Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Official: 9 local guards at U.S. Embassy in Kabul killed, 11 Americans injured in bombing

WASHINGTON -- Nine Afghan guards at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul were killed and 11 American contractors wounded in the massive suicide truck bomb attack that rocked the diplomatic quarter in Afghan capital on Wednesday, the State Department said. One other Afghan guard was reported missing.

None of the wounded Americans appears to have life-threatening injuries as a result of the attack in which Afghan officials say at least 90 people were killed and 400 were wounded.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the attack, offering condolences to the families and friends of the victims and prayers for recovery of those wounded.

"In the face of this senseless and cowardly act, the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is unwavering; the United States stands with the government and the people of Afghanistan and will continue to support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity for their country," Tillerson said in a statement.

President Trump spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the aftermath of the attack, which CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports was one of the worst attacks Kabul has seen since the drawdown of foreign forces at the end of 2014. - More, CBS

Official: 9 local guards at U.S. Embassy in Kabul killed, 11 Americans ...

AP Explains: Why can't the Afghan government protect Kabul?

Read More, ABCNews

AP Explains: Why can't the Afghan government protect Kabul? - ABC ...

AP Explains: Why can’t the Afghan government protect Kabul? - Associated Press

A massive suicide truck bombing rocked a highly secured diplomatic area of Kabul, killing 90 people and wounding as many as 400. The attack left a scene of mayhem and destruction in the Afghan capital.

A look at some of the lingering issues after Wednesday’s attack:

Investigators will seek to understand how insurgents managed to get an explosives-packed tanker truck into one of the best-protected areas of Kabul. The Wazir Akbar Khan district is home to most of the capital’s foreign embassies as well as several major government institutions, including the Presidential Palace.

“No one could even imagine that would take place in Wazir Akbar Khan,” said Gen. Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, a former deputy interior minister. “I would call it a security and intelligence error.”

The bombing raises serious questions about the Afghan government’s ability to provide basic security. Insurgent groups have been on the offensive ever since the drawdown of NATO troops from the country in 2014.

The first half of 2017 has seen a particularly successful string of terrorist attacks in the capital, including a twin suicide bombing March 1 that killed 22 people and a coordinated March 8 assault on a military hospital that killed 50 people.

As of late Wednesday night in Kabul, no one had claimed responsibility. The vast majority of such devastating attacks recently have been undertaken by either the Taliban or the local affiliate of Islamic State group.

Yarmand said he didn’t believe the Taliban were behind it, saying they “don’t have the ability to carry out such big attack, and if they did, they would have claimed responsibility.”

The former Interior Ministry official repeated a common belief among Afghan government officials that the Pakistani intelligence services have played a role in the string of terrorist attacks plaguing Kabul. Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied such accusations. - Read More

AP Explains: Why can't the Afghan government protect Kabul? - The ...

Kabul bomb: Afghan leader condemns 'cowardly' attack - BBC

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has condemned a massive bomb attack in the capital Kabul, which killed at least 90 people, as "cowardly".

A suicide attacker detonated a bomb hidden inside a tanker truck close to the heavily protected diplomatic area during the morning rush hour.

Some 400 people were injured by the blast, which left a deep crater.

Most of the casualties were Afghans but foreign nationals were also injured, including 11 US citizens. The bomb exploded close to the German embassy, where a number of staff were injured.

Authorities in Germany postponed a deportation flight due to return failed Afghan asylum seekers, with a government source telling AFP news agency that diplomatic and consular staff had "more important things to do than to deal with organisational matters" so soon after the attack.

One Western diplomatic source told AFP news agency the blast had been caused by more than 1,500kg (3,307lb) of explosives

Many of the casualties appear to have been Afghan civilians on their way to work or school and office workers in nearby buildings.

Nürnberg: Schüler-Demonstration eskaliert - Polizei greift mit Schlagstöcken durch

Nürnberg: Tumulte bei Abschiebung eines jungen ... 

Protest gegen Abschiebung von Mitschüler - mehrere Verletzte - Der Spiegel

Aus der Berufsschule in die Abschiebehaft: In Nürnberg haben 300 Jugendliche versucht, Polizisten daran zu hindern, ihren afghanischen Mitschüler mitzunehmen. Es gab dramatische Szenen. mehr... Video ] -  Der Spiegel

Berufsschule in Nürnberg: Protest gegen Abschiebung von Mitschüler

Death toll rises after Kabul bomb, extensive damage to German embassy - DW

A massive truck bomb has hit Kabul's highly secure diplomatic area, killing at least 90 people and wounding hundreds. The German embassy was heavily damaged, and Berlin has now postponed deportations to Afghanistan.

According to Afghan officials, at least 90 people were killed and as many as 350 wounded when a massive truck bomb ripped through the Afghan capital Wednesday. However, they warn that the death toll is likely to rise, given the severity of many of the injuries.

Witnesses reported an enormous plume of smoke rising up from Kabul's diplomatic quarter, home to the city's foreign embassies and the presidential palace. 

An Afghan security guard was killed outside the German embassy while an unspecified number of embassy staff were wounded. The embassy building has also been badly damaged.

The German embassy in Kabul praised the Afghan security forces for stopping the bomber's truck from entering the inner part of the diplomatic enclave. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the many victims of this horrific attack and their families. This includes the heroic Afghan security guard who lost his life after stopping the vehicle at the boom gate, thus preventing even more bloodshed," the Germany embassy said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the suicide truck bombing, saying that "terrorism has no borders."

Terrorism "targets all of us - whether in Manchester or Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, St. Petersburg or today in Kabul," Merkel said in the southern German city of Nuremberg just hours after the explosion in Kabul.

Germany's foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, wrote on Twitter that he had called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Kabul and the state of the German embassy. "Such attacks do not change our resolve in continuing to support the Afghan government in the stabilization of the country," he said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the international community to put pressure on those countries that are backing Islamist militants. "The terrorist groups have used the name of Islam to once again ruthlessly kill people. They are committing war crimes and have no idea about what Islamic teachins are," Ghani said in a statement. - Read More

Death toll rises after Kabul bomb, extensive damage to German

Kabul Bombing Kills at Least 80, Shaking City Center.- NYtimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — A truck bombing near the Afghan presidential palace early Wednesday killed at least 80 people and wounded hundreds, officials said. The death toll seemed certain to rise, and the attack appeared to be one of the bloodiest of the long Afghan war.

The huge blast during the morning rush hour caused panic in much of central Kabul, shattering windows as far as a mile away. Nearly two hours after the explosion near Zanbaq Square, a crowded area in the capital that leads to the presidential palace as well as major foreign embassies, plumes of smoke were still rising from the scene.

At a time when the United States is weighing sending more troops to Afghanistan to try to halt the government’s losses, the attack on Wednesday highlighted the continued ability of militants to strike even in the most secure parts of the capital. And outside the country’s main cities, the Taliban have rapidly been seizing territory and have kept the Afghan security forces badly bloodied and on the defensive.

At a news conference in Kabul, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, the deputy interior minister, said that more than 80 people had been killed and 463 wounded.

Kabul’s police chief, Gen. Hassan Shah Frogh, said the explosives used in the blast had been in a tanker truck used to empty septic tanks. The bomb was detonated near the square just as the street turns toward the German Embassy, he said.

“The blast was so huge that it dug a big crater as deep as four meters,” or 13 feet, General Frogh said.

The German Embassy was extensively damaged, with dozens of windows blown in, the public broadcaster ARD reported. It broadcast images showing stunned civilians pressing makeshift bandages to bloody limbs, stumbling through a smoke-filled street as ambulances rushed to the scene, their sirens blaring.

Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said that an Afghan security guard employed by the embassy had been killed. He also said that several Germans had been wounded, without providing details. He condemned what he called an attack on “those who are in Afghanistan working with the people there for a better future.”

“To target these people is especially despicable,” Mr. Gabriel said.

In Germany, the blast was sure to fuel a debate over the government’s efforts to repatriate Afghans whose applications for asylum have been rejected. About 1,000 German soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force, and Germany has invested billions in military and aid to stabilize the country.

German officials have been at pains to insist that parts of Afghanistan are safe, despite an overall security situation that the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, has described as “complicated.” Hours after the blast, the government in Berlin said that a flight carrying deportees bound for Afghanistan scheduled for Wednesday had been postponed, citing logistical reasons for embassy employees on the ground.

President Ashraf Ghani called the attack “a crime against humanity.” A statement by Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, applauded the Afghan security forces for preventing the truck full of explosives from entering the Green Zone, a reference to the area that houses the headquarters of the coalition forces as well as several foreign embassies.

“The attack demonstrates a complete disregard for civilians and reveals the barbaric nature of the enemy faced by the Afghan people,” the statement said. 

Pictures from the scene showed smoke and chaos, with bloodied people on the ground as emergency personnel tried to evacuate victims. Video footage that witnesses filmed immediately after the blast showed vast destruction to the buildings in the area and people stuck in destroyed vehicles amid flames.

Most of the victims appeared to be civilians on their way to work during the morning rush hour. A BBC driver, Mohammed Nazir, as well as Aziz Navin, an information technology worker for the Afghan television channel ToloNews, were among those killed. - Read More

Kabul Bombing Kills at Least 80, Shaking City Center - The New York

Afghanistan: sent back to a war zone - DW

Germany is sending back ever greater numbers of Afghans. In the first two months of this year Germany denied more than half of all asylum applications. Sandra Petersmann spoke with deportees in their war torn home. 

Fareshta Qedeez from the International Psychosocial Organization (IPSO) says that Rahmat's situation is quite typical. "If a young person is forced to return home after having forged a strong relationship with another society, it is often very difficult for them to reintegrate into a traditional conservative society with clearly defined borders."

IPSO cares for psychologically damaged persons in war torn Afghanistan, offering them consultation and therapy. Forty years of war have left deep scars in Afghan society. IPSO receives support from Germany's Federal Foreign Office and has long established itself as a contact point for people who have been denied asylum. IPSO workers are always present at Kabul airport when charter planes arrive from Germany. Fareshta Qedeez says that about half of those deported so far have taken advantage of IPSO's services. But she says the inhibition threshold of asking for help is high: "Dishonor is a dominant element in Afghan society. We do all we can to keep that dishonor at bay. Failure is especially disgraceful in Afghan society. Deportees see themselves as disgraceful failures." - Read More

Afghanistan: sent back to a war zone | News | DW | 31.05.2017

Huge explosion rips through Kabul diplomatic quarter | Breaking News ...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Afghanistan explosion: 20 killed in blast near diplomatic area

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - A huge explosion hit near foreign embassies in Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least 20 people and injuring 300 others, Afghan officials said.

Video from the scene showed a massive plume of smoke and emergency vehicles speeding toward it. Soldiers in fatigues stood with guns drawn nearby as sounds of screams, blaring sirens and traffic pierced the morning sky.

Bystanders lifted an injured man from the back of a pickup as others hovered nearby in bloody clothes, some pressing pieces of cloth to their wounds.

The blast was caused by a suicide attack near the German Embassy, according to Najib Danish, a spokesman for the interior ministry. The health ministry said the people injured were taken to various hospitals.

Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Donati said a vehicle packed with explosives detonated close to the green zone entrance. It injured one employee and shattered windows in the newspaper's bureau, which is in the most fortified area and requires passing through several checkpoints to get there, she said.

"A lot of people come into this part of the city to work in embassies or at the military base," she said,

The green zone houses western embassies, government institutions and the residences of high-ranking officials and their families. - Read More

Kabul blast: Dozens of casualties in Afghan capital

Kabul blast: Dozens of casualties in Afghan capital - YouTube

Explosion in diplomatic area of Kabul kills 9, wounds dozens - ABCnews

A massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least nine people and wounding as many as 90, and sending a huge plume of smoke over the Afghan capital.

The target of the attack — which officials said was a suicide car bombing — was not immediately known but Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry, said most of the casualties were civilians.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.

The explosion took place at the peak of Kabul's rush hour when roads are packed with worktime commuters. It appeared to have gone off close to a busy intersection in the Wazir Akbar Khan district but Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, did not have a more precise location.

The neighborhood is considered Kabul's safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices, guarded by police and national security forces. The German Embassy, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Palace are all in the area, as are the British and the Canadian embassies. The Chinese, Turkish and Iranian embassies are also located there.

The blast was so heavy that more than 30 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged at the site of the attack. "We don't know at this moment what was the target of the attack," said Danish.

Windows were shattered in shops, restaurants and other buildings up to a kilometer (half mile) from the blast site. - Read More

Explosion in diplomatic area of Kabul kills 9, wounds dozens

Kabul blast: Dozens of casualties in Afghan capital

A huge explosion has hit the Afghan capital, Kabul, close to foreign embassies and the presidential palace.

The latest figures from the Afghan health ministry say at least nine people have been killed and 84 injured.

Early reports say the blast was caused by a vehicle bomb in central Zanbaq Square, with windows and doors blown out hundreds of metres away.

Images on social media show a large cloud of black smoke over the city and a series of destroyed vehicles.

The BBC's Harun Nazafijada in Kabul describes a chaotic scene with people being transferred to hospital.

Our correspondent says burnt-out cars are one indication of the blast's force. Images of shattered glass carpeting a large area of the square are also being shared widely on social media.

Basir Mujahid a spokesman for Kabul police, told Reuters news agency: "It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is." - Read More

Kabul blast: Dozens of casualties in Afghan capital - BBC

Will Donald Trump Embark on an Endless Crusade in Afghanistan? - National Interest

Ted Galen Carpenter
The U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is now well into its sixteenth year, making it America’s longest foreign war. Worse, there is no end in sight. In fact, military leaders are trying to convince President Trump to escalate U.S. involvement once more by sending several thousand additional troops into the fray. Pundits and foreign-policy commentators are engaged in a cottage industry to formulate yet more strategies to make the Afghanistan mission finally succeed.

There has been an American military presence in that unhappy country for so long that it is sometimes difficult to remember that the original purpose was both focused and limited. U.S. leaders justified the initial invasion in October 2001 as a necessary response to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. Foreign fighters belonging to Al Qaeda had used the country as a safe haven and base of operations to plan and execute their devastating assault. The Taliban government of Mullah Omar had treated Osama bin Laden and his followers as honored guests, enabling them to carry out their plans.

That behavior caused a decisive change in U.S. policy toward Kabul. American officials had always viewed the Taliban regime with understandable distaste, given its treatment of women, the desecration of irreplaceable historical monuments, and the overall brutal, reactionary policies. But Washington did not view the Taliban itself as a security threat that warranted U.S. intervention—until the regime became an enabler to Al Qaeda.

In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials repeatedly stressed that defeating Al Qaeda—and, if possible, killing or capturing Bin Laden—was the primary objective. Overthrowing Omar’s government was not initially a stated goal. Washington did demand, however, that Kabul sever its ties with Al Qaeda and turn over Bin Laden and the other leaders to the United States. Only when Omar rejected those demands, did Washington pursue forcible regime change. Even then, U.S. leaders did not advocate a long-term war against that indigenous Afghan faction, however odious its social policies might be.

The United States did engage in military cooperation with the Northern Alliance, the principal armed faction opposing the government in Kabul, when Washington launched the invasion of Afghanistan. Tactically, the association with the Northern Alliance paid off. Alliance personnel provided most of the ground forces while the United States supported them with devastating air power. Their joint offensive ousted the Taliban in a matter of weeks.- Read More

Will Donald Trump Embark on an Endless Crusade in Afghanistan

Trump considering sending more troops to Afghanistan - PBS

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in American history. It’s been almost 17 years since the United States invaded in retaliation for the September 11th terrorist attacks carried out by al Qaeda, the terrorist group harbored at the time by the Taliban-led government.

Joining me here to discuss this is Barnett Rubin, associate director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation. He previously worked in the Obama State Department. 

So, how do we get there? Why are we still 17 years out and we’re talking about our adversary controlling 40 percent of the country?

BARNETT RUBIN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY’S CENTER ON INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION: We never really defined what we were trying to accomplish. We had a long list of goals which were capturing and killing terrorists, and we were never exactly what are the boundary around that category was and trying to stabilize Afghanistan. Those two missions got in their way. We were distracted by Iraq. We never really had an adequate understanding of what the problem was, and we did not pay attention to the region around Afghanistan which has changed very radically in the 16 years or so that we have been there.

SREENIVASAN: It seems like there’s almost sort of two goals now that are countering each other. I mean, you can either stabilize the country or you can root out the terrorists.

RUBIN: You can have a permanent U.S. military presence there to try to strike at terrorists and other enemies and so on in the region or you can try and stabilize the country, because the country cannot be stabilized with a permanent presence of U.S. troops because most of the countries of the region don’t want us there and they let us know that by supporting the Taliban.

SREENIVASAN: What did the Obama administration get wrong?

RUBIN: Well, of course I was there. I would — I would, in my opinion, the big mistakes were, one, when Obama announced a troop surge, he should not have given a date for withdrawing it. And two, when he announced the troop surge, that was the time when he should have made very far-reaching offers of a negotiated settlement. Unfortunately, our military and many others in the government believe that you shouldn’t make any offers of negotiated settlement until you have already succeeded militarily. But that is too late. You have to do it when you are — when your capacities are increasing.

And I’m afraid they are about to make the same mistake now. They’re going to — they want to add administer troops and then they say once when they are stronger, they will make some — they will make some kind of offer of negotiation. 

SREENIVASAN: We have been talking about policy, what about the people in the ground that are somehow living through this? I mean, this kind of seesaw between a local or provincial government control and then back and forth to the Taliban control?

RUBIN: From the point of view of the people in Afghanistan, this war has been going on for almost 40 years, since there was a coup d‘etat in 1978. And you gave numbers about the numbers of people who have been killed and injured — again, that’s the last 16 years. People believe a million or more people may have been killed over the last 40 years, including the period of the Soviet intervention. So, this has really — it’s been a terrible agony that the people of Afghanistan have gone through for a long time. Of course, they have become very resilient and those of them who aren’t killed, find ways of adapting but it’s becoming more and more difficult for them. -  Read More

Trump considering sending more troops to Afghanistan | PBS NewsHour

Monday, May 29, 2017

John F Kennedy at 100 - in pictures | US news | The Guardian

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of America's most glamorous president,John F Kennedy, who was assassinated at the age of 46  -  Read More

John F Kennedy at 100 - in pictures | US news | The Guardian

Sowing the seeds of deadly radicalisation - The Guardian


The Russian Afghan war and the arms and money the US gave to the mujahideen, plus our Afghan and Iraq wars, along with the internet as a way of spreading discontent, helped turn a pathetically small number of west-hating malcontents into a growing anti-western movement. Such a movement hates and will attack all western countries, not just those which attacked Iraq etc. We cannot deny our part in radicalising part of a generation - Read More

Barry Tighe
Woodford Green, Essex 

Sowing the seeds of deadly radicalisation | Letters | UK news

Sunday, May 28, 2017

‘All refugees want to go home someday’ – UNHCR spokesperson and author Melissa Fleming

26 May 2017 – “I envy the mountains and the trees and the rocks because they will be able to breathe Daraa’s air and I won’t.” Those were the thoughts going through Doaa Al Zamel, when she and her family reached the Jordanian border. It was November 2012, one year and eight months since the violence in Syria first began.

Doaa is a refugee from Syria who now lives in Sweden. She survived one of the worst refugee shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea. In August 2014, aboard an overloaded ship carrying more than 500 refugees, Doaa became an unlikely hero.

As Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Melissa Fleming listens to stories of people fleeing for their lives every day. Although she has met many refugees and gotten to know several stories of resilience, when she came across Doaa’s story, she couldn’t sleep at night.

“Doaa’s story is particularly remarkable; the resilience and the strength of the human spirit is so evident through her story that it is one that people are really not just moved by but also inspired by,” Ms. Fleming told UN News following a recent event at the UN Bookshop in New York.

War and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since records began, with over 65 million men, women and children now displaced worldwide. According to the latest Global Trends report issued by the UN refugee agency, known as UNHCR, one in every 113 people on earth is either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee.

In order to get away from the idea of refugees as statistics, Ms. Fleming believes in a communication strategy of telling individual human stories. That is why she would “love to tell all 65 million stories of all the forced displaced people in the world.” - Read More
‘All refugees want to go home someday’ – UNHCR spokesperson and author Melissa Fleming

UNICEF urges G7 leaders to adopt six-point action plan to keep refugee children safe

Investors beg G7 to stick with Paris climate agreement

Donald Trump has been dithering over fulfilling his campaign promise to pull out of the Paris Agreement at the G7 summit in Italy. Businesses say the US must work with the rest of the world to tackle climate change.

As the world's seven largest economies meet in Italy today and tomorrow, the summit is being watched by environmentalists and companies alike for what could be a world-altering decision. Will Donald Trump pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement?

Media reports last week claimed Trump would make a decision at the summit, but those reports have been denied by the White House.

Media reports last week claimed Trump would make a decision at the summit, but those reports have been denied by the White House.

"Investors are sending a powerful signal today that climate change action must be an urgent priority in the G20 countries, especially the United States, whose commitment is in question," said Mindy Lubber, President of the sustainability non-profit Ceres, which organized the letter.

"Global investors are eager to open their wallets to a low-carbon future, but it won't happen without clear, stable policy signals from countries worldwide - in particular, the US government whose waffling on the Paris climate agreement is hugely troubling."

Environmentalists have urged the G7 to push Trump on the climate issue. - Read More

Investors beg G7 to stick with Paris climate agreement | DW

German leader meets former US President before Donald Trump, who is also in Europe

While sharing a stage with Angela Merkel at an event in Berlin to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the former president said the German Chancellor was one of his “favourite partners” during his presidency. 

During a wide-ranging address, Mr Obama discussed the issue of foreign aid in the developing world, which Mr Trump has suggested he could heavily reduce as part of his ‘America First’ stance. 

Mr Obama said: "If there are disruptions in these countries, if there is bad governance, if there is war or if there is poverty, in this new world that we live in we can't isolate ourselves.

"We can't hide behind a wall."

The speaking invitation to Mr Obama was made long before Mr Trump was elected. Commentators have said her decision to do so reflects her preference for Mr Obama, with whom she is known to be friendly. 

On Thursday’s meeting, the Chancellor and Mr Obama spoke on a range of political and foreign policy issues. 

"The world is at a crossroads," said Obama, speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate. - Read More

Barack Obama issues thinly veiled attack on Donald Trump: 'We can't ...

Barack Obama threatens to upstage Donald Trump's Europe trip as he ...