U.S. President Joe Biden says he and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are committed to working together to counter challenges from China and North Korea, following Biden's first White House summit since taking office.
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - Somali government forces are set to take the lead in maintaining the country’s security by the end of this year, according to Somali and African Union officials who met in Mogadishu this week.
Raul Castro said Friday he is resigning as head of Cuba's Communist Party, ending an era of leadership that began with his brother Fidel and the country's 1959 revolution. The 89-year-old Castro made the announcement in a speech at the opening of the eighth Congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island.
The Washington Post is standing by a "Four Pinocchios" fact-check rating it gave then-President Donald Trump last year, even after U.S. intelligence backed away from reports that Russia placed bounties on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan.
PARIS - A Rwandan priest was arrested in France this week on charges of providing, among other things, food to militiamen who massacred members of the Tutsi minority in his church during the 1994 genocide in the African country, authorities said Friday.
In its semi-annual report to Congress on currency manipulation, the first under the Biden administration, the US Treasury Department said that no country currently meets the US criteria as a manipulator.
NEW YORK - Eritrea told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that it had agreed to start withdrawing its troops from Ethiopia's Tigray region, acknowledging publicly for the first time the country's involvement in the conflict.
MOSCOW - Russia announced late Friday it will expel 10 U.S. diplomats from Moscow in a tit-for-tat response to Washington's decision to send 10 Russian diplomats packing under a wide-ranging U.S. sanctions package levied against Moscow earlier this week.
“How can we cope with this?” That was Patrick Bury’s thought after attending his first in-country briefing in 2008 at the headquarters of British forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Then a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Regiment, Bury wrote in a subsequent memoir that he was left reeling by the three-hour briefing. “The situation is so complicated, there are so many tribal, cultural, political, religious and military dynamics, that I am overwhelmed,” he noted.
He added: “It seems that we soldiers, primarily trained to fight conventional wars, need to be friendly police, social workers, government representatives, aid workers, bomb detectors, engineers, killers, medics ...the list is as endless as the problems we face.”
The announcement this week by U.S. President Joe Biden that he intends to withdraw all American armed forces from Afghanistan has brought back the war memories for Bury and other British war veterans, and the American leader’s decision is drawing mixed reactions, with some questioning the whole mission, others saying it was worth the effort.
President Biden said this week that it was time to end America’s “forever war” in Afghanistan.
The drawdown will be completed on September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, which triggered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Britain says it will work in tandem with the U.S. and withdraw its remaining 700 troops. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance will withdraw about 7,000 military personnel from the country.
Britain sent forces to Afghanistan to contribute to the U.S.-led mission to root out al-Qaida and to prevent future terrorist attacks against the West being planned from Afghanistan, say British officials. At the height of the Afghan war, NATO had more than 130,000 troops from 50 nations deployed in Afghanistan. About 9,500 of those were British.
Bury thinks the effort in retrospect was a “noble” one, despite the doubts he harbored while serving there when he struggled with the question of whether it was a country worth saving. “It is a deeply, deeply fragmented and troubled society, even if you can call it that,” he says. “The idea we could fix it was unrealistic. It is beyond the power of the West,” he adds.
Now an academic at Britain’s University of Bath, he told VOA that the announcement brought back memories of “what we went through.” Above all he thinks about the Afghans who he encountered during his tour. “I do remember the Afghan people and the kids especially, and the ones we tried to help.” And he is left wondering: “How are the cadets we trained, and the soldiers we worked with, and the decent people going to get on?”
WASHINGTON - NATO is accusing Russia of again ramping up tensions, calling Moscow’s plans to limit access to the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait starting later this month “an unjustified move.”
In a statement, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the planned restrictions appear to be part of “a broader pattern of destabilizing behavior.”
“Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are further threats to Ukraine’s independence, and undermine the stability of the broader region,” Lungescu said. “We call on Russia to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov and allow freedom of navigation.”
NATO, along with the United States and other Western allies, has been calling on Russia to de-escalate following what it has described as the Kremlin’s biggest military build-up since it seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The top commander for U.S. forces in Europe, Air Force General Tod Wolters, said Thursday there is a "low to medium" risk that Russia will launch some sort of military operation against Ukraine in the next week or two.
"There is a very large ground domain force … There's also a sizable air force, and there's a notable maritime force,” he told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing in Washington. “It’s of great concern.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry first expressed alarm Thursday at Russia’s move to shut down some access to the Black Sea and Kerch Strait, while also accusing Russian boats of trying to block Ukrainian ships in the Azov Sea.
#Russia illegally closing part of the Black Sea near the Kerch strait for foreign warships from next week until October, according to @MFA_Ukraine. https://t.co/eNd4buu5vw
British film, television and stage actress Helen McCrory has died aged 52 from cancer, her husband and fellow actor Damian Lewis said on Friday. McCrory "died peacefully at home surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family", Lewis wrote on Twitter, calling his late wife "beautiful and mighty."
U.S. President Joe Biden plans to discuss ways to counter competitive pressure from China during a White House summit Friday with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga aimed at revitalizing the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Biden, who took office in January, has focused on reviving the alliance, as well as U.S. involvement in multilateral institutions, which were often criticized or shunned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit the White House since Biden took office.
The meeting underscores the importance of the alliance between the two countries, particularly as their rival, China, grows in strength and aggressiveness.
“We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition we're facing from an increasingly assertive China,” Biden said earlier this week as he explained his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Japan recently joined the U.S. and other countries in calling out Beijing’s human rights abuses and incursions into disputed areas of the East and South China Seas, seen as a departure from a longstanding trade and economics-centered approach.
China, however, is Japan’s longtime rival and largest trading partner, leading some analysts to predict Suga will refrain from overtly antagonizing Beijing during his meeting with Biden.
Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., Koji Tomita, recently told VOA the need for a stronger U.S.-Japanese alliance and a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region will be top issues at the summit.
Tomita said Japan is “very encouraged” by Biden’s active engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, citing last month’s virtual Quad Summit, in which Biden hosted the leaders of Japan, Australia and India.
“The international order is being challenged in various ways, so we hope to continue having specific discussions on the ways that Japan and the U.S. can take initiative in realizing our shared vision,” he added.
Before Suga’s meeting with Biden, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry warned Japan against "being misled by some countries holding biased views against China."
Earlier this month, China also sent a naval strike group near Okinawa, where the U.S. has troops, a signal Beijing is prepared to counter the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Japan hosts approximately 55,000 U.S. troops. The two sides routinely describe their alliance as the “cornerstone” of peace and stability in Asia.
ISLAMABAD - A study released Friday estimates the two-decade-long war in Afghanistan has killed 241,000 people, including Americans, and cost the United States $2.26 trillion to date.
The Costs of War Project, housed at Brown University’s Watson Institute and Boston University’s Pardee Center, noted in its report that the financial cost included both Afghan operations and those in neighboring Pakistan.
President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that all U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, saying “it is time to end the forever war.” The drawdown of around 3,000 remaining troops from the country, Biden said, would begin on May 1.
“The Costs of War Project also estimates that 241,000 people have died as a direct result of this war. This includes at least 71,344 civilians; 2,442 American service members; 78,314 Afghan military and police; and 84,191 opposition fighters,” the report said.
It noted that the numbers are approximations based on the reporting of several data sources.
“These horrific numbers are testament to the costs of war, first to the Afghan people, and then to the soldiers and people of the United States. Ending the war as soon as possible is the only rational and humane thing to do,” said Catherine Lutz, co-director of Costs of War and professor at Brown University.
Neta Crawford, the project’s lead researcher and professor at Boston University, described as "the tip of the iceberg” the U.S. Department of Defense spending of more than $900 billion in Afghanistan.
Johnson & Johnson has reached out to other coronavirus vaccine makers to join a study on the risks of blood clots, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday, citing several people familiar with the matter.
Moscow — Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who's been on hunger strike for more than two weeks, said on Friday that prison officials had threatened to force-feed him. Last month the fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin announced that he would stop eating to demand proper medical care after complaining of back pain and numbness in his legs.
ABUJA, NIGERIA - Nigerian authorities are stepping up efforts to vaccinate more people against COVID-19 after a slow rollout blamed on misinformation. Authorities aim to vaccinate over 80 million Nigerians by year’s end but are running far behind schedule.
An Abuja vaccination center, which opened March 16, one week after Nigeria's official vaccine rollout, vaccinates between 50 and 100 people daily.
Hong Kong — A Hong Kong court on Friday sentenced five leading pro-democracy advocates, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to up to 18 months in prison for organizing and participating in a massive march during 2019 anti-government protests that triggered an overwhelming crackdown from Beijing. A total of nine advocates were given jail terms, but four of them, including 82-year-old lawyer and former lawmaker Martin Lee, had their sentences suspended after their age and accomplishments were taken into consideration. They were found guilty earlier this month of organizing and participating in a massive protest in August 2019, where an estimated 1.7 million people marched in opposition to a bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The march was not authorized by the police.