Long Afghan war: Trump shifts position
Reversing course from his campaign pledges, President Donald Trump on Monday night committed the United States to an open-ended conflict in Afghanistan, signaling he would dispatch more troops to America's longest war and vowing "a fight to win." In a speech offering few specifics, Trump promised a stepped-up military campaign against Taliban insurgents who have gained ground against the U.S.-backed Afghan government and he singled out Pakistan for harboring militants. "We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists," he said in a prime-time televised address at a military base outside Washington. Trump ran for the U.S. presidency calling for a swift U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and he acknowledged on Monday that he was going against his instincts in approving the new campaign plan sought by his military advisers. "The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable," he said. "A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill." U.S. officials said he had signed off on Defense Secretary James Mattis' plans to send about 4,000 more troops to add to the roughly 8,400 now deployed in Afghanistan. Mattis said he had directed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to carry out the strategy and that he would be consulting with NATO and U.S. allies, several of which had also committed to increasing troops. Through the speech, Trump insisted that others - the Afghan government, Pakistan, India and NATO allies - step up their own commitment to resolving the 16-year conflict. Trump saved his sharpest words for Pakistan. "We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens," Trump said. "Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists." Trump said "My original instinct was to pull out," but added he was convinced by his national security advisers to strengthen the U.S. ability to prevent the Taliban from ousting the government in Kabul.
Elections in Nepal on Nov. 26
Nepal will hold a general election on Nov. 26, the government said on Monday, hoping to conclude a turbulent journey to democracy a decade after a civil war and the abolition of its 239-year-old monarchy. The election timing is in line with the Himalayan nation's first republican constitution, drawn up in 2015, that requires a new parliament to be in place before Jan. 21 next year. In a blow to the government hours after the announcement, lawmakers rejected a government proposal to amend the constitution and meet some of the demands of the ethnic Madhesi minority community living in southern plains bordering India. "Our demands are only defeated, not dead," Hridayesh Tripathi, a Madhesi leader, told Reuters. "We will try to enlist enough support for our demands before the parliamentary elections." Madhesis are demanding greater participation in the central government. Law Minister Yagya Bahadur Thapa, confirming the cabinet's decision on the election date, said Nepalis would celebrate their democratic rights. "This is going to be a big festival. There is no doubt about that," he said. Elections to seven state assemblies, set up under the new constitution to establish more of a federal system, would be held at the same time, he added.
Sri Lanka to lease highways to Chinese Company
The government is attempting to lease out the three expressways to a Chinese Company called ‘Shandong’, the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) claimed today. It said a proposal was to be presented to the Cabinet this week to lease out the Southern, Katunayake and Colombo Outer Circular Expressways. “The expressways are among the latest to fall prey to government moves. The Cabinet paper seeks approval to lease out the highways for US$600 million. The government might say it is not selling but leasing out the expressways. However, if an asset carries a lease of more than 10 years, it is considered a sale,” party leader Udaya Gammanpila told a news conference. He said the ministers had discussed the matter at the previous cabinet meeting and a senior minister had suggested to create an authority to control the expressways and sell shares of that authority to the Chinese Company.
Afghanistan's mineral riches and Trump’s Afghan policy
Reuters reported that U.S. President Donald Trump was eyeing Afghanistan's mineral wealth to help pay for a 16-year war and reconstruction efforts that had already cost $117 billion. Investors who had studied the country, one of the world's most dangerous, said it was a pipe dream. Ever since a United States Geological Survey study a decade ago identified deposits later estimated to have a potential value of as much as $1 trillion, both Afghan and foreign officials had trumpeted the reserves as a likely key to economic independence for Afghanistan. But a lack of basic logistics, pervasive corruption, a messy bureaucracy and a growing insurgency had stifled attempts to a build a legitimate mining sector. "There is zero active mining and very little exploration, if any," says Leigh Fogelman, Director at merchant bank Hannam & Partners in London. The bank's founder, former JP Morgan rainmaker Ian Hannam, had been a long-time investor in Afghanistan through the Afghan Gold and Minerals Company (AGMC). Under a donor programme agreed in Tokyo in 2012, Afghanistan was supposed to be earning $1 billion a year from mining revenues by 2017 but expectations have been pulled back. In the first 11 months of the last fiscal year, the government raised just $18 million from mining revenues and the government's own projections now did not see them exceeding the $1 billion mark before 2029. That compared with security spending of $4.6 billion this year, equivalent to almost a quarter of the total budget. "President Trump is keenly interested in Afghanistan's economic potential," Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan's ambassador to Washington, told Reuters in June. U.S. officials told Reuters that Trump argued at a White House meeting with advisors in July that the United States should demand a share of Afghanistan's mineral wealth in exchange for its assistance to the Afghan government. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday that Trump had made a decision on the United States' strategy for Afghanistan after a review with national security advisors, but did not give any details.