US Likely to Delay Closure of Two Key Afghan Bases; Over 16,000 Pakistani Families Refuse Polio Vaccine; OECD Forecasts 7.7 Percent Growth for India
Afghanistan U.S. likely to delay closure of two key Afghan bases The U.S. military bases in the cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad are likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015, a senior U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday , as President Barack Obama is now considering delaying the military pull-out from Afghanistan (Reuters). ...
U.S. likely to delay closure of two key Afghan bases
The U.S. military bases in the cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad are likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015, a senior U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday , as President Barack Obama is now considering delaying the military pull-out from Afghanistan (Reuters). The official said that gorund conditions have changed since May 2014, when the decision was made to cut the U.S. force in half by the end of this year. Although the White House had no comment on the possibility of maintaining the bases into next year, Obama is expected to decide in the coming days whether or not he will slow the pace of the troop withdrawal. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah are visiting Washington next week and many hope the visit will boost support for a delayed drawdown among the American public.
Pakistani Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan
The Pakistani Taliban claimed on Thursday that the group’s senior commander, Khawrey Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan on Wednesday (ET). Muhammad Khorasani, the group’s spokesman, said that two other Pakistani Taliban members were also killed in the strike that occurred across the border from Pakistan’s Kurram Agency. Mehsud had been a member of the Pakistani Taliban since he was a child and was involved in efforts to resolve internal rifts among the factions.
Over 16,000 families refuse polio vaccination
Over 16,400 families across Pakistan refused to have their children vaccinated during the first two days of the latest polio vaccination campaign (Dawn). An additional 610,000 children missed being vaccinated as they were not at home when the vaccination teams visited their homes. The latest round in the National Polio Campaign started on Monday and had a goal of vaccinating 35.5 million children below the age of five. Around 80,000 vaccination teams were formed to help carry out the campaign, however, the vaccination drive was postponed in some areas due to a lack of security or hazardous weather conditions. For example, the campaign in Quetta was delayed on Monday due to insecurity in the area, even though the poliovirus was found in a three-month-old baby residing in the Pashtoonabad area of Quetta on the same day (Dawn).
Two convicts given stays of execution
Saulat Mirza and Shafqat Hussain, two convicts who were scheduled to be hanged on Wednesday, were given last-minute stays for 72 hours (ET, Dawn, BBC). Media reports incorrectly stated yesterday that Hussain had been hanged, but new reports reveal that he was indeed granted a stay due to the confusion over his age at the time of conviction. Hussain’s family and human rights activists involved in his case maintain that he was a juvenile — just 14 years old — at the time he was sentenced to death, but Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that there was no evidence to support that claim. The other convict, Mirza, was granted a stay due to “health concerns,” Nisar told the National Assembly on Thursday.
OECD forecasts 7.7 percent growth for India
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in its “Interim Economic Assessment” that India is expected to become the fastest-growing economy over the next two years, according to news reports on Wednesday (Livemint, Economic Times, Reuters). OECD has forecast that the Indian economy will grow by 7.7 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2016. In its earlier assessment, published in November 2014, OECD had forecasted growth in India at 6.4 percent in 2015 and 6.6 percent in 2016.
ISIS influence in India in negligible
Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in Jaipur, located in the northern state of Rajasthan, on Thursday, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that Indian Muslims are patriots and that ISIS had a negligible influence on them Business Standard, Zee News). Singh also criticized Pakistan for supporting terrorist organizations, and said: ”If Pakistan and ISI [the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence
agency] stop supporting terrorist groups, [THE] security situation in South Asia would improve significantly,” and further added: “Pakistan should stop using terrorism as an instrument for its own interest. Online radicalization of youths is a matter of serious concern” (Indian Express).
RBI prepared to deal with market volatility
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan said that India is prepared to deal with the impact of a potential increase in interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve, according to news reports on Wednesday (Times of India, Financial Express). Rajan told reporters: “There will be some volatility in the market… normalcy will return soon” (Indian Express). Rajan further said that India will be able to deal with the market volatility as the current account deficit is under control and India’s foreign exchange reserves are high.
Solar-powered aircraft faces red tape in India
The Solar Impulse, a Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft, left Ahmedabad City, located in the western state of Gujarat, on Wednesday after a delay of over two hours due to customs issues (BBC, Times of India). Solar Impulse co-creators André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard have planned a 22,000-mile journey around the
world, which is expected to span 25 flight days over five months. Piccard, expressing his frustration, told reporters: “The delay is (because of) of administration, papers, stamps… When I arrived here with Solar Impulse, there were authorities, media and ceremony. I was covered with garlands and shawls gifted by the people who received me and I missed immigration clearance. And now I am desperate to get the clearance since last five days” (Indian Express). Piccard also tweeted: “If there is no adventure in the future, it is not because of a lack of ideas, but because of excessive administration” (Daily Mail).
— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
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