Afghanistan's former president argued Tuesday that Washington helped fuel corruption in his nation by spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the past two decades without accountability.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hamid Karzai responded to findings from a trove of newly published documents that successive U.S. administrations misled the public about the war in Afghanistan.
Karzai said the documents, obtained by The Washington Post, confirm his long-running complaints about U.S. spending.
The documents also describe Karzai, Afghanistan's president for 14 years, as having headed a government that "self-organized into a kleptocracy." Karzai has denied wrong-doing but hasn't denied involvement of officials in his government in corruption.
Karzai became Afghanistan's president after a 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government. Thousands of pages of documents recently obtained by the Post portray U.S. governments lying about successes and hiding failures. After 18 years and over $1 trillion dollars in U.S. taxpayer money spent on the war, the Taliban is now at its strongest and controls or holds sway over half the country.
Karzai said the U.S. spent hundreds of millions of dollars in its war on terror, with the money flowing to contractors and private security firms, and that this fostered corruption.
"What could we do? It was U.S. money coming here and used by them and used for means that did not help Afghanistan," Karzai said.
He argued that there was no accountability.
"I'm glad this report is out, and I hope this becomes an eye-opener to the American people and that the U.S. government begins to change its attitude now toward Afghanistan," he said.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S. based Wilson Center has said, "I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that the U.S. used corruption as a tool, but it has long been suspected — and these new documents make quite clear — that U.S. officials have thrown huge amounts of money at Afghanistan knowing full well that this would lead to more corruption than development or peace."
The Pentagon said Monday there had been "no intent" to mislead Congress or the public, and that the Defense Department gave regular updates to lawmakers on U.S. challenges in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been trying to broker a peace deal that would pave the way for a pullout of U.S. forces.
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday held the first official talks with Afghanistan's Taliban since previous seemingly successful efforts ran aground in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a U.S. statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
The Taliban continue to stage staging near-daily attacks that target Afghan security forces and government officials but also kill scores of civilians.
Immigrant advocates sued the Trump administration Tuesday for ending a free hotline that allowed detained immigrants to report concerns about custody conditions after it was featured on the show "Orange Is the New Black."
The nonprofit group Freedom for Immigrants, which has run the hotline since 2013 with a free phone line provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sued in federal court in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit alleged that the administration yanked the hotline in August after it was featured on the Netflix show, which drew attention to the group's criticism of detention conditions for immigrants.
"They cannot shut down this hotline in retaliation for the fact they don't like what Freedom for Immigrants is saying," said Moez Kaba, a partner at Hueston Hennigan, which is representing the group. "And they can't shut down the hotline because they want to prevent Freedom for Immigrants from saying it."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the hotline was removed last year from a list of pro bono legal service providers that immigrants can call for free.
At the time, the agency notified the group that it had been misusing the hotline, said Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman.
The line was not monitored or recorded so immigrants could find and speak with lawyers, but the group was using it for three-way calling to connect detainees to family, Cox said.
The agency had provided the hotline after a request from the nonprofit and a group of volunteers in Florida who had visited detained immigrants.
Immigrants in detention centers were then allowed to call for free, enabling the group — which also runs visitation programs at facilities across the country — to monitor custody conditions and help reconnect detainees with loved ones separated at the border, the lawsuit said.
It was also helpful for immigrants to remain in contact with hotline operators as the immigrants were transferred across multiple facilities, especially if they didn't have family or friends nearby, the suit said.
The hotline received between 600 and 14,500 calls per month, according to the lawsuit. It was limited to use at detention facilities in Florida in 2018 and was shut down entirely in August 2019, the group said.
Finland became the country with the world's youngest sitting head of government Tuesday when the Nordic country's parliament chose a 34-year-old woman who is a prolific user of social media and a keen advocate for environmental issues as prime minister.
Lawmakers in the 200-seat Eduskunta voted 99-70 to make Sanna Marin, a Social Democrat who served as transport and communications minister in the outgoing administration, the leader of a five-party, center-left coalition government.
The four other parties in the coalition are led by women — three of whom also are in their early 30s. Marin, the No. 2 official in the Social Democratic Party, succeeds Antti Rinne as prime minister.
Rinne, 57, stepped down a week ago after a key coalition partner, the Center Party, withdrew its support, citing lack of trust.
Marin is the third woman picked to become Finland's prime minister. The first, Anneli Jaatteenmaki, served for part of 2003. The second, Mari Kiviniemi, governed for a yearlong period between 2010 and 2011.
Seen as a liberal advocate for climate and environment issues, Marin was raised in a "rainbow family" headed by two women.
She has told Finnish media about growing up in what she described as modest circumstances, past struggles to identify her way in life, and the fulfillment she found in politics.
Setting her clearly apart from the older cadre of Finnish politicians, Marin is a prolific user of social media, particularly Instagram.
She has posted candid photos of her private life and family that includes a live-in partner, Markus Raikkonen, and their nearly two-year-old daughter. Among others, she has shared pictures of her pregnancy and of breast-feeding her daughter.
When questioned by The Associated Press during her first press conference, Marin gave a reply in English on her personal social media policies and vowed not to change her ways.
"As I've said, I represent the younger generation," Marin told reporters in Helsinki. "I think that I'm an individual and a real person also even though I'm the prime minister. So I won't change the way I behave. But off course I will be careful of what I say" in social media postings.
After the vote in favor of her appointment, Marin reacted with a faint smile. President Sauli Niinisto later greeted her and her Cabinet, which has women holding 12 of the 19 ministry positions.
The timing means she will be able to represent Finland at the European Union summit in Brussels later this week. Finland currently holds the bloc's rotating presidency until the end of the year.
Marin became the youngest leader of a government in the world, beating out Ukraine's 35-year-old prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk.
But she might not hold the title for long. Sebastian Kurz, 33, the former Austrian chancellor who rose to that position at age 31, is in talks to form a new coalition that would put him back in the job.
Marin's rise to the top level of Finnish politics was rapid. When she was 27, she took over as city council leader in her hometown of Tampere, an industrial and university town in southern Finland.
She became a national lawmaker in 2015.
Beside Marin, the coalition's other party leaders are 32-year-old Katri Kulmuni of the Center Party; the Left Alliance's Li Andersson, 32; Maria Ohisalo, the 34-year-old leader of the Greens; and the head of the Swedish People's Party, Anna-Maja Henriksson, who at 55 is the oldest.
"Much more important than what is our age and what gender we represent is naturally what kind of politics we're doing together," education minister Andersson told reporters at Tuesday's press conference when asked about the relevance of young females at the helm of Finnish politics.
House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment Tuesday against President Donald Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — pushing toward historic votes over charges he corrupted the U.S. election process and endangered national security in his dealings with Ukraine.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the chairmen of the impeachment inquiry committees, stood at the Capitol for what she called a "solemn act.'' Voting is expected in a matter of days in the Judiciary Committee and by Christmas in the full House. Trump insisted he did npthing wrong and his reelection campaign called it "rank partisnaship."
"He endangers our democracy; he endangers our national security," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the Judiciary chairman announcing the charges before a portrait of George Washington. "Our next election is at risk. ... That is why we must act now."
Trump tweeted ahead of the announcement that impeaching a president with a record like his would be "sheer Political Madness!"
The outcome, though, appears increasingly set as the House prepares for voting, as it has only three times in history against a U.S. president. Approval of the charges would send them to the Senate in January, where the Republican majority would be unlikely to convict Trump.
Democratic leaders say Trump put his political interests above those of the nation when he asked Ukraine to investigate his rivals, including Democrat Joe Biden, and then withheld $400 million in military aid as the U.S. ally faced an aggressive Russia. They say he then tried obstructed Congress by stonewalling the House investigation.
In drafting the articles of impeachment, Pelosi faced a legal and political challenge of balancing the views of her majority while hitting the Constitution's bar of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Some liberal lawmakers wanted more expansive charges encompassing the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Centrist Democrats preferred to keep the impeachment articles more focused on Trump's actions toward Ukraine. House Democrats have announced two articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
When asked during a Monday evening event if she had enough votes to impeach the Republican president, Pelosi said she would let House lawmakers vote their conscience.
"On an issue like this, we don't count the votes. People will just make their voices known on it," Pelosi said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. "I haven't counted votes, nor will I."
Trump, who has declined to mount a defense in the actual House hearings, tweeted Tuesday just as the six Democratic House committee chairmen prepared to make their announcement.
"To Impeach a President who has proven through results, including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country's history, to have one of the most successful presidencies ever, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness! #2020Election," he wrote on Twitter.
The president also spent part of Monday tweeting against the impeachment proceedings. He and his allies have called the process "absurd."
The next steps emerged in the swiftly moving proceedings as Pelosi convened a meeting of the impeachment committee chairmen at her office in the Capitol late Monday following an acrimonious, nearly 10-hour hearing at the Judiciary Committee, which could vote as soon as this week.
"I think there's a lot of agreement," Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, told reporters as he exited Pelosi's office. "A lot of us believe that what happened with Ukraine especially is not something we can just close our eyes to."
At the Judiciary hearing, Democrats said Trump's push to have Ukraine investigate rival Joe Biden while withholding U.S. military aid ran counter to U.S. policy and benefited Russia as well as himself.
"President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security," said Dan Goldman, the director of investigations at the House Intelligence Committee, presenting the finding of the panel's 300-page report of the inquiry.
Republicans rejected not just Goldman's conclusion of the Ukraine matter; they also questioned his very appearance before the Judiciary panel. In a series of heated exchanges, they said Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, should appear rather than sending his lawyer.
From the White House, Trump tweeted repeatedly, assailing the "Witch Hunt!" and "Do Nothing Democrats."
In drafting the articles of impeachment, Pelosi is facing a legal and political challenge of balancing the views of her majority while hitting the Constitution's bar of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Some liberal lawmakers wanted more expansive charges encompassing the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Centrist Democrats preferred to keep the impeachment articles more focused on Trump's actions toward Ukraine.
Nadler was blunt as he opened Monday's hearing, saying, "President Trump put himself before country."
Trump's conduct, Nadler said at the end of the daylong hearing, "is clearly impeachable."
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, said Democrats are racing to jam impeachment through on a "clock and a calendar" ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
"They can't get over the fact that Donald Trump is the president of the United States, and they don't have a candidate that can beat him," Collins said.
In one testy exchange, Republican attorney Stephen Castor dismissed the transcript of Trump's crucial call with Ukraine as "eight ambiguous lines" that did not amount to the president seeking a personal political favor.
Democrats argued vigorously that Trump's meaning could not have been clearer in seeking political dirt on Biden, his possible opponent in the 2020 election.
The Republicans tried numerous times to halt or slow the proceedings, and the hearing was briefly interrupted early on by a protester shouting, "We voted for Donald Trump!" The protester was escorted from the House hearing room by Capitol Police.
The White House is refusing to participate in the impeachment process. Trump and and his allies acknowledge he likely will be impeached in the Democratic-controlled House, but they also expect acquittal next year in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority.
The president focused Monday on the long-awaited release of the Justice Department report into the 2016 Russia investigation. The inspector general found that the FBI was justified in opening its investigation into ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia and that the FBI did not act with political bias, despite "serious performance failures" up the bureau's chain of command.
Democrats say Trump abused his power in a July 25 phone call when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a favor in investigating Democrats. That was bribery, they say, since Trump was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid that Ukraine depended on to counter Russian aggression.
Pelosi and Democrats point to what they call a pattern of misconduct by Trump in seeking foreign interference in elections from Mueller's inquiry of the Russia probe to Ukraine.
In his report, Mueller said he could not determine that Trump's campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election. But Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump of obstructing justice in the probe and left it for Congress to determine.
Mario Draghi took over as head of the European Central Bank eight years ago amid market speculation that the euro currency union might break up. Christine Lagarde succeeds him with a little more breathing room - but facing serious challenges from a weak economy, policy differences among her own officials, and questions about how much more central banks can do to help.
Analysts do not expect Lagarde to announce any changes in the bank's interest rates and bond-purchase stimulus program when she holds her first rate-setting meeting and news conference on Thursday. The bank enacted a stimulus package in September to nudge the economy along in the face of headwinds like the U.S.-China trade conflict and Britain's departure from the European Union.
It's the first chance to hear how Lagarde communicates with markets and the public, a chief task for the head of an institution that affects the lives of 342 million people. That is not an easy task; the bank's policy to keep one of its key interest rates below zero has come under criticism from Germany news media as penalizing savers, while any imprecise remark from Lagarde can set off big market movements.
Lagarde may "err on the side of caution and continuity" at first, said Frederik Ducrozet, senior European economist at Pictet Wealth Management. That would be a contrast to Draghi's first meeting in 2011 when the bank cut interest rates during a debt crisis that threatened to break up the currency union.
Lagarde's challenges include managing dissent within the ECB over stimulus policy after a minority of governing council members openly criticized the stimulus package that was decided at Draghi's next-to-last meeting. That job may be supported by Lagarde's extensive political experience from serving as head of the International Monetary Fund and before that as French finance minister.
She has said the bank will pursue a review of how it defines its inflation goal and also look at whether the bank's measures could support efforts to fight climate change. Currently, the bank defines its mission as having annual inflation of "less than but close to" 2%. One reason for the review is that the bank - like other central banks - has struggled to raise inflation to levels that are considered healthier for the economy despite massive stimulus involving pumping newly created money into the economy. Inflation was an annual 1.0% in November. The eurozone economy grew only 0.2% in the third quarter.
The ECB - like the U.S. Federal Reserve and several other central banks around the world - has cut interest rates to combat economic weakness amid a trade dispute between the U.S. and China that threatens to disrupt world supply chains. But some economists question to what extent more stimulus such as interest rate cuts can help the economy after a decade of low rates since the global financial crisis.
Lagarde, like Draghi, has urged European governments to spend more on initiatives that can boost economic growth, such as roads, bridges and high-speed internet networks. Neither has received much response, however.
The central bank on Sept. 12 cut the rate on excess cash deposited with it by commercial banks overnight to minus 0.5%. That unusual step amounts to a penalty pushing banks to lend money rather than let it pile up at the ECB.
The bank also started 20 billion euros ($22 billion) in bond purchases a month, a step that pushes newly created money into the banking system to ease credit to companies and promote economic activity. That move was publicly questioned by the heads of the Dutch, German and Austrian central banks, who are also members of the governing council.
Stimulus opponents argue that cheap credit and low rates hurt savers and support profligate governments. The ECB says the measures have helped companies put millions of people back to work and prevented worse trouble.