World News

    Afghan Leaders Consider US Security Deal

    The Afghanistan president says that he is backing a bilateral security deal reached with the United States that could see U.S. forces in Afghanistan through 2024 and perhaps longer. But he added that the deal most likely will not be signed until Afghans choose a new president in April.

    In an impassioned speech to 2,500 tribal, community and elected leaders, Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended a bilateral security agreement reached with Washington, saying it would benefit Afghanistan in the long run.

    Saying he had the support of Afghanistan's major allies and neighbors except Iran, Mr. Karzai encouraged the assembly, known as the Loya Jirga, to vote for the security pact.

    But in what could be a potential sticking point with the U.S., Mr. Karzai said if the Jirga approves the document and the Afghan parliament then votes in favor of the deal, the agreement "might be signed" after the April 2014 presidential elections.

    The deal is to take effect in January 1, 2015, and will keep American troops and civilian personnel in Afghanistan for at least another decade and possibly even longer.



    During his speech, Mr. Karzai read out parts of a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama which promised the United States would continue to "respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes" under the new security agreement.

    Mr. Obama's letter, released by the Afghan government, also said many Americans had died or been seriously wounded in an effort to help and protect Afghan people.

    A draft text of the agreement said U.S. troops would only enter Afghan homes in exceptional cases - a point of contention in nearly a year of negotiations on the agreement.

    The Jirga is expected to spend three days debating the pact, which will shape the security relationship between Washington and Kabul for years to come. The group must give its approval before the document goes to the Afghan parliament for a vote.

    The Jirga can revise or reject any clause of the draft agreement, and a flat-out rejection would most likely prevent the Afghan government from signing it.

    Security in Kabul is high, with offices closed and dozens of checkpoints set up along the route leading to the site of the meeting. Taliban insurgents, who have staged a 12-year rebellion in Afghanistan, have condemned the meeting and threatened to target the delegates if a deal is approved.

    The so-called Bilateral Security Agreement is seen as vital to lasting peace in the war-torn nation, where the United Nations said the Taliban insurgency this year reached levels of violence not seen since 2010.

    Afghan presidential candidate Mohammad Daud Sultanzoy says he believes the U.S.- Afghan agreement is important to Afghanistan's future.



    "In an order for us to stand on our own feet we need alliances and those alliances, it's best to have those alliances regulated and this is a regulated attempt to conduct our matters in a manner that we know what to expect."



    He says the United States has similar security deals with other countries.



    "The United States has such deals with Japan and Germany and Korea, so why not for Afghanistan? That is something - but the people of Afghanistan do not know about that and nobody has talked about it, and Mr Kerry, erroneously I think, mentioned that 'we have no such deals with any other country.' That is not true. We have Afghans who know that that is not true, so the U.S. has those kinds of deals with other countries, and why shouldn't they treat Afghanistan the same way?"



    The Jirga is set to vote on the agreement on Sunday.

    ###




    Sound bites:

    (English) Mohammad Daud Sultanzoy, presidential candidate:
    "In an order for us to stand on our own feet we need alliances and those alliances, it's best to have those alliances regulated and this is a regulated attempt to conduct our matters in a manner that we know what to expect.

    (English) Mohammad Daud Sultanzoy, presidential candidate:
    "The United States has such deals with Japan and Germany and Korea, so why not for Afghanistan? That is something - but the people of Afghanistan do not know about that and nobody has talked about it, and Mr Kerry, erroneously I think, mentioned that 'we have no such deals with any other country' - that is not true. We have Afghans who know that that is not true, so the US has those kinds of deals with other countries, and why shouldn't they treat Afghanistan the same way?"

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora