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?
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?
The longest US war: Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan? The Trump White House is divided over the Pentagon's request for more troops in Afghanistan—where the US has been fighting for the past 16 years. Is there a formula -- either for "victory" or a political settlement? Is there an end in sight for America's longest war?
Terrorism and tweets, hate speech and murder Just days before an election, Britain is coping with a rash of deadly terrorism, and Prime Minister Theresa May is on the defensive. And again today, President Trump has tweeted criticism of the Mayor of London. Later, a double murder in Portland, Oregon has revealed the ugly past of a supposedly “progressive” city. One immediate question: is “hate speech” protected by the First Amendment?
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.