Sunday, June 30, 2019

Afghan Taliban say latest talks with US are ‘critical’

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban said Sunday that the latest round of peace talks with the United States is “critical” as the two sides “rewrite” a draft agreement in which American forces would withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the insurgents that they would fight terrorism.

“We are working to rewrite the draft agreement and incorporate in it clauses that have been agreed upon,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press on the second day of talks with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar, where the militant group maintains a political office.

He cautioned that while the work was continuing, it is “not finished yet.”

The two sides are trying to hammer out agreements that would see the eventual withdrawal of over 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan and the end of America’s longest-running war. The agreements are expected to include guarantees that Afghanistan will not harbor groups like al-Qaida, which was based there in the lead-up to the Sept. 11 attacks, and that the Taliban will continue fighting the Islamic State group, which has expanded its footprint in recent years. 

The latest round of talks began on Saturday and is expected to continue into the next week. 

The two sides sat down to negotiate just days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was hopeful of reaching a deal by Sept. 1 to end Afghanistan’s protracted war. - Read More

Afghan Taliban say latest talks with US are 'critical' - AP News

World Pride underscores that all people are born ‘free and equal’ in dignity and human rights

The empowering message straight from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights" resonated on Sunday from UN-GLOBE members who participated in the World Pride parade in New York City.

Their signs brought to life UDHR’s stirring words: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security" and "Act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood".

Among other things, the United Nations inter-agency group combats homophobia, biphobia and transphobia throughout the UN system. - Read More

World Pride underscores that all people are born ‘free and equal’ in dignity and human rights

Amidst ‘high political tension’, UN chief appeals to G20 leaders for stronger commitment to climate action, economic cooperation

The annual G20 summit of leaders from the largest and fastest-growing economies, got underway on Friday in Osaka, Japan, against a backdrop of what UN Secretary-General António Guterres described as “a moment of high political tension”.

“We have global warming, but we have also global political warming, and this can be seen in relation to trade and technology conflicts, it can be seen in relation to situations in several parts of the world, namely the Gulf”, he told reporters before addressing the summit, referring to recent attacks on oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.  - Read More

Amidst ‘high political tension’, UN chief appeals to G20 leaders for stronger commitment to climate action, economic cooperation 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

As Trudeau and Trump meet, U.S. president says he will press China to release detained Canadians

WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he would press China’s president Xi Jinping to release two detained Canadians when he meets with him next week at the G20 summit, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat listening.

Trudeau was respectful, but eyed his host warily as Trump responded to reporters’ questions in the Oval Office during a photo opportunity about the fallout from Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer.

Trudeau’s third official meeting in Washington with the unpredictable president went as well as any Canadian official had expected, and the main takeaway was the apparent restoration of normal relations between Trudeau and Trump after last year’s disastrous G7 meeting in Charlevoix.

As if to confirm the Canadian team’s view expressed privately to reporters, Trump tweeted afterward it was his “great honor” to host the Canadian prime minister. Trump’s tone stood in stark contrast to his insulting tweets last year that Trudeau was meek, mild, weak and dishonest. - Read More

As Trudeau and Trump meet, U.S. president says he will press China ...

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds press conference at Canadia...

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds press conference at ...

WATCH: Trump and Trudeau talk U.S.-Canada trade

WATCH: Trump and Trudeau talk U.S.-Canada trade - YouTube

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Why Food Reformers Have Mixed Feelings About Eco-Labels

Take a walk through the grocery story; the packages are talking to you, proclaiming their moral virtue, appealing to your ideals: organic, cage-free, fair trade.

When I dug into the world of eco-labels recently, I was surprised to find that some of the people who know these labels best are ambivalent about them.

Take Rebecca Thistlethwaite, for example. She has spent most of her life trying to build a better food system, one that's good for the environment and humane for animals. Right now, she directs the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, which helps young farmers figure out how to make a living at it.

"I would never do away with labels. I think farmers need to be able to tell their story," she says. The words "organic" or "pasture raised" can help tell that story.

Yet many of these labels also frustrate her. There's often a gap between what they seem to promise and what they actually deliver. Marketing fills that gap.

(For a list of some labels and what they really mean, you can jump to the bottom of this story.)

For instance, "free-range" eggs probably came from hens that spent most or all of their lives indoors. And then there's "non-GMO." - Read More

Why Food Reformers Have Mixed Feelings About Eco-Labels

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Winning in Afghanistan Requires Taking the Fight to Pakistan - The National Interest

The stability of Afghanistan—and the denial of its territory to terrorist groups—requires a good-faith Pakistani agreement to cease backing extremists, and after nearly two decades, this means, coercing Pakistan.

S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was in Washington, DC last week to brief Capitol Hill on his ongoing talks with the Taliban. The senators were unimpressed, and with reason. There any many flaws in Khalilzad’s plan: It revives the pre-9/11 formula of legitimizing Taliban rule in exchange for a Taliban pledge to close terror camps; it undercuts the legitimacy of the elected Afghan government; and it discounts the Taliban’s long history of insincere diplomacy and fleeting commitments. The biggest problem with Khalilzad’s approach, however, is it ignores a simple fact: There can be no peace in Afghanistan so long as Pakistan chooses to undercut Afghan stability and support extremism. The missing piece to the Khalilzad strategy, therefore, is how to bring Pakistan to heel.

Why Pakistan Supports Radicalism
Pakistan has been a problem for decades. While a Cold War ally, the distrust toward the United States among ordinary Pakistanis and the country’s elite is pronounced. Pakistani officials understand that the Truman administration only allied with Pakistan after India spurned the United States. Pakistani officials have also convinced themselves that Washington betrayed their country in both 1965 and 1971 when the United States did not come to Pakistan’s rescue during its wars with India. From Pakistan’s perspective, India was the aggressor and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) obliged the United States to enter the conflict. From the U.S. perspective, however, Pakistan initiated the fight, the United States was therefore not obliged and, regardless, U.S. forces were busy in Southeast Asia.

The 1971 secession of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) shook Pakistan to its core. After all, Pakistan was meant to be an Islamic state, but Bengali succession showed both how potent ethnic nationalism was, and how it posed an existential threat to the country. It was then that the Pakistani military broadly and the Inter-Services Intelligence specifically concluded that Pakistani security depended upon the spread of radical Islamism so that religion could trump ethnicity as the primary identity across the country.

This impacted Afghanistan for the simple reason that Pakistani authorities fear a strong, stable Afghanistan could become a magnet for Pakistan’s own Pashtun minority. After the Soviet invasion, Pakistan channeled aid exclusively to more religious rather than nationalist Afghan groups empowering the “Peshawar Seven” Mujahedin over a far broader array of anti-Soviet opposition. The United States had little choice but to go along since delivering aid to Afghanistan was even more dependent upon Pakistan than it is now (given that Iran was in the throes of revolution and Central Asian states were still under Soviet domination).

So what to do? Neither President Donald Trump nor, for that matter, the American electorate wants to stay in Afghanistan into perpetuity, at a cost of more than $30 billion per year. That, however, does not make negotiating a bad deal or a thinly veiled surrender wise. The United States is in Afghanistan for a reason—to prevent its territory from being used by Al Qaeda or like-minded groups to strike at the United States. To abandon Afghanistan to a force that cooperates fist-in-glove with Al Qaeda simply negates the sacrifice already made. Nor are Britain’s Irish Republican Army negotiations and Good Friday accords a useful analogy for the Afghanistan peace process for the simple fact that Northern Ireland never bordered a country like Pakistan.

If the Afghan peace process is to succeed, then the United States must bring the full weight of leverage to bear on Pakistan in order to win a cessation of Pakistani support for the Taliban. Despite decades of tension, and occasional sanctions mostly applied over the nuclear issue, the United States has many options in its diplomatic arsenal as yet unused in its quest to compel Pakistan to reduce support to the Taliban or to raise the cost of defiance. - Read More


Winning in Afghanistan Requires Taking the Fight to Pakistan | The ...


For many Americans, Afghanistan resembles a slow-motion train wreck—you could see the disaster coming from a mile away, yet you still find it hard to avert your eyes.

Despite spending over $740 billion—$132 billion in reconstruction assistance alone—Afghanistan remains mired in conflict. A day doesn't go by when some act of violence occurs, whether it's a Taliban ambush against an Afghan army checkpoint or an airstrike that goes tragically wrong. The country's politicians are often as consumed with infighting, score-settling, and personal grievance as they are in delivering for the Afghan people.

Afghanistan is still one of the most corrupt places on the planet, notwithstanding the anti-corruption and rule of law initiatives designed and financed by the United States. Kabul's health sector, severely impacted by the strains of war and a lack of donor support, is badly underfunded and under-delivering. Indeed, the violence could get even worse; if the U.S. and Iran are unable to deescalate tensions that have arisen over the past few weeks, Afghanistan could quickly become another front in the 40-year rivalry between the two nations. The Afghan people would bear the ultimate cost.

After 18 years of fighting and advising, I believe the American people would supporta full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan if President Trump gave the order. And yet while this sentiment is more than understandable, it's incumbent upon the Trump administration to get the best possible deal on behalf of America's national security. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and the administration's point man on the conflict, has been assigned this difficult task.

We don't know where the process will lead or whether an agreement with the Taliban is even possible. But what can be said for sure is that the current diplomacy, warts and all, is the best possible avenue for the United States and the Afghan people. While it has become a cliche, there really is no military solution to the war.

If Washington hopes to finally redeploy our forces out of Afghanistan and end a war that has proceeded for what feels like an eternity, it needs to dedicate as much time and energy into the peace track as it has in bombing Taliban positions. The entire national security apparatus across the inter-agency needs to support Khalilzad's efforts, regardless of how complicated they may be.

Not all deals, however, are created equal. Any agreement with the Taliban must be worthy of the considerable sacrifices U.S. troops have endured through countless deployments over the last 18 years. - Read More

Here Is What America Must Get Right Before It Leaves Afghanistan ...

Friday, June 07, 2019

ICC prosecutor asks to appeal rejection of Afghanistan probe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Friday sought to appeal the court’s rejection of an investigation into crimes linked to the conflict in Afghanistan by rebels, government security services and American forces.

In a 17-page document seeking clearance to file an appeal, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said an appeal could clarify crucial issues raised by judges who rejected her request to open an investigation, and would “benefit the court in its work as a whole.”

A panel of pre-trial judges in April rejected the proposed investigation, saying it would not be in the interests of justice because an investigation and prosecution were unlikely to be successful as those targeted — including the United States, Afghan authorities and the Taliban — are not expected to cooperate.

Bensouda said that such an argument is contrary to the reason the court was established — to prosecute grave crimes when national authorities are unwilling or unable to do so.

“While the Prosecution is very mindful of the challenges in pursuing investigations or prosecutions in circumstances when cooperation is limited ... it remains the case that these challenges are part of its statutory responsibility,” the prosecutor wrote.

Rights groups in April slammed the decision to reject an investigation as a blow to Afghan victims seeking justice.

Patrick Baudouin, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, called the rejection a “dark day for justice” and a “shocking decision, which is based on a deeply flawed reasoning.”

Among issues Bensouda wants to appeal is whether the pre-trial judges even have the power to reject her request based on their determination of the interests of justice. - Read More

ICC prosecutor asks to appeal rejection of Afghanistan probe - AP News

ICC prosecutor presses for Afghanistan crimes investigation

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed a request on Friday seeking to overturn the rejection of her planned investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan allegedly committed by both Taliban insurgents and U.S. troops.

In April, the court refused lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to open an investigation into alleged atrocities by all sides during the nearly two-decade conflict.

Bensouda’s new filing, which will be heard by a trial court, was the first step in the legal process to appeal the refusal.

ICC prosecutors had identified the Taliban and its affiliates, the Afghan authorities, and members of the U.S. armed forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as potential perpetrators of crimes under the court’s statute.

The court’s decision to block an investigation “affects not only the outcome of any trial but also the very possibility of a trial occurring,” the filing said. - Read More

ICC prosecutor presses for Afghanistan crimes investigation - Reuters

Thursday, June 06, 2019

D-Day 75th Anniversary: Trump, Macron And Other Leaders Mark A Historic Day

"They won back this ground for civilization," President Trump said of the Allied troops who took part in the massive D-Day invasion 75 years ago today. Trump stood on a stage near Omaha Beach in northern France, alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders who thanked U.S. veterans and their allies for preserving liberty.

The commemoration in Normandy, France, marks the 75th anniversary of the massive amphibious invasion in which more than 150,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops forced their way onto France's shores to bring the fight to Adolf Hitler. They were supported by nearly 7,000 naval vessels and more than 11,000 aircraft in one of the most important operations of World War II.

More than 160 World War II veterans sat in rows on a red-carpeted stage during the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. They included dozens of men who landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

"You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of the republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Trump told the veterans.

Trump noted that Allied fighters also came from Poland, Norway, Australia and other countries. "They were the citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn," he said. - Read More

D-Day 75th Anniversary: Trump, Macron And Other Leaders Mark A Historic Day

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

In His U.K. Visit, Trump Navigates A Strained Trans-Atlantic Relationship

The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom may not feel very special at the moment. President Trump's three-day visit to the U.K. got off to a rocky start on Monday, when he launched a Twitter attack on London Mayor Sadiq Khan as Air Force One was preparing to land.

That bitter exchange is a far cry from the way the trans-Atlantic friendship is memorialized at Brookwood American Cemetery, in the leafy county of Surrey, a 40-minute train ride southwest of London. More than 460 U.S. service members and civilians who died during or after World War I are buried there. Inscribed on the walls of the cemetery's chapel are the names of more than 500 Americans who were lost in the surrounding seas, including the 131 crew and passengers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa, which was sunk by a German torpedo in the fall of 1918.

In one corner of the lush lawn stands a marble cross that illustrates the early days of what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would eventually call the "special relationship," the unusually close political, cultural and military ties between the U.K. and its most successful former colony.

Written on the cross is the name Wayne Hart Moore, identified as a second lieutenant of the British Royal Air Force. Moore joined the U.S. Army from Arkansas, says Gail Anderson, a guide at the cemetery, which is overseen by the American Battle Monuments Commission. - Read More

In His U.K. Visit, Trump Navigates A Strained Trans-Atlantic Relationship