By Mohammad Stanekzai LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan government forces have pulled out of a second district in Helmand, officials said on Monday, leaving the Taliban in control of most of the northern part of the province after troops withdrew from Musa Qala district last week. Military and government officials said the move had been made to concentrate forces more effectively. But it raises questions over the ability of Afghan security forces to take on Taliban militants who have stepped up their insurgency since the withdrawal of international troops in 2014 from most combat operations left them fighting largely alone. Army and government officials said security forces had left Nawzad district, which borders Musa Qala, and would concentrate their strength on defending the area around the provincial capital Lashkar Gah and the main highway between Kabul and the western city of Herat. According to U.S. estimates, the Islamist Taliban control or threaten around a third of Afghanistan, although they have so far failed to take over any major provincial centres apart from their brief capture of the northern city of Kunduz last year. The Taliban are seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule 15 years after they were ousted from power. Helmand, a major centre of opium production where thousands of British and American soldiers and marines struggled to subdue the Taliban, has been slipping out of government control for months as the insurgents overrun much of the countryside outside a few district centres. The latest move leaves security forces hanging on in the town of Sangin, north of the main Highway One, as well as a number of other towns and district centres including Gereshk, which lies on the highway and Marjah, close to Lashkar Gah. "We have withdrawn our forces from Nawzad and Musa Qala based on military plans," said Mohammad Rasoul Zazai, a spokesman for the 215th army Corps. "Currently for us Sangin, Marjah, Nad Ali and surrounding areas of Lashkar Gah and Kabul-Herat highway are a priority. And we put all our efforts in these places," he said. Helmand governor Merza Khan Rahimi also played down the decision to withdraw from the two districts, which he said could be retaken at any time. "It is normal during fighting to move forward or retreat," he said. "We are not concerned about this." The surprise withdrawals nonetheless leave the Taliban poised to move on the nearby Kajaki district, the site of a huge hydroelectric dam built with millions of dollars of U.S. aid as part of a drive to provide power to Helmand and neighbouring Kandahar provinces. U.S. Special Forces units have been in the region to help train the Afghan army and hundreds more American troops were sent to reinforce security for the training mission. U.S. Army Col. Michael Lawhorn, a spokesman for NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul, said the Afghan army was "making a tactical decision to reposition forces to fight the Taliban more effectively". He added that the move would allow troops to be concentrated around fewer checkpoints, resulting in a more mobile force. (Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alison Williams)
- The Independent
Mike Pence is homeless after leaving office and ‘couch-surfing’ with Indiana politicians, report says
Mike Pence has been residing in public housing for the past eight years
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico. The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed." In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing. More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorTrump's impeachment lawyer said he thinks 'the facts and the law will speak for themselves'Mitch McConnell is the GOAT
A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Biden administration's 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants.Why it matters: Biden has set an ambitious immigration agenda, but could face pushback from the courts.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.The big picture: U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, issued a temporary restraining order blocking the policy for 14 days. * Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration last week, claiming the freeze "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security, per a press release from Paxton’s office. * "The issues implicated by that Agreement are of such gravity and constitutional import that they require further development of the record and briefing prior to addressing the merits," Tipton wrote in his Tuesday order. * Tipton also said Texas has provided evidence that the freeze would result in "millions of dollars of damage" by spurring an increase in spending on public services for unauthorized immigrants, according to the judge’s order.What they're saying: "Texas is the FIRST state in the nation to bring a lawsuit against the Biden Admin. AND WE WON," Paxton tweeted. "Within 6 days of Biden’s inauguration, Texas has HALTED his illegal deportation freeze." * Neither DHS nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately responded to Axios' request for comment.Of note: Former President Trump was frequently met with injunctions for his immigration policies.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- NBC News
Tommy Frederick Allan said he took the documents because he is a taxpayer, according to an arrest warrant.
- The Independent
Biden tells Fox News reporter he talked to Putin about ‘You’ when asked about his call with Russian president
Leaders reportedly discussed Ukraine tensions, a massive cyberattack and Russia’s poisoned opposition leader
Five people were arrested in Sydney in largely peaceful Australia Day protests on Tuesday with thousands defying public health concerns and rallying across the nation against the mistreatment of the Indigenous people. The Jan. 26 public holiday marks the date the British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788 to start a penal colony, viewing the land as unoccupied despite encountering settlements. But for many Indigenous Australians, who trace their lineage on the continent back 50,000 years, it is "Invasion Day".
- The Week
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that the U.S. is restoring relations with the Palestinians and will resume supporting assistance programs that deliver humanitarian aid to refugees, a reversal from former President Donald Trump's policies. Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills said the new policy is "the best way to ensure Israel's future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security." During the Trump administration, the U.S. stopped making contributions to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides education, health care, and aid to Palestinian refugees; shuttered the Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization; and submitted a peace proposal leaving Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which was rejected by the Palestinians. Mills said under the Biden administration, "the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, one in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state." Both sides are being urged to "avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult, such as annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism," Mills added. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said now is "the time to heal and repair the damage left by the previous U.S. administration. We look forward to the reversal of the unlawful and hostile measures undertaken by the Trump administration and to working together for peace." More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorTrump's impeachment lawyer said he thinks 'the facts and the law will speak for themselves'Mitch McConnell is the GOAT
The U.S. Air Force is approaching its sunset date for the Airman Battle Uniform, known as the ABU.
- Associated Press
Investigators have found no evidence that terrorism, politics or any bias motivated a driver who repeatedly drove into people along streets and sidewalks in Portland, Oregon, killing a 77-year-old woman and injuring nine other people, police said Tuesday. The driver, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized and was expected to be booked into jail afterward, the Portland Police Bureau said in a news release. The woman, who died at a hospital, was identified as Jean Gerich of Portland, police said.
- NBC News
Analysis: Biden had nothing to gain and everything to lose from fighting a quixotic war over the filibuster just days into his presidency.
A 19-year-old Tibetan monk has reportedly died after battling two months of alleged mistreatment under Chinese authorities. Tenzin Nyima, also known as Tamay, served at Dza Wonpo monastery in Wonpo township, Kandze prefecture, a Tibetan area in the Sichuan province of China. Nyima was first arrested in November 2019 after distributing leaflets with three other monks according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Marine officials declined to comment on when the review is expected to be complete or what changes could result.
- Associated Press
A federal judge on Tuesday barred the U.S. government from enforcing a 100-day deportation moratorium that is a key immigration priority of President Joe Biden. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order sought by Texas, which sued on Friday against a Department of Homeland Security memo that instructed immigration agencies to pause most deportations.
- Yahoo News Video
A former pathologist at an Arkansas veterans’ hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient that he misdiagnosed.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- NBC News
Robert Unanue previously praised then-President Donald Trump at a White House event, saying the country was “truly blessed” to have him leading it.
- The Independent
‘There appeared to be no remorse,’ says Calcasieu Parish sheriff Tony Mancus
- U.S.News & World Report
Taking your quality of life into accountMany factors play into truly loving where you live. Affordability and career opportunities certainly contribute, but you shouldn't discount daily commute, access to quality education and health care, crime rates and general well-being.
- Associated Press
Israel's military chief Tuesday warned the Biden administration against rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, even if it toughens its terms, adding he's ordered his forces to step up preparations for possible offensive action against Iran during the coming year. The comments by Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi came as Israel and Iran both seek to put pressure on President Joe Biden ahead of his expected announcement on his approach for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.
- NBC News
"The member in question had been advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested," the House speaker said.