Washington/Pijijiapan: US President Donald Trump’s administration may send up to 1,000 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said , as Trump hammered away at the issue of illegal immigration two weeks ahead of congressional elections.
Trump’s threat was sparked by the advance of a caravan of Central American migrants trekking through Mexico, headed toward the United States. “I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
But the migrants appeared undeterred on Thursday night as several thousand of them bedded down more than 1,000 miles (1,610 km) from the US border, in the town of Pijijiapan in Mexico`s southern Chiapas state, after hiking hours from their last stop.
“Whatever Trump may say, he`s not going to hold us back,” said Denis Omar Contreras, a caravan organizer from Honduras, who plans to help lead the group to northern Mexico. Many said the fear of returning to a violent homeland loomed larger than the president`s threats.
“We`ve come fleeing our country. If we return to Honduras, the gangs will probably kill us,” he said.
Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to make the caravan and immigration into major issues before the Nov. 6 elections, in which Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress.
Trump, who has maintained a hard line on immigration since taking office last year, is considering a plan to ban entry of migrants at the southern border and deny them asylum, according to media reports.
The reports offered few details. A White House official said “a wide range of administrative, legal and legislative options” were being considered, but that no decisions had been made.
The possibility of executive action to lock out any migrants in the caravan and the likely positioning of more soldiers at the US border with Mexico could energize Trump supporters at the ballot box. Any ban would face likely legal challenges.
US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview with Fox News Channel that her department had asked the Pentagon for help to bolster its capabilities as it polices the border, including asking for “some air support … some logistics, planning, vehicle barriers, engineering.”
The DHS request could require deploying between 800 and 1,000 active-duty troops, two US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The US military is prohibited from carrying out civilian law enforcement on American soil unless specifically authorized by Congress.
There are currently 2,100 National Guardsmen along the border, but the DHS request could lead to the first large-scale deployment of active-duty U.S. military forces to support the border protection mission under Trump.
“To those in the Caravan, turnaround, we are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your Country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.
“We feel like he`s not human,” said Carlos Fernandez, a 39-year-old bricklayer, speaking by phone from the Guatemala-Mexico border after traveling since last Friday from the crime-wracked city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras.
“If someone migrates to the United States, it’s to work, and working is not a crime,” he said.
More than 1,000 people arrived in Guatemala on Monday, part of a second caravan, but have since divided into smaller groups to push on northward.
The larger caravan is now in southern Mexico and left Honduras nearly two weeks ago. It numbered more than 5,000 when it settled in the town of Mapastepec on Wednesday night, a local official said. Many are fleeing violence, poverty and government corruption in their home countries.
“I wish he could see that we are doing this from our heart, with great desire to move forward,” said Jose Rodriguez, 29, referring to the US president.
Trump pledged during the 2016 presidential race to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. But the funding for his signature campaign promise has been slow to materialize.
In April, frustrated by lack of progress on the wall, Trump ordered the National Guard to help secure the border.
Adam Isacson, an official at the Washington Office on Latin America, a group that advocates for migrant rights, expressed misgivings about the potential deployment.
“Even if it`s a short-term deployment, it’s another step toward militarization of our border,” Isacson said, adding that 40 percent of people being apprehended at the border were children and families.
Peace talks postponed after Taliban object to size of Afghan delegation
KABUL: A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.
The talks were set to begin in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”
Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.
“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.
“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid said, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.
The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with US officials.
Ghani said on Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.
A senior government official said Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks are in jeopardy.
The talks between Afghan and Taliban officials at the same table for the first time have been considered a significant first step towards finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s protracted war.
The senior official said negotiations went awry after President Ashraf Ghani opposed a list of participants announced by the Qatar government, which is sponsoring the talks. The list of 243 people was announced by Qatar on Thursday.
The list differs in part from Ghani’s list of 250 people, according to the senior government official.
N. Korea seeks Pompeo’s removal from nuclear talks
SEOUL: North Korea demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from talks over its nuclear programme, hours after the isolated state claimed to have tested a new kind of weapon.
Describing Pompeo as “reckless” and immature, the foreign ministry said it wanted him replaced by another interlocutor, a demand that significantly ups the ante in a sensitive diplomatic standoff.
Pyongyang and Washington have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump earlier this year.
“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the foreign ministry’s Department of American Affairs said, according to the official KCNA news agency.
“Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but… (another) person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
It is not the first time North Korea has singled out Pompeo for special criticism.
When the secretary of state met North Korean officials in Pyongyang in July last year, he was condemned for his “gangster-like” insistence that the North move towards unilateral disarmament.
Kwon, whom KCNA said was responding to a question from one of its journalists, said leader Kim had made clear that the US attitude had to change. He said Pompeo was standing in the way of a resumption of talks.
“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks; whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose.
“The US cannot move us one iota by its current way of thinking. In his previous visits to Pyongyang, Pompeo was granted audiences with our Chairman of the State Affairs Commission for several times and pleaded for the denuclearisation.
“However, after sitting the other way round, he spouted reckless remarks hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership at Congress hearings last week to unveil his mean character by himself, thus stunning the reasonable people.”
Analysts said the North might have been reacting to Pompeo’s assessment — during a recent Senate hearing — that Kim could be described as a “tyrant”.
“By agreeing that Kim is a tyrant, Pompeo basically insulted the North’s ‘highest majesty’,” said Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
23 killed as thunderstorms, dust storm lash Pakistan
Islamabad: Massive thunderstorms and a dust storm lashed Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces, killing at least 23 people, injuring scores of others, according to media reports
Heavy rain and storm caused by a westerly wave uprooted electricity poles and trees in different parts of the country and also damaged properties on Monday.
Intermittent downpour in western, central and northern parts of the country for the past few days has rendered mud houses susceptible to the collapse, while land slide and flash floods in some areas have already made several roads dangerous for travel, Dawn reported.
Thunderstorm in Punjab province resulted in the collapse of several buildings, leaving at least nine persons, including two women, dead. Four deaths were reported in Khanewal district; three in Hasilpur area of Bahawalnagar district; and two Dunyapur tehsil of Lodhran district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Chitral valley, a woman and two men died when the roof of their house collapsed and fell on them.
In Balochistan province, authorities declared emergency on Monday after torrential rains and flash flooding wreaked havoc and killed at least nine persons, including a child. Heavy rainfall in Quetta, Gwadar, Chagai, Harnai, Duki, Jewani, Jaffarabad, Kohlu, Sibi, Barkhan, Chaman and other districts of Balochistan caused flooding in nullahs and drains which severed land link in various parts of the province, the Express Tribune reported.
The low-lying areas had been submerged due to continuous rainfall in Kohlu and adjoining areas. In separate incidents related to the dust storm that hit Karachi, four persons, including two young girls died, an equal number of fishermen went missing and dozens of others suffered injuries, according to officials and rescue services.
Gusty winds also uprooted several trees, poles and signboards, broke windowpanes of some high-rise buildings and damaged the walls of schools and homes in Karachi.