U.S. Policy Update for Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with Saudi Defense Minister Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 19 April 2016. (Photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Today’s topics:     Saudi Arabia / NATO-Russia meetings /  Iran / Kabul terror attack / Foreign Aid factsheet / White House press brief


Kabul Terror Attack

19 April 2016  State’s Kirby On the Suicide Attack in Kabul  “The United States condemns in the strongest terms the attack today in Kabul that killed dozens of Afghans and wounded many more. We send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured.
This incident underscores the harm the Taliban and other violent extremists continue to inflict on the Afghan people. Attacks like these only deepen our support for the people and Government of Afghanistan, and their efforts to bring security and stability to Afghanistan.”

19 April 2016   Taliban Assault in Kabul Kills 30, Wounds More Than 300   A group of Taliban insurgents staged a bomb and gun attack in the Afghan capital Kabul Tuesday morning, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 327, according officials.  The assault targeted a building, which officials say houses a special unit of the Afghan security force working under the Afghan spy agency and responsible for protecting government officials.

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a Taliban-claimed deadly suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2016.
Afghan security forces inspect the site of a Taliban-claimed deadly suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2016.

In a statement sent to reporters, the Taliban said the assault targeted the Afghan intelligence agency’s office, calling it “one of the brutal and inhuman organs” of the Kabul government.

Television footage showed a thick plume of black smoke rising from the area immediately after the powerful blast, which took place not far from the presidential palace and the sprawling U.S. embassy complex in Kabul.   The U.S. Embassy [Kabul] released a statement Tuesday, condemning the attack.

“Afghanistan deserves peace and security, not attacks that victimize parents taking their children to school, workers on their morning commute, and people who have stepped forward to help defend their fellow citizens,” the statement read.

19 April 2016 Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on the Terrorist Attack in Kabul  “The United States strongly condemns the cowardly attack on Afghan forces and civilians in Kabul this morning that killed dozens and wounded hundreds.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and their loved ones.  At the outset of this year’s fighting season, we remain committed to supporting the Afghan people and their government. ”

Middle East / Saudi Arabia

President Barack Obama, right, meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House, on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Washington
President Barack Obama, right, meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House, on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Washington (File photo)

19 April 2016  President Obama to Meet Saudi King Amid Rising Tensions     U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman are set to meet just as relations between the White House and the monarchy have become increasingly frayed, and the two longtime allies face significant disagreements over how to combat terrorism and regional conflicts.

Obama will meet Wednesday with the monarch in Riyadh on his fourth trip to Saudi Arabia as president.

The visit will be followed on Thursday with a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an alliance of six Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

It appears, however, that fundamentally different priorities and strategies on combating terrorism and bringing stability to the region likely will keep Washington and Riyadh at odds on myriad key challenges.

19 April 2016  DoD’s Carter, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Reaffirm Security Partnership    Defense Secretary Ash Carter met today with Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, Deputy Crown Prince ?Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the two leaders affirmed the longtime security partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, according to a statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook issued today.
The two leaders discussed a range of issues related to mutual security interests, including checking Iranian destabilizing activities in the region and countering violent extremism from groups like ISIL, Cook said.

NATO-Russia Meet

19 April 2016 NATO-Russia Council to Meet for First Time Since 2014   NATO and Russian officials have much to discuss during the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels tomorrow.   The alliance kept open lines of communication at the ambassadorial level, but this will be the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since April 2014.
“I think that the incidents we have seen in the Baltic Sea over the last week with the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of Russian planes close to an American ship and also close to an American plane just underlines the importance of open military lines of communications, of predictability and risk reduction,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The secretary general stressed the need for a political dialogue with the Russians, especially during difficult times. “When the tensions are high, I think the need for … for political dialogue, for predictability, for transparency is even more important,” he said.

The main purpose of the council meeting is to exchange views and to contribute to predictability. The council will discuss Ukraine, the implementation if the Minsk agreements and also to address how to enhance the mechanisms of risk reduction related to military activities.


19 April 2016  Taken Question After Meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif (Sec. Kerry at United Nations)

 “QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you reach any agreement (inaudible) with the dollar issue and the (inaudible) sanctions issue?

SECRETARY KERRY: We agreed to – we’re both working at making sure that the JCPOA, the Iran agreement – nuclear agreement – is implemented in exactly the way that it was meant to be and that all the parties to that agreement get the benefits that they are supposed to get out of the agreement. So we worked on a number of key things today, achieved progress on it, and we agreed to meet on Friday. After the signing of the climate change agreement, we will meet again to sort of solidify what we talked about today.

Foreign Aid

19 April 2016   State Department Factsheet – Myths and Facts on Refugees, Migration, and Humanitarian Assistance   The United States is the largest single humanitarian donor, providing billions of dollars per year to provide millions of the world’s most vulnerable people with life-saving assistance. The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) provides protection, eases suffering, and works to resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world. We do this on behalf of the American people by providing life-sustaining assistance, working through multilateral systems to build global partnerships, promoting best practices in humanitarian response, ensuring that humanitarian principles are thoroughly integrated into U.S. foreign and national security policy, and encouraging other countries to do the same.

White House News

19 April 2016 Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 4/19/2016   (Topics include: Saudi Arabia, Syria crisis talks, immigration hearings at the Supreme Court, London trip). Excerpt below:

Q    Just one more on a different subject, and that is on this trip that the President is on.  It was announced yesterday that he would visit not only the head of state of Britain, the Queen, which seems like that’s justifiable, but that the President and Mrs. Obama would also have a lunch with Prince William and his wife.  What’s the justification for that?  Is that something American taxpayers should be paying for?  Is this just a celebrity get-together?
MR. EARNEST:  Look, the President is traveling to London and will spend a couple of days in the United Kingdom doing some important work, meeting with one of our closest allies, a country with whom we have a special relationship, to advance our national security interests.  And in the President’s extensive conversations with Prime Minister Cameron, they’ll be focused on a range of issues related to the global economy, related to climate change, and certainly related to counterterrorism and homeland security that are critical to our national interests.  
President Obama has found Prime Minister Cameron to be an effective interlocutor and an effective partner in accomplishing goals that have been prioritized by both our countries.  So this is an important trip.  What’s also important was the President also spend some time meeting with other leaders in the United Kingdom.  And the President is looking forward to the opportunity that he’ll have to have lunch with the Queen, but also to have a nice dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  It certainly is an important part of public diplomacy, but I think it will be one of the more pleasant aspects of the trip that the President is certainly looking forward to.