US forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, 15 years after the September 11 attacks, President Barack Obama was to say Tuesday. The United States invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime in Kabul and to hunt its ally Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, author of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. The insurgents are still far from defeated, but Washington now wants to withdraw its troops from the battlefield and into a support role for Afghan government forces, and eventually to leave. "We will only sustain a military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement," a senior administration official said ahead of Obama's announcement.
South Africa's economy shrank in the first quarter of the year, in the worst performance recorded since the global recession five years ago, official data showed Tuesday. Statistics South Africa reported the economy contracted by 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter, a stunning reversal for Africa's most advanced economy amid a rapid boom elsewhere in the continent. The worse-than-expected data comes during the first full day on the job for South African finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. The 55-year-old was sworn in as South Africa's first black finance minister on Monday, tasked with overseeing "radical" social and economic reforms in President Jacob Zuma's new five-year term.
President Barack Obama congratulated Ukraine's president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, on his election victory on Tuesday and offered U.S. support as he seeks to unify the country, the White House said. Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary magnate, won Sunday's election and has vowed to crush a revolt by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine after Russia's seizure of Crimea. A White House statement said Obama congratulated Poroshenko and offered "the full support of the United States as he seeks to unify and move his country forward." The two leaders agreed to continue their conversation during Obama's trip to Europe next week, the White House said.
The world's chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday that a convoy of its inspectors overseeing the dismantling of Syria's weapons program had come under attack, but all were safe. "All team members are safe and well and heading back to their operating base," said Michael Luhan, spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Syrian foreign ministry reported earlier that six investigators had been kidnapped with their Syrian drivers while on a fact-finding mission in the central province of Hama. The team had been investigating allegations that Syrian government forces unleashed a chlorine attack on a rebel-held village in Hama province last month.