Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The Taliban views interpreters who served the US
military as traitors. Thousands of translators now fear for their lives at home in
Afghanistan, while they wait in vain for residence visas promised to them by the US.
The prospect of death bound their fates together. First, an Afghan translator saved
an American army captain’s life, and then the captain saved the translator by helping
him make it to the US.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you the story if it wasn’t for the guy saving my life,”
says American Matt Zeller, while seated on his sofa in a Washington D.C. suburb.
CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The United States will meet the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha for a peace process in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
“The U.S. will have its first formal meeting with the Taliban, and indeed first meeting with the Taliban for several years, in a couple of days in Doha,” a senior administration official told reporters via conference call.
The meeting comes at a time when the Afghan government was taking the lead in military operations across the country on Tuesday and the Taliban was opening a political office in Doha.
The officials joining the conference call said the U.S.-Taliban meeting is expected to be followed by another one within days between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council, a 70-member body set up by the government in the summer of 2010 to initiate peace talks with the Taliban.
“I think that given the level of distrust among Afghans, it’s going to be a slow process to get that dialogue, that intra-Afghan dialogue moving,” one official said. “And the United States will encourage and help facilitate that.”
The officials played down expectations of the first U.S.- Taliban meeting, defining it as one for exchanging agendas rather than engaging in any “substantive, detailed” discussion.
“We’ll tell them what we want to talk about; they’ll tell us what they want to talk about; and we’ll both then adjourn and consult on next steps, and then have another meeting in a week or two later,” one official said.
The officials said Washington will raise the issue of the Taliban cutting ties with al-Qaida, urge the Taliban to “talk seriously” to the Afghan government and seek the return of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army sergeant held prisoner by the Taliban for the past four years.
The Taliban will issue statements in Doha later Tuesday to declare its opposition to the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries and its support for an Afghan peace process, according to the officials.
“These are two statements which we’ve long called for and together, they fulfill the requirements for the Taliban to open an office, a political office, in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government,” one official said.
The American and NATO troops transferred the control of 95 remaining districts to Afghan security forces in a ceremony on Tuesday, completing a transition process that started in 2011 and paving the way for a full withdrawal of coalition forces by the end of 2014 following a nearly 12-year bloody war against the Taliban.
by Abdel Haleem
Newscast Media KABUL—Washington’s latest decision to pull out roughly half of its forces from Afghanistan within the year could embolden the Taliban in its objective of toppling the present regime in Kabul and reinstalling its unique brand of Islamic rule in the country, local analysts here said.
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night in Washington D. C. (Wednesday in most parts of Asia), U.S. President Barack Obama announced the pullout of some 34,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan within the year.
Presently there are about 100,000 troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with around 66,000 of them Americans.
“The Taliban would certainly describe the troop withdrawal as defeat of U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and they would benefit from it in the propaganda war,” political analyst and retired Army General Amrullah Aman told Xinhua.
Under the agreement reached among the NATO-member states and troop-contributing nations to Afghanistan in 2010, the ISAF would complete its pullout from the war-torn country by the end of 2014. Washington has said that with Obama’s announcement, the U.S. is on pace to finally put an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in 2014.
Aman said that Obama’s announcement was made in a critical stage since the U.S.-led “war on terror” is still unfinished and there is a resurgence of violence in the country perpetrated by Taliban insurgents.
Aman also doubts whether the Afghan national security forces with its limited firepower and expertise can deal with the Taliban threat after the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.
“Since the Afghan forces do not have air power and heavy artillery it is difficult for Afghan forces to ensure security all by themselves after the troop withdrawal,” the retired general said, adding that the Taliban fighters are mainly guerillas and have mastered the “hit and run” tactic, making it difficult for the government forces to confront the insurgents in frontal combat.
“So, it will be difficult for the poorly equipped Afghan forces to check the Taliban-led insurgency without the support of NATO- led coalition and U.S. forces in 2013, 2014 or beyond,” Aman said.
Another military expert and political analyst retired General Atiqullah Omarkhil also said that the withdrawal of 34,000 U.S. forces within the year amid increasing militancy would make Afghans worry.
“I think the pullout of 34,000 troops at this stage is premature because Afghan national security forces are not capable of filling the void to be left by the departure of foreign forces, ” Omarkhil said.
“The end of combat mission in 2013, in my opinion would undermine the capability of Afghan security forces and can even boost the moral of the Taliban which could eventually affect the security situation in Afghanistan,” Omarkhil said.
Like Oman, Omarkhil said the Taliban would describe the pullout “as the defeat of infidels” at the hands of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and would use it to recruit more fighters in their continuing armed struggle to return to power in Afghanistan.
Newscast Media ROME—Pope Benedict XVI has made an urgent appeal to civil and political authorities to work for peace. The Pope’s heartfelt cry came on Monday during his annual address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.
Speaking to representatives of the 179 States that currently have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, as well as members of numerous international organizations such as the EU, the Order of Malta and the PLO, Pope Benedict emphasized that world leaders have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first – he said – called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family.
The Pope went on to list urgent areas of concern starting with Syria which he described as being “torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population”.
“I renew my appeal for a ceasefire” – the Pope said – “and for the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins”.
Staying with the peacemaking theme, the Holy Father had strong words of preoccupation for the Holy Land where – he said – Israelis and Palestinians must “commit themselves to peaceful coexistence within the framework of two sovereign states”.
Benedict went on to mention Iraq, Lebanon, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the DRC, Mali, the Central African Republic and Nigeria which – he observed – is regularly the scene of terrorist attacks which reap victims above all among the Christian faithful
gathered in prayer.
The Pope also condemned “religious fanaticism” which he said is a falsification of religion itself since religion aims at reconciling men and women with God.
Looking also at signs of promise around the globe, the Pope said that peace building always comes about by the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights. Foremost among these – he stressed – “is respect for human life at every stage”, and in this regard he expressed gratification for a Council of Europe resolution calling for the prohibition of euthanasia.
by Napp Nazworth
Newscast Media HOUSTON, Texas—Veteran Middle East reporter Lara Logan, who works for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” accused the U.S. government of propagating a “major lie” about terrorism, in her keynote address at Tuesday’s Better Government Association annual luncheon. The lie, Logan said, is that the Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists have softened in recent years.
There has been “a narrative coming out of Washington over the last few years,” Logan claimed, “driven by Pakistani lobbying money and by Taliban apologists,” that “the Taliban today is so unlike the Taliban of 2001. They are just a more moderate, gentler, kinder, Taliban that just can’t wait to see women in the workplace, occupy an equal role in society … it’s such nonsense.”
Logan was speaking about a Sept. 30 segment she reported on for “60 Minutes” about “insider attacks” killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Watch:
Logan also criticized the media who cover terrorism for not paying attention to what the terrorists say about the United States.
“Our way of life is under attack. And if you think that is government propaganda, if you think that’s nonsense, if you think that’s war-mongering, you’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight,” Logan said emphatically.
“In your arrogance, you think you write the script, but you don’t. There’s two sides and we don’t dictate the terms.”
Toward the end of her speech, Logan directed more of her criticism directly at the Obama administration.
“I can’t stand that there’s a major lie being propagated about the real situation. I don’t care who’s in power. I don’t care who’s behind it,” she said.
She also criticized the Obama administration for its misleading statements about the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the deaths of Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
“When I look at what’s going on in Libya, there’s a big song and dance about whether this was a terrorist attack or a protest and you just want to scream, for God’s sake, are you kidding me?”