Pakistan says US must not make it a “scapegoat” for Afghan failures

Pakistan says US must not make it a “scapegoat” for Afghan failures
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif. (Reuters)
Updated 23 August 2017

Pakistan says US must not make it a “scapegoat” for Afghan failures

Pakistan says US must not make it a “scapegoat” for Afghan failures

KARACHI: Pakistan rejected on Wednesday US criticism of its efforts to fight terrorism saying it should not be used as a scapegoat for the failure of the US military to win the war in Afghanistan.
US President Donald Trump unveiled his policy for Afghanistan on Monday, committing to an open-ended conflict there and singling out Pakistan for harboring Afghan Taliban insurgents and other militants.
US officials later warned that aid to Pakistan might be cut and Washington might downgrade nuclear-armed Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally to pressure it to do more to help bring about an end to America’s longest-running war.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif added his voice to a chorus of indignation in Pakistan over the US criticism, reiterating Pakistan’s denial that it harbors militants.
“They should not make Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan,” Asif said in an interview to Geo TV late on Tuesday.
“Our commitment to war against terrorism is unmatched and unshaken.”
Pakistan has for years been battling militants who are seeking to overthrow the state with bomb attacks and assassinations.
But critics say the Pakistani military nurtures other Islamist factions, including the Afghan Taliban, which are seen as useful to Pakistan’s core confrontation with old rival India.
Asif said Pakistan had suffered great losses from Islamist militancy — the government estimates there have been 70,000 casualties in militant attacks, including 17,000 Pakistanis killed — since Pakistan joined the US “war on terrorism” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
But he said Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism were being taken for granted and dismissed the notion the United States could “win war against terror by threatening us or cornering us.”
“Our contributions, sacrifices and our role as a coalition country have been disregarded and disrespected,” Asif said.
The relationship between Pakistan and the United States has endured periods of extreme strain during the past decade, especially after Al-Qaeda militant leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is due to meet Asif in coming days, on Tuesday outlined a range of options to change Pakistan’s approach but conceded there were concerns about putting too much pressure on Pakistan.
Asif said Pakistan was also angered by Trump’s appeal to India to do more in Afghanistan.
“Attempting to isolate Pakistan will not yield anything but a dangerous sharpening of strategic fault lines,” said Sherry Rehman, a senior opposition politician and former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
Former cricket star turned opposition politician Imran Khan said Pakistan should finally learn a valuable lesson: “Never to fight others wars for the lure of dollars,” he said on Twitter.


Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult
Updated 16 min 37 sec ago

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday a joint Franco-German proposal for a summit with Russia had caused a long, difficult discussion with other European leaders, but that he considered the issue of a summit was not a priority.
European Union leaders failed to agree on a proposal by France and Germany to hold a summit soon with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Poland and Baltic countries said it would send the wrong message as East-West ties deteriorate.


Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken
Updated 55 min 59 sec ago

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken
  • ‘Actions that try to take the country by force, of course, are totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution’

PARIS: The Taliban’s actions in Afghanistan are totally inconsistent with the pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday during a visit to Paris.
“We’re looking very carefully at the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and were also looking very hard whether the Taliban is at all serious about peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Blinken told a joint news conference with his French counterpart.
“Actions that try to take the country by force, of course, are totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution,” Blinken added.


France’s Le Drian says waiting for Iran to make decision on nuclear deal

France’s Le Drian says waiting for Iran to make decision on nuclear deal
Updated 25 June 2021

France’s Le Drian says waiting for Iran to make decision on nuclear deal

France’s Le Drian says waiting for Iran to make decision on nuclear deal

PARIS: Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday said France was waiting for Iran to take the last-step decisions needed to breathe new life into Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
“We’re waiting for Iranian authorities to take the final difficult decisions to allow for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal,” Le Drian told a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Paris.
Former US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, prompting Tehran to start violating some of the nuclear limits.


Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues

Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues
Updated 25 June 2021

Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues

Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues
  • Officials have scrambled to compel people to get inoculated amid tepid demand for the vaccine since cases began surging this month

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday reported a record number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in Moscow, amid a surge in infections that authorities blame on the Delta variant and the slow progress of a vaccination program.
Officials have scrambled to compel people to get inoculated amid tepid demand for the vaccine since cases began surging this month.
The government coronavirus task force reported 20,393 new COVID-19 cases, including 7,916 in Moscow, the most confirmed in a single day since Jan. 24, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,409,088.
It said 601 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, with 98 in the capital, pushing the national death toll to 132,064. St. Petersburg also reported 98 deaths.
The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to April 2021.
Moscow’s authorities have ordered bars and restaurants from Monday to serve people only if they can present a QR-code showing they have been vaccinated, had an infection indicating immunity or recently tested negative.
As demand for the shots boomed, the Kremlin said on Friday vaccine shortages in Russia were also linked to storage difficulties, and that shortages would be resolved in the coming days.
The local health ministry in Russia’s far eastern Khabarovsk region on Friday said it had been forced to suspend vaccinations at some sites in two cities due to shortages.


‘Brutal’ third COVID-19 wave hits Africa as vaccination slow

‘Brutal’ third COVID-19 wave hits Africa as vaccination slow
Updated 25 June 2021

‘Brutal’ third COVID-19 wave hits Africa as vaccination slow

‘Brutal’ third COVID-19 wave hits Africa as vaccination slow
  • Africa is still the world’s least-affected continent after Oceania
  • Compounding Africa’s third wave are immunization hitches, the spread of more transmissible virus variants and winter temperatures

JOHANNESBURG: Africa is facing a vicious coronavirus resurgence, with unprecedented hospital admissions and fatalities pushing health facilities to the brink as the continent falls far behind in the global vaccination drive.
With just under 5.3 million reported cases and around 139,000 deaths among its nearly 1.3 billion people, Africa is still the world’s least-affected continent after Oceania, according to an AFP tally.
So far African nations have been spared disasters comparable to Brazil or India.
But the pandemic is resurging at an alarming rate in at least 12 countries, with continental cases expected to hit a record peak in around three weeks.
“The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder,” World Health Organization Africa director Matshidiso Moeti warned Thursday. “The latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet.”
Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director John Nkengasong on Thursday described the third wave as “extremely brutal” and “very devastating.”
And Liberia’s President George Weah has warned the wave is “far more alarming than a year ago” as hospitals overflow in his country.
Compounding Africa’s third wave are immunization hitches, the spread of more transmissible virus variants and winter temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Delta variant, first detected in India, has so far been reported in 14 African countries, making up the bulk of new cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, according to the WHO.
Doctors in South Africa, which accounts for more than 35 percent of all cases recorded on the continent, are struggling with an unprecedented influx of patients.
Unlike past waves, this time “the hospital system is not coping,” said doctors’ association chief Angelique Coetzee.
South Africa’s average new daily infections have increased 15-fold since early April, with hospital admissions rising around 60 percent.
Namibia and Zambia are also seeing steep infection curves.
Zambia’s health ministry has reported an “unprecedented” number of Covid-19 deaths piling pressure on mortuaries while Africa CDC said the country was “overwhelmed.”
With similar trends in Uganda, Health Minister Jane Ruth Acheng blamed highly infectious variants for the new spread, “different from the second wave” with a large number of young people hospitalized.
Uganda is one of the countries facing reported oxygen shortages, although Acheng denied civil society groups’ claim that the shortfall amounts to 24.5 million liters per day.
Governments are again tightening restrictions, including a new nationwide lockdown in Uganda and a tougher curfew in 13 Kenyan counties.
At the same time the pace of vaccinations is struggling to get off the ground.
According to the WHO, about one percent of the continent’s population is fully vaccinated — the lowest ratio globally — and 90 percent of African nations will miss a target to inoculate a tenth of their populations by September.
“We are running a race behind time, the pandemic is ahead of us. We are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus,” said Africa CDC’s Nkengasong.
“It’s frightening what is going on on the continent,” he added.
A recent pledge by Western leaders to donate one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries has been widely criticized for being too slow.
Cases are “outpacing vaccinations,” Moeti said. “Africa urgently needs a million more vaccines. We need a sprint.”
Several countries have failed to administer jabs from the UN-backed Covax scheme before their use-by date because of logistical failures and vaccine hesitancy.
Malawi destroyed almost 20,000 expired AstraZeneca doses in May, while the DRC and South Sudan have returned more than two million shots to the UN to avoid a similar scenario.
Authorities in Congo-Brazzaville are concerned over the slow take-up of almost 100,000 Chinese-made vaccines expiring in July.
A surge in coronavirus cases in India, the world’s main AstraZeneca supplier, has delayed Covax deliveries to Africa.
Malawi exhausted its stocks last week, just as thousands were due for their second shot.
And hundreds of frustrated Zimbabweans protested last month after Harare’s main vaccination center ran out of jabs.
South Africa says it has secured enough Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to immunize 67 percent of its 59 million inhabitants.
But the rollout has been hit by setbacks and only 2.2 million people — health care workers and over 60s — have received a jab so far.
“The lack of vaccines in a region with high levels of poverty and inequality means many people feel they are just waiting to die,” said Amnesty International’s regional director Deprose Muchena.