President Obama has again delayed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Obama had vowed to remove half of the 10,000 troops currently in Afghanistan in the coming months. But following a request from visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Obama announced he will leave 9,800 soldiers at least through the end of 2015. Obama said the United States will still meet its goal to consolidate forces in Kabul and remove all but 1,000 forces by the end of his term in early 2017.
President Obama: “The date for us to have completed our drawdown will not change. But it is my judgment, it’s the judgment of General Campbell and others who are on the ground, that providing this additional time frame during this fighting season for us to be able to help the Afghan security forces succeed is well worth it.”
According to The New York Times, administration officials say the delayed pullout will preserve secret U.S. drone strikes and other paramilitary operations. CIA personnel, contractors and special operations forces will continue operating out of a base in Kandahar and another in Jalalabad.
Thousands of people have marched in the Afghan capital of Kabul to protest the brutal killing of a woman by an angry mob. Twenty-seven-year-old Farkhunda was beaten with sticks and set on fire after being falsely accused of burning the Qur’an. Demonstrators gathered in front of the Afghan Supreme Court to demand justice.
Najla Habibyaar: “It was one of the most brutal actions in the history of humanity. We have never seen something like her. And at the same time, it was very close to the palace, it was very close to the police officers, but unfortunately there were hundreds of people watching her being killed and taking her movie, but nobody reacted to that.”
Amrullah Saleh: “Those who have endorsed this barbaric act should be brought to justice. Those who have shown incompetence and negligence have to be brought to justice. Those who have endorsed it, either knowingly or unknowingly, should be brought to justice.”
Houthi rebels in Yemen are reportedly advancing on the southern city of Aden, the refuge of deposed President President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Hadi fled to Aden last month after the Houthis moved against his government in the capital Sana’a. Hadi has asked for U.N. Security Council intervention to defeat the Houthis. There are reports Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi, is moving heavy weaponry to areas near its border with Yemen.
A new report has found that the Iraq War has killed about one million people. The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The investigators found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan (i.e. a total of around 1.3 million). Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate,” they wrote. They say the true tally could be more than two million.
President Obama says he continues to re-evaluate his approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution. U.S. officials have suggested they might take steps including no longer vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. Speaking to reporters, Obama said a peace deal is unlikely while Netanyahu is in office.
President Obama: “I will continue to do whatever I need to do to make sure that our friends in Israel are safe. That’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. And that’s not going to stop. And so, the Israeli people need to know that. But I am required to evaluate honestly how we manage Israeli-Palestinian relations over the next several years. What we can’t do is pretend that there’s a possibility of something that’s not there. And we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years.”
In his news conference Tuesday, President Obama addressed the ongoing talks over an Iran nuclear deal. Obama said any agreement he might reach would be a good one.
President Obama: “I have confidence that if there is an agreement, it’s going to be a good agreement that’s good for American security and Israeli security and the region’s security. And if it isn’t, then there probably won’t be an agreement. So there will be, I think, significant transparency in the whole process.”
In the United States, the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi has been attacked by a vandal. On Monday, staff arrived at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization to find their outdoor security cameras destroyed and their electric generator seriously damaged. Surveillance video appeared to show a masked intruder carrying a long-handled tool. The clinic is nicknamed “the Pink House,” since it was painted bright pink as a symbol of defiance against repeated Republican efforts to shut it down. It has recently been targeted by the extreme anti-choice groups Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and Operation Save America. In an online statement, the clinic wrote, “the goal of the anti-abortion terrorists is to transform a legal, safe, and common medical procedure into a fearful, and traumatic experience for everyone involved. But we will always do whatever it takes to make sure our doors open every single Monday morning.”
Some of the nation’s top museums are facing calls to sever all ties with billionaire funders who profit from global warming. In an open letter, a coalition of climate scientists and environmental groups says science and natural history museums should no longer accept money from fossil fuel corporations and individual donors like the Koch brothers. The brothers’ Koch Industries has extensive energy industry holdings and has funded climate denial. David Koch is a board member of both the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The letter says: “When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.”