Anti-communist guerrilla who became Afghan president dies

Afghan President Sibghatullah Mujadidi, who was Afghanistan’s first president following the withdrawal of invading Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the collapse in 1992 of Kabul’s pro-communist government, has died overnight Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. He was 93. (AP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Anti-communist guerrilla who became Afghan president dies

  • The soft-spoken former president was a mentor to former President Hamid Karzai, who had belonged to his anti-communist resistance group during the Soviet invasion
  • “He was always seeking peace and stability for Afghanistan, but he died before he could see his wish fulfilled,” an Afghan official said

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s first president following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country and the collapse in 1992 of Kabul’s pro-communist government, Sibghatullah Mujadidi, has died. He was 93.
The white-turbaned and soft-spoken Mujadidi was a mentor to former President Hamid Karzai, who had belonged to his anti-communist resistance group during the 1980’s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Mujadidi’s guerrilla group — the US-backed Afghan National Liberation Front — was perhaps the smallest and most moderate of guerrilla groups fighting to oust the former Red Army from Afghanistan.
The Soviet invasion came at the height of the Cold War between America and the former Soviet Union. The last Soviet soldier withdrew from Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, ending a 10-year invasion that had failed to defeat the US-backed anti-communist guerrillas who were known at the time as mujahedeen, or holy warriors.
President Ronald Reagan called the mujahedeen freedom fighters. Some later became the Taliban while others were known as warlords who later turned political leaders in Afghanistan. Some rights activists have accused the warlords of fomenting Afghanistan’s post-2001 decline, contributing to the nation’s insecurity and widespread corruption.
Following the collapse of the communist government, Mujadidi in 1992 served for two months as Afghanistan’s president in line with an agreement signed in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, by the leaders of all the mujahedeen groups who had fought the former Soviet Union.
Mujadidi stepped down as he said he would, according to the agreement, but his successor, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was to serve for four months instead hung on to power for four years. The agreement broke down and a brutal war between rival mujahedeen groups engulfed the Afghan capital of Kabul, killing tens of thousands of mostly civilians until the Taliban took power in 1996.
During the Taliban rule, Mujadidi lived outside of Afghanistan and returned to the country following the US-led invasion in 2001 that drove the Taliban from power. He served as head of the first post-Taliban Loya Jirga, the 2,500-member council of elders or “grand gathering” that eventually crafted Afghanistan’s current constitution.
He also briefly served as head of the government High Peace Council tasked with trying to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s war.
An ethnic Pashtun from Kabul, Mujadidi came from a deeply respected religious family, who often advised former Afghan kings on matters of religion.
“He was always seeking peace and stability for Afghanistan, but he died before he could see his wish fulfilled,” said Attaulrahman Salim, deputy head of the peace council. “We are still a country at war.”


Trump declares emergency for US-Mexico border wall, House panel launches probe

Updated 16 February 2019
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Trump declares emergency for US-Mexico border wall, House panel launches probe

  • The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval, an action Democrats vowed to challenge as a violation of the US Constitution.

The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration he blames for bringing crime and drugs into the United States.

Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners, saying that Trump’s declaration violates the US Constitution and that the planned wall would infringe on their property rights.

Both California and New York said that they, too, planned to file lawsuits.

Hours after Trump’s announcement, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee said it had launched an investigation into the emergency declaration.

In a letter to Trump, committee Democrats asked him to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.

“We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system,” said the letter, signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.

Trump has been demanding for a wall on the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) southern border

Trump on Friday also signed a bipartisan government spending bill that would prevent another partial government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday.

The funding bill represented a legislative defeat for him since it contains no money for his proposed wall — the focus of weeks of conflict between Trump and Democrats in Congress.

Trump made no mention of the bill in rambling comments to reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden.

He had demanded that Congress provide him with $5.7 billion in wall funding as part of legislation to fund the agencies. That triggered a historic, 35-day government shutdown in December and January that hurt the US economy and his opinion poll numbers.

By reorienting his quest for wall funding toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency, Trump risks plunging into a lengthy legislative and legal battle with Democrats and dividing his fellow Republicans — many of whom expressed grave reservations on Friday about the president’s action.

Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent Trump from invoking emergency powers to transfer funds to his wall from accounts Congress has already committed to other projects.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer swiftly responded to Trump’s declaration.

“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

Members of the migrant caravan that has made its way from central America to the US-Mexico border

The first legal challenge, filed in federal court in Washington, came from three Texas landowners along the Rio Grande river claiming they were informed the US government would seek to build a border wall on their properties if money for the project were available in 2019.

The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, also named the Frontera Audubon Society as a plaintiff whose “members’ ability to observe wildlife will be impaired” by construction of a border wall and resulting habitat damage.

The suit contests Trump’s assertion of a national emergency at the border to justify the president’s action.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, describing the supposed border crisis touted by Trump as “made-up,” and New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, both said they planned to challenge Trump in court.

Trump acknowledged his order would face a lengthy court fight.

“I expect to be sued. I shouldn’t be sued. ... We’ll win in the Supreme Court,” he predicted.

Trump may have also undermined his administration’s argument about the urgency of the situation when he told reporters, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

In their letter to Trump, House Judiciary Democrats said that language had left them “troubled.”

Both the House and the Senate could pass a resolution terminating the emergency by majority vote. However, any such measure would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Although Trump says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border, statistics show that illegal immigration via the border is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments come through legal ports of entry.

Confronted with those statistics by reporters at the Rose Garden event, Trump said they were “wrong.”

Also present were a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants. Trump noted their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.

He estimated his emergency declaration could free up as much as $8 billion to pay for part of the wall. Estimates of its total cost run as high as $23 billion.

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall. It was one of his biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies. Mexico firmly refused to pay, and now Trump wants US taxpayers to cover the costs.