Senator: US does not want ‘precipitous’ withdrawal from Afghanistan

Afghan National Army officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Center. File/Reuters
Updated 15 April 2019

Senator: US does not want ‘precipitous’ withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • Women must have a place in talks with militants, says key American politician

The US does not want to pursue a “precipitous” withdrawal from Afghanistan, a top Democratic lawmaker said in Kabul on Monday amid an ongoing push to end the war.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the influential Senate Armed Services Committee that oversees the US military, also stressed that women must have a place at the table as the US tries to negotiate with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump last year told advisers he wanted to slash America’s 14,000-strong troop presence in Afghanistan by about half, prompting criticism he was seeking to rush a withdrawal.

“What we’ve heard here (is) that whatever negotiated settlement ends the conflict, that it be done in a way that’s very deliberate, that ensures a transition that all sides can participate in, and that there should not be a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Shaheen told reporters at the US Embassy.

Congressional colleagues agreed, she said, adding “that’s the position of the administration as well.”

“There is a deliberate position that may not always be reflected in the tweets that come from the White House,” she said, referring to Trump’s penchant of firing off unexpected foreign policy messages.

Foreign relations

Shaheen also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is the only woman on the panel.

She said it is vital for women to be included in talks with the Taliban, whose regime shredded any Western notion of women’s rights.

“What we know from the data is that when women are engaged, there is about a 35 percent more likely chance that those negotiations will ... endure for a longer period of time,” Shaheen said.

It’s important that “whatever comes out of any peace negotiations, that we support having women at the table.”

A fresh round of talks is expected to take place later this month between Afghan political leaders, including some officials from the Kabul government, and the Taliban.

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a “puppet” of the West.

 


Philippines warns of ‘unfriendly’ greeting for uninvited warships

Updated 20 August 2019

Philippines warns of ‘unfriendly’ greeting for uninvited warships

  • There have been multiple sightings of Chinese warships in Philippine territorial waters
  • The Philippines has lodged several diplomatic protests in recent weeks

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of “unfriendly” treatment for foreign ships traveling in the country’s territorial waters without permission, in a rare swipe at China’s use of warships just a few miles off Manila’s coast.
Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, on Tuesday made the demand for transparency amid frustration by the Philippine military at multiple sightings this year of Chinese warships moving within the country’s 12 mile territorial sea, at various locations in the archipelago.
“All foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” Panelo said.
“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” he added.
Panelo did not refer to China by name, nor elaborate on what that enforcement might entail.
The Philippines has lodged several diplomatic protests in recent weeks over the activities of Chinese coast guard, navy and paramilitary fishing vessels in Philippine-controlled areas of the South China Sea and in its territorial waters.
The armed forces has released images and cited witness sightings between February and early August of Chinese warships off Palawan and Tawi Tawi islands, a pattern that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week described as an “irritant.”
Duterte is facing heat at home for what critics say is his passive approach to Chinese provocations in exchange for a business relationship with Beijing that is not working out well for him, with promised investments slow in coming.
Though surveys consistently show Duterte enjoying a level of domestic approval never seen at this point in a presidency, the same polls show growing disdain for China over its conduct in the South China Sea, and reservations among some Filipinos over a massive influx of Chinese online gaming workers under Duterte.
Duterte will visit China from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, his spokesman said. He has promised to discuss a South China Sea 2016 international arbitration victory over China with counterpart Xi Jinping.
Duterte has until now chosen not to push that ruling, which invalidated China’s claim of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. Beijing did not participate in the court proceedings and rejected the ruling.
The South China Sea is a vital route for ships carrying more than $3 trillion in trade every year. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of it.