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Taliban Victory in Afghanistan ‘Not a Foregone Conclusion’

Top U.S. defense and military officials are holding out hope the Afghan government will be able to withstand the latest Taliban military offensive, launched days ago as U.S. and coalition troops began leaving the country.Provincial officials from across Afghanistan have warned of mounting losses in a series of attacks, some with heavy casualties, since the United States officially began its withdrawal on May 1. But the Pentagon insisted Thursday that the withdrawal was “going according to plan,” with no surprises.”It’s not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.”I’m a personal witness … that the Afghan security forces can fight,” Milley, who had previously served in Afghanistan, added. “We’ve been supporting them, for sure, but they’ve been leading the fight.”Speaking alongside Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also voiced some confidence in the ability of the Afghan military.”We’ve seen an instance of that, in Lashkar Gah [in Helmand province], the Afghan security forces conducting a counterattack and performing fairly well,” Austin told reporters. “We’re hopeful that the Afghan security forces will play the major role in stopping the Taliban.”Taliban offensiveAccording to local Afghan officials and some aid workers on the ground, however, the Taliban offensive has been relentless.Provincial officials in the country’s southern Kandahar province reported Thursday that Taliban fighters had captured the strategic Dahla Dam following fierce fighting that forced hundreds of families to flee the area.On social media, meanwhile, Taliban accounts celebrated the capture of a key district in Baghlan province, in the country’s north.تحرير قاعدة عسكرية للعدو في مديرية بغلان المركزية pic.twitter.com/bQ0HbRxUIk— الإمارة الإسلامية (@alemara_ar) May 6, 2021And some of the heaviest fighting has taken place in Helmand province where, despite launching a successful counterattack, Afghan forces needed U.S. airstrikes Wednesday to keep advancing Taliban fighters at bay.US Airstrikes Target Taliban as Fighting Intensifies US official confirms airstrikes are being used to repel Taliban offensive in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province “What we’re seeing unfold is what we expected to unfold,” Austin told reporters at the Pentagon. “Our focus is on making sure that we can retrograde our resources, our troops, our allies in a safe and orderly and responsible fashion.”U.S. military officials also argued that contrary to some claims, the pace and intensity of Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces — on average 80 to 120 attacks per day — is no different from what it has been for most of the past year.Afghan capabilitiesAfghan defense officials have, likewise, taken to social media to tout their successes, often posting grainy video of airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force targeting Taliban positions.8 Taliban including 3 of their key #commanders and senior members were killed in outskirts of Lashkar Gah city, #Helmand province as a result an airstrike today. Also, shadow deputy #governor of Taliban for Helmand with 2 other terrorists were wounded as a result of the strike. pic.twitter.com/lKqfYnvK5W— Ministry of Defense, Afghanistan (@MoDAfghanistan) May 6, 2021″Currently, ANSDF [Afghan National Security and Defense Forces] 100% independently plan, command and control, and conduct the military operations,” Ministry of Defense deputy spokesman Fawad Aman told VOA’s Afghan Service on Wednesday.”There is no support and physical presence of foreign troops in the battlefields,” he added.Still, some U.S. officials and outside experts warn that the withdrawal of 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. forces and almost 7,000 coalition troops, along with tens of thousands of contractors, will put the capabilities of the Afghan security forces to the test.”The level of violence may be increasing, but that’s a call to the Afghan national security forces that they must take the place of the coalition forces and the NATO forces,” retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told VOA’s Afghan Service.”We will continue to train them. We will continue to equip them,” Kimmitt said. “However, it is unlikely that unless there is a significant change in the levels of violence that the Americans will turn around their withdrawal.”‘Key test’ awaitsYet just how the U.S. will help the Afghan military, and the Afghan Air Force, remains unclear.”Maintaining logistic support to the Afghan Air Force is a key test that we have to sort out,” Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told reporters Thursday, suggesting some contractors could return to Afghanistan after the withdrawal is complete.”A lot of that’s going to be dependent on the conditions of the security conditions on the ground,” he said. “The intent is to keep the Afghan Air Force in the air and to provide them with continued maintenance support.”A key U.S. government watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said in a report last week that the Afghan Air Force could be grounded within months without the current level of contractor support.VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report.

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Shooting at Idaho Middle School Injures 3; Student Captured

A shooting at an eastern Idaho middle school Thursday injured two students and a custodian, and a male student has been taken into custody, authorities said.The victims’ injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson said.”Today we had the worst nightmare a school district could encounter. We had a school shooting here at Rigby Middle School,” Jefferson School District Superintendent Chad Martin said. “What we know so far is the shooter has been apprehended. There is no further threat to the students.”Police were called to the school about 9:15 a.m. Multiple law enforcement agencies were on the scene.Students were evacuated to a nearby high school, and parents lined up to be reunited with their children.Adela Rodriguez, left, walks with her son, Yandel Rodriguez, 12, at the high school where people were evacuated after a shooting at the nearby Rigby Middle School, May 6, 2021, in Rigby, Idaho.Neighboring Bonneville County sheriff’s Sgt. Bryan Lovell said the investigation is under way and no additional information was available. He said the school was still in the process of accounting for and releasing all the students.Rigby is a small city about 145 kilometers (95 miles) southwest of Yellowstone National Park. Rigby Middle School has about 1,500 students in sixth through eighth grades, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.”I am praying for the lives and safety of those involved in today’s tragic events,” Gov. Brad Little said in a statement. “Thank you to our law enforcement agencies and school leaders for their efforts in responding to the incident.”The president of the Idaho Education Association, Layne McInelly, said the union was ready to provide whatever support school staffers, students and the community needs.”We send positive thoughts to the victims of this tragic incident and hope for their full and rapid recovery. Patience will need to be at a premium while school officials and law enforcement agencies investigate the situation,” McInelly said in a statement.Community members were rounding up bottles of water and packaged snacks to bring to students while they waited in hot weather to be reunited with their families.The attack appears to be Idaho’s second school shooting. In 1999, a student at a high school in Notus fired a shotgun several times. No one was struck by the gunfire, but one student was injured by ricocheting debris from the first shell.In 1989, a student at Rigby Junior High pulled a gun, threatened a teacher and students, and took a 14-year-old girl hostage, according to a Deseret News report. Police safely rescued the hostage from a nearby church about an hour later and took the teen into custody. No one was shot in that incident.

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Ліга Європи: «Вільярреал» не допустив англійського фіналу

Вирішальний матч Ліги Європи відбудеться 26 травня в польському Гданську

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Facebook закрив в Україні сотні профілів, пов’язаних зі «Слугою народу» та іншими політиками

Підставою для видалення названа «скоординована неавтентична поведінка»

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Facebook Removes Ukraine Political ‘Influence for Hire’ Network

Facebook has taken down a network of hundreds of fake accounts and pages targeting people in Ukraine and linked to individuals previously sanctioned by the United States for efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, the company said Thursday.Facebook said the network managed a long-running deceptive campaign across multiple social media platforms and other websites, posing as independent news outlets and promoting favorable content about Ukrainian politicians, including activity that was likely for hire. The company said it started its probe after a tip from the FBI.Facebook attributed the activity to individuals and entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, including politician Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker who was blacklisted by the U.S. government in September over accusations he tried to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election won by President Joe Biden. Facebook said it removed Derkach’s accounts in October 2020.Derkach told Reuters he would comment on Facebook’s investigation on Friday. Facebook also attributed the network to political consultants associated with Ukrainian politicians Oleh Kulinich and Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine’s former prime minister. Kulinich did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Groysman could not immediately be reached for comment.Facebook said that as well as promoting these politicians, the network also pushed positive material about actors across the political spectrum, likely as a paid service. It said the activity it investigated began around 2015, was solely focused on Ukraine, and posted anti-Russia content.”You can really think of these operators as would-be influence mercenaries, renting out inauthentic online support in Ukrainian political circles,” Ben Nimmo, Facebook’s global influence operations threat intelligence lead, said on a call with reporters.Facebook’s investigation team said Ukraine, which has been among the top sources of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that it removes from the site, is home to an increasing number of influence operations selling services.Facebook said it removed 363 pages, which were followed by about 2.37 million accounts, and 477 accounts from this network for violating its rules. The network also spent about $496,000 in Facebook and Instagram ads, Facebook said.

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Блінкен прокоментував можливість відключення Росії від системи SWIFT

«Коли йдеться про те, щоб стримати агресію, чи про те, щоб відповісти, ми розглянемо будь-який розумний варіант», – наголосив керівник американської дипломатії

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Blinken: US Stands with Ukraine Against ‘Reckless’ Russia Actions

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that while Russia has withdrawn some forces from the Ukrainian border region, “significant forces” and equipment remain there and the United States wants Russia to “cease reckless and aggressive actions.”
 
Speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, Blinken said Russia still “has the capacity on fairly short notice to take aggressive action if it so chooses.”
 
“I admire the restraint Ukraine has shown in the face of those provocative actions,” Blinken said.
 
Late last month, senior U.S. and European Union officials said roughly 150,000 Russian troops had massed along the border of Ukraine and in the Crimea region, more than at any time since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.   
 
Russia said the forces were taking part in military exercises and as of late April were returning to their bases.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine May 6, 2021.Zelenskiy said Thursday there remains a threat in the border region, and that Ukraine does not want any surprises.
 
Blinken said the United States is looking at further security assistance to Ukraine, and that Russia’s actions were the subject of extensive discussions at recent NATO and G-7 meetings.
 
He also said Thursday’s talks included the Minsk agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has been supporting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region.  Blinken said the United States will keep looking for ways to advance diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, and that “Russia continues to be the recalcitrant party.”
 
During the meeting, Zelenskiy and Blinken also discussed efforts to institute democratic reforms and battle corruption in Ukraine.
 
Blinken said both Russian challenges to Ukraine’s sovereignty and corrupt actors within Ukraine involve the same fundamental issues, which is seeking to “take away from the Ukrainian people what is rightfully theirs.”
 
And he said that while there are still significant challenges in battling corruption, “there has been real progress as well.” 

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Іспанія повідомила Україні про затримання «майданівця» – Офіс генпрокурора

Олексій Донськой уточнив, що йдеться про учасника Революції гідності, який звинувачується в тому, що разом з іншими учасниками тих подій вів вогонь по правоохоронцях із будівлі Консерваторії на майдані Незалежності 20 лютого 2014 року