- - Monday, August 20, 2012


President Obama declared Monday he is sticking to his war strategy of using U.S. troops to advise and mentor Afghan forces, even as a suddenly growing number of Americans are being fatally shot by the very Afghans they are training to take on insurgents.

In just the past 10 days, Afghan forces have attacked their coalition partners seven times, killing nine Americans. For the year, there have been 32 such incidents, killing 40, compared with 21 attacks killing 35 troops in all of 2011.

“We are deeply concerned about this, from top to bottom,” Mr. Obama said. But he added the best approach, with the fewest number of deaths in the long run, would be to stick to the plan for shifting security responsibilities to the Afghans.

“We are transitioning to Afghan security, and for us to train them effectively we are in much closer contact — our troops are in much closer contact with Afghan troops on an ongoing basis,” Mr. Obama said. “Part of what we’ve got to do is to make sure that this model works, but it doesn’t make our guys more vulnerable.”

That vulnerability, however, has been exposed in a strikingly deadly way in recent days.

U.S. officials offer two main theories for why Afghan security forces are turning their weapons on Western partners: infiltration by the Taliban and a U.S.-Afghan culture clash.


Skinny-dipping GOP lawmaker apologizes

A Republican congressman representing Kansas has apologized for embarrassing his supporters by swimming naked at the holy site of the Sea of Galilee while on a fact-finding mission to Israel.

Freshman Rep. Kevin Yoder, 36, has not been charged in the Aug. 18, 2011, incident in which he and about 20 other lawmakers and staff members jumped into the water.

“It’s an embarrassing situation, and I regret it,” Mr. Yoder said during an interview on public radio station KCUR-FM in Kansas City, Mo. “I know that many constituents out there are sort of scratching their heads, saying, ‘What is this guy up to? What was he doing? What was he thinking?’”


Kaine, Emanuel, Patrick among convention speakers

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are among prominent Democrats who will speak at their party’s national convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The Democratic National Committee released a roster of speakers Monday. Besides Mr. Emanuel, Mr. Kaine and Mr. Patrick, speakers include Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

The group will join previously announced speakers that include former President Bill Clinton, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be the first Hispanic keynote speaker at a Democratic convention.

The convention will be held Sept. 3-6 in Charlotte.


First lady hosts first ‘state dinner’ for youths

At the first ever White House “kids’ state dinner,” first lady Michelle Obama told America’s top junior chefs Monday that the dishes they created are proving that fun eating can be “healthy and tasty at the same time.”

“Your recipes truly stood out,” she said to an East Room filled with children who won a nationwide recipe competition. “You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients — dishes that are good for you, but more importantly they taste good, too. See? It can happen.”

The event was the latest effort in Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity with more exercise and a better diet.

Mrs. Obama listed some of the winning entries, calling them “amazing stuff”: Kickin’ Chicken Salad, Power Pesto Pasta, Miss Kitty’s Egg Salad Sensation and Secret Service Super Salad, dreamed up by one youngster who hopes one day to join the presidential protective detail.

The 54 winners, ages 8 through 12, were chosen from more than 1,200 entries.


Officials say Iran doesn’t deserve to host summit

The Obama administration said Monday that Iran doesn’t deserve to host a summit of non-aligned nations later this month, but urged foreign leaders who decide to attend to press the Iranian government to comply with international demands to come clean about its nuclear program.

The State Department predicted Iran would use the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran to advance its own agenda and shift attention from its defiance of requirements to prove it is not trying to develop atomic weapons. The department also condemned anti-Israel comments made by Iranian officials last week.

“Iran is going to try to manipulate this NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the U.N. Security Council, the IAEA and other international bodies,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

“So we frankly don’t think that Iran is deserving of these high-level presences that are going there,” she said.

But, she added, “we would hope and expect that those who choose to go will take the opportunity of any meetings that they have with Iran’s leaders to press them to come back into compliance.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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