Uncertain Afghanistan looks to Trump for decisions on troops, aid | Reuters
By James Mackenzie | KABUL KABUL With so much riding on American support, Afghanistan is waiting anxiously to see if President-elect Donald Trump matches his maverick image and reverses policy or keeps to a path that has cost billions and committed thousands of troops to propping up a fragile ally.Much to the private annoyance of officials in Kabul, America's longest war barely featured in the election campaign, but few were expecting the billionaire property developer to beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.'It's been a complete surprise,' said one senior Afghan official closely involved in national security issues.
By James Mackenzie
KABUL With so much riding on American support, Afghanistan is waiting anxiously to see if President-elect Donald Trump matches his maverick image and reverses policy or keeps to a path that has cost billions and committed thousands of troops to propping up a fragile ally.Much to the private annoyance of officials in Kabul, America's longest war barely featured in the election campaign, but few were expecting the billionaire property developer to beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."It's been a complete surprise," said one senior Afghan official closely involved in national security issues. "I think everyone was expecting the opposite result."It (Afghanistan) wasn't a priority in the campaign, that's obvious. No one talked about Afghanistan at all. At least with Mrs. Clinton, though, you knew more or less what you were getting."Afghanistan will nonetheless present the incoming Trump administration with one of its most intractable foreign policy challenges.The United States has spent some $115 billion in aid for Afghanistan, but 15 years after the hardline Islamist Taliban were toppled after the Sept. 11 attacks, a third of the country is out of government control and security forces are struggling.As recently as last week two U.S. service members were killed fighting the Taliban near the northern city of Kunduz, and expectations that Afghan security forces could survive without extensive foreign assistance have proved illusory.Faced with a mounting Taliban insurgency, Obama dropped his original aim of pulling out of Afghanistan entirely. In July, he decided to keep 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, shelving earlier plans to bring the numbers down to 5,500 and leaving it to his successor to decide how to move forward.
Before the election, U.S. officials told partners that Afghanistan, whose war-ruined economy depends heavily on billions of dollars in foreign aid, will not be neglected by the new administration and that ties will remain strong and close."You can be assured that Afghanistan will remain at the highest levels of our foreign policy agenda," Ambassador Michael McKinley told an election day party at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, before the final results of the ballot were in.LITTLE INTEREST
However, Trump's "America First" doctrine has left many wondering if he will be willing to continue spending billions of dollars funding Afghanistan, particularly given his declaration that: "We're getting out of the nation-building business".
Among Afghans who use social media, a sense that the incoming president is opposed to their old enemy Pakistan made some hope his election would be good for Afghanistan, but there is little to go on for those trying to parse his public remarks.So far, he has shown little interest in Afghanistan, although his most recent comments suggested he favoured keeping troop numbers at around 5,500, the level they were intended to reach by the end of the year before Obama shelved the plan and set the number at 8,400.But in other comments, he has described America's involvement in Afghanistan as "a terrible mistake" and appeared to set conditions on the U.S. commitment to NATO, which leads the Resolute Support advise-and-assist mission in Afghanistan.Security officials in Kabul say the threat that Islamic State militants could build their presence in Afghanistan should act as an incentive to keep a U.S. force in place, although they admit they remain in the dark about Trump's intentions.
"As Trump promised during his campaign that he would eliminate Daesh (Islamic State), we don't think he would withdraw American forces from Afghanistan as Daesh is a new threat for Afghanistan and the region," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue."But we are still in a state of uncertainty and we will wait and see what Trump has for Afghanistan," he added.The decision will be vital for a country that is likely to depend on American support for years to come."The United States will almost certainly continue to be the leading source of both military and civilian reconstruction aid to Afghanistan for years to come," the latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a Congressional oversight body, said only last month.In an interview with CNN television last year, Trump himself appeared to accept that it was too late to pull U.S. forces out."And at this point, you probably have to stay because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave," he said, in the interview in October, 2015. (Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
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By Mohammed Ghobari and Katie Paul | SANAA/NAJRAN, Saudi Arabia SANAA/NAJRAN, Saudi Arabia Saudi-backed government forces and Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen accused each other of violating a ceasefire on Saturday as the United Nations tried to extend the three-day truce.The ceasefire, due to end at midnight local time on Saturday, is aimed at paving the way for talks to end a 19-month war in the Arab world's poorest country and allowing badly needed aid to be delivered.Ground fighting has raged largely unabated despite the truce, but air attacks on the capital, Sanaa, have stopped and there were fewer Houthi missile strikes on Saudi Arabia, residents and local officials said.A Saudi-led coalition backing the exiled government accused the Houthis of violating the ceasefire almost 1,000 times in the last 24 hours by launching mortar and armed attacks along Yemen's border with the kingdom and in several Yemeni provinces.General Ahmed al-Asseri, commander of the Saudi 4th Brigade on the border in Najran, told Reuters his forces were repelling a sustained Houthi ground attack. "The violation of the truce was not from our side.
THE HAGUE Islamic State is likely to launch more attacks in Europe, the EU police agency Europol warned on Friday, with several dozen militants already in place and more possibly arriving as IS faces setbacks in Syria and Iraq.In a report on the threat the Islamist group poses to the 28-nation bloc, Europol said the most probable forms of attack would be those used in recent years, from the mass shootings and suicide bombings seen in Paris and Brussels to stabbings and other assaults by radicals acting alone.Car bombs and kidnappings, common in Syria, could emerge as tactics in Europe, it said, while protected sites such as power grids and nuclear power stations were not seen as top targets.Essentially the entire European Union is under threat as almost all its governments back the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, the agency said, warning that IS was likely to infiltrate Syrian refugee communities in Europe in an effort to inflame hostility to immigrants that has shaken many EU governments. "If IS is defeated or severely weakened in Syria/Iraq by the coalition forces, there may be an increased rate in the return of foreign fighters and their families from the region to the EU or to other conflict areas," Europol said in a statement.It said Islamic State was also likely to start planning attacks and sending militants to Europe from Libya and that other groups, including al Qaeda and its affiliates, also continue to pose a threat to the continent. Europol Director Rob Wainwright said EU states had stepped up their security cooperation in the wake of IS attacks in the last couple of years, allowing more plots to be thwarted.
BOGOTA A new peace accord between Colombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels will be signed on Thursday and sent to Congress for approval, the two sides said on Tuesday, bringing an end to the five-decade-long civil war ever closer.The revised document will be signed in Bogota between FARC leader Rodrigo Londono and President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his efforts to end the conflict with the insurgent group."Consolidation of peace requires that we advance with a firm step toward implementation of the accord that permits us to overcome so many years of conflict in Colombia," the government and FARC negotiating teams said in a joint statement.The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been in talks in Havana, Cuba for the last four years, hammering out a deal to end a conflict that has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions within the Andean country.