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Wednesday, June 23, 2010
At the end of a one-hour video conference Tuesday night with President Barack Obama, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his confidence in the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said.
McChrystal was summoned to Washington to explain disparaging comments published in Rolling Stone magazine that he and his top aides made about Obama's national security team.
While McChrystal, who was meeting with Obama on Wednesday, was harshly scolded by his superiors in the United States, officials in Afghanistan rallied to his support, saying he had increased cooperation between Afghan and international troops, worked to reduce civilian casualties and gained the trust of the Afghan people.
"The president believes that we are in a very sensitive juncture in the partnership, in the war on terror and in the process of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, and any gap in this process will not be helpful," Omar told reporters.
"We hope there is not a change of leadership of the international forces here in Afghanistan and that we continue to partner with Gen. McChrystal."
The controversy erupted as June is on track to becoming one of the deadliest months for U.S. and international forces in the nearly nine-year Afghan war.
The military said Wednesday that two American service members died Tuesday following separate bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, and another Wednesday in a bomb attack in the west. That makes 70 international forces killed so far this month. Forty-four of them were Americans.
The deadliest month of the conflict for U.S. forces was October 2009, when 59 service members were killed. For NATO forces overall, the deadliest month was July 2009, when 75 troops were killed.
The violence is also hitting Afghans. A vehicle belonging to a candidate for parliament hit a roadside bomb early Wednesday in the east, killing the candidate's brother. The candidate was wounded but survived, said Ghafoor Khan, a police spokesman in Nangarhar province.
The flap over McChrystal comes as NATO and Afghan forces are ramping up security in and around the key southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.
Karzai's younger half brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council, gave McChrystal a ringing endorsement, telling reporters in Kandahar that McChrystal's leadership would be sorely missed.
"If he is fired, it will disrupt the operation," Ahmad Wali Karzai said. "It definitely will affect it. He (McChrystal) started all this, and he has a good relationship with the people. The people trust him and we trust him. If we lose this important person, I don't think that this operation will work in a positive way."
In Kabul, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi also publicly voiced his support for the general, who is prepared to submit his resignation to Obama, according to two military officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
"Since Gen. McChrystal took over the job as commander of the international forces, there have been a lot of changes in different departments, which are very important and positive," Azimi said. "For example, there has been a decrease in the numbers of civilian casualties and we're still working jointly with McChrystal to decrease it further."
Azimi spoke at a regular news conference held with Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul. Blotz declined to discuss McChrystal's fate or the magazine article, which reported deep rifts between the top commander in the war and the U.S. administration.
"Let us be a little bit more patient," Blotz said.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Hearst News Service, for which Thomas is a columnist, reported her retirement announcement Monday.
Her retirement is effective immediately. She began covering the White House in 1960.
Thomas has apologized for the comments, which were captured on video by an interviewer for the website “RabbiLIVE.com.”
On the May 27 video, Thomas says Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or the U.S.
Those remarks drew sharp criticism from the Obama administration earlier Monday, as well as the cancellation of a high school graduation speech she was to deliver.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at his daily briefing with reporters about President Barack Obama's reaction to Thomas' remarks. Gibbs called them "offensive and reprehensible."
"She should and has apologized," Gibbs said. "Because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."
Thomas had been scheduled to speak at the June 14 graduation of Walt Whitman High School in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md., but Principal Alan Goodwin wrote in a Sunday e-mail to students and parents that she was being replaced.
"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," Goodwin wrote.
She added: "They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, said Sunday that Thomas' apology didn't go far enough.
"Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history," Foxman said in a statement. "We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."Thomas, 89, began her long career with the wire service United Press International in 1943, and started covering the White House in 1960, according to a biography posted on her website. She became a columnist for Hearst in 2000.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The city of Charlotte plans to bar public viewing of comments on its Facebook page when it is up and running, a policy that runs counter to other major cities in North Carolina.
The Charlotte Observer reported Monday that only city staff will be allow to view citizens' comments because officials fear they'll be sued if they delete comments that are deemed inappropriate.
City attorney Bob Hagemann says court precedents say the city can't stop someone from talking -- or posting -- just because it doesn't like what the person says.
Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Asheville allow citizens to post comments that other Facebook users can see, as does Mecklenburg County.
The city adopted its policy last month. The city-sponsored Facebook page and Twitter feed could be running in the next couple of months.