April 15, 2021
British and Nato troops follow Americans in leaving war-torn Afghanistan, A Taliban leader told the BBC ‘we have won’ after Biden announced the, US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, COVID-19 relief efforts motivate vehicle procurement in South America, Manila increases number of assets patrolling West Philippine Sea amid continued presence of Chinese vessels.
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British and Nato troops follow Americans in leaving war-torn Afghanistan (Telegraph)
Britain will “support an orderly departure of our forces” from Afghanistan as Nato withdraws from the country, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said on Wednesday night.
It comes as Nato said it would pull out alongside the United States by Sept 11.
Nato said the withdrawal process would begin by May 1 and could be completed in just a few months.
Mr Raab said: “We will support an orderly departure of our forces, whilst building up Afghanistan’s capacity for self-governance, and continuing counter-terrorism support – to protect the gains made over the last 20 years.”
“The UK stands with Nato and the people of Afghanistan to support a more stable, peaceful future for the country, and the wider region.”
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said: “As we drawdown, the security of our people currently serving in Afghanistan remains our priority and we have been clear that attacks on Allied troops will be met with a forceful response.”
On Wednesday night US President Joe Biden said: “It’s time to end the forever war.”
Addressing the nation in the US, Mr Biden said: “I said we’d follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell if need be. That’s exactly what we did and we got him. That was 10 years ago. Think about that.”
A Taliban leader told the BBC ‘we have won’ after Biden announced the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (Business Insider)
A Taliban leader said that the US withdrawing troops from Afghanistan means the extremist group has won.
Haji Hekmat, the Taliban’s shadow mayor in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, told the BBC: “We have won the war and America has lost.”
“We are ready for anything,” he continued. “We are totally prepared for peace, and we are fully prepared for jihad.”
President Joe Biden has announced plans to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.
The US intelligence community has warned in a Tuesday report that the Afghan government “will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”
The Taliban said on Wednesday that it wants all foreign military personnel out of Afghanistan “on the date specified” in the agreement. “If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded,” it added.
COVID-19 relief efforts motivate vehicle procurement in South America (Shephard News)
Ecuador and Argentina have bought or will acquire new military transport vehicles, driven by the need to provide humanitarian assistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of South American militaries in humanitarian assistance has expanded to the point that the Argentine Army has created a new transport battalion.
In this context, the Ecuadorian Naval Infantry Corps and Argentine Army are each expanding their transport vehicle fleets. Apart from security operations, the vehicles are also needed to ferry humanitarian supplies to help civilian populations suffering amid COVID-19.
On 26 March, the Ecuadorian marines received 14 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1725/54 trucks. The Ecuadorian Navy noted that the vehicles would be deployed in security operations and on humanitarian missions ‘to help the population in case of natural disasters’.
The navy did not mention whether additional vehicles will be procured.
Similarly, the Argentine Army is looking to acquire 13 6×4 trucks, capable of transporting up to 10 tonnes of cargo, for about ARS186 million ($2 million).
Companies had until 14 April to bid, with seven firms (including Volkswagen Argentina) already committed. The Argentine Army received an undisclosed number of Volkswagen Constellation trucks in December 2020.
Additionally, the Argentine Army announced on 31 March that its transport company, headquartered in Boulogne Sur Mer in Buenos Aires province, has been redesignated Transport Battalion 601. Defence authorities in the country noted that the unit has been involved in Operation General Belgrano, which is the Argentine military effort to assist with COVID-19.
Manila increases number of assets patrolling West Philippine Sea amid continued presence of Chinese vessels (Janes)
The Philippines has increased the number of maritime assets deployed to areas it claims in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) amid what Manila described as a “continuous swarming” in the West Philippine Sea of Chinese coastguard and “maritime militia” vessels.
The state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported on 13 April that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has also deployed Parola-class vessel BRP Cabra to the area, while the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has despatched two more ships to “conduct maritime and sovereignty patrols, and other law enforcement activities”.
The PNA also reported that the Philippine Navy (PN) has deployed four vessels: Bacolod City (Frank S Besson)-class logistics support vessel BRP Dagupan City (LS 551), Jacinto (Peacock)-class patrol vessel BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS 36), and PCE 827-class corvettes BRP Magat Salamat (PS 20) and BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19). It noted that the PN ships will provide “support and assistance” to the PCG and BFAR vessels in the area.
In a statement issued that same day, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in Manila quoted the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) as saying that in the latest round of “sovereignty patrols”, conducted on 11 April, an estimated 240 Chinese vessels were observed “lingering in the WPS”.
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Holidaymakers face six‑hour queues for Covid checks at UK airports this summer (Telegraph)
Holidaymakers arriving back in Britain will face queues of more than six hours after rules on international travel are relaxed from May 17, officials have warned.
Many passengers returning to the UK’s biggest airports already experience significant delays even though all non-essential travel is banned, a boss at Heathrow said yesterday. Chris Garton, chief solutions officer, said that delays at border control were “well in excess of two hours and up to six” despite passenger numbers being a fraction of normal levels. He cautioned this was likely to worsen with the resumption of international leisure travel.
People returning from abroad also face significantly tougher quarantine checks, The Times has learnt.
The Home Office has hired the private company Mitie to carry out up to 10,000 home visits every day to check that individuals are complying with strict quarantine rules, compared with 1,000 visits per day at present. The contract will be worth up to £90 million.
Garton told the Commons transport select committee that queues at border control were lengthy because of strict paperwork checks. Some passengers in recent days had been made to wait so long that scuffles had broken out and the police have been called, he said.
Bottlenecks have been caused because of new “100 per cent checking” of arrivals’ paperwork, including their passenger locator form and proof of a negative coronavirus test. Passengers are unable to use e-passport gates because of the strict rules. “The airport was never built to have so many people held up,” Garton said. “The situation is becoming untenable. We want to see that bottleneck removed as quickly as possible. It will become a much bigger problem after May 17.”
At present Heathrow has between 10,000 and 15,000 arrivals a day — 10 to 15 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers. Robert Courts, the aviation minister, said the length of queues was a “critical matter” and that a group was being established with the Home Office and industry to look at “operationalising of the border”. He also pledged to simplify the passenger locator form, which was introduced last summer.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
Denmark ditches Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (Times)
Denmark has become the first country to stop using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in all age groups because of a putative link to a blood disease that the government believes to affect about one in 40,000 recipients.
The Danish authorities had been among the first European governments to suspend the jab at the start of March amid early reports of people developing life-threatening blood clots several days after being given their first dose.
While other EU member states have resumed administering the vaccine to older adults, Denmark provisionally withdrew it for the past five weeks. Yesterday the Danish health authority said that the pause would be made permanent.The 149,000 people who have had a first AstraZeneca dose will receive a different vaccine for their second shot. It is expected to delay the country’s vaccination campaign by more than a month.
“Of course it’s a pity that we’re in this situation,” Mette Frederiksen, 43, the prime minister, told Danish television. “We always knew that problems will arise along the way when you’re rolling out so many vaccines but we will continue apace with the other vaccines.”
Denmark’s concerns relate to a cluster of conditions including a low level of platelets, cell fragments in the blood that help it to clot, and occasionally fatal clots in the brain or abdomen.
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