Afghan forces target Taleban threat on the eve of election

Updated 14 June 2014
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Afghan forces target Taleban threat on the eve of election

KABUL: Afghan police and soldiers searched almost every car on the roads of Kabul and other cities Friday in an attempt to thwart Taleban suicide attackers on the eve of presidential elections.
The insurgents have threatened to target polling stations on Saturday when voters will choose between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
The second-round vote on Saturday comes as US-led NATO troops withdraw after more than a decade of fighting the Taleban, who were ousted from power in 2001.
Afghan officials are desperate to repeat the success of the first-round vote in April, when the insurgents failed to launch a single high-profile attack as long lines of voters turned up across the country to cast their ballots.
Afghans head to the polls on Saturday for the second time in 10 weeks to elect a president who will take office as most foreign forces prepare to leave after nearly 13 years of inconclusive war. None of the eight candidates who contested the first round of the election on April 5 won more than 50 percent of the vote meaning the top two contenders have to face off on Saturday.
The two men aiming to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from a third term, are a former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, and an ex-World Bank economist and former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani.
The winner will inherit an unfinished war and an economy in the doldrums.
The Taleban are still strong and Afghanistan’s foreign-trained army has never put to rest questions about its effectiveness, especially in the absence of foreign troops, the bulk of whom will leave by the end of the year.
Abdullah, a former leader in the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance, won 45 percent of the vote in April while Ghani got 31.6 percent.
But Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, stands to gain more of the Pashtun vote that was splintered between candidates in the first round. Abdullah is part Pashtun but more closely identified with the ethnic Tajik minority.
Below is a timeline of key events and brief biographies of the contenders.
May 22 : Run-off campaign began
June 11: Campaign ended
June 14: Election day
July 2: Preliminary results announced
July 16: Complaints body submits final report
July 22: Final results announced


Bolton, Mattis meet at Pentagon

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) talks with National Security Adviser John Bolton. (Reuters)
Updated 26 April 2018
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Bolton, Mattis meet at Pentagon

  • When Mattis first met Bolton at the Pentagon last month, the defense secretary jokingly said: “I’ve heard that you’re absolutely the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you.”
  • The two men decided to have “regular” meetings

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with John Bolton, the new national security adviser to President Donald Trump, at the Pentagon on Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.
The breakfast meeting came amid US media reports that Mattis risks being isolated by Trump’s more bellicose coterie of advisers, including Bolton, an Iraq War-era hawk who has advocated for military action in both Iran and North Korea.
Bolton “was here this morning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
The two men decided to have “regular” meetings, she added, noting that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick to run the State Department, could join them.
When Mattis first met Bolton at the Pentagon last month, the defense secretary jokingly said: “I’ve heard that you’re absolutely the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you.”
Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, is one of a dwindling pool of original Trump picks not to have drawn negative attention from his mercurial boss.
According to multiple reports, after a suspected chemical attack in Syria this month, he successfully pushed Trump to only taking limited action in response, while Bolton wanted a larger operation.
Mattis used to meet regularly with Rex Tillerson, who was fired last month from his position as secretary of state.
Pompeo is seen as being more hawkish than Mattis, further raising the possibility of the Pentagon chief’s influence waning.