KABUL, Afghanistan — The Obama administration on Thursday endorsed fragile Afghan efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban, backing off its prior stance that talks with the Taliban were premature until the war is all but won.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who only last month had said it was too soon for high-level reconciliation talks, struck a different chord at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
"Whenever opportunities arise that are worth exploring, I think we ought to take advantage of that," Gates said.
Tropical storm hits Cuba with wind, rain
HAVANA — Tropical Storm Paula brought winds and heavy rain to the Cuban capital on Thursday, turning some low lying streets into shallow rivers, bending palm trees and sending waves crashing against the city's famed Malecon sea wall, though there were no reports of serious damage.
With the storm losing steam by the hour, Cuban officials said they were optimistic it would not bring a repeat of the devastation wrought by three monster storms that hit in 2008.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Paula had maximum sustained winds of 55 mph and its core was about 25 miles east of Havana, on a course that would take it near the coastal resort area of Varadero.