US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region yesterday for talks with regional president Massud Barzani on security needs after US troops pull out this year.
Gates arrived in the Kurdish capital of Arbil for the meeting with Barzani, whose party is a key component of Iraq’s unity government, made up of bickering Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
On Thursday, he met in Baghdad with Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd.
The Pentagon chief urged them to finish forming a government, while assessing Iraq’s post-withdrawal security needs, according to a senior defense official traveling with Gates.
More than a year after an inconclusive general election, Iraq still has no defense, interior or national security ministers, even though Maliki stitched together a deal to form a national unity government in December.
“The secretary’s fundamental message was: You all need to figure out what you need of us and what’s politically feasible and we’re ready to work with you on how to address those needs,” Gates’ spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
“The discussion here is about how to fill particular needs in their security architecture and that would require far fewer forces than are currently here now. His message was that time is [of] the essence,” Morrell added.
A 2008 agreement setting the timetable for withdrawal can be renegotiated by either side, but the US say it is up to Baghdad to ask if they want some US forces to remain beyond this year.
The Iraqi armed forces chief of staff General Babak Zebari has said his forces would not be able to ensure full security before 2020.
However, Maliki’s office quoted the prime minister as saying in talks with Gates that “our armed forces, police and army are now capable of deterring any aggression and its capabilities to impose security and stability are growing day by day.”
Gates told a US House of Representatives committee in February that Baghdad would face sizable “problems” after the withdrawal.
He said Iraqis would be unable to protect their own airspace, would face intelligence challenges and “have problems with logistics and maintenance.”
At the Camp Liberty US base west of Baghdad on Thursday, Gates met some of the nearly 50,000 US troops still in Iraq.
That number is down from a peak of more than 170,000 after the US-led 2003 invasion to topple former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and ahead of the planned full withdrawal later this year.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures