Pompeo urges Kabul, Taliban cooperation after ‘appalling’ attack

Volunteers carry an injured boy in a hospital following a suicide attack at a funeral of a local police commander in Nangarhar. (AFP)
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Updated 13 May 2020

Pompeo urges Kabul, Taliban cooperation after ‘appalling’ attack

  • Grisly attacks on maternity hospital and funeral deal blow to US efforts to end the war
  • Pompeo called the twin assaults ‘appalling’ but noted that the Taliban denied responsibility

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged the Afghan government and Taliban to cooperate after grisly attacks on a maternity hospital and a funeral dealt a blow to US efforts to end the war.
Pompeo called the twin assaults “appalling” but noted that the Taliban, who signed a February 29 accord with the United States in his presence, denied responsibility.
“The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress toward a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism.”
The Daesh group, which has jostled with the Taliban for influence, claimed responsibility for the attack on the police officer’s funeral in eastern Afghanistan that killed at least 24 people.
The extremist movement made no mention of the raid on the hospital in Kabul that killed 14 people, including nurses and newborns.
President Donald Trump has been eager to end America’s longest war and began pulling troops after the Leap Year accord with the Taliban, who agreed to reduce violence and not target Western forces, although they have kept attacking Afghan troops.
Following the latest bloodbath, President Ashraf Ghani ordered security forces to resume offensive operations against the Taliban as well as other insurgents.
The forces of the internationally backed government had been observing a unilateral posture of only reacting defensively to Taliban attacks.
The US military made clear that it would not join the Kabul government and keep observing its truce with the Taliban.
“The US military will continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack our (Afghan) partners,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman.
“This is going to be a windy, bumpy road, but a political agreement is the best way to end the war,” he said, quoting a recent statement by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.


US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

Updated 8 min 44 sec ago

US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

  • Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine
  • Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment

PARIS: Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine during the gold rush.
But instead of exploiting it themselves Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment, some experts say, pointing to a flurry of European companies announcing deals with US tech players for cloud services.
Renault, Orange, Deutsche Bank, and Lufthansa recently plumped for Google Cloud. Volkswagen signed up with Amazon Web Services. The French health ministry chose Microsoft to house its research data.
The cloud is a term for offering data storage and processing services externally so clients don’t need to invest as much in costly gear.
This trend has sparked concern particularly in Germany, which has a rich trove of data thanks to its powerful industrial sector.
The EU is “losing its influence in the digital sphere at the moment it is taking a central role in the continent’s economy” warned a recent report by a group of experts and media leaders under the leadership of the former head of German software firm SAP, Henning Kagermann.
“The majority of European data is stocked outside of Europe, or, if stocked in Europe, is on servers that belong to non-European firms,” it noted.

A senior French official recently delivered an even more blunt assessment in a meeting with IT professionals.
“We have an enormous security and sovereignty issue with clouds” said the official at the meeting, which AFP attended on the condition of respecting the anonymity of participants.
“In many cases it is convenience or a sellout” by European companies and institutions “because it is simpler” to sign up with US tech giants than find European options, said the official.
“However we have very good firms offering cloud and data services,” he added.
One of the causes of concern for Europeans comes from the Cloud Act, a piece of legislation adopted in 2018 that gives US intelligence agencies access in certain cases to data hosted by US firms, no matter where the server may be physically located.
“My company is American and I know very well what the implications are of the legislation,” said a Franco-American executive.
“And given what is happening in US policy debates, that situation won’t be getting better.”
Beyond the integrity of data, it is the capacity to analyze and exploit that information that worries many European experts and policymakers.

If in Europe “we are just capable of generating data and need others to exploit it then we are going to end up in the same situation as countries with mineral resources that rely on others to process it and end up with meagre economic benefits,” said the French official.
The French and Germans unveiled in June the GAIA-X project that aims to develop a competitive European cloud offer.
Rather than encourage the development of a European champion — in the mold of Airbus in response to Boeing — that would offer the full gamut of services, the project takes a different tack.
It aims to set standards so different firms could offer storage, processing, security and artificial intelligence services seamlessly. It would operate as a marketplace of sorts where each client could find the services they need without having to leave European jurisdiction.
It is hoped GAIA-X’s decentralized model might prove a better fit with the issues raised by treatment of data from connected devices.