President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon following a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.


“We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” Trump said at a Jan. 29 luncheon with representatives of the UN Security Council. “There may be a time, but it’s going to be a long time.”

Kabul, in recent weeks, has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on Jan. 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
U.S. Army Capt. DeShane Greaser stands in a crater caused by a bomb dropped during an air strike conducting a Battle Damage Assessment outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

At least 235 other people were wounded in the attack, including more than 30 police officers.

Following that attack, Trump called for “decisive action” by all countries against the Taliban, saying in a statement that the “murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners.”

Speaking at the White House on Jan. 29, Trump said: “We’re going to finish what we have to finish” in Afghanistan.

He added that “innocent people are being killed left and right,” including children, and that “there’s no talking to the Taliban.”

Several Americans were killed and injured earlier this month in the 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel claimed by the Taliban.

Afghan officials, along with the Trump administration, have accused neighboring Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Also Read: ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

Early this month, Washington announced it was suspending security assistance to the Pakistani military until it took “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that are operating in Afghanistan. U.S. officials said the freeze could affect $2 billion worth of assistance.

Captain Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said on Jan. 29 that Washington is “very confident the Taliban Haqqani network” was behind the deadly suicide bombing in Kabul over the weekend.

The United States has long said the Haqqani network has found safe haven in Pakistan.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on Jan. 29 that Islamabad “is extending whatever help and assistance is required” to combat terrorism.

“Our desire and support is for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and the early resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan,” Faisal said.

He added that Pakistan has “very limited influence” on the Taliban, “if any.”

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
A Marine fire team return to base after a routine patrol in Afghanistan.  (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups — including Islamic State extremists — since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.

Articles

US suggests NATO should train Iraqi army

Washington wants NATO to assume responsibility for Iraqi troops once the Islamic State forces are defeated, a top military commander said on Wednesday.


A top US military commander has floated the idea of the Washington-led NATO military coalition to assume some responsibility for training troops in Iraq after Islamic State group militants are defeated there.

The 28-member Atlantic alliance “might be uniquely posturing to provide a training mission for an enduring period of time” in Iraq, General Joe Dunford told reporters during his flight back to the US from Brussels, where he attended a planning meeting ahead of next week’s NATO summit.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Iraqi soldiers train to fight ISIS in April 2010. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Deja Borden)

“You might see NATO making a contribution to logistics, acquisitions, institutional capacity building, leadership schools, academies – those kind of things,” Dunford, who is Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

The issue is at the top of the agenda for next week’s summit, with US President Donald Trump pushing the allies to take on a greater role in combatting terrorism.

After months of brutal, street-by-street combat, IS has lost control of most of its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, while the jihadi force is now largely isolated in Raqqa, over the border in Syria.

A change in who leads the training mission would likely also mean revamping the nature of the effort, Dunford said.

“We are not talking about NATO doing what we are doing now for combat advising in places like Mosul or Raqqa,” the general said.

“I don’t think we are at the point now where we can envision or discuss NATO taking over” all missions of the anti- IS coalition in Iraq, he added.

NATO’s top brass said on Wednesday they believed the alliance should consider joining the anti- Islamic State group coalition put together by Washington to fight IS in Syria and Iraq.

General Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s military committee, told reporters after chiefs of defense staff met in Brussels that it was time to look at this option.

“NATO members are all in the anti- IS coalition. The discussion now is – is NATO to become a member of that coalition,” he said.

Articles

This is how the Army plans to keep soldiers more comfortable during jungle ops

In January, US Army uniform officials will begin an evaluation of the service’s new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform by issuing the lighter, more breathable uniform to thousands of soldiers in Hawaii.


The new IHWC is the result of a directed requirement to outfit soldier with a jungle uniform suitable for operations in the Pacific theater. This follows a similar effort that recently resulted in the Army fielding 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams in Hawaii between March and August.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
The Army Jungle Combat Boot. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.

Up until this point, 25th ID soldiers training to operate in hot, tropical environments have been wearing Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms and Hot Weather Combat Boots intended for desert environments.

“January 2018 is going to be huge,” said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear. “They are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”

The new uniform, made by Source America, is a 57 percent Nylon / 43 percent cotton blend to make it “faster-drying” and have “greater airflow” than the 50-50 Nylon cotton blend on the ACU, Ferenzcy said.

“It adds a little bit more strength, which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave … so it should dry a little quicker,” Ferenzcy said. “There are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Daniel Ferenczy wearing the Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. Photo from Military.com.

The new uniform has better flexibility and less layers of fabric, Ferenczy said adding that “less layers of fabric means that it retains less moisture means it dries quicker.

There are no breast pockets since soldiers in the field are typically wearing gear that covers them, and “all they end up doing is retaining moisture and heat, so we removed that extra layer there,” Ferenzcy said.

“The back pockets in the trousers are gone as well for the same reason,” he said. Uniform officials have added an ID card pocket inside the waistband.

The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform blouse also features a button-down front instead of a zipper closure. Uniform officials also replaced the side zipper closure on the shoulder sleeve pockets with a button-down flap at the top of the pocket, Ferenzcy said.

The new uniform features reinforced elbows and reinforced and articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, said Ferenzcy, whose office worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop the IHWCU.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Army Spc. Jake Burley assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st, Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division maneuvers through a river during United Accord 2017 at the Jungle Warfare School on Achiase military base, Akim Oda, Ghana, May 26, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Chaney)

“Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” Ferenzcy said. “The folks that designed it worked hand-in-hand with the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii.”

The plan is to issue about 20,000 sets of the new uniforms to the 2nd and 3rd BCTs in Hawaii in January and then another 10,000 to 12,000 sets in March, Ferenzcy said, describing the $14 million effort.

“This is under a directed requirement, so right now they are just a one-time buy,” Ferenzcy said. “It was ‘hey, we need to get these guys ready for Pacific operations.’ We don’t know exactly yet how we are going to sustain it.”

After 25th ID soldiers have a chance to train in the new uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team plans to return in “April or May and get feedback on the uniform and then we will make adjustments as needed, Ferenzcy said.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
The IHWCU promises to dry faster; useful in environments common in the Pacific Theater. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson.

“It they don’t like this material, the 57/43 NYCO blend, we may go with something else,” he said.

Phase two of the effort involves buying another 11 brigades worth of the IHWCU in its final form for contingency stocks “in case another brigade got turned on to deploy or do a training mission in a tropical environment, we would have uniforms ready for them,” Ferenzcy said.

“This uniform is about a pound lighter than the Army Combat Uniform; it’s very comfortable and not only does it make fighting and operating in a tropical hot wet environment easier, it’s also going to potentially mitigate heat injuries because it holds less heat and less moisture,” Ferenczy said.

“There no scientific studies to back this up, but heat casualties across the force are one of the biggest things that take soldiers out of the fight.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Woman says naval hospital left broken needle in her spine

A woman is suing the Naval Hospital at Jacksonville, Florida, after discovering a portion of an anesthesia needle was left in her spine before a C-section at the facility in 2003, according to The Florida Times-Union.

Her lawsuit claims that hospital staff improperly administered the anesthesia, which caused the needle to break, then covered up the incident. According to the suit, about three centimeters — just over an inch — of the broken needle were left inside her body.


According to the Times-Union, medical records from the time make no mention of the needle breaking but do say that “the anesthesia did not take.”

Amy Bright, whose husband was a Navy corpsman stationed at the hospital, suffered from leg and back pain for several years, according to attorney Sean Cronin, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

(Flickr photo by Nathan Forget)

Cronin told the Times-Union that the needle was discovered when Bright underwent a CAT scan in 2017. He told the newspaper that removing the needle is no longer an option, as Bright could suffer from further damage and even become paralyzed. Bright was reportedly never told about the needle.

“From our perspective this is a double failure,” Cronin told the newspaper. “It is a cowardly, unethical cover-up.”

Cronin told the Times-Union that hospital staff did not report the broken needle to Bright or the chain of command because “they did not want to get in trouble.”

In a statement issued to the Times-Union, representatives of the hospital said they could not provide comments regarding the lawsuit or Bright’s situation, citing patient confidentiality and privacy laws, but said they were “deeply committed to providing the best care to every patient entrusted to us.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Army’s ‘third arm’

When engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory brainstormed on how to improve soldier lethality, the idea of a third arm seemed like something that might help.

Mechanical engineer Dan Baechle carefully planned out a device that doesn’t need batteries, is lightweight and can evenly distribute the load of a heavy weapon.

“It can help stabilize the weapon and take the load off of their arms,” he said. “It’s made from composite materials to make it as light as possible, but also to ensure the range of motion that soldiers need.”

The device, officially called the Third Arm helps take the weight of the weapons off of a soldiers’ arms. It weighs less than four pounds, and because of the innovative design, the weight of the device and the weapon are evenly distributed.

“We’ve actually tested it with the M249 and M240B machines guns. The M240B weighs 27 pounds, and we were able to show that you can take the weight of that weapon completely off of the soldiers’ arms,” Baechle said.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Army researcher Dan Baechle (right) briefs Sgt. Michael Zamora on how to use the Third Arm exoskeleton device from the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

Soldiers testing the device pointed out that initial versions didn’t make it possible for them to use the device and go into the prone position. But that’s not an issue with the current version.

At a recent test with a soldier at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site at APG, a sergeant wore the device with an M-4 type weapon and dove into a prone fighting position from a sprint. The Third Arm provided immediate stabilization to improve marksmanship for the soldier.

“Right now it’s a prototype device, and it’s a fairly early stage prototype device,” Baechle said. “It’s been getting a lot of interest higher up in the Army, but also online with some of the stories that have come out. We’re using some of the interest to help motivate further development of the device.”



Baechle said that the Army modernization priorities include “soldier lethality that spans all fundamentals — shooting, moving, communicating, protecting and sustaining.” Further documentation specifically mentions the fielding of “load-bearing exoskeletons.”

“It falls in line with the direction that the Army wants to be heading in the future,” Baechle said. “We get comments from Soldiers who tell us different things about the way it feels on their body … about the way it redistributes the load. Some like it, some give us tips about the ways it could be improved, and we’re using that input to improve the device and improve the design so that it not only works well, but it also feels good.”

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Army Sgt. Michael Zamora assumes a prone fighting position using a prototype Third Arm exoskeleton device during testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, March 14, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

In 2017, the lab conducted a small pilot study of active-duty troops using Third Arm in live-fire trials. The results showed the device can improve marksmanship, reduce arm fatigue and muscle activation for some soldiers.

“We’re using that small study to motivate a larger study this year with more soldiers taking a look at dynamics, shooting scenarios,” Baechle said. “We’re still refining the device. We’re starting to look at heavier weapons.”

Baechle stressed that what you see now may not be what gets to future soldiers.

“What we have right now is a very specific device, but we can learn from that device,” he said. “I hope in the future what we’ll end up with is something that will help the soldier. Whether or not it’s in the form you see today, that’s less important. Helping the soldier is what I really hope for. I think this year is really going to be a good one and an important one in showing what this device can do.”


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Areas of Fort Sill on lockdown in response to an unknown, “serious incident”

Editor’s Note: This page was last updated at 1:29p.m. PST.

Reports of a “serious incident” are surfacing from Fort Sill, located north of Lawton, Oklahoma. Currently, several buildings are on lockdown and official channels are advising people to “stay away from [these] areas at this time.”


As of 9:39 a.m. PST, according to the Fort Sill Provost Marshal’s Office and Directorate of Emergency Services Facebook page, locked down areas include:

  • McNair Hall
  • Taylor Hall
  • Knox Hall
  • Sheridan Hall
President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

The locked-down buildings mentioned above are located within the encircled area.

[Update – 11:39 a.m. PST] According to Stars and Stripes, a public affairs officer has reported that the situation is “all clear.”

[Update – 1:29 p.m. PST] Official reports have surfaced that explain a former Fort Sill employee was detained and his vehicle was searched. The previously mentioned buildings were locked down as a security measure and the situation has been resolved.

At present, all we know is that it was not a bomb threat.

This page will be updated as the situation develops and details emerge.

Articles

Russia’s aircraft carrier has started launching sorties over Syria

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo


The US Naval Institute NewsSam LaGrone reports that armed fighters have flown from Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

As of yet, no strikes have been carried out. Only scouting missions involving the Su-33s and MiG-29Ks have gone forward, according to Lagrone.

Also read: Russia has a ‘pipe dream’ of replacing the US as the world’s dominant naval power

While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.

“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.

Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US Navy is going to Vietnam for the first time since 1975

The South China Sea has been a maritime flashpoint for a long time. Communist China acts as though they own this sea, a claim disputed by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and Indonesia. The United States has also historically challenged those claims with a number of close passes near some of the islands the ChiComs have claimed.


Now, it seems as though the Secretary of Defense James Mattis must have gotten a little irritated with the Chinese buzzings and other aggressive actions in the region. According to Business Insider, the United States Navy is going to be paying a visit to Vietnam.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
A F/A-18F Super Hornet, left, assigned to the Mighty Shrikes of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron 94, and an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Cougars of Electronic Attack Squadron 139 launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

What will be going there is sending Communist China a big message: A Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. This will be the first visit since the fall of Saigon in 1975, which marked the end of the Vietnam War. The United States Navy has one such vessel, USS Ronald Reagan, forward-based in Japan.

The Chinese Communists have been engaging in a major buildup of naval assets to assert greater dominance in the disputed region. The People’s Liberation Army Navy began building its first Type 002 aircraft carrier earlier this month just after launching its first home-built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A. The Chinese Communists have been operating the Liaoning, a Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier. The Chinese Communists have also constructed artificial island bases on some of the disputed territories in the South China Sea.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Dan J. Kritenbrink upon arriving in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 24, 2018. During the visit, he announced a carrier would visit Vietnam. (Photo from DoD)

The announcement by Mattis came during a trip to Southeast Asia. Mattis had also visited Indonesia, where he witnessed a demonstration by Indonesian special forces units that included drinking snake blood, breaking bricks with their heads, and deploying from helicopters with dogs. While in Vietnam, Mattis also visited the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, where over 1,600 Americans from the Vietnam War are still not accounted for.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what makes the NYC attacker a terrorist

After a driver plowed a rented truck into bikers and pedestrians on Manhattan’s west side on Oct. 31 and went on to shout “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, investigators quickly took to calling the incident terrorism.


The attack left eight dead and 11 wounded, according to reports.

But just a month earlier, when a gunman opened fire onto a concert in Las Vegas, leaving 58 dead and 500 injured, the police did not investigate the incident as terrorism.

The reason comes down to an attacker’s motivation. Authorities have yet to name a motive for the Las Vegas attack, but officials quickly began identifying clues on Oct. 31 after what would be the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill recieves a brief with FBI NY, NYPD Counterterrorism, Mayor de Blasio, and others after a motorist killed 8 and wounded others in an apparent terrorist attack in NYC on Oct. 31, 2017. (image @NYPDONeill Twitter)

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said at a news conference just two hours after the truck attack.

“He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the truck’s driver, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek national who had lived in Tampa, Florida. The attack ended when Saipov was shot by the police; he was then hospitalized.

“And if you just look at the M.O. of the attack, that’s consistent with what’s been going on,” O’Neill added. “So, that, along with the statement, that’s enabled us to label this a terrorist event.”

Read More: This Marine veteran ‘borrowed’ a truck and drove dozens to hospital during Las Vegas shooting

Multiple news outlets reported that investigators found a note in Saipov’s car pledging allegiance to ISIS, though the terrorist group’s news agency Amaq made no mention of the attack immediately afterward.

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, called the Oct. 31 carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

So even though authorities think Saipov acted alone, the attack is still being investigated as terrorism because of his apparent political motivation.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill at 1PP in a press conference regarding the terrorist attack that killed 8 in NYC on October 31, 2017. (image @NYPDSpeechley Twitter)

“While definitions for terrorism differ, the overwhelming majority of them distinguish terrorism from other crimes of violence by the purpose of the actor, not the severity of the harm caused,” Robert Eatinger, the former senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, told The Cipher Brief in October.

In response to the attack, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had “ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program.”

Saipov, however, hails from Uzbekistan, a country never listed in Trump’s proposed travel bans. Saipov used no firearms that legislation could restrict access to. And some of those who knew Saipov, who spent the months before the attack driving for Uber in New Jersey, have said he did not display any warning signs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

A roundup of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries:


Iran

Iran says the COVID-19 illness has killed 129 more people, a single-day record high for one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

During a televised news conference on March 16, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur appealed to the public to drastically curb outings, especially intercity trips.

“Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempts to travel to any province,” Jahanpur said.

The deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran’s first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease sparked by the coronavirus.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a 78-year-old member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country’s supreme leader, is the latest of several Iranian officials to have died, local media reported.

Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.

Iran has the third-most registered cases after China and Italy.

Tehran Province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.

The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Tehran coming next with 96.

The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took its total to 1,023.

There are suspicions that the outbreak in the Islamic republic — whose government is known for its opaqueness and censorship — is far worse than authorities are admitting.

President Hassan Rohani on March 16 urged Iranians to stay home for the Norouz holiday celebrations on March 20 and to avoid traveling over the festive period.

Police are to begin checking the temperature of drivers, Rohani said, adding to a raft of measures that include the closure of schools, universities, and Iran’s most sacred site.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has canceled his annual Persian New Year’s speech in the city of Mashhad, planned for March 21.

Russia

Russia says it will ban the entry of foreign nationals and stateless people to May 1 in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government said on March 16 that the ban, starting on March 18, won’t apply to diplomatic representatives and some other categories of people.

Russia has reported 93 cases of the virus so far, but no deaths.

Earlier in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new measures in the Russian capital, including prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10, and closing schools and universities from March 21 until April 12.

Sobyanin also asked elderly people to stay home.

A subsidiary of Russian Railways Rail said service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia would be suspended as of March 17.

Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russia’s “unnecessary” decision to close the border between the two countries in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There must be no unnecessary moves that might complicate already uneasy relations between the two nations,” he said on March 16 during a meeting with officials in Minsk.

The Russian government said the restrictive measures against Belarus, announced earlier in the day, were “prompted by special circumstances and are absolutely temporary.”

Belarus has reported 36 cases of coronavirus so far, but no deaths. Russian authorities have confirmed 93 cases, and no deaths.

Belarus, heavily reliant on Russia for cheap oil, has been at odds with Moscow over oil prices for months. The dispute is part of wider political discord between the two countries over forming a union state.

Instead of closing the Russian-Belarusian border, Lukashenka said, “our dearly beloved” Russia should help Belarus beef up security against coronavirus at its border with Poland, which he called “our common union-state border.”

The Belarusian leader also said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone soon.

Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under a 1999 unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.

Serbia

Serbian election authorities have delayed general elections scheduled for April 26 until after the end of a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican Election Commission said it decided to “temporarily suspend the elections process during the state of emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak,” in a statement on March 16.

Preparations for the elections will be resumed after the state of emergency is revoked, according to commission Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic.

The Balkan state has so far recorded 57 coronavirus infections. There have been no fatalities, but two patients are in serious condition, health authorities say.

Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15 in a bid to prevent the rapid spreading of the epidemic, shutting down schools and universities.

In announcing the decision, President Aleksandar Vucic said in a televised address that from March 16 the military would be guarding state hospitals, while police will be monitoring those quarantined or in self-isolation for 14 or 28 days.

Those who violate quarantine may face jail terms of up to three years, he warned.

Serbia also announced it was closing its borders to foreigners coming from the worst-hit countries.

Vucic, however, said the border-entry ban did not apply to people from China, praising Beijing for helping Serbia amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He criticized the European Union for allegedly failing to provide adequate support.

After Vucic’s address, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told state TV that borders will be open only “for Serbians, foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals with residence permits.”

Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan

Five more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uzbekistan, bringing the total to six, the government’s Telegram channel dedicated to the disease said on March 16.

Four of the six individuals are members of one Uzbek family returning from France, the government said in a separate statement.

Uzbekistan early on March 15 had reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.

Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.

The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.

Kazakhstan had already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.

Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.

The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic that as of early March 15 had infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800.

Armenia

The Armenian government has declared a monthlong state of emergency to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Assembly discussed the move for several hours, and none of the three parliamentary factions raised any objections or proposed any amendments.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told lawmakers that Armenia would have to hold its referendum on constitutional reforms, originally planned for April 5, after the state of emergency ends.

“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place during a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” he said.

Armenia reported 17 new coronavirus cases on March 16, bringing the total number of cases to 45. One patient is said to have recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.

Armenia and Russia have agreed to suspend passenger flights between the two countries for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Armenian government press service said on March 16.

The decision was made during a phone conversation between Pashinian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin.

All Armenian educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with Iran – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak – and Georgia are closed.

Georgia

Georgia will close its borders to foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.

Irakli Chikovani, the spokesman of the prime minister, said Georgian citizens who wish to return to the country will be able to do so, using Georgian Airways flights.

Georgia has registered 33 cases of the new coronavirus.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan reported five new cases on March 15, bringing the total number of registered cases in the country to 16.

Officials in Kabul said that all of those infected are Afghans who have recently returned from neighboring Iran.

The officials said up to 15,000 Afghan migrants workers and refugees are returning from Iran on a daily basis.

Pakistan

Pakistani President Arif Alvi is on an official visit to China on March 16-17 to hold meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and other top officials, Alvi’s office said in a statement on March 15.

The statement said the visit aims at “further solidifying historic bonds” between the two countries and described China and Pakistan as “the closest friends and staunch partners.”

It also pointed out that the visit comes as China is “engaged in efforts to contain” the spread of the new coronavirus, which has affected 157 countries and territories since it was first recorded in Wuhan, a city in central China.

It’s Alv”s first official visit to China, a strategic partner and major investor to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan on March 16 announced 41 additional cases of infection with the coronavirus after 41 more cases were confirmed in the Sindh region, bringing the total tally to 94.

Dozens of people quarantined at the Pakistan-Iran border protested what they called the poor hygiene in the camps.

The quarantined include religious pilgrims who are now returning from Iran.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has declared a state of emergency for 30 days to fight the spread of the disease.

During the state of emergency, schools will be closed; prices for medicine, fuel, and utilities are frozen; road and air traffic could be banned; and borders may be closed if necessary.

Romania has 158 registered cases.

One Romanian citizen — a woman in her 80s — died last week in Italy from COVID-19, the illness sparked by the virus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria banned entry on its territory of citizens from 15 countries with large coronavirus outbreaks, including five EU member states, as of March 18, the Health Ministry said.

Exceptions will be made for citizens with permanent or long-term permits to stay in Bulgaria and their family members.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


Articles

The US just obliterated this al Shabab base in Somalia

A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.


The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban
The US military confirmed an early June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.

“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”

Neither statement mentioned casualties.

There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.

In early May an American SEAL was killed in a nighttime raid in Somalia.

It appeared to be the first US military death in combat there since the infamous events of “Black Hawk Down” 24 years ago, when 18 American servicemen died in what is called the Battle of Mogadishu.

US special forces have been deployed in Somalia for years. Drone and missile strikes have also been used against al-Shabab commanders and foot soldiers.

The militant group has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia since 2007.

Meanwhile, in the north, al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday, leaving 70 dead and many more injured according to officials.

Civilians – including women – were beheaded during the rampage, which has been one of the deadliest extremist attacks in years.

Puntland also faces a growing threat from IS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab, which grew out of the Horn of Africa country’s quarter-century of chaos.

Last year, al-Shabab became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how California veterans can get free pets

Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.

The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.


Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

(Photo by Yerlin Matu)

While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.

The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.

Private shelters are not affected by the new law.

State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why military working dogs are treated just like regular troops

Military working dogs are an essential part of many missions — even sensitive ones, like the raid on the compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26, 2019. They’re so important, in fact, that they occasionally hold ranks themselves, although it’s merely formal and not official, and they’re always ranked one higher than their handlers.

That “seniority” honors the dog’s role and reminds the handler to be lenient when it has a bad day.

The dog who chased after Baghdadi, leading to his death by suicide, has become a celebrity — even though the dog’s name remains classified. A photo of the dog led to confirmation of its breed (a Belgian Malinois), but little else is known about the good boy (or girl). Disclosing the dog’s name and rank could lead to information about the dog’s affiliation with Delta Force, a classified unit, The Washington Post reports. That unit is still in the field, and revealing the dog’s name could put its handler at risk, although the dog’s possible name and sex have been reported, by Newsweek and the Washington Post, respectively.

Read more to learn more about military working dogs.


President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Chrisman, a combat tracking dog trainer, and Cpl. Ludjo, a military working dog, both with Third Law Enforcement Battalion, Third Marine Information Group, play tug of war at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(Sgt. Stormy Mendez / US Marine Corps)

The bond between a military working dog and its handler is vitally important to completing missions.

A handler needs to be able to read shifts and subtleties in their canine partner’s behavior to gather information about their targets or environments, and even how the dog is feeling.

For example, if the dog doesn’t feel like working, or has deficiencies with some tasks, the handler needs to be able to pick up on this and give the dog the tools, training, and motivation it needs to complete the task.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

U.S. Marine Corps military working dog Allie waits inside a Humvee to go on a mission while being held by her handler, Lance Cpl. Ronnie Ramcharan at the Central Training Center, Okinawa, Japan on Aug. 25, 2019.

(Lance Cpl. Andrew R. Bray / US Marine Corps)

While the military working dog’s rank is a formality — not an official rank like human troops have — it’s meant to encourage handlers to treat their dogs with love and respect.

Handlers have to be able to communicate what their canine partners are “telling” them, and to know without a doubt that the dog will listen to him or her.

“There’s no doubt about my dog: Number one, he will protect me. Number two, he will find a bomb,” Sgt. 1st Class Regina Johnson told the Army in 2011.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

Airman 1st Class Daniel Martinez, 355th Security Forces military working dog handler, participates in a simulated narcotic/bomb detection exercise with Darius, an MWD assigned to the 355 SFS, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2019.

(Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate / US Air Force)

Military working dogs whose units allow them to hold ranks are non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

By and large, military working dogs are treated as regular US troops would be.

Unfortunately, there was one period where military working dogs were left behind in a combat zone — in South Vietnam, during US troops’ hasty withdrawal there.

Prior to 2000, military working dogs were also euthanized after their service was finished. Military working dogs can now be adopted to civilians once their service is finished.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico as part of exercise Emerald Warrior 2011 in this U.S. military handout image from March 1, 2011.

(Manuel J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force)

Cairo the dog, also a Belgian Malinois, earned accolades from former President Barack Obama for his role in killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Cairo secured the perimeter of bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and, should the al Qaeda leader have proven difficult to find, Cairo would be sent in after him.

Upon hearing that Cairo was involved in the raid, former President Barack Obama said, “I want to meet that dog,” according to an account in The New Yorker.

“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” one member of the SEAL team jokingly advised the president.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

(Department of Defense)

Military working dogs and their partners both require extensive training to keep up with the demands of their job.

Dogs and their trainers go through a 93-day training program to cement their skills and gain practice as a team in real-world scenarios, according to the Army.

Only about 50% of the dogs the military procures to become military working dogs are actually suitable for the job.

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

Cpl. Ramon Valenci, a dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, orders his military working dog, Red, to search for improvised explosive devices during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 2-17, aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 19, 2017.

(Aaron S. Patterson / US Marine Corps)

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

100th Military Police Detachment, Military Working Dog (MWD) Money, conducts basic obedience drills, June 25, 2019, Panzer Kaserne, Germany. The MWDs and their handlers are trained to provide narcotics and explosives detection keeping the bases safe from threats.

(Photo by Yvonne Najera)

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

Callie, a search and rescue dog for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Nov. 29, 2018.

(Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton / US Air National Guard)

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

Timo, 23d Security Forces Squadron (SFS) Military Working Dog (MWD), bites Joe Dukes, Lowndes County Sheriffs Office SWAT team lead, during a MWD capabilities demonstration, March 21, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Timo is trained to attack on or off leash with or without command.

(Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson / US Air Force)

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

(Kevin Hanrahan)

They’re more than man’s best friend. Military working dogs are an essential part of the mission.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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