Tuesday November 21, 2017
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Death Toll passes 90 due to Massive US Bombing in Afghanistan

President Ashraf Ghani said Afghan and U.S. forces closely coordinated on the bombing, however his predecessor has strongly denounced the strike

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An Afghan security police walks at the destroyed house after an operation in Asad Khil near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Islamabad, April 15, 2017: Afghan officials say the number of militants known to have been killed by a huge U.S. bomb Thursday has nearly tripled.

Officials say at least 92 militants died in the blast – up from 36 reported Friday. The area is still being cleared, so the death toll may increase.

There is no indication any civilians or military personnel were among the dead.

President Ashraf Ghani said Afghan and U.S. forces closely coordinated on the bombing, however his predecessor has strongly denounced the strike and the United States.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday he is unleashing a campaign to force U.S. forces out of his country for dropping the so-called “mother of all bombs” on Afghan soil, calling it a “barbaric” act that was more aimed at testing “a new weapon of mass destruction” than targeting Islamic State fighters.

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“I have decided as an individual to force America out of Afghanistan. Whether someone joins me or not, I have decided to prevent the American cruelty (against Afghans). They are not only killing our people but destroying the environment and disrespecting our honor,” Karzai told a gathering in Kabul.

Karzai’s criticism has been echoed by Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, who Tweeted, “I find the use of the largest non-nuclear bomb, the so-called “mother of all bombs,” on our soil reprehensible & counterproductive. If big bombs were the solution we would be the most secure place on earth today.”

The Afghan presidential palace responded to the criticism Saturday on it’s official Twitter account. “Every Afghan has the right to speak their mind. This is a country of free speech.”

And the country’s Minister for Security Reforms Amrullah Saleh defended Thursday’s strike.

“Destroying few notorious cave networks along with dozens of terrorists to save ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) personnel by dropping a MOAB (mother of all bombs) was a wise tactical decision,” Saleh, a former Afghan spy chief, said in a Twitter post.

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U.S. forces dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast, a nine-meter giant weighing about 10 tons, on the Achin district of Nangarhar province Thursday night. The strike was described as part of a campaign to destroy the Islamic State Khorasan Province group, the local chapter of IS.

General John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, said Friday his forces had coordinated the attack with the Afghan government, “just as we have since we started these operations in early March.”

Nicholson said circumstances on the ground justified the use of the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever used by the U.S. military.

“This munition, this weapon, was the right weapon against this target,” he said. “The enemy had created bunkers, tunnels, and extensive minefields and this weapon was used to reduce those obstacles so that we could continue our offensive into southern Nangarhar.”

U.S. President Donald Trump was asked Thursday whether the attack was intended to send a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is reportedly poised to conduct a new nuclear weapons test as early as this weekend. But Nicholson insisted the decision was based solely on the analysis of conditions in Nangarhar.

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“It was the right time to use it tactically, against the right target on the battlefield,” he said.

Nicholson said the operation against IS in Nangahar has liberated more than 400 square kilometers since its inception.
-VOA

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Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals

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A security guard looks out of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York. VOA

United States, October 27: The United States has announced changes to its nonimmigrant work visa policies that are expected to make renewals more difficult.

In the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would generally approve the renewals unless the visa holder had committed a crime. Now, renewals will face the same scrutiny as the original applications.

“USCIS officers are at the front lines of the administration’s efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said, according to the announcement posted on USCIS’ website this week. “This updated guidance provides clear direction to help advance policies that protect the interests of U.S. workers.”

The new regulations could affect more than 100,000 people holding at least eight different types of work visas who fill out the I-129 form for renewals.

Sam Adair, a partner at the Graham Adair business immigration law firm in California and Texas, said that for the most part, he expected visa holders would most likely face lengthier adjudication periods in their renewal processes, as opposed to increased numbers of denials.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big shift for us,” Adair told VOA. “But I think what we’ll see is just an increase in the number of requests for evidence, an increase in the delays on the adjudication of these petitions, and really it’s going to just result in more costs for the employers who are filing these petitions.”

‘High-skilled’ workers

Of all visa holders affected by this policy, those in the United States on an H-1B, a visa for “high-skilled” workers, are the biggest group. Of 109,537 people who had to submit I-129 forms in fiscal 2017, 95,485 were H-1B holders, according to data sent to VOA by USCIS.

H-1B visas have been threatened in the past, most recently by a bill proposed this year that would have raised the minimum salary requirement for workers brought in on the visa. While advocates of the program argued that it would keep workers from being exploited, many H-1B holders feared that businesses would be less willing to hire them or keep them on board.

But some Americans support the new regulations, saying that nonimmigrant work visas hurt American workers.

“It’s prudent to make sure that the people that receive those visas are in complete compliance with all of the requirements,” Joe Guzzardi, national media director of Californians for Population Stabilization, told VOA.

“It just isn’t possible to think that there aren’t American workers that couldn’t fill these jobs,” he said, noting that while the regulations might hurt businesses, they would help Americans looking for work.(VOA)

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North Korea may soon be able to hit US with Nuclear Missiles ; Could a war break out soon?

Pyongyang's deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

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NORTH KOREA
CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(VOA)

Washington, October 20, 2017 : North Korea is likely just months away from being capable of striking the United States with a nuclear missile, according to two top U.S. officials.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a forum in Washington on Thursday he is “deeply worried” about the advancing threat from North Korea and the possibility it could spark a nuclear arms race across East Asia.

“We ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said when asked about Pyongyang’s pursuit of missile technology that could launch a warhead to targets in the U.S.

“They are so far along in that it’s now a matter of thinking about how do you stop the final step?” he added.

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National security adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(VOA)

McMaster: We’re running out of time

U.S. National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster said later on Thursday that Washington was racing to resolve the situation, short of using military force.

“We’re not out of time but we’re running out of time,” McMaster said, speaking at the same event. “Accept and deter is unacceptable.”

The comments by Pompeo and McMaster come as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have been steadily rising following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test last month, it’s sixth overall, and repeated tests of what intelligence officials have assessed to be both intermediate and long range ballistic missiles.

But despite warning that North Korea is just months away from being able to target the U.S., the CIA’s Pompeo cautioned there are still questions about just how “robust” the North Korea nuclear threat has become, and whether Pyongyang will be able to deliver multiple nuclear warheads to nuclear targets.

“There’s always a risk. Intelligence is imperfect,” Pompeo said, adding there is evidence Pyongyang may be getting help from Iran, citing “deep conventional weapons ties as between the two countries.”

He also warned that each North Korean test makes an arms race ever more likely.

“You watch as North Korea grows ever closer to having its capability perfected, you can imagine others in the region also thinking that they well may need that capability,” he said.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while answering questions at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia (VOA)

Putin suggests force won’t work against North Korea

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against the use of force to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat, suggesting it would not work.

“Talks about a preventative, disarming strike — and we hear both hints and open threats — this is very dangerous,” Putin said during a speaking engagement in Sochi.

“Who knows what and where is hidden in North Korea? And whether all of it can be destroyed with one strike, I doubt it,” he said. “I’m almost sure it is impossible.”

North Korean officials have also repeatedly warned the U.S. against any provocations.

Pyongyang’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

Other North Korean officials have accused the U.S. of making preparations for war, citing the presence of the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, conducting exercises to the east of the Korean Peninsula.

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United States Bombers Fly Near To North Korea’s Coast

The US flew bombers near North Korea's coast on Saturday, an action the Defense Department said was meant to send a clear message to Pyongyang about the country's military options.

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Bombers
Source: Wikimedia Common

Washington, September 24, 2017: The US flew bombers near North Korea’s coast on Saturday, an action the Defense Department said was meant to send a clear message to Pyongyang about the country’s military options.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that (President Donald Trump) has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement, Efe news reported.

“North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies,” the statement added.

White said US Air Force B-1B bombers from the US island territory of Guam and US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan “flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.”

“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea’s) reckless behavior,” White said.

The Pentagon’s announcement came before North Korea addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly on Saturday and after the US imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang this week.

Those new sanctions bar ships and aircraft from visiting the US within 180 days of having gone to North Korea.

The ban also applies to vessels that have done a ship-to-ship transfer with a vessel that has visited North Korea within 180 days.

Trump ordered the sanctions via a decree whose aim is to “maximize pressure on North Korea to demonstrate to its leadership that the best and only path is to return to denuclearization.”

A new nuclear test by Pyongyang earlier this month and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric have caused tensions on the Korean peninsula to soar over the last year.

Seismic activity Saturday in North Korea, meanwhile, sparked fears that Pyongyang may have conducted yet another nuclear test, but experts said the small earthquake was probably due to natural causes.

North Korea has refused to back down in the face of international pressure and on Saturday said it was nearing completion of its nuclear goals but that its program was intended merely as a deterrent.

“We do not have any intention at all to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that do not join in the US military actions against (the Asian nation),” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

Ri on Friday said North Korea may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, making those remarks after Trump inflamed tensions in his debut speech before the UN.

Trump ominously warned Pyongyang on Tuesday that the US would obliterate the Asian country if necessary.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said in his UN speech. (IANS)

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