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Cheney: Obama dithering on Afghan strategy

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said President Barack Obama is "dithering" about a troop surge in Afghanistan, endangering forces already deployed.


Cheney said Obama "seems afraid to make a decision and (is) unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission" since he announced his Afghan strategy in March, The Hill reported.

Cheney, a vocal critic of the Obama administration, made the remarks Wednesday during a speech at the Center for Security Policy in Washington.

"It's time for President Obama to make good on his promise," Cheney said. "The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger."

Obama is considering recommendations by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of troops in Afghanistan, that as many as 40,000 more troops are needed in the country to forestall a failed mission.


On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fired back at Cheney, saying, "What Vice President Cheney calls 'dithering,' President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public."

Gibbs said he thought it was interesting that Cheney was "blaming us for something that he didn't see fit to do over, best I can tell, seven years of a war in Afghanistan."

Cuban-Americans: Permit Cuba travel to all

CORAL GABLES, Fla., Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Cuban-Americans favor allowing all to travel to Cuba, echoing support for such a policy change in bills pending in Congress, a Florida poll indicated.

The poll, conducted Sept. 24-26, showed a significant shift from a 2002 survey that suggested only a minority supported such a measure, El Nuevo Herald reported Thursday.

The swing from 46 percent in favor of allowing all Americans travel access to Cuba in 2002 to 59 percent in the new poll was surprising, said Fernand Amandi, executive vice-president of Bendixen & Associates, a Coral Gables, Florida, firm specializing in multi-ethnic research, which conducted the poll.

Currently, only Cuban-Americans are permitted virtually unrestricted access to Cuba, the newspaper said.

There are at least three bills -- one in the Senate and two in the House -- hat would eliminate all restrictions on travel to Cuba, El Nuevo Herald reported.


The new survey shows Cuban-Americans favor a more open approach to travel to Havana, said Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., a co-sponsor of one of the House bills.

The bills face opposition, though, the newspaper said.

"The majority of Cuban-Americans (in south Florida) want the Cuban people to have free elections, guaranteed human rights and freedom for political prisoners," U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Cuban-American, said adding that she believed the ban would not be lifted.

Fighting displaces 65,000 Yemeni students

SANAA, Yemen, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Some 65,000 Yemeni students were moved to makeshift study camps after militant Shiite rebels fighting the government took over 63 schools, the government said.

The Houthi rebels in the northwestern Saada province forced the students to flee their homes as well as their schools, the official Yemeni news agency SABA reported.

The rebels allegedly seized teachers, initially forcing them to teach their ideology, and took over 63 schools stationing guerrillas to fight government troops, the news agency said.

The conflict, nearly two weeks after Yemeni security forces said they killed 100 rebels, is part of intensified fighting since the army began "Operation Scorched Earth" Aug. 11.


Some 150,000 people have fled their homes in the region since Shiite tribesmen launched an insurgency in 2004.

The Education Ministry, working with UNICEF and other local authorities, has outfitted places in refugee camps where students can learn, the news agency said. Houthis, also known as the Believing Youth, are a reputed Zeidi Shiite insurgent group fighting Yemeni authorities and pro-government tribesmen.

The Yemeni government claims the rebels want to overthrow it and impose Shiite religious law. The rebels say they are defending their community against discrimination and what they call aggressive government acts.

U.S. and Saudi officials fear the growing fighting will create instability that al-Qaida, whose militancy is growing in Yemen, could exploit to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia, which borders its north.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has barred journalists and diplomats from traveling independently to Saada.

27 Afghans deported from Britain, France

PARIS, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Twenty-seven Afghans were deported to Kabul from Britain and France after failing to win asylum in those countries, despite protests from rights groups.

Three Afghans deported from France and 24 expelled from Britain arrived at Kabul International Airport on a joint charter flight Wednesday, an Afghan official said.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently announced France was to resume the joint forced repatriation flights with Britain on the condition deportees are sent back to areas deemed "safe," Radio France Internationale reported.

Last month, French police raided a migrant camp near Calais known as "the Jungle," detaining nearly 280 people, many of them Afghans.

Calais, in northern France, overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel. As the closest French town to England, it has become a place where refugees seek illegal passage to Britain via water or by underwater rail.

Dozens of refugees, including many minors, trying to enter Britain illegally were also detained, Radio France Internationale said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Union's justice commissioner say European countries should not round up migrants but instead offer them fair asylum rights across the 27-nation economic and political union.

Death toll rises in Rio drug turf war

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Police in Rio de Janeiro said seven more people died in the days-old battle for control of drug trafficking in several of the Brazilian city's shantytowns.

Adding in the casualties Wednesday, 33 people have died since the gang turf war erupted Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.


Police said 17 people were arrested Wednesday.

While most of the dead were suspected gang members, some of the victims were innocent bystanders, officials said. On Wednesday, an 18-year-old student was wounded in the abdomen by a stray bullet fired during a confrontation between police and criminals at the Vila Cruzeiro favela, or slum.

Hundreds of Rio de Janeiro state police were deployed to try to control the violence that has swept over parts of the city recently named to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Times said. Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral also asked for additional forces from the federal government.

Fighting began Saturday when the Red Commandos gang invaded Morro dos Macacos favela, controlled by the rival Friends of Friends gang.

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