U.S., Afghanistan clash over Taliban

The United States and Afghanistan clashed publicly on Thursday over U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, with a visiting Afghan official accusing the chief U.S. negotiator of “delegitimizing” the Kabul government by excluding it from the deliberations.

The remarks by Hamdullah Mohib, a former ambassador to Washington who serves as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s national security adviser, drew a blistering rebuke from the State Department, which said they impeded U.S.-Afghan ties and the peace process.

The feud thrust into the open tensions that have been building between the allies over U.S. efforts to forge a peace pact with the Taliban paving the way for a U.S. troop withdrawal that Kabul fears could weaken its own negotiating position.

Mohib leveled a fierce attack on U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s conduct of the talks during a news conference at the Afghan embassy, accusing the Afghan-born veteran U.S. diplomat of a lack of transparency.

U.S. plans to upgrade military ties with Brazil

The United States will strengthen military ties with Brazil to a level usually reserved for NATO allies during President Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to Washington next week, boosting growing cooperation between the Americas’ two largest militaries, two Brazilian government officials said on Thursday.

Bolsonaro will meet President Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday during a visit aimed at strengthening economic, political and military ties between his right-wing government and Washington.

The status of “major non-NATO ally” (MNNA) gives a country preferential access to the purchase of U.S. military equipment and technology, including free surplus material, expedited export processing and prioritized cooperation on training.

Pompeo: All U.S. diplomats have left Venezuela

All U.S. diplomats remaining in Venezuela left the country on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, amid a political crisis over the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 reelection.

”U.S. diplomats will now continue that mission from other locations where they will continue to help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny,” Pompeo said in a statement.

A U.S. official said the diplomats were flown out in a civilian charter aircraft.

The State Department had already announced that it would withdraw its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week.

Washington has taken the lead in recognizing Juan Guaido, the 35-year-old Congress chief who declared himself interim president in January, calling Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud. Most countries in Europe and Latin America have followed suit.

- Reuters

{h4 style=”text-align: left;”}Trump’s pick has clear path to lead World Bank{/h4}

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the World Bank faces a clear path toward approval as a nomination deadline passed on Thursday with no challengers, continuing the tradition of the United States choosing the development lender’s president.

David Malpass, the U.S. Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, will interview with the World Bank’s executive directors in the coming days, the bank said in a statement.

The directors expect to conclude their selection process before the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings on April 12-14, the bank said.

Malpass has traveled to Europe and Asia in recent weeks to lobby for support from major World Bank shareholders. His nomination was prompted by the departure in January of Jim Yong Kim, who left the bank after more than six years at its helm to join a private equity infrastructure fund.

The United States is the largest shareholder with 16 percent of its voting power and has chosen its leaders since it began operation in 1946. Kim faced off against candidates from Nigeria and Colombia in 2012 under a then-newly-open nominations process, but bank board members have said there was little appetite to challenge Washington’s nominee this time around.