rather than single out the Gandhis, who led a lacklustre campaign in the face of Modi's barnstorming performance, Congress leaders facing at least five years in opposition rallied around the family. -- "Sonia and Rahul offered to resign but the CWC rejected it unanimously," said Amrinder Singh, a senior party leader from Punjab, referring to the elite Congress Working Committee which met at party headquarters in New Delhi. -- Congress leaders adopted a resolution authorising Sonia to take steps to revamp the party. -- Television channels showed grim-faced party leaders led by Sonia, the Italian-born widow of assassinated prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Next to her was Rahul, who has been singled out as failing to check Modi's meteoric rise to power. -- He admitted at the meeting he failed to meet expectations, party spokesman Janardan Dwivedi told reporters at a briefing. -- The scale of defeat was devastating. Congress won 44 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament - less than the one-tenth required to be recognised as the main opposition group. The BJP's tally was 282. -- Sonia and her son won their seats in Uttar Pradesh, although Rahul did so with a vastly reduced majority. -- A source in the Congress said that Sonia offered her resignation as soon as the meeting began. -- "But the CWC said that we need you very much. We need a strong opposition to take on the BJP, we need a strong party to keep a check on the government," said the source, who attended the meeting but declined to be named. -- The reaction suggests that Congress is not about to break its historic bond with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has towered over politics for the best part of a century. --- Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also spoke up at the meeting, saying resignations of the two leaders was not a solution to the crisis facing the Congress, arguably its most serious in decades. --- While party bosses were closing ranks behind Rahul, some Congress members lower down the chain of command revived calls for a greater role for his sister Priyanka, seen as a more natural politician. -- Priyanka, a year younger than her brother, campaigned in the family's home districts, mounting an aggressive challenge to Modi's high-decibel show that took the country by storm. - More,

Castles in the air: Afghans pay a heavy price for uncertainty --- (Reuters) - A bored security guard, a Kalashnikov rifle over his shoulder, stands guard alone outside an idle construction site for a 10-storey building in downtown Kabul, one of more than a dozen concrete shells with not a single construction worker in sight. -- It was meant to be boom-time after decades of war and privation. Over the past few years, shiny new shopping malls started to spring up around the Afghan capital and construction cranes dotted Kabul's spectacular, snow-capped horizon. -- But the cranes have since disappeared and many buildings are empty and unfinished, having failed to reach completion before the money began to dry up. -- Business has ground to a halt across much of Afghanistan. Political uncertainty abounds before another presidential vote and security fears are growing as the last foreign combat troops prepare to leave. -- "To invest in such an environment would be craziness," acknowledges Hameedullah Omar, marketing manager of a deserted nine-storey office complex in Kabul's main shopping district that was completed only last year. -- Foreign donors worried about deteriorating security are leaving as Western forces wind down operations, leaving aid-dependent Kabul to manage its threadbare finances on its own. -- The United States and Britain, two of the biggest donors, have already cut aid by up to half. -- International aid groups, which provide a lifeline for marginalized Afghans, say funds are drying up fast. One U.S. non-profit group that runs 13 schools for 3,000 girls says it hasn't paid its teachers for more than a year. -- Property prices have slumped as much 50 percent, rents are down 75 percent by some counts and investors have pulled funding from construction projects. -- The afghani currency has also fallen and is now at around 57 to the dollar, from 52 at the start of 2013. -- "Investment is mostly on hold in Afghanistan," the deputy chief of the central bank, Khan Afzal Hadawal, told Reuters. -- International institutions expect Afghanistan's GDP growth to fall from a high of about 14 percent in 2012 to about 3.5 percent this year. The World Bank has said more uncertainty could dampen growth further this year. -- The International Crisis Group think tank said in a report released last week that the number of attacks by Islamist insurgents had risen since the drawdown of foreign troops began, and forecast a bloody future unless there was more foreign assistance. (Full Story) --- Investors and foreign donors have hit the 'pause' button, anxious about what lies ahead as Afghanistan strives to go it alone after nearly 13 years during which hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign capital kept it afloat. -- Their main concern stems from a year-end deadline for foreign combat troops to leave, and stalled negotiations between Kabul and Washington on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to allow a small force of U.S. troops to stay after Dec. 31. -- "The uncertain fate of the BSA and election runoff has damaged all businesses," said Omar. "It is not only ours but all around the country people live in such an uncertain future." -- More,

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tony Blair urges British intervention against Islamic extremists around the world --- Tony Blair will call on Britain today to back “revolution” against anti-Western interests in the Middle East and beyond to combat the growing threat of radical Islam. -- In a significant and controversial intervention, the former Prime Minister will suggest that, as a result of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, governments in Europe and America have become “curiously reluctant to acknowledge” Islamic extremism. -- This unwillingness to confront Islamism risks the 21st century being characterised by “conflict between people of different cultures”, he will warn. --- Mr Blair will also call for Europe and America to put aside their differences with Russia and China and “co-operate” to fight what he describes as the “radicalised and politicised view of Islam” that is threatening their collective interests. Mr Blair is due to make his remarks in a speech in London. But despite carrying significance because of his role as Middle East peace envoy they are unlikely to be well received in Downing Street or Washington. -- Just last week the Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain should “learn the lessons from history” and “cultivate influence” rather than always relying on hard power “that jars”. -- But Mr Blair, whose political legacy has been tainted by his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq, is understood to be increasingly concerned by the failure of Britain and other Western countries effectively to tackle what he believes to be the growing threat of radical Islam – that combines politics with religion and opposes pluralistic societies. -- While he does not specifically mention military intervention he makes clear that he believes Western “engagement” needs to go beyond the political. -- “When we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn’t just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support,” he will say. -- “It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped. -- “Engagement and commitment are words easy to use. But they only count when they come at a cost. There is no engagement that doesn’t involve putting yourself out there. There is no commitment that doesn’t mean taking a risk.” --- He goes on to add that the West should also be prepared to back “revolution” in countries, such as Iran, which are run by radical Islamic regimes. “Where there has been revolution, we should be on the side of those who support those principles and opposed to those who would thwart them,” he will say. --- Mr Blair also implicitly criticises regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – which are nominally pro-Western but often tolerate the preaching and teachings of radical Islam. -- “We spend billions of dollars on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems of the very countries with whom we have security and defence relationships,” he will say. --- Mr Blair will warn that unless these problems are tackled worse will come. -- “The threat of this radical Islam is not abating,” he will say. “This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures.” -- A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on Mr Blair’s speech. - More,

White House lawyers ‘unable to find’ critical Iraq letter from Tony Blair telling George Bush: ‘I’m with you whatever’ --- A letter sent by Tony Blair to George Bush that is “critical” to the Iraq Inquiry has gone missing from official White House records, it has been reported. -- The publication of secret correspondence between the UK and US administrations in the build-up to the Iraq War has become a major stumbling block for Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the 2003 invasion. --While the Cabinet Office has said privately that it wants to release as many of the Blair-Bush communications as possible, there is one letter which lawyers at the White House say they have “not been able to locate”. --- In its opening sentence, Mr Blair is said to have told the US President: “You know, George, whatever you decide to do, I'm with you.” The letter was reportedly hand-delivered by Manning to Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. -- Yet according to reports in the Mail on Sunday, a British source involved in the ongoing efforts to get the Bush-Blair records released said: “The lawyers are taking months to evaluate the letters and decide whether to release them. -- “However, they claim not to have been able to locate the ‘with you whatever’ letter.” -- Though Mr Blair said after 9/11 that Britain stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the US, and in 2011 he told Chilcot that he had been quite open about his support for Bush in dealing with Saddam Hussein, he denied the “with you whatever” wording. -- And more than three years after the inquiry completed its public hearings, the letter has been described as “absolutely critical” among all the correspondence in determining whether or not Mr Blair gave Mr Bush a “blank cheque” on Britain’s cooperation. --- Meanwhile, David Cameron said it was “frustrating” that the publication of the inquiry has been so delayed, and said that the public “want to see the answers of the inquiry”. - More,

Iraqi Election Fear: 'No One Is Safe Anymore' --- Iraq's former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, is hoping to oust the current government in this week's elections. He speaks to SPIEGEL about his belief that the Americans robbed him of power and about the country's escalating violence. -- Ayad Allawi has only just seen off a delegation of Shiite clerics from Basra, and already emissaries from the autonomous region of Kurdistan are waiting for him in the parlor. A long list of supporters and activists come to visit the 69-year-old here, in the campaign office of his Iraqi National Accord Party, despite the dangers involved in a trip to Baghdad. Bomb attacks still rock the country, and the capital, every day. --- Allawi's elaborately secured residence, a former educational center of the Baath Party, is located in the upscale neighborhood of Mansour, outside the sealed Green Zone in which the government, international organizations and US Embassy have fortified themselves. Allawi drags his right leg: "A greeting from Saddam Hussein," he says. He claims that in 1978, Saddam's henchmen had wanted to dispose of him because he had demanded freedom and democracy. He points to his family's democratic tradition: His ancestors, he says, revolted against the British occupiers and were involved in the founding of Iraq, becoming ministers and lawmakers. --- SPIEGEL recently sat down for an interview with Allawi in the run-up to parliamentary elections in Iraq on Wednesday. - More, Der Spiegel,

California fire crews subdue San Diego-area wildfires --- (Reuters) - California firefighters have largely subdued a swarm of blazes that gutted dozens of homes and forced evacuations of thousands of dwellings in and around San Diego, but Governor Jerry Brown said on Sunday the state was still bracing for its toughest fire season yet. -- Diminished winds and cooling temperatures over the weekend helped crews completely or mostly encircle nearly a dozen fires by Sunday that have charred at least 26,000 acres of drought-parched brush in San Diego County since the middle of last week. -- No serious injuries have been reported, though officials were trying to determine whether a burned human corpse found on Thursday at a homeless encampment in the coastal town of Carlsbad had died in the fire. -- Stoked by an unseasonable mix of triple-digit temperatures, extremely low humidity and hot, dry Santa Ana winds blowing in from the desert, the blazes highlighted what was already shaping up as one of the earliest and fiercest starts to California's wildfire season in decades. -- Even before last week's conflagrations in San Diego County, more than 1,350 wildfires had erupted statewide since January, double the number tallied during the same period in 2013, said Mike Mohler, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. -- Brown, appearing on ABC News, said a prolonged drought and the surge in wildfire activity were ominous signs of a changing climate that will compel California "to make very expensive investments and adjust." -- "We're in a very serious fire season, more serious than we've seen before," Brown said. "Humanity is on a collision course with nature, and we're going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can." -- By Sunday, firefighters had managed to carve containment lines around 85 percent of the so-called Cocos fire, which last week destroyed 39 houses in the town of San Marcos, north of San Diego, according to Cal Fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser. - More,

Egypt court jails more than 160 Brotherhood supporters --- (Reuters) - An Egyptian court jailed more than 160 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to up to 15 years in prison on Sunday, pressing a crackdown on the Islamist group before a presidential election former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win. -- Defendants chanted "Down with military rule" as Judge Hassan Fareed handed down 10-year jail terms to 126 Brotherhood supporters accused of violence and membership of a terrorist group in one of the cases. A further 37 people received 15-year sentences in a second case related to an alleged attempt to blow up a Cairo metro station. -- The security forces have detained thousands of Brotherhood supporters since the military deposed president Mohamed Mursi last July following mass protests against his rule. -- Sisi, expected to easily win the May 26-27 vote, has signaled there will be no reconciliation with the Brotherhood. -- Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, who was among 683 people sentenced to death last month, made a rare address in court, rejecting the accusations leveled against his group. -- "We have never responded to any attack against us with violence," said Badie, addressing the judge in footage uploaded to Youtube. The judiciary was being used in a political conflict the likes of which Egypt had never seen before, he said. -- The government declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group after an upsurge in attacks on the police and army following Mursi's removal from power. Many of the attacks have been claimed by radical Islamist groups such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. -- Mursi is one of many Brotherhood leaders now standing trial. He faces charges including conspiring with the Palestinian group Hamas against Egypt. Badie described that charge as "lies and falsehood". - More,

Hillary Clinton: What’s happening to the American Dream? --- As Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Friday about reviving the American Dream, about what it will take to restore what she called the “basic bargain” that hard work, effort and drive will lead to future success, I couldn’t stop thinking about a young woman named Contessa Allen-Starks. -- Clinton spoke at the New America Foundation’s annual conference on “Big Ideas” held at the Newseum, in the heart of the Washington, D.C.’s gleaming federal city. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a fellow at the nonpartisan at New America fellow and spoke at the conference about my book on time pressure and our vanished leisure.) -- Allen-Starks lives barely 15 minutes away by car, but her poor and troubled neighborhood across the Anacostia River might as well be a world away. -- I met Allen-Starks when I reported about Rapid Rehousing, a new effort to help poor families move out of homeless shelters, become self-sufficient and break long cycles of generational poverty. -- Allen-Starks was trying to do everything right. I spent the day with her, as she was up before dawn to get ready for an “externship” in a doctor’s office, in which she was paying thousands of dollars through a for-profit company that would result in a “certificate” that she hoped would mean something. She arranged for her two sons’ meals and child care, then boarded a bus, transferred to the Metro, and boarded another bus to get to that externship, her hope for a better and more stable job. -- After a long day there, a long commute home, and a walk to a nearby grocery store, she put on a white lab coat and went to work at the pharmacy at a nearby grocery store. Although she loves the job, she has been stuck with low-paying, part-time hours for years. -- She was working and studying seven days a week. And still, she was nowhere close to being able to pay the nearly $1,000 monthly rent on her small, two-bedroom apartment. (She later told me she fled the neighborhood with her boys after a shooting outside her front door.) -- At the conference, Clinton said that history, civics and economics tell the story that the country thrives when the middle class is working and thriving and when those at the bottom believe they can move up — when all people have faith in a better future. -- That, Clinton said, “is at the heart of the basic bargain of America. That everyone can have an opportunity to build a good life.” -- Clinton, in her speech, rattled off a list of worrisome statistics: - More, Brigid Schulte, Washingtonpost,

After Modi's big win, is the Gandhi political dynasty finished in India? --- NEW DELHI — On Friday, as opposition leader Narendra Modi swept to victory and fireworks exploded throughout the capital, the mood at the governing Congress party headquarters was grim. -- Late in the afternoon, the mother and son who lead India’s oldest political dynasty finally emerged to speak to supporters and journalists. -- “There’s a lot for us to think about,” said a chastened Rahul Gandhi, the party’s heir apparent and chief campaigner. “As vice president of the party, I hold myself responsible for what has happened.” -- But then, as he stepped aside to let his mother speak, he smiled — some observers thought with relief. The Twitterverse took note. -- Gandhi, whose lineage includes three prime ministers, had been groomed for India’s top job for a decade. But his evident ambivalence about the prospect was among the drivers of the Indian National Congress party’s worst drubbing in its history, analysts said. The party won just 44 seats in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament, while Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party took 282 in a landslide. -- Even before the Gandhis departed without taking questions, the postmortem had begun: The Congress party was out of touch with voters, analysts said. Its leaders were corrupt and inefficient. And unlike the canny chief minister preparing for his triumphant arrival in the capital, they had missed India’s moment. Even Congress’s own members, still dazed by the scale of the defeat, could see that. -- “India has changed,” said Sachin Pilot, 36, one of the Congress party’s younger leaders, who was defeated Friday in the state of Rajasthan. “The party has failed to connect with the new India of aspirations. We haven’t been able to tap into the imagination of the new India, the youth and the middle classes, the upwardly mobile people. . . . Somewhere our message was not clear, was not appropriate for the new era.” -- The Congress party has governed the country for most of the years since India won its fight for independence from Britain in 1947. Many of its policies today have roots in the vision shaped by the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru — Rahul Gandhi’s great-grandfather — of uplifting the masses. -- Yet, despite that history of political success and its recent 10-year rule, the party seemed woefully unprepared as it headed into the 2014 general election. --- Rahul and his mother, Sonia, the Congress party president, campaigned in their usual way, appearing at large rallies where they emphasized signature subsidy programs such as distribution of wheat and grains to the poor, and talked about rural employment. -- Modi, meanwhile, was spreading his message of economic opportunity via a sophisticated 24-hour campaign operation with millions of volunteers, including many from the Hindu nationalist movement, and teams of technology gurus to manage his wide-ranging social media efforts. --- Some voters said that the Gandhi family seemed elitist and out of touch with the people’s problems. -- “The Congress party used to listen to us, but they no longer do,” said Usha Sharma, 64, a retiree from New Delhi. She said that the Congress party of years gone by would help with jobs but that she lacks running water even now. “There’s no point in voting for them.” -- Rahul Gandhi, in particular, seemed unable to connect with voters, spending much of his time with his nose in his smartphone or going over spreadsheets with his cadre of advisers, many of whom had been educated overseas, party critics said. Many of his efforts to reach younger voters — such as a pilot primary system to make campaigns more egalitarian — failed. It was the 63-year-old Modi, who blogs and tweets, whom India’s more than 100 million first-time voters embraced. -- The stunning defeat has led to a call for the first family’s ouster and to questions about whether the country’s long love affair with dynastic politics is finally over. - More, Annie Gowen and Rama Lakshmi, Washingtonpost

Saturday, May 17, 2014

طلوع تلویزیون د خپل تعصب توجیه کولو ته اړ شو --- د انتخاباتو د خپلواک کمیسیون له رئیس ضیا الحق امرخېل سره د طلوع تلویزیون پر مرکې د خلکو له سخت غبرګونه وروسته دا تلویزیون مجبوره شو چې د هغې قومي او ژبنۍ کرکې په اړه، چې دا تلویزیون یې له کلونو راهیسي خپروي، د توجیه کولو هڅه وکړي. -- طلوع تلویزیون، چې له کلونو راهیسي په افغانستان کې قومي او ژبني تعصبونه خپروي، د پنجشنبې په ماښام د انتخاباتو د خپلواک کمیسیون رييس ضیا الحق امرخېل په دې تورن کړ چې متعصب دی ځکه چې د دوی پوښتنې ته په فارسي ژبه ځواب نه وايي. -- امرخېل په خورا زغم ورته وویل چې پښتو یې مورنۍ ژبه ده او په خپله ژبه په اسانه او راحت ځواب ویلی شي. -- د طلوع تلویزیون دې علني تعصب د افغانانو عکس العملونه وپارول، د انترنټ په ټولنیزو شبکو کې په زرګونو عکس العملونه څرګند شول. دوی ویلي چې که په مورنۍ ژبه خبرې کول جرم وي نو ولي تاجکان په پښتو خبرې نه کوي، ولي تاجک چارواکي او سیاستوال له رسنیو سره د خبرو په مهال پښتو پوښتنې ته په فارسي ځواب وايي او ولي پښتانه دوی په تعصب نه تورنوي. -- یو شمېر نورو بیا پښتانه چارواکي، شخصیتونه او سیاستوال ملامت کړي چې د طلوع او یک په شان له متعصبو او تعصب خپبروونکو تلویزیونونو سره، چې د افغانستان ملي ترمینالوژي نه مني، مرکې کوي. -- یو شمېر کسانو مثالونه هم وړاندې کړي او ویلي یې دي چې د تعصب خپروونکو تلویزیونونو یوه څرګنده نښه دا ده چې د پوهنتون په شان کلمې نه استعمالوي خو د مکتب او لېسې له کلمو سره، چې یوه عربي او بله فرانسوي ده، له ګڼو نورو غیرایراني اصطلاحاتو سره حساسیت نه لري. -- طلوع تلویزیون هم د خلکو حساسیت درک کړ او نن یې د هماغه ویندوی په خوله، چې امرخېل یې د خپلې ژبې په ویلو مجرم بللی و، توجیه وړاندې کړه او هڅه یې وکړه چې خلکو ته وښيي چې طلوع متعصب او تعصب خپرونکې رسنۍ نه ده. - تاند -

Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt --- A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries. -- Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said. -- The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis. -- “This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.” -- Two scientific papers released on Monday by the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters came to similar conclusions by different means. Both groups of scientists found that West Antarctic glaciers had retreated far enough to set off an inherent instability in the ice sheet, one that experts have feared for decades. NASA called a telephone news conference Monday to highlight the urgency of the findings. -- The West Antarctic ice sheet sits in a bowl-shaped depression in the earth, with the base of the ice below sea level. Warm ocean water is causing the ice sitting along the rim of the bowl to thin and retreat. As the front edge of the ice pulls away from the rim and enters deeper water, it can retreat much faster than before. --- In one of the new papers, a team led by Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, used satellite and air measurements to document an accelerating retreat over the past several decades of six glaciers draining into the Amundsen Sea region. And with updated mapping of the terrain beneath the ice sheet, the team was able to rule out the presence of any mountains or hills significant enough to slow the retreat. -- “Today we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat,” Dr. Rignot said in the NASA news conference. “It has passed the point of no return.” --- The new finding appears to be the fulfillment of a prediction made in 1978 by an eminent glaciologist, John H. Mercer of the Ohio State University. He outlined the vulnerable nature of the West Antarctic ice sheet and warned that the rapid human-driven release of greenhouse gases posed “a threat of disaster.” He was assailed at the time, but in recent years, scientists have been watching with growing concern as events have unfolded in much the way Dr. Mercer predicted. (He died in 1987.) -- Scientists said the ice sheet was not melting because of warmer air temperatures, but rather because relatively warm water that occurs naturally in the depths of the ocean was being pulled to the surface by an intensification, over the past several decades, of the powerful winds that encircle Antarctica. - More, NYTimes,

Retirement -- Social Security at 62? Let’s Run the Numbers --- FOR many retirees, Social Security benefits are seen as hot money on the table, to be devoured as soon as possible. But as with preparing and savoring a fine meal, a careful approach and delayed gratification may yield the highest rewards from the program. -- Many financial planners advise that you wait as long as possible before receiving benefits. Despite this, a sizable number of Americans who have reached 62 — 41 percent of men and 46 percent of women — apply for Social Security at 62, the earliest age at which you can take payments. The way Social Security works, this will lock in the lowest possible payment for life. -- The “early” approach works if you need the money immediately. A lot of people, especially the millions who haven’t saved much, do need it. But the decision would penalize you over time. You would be passing up a progressively higher benefit available in each of the next eight years. This period includes when you reach what Social Security calls your “full retirement age” — 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954, as old as 67 for later arrivals — and what might be called a bonus period after that, ending at age 70. -- Individual dollar totals over the course of a retirement are never easy to predict, but unless your current health prognosis is gloomy, the longer you expect to live, the more sense it makes to delay benefits. -- Here’s how the bonus/discount would work: Those born from 1943 to 1954, for whom the full retirement age is 66, would see a 25 percent reduction in monthly benefits if they retired at 62 instead of 70, and 30 percent off for their spouses. -- But the formula varies, depending upon age. For someone born after 1960, for example, the full retirement age is 67. They would see a 30 percent cut from the full-retirement age benefit, based on a $1,000 “primary insurance amount,” or monthly benefit. -- For those who are able to wait to begin taking benefits at 70, and who were born in 1943 or later, there is an 8 percent monthly rate of increase in benefits beyond full retirement age (until they hit 70). -- The “wait to take” strategy makes even more sense when you consider longer life spans. On average, women reaching age 65 today can expect to live to age 86 and men to 84, according to the Social Security Administration. About a quarter of this group will live past 90. If you’re relatively healthy and there’s longevity in your genome, you’ll probably need the extra money. -- Then there is the cost-of-living adjustment, making Social Security one of the few inflation-adjusted retirement benefits around — at least for now. But keep an eye on Washington: Several proposals have been floated to trim the cost-of-living adjustment, though none have made it through Congress and all are likely to be extremely unpopular among current retirees and near retirees. -- Prof. Richard H. Thaler, the University of Chicago behavioral economist and Sunday New York Times columnist, said that with most people claiming Social Security benefits within a year of eligibility, “they are passing up a chance to increase the most cost-effective way to get more inflation-protected annuity income, which is to delay claiming. For those who are strapped for cash, it may be better to start drawing down their 401(k) assets sooner and keep building up their Social Security credits.” -- The extra dollars gained add up in a profound way for those who delay benefits until 70. Assuming a “full retirement age” of 66, a $1,000 monthly payment at that age becomes $1,320 at 70 if the recipient waits until that age to begin drawing it. -- Uncle Sam’s 30 percent waiting bonus is in addition to any money you contributed to your other retirement plans and savings during those eight years of delayed payments, assuming you didn’t make withdrawals and were working or contributing to your savings. And keep in mind, there’s also the persistent power of compounding, which will multiply your nest egg, depending on how you invested and rate of return. --- There are some tricky rules regarding how spousal and survivor benefits are paid, so it would be worthwhile to talk to a qualified financial adviser or the Social Security Administration to see how to reap the maximum benefit. The simple math here is that higher-earning spouses should wait as long as they can before taking Social Security. The higher his or her preretirement income, the higher the spousal or survivor’s benefit. Conversely, it’s less of an advantage for the lower-earning spouse to delay since benefits are tied to lifetime earnings. -- For same-sex couples, the process would work the same, but with one wrinkle: Couples have to be legally married and live in states that recognize the union. All of the other eligibility rules apply. -- Another strategy is that the higher-income spouse can file for benefits, then ask the Social Security Administration to suspend payments. Then, the lower-earning spouse files for a “spousal” benefit — half that of the higher earner. This produces some cash flow until the top earner files for the maximum payment at age 70 and the other spouse can file for his or her regular benefit, which would also be a higher payment. It’s an interim strategy that might work for those who want to work longer or semi-retire. -- “Focus on the full lifetime benefit for both spouses and delay until 70,” said Marty Allenbaugh, a certified financial planner for the mutual fund firm T. Rowe Price. “Protecting a survivor’s benefits is really important.” -- Howard Hook, a C.P.A. and financial planner in Princeton, N.J., says you need to consider a wide range of health, income and tax issues before making a decision. While it’s tempting to take early benefits because of ill health, many underestimate their longevity. -- “It comes down to your needs, not your health,” Mr. Hook advises. “Who’s working? Who has a pension? What kinds of savings do you have? If they don’t need the money now, I’m likely to tell clients to defer taking Social Security.” --- Yet another approach — if you don’t mind locking in a lower payment — is to take Social Security at age 62 and let your nest egg grow as long as possible before withdrawing funds. That’s assuming Social Security and other savings, if available, could cover your daily living expenses. To make that determination, you would need to prepare a cash-flow analysis showing how much you and your partner or spouse need to cover your weekly expenses, then run a calculation showing how your savings could grow under certain assumptions like rate of return, additional contributions and employer match. You could work with a financial planner on this or use any number of free calculators on the Internet. Be sure to evaluate tax considerations and the effect on future payments to survivors. -- Although Social Security math gets gnarly when two people are involved, there are a number of calculators that can help you reach a decision. The Social Security Administration provides simple tools to help you calculate retirement age, longevity estimates and benefits. T. Rowe Price has a free tool that can work with Social Security’s numbers. -- For a more sophisticated analysis, consider the Maximize My Social Security software, written by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University. It costs $40 a year. -- Keep in mind that Social Security can be a small but integral part of a complex puzzle of pensions, annuities, savings and other sources of income. A certified financial planner, certified public accountant or chartered financial analyst can review possibilities that take into account all of your assets and your tax situation. -- The best decision allows you to maximize income, build your nest egg and not worry about running out of money. - More, JOHN F. WASIK, NYTimes,

Unveiling Afghanistan - Mohammad Ismail Qassemyar: 'Poverty and Unemployment Have Paralyzed the Lives of Most Afghans' --- Mohammad Ismail Qassemyar is a jurist who formerly headed the Public Security and Public Rights Courts of the Supreme Court and taught constitutional rights at university for seven years. -- The present is inextricably connected to the past. One of the major achievements we have seen during our lifetime was the people's uprising against the Soviet Union, one of the major powers in the world which led to that power's disintegration. Our crusade against that power and its puppet regime in Afghanistan prompted revolutions by small and large countries around the world to claim their independence and sovereignty from the Soviets. --- My worst fear is that the pillars of national unity may crumble. In that case, we would move towards disintegration, no matter what we wish. My other fear is that the mafia might gain more influence in the political and economic system. --- One of biggest challenges is the absence of national sovereignty. Unfortunately, our politicians, led by the President, have failed to establish and develop sovereignty. Our system is plagued with extensive and systematic corruption. Nobody can deny this. Poverty and unemployment have paralyzed the lives of most Afghans. ---- What are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan? -- One such factor is the tribal and ethnic structure that prevails in our social relations. Families adhere strongly to these customs and rarely allow them to be modernized. And in this way, the patriarchal mentality that underlies those customs has been sustained. Parents still decide who their daughter, or even their son, should marry and under what conditions they will get married. Extremist interpretations of Islam have laid the groundwork for the suppression of women and their subjection to violence. -- They want to gain knowledge about Islamic rights. There are very few rights that Islam restricts for women. Women also aspire to better education, including about their religious rights, and employment. -- The Constitution is the most important source for women's rights. Women can achieve their political, economic, social and civil rights by relying on the Constitution. -- I have had an important role in all the processes of formulating the civil codes since the time of Daoud Khan. Under him, I was member of a committee that worked to develop women's rights and status in the society. I have fought to fulfill the rights of women in the light of the sharia and Islamic values. -- The key to our success, as testified by history, is our national unity. We must protect our Islamic unity and brotherhood and adhere to it. - More, Huffingtonpost,

U.S. releases 10 Pakistanis from Afghanistan's Bagram prison --- (Reuters) - U.S. authorities have quietly released 10 Pakistani detainees from Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, lawyers said on Thursday, after the men had spent years in prison without trial. -- One had been held for 10 years after being captured by British forces in Iraq and transferred to Afghanistan, said legal charity Reprieve. -- U.S. authorities say that the detentions are necessary to keep potentially dangerous men off the battlefield. -- It was not immediately clear where the 10 released men had been taken. -- Justice Project Pakistan, which is providing representation to some of the detainees, said the International Committee of the Red Cross had informed their families that the prisoners had been released, but not where they were. -- Another batch of six prisoners was released in December, only to be secretly transferred to Pakistani prisons and held incommunicado for several weeks. -- Pakistani authorities did not tell the families the U.S. had freed the six and only acknowledged holding them after Justice Project Pakistan won a series of court orders. -- Foreign prisoners at Bagram, sometimes dubbed "Afghanistan's Guantanamo Bay", face review boards staffed by U.S. military officers but are not allowed to know all evidence against them or be represented by a lawyer of their choice. -- The boards evaluate the evidence and whether the detainees might pose a future threat to U.S. forces. -- Sarah Belal, a lawyer at Justice Project Pakistan, said dozens of men remain in the prison under U.S. custody. -- She said Pakistani government officials needed to tell lawyers and families about releases to avoid putting the men at risk of torture. -- "Let's be serious. They (Pakistani forces) have no problem torturing people. The longer you let someone sit incommunicado in detention, the bigger the risk of torture," she said. -- Pakistani authorities did not return calls seeking comment. International human rights groups have accused Pakistan of systemic torture in the past. - Katharine Houreld

California Wildfires Spread Across Hills, Leveling Homes --- ESCONDIDO, Calif. — With fire rolling swiftly down the hill toward their houses on Thursday, Jeff Brown, his brother and his grandmother were forced by sheriff’s deputies to flee the two homes here that the family has occupied since the 1960s. -- Mr. Brown, 38, was back just an hour later. His house was untouched, but his grandmother’s home was gone — only the chimney still stood. “Damn, you can’t even tell there was a three-bedroom house here,” Mr. Brown said, as he walked across the property on Friday. “The trailer in the back is gone. The shed was over there, where that gray pile is. Everything is gone.” -- At the end of a week in which 11 wildfires consumed nearly 20,000 acres across San Diego County, residents and officials here were just beginning to assess the damage and determine the causes, even as fire crews continued struggling to get five of the blazes under control. At least seven homes across the county were damaged, along with two commercial buildings and an apartment complex, county officials said. One body was found in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. And three people have been arrested in connection with setting small fires, the district attorney said. --- For Mr. Brown, there was not even any rubble worth picking through. His grandmother, Doris Brown, 83, had been a book collector. But her book collection, her jewelry and generations of family photographs were lost amid a gray pile of twisting metal, shattered glass and ash, which was still smoldering on Friday. -- “It’s terrible — I grew up here,” said Mr. Brown, who installs flooring for a living. “The family pictures of all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren is what we’ll miss the most, and her books. If you go sifting through that, you’ll probably find some melted gold. She had a lot of jewelry.” --- The week felt hard to fathom for many people around San Diego County, with triple-digit temperatures and unseasonably high winds — plus three years of drought, which had left the landscape almost eager to burn and contributed to a succession of fires that shook residents’ sense of safety. --- On Friday, many people still could not return to their homes around San Marcos, north of San Diego, where firefighters were still working to control the Cocos fire, which had destroyed the homes in Escondido on Thursday. - More, IAN LOVETT, NYTimes,

For Nation’s Persecuted Muslim Minority, Caution Follows Hindu Party’s Victory --- NEW DELHI — Like real estate agents the world over, Rahul Rewal asks his clients if they have children or pets, since both limit options. But there is another crucial but often unspoken question: Are they Muslim? -- “I tailor the list of places that I show Muslims because many landlords, even in upper-class neighborhoods, will not rent to them,” Mr. Rewal said. “Most don’t even bother hiding their bigotry.” --- Discrimination against Muslims in India is so rampant that many barely muster outrage when telling of the withdrawn apartment offers, rejected job applications and turned-down loans that are part of living in the country for them. As a group, Muslims have fallen badly behind Hindus in recent decades in education, employment and economic status, with persistent discrimination a key reason. Muslims are more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities and less likely to qualify for bank loans. -- Now, after a landslide electoral triumph Friday by the Bharatiya Janata Party of Hindu nationalists, some Muslims here said they were worried that their place in India could become even more tenuous. -- The B.J.P. is led by Narendra Modi, who is widely expected to become India’s next prime minister. Mr. Modi — a Hindu, like a majority of Indians — has a fraught relationship with Muslims, who make up about 15 percent of the country. He was in charge of the western state of Gujarat in 2002 when uncontrolled rioting caused 1,000 deaths, mostly among Muslims. He has also been linked with a police assassination squad that largely targeted Muslims. -- But Mr. Modi ran a campaign that focused on promises of development and good governance, and that largely avoided religiously divisive themes. His allies say there is no reason for Muslims to fear a national government led by him, and in interviews on Friday, many Muslims said they believed that. --- Mr. Modi won a huge majority in the electorally critical state of Uttar Pradesh, in part because of deadly riots last year that broke a traditional voting alliance between low-caste Hindus and Muslims. But now that he has won, Mr. Modi must reassure India’s Muslims, said Neerja Chowdhury, a political commentator. -- “Many people in India and around the world will be watching whether he reaches out to minorities in the coming days,” Ms. Chowdhury said. --- India was born in 1947 amid the blood-soaked horror of partition, which split British India into Muslim-dominated Pakistan and largely Hindu India. Riots in New Delhi in 1984 after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards led to the killing of thousands of Sikhs, with leaders of the Indian National Congress participating. Violence among castes has long been a regular feature of rural life in India. - More, GARDINER HARRIS, NYTimes,

Friday, May 16, 2014

Indian election: Narendra Modi in Delhi victory parade --- India's Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi has begun a victory parade in Delhi after his opposition BJP party secured the most decisive election victory in three decades. -- Mr Modi flew to the capital from his home state of Gujarat. --- Current PM Manmohan Singh, whose Congress party was crushed in the poll, is expected to resign later. -- Mr Modi, a Hindu nationalist and chief minister of Gujarat, campaigned on promises to revive the economy. -- Results show the BJP gained a majority in parliament and will be able to govern without coalition partners. -- However, many Indians still have profound concerns over Mr Modi because of claims he did little to stop communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which at least 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims. -- Mr Modi has always denied the allegations and was never charged. --- He said he would rule for all Indians. -- "The real government will belong from Kashmir on top to Kanya Kumari [on India's southern tip] - that is a real government. -- "The age of divisive politics has ended - from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin." --- World leaders, including US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, have congratulated Mr Modi on his victory. -- India's new leader has received invitations to Washington and London. Previously, the US denied him visas and the UK cut off all ties with him following the 2002 riots. -- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif commended the BJP's "impressive victory" in the election. --- The Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics since independence, is only expected to win 44 seats. -- Accepting defeat, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said: "We humbly respect the verdict of the people." -- In a televised farewell address, Manmohan Singh said the government had achieved a lot in the last 10 years, adding: "I wish the incoming government every success." -- He is expected to meet the president later on Saturday to formally resign. - BBC,

نارندرا مودی کیست؟ ---- نارندرا مودی، کاندیدای حزب بهاراتیا جاناتا برای مقام نخست وزیری هند در انتخابات جاری، تفرقه افکن ترین سیاستمدار آن کشور تلقی می شود. -- حزب بهاراتیا جاناتا که در این انتخابات پیروز شد، حزب ملی‌گرای هندو است که برخی سیاست‌های آن بارها از سوی دیگران در فضای متکثر هند، افراطی و تفرقه انگیز اعلام شده است. -- نارندرا مودی که از سال ۲۰۰۱ سروزیر ایالت گجرات در غرب هند بوده است، از یک طرف سیاستمداری پویا و کاردان محسوب می شود ولی از طرف دیگر تحت انتقاد قرار دارد که در شورش‌های هندو ها علیه مسلمانان در سال ۲۰۰۲ که به قتل صدها شهروند مسلمان به دست هندوهای افراطی انجامید، کاری برای حمایت و حفاظت از مسلمانان انجام نداد. -- بعد از شورش‌های هندوهای افراطی، آمریکا از صدور ویزا برای نارندرا مودی خودداری کرد و دولت بریتانیا هم کلیه روابط با او را قطع کرد؛ اما او اکنون به صحنه اصلی سیاست بازگشته است. -- سال گذشته، نانسی پاول، سفیر آمریکا در هند با نارندرا مودی دیدار کرد تا در خصوص مسائل امنیتی منطقه و گسترش تجارت آمریکا و سرمایه‌گذاری در هند گفتگو کند. -- در اکتبر سال ۲۰۱۲ نیز بریتانیا از نارندرا مودی دعوت کرد که برای اعضای پارلمان در مجلس عوام سخنرانی کند. نمایندگان دو حزب بزرگ سیاسی بریتانیا (احزاب محافظه کار و کارگر) گفتند که صدای او باید شنیده شود. -- با این حال، وقتی مشخص شد که نارندرا مودی نامزد حزب خود برای نخست وزیر خواهد بود، حزب جاناتا دال یونایتد که متحد کلیدی حزب بهاراتیا جاناتا در ائتلاف دموکراتیک ملی هند است، از ائتلاف با آن حزب خارج شد. -- نارندرا مودی در دوره انتخابات در شهرهای مختلف هند ۴۴۰ سخنرانی کرد و در اغلب این جلسات سخنرانی چای در لیوان‌های دارای عکس او به حضار داده می‌شد و ماسک‌هایی با صورت او توزیع می شد. -- طرفداران نارندرا مودی در حزب بهاراتیا جاناتا تبلیغ برای نامزدی او را از مدت‌ها پیش آغاز کردند چون در داخل حزب مخالفت‌های جدی در مورد او وجود داشته است. -- آنان مانند بسیاری دیگر از هندی‌ها دیگر نمی توانند نارندرا مودی را به دلیل نقش او در شورش‌های گجرات علیه مسلمانان به عنوان نخست وزیر یک کشور متکثر بپذیرند. -- هرچند که نارندرا مودی خود دخالت در تشویق به کشتار مسلمانان را انکار می کند و تا کنون تحت تعقیب قرار نگرفته است، دستیار او پس از این ماجرا به ۲۸ سال حبس محکوم شد. -- افرادی که در طول مدت زمانی که نارندرا مودی سروزیر ایالت گجرات بوده، منافعی داشته‌اند، اکنون از نخست وزیر شدن او استقبال می کنند، اما برای قربانیان نارندرا مودی، پیروزی او نشانه ای دیگر از بی عدالتی در نظام سیاسی هند است. -- نارندرا مودی هیچ وقت از شورش هندوهای افراطی، تخریب مسجد بابری و ریختن خون مسلمانان هند اظهار تاسف نکرده است و بسیاری از افرادی که جان سالم به در بردند اکنون در 'حلبی آباد'ها زندگی می کنند. -- پایگاه اصلی قدرت نارندرا مودی در سازمان هندو و راست‌گرای راشتریا سوایامسواک سنگ قرار دارد. این سازمان که در دهه ۱۹۲۰ میلادی (حدود ۹۰ سال پیش) تاسیس شد، به دنبال گسترش دین هندو به عنوان تنها دین در کل سرزمین هند است. - BBC,

Pakistan Officials Say Next Afghan President Will Have Better Chance of Making Peace --- ISLAMABAD—No matter who wins Afghanistan's presidential election next month, the new Afghan leader will have better chances than President Hamid Karzai's outgoing administration at opening serious peace talks with the Taliban, senior Pakistani officials say. -- "A new government with legitimacy that is elected will improve the prospects for a more meaningful interaction and dialogue for reconciliation and peace," Pakistan's National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, who also serves as de facto foreign minister, said in an interview. -- Mr. Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion, isn't allowed by law to run in the election. With no candidate winning an outright majority in the first round last month, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani will contest a runoff that Afghan election authorities set on Thursday for June 14. -- A successful election would "strengthen Kabul's hand in creating a broad-based coalition of all the stakeholders, and we will want that," said Tariq Fatemi, the foreign affairs adviser of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. "We want whoever comes to power to be able to reach out to all segments of the Afghan society." -- Pakistan plays a crucial role in Afghan affairs. It has historically supported the Afghan Taliban, and the insurgency's top leaders are based on Pakistani soil. -- Islamabad was also involved in facilitating the attempted opening of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Gulf emirate of Qatar, an effort that collapsed last June after Mr. Karzai objected to the high-profile status of the Taliban mission there. -- At the same time, Pakistan has repeatedly stepped in to block peace contacts that bypassed Islamabad, arresting in 2010 the Taliban's deputy chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had engaged in secret talks with Mr. Karzai's representatives. -- That outreach, however, has been met with suspicion by many in Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence establishment, where Mr. Karzai is resented for his policies and close links with Pakistan's strategic rival India, a person familiar with the establishment's thinking said. Mr. Karzai leaving the stage would reduce some of that tension, he said. -- "Anyone would be better than Karzai," added a senior Pakistani official. -- That is a change from the previous election in 2009, when Pakistan tacitly supported Mr. Karzai against Mr. Abdullah, who was seen as hostile to Islamabad because of his past as a leader in the Northern Alliance that fought against Afghanistan's Pakistani-backed Taliban regime before the 2001 U.S. invasion. -- Pakistan has also traditionally seen itself as a supporter of Afghanistan's dominant Pashtun ethnic group, and Mr. Abdullah—unlike Mr. Karzai or Mr. Ghani—comes from a mixed Pashtun-Tajik ethnic background. -- WALL Street Journal

India Delivers Clear Mandate to Hindu Party --- NEW DELHI — Addressing a euphoric crowd Friday afternoon, Narendra Modi rallied the public to join him in taking on challenges of a vast scale. He has floated the idea of building “a hundred new cities,” of extending a high-speed rail network across the subcontinent and undertaking the herculean task of cleaning the Ganges River. -- He has been inspired by China’s model of high-growth, top-down development. But the country he will govern is India: messy, diffuse and democratic. -- Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a historic mandate in the country’s general election on Friday, emerging with 282 of 543 parliamentary seats, more than enough to form a government without having to broker a post-election coalition. -- For months, Mr. Modi’s advisers had focused on crossing such a threshold, which they regarded as a signal that the country was behind an agenda of radical change. -- The nature of that change has never been clear, though. Voters are seeking immediate economic opportunities. The party has proposed pro-business legislation like the easing of labor and land-acquisition laws. Mr. Modi is drawn to large-scale building and infrastructure projects, which he pursues with a single-minded — critics say dictatorial — style. -- “He has a fairly clear idea of what he wants to accomplish, and he does not look for ratification from the market,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a Cornell University economist who has consulted informally with Mr. Modi’s economic team. “One could argue that in a country where there are far more words than actions thrown around, that this is far more preferable: a man who acts.” -- Mr. Modi’s planned economic reforms are certain to encounter obstacles once he takes power, among them a federal system that puts essential functions like land acquisition in the hands of state leaders. --- But Friday’s enormous victory will give Mr. Modi “a much freer hand than the typical leader of such a large democracy,” Mr. Prasad said. The reasons Mr. Modi’s party succeeded in defeating the Indian National Congress, which has controlled India’s government for nearly all of its postcolonial history, will be studied for years. But they clearly reflect a rapid change in Indian society as urbanization and economic growth break down old voting patterns. -- For decades, the Congress party’s trademark initiatives have been redistributive, and the party introduced a package of major subsidies for the poor before the election. Voters, however, proved to be more captivated by Mr. Modi’s promise to create manufacturing jobs, which he has done quite successfully in Gujarat, the state he has governed since 2001. - More, ELLEN BARRY, NYTimes,

Afghan Contenders Accept Results and Move On --- KABUL, Afghanistan — The two remaining candidates for president of Afghanistan said on Thursday that they accepted the final results of the first round of voting, which eliminated their other rivals, and they vowed to campaign hard to win the election in a runoff. -- However, the timeline announced by the nation’s election commission will leave the country without a new president until late summer. Voters will cast their runoff ballots on June 14, with final results to be announced on July 22. Under Afghan election law, the new president would then be inaugurated 30 days later, officials said. -- The dates matter to the United States and other Western countries, where military planners are hoping to determine as soon as possible what will happen after the current United Nations mandate for their forces in Afghanistan expires at the end of the year. -- Both candidates have said they will sign the bilateral security agreement that has already been negotiated with the United States, and which provides for the continuing presence of American troops. The current president, Hamid Karzai, has refused to sign it before he leaves office, leaving the matter to his successor. -- The American ambassador to Afghanistan, James B. Cunningham, issued a statement saying the United States applauded the election results and urged Afghans to hold “a credible, inclusive and transparent” second round. Mr. Cunningham also called on both candidates’ campaigns “neither to commit fraud nor to permit it to be conducted in their names.” --- The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan said the front-runner in the race, Abdullah Abdullah, won 45 percent of the vote in the first round, with Ashraf Ghani second at 31.6 percent; they will meet in the runoff. The third-place candidate, Zalmay Rassoul, won 11.4 percent, and said he would support Mr. Abdullah’s campaign in the runoff. -- By the commission’s final count, 7,018,049 Afghans went to the polls in the first round on April 5, about 50 percent more than voted in the previous presidential election, in 2009. The commission’s chairman, Mohammed Yousuf Nuristani, said 64 percent of the voters were men and 36 percent were women. -- “My request again of the brave and patriotic people of Afghanistan is to do as they did before, millions of them casting their votes, to go again and cast their votes” in the runoff, Mr. Nuristani said at a news conference Thursday. --- Under Afghan law, a candidate must win more than 50 percent of the votes to be elected; if none do so in a first round of voting, a runoff is held. The Independent Election Commission oversees the voting and counting, while a separate body, the Electoral Complaints Commission, adjudicates reports of irregularities and fraud. - More, ALISSA J. RUBIN, NYTimes

On a Wednesday night in early March 1999, Barbara Walters invited a small group of friends and colleagues to her Manhattan apartment to watch her two-hour interview with Monica Lewinsky. During a commercial break, Ms. Walters stood by the window, looking out over Central Park, and noticed something peculiar. “There’s no traffic on Fifth Avenue,” she observed. -- “That’s because everyone is home watching the interview,” one of her producers said. --- As Barbara Walters Retires, the Big TV Interview Signs Off, Too --- On Friday, the 84-year-old Ms. Walters will sign off from her ABC daytime show “The View” for the last time. After five decades in television, the woman who started her career on camera as a hawker for Alpo dog food and went on to cross the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro and to interview every American president (and first lady) since Richard M. Nixon is retiring. -- As the sun sets on Ms. Walters’s career, it is also setting on the form of television news she perfected and personified: the intimate sit-down with a world leader, the weepy celebrity confessional, the jailhouse interview — the “big get.” - More, JONATHAN MAHLER, NYTimes

Wildfires scorch San Diego County: 'Mother Nature was not on our side' --- Carlsbad, California (CNN) -- In her 42 years of living in Southern California, Sophie Payne of Carlsbad has "never, never, never" witnessed so many wildfires at one time. -- Three dozen raged overnight. Eight of them continued to burn Thursday in a patchwork across of San Diego County, ravaging 10,000 acres since Tuesday, and killing at least one person. Payne's hilltop house was an exhibit of their destruction: It was burned to the ground, except for a stone archway and several walls. -- Payne found some family keepsakes in a small safe, and while intact, the papers were charred at the edges. "It's just falling apart," Payne said. -- Another family in Carlsbad similarly lost its house, but everyone -- including the dog -- survived. --- San Marcos, Escondido among hard-hit cities -- Some 10,000 acres had burned in Horn's county in various blazes, the worst being a nearly uncontrollable fire in San Marcos. County officials in that city said that one intense wildfire sucked so much oxygen that it was creating its own weather system, and the city's fire chief, Brett Van Wey, said 5,000 homes remained evacuated Thursday. -- "They are skirting subdivisions, and we are just doing our best to kind of guide it along through the path of least resistance," Van Wey said of the wildfire. -- The city was "fortunate" to have lost only three homes and had one damaged, he said. -- In broad daylight at noon, the fire blackened the skies in one San Marcos neighborhood and sent a "firenado" -- a column resembling a tornado with smoke and flames shooting from it -- rising and twisting into the air. The blaze prompted a state university in that city to cancel this week's commencement and other activities, officials said. --- A new wildfire ignited near the Las Pulgas gate on the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton, prompting more evacuations, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlot said. That fire burned 25 acres, a relatively small size compared to the base's other fire on 6,000 acres -- or 9.3 square miles -- the military said. --- By mid-afternoon Thursday, about 15,000 residents were being evacuated in Escondido, a city with a population of 146,000, according to Escondido Community Relations Manager Joyce Masterson. A few hours later, Mayor Sam Abed said he was grateful not just for the cooperation among various agencies, but for the fact Escondido hadn't "lost any structures or any lives and there hasn't been any significant injury." - More,

World meets in Tokyo on Afghan future ahead of run-off vote --- Delegates from around the world gathered in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan in the wake of the presidential election and the drawdown of the US-led foreign military presence. -- Delegates from around the world gathered in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan in the wake of the presidential election and the drawdown of the US-led foreign military presence. -- The International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which groups representatives from about 50 countries and global bodies, was attended by the Afghan deputy foreign minister. -- The event was taking place as the war-torn country awaited results from a presidential election, which will transfer power from Hamid Karzai and herald a new era. --- "It is important to recognise that the war is not over yet," Ershad Ahmadi, the Afghanistan deputy foreign minister, said at the opening of the meeting. -- "On the same token, to ensure lasting success, it is crucial that the international community maintains its support and engagement in Afghanistan at this critical period." --- The meeting is not a place for countries to make financial pledges, a Japanese government official said ahead of the event on Wednesday. -- "Broadly speaking, it will be an opportunity for the international community to commit continued assistance to Afghanistan," he said. -- "International troops are due to be withdrawn toward the year-end. They (Afghans) need to enforce public security by themselves from next year and there remain a host of domestic problems." --- The young democracy also faces "a number of tasks, such as enactment of a law against money laundering and the establishment of a framework on the use of natural resources and minerals," he said. - Agence France-Presse,

اعلیحضرت بابای ملت در۴۰ سال حکومتش چه کرد؟ بخش پنجم -- داکتر نجیب الله بارکزی - More,

Afghanistan accuses Pakistan for violating trilateral agreement --- The government of Afghanistan on Thursday accused Pakistan for violating a trilateral agreement by attempting to set up military installations along the Durand Line which resulted into clashes between Afghan and Pakistani forces. -- Interior ministry of Afghanistan following a statement said a member of the Afghan border police forces was martyred following the clashes. -- The statement further added that the Pakistani security forces were looking to dig ditches in a bid to set up bunkers within the zero-point area which is a clear violation of the trilateral agreement between Afghanistan-Pakistan and NATO. -- Interior ministry said the Pakistani forces did not consider the repeated calls by Afghan border forces to stop building trenches in zer-point area which resulted to clashes between the two sides. -- Based on the trilateral agreement, setting up military installations within four kilometer of the zero-point is prohibited, interior ministry said, adding that the Pakistani forces were looking to act against the agreement during the past few days. -- Interior ministry also called for immediate halt to build military installations along the Durand Line and within the zero-point area and said a delegation was sent to the area to investigate the incident. - Khaama Press (KP)

Russia to deliver 18 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan in October --- The Russian officials said Thursday that the delivery of 30 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan will be completed by the end of October this year. -- Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Alexander Fomin has said the helicopter gunships Mi-17B-5 will be delivered under a contract with the United States. -- Fomin further added that 12 choppers had already been delivered under the agreement and the remaining choppers will be delivered before October 31, 2014. -- The agreement for the purchase of helicopters for the Afghan security forces was concluded between US and Russian officials in 2013. -- Rosoboronexport and the U.S. government signed the main contract on the delivery of 21 helicopters on May 26, 2011, and set the political course of the two countries towards the settlement of the common international problem related to the situation in Afghanistan. The contract was fulfilled by the middle of 2012. -- Afghanistan has so far received 45 helicopters from Russia under separate contracts. -- Russian-made helicopters have a long history in Afghanistan and is preferred better than the helicopters due to their low prices, durability and simplicity. - Khaama Press (KP)

Army Ranger who helped rescue Jessica Lynch dies from wounds sustained in Afghanistan --- An Army Ranger who helped rescue former POW Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital in 2003 has died after being shot in Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced Thursday. -- The Pentagon said in a statement that Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras, 49, died May 13 in Texas after suffering injuries in Afghanistan on May 6. -- Barreras, known as “Gunny,” was the top enlisted soldier for a unit based in Fort Bliss, Texas at the time of his death, according to the Army Times. He joined the Army in 1988 after serving five years in the Marine Corps. -- The Army Times reports Barreras served 22 years in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. In that time he served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and also deployed to Panama and Haiti. --- Barreras, who was originally from Arizona, is survived by his wife, two daughters and son, according to the Army Times. - More, Fox News' Jennifer Griffin

The Other War in Afghanistan: How US-Led War on Drugs Devastates Impoverished Farmers and Fails to Slow the Drug Trade --- A new report reveals that the 12-year war on drugs in Afghanistan has been a disaster. -- May 15, 2014 | Like this article?Join our email list:Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email. -- The report acknowledges that the 12-year war on drugs has failed to free the country of opium poppy production—just the opposite, in fact. Using statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the report found that the amount of land used to cultivate poppy increased 36%, an all-time high. The Afghan government had set a goal of reducing poppy production by 50%. -- Afghan counter-narcotics agencies work under the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Defense. Without military logistics and intelligence support from the United States, governor-led poppy eradication campaigns in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Nimroz where the vast majority of poppy is grown, would be impossible. Destroying impoverished farmers' poppy crops causes violent clashes. During eradication campaigns last year, 143 people were killed and in 2012, 102 died. -- The SIGAR report explains that the drawdown of coalition forces has resulted in fewer drug raids, arrests and seizures. As the troops leave, the DEA will be forced to downsize counter-narcotics activities for lack of military backup during field operations. But the drug warriors have no intention of ending their role in the war on drugs in Afghanistan. U.S. officials are creating a counter-narcotics center in Bahrain to continue intervening in the region. -- General John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction and the author of the report put it bluntly. He said the narcotics trade in Afghanistan “is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond.” -- It should come as no surprise that the drug war in Afghanistan is a lost cause. Poppy cultivation is central to the economy and accounts for 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The entire chain of poppy production from the farmers' families who grow and harvest the plants, to the lab workers who manufacture raw opium into heroin, to the drivers who transport the drugs across borders, is vital to the survival of millions of Afghans. Poppy is the economic engine of Afghanistan and has kept the country from falling into total financial ruin. -- Government and law enforcement corruption in the form of bribes and “taxes” are demanded from Kabul to Kandahar and ensures that the narcotics trade thrives despite pro-drug war rhetoric from officials in the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics and former president Hamid Karzai. -- The report documents that drug use is on the rise in Afghanistan and estimates that 230,000 Afghans smoke opium, an increase of 53 percent from 2005, and 120,000 inject heroin, an increase of 140 percent from 2005. The billions that have poured into the country have not been used to expand treatment, and according to Afghan government figures, 99 percent of drug users are not receiving assistance. There are 113 clinics scattered across the country that offer detoxification and abstinence-based drug treatment. -- In Afghanistan, the main addiction is to opiates, but there is only one methadone clinic in the entire country, and it serves just 77 people. The clinic is in Kabul, which is home to about 10,000 opiate users. -- Methadone is evidence-based drug treatment and is the most successful way to treat opiate addiction, but in Afghanistan there is a stigma associated with the medication. Attempts to expand methadone maintenance have been resisted by officials in the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics who view taking methadone as substituting one addiction for another. - Helen Redmond, AlterNet

Thursday, May 15, 2014

.دافغانستان نوي ولسمشر ته اقتصادي وړاندیزونه --- دافغانستان په دوو مخکښو کاندیدانو، عبدالله عبدالله او اشرف غني احمدزي کې، که هر یو ولسمشر کیږي هغه ته به په عامه سکتور کې داسې څه په میراث ورسیږي چې عاجله پاملرنه ورته پکار ده. دا خبره ادم سمیت نړېوالې موسسې کړې ده. دغه موسسه چې مرکز یې په لندن کې دی دحکومتي اصلاحاتو او اقتصاد په برخه کې سلامشورې ورکوي. ددې غیردولتي موسسې په باور له دوه زره دوهم میلادي کال راوروسته د افغانستان په عامه ادارو کې یو شمیر اصلاحات شوې دي خو عامه څانګې له ډیرو اړخونو کمزورې پاتې دي. -- په راتلونکو کلونو کې دنړېوالو مرستې کمیږي، نو نوی حکومت دعامه سکتور په برخه کې اصلاحاتو ته اړتیا لري. ددغو اصلاحاتو په برخه کې دادم سمیت نړیوالې موسسې وړاندیزونه ګارډین ورځپاڼې خپاره کړې دي. په دغو وړاندیزونو کې لولو، چې نوی حکومت دې ته اړتیا لري چې دعامه سکتور داصلاحاتو په برخه کې خپل اهداف معلوم کړي. دادم سمیت موسسې په باور په ځانګړې ډول نوی افغان حکومت باید داقتصادي مدیریت په برخه کې اصلاحات راولي او یو ښکاره پروګرام ولري ترڅو له افغانانو او نړیوالې ټولنې سره اړیکي ټینګ کړي. -- دادم سمیت غیردولتي موسسې په باور په تیرو شاوخوا دولس کلونو کې مرکزي حکومت دملي پراختیا دپلان جوړولو په برخه کې لږ پرمختګ کړی دی چې له دې امله مرستندویانو په ګڼو مواردو کې دوزارتونو پر ځای پانګونه کړې ده او پکار و چې له وزارتونو سره په مشوره دا کار شوی وای. دادم سمیت موسسې په وینا په تیرو کلونو کې دټولو وزارتونو دبودیجې پروګرام نیمګړتیا لرله او ملي شورا لاهم له دود سره سم بودیجه تصویبوله. دې دا مانا لرله چې وزارتونه دهغوی دلاس ته راوړنې لپاره حساب ورکوونکي نه وو. وزارتونو به یوازې دمعاشونو اندازه تعینوله او دوزارت دموټرو دتیلو مقدار به یې معلوماوه. -- دنوي حکومت وزارتونه باید خپل اهداف مشخص کړي او دهغوی له مخې خپلې سرچینې معلومې کړي. ادم سمیت موسسه بیا وزارتونو ته د ډیرې آزادي دورکولو خبره کوي څو خپلې منابع انتخاب کړي. دهمدې موسسې په نظر یوه وزارت ته که سم واک ورنه کړل شي له هغه سره پکار نه دي چې ډير حساب وشي. له چارواکو سره پکار دي چې په سیمه ییزه کچه حساب کتاب وشي. دولایتونو په سطحه باید لومړیتوبونه مشخص شي. تیرکال په دې برخه کې پرمختګ وشو او په ورته وخت کې دا خطر پیدا کیږي، که ولایتونه واکمن نه وي په تدریجي ډول کابل له ولایتونو بیلیږي. دهمدې لپاره پکار دي چې ښاروالۍ تقویه شي څو لومړیتوبونه معلوم کړي. -- دحامد کرزي په مشرۍ حکومت هر وخت نړیواله ټولنه ملامته کړې ده او دهغوی پوځي حضور ته یې ګوته نیولې ده چې داصلاحاتو لپاره یې داړیکو مخه نیولې ده. نوی حکومت به په یوه نوي چاپیریال کې کار کوي چې دناټو اکثر پوځیان به وتلي وي، نو پکار ده چې دحکومت درسنیو مرکز داړیکو په برخه کې له وزیرانو سره مرسته وکړي او دحکومت نظر خلکو ته ورسوي. ادم سمیت نړیواله موسسه دا وړاندیز هم کوي چې نوي حکومت ته پکار دي چې له خلکو ډیر واوري او په ملي کچه ځیني مسایل لکه دکرهڼې، امن او داوږدې مودې په مخه دپرمختګ موضوعات له خلکو سره شریک کړي. - دآزادی رادیو

Turkish PM’s ambitions seen unscathed by disaster --- ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s prime minister — a man the entire country expects to soon jump into the presidential campaign — should be on the defensive after being forced to seek shelter from angry demonstrators in a supermarket. -- Not Recep Tayyip Erdogan. -- The incident at a deadly mine disaster Wednesday is unlikely to divert Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2003, from his expected bid to become head of state and extend his role as the country’s dominant political figure. He has not entered the race yet, but few doubt that 60-year-old political brawler is the favorite to win. --- Turkey is a key political ally for the United States and the European Union in a tumultuous part of the world. Erdogan has been the man they have to deal with — and analysts say it is likely to stay that way, despite a growing frostiness in relations. -- Once praised by Western leaders for being a moderate leader of a democratic Islamic government, Erdogan has damaged his reputation at home and abroad with his increasingly autocratic style and his tin-ear response to popular protests. -- U.S. and European leaders “have an increasingly negative view of Erdogan but have no choice except to deal with him because of Turkey’s strategic geography,” Fadi Hakura, an associate fellow at Chatham House think tank in London, said in an interview Thursday. -- The prime minister was notably tone-deaf Wednesday while visiting the site of Turkey’s worst-ever coal mine disaster, which killed at least 283 people and left scores unaccounted for. Despite Turkey’s long history of mining accidents, Erdogan displayed no remorse and accepted no blame for what happened, saying that mine accidents were “ordinary things” that happened in many countries. He did pledge a full investigation — but the damage was done. -- Some of the distraught residents in Soma, many of whom had lost friends and family to the mine disaster, were incensed. Protesters heckled the prime minister, shouting “Murderer!” and “Thief!” -- Erdogan was forced to seek refuge in a supermarket, surrounded by police, as anti-government protests broke out in Soma, Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. It did not help his image that one of his top aides kicked a protester in Soma who was being held on the ground by armed special forces police. -- Erdogan is resilient, however. In the past, he has successfully portrayed his detractors as power-seeking plotters and has kept his support despite scandals and setbacks. - More, Associated Press, Washingtonpost

Wildfires burn through San Diego area, forcing thousands to evacuate --- Wildfires continued to burn through the San Diego area Thursday, scorching nearly 2,600 acres and forcing scores of people to evacuate as firefighters spent a second day battling the blazes. -- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) declared a state of emergency in San Diego on Wednesday night, saying that the fire had burned thousands of acres and destroyed several structures. -- The wildfires had destroyed at least 20 buildings across San Diego, the county said Wednesday, with multiple homes devastated throughout the region. -- California State University in San Marcos shut down through at least Friday, with the commencement scheduled for Friday and Saturday canceled, while schools were shuttered across San Diego County on Thursday. -- Capital Weather Gang has more about what is fueling the wildfires here. A combination of extremely hot, dry air and gusty winds are fueling these fires, and the forecast calls for the danger to continue through Thursday. -- This map from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection illustrates the breadth of the problem facing firefighters and other authorities as they tried to deal with wildfires across a particularly large stretch of land: - More, Mark Berman, Washingtonpost

Obama, other officials speak at September 11 Memorial Hall and Museum dedication --- NEW YORK — Speaking from the bedrock foundation of the fallen Twin Towers, President Obama delivered a parable about self-sacrifice Thursday during the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial Hall and Museum, calling the exhibition “this sacred place” before an audience of witnesses and survivors of that terrible morning. -- The president began with a story. -- It unspooled in the minutes after United Flight 175 hit the South Tower — a man covered his face in a red bandana and, gathering groups of huddled survivors, led them to safety some 17 floors below. -- Then he entered the burning tower again, and again, until he died doing so. -- “Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together,” Obama said. “We stand in the footprints of two mighty towers graced by the rush of eternal waters. We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls, men and women and children of every race, every creed, from every corner of the world.” -- “And we can touch their names and hear their voices and glimpse the small items that speak to the beauty of their lives — a wedding ring, a dusty helmet, a shining badge,” he continued. “Here we tell their story so that generations yet unborn will never forget.” -- The museum is a raw, vast exhibition — 110,000 square-feet of space — and its aperture on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, opens as wide as an examination of America’s place in the world on the eve of the attacks and shrinks as tightly as a look at the pocket objects, the everyday detritus of life, the voicemails and identification cards, of those who died that day. -- Obama said the exhibit manages to capture “the true spirit of 9/11 — love, compassion, sacrifice — and to enshrine it forever in the heart of our nation.” -- The museum’s ascetic is spare. The gray, worn cement of the slurry wall, which against the odds held against the stress of the Twin Towers’ collapse, stands at one side of the hall where the invited audience of survivor families, New York police and fire department officials, politicians and others gathered to dedicate the site. -- There are the remains of a stairwell that led onto Vesey Street — and escape for hundreds of terrified workers. Rusted, twisted girders that once rose through the North Tower stand in place still, some plastered with “missing posters” that grimly decorated Lower Manhattan in the desperate days and weeks that followed. -- “Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us,” Obama said. “Nothing can change who we are as Americans.” -- The president and first lady Michelle Obama toured the museum guided by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who described it in his introduction as “a place we come to remember those who died” and to celebrate the courage of those who saved lives.” -- Bill and Hillary Clinton accompanied the tour and later watched from the front row. Also participating were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), and current Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), each celebrating in their remarks another aspect of the awful day and its aftermath. -- Survivors told stories of impossible escape — and the help they received to reach it. “Amazing Grace” echoed within the cool walls, as well as the voices of a children’s chorus. -- Many in the audience stared at their laps, dabbing eyes with tissue. Eleven members of the New York Fire Department and Port Authority Police Department gathered onstage to a long, standing ovation. - More, Scott Wilson, Washingtonpost,

Afghanistan corruption still severe problem, U.S. watchdog says - Washington Times

Afghanistan corruption still severe problem, U.S. watchdog says - Washington Times

دوهم ځلي انتخابات به دډاکتر غني او ډاکتر عبدالله ترمنځ دجوزا په ۲۴مه کېږي -- دافغانستان دانتخاباتو خپلواک کمیسیون نن اعلان وکړ چې دحمل دشپاړسمې نېټې د انتخاباتو نهايي پایلې اعلان کړې چې پر اساس یې هیڅ کاندید پنځوس فیصده جمع یو نه دی ترلاسه کړی او انتخابات دوهم پړاو ته تللي دي. -- دانتخاباتو دخپلواک کمیسیون رييس احمد یوسف نورستاني تر ټاکلي وخت یو ساعت وروسته د انتخاباتو پایلې اعلان کړې. -- دانتخاباتو خپلواک کمیسیون ريیس یوسف نورستاني وویل چې دوهم ځلي انتخابات به د جوزا په څلرویشتمه د عبدالله عبدالله او اشرف غني احمدزي ترمنځ کېږي. -- ښاغلي نورستاني ومنله چې دحمل دشپاړسمې نېټې په انتخاباتو کې نیمګړتیاوې وې خو دوی به هڅه وکړي چې په دوهم ځلي انتخاباتو کې، چې دجوزا په ۲۴ کېږي، نیمګړتیاوې تکرار نه شي. -- ده وویل، ددې لپاره چې یو شمېر اسناد او وسایل په راکټي برید کې سوځېدلي، ۵۸ ولسوالیو ته د هوا له لارې لوژیستیکي وسایل باید ورسېږي، د یو شمېر نورو کارکوونکو د روزلو او کاندیدانو ته کافي وخت ورکړای شي دوهم ځلي انتخابات د جوزا د ۷ پر ځای په ۲۴ نېټه کېږي. -- یوسف نورستاني وویل چې عبدالله عبدالله ۴۵ فیصده رایې ترلاسه کړي. ورپسې اشرف غني احمدزي ۳۱ اعشاریه ۶ فیصده رایې ګټلي دي. -- ده دزلمي رسول درایو فیصدي ۱۱ اعشاریه ۴ او د عبدالرب رسول سیاف د رایو فیصدي ۷ اعشاریه صفر وبلله. -- ورپسې دقطب الدین هلال، ګل آغا شیرزي، داوود سلطانزوی او هدایت امین ارسلا نومونه دي. - تاند

Results Force Runoff in Afghan Presidential Election --- KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced the final results of the 2014 presidential election Thursday, making minor adjustments to its earlier estimates and calling for a runoff between the two top vote getters to determine the country’s next president. -- The commission set the runoff date for June 14, setting the stage for a new cycle of intense campaigning. -- “After reviewing the decision of the Electoral Complaint Commission, it became clear to us that none of the candidates secured 51 percent of the votes and the elections will go to a runoff,” said Mohammed Yousuf Nuristani, the chairman of the commission. -- The commission said the front-runner, Abdullah Abdullah, won 45 percent of the votes and that the second-highest vote-getter was Ashraf Ghani, with 31.6 percent. The third-ranking candidate was Zalmay Rassoul with 11.4 percent. Mr. Rassoul announced he would support Mr. Abdullah’s candidacy in the second round. -- Afghanistan has two electoral bodies: the Independent Electoral Commission, which oversees the conduct of elections and vote counting and the E.C.C., which adjudicates complaints. For a candidate to win in the first round outright, he must win 51 percent of the votes.-- “My request again of the brave and patriotic people of Afghanistan is to do as they did before, millions of them casting their votes, to go again and cast their votes,” Mr. Nuristani said. --- However, it is always difficult to predict how people will vote, and Afghans surprised leaders in the first round of voting, with many in Pashtun areas supporting Mr. Abdullah, while some of those viewed as likely to support him turned out for Mr. Ghani. - More, ALISSA J. RUBIN, NYTimes,

U.S. reconstruction push overwhelming Kabul's finances: watchdog --- (Reuters) - The United States has spent $103 billion on rebuilding everything from hospitals to security forces in Afghanistan, but Kabul's modest finances make it unlikely the projects could be maintained in the future, a top U.S. watchdog said on Wednesday. -- John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said even with the U.S. war effort winding down, U.S. spending in the country is likely to continue at a pace of $6 billion to $10 billion a year. He said $18 billion has been appropriated for Afghan projects and not yet spent. -- Sopko, in prepared remarks for the Middle East Institute think tank, said U.S. funding for Afghan reconstruction has topped the amount spent rebuilding Britain or Germany following World War Two. Annual payments are more than what Washington gives to Israel, Egypt and Pakistan combined, he said. -- The result is that the government of Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest countries, needs an annual budget of about $7.6 billion, but is able to raise only about $2 billion from its people. Without contributions from donor countries, it will not be able to make up the shortfall, Sopko said. -- Sopko said at assessment by the Center for Naval Analysis concluded the Afghan National Security Forces would need 373,000 personnel, significantly more than currently planned. That would cost between $5 billion and $6 billion annually, up to three times Kabul's revenues. -- "Each new development project that the U.S. and other international donors fund increases overall operation and maintenance costs, adding pressure to Afghanistan's operating budget," Sopko said. -- A key lesson from Afghanistan, he said, is "reconstruction projects must take into account the recipient country's ability to operate and sustain the assistance we provide." -- He pointed to the 105-megawatt Kabul Power Plant as an example. The Afghan government promised to commercialize its operations to cover fuel costs, but a 2010 audit found it had not done so and would likely need foreign assistance to maintain, operate and fuel it for several years. -- "It is questionable whether the Afghan entities charged with financing these projects can afford them," Sopko said. -- As American troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the security situation in the country will make it increasingly difficult for inspectors to ensure U.S.-funded projects are properly completed and monies effectively spent, Sopko said. Inspectors believe no more than 20 percent of the country will be accessible to them. -- He urged the government to "have the courage to risk saying 'no' to the Afghans if adequate safeguards cannot be implemented" to ensure inspectors have access to project sites. -- Sopko cited a U.S.-built hospital in Parwan Province as an example of what can go wrong without oversight. -- "The water, sewer, electrical and heating systems were incomplete and in need of repairs," he said. "There was no clean water. Newborn babies were being washed in river water. ... The hospital lacked some of the most basic necessities." - David Alexander,

Please find from the below map the final results of the 5 April 2014 Presidential Elections. -- Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan -

جدول برگزاری دور دوم انتخابات ریاست جمهوری افغانستان اعلام شد --- انتخابات ریاست جمهوری شانزدهم حمل/فروردین افغانستان هیچ برنده ای نداشت و هیچ یک از نامزدان نتوانستند پنجاه درصد به اضافه یک رای را بدست بیاورند و با این ترتیب دور دوم انتخابات در بیست و چهارم جوزا/فروردین برگزار می‌شود -- .در دور دوم عبدالله عبدالله و اشرف غنی احمدزی با هم رقابت خواهند کرد. -- رئیس کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات از مردم خواست که به پای صندوق های رای بروند. -- آقای نورستانی گفت که دور دوم انتخابات در روز 24 جوزا برگزار خواهد شد. --- از ۲۷ ثور/اردیبهشت تا ۱ جوزا/خرداد: انتقال مواد به ولایات -- ۴ تا ۲۳ جوزا: انتقال مواد به مراکز رای دهی و ولسوالی ها -- ۱ تا ۲۱ جوزا: آغاز مبارزات انتخاباتی -- ۲۴ جوزا: روز برگزاری دور دوم انتخابات ریاست جمهوری افغانستان -- ۲۵ تا ۳۱ جوزا: جمع آوری آرا و انتقال مواد از ولایت به مرکز -- از ۲۷ جوزا تا ۷ سرطان/تیر: شمارش آرای دور دوم -- ۱۱ سرطان: اعلام نتایج ابتدایی -- ۱۲ و ۱۳ سرطان: ثبت شکایت های انتخاباتی -- ۱۴ تا ۲۴ سرطان: روند رسیدگی به شکایت‌های انتخاباتی -- ۳۱ سرطان: اعلام نتایج نهایی دور دوم - BBC

Turkey Coal Mining Death Toll Rises in Worst-Ever Mine Disaster --- ISTANBUL - The death toll in a Turkish coal mining accident has climbed to 274, the nation's energy minister said, making it Turkey's worst mining disaster in history. -- Tuesday's explosion and fire in the western town of Soma trapped hundreds of others more than a mile under the earth's surface. -- Anxious family members gathered at the entrance to the mine as bodies were pulled out, but Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said “hopes are diminishing” of finding more survivors. -- The new death toll from the accident tops a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near Turkey's Black Sea port of Zonguldak, the Associated Press reported. -- The fire from the initial explosion overnight continued to burn into the morning, hampering rescue efforts and sending a pall of smoke over the scene. -- Air was pumped into the mine to help trapped workers, with most of the victims killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. --- “May god wish mercy upon our brothers who lost their lives, and I hope our wounded brothers will get well soon,” said Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who declared three days of national mourning. -- Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 155 miles south of Istanbul, at the time of the explosion. He said 80 people were wounded including 20 of the rescue workers. -- Nearly 450 other miners had been rescued, the mining company said, but the fate of an unknown number of others was still unclear Wednesday. - More, NBCNews

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Casey Kasem's Daughter Files Missing Persons Report --- The daughter of missing radio legend Casey Kasem has officially filed a missing persons report, her publicist said Wednesday. -- Kerri Kasem, who was appointed as her father's temporary caretaker during a hearing Monday, filed the report with the Santa Monica Police Department, according to a statement from Danny Deraney, the publicist. -- Adult Protective Services, a court investigator and Kasem's family have been searching for the 82-year-old "Top 40" host and radio personality, but they have not found him. -- Casey Kasem is suffering from Lewy body disease, a form of dementia, according to his daughters. They told a judge during the hearing Monday that they don't know where he is being treated. --

Calif. gov declares state of emergency as wildfires scorch San Diego County --- California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in San Diego County Wednesday after temperatures approaching 100 degrees and gusting winds fueled nine wildfires covering 14 square miles Wednesday. -- No major injuries were reported, but thousands were forced to flee burning homes, while hundreds of schools were closed through at least next week. At least two firefighters suffered minor injuries -- one heat-related and one from smoke inhalation. -- The biggest concern late Wednesday was in San Marcos north of San Diego, where a new blaze broke out in the late afternoon, some 21,000 evacuation notices were sent to residents and a California State University campus with nearly 10,000 students was evacuated. At least five structures there were destroyed, authorities said, but it wasn't immediately clear how many were homes. -- The worst of the fires was in the coastal city of Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego and home to Legoland California. The park was closed because of a power outage caused by the fire. -- Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said the blaze consumed an eight-unit condominium complex and damaged eight homes and two businesses. Thousands were asked to evacuate their homes. -- As the flames surged, a steady stream of residents stopped at a roadblock on a four-lane thoroughfare as they tried to return home to collect valuables --- Officials said many schools across the county would be closed Thursday, including San Diego Unified School District. A fire on the edge of San Diego in the community of Lakeside prompted brief evacuations in the early evening Wednesday that were called off a few hours later. -- Another fire broke out late Wednesday on Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook at Camp Pendleton. Approximately 890 people were forced from their homes, though some were later allowed to return. Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook will be closed Thursday due to a lack of power. - More,

US commitment to Northern Ireland peace 'should be applied to Afghanistan' --- Barack Obama should copy America's 20-year commitment to the Irish peace process and keep engaged with Afghanistan instead of a zero-option military pullout, a former US diplomat has urged the president and his administration. -- David Sedney, the former deputy American assistant defence secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, has also suggested that a neutral George Mitchell-type figure should be appointed to chair fresh peace talks between rival Afghan parties. -- The diplomat and expert on the region also warned that the US and Nato needed to leave behind a force of 15,000 to adequately train, mentor and equip the Afghan security forces into the near future. Some voices on Capitol Hill have been calling for a total withdrawal of all foreign forces by 2017. -- Following discussions with peace negotiators and former paramilitaries in Belfast, Sedney told the Guardian the lesson from Northern Ireland was that the current and future US administrations had to take a longer policy view on Afghanistan. -- "The hostilities that occurred over a long period, like the Troubles did over four decades, require a longer-term commitment. Which is exactly what is needed in Afghanistan. Talking to people in Belfast last week I was impressed by the fact that they, as key actors in the peace process, understand that you need continued effort to keep it going. -- "American administrations from Bill Clinton, to George W Bush and on to Barack Obama have also invested time and effort in the Northern Ireland peace process. -- "Long-term commitment requires hard work and sacrifice but this place [Northern Ireland] is a good example of that. The trouble is it's terribly hard for Americans to accept that there is not a short-term fix to Afghanistan … just as there isn't in Northern Ireland. This place should show Americans you are in it for the longer haul," Sedney said. -- Referring to the breakdown of peace talks between the Afghan government and elements of the Taliban held in Doha, Sedney said the next round of possible discussions should be chaired by a neutral non-Afghan figure. -- "I think it has to be an outsider whom the Afghans are able to agree on. Look at the success of George Mitchell here in Northern Ireland, who was respected by all sides. Obviously in the Afghan context it cannot be an American like Mitchell, and the United States certainly can't impose a solution but there is room for a neutral chairman if talks start again," he said. -- Mitchell – the former leader of the Democrats in the US Senate – was appointed to chair the talks that led to the 1998 Good Friday agreement. He remained on call for the next three years to hold the ring in further negotiations between unionists and nationalists over unsolved issues like IRA disarmament. -- His "Mitchell principles" became the six ground rules of the negotiations leading to the Good Friday deal and committed all the parties around the table including the IRA-allied Sinn Féin to sign up to work for change solely through peaceful means. --- On a continued foreign military presence in Afghanistan following the elections and the departure of President Obama from office, Sedney said: "In order to train and to mentor the Afghan security forces in areas like intelligence for example, you still need a force of around 15,000-plus of foreign forces. -- "This means around 10,000 Americans and 5,000 Nato troops. If you go lower you only get a foreign force that can just about defend itself. There would not be enough numbers to be working with the Afghan forces and playing a positive role." -- Sedney was the guest of Michael Semple, a visiting professor at the Queen's University Belfast conflict study centre and who served as deputy to the UN special representative for Afghanistan in 2004-2007. Semple, who had lived in the region for more than 20 years, was expelled from Afghanistan for holding secret talks with elements of the Taliban aimed at persuading them to take part in peace negotiations. - More, Henry McDonald, Guardian -

9 things you need to know about MERS --- Health officials around the world are paying more attention to a recent increase in cases of a deadly respiratory virus known as MERS. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome first emerged in the Middle East about two years ago. Since then, more than 500 cases have been confirmed and reported to the World Health Organization, including at least 145 deaths. Most of the cases have been in Saudi Arabia. Two cases have been confirmed in the United States. -- Both were in healthcare workers, living and working at hospitals in Saudi Arabia. One man in Indiana has recovered and been released. Another patient is in a Florida hospital. -- Here are some questions and answers about MERS. -- Now that there are confirmed cases in the United States, should I be worried? - More, Washingtonpost

صدای آلمان - بامیان پایتخت فرهنگی کشورهای عضو سارک می شود --- ولایت بامیان در سال 2015 پایتخت فرهنگی کشورهای اتحادیه جنوب آسیا (سارک) می شود. تلاش ها در این زمینه از سوی دولت افغانستان به منظور جلب حمایت کشور های عضو سارک آغاز شده است. این ولایت از درجه سه به درجه دو ارتقاء کرد. -- مقام های محلی ولایت بامیان از تلاش های وزارت اطلاعات و فرهنگ افغانستان به منظور معرفی این ولایت به عنوان "پایتخت فرهنگی اتحادیه کشورهای جنوب آسیا" خبر داده و ابراز امیدواری می کنند که کشورهای عضو این اتحادیه افغانستان را کمک کنند تا به این دست آورد نایل آید. --- سارک چیست؟ -- اتحادیه همکاری های منطقه ای جنوب آسیا ( سارک) یک سازمان سیاسی و اقتصادی است که متشکل از هشت کشور در جنوب آسیا بوده و فقرزدایی، توسعه بخش های اقتصادی، فرهنگی، اجتماعی، تخنیکی و تکنولوژیکی در کشورهای عضو آن از جمله اهداف این سازمان می باشد. -- سارک در آغاز با عضويت هفت کشور جنوب آسيا يعنی؛ هند، پاکستان، نپال، بوتان، مالديف، سريلانکا و بنگلاديش به فعاليت آغاز کرد و با عضويت افغانستان در اين سازمان اکنون با هشت عضو کار می کند. کشورهای ايران و چين نيز خواهان عضويت در اين سازمان می باشند. این سازمان در داکه پایتخت بنگلدیش بنیانگذاری شد. در حال حاضر جمهوری اسلامی ایران، چین، موریس، جاپان، کوریای جنوبی، امریکا و اتحادیه اروپا، اعضای ناظر سارک محسوب می ‌شوند. -- افغانستان درسال 2007 میلادی عضویت این سازمان را کسب کرد و به گفته مسئولان حکومتی؛ به زودی ولایت بامیان عنوان پایتخت فرهنگی این سازمان را کسب می کند. رشد صنعت توریزم نیز یکی از اهداف دیگر این اتحادیه می باشد، مزیتی که افغانستان دارد اما به آن توجه چندانی نشده است. ولایت بامیان یکی از ولایت های این کشور است که بیشترین گردشگران خارجی را جذب می کند. -بامیان-پایتخت-فرهنگی-کشورهای

U.S. Senate Democrats offer student debt refinance bill --- (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democrats unveiled legislation on Wednesday to allow millions of Americans with student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates. -- Democrats said their measure would let holders of both federal and private undergraduate loans - some with rates of 9 percent or higher - to refinance at 3.86 percent. -- Drafted in coordination with the White House, the bill is part of Senate Democrats' 2014 legislative agenda aimed at giving all Americans "a fair shot" and rallying the party's liberal base in advance of the November elections. -- But like earlier rejected measures to raise the minimum wage and renew expired long-term jobless benefits for millions of Americans, it faces Republican opposition that could kill it. -- "This bill would be hugely expensive," said Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. "I don't think it will be seriously considered." -- Democrats control the Senate, 55-45, but need 60 votes to clear Republican procedural hurdles. --- Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a chief sponsor of the bill, said she expected bipartisan support. -- "Student loan debt is a real and growing crisis that is crushing young people and dragging down our economy," Warren said. -- "When interest rates are low, homeowners, businesses and even municipalities refinance their debt. But right now the government doesn't offer a refinancing option to students," she noted. "Allowing students to refinance their loans would help give them a fair shot at an affordable education." - More,

Afghan election result delayed till Thursday by over 900 serious complaints --- (Reuters) - The final result of the presidential election held in Afghanistan over a month ago will be announced on Thursday, a day later than planned because of a high number of voter complaints, the election authorities said. -- Preliminary results late last month indicated no candidate would emerge with an absolute majority. If final results confirm the initial count, a run-off will be held between the two leading contenders, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. -- The final result would be announced on Thursday at 11 am (0630 GMT), IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said. Failure of the complaints commission to submit its final report on time was the reason for the delay. -- A spokesman for the commission said this was because it had been flooded with an unexpectedly high number of complaints, including over 900 classed serious enough to affect the outcome of the vote. -- "That's why it took longer," said Nader Mohseni said. -- This number exceeds the 815 recorded during the previous election held in 2009, when over a million votes were cast out as fraudulent. -- A second round of voting was initially scheduled for May 28, but is now expected to be pushed back to mid-June if required. -- The volume of complaints and subsequent delays has not dampened enthusiasm for the democratic process, widely seen as a success because of the high turn-out. -

کودکان افغان رد مرز شده از عربستان، به خویشاوندان خود در کابل پیوستند --- دولت افغانستان سیزده کودک شش تا پانزده ساله را که از سوی دولت عربستان سعودی رد مرز شده اند، به وابستگان‌شان در افغانستان تحویل داد. -- علی افتخاری، سخنگوی وزارت کار و امور اجتماعی افغانستان روز سه‌شنبه (۲۳ ثور/اردیبهشت) هنگام تحویل دادن این کودکان به خویشاوندان آنها گفت که آنها از افغانستان به عربستان قاچاق شده بودند. -- آقای افتخاری به بی‌بی‌سی فارسی گفت که این کودکان همه پسر هستند و خانواده‌های بسیاری از آنها در افغانستان با قاچاق آنها به عربستان سعودی موافق بوده‌اند. -- او افزود که قاچاقچیان به خانواده‌های آنها گفته بودند که در عربستان سعودی برای این کودکان زمینه کار و پیدا کردن منابع درآمد مالی خوب را فراهم خواهند کرد. -- سخنگوی وزارت کار و امور اجتماعی گفت که این کودکان در عربستان گدایی یا دستفروشی می‌کردند و به طور کلی به کارهایی مشغول بودند که معمولا کودکان خانواده‌های فقیر انجام می‌دهند. -- آقای افتخاری گفت که این کودکان فاقد مدرک اقامت در عربستان سعودی بودند و پلیس عربستان آنها دستگیر و به افغانستان رد مرز کرده است. -- او همچنین افزود که خانواده‌های شماری از این کودکان در عربستان هستند و دولت عربستان آنها را بدون خانواده‌های‎شان به کابل فرستاده است. -- سخنگوی وزارت کار گفت که این کودکان به خویشاوندان آنها در افغانستان تحویل داده شدند و این امر خانواده‌های آنها را در عربستان تحت فشار قرار می‌دهد که به کشور خود بازگردند. -- از همه کسانی که مسئولیت سرپرستی از این ۱۳ کودک را به عهده گرفته‌اند، ضمانت‌های لازم گرفته شده است. -- سخنگوی وزارت کار و امور اجتماعی افزود که ۱۲ تن از این کودکان از ولایت بغلان و کودک سیزدهم از ولایت جوزجان است. -- در سال گذشته هم ۱۴ کودک و در سال ۱۳۹۱، ۲۷ کودک از عربستان سعودی به افغانستان رد مرز شده بودند. - BBC

'I'm Happy,' Says Man Whose Case Changed Europe's Rules For Google --- The Spanish man whose court battle against Google resulted in a European court ruling in his favor – and for the "right to be forgotten" – says he is pleased with the case's outcome. -- Mario Costeja Gonzalez had been upset that old and damaging information about him came up in a search. The European Court of Justice sided with Costeja Tuesday, ruling that Internet search engines are responsible for the information they display. The case started after Costeja did a Google search of his own name; the results showed notices about financial troubles he had back in 1998. -- From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports for our Newscast unit: -- From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports for our Newscast unit: -- " 'It hurts my reputation,' he says in Spanish. 'My debts are long paid, but those links were the first thing you'd see.' -- "He sued, and won. The European Court of Justice says Google must edit some search results, if people like Mario Costeja request it. -- "Costeja says he's pleased — that he's always considered Google a 'great tool' — and he says now it's even better. -- "The search giant disagrees and says altering search results amounts to censorship." -- Costeja tells The Guardian that he doesn't want Google to purge all of its records about people. -- "I was fighting for the elimination of data that adversely affects people's honor, dignity and exposes their private lives," he says. "Everything that undermines human beings, that's not freedom of expression." -- Costeja would not reveal how much the legal fight against Google had cost him. -- "Like anyone would be when you tell them they're right, I'm happy," he said. --- According to The Guardian, the case will be used as a precedent in more than 200 cases pending in Spain's court system; in many of them, plaintiffs are asking for links to be deleted. - NPR

MERS 101: What We Do (And Don't) Know About The Virus --- The virus with the mysterious name has been making headlines this spring, with a mysterious increase in cases. Here's an update on what we know about MERS. -- What is it? Middle East respiratory syndrome, a new and potentially fatally virus from the same family as the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARS). -- Symptoms: Affects the lower and upper respiratory tracts, leading to coughing, shortness of breath, fever and pneumonia. The virus aims for cells in the lungs and possibly the kidneys, which may explain instances of kidney failure. But some people who have been infected report no symptoms. -- Source: Scientists say the virus may have been circulating in Arabian camels for more than 20 years. Evidence also points to bats as the initial culprit, possibly infecting camels, who then infect humans. A study published in mBio suggests that the MERS virus is capable of passing between camels and humans, but neither CDC nor the World Health Organization have confirmed the connection. -- Who's at risk: Some early victims either worked with camels, ate camel meat or drank camel milk, though it has yet to be confirmed that the virus passes from camels to humans. We don't know exactly how it spreads — perhaps through air or bodily fluids. Many patients are health care workers and family members who came in close contact with an infected person. -- Who's been diagnosed: The first cases were diagnosed in 2012 in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As of May 2014, there have been more than 490 MERS diagnoses (and over 140 deaths) in Saudi Arabia. Dozens more cases have been found throughout the Middle East and in seven other countries, with two in the U.S., and cases also in France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Tunisia and the U.K. In both the United States and the U.K, patients had been in the Middle East or were in close contact with a MERS victim. -- Why now? Unclear. In April, officials saw a sharp uptick of MERS cases; many involved human-to-human transmission. This rise in numbers could just be because we're more aware of the illness and are better at detecting the virus. -- Treatment and cure: Patients are isolated, either in a hospital or at home if the viral infection is not too severe. Those with breathing difficulties are supported with a machine that provides extra oxygen. They're given medication for fever. There's no vaccine; in the best-case scenario, it would take at least three years to develop one. - NPR,

US Urges Pakistan, Afghanistan to Cooperate on Border Issues --- ISLAMABAD — A senior U.S. diplomat has called on Pakistan and Afghanistan to enhance border cooperation to counter violent extremism plaguing the region and advised against “employing militancy as an instrument of policy.” -- James Dobbins, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, held detailed talks with Pakistani political and military leaders that largely focused on Islamabad’s counter-militancy efforts and its contributions to the U.S.-led international campaign aimed at stabilizing neighboring Afghanistan. -- Speaking to Pakistan’s state-run television late Friday, he said the United States is supportive of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to engage the Pakistani Taliban in talks for ending its militancy. He added that Pakistani leaders are also determined to use force if necessary to confront the security challenges facing their country. --- “We support Pakistan’s efforts to establish the rule of law in Pakistan to eliminate violent extremism, not just the violent extremists who attack Pakistan, but the violent extremists who operate from Pakistani territory and attack neighboring societies," said Dobbins. "We believe that the Nawaz government and the Pakistani army are also committed to moving to reduce and eventually eliminate this kind of violent extremism and we think that would be very positive in terms of Afghanistan’s future development." -- Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and allowing it to use Pakistani areas for cross-border raids. However, Islamabad recently accused Kabul of sheltering Pakistani militants and helping them stage attacks inside Pakistan. -- Dobbins acknowledged cross-border militancy as a mutual problem that the United States is prepared to help both countries address. He also urged them not to officially support militant forces. -- “I think all of the states of the region need to avoid employing militancy as an instrument of policy, [which] has been a long term strategy that has created a cancer in societies and, in particular, in Pakistan society, which is now threatening the actual existence of the state and its democratic institutions,” he said. --- The American envoy avoided direct comments on Afghanistan’s reluctance to formally recognize its porous, 2,500-kilometer border with Pakistan as an international frontier. So long as both countries continue to postpone any kind of formal resolution on the larger legal issues involving their common border, he said, Kabul should at least prepare to work with Islamabad to regulate cross-border movements to discourage militant activity. - More,

له ۲۰۱۴ کال وروسته په افغانستان کي دامریکايي عسکرو دپام وړ حضور --- دافغانستان او پاکستان له پاره دواشنگټن ځانگړي استازي په ټوکیو کې ویلي دي چې په روان کال کې به په افغانستان کې دامریکایي سرتیرو دشمیر دراکمیدو سره سره، په دغه هیواد کې دامریکا په مشرۍ پوځي حضور دپام وړ وي. دافغانستان او پاکستان له پاره دمتحده ایالاتو ځانگړي استازي جیمز دوبینز، دا خبره پیشبیني کړې ده چې افغان ولسمشر حامد کرزی چې کاري موده یې پای ته رسیږي له خپل نفوذ څخه کار اخیستلو ته ادامه ورکړي. -- جیمز دوبینز دسه شنبې په ورځ (۲۰۱۴کال دمی ۱۳) دجاپان په پلازمینه توکیو کې خبریالانو ته وویل چې متحده ایالات له افغانستان څخه دخپلو ځواکونو دراایستلو پر پلان باندي «لا هم غور کوي.» جیمز دوبینز، چې توکیو ته یې دافغانستان دملاتړ په تړاو په ترسره کیدونکو خبرو اترو کې دگډون په موخه سفر کړی دی ویلي دي: «موږ هیله من یوو چې تر راتلونکو دوو میاشتو پوري به په افغانستان کې دپاتېدونکو عسکرو ددقیق شمیر په هکله پریکړه وکړو. نوموړي په خپلو خبرو کې وړاندي ویلي دي: «زه فکر کوم چې موږ او متحدین به مو داوسني شمیر په پرتله په کوچني شمیر کې دمشاورتي ماموریت ادامې ته چمتو یوو.» -- اوس هم په افغانستان کي دامریکا په مشرۍ دناټو شاوخوا ۵۱ زره عسکر میشته دي او په پام کې ده چې دروان میلادي کال ددسمبر مياشتي تر پایه پوري له افغانستان څخه ووځي او دطالبانو پرضد اوږدې او دلگښته ډکي جگړې ته دپای ټکی کښیږدي. داسې فکر کیږي، چې امریکا متحده ایالات به خپل لږ شمیر عسکر دافغان ځواکونو دروزلو او دترهگرۍ ضد مبارزې له پاره په دغه هیواد کې پریږدي، خو هغوی له ډیري مودې راهیسې دکابل او واشنگټن ترمنځ ددوه اړخیز امنیتي تړون لاسلیک ته په انتظار دي. دولسمشر کرزي له خوا دیو شمیر اعتراضونو تر راپورته کېدو وروسته ددغه تړون لاسلیکیدل ځنډیدلي دي. -- سپینه ماڼۍ وایي چې تر اوسه پوري ولسمشر بارک اوباما په دې اړه پریکړه کړې نه ده چې دافغانستان دکمې تجربې درلودونکي پوځ دروزلو له پاره په څه تعداد عسکر په افغانستان کې پریږدي. دوبینز دافغانستان دولسمشریزو ټاکنو دپایلو په اړه له واندويني څخه ډډه وکړه او یوازي يې دومره وویل چې دا به «اوږه په اوږه سیالي» وي. په پام کې ده چې افغانستان دولسمشریزو ټاکنو دلومړي پړاو دنتایجو اعلان دچهارشنبې په ورځ وکړي. داسې اټکل کیږي چې د بهرنیو چارو پخوانی وزیر ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله، او دنړیوال بانک پخوانی اقتصاد پوه ډاکټر اشرف غني احمدزی به د ټاکنو دوهم پړاو ته ووځي. -- دوبینز په خپلو خبرو کې وړاندي وویل چې دحامد کرزي تر دورې وروسته، ټاکني ددغه هیواد دبقا له پاره خورا مهمې دي. هغه په خپلو خبرو کې یادونه وکړه: «لومړی خنډ ټاکني دي. تر اوسه هر څه سم دي، خو دهیڅ شي تضمین کیدای نه شي.» هر څوک چې ددغه ټاکنو گټونکی شي نو دکرزي د ۱۳ کلنۍ دورې او دمتحده ایالاتو په مشرۍ دطالبانو پرضد جگړې تر ختمیدو وروسته به دنوي دور واکمني کوي. خو ددوبینز دوړاند ويني له مخې، له دې سره سره چې دحامد کرزي کاري دوره پای ته رسیږي، هغه يعني کرزی به له خپل سیاسي نفوذ څخه گټي اخيستلو ته ادامه ورکړي: «هغه به تر ټاکنو وروسته یو بانفوذه سیاسي څیره وي او زه فکر نه کوم چې اړتيا ته په کتو سره دې دا یو بد کار وي.» - دویچه ویلی

Perez sends Boehner a letter urges House to pass unemployment benefits extension --- Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez sent a letter to Speaker of House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 urging the speaker to put the unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote. The secretary looked to allay concerns and reservations Boehner has mentioned he has regarding passing and implementing the unemployment benefits extension bill. Additionally, the labor secretary included a list of suggested job creation measures that could be added to the bill, just as Boehner had been requesting from the White House. However, the list includes elements that have support primarily from Democrats. Perez has interjected himself a number of times urging the passage and extension of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Program, however, has been ignored by Congress in the negotiation and debate process. --- Perez recounted the statistics that are now well known, that since EUC program expired on Dec. 28, 2013 nearly 3 million Americans lost access to benefits, and each week 70,000 Americans have lost benefits, by the end of the year it is projected that 1.6 million more Americans will lose benefits. The labor secretary described the facts to Boehner, trying to add a more personal touch to the statistics pointing out that 70,000 in Ohio are without benefits, and describing the problems and decisions the affected long-term jobless are living through. Perez explained that the Americans affected "have been stripped of unemployment benefits that help them keep the lights on, rent paid, and family fed. All too many long-term unemployed are making painful choices between these critical necessities." --- The secretary of labor addressed Republicans' main opposition to the extension; they believe it does not motivate the unemployed to find a job as long as they have access to benefits. Perez recounted meeting with long-term jobless Americans, including those in the speaker's home state; "In the months before and after the expiration of EUC benefits, I have met with numerous people struggling to get back into the workforce after a long period of unemployment. Their determination inspires me. Their full time job is to look for a job.... I travelled to Ohio recently and met with a group of determined people seeking employment." --- Secretary Perez wanted to indicate that these are hard working Americans who want to work, not just collect government money. He pointed out that; "These people embody the spirit and resilience of the long-term unemployed, who are working tirelessly to get back into the workforce." Since the EUC program was instituted and all throughout the financial crisis and recession Republicans voted with Democrats to extend the benefits. Now with the worst of the crisis over, and unemployment levels at pre-recession levels Republicans think the long-term jobless need to find jobs rather than receive benefits. --- Democrats have been using to persuade Republicans a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study to argue that not only will the unemployment benefits extension help the long-term jobless it would also contribute to economic growth. Perez also used cited the CBO study arguing that the mere fact that extending the benefits helps the economy, means the "EUC is itself an effective job creation tool." Continuing, Perez used the study's statistics; "Estimates from outside economists and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) suggest that without an extension of EUC, GOP growth will diminish by 0.2 to 0.4 percent. Failing to extend UI benefits puts a dent in job-seekers' incomes, reduces demand and will cost an estimated 240,000 jobs in 2014." The CBO study determined a full year extension would provide 0.2 growth to the economy, and even the five-month Senate extension would serve beneficial to the economy. If extended for a full year the CBO study concludes extending benefits would add 200,000 jobs and the program would cost $26 billion. --- Speaker Boehner has been looking for the White House to list what kinds of job creations provisions would be acceptable to them to add the bill. The White House, President Obama, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV consistently refused to allow any provisions to be added. Now with the long-term jobless, Democrats and White House desperate, Secretary Perez has offered an olive branch, saying he would be open to negotiation on job creation measures. Perez offered that "In addition to the large job creation impacts of unemployment insurance, the Administration would welcome the opportunity to work with you on several job creation measures that Congress could pass together with the EUC extension." - More, Examiner,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Europe thinks of Muslims, Jews and Roma --- Ahead of the upcoming European Union parliamentary elections, the Pew Research Center released its latest survey data for France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. -- There are a number of interesting points in the report, but one striking section shows the varied views about minorities in the region. And while perspectives on Muslims and Jews are largely mixed, the mostly negative views about the Roma people are striking. -- Here's a rundown: -- Three countries polled – Italy, Greece and Poland – had more heavily negative views of Muslims than positive. --- It should be noted that these three nations actually have fewer Muslims living there than Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. France, the country with the highest Muslim population, according to Pew, has the most favorable view, while the United Kingdom, home of a recent "halal pizza" scandal, has the least negative view. -- Europe's attitudes toward Jews are more favorable, though Greeks are split. --- Again, countries with a larger Jewish population, such as the U.K. and France, tend to view them more favorably, and Germany, which obviously has a unique history on this front, views its Jewish population least negatively. Greece, where just 0.04% of the population is Jewish, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, is the most split about Jews: It's also worth noting that the popular Greek right-wing party Golden Dawn has been accused of neo-Nazism. -- The most negative views in Europe aren't directed toward Muslims or Jews. Rather, it's Roma. - More, Adam Taylor, Washingtonpost,

201 dead, many trapped in Turkish coal mine --- SOMA, Turkey — Rescuers desperately raced against time to reach more than 200 miners trapped underground Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least 201 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. -- Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, at the time of the explosion and 363 of them had been rescued so far. -- At least 80 miners were injured, including four who were in serious condition, Yildiz told reporters in Soma, as he oversaw the rescue operation involving more than 400 rescuers. -- “Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing,” Yildiz said. -- The accident occurred when the workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said, which likely raised the casualty toll because there were more miners inside the mine than usual. -- The minister said the fire was still blazing inside the mine, 18 hours after the blast. The air around the mine was still smoky.The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, Yildiz said. -- A rescued miner who emerged alive was whisked away on a stretcher to the cheers of onlookers. -- Earlier, the minister said the rescue operations were hindered because the mine had not completely been cleared of gas. -- Authorities say the disaster followed an explosion and fire caused by a power distribution unit. -- Nurettin Akcul, a mining trade union leader, told HaberTurk television that Turkey was likely facing its worst mining accident ever. -- “Time is working against us. We fear that the numbers could rise further,” Yildiz said. “We have to finish this (rescue operation) by dawn. I have to say that our pain, our trouble could increase.” - More, Associated Press, Washingtonpost

UNAMA launches booklet on protecting Afghan children in armed conflict --- 12 May 2014 – The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) today launched a booklet on the obligations of all parties to the country’s armed conflict to respect and promote the rights of children under international law and Islam. -- The booklet also highlights the complementarity of the teachings and fundamental tenets of Islam with international human rights and international humanitarian law. -- “There is no higher duty for every human being, every parent, every citizen, than to protect the future of the country: children. They deserve normal lives and normal childhoods, they deserve to be able to play wherever they want without being threatened by improvised [explosive] devices, without being threatened by unexploded remnants of war,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, at the launch which took place at offices of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in the capital, Kabul. -- “Unfortunately, for the last 30 years, the children of Afghanistan have been living and starting their lives, and often ending their lives, in the condition of war,” Mr. Kubiš added. “Every life of a child wasted, every future of a child unmet and destroyed by this war is one too many, but what I find particularly appalling is to brainwash children and then to use them as suicide bombers – and, in my two and half years here, there are many cases of children being misused as suicide bombers.” -- The conflict in Afghanistan has left children dead and injured, including without limbs, according to UNAMA. It has often denied children basic human rights such as access to education and adequate healthcare, and has impeded even the most basic economic development, fuelling poverty and further vulnerability of children. -- UNAMA documented 1,694 child casualties – 545 killed and a further 1,149 injured – in 2013. The leading cause of death and injury of children was improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which do not distinguish between combatants and civilians and are the biggest killer of civilians in Afghanistan. -- The booklet – entitled ‘Protecting Afghanistan’s Children in Armed Conflict,’ with editions in Dari, Pashto and English – is the result of a series of discussions and collaboration between UNAMA and respected Afghan religious leaders, scholars and experts representing different religious and academic institutions. - More,

Ex-G.I. Gets Medal of Honor for Lifesaving Acts in Afghanistan --- WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Kyle J. White, an Army radiotelephone operator who struggled for hours through enemy fire in Afghanistan to try to save the lives of wounded soldiers during a surprise attack by Taliban fighters. -- “Today, we pay tribute to a soldier who embodies the courage of his generation, a young man who was a freshman in high school when the Twin Towers fell,” Mr. Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. -- “His journey from that day to this speaks to the story of his generation,” Mr. Obama added. -- The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military decoration. -- Sergeant White’s team of 14 soldiers and a squad of Afghan soldiers were ambushed by heavily armed Taliban fighters after a tense meeting with elders in the village of Aranas, Afghanistan, in Nuristan Province, on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Army’s account of the battle. -- As gunfire erupted from several directions, a rocket-propelled grenade landed near Sergeant White, knocking him unconscious. When he awoke, he found himself among six team members who had been left in the open after the others were forced to seek cover by sliding down a cliff. -- Despite a second blow to the head and a shrapnel wound on his face, Sergeant White spent four hours rushing to the aid of three soldiers with life-threatening injuries, dragging them to cover and applying tourniquets. -- Two radios were destroyed in the fighting before Sergeant White recovered a working one and called in reinforcements by land and air, which pushed back the enemy forces. -- As the fighting subsided and night fell, Sergeant White helped coordinate a rescue operation by radio, marking a landing zone and assisting medics in hoisting the wounded soldiers into a helicopter before being evacuated himself. -- Two of the three Americans Sergeant White tried to save — the platoon leader, First Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, and Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks of the Marines — were killed in the attack. Four others also died, and many more were wounded. -- But Specialist Kain Schilling survived after Sergeant White dragged him from the open and applied tourniquets to his arm and leg. Specialist Schilling joined him at the White House ceremony on Tuesday. -- Sergeant White, 27, is a native of Seattle. He retired from the Army in 2011 and is now an investment analyst at the Royal Bank of Canada in Charlotte, N.C. -- In remarks after the ceremony, Sergeant White said, “I wear this medal for my team.” --- “Battles are not won by men,” he said. “If that were true, the Taliban would have won on that trail in Afghanistan, because they had every tactical advantage including the numbers. Battles are won by spirit, and spirit is present in the relationships built from the trust and sacrifice we share with one another in times of hardship, and by that definition cannot be possessed by one person.” -- Sergeant White is the 14th recipient of the Medal of Honor for service in either Afghanistan or Iraq. By comparison, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded for service during World War II, 133 during the Korean War and 246 during the Vietnam War. - DAVID S. JOACHIM, NYTimes

نگرانی سازمان ملل از تاثیرات 'تکان‌دهنده' جنگ بر کودکان افغان --- دفتر هیات معاونت سازمان ملل متحد جزوه‌ای را منتشر کرده که در آن وضعیت و حقوق کودکان افغان در شرایط جنگی به بررسی گرفته شده‌است. -- این کلیک جزوه در ۶۵ صفحه به زبان‌های فارسی، پشتو و انگلیسی با عنوان "محافظت کودکان افغان در جنگ‌های مسلحانه" منتشر شده و مسئولیت‌های طرف‌های جنگ در زمینه احترام به حقوق کودکان و حفظ حقوق کودکان را از منظر "اصول شریعت اسلامی، قوانین ملی و معیارهای بین‌المللی حقوق بشر و حقوق بین‌الملل بشردوستانه" برجسته کرده‌است. -- یان کوبیش، فرستاده ویژه دبیرکل سازمان ملل متحد برای افغانستان در مراسم رونمایی این جزوه در دفتر کمیسیون حقوق بشر افغانستان گفت که گروه‌های مسلح در افغانستان از کودکان در جریان جنگ‌های مسلحانه بهره‌برداری می‌کنند و از کودکان به عنوان خبررسان استفاده سو می‌شود. -- او گفت که کودکان افغانستان آسیب پذیر اند و گروه‌های مسلح آن ها را وادار به مشارکت فعال در جنگ‌ می‌کنند که این عمل زندگی کودکان را بیشتر با خطر مواجه می‌کند. -- آقای کوبیش همچنین گفت: "جنگ زندگی کودکان را نابود می‌کند و به آن‌ها از لحاظ جسمی و روحی صدمه می‌رساند. این برای من واقعا تکان‌دهنده است. زمانی‌که می‌بینم که کودکان در این کشور به جز از جنگ و خشونت از هیچ چیزی خبر ندارند." -- یوناما می‌گوید تاثیرات جنگ روی زندگی کودکان منفی بوده و در کنار این که سبب کشته و زخمی شدن و قطع اعضای بدن کودکان شده، همچنین کودکان را از دسترسی به حقوق اساسی شان از جمله آموزش و پرورش و مراقبت‌های کافی بهداشتی محروم کرده و موجب فقر و آسیب‌پذیری بیشتر در میان کودکان شده‌است. -- در جزوه سازمان ملل متحد در مورد وضعیت کودکان افغان در شرایط جنگی، شش مورد "نقض فاحش حقوق کودکان در جنگ‌های مسلحانه" در افغانستان برجسته شده است: -- کشتار و معیوب کردن کودکان - استخدام کودکان توسط گروه‌های جنگی و نسبت دادن کودکان به نیروها و گروه‌های مسلح - کودک‌ربایی - حمله به مکاتب/مدارس و شفاخانه‌ها - تجاوز جنسی و سایر اشکال خشونت‌‎های جنسی علیه کودکان - محروم کردن کودکان از حق دسترسی به کمک‌های بشردوستانه - BBC,

European court: Google must yield on personal info --- AMSTERDAM — In a landmark ruling that could rock the Internet search-engine industry, Europe’s highest court said Tuesday that people are entitled to some control over what pops up when their name is Googled. -- The Court of Justice of the European Union said Google must listen and sometimes comply when individuals ask the search giant to remove links to newspaper articles or websites containing information about them. -- The ruling applies to EU citizens and all search engines in Europe, including Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing. It remains to be seen whether it will change the way Google and its rivals operate in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. -- Nor is it clear exactly how the court envisions Google and others handling complaints, which could prove to be a logistical headache if large numbers of people start demanding that information about themselves be removed. -- While some digital-rights experts welcomed the decision as a victory for privacy rights, others warned it could lead to online censorship. -- Google said it was disappointed by the ruling — which cannot be appealed — but was still studying its implications. -- The Mountain View, California, company has long argued that people with complaints about Web searches containing outdated or otherwise objectionable information should take it up with the websites. -- The EU, which would be the world’s largest economy if its 28 countries were counted as one, has a population of over 500 million. -- The case was referred to the European Court from Spain’s National Court, which asked for advice in the case of Mario Costeja, a Spaniard who found a search on his name turned up links to a notice that his property was due to be auctioned because of an unpaid welfare debt. The notice had been published in a Spanish newspaper in 1998, and was tracked by Google’s robots when the newspaper digitized its archive. -- Costeja argued that the debt had long since been settled, and he asked the Spanish privacy agency to have the reference removed. In 2010, the agency agreed, but Google refused and took the matter to court, saying it should not be asked to censor material that had been legally published by the newspaper. -- “It’s a great relief to be shown that you were right when you have fought for your ideas. It’s a joy,” Costeja told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “If Google was great before, it’s perfect now, because there are game rules to go by.” -- He said that “ordinary people will know where they have to go” to complain about bad or old information that turns up on a Google search. -- Costeja’s case will now return to Spain for final judgment. There are about 200 others in the Spanish court system, some of which may still prove difficult to decide. For instance, one involves a plastic surgeon who wants mentions of a botched operation removed from Google’s results. -- In its ruling, the European Court said people may address requests directly to the operator of the search engine, “which must then duly examine its merits.” -- Some limited forms of a “right to be forgotten” exist in the U.S. and elsewhere — for example, in regard to crimes committed by minors or bankruptcy regulations, both of which usually require that records be expunged in some way. However, the burden falls on the publisher of the information, usually a government — not on search engines. - More, Associated Press, Washingtonpost

له سیاف، ضیا مسعود او محمود کرزي سره دتحول او تداوم خبرې --- دولسمشرۍ دکاندید ډاکتر اشرف غني احمدزي ټیم وايي چې له نورو کاندیدانو او ځینو اغیزمنو سیاسي څېرو سره یې خبرې پیل کړي دي -- داشرف غني احمدزي تر مشرۍ لاندې د تحول او تداوم انتخاباتي ټیم سرچینو نن وویل چې دولسمشرۍ له کاندید عبدالرب رسول سیاف، احمد ضیا مسعود او دولسمشر کرزي له وروڼو سره یې خبرې پیل کړي دي -- تردې مخکې په تېرو څو ورځو کې دولسمشرۍ دوو کاندیدانو ګل اغا شیرزي او زلمي رسول دولسمشرۍ دانتخاباتو په دوهم پړاو کې د عبدالله عبدالله ملاتړ اعلان کړ. خو دزلمي رسول لومړی مرستیال احمد ضیا مسعود دښاغلي غني له ټیم سره په خبرو بوخت دی -- دعبدالله عبدالله پلویانو له ښاغلي مسعوده غوښتي چې د پنجشېریانو په منځ کې درز جوړ نه کړي، که دعبدالله ملاتړ نه کوي نو لږترلږه دې د اشرف غني احمدزي ننګه نه کوي. دتحول او تداوم سرچینې وايي چې ژر به له ښاغلیو سیاف او مسعود سره د دوی خبرې نتیجې ته ورسیږي. -- دولسمشر کرزي ورور محمود کرزي هم ویلي چې له دواړو مخکښو کاندیدانو سره یې خبرې کړي خو داشرف غني احمدزي اقتصادي پروګرامونه ورته ښه ښکاره شوي دي. له عبدالرب رسول سیاف سره د دواړو کاندیدانو استازو څو څو ځلي سره خبرې کړي دي. وړمه ورځ محمد محقق د سیاف کور ته ورغلی و او له نوموړي څخه یې یوځل بیا وغوښتل چې د عبدالله ملاتړ وکړي. -- ناتایید شوي راپورونه وايي چې سیاف تر دې مخکې معلم عطا او دښاغلي عبدالله نورو ملګرو ته ویلي چې که د اشرف غني احمدزي ملاتړ ونه کړي دعبدالله ملاتړ به هیڅکله ونه کړي ځکه چې عبدالله او قانوني دولسي جرګې په دواړو دورو کې دده له ریاست سره مخالفت وکړ، حال دا چې ده (سیاف) دحکمتیار او طالبانو پرضد په جګړده کې دنظار شورا ننګه کړې وه. - تاند

Outgoing Afghan leader not going anywhere, to U.S. chagrin --- (Reuters) - In central Kabul, a few minutes' walk from the ornate presidential office, workmen are putting the finishing touches to an imposing new residence and office complex: the retirement compound of the outgoing Afghan president. -- It is an eloquent metaphor. Hamid Karzai may be officially leaving, but his influence will loom large over the new leader. -- Karzai's new home sits at the edge of the sprawling grounds of the Arg palace, behind a tight security perimeter of blast walls, razor wire, sniper towers and soldiers armed with AK47s. -- Such protection is understandable, given that his two immediate predecessors met grisly ends, one assassinated by a suicide bomber and the other castrated and hanged. -- Karzai has also survived would-be assassins. Even so, few believe the mercurial leader, whose fulminations against U.S. "colonial power" have increased in recent years, will go quietly into retirement. -- At 56 years of age, he is still in his political prime and says he won't stop speaking out in Afghanistan's interest. -- Proximity alone means he will have the ear of the new president. -- "If asked for advice, he will be there ready to help. He will be at the service of his people," his spokesman Aimal Faizi said, when asked about Karzai's retirement plans. Faizi said the president had already turned down prestigious international offers in favour of staying at home. -- A senior Afghan government official said there had been high-level talks about the formation of a so-called elite council, to be chaired by Karzai, to discuss issues of state. -- "President Karzai has dealt with more than 40 Western countries during his rule and he knows the alphabet of each country's politics, especially the U.S.," the official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. -- "President Karzai has dealt with more than 40 Western countries during his rule and he knows the alphabet of each country's politics, especially the U.S.," the official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. - More,

EXCLUSIVE-Iran's illicit procurement appears to slow amid nuclear talks -UN experts --- VIENNA, May 11 (Reuters) - Iran's attempts to illicitly procure materials for its disputed nuclear and missile programmes appear to have slowed down as it pursues talks on a long-term accord with world powers, a U.N. expert panel said in a confidential report seen by Reuters. -- The U.N. Panel of Experts, who monitor compliance with the Security Council's sanctions regime on Iran, presented this conclusion cautiously, suggesting it was also possible Tehran has simply learned to outsmart security and intelligence services in its pursuit of sensitive components and materials. -- The report cited "a decrease in the number of detected attempts by Iran to procure items for prohibited programmes, and related seizures, since mid-2013 ... It is possible that this decrease reflects the new political environment in Iran and diplomatic progress towards a comprehensive solution." -- Tehran embarked on a negotiated solution to its nuclear dispute with big powers after moderate President Hassan Rouhani won election last June, replacing a confrontational ideologue. The high-level talks have yielded an interim deal easing fears of a wider Middle East war and will resume this week in Vienna. -- The report said it had become increasingly difficult to pinpoint any links between "dual-use" items - those with both civilian and military applications - that Iran has sought to procure and potential recipients in the Islamic Republic. -- But, the report cautioned, "this may be a function of more sophisticated procurement strategies on the part of Iran, which has developed methods of concealing procurement, while expanding prohibited activities. Such methods can also be used by Iran to procure and finance legitimate trade, which further complicates the efforts of states to identify illicit procurement." -- The report added that Iran had "also demonstrated a growing capability to produce key items indigenously". Among sensitive dual-use items Iran has pursued abroad over the years have been aluminum, carbon fibre and special valves. -- Iran's priority in negotiations with the powers is an end to international sanctions that have hammered its oil-reliant economy. The Islamic Republic has long denied charges from the West and its allies that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability under cover of a drive for peaceful atomic energy. - More,

Foreign Policy -- Casting his vote for who he hopes to be his successor, Karzai marked the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan's history -- a chapter that will be dictated by the 7 million Afghans who flocked to the polls that blustery Saturday. He is the first ruler of Afghanistan to step down from power and, if everything goes smoothly, witness a peaceful transition of power to someone other than him. A look into Afghanistan's past will indeed underscore the significance of this moment. --- Of the 28 monarchs and rulers who sat on the Afghan throne between 1747 and 2001, only six were confirmed to have died of natural causes while in power. Five were assassinated by political rivals or discontent subjects, the most recent being Burhanuddin Rabbani in 2011. The remaining 18 were all deposed and killed in vicious manners by their successors. --- The most heinous of brutalities, however, happened within the last 40 years and are yet to be forgotten by the Afghan people. In 1978, Mohammad Daoud Khan -- then Afghanistan's president -- disappeared from the palace with his entire family after a coup-d'état by the Soviet-backed communists. Witnesses who toured the presidential palace after the communist take-over narrated spine-chilling stories of human flesh and blood on the palace's trees and walls. It was not until 2008, 40 years later, that their bodies were found inside two mass graves in the outskirts of Kabul. --- Almost every transition of power in Afghanistan, even between members of the same family, has come hand-in-hand with bloodshed and cruelty. Since being built by the British Indians during their occupation of Afghanistan in 1880, the coveted presidential palace has been a grave to many of the ambitious men who have sat on its throne. Karzai is no stranger to the sinister history of the palace, and he is wise to know that should he cling to it, the palace will not remain any more loyal to him than to those who came before. --- Whether Karzai truly believes in democracy and the notion that the Afghan people should decide who rules them or if he contrived a plot to indirectly remain in power is known only to him, and maybe few around him. Nevertheless, his decision to step down from power and vote as an ordinary Afghan citizen closed the chapter on Afghanistan's history of violence and blood and ensures his legacy as the president who laid the foundations for Afghanistan's newborn democracy. -- Although Afghanistan will still be plagued by insecurity, corruption, and a frail economy for the foreseeable future, the country strengthened its process of democratization the moment Karzai dropped his ballot inside the blue-colored election box. - Abuzar Royesh is a student at Tufts University, originally from Afghanistan. - More,

انتقال قدرت به صورت صلح آمیز در افغانستان --- فارن پالیسی - روزنامه فارن پالیسی به انتقال قدرت به صورت صلح آمیز در افغانستان توجه کرده است. -- روزنامه می نویسد: از چهاردهم جون سال 1747 که احمد شاه درانی افغانستان نوین را بنیان گذاری کرد، تا حالا اکثر انتقال های قدرت در این کشور با خونریزی صورت گرفته است. -- فارن پالیسی در ادامه نوشته است: از سال 1747 تا 2001 میلادی تنها شش تن از رهبران افغانستان به مرگ طبیعی خود در گذشته اند، پنج تن از سوی مخالفین شان کشته شده اند که به نوشته روزنامه، آخرین آنها برهان الدین ربانی بود. اما در مورد هژده رهبر باقی مانده افغانستان، روزنامه نوشته که این ها از سوی جانشینان شان به قتل رسیده اند. -- فارن پالیسی می نویسد: با تصمیم حامد کرزی که از قدرت کنار رود و به صورت یک تبعه عادی افغانستان رای بدهد، صفحه خشونت ها و خونریزی های تاریخ این کشور را بسته می کند و هم چنان به ریاست جمهوری آقای کرزی که بنیانگذار دموکراسی جوان افغانستان است، مشروعیت میدهد. - رادیو آزادی

MPs slam UK record on controlling Afghan opium poppy harvest --- Attempts by successive governments to control the Afghan opium poppy harvest – the source of most of the heroin that reaches Britain – have been a spectacular failure, according to a report from a cross-party group of MPs published on Tuesday. -- As British troops prepare to leave Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, poppy cultivation is soaring to record levels and there is no sign that the Afghan government has the will or the means to tackle the problem, the Commons defence committee said. The report warns: "We are concerned that this will continue to fund organised crime and undermine the development of democratic government and governance." -- The committee suggests that in future, British aid to Afghanistan should be conditional on clear progress in developing viable alternatives to poppy farming. -- Ending the Afghan drugs trade was a key argument used by Tony Blair to justify deploying British troops to the country. He said in 2001: "The arms the Taliban buy are paid for by the lives of young British people buying their drugs. This is another part of the regime we should destroy." -- But Helmand province remains by far the largest opium poppy growing area and production has been rising significantly there over the past few years. Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record high in 2013, according to a survey by the UN. Cultivation amounted to some 209,000 hectares, outstripping the earlier record in 2007 of 193,000 hectares. -- Total opium production in 2013 increased by about 5,500 tonnes, a 49% increase over 2012. -- "The counter-narcotics strategy of the UK government in Afghanistan has failed", the Commons defence committee report concludes, adding it is imperative that the government carries out a thorough analysis of the lessons learned from Britain's military intervention in Afghanistan. -- Dai Havard, a senior member of the committee said: "After over 12 years of operations in Afghanistan, the British people quite rightly expect a thorough analysis. We need to examine whether the national decision-making, military command and governance arrangements for the campaign were appropriate, and what we need for future engagements." -- The committee said the study should "set out what the political ends were ... and judge whether the ways and means, diplomatic, economic and military, were sufficient". -- The MPs express concern that in the face of "a determined insurgency" the Afghan army's attrition rate of more than 30% a year – more than double the official target – could undermine efforts to maintain security in Afghanistan. The committee also warns that progress on the advancement of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan was significant, but remained fragile. -- In a statement responding to the report, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, said: "We can be proud of the contribution British forces have made to ensuring that the country cannot be used as a base for international terrorists to attack us and our interests" However, he added that the government "will want to look strategically across the campaign as a whole to see what longer term lessons need to be learned, once the mission is over." -- Separately, Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, has said huge uncertainties remained over Britain's defence budget. The MoD underspent by £1.2bn on its equipment plan, yet it had "no idea whether this is because of genuine savings or whether costs are simply being stored up for later years because of delays on projects", she said. - Guardian,

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert handed six-year jail sentence --- Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has been sentenced to six years in prison for taking bribes. The ruling on Tuesday is the first time a corruption case has resulted in the criminal conviction of a former head of government in Israel. -- Olmert had denied wrongdoing in a real estate deal that took place during his time as mayor of Jerusalem. -- His lawyers were expected to ask the Tel Aviv court that passed sentence to allow Olmert, 68, to remain free until the supreme court rules on an appeal against his conviction on 31 March, a process that could take months. -- Two years ago, the veteran politician was acquitted of most of the major charges brought against him in separate cases involving his links to a US businessman. -- Those corruption allegations forced Olmert's resignation as prime minister in 2008, and his acquittal had appeared to position him for a possible political comeback. --- But in the new corruption trial, judge David Rozen found Olmert guilty of two bribery charges and said he accepted 500,000 shekels (£86,000) from developers of the Holyland apartment building complex in Jerusalem and 60,000 shekels in a separate real estate project. - Reuters in Tel Aviv, Guardian

US planes search for Nigerian girls --- The US has revealed it is flying manned surveillance missions over Nigeria to try to find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. -- The US is also sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government, officials said. -- It comes after militants released a video of about 130 girls, saying they could be swapped for jailed fighters. -- Boko Haram seized them from a school in the northern Borno state on 14 April. -- "We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government's permission," said a senior administration official, who declined to be named. -- A team of about 30 US experts - members of the FBI and defence and state departments - is in Nigeria to help with the search. -- The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan in Washington says the types of aircraft deployed have not been revealed, but the US has sophisticated planes that can listen into a wide range of mobile phone and telecommunications traffic. --- US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier on Monday that intelligence experts were closely examining the Boko Haram video for clues that might help locate the girls. - More, BBC,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kabul, Brussels - Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition --- To contain a growing, increasingly confident insurgency as NATO troops withdraw, Afghanistan needs continued international support, including military, and the new government in Kabul will need to reinvigorate the state’s commitment to the rule of law -- The latest International Crisis Group report, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition, examines the security challenges in light of the international troop withdrawal, analysing in detail the situation in four provinces: Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar. The transfer of responsibility for security from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that began in 2013 initiated a new phase in the war, which is now primarily a contest between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and insurgent groups. The latter have failed to capture major towns and cities, and some areas are even more secure. But the positives are overshadowed by a general trend toward instability. Without substantial support for the ANSF, the risk of an escalation of insurgent violence will grow. --- The report’s major findings and recommendations are: -

گروه بین‌المللی بحران: کمک‌ها به نیروهای افغانستان کاهش نیابد --- گروه بین‌المللی بحران هشدار داده‌است که اگر جامعه بین‌المللی پرداخت مخارج ارتش کنونی در افغانستان را ادامه ندهد، این کشور شاهد ناآرامی‌های بیشتری خواهد بود. این گروه در گزارشی‌که تازه منتشر کرده گفته با خروج نیروهای بین‌المللی از افغانستان، نیروهای امنیتی این کشور با نبردهای شدیدتری از سوی طالبان روبرو و متحمل تلفات بیشتری خواهند شد. -- در گزارش تازه گروه بین‌المللی بحران که به "شورشیان در افغانستان بعد از انتقال" موسوم است، آمده که برای جلوگیری از یک شورش روبه افزایش پس از خروج نیروهای ناتو از افغانستان، این کشور نیازمند ادامه حمایت بین‌المللی به ویژه کمک‌های نظامی است و دولت جدید در کابل باید تعهدات جدی برای تقویت حاکمیت قانون در این کشور بدهد. -- این گزارش چالش‌های امنیتی افغانستان را بررسی کرده و وضعیت در چهار ولایت فاریاب، کنر، پکتیا و قندهار را به تفصیل مورد تجزیه و تحلیل قرار داده‌است. -- در این گزارش آمده که اکنون نبرد اصلی میان نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان و گروه‌های شورشی است. -- در حالی‌که گروه‌های شورشی در تصرف شهرها و مناطق عمده با شکست روبرو شده‌اند و حتی بعضی از مناطق امن تر هم شده اما دستاوردها تحت شعاع یک روند کلی متمایل به بی ثباتی قرار گرفته‌است. -- در این گزارش تصریح شده با آنکه نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان توانستند حملات بی‌شمار شورشیان را عقب بزنند اما خود متحمل تلفات سنگین شدند. -- گرایام اسمت، نویسنده این گزارش می‌گوید: "این نیروها واقعا بر لبه تیغ قرار دارند، در بسیاری از ولسوالی‌ها ما درست در برابر یک تعادل وحشتناک قدرت میان دولت و شورشیان طالبان قرار داریم و اگر ما در سال‌های آینده امکانات کافی برای نیروهای افغان فراهم نکنیم، من از آنچه که ممکن است رخ دهد، وحشت زده می‌شوم." -- آقای اسمت گفت که او به این باور نیست که طالبان بتوانند کنترل کابل یا شهرهای دیگر را در دست گیرند اما شاید بخش‌های وسیعی از مناطق روستایی را به ویژه در جنوب و شرق این کشور تصرف کنند. -- او می‌گوید: "جنگ در افغانستان مسایل ناتمام زیادی بجا گذاشته که ممکن است منجر به تشدید خشونت‌ها شود و در برخی مناطق ممکن است بدرفتاری نیروهای امنیتی افغان با مردم نیز موجب تقویت شورش‌ها شود." -- دیویدلاین، گزارشگر بی‌بی‌سی درکابل می‌گوید کشورهای کمک‌کننده به افغانستان به ویژه آمریکا حاضر است تا تنها ۲۲۸ هزار نیروی مسلح افغانستان را در سال‌های آینده از لحاظ مالی تامین کند و این به معنی کاهش ۱۴۰ هزار نفری این نیروها است. شمار نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان اکنون ۳۷۰ هزار نفر است. -- برخی از کسانی که در گزارش گروه بین‌المللی بحران با آنها صحبت شده گفته‌اند که ارتش افغانستان در سال ۱۹۸۹ پس از خروج نیروهای اتحاد شوروی سابق از افغانستان درست زمانی سقوط کرد که کمک های مالی به این ارتش قطع شد. -- گزارشگر بی‌بی‌سی در کابل می‌گوید جامعه بین‌المللی که در سال‌های گذشته کمک‌های هنگفتی برای تامین امنیت افغانستان انجام داده، شاید بیشتر از این حاضر به پرداخت پول نباشد. -

Pakistan cracks down on Afghan immigrants, fearing an influx as U.S. leaves Afghanistan --- PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN — After three decades of hosting the world’s largest refugee population, Pakistani authorities have started to crack down on the flow of Afghans, as fears mount that the U.S. pullout from their war-torn neighbor could trigger chaos on the border. -- Pakistan and Iran absorbed more than 7 million Afghan refugees after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 touched off years of fighting. Many of the refugees went home after U.S.-backed Afghan forces dislodged the Taliban in 2001. -- Now officials here worry that the rapid U.S. drawdown and a decline in Western aid could lead to growing violence and desperation in Afghanistan, prompting residents to flee to Pakistan again. -- “I believe this influx is already here,” said Mohammed Abbas Khan, a commissioner at Pakistan’s Office of Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees. “We are in a very tight situation ourselves, so having this influx is not desirable to anyone in the world.” -- There are no firm figures on the number of new arrivals. But in recent weeks, Pakistani officials say, they have been fielding calls from frantic local authorities about new illegal settlements. -- To discourage the immigrants, local officials in northwestern Pakistan are implementing policies that could make it harder for Afghans to rent apartments or erect new squatter camps. In the southern city of Karachi, new police squads are tasked with hunting down illegal Afghan immigrants. And along Pakistan’s 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan, federal officials are preparing to implement new screening procedures. -- The crackdown is occurring as Iran is increasingly pressuring the 800,000 Afghan refugees there to leave, according to human rights groups. -- In Pakistan, the tightening of controls reflects concerns about the fragile situation in Afghanistan and about this country’s own stability. There are about 1.6 million legally registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but officials think that 1 to 3 million more are in the country illegally. -- “We want them to go back to their own country,” said Sartaj Aziz, the national security and foreign affairs adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Aziz said that the refugees are a burden on the weak economy and that their presence makes it easier for Islamist militants with ties to Afghanistan to operate undetected in this nation. --- When Afghans started flooding into Pakistan after 1979, they were greeted as Muslim brothers who shared the goal of driving the Soviets from Afghanistan. -- They were housed in sprawling camps near the border. Pakistan worked with countries such as the United States to line up food and other support for the refugees, some of whom would cross back into Afghanistan as mujahideen fighters to battle the Soviets. -- But over time, most of the remaining Afghan refugees moved to Pakistani cities in search of jobs. With most new arrivals also flocking to urban areas, friction between Afghans and Pakistanis has intensified. -- Many Afghan refugees are Pashtun, an ethnic group whose rapid growth is altering the demographic makeup of a country that had been dominated by ethnic Punjabis. Pashtuns are now Pakistan’s second-largest ethnic group, eclipsing the Sindhis, who primarily reside in southern Pakistan. -- The backlash against the Afghan settlers appears to be driven in part by suspicion that they are more tolerant of Pashtun-dominated militant groups, such as the Pakistani Taliban, which have carried out a campaign of terror in recent years. -- In a sign of that concern, in early March authorities sent bulldozers to destroy a settlement on the outskirts of Islamabad, the capital, that housed more than 100 Afghan families. Many residents said they had lived there for nearly three decades. -- Two days after the operation, several families said they had not found shelter. Children were using cardboard boxes as blankets as men dug through the rubble, hoping to salvage bricks. -- “They didn’t give us any warning,” said Parvez, 20, who has only one name and lives with 12 brothers and sisters. “We still have not eaten breakfast because the kitchen was demolished.” - More, Tim Craig, Washingtonpost,

Crisisgroup - Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition --- EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS - The war in Afghanistan entered a new phase in 2013. It now is increasingly a contest between the insurgents and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Many within and outside the government are more optimistic about stability in the wake of a relatively successful first round of presidential elections on 5 April 2014. However, any euphoria should be tempered by a realistic assessment of the security challenges that President Karzai’s successor will face in the transitional period of 2014-2015. Kabul may find these challenges difficult to overcome without significant and sustained international security, political and economic support. -- The overall trend is one of escalating violence and insurgent attacks. Ongoing withdrawals of international soldiers have generally coincided with a deterioration of Kabul’s reach in outlying districts. The insurgents have failed to capture major towns and cities, and some areas have experienced more peace and stability in the absence of international troops. Yet, the increasing confidence of the insurgents, as evidenced by their ability to assemble bigger formations for assaults, reduces the chances for meaningful national-level peace talks in 2014-2015. -- A close examination of four provinces – Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar – reveals underlying factors that may aggravate the conflict in the short term. Historical feuds and unresolved grievances are worsening after having been, in some cases, temporarily contained by the presence of international troops. In Faryab, these are largely ethnic tensions; in Kandahar they are mostly tribal; but in all transitional areas there is a variety of unfinished business that may result in further violence post-2014. Similarly, clashes among pro-government actors may become more frequent, as predicted by local interlocutors after recent skirmishing between government forces in Paktia. The situation in Kandahar also illustrates the way mistreatment of Afghans at the hands of their own security forces, operating with less supervision from foreign troops, breeds resentment that feeds the insurgency. Finally, despite its rhetoric, Pakistan has not reduced safe havens and other support for the insurgency, while Afghanistan’s hostile responses – especially in Kandahar and Kunar – risk worsening cross-border relations. -- None of these trends mean that Afghanistan is doomed to repeat the post-Soviet state collapse of the early 1990s, particularly if there is continued and robust international support. In fact, Afghan forces suffered record casualties in 2013 and retreated from some locations in the face of rising insurgency but maintained the tempo of their operations in most parts of the country. Afghanistan still has no shortage of young men joining the ANSF, offsetting the rising number of those who opt to leave them or abandon their posts. The government remains capable of moving supplies along highways to urban centres. ANSF cohesiveness, or lack of it, may prove decisive in the coming years, and Paktia notwithstanding, only minor reports emerged in 2013 of Afghan units fighting each other. As long as donors remain willing to pay their salaries, the sheer numbers of Afghan security personnel – possibly in the 370,000 range today – are a formidable obstacle to large-scale strategic gains by the insurgents. -- Certainly, the future of the Afghan government depends primarily on its own behaviour: its commitment to the rule of law, anti-corruption measures and other aspects of governance must demonstrate its concern for the well-being of all Afghans. However, responsibility also rests with the international community; its patchy efforts over a dozen years to bring peace and stability must now be followed not with apathy, but with renewed commitment. -- With or without backup from international forces, the Afghan government will need more helicopters, armoured vehicles, and logistical support to accomplish that limited objective. Such additional military tools would also permit the government to rely increasingly on the relatively well-disciplined Afghan army rather than forcing it to turn to irregular forces that have a dismal record of harming civilians. --- RECOMMENDATIONS, To the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: - More,

Taliban Wage Deadly Attacks in Three Afghan Provinces --- KABUL, Afghanistan — On the first day of their “spring offensive,” the Taliban mounted attacks in three provinces that killed at least 11 people on Monday. In a fourth province, the families of two would-be suicide bombers turned them in to the police, helping to forestall what would have likely been another attack. -- The attacks were a reminder that as the last of the Western troops withdraw in the coming months, the Afghan forces will be in an unrelenting fight just to hold ground. And it raised the prospect of intensified violence in the coming weeks during the runoff phase of the Afghan presidential election, which the Taliban vowed to disrupt. -- In a report on the Taliban insurgency released Monday, the International Crisis Group forecast “escalating violence and insurgent attacks” after American and allied troops complete their withdrawal this year. -- The report noted that the Taliban had been able to muster larger forces, and that in some areas the insurgents and the Afghan security forces were inflicting nearly equal casualties on each other, in another suggestion of increased insurgent strength. -- One attack on Monday hit just as people were settling in to work at the Justice Ministry’s provincial offices in Jalalabad, according to people in the area. Three men wearing suicide vests and armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades killed the two police guards at the building’s entrance and stormed in. -- In the course of the battle with the Afghan security forces, which lasted four to five hours, three civil servants were killed, along with a student and a third member of the security forces. The lasting effect of the attack will be felt for months, because a part of the building caught fire and the ministry’s paper records were reduced to ashes, said Col. Abdul Rafi Oruzgani, the head of Nangarhar Province’s police criminal division. -- The Taliban, in a statement they emailed to journalists announcing their spring offensive, said that only two fighters were involved in the Jalalabad attack, but the Afghan police said there were three. - More, NYTimes,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

نیویارک ټایمز: هیڅ تضمین نشته چې زلمی رسول دې دخپلو پلویانو رایې عبدالله ته یوسي --- نیویارک ټایمز امریکايي ورځپاڼې له عبدالله عبدالله سره د زلمي رسول د یوځای کېدو په اړه لیکلي چې زلمی رسول د حمل دشپاړسمې نېټې په انتخاباتو کې درېم ځای درلود او له عبدالله عبدالله سره یوځای دواړو ۵۵ فیصده رایې ګټلې وې خو هیڅ تضمین نشته چې هغه کسان چې زلمي رسول ته یې رایې ورکړې وې، په دوهم ځلي انتخاباتو کې عبدالله ته رایې ورکړي. -- نیویارک ټایمز ورځپاڼه په عین حال کې وايي چې عبدالله عبدالله او ځیني شناندي اندېښنه لري چې په دوهم پړاو انتخاباتو کې به پراخې درغلۍ وشي او دا خطر هم شته چې وسله وال طالبان یې لږترلږه په هغو سیمو کې ګډوډ کړي چې دوی په کې نفوذ لري. ورځپاڼه وايي، ددې لپاره چې طالبان دحمل په شپاړسمه په لومړي پړاو کې دانتخاباتو په ګډوډولو کې پاتې راغلل، خپلې هلې ځلې به دوه برابره زیاتې کړي چې رای ورکوونکي وبېروي. -- ورځپاڼه وايي چې دانتخاباتو دخپلواک کمیسیون له وروستۍ شمېرې سره سم عبدالله عبدالله ته ټولټال ۴۴ فیصده، اشرف غني احمدزي ته ۳۳ او زلمي رسول ته ۱۱ فیصده رایې اچول شوي دي. دانتخاباتو خپلواک کمیسیون لا نهايي نتیجې نه دي اعلان کړي خو ټاکل شوې ده چې د ثور په ۲۴ مه یې اعلان کړي. -- نیویارک ټایمز ورځپاڼه وايي چې ښاغلی عبدالله اندېښنه لري چې په دوهم پړاو انتخاباتو کې ناامني او درغلي ممکن جدي ستونزې پېښې کړي خو ډاکتر غني بیا بیا تاکید کړی چې له اساسي قانون سره سم دوهم ځلي انتخاباتو ته اړتیا شته. ورځپاڼه لیکي، ځیني مبصران باور لري چې دافغانستان دوهم پړاو انتخابات به په قومي بنیاد وي چې دا به ښاغلي غني ته، چې پښتون دی، ګټه ورسوي ځکه چې پښتانه دشمیر له پلوه په اکثریت کې دي. -- نیویارک ټایمز زیاتوي، ښاغلی عبدالله دتاجکانو استازی دی خو ددواړو کاندیدانو مرستیالان دمختلفو قومونو استازیتوب کوي. زلمي رسول له عبدالله عبدالله سره دیوځای کېدو په مناسبت په غونډه کې وویل چې عبدالله عبدالله دده پخوانی همکار دی، له ډېرې مودې راهیسي یې پېژني او له یو بل سره یې ښه همکاري کړې ده. -- رسول همداراز وویل:«زموږ هڅه دا ده چې دافغانستان په خلکو کې دقومي درز مخه ونیسو.» زلمی رسول په خټه پښتون دی خو پښتو یې نه ده زده. نیویارک ټایمز وايي، عبدالله عبدالله او پلویان یې استدلال کوي چې له دوی سره دزلمي رسول له یوځای کېدو سره دوهم ځلي انتخاباتو ته اړتیا نشته ځکه چې ددواړو رایې تر پنځوس فیصدو اوړي. - تاند

Front-Runner in Afghan Election Picks Up New Support --- KABUL, Afghanistan — Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election campaign, announced Sunday that he had won the endorsement of Zalmay Rassoul, the third-place candidate, as part of his effort to gather enough votes to win in the next round of voting. -- Together the two men’s tickets took about 55 percent of the vote in the first round of voting on April 5, but there is no guarantee that voters would vote the same way in a second round, tentatively set for June 14. -- Adding to the prospect that Mr. Rassoul may not bring all his first round votes with him is that his team appears to have split, with one of his two vice-presidential running mates declining to support Mr. Abdullah’s campaign. --- Mr. Abdullah’s camp as well as some analysts worry that a runoff could be rife with fraud and that there is more risk that it could be disrupted by the Taliban. The insurgents’ campaign of violence failed to have much impact in the first round, but the Taliban could redouble their efforts to intimidate voters in a second. -- Mr. Abdullah won nearly 44 percent of the vote in the first round, followed by Ashraf Ghani with nearly 33 percent and Mr. Rassoul with 11 percent, according to the most recent count by the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan. The final results for the first round are expected later this week, according to the election commission. --- Mr. Ghani, who came in second, has repeatedly said that there needs to be a runoff as mandated by the Constitution. Some commentators believe that a second round of voting would split along more ethnic lines, which could benefit Mr. Ghani, a Pashtun, since Pashtuns represent a plurality of the population. Although President Hamid Karzai was careful not to endorse anyone and kept a low public profile during the campaign, Mr. Rassoul was believed to be his favored candidate. -- Mr. Ghani, too, is scrambling for endorsements, suggesting that this is a new and tougher chapter in the election saga. -- Among those Mr. Ghani is wooing is one of Mr. Rassoul’s vice-presidential candidates, Ahmad Zia Massoud, said a spokesman for the Ghani campaign, Abdul Ali Mohammedi. Mr. Massoud is a Tajik politician and the brother of the legendary mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and his presence in Mr. Ghani's campaign could nibble away at Mr. Abdullah’s support. Mr. Massoud and Mr. Abdullah are from the same region and are affiliated with some of the same factional groups, including the former Northern Alliance of commanders that helped overthrow the Taliban in 2001. -- How the next round of voting actually goes will depend on many factors, including the possibility that fewer people may vote in a second round, especially if there is increased violence, and that could affect the rural vote in insecure areas that are predominantly Pashtun. As well, the populous and mostly Pashtun province of Kandahar could go either way, with influential figures there not yet publicly declaring which candidate they support. --- In an announcement to a packed news conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Mr. Rassoul described Mr. Abdullah as “a good colleague” whom he had known for a long time and worked well with, adding that “our commitment to the people of Afghanistan is to avoid the ethnic rift.” -- Wearing white shalwar kameez, Mr. Abdullah spoke fervently to the crowd, praising the first round of voting and urging them to back him. -- “We campaigned in a warm environment, and today we hug each other in a warm environment,” he said. “This is our joint commitment, and we are moving forward together to the point of victory or to the point of final results — either in the first round, Inshallah,” — God willing — “or the second round.” -- The outcome of the first round surprised many Afghans because Mr. Abdullah received votes from across the country, even in heavily Pashtun areas. Overall, the election garnered more interest from voters than the last presidential contest in 2009, with 50 percent more votes cast, and it was viewed as generally less fraud-ridden. --- The argument by Mr. Abdullah’s backers is that with Mr. Rassoul’s support they have 55 percent of the votes cast nationwide, well above the 50 percent threshold required by the Constitution — so there is no need for a runoff. Mr. Abdullah’s team also won the endorsement of another candidate, Gul Agha Shirzai, a former provincial governor who won just 1.6 percent of the vote. However, the Afghan Constitution specifically requires a runoff between the two top vote-getters, not between coalitions the candidates form afterward. -- As news was breaking of Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Rassoul’s allegiance, a suicide bomber attacked an Afghan security forces convoy near a clinic on the road to the main southern military base in Kandahar, killing five civilians, including a child, and injuring 39 people, according to Zia Durani, the provincial police chief. A NATO convoy was nearby delivering aid packets but was not affected by the blast, he said. - NYTimes

Karzai ally to back Abdullah in Afghan runoff --- Afghan election frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah has received a major boost to his presidential campaign, with Zalmai Rassoul, a close ally of the current leader, endorsing him after withdrawing from the race. -- Rassoul was seen as the favoured candidate of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and his support for Abdullah could be decisive in deal-making to choose Afghanistan's next leader as US-led troops withdraw from the country. -- Rassoul's own bid to become president gained little momentum and he came third with just 11.5 percent in the first round of voting, but he remains an influential power-broker. -- "I ask the people for the sake of national unity and political stability to vote for Doctor Abdullah, so that we win the election," Rassoul, who resigned as foreign minister to run in the election, told a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, the AFP news agency reported. -- He said his support could be a "balance maker" in the run-off election due next month. -- Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Kabul, said: "Abdullah is a very happy man. If a runoff is called, he is going to need those suppporters who backed Rassoul." -- Tyab said the move could see Rassoul securing a position in the next cabinet. -- The second-round vote will pit Abdullah against former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in a head-to-head battle, after the two came first and second in the eight-man election on April 5. -- Neither candidate secured the 50 percent needed for outright victory. Abdullah garnered 44.9 percent and Ghani received 31.5 percent, according to preliminary results. - More, Al Jazeera

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rescued Afghan vows to cross Channel again --- An Afghan man who was rescued by French coastguards from a makeshift raft off Calais says he will try to cross the Channel again until he reaches Britain. -- Asif Hussainkhil, 23, was picked up on Monday as he tried to make the 21-mile (34 km) journey on a boat made from six wooden planks and a crutch. -- He told journalists he had tried to get to the UK several times, but each time was discovered by police. -- Calais is home to hundreds of illegal migrants hoping to reach England. -- Every day, many of the refugees converge on the Calais ferry port desperate to stow away on lorries bound for the UK. -- Others, like Mr Hussainkhil, use makeshift rafts to paddle across the Channel. -- There has been a surge in migrant numbers in Calais because of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. - BBC,

مهاجر افغان در امواج پر تلاطم بحر شعر می خواند --- پاریس - تعجب نکنید یک تن از افغان ها برای مهاجرت به انگلستان یک کشتی کوچک ساخته و در میان امواج پر تلاطم بحر به سفر خود ادامه داده مگر توسط نیرو های بحری فرانسه نجات داده شده است. گزارش ها حاکی از آن است که ˈآصف حسین گلˈ یک افغان 33 ساله که با استفاده از کشتی کوچک در آب های دریای مانش از سوی نیرو های انجمن نجات دریا منطقه ساحلی ˈکالهˈ فرانسه متوقف شده است، گفت: رهایم می کردید به راه خود ادامه می دادم. -- به گزارش روزنامه فرانسوی لوموند، وی که روز دوشنبه گذشته در آب های فرانسه متوقف شده است با استفاده از یک کشتی کوچک مثلث مانند می خواست به انگلستان برود. این مهاجر افغان هم چنین از یک پایه میز و یک نی ماهیگیری برای هدایت قایق کوچک خود استفاده می کرد. بادبان وی نیز از یک کمپل شفاخانه ساخته شده بود. وی در حالیکه تنها یک چمپر ورزشی به تن داشت، گفت: من از اینکه از این قایقی که خودم ساخته ام استفاده می کنم بسیار خوشحال هستم. -- این مهاجر افغان ادامه داد: در حالیکه تا زانو پاهایم در آب بود برای سرگرمی شعر می خواندم و شعر می گفتم. من به شنا آشنایی کامل دارم و خوشبختانه در این مدت نیز قایق من که 20 روز برای ساختن آن زمان گذاشتم در آب ها سرنگون نشده است. در این گزارش به مبدا حرکت این مهاجر افغان و نیز انگیزه واقعی وی اشاره نشده است. - گران افغانستان

British soldier posed thumbs up with body of Taliban fighter in Afghanistan --- The Ministry of Defence is investigating pictures showing a member of the British armed forces in Afghanistan posing with his thumb up beside the dead body of a Taliban fighter. -- An MoD spokesperson described the actions of the soldier as inappropriate. -- The pictures, confirmed as genuine, were taken in 2012 at Camp Bastion in Helmand province immediately after an intense firefight that left two US marines and more than a dozen Taliban dead. -- Two pictures show the soldier, a member of an RAF squadron based at Camp Bastion, kneeling with his thumb up beside the corpse of a Taliban fighter. Members of 51 Squadron RAF Regiment were among the first to confront the Taliban attackers. --- The incident is a breach of the law of armed conflict, but the military hopes it will be seen in context, a young man doing something foolish in the post-battle adrenaline rush. Protests could be expected if there were pictures of desecration of the Koran, but Taliban fighters are viewed as hardened enough to be relatively unmoved by a member of the British forces demonstrating victory or a sense of relief at the end of battle. -- An RAF spokesperson said: "Inappropriate actions will not be tolerated in the armed forces. The RAF is treating this incident extremely seriously and has launched a military police investigation. As this incident is subject to an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time." -- The BBC showed the pictures on Friday evening, saying they had first appeared on the website LiveLeak. The MoD said the pictures had come to their attention in April. Two RAF regiment members have been withdrawn from frontline duties, the soldier in the picture and, it is assumed, the one who took it. The investigation is being carried out by the Special Investigations Branch. - More, Ewen MacAskill, defence correspondent, Guardian

Afghanistan landslide: aid boom lures fraudsters to disaster-hit village --- Crowds of outsiders have rushed to the remote Afghan village that was buried in a landslide to try to pick up aid supplies meant for survivors of the disaster, the UN has said. -- More than 4,000 villagers were displaced by last Friday's disaster, which buried 300 homes in the northern village of Aab Bareek in up to 50 metres of mud, killing hundreds, and leaving nearly 700 other houses uninhabitable. -- Aid agencies have rushed tonnes of emergency supplies to the capital of Badakhshan province but distribution has been hindered by scuffles between the survivors, the poor from nearby villages and security forces. -- Much of Aab Bareek in Badakhshan province was engulfed by a fast-moving tide of mud and rock that swept down on to the village on Friday, leaving almost no trace of 300 homes. -- A major international aid effort swung into action, with government officials saying the death toll was at least 300 and some estimates putting it as high as 2,500. -- But the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the sudden arrival of food, tents, blankets and medical supplies had attracted many locals from surrounding parts of the mountainous northern province. -- "Access challenges at the site are now impeding the assessment of needs and the delivery of assistance, as more and more people from outside the immediate community are congregating at the disaster site," the UN warned. -- "Aid agencies are increasingly challenged to distinguish between those directly affected by the disaster and those who have come from outside the village, attracted by the quantity of relief items arriving." -- Local people and emergency workers had used shovels to dig out anyone trapped alive, but only a few bodies were pulled from the deep layer of mud. -- President Hamid Karzai visited the site on Wednesday and vowed that houses would be built for survivors as frustration grew over the government's response and the aid operation. -- Badakhshan is a poor, north-eastern province bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan. It has been relatively peaceful since the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan began in 2001, but has been the focus of increasing Taliban activity in recent years. --- The country is in the middle of presidential elections, with the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and the ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani due to compete in a head-to-head runoff vote next month. - Guardian

Officials: Abducted Nigerian schoolgirls likely split up, taken across border --- Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigeria's embattled leader vowed Boko Haram's abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls would be the terror group's undoing, even as authorities admitted Thursday the girls likely have been separated and taken out of the country. -- President Goodluck Jonathan's statements come amid mounting international outrage over the mass abduction and the government's largely ineffective effort to subdue Boko Haram. -- "By God's grace, we will conquer the terrorists. I believe the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end for terror in Nigeria," Jonathan said at the opening of the World Economic Forum meeting in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja. -- He also acknowledged the offers of help from the United States, Britain, China and France, all of which have offered help in the weeks-old search for the girls who were snatched in mid-April from their beds at an all-girls school in rural northeastern Nigeria. -- But the task of recovering the girls appeared to grow more complicated with news that U.S. intelligence believe the 276 girls have been split up. -- "We do think they have been broken up into smaller groups," U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said. --- The girls have not been seen since Boko Haram militants abducted them on April 14 from the Government Girls Secondary School in rural Chibok, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Maiduguri and some 600 miles from the capital of Abuja. - More,

First Lady Condemns Abduction of Nigerian Schoolgirls --- WASHINGTON — In a rare venture into foreign policy, Michelle Obama on Saturday condemned the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorists and said that she and President Obama had been personally touched by what she called an “unconscionable” act. --- “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,” the first lady said in the weekly radio address that is normally delivered by her husband. “We see their hopes, their dreams — and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.” -- Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist network, has claimed responsibility for abducting 276 girls from a school last month. The taking of the girls and concern about their fate has prompted nations around the world to offer help to the Nigerian government of President Goodluck Jonathan. -- Mr. Obama said last week that he had ordered a team of military intelligence specialists and hostage negotiators to Nigeria to help in the search. -- The kidnapping of the girls has prompted a viral Internet campaign on their behalf, with people around the world taking to Twitter and other social media to demand the return of the girls to their families. Mrs. Obama posted a somber-looking picture of herself on Twitter, holding a piece of paper with “#BringBackOurGirls” written on it.-- In the radio address, Mrs. Obama said she wanted to use Mother’s Day to draw even more attention to the kidnappings. -- “Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night,” Mrs. Obama said. “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education — grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.” -- Mrs. Obama has typically stayed away from foreign policy issues and has focused most of her official activities as first lady on issues like reducing childhood obesity and programs to help support members of the armed services and their families. She recently toured China without her husband and used the trip to offer some political messages about free expression and minority rights. -- Mrs. Obama said Saturday that the abduction of the girls in Nigeria was not an isolated case of terrorism but part of a pattern of abuse directed at girls across the globe. - More, MICHAEL D. SHEAR, NYTimes,

Take aspirin or not? Simple test to decide | Business Standard

Take aspirin or not? Simple test to decide | Business Standard

Most admired first ladies: Barbara Bush, tied with Hillary Clinton - Washington Times

Most admired first ladies: Barbara Bush, tied with Hillary Clinton - Washington Times

The brutal, bloody history behind Putin’s Crimea speech --- On the day that Russia annually commemorates the country's victory in World War II, President Vladimir Putin made an appearance in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula his government has annexed from Ukraine -- much to the ire of Kiev and the international community. As The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum explains here, the visit on Friday was the clearest sign yet that Moscow will not give up the territory now that it's back in the Russian fold. -- In a speech in Sevastopol, the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, Putin hailed the heroes of earlier Russian battles fought by this Crimean port: --- The Crimean War (1853-1856) is described now as a chaotic, nightmarish affair for all the European powers involved, with blundering military leaders sending their hapless charges to gruesome ends. The famous phrase that soldiers in combat were "lions led by donkeys" emerged from the trenches and mud-packed redoubts that surrounded Sevastopol, which was besieged for 349 awful days between 1854 and 1855 until the Russians finally surrendered. --- At least a quarter-million Russians were buried in mass graves around Crimea by the war's end, though some estimates suggest that figure is closer to 1 million deaths -- the bulk of which were caused not by battle but by disease and starvation brought on by the neglect and indifference of Russia's military leadership. -- Nearly a century later, more horror was visited upon Crimea as Nazi forces steamrolled into the peninsula in 1941 as part of their wider invasion of the Soviet Union. Retreating Russian forces holed up once more in Sevastopol and endured a merciless siege through July 1942. -- The Germans used some of the biggest guns on earth -- including a beastly 800mm railroad gun dubbed "Thor" -- to pound away at Soviet defenses, on top of relentless bombardment by the Luftwaffe. When the Soviets recognized that there was no more point in holding out, they beat a hasty and largely doomed retreat: The top commanders escaped by submarine, but nearly 100,000 soldiers were captured, while roughly 20,000 had been killed over the course of the battle. The Nazis captured some 3.5 million Soviet soldiers during the war, sending many to slave labor camps, where the vast majority died. -- By the time Soviet forces reclaimed the city in 1944, it was a ghostly ruin. Of a population of 110,000 that existed there before the war, only 3,000 remained. Some 20 million Soviet citizens died in World War II. - More, Ishaan Tharoor - Washingtonpost

China may build an undersea train to America --- China is planning to build a train line that would, in theory, connect Beijing to the United States. According to a report in the Beijing Times, citing an expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Chinese officials are considering a route that would start in the country's northeast, thread through eastern Siberia and cross the Bering Strait via a 125-mile long underwater tunnel into Alaska. -- "Right now we're already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years," says Wang Mengshu, the engineer cited in the article. The proposed "China-Russia-Canada-America" line would be some 8,000 miles long, 1,800 miles longer than the Trans-Siberian railroad. The tunnel that the Chinese would help bore beneath the icy seas would be four times the length of what traverses the English Channel. -- "Right now we're already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years," says Wang Mengshu, the engineer cited in the article. The proposed "China-Russia-Canada-America" line would be some 8,000 miles long, 1,800 miles longer than the Trans-Siberian railroad. The tunnel that the Chinese would help bore beneath the icy seas would be four times the length of what traverses the English Channel. -- In the past half decade or so, China has embarked on an astonishing rail construction spree, laying down tens of thousands of miles tracks and launching myriad high-speed lines. It has signaled its intent to build a "New Silk Road" -- a heavy-duty freight network through Central Asia that would connect with Europe via rail rather than the old caravans that once bridged West and East. A map that appeared on Xinhua's news site outlines the route below, alongside a parallel vision for a "maritime Silk Road." --- While some of its neighbors watch China's rise warily, the main plank of Beijing's soft power pitch has always been its stated desire to improve economic ties and trade with virtually everyone. "China’s wisdom for building an open world economy and open international relations is being drawn on more and more each day," trumpets the Xinhua report that accompanies the map above, according to the Diplomat. -- To that end, Beijing has assiduously resurrected the narrative of the ancient Silk Road as well as given prime billing to the tales of China's famed Ming dynasty treasure fleets, which sailed all across the Indian Ocean. Seen in such grand historic perspective, a tunnel to Alaska doesn't seem too far-fetched. - More, Washingtonpost

Putin, marking Crimea annexation, lays claim to historic mantle --- MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin sought to place himself in the ranks of Russia’s greatest leaders Friday, reaching deep into his nation’s history to assert that the annexation of Crimea was a milestone for the centuries. -- In his first visit to Crimea since he seized the peninsula in March, Putin paid a triumphant call on a territory that had been Russian since the time of Catherine the Great, but since 1991 had been part of an independent Ukraine. The annexation set off an international crisis that has pushed Ukraine to the brink of war and has led to the greatest tensions between Russia and the West since the depths of the Cold War. -- Putin reeled off a list of highlights of Russian nationhood that began with the naming of the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol in 1784. -- “I am sure that 2014 will become part of the city’s chronicle, and the chronicle of our entire country, as the year in which the people here decided firmly to be together with Russia,” Putin said. In March, Crimeans voted in a referendum in which 97 percent were said to have chosen to bind themselves to Russia. -- “Thus they proved their loyalty to historical truth and to the memory of our predecessors,” he said at the port as 10 gray warships floated behind him. “We have lots of work in front of us, but we will overcome all the difficulties, because we are together, and that means we have become stronger.” --- On an emotional holiday that marks the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Putin flew to Sevastopol after presiding over a triumphal military parade through Moscow’s Red Square. There and in cities across Russia’s vast territory, scores of tanks, rocket launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles delivered a show of military prowess that Putin has threatened to further unleash on Ukraine if he judges Russian interests to be threatened. -- Putin has long aspired to be one of Russia’s epoch-defining leaders, saying that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, in part because “tens of millions” of ethnic Russians found themselves outside the borders of Russia. The Russian president has made it his mission to rebuild a country powerful enough to demand the same respect once accorded to the Soviet Union, analysts have said. - More, Michael Birnbaum, Washingtonpost

Friday, May 09, 2014

Afghanistan: UN official urges long-term support for vulnerable communities --- 6 May 2014 – In the wake of last week’s massive landslide in north-eastern Afghanistan, a senior United Nations relief official today voiced deep concern about the impact of conflict and natural disasters in the country, and urged the world to step up support to vulnerable communities. -- As the country undergoes a major security, political and economic transition, any significant reduction in international aid could have a devastating impact on people’s lives, warned Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. -- “It is important that the transition is centred on the Afghan people and what needs to be done to tangibly improve their lives,” she said as she wrapped up her three-day visit to the country. -- “Solutions to tackle major issues such as access to essential services, including healthcare, and timely assistance to displacement are paramount for Afghanistan’s overall transition and development,” she added. -- “It is very clear that insecurity remains a major concern – both endangering the lives of civilians and constraining humanitarian access,” stressed Ms. Kang, warning that the conflict has prevented people from accessing to medical care severely. “Last year there was a 60 per cent increase in the number of people treated for conflict-related injuries,” she said. -- The deputy relief chief also emphasized the needs of those displaced by natural disasters in the long run, following her visit to Badakhshan in the country’s northeast, where hundreds of people were killed by a massive landslide late last week. -- During a meeting with Afghan officials, Ms. Kang expressed her condolences to the victims and survivors of the landslide. Moreover, she promised the continuous support from the UN system for the country. -- Of equal importance, she said, is disaster risk reduction, given that natural disasters have the tendency to recur in many areas of Afghanistan. -- “Investing in disaster risk reduction to improve preparedness, and reduce and better mitigate underlying risks and vulnerabilities must remain a key priority,” added Ms. Kang. “We need to continue helping to strengthen the Government’s ability to prepare for and respond to disasters which have such a devastating impact on the lives of so many Afghans.” --- Meanwhile, “UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) is focusing on installing sanitary systems for those displaced, primarily women and children (some 150 families) in Badakhshan,” Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF spokesperson told reporters in Geneva. -- Another priority for UNICEF is to provide psycho-social support for children, whose family members had lost lives and were traumatised. Mr. Boulierac also reported that specialized UNICEF teams were helping children re-establish their new lives as soon as possible, including ensuring that affected children continued to attend school. Some 32,000 families had been provided assistance in terms of drinking water thus far. - More, UN,;postID=6563120772446894698

EU says Afghan children important --- KABUL (WNA-May. 8, 2014): The European Union (EU) quoting the ambassador as addressing some Afghan children: "You are the children of today, but you will be the adults of tomorrow." -- On the occasion of the Europe Day 2014 an annual day of celebration of peace and unity in the 28 nations of the European Union – and around the world, the EU Ambassador addressed 300 Afghan school children on Thursday. -- The statement said the European Union protects, promotes and fulfils the rights of children. Therefore the EU Delegation in Afghanistan has dedicated Europe Day to celebrate the children of Afghanistan and invited close to 300 school children to participate. -- "Afghan children are important. Half of all Afghans are under 15 years old. With well over thirteen million young Afghans, this group deserve genuine political attention", said the EU Special Representative and Head of Delegation, Ambassador Franz-Michael Mellbin, when addressing the children and Ambassadors of European Union Member States. -- "Children are not voters; they have little or no voice in the public debate and no one to represent them. One could be led to believe that investing in children doesn't pay off. This is not true. -- The current and coming leaders of Afghanistan should therefore push harder to safeguard the interests of the nation's future. --- The drafting of the much needed Child Act has been announced to for this year. But the smooth and swift adoption of this essential law will show how much attention the President, the Parliament and the Government are ready to invest in Afghanistan's children", stated Ambassador Mellbin earlier. -- On this occasion Ambassador Mellbin invited the Afghan Government to join the UN initiative "Children, not Soldiers" and encouraged the Government to take action. -- "The 25th anniversary this year of the 'United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child' (ratified by Afghanistan in 1994) is a well-timed occasion to put more urgency behind the work of protecting Afghan children from war and armed conflicts", concluded Ambassador Mellbin. - More,

وضعیت کودکان در افغانستان نگران کننده است --- در بزرگداشت از روز جهانی اتحاديۀ اروپا، ۸ مى از سوی اين اتحادیه به نام روز کودکان افغانستان نام گزاری شد است. -- کودکان افغانستان در پیچ وخم های دشت، دهکده ها و شهر ها مصروف تهیه ی نان به خانواده های شان اند. -- فرانک میشل میلبین سفیراتحادیه اروپا در کابل از هدف قراردادن کودکان در خشونت های جنگی نگرانی کرده میگویند: هنوزهم زندگی کودکان را درافغانستان سوتغذی و ازدواج های زیرسن به مخاطره انداخته است. -- وى افزود، حکومت آینده باید برای تطبیق قانون حفاظت از کودکان کار را جدی بگیرد. کودکان باید بخشی از برنامه های مهم حکومت آینده باشند. -- کارهای شاقه، پلاستیک فروشی، گدایی کار های دشواری است که شماری از کودکان افغانستان با آن روبه رو اند. جنگ و فقر نیز مانع مکتب رفتن شمار زیادی از این کودکان می شود - تلویزیون آریانا، کابل

US News Health -- Fruits and Veggies May Lower Stroke Risk --- THURSDAY, May 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Regularly eating fruits and vegetables may reduce your stroke risk, according to a new review of worldwide research. -- Stroke risk declined by 32 percent for every 200 grams of fruit consumed each day, and by 11 percent for every 200 grams of daily vegetables, according to the findings published in the journal Stroke. -- "Improving diet and lifestyle is critical for heart and stroke risk reduction in the general population," senior study author Dr. Yan Qu, director of the intensive care unit at Qingdao Municipal Hospital in China, said in a news release provided by the American Heart Association. -- "In particular, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is highly recommended because it meets micronutrient and macronutrient and fiber requirements without adding substantially to overall energy requirements," Qu added. -- Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability. In China, stroke is the leading cause of death. -- Boosting people's consumption of fruits and vegetables up to 600 grams a day could cut the rate of ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot) by 19 percent worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. -- Investigators analyzed 20 studies over the last 19 years that included more than 760,00 people and were conducted in the United States, Asia and Europe. -- The lower risk was seen in strokes caused by a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic) and was consistent among men and women and people of different ages. -- Because of the way the study was designed, it can't show that fruits and vegetables are the cause of the decline in strokes, only that there is an association between frequent produce consumption and a lower risk of stroke. -- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables has also been linked to lower blood pressure, improved blood vessel function, as well as beneficial effects on body fat, waist size, cholesterol and inflammation, according to the review authors. -- Adults should eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the American Heart Association. - More,

Eating fruit and vegetables is the secret of reducing stroke risk --- JUST two and a half portions of fruit and vegetables a day can dramatically slash the risk of a stroke, according to research. -- Every 200 grams of fruit cuts the chances of a stroke by 32 per cent while the same amount of vegetables reduces the risk by 11 per cent, a study found. -- It means a modest change in the diet could have a major impact on the number of stroke victims each year. --- Researchers at a Chinese university analysed 20 studies over the past two decades and concluded that improving diet and lifestyle is critical in tackling the burden of heart problems and strokes worldwide. -- Senior author of the study, Dr Yan Qu, professor at the Medical College of Qingdao University, said: “In particular, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is highly recommended.” -- He said the diet provided carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals without “adding to overall energy requirements”. -- The current NHS guideline is for five 80g portions of fruit and veg daily.-- It is believed that high fruit and veg consumption can lower blood pressure and improve artery function as well as improving other risk factors for stroke including lowering body mass index, waist circumference, cholesterol, inflammation and oxidative stress. -- High blood pressure causes about half of strokes. -- The Chinese research showed the beneficial effects of fruit and veg applied consistently to men and women, stroke outcome and by type of stroke. - More,

Fareed Zakaria - Obama needs to lead with feeling --- In foreign policy, there is one quick way into the history books: Make a major mistake. Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush can be sure that, no matter what else is said of them, their decisions leading to military intervention and war will be long discussed. The second path — a big success — is less certain. Richard Nixon’s opening to China was quickly seen as historic. But Harry Truman’s many bold decisions — containment, NATO, the Marshall Plan — were not lauded as such at the time. -- President Obama has not made a major mistake. He has done a skillful job steering the United States out of the muddy waters he inherited — Iraq, Afghanistan — and resisted plunging the country into another major conflict. But Obama has been less skillful at the constructive aspects of foreign policy, of building up an edifice of achievements. He still has time to fix this. -- The critics claim that the world is now in disarray and that geopolitics has returned with a vengeance — witness Ukraine. But the reality is, as Princeton’s John Ikenberry has often pointed out, that the American-led world order, built after World War II, continues to endure seven decades after its creation. It has outlasted challenges from Soviet Russia, Maoist China and, most recently, radical Islam. The Economist magazine this week tallies the 150 largest countries. Ninety-nine of them lean or lean strongly toward the United States; 21 lean against. Washington has about 60 treaty allies. China has one. Russia is not a rising global power seeking to overturn the liberal world order. It is a declining power, terrified that the few countries that still cluster around it are moving inexorably away. -- Part of Obama’s problem is that he has made grand pronouncements on issues where he would not use American power forcefully, Syria and the Arab Spring being the clearest examples. Speech became the substitute for action — hence the charge of fecklessness. And on the issues where the United States has been engaged — Ukraine, Asia — his statements have been strangely muted. In his speech to European leaders on Ukraine, Obama struck most of the right notes but also offered caveats about not acting militarily. It is difficult to stir the world into action, and into following the United States, if the president is telling you what he would not do rather than what he would do. -- But the broader problem is that critics want the moral and political satisfaction of a great global struggle. We all accuse Vladimir Putin of Cold War nostalgia, but Washington’s elites — politicians and intellectuals — miss the old days as well. They wish for the world in which the United States was utterly dominant over its friends, its foes were to be shunned entirely and the challenges were stark, moral and vital. Today’s world is messy and complicated. China is one of our biggest trading partners and our looming geopolitical rival. Russia is a surly spoiler, but it has a globalized middle class and has created ties in Europe. New regional players such as Turkey and Brazil have minds of their own and will not be easily bossed. - More, Washingtonpost

صدای امریکا -- لایحه تمدید ویزه خاص مهاجرت برای افغانها --- جان مکین، آدم کینزینگر، ارل بلومنور و جین شهین اعضای احزاب جمهوریخواه و دموکرات لایحه یی را به کانگرس امریکا پیشکش نموده اند تا معیاد ویزه خاص مهاجرت را که در اخیر سال ۲۰۱۴ تمام میشود، برای افغانها تمدید شود. آن عده افغانها و عراقی ها که با قوای امریکایی، حکومت ایالات متحدۀ امریکا و رسانه های امریکایی در افغانستان کار کرده اند، به پاس خدمات شان ویزه خاص مهاجرت دایمی به امریکا داده میشود. این لایحه از طرف نزده تن اعضای جمهوریخواه و دموکرات کانگرس حمایت شده است. -- برنامه ویزه خاص برای افغانها اخیر سال جاری ختم میشود. لایحه دو حزبی در حمایت از فرمان حفاظت متحدین افغان شام چارشنبه به کانگرس امریکا پیشکش شد تا بعد از دیگر با آوردن اصلاحات لازم برای یکسال دیگرتمدید شود. تمدید این لایحه شامل سه هزار ویزه و شرایط وسیع تر برای اخذ ویزه میباشد تا به تعهد ایالات متحده امریکا اعتبار داده شده و آن عده افرادی که در خارج با به خطر انداختن جان شان در صف قوای امریکایی خدمت کرده اند، بتوانند به امریکا مهاجرت کنند. -- آدم کینزینگر، عضو جمهوریخواه از ایالت ایلونای معتقد است: زنان و مردان افغان با گرفتن خطر برای قوای امریکایی کمک کرده اند. آنها مستحق اند تا ایالات متحده به وعده اش در حفظ جان آنها و خانواده های شان وفا کند. -- وی اضافه کرد این کار درستی است که ما می کنیم و لازم است تا ما بحیث یک ملت اکنون و درآینده به قول خود وفا کنیم. بسیار ساده است که بگوییم امریکا بار دیگر به جنگ داخلی کمک نخواهد کرد و این موقعیتی است که برای آنهایی که جان های امریکاییان را حفظ میکنند رسیدگی کنیم. -- سناتور جین شهین، عضو کانگرس از ایالت نیو همشیر میگوید ما مسؤولیت داریم و وظیفه ما است تا هزاران افراد ملکی که جان های شان را در زمان جنگ برای حفظ کشور ما بخطر انداخته اند، کمک کنیم. -- وی هم چنان اشاره کرد که حتی با ختم ماموریت امریکا در افغانستان، و با در نظرداشت مشکلات داخلی امریکا، ایالات متحده مسوولیت روشن دارد تا به وعده هایی که به متحدین افغان داده شده، وفا کند. درین میان، ارل بلومنور، عضوکانگرس از ایالت اورگان درمورد تمدید لایحه ویزه خاص برای افغانها میگوید، ترجمان های افغان و عراقی برای کمک و حفاظت جان عساکر امریکایی جان های شان را به خطر انداختند. ما برای آنها وعده کردیم. -- با قانونی شدن این لایحه برای ترجمان هایی که شجاعانه با مطبوعات امریکایی، سازمان های غی انتفاعی و قوای امنیت بین المللی کارکرده اند و با خانواده های شان در خطر بسر میبرند، فرصت مهاجرت داده میشود. تمدید فرمان حفاظت متحدین افغان از جانب سربازانی که در افغانستان خدمت کرده اند، برنامه کمک برای مهاجرین عراقی، پروژه امنیت ملی ترومن و تعدادی از نهاد دیگرحمایت شده است.

Europe - Sheikh Nazim, Spiritual Leader to Sufis, Dies at 92 --- Sheikh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Qubrusi al-Haqqani, a leading figure of Sufism, the mystical branch of the Islamic faith, died on Wednesday in Nicosia, Cyprus. He was 92. -- Imam Shakir Alemdar, the vice grand mufti of Cyprus, confirmed the death. -- He called Sheikh Nazim one of the world’s great Islamic scholars and a spiritual leader to followers of Sufism, which traces its origins to the roots of Islam itself about 1,500 years ago. -- Sheikh Nazim was leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi order. He was born on April 23, 1922, in Larnaca, Cyprus, in the east Mediterranean. He received his first religious instruction from his grandfather, an Islamic scholar, before studying chemical engineering in 1940 at Istanbul University. In 1944, he visited Lebanon, where he received further religious instruction. -- He traveled within Europe in the 1970s and in the 1990s to the United States, where he gained many followers. He opened a study center in Fenton, Mo. -- Later in life, Sheikh Nazim received guests at his home in Lefka, Cyprus. He met Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff’s 2010 visit. The encounter came as the pope was walking in a procession to a Mass at a Nicosia church near the United Nations-controlled buffer zone that divides the island into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south. -- Sheikh Nazim married in 1941 and had four children. - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, NYTimes

Thursday, May 08, 2014

باختر - یک بال طیارهٔ آریانا دچار سانحه شد --- یک بال طیاره بوینگ نوع 737 امروز ساعت 4:30 عصر از دهلی به قصد کابل نشست داشت از اثر خرابی هوا هنگام نشست اضطراری از خط رنوی منحرف شد. -- خبرنگار آژانس باختر از میدان هوایی بین المللی کابل خبر میدهد، طیاره بوینگ آریانا نوع 737 که از دهلی به قصد کابل نشست داشت حین نشست در میدان هوایی کابل از اثر خرابی هوا حدود دوصد متر از خط رنوی منحرف گردید. --دراین حادثه به مسافرین وعمله طیاره یادشده آسیب نرسیده، مگر دو تایر عقیبی طیاره یادشده آتش گرفته، اطفائیه میدان هوایی آتش سوزی را خاموش نمودند.

Afghanistan's 'forgotten' poor wince as billions in aid go to badlands --- (Reuters) - For all the billions of dollars in foreign aid that have poured into Afghanistan over the past 12 years, Sajeda, her head-to-toe burqa covered in dust, sobs that the world has forgotten the poorest of the poor in the largely untroubled north of the country. -- A deadly landslide last week exposed the extreme poverty in the remote mountainous area and also highlighted one of the paradoxes of Western aid: the northern region which supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has got significantly less help than the south and east, home of the Taliban militants. -- Over the past decade, much of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding has been spent in the strongholds of the insurgents as part of Washington's strategy to win the "hearts and minds" of the local population. -- "We are the poorest and most unfortunate people of this country and no one pays attention to us. We are forgotten," said Sajeda, who lost 12 members of her family in the landslide that killed hundreds in northern Badakhshan province. -- Pointing to simple mud-brick homes that escaped the landslide in the village of Aab Bareek, the 33-year-old screams: "Look at those houses. Are those for the living?" -- Time is running out for the mostly Tajik and Uzbek people of Badakhshan, home to the Northern Alliance which helped U.S. forces drive the Taliban from power, to tap international aid. As Western forces wind down operations in Afghanistan, foreign donors are also pulling back. -- At the start of the year, U.S. lawmakers halved civilian aid for Afghanistan, reflecting growing reluctance in Congress to continue generous aid levels there, concerns about waste and fraud, and frustration with the Afghan government itself. Other foreign donors are expected to make similar cuts. -- Over the past decade, a disproportionate share of U.S. aid, which makes about two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, has ended up in the southern provinces where it has been used to achieve political and military objectives. -- A U.S. official said that between 2009-14 more than 70 percent of USAID spending, amounting to about $4.7 billion, went to the south and east. USAID, the lead agency for development assistance, declined immediate comment. -- "For much of the intervention, we know that aid was distorted by military priorities, that is pretty clear," says Matt Waldman, an associate fellow at London think-tank Chatham House. "The trouble is that very often undermines its effectiveness." --- Despite the most expensive reconstruction effort ever undertaken in a single country, Afghanistan remains one of the world's poorest states. -- Yet, this year the U.S. contribution to the international relief and reconstruction, starting from 2002, will top $100 billion, according to U.S. auditors, known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). -- That figure is a fraction of the amount the United States has spent on its military campaign. -- Most of the U.S. money earmarked for relief and reconstruction since 2002 has actually gone to security, leaving just over $26 billion to governance and development, and nearly $3 billion for humanitarian aid, SIGAR says. --- A report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 2011 said the United States was focused on short-term stabilization projects in the south and east in a bid to win "hearts and minds" instead tackling longer term development projects. - More,

SEE IT: Online video claims UFO attacked Taliban camp in Afghanistan --- An online video claims the U.S. has a new ally in its fight against terrorism - one from another planet. The video from the group Section 51 - titled "UFO… - More, New York Daily News -

CIA's plan to retrench in Afghanistan worries U.S. military --- Reporting from Washington— The CIA is planning to close its satellite bases in Afghanistan and pull all its personnel back to Kabul by early summer, an unexpectedly abrupt withdrawal that the U.S. military fears will deprive it of vital intelligence while thousands of American troops remain in the country, U.S. officials said. -- CIA Director John Brennan informed U.S. military commanders in March that his agency would shutter operations outside Kabul, removing CIA case officers and analysts as well as National Security Agency specialists responsible for intercepting insurgent phone calls and other communications, a rich source of daily intelligence, the officials said. -- Pentagon officials warn that the CIA drawdown after 12 years of war is coming just as insurgent attacks are normally at their peak. As a result, the CIA withdrawal has strained relations between the agency and military commanders in Kabul, the officials said. -- “They are beginning their own retrograde and they kind of sprung it on the military, which is raising concern,” a senior military official, using the military term for retreat, said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss classified CIA plans. -- Intelligence officials confirmed the drawdown, but said the pace is still uncertain. They linked the CIA move to the steady pullout of U.S. military forces who normally provide protection and logistical support for the network of intelligence-gathering outposts, which often are hidden inside U.S. military bases. Hundreds of those forward operating bases have now closed, although dozens are still operating. -- “There is no stomach in the building for going out there on our own,” said a former CIA operator who has spoken to current officers about the pullback. “We are not putting our people out there without U.S. forces.” -- The CIA also plans this summer to stop paying the salaries of Afghan paramilitary forces that it has armed and trained for more than a decade to help fight the Taliban-led insurgency in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. It's unclear what will happen to the militias. -- The Pentagon is seeking to persuade the CIA to slow its withdrawal, arguing that keeping CIA and NSA operators in the field as long as possible will help prevent a surge in insurgent attacks before the end of 2014, when most U.S. troops are due to leave. -- Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top commander in Afghanistan, has offered to help the CIA close its intelligence-gathering installations and remove its equipment later this year. By taking on that task, he hopes to persuade the CIA to remain in the field at least until October, one of the officials said. -- Pentagon officials are also exploring whether the military can take over paying the salaries of the CIA-backed militias, in order to keep the Afghan fighters from leaving the fight or switching sides, officials said. Some of the front-line units already have been disbanded, according to a report in the Daily Beast. -- Brennan told military officials that the CIA would be able to continue gathering intelligence and targeting militants, even after pulling back to Kabul and Bagram and withdrawing many of its personnel, one official said. - More, David S. Cloud, Chicago Tribune

Swedish PM warns of nationalist surge as EU elections loom --- (Reuters) - Europe's failure to deliver economic growth and jobs has frayed public trust in democracy and fostered a nationalist climate that could reward anti-immigration, Eurosceptical parties in May's EU elections, Sweden's prime minister said on Thursday. -- Fredrik Reinfeldt also saw nationalism shaping Russia's actions in Ukraine, which he said was creating "instability", but despite such concerns he said Sweden was unlikely to abandon its formal neutrality and join NATO any time soon. -- "(The economic crisis) has weakened the forces of integration or standing up for this European ideal," he said in an interview in which he also invoked the destructive nationalism that tore Europe apart 100 years ago this summer with the outbreak of World War One. -- "The kind of (nationalist) thinking behind that, which has been a problem in Europe for hundreds of years ... is very much the same kind of thinking you see Russia now doing in Ukraine or you will see in many forces throughout Europe," Reinfeldt said. -- Citizens in the 28 European Union countries vote on May 22-25 for 751 members of the European Parliament. Opinion polls suggest an influx of between 150 to 200 Eurosceptical politicians bent on reversing decades of EU integration. -- Parties campaigning to limit immigration are expected to do well in France, Britain and elsewhere. At the national level, rightist, populist parties are now some of the biggest political forces in the traditionally liberal, tolerant Nordic region. - More,

U.S. lawmakers aim to extend Afghan interpreter visa program --- (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill to allow more time for the thousands of Afghans who worked for the American military and government as interpreters and in other high-risk jobs to immigrate to the United States. -- The move by members of the Senate and the House of Representatives is intended to speed access to the country for people who worked for the U.S. military since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, some of whom now face death threats for that work. -- "We have an obligation to people who put their lives on the line," said Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and a co-sponsor of the Afghan Allies Protection Extension Act. -- The bill would expand the Special Immigrant Visa program, which offers visas to Afghans who helped the U.S. government's war effort, or who worked or U.S. news organizations or aid programs, for at least one year. -- The program, currently due to stop accepting applications in the fall, would be extended through the end of 2015. -- The bill would also offer visas to more family members of foreign workers who were threatened after they aided the United States. -- Blumenauer said the current slow-paced visa system results from the need to coordinate efforts of the Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the State Department and other agencies looking to prevent potential militants from entering the United States. -- The protection the U.S. government offers the former workers could benefit the United States in future conflicts that require hiring foreigners, Blumenauer said. "They need to know they can rely on us if the situation demands," he said. -- Two U.S. Army veterans of the Afghanistan conflict and their interpreters joined lawmakers backing the bill at a Capitol news conference. - More, Tom Ramstack,

افغان های تحصیل کرده در خارج چطور کشورشان را کمک می کنند؟ --- هارون الرشید که از طریق بورس امریکایی "فُلبرایت" تحصیل کرده در حال حاضر معین وزارت مبارزه با موادمخدر افغانستان است. هارون الرشید می گوید، محصلین افغان که تحصیلات شان را در خارج از کشور انجام میدهند پس از بازگشت به افغانستان می توانند مفید ثابت شده و از تجارب شان همه بهره مند شوند. وی در این مورد به رادیو آزادی گفت: "قبلاً در دفاتر ما مشاورین خارجی تمام استراتیژی ها و پالیسی ها را می ساختند اما اکنون ما خود این کار را انجام میدهم. برای اولین بار در تاریخ وزارت مبارزه با موادمخدر افغانستان استراتیژی ملی و شش پالیسی را خودم ساختم." -- وزارت تحصیلات عالی افغانستان می گوید، محصلین افغان از سه طریق برای تحصیل به خارج از کشور می روند. برخی از محصلین موفق به دریافت بورس هایی می شوند که کشور های دیگر آنرا فراهم می کنند، برخی از سوی وزارت معارف افغانستان به مصرف بودیجه این وزارت به خارج می روند و یک تعداد دیگر خودشان در پوهنتون های خارجی ثبت نام می کنند. واصل نور مهمند معین وزارت کار و امور اجتماعی افغانستان به رادیو آزادی گفت، آن عده از محصلین که از طریق بورس در خارج از کشور آموزش دیده اند در بلند بردن ظرفیت های دیگران موثر ثابت شده اند: "جوانان که تحصیلات شانرا در خارج انجام داده دوباره بر می گردند برای بلند بردن ظرفیت همکاران خود مفید ثابت شده اند. آنها توانسته اند که همکاران خود را در همه بخش ها کمک کنند." -- عبدالعظیم نوربخش سخنگوی وزارت تحصیلات عالی افغانستان می گوید، تعداد زیادی از کشور ها از طریق فراهم کردن بورس های تحصیلی، افغانستان را کمک می کنند: "امسال به تعداد 2500 محصل را به کشور های هندوستان، پاکستان، مالیزیا، قزاقستان، مراکش، ترکیه، جاپان، روسیه و عربستان سعودی فرستاده ایم." برخی از پوهنځی ها در افغانستان به سطح ماستری آموزش نمی دهند و بورس های فل برایت امریکایی و چیونینگ بریتانیایی از جمله بورس های معتبری اند که به محصلین افغان داده می شود. -- ایمل یعقوبی یکی از محصلین که برای بدست آوردن بورس "فُلبرایت" عریضه داده می گوید، جنگ های طولانی در افغانستان باعث شده تا این کشور در بعضی موارد از پیشرفت باز ماند اما در صورت برگشت افغان های که در خارج درس می خوانند ظرفیت های افغانستان افزایش می یابد: "افغانستان با کمبود ظرفیت ها روبرو نیست بلکه ظرفیت ها خوب آموزش ندیده اند. اگر ما در خارج تحصیل کنیم و دوباره برگردیم میتوانیم برخی از کمبودی ها را رفع نمایم." بورس های تحصیلی بخشی از کمک های جهانی با افغانستان است که میتواند ظرفیت های نسل آینده این کشور جنگ زده را بلند ببرد. - رادیو آزادی

Please find from the below map the preliminary results of the 5 April 2014 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections. - More, Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan --

Afghan migrant who tried to reach Britain on bedsheet raft trying again on boat made of bottles --- The Afghan migrant who failed in his bid to reach Britain in a boat he made with crutches and a bed sheet has already revealed the blueprint for a new vessel made almost entirely from plastic bottles. -- On Monday, French coast guards picked up Asif Hussainkhil, 33, two miles off Sangatte near Calais, after he was spotted from a ferry as he tried to make the 21-mile Channel crossing. -- He had spent three weeks making the boat out of six pieces of wood, with three buoys underneath and blue life jacket material to sit on. -- Despite the fact that rescuers said he was lucky not to have capsized and been killed, and had "zero per cent chance of making it to Britain", Mr Hussainkhil was already hatching plans for a new craft. -- Standing in the Fort Mahon sand dunes outside Calais, where he hid and built his first vessel, Mr Hussainkhil said: "I am starting to make a new boat with the hull made entirely out of empty bottles, which I will tie together." -- "This time it will be much more controllable, something special, with a rudder," he said, pointing to three metal hoops lying beside some rusty nails and a plastic bottle. -- "I will make a new four by four metre boat out of only empty bottles, some wood and some iron hoops that will serve as a rudder. I didn't use it last time, but I will lash it to the bottles. It is very strong and won't fail me," said Mr Hussainkhil, who left his native Kabul in 2000 when he was just 19. -- Since then, he has lived in a string of countries, including Iran, Turkey, Greece and Switzerland, where he had various odd jobs as a builder, kitchen fitter, leather jacket maker and gardener. -- Reacting to the news that some media in Britain had expressed admiration for the lengths he was prepared to go to reach the UK, he said: "I am very happy if that is the case. It has been my dream since I was a child and why I built this boat. If they let me come I will be very lucky." On Monday, he set off in fine weather after spending the night on the beach under a blanket. -- He had no food or compass and only thin waterproof trousers and top. He did, however, have a slingshot – a weapon of choice in his native Afghanistan – which he said might come in handy to "defend myself against any sea birds that might attack me". -- His fellow Afghan migrants yesterday said they had repeatedly warned him not to go on his boat and were convinced he would die. -- "We were expecting to hear that he had drowned and couldn't believe it when we saw him show up at the camp on Monday night," said Jamal Aslam Khel, 26, a fellow Afghan who has already made it to England once in a lorry but was thrown out. - More, Henry Samuel, Calais, Telegraph

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans - Who Were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government --- Afghan SIV Program Extended --- The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals under the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 has been extended. 3,000 visas may be issued to principal applicants under this program in fiscal year (FY) 2014, with any unissued visas being allocated to FY 2015. The Afghan SIV program will end when all 3,000 visas have been issued or on September 30, 2015 if all visas are not issued by that date. The deadline for applying for Chief of Mission approval is September 30, 2014. - More,

State Department issues more visas to Afghan interpreters --- The State Department has dramatically ramped up the approval of resettlement visas for Afghan military interpreters this year under a program that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is seeking to extend and expand, arguing that the system has failed many linguists who remain in mortal danger. -- Under a bill that members of the House and Senate plan to introduce Thursday, the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, which is set to stop receiving applications this fall, would continue to run until the end of 2015 and be open to 3,000 additional petitioners. -- The legislation would enable Afghan interpreters who have been approved for resettlement to immigrate with parents, siblings and adult children who can independently demonstrate that they are in danger. Afghans who worked for American news outlets and nongovernmental organizations, as well as those who worked for U.S. troops but were nominally paid for by the international military coalition, also would become eligible for resettlement if the bill becomes law. Those criteria also applied to Iraqi interpreters. -- As the U.S. military draws down this year, lawmakers say they feel compelled to do more to help Afghans who are under threat for their work on behalf of the United States. -- “We have frankly fallen short of the mark,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who is sponsoring the House version of the bill with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a former Air Force pilot who served in Afghanistan. “It is clear that these people are at risk and that the situation is likely to get worse rather than better.” -- Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are leading the effort in the Senate. Lawmakers and several U.S. veterans of the Afghan war have assailed the State Department and other agencies involved in processing the visas, saying that the program has been beset by years-long delays, arbitrary rejections and opposition from some senior officials who have argued that the program is accelerating Afghanistan’s brain drain. --- “America is going to have to go to war again someday, and there is nothing more important than the ability to follow through on our word,” Kinzinger said in an interview. -- Earlier this year, Congress demanded that the State Department start releasing data each quarter disclosing how many applicants have been rejected, the number of rejections at each step of the process and the reasons for delays in cases that have been in the pipeline for more than nine months. -- Additionally, changes to the program codified in the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in January, now require that the State Department explain in a letter its rationale for each rejection. In the past, after waiting for years, some applicants received bare rejection forms that branded them as security threats. --- Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement that the department has made significant strides in processing visas for Afghan interpreters in recent months by streamlining each step. This year, the State Department has issued more than 1,600 visas to principal applicants and roughly 2,800 to eligible relatives, a category that currently includes spouses and unmarried children under age 21. That exceeds the number of visas issued in all years combined since the program was established in 2009. Still, the cases of more than 5,600 interpreters have yet to be adjudicated. -- “The State Department and the other U.S. government departments and agencies involved in the Special Immigrant Visa process have the highest respect for the men and women who take enormous risks in helping our military and civilian personnel,” Harf wrote. “We are committed to helping those who — at great personal risk — have helped us.” -- That sentiment is at odds with what many Afghans have experienced, according to interpreters and their advocates. Many who have been rejected or have given up on waiting for responses have spent their life savings on smugglers who offer to get them to Europe or Australia by boat — journeys that sometimes have ended fatally. - More, Ernesto Londoño, Washingtonpost

Surveillance-bill compromise close in House, would end mass NSA collection of phone data --- Key lawmakers in the House are nearing a bipartisan compromise on surveillance legislation that they believe can pass the full chamber and satisfy President Obama’s goal of ending mass collection of Americans’ phone data, aides said this week. -- The optimism comes as the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 32 to 0 to advance an amended bill that would bar the National Security Agency from gathering billions of ­call-detail records for counter­terrorism purposes. -- The House Intelligence Committee is planning to take up its own version of surveillance legislation, which it is considering amending to address privacy concerns, aides said. It could also take up the bill passed by the Judiciary panel, which some House aides predicted will be the version that advances to the floor. -- Movement on surveillance legislation this week puts the House in the driver’s seat on the issue, which exploded into the public realm nearly a year ago as a result of a series of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. -- “The bottom line is the amended [USA] Freedom Act makes it crystal clear that Congress does not endorse bulk collection and ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), co-sponsor of the bill that was approved. -- Both the Judiciary bill and the Intelligence Committee’s bill would end the NSA’s phone gathering by ensuring that the phone companies retain the records, but for no longer than they normally would. -- A key issue separating the two is a provision in the Judiciary bill that would require a judge to approve records requests for each phone number before the NSA obtains them. That provision was among several the White House has insisted be part of any surveillance legislation. -- A key issue separating the two is a provision in the Judiciary bill that would require a judge to approve records requests for each phone number before the NSA obtains them. That provision was among several the White House has insisted be part of any surveillance legislation. -- “The whole goal is to get one big compromise solution that we support,” the aide said. -- House leadership could send legislation to the floor as early as the week of May 19 or before the July recess. That would put pressure on the Senate to act. --- Under the bulk call-records program, the NSA collects numbers dialed and call times but does not record the conversations. The Judiciary Committee’s bill outlaws all bulk collection by the NSA — not just of phone records but of any type of personal record, including financial, medical and legal documents. - More, Ellen Nakashima, Washingtonpost

Lack of Orderly Means to Distribute Aid Is Latest Setback for Afghan Village --- ABI BARAK, Afghanistan — An outpouring of aid has come to the remote village of Abi Barak, where a devastating landslide is likely to have claimed 2,100 lives and instantly left thousands homeless. Tents, water, food and blankets have streamed in from all quarters, including community donations and international contributions. -- But on Monday, it was clear that the effort to get that assistance to the hardest-hit was being hampered by a host of problems: competing interests among local leaders and politicians, a lack of infrastructure and effective management at the site, and an onslaught of villagers coming from nearby areas who were unaffected by the landslide but were needy nonetheless. -- The scene was on full display in a makeshift camp set atop a plateau overlooking Abi Barak, where a mass of earth torn loose from a neighboring mountain on Friday buried roughly 300 homes. Thousands of villagers argued in the open air, with much-needed aid sitting in tidy piles just out of reach, while elders tried to sort out what has been perhaps the most crucial challenge in the aftermath of the landslide — confirming the names and details of those who most needed help. -- “The biggest problem that we have here is that we do not have a clear and genuine list of the actual affected people,” said Abdullah Faiz, the head of the Afghan Red Crescent in Badakhshan Province, where the village is. “We do not know the villagers.” -- While the scene in Abi Barak was relatively orderly, it underscored a challenge fundamental to helping the survivors here, and to the broader aid effort in Afghanistan. Given the massive footprint of the international community in the country over the past decade, there is plenty of aid to go around, officials said. But there is often limited capacity to sort out how to distribute it, given that rural administration, far removed from the Kabul ministries where technocrats work, is almost nonexistent. -- Villagers in Abi Barak live without electricity, going about their lives as sheepherders and farmers nestled between two hulking mud mountains. There is no census, no family records, no government offices. Whatever records did exist before the landslide were obliterated. - More, NYTimes

India Stepping Up to the Plate in Afghanistan --- In a recent deal with Moscow, India has agreed to pay for military equipment sourced from Russia to Afghanistan. -- The equipment will include artillery, helicopters, tanks, and armored vehicles. India will also pay to repair old Soviet hardware left behind after the Russian withdrawal in 1989. The scale and exact composition of the deal have yet to be announced, but it is known that the first order has already been placed. India had so far hesitated to provide lethal weapons to Afghanistan for fear of antagonizing Pakistan. However, the deal suggests a rethink in the halls of South Block on India’s role in the region after the ISAF withdrawal. -- The reason behind that rethink is fairly simple: the winds of change that are blowing this year in Afghanistan. The ISAF is winding down its presence and a new president is about to be elected in the country’s first democratic transfer of power. These transitions have prompted Afghanistan’s neighbors to accelerate their thinking about the future of the region. India has frequently expressed a desire to see the emergence of a strong, stable and independent Afghanistan. With foreign forces no longer taking the lead role, the only way to ensure stability in Afghanistan – and by extension in the region – is to help increase the capabilities of its young army. Other interests are also at stake. Any economic assistance provided by India to Afghanistan would be stripped of meaning if the latter was not strong enough to defend the products of the assistance. Moreover, India needs Afghanistan to be able to defend the former’s business investments, stalled for nearly three years. -- Considering these mounting pressures and the limited time available to respond, it is not surprising that India changed its mind on supplying arms to Afghanistan. The decision comes as a follow up to the promise made in the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries in 2011, in which India agreed to assist in “training, equipping, and capacity building programmes” to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces. -- India has, however, played its cards close to its chest. Earlier in February, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, visiting Kandahar to inaugurate an agricultural university built with Indian aid, said that India would be providing helicopters and transport aircraft as per Afghanistan’s wishes. This was “consistent with [India’s] approach – building capacity, providing training,” he said. But he also pointed out that India was “not in the game of giving people large scale equipment which is lethal.” - More, Niharika Betkerur, The Diplomat -

حامد کرزی برای بازدید از محل رانش زمین به ارگو رفت --- به دنبال انتقاده گسترده از چگونگی مدیریت کمک‌ها و بیرون نشدن اجساد از زیر آوار در بدخشان، حامد کرزی رئیس جمهوری افغانستان به ارگو رفته است. -- روز چهارشنبه، ١٧ ثور/اردیبهشت، یک منبع در کاخ ریاست جمهوری به بی‌بی‌سی گفت که آقای کرزی به ارگو پرواز کرده است تا وضعیت کمک‌رسانی و ابعاد فاجعه ارگو را از نزدیک بررسی کند. -- دفتر آقای کرزی در اطلاعیه نوشته که او با آسیب دیدگان روستای آب باریک اظهار همدردی کرده و با بازدید از خیمه های محل اسکان آوارگان، مشکلات آنها را بررسی کرد. -- رئیس جمهوری به آنها اطمینان داده که کمک‌های داخلی و خارجی به اندازه کافی فراهم شده است. -- آقای کرزی افزوده که برای آوارگان خانه ساخته می‌شود و روند رسیدگی به مشکلات آنها و توزیع کمک‌ها را شخصا پی‌گیری می‌کند. - BBC,

U.S. proposes immigration rules to help high-skilled workers --- (Reuters) - Newly proposed rules for highly skilled immigrants to the United States, including a provision to allow their spouses to work, are aimed at making it easier to keep those talented science, technology and engineering workers in the country, officials said on Tuesday. -- "These individuals are American families in waiting," Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. "Many tire of waiting for green cards and leave the country to work for our competition. The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to do that." -- ne of the two proposed regulation changes would allow the spouses of holders of H-1B visas, which are given to workers in fields such as science, technology and engineering, to have jobs in the United States while their spouses' green card applications are being considered. Spouses of U.S. visaholders currently are not given permission to work. -- Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who announced the new regulations with Pritzker, said that change could affect as many as 97,000 people in the first year and some 30,000 annually after that. -- The other proposed regulation change would give employers a wider range of methods to document that immigrant researchers and professors are among the best in their fields. The regulations would go into effect after a 60-day public comment period. --- Pritzker said approximately 28 percent of new businesses in the United States are started by immigrants and that about 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. -- She cited Hungarian-born Andy Grove, the former Intel Corp chief executive; Sergey Brin, the Soviet immigrant who co-founded Google; and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, who came from Taiwan as a boy, as immigrants who have made a profound impact on the U.S. economy. --- Pritzker also supported President Barack Obama's push to overhaul the U.S. immigration system so that it would allow the United States "to staple a green card to the degrees of graduate students instead of forcing potential innovators and job creators to leave after being trained at our universities." -- Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama and opponent of immigration reform, denounced the proposed changes. "Yet again, the administration is acting unilaterally to change immigration law in a way that hurts American workers," he said. -- "This will help corporations by further flooding a slack labor market, pulling down wages. It is good news for citizens in other countries who will be hired. But for struggling Americans, it will only reduce wages, lower job opportunities, and make it harder to scrape by." -- The U.S. Senate passed a sweeping immigration bill last year, but the Republican-led House of Representatives has shunned it because many view it as a grant of amnesty for undocumented immigrants with potential negative impact on the U.S. economy. -

United States Changes Visa Rules to Keep Foreign Talent --- Washington: The United States said on Tuesday it will soon start issuing work visas to the spouses of some foreign workers as part of a drive to retain highly skilled people. -- The change will affect the spouses of people with so-called H-1B visas, a limited-term working visa that employees obtain when they are sponsored by their companies. -- As it stands now, their spouses only get a "dependent" H-4 visa which allows them to live in the US but not to work. -- When spouses cannot work foreign families tend not to settle in the United States, depriving it of many workers highly skilled in science and technology. -- Under the changes, spouses of people with H-1B visas who have applied for permanent residency 'green cards' can also apply for permission to work. -- "The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support US businesses and the growth of the US economy," said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. -- "The fact is, we must do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to doing that," said US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. -- Silicon Valley welcomed the news. The US information technology hub has for years been pushing for changes in immigration rules. -- But a more ambitious immigration reform, which would go beyond a mere administrative tweak and for example raise the total number of visas available for foreign workers, has been stuck in Congress for nearly a year. -- "By sensibly improving these rules, we can help ensure that the most talented foreign innovators conduct their break-through research right here at home," said Bruce Mehlamn, head of the Technology CEO Council, a business group bringing together major tech firms like IBM, Dell and Intel. -- "Of course these administrative improvements cannot substitute for the bipartisan, common-sense immigration reforms that Congress alone can advance," he added. -- This administrative change comes with further easing of restrictions for researchers seeking a green card. -- It will take effect after a period allowing for public comment after the change is published in the Federal Register. - Agence-France Presse,

بانک مرکزی: بانک‌های ما از خطر قرار گرفتن در فهرست سیاه نجات یافتند --- مقام‌های بانک مرکزی افغانستان می‌گویند که به‌دلیل تاخیر در تعدیل قانون «تطهیر پول و جلوگیری از تمویل تروریزم»، بانک‌های افغانستان در معرض تهدید قرار گرفته بودند. به‌گفته‌ی این مقام‌ها، قانون «تطهیر پول و جلوگیری از تمویل تروریزم» که نزدیک به یک سال پیش کار تعدیلش تمام شده بود، طی مراحل آن در کابینه متوقف شد. -- نورالله دلاوری، رییس بانک مرکزی، می‌گوید که تاخیر در تعدیل این قانون بانک‌های افغانستان را با تهدید مواجه کرده بود و هم‌چنین حساب‌های دالری چند بانک نیز در خارج از کشور مسدود شده است. آقای دلاوری که روز سه‌شنبه، شانزدهم ثور، در مراسم امضای تفاهم‌نامه‌ای میان بانک مرکزی و اداره تسهیلات در محیط سرمایه‌گذاری افغانستان موسوم به «حرکت» به‌منظور تطبیق پروژه بانکداری اسلامی در افغانستان سخن می‌گفت، افزود در صورتی که قانون تطهیر پول و جلوگیری از تمویل تروریزم زودتر از کابینه خارج نمی‌شد، بانک‌های افغانستان توسط بانک‌های بین‌المللی در فهرست سیاه قرار می‌گرفتند. -- رییس بانک مرکزی افغانستان می‌گوید: «یک موضوع مهمی که در این اواخیر روی آن بحث زیاد شده و بانک‌های ما را زیر تحت تهدید قرار داده بود، عدم تکمیل تعدیلاتی در قانون تطهیر پول و جلوگیری از تمویل تروریزم بود. این قانون تقریبا یک سال پیش کارش تکمیل و توسط وزارت عدلیه طی مراحل شد، اما در کابینه بند ماند.» نورالله دلاوری افزود: «به‌منظور اصلاحاتی که در قانون باید می‌آمد، سه بار در مجلس وزرا رفت و بالاخره اصلاحاتی در قانون آمد و دیروز به فضل خداوند از طرف مجلس وزرا تصویب و امید است که چند روز بعد به شورا فرستاده شود. به‌دلیل تاخیر، چندین بانک ما حساب‌های دالری‌شان در خارج بسته شد. مجلسی در آینده نزدیک در منگولیا برگزاری می‌شود که روی این موضوع هم بحث خواهد شد. حالا ما می‌توانیم خبر خوش در آن‌جا داشته باشیم و خود را از فهرست سیاهی که تهدید شده بودیم، بکشیم.» -- رییس بانک مرکزی می‌گوید که بانک‌های بین‌المللی به بانک مرکزی افغانستان گفته‌اند در صورتی‌که قانون تطهیر پول و جلوگیری از تمویل تروریزم تا ماه جون به تصویب نرسد، بانک‌های افغانستان مورد حمایت قرار نخواهند گرفت. -- هم‌چنین مقام‌های بانک مرکزی می‌گویند که کار بالای تعدیل قانون بانکداری افغانستان نیز به پایان رسیده و این قانون به‌منظور تایید به مجلس نمایندگان فرستاده شده است. نورالله دلاوری می‌گوید که بخش بیشتر این قانون شامل نظام بانکداری اسلامی است. آقای دلاوری پایان یافتن کار بالای تعدیل قانون بانکداری افغانستان را یک دست‌آورد مهم توصیف کرده می‌گوید در صورت تصویب این قانون، ارایه خدمات بانک‌ها بیشتر خواهد شد. -- رییس بانک مرکزی می‌گوید به‌دلیل این‌که امانات و سپرده‌های مردم در بانک‌ها برای مدت زمانی یک الی پنج سال است، از همین‌رو بانک‌های نیز نمی‌توانند که برای زمان طولانی قرضه بدهند. به‌گفته‌ی او، بانک مرکزی روی برنامه‌ای کار می‌کند تا دیگر بانک‌ها قادر شوند قرضه‌های پانزده تا بیست سال بدهند. آقای دلاوری می‌افزاید در صورتی‌که بانک‌ها قرضه‌های طویل‌المدت ارایه دهند، کارمندانی که سرپناه ندارند با استفاده از قرضه‌های رهن از بانک‌ها، صاحب سرپناه شوند. --- همین‌حال، خان افضل هده‌وال، معاون اول بانک مرکزی، می‌گوید که با پیروی از نظام بانکداری اسلامی توسط بانک‌های افغانستان، سپرده‌ها و امانات مردم در بانک‌ها بیشتر خواهد شد. به‌گفته‌ی‌ او، شماری از شهروندان به‌دلیل پیروی نکردن بانک‌ها از نظام بانکداری اسلامی از تحویل‌دهی پول خود به بانک‌ها خودداری می‌کنند. آقای هده‌وال می‌گوید: «ما مطمین هستیم که یک تحول فوق‌العاده در اقتصاد افغانستان رونما خواهد شد و خدماتی‌که در عرصه بانک‌داری کلاسیک وجود دارد، در عرصه بانک‌داری اسلامی به‌وجود خواهد آمد.» -- در همین‌حال، اداره «حرکت» که پروژه تطیق بانک‌داری اسلامی را با ارزش نزدیک به ۱٫۲ میلیون دالر تمویل می‌کند، می‌گوید که تطبیق نظام بانکداری اسلامی در افغانستان باعث رشد اقتصادی و عرضه بیشتر خدمات بانکی خواهد شد. به‌گفته‌ی این اداره، نظام بانکداری اسلامی در برخی از کشورهای غیراسلامی و پیشرفته دنیا مورد استفاده است و این نظام تنها به کشورهای اسلامی محدود نمی‌شود. -- در حال حاضر در حدود پانزده بانک به‌شمول دو بانک دولتی در افغانستان فعالیت می‌کنند که اکثریت این بانک‌ها از سال ۲۰۰۳ به این‌سو آغاز به فعالیت کرده‌اند. - ۸ صبح

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

For years, they dominated Indian politics. Now the Gandhi dynasty risks being sidelined. --- RAE BARELI, India — When Sonia Gandhi came to this dusty corner of India nearly 20 years ago, thousands turned out to see the beautiful, Italian-born widow of a slain former prime minister and beg her to enter politics. “Sonia, save India!” they chanted. -- Since then, Gandhi has become the most powerful woman in India and president of its oldest political party. But on a rainy spring afternoon, when she returned to her family’s political stronghold in the state of Uttar Pradesh to campaign for reelection to parliament, her crowd was small and muted. -- As voting in national elections enters its final phase, Gandhi’s Congress party lags behind in most polls. Now reputedly in poor health, Gandhi has said she would like to step down in a few years. But her dimple-cheeked son, Rahul, 43, has shown little aptitude to take over. -- The party's sliding popularity threatens to sideline a political dynasty that has dominated Indian politics since independence, when Rahul’s great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, became prime minister. The Gandhis won deep loyalty over the years for their message of lifting up India’s impoverished masses. But the country’s growing urban and middle classes are now angry about government corruption and want politicians who focus on jobs rather than social-welfare benefits. -- Gandhi, 67, was nearly three hours late for her recent campaign stop in Amethi, her son’s electoral district. When she finally took the podium, she painted the election as a stark choice between her secular party and the main opposition party, led by Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist. -- The opposition seeks “to divide the country in the name of religion, caste and creed,” said Gandhi, wearing a perfectly draped sari and speaking in heavily accented Hindi. “Our party’s objectives bind the country together for progress.” --- Since she took over as the head of the 128-year-old Indian National Congress party in 1998, Sonia Gandhi has wielded outsize influence in the country of 1.2 billion. Forbes magazine ranks her No. 9 on its list of the world’s most powerful women, behind Hillary Rodham Clinton but ahead of Oprah Winfrey. Yet in many ways Gandhi remains an enigma. She shuns the spotlight, relies on the advice of a few close advisers and her two children, and hardly ever gives interviews. -- Her strength is her silence,” said Rasheed Kidwai, the author of “Sonia: A Biography.” The fact that her appearances are so few and carefully crafted “makes her something regal" in the noisy Indian political landscape, he said. -- Gandhi led her party and its regional allies to victory in 2004 and 2009. She turned down the chance to become prime minister in 2004, feeling her foreign birth would be an obstacle in a country still scarred by centuries of foreign rule. Instead, she chose a soft-spoken economist, Manmohan Singh, to take the country’s helm. -- Nonetheless, Gandhi has been the driving force behind many of the country’s costly social programs enacted in recent years — such as guaranteed rural employment and the distribution of grains to the hungry. Her power is discreet but vast — a recent book by a former top aide to the prime minister suggested she had hand-selected the country’s finance minister without consulting Singh, a charge her party denies. --- Sonia Gandhi was an unlikely heir to the Gandhi political legacy. She grew up in modest circumstances in a small town in Italy, the daughter of a mason. In the 1960s, not long out of high school, she traveled to Britain to study English and met a Cambridge University student named Rajiv Gandhi — the grandson of Nehru and the son of India’s powerful prime minister, Indira Gandhi. -- The couple married in 1968 and moved into the prime minister’s residence. Sonia at first found the adjustment difficult, Kidwai wrote. Her mother-in-law insisted they speak only Hindi at the dinner table. But Sonia eventually renounced her Italian citizenship. -- “I came here because I was madly in love with my husband and he was with me,” Gandhi said in a rare television interview in 2004. “It didn’t matter what I had to face.” -- Rahul was born in 1970, daughter Priyanka in 1972. - More, Annie Gowen, Washingtonpost

Exclusive: Monica Lewinsky Writes About Her Affair with President Clinton --- Monica Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair for the first time about her affair with President Clinton: “It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress.” She also says: “I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.” --- After 10 years of virtual silence (“So silent, in fact,” she writes, “that the buzz in some circles has been that the Clintons must have paid me off; why else would I have refrained from speaking out? I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth”), Lewinsky, 40, says it is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past—and other people’s futures. I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)” - More, Vanity Fair -

Rival House Bills Aim to Rein In N.S.A. Phone Data Program --- WASHINGTON — Senior members of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees have agreed on similar but rival bills that would restrict the National Security Agency’s ability to collect Americans’ phone call data in bulk. -- The Judiciary Committee is expected on Wednesday afternoon to mark up and pass a compromise version of a bill sponsored by Representative James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin. It has the support of several top lawmakers of both parties on that panel. The Intelligence Committee is expected to mark up and pass a similar bill on Thursday, staffers said. -- Both bills would curtail the government’s ability to collect bulk records about Americans. In particular, the bills are aimed at ending the N.S.A. program that systematically gathers logs about Americans’ phone calls and stores them for at least five years. Instead, they would authorize a system in which the bulk records would stay with the phone companies, and the government could obtain records of callers up to two links from a suspect. -- Neither bill would require phone companies to hold onto such records longer than they normally would do — in the case of landline phone records, up to 18 months. President Obama has endorsed the broad outlines of such a plan. - More, NYTimes,

Polio’s Return After Near Eradication Prompts a Global Health Warning --- Alarmed by the spread of polio to several fragile countries, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Monday for only the second time since regulations permitting it to do so were adopted in 2007. -- Just two years ago — after a 25-year campaign that vaccinated billions of children — the paralyzing virus was near eradication; now health officials say that goal could evaporate if swift action is not taken. -- Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon have recently allowed the virus to spread — to Afghanistan, Iraq and Equatorial Guinea, respectively — and should take extraordinary measures to stop it, the health organization said. -- “Things are going in the wrong direction and have to get back on track before something terrible happens,” said Gregory Hartl, a W.H.O. spokesman. “So we’re saying to the Pakistanis, the Syrians and the Cameroonians, ‘You’ve really got to get your acts together.' ” -- The declaration, which effectively imposes travel restrictions on the three countries, represented a newly aggressive stance by the health organization. In the past, it has often bent to pressure from member states demanding no consequences even as epidemics raged inside their borders and sometimes slipped over them. -- “This is a fundamental shift in the program,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, the organization’s chief of polio eradication. “This is the countries of the world signaling that they will no longer tolerate the spread of the virus from the countries that aren’t finished.” -- The emergency was declared though the total number of known cases this year is still relatively small: 68 as of April 30, compared with 24 by that date last year. -- What most alarmed experts, Mr. Hartl said, was that the virus was on the move during what is normally the low transmission season from January to April. -- “What we don’t want is cases moving into places like the Central African Republic, South Sudan or the Ukraine,” said Rebecca M. Martin, director of global immunization for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has provided money and expertise to the eradication campaign since it began in 1988. - NYTimes,

Hunger and desperation as Afghan mudslide survivors wait for food --- Lailema's soft wailing filters through the canvas of her tent, a 12-year-old's hopeless lament for her mother and a life that is gone forever. Her three younger siblings play on the dusty floor as her grandmother cries silently nearby and her uncle wonders how to feed his new dependents. -- None of them have eaten since the landslide in the village of Aab Barik – in the north-eastern province of Badakshan – that took away their home and six relatives two days earlier, despite trucks full of food aid parked just a few metres away. No one has distributed the bags of rice, oil and other necessities, they say. -- "They promised that they would hand them out after the government officials leave today," said Khan Baay, the uncle, who was heading out to hear the vice-president, Yunus Qanuni, lead prayers for the dead and promise survivors whatever help they need, backed by a delegation of ministers, members of parliament and European ambassadors. -- But many on the ground were less interested in pledges from dignitaries helicoptered in to survey the damage than getting their hands on something edible. "I am so hungry I could scratch your eyes out," said Bibi Jaahan, a grandmother in her early 60s who lost her home and several relatives to the mud. "I haven't eaten for over two days." - More, Guardian,

Afghanistan: land of beauty and brutality ---- Afghanistan's spectacular beauty stuns most foreigners who visit primed to expect violence, suffering and terrible poverty, because that is mostly what gets on televisions and makes headlines. -- It was not always that way. Before the decades of fighting that have ripped the country apart, it was a well-known if rather exotic stop on the 1960s tourist trail. Snowcapped mountains, relics from empires thousands of years old, deserts and lush valleys lured hippies in long-distance buses and richer visitors on the (Pan Am-owned) national airline. -- Steve McCurry's photos, taken over many years, such as his iconic "Afghan girl" for National Geographic, capture both that beauty, and the waves of foreign and domestic battles that destroyed the people, their homes and much of the physical relics of their extraordinary history. -- In one image a lone horse gallops past two pillars of rock at the Band-e Amir lakes. They seem like a mirage on first sight, vast bodies of perfectly blue water nestling several thousand metres above sea level in the heart of central Afghanistan's arid highlands. There is a shrine, and a few people come to bathe, but mostly there is the haunting emptiness captured by this picture. -- A camel train heads slowly across a desert in a scene that could be a recreation of Afghanistan's days of greatest wealth and power, when it was a key section of the silk road to China and India. -- McCurry captures the grim incongruity of brutal fighting playing out against such stunning backdrops. In one photo fighters perch on a rocky crag, gazing out into the distance. Without the guns, they could be mountain climbers. In another, two men walk through a quiet, snowy landscape. Only a closer look shows it is a sprawling graveyard. -- He also shows the simple nastiness of so much conflict. Fighters jumping into trenches, a boy with a gun, a young girl harvesting the opium that has helped pay for the weapons, a building on fire, soldiers preparing for battle. -- In between the fighting, and the landscapes, he captures the wonderful diversity of what everyday life Afghans have held on to through the years of violence – an empty street at dawn, an old photographer offering photos with an even older box camera, a religious festival where the bloodshed is voluntary as frenzied devotees whip themselves with chains, visitors swirling through the courtyard of a mosque. -- The photos present an unusually rounded portrait of a spectacular country and its proud and resilient people, as well as the terrible suffering that too often has come to define Afghanistan. -- • Steve McCurry's photographs can be seen at the Beetles + Huxley Gallery, London, from 12 May-7 June - Emma Graham-Harrison - Guardian

احسان الله مایار - اگر دسته از من نمیبود، تبر قادر به بریدنم نمی شد More, at:

Monday, May 05, 2014

Big budgets, little oversight in war zones --- In 1998, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ and his wife from the war-wrecked region of Bosnia-Herzegovina began a humble international humanitarian effort out of a modest office in downtown Washington. -- After the United States launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mom-and-pop nonprofit corporation boldly ramped up, undertaking some of the federal government’s biggest and most ambitious projects in the battle zones, everything from building roads to funding wheat production. -- In doing so, International Relief and Development increased its annual revenue from $1.2 million to $706 million, most of it from one corner of the federal government — the U.S. Agency for International Development. IRD has received more grants and cooperative agreements from USAID in recent years than any other nonprofit relief and development organization in the nation — $1.9 billion. -- Along the way, the nonprofit rewarded its employees with generous salaries and millions in bonuses. Among the beneficiaries: the minister, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, who together earned $4.4 million in salary and bonuses between 2008 and 2012. -- The story of IRD reflects the course of America’s ambitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which started with great enthusiasm and consumed tremendous resources, only to see many hopes go awry. Nation-building projects aimed at supplanting insurgents and securing the peace that looked promising on paper in Washington proved to be difficult to execute in dangerous and unpredictable war zones. -- In Baghdad and Kabul, companies such as IRD were left to manage hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer-funded programs with little meaningful oversight from USAID, according to interviews with government auditors and former IRD employees familiar with the projects. -- The nonprofit organization, in turn, has hired at least 19 employees from USAID, the lead government agency for addressing poverty and supporting democracy worldwide. Several of them came directly from their desks at the agency to occupy important posts at the company. -- Some of those employees, including the former acting administrator of USAID, received substantial pay raises by crossing the Potomac and joining IRD at its new offices in Arlington, Va., collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual salaries, bonuses and other compensation. -- In the world of humanitarian NGOs — nongovernmental organizations — those kinds of salaries are unusual. Rarer still are bonuses of any kind. -- “IRD is a nonprofit in name only,” said John E. Bennett, a former career State Department official and ambassador who led a reconstruction team in Baghdad that worked alongside IRD. “They built an organization designed to get USAID money.” -- USAID has increasingly turned to NGOs and corporations over the years, as the agency has lost thousands of employees to budget cuts and found itself with far fewer resources. IRD managed a large-scale project to clear trash in Baghdad and hired crews to construct a vast road network through southeastern Afghanistan. For IRD, this would be its first major road project, under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. --- At its core, IRD is a family affair. Keys, his wife and their daughter created IRD as a nonprofit entity in 1998 after working on numerous church-related relief efforts and social justice projects. They were later joined by Keys’s brother-in-law. -- The nonprofit’s inaugural project was a humanitarian effort funded by the State Department to stabilize portions of the Republic of Georgia. State then selected IRD to expand the program into Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Armenia. -- During the past decade, the company has broadened operations into more than 40 nations, employing 150 people at its Arlington headquarters and 110 more around the globe, plus thousands of contract workers, according to IRD. -- Between 2007 and the present, the nonprofit has received 82 percent of its nearly $2.4 billion in USAID funding for projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal procurement data. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

ناهماهنگی کمک رسانی را در بدخشان مشکل ساخت --- مقامات ولایت بدخشان از بی نظمی در روند کمک ها شکایت میکنند و میگویند کمک خودسرانه افراد، اشخاص و مؤسسات مشکلاتی را در روند توزیع کمک ها به آسب دیده های ارگوی بدخشان به وجود آورده است. احمد نوید فروتن سخنگوی والی بدخشان در صحبت با رادیو آشنا گفت در نتیجه این بی نظمی ها در برخی موارد حتی کسانی کمک ها را دریافت میکنند که مستحق نمی باشند و از قریه های همجوار ارگو به ولسوالی ارگو آمده اند. نوید فروتن به رادیو آشنا گفت "کمک ها باید مرحله به مرحل توزیع شود، مشکل را برای ما افراد و اشخاصی بیرونی از قریه جان همجوار آمدن و بی حد و بی اندازه در این جا جمع شده اند حتی از طرف خود خیمه زده اند." -- سخنگوی والی بدخشان گفت کمک ها باید توسط کمیسیونی که مؤظف شده به صورت مرحله وار توزیع گردد.او هم چنان گفت کمک های عاجل به مردم رسیده و برای جمع آوری پول به آسیب زده ها یک حساب بانکی مخصوص نیز باز شده است تاجران، افراد و اشخاص و مؤسسات بین المللی از این طریق کمک هایشان را ارایه کنند. آقای فروتن هم چنان گفت یک کمیته تعین شده است تا محلی را برای توزیع سرپناه برای آسیب زده ها مشخص کند. او میگوید در نظر است که به بازمانده گان سه صد خانواده آسیب دیده و هفت صد خانواده در معرض خطر زمین برای سرپناه توزیع گردد. -- در نتیجه لغزش زمین به روز جمعه در ولسوالی ارگوی بدخشان صدها تن زیر گل و خاک مدفون شدند و هفت صد خانواده بخاطر احتمال خطر بعدی از خانه هایشان بی جا شده اند. ارقام دقیقی از تلفات این رویداد در دست نیست اما برخی گزارش ها رقم تلفات را تا حدود ۳۰۰ تن گفته اند این در حالیست که گزارش های هم وجود دارد که میگوید در این رویداد تا حدود هفت صد نفر هلاک شده اند. -- در این حال مسئولین سازمان جهانی غذای میگویند تلاش دارند کمک های غذایی و غیرغذایی را به آسیب زده ها توزیع کنند. وحید الله امانی سخنگوی این سازمان گفت توجه عمده این سازمان کمک رسانی به ۷۰۰ خانواده است که از احتمال خطر لغزش بعدی زمین بیجا شده اند. آقای امانی به رادیو آشنا صدای امریکا گفت: "تمرکز ما بیشتر به ۷۰۰ خانواده است که در حدود ۵۰۰۰ هزار نفر می شود، هشتاد تن مواد خوراکی برای این پنج هزار نفر ما انتقال داده ایم که بخشی از این مواد دیروز توزیع شده و امروز نیز توزیع این کمک ها جریان دارد." -- مقامات وزارت خارجه افغانستان نیز میگویند برخی کشور ها از اماده گی شان برای فراهم آوری کمک ها به بازمانده های حادثه ارگوی بدخشان خبر داده اند. احمد شکیب مستغنی سخنگوی وزارت خارجه امروز گفت: "بعضی از کشور ها که وعده داده اند عملا کمک ها را فرستاده اند، بعضی از کشور ها وعده داده اند و باید از جانب افغانستان لستی از نیاز ها آماده شده و در اختیار شان قرار بگیرد و بعضی از کشور ها قرار است بزودی کمک ها را بفرستند." از سوی دیگر اتحادیه اروپا نیز از فراهم آوری کمک به آسیب رسیده های ارگو خبر داده است. -- به اساس اعلامیه این اتحادیه که امروز در اختیار رسانه ها قرار داده شد، فرانز میشل میلین نماینده خاص و رئیس هیات اتحادیه اروپا در دیداری از ارگوی بدخشان از کمک اتحادیه اروپا به بازمانده گان حادثه بخشان ابراز آماده گی کرده است. هم چنان به اساس اعلامیه ارگ ریاست جمهوری من موهنگ سینگ صدراعظم هند در یک تماس تیلفونی با حامدکرزی رئیس جمهور افغانستان تعهد یک ملیون دالر کمک نقدی به آسیب زده های ارگو کرده است. - صدای امریکا

Euro zone factory recovery broadens, except for France --- Euro zone factory recovery broadens, except for France -- (Reuters) - The recovery in euro zone manufacturing accelerated at the start of the second quarter with solid growth across most of the bloc although French factories struggled to maintain momentum, a business survey showed on Friday. -- Growth was again led by Germany, Europe's largest economy, and previously-lagging companies in Spain and Italy reported better business last month. -- It was the first time since November 2007 that all PMIs in the region indicated growth - coming in above the 50 break-even level. -- But separate data showed euro zone unemployment fell only slightly to 11.8 percent in March, still near a record high, a sign that European households are yet to feel much of the corporate economic recovery. -- But separate data showed euro zone unemployment fell only slightly to 11.8 percent in March, still near a record high, a sign that European households are yet to feel much of the corporate economic recovery. -- "Recent economic evidence remains consistent with the European Central Bank's baseline scenario which is that of a gradual recovery," said Philip Shaw at Investec. - More, at:

Egypt's Sisi says Muslim Brotherhood is finished --- (Reuters) - Egyptian presidential frontrunner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday appeared to rule out reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood movement, raising the specter of a prolonged conflict with a group he said was finished. -- Sisi, who ousted the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi from the presidency last July after mass protests against Mursi's rule, accused the Brotherhood of links to violent militant groups, adding that two plots to assassinate him had been uncovered. -- "I want to tell you that it is not me that finished (the Brotherhood). You, the Egyptians, are the ones who finished it," -- Sisi said in a joint interview with Egypt's privately owned CBC and ONTV television channels broadcast on Monday. -- Asked whether the Brotherhood would cease to exist during his presidency, Sisi answered: "Yes. That's right." -- Sisi is expected to easily win the May 26-27 presidential election. The only other candidate is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election won by Mursi. -- Sisi's supporters view him as a decisive figure who can stabilize a country plagued by street protests and political violence since an army-backed popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. -- The Brotherhood, which says it is committed to peaceful activism, has accused Sisi of staging a coup and masterminding the removal of Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president. -- Sisi, a head of military intelligence under Mubarak, confirmed rumors that there had been attempts on his life, highlighting the security challenges facing Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally in the heart of the Arab world. -- Sisi said there were "two attempts to assassinate me. I believe in fate, I am not afraid." -- The army-backed authorities have outlawed the Brotherhood, which won all the elections after Mubarak's fall. Thousands of its supporters have been arrested and hundreds killed. Top leaders, including Mursi, are on trial. -- A court sentenced the leader of the Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, and hundreds of supporters to death last week. Secular dissidents have also been jailed, leaving little organized opposition to the army-backed government. -- Although the Brotherhood is under severe pressure, Egypt's oldest and most organized Islamist movement has survived repression under successive rulers from the military, starting with Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954. -- Sisi has said his campaign would be unconventional - an apparent reference to concerns for his security. So far, there are no announced plans for him to appear in public. --- Islamists and the Egyptian state are old foes. Militants assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981 mainly because of his peace treaty with Israel. Mubarak also survived assassination attempts. - More, at:

Chaotic scenes as Afghan landslide victims seek aid --- (Reuters) - Grief-stricken and desititute Afghan villagers vented anger with their government as they scrambled for emergency aid, three days after deadly landslides engulfed their homes. -- Some 300 homes in Aab Bareek, a village in the Argo district of Badakhshan, a remote and mountainous northeastern province, were buried under up to 50 meters of earth and debris. -- The number of dead may never be known though U.N. and Afghan officials have estimated fatalities at anywhere between 500 and 2,700 people. --U.N. agencies and non governmental organizations distributed supplies, but displaced villagers complained others from nearby areas had taken supplies meant for them. -- "There is no proper plan to give aid to the needy," Rahmatullah, a villager who lost five family members, told Reuters on Monday. -- "People from other villages came here and receive help but the actual needy people are ignored by the officials," Rahmatullah said, his creased face covered with dust as he peered out of the tent he and his parents had been given. -- Backed by their armed militia, strongmen from the dominant ethnic Uzbek community in the area took aid delivery into their own hands, sending truckloads of food, water and tents to the stricken village. -- In chaotic scenes, villagers scuffled in a bid to get the rations, prompting police to fire warning shots in the air. The aid was