“By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.”
– Robert Frost
US, Taliban reach historic peace deal
The United States on Saturday signed a long-awaited peace deal that seeks to end the violence in Afghanistan and bring US soldiers home from America’s longest war.
The deal, which follows a weeklong ceasefire by the Taliban, outlines the gradual withdrawal of all US and allied forces over the next 14 months.
In exchange, the Taliban has agreed “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the US and its allies” and to prevent said groups from “recruiting, training, and fundraising.”
The four-page deal sets the stage for political talks between the Taliban and the fractured Afghan government and demands the release of 5,000 Taliban militants from state-run jails. The deal does not address women’s rights, but officials last week promised that women would “have a seat at the table during the negotiations.”
As expected, lawmakers are hesitant to trust the Taliban to obey the deal.
“I am very suspect of the Taliban ever accepting the Afghan constitution and honoring the rights of religious minorities and women,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “Time will tell if reconciliation in Afghanistan can be accomplished with honor and security, but after more than 18 years of war, it is time to try.”
The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 when then-President George W. Bush ordered the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 terror attacks.
While it took just a few months to expel Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, US troops remained in the country for years attempting to build a stable democracy. Efforts to do so failed, and the Taliban regained control of nearly half the country.
Over the past 18 years, the conflict has claimed the lives of roughly 2,400 Americans and more than 90,000 Afghans – including two US soldiers who were killed during an attack earlier this month.
“The road to peace will be long and hard and there will be setbacks, and there is a risk always for spoilers,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “But the thing is, we are committed, the Afghan people are committed to peace, and we will continue to provide support.”
For President Trump, the peace deal represents a major campaign promise to remove US troops from the “endless wars” in the Middle East.
“If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home,” said Trump. “These commitments represent an important step to lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from al-Qaeda, ISIS, and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm.”
Trump nominates John Ratcliffe for DNI (again)
President Trump this week nominated Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe to be the next Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the highest position within the intelligence community.
As stated on the department’s website, the DNI acts as the “principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security.”
Mr. Ratcliffe is a former federal prosecutor and ultra-conservative who voiced strong support for Trump during the impeachment hearings.
President Trump nominated Ratcliffe for DNI last summer, but withdrew the nomination amid concerns about his record.
This week, Trump noted that he wanted to wait for the Inspector General’s report on Ratcliffe before moving forward with the nomination process (although it is unclear if anything has changed since last year).
Critics worry that Ratcliffe, as a Trump supporter, will be unable maintain objectivity and point to his exaggerated claims about winning terrorism convictions and arresting ‘hundreds of illegals in one day.’
Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described Ratcliffe as a “highly partisan operative” and said his nomination shows President Trump’s “lack of respect for the rule of law and the intelligence community.”
Senate Republicans, who will lead Ratcliffe’s confirmation hearing, have not yet issued a reaction to the nomination.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The youngest Pope was 11 years old