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Democrat Harris rebukes Trump in historic campaign-trail debut with Biden

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: August 13, 2020)

US Senator Kamala Harris made her campaign-trail debut as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate on Wednesday, delivering a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump’s leadership and highlighting the historic significance of her new role.

Harris said Biden, the former vice president under President Barack Obama, had recognized the critical moment being faced by the country by picking her to be the first Black woman and Asian American on a major-party US presidential ticket.

“Today, he takes his place in the ongoing story of America’s march toward equality and justice as the only person who served alongside the first Black president, and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate,” said Harris, a US senator from California.

Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats approved of Harris as Biden’s pick, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

Forced by the coronavirus pandemic to stage a more subdued launch than would be expected from a typical presidential campaign, the new running mates managed to display a personal connection that dates back to Harris’ friendship with Biden’s son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015.

Harris said she had long admired Biden’s commitment to his family and country, and she described him as ready to meet the challenges created by Trump’s failures in handling the pandemic and its economic consequences, as well as racial unrest.

“This is a moment of real consequence for America,” she said. “Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our kids, the kind of country we live in — it’s all on the line.”

“America is crying out for leadership, yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him, a president who is making every challenge we face even more difficult to solve,” Harris said.

The speech, delivered in a Delaware high school gymnasium near Biden’s home, featured no cheering crowds. The two candidates wore masks as they arrived and kept their social distance on a stage flanked by state flags.

The joint appearance came just days before Biden will formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination at next week’s party convention, which will take place largely as a virtual event due to COVID-19.

The Republican convention, where Trump is set to be nominated to seek a second four-year term, follows a week later and kicks off a 10-week sprint to Election Day on November 3.

In choosing Harris, Biden selected a former rival for the nomination whose most memorable campaign moment came during a televised debate when she criticized his past position on using busing to integrate schools and talked about its effect on her as a little girl.

Biden on Wednesday said her addition to the ticket sent a powerful message to girls across America.

“This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up – especially little black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities – today, just maybe, they’re seeing themselves in the first time in a new way. As the stuff of presidents, and vice presidents,” Biden said.

Harris is the daughter of immigrants, her mother from India and her father from Jamaica. 

Harris, 55, was announced as Biden’s choice on Tuesday after a selection process that drew extra scrutiny thanks to Biden’s age. The 77-year-old would be the oldest president ever if he wins, raising speculation that he would not seek re-election in 2024.

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Two former US defense secretaries advise against pulling out all troops

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(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)

Two former US defense secretaries have both said they would advise President Joe Biden against withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan.

This comes amid the Biden administration’s ongoing review of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago in Doha, which stipulates the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country by May 1.

However, in an interview with Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution, former defense secretary Mark Esper said the withdrawal deal negotiated with the Taliban was always contingent on conditions to be met by the Taliban.

“We implemented our side of it in good faith, but it’s fair to say the Taliban have not,” Esper said, noting the Taliban have not delivered on any of their key promises, namely a reduction in violence, good faith negotiations with the Afghan government, and a full break with al-Qaeda.

Esper said he would have opposed Trump’s post-election order to reduce U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 2,500, which he says has effectively undercut any leverage the U.S. had over the Taliban.

“I made this clear when I was in the administration at the end, I thought we should hold it 4,500 until the conditions on the ground were met.”

Esper said Trump has put Biden in a tough situation and said: “We have to make sure that again, Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorism. And I say that as somebody who wants to get out of there as badly as anyone else.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the Washington Post, Robert Gates, who served under former president Barak Obama, said the “least bad option’ is for the U.S. to stay until the Taliban get the message that the U.S. won’t leave until they get serious about peace.

“My view is that I think the steps the president has taken in terms of hinting that we might not pull the rest of our troops out on the first of May is exactly right. I think that we do need to take into consideration the possibility of having a presence in Afghanistan at roughly the current level, or maybe even slightly more, along with our NATO allies.”

“We have about 2,500 troops there now,” Gates says, and they need to stay, he argues, “for an indefinite period of time, at a minimum until that presence forces the Taliban to realize that they can’t just take all the marbles once we leave.”

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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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