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Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Saturday he had called off a secret summit with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s leader, abruptly slamming the door on a year of diplomacy to end America’s longest war.In a Saturday evening bombshell, Trump said that he had planned unprecedented, albeit separate, talks with the two sides Sunday in Camp…

Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Saturday he had called off a secret summit with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s leader, abruptly slamming the door on a year of diplomacy to end America’s longest war.In a Saturday evening bombshell, Trump said that he had planned unprecedented, albeit separate, talks with the two sides Sunday in Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, but that the Taliban’s persistent, grisly campaign of violence made them untrustworthy partners.“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” Trump said in a tweet.“Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately canceled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!” Trump said.A US soldier and another service member from Romania were killed in the car bombing Thursday in Kabul — the latest major attack claimed by the Taliban even as they negotiated with a US envoy on the withdrawal of thousands of troops.Trump would have met the Taliban at Camp David — scene of secret 1978 talks as Jimmy Carter brokered peace between Israel and Egypt — days before the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which triggered the US invasion that toppled the militants’ regime.Washington was jolted by the announcement from Trump, who is fond of dramatic gestures but whose Twitter pronouncements have often come into question later.“The idea that Trump was planning to host Taliban leaders at Camp David is a rather big surprise,” said Laurel Miller, who served as the US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan until early in the Trump administration.“Why a lethal attack in Kabul on Thursday would be the reason for calling it off, considering the multiple recent Taliban attacks, is unclear,” Miller, now the Asia director of the International Crisis Group, told AFP.Congressman Tom Malinowski, a Democrat who has been pressing for clarity on the US strategy in Afghanistan, called the idea of Taliban leaders at Camp David “weird.”“And everyone knew they’ve been continuously committing terrorist attacks. But I’m glad the president called off this farce, and hope this good decision sticks,” Malinowski tweeted.The announcement by tweet appears abruptly to end, at least for now, a painstaking diplomatic process led for nearly a year by Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born veteran US diplomat who held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban, usually in Qatar.Afghanistan’s internationally recognized president, Ashraf Ghani, had been outspoken in his criticism of the emerging shape of the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, who have refused to negotiate with his government.Selling the plan in Kabul, Khalilzad said that he had reached an agreement “in principle” with the Taliban — who ruled much of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 during which they imposed a draconian version of Islam.According to parts of the draft deal that had been made public, the Pentagon would pull about 5,000 of the roughly 13,000 US troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year.The insurgents in turn would renounce Al-Qaeda, promise to fight the Daesh group and stop jihadists using Afghanistan as a safe haven — the primary reason for the 2001 invasion.US public opinion has soured on nearly two decades of war and Trump, after initially being persuaded to reinforce US troops, has said that the United States should not pursue “endless” war.Trump’s announcement draws a fresh question mark on whether the United States will leave Afghanistan anytime soon.The decision comes weeks before Afghanistan is set to hold elections, an unwieldy exercise even in more stable times.Trump had been uncharacteristically reticent about Afghanistan in recent weeks, with all eyes on whether he would approve a final deal.Washington had hoped that a withdrawal of US troops would lead to negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul on a more permanent peace.The Taliban have shown no signs of letting up on violence. Claiming responsibility for Thursday’s bombing, which shook a fortified central area of Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that a “martyrdom seeker” — or suicide bomber — had killed “foreign invaders.”Trump has walked away from high-stakes talks before. In February, his aides pressed him not to accept a deal in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — another individual whom it would have long been unthinkable for a US president to meet.But Trump soon made clear that he wanted to keep talking, calling Kim a friend, and arranged to meet him in June as the US leader visited the Korean peninsula.

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Trump to issue sanctions, stop trade deal, increase tariffs on Turkey

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone. With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of…

Trump to issue sanctions, stop trade deal, increase tariffs on Turkey

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.

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Britain’s William and Kate begin ‘complex’ tour of Pakistan

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon.…

Britain’s William and Kate begin ‘complex’ tour of Pakistan

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn’t quit.Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.”Nobody looked at this video and said that there’s any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus said.Earlier in the day, Jefferson’s family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.”Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community,” family attorney Lee Merritt said.Police went to Jefferson’s home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after “perceiving a threat.”The video showed Dean shouting, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” and immediately firing.Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family’s attorney.As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: “I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life.” The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn’t be considered unusual in Texas.”We’re homeowners in Texas,” the police chief said. “Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn’t be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting.” Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was “a bad thing to do.”Mayor Betsy Price called the gun “irrelevant.””Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim,” Price said.Texas has had a “castle doctrine” law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to “stand your ground” measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson’s home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state’s largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.Nearly two-thirds of the department’s 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.Calling the shooting “a pivotal moment in our city,” the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to “rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department.”Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family’s lawyer.

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Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

LONDON: British media are reporting that the wife of an American official who left the UK after being involved in a fatal road accident no longer has diplomatic immunity.BBC and Sky News said Sunday that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had told the family of Harry Dunn that “immunity is no longer pertinent” because the…

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

LONDON: British media are reporting that the wife of an American official who left the UK after being involved in a fatal road accident no longer has diplomatic immunity.BBC and Sky News said Sunday that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had told the family of Harry Dunn that “immunity is no longer pertinent” because the suspect has left the UK The Foreign Office declined to comment.Dunn, 19, was killed in August when his motorcycle collided with a car outside a British air force base in southern England used by the US military. The alleged car driver, Anne Sacoolas, who is married to a US official, subsequently left Britain.Sacoolas’ lawyer, Amy Jeffress of Arnold and Porter, said: “Anne is devastated by this tragic accident” and wants to meet Dunn’s parents.

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