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Today’s Headlines: The Afghanistan dilemma

Troops inside a hangar with an American flag
Troops gather at Bagram air base in Afghanistan to hear then-President Trump in November 2019.
(Olivier Douliery / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. military commanders say leaving Afghanistan soon under a Trump-era deal could spark chaos, but there are no easy options.

TOP STORIES

The Afghanistan Dilemma

Two senior U.S. commanders said fighting in Afghanistan will intensify sharply and Taliban militants could threaten major cities unless a Biden administration diplomatic push to end the 20-year conflict yields results in the next two months.

The tight time frame is driven by a May 1 deadline to withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as required under a deal with the Taliban that President Biden inherited from the Trump administration. Biden has not decided whether to proceed with the withdrawal, U.S. officials said.

The Afghan government was left out of the Trump agreement. So, without a broader diplomatic deal to restrain Taliban fighters, the Afghan government’s control over key population areas, including the capital city of Kabul, is likely to rapidly deteriorate, especially if the American pullout goes ahead, the Pentagon said.

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If there is no deal by May 1, Biden could decide to keep U.S. forces in place temporarily to give the peace talks more time or keep them there indefinitely. But that would probably prompt the Taliban to renew attacks on American troops — assaults that have mostly stopped since the U.S.-Taliban deal in February 2020, officials said.

More Politics

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged swift work by Congress on a jobs and infrastructure package that she said would be “fiscally sound,” but she acknowledged Republican backing is a question mark.

— Biden passed up an opportunity to join other Democrats calling for the resignation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is under investigation after multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

— Sen. Bernie Sanders, who once wrote a book titled “Outsider in the House,” has now become the consummate insider in the Senate.

Doug Emhoff, the Los Angeles lawyer now pioneering the role of “second gentleman,” will join Vice President Kamala Harris for a two-state trip this week.

Reopening Jitters

Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties have joined 10 others in moving to the less restrictive — red — reopening tier.

The 13 counties are home to 17.7 million Californians, meaning that by today, when L.A. County gives the green light, about 45% of the state’s population will be able to grab a bite to eat inside a restaurant, visit a museum or take a yoga class indoors.

But how quickly people are willing to do those things amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a fraught question. In San Bernardino and Orange counties, which on Sunday exited the most restrictive — purple — tier, some businesses reported a quick rebound. Other establishments said customers were slower to return.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Debate, angst and questions about reopening L.A. Unified campuses have continued after district officials reached a deal with the teachers union on how and when to bring students back.

— Millions of Californians with disabilities and underlying health conditions will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine today, but shortages of doses as well as uncertainties about verification and qualification pose potential barriers to access.

— To mark the first anniversary of the shutdown in Los Angeles, we asked readers to reflect on life in L.A., and how their relationship with the region changed — or stayed the same. Here’s what they told us.

A Grammys Night Like No Other

Despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and internal turmoil over sexism at the Recording Academy, the Grammys show went on.

Beyoncé earned her 28th Grammy, surpassing country-bluegrass artist Alison Krauss, making her the woman with the most all-time Grammy victories. That was far from the only big moment of the night for female artists: Billie Eilish won record of the year; Taylor Swift took home album of the year; and in a surprise, H.E.R. won for song of the year. (See all the victors with our complete list of winners and nominees.)

Because of the pandemic, parts of the red carpet and musical performances were recorded earlier, but they still grabbed attention in ways that recalled the before times: Fashion tended toward literal-and-figurative rock star looks, while Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B pushed boundaries with a steamy, live rendition of their hit collaboration “WAP.”

TV critic Lorraine Ali says the pandemic-forced scaling down of the show helped produce the “best telecast in modern memory.”

OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— A damning report rebuking the Los Angeles Police Department for missteps during last summer’s mass protests against police abuses is far from the last word on the department’s failures.

— A corporation wants to mine for gold near Death Valley. Environmental groups and tribal nations are fighting it.

— How a commune-like encampment in Echo Park became a flashpoint in L.A.’s homelessness crisis.

— The Syrian revolution: voices of 10 years of torment.

— Columnist Steve Lopez on our other pandemic — speeding cars and lost lives.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On March 13, 1961, the Greek freighter Dominator ran aground in the fog off the Palos Verdes Peninsula while carrying 9,000 tons of grain.

The U.S. Coast Guard and tugboats tried to refloat the 441-foot vessel, but heavy surf and high winds pushed it higher onto the submerged rocks. On March 16, the crew had to be rescued.

The wreckage would later prove deadly to curious skin divers. Not much of it is left, but some rusty remains are still visible.

A shipwreck next to a bluff
March 14, 1961: The Greek freighter Dominator sits grounded off the Rocky Point section of Palos Verdes Estates.
(Charles Crawford / Los Angeles Times )

CALIFORNIA

Catalytic converter thefts have always plagued car owners in big cities, but reports of such thefts have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic.

— L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino is entering the 2022 mayor’s race, saying he will use his background as a police officer to tackle the city’s urgent issues of homelessness and rising crime.

Uber has banned a passenger after a racist diatribe against a driver was reported at L.A. International Airport.

— A brief cold system is expected to move through Southern California today, bringing rain, snow and gusty winds.

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NATION-WORLD

Myanmar’s security forces have been conducting nighttime raids meant to frighten and quell a widespread opposition movement at a time of deepening international condemnation against post-coup military rule.

Female firefighters in the U.S. are filing lawsuits against their employers alleging they were subjected to demeaning behavior that helped end their careers.

— After being among the nations hit hardest by COVID-19, Chile now ranks near the top when it comes to vaccinating its population.

— In Brazil, rumors and conspiracy theories are swirling regarding the whereabouts of Zé Gotinha, the mascot for the nation’s vaccination program.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The Oscar nominations are being announced this morning. Follow along with our coverage here.

— In the summer of 2020, Disney promised change, and the first Black “Bachelor” lead was cast. But it’s stayed silent as the season unraveled amid controversy.

— “Hamilton” cookie portraits? See how healthcare workers have been making art to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“City of Ghosts” on Netflix is Elizabeth Ito’s rebuttal to the people who say they hate L.A. without really knowing anything about her beloved hometown.

BUSINESS

— California’s job losses were worse than expected this winter, according to recalculated state data.

— Stuck at home and videoconferencing, young people have become a prized new market for antiques and art to liven up their spaces.

SPORTS

— Loyola High senior Josh Morales is grateful he will get a chance to play football again after helping his parents survive a grueling battle with COVID-19.

Note: Sign up for Prep Rally, a new, free newsletter about high school sports written by Eric Sondheimer.

— March Madness: USC and UCLA have both made it into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— Most of the world has no COVID-19 vaccine. That’s a huge threat, writes global health expert Peter Hotez. This is the first installment of a new weekly op-ed column, Second Opinion, which “aims to engage cutting-edge debates about the unprecedented global challenges that our society faces,” as Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong explains.

— America is taking baby steps toward universal basic income, The Times’ editorial board writes. What can the trial runs tell us?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

New York’s vaccine czar called county officials to gauge their loyalty to Cuomo. (Washington Post)

— The St. Augustine High School Marching Band in New Orleans is playing on. (CBS News)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

What was that mystery boom in San Diego? It rattled windows and shook doors across a large swath of San Diego and Tijuana last week, jangling the nerves of residents who’d experienced a similar noisemaker last month, and one a year earlier. The theories abound.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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