US gives $5bn to global terror fight

US gives $5bn to global terror fight

US soldier in HelmandThere were once more than 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan

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US President Barack Obama has announced a $5bn (£3bn) “terrorism partnership fund” to help other countries tackle extremists.

The cash will help countries in the Middle East, Africa and East Asia.

He announced the plan at the US Military Academy in West Point, as he set out his foreign policy vision.

The end of the combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of the year would free up resources to tackle emerging threats elsewhere, he said.

“I am calling on Congress to support a new counter-terrorism partnerships fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines.”

The money would go towards missions such as training security forces in Yemen, supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia, working with European allies to train a functioning security force in Libya, and helping French operations in Mali, he said.

Turning to the civil war in Syria, he promised to “ramp up support” for those in opposition to the regime of President Assad, although he did not give details about what that would mean in practice.

An Islamist rebel in MaliThe cash will try to tackle Islamist threats in parts of Africa

His speech attempted to recast US foreign policy as one which would use military force when necessary but primarily acts on a platform of international consensus.

“We must broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law and – if just, necessary, and effective – multilateral military action.

“We must do so because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes.”

In the wide-ranging address to West Point graduates Mr Obama touched on a range of foreign policy issues, such as:

  • “a strategy that involves invading every country that harbours terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable”
  • small-scale capture and drone operations by the US military would continued to be used, but with increased transparency
  • US leadership had helped bring Iran to negotiate on nuclear issues and isolated world opinion against Russia in the Ukrainian crisis
  • praise for the United Nations and Nato, which he said was “the strongest alliance the world has ever known”
  • “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example”, he said, while criticising domestic politicians for denying climate change and refusing to sign a UN maritime treaty
  • a continued push to close the US military prison at Guantanamo
  • US should focus on development and education as “no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram”

Last week, the US sent about 80 troops to Chad as part of a mission to help locate hundreds of school girls abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram in neighbouring Nigeria.

The address marks the start of a series of speeches from the president about foreign policy over the next 10 days, in an attempt to respond to critics who say current US foreign policy is weak.

On a trip to Europe, he will give a speech about US commitment to Europe in Warsaw, meet with the G7 leaders in Brussels, and honour US veterans in Normandy at the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.


Thailand coup: Military says many detainees freed


The BBC’s Jonah Fisher: “The army said… there were 76 people still in custody”

Thailand’s army says it has now released 124 people, including politicians and activists, who were taken into custody after the coup.

An army spokesman said a total of 253 people had been summoned. Fifty-three did not report and 76 were in custody.

Conditions for the release appear to include agreeing to avoid political activity and informing the army of travel, a BBC correspondent said.

Coup leaders, who took power last week, received royal endorsement on Monday.

Thailand’s former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has been released but remains under some restrictions.

The army also says it is releasing a group of “red-shirt” protest leaders who support the ousted government. The anti-government protest leader has already been freed.

So far, almost all of the 124 people who the army said they had detained and released have kept a very low profile, says the BBC’s Jonah Fisher in Bangkok.

It remains to be seen whether these “red-shirt” leaders – who support the ousted government – do the same, our correspondent added.

The military seized power in Thailand on 22 May, saying it wanted to return stability to the country after months of unrest.


How is Thailand’s curfew being imposed?

The move followed six months of political deadlock as protesters rallied against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government. At least 28 people were killed and hundreds injured over the course of the protests.

Coup leaders received royal endorsement on Monday. But the coup, which removed an elected government, has drawn widespread international criticism.

Correspondents say there is also a degree of scepticism about the total number of people in custody provided by the military, with reports of more widespread detentions.

Rights groups have expressed alarm over the detentions, as well as the tight restrictions on media.

On Monday, there were reports that internet users were briefly unable to access social media site Facebook. The country’s information and technology ministry told the BBC there was a gateway problem.

Experts have said that the coup is unlikely to heal highly polarised political divisions in the country.


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