FILE - In this June 10, 2017 photo provided by Operation Resolute Support, U.S. Soldiers with Task Force Iron maneuver an M-777 howitzer, so it can be towed into position at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan.  Reversing his past calls for a speedy exit, U.S. President Donald Trump recommitted the United States to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan Monday night, Aug. 21, 2017,  declaring U.S. troops must "fight to win." He pointedly declined to disclose how many more troops will be dispatched to wage America's longest war.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff, Operation Resolute Support via AP, File)
Donald Trump has renewed America's commitment to the long war in Afghanistan. Sgt Justin T. Updegraff via AP

Donald Trump's "path forward" in Afghanistan is a rebrand not a step ahead



No one knew exactly what to expect from Donald Trump's "path forward" address on Afghanistan on Monday night. It was billed for prime time television in the US and Mr Trump's defence secretary, a retired general, heightened anticipation by admitting the president "wants to be the one to announce it to the American people". Mr Trump wanted, said James Mattis, to "explain" his administration's Afghan strategy to the people himself.

This prompted some speculation. What was Mr Trump, the third US president to be dealing with the problem of Afghanistan, going to say about a politically testy subject? As it turned out, he simply rebranded the operation – from nation-building to fighting terrorists.

But some extraordinary options had been touted around Washington. They were even seriously discussed by the generals, at the insistence of the Trump White House. The proposals included a new US focus on extracting Afghanistan's untapped mineral wealth, cutting off all aid to Pakistan for failing to support counterterrorism operations sufficiently and outsourcing some of the Afghan operation to private contractors.

Mr Trump, a political outlier, with the outlier’s view on some of America’s foreign policy headaches, was said to be seeking a winning new deal in Afghanistan. Late last month, he ominously explained his administration’s delay in articulating a strategy for Afghanistan as follows: “I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years.”

READ MORE Trump promises to crush Al Qaeda and ISIL in Afghanistan

As a businessman who harped on about "great deals" on the campaign trail, Mr Trump clearly saw no profit of any sort in the Afghan stalemate. As a politician with a transactional view of foreign relations, the $25 billion or more spent by the US every year in Afghanistan seemed an outrageous waste with no hope of a return on investment. More than at any time in America's longest war, there seemed to be no cut-and-dried US strategy worth pursuing for Afghanistan.

This is dismal but hardly surprising. The Taliban insurgency is determined and Afghanistan's cruelly misnamed National Unity government is fighting itself. Last month's quarterly report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the balance between the government and armed groups remained at 2016 levels – 60 per cent with the government, 40 with the Taliban or other entities. Finally, almost everyone agrees there are no good options for the US with respect to Afghanistan any more. Laurel Miller, the last person to fill the now-abolished post of US state department special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, recently said "the status quo is clearly not working." And Douglas Wissing, who wrote two books on Afghanistan after embedding with US forces three times, put it in stark terms: "This is a lost war".

In this gloomy scenario, it becomes easier to understand the lure of an unconventional plan to employ mercenaries to fight an unwinnable war. But is it all that unconventional? Hasn't the US, and some other countries, already been using soldiers of fortune to wage politically difficult wars? In 2015, it was revealed that Nigeria brought in South African mercenaries to help fight Boko Haram. The British army has long paid Gurkhas from Nepal to serve and sacrifice in distant wars. Sean McFate, a former US mercenary and now associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington, says that the percentage of contractors in the US armed forces rose from 10 per cent in the Second World War to 50 per cent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

READ MORE Taliban dismiss Trump's Afghan strategy as 'nothing new'

In his 2014 book, The Modern Mercenary, Prof McFate explained that the end of the Cold War created an opening for private armies. And with America's wars painfully lengthening to span nearly a generation, contractors, as the Americans call them, have become a necessary part of the bring-home-the-troops political strategy.

So why the consternation over the recent proposals to send mercenaries to Afghanistan? Perhaps it's the prominence the idea received. And news that Mr Trump saw merit in the plan. Actually, there were two separate but similar plans, both put forward by US businessmen who have profited from military contracting. The one advanced by Erik Prince, a former Navy seal who founded the private security firm Blackwater, has received more attention than that from Stephen Feinberg, who owns the military contractor DynCorp International. This is at least partly because Mr Prince's sister serves as Mr Trump's education secretary.

Mr Prince also drew a parallel between his proposal and British colonial rule in India. He suggested a "viceroy" to oversee the "private military units", and an East India Company-style entity to run Afghanistan to America's benefit.

Though the age of formal empire is long over and the use of mercenaries is prohibited by international law, it is surely a measure of US frustration over Afghanistan that the idea received such play.

Rashmee Roshan Lall spent a year at the US Mission in Afghanistan from autumn 2011, among diplomats and contractors

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ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
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Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

SHAITTAN

Director: Vikas Bahl
Starring: Ajay Devgn, R. Madhavan, Jyothika, Janaki Bodiwala
Rating: 3/5

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

The Uefa Awards winners

Uefa Men's Player of the Year: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Uefa Women's Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze (Lyon)

Best players of the 2018/19 Uefa Champions League

Goalkeeper: Alisson (Liverpool)

Defender: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Midfielder: Frenkie de Jong (Ajax)

Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Uefa President's Award: Eric Cantona

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

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3 Body Problem

Creators: David Benioff, D B Weiss, Alexander Woo

Starring: Benedict Wong, Jess Hong, Jovan Adepo, Eiza Gonzalez, John Bradley, Alex Sharp

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Investors: Privately/self-funded

Company profile

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Number of employees: 5

Sector: Technology

Funding: $450,000

What is a Ponzi scheme?

A fraudulent investment operation where the scammer provides fake reports and generates returns for old investors through money paid by new investors, rather than through ligitimate business activities.

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5.30pm: Conditions (PA) Dh85,000 1,600m
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COMPANY PROFILE

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Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
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SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
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Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
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On sale: September

Abu Dhabi traffic facts

Drivers in Abu Dhabi spend 10 per cent longer in congested conditions than they would on a free-flowing road

The highest volume of traffic on the roads is found between 7am and 8am on a Sunday.

Travelling before 7am on a Sunday could save up to four hours per year on a 30-minute commute.

The day was the least congestion in Abu Dhabi in 2019 was Tuesday, August 13.

The highest levels of traffic were found on Sunday, November 10.

Drivers in Abu Dhabi lost 41 hours spent in traffic jams in rush hour during 2019

 

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Nepotism is the name of the game

Salman Khan’s father, Salim Khan, is one of Bollywood’s most legendary screenwriters. Through his partnership with co-writer Javed Akhtar, Salim is credited with having paved the path for the Indian film industry’s blockbuster format in the 1970s. Something his son now rules the roost of. More importantly, the Salim-Javed duo also created the persona of the “angry young man” for Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s, reflecting the angst of the average Indian. In choosing to be the ordinary man’s “hero” as opposed to a thespian in new Bollywood, Salman Khan remains tightly linked to his father’s oeuvre. Thanks dad. 

COMPANY PROFILE

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The 15 players selected

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