Friday, August 16, 2019

Lindsey Graham pushes Trump to keep military presence in Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No deal yet with the Taliban, but Trump is planning big cuts in U.S. presence - Latimes

Another round of talks aimed at resolving nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan has ended without a deal, but the Trump administration is moving ahead regardless with plans to substantially cut the number of U.S. troops and diplomats in the conflicted country.
An overly hasty downsizing of U.S. military, diplomatic and aid personnel could risk sacrificing some of the progress made in human rights and development, some experts warn — especially if no meaningful peace treaty is in place. At the same time, U.S. patience for America’s longest conflict is at an end.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the adminstration’s special envoy for Afghan peace talks, was headed back to Washington on Wednesday to “consult the next steps” after what he described as 10 days of “productive” talks with Taliban leaders in Qatar that focused on technical issues.

”I hope this is the last Eid where #Afghanistan is at war,” he said in a Twitter message marking the Islamic holiday. “I know Afghans yearn for peace. We stand with them and are working hard toward a lasting & honorable peace agreement and a sovereign Afghanistan which poses no threat to any other country.”

The deal that Khalilzad is attempting to negotiate with the Taliban would remove around half of an estimated 20,000 U.S. and other foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the country would not once again host radical Islamic militants.

Khalilzad suggested some progress had been made on those points. But it appeared that virtually no advances were made on other U.S. demands, including that the Taliban also negotiate directly with Afghan government officials. The Taliban does not recognize the government in Kabul, saying it is a puppet of the West. - Read More

Monday, August 05, 2019

Dow ends nearly 770 points lower as intensifying trade tensions trigger stock rout

Stocks suffered their biggest one-day decline of 2019 on Monday as China allowed its currency to fall to a more-than-10-year low versus the dollar after President Donald Trump rattled markets by announcing additional tariffs on Chinese goods late last week.

Stocks ended off of session lows, which had seen the Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, -2.90%  drop by more than 900 points, but still suffered sharp losses. The Dow ended the day down 767.27 points, or 2.9%, at 25,717.74 , while the S&P 500 SPX, -2.98% declined 87.31 points, or 3%, to close at 2,844.74. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -3.47% shed 278.03 points to finish at 7,726.04, a decline of 3.5%, as China-sensitive tech stocks came under pressure.

The rout marked the biggest one-day selloff, in percentage terms, for the Dow since Dec. 24 and the biggest drop for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq since Dec. 4. The drop marked the lowest close for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq since June 6 and the lowest finish for the Dow since June 5. It left the S&P 500 off 6% from its record close set on July 26, while the Nasdaq is off 7.3% from its all-time closing high set the same day and the Dow has pulled back 6% from its July 15 record finish.

The steep selloff came just one trading day after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq had their biggest weekly declines of 2019. - Read More

Dow ends nearly 770 points lower as intensifying trade tensions ...

Saturday, August 03, 2019

How Pakistan Is Playing Washington—Again - Foreign Policy

Trump thinks he can get Imran Khan to help as he exits Afghanistan. History suggests otherwise.

This week, U.S. President Donald Trump held out extravagant hopes to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, suggesting he wanted to resume security aid, multiply bilateral trade many times over, and even try to mediate the decades-old Kashmir issue with India (claiming, falsely, that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him for help).

Trump’s friendly display represented a major presidential entreaty with a singular goal: to induce Pakistan “to help us out to extricate ourselves” from neighboring Afghanistan, as the president put it.

To many experts and former U.S. officials dealing with Pakistan, Trump’s pleas had a familiar ring and promised similar results: Islamabad will smile and say yes to most things, and then go on with its close relationship with the Taliban—including welcoming the radical Islamist forces as they retake Kabul following a U.S. withdrawal.

“They are so good at this game—literally rope a dope,” said Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Their incentive is to bait and bleed the United States and extract as many goodies (at one point a nuclear arsenal) out of us as they can. And we have been baited and bled for 40 years. This is the most profitable franchise in Pakistani history.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, who has said he experienced Pakistani duplicity firsthand when the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was attacked—allegedly by what Crocker called “Pakistan-based insurgents”—said he views Trump’s outreach as part of an awkward departure plan that all sides will see through.

“I have had this sense from the start that by going into talks with the Taliban, without the Afghan government being there, we’ve effectively been saying, ‘We surrender.’ I see this as a pretty clumsily managed part of that overall endeavor,” Crocker told Foreign Policy.

Pakistan, Crocker added, may well induce the Taliban—who will be willing to go along—to accede to U.S. demands that the militants no longer attack U.S. forces, but that will only be a ruse to accelerate an American departure. And no matter what Khan might promise Trump, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency and military will continue to oversee their active support of the Taliban, he said. - Read More