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Trump’s Former NSA says withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is an unwise policy

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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

US President Trump’s former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster says that Trump Administration’s withdrawal plan from Afghanistan is “an unwise policy.”

In an interview with the CBS News, the retired lieutenant general claimed that Trump with his new policy is “partnering with the Taliban against the Afghan government.”

“I think what [President Trump] did with this new policy, is he, in effect, is partnering with the Taliban against, in many ways, the Afghan government. And so, I think that it’s an unwise policy. And I think what we require in Afghanistan is a sustained commitment to help the Afghan government,” McMaster told the CBS.

The US and the Taliban signed a deal in February in Doha for bringing peace in Afghanistan.

According to the deal, the US committed to pulling out all of its troops from Afghanistan within 14 months.

In return, the Taliban pledged to cut ties with al-Qaeda and prevent terrorist groups from operating in the country and to start the peace talks with the government of Afghanistan.

Since February, the US has drawn the level of its forces down to 8,600 from 13,000 and has stated a further drawdown to 4,500 will be done by November.

Trump’s former national security adviser, however, calls the US troops drawdown in Afghanistan “a big mistake.”

He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and his negotiations with the Taliban has made the U.S. less safe.

“Terrorist organizations who pose a threat to us are stronger now than they were on September 10, 2001. Those who perpetrated the mass murder attacks of 9/11 were the mujahideen-era alumni of the resistance to Soviet occupation in Afghanistan,” McMaster told CBS News.

“Today, we are facing an Al-Qaeda and an ISIS alumni that is orders of magnitude greater than that mujahideen-era alumni ever was. And they also have access to much more destructive capabilities,” McMaster adds.

McMaster’s interview with CBS will be aired as part of the 53rd season premiere of “60 Minutes” on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. local time.

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NATO Defence Ministers meet to address security challenges

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday evening that alliance defense ministers had taken “another important step” and agreed to establish a new NATO Space Center in Germany. 

Addressing an online press conference after the first day of the two-day defense minister’s meeting, Stoltenberg said the new center will “help to coordinate Allied space activities; support NATO missions and operations from space, including with communications and satellite imagery; and protect Allied space systems by sharing information about potential threats.”

He also said they had addressed Russia’s growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and said the “challenge is serious, and growing in scale and complexity.”

A number of other issues were also addressed including that of new air and missile defense systems; strengthening NATO’s advanced conventional capabilities; and new fifth-generation fighter aircraft. 

Stoltenberg stated that ministers had also received a comprehensive report on the state of critical infrastructure, including ports and airports; supplies of fuel, food and medical equipment; and telecommunications, including 5G.

“While we have made progress, there are still vulnerabilities. For instance foreign control of the critical infrastructure upon which our societies and our militaries rely,” he said.

“Countries like China are investing aggressively in ports and airports, and our telecommunication networks remain vulnerable to attacks from the outside, and compromise from the inside.

“So we must continue to build up our resilience. And we have agreed that we will strengthen our resilience pledge when NATO leaders meet next year.”

On Friday, NATO’s training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq will be discussed.  

Addressing a pre-ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and supports the Afghan peace talks.

He also said however that: “The Taliban must live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence, and pave the way for a ceasefire.” 

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UN to probe Takhar airstrike after locals claim children were killed

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Thursday night it was investigating an Afghan National Army (ANA) airstrike in Takhar province that reportedly killed 12 children. 

In a post on Twitter, the mission said: “UNAMA civilian protection team following up on allegations of ANA airstrike yesterday against Taliban in Takhar province killing 12 children, girls & boys, & injuring 18 other civilians.”

UNAMA also stated that the United Nations will issue findings when complete. 

This comes after local officials in Takhar said early Thursday morning a mosque had been targeted in an airstrike killing children and injuring many others, including the mosque’s imam. 

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh rejected the claims in a Facebook post later in the day and said Taliban members had been targeted and eliminated. 

“The news of the killing of children in a mosque in Takhar is baseless. Those who dragged our forces to dust and blood yesterday were destroyed, and we have undeniable proof,” Saleh wrote.

This came a day after the Taliban carried out a massive attack against Afghan security forces in the province, killing as many as 50 soldiers. 

Reuters reported that Abdul Qayoom Hayrat, head of the provincial health department in Takhar, said that 10 of the dead soldiers were members of the Afghan special forces.

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COVID-19

Brazilian volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies 

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Brazilian health authority Anvisa confirmed a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but said the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccination.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian, said a review committee had suggested the trial continue. 

The university is helping to coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil.

 

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