Rescuing Afghanistan: Briefings

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US briefing: Wilbur Ross, Taliban talks and vaping lawsuits

Related: China has threatened to block Cathay Pacific from its airspace unless it weeds out employees sympathetic to the antigovernment demonstrations, creating an atmosphere of fear and distrust among its workers. The Australian government confirmed that three citizens had been detained in Iran. Officials said consular assistance was being provided to their families but provided no further details. The Times of London, which first reported the detentions, said that the three are a British-Australian blogger, her Australian boyfriend and a British-Australian scholar.

The British government said Wednesday that its foreign secretary met with the Iranian ambassador to discuss the issue.


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Reminder: The detentions add to heightened tensions between Iran and the West that spiked after President Trump abandoned a global nuclear pact last year and have prompted tit-for-tat seizures of oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Last month, Australia joined an American-led mission to police the shipping channel. Hurricane Dorian: About 2, people have been reported missing in the wake of the storm in the Bahamas, but the names have yet to be checked against those who sought shelter or evacuated, the government said Wednesday, and the death toll is now at Australia: A new law criminalizing violent content online was seen as a model for creating a safer internet, but enforcement so far is largely passive and reactive, highlighting limits to the approach.

The decision set up a showdown next week at the Supreme Court in London, which had already said it would review the case. Snapshot: Above, a humpback whale near Raoul Island, miles from the northeast coast of New Zealand. A new study has found that whales from the South Pacific tend to hang out in this area for a few days every year and share songs with one another. From the archives: Two months after the Sept. Cook: Fresh ginger is the key ingredient in coconut-gochujang glazed chicken with broccoli. Eat: Mission Ceviche, which began as a counter in a food hall, has grown into a full restaurant on the Upper East Side.

Smarter Living: Getting enough vitamin D is critical to having healthy bones. But, it turns out, a little goes a long way: High doses of vitamin D may actually lower bone density in healthy adults , a clinical trial found. Savannah West starting vaping because she liked the mint and mango flavour made by Juul, the vape-maker that commands three-quarters of the US e-cigarette market.


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  • But the habit also left the teenager addicted to nicotine. Now she is one of many US consumers suing the company , whose product was once seen as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but which potentially faces the same challenges as big tobacco. Teen vaping.

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    An estimated 9 million adults and 3. Michigan recently became the first state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes in an effort to curb teen vaping. Respiratory illnesses. A recent spate of severe respiratory illnesses among young people in the US has been blamed on vaping.

    The researcher Thomas Eissenberg says the best way to protect your lung health is to not smoke or vape. The US Coast Guard has rescued four trapped South Korean crewmen on an overturned cargo ship , more than a day after it capsized while leaving port on the Georgia coast. Days before Trump was due to meet Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February, a gang of armed men burst into the North Korean embassy in Madrid, took an official hostage and demanded he defect. But he refused, and they fled. So the Afghan air force led these strikes yesterday with A attacks against drug labs.

    And then, last night, they were supported by the U. Air Force, with Bs and other strike aircraft, to include the F Raptor. This -- these also complemented Afghan Special Forces strikes. So a raid went in yesterday against a Taliban prison in Now Zad. And then these also complemented conventional offensive operations being conducted by the th Corps in Central Helmand.

    So there's a just -- this is much more than just a series of air strikes in Northern Helmand. It's part of a larger, comprehensive campaign plan, and it's part of our sustainment of offensive operations through the winter against the enemy's financial engine in Helmand. This -- in order to do these strikes -- they required hundreds of hours of preparation, our intelligence enterprise, ISR, as well as the actual sorties flown last night and in the coming days, because this will continue.

    I want to -- I want to mention the -- before getting into more detail on the strikes -- over the last several years -- the last three years, in particular, since the end of ISAF, the Afghan Security Forces have really been carrying the war to the enemy -- to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and ISIS.

    NATO Resolute Support | DOD Press Briefing By Major General Hecker from Kabul

    It's been a tough fight. In the last year, we've seen offensive operations, kind of unprecedented over the last few years, by the Afghan security forces.

    At one point, we had all six corps conducting offensive operations simultaneously around the country. And this I would contrast with last year -- in , when in October, we saw attacks on cities -- four cities simultaneously, at the same time, so big change from the past. The special forces, the special police, the air force have all continued to grow in capability, and they're -- and they're all making great appearances on the battlefield.

    The commandos in particular have never lost a battle against the Taliban, and we are doubling the size of the commandos. So that is going to be a significant addition to the offensive arsenal of the Afghan security forces. This has not been without cost. I want to take a moment to recognize and show our respect for the bravery and the sacrifice of Afghan security forces and the hard work of their government. They are fighting corruption, they're fighting external influence and terrorism, not just for the benefit of their own country and the region, but indeed, the entire world.

    And their fight on terror is the most important fight in the world, and it's -- and it's a fight on behalf of us, as well as them. It's a fight that makes our homeland secure and the homelands of our coalition secure, as well as the Afghans'. And the Afghans really deserve security and a lasting peace. And that stability that would come with that would help significantly to reduce the threat of terrorism from the region, and migrancy, as well.

    In progress at UNHQ

    So let me shift back again to our operations over the last 24 hours. These are a demonstration of our -- of our new authorities.

    They're also a demonstration of our will to take the fight to the enemy in all of its dimensions. And specifically, in striking northern Helmand and the drug enterprises there, we're hitting the Taliban where it hurts, which is their finances. Now, the -- in , again, I'll elaborate more today or next week -- the Taliban failed to meet any of their military objectives. They failed to take any cities, as they've attempted for the last two years. They suffered a significant amount of casualties from the Afghan-led offensive operations.

    And we are -- we are seeing signs of friction and disagreement within the Taliban leadership ranks. They know they cannot win -- they can't win in the face of this growing capability. In September, we saw them, in the face of these tactical setbacks, take a knee and change their tactics. And so they're -- they decided to stop attacking cities, stop attack -- trying to seize and hold terrain, and instead shift to suicide attacks and attempts to inflict casualties to prove their relevance.

    And so this, actually, is a step back in terms of enemy tactics to a guerrilla warfare type of strategy, from one where they attempt to seize and hold terrain. Now, the Taliban are interested, though, in making money, and to some extent it's fair to say that this movement has evolved into a narco-insurgency, so that the profits from narcotics now exceed their operating expenses, and we find that the leadership of the Taliban fight over the money, and it's often divided along tribal lines.

    This -- they make their money in a couple of ways. One is the narcotics trafficking; second, illegal mining; kidnapping for hire; murder; et cetera. So, largely, they've evolved into a criminal organization and truly fit the definition of a narco-insurgency. Our message to the enemy is that you cannot win the war. It's time to lay down your arms and enter into a reconciliation process.

    And if they -- if they don't, they're going to be confined to irrelevance, as the Afghans expand their control of the country, or death. And so these are the choices they face. As we all know, heroin's become a global problem -- health, economic, security concerns. And so, just like terror, heroin and opiates have become a global issue. The -- these criminals living in Afghanistan, who are closely linked to the Taliban and part of the Taliban, are responsible for up to 85 percent of the world's opium. We currently estimate, I'm told by our law enforcement professionals, that about 4 percent of the heroin in the U.

    We also see that it -- that Afghan heroin has made inroads in most of the other areas around the world, to include as close as Canada, Europe, Russia, Iran, and of course all across the Balkans, et cetera.

    Afghanistan crisis briefing

    So, increasingly, a fight to retain control of the areas of poppy production -- and we see that the vast majority of the poppy grown in Afghanistan is grown in Taliban-controlled or contested areas. The -- I need to make the point here that we are not going after the farmers who are growing the poppy. They are largely compelled to grow the poppy. And this is kind of a tragic part of the story.