On 9/11, Trump vows to hit Taliban ‘harder’ than ever

US President Donald Trump speaks during a 911 memorial ceremony at the Pentagon to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in Arlington, Virginia. The nation is marking the 18th anniversary of the terror attacks that took almost 3000 lives. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

On 9/11, Trump vows to hit Taliban ‘harder’ than ever

  • Trump said the assault was ordered after he canceled peace talks with the Taliban
  • Trump issued a threat against militants ever attacking on US soil again

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump used 9/11 remembrance commemorations Wednesday to announce an unprecedented escalation of the US military assault on Afghanistan’s Taliban — just days after he wanted to hold peace talks with the insurgents.
Speaking at a Pentagon ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, Trump said that over “the last four days” US forces have “hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before and that will continue.”
Trump said the assault was ordered after he canceled peace talks with the Taliban over the weekend in retaliation for a bomb attack that killed one US soldier last week.
The precise nature of the US offensive against the Taliban that Trump described was not immediately clear.
On Monday, Trump had already declared that “over the last four days, we have been hitting our Enemy harder than at any time in the last ten years!“
But US troop levels in Afghanistan are only around 14,000, a fraction of the peak of about 100,000 in 2010.
In his Pentagon speech, Trump also issued a threat against militants ever attacking on US soil again, saying the response would be unlike any ever seen before.

“If for any reason, they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are, and use power, the likes of which the United States has never used before,” he said.
“I’m not even talking about nuclear power. They will never have seen anything like what will happen to them,” he added.
The warlike comments were all the more startling because it was only on Saturday that the Republican former businessman announced on Twitter that he’d been about to meet with Taliban leaders on Sunday at his Camp David presidential retreat.
Before the tweet, no one outside Trump’s immediate circle was aware of the development.
It came after months of painstaking, mostly behind-the-scenes negotiations on cutting back the US troop presence and extricating the United States from a long, fruitless war.
It was also stunning for the choice of the prestigious Camp David setting on a date so close to the September 11, 2001, anniversary.
Trump’s abrupt reversal of that plan and decision to punish the Taliban for last week’s bomb attack was followed by the sacking of his controversial national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday.


Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

Updated 17 January 2020

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

  • Filipino groups in Dubai are coming together to collect goods for donation for the Taal eruption victims
  • The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country

DUBAI: A vast grey stretched across empty villages – once verdant, now lifeless after volcanic ash wiped its colors. The thick charcoal-like substance cloaked cracked roads, tumbled trees, and dilapidated houses, as an angry volcano rumbled in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced earlier this week when Taal Volcano, a picturesque tourist spot about 70 kilometers south of Manila, spew huge plume of volcanic ash to the sky and triggered sporadic tremors around the province.

“When can we go back to our homes?” a hopeful man asked Filipino volunteer Jaya Bernardo, as she visited an evacuation site near where the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday.

She couldn’t answer him straight, Bernardo said, because that meant telling him there might not be anything to go back to.

Bernardo, who lives in a mildly-hit town around Taal, has been going around evacuation centers to give out care packages, saying it’s “important for people to come together” in times like this.

Within hours of the volcanic eruption, the call for help reached the UAE, home to about a million Filipino expats. Many community groups have been organizing donation drives to collect goods to be sent back home.

Lance Japor, who leads a community group in Dubai, said inquiries were coming in about how to help volcano victims even before a campaign was announced.

“What I’ve noticed is that the desire to help others in need is innate to us,” he told Arab News, adding it was not the first time Filipino expats showed urgent concern and care for their countrymen when a calamity hit the Philippines.

There was a strong response for families displaced from a city in the south of the country after armed rebels captured the area. A community group from Dubai flew to the restive city to hand out gifts to families who had taken refuge in an abandoned building.

Japor’s volcano campaign has attracted the help of private companies such as hotels donating blankets and pillows, and cargo companies pledging to deliver the packages for free to the Philippines.

Filipino expats have also expressed a desire to volunteer, Japor added, and a volunteer event has been scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s office in Dubai.

Groups in the UAE are working with organizations in the Philippines to facilitate the donations and determine what the affected communities need. The list includes special face masks and eye drops, said Japor.

The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area and villages lie empty, with authorities warning of a “bigger eruption” as earthquakes were still being felt around the area. 

The region was at alert level four from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, meaning that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The highest alert level is five.

The institute strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps.

“Residents around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.

Police in the area have also warned residents against trying to go back to their houses without official clearance from authorities, but local media reports said people were sneaking back by boat to the island and nearby towns to check on their possessions.