This year, American air strikes in Afghanistan have already significantly surpassed the total number of strikes that were carried out last year, in what is a stark indicator of the United States’ struggle to extricate itself from the conflict and to stick to its declared “non-combat” mission.
According to US military officials, between 1 January and 20 October this year, American warplanes conducted around 700 air strikes compared to about 500 in total carried out last year. Furthermore, about 240 were under rules that were approved by President Barack Obama in June, which effectively allowed US forces to more actively support Afghan troops during strategic combat operations. Also a similar number were conducted against “counter terrorism” targets, including about fifty against al-Qaeda and 190 against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. Other air strikes can be conducted in defense of US and international military advisors, as well as some Afghan troops. American air strikes have been credited with helping to prevent Taliban forces from completely overrunning cities like Lashkar Gah, the capital of embattled Helmand province. However despite the air strikes, militants continue to contest or control as much as a third of the country.
This rise in strikes signals a deeper role for American forces that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. While ending US involvement in Afghanistan was one of President Obama’s signature promises, with him going on to declare the combat mission over at the end of 2014, in the last year of his presidency, however, rising violence has led President Obama to keep more US forces in the fight, both to target a growing IS presence, but also to back up Afghan troops who have been struggling to combat IS and Taliban militants. This year, top American military commanders in Afghanistan successfully pressed the president to reverse an earlier restriction on the use of air strikes, therefore clearing the way for a rise in attacks on IS and Taliban targets.
In a statement, US military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland disclosed that “the increase in strikes is due to the additional authorities US forces received and due to the Afghan change in strategy to offensive operations.” The statement goes on to say that “the new authorities have allowed the US to be more proactive and deliberate in supporting this year’s Afghan offensive operations and in aggressively targeting (Islamic State).”
With no end in sight for one of America’s longest wars, any decisions on the future of the I strikes, and the nearly 9,000 US troops who will remain in Afghanistan, will be up to the winner of the 8 November American presidential election. In a report release in October outlining challenges for the next president, a dozen former US military commanders and ambassadors to Afghanistan wrote that “it will be important to ask if the relaxation of rules of engagement that President Obama provided to American/NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2016 should go further, allowing even more substantial use of their air power against the Taliban.”
Republican Donald Trump shocked the world on 8 November by defeating heavily favoured Democratic Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, effectively ending year years of Democratic rule and sending the United States on a new and uncertain path. Global markets have already reacted to the election results, with stock markets plummeting.
With voting still continuing overnight, Donald Trump has so far won 289 state-by-state electoral votes, while Hillary Clinton has so far won 218. President elect Trump effectively collected just enough of the 270 state-by-state electoral votes needed to win the four-year term, which will begin on 20 January. He won battleground states where presidential elections are traditionally decided. CNN has reported that Clinton had called Trump to concede the election. shortly before, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told supporters at her elect ion rally in New York to go home, stating, “several states are too close to call so we’re not going to have anything more to say tonight.” Mrs Clinton is expected to make a statement on Wednesday.
The election results overnight came as a shock as opinion polls had forecast that Clinton was the favourite to win. The latest nationwide poll had indicated that Mrs Clinton had a 90% chance of winning. However Mr Trump ended up winning avid support amongst a core base of white non-college education workers with his promise to be the “greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
His win however has resulted in serious concern both within the US and abroad. Worried that a Trump victory could cause economic and global uncertainty, investors avoided risky assets such as stocks. Mr Trump campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist “America First” path, vowing to impose a 35 percent tariff on goods exported to the US by US companies that went abroad. During overnight trading, S&P 500 index futures fell by 5 percent to hit their so-called limit down levels, which indicates that they would not be permitted to trade any lower until regular US stock market hours on Wednesday.
Both candidates however, albeit Trump more than Clinton, had historically low popularity ratings in an election that has been characterized by many as a choice between two unpleasant alternatives. Trump however came out on top after a bitter and divisive campaign which focused largely on the character of the candidates and whether they could be trusted.
US media have also projected that Republicans will retain control of the US House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for grabs. In the US Senate, the party also put up an unexpectedly tough fight to protect its majority in the US Senate. It will however be interesting to see how he will work with Congress as during the Campaign, Trump was the target of sharp disapproval, not only from Democrats but also from many within his own party.
Donald Trump, who at 70 will be the oldest first-term US president while his presidency will be the first elected office that he holds.
Today, Americans will go to the polls to elect the 45th President of the United States – Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump.
Voting begins at 6 AM on the day and the first polls will close at midnight UK time (00:00 GMT; 19:00 EST). The first projections from states will follow shortly afterwards based on exit polls. The two candidates need to win 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes in order to win the White House.
The earliest time that the election could be “called” for one of the candidates by US TV networks is likely to be around 4 AM UK time – both the 2008 and 2012 elections were called for Barack Obama at around that time. Once the election has been called, the defeated candidate will call the victor in order to concede the presidential race, before both make speeches during the night to their supporters. There is however a possibility that the result could still not be known at the end of election day, as occurred during the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. If the result is too close to call without counting every vote, or if legal battles over election procedures are taking place, it could delay the result or force a recount. In the even that neither candidate has a majority of Electoral College votes, the result would be sent to the House of Representatives. Delegations from each state would then cast one vote, with the candidate winning the most states declared the winner. This has occurred on two occasions
- 1801 – Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr failed to win a majority of Electoral College votes. After 36 successive votes in the House, Mr Jefferson was declared the winner.
- 1824 – John Quincy Adams beat Andrew Jackson on the first ballot in the House, despite losing the popular vote.
Here is a list of the timings for polls closing on election day (UK time):
- Georgia – 16 votes
- Indiana – 11 votes
- Kentucky – 8 votes
- South Carolina – 9 votes
- Vermont – 3 votes
- Virginia – 13 votes
- North Carolina – 15 votes
- Ohio – 18 votes
- West Virginia – 5 votes
- Alabama – 9 votes
- Connecticut – 7 votes
- Delaware – 3 votes
- District of Columbia – 3 votes
- Florida – 29 votes
- Illinois – 20 votes
- Maine – 4 votes
- Maryland – 10 votes
- Massachusetts – 11 votes
- Mississippi – 6 votes
- Missouri – 10 votes
- New Hampshire – 4 votes
- New Jersey – 14 votes
- Oklahoma – 7 votes
- Pennsylvania – 20 votes
- Rhode Island – 4 votes
- Tennessee – 11 votes
- Arkansas – 6 votes
- Arizona – 11 votes
- Colorado – 9 votes
- Kansas – 6 votes
- Louisiana – 8 votes
- Michigan – 16 votes
- Minnesota – 10 votes
- Nebraska – 5 votes
- New York – 29 votes
- North Dakota – 3 votes
- South Dakota – 3 votes
- Texas – 38 votes
- Wisconsin – 10 votes
- Wyoming – 3 votes
- Iowa – 6 votes
- Montana – 3 votes
- Nevada – 6 votes
- Utah – 6 votes
- California – 55 votes
- Hawaii – 4 votes
- Idaho – 4 votes
- Oregon – 7 votes
- Washington – 12 votes
- Alaska – 3 votes
Intelligence officials warned on 4 November that al-Qaeda may be planning terror attacks in several states around the US presidential election, which is set to take place on 8 November.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) have disclosed that they are taking the threat seriously, adding that they are assessing the credibility of a possible attack on the eve of Election Day. Officials have further disclosed that counter-terrorism investigators are viewing the information that the terror group is planning to carry out attacks in New York, Texas and Virginia, however there have been no specific locations in these states that have been mentioned. In a statement, NYPD spokesman disclosed that the information “lacks specificity.” Steve Coleman also indicated that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates airports, tunnels and bridges around New York City, had been alerted, adding “we are continuing with the high level of patrols at all of our facilities that we have had in place for some time now.”
The threat comes just four days before polls officially open in the US. Earlier last week, an alert warned local police of “polling places” being seen as “attractive targets” for “lone wolf” attacks. Officials however have disclosed that they regularly assess all possible security threats ahead of major events, with a senior FBI official telling CBS news that “the counter-terrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States…The FBI, working with our federal, state and local counterparts, shares and assesses intelligence on a daily basis and will continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.”
In January 2017, after a drawn out and expensive campaign, the United States will have a new leader. US presidential elections mean that citizens are not only choosing a head of state, but also a head of government and a commander-in-chief of the largest military on the planet. So how does the US Presidential election work?
Who Can Be President?
Technically, to run for president, you only need to be “a natural born” US citizen, at least 35 year old and have been a resident for fourteen years. However in reality, every president since 1933 has been a governor, senator or a five-star military general. During the 2016 election period, at one point there were ten governors or former governors and ten who are or were senators. One person is nominated to represent the Republican and Democratic parties in the presidential election.
Who Gets to be the Presidential Pick for Each Party?
Beginning in February of the year of the election, a series of elections are held in every state and overseas territory. These elections determine who becomes each party’s official presidential candidate. The winner of each election collects a number of “delegates,” which are party members who have the power to vote for that candidate at the party conventions that are held in July, where candidates are formally confirmed. The more state contests a candidate winds, the more delegates will be pledged to support them at the convention.
This year, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump were the clear winners and were officially nominated at their party’s conventions in July. They also officially unveiled their vice-president picks – Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia for Mrs Clinton and Indiana Governor Mike Pence for the Republicans.
Key Dates Between Now and Election
While the election campaign feels long, in reality it has only begun. Once the candidates have been confirmed at the party conventions in July, the real campaign begins, with each candidate travelling across the country to make their case.
In the last six weeks before the November election, there are three televised presidential debates:
- 26 September in Hempstead, New York
- 4 October in Farmville, Virginia (Vice-Presidential Debate)
- 9 October in St Louis, Missouri
- 19 October in Las Vegas, Nevada
The election will take place on Tuesday, 8 November.
How does the Vote in November Work?
The candidate with the most votes in each state becomes the candidate which that stat supports for president. It all comes down to a system known as the electoral college, which is a group of people who choose the winner – 538 of them. However just half of that number – 270 – is needed in order to make a president. Furthermore, not all states are equal. For example, California has more than ten times the population of Connecticut and therefore they do not get an equal say. Each state has a certain number of these “electors,” based on their population in the most recent census. That number is the same number of districts in a state, plus two senators. When citizens vote for their preferred candidate, they are actually voting for the electors, some of which are pledged to one candidate, and some for another. In almost every state, with the exception of Nebraska and Maine, the winner takes all. Therefore the person who wins the most electors in New York, for example, will get all 29 of New York’s electoral votes. As a result, the swing states are often the ones that matter most.
What are Swing States?
Some states are known as “swing states,” which means that they could go either way. Florida in particular, with 29 votes, famously decided during the 2000 election in favor of Republican George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote nationally but, after a Supreme Court case, won the electoral college. Other swing states include: Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
When Does the new President Begin Work?
In the days and weeks after the election the victor will assemble a cabinet and will begin crafting a more thorough police agenda. Under the US constitution, the president is inaugurated on 20 January of the year following the election.