Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
US freezes out top Afghan official in peace talks feud
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In fallout from a feud over U.S.-Taliban peace talks, a senior U.S. diplomat has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that U.S. officials will no longer deal with his national security adviser, four knowledgable sources said on Monday.
The decision to end U.S. contacts with Hamdullah Mohib will almost certainly raise tensions between the allies over Kabul's exclusion from negotiations that have mainly focused on a U.S. troop pullout and how the Taliban would stop militant groups from using Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks.
Mohib had launched a blistering public attack last Thursday on the chief U.S. negotiator, Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.
The following day, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale told Ghani by phone that Mohib would no longer be received in Washington and U.S. civilian and military officials would not do business with him, the sources said.
"Hale called Ghani and told him that Mohib is no longer welcome in D.C. The U.S. will not deal with him in Kabul or in D.C. any more," said a former senior Afghan official, who like the other sources requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
Kabul fears that Washington is intent on finalizing a U.S. troop pullout to fulfill a vow by President Donald Trump, undermining its ability to reach a political pact with the Taliban that preserves gains, such as women's education, won since the 2001 U.S. invasion ended the militants' harsh version of Islamic rule.
The former Afghan official said he saw the move as an effort to compel Ghani to "oust" Mohib, who became the president's national security adviser after serving as his envoy to Washington.
A second source, a congressional aide, agreed that pressuring Ghani to end contacts with Mohib was "one way of looking at this" because the State Department provides funding for the Afghan president's national security council staff.
The State Department declined to comment. The Afghan embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Simmering tensions over the Afghan government's exclusion from the U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar, erupted with Mohib's attack on Khalilzad, an Afghan-born U.S. diplomat, at a news conference in Washington.
He accused Khalilzad of giving the Taliban legitimacy while "delegitimizing the Afghan government." He added that Khalilzad perhaps was trying to create "a caretaker government of which he would then become viceroy."
Viceroy was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India.
The State Department responded with a strong statement quoting Hale as telling Mohib later Thursday that his comments "only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process."
The latest round of peace talks ended on March 11 after 16 days. The sides reported progress, but no accord on a withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban's counter-extremist assurances.
U.S. negotiators also are pressing the insurgents to accept a ceasefire and talks with Afghan society representatives, including government officials. The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani's government, which they deride as a U.S. puppet.
In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Afghanistan's ambassador to Qatar, Faizullah Kakar, said that another country should not be negotiating on the use of Afghan territory by militants.
"It is the government that should be deciding, whoever the government is, that the territory is used or not used against another country," he said.
The U.S. military will build 'facilities' to house at least 7,500 adult migrants, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to construct the facilities, said Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Chris Mitchell.
Defense officials will brief President Donald Trump's national security team on a plan that involves sending 5,000 more troops to the Middle East to deter Iran, Task & Purpose has learned.
So far, no decisions have been made about whether to send the reinforcements to the region, unnamed U.S. officials told CNN's Barbara Starr.
"The military capabilities being discussed include sending additional ballistic missile defense systems, Tomahawk cruise missiles on submarines, and surface ships with land attack capabilities for striking at a long range," CNN reports. "Specific weapons systems and units have not been identified."
The Navy warship forged from World Trade Center steel has returned to New York for the first time in years
The thousands of sailors, Coasties and Marines who descend on New York City every year for Fleet Week are an awesome sight to behold on their own, but this year's confab of U.S. service members includes a uniquely powerful homecoming as well.
When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.
J.J., whose name was withheld by the U.S. Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said this month.
"We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We're between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time," Maj. Matt "Top" Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.
"We're about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches," Nauman added. "It's a pretty small group of people that we've hired over the last 60 to 65 years."
In what appear to be his first public remarks on U.S. national security since his resignation as Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis offered a word of caution to President Donald Trump amid escalating tensions with Iran on Tuesday.
"The United States should buy time to keep peace and stability and allow diplomats to work diplomacy on how to keep peace for one more hour, one more day, one more week, a month or a year," Mattis said during remarks in the United Arab Emirates.
"Iran's behavior must change," Mattis added, "[but] the military must work to buy time for diplomats to work their magic."