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US defense chief approves plan to transfer authority

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(Last Updated On: July 3, 2021)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has approved a plan to transfer authority from Army General Scott Miller to Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said late Friday.

Miller is the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the Resolute Support Mission. McKenzie is the commander of U.S. Central Command.

According to Kirby, this is all part of the safe and orderly retrograde that will have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of August — well within President Joe Biden’s order.

“We expect that transfer to be effective later this month,” Kirby said.

“General Miller will remain in theater (Afghanistan) in coming weeks to prepare for and to complete the turnover of these duties and responsibilities to General McKenzie.”

Kirby emphasized that McKenzie will retain all existing authorities that Miller currently possesses and commander of U.S. Forces, Afghanistan. “He will continue to exercise authority over the conduct of any and all counterterrorism operations needed to protect the homeland from threats emanating out of Afghanistan, and he will lead U.S. efforts to develop options for the logistical, financial and technical support to Afghan forces once our drawdown is complete.”

This process will allow the United States to maintain a diplomatic presence within Afghanistan, as U.S. and Afghan leaders decide on the new bilateral relationship between the nations.

Austin also approved establishing U.S. Forces Afghanistan to be led by Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely in Kabul. Army Brigadier General Curtis Buzzard will lead the Defense Security Cooperation Management Office, Afghanistan that will support Vasely.

Buzzard’s office is based in Qatar. That office will provide funding for the Afghan National Defense and Security forces to include over the horizon aircraft maintenance support.

Kirby confirmed U.S. forces have left Bagram Airfield and said this was a key milestone in the drawdown process.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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CSTO to take anti-drug trafficking measures at Afghanistan border

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will hold a three-phase anti-drug trafficking operation at the border with Afghanistan, the organization’s Secretary General Stanislav Zas told Russia-24 news outlet.

He said the CSTO has a range of activities planned for 2022, including military security and the fight against terrorism, Russia-24 reported.

“These are measures of fighting against the illegal circulation of narcotics. This subject is especially important on the backdrop of the recent events in Afghanistan. Here we plan three stages of anti-drug trafficking measures,” Zas said.

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