Tag Archives: U.S.

#Afghanistan, US sign long-awaited security pact


Afghanistan's national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, seated at right, and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, left, sign the documents of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) at presidential palace as Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center right, and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, center left, watch, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Afghanistan’s national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, seated at right, and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, left, sign the documents of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) at presidential palace as Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center right, and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, center left, watch, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Afghanistan and the United States signed a long-awaited security pact on Tuesday that will allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Rahim Faiez reporting,

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan and the United States signed a security pact on Tuesday to allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year, ending a year of uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over responsibility for the country’s security.

Afghan, American and NATO leaders welcomed the deal, which will allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends Dec. 31. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign it despite U.S. threats of a full withdrawal in the absence of legal protections for American forces. U.S. officials have said that the delay in the deal’s signing does not affect plans for next year.

President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who was sworn into office a day earlier, told a crowd assembled at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul for the signing ceremony that the agreement signaled a fundamental shift for the positive in the country’s relations with the world.

“This agreement is only for Afghan security and stability,” he said in comments broadcast live on state television. “These agreements are in our national interest. The Bilateral Security Agreement will pave the ground for Afghanistan to take control,” he added.

Afghanistan's national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, center right, and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, center left, hug after signing the Bilateral Security Agreement at the presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Afghanistan’s national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, center right, and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, center left, hug after signing the Bilateral Security Agreement at the presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Afghanistan and the United States signed the long-awaited security pact on Tuesday that will allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

President Barack Obama hailed what he called a “historic day in the U.S.-Afghan partnership that will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan,” according to a White House statement.

“This agreement represents an invitation from the Afghan Government to strengthen the relationship we have built over the past 13 years and provides our military service members the necessary legal framework to carry out two critical missions after 2014: targeting the remnants of al-Qaida and training, advising, and assisting Afghan National Security Forces,” it said.

More than a decade after U.S. forces helped topple the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

Newly appointed Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the actual document. A second agreement allowing NATO troops to stay in the country was signed during the same ceremony.

Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has assumed a post akin to prime minister after signing a power-sharing agreement with Ghani Ahmadzai, also welcomed the security deal.

“It has been signed after very careful considerations,” he said, adding that “the BSA is not a threat to our neighbors. It will help strengthen peace and stability in the region.”

Abdullah and Ghani Ahmadzai struck the power-sharing agreement earlier this month after a prolonged dispute over alleged voting fraud in June’s presidential runoff. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security pact, and the prolonged uncertainty over who would succeed him, had delayed the signing.

Afghanistan's national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, second right, and NATO ambassador to Afghanistan Maurits Jochems, left, shake hands at the signing of the NATO-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement at the presidential palace, as Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center, and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, second left, attend in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014Afghanistan’s national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, second right, and NATO ambassador to Afghanistan Maurits Jochems, left, shake hands at the signing of the NATO-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement at the presidential palace, as Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center, and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, second left, attend in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Afghanistan and the United States signed a long-awaited security pact on Tuesday that will allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the agreement, saying it outlined the group’s new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

“We remain committed to help finance the Afghan security forces through 2017, to help Afghanistan to further strengthen its institutions, and to further develop our political and practical cooperation with Afghanistan through our Enduring Partnership,” he said in a statement.


The Associated Press.

#Merkel Evokes Cold War in Warning of Long #Ukraine Crisis


German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to arrive for talks at the chancellery in Berlin, on Sept. 29, 2014.German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to arrive for talks at the chancellery in Berlin, on Sept. 29, 2014.

Arne Delfs and Brian Parkin reporting,

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union and the U.S. may be facing a long confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, citing the 40 years it took East Germany to escape communist control.

Merkel, who grew up in former East Germany, signaled determination to uphold EU sanctions on Russia in comments in Berlin yesterday that underscored the fraught relationship with President Vladimir Putin, whose actions in the Ukrainian crisis she says are rooted in a Cold War mentality.

“I don’t see any change at the moment regarding Russia’s position,” Merkel said. “We needed 40 years to overcome East Germany. Sometimes in history one has to be prepared for the long haul, and not ask after four months if it still makes sense to keep up our demands.”

Merkel’s warning added to her comments to German industry leaders last week that an end to the ‘‘deep-rooted conflict’’ with Russia is far off as a cease-fire fails to halt fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

“Merkel lost faith in Putin a long time ago, but there’s now a realization in Germany and Europe that the Ukraine conflict is turning from hot-phase crisis management into a long game,” Jan Techau, head of the Carnegie Endowment’s office in Brussels, said by phone today.

Ukraine’s conflict, which the United Nations says has left more than 3,500 people dead, is forcing Merkel to take a stand as the country’s government seeks closer EU ties and accuses Putin of fomenting the pro-Russian rebellion in the east. Russia denies involvement in the conflict.

Permanent Confrontation

Nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the worst casualties since a Sept. 5 truce, the government said yesterday. President Petro Poroshenko said last week that the worst of the war is over as Ukraine focuses on elections next month, securing gas supplies and preparing a bid for EU membership.

“As long as the EU tries to prop up the Kiev government, there will be permanent confrontation with Moscow,” Techau said.

Merkel, 60, grew up as the daughter a Lutheran pastor in East Germany, the state founded in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany in 1949 after the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II. Communist rule collapsed after the Berlin Wall was breached following mass protests in 1989, and East Germany ceased to exist with reunification on Oct. 3, 1990.

Finland Concern

“Nobody had anticipated that Putin would take such a momentous decision” to “take us back to a Europe before 1989,” Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to the U.S., said at a Bloomberg Government lunch in Washington yesterday.

“A lot of trust was destroyed by Putin’s policy” in Ukraine, Wittig said. “And I think it’s a challenge to regain that trust.”

Merkel made her comments at a news conference after talks with Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, whose government has put fighter jets on alert after Russian planes repeatedly violated the northernmost euro-area country’s airspace.

Finland has the EU’s longest border with Russia and Stubb agreed that the Ukraine conflict isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. “We are looking at a long-term situation,” he said.

(To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net Tony Czuczka, Chad Thomas).


Bloomberg.

Russia’s foreign minister calls for ‘reset 2.0′ in relations with US | #US #Russia #Ukraine #Reset2


Sergei Lavrov says situation in Ukraine is improving and recalls ‘reset’ phrase used by Washington at start of Obama presidency.

Reuters in Moscow.
Russian minister for foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, speaks at the UN general assembly.Russian minister for foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, speaks at the UN general assembly. Photograph: UPI /Landov / Barcroft Media/UPI /Landov / Barcroft Media.

Moscow called on Sunday for a new “reset 2.0” in relations with Washington, saying the situation in Ukraine that had led to western sanctions against Russia was improving thanks to Kremlin peace initiatives.

Washington and Brussels accuse Moscow of supporting a pro-Russia rebellion in east Ukraine and have imposed sanctions, which they have repeatedly tightened since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March.

The conflict has brought relations between Moscow and the west to their lowest level since the end of the cold war. President Barack Obama said last week that the sanctions could be lifted if Russia takes the path of peace and diplomacy.

In television interviews on Sunday Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who on Saturday made critical remarks about US, western and Nato attitudes to Russia in a speech at the United Nations in New York, said it was time to repeat the “reset”, a word Washington used to describe an attempt to mend ties early in Obama’s presidency.

But he also repeated criticisms of Nato’s “cold war mentality”, criticised Washington for excluding Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad from its campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria, and said Washington “can no longer act as the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner in every part of the world”.

“We are absolutely interested in bringing the ties to normal but it was not us who destroyed them. Now they require what the American would probably call a ‘reset’,” Lavrov said, according to a transcript of one interview on his ministry’s website.

“The current US administration is destroying today much of the cooperation structure that it created itself along with us. Most likely, something more will come up – a reset No2 or a reset 2.0,” he told Russia’s Channel 5 television.

Shortly after Obama took office in 2009, his then secretary of state Hilary Clinton presented Lavrov with a red “reset” button that was intended to signal a fresh start to relations that had been strained under Obama’s predecessor George W Bush. In a diplomatic gaffe much mocked at the time, the button bore a Russian label that said “overload” instead of “reset”; the two words are similar in Russian.

Lavrov said that thanks to “initiatives of the Russian president”, the situation was improving on the ground in Ukraine, where a ceasefire has been in place for several weeks. The 5 September truce is largely holding, though some fighting has continued in places including the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

“The ceasefire is taking shape, though of course not without problems. Monitoring mechanisms have been introduced, talks between Russia, the European Union and Ukraine have started, gas talks have restarted,” Lavrov said.

Western countries say thousands of Russian troops have fought in Ukraine and accuse Moscow of sending weapons, including a surface-to-air missile used to shoot down a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory in July. Moscow denies participating in the conflict or arming the rebels.

Speaking to Russia’s state-funded international broadcaster, RT, Lavrov said “Nato still has the cold war mentality”, and said Moscow needed to modernise its conventional and nuclear arms, though he denied this would lead to “a new arms race”.

Lavrov also repeated Russian criticism of the US-led air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria, accusing Washington of a “double standard” for refusing to cooperate with Syrian president Assad. Washington has repeatedly called for Assad’s dismissal and backed some of the rebels fighting to topple him since early 2011.

“There’s no room for petty grievances in politics,” Lavrov told RT. “I very much hope that the United States will finally … realise that they can no longer act as the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner in every part of the world and that they need to cooperate to resolve issues.”

Lavrov said that despite the Western sanctions, Russia did not feel isolated on the world stage. Moscow has responded to the sanctions by banning most Western food imports.

“We feel no isolation. But, having said that, I want to emphasise in particular that we do not want to go to extremes and abandon the European and American directions in our foreign economic cooperation,” Lavrov told Channel 5.

“We have no desire to continue a sanctions war, trading blows,” Lavrov also said. “First of all, it is important that our partners understand the futility of ultimatums and threats.”


The Guardian.

Update: Man accused in Oklahoma beheading is awake | #OklahomaCity #beheaded


by TIM TALLEY.
This Oct. 18, 2011 photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Alton Nolen, of Moore, Okla. Prison records indicate that Nolen, the suspect in the beheading of a co-worker at an Oklahoma food processing plant Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, had spent time in prison and was on probation for assaulting a police officer.This Oct. 18, 2011 photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Alton Nolen, of Moore, Okla. Prison records indicate that Nolen, the suspect in the beheading of a co-worker at an Oklahoma food processing plant Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, had spent time in prison and was on probation for assaulting a police officer. (AP Photo/Oklahoma Department of Corrections).

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A man who was shot after he beheaded one woman and attacked another at an Oklahoma food processing plant from which he had just been fired has regained consciousness and has been interviewed by detectives, police said Saturday.

Alton Nolen, 30, remains hospitalized in stable condition after Thursday’s attack at the Vaughan Foods plant in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said. He said that Nolen will be charged with first-degree murder and assault and battery with a deadly weapon and that he may also face federal charges.

“We’ve already interviewed him, and charges will be filed on Monday,” Lewis said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for an Oklahoma City Islamic group said Saturday that Nolen was a frequent worshipper at a mosque the group maintains and that he remembers the suspect as “a little weird.”

“He was a nice, quiet, low-key guy,” said Saad Mohammed, director of information for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. “He acted a little odd,” Mohammed said, though he added that Nolen’s behavior never raised any “red flags.”

Mohammed said Nolen began worshipping at one of the group’s mosques in May.

Lewis said Nolen was fired right before the attack, and that he then drove from the building that houses the company’s human resources department to its main distribution center.

Once inside, he attacked 54-year-old Colleen Hufford with a knife in the center’s administrative office area, eventually severing her head, according to police. Nolen then repeatedly stabbed 43-year-old Traci Johnson before Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the company’s chief operating officer, shot him, police said.

Johnson survived the attack and is also conscious, Lewis said, adding that she is listed in stable condition.

“She is talking. We have interviewed her,” Lewis said.

Lewis said police learned Nolen was fired for “numerous reasons” involving “personnel issues,” but that he didn’t know the specifics.

Police asked the FBI to help investigate Nolen after co-workers told investigators he had recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam. He said police asked the FBI to look into Lewis’ background because of the nature of the attack, which followed a series of high-profile videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants.

Mohammed said Nolen had attended services where sermons were delivered condemning such attacks.

“In no way, shape or form did he represent Islam in this foolish act,” Mohammed said.

In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch said the motive for the attack had not been determined, but that there is no reason to believe there was a threat to anyone else.

“We don’t have any reason to believe there is any danger to the area,” Lewis said.

According to Oklahoma Department of Corrections records, Nolen served time in prison and is on probation for assault and battery of a police officer. He also was convicted of cocaine possession with the intent to distribute in 2011.

The records show that Nolen has what appear to be religious tattoos, including one referencing Jesus and one in Arabic that means “peace be with you.”


Associated Press.

U.S.: Fired worker beheaded Oklahoma woman | #OklahomaCity #beheaded


by TIM TALLEY.
Alton NolenThis March 25, 2013 photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Alton Nolen of Moore, Okla. Prison records indicate that Nolen, the suspect in the beheading of a co-worker at an Oklahoma food processing plant Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, had spent time in prison and was on probation for assaulting a police officer. (AP Photo/Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police say.

Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said police are waiting until Alton Nolen, 30, is conscious to arrest him and have asked the FBI to help investigate after co-workers at Vaughan Foods in the south Oklahoma City suburb told authorities that he recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam.

During Thursday’s attack, Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, Lewis said.

“Yes, she was beheaded,” Lewis told The Associated Press before a Friday news conference.

Lewis said Nolen then stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, a number of times before Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the company’s chief operating officer, shot him.

“This was not going to stop if he didn’t stop it. It could have gotten a lot worse,” Lewis said. “The threat had already stopped once we arrived.”

Lewis said Moore police have asked the FBI to look into the man’s background because of the nature of the attack, which follows a series of videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants.

In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch said the motive for the attack has not been determined but that there is no reason to believe there is a threat to anyone else.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the AP that while there was indication that Nolen was a Muslim convert and was trying to convert others to Islam, there is so far no connection to terrorism and no evidence of any worrisome travel.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Nolen had a Facebook page that was of potential interest to investigators but that “there doesn’t appear to be any nexus to terrorism right now.” But the official also said investigators were still looking into Nolen’s background.

Johnson and the suspect were hospitalized and in stable condition Friday, Lewis said. Nolen had not yet been charged and Lewis said he didn’t know what charges the suspect would face.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections records say Nolen has served time in prison and is on probation for assault and battery on a police officer. He also was convicted of cocaine possession with intent to distribute in 2011.

Corrections records show Nolen has what appear to be religious tattoos, including one referencing Jesus and one in Arabic that means “peace be with you.”

Lewis said Nolen had been fired in a building that houses the company’s human resources office, then immediately drove to the entrance of the business. Lewis said he didn’t know why the man was fired.

A Vaughan spokeswoman said the company was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the attack.

(Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report).


Associated Press.