Oct 162017
Suspected U.S. Drone Strikes Kill 20 Militants Near Pakistani-Afghan Border

Missile strikes by a suspected U.S. drone hit a militant compound in the Kurram tribal region close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border late on October 16, killing 20 extremists, intelligence officials said.Five militants were initially reported killed but a later search of the compound found 15 more bodies, the officials said.It appeared to be the second such strike since U.S. President Donald Trump in August accused Pakistan of offering safe havens to extremists. An attack in the same region in September left three people dead and two wounded.Officials said the number of militants present in the compound struck on October 16 showed the site was a main center for Haqqani network militants in the area.Intelligence officials said the target of the drone strike was Haqqani commander Abu Bakar.Officials said the missile strikes occurred very close to the porous border with Afghanistan in mountainous terrain. Some Pakistani officials said they occurred on Afghan territory.The strikes came a day after roadside bombs killed four Pakistani security troops engaged in a search operation for militants in Kurram.Pakistan considers U.S. drone strikes a violation of its sovereignty. Washington accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens for militants, which Pakistan denies.Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif said on Geo TV that the United States should not make any drone strikes in either Afghanistan or Pakistan at a time when Afghan peace talks have resumed. He said the matter would definitely be taken up in talks with U.S. leaders.Four-nation talks on peace and stability in Afghanistan started on October [Read More…]

Oct 122017

PARIS: The United States announced on Thursday that it was withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational agency, complaining about how it is run and about what Washington described as bias against Israel. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. The withdrawal of the US, which provides a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, is a severe blow for the Paris-based organisation which began work in 1946 and is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park. UNESCO report places Pakistan in bottom 10 in female education Under UNESCO rules, the withdrawal will become effective as of the end of December 2018. Until that time, the US, which provides around $80 million to UNESCO annually, will remain a full member. The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, most of them based in Paris, has long been the object of criticism over its use of resources and resolutions that have been perceived by Israel and other countries as biased. Director General Irina Bokova expressed disappointment at the US decision. “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack,” she said. “This is a loss to the United [Read More…]

Oct 042017

ISLAMABAD: The United States has agreed to accommodate Pakistan’s interests and address its concerns over the recent strategy announced by President Donald Trump for Afghanistan and South Asia, the Foreign Office said in a statement on Wednesday. The statement, which came after talks between Secretary of States Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Khawja Asif in Washington, said the United States underlined the importance of Pakistan’s critical role for peace and stability in Afghanistan. The high-level talks were held against the backdrop of simmering tensions between Pakistan and the US. Islamabad is upset over Trump’s new roadmap for Afghanistan which on the one hand seeks a greater role for India in the region and on the other hand questions Pakistan’s credentials in the fight against terrorism. Tillerson denies considered resigning from Trump admin In his policy speech on August 21, Trump had said Pakistan would have to change its approach of supporting and harbouring certain militant outfits. Pakistan has rejected the allegations and says it could not be made scapegoat for failures in Afghanistan. During the talks at the State Department, the foreign minister pointed out that Pakistan was winning its war against terrorism. In contrast to other countries, incidents of terrorism in Pakistan have seen a marked decline – with a salutary impact on economic and commercial activity. “This was made possible because Pakistan has pursued zero-tolerance and indiscriminate approach in its campaign against all terrorist and militant groups,” he told the top US top diplomat. According to the Foreign Office [Read More…]

Aug 092017
Frustrated with Trump, McCain Unveils Afghan War Strategy

WASHINGTON In a rebuke of President Donald Trump, Arizona Sen. John McCain declared Thursday that “America is adrift in Afghanistan” as he unveiled a war strategy of his own that includes more U.S. combat forces and greater counterterrorism efforts.McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. needs to put strict conditions on continued assistance to Afghanistan requiring Kabul to demonstrate “measurable progress” in curbing corruption, strengthening the rule of law, and improving the government’s financial transparency.“Nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened,” said McCain, a leading voice in Congress on national security matters. “The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander in chief.”McCain said he’ll seek a vote on his “strategy for success” in Afghanistan when the Senate returns in September and takes up the annual defense policy bill. His plan doesn’t say how many more U.S. forces should be sent to Afghanistan.Frustrated by his options, Trump has withheld approval of a long-delayed Afghanistan war strategy as he searches for a plan that will allow American forces to pull out once and for all.The United States has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, and Trump has so far resisted the Pentagon’s recommendations to send almost 4,000 more Americans to expand training of Afghan military forces and beef up U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida, a growing Islamic State affiliate and other extremist groups. But [Read More…]

Jul 212017

WASHINGTON DC: White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer resigned on Friday, ending a brief, turbulent tenure that gained global notoriety, after President Donald Trump named adviser and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as his top communications official. A White House official said Spicer, 45, had resigned. Spicer’s departure reflected turmoil within Trump’s legal and communication teams amid a widening investigation into possible ties between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, a problem undermining the White House’s policy agenda. Trump spokesperson sparks outcry by comparing Assad to Hitler Parodied memorably on the Saturday Night Live sketch comedy show for his combative encounters with the White House press corps, Spicer became one of the Trump administration’s most recognised figures after taking the job in December. He was sometimes targeted by critics for what they said were false or misleading statements. In recent weeks, Spicer has less frequently taken the lectern in the White House press room. Trump offered Scaramucci, a longtime supporter who has frequently appeared on television to defend him, the White House communications post. The post White House spokesperson Sean Spicer resigns appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

May 102017

NEW YORK: A measure to ban child marriage could become law this week in New Jersey, which would become the first of the 50 states in America to outlaw the practice without exception, activists say. Viewed as the strongest such bill to be considered in the United States, it would prohibit any marriage of children under age 18. Activists say the practice of underage marriage is rampant in the United States, where about 170,000 children were wed between 2000 and 2010. Most are underage girls married to older men. 10% increase in child abuse cases in Pakistan While age 18 is the minimum for marriage in most of the United States, states have legal loopholes such as parental consent that allow children to marry, said Unchained At Last, a nonprofit that opposes arranged and forced marriages. This measure, after passing both legislative houses in New Jersey, awaits the signature of Republican Governor Chris Christie. Thursday marks a deadline for the governor to sign it into law or veto it, according to Unchained At Last. If he takes no action, the bill automatically becomes law. Christie, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, has given no indication as to his stance on the bill, a spokesman said. New Jersey Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, the bill’s main sponsor, said she championed the legislation after learning about the long-lasting adverse effects of child marriage. Child marriage is associated with mental health problems, poverty and increased high school drop-out rates, various studies have shown. “This is [Read More…]

Apr 212017
U.S. To Honor Deal To Take In Afghan, Iranian Refugees Held By Australia

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the United States will honor a deal with Australia to take in refugees from Iran and Afghanistan that President Donald Trump at one time derided.In a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney on April 22, Pence said that honoring the deal “out of respect for this enormously important alliance…doesn’t mean that we admire the agreement.”Under the deal negotiated with former President Barack Obama last year, the United States is to resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers — mostly from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — being held by Australia in offshore processing camps on the South Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.In return, Australia is to resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras being held by the United States.Pence said the asylum seekers will be subject to “extreme vetting.”Trump’s relationship with longtime ally Australia got off to a rocky start during his first month in office when he called the refugee deal “dumb” in an acrimonious phone call with Turnbull that was leaked to the press and publicized around the world.Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036. Click for detailed story

Apr 202017

WASHINGTON: The US Secret Service said it would end public access to a sidewalk along the south fence of the White House beginning on Wednesday night. The sidewalk has been closed nightly from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. since 2015 and will now be off-limits around the clock, the Secret Service said in a statement. The closure will “lessen the possibility of individuals illegally accessing the White House grounds,” Secret Service Communications Director Cathy Milhoan said. Man arrested at White House gate claimed Trump telepathy link In March, a man scaled a fence east of the White House at night and was on the property’s grounds for 16 minutes before being detained. He never entered the White House, the Secret Service said. President Donald Trump was inside the residence at the time of the March 10 incident. White House warns Syria on chemical, barrel bomb use The intrusion was the latest in a series of breaches at the White House in recent years. Security has been boosted, including the installation in 2015 of sharp spikes on top of the black iron fence that circles the 18-acre (7-hectare) property. Blocking use of the south fence sidewalk will not obstruct the public’s ability to view or photograph the White House and its grounds, the Secret Service said, adding no additional “physical” barriers would be installed. The same restrictions are in place on the north fence of the White House grounds, according to the Secret Service. The post White House sidewalk to be closed [Read More…]

Mar 152017

WASHINGTON: The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised the benchmark interest rate a quarter point, noting that inflation is moving closer to the central bank’s two per cent target. But in announcing the first move since President Donald Trump took office, the Fed gave no hint that rates might have to rise more quickly if the White House pushes through its pro-growth policies, including tax cuts and spending programmes. The Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee voted to raise the key federal funds rate to a range of 0.75-1.0%, although there was one dissenting voice. The post US Fed raises benchmark interest rate a quarter point appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

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