Permanent Representative of Russia to the CSTO assessed the risks of weapons abandoned by the US and NATO in Afghanistan

Photo: pixabay.com

The weapons abandoned in Afghanistan by NATO and the United States pose uncontrollable risks. This was stated by the Ambassador-at-Large, Permanent Representative of Russia to the CSTO.

The Russian diplomat clarified that a large number of modern weapons remained in Afghanistan, which were left by the soldiers of the coalition forces who fled the country.

Recall that in August, The Mirror reported that after the American military left Afghanistan, many weapons remained in the country. This allowed the Taliban (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) to become one of the most equipped terrorist armies in the world.

Источник www.mk.ru

UN announced the presence of IS in almost all provinces of Afghanistan

The UN envoy to Afghanistan said that representatives of the IS cell are located in almost all provinces of the country and “are becoming more active.” She noted that the Taliban are not able to resist the strengthening of the group

The Taliban in power in Afghanistan; (a terrorist group banned in Russia) is unable to resist the expansion of the Islamic State terrorist group; (IG, banned in Russia) on the territory of the country. The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, announced this at a meeting of the UN Security Council, reports Reuters.

'Another negative development is the Taliban's failure stop the spread of the Islamic State, & mdash; she said.

According to her, now representatives of IS-Khorasan (an offshoot of the Islamic State operating in Afghan territory) is present in almost all provinces and is becoming increasingly active.

At the same time, Lyons noted that the Taliban in the fight against IS use extrajudicial arrests and killings of those whom the Taliban suspects of links with the Islamic State.

The envoy also said that the deteriorating economic situation in Afghanistan could lead to an increase in the illegal trade in drugs, weapons and people. “ The continued paralysis of the banking sector will push the financial system towards the shadow exchange of money, which will only contribute to terrorism, human trafficking and drug smuggling, '' & mdash; she thinks.

In turn, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said that the arrival of Taliban representatives to power did not bring stability to Afghanistan, and new challenges were added to the old problems. “ The new reality that was established in Afghanistan after August 15 did not bring either the Afghans themselves or the international community closer to stabilizing the country, creating on its territory a peaceful, indivisible and free from drugs and crime state. New challenges, connected primarily with the lack of international recognition, '', & mdash; he said.

The Taliban launched an offensive against Afghan government forces after the United States announced the withdrawal of its military contingent from Afghanistan. On August 15, the Taliban captured the country's capital, Kabul, and announced the end of the war with government forces. On the same day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. The Taliban called the restoration of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, a general amnesty and the cessation of drug production as the main directions of their policy.

The Russian side previously promised to support the Taliban in their plans to combat terrorism and eradicate drugs. At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out that the Taliban it won't be easy stop drug trafficking.

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What is known about the new opponents of the Taliban in Afghanistan

In the province of Laghman in Afghanistan, unknown people announced the fight against members of the terrorist movement Taliban, banned in Russia. What is known about them, as well as the fate of those who previously challenged the Taliban – in the RBC video

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‘Everything I am would not be the same without being a veteran,’ says soldier who served in Afghanistan

class=”MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>'Everything I am would not be the same without being a veteran,' says soldier who served in Afghanistan

Matt Farwell, who served in Afghanistan War, says he's glad that US troops are no longer there, but that he's horrified at how the withdrawal took place. He discussed his reflections on Veterans Day with The World's host Marco Werman.

The WorldNovember 11, 2021 · 3:30 PM EST

Color guard retires the colors during a Veterans Day commemoration ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, Nov. 11, 2021.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Many countries today are honoring service members who fought in wars. The day goes back to the end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. In Europe, it's known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. In the US, it's recognized as Veterans Day.

Related: Callie Crossley: Women in the military are still fighting the battle against invisibility

Notably, this is the first Veterans Day in 20 years with no US troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

A quick look at the numbers there: The US lost 2,325 service members during that war. Afghan soldiers killed in action number about 100,000. That's the human cost. The monetary cost of the US: about $2 trillion spent on the war in Afghanistan, a conflict that ended with the Taliban regaining control of the country this past August.

Related: World War II pilot Elaine Harmon is finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery

Matt Farwell, a veteran of Afghanistan who's written extensively on the war, including his book, "American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the US Tragedy in Afghanistan," reflected on his career and the US pullout from the country with The World's host Marco Werman, from Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Marco Werman: We were thinking about you, Matt, as today approached. How are you spending this Veterans Day?Matt Farwell: Right now, I am chilling on the porch, enjoying some sunshine with my dog and looking at the leaves that are starting to change. And then, I think we're going to go to IHOP and get some free pancakes.I can see you on the porch right now. I'm just wondering, though, does Veterans Day make you reflect on your time as a service member? Is it a different day than other days?I grew up the kid of a veteran, as well, and an active duty service member, so it's always been sort of a different day and almost like a church day, where you go and you think and reflect. And for a while after the war, it was a really bad day for me, where you're overthinking you're overreflecting. You get very maudlin. My battalion did the longest conventional tour in the global war on terror. That was our big distinction. Our other one is that we have one of the highest suicide rates in the army. You mentioned the numbers of people that were lost in Afghanistan. That's a huge number. And the number of the people that were lost because of Afghanistan is even bigger.We never spoke about the withdrawal in August and the chaos and the optics of the US leaving the country in tatters. What has this year been like for you and what are you feeling today, knowing that all the US troops have left?On one hand, I felt since my deployment in 2006, 2007, that the war was not what it was being sold to the American public as, and that we probably shouldn't be involved there in the way that we were. So, I am glad that US troops are no longer in Afghanistan. I'm glad we're no longer fighting that war. I'm horrified with the way that it took place. I mean, three of my interpreters that I'm quite close to, they made it out. These three brothers from a battalion in Paktika [Province], where most of the town supported the Americans, and had since the American invasion. And now, they're here, they're in Fort Worth. They're truckers. They're filling a critical need in our economy. They're working their butts off. They make me feel lazy — and I work quite hard. Meanwhile, all they can worry about is their mom and brother that are still stuck in Afghanistan, that, at like three points during the withdrawal, I could have gotten out, but the State Department wouldn't clear it.Were you playing a role in evacuating Afghans?I was trying to help my interpreters get some of their family members out, and I failed at that.It must have been hard. I mean, I know there was a lot of paperwork.It's still hard. I mean, I'm supposed to … the paperwork wound up being the obstacle. I could have gotten them on a helicopter and gotten them out. I was talking directly with the helicopter pilots and the State Department said no.So Matt, I want us to hear a moment from the last time you and I spoke about America's legacy in Afghanistan. Here's what you said. I think this is back earlier this year: "I mean, I think it's the same legacy that the Soviet Union left, the same legacy the British left, the same legacy Alexander the Great left. We got beaten by the people of Afghanistan. It happens. It happens to everybody." How does that comment strike you today, Matt, even more relevant?Yeah, I mean, still true and relevant. It wasn't for lack of money or anything else. We lost there. People lose there. The Afghan people are tough. There's infighting among themselves, and that's part of why we're trying to get my interpreters' families out, so that they can be safe.So, now we're getting news from Afghanistan about an imminent humanitarian disaster with winter coming. I mean, not much news, though, from Afghanistan. How do you feel about America's attention span with regard to the country?Oh, it's terrible. I mean, the only time I've had writing directly solicited from me was in the actual week that Afghanistan was falling. And then, after that, the attention has completely fallen off.The US right now is not directly engaged in any major war, but the military is always on alert, and it seems the world keeps looking at the US and wondering what the US is going to do about global conflicts. Do you think that is still the role of the US?I mean, I think as long as so many people in the United States make so much money off of war, it'll still be the role. And I don't see Lockheed Martin or BAE Systems going away anytime soon.That's a critique we often hear from the far left in this country. Should we be surprised that a veteran is saying that?No, because it's the critique that you first heard from a veteran named Dwight Eisenhower when he was giving his presidential farewell speech. He warned about the dangers of the military industrial complex, and we just finished out a 20-year war that largely existed to serve them.So Matt, Veterans Day, it's about paying respect to and honoring those who have served. What aspects of that service are you most proud of?I am most proud of the people I got to know, the people I served alongside, or that I've gotten to know afterward because of that service. I'm hard on the army. I still love the army of any American institution. It's the one that I'm the most emotionally attached to. It gets my heartstrings going, you know, so there's a whole lot. My life and my character and everything I am would not be the same without being a veteran. So, it's an incredible honor for me to be able to join that unbroken line in my family that goes back generations and people that have stepped up and served in the military. And just because I happen to do it in a bad time during a bad war, I'm still proud that I was able to do that and was able to do that with so many fine people. And I just wish that it didn't screw so many of us up so badly.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Behind the story: Shirin Jaafari’s reporting from Herat, Afghanistan, in the summer of 2021

class=”MuiTypography-root-125 MuiTypography-h1-130″>Behind the story: Shirin Jaafari’s reporting from Herat, Afghanistan, in the summer of 2021

Shirin Jaafari, a reporter at The World since 2015, shares why she was so passionate about returning to Afghanistan and what it took to get her there — and back — safely.

The WorldNovember 11, 2021 · 11:00 AM EST

Reporter Shirin Jaafari looks out over the ancient citadel of Herat, in western Afghanistan, just days before the Taliban takeover.

Courtesy of Shirin Jaafari

It’s 2018, and after months of careful planning, Shirin Jaafari lands in Kabul, Afghanistan, for the first time. She’s there to collect women’s stories and to make connections for future reporting. Shirin covers a range of stories, from up-and-coming Afghan fashion designers, to students at the American University of Afghanistan who are still pursuing their studies even after a terrorist attack, to a star midwife and health adviser who is working to make pregnancy safer for all women in Afghanistan. 

When she returns to the United States, she continues to report on Afghanistan and often checks in with her contacts who send her photos and videos, giving her a window into what’s happening on the ground.

“I saw how their lives were changing, and how Afghanistan was going through a big transformation as every day, the Taliban occupied more territory.” 

Shirin Jaafari

“I saw how their lives were changing, and how Afghanistan was going through a big transformation as every day, the Taliban occupied more territory,” Shirin said.  

This is a mural on the campus of the American University of Afghanistan.

Credit:

Shirin Jaafari/The World

Shirin wants to go back to Afghanistan, and this time, she wants to go beyond Kabul and into the provinces where little international reporting is done. She pitches the idea multiple times to her editor Matthew Bell, and eventually, they decide she will return in November 2020.

They spend countless hours planning her travel, security detail and route in the months leading up to her return. But right when she should be getting ready for takeoff, the trip is canceled because of security concerns. 

Months later, in July 2021, the United States confirms that they have withdrawn from Bagram Airfield and announces that the deadline to withdraw completely has been moved to the end of August. 

“There was a point in early July when Shirin told me, ‘The United States is leaving. This is happening now.’”

Matthew Bell

“There was a point in early July when Shirin told me, ‘The United States is leaving. This is happening now,’” Matthew said. The team realized how quickly things were changing on the ground, and shifted into gear to get Shirin back to Afghanistan. Another painstaking process of preparations begins, and by July 20, she is taxiing on the tarmac at Kabul International Airport. 

Security concerns in the region change by the hour, so it isn’t until Shirin is on the ground that she makes a plan with her security detail about where to go next. She wants to get out of Kabul and into the provinces, perhaps Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif or Herat.

Reporter Shirin Jaafari took a selfie from the edge of Herat in western Afghanistan in August as the Taliban was advancing toward the city. 

Credit:

Shirin Jaafari

The team decides on Herat for a few reasons. From a safety standpoint, there are more flights going in and out of the city daily, making it easier to leave the city if needed. But it’s also the perfect place to gather information on two potential stories of interest: a small militia group that opposes the Taliban is set up in Herat, and people who have already been displaced by the Taliban are arriving in the city every day. 

One day, as Shirin’s team is driving to the outskirts of the city, they spot a woman carrying a load of firewood on the side of the road in the August heat and wind. The car stops, and Shirin jumps out and speaks with her. She learns that the woman’s name is Salimeh, and that she is carrying the firewood many hours back to her house to feed a few families who have fled from fighting north of the city. They drive Salimeh home, and Shirin speaks with the other families who have made the difficult decision to leave their homes behind as the Taliban approaches. 

Salimeh has been hosting displaced families at her mud house in the outskirts of Herat in western Afghanistan since the fighting began in the north of the country two months ago. Her own family has barely anything to eat given that the insecurity has left many jobless and farmers haven't been able to harvest crops. Afghanistan is also facing a drought.

Credit:

Shirin Jaafari/The World 

Putting together stories in hostile environments is time- and resource-intensive. In addition to the usual costs such as airfare and lodging, reporters often also require producers and translators. Security is another concern: Correspondents work with a security detail, sometimes changing vehicles up to three times a day to ensure their safety. 

The newsroom team must balance the value and cost of trips like these with other necessary and urgent reporting from around the world. Your support enables The World to tell stories like Salimeh’s. 

Later, when the team is preparing to leave Herat, the airport shuts down. They decide to make the most of their time and travel to the city center to speak with more sources. Shirin meets Hamid Soltani, the owner of an antique store. He’s already thinking about how he will have to change his business in order to stay open if the Taliban is in power. 

“In a place like Herat, what do people have at stake? It’s a really important voice. People who have something to lose, sitting there with the Taliban at the gates of the city, wondering, ‘What’s my future going to be like?’” 

Matthew Bell

“In a place like Herat, what do people have at stake? It’s a really important voice. People who have something to lose, sitting there with the Taliban at the gates of the city, wondering, ‘What’s my future going to be like?’” Matthew, Shirin’s editor, said on the importance of bringing these stories to the air.  

Soon, the airport reopens and Shirin leaves Herat. When the stories from Herat air at the beginning of August, Shirin is back in Boston. Still, her thoughts are with her contacts, sources and friends in Afghanistan, and with their fears about what would happen if the Taliban were to regain power. “I’m very privileged to be able to get on a plane and get out. So many people who I talked to didn’t have that option, and some are still stuck,” she said.

Shirin ends up with more material than she can use on the radio broadcast — but she is able to highlight additional voices on the website and on other digital platforms. 

“Whose story do you tell, and whose ends up on the cutting room floor? At the end of the day, we just have five minutes. Whose voices are missing from the general reporting we hear?” Shirin said, on which stories to tell. 

Support The World today, and help us bring you human-centered stories that feature the voices that you don’t hear anywhere else. 

Learn more about Shirin’s reporting from Afghanistan. 

 

The spotlight has faded on Afghanistan, but not the urgency for Afghans seeking safety

class=”MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>The spotlight has faded on Afghanistan, but not the urgency for Afghans seeking safety

There are still thousands of Afghans trying to flee Afghanistan, or who are somewhere en route to a new home, and the US has struggled to meet the needs of this group.

The WorldNovember 8, 2021 · 1:30 PM EST

In this image provided by the US Army, Spc. Alejandro Haro, military police, Task Force Ever Vigilant, scans documents as he checks-in Afghan evacuees at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, on Sept. 20, 2021. Evacuees are provided housing, medical, and logistical support during their temporary stay in Kosovo by Task Force Ever Vigilant. Soldiers quickly deployed to Kosovo in August to assist and coordinate with US Embassy Pristina, Kosovo, while Afghans were processed before approval for resettlement in the United States. 

Sgt. Gloria Kamencik/US Army/AP file

When the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of US allies and their relatives were left behind after evacuation flights in the country concluded.

Many at risk in Afghanistan have been hoping to reach the US, one of the world's leading countries for refugee resettlement, but numerous roadblocks to acquiring security visas have left Afghans stuck in limbo en route to a new home.

Related: Sen. Tammy Duckworth calls for a 'real, cold-hard facts look' at US' failed 20-year war in Afghanistan

R., who worked for the United States, and then the US-backed Afghan government, is among those left behind. He says working as a US ally made him a target when the Taliban took over.

Related: Suicide bombings kill at least 37 at a mosque in Afghanistan

In the days that followed, he reached out to all of his US contacts, and he and his family returned multiple times to the Kabul airport, but ultimately, were unable to make it through the crowds outside.

R. — whose full name isn’t being used for his safety — is now in hiding.

In September, R. learned he had received final approval to move to the United States, but this long-awaited news has so far been of little use to the former US government employee.

Instead, he’s been shuttling between offices and homes of friends and family for months with his wife and two children, unable to find a way to pick up their visas from an American Consulate.

He’s unable to plan ahead and gets very little sleep at night.

“Mostly during the night, I check outside. I check around. I think, rethink,” said R., who first applied for relocation under the special immigrant visa (SIV) program in 2014.

Related: 'Why don’t you have mercy?': Afghanistan’s Hazara people increasingly face eviction, violence under Taliban rule

R.’s situation is complicated — with no clear path to safety.

When R. and his family first fled their home in August, he thought they could get on a US evacuation flight and leave within a week, so they didn’t pack warm clothes. But they couldn’t get into the airport after multiple attempts. Now, the weather has turned cold and he has had to use some of the family’s limited funds to buy blankets and jackets.

Since the closure of the US Embassy in Kabul and the end of the formal evacuation in August, virtually all paths from Afghanistan to the United States now include some steps that must be completed in third countries.

But US overseas consulates have not shown flexibility to the exceptional circumstances of Afghans, who may be admitted to third countries on transit visas valid for only a couple of days, explained R.’s attorney, Jennifer Patota, of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Afghans “don't have the time to enter the country, then contact the embassy to ask for the case to be transferred,” Patota explained. They must then wait for an appointment to go pick up the visa, she noted.

In some cases, she said US overseas consulates have refused to accept case transfers even before an individual has reached a third country or to waive other requirements, like medical exams.

“There's kind of a multitude of issues everywhere we turn. … We've been in this kind of a Catch-22 situation where he can't get a visa to enter many of the countries without proof that he has an American visa in some instances, but he can't get the American visa until he can get into the other country.”

Jennifer Patota, lawyer, International Refugee Assistance Project

“There's kind of a multitude of issues everywhere we turn,” she said, referring to R.’s case. “We've been in this kind of a Catch-22 situation where he can't get a visa to enter many of the countries without proof that he has an American visa in some instances, but he can't get the American visa until he can get into the other country.”

In July, Congress authorized waiving medical exams for Afghans eligible for special immigrant visas in order to speed departures.

“It's this lack of communication and coordination among departments and agencies that is causing life-or-death situations for the people that are caught up in it,” Patota said.

A State Department spokesperson wrote in an email to The World:

“We recognize that it is currently extremely difficult for Afghans to obtain a visa to a third country or find a way to enter a third country.”

“Developing […] processing alternatives will take time and will depend on cooperation from third countries, as well as the Taliban,” the spokesperson added.

Others at risk, including some who have managed to enter countries in proximity to Afghanistan have faced delays and barriers.

Leila Nadir of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association has been trying to help an academic, who had reached Pakistan, to come to the US to take a short-term appointment at her university in Rochester, New York.

“While [my colleague] is sitting in Pakistan, waiting for this interview, his Pakistani visa is running out. And so, in about one to two more weeks, he's going to have to return back to Afghanistan … Even the progress we’ve made gets reversed.”

Leila Nadir, Afghan American Artists and Writers Association

“While he's sitting in Pakistan, waiting for this interview, his Pakistani visa is running out. And so, in about one to two more weeks, he's going to have to return back to Afghanistan,” Nadir said. “Even the progress we’ve made gets reversed.”

So far, only one person in the group she’s helping has reached the US.

Of the tens of thousands that the US did manage to evacuate in August, many have spent weeks living on overseas and domestic military bases.

Related: How ethnic and religious divides in Afghanistan are contributing to violence against minorities

“Afghan families are basically sleeping outside in tents. It's getting cold, you know, on these military bases in the United States, and so, it's important to get people resettled.”

Yael Schacher, senior US advocate, Refugees International

“Like [at] Fort Bliss, at Quantico in Virginia,” said Yael Schacher, senior US advocate at Refugees International. “Afghan families are basically sleeping outside in tents. It's getting cold, you know, on these military bases in the United States, and so, it's important to get people resettled.”

She says the US government is pushing to get these evacuees resettled in communities before Thanksgiving, with help from the private sector. This should make room for more of those overseas to be relocated to the US, she noted.

But many are entering into another sort of limbo, admitted not as refugees, but under a temporary status known as humanitarian parole — which is faster to grant in a crisis situation than refugee status.

In August’s budget bill, Congress gave Afghan parolees some of the same benefits refugees get, including financial support and access to English classes.

However, humanitarian parole lasts just two years, with no path to permanent residency.

In addition, while focusing resources on processing evacuees, the US government has let other applications from at-risk Afghans languish, Schacher said.

A US Immigration ​​and Citizenship Services (USCIS) spokesperson, Victoria Palmer, wrote in an email to The World that the agency, which normally receives fewer than 2,000 requests for humanitarian parole a year, had received nearly 20,000 applications from Afghans since August. They granted 93.

Separately, more than 67,000 evacuated Afghan nationals have entered the country under humanitarian parole.

“USCIS is actively assigning additional staffing resources to assist with the current parole-application workload,” Palmer wrote, and “issued an agency-wide request for volunteers to help process applications […] The agency will have significantly more staff assigned to this workload in the coming weeks.”

Fast-tracking new legislation to protect Afghans 

For those admitted under humanitarian parole, additional steps will be required to remain in the US, particularly for those who have not already begun the SIV process.

“They're going to have to apply for asylum or other forms of immigration relief through our immigration system, which could take a very long time,” said Schacher of Refugees International.

The asylum application is “very labor-intensive,” she noted, requiring extensive documentation, yet many Afghans were told to destroy their documents back in Afghanistan.

Schacher’s organization and other advocates are pushing for legislation known as the Afghan adjustment act that would create a special pathway to permanent residency for this group.

Stewart Verdery, a political consultant who works with clients including the National Immigration Forum, says it’s difficult to get any immigration bill through Congress.

“I'm hopeful, though, that the bipartisan … angst about how the Afghan pullout … unfolded will allow this issue to be separated."

Stewart Verdery, political consultant who works with the National Immigration Forum

“I'm hopeful, though, that the bipartisan … angst about how the Afghan pullout … unfolded will allow this issue to be separated. Because it is time-sensitive; it is a discrete population.” He also notes that a precedent has already been set with past legislation impacting relocated Cubans and South Vietnamese.

Meanwhile, Patota said that her client R.’s situation is not only a result of a chaotic evacuation, but also of years of problems processing the visas of Afghans in need of protection.

“The US, I know, is working behind the scenes to try to figure out how to get people out, but it's not happening fast enough. And it could have happened in a much more orderly and safe fashion if they had just planned for this in coordination with the drawdown,” she said.

Hundreds missing after Afghanistan prison attack; Iran’s underreported coronavirus death toll; 90 minute COVID-19 test in Britain

Hundreds missing after Afghanistan prison attack; Iran's underreported coronavirus death toll; 90 minute COVID-19 test in Britain

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The World staff

An Afghan security person stands guard near a prison after an attack in the city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020.

Credit:

Rahmat Gul/AP

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Petraeus on Russian bounties in Afghanistan: ‘We were looking for this kind of activity’

Petraeus on Russian bounties in Afghanistan: 'We were looking for this kind of activity'

By
The World staff

Producer
Joyce Hackel

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US troops assess the damage to an armored vehicle of NATO-led military coalition after a suicide attack in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 2, 2017. 

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The New York Times reported Friday that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill American soldiers and other coalition forces in Afghanistan. The report asserts that US President Donald Trump was made aware of the intelligence finding in late March. 

Top of The World: Trump denies knowledge of Russian bounties in Afghanistan; pandemic death toll reaches half a million; attack in Karachi

Trump denied that he had been made aware of the situation, saying the US intelligence community told him they didn’t brief him on the allegations because US intelligence agents didn’t find the reports credible. Trump also referred to the story as “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax,” and to The New York Times as “fake news.” 

The World reached out to Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, who denied the reports. “I refute this report. It is not true,” Shaheen said. “It is only to create confusion and to derail the peace process.” Russia also denied the allegation; the embassy tweeted that The Times had invented “fake stories” to blame Russians.  

David Petraeus, retired US Army general and former CIA chief, says he wasn’t surprised by the reports of Russian bounties for coalition forces.

“We were looking for this kind of activity, frankly, from Russia also, by the way, from Iran and from some other countries in the region, other entities,” Petraeus told The World. “We looked for any support that the Russians might be providing to not just the Taliban, but perhaps some of the other extremist insurgence organizations. But certainly, according to the various news sources that clearly have been briefed on this by folks inside the community, it appears that this certainly took place during 2019.”

Related: Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

Petraeus spoke with The World’s Marco Werman about the report. 

Marco Werman: So, based on what you’ve read and heard so far, do you believe the reports of the Russian bounties are true?

Gen. David Petraeus: The level of specificity, the confirmation level of various legitimate, respected news organizations all suggests that this did transpire. There’s quite a bit of detail about the cache of money that was captured in a raid and then followed up with information during interrogations of individuals that were detained during those operations. And indeed, it appears, apparently, that there was at least one American soldier for whom this bounty was paid out. Keep in mind that we are many months after an agreement between the US and Taliban representatives back in February. Since then, reportedly, there have been no Taliban attacks on US positions. So, we’re really looking back at something that took place rather than something that has been taking place recently. That doesn’t mean that it is not absolutely outrageous, unacceptable, reprehensible. And clearly, again, if founded, if the degree of confidence is sufficient, clearly we should have conveyed to the Russians how outrageous and unacceptable this is.

Related: Amb Lute on Afghanistan: The US is ‘taking a very hard look at itself’ 

Intelligence officials told the AP that President Trump was briefed on the bounty matter earlier this year. But Trump is now trying to swat those allegations aside, tweeting last night that the intelligence community told him he was not briefed about these allegations because intelligence officials did not find the reports credible. What do you make of that?

Well, it’s a back and forth. Who knows? And, you know, you can parse words and so forth. [It’s] very difficult to know whether this is in the presidential daily briefing or in one of the actual sessions that was held with the National Security Council or with the president.

Typically, Gen. Petraeus, how does this work? If intelligence of this sort is gathered in the field, how does it move up the chain of command? And at what point is it decided that it should reach the president’s ear?

There is a team that’s literally working all the time on what will be in the next presidential daily briefing. They put it together overnight. It is eventually delivered from the CIA headquarters, where it’s still put together, to the office of the director of national intelligence. The assessments are all locked down because this is from the entire community. And you could have signals intelligence, you could have other forms of intelligence, in addition to what it is that the CIA has gathered in the field.

Related: What can the US learn from the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan? 

If this is true and the Russians were offering bounties for the lives of US troops, how will Washington respond to this?

One would hope that perhaps there already had been a response, but if not, then clearly there are various options that can be employed. Everything from a diplomatic outreach to them about how unacceptable this is, how reprehensible. And then on up the ladder, whether it’s clandestine operations, covert action, and not just in Afghanistan, although certainly if this were discovered there, there should be some pretty substantial targeting against those who were engaged in it. But, of course, there are Russian forces operating in southeastern Ukraine. There are forces in Syria, there are proxies in various other places around the world where, if necessary, something further could be pursued.

Related: After a deadly Syrian battle, evidence of Russian losses was obscured

If there was already a response, what would it have been?

Very difficult to speculate. One would think that there would be a denial, but perhaps also some kind of tacit, “Well, this never would have taken place, but, of course, had it taken place, that would be unacceptable. We understand that and it won’t happen again.” There is some speculation that this is a bit of a payback for what you may recall taking place a few years ago in northeastern Syria, where some Russian proxies, essentially the Wagner group — this is a security contract group with some Syrian forces — crossed in a very menacing formation with some very substantial weapons and so forth, armored vehicles, crossed into what was accepted as the Syrian Democratic Forces zone where the US was supporting them. And there were warnings given. When those forces did not turn around, the US hammered them with precision air attacks and so forth. Again, it’s possible that this is some kind of payback for that, except that, again, that was a violation of what was understood to be respective spheres within Syria.

Related: Is the US ready for the rising tide of mercenaries?  

General, what should US troops on the ground make of all this? What is the message it’s sending to the boots on the ground?

Clearly there’s always a desire and a need to know that those above you, if you will, have your back. And that will be among the factors, I’m sure, as this is evaluated further and as additional actions are taken.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Trump denies knowledge of Russian bounties in Afghanistan; pandemic death toll reaches half a million; attack in Karachi

Trump denies knowledge of Russian bounties in Afghanistan; pandemic death toll reaches half a million; attack in Karachi

By
The World staff

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks to US troops during an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2019.

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Several US service members are believed to have been killed as a result of bounties offered by a Russian military intelligence unit to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reports. Last week, The New York Times broke the story that US intelligence officials had concluded Russia was secretly offering bounties to kill US and NATO coalition forces in the country, possibly to destabilize ongoing peace talks or as revenge for the death of Russian mercenaries in Syria in 2018, though motivations remain unclear. 

The Taliban rejected the allegations, and Russia denounced the report, essentially calling it fake news. US President Donald Trump echoed the Kremlin’s line, accusing The New York Times of a possible “fabricated Russia Hoax.” According to The Times, special forces and intelligence officers alerted superiors as early as January of the suspected Russian plot, and Trump had been briefed on this intelligence in late March, but the White House failed to take decisive action. The president denied that he was alerted to Russia’s efforts to pay bounties, adding that intelligence officials had not found the report credible and therefore had not briefed him. Trump then claimed on Twitter, “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration,” and proceeded with an ad hominem attack on his presumptive presidential challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have demanded answers; select members are set to be briefed on Monday. Tune into The World today, as we plan to speak to Gen. David Patreus, former CIA chief, about the implications of this report. 

What The World is following

The global death toll for the novel coronavirus has surpassed half a million, with more than 10 million people testing positive for COVID-19. More than one-fifth of those cases are in the United States, where vast inconsistencies in local, state and federal responses have failed to curtail the outbreak. The pandemic, writes the Washington Post, is also accelerating the “corrosion” of the “golden age of globalization.”  

Several security officers and attackers were killed during a firefight at Pakistan’s stock exchange in Karachi Monday. The Baluchistan Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the attack. In recent years, the separatist group has targeted Chinese interests in the region, which is a center of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In France, The Greens party made gains in nationwide local elections marked by low turnout. President Emmanuel Macron followed up the vote, in which his party had a poor showing, by outlining his environmental agenda. Meanwhile, after traveling to the US for a photo-op with President Donald Trump last week, Poland’s President Andrezj Duda failed to get the “Trump bump” needed to secure a first-round win in elections on Sunday; a run-off election will be held in two weeks against liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.  

From The WorldThis Latina teen says the pandemic will mark her generation — and shape her vote

Marlene Herrera, 18, is a first-time voter in San Diego County. 

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Adriana Heldiz/The World

The mental health impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic will be felt for years — especially by young adults. Marlene Herrera, a first-time voter in San Diego, said it’s shaping how she’ll vote this fall. And when the Black Lives Matter protests began, she finally decided which candidate she’ll support.

As Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens, migrant workers are being dumped on the streets like ‘trash’

Former domestic workers from Ethiopia wait outside the Ethiopian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.  

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Rebecca Collard/The World 

In recent weeks, as Lebanon’s economic crisis worsens, about 100 Ethiopian women have been dumped at the Ethiopian Embassy by their Lebanese employers. Human rights advocates say the migrants have little to no recourse, and that the situation is bound to deteriorate further as more people in the country cannot afford to pay domestic workers. The coronavirus restrictions also complicate matters.

Morning focus

Canceled flights are no match for Juan Manuel Ballestero, who crossed the Atlantic in a small sailboat.

The idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable. So, in a small sailboat, he set on an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic. https://t.co/gxa7zaX10Q

— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 29, 2020In case you missed itListen: Developing ‘instant’ tests for the coronavirus

A medical worker collects a sample from a woman at a center to conduct tests for the coronavirus, amidst its spread in New Delhi, India, June 25, 2020.

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Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

A number of so-called “instant” tests for the coronavirus are being developed that could offer results within minutes. That could expand testing dramatically and help hospitals in the most vulnerable of places. And, last week’s Supreme Court ruling blocking the Trump administration from immediately ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a relief for hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families in the US. But living with DACA status has forced some immigrants to make agonizing decisions. Also, an American mom has sparked a transatlantic battle of sorts — over tea.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

EU travel recommendations may impede Americans and Russians

EU travel recommendations may impede Americans and Russians

Tourists are seen at a cafe in St. Mark’s Square a day before Italy and neighboring EU countries open up borders for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, in Venice, Italy, June 14, 2020.

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Manuel Silvestri/Reuters/File Photo

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The European Union is planning to reopen borders for visitors outside of the bloc starting in July, but officials say reviews are underway for the status of the coroanvirus in countries and a document laying out criteria that could keep Americans, Russians and Brazilians out.

The 27-nation bloc is eager to restart tourism, which has taken a massive hit during the coronavirus pandemic, but fears of second spikes have so far only allowed for partial and patchy reopening of borders with multiple health and security curbs.

Draft recommendations from the EU’s current presidency Croatia, seen by Reuters, suggest allowing non-EU nationals in from countries with stable or decreasing infections, and those with a “comparable or better epidemiological situation” than Europe.

That epidemiological criteria is defined as between 16-20 new cases of infection reported over 14 days per 100,000 people.

Nations would also be assessed for their records on testing, contact-tracing and treatment, reliability of data, and reciprocal travel arrangements for EU residents, according to the document, to be debated by envoys in Brussels on Wednesday.

Based on the latest update by the bloc’s European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the proposed methodology could rule out travelers from the United States and Mexico, most of South America, South Africa, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, among others.

The United States, where President Donald Trump banned European visitors at the start of the crisis, has by far the highest number of deaths and cases in the world. [nL4N2AY3AS]

EU diplomats stressed, however, that the travel criteria could still change and that the recommendations will be non-binding.

“It seems there is a lot of wishful thinking in these recommendations. They are also causing much controversy. July 1 may slip and many countries may go their own way in any case,” a diplomat said of the proposal by the European Commission.

The proposal, aimed at promoting a coordinated approach, would cover Europe’s Schengen zone of normally-invisible borders that brings together most EU states as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

A major achievement of post-World War Two European integration, it has suffered a major setback in recent months as countries brought back border controls to contain the virus.

By Gabriela Baczynska/Reuters

Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

By
Rupa Shenoy

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about a Trump administration executive order on the International Criminal Court as Defense Secretary Mark Esper listens during a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, June 11, 2020.

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When war crimes happen, and victims can’t get justice in their own country, there’s one place they can go: the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But now, that same court is being challenged by the Trump administration.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order placing visa restrictions and economic sanctions on members of the ICC and their families.

Related: What South Africa can teach the US about racial justice and reconciliation

He said he took that action because of the ICC’s investigation into alleged atrocities by US military members in Afghanistan. In March, judges at the ICC gave prosecutors the go-ahead to look into possible torture and other war crimes.

“As US investigations by the military, by the Congress make clear, United States citizens did commit serious violations of international law.”

Katherine Gallagher represents two individuals who remain detained at Guantanamo Bay without charge

“As US investigations by the military, by the Congress make clear, United States citizens did commit serious violations of international law,” said Katherine Gallagher, who represents two individuals who remain detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp without charge. “But we’ve seen for the past two decades no investigations and no prosecutions of senior US officials.”

Therefore, Gallagher said it’s appropriate for the ICC to be investigating US military members. But the Trump administration has long opposed the investigation, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the president has now taken steps that will hopefully stop it. The administration is also concerned about the possibility of the ICC investigating Israel’s actions in Palestinian territories.

“We cannot and we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Pompeo said, “and indeed, I have a message to many close allies around the world: Your people could be next.”

Related: Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

Pompeo said the president is holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate, engaging in a politically motivated investigation, and challenging US sovereignty. Attorney General Bill Barr took it a step further, announcing an investigation by the Department of Justice into the ICC.

“The US government has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC,” Barr said, adding that the DOJ has “substantial credible information” of a long history of corruption and malfeasance at the ICC.

“Worse yet, we are concerned that foreign powers like Russia are also manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda.”

But that concern was rejected by Stephen Rapp, who was US ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Obama administration.

“I mean, this is just absolutely preposterous,” Rapp said. “These are allegations with no proof whatsoever.”

Rapp said that the Obama administration held off an ICC investigation into Afghanistan war crimes by showing the court that they were looking into it themselves. But now, by openly opposing the ICC, he said the Trump administration is undermining the global community’s ability to bring war criminals to justice.

“We’re wounding ourselves, frankly, and making ourselves less of a leader when it comes to upholding human rights in the world.” 

Stephen Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Obama administration

“We’re wounding ourselves, frankly, and making ourselves less of a leader when it comes to upholding human rights in the world,” he said.

Related: Shocked Afghans ask why perpetrators targeted a maternity hospital and a funeral 

Trump administration officials point out the United States isn’t a member of the ICC, but the country has worked regularly with the international court to bring war criminals to justice. And the court has the mandate to prosecute crimes committed in any of the 123 countries that are a part of the ICC, including Afghanistan.

“It boils down to the fundamental of — you can’t escape accountability when you go elsewhere and commit crimes,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “We need to cut through the veneer of what’s really driving what this is, which is a fundamental position of the US government that it should not be held accountable, and its closest ally, Israel, shouldn’t be held accountable.”

The new US sanctions on ICC personnel probably won’t stop the court’s investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan, said Nancy Combs, a human rights lawyer at the College of William and Mary Law School.

“Once the United States comes out with guns blaring this way and tries to intimidate the court in the way that it has, one might expect a counterproductive response; the ICC prides itself on its independence. And so now, if it were to not bring prosecutions against the United States, it might look as though it’s been intimidated,” she said.

Related: Iranian border guards allegedly drowned 45 Afghan migrants. Their families want answers.

The International Criminal Court has released a statement that says it stands by its staff and its commitment to justice. O-Gon Kwon, president of the ICC’s oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, said he’s convening a meeting next week for the group to consider how to renew its “unwavering commitment to the Court.”