Taliban shut down ministry for women

Taliban shut down ministry for women
In Kabul, workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women’s Affairs building. (AFP)
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Updated 18 September 2021

Taliban shut down ministry for women

Taliban shut down ministry for women
  • Militia bring back vice department

KABUL: The Taliban appeared on Friday to have shut down the government’s ministry of women’s affairs and replaced it with a department notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during their first rule two decades ago.
And in a further sign the Taliban’s approach to women and girls had not softened, the Education Ministry said only classes for boys would restart on Saturday.
In Kabul, workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women’s Affairs building.
Several posts have appeared on Twitter in the last 24 hours showing women workers from the ministry protesting outside the building, saying they had lost their jobs.
No official from the Taliban responded to requests for comment.
Also on Friday, the Education Ministry issued a statement ordering male teachers back to work and said secondary school classes for boys would resume on Saturday.
Despite insisting they will rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban have not allowed women to return to work and introduced rules for what they can wear at university.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution saying that the Taliban need to establish an inclusive government that has “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women” and upholds human rights.
The resolution adopted by the UN’s most powerful body also extends the current mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan for six months and delivers a clear message that its 15 members will be watching closely what the Taliban do going forward.
The resolution also calls for strengthened efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to some 14 million Afghans needing aid and demands “unhindered humanitarian access” for the UN and other aid agencies. It also reaffirms “the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan ... and ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter and train terrorists” in the future.
Russian and China’s leaders urged the Taliban government to remain peaceful to their neighbors and combat terrorism and drug trafficking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke via video link at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Putin said the organization, holding its meeting in Tajikistan, should “use its potential” to “stimulate the new Afghan authorities” in fulfilling their promises on normalizing life and bringing security in Afghanistan.
Xi said it was necessary to “encourage Afghanistan to put in place a broad-based and inclusive political framework” and to “resolutely fight all forms of terrorism” and live in peace with its neighbors.


24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast
Updated 42 sec ago

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast

24 migrants rescued from North Sea off Belgian coast
BRUSSELS: A small boat transporting 24 migrants was rescued Wednesday from the North Sea by emergency services off the coast of Zeebrugge, according to the governor of Belgium’s West Flanders province.
Carl Decaluwé told AP that all 24 passengers were rescued but that one of the migrants was in serious condition.
The Belgian air force said it sent an helicopter to the scene after receiving a distress call and a medic boarded the shipwrecked boat close to an offshore wind farm area. The air force said the Belgian Navy also provided assistance.
Decaluwé said five migrants were airlifted to safety, with the 19 others transported back to land by boat. He said authorities had yet to determine where the migrants came from.

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia
Updated 23 sec ago

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia

Southeast Asian states announces new strategic pact with Australia
  • Pact would further strengthen Australia’s diplomatic and security ties in the fast-growing region
  • China has also sought an agreement on the same strategic level with ASEAN

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed at a summit on Wednesday to establish a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” a sign of Canberra’s ambition to play a bigger role in the region.
The pact would further strengthen Australia’s diplomatic and security ties in a fast-growing region that has become a strategic battleground between the United States and China.
While concrete strategic objectives of the partnership were not immediately announced, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised Australia would “back it with substance.”
“This milestone underscores Australia’s commitment to ASEAN’s central role in the Indo-Pacific and positions our partnership for the future,” he said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Marise Payne. “Australia supports a peaceful, stable, resilient, and prosperous region, with ASEAN at its heart.”
Brunei, serving as chair of ASEAN, said the agreement “marked a new chapter in relations” and would be “meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial.”
After the announcement, Australia said it would invest $154 million in projects in Southeast Asia on health and energy security, counter-terrorism, fighting and transnational crime, plus hundreds of scholarships.
China has also sought an agreement on the same strategic level with ASEAN. Premier Li Keqiang met ASEAN leaders on Tuesday, and the bloc’s leaders will meet China’s President Xi Jinping in November at a special summit, to be held virtually, two diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Australia already has bilateral strategic partnerships of various levels with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam.
STABILITY AND SECURITY
Morrison also sought to reassure ASEAN that a trilateral security pact agreed last month between the United States, Britain and Australia, under which Australia will get access to nuclear-powered submarines, would be no threat to the region.
One ambassador to ASEAN, who asked not to be identified, said Australia clinching the comprehensive strategic partnership with ASEAN was “quite something” in the wake of regional reservations over its new AUKUS pact with Washington and London.
“Kudos to Australia,” the ambassador said.
AUKUS has raised some concerns in Southeast Asia that China could see it as a move by the West to challenge its growing influence in the region, particularly in the South China Sea.
The United States and allies have increased patrols to challenge Beijing’s vast maritime fleet which it deploys to buttress its claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
“AUKUS adds to our network of partnerships that support regional stability and security,” Morrison said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday said he was concerned AUKUS “could spark rivalry in the region,” according to his foreign minister, Retno Marsudi.
US ally the Philippines has backed AUKUS but its president, Rodrigo Duterte, on Wednesday said it “must complement and not complicate our working methods for cooperation.”
Military analysts have said the nuclear submarines Australia will purchase from the United States have unmatched stealth and underwater longevity. China has opposed the pact and said it could be damaging and intensify an arms race.
US President Joe Biden was due to join the virtual East Asia Summit later on Wednesday, with leaders of China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and South Korea, Japan and ASEAN members.
In an earlier meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed to Southeast Asian leaders his country’s strong opposition to challenges to a free and open maritime order, underscoring regional concerns about China’s growing military clout.


Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute

Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute
Updated 27 October 2021

Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute

Belgium warns Poland ‘not to play with fire’ over EU dispute
  • The comments follow years of disputes over changes Poland’s government has made to the country’s courts
  • The nationalist ruling party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since winning power in 2015 over a number of matters

BRUSSELS: European Union founding member Belgium warned Poland on Wednesday not to treat the EU like “a cash machine” to boost its economic fortunes while disregarding its democratic and rule of law principles at will.
“You cannot pocket all the money but refuse the values,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the opening of the College of Bruges, an academic well of European thinkers.
De Croo targeted Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who accused the EU of threatening “World War III” for insisting that Poland should respect the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of EU law. The Belgian prime minister said his Polish counterpart was “playing with fire when waging war with your European colleagues for internal political reasons.”
The comments follow years of disputes over changes Poland’s government has made to the country’s courts. The EU believes the changes erode democratic checks and balances, and the European Commission is holding up billions of euros to Poland earmarked in a pandemic recovery plan.
The war of words also comes on the heels of an EU summit, where Polish arguments that fundamental judicial changes the country made would not undermine the EU failed to convince key bloc leaders.
Among them was French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda later Wednesday.
Morawiecki’s recalcitrance crystalized in an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend. When asked if Poland could use its veto power to block legislation in retaliation, for instance on climate issues, Morawiecki said: “If they start the third world war, we are going to defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal.”
The interview did not go down well with Morawiecki’s EU colleagues. “You are playing a dangerous game,” De Croo said.
“This is about the overwhelming majority of member states – from the Baltics to Portugal — who agree our Union is a union of values, not a cash machine,” De Croo said, alluding to the fact that Poland has long been a major net recipient of EU funds.
The nationalist ruling party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since winning power in 2015 over a number of matters, including migration and LGBT rights. The longest running dispute, however, has centered on the Polish government’s attempts to take political control of the judiciary.
The matter came to a head earlier this month when the constitutional court ruled that some key parts of EU law are not compatible with the nation’s constitution. The ruling by a court stacked with ruling party loyalists was made after Morawiecki asked it to decide on whether EU or national law has primacy.


Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial
Updated 27 October 2021

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial
  • Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Greg Kelly
  • The only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to Ghosn

TOKYO: Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly said Wednesday he was “not guilty of any crime” as the defense wrapped up its case in Tokyo, where he faces jail over financial misconduct allegations.
Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Kelly, a US citizen and former aide to ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.
Kelly, 65, is the only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to auto tycoon Ghosn, who jumped bail and fled Japan hidden in an audio equipment box in December 2019.
“I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy, and I am not guilty of any crime,” Kelly said in his closing remarks at the Tokyo District Court.
The actions taken “to find a lawful way to retain Mr.Carlos Ghosn after he retired were in the best interests of Nissan,” he added.
His defense lawyers said prosecutors had failed to prove Kelly was behind an alleged plot to under-report Ghosn’s compensation over several years.
The charges against Kelly involve around 9.1 billion yen ($80 million at current rates) that prosecutors say was promised to his former boss upon retirement.
“It is clear that the prosecution’s portrayal of Kelly is unfairly distorted,” Kelly’s lawyer Yoichi Kitamura told the court.
“There’s no indication that Kelly had any personal interest in considering the payment for Ghosn ... the only possible conclusion in this case is acquittal.”
Kelly and Ghosn — a fugitive in Lebanon — were arrested in Tokyo in 2018, sending shock waves through the business world.
They have both maintained their innocence, saying no final agreement was made on any post-retirement pay, and therefore no disclosure was legally required.
“There was no crime,” Kelly said outside court after the hearing. “Carlos Ghosn never was paid anything. And there was no enforceable agreement.”
“Three and a half years, is that being given the right to a speedy trial?” he said, adding he had liked working for Ghosn, but “wasn’t his friend.”
Nissan, standing trial as a company alongside Kelly, has pleaded guilty and on Wednesday asked the judge for leniency ahead of the verdict on March 3.
Prosecutors have demanded Nissan be fined 200 million yen, but the firm’s lawyers said the alleged misconduct “was carried out to benefit Ghosn” and not the company.
It comes after Rahm Emanuel, nominated as the next US ambassador to Japan, said last week he would prioritize Kelly’s case.
“The number one responsibility of an embassy ambassador is to ensure the safety of a US citizen on foreign soil,” Emanuel told the Senate.
“I’m going to be approaching this subject as a former US congressman who knows what it means when you have a constituent at heart.”


Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 

Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 
Updated 27 October 2021

Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 

Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 
  • ‘Our resolve was found wanting,’ Ben Wallace tells parliamentary committee
  • ‘NATO were there to enable a political campaign, and I think that’s what failed’  

LONDON: NATO’s political campaign in Afghanistan was a failure but Western troops were not defeated in battle by the Taliban, the UK’s defense secretary has said.

Speaking in front of a parliamentary defense committee examining the events in Afghanistan leading up to and since the NATO withdrawal, Ben Wallace told MPs that the alliance’s forces could have stayed in the country but lacked the “resolve” to do so.

He also said it would have been “reasonable” to expect Afghan government forces to hold out against Taliban advances for longer than they did.

Asked by MPs whether NATO forces had been defeated in the country, Wallace said: “I don’t think we were defeated ... Our resolve was found wanting is what I’d say, rather than defeated ... We always had a military advantage until we started reducing (troop numbers).”

He added that the rapid collapse of Afghan resistance against the Taliban was partly the result of NATO’s failure to effectively overhaul the country’s political system.

“NATO were there to enable a political campaign, and I think that’s what failed. The military were there to put in place the security environment in order to try and deliver that,” he said.

“When that’s withdrawn, that’s when you find out whether your political campaign has worked. What we discovered is it didn’t work … There are a lot of searching questions there for all of us.”

Despite the later failures, Wallace said the initial goal of the invasion — to dismantle Al-Qaeda and end Taliban rule of Afghanistan — was a success.

“We bought counterterrorism success for 20 years. Al-Qaeda didn’t mount … a terrorist attack on the United Kingdom or her allies from Afghanistan. For many soldiers, that’s very important,” he added.

“I think it’s highly likely that we’ll see a return of Al-Qaeda and an increasing threat coming from Afghanistan.”

The two-decade-long war cost the lives of over 240,000 Afghans, 2,300 US troops, more than 400 British soldiers and hundreds more from other NATO countries.