World Bulletin/News Desk
Progress in Afghanistan has cost thousands of military lives and it would be helpful if Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed gratitude for that sacrifice, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday, bluntly rejecting the Afghan leader's recent criticism of the war effort.
"We have made progress in Afghanistan because there are men and women in uniform who have been willing to fight and die for Afghanistan's sovereignty and their right to govern and secure themselves," Panetta told reporters aboard his plane to Latin America.
Panetta noted that 2,000 U.S. troops were among those who had been killed in the war, which has been spearheaded by the United States, NATO allies and the Afghanistan government.
"Those lives were lost fighting the right enemy, not the wrong enemy," Panetta said. "And I think it would be helpful if the president every once and awhile expressed his thanks for the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought and died for Afghanistan, rather than criticizing them."
The remarks came a day after Karzai told a news conference in Kabul that the United States was playing a double game in his country by fighting the war in Afghan villages rather than going after those in Pakistan who support insurgents.
"NATO and Afghanistan should fight this war where terrorism stems from," Karzai said in remarks reported by The New York Times. "But the United States is not ready to go and fight the terrorists there. This shows the double game. They say one thing and do something else."
Tensions between Washington and Kabul have risen in recent weeks, driven in part by an increase in attacks by Afghan troops on their U.S. and international counterparts as well as tensions over uncertainty about the coming withdrawal of international forces by the end of 2014.
Panetta's remarks came on a trip that will take him to Peru for bilateral security talks and then to Uruguay for a meeting of defense ministers from across the Americas. Panetta then will travel to Belgium for NATO talks on Afghanistan and other issues.
Panetta said he would assure NATO partners that U.S. General John Allen, the head of international forces in Afghanistan, was working with Afghans to address the problem of insider attacks and that it was important to stick with Allen's plans for drawing down forces in the country by 2014.
"My goal is to make clear to NATO and to our allies that we are taking all steps necessary to confront this issue and that it should not be allowed to deter us from the plan that General Allen put in place," Panetta said.
The U.S. defense secretary said the recent collapse in the value of Iran's currency and unrest in that country showed that the economic sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear program were beginning to have an impact.
"The whole purpose of applying the sanctions has been to put pressure on the regime in Iran to come to the table and negotiate our concern with regards to their nuclear program," he said.
"I think the fact that there are these demonstrations reflects that people are feeling the impact," Panetta added. "I would hope that the combination of all of this would convince the regime and the government there to engage in serious negotiations."
Asked about the anger from Syrian rebels over the failure of the West to intervene more aggressively in their effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad, Panetta said the conflict was "difficult and it's challenging."
He said the United States was providing non-lethal help and working with other countries in the region that are providing lethal assistance to the rebels.
"We have got to continue the international effort to do everything we can to try to make sure that Assad steps down," Panetta said, "and I think ultimately that they will recognize that the United States is doing everything we can to try to assist them in this effort."
The 34-year-old retired National Guard lieutenant, who has yet to be identified, was beaten and shot to death by attackers Saturday night in the town of Cabudare in the western state of Lara, prosecutors said.
The meeting in Pretoria comes as Zuma faces growing criticism within the ruling African National Congress, which sharpened after a March cabinet reshuffle when he sacked respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
"It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media," he wrote the morning after his return home.
"The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days," Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany.
Gaza continues to suffer from a severe power crisis
Macron praised the DR Congo authorities "for their mobilisation and the effectiveness of their action" in obtaining the hostage's release, the office said in a statement, without identifying him.
And the US president flew home Saturday boasting he had "scored a home run" everywhere he'd been, saying he had forged bonds with friends old and new in the fight against terrorism.
The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday. Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014. East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi. In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting. The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014. Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias. At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya. The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.
An initial investigation showed that Bonnie Kalanick, 71, died Friday after the boat she was in struck a rock in Pine Flat Lake near the central California city of Fresno, the Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner's Office said in a statement.
Since its golden age in the 1960s, Clacton-on-Sea in the southeastern English county of Essex has struggled to reinvent itself, a decline witnessed by 77-year-old John.
Counter-terrorism air raid hit terror targets in Avasin-Basyan regions
The king's prosecutor late Friday ordered "the opening of an investigation and the arrest of Nasser Zefzafi" after he "obstructed, in the company of a group of individuals, freedom of worship in the Mohammed V mosque in Al-Hoceima".
Saturday's protest in Caracas was held to mark 10 years since the government shuttered a popular television station seen as having anti-government leanings.
His announcement came as a summit of G7 leaders in Sicily wrapped up in deadlock on the issue, with US partners voicing frustration at the president's failure to commit to the deal aimed at stemming global warming.
A man aged in his thirties stepped onto the grave and kicked the base of a 1.5-metre (4.9-feet) -high stone cross at its head, causing the cross to topple over and break, they said.
Investigators also gave details of the 22-year-old's last hours as they appealed to the public for any information about his movements in the days running up to Monday night's attack.