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US general calls for maintaining military ties with Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: The future US military chief said that the United States needs to maintain strong military-to-military ties with Pakistan, based on the shared interests of the two countries.

Gen Mark Milley, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also warned at his nomination hearing that a premature withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would be a strategic mistake.

“If confirmed as chairman, my objective will be to preserve the defence relationship between the United States and Pakistan even as we press Pakistan to take action on US requests,” Gen Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing in Washington.

 

“While we have suspended security assistance and paused major defence dialogues, we need to maintain strong military-to- military ties based on our shared interests,” he added.

The statement, coming 10 days before Imran Khan’s first visit to Washington as prime minister, underlines a key element of the US-Pakistan relationship, the long, and once, close partnership between the two militaries.

It also highlights Pakistan’s support to the Afghan reconciliation process and hints at the role Islamabad played in persuading Taliban leaders to join talks with US in Doha. Pakistan is also believed to have cooperated with the United States in arranging an intra-Afghan dialogue, held in Doha earlier this week.

“I think pulling out prematurely would be a strategic mistake,” the general added while responding to a question about Afghanistan from one of the senators.

Gen Milley, currently the Army’s Chief of Staff, has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Colombia and is likely to be confirmed without any opposition from either Republican or Democratic lawmakers.

In Afghanistan, he served as the Commanding General, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and Deputy Commanding General, US Forces.

The Senate panel had sent him a set of written questions on sensitive issues, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. His responses underlined the need to maintain a defence relationship with Pakistan, the country’s importance as a key strategic partner, Islamabad’s role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and the need for Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

“If confirmed, what changes, if any, would you recommend to US relations with Pakistan, particularly in terms of military-to-military relations and International Military Education and Training?” the committee asked. Gen Milley pointed out that President Trump’s South Asia strategy recognised Pakistan as “a key partner in achieving US interests in South Asia, including developing a political settlement in Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical access for US forces; and enhancing regional stability”.


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Iran ready to hold talks with US if sanctions lifted: Rouhani

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Tehran: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country was ready to hold talks with the US if Washington lifts sanctions imposed on Tehran.

“We are always ready for negotiations. I tell you this hour and this moment to abandon bullying and lift the sanctions and return to logic and wisdom. We are ready,” the Iranian Mehr News Agency quoted Rouhani as saying on Sunday.

Leaders of France, Germany and Britain, European signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement said on Sunday that they were “extremely concerned” about the escalating tension in the Gulf region, which they said is likely to put the accord at risk unless the concerned parties join the same table of talks.

 

In May 2018, Washington unilaterally abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and restarted imposing sanctions on Iran.

On May 8, Iran stopped implementing some of its commitments under the deal and set a 60-day deadline for the Europeans to help Tehran reap the economic benefits of the deal.

On July 7, as the deadline expired, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi announced that Tehran was ready to begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 per cent level set in the Iran nuclear deal, adding that Tehran would go on gradually abandoning its nuclear commitments every 60 days.

On July 8, Iran announced that it had raised the concentration of its enriched uranium to 4.5 per cent from 3.67 purity.

Following Tehran’s announcement, US Vice President Mike Pence, along with other senior administration officials, vowed to continue to pile up economic pressure on Iran.

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Nepal flooding and landslides: Death toll reaches 65

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New Delhi: Authorities are battling against time and elements as the death toll in Nepal has reached 65 after widespread flooding and landslides hit the country’s Terai region.

Flooding and landslides have hit the Terai region of the country after incessant rainfall over the past several days. While many villages have been evacuated here, many people were either injured or killed due to nature’s fury. The most affected districts include Lalitpur, Khotang, Bhojpur, Kavre, Makwanpur, Sindhuli and Dhading.

Nepal Police, according to news agency ANI, has said that as many as 30 people are missing.

 

A total of 1146 people have been rescued from areas at maximum risk from flooding and landslides, as on Monday morning, from 22 districts. Authorities here have said that all the injured are being given medical assistance at local hospitals while people are being advised to get to safer grounds because the threat from swelling rivers remains. More rainfall here could complicate rescue efforts.

Incessant rainfall and the consequent flooding here has also put several districts in Bihar at risk. News agency IANS reported that water level in Koshi, Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Ganga and Bagmati rivers are on the rise. The state government, along with National Disaster Response Force, is helping locals in areas like Supaul, Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, West Champaran, Araria and Kishanganj move to safer locations.

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Leave the US, Trump tells liberal Democratic congresswomen

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Washington: United States President Donald Trump assailed a group of Democratic congresswomen of colour as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came”, ignoring the fact that the women are American citizens and all but one was born in the US.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he said in tweets.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

 

He added: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Trump was almost certainly referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and her allies in what’s become known as the squad. The others are Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Only Omar, from Somalia, is foreign-born.

With his remarks, Trump again inserted himself into a rift between Pelosi and the liberal congresswomen, after offering an unsolicited defence of the Democratic speaker days earlier. Pelosi has been seeking to minimise Ocasio-Cortez’s influence in recent days, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalise women of color.

“She is not a racist,” Trump had said on Friday.

Today, Trump’s tone changed.

Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.

Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati.

Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the US at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.

Tlaib was born in Detroit.

Trump’s tweets drew a sharp rebuke from Pelosi, who said the president wants to “make America white again”.

Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a Trump critic who recently took steps to leave his party, called the remarks “racist and disgusting”.

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