Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Tuesday nominated an army officer who commanded troops in volatile eastern Afghanistan to take over command of the US-led force in the country. General John Campbell was named to succeed General Joe Dunford as head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is now in the midst of a major withdrawal, the Pentagon said in a statement. The international force will withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, with a small contingent of 9,800 US troops and a few thousand soldiers from NATO allies due to remain on the ground in 2015. Campbell previously led troops in the 101st Airborne Division in eastern Afghanistan in 2010-2011, when US forces were engaged in heavy fighting with Afghan insurgents.
A top aide to President Barack Obama Tuesday singled out nations including Russia, Uganda and Brunei as the worst transgressors against gay rights -- and warned governments everywhere must outlaw discrimination. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told a forum of Lesbian, Gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) activists at the White House that the choice to love a partner of the same sex was a fundamental human right. "In many places, allies and supporters of the LGBT community are also penalized," Rice said.
The White House blamed Senate Republicans Tuesday for putting US national security at risk by thwarting the swift confirmation of a long list of President Barack Obama's ambassador picks -- some to hot-spot nations. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that 48 of Obama's nominations for ambassador overseas were pending and 26 were already on the Senate's executive calendar and eligible for full confirmation by the chamber. Rice also said that 16 of the 26 were foreign service officers -- in a preemptive strike at administration critics who have complained some ambassadorial picks are Obama cronies and fundraisers who have proven themselves a political liability in several botched confirmation hearings. "I am focused every day on keeping our country secure and our citizens –- at home and abroad –- safe," said Rice in a White House blog post.
Political conditions in the Central African Republic have worsened significantly in the past month, the special UN envoy for the country warned Tuesday. "The political situation has deteriorated noticeably over the past month," Babacar Gaye, head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, told the UN Security Council. He said deep distrust among political parties "does not bode well for the holding of credible elections early next year." Deeply impoverished Central African Republic has been in crisis since the mainly Muslim Seleka alliance seized power in a March 2013 coup led by Michel Djotodia.
An overnight suicide blast in Beirut's southern suburbs, Hezbollah's main bastion, killed a security officer who had tried to stop the bomber, the General Security agency said Tuesday. No one has claimed the attack, but an audio recording posted on YouTube by a Sunni militant group said there would be more "strikes" if the Shiite movement does not pull out of Syria. An army statement said a suicide attacker driving a white Mercedes "blew himself up at an army checkpoint at the Tayuneh roundabout (in southern Beirut), wounding several civilians." On Tuesday, the General Security agency confirmed in a statement that Abdel Karim Hodroj, a 20-year-old inspector, had been killed, after carrying out DNA tests on his remains.
The first of up to 300 US military advisers began their mission in Baghdad Tuesday to help the Iraqi army, but the Pentagon said the American troops were not taking on a combat role. The primary task of the advisers was to evaluate the state of the Iraqi forces and not to turn the tide against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which have swept across western and northern Iraq, the Pentagon's press secretary said. "This isn't about rushing to the rescue," Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters. "These teams will assess the cohesiveness and readiness of Iraqi security forces ...and examine the most effective and efficient way to introduce follow-on advisers," Kirby said.
President Barack Obama's administration said Tuesday that Mexican cooperation was crucial for stopping children illegally crossing the border, as US lawmakers demanded Mexico and other governments take stronger action to stem the crisis. With the number of underage, unaccompanied migrants rushing to make it into the United States more than doubling in the last year, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress that Mexico and Washington must beef up cooperation to meet their "shared border security interests."
The United States said Tuesday it has suspended more assistance to Thailand in response to a military coup and was considering moving a major regional exercise out of the kingdom. Washington has blocked $4.7 million in security-related aid to Thailand, which accounts for roughly half of its $10.5 million in annual assistance to the longtime ally, State Department official Scot Marciel said in testimony to Congress. The United States swiftly rebuked Thailand's military after it defied warnings not to intervene in the political chaos. The State Department announced that it had frozen $3.5 million a day after the May 22 coup.
Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria and over two months since more than 200 schoolgirls were seized. Analysts said the kidnapping, which happened during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters. Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its brothers in arms currently held in Nigerian jails. Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions.
The left-wing leaders of France and Italy launched an offensive Tuesday against strict EU budget policies, warning two days ahead of a key summit that austerity was holding back economic growth. Top austerity promoter Berlin however showed no sign of backing down, as European Union leaders prepare to gather in Brussels from Thursday to name the 28-nation bloc's top officials. France's Socialist President Francois Hollande and Italy's popular new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi have been leading a charge against the rigid application of a rule requiring that budget deficits not exceed three percent of annual gross domestic product.
An Israeli human rights watchdog hailed as unprecedented Tuesday a court order for the state to pay compensation to Palestinians prevented from farming their land by a wildcat Jewish settlement. The court awarded six Palestinian landowners a total of 300,000 shekels ($85,700) in compensation for their losses from the presence on their land in the northern West Bank of the Amona settlement outpost, which even the Israeli government regards as illegal.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will travel to Algiers on Wednesday for his first trip abroad since being elected in May, the office of his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced. Algeria called for a "peaceful transition" in Egypt after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the then army chief in July last year. Sisi won a crushing majority in May's presidential poll, a month after Bouteflika was overwhelmingly re-elected for a fourth term in office, despite his age and poor health. During Sisi's brief visit, the North African leaders will discuss "issues linked to the situation in the Arab world and Africa," Bouteflika's office said.
A Sudanese Christian woman was arrested Tuesday at Khartoum airport a day after a court annulled her death sentence for apostasy and released her from prison, a source familiar with the incident said. "The National Security took her and Daniel," said the source, referring to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 26, and her American husband Daniel Wani. The couple were detained, for reasons that are unclear, at about 1100 GMT as they tried to leave Sudan, said the source. He could not give more details except to say they were taken to a facility of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).