One senior administration official and a defense official said that while the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan because of the corona virus has been under discussion, a more likely outcome would be to consolidate American forces at bases in one or two parts of the country. U.S. defense officials says cases of the corona virus in Afghanistan are likely to be drastically underreported, estimating there could be at least 10 times as many cases there as the government has officially tallied.

 The Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported 1,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 57 deaths in a country with an estimated population of 35 million. But in March the Afghan minister of public health, Ferozuddin Feroz, warned that as much as half of the country's population could become infected and more than 100,000 could die without more precautions like hand washing and lockdowns in more populated areas. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a weak public health system. The government is building a 100-bed hospital in Herat, a province that borders Iran, but the country lacks protective gear and ventilators.

"Afghanistan is going to have a significant corona virus issue," a former senior U.S. official said. "It hasn't really manifested yet but it will." The U.S. military is in the midst of a drawdown in Afghanistan already. In early March it began decreasing its total footprint from more than 12,000 to 8,600 over 135 days. But troops have been leaving the country faster than originally planned, according to two U.S. defense officials, and the U.S. is now on track to beat the original deadline.

"U.S. Forces Afghanistan continues to draw down force levels and expects to be at 8,600 U.S. troops in 135 days (mid-July) in accordance with the U.S.-Taliban agreement. USFOR-A remains committed to supporting our Afghan partners throughout the process and maintains the capabilities and authorities necessary to accomplish our objectives," said Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesperson.

Trump, who campaigned in 2016 with a promise to end wars like the one in Afghanistan, has frequently expressed frustration with progress there since his early days in office. But the recent political stalemate combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated his impatience. "He is itching to get out. He's pushing the Pentagon on it," the former official said.

As the same time, the president has praised the U.S. military members who are deployed in the U.S., fighting against the spread of COVID-19. "Our great military is operating at 100 percent during this crisis, and thousands of troops are deployed alongside of civilians in the COVID hotspots," he said.

Last month Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul to deliver a harsh message in hopes of salvaging a peace deal to ultimately end the war in Afghanistan. Pompeo told feuding leaders in Afghanistan that they needed to resolve their differences and begin negotiations with the Taliban or Trump could pull all U.S. troops out of the country, two current senior officials, one former senior official and a foreign diplomat told NBC News.

U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad continues to travel to the region despite widespread travel restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. Last week he met with the Taliban in Qatar to "discuss current challenges in implementing the U.S.-Taliban Agreement," according to a State Department statement. Before departing for Qatar, he tweeted that both sides need to accelerate efforts to release prisoners, warning that prisoners are at risk of an outbreak of corona virus. An official close to Khalilzad said he will continue to travel to the region to try to salvage the peace process. Six months before Election Day, the corona virus pandemic has done what impeachment did not: Cost President Donald Trump his advantage over Joe Biden in the 2020 campaign.

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows the former vice president leading Trump nationwide by six percentage points, 44%-38%, a shift from Trump's three-point lead in the survey as he was being impeached by the House in December. In a contest without a third-party contender, Biden's margin jumps to 10 points, 50%-40%. In the previous poll, when Trump led 44%-41%, Biden was in the middle of a fierce battle for the Democratic nomination. Now he is the party's presumptive nominee.

The findings underscore the challenge that the deadly pandemic is posing to the president’s political standing, which has proved remarkably durable through investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a Senate impeachment trial over the president's dealings with Ukraine and other controversies. Now his standing may be threatened in the face of questions about the response he and his administration have made to a disease that has cost more than 55,000 lives in the United States and imperiled the nation’s economy.

“I had to give up watching the White House briefings,” said Democrat Eric Haenfler, 67, a retired music teacher and band director from Gilbert, Arizona, who was called in the poll. “I couldn’t stand to watch him say ignorant things. They were just campaign rallies and gave no information – and what information he was giving was false and sometimes dangerous.”

Mercedes Nazarian, 29, a political independent and bartender from Savannah, Georgia, said in a follow-up interview that her support for Trump hadn’t been shaken. “I think he’s doing the best to his ability,” she said in a follow-up interview. “I believe it’s out of his control at this point. I mean, nobody can control a virus.”

Trump’s backing in the GOP remains rock-solid: More than nine of 10 Republicans say they will vote for him. But among independents, his standing has plummeted by 18 percentage points since the poll taken in December, to 27% from 45%. (Biden hasn’t won over all those voters. He gained significant 8 points among independents, but one in three now say they are undecided or would vote for a third-party candidate.)

Trump also has lost support by double-digits among men, a group that has been part of his political base. While men still back Trump over Biden 46%-35%, that’s a narrower advantage than in December, when it was 56%-30%. Women now support Biden 53%-30%.

Neither ranked high as a ‘strong leader’

Asked about a half-dozen traits important for a president to have, views of Trump were more firmly set than they were for Biden. That leaves more room for a campaign to define the Democratic challenger in both positive and negative ways. At the moment, however, the former president scored a higher net score (the positive rating minus the negative rating) than the president did on all six characteristics.

The traits were:

·         “The poll is clear about which candidate qualities align best with voters,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “A central campaign theme for Trump will be about getting things done, while Biden will shape his campaign around caring about everyday people at home while working best with foreign leaders abroad.”

·         The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone Tuesday through Saturday, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.


" />

One senior administration official and a defense official said that while the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan because of the corona virus has been under discussion, a more likely outcome would be to consolidate American forces at bases in one or two parts of the country. U.S. defense officials says cases of the corona virus in Afghanistan are likely to be drastically underreported, estimating there could be at least 10 times as many cases there as the government has officially tallied.

 The Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported 1,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 57 deaths in a country with an estimated population of 35 million. But in March the Afghan minister of public health, Ferozuddin Feroz, warned that as much as half of the country's population could become infected and more than 100,000 could die without more precautions like hand washing and lockdowns in more populated areas. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a weak public health system. The government is building a 100-bed hospital in Herat, a province that borders Iran, but the country lacks protective gear and ventilators.

"Afghanistan is going to have a significant corona virus issue," a former senior U.S. official said. "It hasn't really manifested yet but it will." The U.S. military is in the midst of a drawdown in Afghanistan already. In early March it began decreasing its total footprint from more than 12,000 to 8,600 over 135 days. But troops have been leaving the country faster than originally planned, according to two U.S. defense officials, and the U.S. is now on track to beat the original deadline.

"U.S. Forces Afghanistan continues to draw down force levels and expects to be at 8,600 U.S. troops in 135 days (mid-July) in accordance with the U.S.-Taliban agreement. USFOR-A remains committed to supporting our Afghan partners throughout the process and maintains the capabilities and authorities necessary to accomplish our objectives," said Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesperson.

Trump, who campaigned in 2016 with a promise to end wars like the one in Afghanistan, has frequently expressed frustration with progress there since his early days in office. But the recent political stalemate combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated his impatience. "He is itching to get out. He's pushing the Pentagon on it," the former official said.

As the same time, the president has praised the U.S. military members who are deployed in the U.S., fighting against the spread of COVID-19. "Our great military is operating at 100 percent during this crisis, and thousands of troops are deployed alongside of civilians in the COVID hotspots," he said.

Last month Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul to deliver a harsh message in hopes of salvaging a peace deal to ultimately end the war in Afghanistan. Pompeo told feuding leaders in Afghanistan that they needed to resolve their differences and begin negotiations with the Taliban or Trump could pull all U.S. troops out of the country, two current senior officials, one former senior official and a foreign diplomat told NBC News.

U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad continues to travel to the region despite widespread travel restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. Last week he met with the Taliban in Qatar to "discuss current challenges in implementing the U.S.-Taliban Agreement," according to a State Department statement. Before departing for Qatar, he tweeted that both sides need to accelerate efforts to release prisoners, warning that prisoners are at risk of an outbreak of corona virus. An official close to Khalilzad said he will continue to travel to the region to try to salvage the peace process. Six months before Election Day, the corona virus pandemic has done what impeachment did not: Cost President Donald Trump his advantage over Joe Biden in the 2020 campaign.

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows the former vice president leading Trump nationwide by six percentage points, 44%-38%, a shift from Trump's three-point lead in the survey as he was being impeached by the House in December. In a contest without a third-party contender, Biden's margin jumps to 10 points, 50%-40%. In the previous poll, when Trump led 44%-41%, Biden was in the middle of a fierce battle for the Democratic nomination. Now he is the party's presumptive nominee.

The findings underscore the challenge that the deadly pandemic is posing to the president’s political standing, which has proved remarkably durable through investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a Senate impeachment trial over the president's dealings with Ukraine and other controversies. Now his standing may be threatened in the face of questions about the response he and his administration have made to a disease that has cost more than 55,000 lives in the United States and imperiled the nation’s economy.

“I had to give up watching the White House briefings,” said Democrat Eric Haenfler, 67, a retired music teacher and band director from Gilbert, Arizona, who was called in the poll. “I couldn’t stand to watch him say ignorant things. They were just campaign rallies and gave no information – and what information he was giving was false and sometimes dangerous.”

Mercedes Nazarian, 29, a political independent and bartender from Savannah, Georgia, said in a follow-up interview that her support for Trump hadn’t been shaken. “I think he’s doing the best to his ability,” she said in a follow-up interview. “I believe it’s out of his control at this point. I mean, nobody can control a virus.”

Trump’s backing in the GOP remains rock-solid: More than nine of 10 Republicans say they will vote for him. But among independents, his standing has plummeted by 18 percentage points since the poll taken in December, to 27% from 45%. (Biden hasn’t won over all those voters. He gained significant 8 points among independents, but one in three now say they are undecided or would vote for a third-party candidate.)

Trump also has lost support by double-digits among men, a group that has been part of his political base. While men still back Trump over Biden 46%-35%, that’s a narrower advantage than in December, when it was 56%-30%. Women now support Biden 53%-30%.

Neither ranked high as a ‘strong leader’

Asked about a half-dozen traits important for a president to have, views of Trump were more firmly set than they were for Biden. That leaves more room for a campaign to define the Democratic challenger in both positive and negative ways. At the moment, however, the former president scored a higher net score (the positive rating minus the negative rating) than the president did on all six characteristics.

The traits were:

·         “The poll is clear about which candidate qualities align best with voters,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “A central campaign theme for Trump will be about getting things done, while Biden will shape his campaign around caring about everyday people at home while working best with foreign leaders abroad.”

·         The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone Tuesday through Saturday, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.


" />

International News Network

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OPINION

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U.S. to pull troops from Afghanistan as COVID-19 outbreak looms

November 23, 2017 12:13 AM


U.S. to pull troops from Afghanistan as

COVID-19 outbreak looms


 

President Donald Trump has pushed his military and national security advisers in recent days to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan amid concerns about a major coronavirus outbreak in the war-torn country, according to two current and one former senior U.S. officials. Trump complains almost daily that U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan and are now vulnerable to the pandemic, the officials said. His renewed push to withdraw all of them has been spurred by the convergence of his concern that corona virus poses a force protection issue for thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and his impatience with the halting progress of his peace deal with the Taliban, the officials said.

They said the president's military advisers have made the case to him that if the U.S. pulls troops out of Afghanistan because of the corona virus, by that standard the Pentagon would also have to withdraw from places like Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, officials said. "There is concern from a variety of places that we could leave Afghanistan," one senior U.S. official said, pointing to concerns voiced by U.S. allies, members of Congress and U.S. military officials.

One senior administration official and a defense official said that while the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan because of the corona virus has been under discussion, a more likely outcome would be to consolidate American forces at bases in one or two parts of the country. U.S. defense officials says cases of the corona virus in Afghanistan are likely to be drastically underreported, estimating there could be at least 10 times as many cases there as the government has officially tallied.

 The Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported 1,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 57 deaths in a country with an estimated population of 35 million. But in March the Afghan minister of public health, Ferozuddin Feroz, warned that as much as half of the country's population could become infected and more than 100,000 could die without more precautions like hand washing and lockdowns in more populated areas. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a weak public health system. The government is building a 100-bed hospital in Herat, a province that borders Iran, but the country lacks protective gear and ventilators.

"Afghanistan is going to have a significant corona virus issue," a former senior U.S. official said. "It hasn't really manifested yet but it will." The U.S. military is in the midst of a drawdown in Afghanistan already. In early March it began decreasing its total footprint from more than 12,000 to 8,600 over 135 days. But troops have been leaving the country faster than originally planned, according to two U.S. defense officials, and the U.S. is now on track to beat the original deadline.

"U.S. Forces Afghanistan continues to draw down force levels and expects to be at 8,600 U.S. troops in 135 days (mid-July) in accordance with the U.S.-Taliban agreement. USFOR-A remains committed to supporting our Afghan partners throughout the process and maintains the capabilities and authorities necessary to accomplish our objectives," said Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesperson.

Trump, who campaigned in 2016 with a promise to end wars like the one in Afghanistan, has frequently expressed frustration with progress there since his early days in office. But the recent political stalemate combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated his impatience. "He is itching to get out. He's pushing the Pentagon on it," the former official said.

As the same time, the president has praised the U.S. military members who are deployed in the U.S., fighting against the spread of COVID-19. "Our great military is operating at 100 percent during this crisis, and thousands of troops are deployed alongside of civilians in the COVID hotspots," he said.

Last month Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul to deliver a harsh message in hopes of salvaging a peace deal to ultimately end the war in Afghanistan. Pompeo told feuding leaders in Afghanistan that they needed to resolve their differences and begin negotiations with the Taliban or Trump could pull all U.S. troops out of the country, two current senior officials, one former senior official and a foreign diplomat told NBC News.

U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad continues to travel to the region despite widespread travel restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. Last week he met with the Taliban in Qatar to "discuss current challenges in implementing the U.S.-Taliban Agreement," according to a State Department statement. Before departing for Qatar, he tweeted that both sides need to accelerate efforts to release prisoners, warning that prisoners are at risk of an outbreak of corona virus. An official close to Khalilzad said he will continue to travel to the region to try to salvage the peace process. Six months before Election Day, the corona virus pandemic has done what impeachment did not: Cost President Donald Trump his advantage over Joe Biden in the 2020 campaign.

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows the former vice president leading Trump nationwide by six percentage points, 44%-38%, a shift from Trump's three-point lead in the survey as he was being impeached by the House in December. In a contest without a third-party contender, Biden's margin jumps to 10 points, 50%-40%. In the previous poll, when Trump led 44%-41%, Biden was in the middle of a fierce battle for the Democratic nomination. Now he is the party's presumptive nominee.

The findings underscore the challenge that the deadly pandemic is posing to the president’s political standing, which has proved remarkably durable through investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a Senate impeachment trial over the president's dealings with Ukraine and other controversies. Now his standing may be threatened in the face of questions about the response he and his administration have made to a disease that has cost more than 55,000 lives in the United States and imperiled the nation’s economy.

“I had to give up watching the White House briefings,” said Democrat Eric Haenfler, 67, a retired music teacher and band director from Gilbert, Arizona, who was called in the poll. “I couldn’t stand to watch him say ignorant things. They were just campaign rallies and gave no information – and what information he was giving was false and sometimes dangerous.”

Mercedes Nazarian, 29, a political independent and bartender from Savannah, Georgia, said in a follow-up interview that her support for Trump hadn’t been shaken. “I think he’s doing the best to his ability,” she said in a follow-up interview. “I believe it’s out of his control at this point. I mean, nobody can control a virus.”

Trump’s backing in the GOP remains rock-solid: More than nine of 10 Republicans say they will vote for him. But among independents, his standing has plummeted by 18 percentage points since the poll taken in December, to 27% from 45%. (Biden hasn’t won over all those voters. He gained significant 8 points among independents, but one in three now say they are undecided or would vote for a third-party candidate.)

Trump also has lost support by double-digits among men, a group that has been part of his political base. While men still back Trump over Biden 46%-35%, that’s a narrower advantage than in December, when it was 56%-30%. Women now support Biden 53%-30%.

Neither ranked high as a ‘strong leader’

Asked about a half-dozen traits important for a president to have, views of Trump were more firmly set than they were for Biden. That leaves more room for a campaign to define the Democratic challenger in both positive and negative ways. At the moment, however, the former president scored a higher net score (the positive rating minus the negative rating) than the president did on all six characteristics.

The traits were:

  • "A strong leader." Neither were seen by a majority of Americans as a strong leader, with 45% saying that described Trump and 52% that it didn't. For Biden, 43% said it described him; 47% said it didn’t.
  • "Cares about people like me." Biden swamped Trump when it came to empathy; 57% said it described the former vice president; just 39% said it described the president.
  • "Knows how to get things done." Trump fared a bit better. By 51%-45%, voters said that described him; by 48%-39% that it described Biden.
  • "Stands up for U.S. interests." Biden scored better on what has been a rallying cry for Trump and his troops. By 58%-34%, those surveyed said that described Biden; by 53%-43% they said it described Trump.
  • "Honest and trustworthy." This was Trump’s worst rating. By more than 2-1, 64%-31%, those surveyed said that trait didn’t describe him. Views of Biden were better, although not exactly glowing: By 47%-43%, those surveyed said he was honest and trustworthy.
  • "Can work with foreign leaders." Biden was much more likely to be seen as someone who could do this; 64% said it described the former vice president; 45% said it described the current president.

·         “The poll is clear about which candidate qualities align best with voters,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “A central campaign theme for Trump will be about getting things done, while Biden will shape his campaign around caring about everyday people at home while working best with foreign leaders abroad.”

·         The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone Tuesday through Saturday, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.


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