Afghan official: Taliban suicide car bombing kills 7 people

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Updated 23 August 2017

Afghan official: Taliban suicide car bombing kills 7 people

KABUL: A Taliban suicide car bomber targeted a military convoy in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Wednesday, killing at least seven people, a provincial official said.
The attack comes just days after President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, which involves maintaining a US military presence in the country and upending a campaign vow to end America’s longest war.
According to Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor, Wednesday’s explosion in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, also wounded 42 people, mostly civilians.
Initial reports show that those killed included a small girl, two women and four soldiers, Zwak said, expressing fears that the death toll could rise further.
“This is from our initial reports, I am afraid the casualty tolls might change once we get a final report form the attack,” he added.
The bombing took place near the police chief’s headquarters. Local TV broadcast footage showing several military Humvees, which the Afghan army also uses, destroyed as a result of the attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on his twitter account.
Senior Afghan government officials on Tuesday welcomed Trump’s strategy announcement from Monday. Senior US officials said Trump may send up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately.
Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of giving extremists a safe haven, while next door in Afghanistan they kill US troops. He said he wanted “immediate” results without saying what actions the United States might take against Pakistan if it ignored his warning.
The United States and Afghanistan have routinely accused Pakistan — and particularly its powerful intelligence agency — of harboring insurgents and of waging a selective war, attacking those militants Islamabad considers its enemy and allowing those it has been known to use as proxies, either against hostile neighbors India or Afghanistan, to flourish.
Taliban attacks have stepped up all across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of foreign combat forces from the war-torn nation at the end of 2014, and the insurgents have lately been constantly expanding their footprint.
Earlier this month, the Taliban in an “open letter” to Trump, reiterated their calls for the withdrawal of all remaining US troops. The United States has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, who support local forces and carry out counterterrorism operations.

US threaten more sanctions as Turkey scrambles to reassure investors

Updated 16 August 2018

US threaten more sanctions as Turkey scrambles to reassure investors

  • Albayrak said Turkey fully understood and recognized all its domestic challenges
  • Albayrak has the daunting task of reassuring the investors that the economy is not hostage to political interference

WASHINGTON: The United States warned on Thursday that it would levy more sanctions on the troubled Turkish economy if Ankara does not  release a jailed American pastor.

The announcement by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin deepened a dispute that has rattled financial markets.

“We have put sanctions on several of their cabinet members,” Mnuchin told President Donald Trump in a cabinet meeting.

“We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly.”

Trump said Turkey, which has a political and military alliance with the US, had not been a very good friend to America, AFP reported.

Referring to imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump said “they have a great Christian pastor there, he's a very innocent man.”

The threat comes as Turkey scrambled to reassure investors reeling from the crash of the Turkish lira.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressed hundreds of foreign investors from the United States, Europe and Asia in a conference call in a bid to soothe the markets.

The lira has clawed back some ground over the last two days after losing almost a quarter of its value on Friday and Monday.

“Turkey will emerge stronger from these fluctuations,” Albayrak said.

Albayrak rejected seeking an IMF bailout. Erdogan often boasts of paying off Turkey's past IMF debts in 2013.

The lira’s months-long slide has accelerated as a result of the diplomatic standoff with Washington over Brunson’s detention. A Trump tweet on Friday announcing a doubling of aluminum and steel tariffs for Turkey triggered the rout in the currency markets.

The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, held onto its gains during Albayrak’s discussion, trading at 5.7 against the American currency.

“We will turn this crisis into an opportunity,” said Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin after a cabinet meeting chaired by the president, saying measures taken so far had helped bring about a “rapid improvement process” over the last two days.

But Albayrak, who was appointed last month, will have a tough time restoring order to an economy plagued by high inflation and a current account imbalance.

The lira’s drop in value is certain to further fuel inflation, which is already near 16 percent.

Albayrak said there would be no concessions on fiscal discipline, adding: “We are targeting lowering inflation into the single digits as soon as possible.”

However, analysts are calling for a sharp hike in interest rates - which Erdogan adamantly opposes because it will put a brake on economic growth.

In an intensifying cycle of tensions with the United States, Erdogan has called for a boycott of US electronic goods such as iPhones and Ankara has sharply hiked tariffs on some US products.

He has also warned Ankara could start looking for new allies, as well as new markets.

Qatar, which has moved closer to Ankara since a boycott was imposed last year by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, on Wednesday pledged to channel $15 billion direct investment into Turkey in defiance of the US.

Analysts say Turkey is also likely to seek a more dynamic economic relationship with China and Russia, with whom ties have warmed considerably in recent years.

Turkey has also in recent days shown an interest in repairing ties with Europe after a crisis sparked by Ankara's crackdown on alleged plotters of the 2016 failed coup.

Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed in a phone call Thursday to foster trade ties, a Turkish presidential source said.

Albayrak spoke Thursday with his German counterpart Olaf Scholz and they agreed to “take steps in order to reinforce economic cooperation,” Albayrak's office said.

Meanwhile, Turkish courts have moved to defuse other legal cases that have irritated relations with the EU.

An Istanbul court allowed the release of Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kilic Wednesday, who spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to the 2016 coup bid.

And the day earlier, two Greek soldiers held by Turkey since March for illegally crossing the border were also freed.