As America prepares to end its longest war after nearly 20 years, there is no guarantee that its troop withdrawal will bring to a close the far longer conflict that has ravaged Afghanistan for four decades. In fact, it may even extend it.
Starting with the Soviet invasion in 1979, war and violence have left this country of more than 30 million people impoverished, dependent on foreign aid and desperate for peace. Families have been torn apart and left bereft, with more than 100,000 civilians killed or injured in the last decade alone.
Now, as the U.S. begins its withdrawal, Afghans are bracing for further uncertainty. In a country where transitions of power have often been violent, there is little to reassure them that a peaceful settlement is on the horizon.
Two people have been shot dead at a casino in Wisconsin, police said, in the latest shooting incident to hit the United States.
The suspected gunman was also shot dead by police after he opened fire on Saturday evening in the dining room of the Radisson hotel section of the Oneida casino, near Green Bay in the northern part of the state.
Lt Kevin Pawlak of the Brown County sheriff’s office said investigators believe the gunman was targeting a specific person he was angry at, but the person wasn’t at the casino at the time. Instead the gunman decided to shoot some of the intended victim’s friends or co-workers, police said. One other person was injured.
Pawlak said it was not clear if the shooter was a former employee of the restaurant or casino, but said “there’s some relationship that had to do with employment”.
“Whether or not they all worked there, we’re still working on,” he said.
Jawad Yatim, a witness, said he saw at least two people shot.
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“I know for sure two, because it happened right next to us, literally right next to us,” Yatim said. “But he was shooting pretty aggressively in the building, so I wouldn’t doubt him hitting other people.”
Yatim said the shooting began in a casino restaurant.
“We got the hell out of there, thank God we’re OK, but obviously we wish the best for everybody who’s been shot,” he said.
North Korea on Sunday warned the United States will face “a very grave situation” because President Joe Biden “made a big blunder” in his recent speech by calling the North a security threat and revealing his intent to maintain a hostile policy against it.
Last week, Biden, in his first address to Congress, called North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs “serious threats” to American and world security and said he’ll work with allies to address those problems through diplomacy and stern deterrence.
“His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward the DPRK as it had been done by the U.S. for over half a century,” Kwon Jong Gun, a senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official, said in a statement. DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.
“It is certain that the U.S. chief executive made a big blunder in the light of the present-day viewpoint,” Kwon said. “Now that the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”
Kwon still didn’t specify what steps North Korea would take, and his statement could be seen as an effort to apply pressure on the Biden administration as it’s shaping up its North Korea policy.
The White House said Friday administration officials had completed a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, saying Biden plans to veer from the approaches of his two most recent predecessors as he tries to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. Press secretary Jen Psaki did not detail findings of the review, but suggested the administration would seek a middle ground between Donald Trump’s “grand bargain” and Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches.
Kwon’s statement didn’t mention Psaki’s comments.
After a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests in 2016-17, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched summit diplomacy with Trump on the future of his growing nuclear arsenal. But that diplomacy remains stalled for about two years over differences in how much sanctions relief North Korea could win in return for limited denuclearization steps.
In January, Kim threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build more high-tech weapons targeting the U.S. mainland, saying the fate of bilateral ties would depend on whether it abandons its hostile policy. In March, he conducted short-range ballistic missile tests for the first time in a year, though he still maintains a moratorium on bigger weapons launches.
“If Pyongyang agrees to working-level talks, the starting point of negotiations would be a freeze of North Korean testing and development of nuclear capabilities and delivery systems,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “If, on the other hand, Kim shuns diplomacy and opts for provocative tests, Washington will likely expand sanctions enforcement and military exercises with allies.”
Also Sunday, an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman vowed a strong, separate response to a recent State Department statement that it would push to promote “accountability for the Kim regime” over its “egregious human rights situation.” He called the statement a preparation for “all-out showdown with us.”
Wisconsin’s attorney general, Josh Kaul, tweeted shortly before 10pm local time that the scene was contained.
“There is no longer a threat to the community,” he said.
Louise Cornelius, the casino’s gaming general manager, said on Facebook that “our hearts are breaking” over the incident but did not give any more details.
“It is with great distress that I post this message to our gaming employees and their families,” she wrote. “Our hearts are breaking over the terrible incident that occurred this evening at the Radisson hotel and conference center. Please know that support will be provided to all Gaming employees who are affected by this situation. More information will be posted as soon as it is available.”
Wisconsin’s state governor, Tony Evers, issued a statement late on Saturday saying he was “devastated” to hear about the shooting, but gave no details.
“While we are waiting for more information, we hope and pray those who were injured will recover and are grateful for the first responders who quickly responded to the situation.”
The Oneida casino is operated by the Oneida nation. The casino is connected to a large hotel and conference centre, the Radisson, also owned by the Oneida nation.
Max Westphal, who was gambling at the casino, said he was standing outside after being evacuated for what he thought was a minor issue.
“All of a sudden we hear a massive flurry of gunshots — 20 to 30 gunshots for sure,” Westphal told WBAY-TV. “We took off running towards the highway … There had to have been 50 cop cars that came by on the highway. It was honestly insane.”
It follows a spate of mass shootings in the US, including the massacre of eight workers at a FedEx depot in Indianapolis two weeks ago and that of 10 people at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado in March.
Earlier on Saturday two men suffered non-life-threatening injuries in a shooting at a shopping mall in Tukwila near Seattle in what police described as apparently isolated violence.