Democratic Hawaii Rep. Gabbard running for president in 2020

In this July 26, 2016 file photo, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Democratic Hawaii Rep. Gabbard running for president in 2020

  • Gabbard was one of the most prominent lawmakers to back Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary

WASHINGTON: Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has announced that she is running for president in 2020.
Gabbard said in a CNN interview slated to air Saturday night that she will be formally announcing her candidacy within the next week.
The 37-year-old Iraq War veteran is the first Hindu elected to Congress and the first member born in the US territory of American Samoa. She has visited early primary and caucus states New Hampshire and Iowa in recent months and has written a memoir that’s due to be published in May.
Gabbard is joining what is expected to be a crowded Democratic field. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has already formed an exploratory committee and is moving quickly with trips across early primary states. California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are all weighing their own presidential bids and are expected to announce decisions in the upcoming weeks. Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro plans to announce his run for the presidency on Saturday.
Gabbard’s run would not be without controversy. In 2016, she alarmed fellow Democrats when she met with Donald Trump during his transition to president and later when she took a secret trip to Syria and met with President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of war crimes and genocide. She questioned whether he was responsible for a chemical attack on civilians that killed dozens and led the US to attack a Syrian air base.
She said she doesn’t regret the trip and considers it important to meet with adversaries if “you are serious about pursuing peace.” She also noted that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on faulty intelligence and said that she wanted to understand the evidence of the Syria attack.
Gabbard was one of the most prominent lawmakers to back Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Her endorsement came in dramatic fashion, with her resigning as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to express her support.
Asked last year whether she would still consider running if Sanders ran, Gabbard said Sanders is a friend and she didn’t know what his plans were.
“I’m thinking through how I can best be of service and I’ll make my decision based on that,” she said.


US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 20 January 2019
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US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."