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As the Pentagon expands its deployment in Iraq, U.S. troops are facing a longer stay in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has announced more than 3,000 U.S. troops will have their deployment extended an extra four months. New troops could also be on the way. On Thursday, NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, David Richards, said NATO’s force will be increased.
Gen. David Richards: “More ISAF troops are being committed to this campaign. You will hear very good news formally very shortly on that. I anticipate at least another brigade of combat troops from ISAF nations coming here shortly and more after that.”
News of an expanded deployment comes as the Bush administration says it will seek another $10 billion in military and civil aid for Afghanistan.
The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration has authorized U.S. troops to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq. Officials say the policy is less part of a military strategy in Iraq than an effort to weaken Iranian influence in the Middle East. The “kill or capture” program was implemented last fall after the White House decided it was failing to isolate Iran’s government. The administration implemented the strategy despite apparently receiving counsel it could lead to harmful retaliation against U.S. personnel.
Iraq’s industry minister has announced the Iraqi government is in talks with oil giants Chevron and Exxon to build a $3 billion petrochemical plant in Iraq. The minister, Fowzi Hariri, says the talks are among several underway with Western corporations.
In other Iraq news, an Army private has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing two unarmed Iraqis near the town of Samarra last May. Under a deal with military prosecutors, Private Corey Clagett will be eligible for parole after five years. He’s the third to plead guilty of four soldiers charged in the case.
In Lebanon, Beirut was under military curfew Thursday after new clashes between government and opposition supporters. At least four people were killed and 100 injured in violence outside Beirut’s Arab University. Speaking for the opposition, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah appealed for calm.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: “I call on all the people from all the political spectrums to clear the roads and to have self-discipline and to be calm and to go back to their homes and to follow all the actions that are taken by the Lebanese army.”
The violence comes as the Lebanese government won more than $7 billion in pledges at a donor meeting in Paris. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration would ask Congress for $700 million in aid to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “But more than what this may do, what this money may do for infrastructure, for security reform, for economic support, we hope that the people of Lebanon will take it as an expression from the American people of our admiration for Lebanon, of our friendship for Lebanon and of our belief in the ability of the people of Lebanon to overcome difficult times.”
In Israel, President Moshe Katsav has been suspended as he faces an expected indictment for allegedly committing rape. On Thursday, dozens of Israeli women gathered outside Katsav’s residence in Jerusalem calling on him to resign.
Former Israeli Knesset member Eti Livni: “It’s a disgrace to the Israelis, to the women of Israel, to the democracy of Israel. He shouldn’t be any one more minute there.”
In Mexico, the local leader of Mexico’s largest opposition party has been shot dead in the southern state of Oaxaca. Fructuoso Pedro Garcia was head of the Oaxaca chapter of the Democratic Revolution Party that narrowly lost last year’s presidential race. The killing came three days after Garcia announced his candidacy for mayor in a local town. Democratic Revolution Party members have supported the popular uprising against Oaxaca state Governor Ulises Ruiz.
Back in the United States, the Bush administration has asked a U.S. appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its warrantless domestic spy program. The White House says the case is moot since it decided this month to seek wiretap approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say they’ll challenge the administration’s request.
New developments from the Lewis “Scooter” Libby trial. On Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former spokesperson Catherine Martin testified she told Cheney and Libby of Valerie Plame’s CIA status days before Libby claimed he found out. Libby is Cheney’s former chief of staff. He’s accused of lying to investigators and a grand jury during the investigation of the outing of Plame’s identity. Martin also testified Cheney personally directed the White House effort to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after Wilson challenged the Bush administration’s prewar claims on Iraqi weaponry.
In Mississippi, a former sheriff’s deputy was arraigned Thursday in a civil rights murder case dating back more than 40 years. James Ford Seale has been charged in connection with the 1964 murders of 19-year-old African-American hitchhikers Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. Prosecutors credit Moore’s brother Thomas for breaking open the case. Thomas Moore worked with Canadian documentary filmmaker David Ridgen to pressure authorities to reopen the investigation seven years ago. On Thursday, Thomas Moore spoke about his quest for justice.
Thomas Moore: “I promised him in 2005 at his grave in Franklin County, in the cemetery, I would fight until I die. I would do that. When I got the word yesterday, it just happens Dave [Ridgen] and I were speeding through Virginia. I cried. And I don’t cry too much.”
And tens of thousands of peace activists from around the country are gathering in Washington, D.C., Saturday for a massive protest against the Iraq War. Organizers with United for Peace and Justice are predicting one of the largest antiwar rallies since the U.S. invaded Iraq nearly four years ago.