FROM Mark Laity
The Taliban in Afghanistan: Back with a Vengeance Hundreds of escaped prisoners and other Taliban militants are said to be dug in a few miles from Afghanistan’s second largest city. Thousands of villagers have fled from orchards and vineyards, and today NATO forces and Afghan soldiers launched an effort to drive the insurgents out. Is this the predicted "Spring offensive," with Taliban forces better armed and more strategically savvy than ever before? Can they further damage the already shaky regime of President Hamid Karzai? Can they kill enough coalition soldiers to weaken support in NATO countries?
The NATO Summit in Bucharest The North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance was formed 59 years ago after the end of World War II. Its mission is often described as avoiding World War III by keeping the Germans down, the Russians out and the Americans in. It succeeded. The Cold War is over, and NATO membership has grown from twelve countries to 26. Most US allies wanted to wait until the sixtieth anniversary next year, but President Bush wanted another summit before he left office, and he's now in Bucharest, Romania for three days of meetings . He wants more NATO troops in Afghanistan, more member nations, and approval of applications from Ukraine and Georgia. Russia's President Putin could not ignore that challenge, and it's not expected to happen. We look at the prospects for Afghanistan. Is the alliance itself becoming a two-tier institution, with some members letting others do the heavy lifting? Has NATO outlived its usefulness?
Can NATO Hold Off the Taliban in Afghanistan? Poland will send another 1,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, where NATO commanders have asked for more troops to face the Taliban's brutal resurgence. But, while the need on the ground is immediate, the Polish soldiers won't arrive until February of next year. While there is there's no evidence yet of any "direct link" between the Taliban and the insurgency in Iraq, in addition to suicide bombers and IED's, Afghanistan is seeing assassinations of government officials and other civilians as well as increased used of guerilla tactics. What's happened to the democracy established after the US invasion? Has a lack of follow-up by the western powers shattered Afghan expectations? What's the role of Pakistan?
House Republicans release their Obamacare replacement As two House committees take up "repeal and replacement" of "Obamacare," there may be life left in the Affordable Care Act after all. Even Republicans are divided, and proposed changes won't make good on President Trump's promise to provide "health insurance for everybody."
Cover-up or witch hunt?: The latest on the WH ties to Russia Less than two months into his Presidency, Donald Trump is struggling to get his agenda under way, making it harder himself with tweets that dominate public attention. Meanwhile, important questions are going unanswered: why have staff members and the Attorney General lied about contacts with Russian officials?