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Biden team still to review US-Taliban deal: Blinken 

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(Last Updated On: January 20, 2021)

Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the State Department, indicated to Congress Tuesday that the incoming president’s team will look closely at what’s already been negotiated with the Taliban. 

At his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, he said he plans to emphatically redirect the trajectory of US foreign policy after four years of the Trump administration.

On whether the US, under Biden, would withdraw all troops from Afghanistan as planned, he said: “The President-elect wants to make sure that even as we pull back our forces that we retain the capacity to deal with any reemergence.” 

He made clear, however, that the Biden team hasn’t been given much access to the agreement outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban in February last year. 

Blinken said the Biden team will “look closely at what’s been negotiated there … to understand fully what commitments were made and not made by the Taliban.” 

He added: “I don’t believe any agreement is sustainable without protecting gains by women and girls over the last 20 years.”

Among numerous issues he was questioned on, lawmakers also asked Blinken about one of the most concerning major external threats to the US – Iran. 

According to CNN, Trump left the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and instituted a maximum pressure campaign. But as Trump leaves office, Iran is closer to gaining a nuclear weapon than it was when he entered.

Blinken however made clear the Biden administration feels the world was safer with the nuclear deal in place.

“President-elect Biden is committed to the proposition that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon,” Blinken said. 

“And we share, I know, that goal across this committee, an Iran with a nuclear weapon or on the threshold of having one with the capacity to build one on short order would be in Iran that is even more dangerous than it already is.”

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Kabul University lecturer killed in IED explosion 

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(Last Updated On: February 18, 2021)

A university lecturer was killed in a targeted IED explosion in Kabul city late Thursday morning.

Police confirmed the incident, which happened at about 11.25 am in PD3, close to Kabul University and said another person was also killed in the incident. 

The victim, Mubasher Muslimyar, was a lecturer in Islamic studies at the university.

Muslimyar was killed while driving in a Toyota Corolla which was targeted in a magnetic IED attack. 

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion.  

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Biden says he will never hesitate to use force to protect America

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2021)

In a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he would never hesitate to use force to defend America but also promised to work with leaders around the world to bring an end to wars that have dragged on “for far too long”. 

“As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary,” Biden said adding that the “central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe.”

He told DoD staff present at the event that the US Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world.

Biden promised to work with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and world leaders “to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people.”

Biden did not however give any indication as to what his decision is yet on the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline. 

An agreement signed in February 2020 by the Trump Administration and the Taliban notes that all US troops are supposed to be gone by May this year. 

So far, indications are that the withdrawal of troops will be based on conditions on the ground, opposed to a calendar date. 

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Facebook to temporarily reduce political content in some countries

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2021)

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it would temporarily reduce political content appearing on New Feeds for some users in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week and in the United States within the coming weeks, Reuters reported.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in January that he wanted to “turn down the temperature” of political conversations on the social networking site because “people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”

Reuters reported that the world’s largest social network, which has received flack for not doing enough to remove hateful content from the platform, last month said it would stop recommending civic and political groups to users.

Reducing the frequency of political content will mark initial steps to explore different ways to rank such content in people’s feeds using different signals and understand their preferences, the company said in a blog post.

Facebook will exempt content from official government agencies and services, as well as COVID-19 information from health organizations from the drill, Reuters reported.

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