The World Today for July 25, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

AFGHANISTAN

Begging for Peace

Taliban fighters recently attacked the Afghan Ministry of Defense, sparking an eight-hour gun battle that resulted in as many as 40 people dead and more than 100 injured.

That attack happened as government forces killed almost 70 insurgents in one day in other parts of Afghanistan, reported Reuters. The Taliban, in turn, said its forces had launched 52 attacks that killed more than 170 people. The Taliban also recently blew up a car bomb near the police headquarters in Kandahar, Al Jazeera wrote. Gunmen then stormed the compound, prompting a battle that left at least 11 people dead.

And on it goes.

Meanwhile, American soldiers – like Green Beret Sgt. Maj. James Ryan Sartor – are still dying in the Central Asian country, too.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that critics might question why, as soldiers and civilians are being killed, American diplomats are engaging in a seventh round of peace talks with the Taliban right now in Doha, Qatar.

As the Washington Post explained, 20,000 mostly American foreign troops are stationed in Afghanistan under a NATO mission that stems from the US-led invasion after the 9-11 terror attacks in 2001. Since talks began last September, the Taliban has insisted all foreign troops leave before it will negotiate with Afghan government officials who now depend on US support.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he wants a peace deal by Sept. 1. But one official at the Doha talks said the attack on the defense ministry “has changed the entire context of our meeting – unease has crept in.”

Many Afghans are not happy, for example.

“Our soldiers get attacked two or three times every day and we lose our friends in these attacks. I wonder what kind of peace talks are these,” Afghan Capt. Abdul Khabir Rasooli told the New York Times. “The Taliban are killing us on the battlefield, but they talk with Americans in Doha. The ongoing peace talks have a very bad effect on the morale of our soldiers, because we think that our fight in the last 17 years was wrong and not worth it. The Taliban are fighting, and we are begging them for peace.”

The Taliban smell blood, argued region expert Husain Haqqani in the Wall Street Journal. They won’t give concessions and they believe the US wants to quit the country. Writing in an op-ed in the Hill, Ronald Neumann, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan under President George W. Bush, said the world needs to give peace more time. Either way, some voices, like security expert Daniel Davis writing in the National Interest, don’t believe the country is worth American lives.

After so many years, begging for peace might be as good a strategy as any.

WANT TO KNOW

BRITAIN

No Ifs or Buts

Boris Johnson vowed to pull Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31 with “no ifs or buts” in his first speech as prime minister on Wednesday, warning that a so-called “no-deal” Brexit is on the cards if the EU refuses to negotiate a revision of the divorce terms.

“We are going to fulfill the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts,” said Johnson, 55, after arriving at the prime minister’s official residence at No.10 Downing Street, Reuters reported.

He suggested that a deal could be negotiated that doesn’t include the institution of checkpoints at the Irish border, but recognized the “remote possibility” he’d be forced to leave the EU without a deal. Earlier, he radically reshuffled the administration, replacing almost all of the main ministers who’d served under his predecessor, Theresa May, with gung-ho Brexiteers.

Johnson is banking that the EU will cave at the threat of a no-deal Brexit. But the pending showdown with Brussels could also easily result in a constitutional crisis or fresh polls, the agency said.

SOMALIA

Talking Security

A suicide bomber struck the office of the mayor of Mogadishu on Wednesday, killing at least six people and wounding Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman, as the leaders gathered for a security meeting.

The Somalian information minister, Mohamed Abdi Hayir, said Mogadishu district commissioners were among the dead, according to Al Jazeera.

“Six people, including two district commissioners and three directors, were killed in the terrorist attack this afternoon,” Mohamed told reporters.

Al-Shabab, the Islamist terror group fighting to overthrow the government, claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred not long after United Nations special envoy James Swan had met with the mayor, the news channel said.

While terror attacks have been relatively common in Somalia in recent years, earlier this week the New York Times reported that a car bomb detonated outside a courthouse in the northern port city of Bosaso might have been orchestrated by Qatar as part of a battle with the United Arab Emirates for influence in the war-torn country.

KOSOVO

No Comment

Former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj refused to answer the questions of prosecutors at the Hague investigating war crimes allegedly committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army two decades ago.

Haradinaj, who resigned his post on Friday after he was called before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, said he had met his legal obligations by attending the session and would follow his lawyer’s advice not to respond to the questions, the Associated Press reported.

The prosecutors asked general questions about his role in the KLA and other issues “but nothing concrete,” he told the agency.

Haradinaj has been acquitted of charges linked to Kosovo’s fight for independence by a United Nations war crimes tribunal on two previous occasions. During the war, he was a top commander in the separatist forces – mostly comprising ethnic Albanians – fighting for independence from Serbia. It was the Serb crackdown on the rebellion that led to NATO’s intervention in the conflict in 1999.

Having resigned so that he would not go before the court as the head of the government, Haradinaj urged President Hashim Thaci to call early elections in hopes of winning back the post after the dust settles.

DISCOVERIES

Curing the Incurable

Scientists have recently made a breakthrough in the fight against AIDS.

US researchers have developed a new technique to eliminate HIV – the AIDS-causing virus – from infected mice, reported Time magazine.

Currently, there’s no complete cure for AIDS, and patients infected with HIV have to use anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to prevent the virus from replicating.

In a recent study, researchers used a combination of a modified ARV treatment to suppress the virus, along with a powerful gene-editing technique that snipped its DNA from infected cells.

It’s a two-step process: First, mice with HIV were treated with the tweaked drug therapy, which targeted dormant viruses hiding in the body. Next, the gene-editing approach erased the HIV DNA, effectively removing it from the organism.

The novel method successfully removed the virus from about one-third of the mice studied, and researchers are aiming to conduct further tests on non-human primates to confirm the results.

Scientists are hopeful that they might be close to a cure for the deadly disease.

“This observation is the first step toward showing for the first time, to my knowledge, that HIV is a curable disease,” said one of study authors, Kamel Khalili.

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