Time to quit Afghanistan, says Ashdown

Updated 17 November 2012
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Time to quit Afghanistan, says Ashdown

London: Paddy Ashdown, a former leader of UK’s Liberal Democrat party wrote in a newspaper yesterday that Britain should accept defeat and move all of its soldiers out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. “All that we can achieve has now been achieved,” wrote the peer. “The only rational policy is to leave quickly, in good order and in the company of our allies. This is the only cause for which further lives should be risked,” he added.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister David Cameron to bring forward the 2014 deadline for bringing home British troops following a series of insider attacks.
Ashdown said it was “crystal clear that we have lost in Afghanistan”, adding the only achievement was in driving out Al-Qaeda.
However, the former soldier argued the failure had been political, not military.
Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in September he was considering bringing some British troops back from Afghanistan earlier than expected.
“I think that the message I am getting clearly from the military is that it might be possible to draw down further troops in 2013,” Hammond said in an interview at Camp Bastion in Helmand province. Separately, US government added a top Taleban commander to its list of suspected drug trafficking “Kingpins” on Thursday in the first such designation of a leader of the Afghan insurgency.
The move underscores concerns that Taleban commanders may be playing a growing role in heroin production, seeing the trade as a lucrative revenue stream to fund their campaign after most foreign troops have left Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The US Treasury said it had put Mullah Naim Barich on the Kingpin list, which bans US citizens from doing business with him and freezes any assets he may hold in the United States, for trafficking drugs from the southern Helmand province — the center of Afghanistan’s heroin industry.
“Today’s action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taleban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a statement.
Barich is the Taleban’s “shadow governor” of Helmand, a term used by insurgents in their campaign to establish parallel administrations in territory they control.
The Kingpin designation puts the Taleban fighter on a par with notorious drug lords from Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.
Although the listing is unlikely, by itself, to derail Barich’s activities, it may signal a growing belief in parts of the administration that the US should take a more robust approach to Afghanistan’s nexus of traffickers and insurgents.
For years, Western officials have debated the extent to which the Taleban has profited from the drug trade primarily by taxing the harvesting and shipment of opium, the crop used to make heroin, or by dabbling in running the industry directly.


Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

Updated 22 April 2018
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Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

  • The victim was dining with his family when the suspect came and stabbed him without warning
  • Police say suspect is a felon who had been convicted for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse since the 1990s

LOS ANGELES: A homeless man who randomly stabbed a patron in a crowded Southern California restaurant to death as he was holding his daughter was reported just a few hours earlier for disruptive behavior, but police ultimately determined he was not a threat, authorities said Saturday.
Jamal Jackson, 49, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of 35-year-old Anthony Mele. He was being held in Ventura County jail on a $1.5 million bail. It was unclear if Jackson, who is also a convicted felon, had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Mele and his wife were eating dinner with their 5-year-old daughter Wednesday at Aloha Steakhouse in the seaside city of Ventura. The girl was sitting on her father’s lap when prosecutors say Jackson walked up and stabbed Mele in the neck.
Prosecutor Richard Simon said customers and a restaurant employee followed Jackson out of the restaurant, even though he still had the knife. They kept track of him until Ventura police arrived and arrested him.
Mele was taken to a hospital and died Thursday after being taken off life support.
“It’s horrible,” Simon said. “You don’t think you’re going to be killed when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your family and you didn’t do anything.”
Simon said the two men had not interacted before the attack.
“He was just sitting there with his daughter in his lap,” Simon said. “You’re not supposed to die that way.”
Mele’s loved ones started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for a funeral and to support his wife and daughter.
Mele’s Facebook page was filled with photos of his daughter and said he was a manager at an AT&T store.
Police confirmed that a bystander reported a man — who turned out to be Jackson — for disruptive behavior several hours before the stabbing.
According to the bystander, a man was yelling on the promenade not far from the beachside restaurant about three hours before the attack.
Patrol officers were out on other calls so command center staff monitored the man via a pier security camera system for more than 20 minutes before deciding he didn’t seem to be a threat, police said.
Police are asking anyone who spoke with Jackson during that time to contact investigators in the city 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Jackson also had half a dozen contacts with police in Ventura since the beginning of the year, including an arrest after a physical fight at a park, said Commander Tom Higgins.
He was also stopped on March 31 after a passer-by reported he was brandishing a knife. Police searched his bag and found a knife but there was no victim so no charge was filed, Higgins said.
Jackson has a lengthy rap sheet including charges in San Bernardino County, Higgins said, as well as convictions for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse dating back to the 1990s.
The killing prompted the Ventura City Council to increase police patrols in the area and add staff members to monitor security cameras, among other measures.
“We are extremely disheartened and infuriated by this criminal attack,” Mayor Neal Andrews said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this in our community. Nothing is more important than the safety of our visitors, residents and businesses.”
If convicted, Jackson faces up to 55 years in prison.