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Top US general refuses to ‘speculate’ about troops withdrawal  

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: October 12, 2020)

After the unexpected tweet last week by US President Donald Trump that all American troops in Afghanistan should be home by Christmas, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said on Sunday that he would not go into specifics but they “have a responsible plan to end the war.”

Speaking to NPR, he would not be drawn on whether this meant that all troops would leave by late December but said: “We have a plan, a series of responsible drawdown options that has been briefed to the president. 

“I’m not going to go into specific numbers for the future. I think that would [not] be appropriate for me as the chairman to talk specific numbers in future operations, we typically don’t do that. But we have a responsible plan to end the war with US interests clearly in mind,” he said.  

Miley said however Washington was on track to draw down to 4,500 troops in the near future adding that further drawdowns will be determined by Trump. 

 He said the US-Taliban agreement, signed in February in Doha, and the drawdown plans are conditions-based, and that he expects further discussions to assess whether conditions are being met will be held in future. 

“The key here is that we’re trying to end a war responsibly, deliberately, and to do it on terms that guarantee the safety of the US vital national security interests that are at stake in Afghanistan.”

Unbundling the terms “conditions-based” in relation to a full withdrawal as per the Doha agreement, he said the US was monitoring “a variety of other conditions” in addition the peace talks being held, the Taliban not attacking US forces, the group not carrying out large attacks on major urban areas, and severing ties with al-Qaeda. 

“So we’re monitoring all of those conditions closely. And we’re, we the military, are giving our best military advice on those conditions so that the president can make an informed, deliberate, responsible decision.”

On the high level of violence, currently gripping the country, he said “if you start measuring the violence from, call it four or five months ago, has there been a significant reduction in violence? Answer: not significant. If you measure it from two to three years ago or five years ago, there has been a significant reduction in violence.”

“So, you have to look at this stuff analytically and we do. And you have to put it through a high degree of rigor, because you can get two people looking at the same set of phenomena and they will come up with two different conclusions. 

“So what I want to make sure is that we’re going through a high degree of rigor and providing good analysis for the president to make a responsible, deliberate decision,” he said.

In February, at the time of the signing of the Doha agreement, there were about 13,000 American troops in the country. A systematic drawdown has since been carried out with troop levels expected to reach about 4,500 by next month. 

However, last week the US national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said he expected a big reduction of US troops in Afghanistan by early next year. Just hours later, Trump said on twitter that all troops should be home by Christmas. 

Asked what would happen if the US pulled out all troops by Christmas, he said “I don’t think, frankly, it would be appropriate [to answer the question],” adding that he did not want to speculate in an open forum on what he might advise Trump on what those risks are. 

“I default back to we have a plan. It’s a conditions-based plan, and right now, the only number that’s publicly out there that I am aware of in terms of any sort of official number is 4,500 in the not-too-distant future by November. And that’s the plan. 

“And we’re continuing to monitor those conditions. And as further decisions that the president makes based on those conditions, then we’ll execute those decisions. But right now, for me to go beyond that, for me to go beyond the publicly disclosed number of 4,500 would not be, I don’t think it’d be a wise thing for me to do,” he said.

About O’Brien saying that the US will cut the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year, Milley said anyone “can speculate as they see fit. I’m not going to engage in speculation. I’m going to engage in the rigorous analysis of the situation based on the conditions and the plans that I am aware of and my conversations with the president. And then when we get to the point where we have further discussions and further decisions, those will be appropriately made public.” 

 

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Cholera cases rising in Takhar

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

Cholera and diarrhea cases are rising among children and adults in Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province, local officials said.

Abdul Qahar Ahadi, provincial health director, said that more than 20,000 patients suffering from various diseases visited public health facilities during the past two months, which is unprecedented.

Takhar’s main hospital meanwhile said that most of the visitors were treated for cholera and diarrhea.

Hayatullah Imami, an official at Takhar hospital, said that 30 percent of patients visiting the facility daily were suffering from diarrhea.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria.

People can get sick when they swallow food or water contaminated with the cholera bacteria. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening.

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India records spike in daily COVID cases and 21 deaths in 24 hours

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

India logged 17,073 new COVID-19 cases early Monday morning, raising its tally to 43,407,046, and 21 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry reported.

The death toll now stands at 525,020.

The national COVID-19 recovery rate was 98.57 percent, the ministry said.

Pakistan’s ministry of health meanwhile reported Monday that it had recorded 382 new cases in the last 24 hours.

This took Pakistan’s COVID-19 total case count to over 1.53 million. Two deaths were also reported in the past 24 hours.

However, experts say Pakistan may potentially witness another COVID-19 wave as the country continues to see an uptick in new cases.

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Polio vaccination campaign rolls out in western Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

More than one million Afghan children are expected to be vaccinated over the next few days in the latest polio vaccination campaign that was launched in western Afghanistan on Sunday.

Officials said the campaign will run for four days and be conducted across four provinces in the western region.

Waheed Rahmani, head of the vaccination campaign, said that 1.1 million children under the age of five are expected to receive the polio drops, including 720,000 in Herat province.

He said that so far there are no obstacles in the way of rolling out the campaign.

Volunteers said that they hope to reach all the children who need to be vaccinated.

“I along with my team will work honestly to make Afghanistan free from polio virus,” said Fina Nezami, a volunteer.

“I hope that Afghanistan becomes polio-free and we are happy to go door to door for vaccinations,” said Yagana Nabizada, another volunteer.

Local health officials have assured the public that all areas will be covered by the campaign.

“We have not forgotten areas, and while planning vaccination programs, all the areas are reviewed and if any area is left out, it will be immediately covered,” said Mohammad Asif Kabir, provincial deputy health director.

Around 728,000 children received polio drops in the previous campaign in Herat. Around 5,000 volunteers are involved in the current campaign in Herat.

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