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ISIS caliphate has been decimated: Donald Trump

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Washington | ISIS has been decimated, US President Donald Trump has said, adding that sometime probably next week, he will formally announce to have 100 percent of the caliphate.

The United States military, its Coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Trump said on Wednesday.

“It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate. But I want to wait for the official word. I don’t want to say it too early,” Trump said in his address to the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

He said the new approach developed by his administration, empowered US commanders in the field, enabled partners on the ground, and directly confronted ISIS’s “wicked” ideology.  Over the past two years, US and its partners have retaken more than 20,000 square miles of land, he said.

“We have secured one battlefield. And we’ve had victory after victory after victory, and retaken both Mosul and Raqqa. We have eliminated more than 60 mile high-value ISIS leaders,” he said.

“Now, they re-form; we know that. But they’re having a hard time re-forming, and I wouldn’t say it’s a great job to have because of us. It’s not exactly – hopefully will not be a sought-after occupation,” he said.

“More than a hundred other top ISIS officials have been eliminated, and tens of thousands of ISIS fighters are gone. They’re gone,” he stressed.

US and its international partners, he said, have freed more than five million civilians from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers. “Thanks to the Global Coalition, including all of you here today, and to our other partners, the ISIS caliphate has been decimated. Nobody thought it was possible to do it this quickly,” Trump said.

Observing that the struggle against terrorism was a shared fight, Trump said: “We do it together. If we don’t do it together, it can never be the same. Everyone must do their part and contribute their fair share.”

“We must also recognise that immigration security is national security, and that foreign fighters must not gain access into our nations,” he said.

Later in a statement, the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/DAESH said that the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will mark a significant milestone in the war against ISIS. But this does not mean the campaign against ISIS is over, it said. Further engagement was needed in Iraq and Syria, where the terrorist group is still resilient, it added.

ISIS’s leadership, affiliates, and its supporters view its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria as a setback, not as defeat, the statement said.

In 2019, with the conventional military effort against ISIS in Syria nearing culmination and shifting to a supporting rather than a central role, the Coalition members will open a discussion to plan the next phase of the campaign, it said.  This could involve an effort to counter ISIS’s reversion to insurgency in Syria and Iraq, the statement said.

“The Coalition is determined to increase the pressure to disrupt ISIS’s trans-regional network through increased information sharing and complementary efforts in counter-finance, strategic communication, law enforcement, the justice sector, and security for our homelands,” the statement said.

The meeting was attended by foreign ministers and representatives from more than 70 countries.  Afghanistan was the only South Asian country to be present in this international coalition to defeat ISIS.

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Heather Nauert withdraws her nomination for US envoy to United Nations

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Washington | In a surprise move, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert withdrew her nomination to replace Indian-American Nikki Haley as the top US diplomat at the United Nations, amid criticism by Democrats for her lack of diplomatic experience.  Nauert, 48, a former Fox News anchor, issued a statement on Saturday citing family reasons for her decision.

“I am grateful to President (Donald) Trump and Secretary (Mike) Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of US Ambassador to the United Nations,” Nauert said. “However, the past two months have been gruelling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration, she said.

Nauret said her two years with the administration had been “one of the highest honours of my life and I will always be grateful to the President, the Secretary, and my colleagues at the State Department for their support. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said President Trump will make an announcement about a new nominee soon.

Pompeo said she had performed her duties as a senior member of his team “with unequalled excellence”. “Her personal decision today to withdraw her name from consideration to become the nominee for United States Ambassador to the United Nations is a decision for which I have great respect, Pompeo said.

President Trump nominated Nauert for the top diplomatic position at the UN in November, weeks after Haley announced her resignation. Senators from the opposition Democratic party raised questions over her qualification as the top US diplomat to the United Nations.

In the past, the position was held by some of the top American political leaders and diplomats including former president George H W Bush. “She has no foreign policy experience that I can deduce, and being a spokesperson is different than being the chief diplomat of the United States at a world body like the UN,” Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had said.

Many of her supporters argued she’s more than qualified for the role, noting her practice in messaging the Trump administration’s foreign policy for nearly two years.

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ICJ to hold public hearings in Kulbhushan Jadhav case from Feb 18

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The Hague | The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold public hearings in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case from Monday at The Hague during which India and Pakistan will present their arguments before the top UN court, which was set up after World War II to resolve international disputes.

Jadhav, 48, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India moved the ICJ in May the same year against the verdict. A 10-member bench of the ICJ on May 18, 2017 had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till adjudication of the case.

The ICJ has set a timetable for the public hearing in the case from Febraury 18 to 21 in The Hague and Harish Salve, who represents India in the case, is expected to argue first on February 18.

The English Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi will make submissions on February 19 from Islamabad’s side. Then India will reply on February 20 while Islamabad will make its closing submissions on February 21.

The hearings will be streamed live on the Court’s website as well as on UN Web TV, the United Nations online television channel. It is expected that the ICJ’s decision may be delivered by the summer of 2019.

“India will present its case before the court. Since the matter is subjudice it is not appropriate for me to state our position in public. Whatever we have to do, we will do at the court,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said last week in response to a question.

Pakistan’s Attorney General Anwar Man soor would lead the Pakistani delegation at the ICJ while Director General South Asia Mohammad Faisal would lead the Foreign Office side.

Ahead of the hearing, a senior Pakistani official said that his country is committed to implement the decision of the ICJ in the Jadhav case. “We are fully prepared with our strongest evidence being the valid Indian passport recovered from Commander Jadhav with a Muslim name,” the official said.

Both India and Pakistan have already submitted their detailed pleas and responses in the world court. In its written pleadings, India accused Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention by not giving consular access to Jadhav arguing that the convention did not say that such access would not be available to an individual arrested on espionage charges.

In response, Pakistan through its counter-memorial told the ICJ that the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 applied only to legitimate visitors and did not cover clandestine operations. Pakistan had said that “since India did not deny that Jadhav was travelling on a passport with an assumed Muslim name, they have no case to plead.”

Pakistan said that India did not explain how “a serving naval commander” was travelling under an assumed name. It also stated that “since Jadhav was on active duty, it is obvious that he was a spy sent on a special mission”.

In its submission to the ICJ, Pakistan had stated that Jadhav is not an ordinary person as he had entered the country with the intent of spying and carrying out sabotage activities. India has been maintaining that the trial of Jadhav by a military court in Pakistan was “farcical”.

Pakistan claims that its security forces arrested Jadhav from restive Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran.

However, India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy. Jadhav’s sentencing had evoked a sharp reaction in India. India had approached the ICJ for “egregious” violation of the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, by Pakistan in Jadhav’s case.

Pakistan had rejected India’s plea for consular access to Jadhav at the ICJ, claiming that New Delhi wants the access to get the information gathered by its “spy”. However, Pakistan facilitated a meeting of Jadhav with his mother and wife in Islamabad on December 25, 2017.

In the pictures issued by Pakistan after the meeting, Jadhav was seen sitting behind a glass screen while his mother and wife sat on the other side. They spoke through intercom.

Later, India accused Pakistan of disregarding cultural and religious sensibilities of Jadhav’s family members under the pretext of security by removing the mangal sutra, bangles and bindi of his mother and wife before they could meet him. India also asserted that Jadhav appeared coerced and under considerable stress during the tightly-controlled interaction at the Pakistan Foreign Office.

After the meeting, Pakistan issued a video message of Jadhav in which he is seen thanking the Pakistan government for arranging a meeting with his wife and mother.

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Nobody can browbeat Pakistan for Pulwama attack, ready to cooperate if India shares evidence: Shah Mahmood Qureshi

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Pakistan Foreign Minister

Islamabad | Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said nobody can browbeat the country for the brutal Pulwama terror attack even as he offered to fully cooperate in any probe into the incident if India shares any evidence with it.

Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five others critically injured when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into their bus in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday.

The Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy of 78 vehicles that was on its way from Jammu to Srinagar.

Qureshi, in a recorded a video message from Germany where he is attending the Munich Security Conference, claimed that India, without investigation, in a knee-jerk reaction, blamed Pakistan for the attack. “It is easy to blame Pakistan but it will not solve the problem and the world will not be convinced,” he said in the message which was released by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on its official Twitter account.

He said nobody can browbeat Pakistan by blaming it for the attack. “We know how to defend ourselves. We can also present out point of view across the world. Our message is peace and not conflict,” Qureshi said.

In a strong warning to Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday declared those responsible will pay a “very heavy price” and said the security forces have been given a free hand to decide on the timing, place and nature of their response to the carnage.  “A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators of the heinous attack and their patrons,” Modi asserted.

Qureshi said Pakistan was ready to fully cooperate with India if it shares evidence. “If India has any evidence (about the involvement of elements in Pakistan in the Pulwama attack), it should share with us. We will investigate with full honesty and see if it was right. And I say with full confidence that we will cooperate. Because we do not want disturbance,” he said.

Condemning the incident, the foreign minister said, “Violence neither was, nor is our policy.”

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