barack obama are announce that u.s. troops will stay in afghanistan going back on a previous promise. ♪ hello from al jazeera's headquarters in doha, i'm jane dutton. the e.u. has a plan for the refugees, but needs turkey to agree. government forces launch a major offensive in syria. once common, now rare, we're in the u.s. where the mission is on to save the orchid.
♪ u.s. president barack obama is due to announce in the next hour that american military presence in afghanistan will extended. his original aim was to withdraw most u.s. forces by the end of next year. jennifer glasse is in kabul. how is this going to work, jennifer? >> reporter: well, jane, the 9,800 u.s. forces that are here now are going to stay through most of 2016 and then as the -- at the end o next year, they'll make a decision on the pace of how to draw those down to 5,200 u.s. forces. the extension of forces here a reflection of the growing
taliban insurgency -- or the fight against the taliban here. but also there is the fact that u.s. forces will remain in bases around the country. the original plan was to draw down to a small force of a thousand by 2016. but instead those forces will remain in bases around the country. here north of kabul in the east of the country, and in kandahar to the south. so not just the numbers, but also a presence of u.s. forces around the country. >> what does this suggest about the security situation at the moment? >> reporter: well, the security situation is really very difficult right now. just last month the taliban took kunduz city and held it for about two weeks. that was their biggest military advance since 2001. and they withdrew saying they
were doing it to prevent civilian casualties, they say they could come back at anytime. we have seen the taliban active on the highway between kabul and kandahar. they held that highway for a number of days, standing thousands. they tried to launch an assault on gozny city. and more than 20 afghan policemen killed when taliban attacked their check points. so we're seeing the taliban very active around the country. and the government saying the fall of kunduz doesn't so much a sign of the taliban's strength, as it was a weakness in their security forces. they know the security forces still have shortcomings, and it is clear they need in addition help. and they are going to get that. >> alan fisher is in washington,
d.c. what is going on? >> reporter: it's im bare raszing for barack obama, as candidate almost eight years ago he was saying he wanted to get american troops out of iraq and afghanistan. he did it in iraq, and was criticized for this. but the americans couldn't get an agreement with iraqis to stay in the country, so he has a bit of a pass on that one, but his critics said you should never have given a deadline, because that emboldened the taliban to sit it out. there was always the off ramp that if the situation changed there would be review, but barack obama wanted to leave office saying there no more foreign wars with america in the fight, and essentially saying there was nothing going on in iraq or afghanistan, and now he's leaving a significant force in afghanistan for whoever
succeeds him. >> how is this going to go down with the american public? >> reporter: republicans will say i told you so, you should never have gone that far, and saying, look, putting a deadline on when you will draw down the troops, they will say we told you so that you misjudged afghanistan the way you misjudged iraq, that your foreign policy is a failure and a bit of a disaster, and it shows how inexperienced you have been through your entire eight years. barack obama will try to defend his position by saying that he is making decisions based on the situation on the ground, and analyzing what his military experts are telling him. and if the situation changes, then he is changing. but this is hugely embarrassing. it will be an embarrassment for barack obama, and he has to stand up and own it essentially in the next hour or so, and understand why he has gone from
an idea of leaving just a thousand troops at the embassy in kabul, to putting 9,800 at four bases around the country, to shore up the afghan soldiers. >> and as you said he will be live in the next hour or so. e.u. leaders are meeting in brussel, the summit will focus with working on countries outside of europe's borders to stem the flow of refugees. any word on what they are going to do to stop this crisis? >> reporter: well, we have just seen over the last half an hour or so, leaders from the e.u. nati nation -- arrive here one after another. we heard from e.u. parliament or council chief, rather, who laid down the ground work for what was being discussed here at the
european council over the course of the day. of course there are multiple challenges bearing down on the european union at this current stage aside, of course from the refugee crisis, we're looking at youth unemployment, and the lingering after effects of the crisis, and the bailout for the greeks, and the refugee crisis on a sense of cohesion here amongst european union states. that has driven a real wedge between those countries and western and northern europe who feel there is a need to rally to answer the call for these people who desperately need europe's help. and those countries some newer members of the european union who are very cautious who feel that europe's doors should be closed -- at least a little bit more closed than they currently
are. the fear is that the european identity is in some way being eroded. the speaker explained that the main thrust of talks would be on building stronger ties with neighbors of the european union, the likes of turkey and jordan. here is what he said a little earlier on. >> we will address the very complex situation in the region. our talks with turkey are ongoing. libya is still [ inaudible ]. and the situation in syria is deteriorating. all of this may lead to a new mass exodus of refugees. it is our obligation to be prepared for all possible scenarios. we must ask ourselves if the decisions we are going to take are sufficient to contain any
migra migra migra migratetory wave. >> reporter: the refugee crisis seems to have caught the e.u. off guard. and now they need to work closely with countries like turkey. the e.u. has drawn up a turkey action plan, a list of expectations that the european union hopes that they will adopt to help europe stem the flow of desperate people trying to reach here. talks are just about to start. we'll be here through the course of the day. >> thanks for that neave. the syrian army has launched its long-awaited offensive in homs. they are on a highway that links the two provinces. the government wants to open
this road, and secure a corridor along its strong hold. zana hoda reports. >> reporter: the battle in northern homs countryside has begun. rebel-held towns are coming under fire. this is a coordinated assault between the syrian army on the ground and the russian air force. it is the second offensive since the military intervention of russia. its air force is providing support to its allies on the ground. but civilians are caught in the middle. >> translator: this is a civilian area. isil is not here. you russian dogs. the whole world should see this. >> reporter: activists are reporting fighters as well as civilians are being killed and injured. tens of thousands of people live there. many displaced from fighting elsewhere in the country, and this corner of syria has been surrounded by the army for
years, the only road out leads to government-controlled territory. >> translator: people are afraid. people have started to leave the areas that are being hit, but they can't leave the countryside, because the road is blocked. people are afraid they will be arrested if they go to the government-controlled area. the syrian military says the same is to end the presence of white calls terrorists and restore security and stability, recapturing the homs countryside would help the government secure territory linking its seat of power in damascus to the coastal alawite heartland. >> translator: it's in center syria, and there are roads that lead across the country. it's important for the regime, because this is the capitol of the revolution, and we will fight until the end. >> reporter: the opposition is also under attack on other fronts, the northern countryside
and southern areas are battle grounds, and there are reports of a major ground operation being planned around the northern city of aleppo. the homs offensive is linked to a broader military campaign that began two weeks ago when russia started air strikes targeting the west of the country. the syrian government and its allies are on the offensive, and for now have stopped rebel advances in the area. this is one of the biggest military operations against the opposition in years. the immediate aim is to recapture territory and weaken the opposition. it's also about using force to bring about political concessions. zana hoda, al jazeera, beirut. al jazeera journalist, baher mohamed has been welcomed to the headquarters here in doha. [ applause ] >> he was pardoned in september
by egypt's president along with mohammed fahmy and peter greste. they were originally sentenced to between seven and ten years in prison on false charges. they spent over 400 days behind bars. other al jazeera journals sentenced in absentia were not pardoned. al jazeera denies all charges and continues to demand their sentences be overturned. >> thank you so much, but we need to continue. i hope one day we'll be able to celebrate the -- the freedom of every single journalist all over the world. we will continue. we will continue that because we are not only journalists, we are advocates of press freedom. >> still to come on the program, dozens of roadblocks and hundreds of soldiers on the streets, but there's still a lot of anxiety in israel, despite a crackdown. and myanmar's government agrees on a ceasefire deal with
♪ the top stories on al jazeera, u.s. president barack obama is set to announce he will slowdown the withdrawal of u.s. troops in afghanistan. syrian army has launched a long-planned offensive in northern homs province. the fighting is focused on two areas, they are both part of a rebel-held area, with a strategic highway that leads to
northern battle grounds. the german chancellor has urged e.u. countries to show sol solidarity. and asked for more support for turkey which is hosting merely 2 million syrian refugees. the u.s. secretary of state john kerry is planning to visit the middle easts soon to try to help calm tensions between israelis and palestinians. 32 palestinians and 7 israelis have been killed since the beginning of october. mike hanna reports. >> reporter: there's increasing tension in israel. in some cases hysteria, there were scenes of panic in a jerusalem mall overnight when the threat was perceived on an imminent attack. also on a train that was brought to an emergency stop. passengers believed an attack was about to occur.
but as the tension rises, so too does the extent of the security clampdown in occupied east jerusalem. traffic being funneled through check points. and also within this a note of grim humor. on social media there is a picture of a dark-complexed israeli, wearing a t-shirt that says relax, i'm a yemenite. it's only half funny, there have been a number of attacks on israelis, dismaking them for palestinians. this is just a touch of what is happening in both societies, and the day-to-day life has been utterly altered by the action of a few individuals armered with knives. >> nikolai is the united nations special coordinator for the
middle east. >> the situation remains quite tense on the ground. and our first priority is to find ways to de-escalate it. and both sides need to tone down their language in public statements in order to quiet people down and allow for a political process to move forward. secondly, i think it's very important that we see a consistent return to normality at the holy sites in jerusalem, that means the full observance of the status quo and the commitments made between israel and jordan last year. and thirdly, and lastly, i think it's very important to point the direction towards a political solution to this problem, because it is the result of desperation and loss of hope among many palestinians, and we need to show them the two-state solution is a reality that can be achieved and only through negotiations and peaceful
protests, perhaps, but not through violence. it is up to the leaders of both sides to show it is possible to move forward. there is no simple security solution. a security solution, security measures, increased military presence, whatever it is, will only be a temporary solution to this problem. the real result can only be achieved if the leaders and any international community move forward. the u.s. says a final push to retake ramadi is imnext. iraqi forces say they have been making significant advances to take back the city. ramadi is the capitol of the country's largest province of anbar. steve warren said the time for a counter offensive is right. >> we would like to see them move as rapidly as possible. believe that now, a combination of the recent successes that they have had, along with the increased air power and
increased isr that we have allocated to the ramadi fight, we believe that now is the time for a final push into ramadi. so we're continuing to encourage the iraqis, the iraqis are encouraged by their own success they have had here recently. and we're going to continue to watch. myanmar's government has signed a so-called nationwide ceasefire with rebel groups. however, less than half of the ethnic minority organizations have signed the deal. wayne haye reports. >> reporter: the deal which has been years in the making was finally signed at a ceremony in the capitol. it was one of the top priorities of the president when he took office four years ago, and 50 years of military rule came to an end. >> translator: today is a very important historic day for myanmar.
we have been able to launch a new road to a peaceful future. >> reporter: but it's a nationwide agreement in name only. eight armed ethnic groups signed the deal, but seven others didn't. they included the independence army. there has also been fighting correctly in other areas. the president says the door remains open for all groups to sign the agreement in the future so the suffering can end. >> translator: there have been armed conflicts in our country since we won independence. tens of thousands of troops from both sides have lost their lives. hundreds of thousands of people living in the conflict area have suffered immensely from the fighting. >> reporter: political talks will be focused around the desire for a federal system. there will also be talks on being monitors in conflict areas, and ultimately troop withdrawals. but given that a general election is due to be held on
november 8th, and so many groups are refusing to sign. >> after election, one thing we will see is can the constitution be amended? if the constitution can be amended, and proportional with myanmar autonomy and [ inaudible ] power so the ethnic armed groups who decided not to join in the ceasefire. >> reporter: but there is still much distrust. wayne haye, al jazeera, bangkok. the european union's human rights court has found it is not a crime to deny that the mass killing of armenians a hundred years ago was a genocide. the case dates back to 2007 when a swiss court found a turkish politician guilty of racial discrimination for saying the genocide was a law. the court rejecting the ruling
says it violates freedom of speech, but the swiss appealed and said it was one of the worst forms of racial discrimination. there are different views of how the mass killing of armenians should be described. more than 20 countries officially describe it as a genocide. mark ellis is the executive director of the international bar association, and he says the ruling is an opportunity for europe as a whole to encourage debate on the subject. >> i think the lower court -- i think probably got it right, simply by saying that the swiss parliament has gone too far in restricting the freedom of speech for the sake of kind of social cohesion. genocide says it is an intent to destroy in whole or part a group, such as a group like the armenians, but this is the trick to this. you have to show specific
intent. and that is very hard to show, because you are indicating that there has to be a coordinated plan; that the intention was solely to eliminate a group, in this case the armenians, and turkey has always denied that what occurred during this episode was genocide, because they deny that there was any specific intent to destroy this group. this is perhaps an opportunity for europe as a whole, but particularly through this court to say that there are going to be times when there are contested facts, there are contested interpretations of -- of -- of history, and you -- you must permit this debate. you must permit an opportunity to engage in this type of -- of assessment, that it's very difficult to legislate against ignorance, for instance. if somebody wants to deny the holocaust, if they want to deny
an armenian genocide, then this court is essentially saying, well, we have to permit the space for that individual to do that, we shouldn't criminalize that as such. certainly with the armennian genocide. >> the turkish media have named the two suspected suicide bombers been the killing of 99 people on saturday. one of the attackers is believed to be the bother of an isil-l k isil-linked attacker who attacked in july. oscar pistorius is set to be freed from prison next week. the 28 year old was con addicted of culpable homicide last year after fatally shooting his goifl. he is expected to be paroled on tuesday and placed under house
arrest. the nuclear agency says iran has supplied all of the information needed. the parliament and higher council have approved an international deal, limiting the country's nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief, but the u.n.'s nuclear watchdog must verify that iran is not developing weapons. school kids in the united states are helping flowers which were once common, but are now rare to bloom again. orchids are struggling to survive in the wild, botanists are trying to reintroduce them with help from schools in miami. >> reporter: at this school in miami, they are planting for the future. >> you are going to measure from where the root is coming out here, the base of where the leaf is doing out. >> reporter: this school and dozens of others across the city are taking part in a scheme to
reintroduce native orchids that were once common place. they aim to bring the blooms to miami's urban streets. >> we're losing habitat at an unpress sented rate, populations are growing, we need to find ways to be creative to maintain biodiversity. >> reporter: the million orchid project which is funded by donations and grants hopes to reestablish a healthy population of plants within five years. a single orchid can produce a million seeds, but if conditions aren't perfect, they die. some of the rarest species only flower once every five years. those behind this project know it's high risk with potentially high rewards. the orchids are grown by
volunteers, each seed is nursed to full maturity, and the man behind the program hopes it will restore the orchid population to its former glory. >> i would love for people to think of miami as an orchid city. >> reporter: orchids here and elsewhere have dwindled from cats -- low levels. >> just seeing new plants i helped grow, being in the street and just knowing you helped them. >> reporter: if all goes well, south florida's streets could soon be home to a healthy population of rare and delicate blooms. now for a new look at the most powerful storm in the solar system, and the largest planet.
jupit jupiter's distinctive giant red spot is continuing to shrink, and scientists aren't sure why. photos reveal the dramatic change. the spot is now half the size it was a hundred years ago. ♪ ♪ president obama plans to announce he is keeping more u.s. troops on the ground in afghanistan. a major policy reversal as the taliban presents new security threats. [ gunfire ] reports of a stepped up syrian offensive in homs. the government goes after rebels with the help of russian jets. and germany orders the recall of nearly 2.5 mill