Reuters | Kabul | Mon Jan 11, 2010 | 4:41pm IST
Three U.S. service members were killed on Monday afternoon in a fight with insurgents in southern Afghanistan, NATO-led forces said in a statement. Last year was by far the deadliest year of the Afghan war for Western forces. Both the United States and Britain lost more than twice as many troops as in any previous year, the vast majority of them killed by roadside bombs. NATO forces dealt with over 7,200 of these bombs, or improvised explosive devices, in 2009, up from just 81 in 2001.
U.S. President Barack Obama is sending in 30,000 extra troops as part of his new war strategy, to try to turn the tide. Other NATO countries are sending some 7,000 more. No further details about the deaths on Monday were immediately available.
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/03 | 10:19:21 GMT
Italy is to send about 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, say reports. The move comes two days after US President Barack Obama announced that America was sending 30,000 more forces to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. Mr. Obama has asked NATO allies to increase their deployments in Afghanistan, but several European nations are reluctant to do so. The alliance’s foreign ministers meet in Brussels for two days of talks expected to focus on the US request.
In an interview published on Thursday, Italy’s Defence Minister, Ignazio La Russa, confirmed reports that Rome would send about 1,000 extra soldiers to the country. Mr. La Russa told the Corriere della Sera newspaper suggestions in the media that 1,500 soldiers could be sent were “just a hypothesis.” He said the figure was “a maximum quota which we would never reach,” reported ‘Reuters’ news agency. Italy currently has 3,200 soldiers serving in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the conflict was a test of NATO’s “credibility” and that it was “clear that Italy must finish the job started with NATO.”
America has asked for 10,000 more forces from NATO allies to help win a war that has in recent months turned increasingly bloody. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said other NATO countries will provide at least 5,000 extra personnel, and “probably a few Continue reading
NYT | December 2, 2009
President Obama announced Tuesday that he would speed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in coming months, but he vowed to start bringing American forces home in the middle of 2011, saying the United States could not afford and should not have to shoulder an open-ended commitment. Promising that he could “bring this war to a successful conclusion,” Mr. Obama set out a strategy that would seek to reverse Taliban gains in large parts of Afghanistan, better protect the Afghan people, increase the pressure on Afghanistan to build its own military capacity and a more effective government and step up attacks on Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
“America, we are passing through a time of great trial,” Mr. Obama said. “And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.” The military escalation Mr. Obama described and defended in his speech to a national television audience and 4,000 cadets at the United States Military Academy here, the culmination of a review that lasted three months, could well prove to be the most consequential decision of Mr. Obama’s presidency. In his 33-minute address, he sought to convince an increasingly skeptical nation that the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the continued existence of Al Qaeda across the border in Pakistan — what he called a “cancer” on the region — were direct threats to the United States, and that he could achieve the seemingly contradictory goals of expanding American involvement in the war even as he sought to bring it to a close. Continue reading
Bloomberg | November 25, 2009 | 18:37 EST
The U.S. and Israel are trying to force Russia to halt the sale of an $800 million missile system to Iran that will help protect nuclear plants, the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps said. “Delay in the delivery of Russia’s S-300 missile system to Iran is the result of pressure from the U.S. and Israel,” state-run Press TV cited Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying yesterday in Tehran. Russia and Iran signed the agreement for the sale of the S- 300 surface-to-air system in 2007. Iran will “pursue its implementation through legal bodies” if the sale is delayed, Press TV cited military spokesman Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian as saying two days ago.
Iran, under three sets of United Nations sanctions for refusing to halt enriching uranium, is this week holding military exercises to assess its capability to protect nuclear plants. The government in Tehran rejects assertions by the U.S. and its European allies that its nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian program is for peaceful use, such as electricity production, the government says. While Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, limited refining capacity forces it to import about a third of its gasoline. Russia hasn’t violated its Continue reading
ABC News | RACHEL MARTIN | Nov. 15, 2009
Uptick in Violence Takes Its Toll on the Troops; Same Group of Soldiers on Repeat Tours
As President Obama weighs his decision about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, another factor has come into play, the declining morale of U.S. troops there. It has been eight years since the first U.S. combat troops put boots on the ground in Afghanistan and many of them have since been deployed three, four or even five times. The strain is taking its toll. According to a recent report by the U.S. Army, soldiers’ perception of their units’ morale has dramatically decreased over the past two years. In 2007, the percentage of soldiers who said their units’ morale was high was 10.2 percent. In 2009, only 5.7 percent reported high morale.
Barbara Van Dahlen is a psychologist and founder of Give an Hour, an organization that provides free mental health services to service members and their families. “We are seeing the wear and tear on this military population, absolutely,” Van Dahlan says. “They’re tired. That’s what people kind of say over and over again,” she says. “You meet with families, you talk with people on base, they’re tired. They’re still doing their job. They’re still dedicated to the mission, but they’re tired.” The war in Afghanistan now rivals the Revolutionary War and Vietnam as the longest American war in history, but military experts say the war in Afghanistan is different in one key way. Unlike the other long wars, this Continue reading
NYT | WILLIAM J. BROAD | November 20, 2009
In a new report, a secretive federal panel has concluded that programs to extend the life of the nation’s aging nuclear arms are sufficient to guarantee their destructiveness for decades to come, obviating a need for a costly new generation of more reliable warheads. The finding, by the Jason panel, an independent group of scientists that advises the federal government on issues of science and technology, bears on the growing debate over whether the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or, instead, prepare for the design of new nuclear arms. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and other Republicans have argued that concerns are growing over the reliability of the United States’ aging nuclear stockpile and that the possible need for new designs means that the nation should retain the right to conduct underground tests of new nuclear weapons. The testing issue is expected to flare in the months ahead when the Obama administration submits the test ban treaty for ratification by the Senate, where it faces a tough fight. The White House is building a case that advanced technologies make any additions to the nuclear arsenal unnecessary and would also allow the United States to verify that other countries are refraining from underground testing. Continue reading
Reuters | Thu, Nov 19 | 05:27 AM
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is to be sworn into office for a second full term on Thursday as he struggles to rebuild a tarnished reputation and convince the West he is still a credible partner after eight years of war. His inauguration comes against the backdrop of a rising Taliban insurgency, doubts over Karzai’s legitimacy after an election tainted by fraud and complaints his government is riddled with corruption. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her first visit to Afghanistan as the top U.S. diplomat, and her British, French and Turkish counterparts are among 300 foreign dignitaries to attend the ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul. “There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai and his government to make a new compact with the people of Afghanistan, to demonstrate clearly that you’re going to have accountability and tangible results that will improve the lives of the people,” Clinton said in the Afghan capital on Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama will announce soon whether he will send up to 40,000 more troops to fight an increasingly unpopular war. He said on Wednesday he aims to bring the conflict to an end before he leaves office. “My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president. One of the things I’d like is the next president to be able to come in and say ‘I’ve got a clean slate’,” he told CNN. General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, wants tens of thousands of additional troops, warning that without them, the war will probably be lost. Continue reading
Reuters | Yahoo | Thu, Nov 19 | 03:18 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a strong warning to Iran on Thursday of consequences of its failure to respond to the offer of a nuclear deal and could have a package of steps to take “within weeks.” But Iran’s foreign minister rejected talk of further sanctions, saying the West had learnt from “failed experiences” of the past. Iran on Wednesday rejected a deal to send enriched uranium abroad for further processing, defying Washington and its allies which had called on Tehran to accept a deal which aimed to delay Iran’s potential ability to make bombs by at least a year by divesting the country of most of its enriched uranium. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had said Iran should send some 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it would be turned into fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor.
“Iran has taken weeks now and has not shown its willingness to say yes to this proposal … and so as a consequence we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences,” Obama said at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during a visit to Seoul. He said Iran would not be given an unlimited amount of time, likening the Iranian nuclear issue to the years of stop-and-start negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear ambitions. “We weren’t going to duplicate what has happened with North Korea, in which talks just continue forever without any actual resolution to the issue,” said Obama, who has advocated a policy of increased engagement, rather than confrontation, on thorny international issues. Continue reading
ABC NEWS Business Unit | Nov. 18, 2009
The Wall Street firm that has arguably taken the most heat for its multibillion-dollar employee compensation will donate $500 million for a new program to help small businesses. Goldman Sachs, widely viewed as the biggest bank to suffer the least damage from the world’s financial crisis, said Tuesday it will join forces with billionaire investor and Goldman stakeholder Warren Buffett on “10,000 Small Businesses.” The program will provide capital to small businesses in underserved areas and education aid to small business owners. “Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and growth in America’s economy,” Goldman CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein said in a statement released Tuesday. “We are pleased to work with our partners in this initiative to support small business owners, particularly those in underserved communities.”
Goldman Sachs, which received and later paid back $10 billion in federal Troubled Asset Relief Program funds during the financial crisis, has set aside $16.7 billion for employee compensation so far this year and is on track to pay out an average $700,000 per employee. The $500 million program amounts to less than 3 percent of Goldman’s employee compensation pool. There’s been rampant speculation that the bank Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/11/17 | 10:26:48 GMT
Regulators involved in the rescue of AIG may have overpaid other banks when cutting a deal, a report says. The New York Fed paid AIG’s business partners face value for securities so they would cancel insurance-like contracts AIG had written. But officials used a weak negotiating strategy, Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky’s report said. AIG was initially bailed out for $85bn (£50bn), but its total rescue package eventually amounted to over $180bn. The report criticised both the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the US Federal Reserve for failing to use their “considerable leverage” to force AIG’s counterparties to accept less than the full amount for the assets. As a result, 16 banks, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale and Royal Bank of Scotland, were paid more than $62bn. The initial bail-out “was done with almost no independent consideration of the terms of the transaction or the impact that those terms might have on the future of AIG,” the report said. It also criticised the New York Fed, chaired at the time by current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, for insisting that all banks be treated equally in negotiations and for not treating US banks differently from foreign institutions. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/11/17 | 08:42:04 GMT
The presidents of China and the US have agreed to work together to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. On climate change, Barack Obama said both sides agreed on the need for a comprehensive global deal in Copenhagen next month, not a political statement. Mr. Obama and Hu Jintao also agreed to push for North Korea to re-enter stalled talks on its nuclear programme. But underlying tensions were referred to, with Hu Jintao calling for joint opposition to trade protectionism. The two leaders held two hours of talks in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, on the edge of Tiananmen Square. Both leaders then held a joint media event at which they read out statements, but took no questions from listening journalists.
Mr. Obama came to China for his first visit as president emphasising that China was now a major player on the world stage – and he turned to that point again in Beijing. “The major challenges of the 21st Century from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone,” he said. With world leaders, meeting in Copenhagen next month to discuss how to tackle global warming, climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue to resolve. Mr. Obama appeared to raise hopes that a deal could be struck in Copenhagen. “Our aim there is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but Continue reading
Reuters | Tue Nov 17, 2009 | 6:38pm IST
Iran said it temporarily boosted gasoline production by about 30 percent on Tuesday to show the West it can cope with any sanctions targeting its fuel imports. Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi said the move to raise output by 14 million litres per day increased total output to 58.5 million litres. Domestic consumption stands at about 66.5 million litres per day. The higher production level, carried out at three southern plants, would only last for a few days, he said, making clear it was not economical in the long run. “With this move we would like to show that the West cannot use any limitations on selling gasoline to Iran as a tool against the Islamic Republic,” Mirkazemi told a news conference. He also said Iran faced no problems in importing gasoline as it had a “good list” of suppliers. It also had at least 1.5 billion litres in storage at all times. “Today, no new limitations, either from America or any other country, can be imposed against the Iranian nation,” he said. Iran is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter but lacks sufficient refining capacity to meet domestic gasoline needs, forcing it to import up to 40 percent of requirements. This makes Iran vulnerable to any Western decision to target the gasoline trade as a way to put pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme. Iran says it is aimed at generating electricity but the United States and other Western governments say they believe it is seeking to build an atomic bomb. Iranian officials have repeatedly shrugged off the impact of sanctions, including three rounds imposed by the U.N. “Despite all restrictions in the past 30 years, Iran has become stronger day by day,” Mirkazemi said. A U.S. Senate panel last month cleared a bill to impose sanctions on companies providing gasoline to Iran and to limit other dealings if talks fail to resolve the standoff. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/11/17 | 00:20:54 GMT
Iran has played down a report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog that found questions remained unanswered about a nuclear facility near the city of Qom. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran must explain the history and purpose of the recently declared site. But chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh said the report was “repetitive” and Tehran had handed over all information on the facility. Iran denies claims by some Western nations it is developing nuclear arms. A UN team was allowed access to inspect the Qom site last month. In its report, the IAEA said the delayed declaration of the plant raised concerns about other possible secret sites.
Mr. Soltaniyeh told al-Alam TV: “Iran has provided all information about the new facility and the material inside it. “We will later proceed with installing the required equipment. The facility will go online in 2011. He said he was “comfortable” with the report, as it confirmed Iran was “fully co-operating” and that the activities at Qom were “in accordance with the IAEA instructions and limitations.” “Inspectors scoured the facility for two complete days. Everything was compatible with the non-proliferation treaty,” he said. Iran revealed the existence of the Fordo enrichment facility, which is being built about 30km (20 miles) north of Qom, in September. The IAEA report said this did “not contribute to the building of confidence” and “gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities not declared to the agency.” Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/09/25 | 08:37:12 GMT
Extensive diplomatic efforts towards reviving Mid-East peace talks have yielded little. The US has continued to demand Israel freeze settlement activity in the West Bank, while Palestinians refuse to negotiate without a freeze. In the second of a two-part investigation, the BBC’s Martin Asser sees the effect of settlements on the lives of Palestinians. They are called the Seven Villages, situated north-west of Jerusalem where the West Bank hills fall away towards the Mediterranean. Though their inhabitants live within the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governorate, few get to visit Jerusalem – though the city was “like a mother to us” one man said. While Israelis in nearby Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc zip to Jerusalem by car in minutes, the Palestinian villagers need permission from Israel’s military authorities. If they don’t get permission, apparently the norm, there are roundabout ways past Israel’s defences and into the city, but this risks jail and a stiff fine. Israel says all restrictions are imposed to prevent Palestinian militants wreaking havoc with suicide bombings. But, the Seven Villages is known as a quiet area. Israeli soldiers I spoke to said there was very little militant activity. Palestinian residents insist they are peaceable folk – famers, labourers, some professionals – who just want to live normal, decent lives. Continue reading
Joes Mercury News | Malalai Joya | November 11, 2009 "SJMN"
As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country. Eight years ago, women’s rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women’s rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media. In 2001, the U.S. helped return to power the worst misogynist criminals, such as the Northern Alliance warlords and druglords. These men ought to be considered a photocopy of the Taliban. The only difference is that the Northern Alliance warlords wear suits and ties and cover their faces with the mask of democracy while they occupy government positions. But they are responsible for much of the disaster today in Afghanistan, thanks to the U.S. support they enjoy.
The U.S. and its allies are getting ready to offer power to the medieval Taliban by creating an imaginary category called the “moderate Taliban” and inviting them to join the government. A man, who was near the top of the list of most-wanted terrorists eight years ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been invited to join the government. Over the past eight years, the U.S. has helped turn my country into the drug capital of the world through its support of drug lords. Today, 93 percent of all opium in the world is produced in Afghanistan. Many members of Parliament and high ranking officials openly benefit from the drug trade. President Karzai’s own brother is a well known drug trafficker. Continue reading