Taliban warn Afghanistan’s neighbors against allowing US military presence on their soil

Taliban warn Afghanistan’s neighbors against allowing US military presence on their soil
The Taliban statement described the presence of US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan as the ‘fundamental reason for regional insecurity and war.‘ (AP)
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Updated 27 May 2021

Taliban warn Afghanistan’s neighbors against allowing US military presence on their soil

Taliban warn Afghanistan’s neighbors against allowing US military presence on their soil
  • Cautions against extending support for Washington after foreign troops’ exit

KABUL: The Taliban on Wednesday urged Afghanistan’s neighbors not to make what would be an “historic mistake” by hosting US military bases.

The militant group warned that such a move would provide America with the ability to launch attacks on Kabul after its troops had withdrawn from the war-torn country by Sept. 11.

In a statement, the Taliban said: “We are asking neighboring countries not to provide such an opportunity or allow such a move. If, God forbid, still someone allows this, this will be a historic mistake and ignominy.”

It described the presence of US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan as the “fundamental reason for regional insecurity and war,” adding that the group would “not remain silent against such a heinous and provocative act.”

Nearly 20 years after the Taliban’s Islamist government was toppled in an American-fronted invasion in 2001, the group reiterated that it would “continue to perform its historical duty as it has during history,” noting that ordinary Afghans were the “main victims of the occupation.”

The charged Taliban statement followed recent comments by the US military revealing that Washington was in talks with a number of Kabul’s neighbors over the stationing of its troops for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

With the future of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government uncertain after the departure of foreign troops from the country, some US officials believe that the Taliban will use the situation to attempt to regain power by force.

However, the group said it had “repeatedly assured the world” of its commitment “not to allow any side to use Afghanistan for attacks against any country.”

The statement added: “(Our) demand (is for) others not to allow their soil and airspace (to be used) against our country, and if such a step is taken, the responsibility of any problem and its outcome will lie on those who commit such a mistake.”

Over the past two decades, several countries, including Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, have allowed Washington to use their airspace and ground routes for attacks against the Taliban and the shipment of equipment and weapons to Afghanistan, in return for cash.

HIGHLIGHT

The militant group warned that such a move would provide America with the ability to launch attacks on Kabul after its troops had withdrawn from the war-torn country by Sept. 11.

After the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the US began to view Pakistan as a frontline state in its efforts to stop Soviet expansionism.

In September 1981, former US President Ronald Reagan’s administration signed a five-year, $3.2 billion economic and military aid package with Islamabad, for Pakistan to become the main route for arms and supplies for the Afghan resistance.

In recent years, the US military has renewed its focus on Pakistan after Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan backed out of the campaign.

Pakistan recently said it would avoid supporting Washington in the initiative, forcing the US to rethink its Afghan approach. Islamabad’s decision came after a Pentagon official claimed that Pakistan had allowed the US to use its airspace and ground routes.

Speculation on Pakistan’s involvement with the American campaign has grown since Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the US Central Command, told the US Senate that a fraction of troops would remain “stationed nearby Afghanistan” following the September withdrawal.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it was in talks with “several Central Asian neighbors of Afghanistan” to survey where it could reposition troops to prevent landlocked Afghanistan from once again becoming a militant hub.

However, Washington did not explicitly name Pakistan — which shares a border of nearly 2,600 kilometers with Afghanistan — as a potential partner in the initiative.

Pakistan has been closely engaged with Washington in Afghan initiatives and supported the signing of an agreement between the US and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, more than a year ago, which eventually led to the intra-Afghan peace talks.

However, its role in the Afghan peace process has been controversial, with several experts accusing Islamabad of supporting the Taliban while also allowing the US to use its territory for the Afghan war.

At the same time, Pakistan – similar to China, Iran, and Russia – has opposed the presence of American troops in its neighborhood.

Canada-based Afghan expert, Said Azam, told Arab News that the need for an extended presence of US troops was a “complex issue” that had become “a new riddle for people of the region.”

He said: “It is a very complicated subject; if the situation in Afghanistan is so acute that it needs intervention by US troops, then why are they closing their bases in Afghanistan but opening in neighboring countries?”

Azam noted that neighboring countries thinking of hosting US military bases needed to take their “domestic, economic, and social fabric into consideration.”

He added: “It will be very costly and risky for Islamabad to embrace Washington further as it will anger the Taliban, Iran, and specifically China which has invested tens of billions in Pakistan.”

Wahidullah Ghazikhail, a Kabul-based political analyst, told Arab News that the region was of “high importance for the US” and that Washington would “not abandon it” to arch-economic rival China which would further “consolidate its grip if and when the US totally departs from the region.”

He pointed out the possible impact of a US deal on Islamabad’s ties with Beijing, particularly on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project central to China’s broader Belt and Road Initiative.

“We are witnessing an economic war in the world now. America is not happy with China’s investment in Pakistan and wants Pakistan to turn away from China. Pakistan will do what suits its benefits.

“We will face more war in the region; the war’s geography will change. Russia and China are worried about it. The Taliban have hostility with America and does not want it to remain in the region,” he said.


EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia
Updated 7 sec ago

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia
BRUSSELS: The European Union on Thursday announced that it was ordering its non-essential staff to leave war-torn Ethiopia.
EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said security would be stepped up for EU and local staff remaining at its missions to Ethiopia and to the African Union.

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries
Updated 6 min 13 sec ago

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries
  • The group includes 68 women, six children and the body of a baby who did not survive the voyage
  • Spain is one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants seeking a better life in Europe

MADRID: A baby was found dead in one of five migrant boats intercepted off Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic with nearly 300 people on board, officials said Thursday.
Migrant arrivals on the Canaries have surged since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.
In the latest incident, the Spanish coast guard rescued 282 sub-Saharan African migrants from five inflatable dinghies off the coast of Fuerteventura, one of the seven islands that make up the Canary islands, local emergency services said in a tweet.
The group includes 68 women, six children and the body of a baby who did not survive the voyage, an emergency services spokeswoman said.
They are all in good health except for one woman who needed medical attention, she added.
Spain is one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Between January 1 and November 30 a total of 36,379 migrants arrived in Spain by sea, 511 more than during the same time last year, according to interior ministry figures.
More than half, 54 percent, arrived on Spain’s Canary Islands off the North African coast.
The shortest route to the archipelago is more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast, but it is notoriously dangerous due to strong currents.
Over 900 migrants have died trying to reach the Canaries so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.


India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant
Updated 38 min 37 sec ago

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant
  • All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested

BENGALURU: India has detected two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in the southern state of Karnataka, a health ministry official said on Thursday.
“All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested,” the health ministry’s joint secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing.


Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign
Updated 58 min 32 sec ago

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign
  • The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the US regardless of their vaccination status
  • Biden is also extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions.
The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the US regardless of their vaccination status. But as some other nations close their borders or reimpose lockdowns, officials said Biden was not moving to impose additional restrictions beyond his recommendation that Americans wear masks indoors in public settings.
Biden said Wednesday that the forthcoming strategy, to be unveiled during a speech at the National Institutes of Health, would fight the virus “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
The White House released details of Biden’s plan early Thursday, in advance of the speech.
The Biden administration has come to view widespread adoption of booster shots as its most effective tool for combating COVID-19 this winter. Medical experts say boosters provide enhanced and more enduring protection against COVID-19, including new variants.
About 100 million Americans are eligible for boosters under current US policy, with more becoming eligible every day. Convincing those who have already been vaccinated to get another dose, officials believe, will be far easier than vaccinating the roughly 43 million adult Americans who haven’t gotten a shot despite widespread public pressure campaigns to roll up their sleeves.
And while Biden’s vaccination-or-testing requirement for workers at larger employers has been held up by legal challenges, the president on Thursday will renew his call for businesses to move ahead and impose their own mandates on workers so they can stay open without outbreaks.
In a effort to encourage more people to take the booster doses, the Biden administration is stepping up direct outreach to seniors — the population most vulnerable to the virus. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will send a notice to all 63 million Medicare beneficiaries encouraging them to get booster doses, the White House said. The AARP will work with the administration on education campaigns for seniors.
So far about 42 million Americans, about half of them seniors, have received a booster dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week broadened its booster dose recommendation to cover all Americans aged at least 18 starting six months after their second dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
The White House said the CDC was also developing new guidance for schools in an effort to reduce or eliminate current quarantine requirements for those are not fully vaccinated and exposed to the virus. The new policies, which the White House said will be released in the coming weeks, could include so-called “test-to-stay” policies, in which those who are considered close contacts can continue to go to school but wear masks and undergo serial testing, in a bid to minimize learning loss and disruption.
The administration’s upcoming rule to require private insurers to cover at-home testing is still being drafted, and many details remain to be worked out, including under what criteria they will be reimbursable, officials said. Those insured by Medicare and Medicaid would not be eligible, but the White House said as many as 150 million people with private insurance would see easier and cheaper access to the at-home tests.
Beginning next week, the White House said, all travelers to the US, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flights. That’s down from three days right now for those who have been vaccinated, in an added precaution against the omicron variant. But the White House has shelved tougher options, like requiring post-arrival testing or requiring quarantines upon arrival in the US
Biden is also extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January, through at least the middle of March, the White House said.
The administration is also informing states that it has more than 60 teams available to help them or their municipalities address surges in cases and public health shortages heading into the winter, with half aimed at bolstering hospital services and 20 targeted at supporting life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments.


Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban

Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban
Updated 02 December 2021

Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban

Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban
  • Outside the poll body, more than a dozen people chanted “Disqualify, BBM! Disqualify! Disqualify!” while carrying posters bearing the same message

MANILA: Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the early frontrunner for the Philippines presidency, was hit by another formal complaint on Thursday, as longtime opponents of his powerful family pile pressure on authorities to disqualify him from elections next year.
The activists’ petition is part of a flurry of complaints designed to sideline Marcos, a career politician and son and namesake of the notorious dictator who was driven from power by a 1986 people’s uprising.
It was among at least six lodged with election authorities and is centered on his 1995 conviction for failing to pay income tax or file tax returns while in public office from 1982 to 1985, which carries a lifetime election ban.
“He was the son of the ruling dictator, the same dictator who imposed the penalty of perpetual disqualification,” the 13-page petition said.
The group was referring to a 1985 amendment to the internal revenue code permanently barring a public officer convicted of a tax crime from voting and running in any election.
“Perhaps he thought he was an exception to his father’s decrees,” the petition said.
The Marcos family is arguably the most famous and divisive in the Philippines.
Despite its fall from grace, it has retained vast wealth and far-reaching and powerful connections, but its prominence has been a cause of anger to thousands who suffered during the harsh 1970s martial law under the elder Marcos.
Outside the poll body, more than a dozen people chanted “Disqualify, BBM! Disqualify! Disqualify!” while carrying posters bearing the same message.
BBM refers to “Bongbong” Marcos, his nickname. His media group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since his conviction, Marcos, 64, has been elected governor, congressman and senator and ran unsuccessfully for the vice presidency.
“He may have been allowed to run in 2016 but we will not allow him to run again,” said petitioner and Akbayan youth chairperson Rj Naguit.