NATO may boost its presence & prolong ‘training’ mission in Afghanistan – Stoltenberg

NATO may boost its presence & prolong ‘training’ mission in Afghanistan – Stoltenberg
NATO is considering sending additional military personnel to Afghanistan and increasing the timeframe of the deployment in the view of the “challenging security situation,” the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told the German Die Welt daily.

The additional troops are expected to join the NATO Resolute Support mission which it says is aimed at training, assisting and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against violent insurgents and various extremist groups.

The ‘training’ mission, after the majority of ‘combat’ troops were withdrawn, currently involves 13,000 servicemen, with around 8,400 of them being from the US.

The decision concerning further troops deployment is to be taken by June, Stoltenberg told Die Welt.

The military alliance is also expected to approve a new prolonged deployment procedure, he said. Instead of extending the mission every year, NATO would prolong it for a “longer term” to be able to develop long-term strategies.

NATO would like to take more initiative and responsibility in the fight against global terrorism, Stoltenberg said, noting however, that operations aimed at training local troops and security forces “are the best way to fight terrorism.”

“We already do it to some extent, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq but we have a potential to do even more,” he said. “In such a way, we make them capable of stabilizing their land on their own. It is better than sending NATO troops that have then to defend those countries.”

NATO’s new strategy announcement comes as the situation in Afghanistan becomes increasingly tense.

US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban from power more than 15 years ago, following the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, the extremist group, which advocates hardcore Islamist rule, is still active and continues to attack Afghan military targets and carry out terrorist attacks.

US Army General John Nicholson recently described the situation in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” as he briefed the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

Lately, the US has concentrated on fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in eastern Afghanistan while also supporting Afghan National Security Forces against the Taliban.

In an unprecedented show of force on April 13, the US dropped an 11-ton “mother of all bombs” in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, killing 94 IS terrorists, according to the latest estimates.

US ‘mother of all bombs’ kills at least 92 ISIS fighters – Afghan officials 

Meanwhile last week, some 140 Afghan soldiers were killed and dozens injured in a Taliban attack on a military base in northern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials. Taliban fighters also overran the Sangin district of Helmand province in late March.

On Saturday, it was reported that the US Marines returned to Afghanistan’s southernmost Helmand province amid the deteriorating security situation in the area. The arrival of the Marines comes a day after the Taliban announced this year’s spring offensive, pledging to keep the pressure on Afghan’s security forces.

Japan deploys warship to protect US vessel, authorizes ‘minimum’ use of firepower (VIDEO)

Japan deploys warship to protect US vessel, authorizes ‘minimum’ use of firepower (VIDEO)
Japan has reportedly deployed a helicopter carrier and authorized it to use weapons, if necessary, to escort and protect a US supply vessel. The mission, performed under the country’s expanded military doctrine, marks the first such mission since WWII.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada ordered the Izumo Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier to protect a US Navy supply ship, which is heading towards the Pacific to resupply the American armada sent by Donald Trump to keep North Korean nuclear ambitions at bay, sources told Kyodo news.

The Japanese helicopter carrier is set to depart Yokosuka port in Kanagawa Prefecture to Monday to escort the US Navy supply ship from waters off the Boso Peninsula, near Tokyo, to the area off Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan.

Japanese media reports that the US ship could be delivering supplies to the aircraft carrier – the USS Carl Vinson striking group, that is now conducting a joint exercise with South Korea’s navy in the Sea of Japan.

To ensure success of their escort mission, the Japanese seamen have been authorized the “minimum necessary use of weapons,” to deter any attacks amid North Korean threats to sink US ships, the Japan Times reports.

It has not been specified if this is a one-time mission and how many American ships Izumo will protect.

READ MORE: US, Japan in joint show of force amid simmering row with N. Korea

The US Navy strike group heading toward the Korean Peninsula entered the Sea of Japan last Saturday. Two Japanese destroyers, the Samidare and the Ashigara joined the USS Carl Vinson’s group to carry out “various tactical exercises.”

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Photo published for N. Korean ballistic missile fails minutes after launch – S. Korean & US militaries — RT News

N. Korean ballistic missile fails minutes after launch – S. Korean & US militaries — RT News

Pyongyang has test-fired a ballistic missile that appears to have exploded within minutes after launch and never actually left North Korean airspace, according to the US Pacific Command and South…

Tensions between North Korea and the US have been growing exponentially over the past few weeks, as the US has repeatedly pressed Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

READ MORE: Joint US-S. Korea naval drills start in Sea of Japan amid tensions around Korean peninsula

President Donald Trump sent the USS Carl Vinson into Korean waters as part of a “very powerful armada” in order to intimidate Pyongyang, which has continued to test new ballistic missiles, despite all the warnings, UN sanctions and international condemnation.

Last Monday, North Korea threaten to reduce a US strike force to a sea wreck in case of provocations.

“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” according to Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

Monday’s Izumo deployment will set a new milestone for the Japanese Navy which has not escorted any military vessels, outside of troop exercises, since the adoption of a pacifist constitution following Japan’s defeat in World War II.

In 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party passed legislation to allow the country’s military to participate in foreign conflicts, overturning its previous policy of fighting only in self-defense.

Since the Japanese constitution only allowed Japanese armed forces to act in self-defense, the legislation reinterpreted the relevant passages to allow the military to operate with overseas allies in “collective self-defense.”

Tensions Rise: US, S. Korea kick off naval war games; N. Korean Leader Kim inspects live fire drills 

The latest Kyodo News survey showed the Japanese are divided over whether or not to amend the Article 9 of the Constitution, which outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes. According to the figures, 49 percent of some 3,000 mail-in respondents said Article 9 must be revised while 47 percent oppose the change.

Some 75 percent of respondents who support the pacifist constitution claimed that Article 9 allowed the country to stay out of world conflicts since World War II.

Sixty-six percent of those who leaned towards amending the cornerstone article cited “the changing security environment surrounding the country, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and China’s military expansion,” as the reason to revise the 1947 document.

Austrian, who fought for Kiev in E. Ukraine, accused of war crimes

Austrian, who fought for Kiev in E. Ukraine, accused of war crimes
An Austrian citizen, who traveled to Ukraine to fight for the Kiev government against the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk Republics, has been arrested in Poland on charges of committing war crimes.

The suspect, 25, whose identity has not yet been revealed, faces charges of “killing enemy soldiers, who have already surrendered, as well as civilians,” a regional Prosecutor’s Office in the town of Wiener Neustadt located in the Lower Austria said, as reported by the Austrian Der Standard newspaper.

According to the Austria’s ORF broadcaster, the suspect comes from the western Austrian region of Vorarlberg.

A spokesman of the Prosecutor’s Office, Erich Habitzl, told the Austrian APA news agency that the suspect committed war crimes “during the battle over Donetsk airport.”

Earlier, AFP reported that the suspect fought for the self-proclaimed republics but Habitzl dismissed these reports and explicitly stated that he fought “for the Ukrainian side.”

The Austrian Prosecutor’s Office had issued a Europe-wide arrest warrant against the man a few weeks ago. As a result, he was detained at a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine located not far from the Polish town of Dorohusk as he was trying to enter Ukrainian territory.

The suspect also faces separate charges in a drug-related case, the Austrian Prosecutor’s Office added.

It is yet unclear when he will be extradited to Austria. “At present [the suspect] remains at the disposal of the Polish judiciary,” Lieutenant Dariusz Sienicki, a spokesman for the Polish border service, told Reuters. “The person is awaiting proceedings relating to extradition to Austria.”

The conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in the spring of 2014 after a wave of protests led to an armed coup that ousted the elected government in Kiev.

The new government sent troops to the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which were unwilling to recognize the coup-installed authorities. The turmoil has claimed the lives of nearly 9,800 people since then, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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