Military hands over bases
The military has handed over all but two of its remaining bases in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province to local forces as part of its planned full withdrawal by the end of the year, the Ministry of Defence announced on Sunday. In an operation lasting more than a month,the Lashkar Gah and Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai have been handed over to Afghan control. A third base, MOB Price, has also been closed, the ministry said in a statement. The military now has only two bases operational in Helmand — Camp Bastion, which serves as the main base for UK personnel, and Observation Post Sterga 2. At the height of the war, it had 137 bases in the area. “The handover and closure of our bases across Helmand underlines the progress UK Forces have made to increase security and stability across the province, but also to build up the capability of the Afghan forces who will carry that work forward,” British Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond said.
Security chief steps down
National Security Commissioner Manuel Mondragon has resigned, the interior minister said on Sunday, raising questions about the government’s strategy to stamp out organized crime. “I accepted the request by [Mondragon] to retire from the field,” Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said on his Twitter account. It was not immediately clear why Mondragon was stepping down. Osorio Chong did not give an explanation, saying only that he would make the official announcement today and that Mondragon would now work on security strategy. Mondragon’s departure leaves questions open about the security strategy of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who is still battling to curb drug-related violence.
US delivers Hellfire missiles
The US delivered 100 Hellfire missiles, along with assault rifles and ammunition to Baghdad as part of its anti-terrorism assistance to the country, the US embassy said on Sunday. In a statement, it said the delivery was made earlier this month in order to help bolster forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “It is essential that Iraqi Security Forces are equipped with modern and effective weaponry given the serious threat ... the ISIL now poses to Iraq and the region,” the statement said. It added that since mid-January, Baghdad’s security forces had received more than 11 million rounds of ammunition, as well as thousands of machine guns, sniper rifles, assault rifles and grenades.
Mercury shrinking: scientists
Beneath its Sun-scorched exterior, the planet Mercury is cooling, which is causing it to shrink ever so slightly, scientists said on Sunday. Over the last 3.8 billion years, the planet has shrunk by up to 14km to reach its present diameter of 4,800km, they said. Mercury, like Earth, is believed to have a superhot metallic core, but unlike Earth it has no tectonic plates, which bump and jostle and slide in response to the stress that heat loss causes on the planet’s crust. Instead, Mercury has just a single, rigid top layer, which means the stress is transmitted directly to the planet’s surface, causing it to “wrinkle” into gouges and ridges as the planet cools. Planetary geologists led by Paul Byrne at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington used a tally of these features to get a yardstick for the planet’s thermal contraction, the term for shrinkage through heat loss. Earlier estimates based on images of only 45 percent of the planet suggested a contraction of 1.6km to 6km.