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New Pentagon chief hires adviser who wants quick withdrawal of troops

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(Last Updated On: November 12, 2020)

The US Defense Department has confirmed new acting defense secretary Christopher Miller has hired a senior adviser who has frequently pressed for the quick removal of US troops in Afghanistan.

According to The Hill, retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor “will be serving as a Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Mr MacGregor’s decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities,” a Pentagon spokesperson said.

Macgregor has on numerous occasions in the past year advocated for the United States to pull its forces from conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

In an interview in January this year, MacGregor said only Trump could end the war in Afghanistan.

“He’s promised to do that a long time ago and he’s disappointed a lot of us because he hasn’t. He can stand up tomorrow and pull us out. But he needs to send everyone out of the Oval Office who keeps telling him ‘if you do that and something bad happens, it’s going to be blamed on you, Mr. President.’ He needs to say, ‘I don’t give a damn,” MacGregor said at the time. 

He has also said the United States should remove the US Embassy from Kabul, The Hill stated.  

Meanwhile, three people familiar with the move told Axios overnight this latest move was meant to help quickly withdraw US troops before the end of the Trump administration in January.

The Hill stated however that Macgregor, a Trump loyalist, will likely aid in an accelerated drawdown plan before the president leaves the White House in about 70 days.

His appointment has also raised concerns as his controversial rhetoric about Muslims and undocumented immigrants caused then-defense secretary Mark Esper to pass him over earlier this year for the Pentagon’s policy chief spot.

Macgregor has said the European Union and Germany are too welcoming to “unwanted Muslim invaders,” and that Muslim immigrants enter “with the goal of eventually turning Europe into an Islamic state,” rhetoric that stalled his chances as US ambassador to Germany.

 

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Kazakhs told to leave streets to avoid ‘anti-terrorist actions’

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2022)

A statement broadcast on Kazakh TV on Friday told Almaty residents to stay inside during the security operation in the city.

Video obtained by Reuters showed the broadcast statement, which said: “Respectable Inhabitants of Almaty! A counter-terrorist operation to destroy bandit groups is going on in Almaty. The main goal is to stop terrorists and safeguard the security of the city. If anti-terrorist activity takes place where you live, it is recommended you do not go near by windows or get out in the street. Hide in a safe place, do not leave children or the elderly without supervision.”

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city, has seen days of violence, with demonstrations that began as a response to a fuel price hike swelling into a broad movement against the government and ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state.

Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city on Friday after days of violence, and the Russian-backed president said he had ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put down a countrywide uprising.

A day after Moscow sent paratroopers to help crush the insurrection, police were patrolling the debris-strewn streets of Almaty, although some gunfire could still be heard, Reuters reported.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said foreign-trained terrorists were responsible for the unrest, and the interior ministry said 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated”, while 18 police and members of the national guard had been killed, figures that appeared not to have been updated since Thursday. State television reported more than 3,700 arrests.

 

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Japan pledges $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighbors to ‘address crisis’

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(Last Updated On: December 21, 2021)

The Japanese government has pledged to donate a total of approximately $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries “to address the humanitarian crisis” in the country.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

“The Government of Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in areas such as healthcare, food, and nutrition, protection, water, and sanitation, as well as livelihood improvement to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries,” the statement read.

According to the statement the assistance would be provided through 16 international organizations to improve the humanitarian crisis.

“The Government of Japan will continue to provide support and stand with the people of Afghanistan, and play an active role to realize stability in the region,” the statement added.

According to the statement, $100 million will be allocated for Afghanistan; $4.01 million to Iran; $3.72 million to Pakistan; $0.99 million to Tajikistan; and $0.43 million to Uzbekistan.

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COVID-19

Unvaccinated COVID patients flood French ICUs as cases surge

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(Last Updated On: December 18, 2021)

Pressure on French hospitals has been steadily mounting over the past few weeks as France battles a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, which has been filling up ICUs with unvaccinated patients.

Of the 20 COVID patients of the Mulhouse hospital ICU, only three are vaccinated while the youngest is aged 19 years old, head of the Emile Muller hospital ICU, doctor Khaldoun Kuteifan, told Reuters on Thursday.

“The Mulhouse hospital ICU is currently at full capacity as patients have been coming in for the past 20 days. Seventy percent of the ICU patients are positive COVID cases.”

France had recorded 60,866 new cases over the past 24 hours on Thursday night, while 78.1% of French people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to the French Health Ministry website.

“The waves keep coming and hitting us, and the more it goes on, the more tired we get,” nurse Aurelie Multhaupt told Reuters.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government expects to see around 4,000 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 by the Christmas holidays, Reuters reported.

Attal said new decisions on the reinforcement of border rules, the acceleration of the vaccination campaign and travel recommendations for the holidays could be announced in the coming days.

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