Grind for January 31st, 2019
“I like to speak on matters which matter to human beings, and almost everything matters to human beings.”
– Maya Angelou
US and Taliban: One step closer to a peace deal
After nearly a week of talks with the Taliban, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the two sides had reached “agreements in principle” that could lead to a peace deal.
“The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” said Khalilzad.
In exchange, the Taliban demand a complete withdrawal of US troops.
“There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts,” continued Khalilzad, “but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress.”
When asked about the progress of negotiations, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the goal of the talks was to “bring the Afghan government and the Taliban into face-to-face discussions and negotiations…then, the larger issues of the US presence and other international issues will be addressed.”
The Taliban, which currently control about 50% of Afghanistan, say they will only meet directly with the Afghan government after the US commits to a full withdrawal.
Trump has already called for the removal of about half of the 14,000 troops stationed there, but Pentagon officials worry the Taliban won’t hold their end of the deal if they leave.
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 when a US-led coalition invaded the country following the terror attacks on 9/11.
Over the past 17 years, the war has cost the US billions of dollars and more than 2,400 lives.
Earlier this month, President Ghani said more than 45,000 Afghan soldiers and security forces have been killed since 2014.
The progress on peace negotiations follows weeks of intense attacks on Afghan forces despite harsh winter conditions. The number of civilians killed or injured is already up 40% compared to last year.
UN Security Council meets to discuss Venezuela; Pompeo urges members to “pick a side”
Members of the UNSC met Saturday following Wednesday’s events in Venezuela – when National Assembly leader Juan Guaido declared himself “acting president” during a massive protest in Caracas.
The United States, Canada, and others were quick to recognize Guaido as acting president. China, Russia, and Turkey have declared their support for dictator Nicolas Maduro.
Speaking to the 15-member council, Pompeo urged nations to join the US in supporting Guaido: “Now, it is time for every other nation to pick a side,” he said. “No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”
Russia, which attempted to Saturday’s meeting, has accused the US of staging a coup attempt.
“Venezuela does not represent a threat to peace and security,” said Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. “If anything does represent a threat to peace, it is the shameless and aggressive action of the US and their allies aimed at the ouster of the legitimately elected president of Venezuela.”
Russia joined South Africa and China in blocking a US-led effort to release a statement endorsing Venezuela’s National Assembly as the country’s “only democratically elected institution.”
Maduro striped the National Assembly of its legislative powers after the opposition gained control of the chamber in 2015.
As reported by Al Jazeera, most UNSC members support the US position that Maduro step down and National Assembly leader Juan Guaido be recognized as acting president.
In the meantime, EU nations including France, Spain, and Germany said they would consider recognizing Guaido as acting president if Maduro fails to hold free and fair elections by February 3rd.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… In 1987, an 18-year-old freshman named Mike Hayes funded his education by asking 2.8 million people for one penny.