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U.S. Military “Days Away” From Afghanistan Withdrawal



The removal of American troops has led to the Taliban gaining large swaths of territory, as well increased efforts by American lawmakers to support Afghans who helped U.S. soldiers over the last 20 years.

Expedited Withdrawal

U.S. officials claim the country could be “days away” from completely pulling out of Afghanistan after 20 years, according to a Tuesday report from Reuters.

The report said 4,000 troops could be out by mid-July, well ahead of the original Sept. 11 deadline. Only 650 American troops will remain to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. American troops will also defend the capital’s airport for a short period while its security is being transferred to Turkish forces. Those Turkish troops will be among the last NATO forces in the country by the end of the year as most European nations have already ended their mission to Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which began in widespread numbers last month, has led to a massive surge in fighting between the various factions across the country as they try to position themselves for what happens next. That fighting has Coalition generals concerned that the country is facing a civil war, with American General Scott Miller telling reporters in a press conference on Tuesday, “The security situation is not good right now.”

“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if this continues on the trajectory it’s on right now. That should be a concern to the world.”

It’s increasingly likely that much of Afghanistan will revert back to Taliban control, as they’ve made major territorial gains as Coalition troops withdraw. Since May, they’ve captured 50 out of 370 districts in the country, have circled many cities, and are slowly closing in on Kabul.

Special Immigrant Visas

One major concern as the U.S. departs, especially as insurgent groups gain territory, is thes Nearly all of these workers were promised visas, known as Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), for themselves and their families in return for helping American forces.

For years, the SIV process has been slow and ineffective, sometimes resulting in years between applying and receiving the document. The lengthy time period between applying for the visa and actually getting it has allowed groups like the Taliban to hunt down and kill at least 300 of these workers, according to the non-profit No One Left Behind.

After a lawsuit that was resolved in 2020, the Trump administration sought to expedite the process by approving or denying SIVs within 120 days rather than leaving them in bureaucratic limbo for years. As the American withdrawal approaches, the Biden administration has further sped up the process, although it faces practical limitations such as the size of the American embassy in Kabul, on top of certain legal requirements Afghans must complete before arriving.

One such requirement is that they must pass a medical examination in Afghanistan, but there’s only one clinic run by Germany that actually performs them. That creates a massive bottleneck and often requires people to travel far, in dangerous conditions, to get the examination in order to obtain an SIV.

To help with that, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday that would allow applicants to instead undergo a medical exam within 30 days of arriving in the States. The Senate is expected to take up the bill relatively soon as helping Afghans who worked with American soldiers has widespread bipartisan support.

This legislation is the first in a series of bipartisan bills being discussed and voted on that are meant to smooth over the visa application process. Other bills on the table include raising the number of eligible applicants by 8,000.

There are also reports that the Biden administration could do mass evacuations of these applicants and house them in a U.S. territory like Guam until their application process is finished. President Joe Biden is on board with most of these proposals.

“Those who helped us are not going to be left behind,” he vowed last week.

See what others are saying: (AP) (BBC) (Reuters)


95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home



The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.

A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.

Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.

At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.

They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.

The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.

She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.

Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.

After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.

NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.

Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters



London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”

The Public Order Act

A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.

The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”

It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.

“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”

An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests

During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated. 

“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed. 

“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”

Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”

“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote. 

When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should  do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police. 

For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.

“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages



The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.

As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.

On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.

An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.

Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.

“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.

Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.

More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.

Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.

Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.

Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.

Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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