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Trump and Tillerson: bomb the Taliban to the negotiating table

The latest US plan for Afghanistan: increase the violence in order to end it

Alexander Mercouris

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Following the lengthy discussions in Camp David which I discussed in my previous article, US President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson published on Monday separate statements about the war in Afghanistan.

The focus of attention, understandably enough, has been on President Trump’s statement, though it is Secretary of State Tillerson’s statement and his subsequent answers to the media which is actually more interesting.

Firstly, there is a clear difference between Trump and Tillerson.  Though after lengthy discussions a consensus has clearly been reached, there is no disguising the difference in their views both about the course of the war and about the role of the Taliban in a future Afghanistan.

Trump’s emphasis is heavily on military measures, and though contrary to expectations he did not announce a specific increase in troop numbers, he spoke clearly in terms of achieving victory

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.  The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory.  They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win……

Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge……

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11th, 2001.  They volunteered for a simple reason:  They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.

Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives.  We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad.  We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation.  With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.

We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.

(bold italics added)

In contrast to all this fighting talk from Trump, Tillerson frankly admits that military victory is unachievable

I think the President was clear this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand: You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.

(bold italics added)

Both Trump and Tillerson say they favour a political solution to the Afghan war, but there is a clear difference in how they expect to achieve it.

Tillerson’s idea is that peace will come through a peace settlement negotiated with the Taliban after the Taliban have been convinced that they cannot win

I think the President was clear this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand: You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you. And so at some point we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end……

When we say no preconditions on the talks, I think what we are saying is, look, the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban representatives need to sit down and sort this out. It’s not for the U.S. to tell them it must be this particular model, it must be under these conditions, and I think that’s what the President means when he says we’re no longer nation building. We’re – look, we’ve tried taking certain principles and forms around the world and sometimes it works; in a lot of places, it doesn’t work.

We don’t know what’s going to emerge here. We’re going to be there, obviously, to encourage others. But it’s going to be up to the Afghan Government and the representatives of the Taliban to work through a reconciliation process of what will serve their needs and achieve the American people’s objectives, which is security – no safe haven for terrorists to operate anywhere in Afghanistan now or in the future.

(bold italics added)

Trump by contrast sees the war ending differently, with Afghanistan regenerating itself and achieving peace and stability under US protection

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.  As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.  The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do.  Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.  We want them to succeed…..

Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.  But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

Unlike Tillerson, whilst Trump is prepared to countenance talks with the Taliban, he does so with no expectations and little conviction

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.  America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

(Bold italics added)

Note that this does no envisage a settlement with the Taliban as a whole – which is what Tillerson clearly wants and expects – but with ‘moderate’ elements which can be hived off from it.

On one point Trump and Tillerson both agree: huge extra pressure will be brought to bear on Pakistan to close down the Taliban’s base areas and supply lines.  Moreover in order to achieve this both Trump and Tillerson are willing to scare Pakistan by conjuring up the spectre of Indian intervention in Afghanistan in support of the US backed government there.

I think those who say that Trump and Tillerson are oblivious to Pakistani sensitivity about Indian intervention in Afghanistan are completely wrong.  This is clearly a carefully thought out strategy discussed at length at Camp David by the entire US leadership of pressuring Pakistan by using India to scare it.

However though the strategy is thought out it could not in my opinion be more wrong.

Anyone familiar with the present public mood in Pakistan knows that public opinion in this once staunchly pro-American country has been completely alienated over the last 40 years as a result of the way Pakistan’s interests have been repeatedly sacrificed as the US pursues its own constantly fluctuating objectives in Afghanistan at Pakistan’s expense.

US pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban in Pakistan is certain to encounter strong resistance, and if it leads to a crackdown it could easily spiral into violence.

That ought to be a major concern.  It is not so long ago that a US inspired crackdown in Pakistan during the period of the George W. Bush administration provoked so much resistance that Pakistan’s stability appeared to be threatened.  Given that Pakistan is a nuclear power avoiding that happening again ought to be a priority.  Trump and Tillerson and presumably the rest of the US leadership however seem either indifferent or oblivious to the danger.

As for using Pakistan’s fear of India to try to gain leverage over Pakistan, given the level of regional tension in the Indian subcontinent it is difficult to imagine anything more reckless.

Not only will Pakistan be made to feel that the US and India are ganging up against it – with the feeling of betrayal being especially acute given that Pakistan consistently sided with the US against the USSR and India often at considerable cost to itself during the Cold War – but the almost inevitable reaction within Pakistan will be to intensify opposition to a US policy in Afghanistan which favours India over Pakistan.

As for India, whilst no doubt for a while it will play along, Indian opinion – which is both well-informed and highly sophisticated – will have no difficulty seeing that India is being used, and will in time come to resent the fact.

The end result will be to increase regional tensions in the Indian subcontinent over and above their already dangerously high levels, something which given how India and Pakistan feel about each other and given that they are both nuclear powers, is extraordinarily unwise and absolutely not in the US’s best interests.

Perhaps the often spoken of fear of an Indian-Pakistani nuclear war breaking out is exaggerated, but in so tense a region the proper policy ought to be to try to calm regional tensions down, not to make them worse.  Making them worse however seems to be what the US has decided to do.

In truth the only sensible policy for the US to follow is to negotiate with the Taliban without preconditions, with the objective being to achieve an orderly transfer of power to a broad based government capable of peace to Afghanistan, which means one in which the Taliban has the predominant role.

That is the logic of Tillerson’s statement that the US is “unable to win” in Afghanistan.

Obviously the Taliban cannot defeat the US militarily.  However it does not have to.  Henry Kissinger made precisely this point about the conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s, and – following through the logic of Tillerson’s statement – it applies exactly to the war against the Taliban which is being fought in Afghanistan now

We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win. The North Vietnamese used their armed forces the way a bull-fighter uses his cape — to keep us lunging in areas of marginal political importance

(bold italics added)

The military escalation President Trump has announced and which Secretary of State Tillerson endorses will not end the war in Afghanistan on US terms.  It will not ‘force’ the Taliban to accept US terms, and it will not force Pakistan to do what the US wants.

What it will do is escalate the war, just as US attempts in the 1960s to cut off North Vietnam’s supply lines through Laos and Cambodia by bombing and engineering coups in those countries ended up spreading the Vietnam war across Indochina.

Already even the “moderate” and “realist” Tillerson is hinting at exactly this, saying things which quite openly point to US ‘special operations’ to ‘take out’ Taliban fighters anywhere in Pakistan.

…..the President has been clear that we are going to protect American troops and servicemen. We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live, and we have put people on notice that if you are harboring and providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned. Be forewarned. And we’re going to engage with those who are providing safe haven and ask them to change what they’re doing and help

It would be difficult to imagine anything more likely to inflame Pakistani opinion or spread the violence further than hit-and-run attacks across the length and breadth of Pakistani territory (not just the North West Frontier region), but that it seems is what we are going to get.

The US made a catastrophic error in 2001 when it conflated the Taliban with Al-Qaeda.  In reality these are two different and wholly separate organisations – the first exclusively Afghan, the second overwhelmingly Arab – the vast majority of whose members neither like nor cooperate with each other.

In 2001 the great majority of Taliban commanders, and the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy, were appalled at the way Al-Qaeda deceived them and abused their hospitality by using Afghanistan without their knowledge or permission as a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the US.

Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy – the ulema – asked Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan immediately, and there is no doubt that that was what most Taliban commanders also wanted.  Several of them actually contacted the US via Pakistan and told the US as much.

The Taliban’s leader – Mullah Mohammed Omar – was reluctant to hand Osama bin Laden over to the US,  Osama being Omar’s personal friend, and Omar being influenced by Osama’s personal assurances that he had not been involved in the 9/11 attacks.

However under intense pressure from his commanders and from Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy Omar eventually relented and made it known that he would accept the ‘guidance’ of the ulema, with the caveat that Osama should leave Afghanistan ‘voluntarily’ ‘of his own accord’ for trial before an Islamic court in some other Muslim country.

Given a little patience the deal that could have been done is plain to see.

Osama and his followers would have had no option but to leave Afghanistan ‘voluntarily’ if Omar and the Taliban had withdrawn their protection and told them it was their ‘wish’ to see them go.

As soon as Osama and his followers left Afghanistan they would have been arrested by the authorities of whatever Muslim country they had gone to.  In 2001 that would undoubtedly have been Pakistan.

Since Osama and his followers would in effect have been publicly expelled from Afghanistan there would have been no question of them going to ground or entering Pakistan in secret.  On the contrary their transfer from Afghanistan to Pakistan would undoubtedly have been negotiated by the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities.

Thereafter what would have followed would have been the Pakistanis handing Osama and his followers over to the US, possibly after some pro forma judgment had been obtained from some Islamic court authorising them to be sent there.

In 2001 there was no possibility of Pakistan acting otherwise, and it is a certainty that if Osama’s transfer from Afghanistan to Pakistan had been agreed between the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities, the Pakistani authorities would in time have handed him over to the US.

At that point, with Osama handed over to the US by the actions of two Muslim states (Pakistan and Afghanistan) Al-Qaeda and its toxic Jihadi ideology would have been visibly rejected by the world’s Muslims and would have promptly collapsed, Osama and his followers would have been put on trial in the US – resolving any remaining doubts about their precise role in 9/11 – and the whole catastrophic ‘War on Terror’ would have been avoided.

In return – after a decent interval – the US and the ‘international community’ would have recognised Afghanistan’s Taliban government, in which case Afghanistan might have become a peaceful country and a friend of the US.

There is nothing farfetched about this scenario.  On the contrary it was the outcome to which the diplomatic moves underway at the time were clearly leading towards.  All it needed was a little time and a little patience and it would have happened.

Instead, though not a single one of the 9/11 hijackers was an Afghan, and though no evidence has ever come to light that any commander or official of the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11, Afghanistan was attacked, Osama escaped, Al-Qaeda survived, the ‘War on Terror’ began, and the rest is history.

Nothing done today can undo the mistakes of the past.  However there is no reason or excuse to go on repeating those mistakes.  Doing so simply prolongs the war to no purpose, which is actually a crime.  That however is what Trump and Tillerson and the the rest of the US leadership have chosen to do.

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Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

“Trump and Tillerson: bomb the Taliban to the negotiating table”

The definition of diplomacy, American style. Bomb and kill first, think what to do next. Dead people don’t contradict the US.

Constantine
Guest
Constantine

Alexander did leave, but some of his people stayed. The Greek presence in the region was quite long and successful. The settlers who remained (or came later) did not plunder the region or engage in wholesale destruction of the natives. That’s why Alexander enjoys a fairly good reputation in Afghanistan today (and to a certain extent so do the modern Greeks, courtesy of their ancestors).

For the record, other ”foreign visitors” came to Afghanistan and conquered it, but all were Asians. Alexander was the only European who succeeded to play ball there.

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

Correct. Alexander started the Golden Age of Hellenism, in Persia, Bactria and the Middle East, by spreading the Greek culture. Greek Pharaohs reigned in Egypt for 300 years. Te last of them was Cleopatra.

mikhas
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mikhas

There’s another problem omitted in this article and is that the US has inserted one of its favourite proxy mercenaries to the Afghan theatre, ISIS.

According to Russia, “unknown” helicopters has been air-dropping munitions and weapons to the area occupied by them and this in a country who’s airspace is totally controlled by NATO. the strategy is clearly twofold, beside fighting the Taliban, ISIS would threaten Russia and eventually, China.

S.M. De Kuyper
Guest
S.M. De Kuyper

mikhas 150% correct.

seby
Guest
seby

It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions, especially selfish ones.
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Unknown

S.M. De Kuyper
Guest
S.M. De Kuyper

Neither are necessarily true, sorry!

seby
Guest
seby

War is just a racket…it is conducted for the benefit of the very
few and the expense of the masses…the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag – General Smedley Butler 1935

S.M. De Kuyper
Guest
S.M. De Kuyper

Prolonging the US wars is everything to the the US military, nothing else. Stealing any and all wealths of US vassal states is normalised US Democratic behaviour to ‘pay” US for invading them.This includes any European countries obeying US orders.

Shue
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Shue

Negotiate what? The Taliban control nearly 80% of the Country. That lying weak POTUS has now officially become the NeoCon mouth piece for war. I bet he can’t even point out where Afghanistan is on the map let alone know anything about the place other than what he’s fed.

XRGRSF
Guest
XRGRSF

We tried to bomb North Vietnam to the negotiating table, and………… The North Vietnamese never won a battlefield victory, and……………… The US finally declared victory, and withdrew.

Guy
Member
Guy

Fighting for peace is an oxymoron .

Vera Gottlieb
Guest
Vera Gottlieb

And the more you bomb, the more enemies you create and the more the chances (well deserved) to experience serious blowback. You reap what you sow…

Brad Golding
Guest
Brad Golding

Yeah!!! It worked in Vietnam, didn’t it!

stevek9
Guest
stevek9

That we could have had a deal with the Taliban to turn over Bin Laden, was obvious to an ordinary citizen like myself … at the time. A bunch of Arabs had abused their hospitality to launch an attack on the US unbeknownst to them, as described in this article.

Melotte 22
Guest
Melotte 22

16 years later and apart from thriving opium business, US has achieved nothing. Makes you wonder, was that their primary goal.

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

“US has achieved nothing”
On the contrary. It filled up the deep pockets of American weapons and aircraft contractors and the Pentagon with hundreds of billions dollars.

Latest

US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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Latest

BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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