Oct 162017
 
New Green Card Lottery Enrollment Period Starts Wednesday

A new enrollment period for the U.S. Diversity Immigrant Visa Program – also known as the Green Card Lottery – begins Wednesday. All applicants must apply between October 18 and November 22 to have their entries considered.The original new registration period began October 3, but had to be scratched after all entries submitted between October 3rd and 10th were lost due to a technical glitch.“Entries submitted during October 3-10 are not valid and have been excluded from the system; they will not count as a duplicate entry,” a message on the U.S. State Department’s website said.Duplicate entries to the program disqualify aspiring immigrants.“The technical issue has been resolved and a new full entry period will begin at noon, U.S. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday October 18, 2017 and will run until noon Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday November 22, 2017,” it added, telling applicants to “throw away” any confirmation number or documentation of applications submitted between the 3rd and 10th.The State Department will be sending automated email notifications to each entrant who applied in early October, instructing them to check the website dvlottery.state.gov “for an important announcement”, spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala told VOA via email.“We will also work through our embassies and consulates to inform potential entrants of the situation and new registration period using social media and local media outlets,” she wrote.The State Department is unable, however, to provide an estimate of how many people were affected and expected to reapply, Jhunjhunwala said.A page on the US Embassy to Ecuador [Read More…]

Oct 152017
 
US Green Card Lottery Applications Lost, Must Be Resubmitted

WASHINGTON All entries submitted to the U.S. Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, between October 3rd and 10th have been lost due to a technical glitch.Individuals who submitted applications during these dates are directed to reapply.“Entries submitted during October 3-10 are not valid and have been excluded from the system; they will not count as a duplicate entry,” a message on the U.S. State Department’s website said.Duplicate entries to the program disqualify aspiring immigrants.“The technical issue has been resolved and a new full entry period will begin at noon, U.S. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday October 18, 2017 and will run until noon Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday November 22, 2017,” it added, telling applicants to “throw away” any confirmation number or documentation of applications submitted between the 3rd and 10th.The State Department will be sending automated email notifications to each entrant who applied in early October, instructing them to check the website dvlottery.state.gov “for an important announcement”, spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala told VOA via email.“We will also work through our embassies and consulates to inform potential entrants of the situation and new registration period using social media and local media outlets,” she wrote.Though the application period has been extended, experts fear that many entrants may not know to reapply.“At least, they extended the entry period to make it a full month again. But I have doubt that thousands of applicants from the third world, who don’t check the internet every day, will know that their [Read More…]

Oct 152017
 
Civilians Caught in Taliban, IS Crossfire in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province

NANGARHAR / WASHINGTON As fighting between the Islamic State militant group and Taliban insurgents continues in eastern Afghanistan, civilians are bearing the brunt of the rivalry between the two warring parties.At least four civilians who were caught in crossfire have died in fresh fighting between the Taliban and IS fighters in the Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province, local officials told VOA.“IS militants killed four civilians and wounded two others,” Nangarhar government spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani told VOA.The fighting in Khogyani district, which continues for a second day, also left several dead from both warring sides.“Six IS fighters and three Taliban militants have been killed, and another three Taliban wounded in the fighting,” spokesperson Khogyani said.Local residents have joined forces with the Taliban to battle the IS fighters in the district, provincial officials told VOA.This is not the first time that locals have supported Taliban militants against IS. Frequent IS threats have forced some villagers to join forces with local Taliban to counter IS attacks on their villages. In a similar move last spring, local residents supported Taliban militants to repel an IS attack in the Tora Bora area, where Osama bin Laden once took refuge before he managed to cross into neighboring Pakistan, according to local tribesmen.The majority of Afghans views IS as an outside force, which has repeatedly targeted local villagers, destroyed homes and markets, and barred children from attending school in areas under its control. IS atrocities have forced thousands of families in several districts to flee their [Read More…]

Sep 112017
 
Analysts: Success of Pakistan’s New Counterterrorism Policy Hinges on Implementation

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD Counterterrorism authorities in Pakistan are planning to introduce a new policy to curb extremism in the country. But analysts say only a thorough and effective implementation of the strategy would help the country rid itself of the carnage.Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), which monitors and proposes counter-extremism strategies, has devised a new policy, called National Counter Extremism Policy (NCEP), to curb extremism and militancy by introducing social and education reforms and facilitating good governance.NCEP is a set of programs in the six fields with an objective to build strong bond between state and citizenry, empowerment and inclusion of youth and marginalized elements, reforming educational streams including religious education and instilling an environment of openness and co-existence, NACTA chief officer, Ihsan Ghani said in a statement.Religious schools to blame?Once approved by the federal government, the policy would be shared with the provinces for implementation, a NACTA official told VOA.The NACTA chief said the new policy would also propose reforms in the education sector, including the widespread Madrassa system and instilling an environment of openness and co-existence.Thousands of unregistered Madrassas, or religious schools, across the country have led to an increase in militancy in the country, experts say.Attracting youth into ideologyThe analysts say militant groups have been successfully attracting educated youths into their ranks.A recent report in the Pakistan-based newspaper Dawn showed out of 500 militants currently held in Sindh province’s jails, 64 hold a master’s degree and 70 have a bachelor’s.Analyst say the new policy comes as Pakistan has [Read More…]

Aug 212017
 
Mattis Ponders Afghan Troop Surge; Trump Speech Reaction Mixed

WHITE HOUSE Following an announcement by President Donald Trump declaring the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Tuesday he has not yet made a decision on how many troops to send to the South Asian country.Speaking from Baghdad, Mattis said he is consulting with Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and will make the decision based on his plan.In an evening address from a military base outside Washington Monday, Trump said that he would not talk about numbers of troops or plans for further military activities, unveiling a “condition-based approach” to defeating terrorism in Afghanistan, without going into detail.Troop levels The president has approved up to 4,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to sources, speaking on condition they not be named.Currently, there are about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Most are advising Afghan forces, though some are tasked with carrying out counterterrorism operations against groups such as the Taliban or the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate.That number is down significantly from the height of former President Barack Obama’s troop surge, which saw nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in August 2010.After years of deriding the U.S. war in Afghanistan as a “complete waste,” President Donald Trump on Monday explained why he now believes it is in the United States’ interest to remain committed to the South Asian country.His goal, he said, is to stop the re-emergence of safe havens for terrorists to threaten America and make sure they do not get [Read More…]

Aug 202017
 
Pakistani Christian Minor Detained for Allegedly Burning Quran

Police in a southern Pakistan city have detained a Christian minor on blasphemy charges for allegedly burning pages of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.Asif Massih was arrested shortly after a complaint was issued Sunday, a police official told VOA.The 16-year-old Christian was reportedly charged under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, referring to a part of the country’s constitution that makes the death sentence or life imprisonment mandatory for anyone who damages or desecrates the Quran.Police had to intervene as an angry mob attacked Massih in Wazirabad’s Jamkay Chattha village in Punjab province before he was arrested.A police officer who did not want to disclose his name told VOA that Massih had “admitted to have desecrated the Quran.”A local fruit vendor, Nawaz, who reportedly witnessed the burning, protested the incident which incited locals to assault Massih, police said.Massih’s father, Steven Massih, has denied the accusation and said that the allegation was the result of a “business rivalry” between his son and Nawaz, both of whom collected wastepaper and empty bottles.The blasphemy law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and imprisonment for life for desecrating the Quran, although no one has been executed.“We have observed that during court proceeding, in several cases, such allegations proven false,” Nadeem Anthoni, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) told VOA. “No doubt that most of blasphemy cases were registered against Muslims but when it comes to Christians, the consequences for the community are far [Read More…]

Aug 192017
 
Afghanistan’s Special Operations Forces Transition from Division to Corps

Afghanistan’s elite Special Operations Forces officially transitioned from a division to a corps, as part of a four-year security plan aimed at vastly improving the country’s security forces.Today, it is a special day because the success you all have achieved for this nation is exemplified here, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at the ceremony in Kabul on Sunday. This year you defeated the enemy on the battlefield. I can see the results of your fight from last week and I see the huge improvement from last year.To the enemy: our Special Forces will defeat you, Ghani warned the militant groups that are fighting his government.His country’s forces are facing a growing threat posed by the Taliban and and Islamic State’s self-styled Khorasan branch (IS-K), which emerged in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region two years ago.U.S. Army General John Nicholson, NATO commander in Afghanistan, said the beginning of the corps would further bolster Afghan security forces’ capabilities against the militants.The activation of special operations corps today marks the beginning of the end for the enemy of Afghanistan. As we sit here today, Afghanistan commandos are defeating the Taliban across Afghanistan, said Gen. Nicholson. When these commandos appear on the battlefield, the enemy has no choice but to run or die.The Special Forces division, which currently consists of two special operations brigades will add two more brigades under its command and control, according to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.Shifting focusAfghanistan has announced a four-year security plan to improve its security forces in the [Read More…]

Aug 092017
 
Skepticism Abounds as Pakistani Terrorists Move into Politics

A Pakistani group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization has announced it is forming a political party to make Pakistan “a real Islamic and welfare state.”The group Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been listed as a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department for more than a decade, and its leader and founder, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, has been under house arrest in Pakistan for the past six months. The U.S. government also has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his conviction on criminal charges.Jamaat-ud-Dawa contends it is a humanitarian organization without links to terrorists, but it is widely considered a “front group” for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been banned for terrorist activity since 2001. Lashkar-e-Taiba also was founded by Saeed, who is the alleged mastermind of the devastating attacks on Mumbai in 2008 � a dozen coordinated bomb and gun attacks over a four-day period that killed 166 people, including six American citizens, and wounded hundreds of others in the Indian city.From ‘terrorist’ to ‘moderate’Despite that terrorist pedigree, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or JuD, said it aims to enter mainstream politics. Notwithstanding its formal listing as “terrorist” by the United States, the United Nations and Pakistan itself, JuD claims it will be a moderate political force in Pakistan. It is reinventing itself as a new party, the Milli Muslim League, and will be led by Saifullah Khalid, at least until it wins Hafiz Saeed’s release from house arrest.Analysts and experts on South Asian affairs are highly skeptical about the group’s [Read More…]

Jul 212017
 
Pentagon Withholds $50 Million in Pakistan Military Aid

PENTAGON The Pentagon has withheld tens of millions of dollars remaining in military aid to Pakistan after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis decided that Islamabad was not taking enough action to counter the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network.“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday. “It’s not a policy. It is a reality.”The U.S. has declined to make military reimbursements in the past, withholding $300 million last year. Pakistan has already been reimbursed $550 million of the $900 million it was authorized to receive in fiscal year 2016. Mattis’ decision affects $50 million that was previously earmarked for Pakistan.Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said Mattis “could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network per the requirement in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA].”Money is reprogrammedStump said the money is being reprogrammed to be used for other requirements.The decision comes as President Donald Trump’s administration is exploring its approach toward Pakistan in developing a regional policy aimed at fighting Taliban militants and Islamic State fighters in neighboring Afghanistan.“This decision does not prejudge the conclusions of the White House review of South Asia strategy, which is still ongoing,” Stump said, adding that the decision also “does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years.”Efforts against militantsPakistan’s efforts have reduced the ability of some militant groups to use North Waziristan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as a safe haven for terrorism, [Read More…]

Jul 162017
 
Afghan Forces Retake Key Southern District From Taliban

ISLAMABAD � Afghan security forces, backed by U.S. military advisers and air power, have evicted insurgents from a strategically important southern district, nine months after the Taliban had overrun it.A regional military spokesman, Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, told VOA that Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) entered Nawa district in southern Helmand province early Monday and established government control over it following two days of intense battles with the Taliban.He said overnight U.S. airstrikes against three important Taliban bases in the area killed more than 20 insurgents and made it easier for Afghan forces to retake control of the district center.The Taliban has not yet commented on official victory claims.Ahmadzai said a search and clearing operation is currently underway in the district where insurgents have heavily mined areas around key installations. He promised to release details of casualties suffered by both sides, saying the Taliban lost dozens of its fighters since Afghan forces launched a large-scale offensive on Saturday to retake Nawa.The agriculturally-rich Afghan district is located about 30 kilometers west of the provincial capital of Lashkarga and its collapse had enabled the Taliban to stage repeated assaults on the city in their bid to capture it.Lashkarga hosts hundreds of U.S. marines who returned to Afghanistan earlier this year to assist struggling local forces reverse Taliban advances in Helmand. The insurgents control many of the districts in the country’s largest province and poppy producing region.Helmand borders Pakistan, where Afghan officials allege the Taliban has established recruiting and training centers, charges [Read More…]

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