World News

    US, Afghans at Odds Over Timing of Security Pact Signing

    The Obama administration is pressing the Afghan government to sign a new security pact or face the prospect of no U.S. troops in the country beyond 2014.

    In an interview with VOA's Afghan Service Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said "the bottom line is we need to conclude this agreement with a signature between our two governments as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year."

    Psaki said if that does not happen, it "makes it nearly impossible" for the United States and its allies to plan for a troop presence after 2014.

    Psaki's comments come after a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisted Friday -- in a direct rebuff to the U.S. -- that the pact will be signed only after presidential elections scheduled for April.



    A national assembly of tribal, community and elected leaders, known as a Loya Jirga, is meeting this week in Afghanistan to discuss the pact.

    About 2,500 local and regional leaders are participating in the Loya Jirga, which has broken into small groups to study the proposed agreement item by item.

    Most are believed to favor the deal, which spells out terms under which international forces would remain in the country to assist the government in its war against Taliban insurgents.

    But U.S. officials were stunned Thursday when Mr. Karzai suggested that the formal signing of the pact could be put off until the middle of next year, when he will be out of office.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest stressed the importance of having the agreement signed this year so that long-term planning can begin. He noted the United States has not yet made a final decision on whether to keep its troops in Afghanistan.

    But Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said Friday the Afghan government is not impressed by U.S. deadlines. He repeated that the signing -- if there is one -- would take place after the April elections.

    Mr. Karzai opened the assembly Thursday with an impassioned speech in support of the pact, saying it has the support of Afghanistan's major allies and neighbors except Iran.

    The deal is to take effect January 1, 2015 and will keep U.S. 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 that promised the United States will 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 have died or been seriously wounded in an effort to help and protect the Afghan people.

    A draft text of the agreement said U.S. troops will 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 several 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.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.