short-range nuclear missiles aimed at South Korea and vowed to improve them by making the warheads “smaller, lighter and tactical.” South Korea’s strategy of deterrence has been based on the belief that the best chance it has against the North without nuclear weapons of its own is to build up a conventional missile defense and deploy ever more powerful “bunker busters” to make Mr. Kim fear for his life.

When North Korea tested its intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017, the United States and South Korea responded by launching their own ballistic missiles to demonstrate their “deep-strike precision” capabilities. In his book “Rage,” the journalist Bob Woodward wrote that the American missile traveled the exact distance between its launching point and the location from which Mr. Kim watched his I.C.B.M. launch.

collapsed, North Korea resumed tests in 2019, rolling out three short-range ballistic missiles that were designed to counter the allies’ antimissile capabilities.

North Korea’s old fleet of Scud and Rodong missiles used liquid fuel and lacked precision. The country’s new generation of missiles uses solid propellants, making them quicker to launch, easier to transport and more difficult to target. They also have greater accuracy and evasive maneuvering power that could confound the South’s missile defense systems.

The new solid-fuel ballistic missile North Korea tested in March likely evaded the allies’ radar during its low-altitude maneuvering, leading the South Korean military to estimate its range at 280 miles, not the 372 miles the North claimed, said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University. Mr. Chang said the missile could also likely increase range and warhead weight because it was powered by “the largest solid-fuel rocket motor developed and tested in North Korea so far.”

The North’s ICBMs still use liquid fuel, which takes hours to load before launching, making them vulnerable to American pre-emptive strikes. But in his January speech, Mr. Kim vowed to build solid-fuel ICBMs, presenting an even bigger challenge for American missile defenses. Such prospects deepen the fear among some South Koreans that Washington would be less likely to intervene if it, too, faced a possible North Korean nuclear attack.

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The End of the United States’ Forever War

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Wesley Morgan’s recently released book about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, “The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley,” is unique in its completeness. Arguably, it is the closest any book about the American war in Afghanistan has come to capturing what transpired in a slice of territory occupied by U.S. forces.

It is especially relevant now, in the wake of President Biden’s announcement that all American troops will withdraw from the country by September. Books like Morgan’s will serve as the epitaphs for the failures of the American military in its two-decade-long war.

Thousands of troops passed through the Pech in Afghanistan’s violent east, where famous documentaries and films were born and the Korengal Valley turned practically into a household name. The soldiers there built and tore down outposts. Went on hundreds of patrols. Fought and died. Morgan, a military affairs reporter, documents it all from the beginning to the end, a herculean task in a conflict that has gone on for so long, and with characters who continuously rotated in and out every few months. These men and women all left their own marks on a military strategy that was never understood or clearly defined.

different audiences, and the reviews had quite a bit in common. And a big part of what they had in common was a sense of bitterness over how a lot of heroic fighting had been built on really shaky foundations in terms of the intelligence and assumptions and decisions that led us into these valleys, and grief over how casualties had mounted as military units continually reinvented the wheel and kept flying back up to the same villages in the same valleys to go looking for firefights year after year, without a lot of knowledge being passed down or absorbed.

Read the casualty report.]


Here are five articles from The Times that you might have missed.

Read the article.]

“I am so worried about my future. It seems so murky. If the Taliban take over, I lose my identity.” Many Afghans fear that without the umbrella of U.S. protection, the country will be unable to preserve its modest gains toward democracy and women’s rights. [Read the article.]

“He’s dealing with the kiss of death from his own closest partner.” The Taliban are gaining militarily in Afghanistan, and President Ashraf Ghani’s international supporters are impatient with the stumbling peace process. [Read the article.]

Read the article.]

“The I.S.I., with the help of America, defeated America.” Pakistan’s military stayed allied to both the Americans and Taliban. But now the country may face intensified extremism at home as a result of a perceived Taliban victory. [Read the article.]


We would love your feedback on this newsletter.

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A new coronavirus wave is crushing middle-class dreams in India.

Ashish Anand had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. The former flight attendant borrowed from relatives and poured his $5,000 life savings into opening a clothing shop outside New Delhi selling custom-designed suits, shirts and pants.

That was in February 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus struck India and the government enacted one of the world’s toughest nationwide lockdowns.

Unable to pay the rent, Mr. Anand closed down two months later.

As a second coronavirus wave strikes India, which reported a new daily high of more than 216,000 cases on Friday, the pandemic is undoing decades of progress for a country that has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Already, deep structural problems and the sometimes impetuous nature of the government’s policies had hindered growth. A shrinking middle class would deal lasting damage.

Now Mr. Anand and his wife and his two children are among millions of Indians in danger of sliding out of the middle class and into poverty. They depend on handouts from his in-laws, and khichdi — watery lentils cooked with rice — has replaced eggs and chicken at the dinner table.

Sometimes, he said, the children go to bed hungry.

“I have nothing left in my pocket,” he said.

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U.S. and Allies Plan Fight From Afar Against Al Qaeda Once Troops Exit Afghanistan

Daunting challenges face the American-backed Afghan security forces. Over the past year, they have lost territory from repeated assaults by the Taliban and have relied on U.S. air power to push back the insurgents.

With the Afghan government’s credibility waning, militias — once the main power holders during the days of the Afghan civil war in the 1990s — have rearmed and reappeared, even challenging Afghan security forces in some areas.

“If the president authorizes it, we will still be able to provide some level of military support to the Afghan national security forces after we depart the country,” William H. McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said in an interview on Wednesday.

For the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies, a key issue now is how readily counterterrorism operations can be carried out from beyond Afghanistan. The history of such operations has a decidedly mixed record. Cruise missile strikes launched from distant ships against terrorist targets in Afghanistan have had a low rate of success.

The United States maintains a string of air bases in the Persian Gulf region, as well as in Jordan, and the Pentagon operates a major regional air headquarters in Qatar. But the farther that Special Operations forces have to travel to strike a target, the more likely the operations are to fail, either by missing their mark or resulting in a catastrophic failure that could kill American service members or civilians on the ground, according to officials who have studied the record.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, meeting with allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels on Wednesday, cited the military’s ability to strike terrorist targets in far-flung hot spots “in Africa and other places” where few, if any, troops are stationed, apparently referring to drone strikes and commando raids in Somalia, Yemen and Libya in recent years.

“There’s probably not a space on the globe that the United States and its allies can’t reach,” Mr. Austin told reporters.

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Blackout Strikes Natanz Nuclear Facility in Iran

The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran mysteriously lost power on Sunday, Iranian officials said, a blackout that came during negotiations in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the nuclear deal with Tehran that the Trump administration left.

Power was cut across the facility, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a civilian nuclear program spokesman, told Iranian state television, The Associated Press reported.

“We still do not know the reason for this electricity outage and have to look into it further,” Mr. Kamalvandi said. “Fortunately, there was no casualty or damage, and there is no particular contamination or problem.”

Malek Shariati Niasar, an Iranian lawmaker who serves as a spokesman for the Parliament’s energy committee, wrote on Twitter that the outage was “very suspicious,” A.P. reported. He raised the possibility of “sabotage and infiltration.”

engaging in a form of shuttle diplomacy.

One working group is focusing on how to lift economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, while another is looking at how Iran can return to the terms that set limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges needed to produce it.

remarks reported by Iran’s Mehr News Agency.

Word of the Natanz outage came as Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, was in Israel on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s defense minister, Benny Gantz.

At the meeting, Mr. Gantz said, “We will work closely with our American allies, to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel.”

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Quake Strikes Java in Indonesia, Killing at Least 6 People

MALANG, Indonesia — A strong earthquake killed at least six people and damaged buildings on Indonesia’s main island, Java, on Saturday and shook the tourist hot spot of Bali, officials said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, of magnitude-6.0, had struck off the island’s southern coast at 2 p.m. local time. It was centered in waters south of the Malang District in East Java Province and had a depth of 51 miles.

Falling rocks killed a woman on a motorcycle and badly injured her husband in East Java’s Lumajang district, said Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

He said dozens of homes had been damaged across the district, and rescuers had retrieved two bodies from the rubble of collapsed homes in the district’s Kali Uling village. Two people were also confirmed to have been killed in an area bordering Lumajang and Malang districts, and one person was found dead under rubble in Malang.

Television reports showed people running in panic from malls and buildings in several cities in East Java Province.

Indonesia’s search and rescue agency released videos and photos of damaged houses and buildings, including a ceiling at a hospital in Blitar, a city neighboring Malang. The authorities were still collecting information about the extent of casualties and damage in the affected areas.

The quake was the second deadly disaster to hit Indonesia this past week. Last Sunday, a downpour resulting from Tropical Cyclone Seroja killed at least 165 people and damaged thousands of houses. Some were buried in either mudslides or solidified lava from a volcanic eruption in November, while others were swept away by flash flooding.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 270 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In January, a magnitude-6.2 earthquake killed at least 105 people and injured nearly 6,500, while more than 92,000 were displaced, after striking Mamuju and Majene districts in West Sulawesi Province.

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José Andrés Will Open Two Restaurants in NoMad

José Andrés, the Spanish-born chef and restaurateur known for organizing epic feeding initiatives when disaster strikes, was late in the game to establish a footprint in New York, but he’ll make up for it later this year.

ThinkFoodGroup, his umbrella company, will handle all the food and beverage at a new Ritz-Carlton hotel under construction and scheduled to open in NoMad this fall, at 1185 Broadway (28th Street). In 2019, Mr. Andrés’s group opened Mercado Little Spain, with a market, food hall and restaurants in the Hudson Yards development; it remains one of the few dining locations that is still functioning in the complex, several of the others having closed because of the pandemic.

His new restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton will be branches of restaurants he runs in other cities. Zaytinya is first, and will open in the fall. Its Washington, D.C., location has been serving small plates of Turkish, Greek and Lebanese food since 2002.

The Bazaar by José Andrés will follow a few months later. This is a lavish yet informal shape-shifting restaurant that’s tailored to particular locations: In Miami Beach, its dishes reflect Latin American and Caribbean influences; in Las Vegas, it’s focused on meat. The concept for New York has yet to be announced. ThinkFoodGroup will also run a rooftop bar and lounge, a lobby lounge, the banqueting functions and room service for the Ritz-Carlton.

Rafael Viñoly is designing the hotel, Rockwell Group is designing Zaytinya and Lázaro Rosa-Violán will do Bazaar.

Before the Ritz-Carlton opening in New York, ThinkFoodGroup is expanding with a cluster of places in Chicago, mostly in the Bank of America office tower. First up this summer will be Joe by the River, an all-day cafe, then Bazaar Meat, since a good steak is as appropriate for Chicago as it is for Las Vegas. Bar Mar for cocktails will follow. Jaleo, Mr. Andrés’s Spanish restaurant, which has four other locations around the country, will also open in Chicago’s River North district.

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A ‘System of Espionage’ Reigned at Ikea, a French Prosecutor Charges

VERSAILLES, France — The USB stick mysteriously appeared from an unidentified deliveryman. It held an explosive trove: a cache of startling emails detailing an intricate effort by Ikea executives in France to dig up information on employees, job applicants and even customers.

“Tell me if these people are known to the police,” read one executive’s message to a private investigator, seeking illicit background checks on hundreds of Ikea job applicants.

“A model worker has become a radical employee representative overnight,” read another. “We need to find out why.”

A decade after those emails surfaced, they are at the center of a criminal trial that has riveted public attention in France. Prosecutors are accusing the French arm of Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant, and some of its former executives of engineering a “system of espionage” from 2009 to 2012.

The alleged snooping was used to investigate employees and union organizers, check up on workers on medical leave and size up customers seeking refunds for botched orders. A former military operative was hired to execute some of the more clandestine operations.

The case stoked outrage in 2012 after the emails were leaked to the French news media, and Ikea promptly fired several executives in its French unit, including its former chief executive. There is no evidence that similar surveillance happened in any of the other 52 countries where the global retailer hones a fresh-faced image of stylish thriftiness served with Swedish meatballs.

unsuspecting customers who tangled with Ikea over big refunds. He insisted that he had never broken the law in gathering background material.

Some Ikea managers tapped police sources to gain access to government databases for job applicants at up to nine stores, seeking records on drug use, theft and other serious offenses. People whose files turned up “dirty” would not be hired, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers. As in the United States, applicants in France must consent to background checks.

The surveillance encompassed career workers. In one case, Mr. Fourès was hired to investigate whether Ikea France’s deputy director of communications and merchandising, who was on a yearlong sick leave recovering from hepatitis C, had faked the severity of her illness when managers learned she had traveled to Morocco.

He engaged a contact to pose as an airline worker and ask the 12-year Ikea employee, Virginie Paulin, to furnish copies of her passport stamps to win a free ticket offer. The passport confirmed her travel to Morocco.

“Excellent!” Mr. Baillot, the chief executive at the time, wrote in an email to Mr. Paris and Claire Héry, who was the director of human resources. “We’ll do more checks after Christmas to corner her,” he wrote. (Ms. Héry’s lawyer, Olivier Baratelli, said there was no evidence she had been aware of systemic surveillance. The charges against her were dropped.)

told The New York Times in 2012 that she had a second home in Morocco, and had flown there to recuperate from her illness. She said she had been so distraught by her dismissal that she attempted suicide.

Ikea officials paid particular attention to unions and their efforts to recruit members. In 2010, tensions erupted when Adel Amara, a union leader at an Ikea store in Franconville, northwest of Paris, rallied employees to strike for a 4 percent raise. Ikea said the strike had cost it millions of euros in lost sales.

After that, Ikea “tried to prevent more strikes by turning to a system of espionage,” said Vincent Lecourt, a lawyer for one of the store’s French unions. Ikea managers set up a surveillance net to gather information to fire Mr. Amara and curb militant union activity, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

GSG, a French security company hired by Mr. Paris, advised Ikea to set a “legal trap” for Mr. Amara, and sent one of its agents to pose as a cashier, court documents showed. The mole infiltrated workers’ ranks, reporting conversations with Mr. Amara and his wife, also an Ikea employee, while spying on a number of other union activists.

“Their plan was to infiltrate the unions and explode them from the inside,” Mr. Lecourt said.

Mr. Paris also hired a bodyguard disguised as an administrative assistant with the goal, he testified, of protecting officials who claimed that Mr. Amara had harassed them. Mr. Amara was later found liable by a criminal judge for moral harassment after Ikea France filed a complaint.

Mr. Daoud, Ikea France’s lawyer, said there was no proof of the unions’ allegations. “There was no hunting down of union members,” he said.

That claim has not doused a sense of injustice among workers who said they were forever marked by the moment they learned their employer was spying on them.

Soon after Ikea fired Mr. Amara in 2011, he said in an interview, a USB stick was delivered to his home by a person who refused to identify himself, containing the explosive email trove that became the basis of the lawsuit.

The documents included receipts of nearly €1 million for surveillance operations, as well as a 55-page internal report on Mr. Amara’s union activities, personal situation and legal records dating to when he was a teenager. There were lists naming hundreds of job applicants and employees to undergo undisclosed checks, as well as the orders to investigate some customers.

“That’s when I understood that Ikea was spying this whole time, and that it was a regular practice,” Mr. Amara said. “It was absolutely surreal.”

Mr. Amara said he took the USB stick to French news outlets, he said, unleashing the media firestorm around Ikea France that led to police investigations and the current trial.

“Ikea acted as if it was all powerful over its employees,” he said.

“If Ikea hadn’t been exposed,” he added, “it would have just kept going.”

Gaëlle Fournier contributed reporting.

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Israel-Iran Sea Skirmishes Escalate as Mine Damages Iranian Military Ship

An Iranian military vessel stationed in the Red Sea was damaged by an apparent Israeli mine attack on Tuesday in an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing that has characterized the two adversaries’ exchanges in recent years.

The damage to the vessel, which Iranian media identified as the Saviz, came as progress was reported on the first day of talks to revive American participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers. Israel, which regards Iran as its most potent foe, strongly opposes a restoration of that agreement, which was abandoned by the Trump administration three years ago.

Several Iranian news outlets showed images of flames and smoke billowing from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea, but the full extent of the damage or any casualties was unclear.

The Saviz, though technically classified as a cargo ship, was the first vessel deployed for military use that is known to have been attacked in the Israeli-Iranian skirmishes.

a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and air.

published a report in October 2020 that asserted the Saviz was a covert military ship operated by the Revolutionary Guards. The report said uniformed men were present onboard and a boat type used by the Revolutionary Guards, with a hull similar to a Boston Whaler, was on the ship’s deck.

Iran has engaged in its own clandestine attacks. The last one was reported March 25, when an Israeli-owned container ship, the Lori, was hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea, an Israeli official said. No casualties or significant damage were reported.

The Israeli campaign is part of Israel’s effort to curb Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and stymie Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.

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Climbers Return to Mt. Everest Despite Covid-19

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Mark Pattison played wide receiver for three National Football League teams in the 1980s. Now he wants to fulfill another dream: to climb all seven of the world’s highest peaks, including Mount Everest.

To prepare, Mr. Pattison, 59, packed weatherproof outerwear, polarized goggles and ice crampons. But he is climbing Mount Everest in the midst of a global pandemic. He has supplemented his usual gear with face masks, gloves and sanitizer. He took out extra insurance to pay for a rescue if Covid-19 strikes.

The coronavirus is resurging in South Asia, but Mr. Pattison is undaunted. “I wanted to be there,” he said, “in Nepal, this spring, at any cost.”

Nepal has reopened Mount Everest and its seven other 26,200-foot-plus peaks in the hope of a mountain-climbing rebound. The tiny Himalayan country was forced to close trails last year, dealing its economy a devastating blow. For this year’s climbing season, from March to May, Nepal has granted more than 300 climbers the licenses needed to ascend Mount Everest. Many of those climbers hope to reach the summit, 5.5 miles above sea level.

11 deaths in 2019 — even more hazardous. Local officials have instituted testing, mask and social-distancing requirements, stationed medical personnel at the Mount Everest Base Camp and made plans to swoop in and pick up infected climbers. Climbers are typically greeted in Kathmandu with raucous parties thrown by expedition staffers. But not this year.

to suspend its vaccination program before a donation of 800,000 doses from China, its other giant neighbor, allowed it to resume. Still, it won’t be able to administer a second regimen to the 1.7 million who already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Despite potential problems, the climbing season kicked off at the end of March, after the first expedition left Kathmandu. From there, climbers travel by plane to Lukla, the town that serves as the starting point for the 10-day trek to base camp. Once at camp, they spend weeks there acclimating to the altitude and waiting for a window of clear weather to attempt the summit.

Sandro Gromen-Hayes, a filmmaker who documented a British Army expedition of Everest in 2017, said Thamel, the area of Kathmandu popular with broke backpackers, was quieter this year.

“It was swarmed with trekkers and climbers and stoners and everything in between,” he said of his previous visit. “Now Thamel is much quieter.”

Mr. Gromen-Hayes, 31, came to Nepal from Pakistan, where he filmed an expedition on K2, the world’s second highest peak, which is known because of its ferocious winds as “the savage mountain.” Usually bereft of climbers in winter, it saw dozens of top mountaineers who had been cooped up for months in virus lockdowns and then flocked to K2 in December to make an attempt.

Among the climbing community, “I don’t think a lot of people are concerned about the corona angle,” he said.

Some climbers, like Mr. Pattison, the former N.F.L. player, said they were drawn to Mount Everest this year because they assumed it would be less crowded. But Nepal expects more climbers to apply for licenses beyond the more than 300 who have already, said Mira Acharya, the director of Nepal’s tourism department.

Mr. Pattison plans to trek in surgical gloves and gown, trading in his face mask for an oxygen mask only when he begins the arduous climb from base camp to the peak.

The record books are motivating Mr. Pattison. He has already climbed the six other peaks on the other continents. Should he climb Mt. Everest, he will be the oldest N.F.L. player to have surmounted the Seven Summits, as the peaks are known, and the first to climb Everest and then clamber up neighboring Lhotse, at 27,940 feet the world’s fourth-highest peak, within 24 hours.

“I’ve been at this for nine years,” Mr. Pattison said. Despite the pandemic, he added, “I’m ready to go.”

Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu, Nepal, and Emily Schmall from New Delhi.

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