Fatah: Dahlan Involved in Poisoning Arafat, Planning a Coup

Fatah: Dahlan Involved in Poisoning Arafat, Planning a Coup

Fatah has accused ousted party strongman Muhammad Dahlan of “having a hand” in poisoning late President Yasser Arafat, Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language news site reported Saturday.

Arafat died in a Paris hospital in November 2004. The exact cause of his death remains a mystery, but popular belief among Palestinians holds that he was poisoned.

According to Al-Jazeera, Fatah’s commission of inquiry also found that Dahlan was linked to assassination attempts on other Palestinian leaders and that he had planned a coup in the West Bank.

Senior Fatah leaders Azzam Al-Ahmad, At-Tayyib Abdul-Rahim, Othman Abu Gharbiyya and Nabil Shaath submitted the findings of the inquiry, according to the news site.

Palestinian ambassadors were urged to avoid dealing with Dahlan and Interpol was asked to help arrest the former strongman, the report said.

Palestinian Authority sources told the news site that the West Bank government had come under international and regional pressure not to pursue Dahlan.

After historic downgrade, U.S. must address its chronic debt problems

After historic downgrade, U.S. must address its chronic debt problems

English.news.cn

BEIJING, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) — The days when the debt-ridden Uncle Sam could leisurely squander unlimited overseas borrowing appeared to be numbered as its triple A-credit rating was slashed by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) for the first time on Friday.

Though the U.S. Treasury promptly challenged the unprecedented downgrade, many outside the United States believe the credit rating cut is an overdue bill that America has to pay for its own debt addition and the short-sighted political wrangling in Washington.

Dagong Global, a fledgling Chinese rating agency, degraded the U.S. treasury bonds late last year, yet its move was met then with a sense of arrogance and cynicism from some Western commentators. Now S&P has proved what its Chinese counterpart has done is nothing but telling the global investors the ugly truth.

China, the largest creditor of the world’s sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets.

To cure its addiction to debts, the United States has to reestablish the common sense principle that one should live within its means.

S&P has already indicated that more credit downgrades may still follow. Thus, if no substantial cuts were made to the U.S. gigantic military expenditure and bloated social welfare costs, the downgrade would prove to be only a prelude to more devastating credit rating cuts, which will further roil the global financial markets all along the way.

Moreover, the spluttering world economic recovery would be very likely to be undermined and fresh rounds of financial turmoil could come back to haunt us all.

The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone.

It should also stop its old practice of letting its domestic electoral politics take the global economy hostage and rely on the deep pockets of major surplus countries to make up for its perennial deficits.

A little self-discipline would not be too uncomfortable for the United States, the world’s largest economy and issuer of international reserve currency, to bear.

Though chances for a full-blown U.S. default are still slim now, the S&P downgrade serves as another warning shot about the long-term sustainability of the U.S. government finances.

International supervision over the issue of U.S. dollars should be introduced and a new, stable and secured global reserve currency may also be an option to avert a catastrophe caused by any single country.

For centuries, it was the exuberant energy and innovation that has sustained America’s role in the world and maintained investors’ confidence in dollar assets. But now, mounting debts and ridiculous political wrestling in Washington have damaged America’s image abroad.

All Americans, both beltway politicians and those on Main Street, have to do some serious soul-searching to bring their country back from a potential financial abyss.

Editor: Yamei Wang

A secret war in 120 countries

A secret war in 120 countries

Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you’re done … for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the United States military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed, until now.

After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head while storming his compound in Pakistan, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the American military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it’s well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.
Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the George W Bush presidency. By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling – a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence – in about 60pc of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged – provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.
THE RISE OF THE MILITARY’S SECRET MILITARY
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight US service members died, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate.
Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the army’s “Green Berets” and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialised helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialised and secret missions.
These include assassinations, counter-terrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.
One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes American citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal “kill/capture” campaign that John Nagl, a past counter-insurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director David Petraeus, calls “an almost industrial-scale counter-terrorism killing machine”.
This assassination programme has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.
GROWTH INDUSTRY
From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command.
Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM’s baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3 billion to $6.3 billion. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8 billion in these years. Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.
Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, the former head of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command – the last of the service branches to be incorporated into SOCOM in 2006 – indicated, for instance, that he foresees a doubling of his former unit of 2,600. “I see them as a force someday of about 5,000, like equivalent to the number of SEALs that we have on the battlefield. Between [5,000] and 6,000,” he said at a June breakfast with defence reporters in Washington. Long-term plans already call for the force to increase by 1,000.
During his recent senate confirmation hearings, Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, the incoming SOCOM chief and outgoing head of JSOC (which he commanded during the bin Laden raid) endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3pc to 5pc a year, while also making a pitch for even more resources, including additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities.
A former SEAL who still sometimes accompanies troops into the field, McRaven expressed a belief that, as conventional forces are drawn down in Afghanistan, special ops troops will take on an ever greater role. Iraq, he added, would benefit if elite US forces continued to conduct missions there past the December 2011 deadline for a total American troop withdrawal. He also assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that “as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard at Yemen and at Somalia”.
During a speech at the National Defence Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, the outgoing chief of Special Operations Command, pointed to a composite satellite image of the world at night. Before 9/11, the lit portions of the planet – mostly the industrialised nations of the global north – were considered the key areas. “But the world changed over the last decade,” he said. “Our strategic focus has shifted largely to the south … certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren’t.”
To that end, Olson launched “Project Lawrence”, an effort to increase cultural proficiencies – like advanced language training and better knowledge of local history and customs – for overseas operations. The programme is named after the British officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence (better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”), who teamed up with Arab fighters to wage a guerrilla war in the Middle East during World War I. Mentioning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali and Indonesia, Olson added that SOCOM now needed “Lawrences of Wherever”.
While Olson made reference to only 51 countries of top concern to SOCOM, Nye told me that on any given day, Special Operations forces are deployed in approximately 70 nations around the world. All of them, he hastened to add, at the request of the host government.
According to testimony by Olson before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, approximately 85pc of special operations troops deployed overseas are in 20 countries in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The others are scattered across the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, some in small numbers, others as larger contingents.
Special Operations Command won’t disclose exactly which countries its forces operate in. “We’re obviously going to have some places where it’s not advantageous for us to list where we’re at,” says Nye. “Not all host nations want it known, for whatever reasons they have – it may be internal, it may be regional.”
But it’s no secret (or at least a poorly kept one) that so-called black special operations troops, like the SEALs and Delta Force, are conducting kill/capture missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, while “white” forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous partners as part of a worldwide secret war against Al-Qaeda and other militant groups.
In the Philippines, for instance, the US spends $50 million a year on a 600-person contingent of Army Special Operations forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and others that carries out counterterrorist operations with Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.
Last year, as an analysis of SOCOM documents, open-source Pentagon information, and a database of Special Operations missions compiled by investigative journalist Tara McKelvey (for the Medill School of Journalism’s National Security Journalism Initiative) reveals, America’s most elite troops carried out joint-training exercises in Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Germany, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Panama, and Poland.
So far in 2011, similar training missions have been conducted in the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Romania, Senegal, South Korea, and Thailand, among other nations. In reality, Nye told me, training actually went on in almost every nation where Special Operations forces are deployed. “Of the 120 countries we visit by the end of the year, I would say the vast majority are training exercises in one fashion or another. They would be classified as training exercises.”
THE PENTAGON’S
POWER ELITE
Once the neglected stepchildren of the military establishment, Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorised to create its own Joint Task Forces – like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines – a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.
With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defence Department budget, and influential advocates in congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon.
With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research like electronically beaming messages into people’s heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM’s prime contracts awarded to small businesses – those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons – have jumped six-fold.
Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, but operating out of theatre commands spread out around the globe, including Hawaii, Germany and South Korea, and active in the majority of countries on the planet, Special Operations Command is now a force unto itself.
As outgoing SOCOM chief Olson put it earlier this year, SOCOM “is a microcosm of the Department of Defence, with ground, air, and maritime components, a global presence, and authorities and responsibilities that mirror the Military Departments, Military Services, and Defence Agencies”.
Tasked to coordinate all Pentagon planning against global terrorism networks and, as a result, closely connected to other government agencies, foreign militaries, and intelligence services, and armed with a vast inventory of stealthy helicopters, manned fixed-wing aircraft, heavily-armed drones, high-tech guns-a-go-go speedboats, specialised Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, as well as other state-of-the-art gear (with more on the way), SOCOM represents something new in the military.
Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army”, today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive’s private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.
In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman image at home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from Admiral Olson: “I am convinced that the forces … are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer.”
Recently at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, Olson offered up similarly gilded comments and some misleading information, too, claiming that US Special Operations forces were operating in just 65 countries and engaged in combat in only two of them. When asked about drone strikes in Pakistan, he reportedly replied, “Are you talking about unattributed explosions?”
What he did let slip, however, was telling. He noted, for instance, that black operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, he said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasised, US Special Operations forces were approximately as large as Canada’s entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where America’s elite troops now operate each year, and it’s only set to grow larger.
Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a “special” force this large, this active, and this secret – and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won’t be coming from Olson or his troops. “Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it,” he said in response to questions about SOCOM’s secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object.
The military’s secret military, said Olson, wants “to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do.”
Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).
–Asia Times Online

 

Most of Those Killed in Helicopter Crash Were “Night Raiders” from Navy SEAL Team 6.


25 Navy SEALs Dead In Afghan Chopper Crash

CBS/AP
A helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak province has killed 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan soldiers, the country’s president said on Saturday. It was the highest number of casualties recorded in a single incident in the decade-long war.

A helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak province has killed 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan soldiers, the country’s president said on Saturday. It was the highest number of casualties recorded in a single incident in the decade-long war.

The majority of those killed in helicopter crash were from Navy SEAL Team 6.

Another source says the team was thought to include 22 SEALs, three Air Force air controllers, seven Afghan Army troops, a dog and his handler, and a civilian interpreter, plus the helicopter crew.

U.S. officials tell The Associated Press that they believe that none of the Navy SEALs who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan had participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, although they were from the same unit that carried out the bin Laden mission.

The sources thought this was the largest single loss of life ever for SEAL Team Six, known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

President Obama offered condolences to the dead. “Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan,” said Obama in a statement. “We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied. We also mourn the Afghans who died alongside our troops in pursuit of a more peaceful and hopeful future for their country.”

President Hamid Karzai sent his condolences to President Obama, according to a statement issued by his office.

“A NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province,” Karzai said in the statement, adding that 31 American special operations troops were killed. “President Karzai expressed his deep condolences because of this incident and expressed his sympathy to Barack Obama.”

NATO confirmed the overnight crash and said the alliance was conducting a recovery operation at the site and investigating the cause of the crash, but did not release details or a casualty figure. The coalition said there “was enemy activity in the area.”

“We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. “We are in the process of accessing the facts.”

CBS News correspondent Charles D’Agata said on “The Early Show on Saturday Morning” that, “Nighttime strikes are one of the most successful ways U.S. forces have to battle Taliban hideouts, but they’re also one of the riskiest.”

A spokesman for Wardak province, Shahidullah Shahid, said the helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.

The provincial governor spokesman spokesman told CBS News that the joint operation targeting a suspected Taliban compound started shortly after midnight and the Chinook which was ferrying U.S. and Afghan special forces was hit and crashed in to the valley. The spokesman could not give any firm number of casualties as the area has been sealed off by U.S. forces but said that there have been large number of casualties.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed the downed aircraft was a U.S. military helicopter and that the Taliban fighters had brought it down with a rocket attack.

In a written statement released Saturday, Mujahid said that NATO attacked a house in Sayd Abad where insurgent fighters were gathering Friday night.

Mujahid said the Taliban fired on NATO and downed the helicopter, killing all the crew. He said eight insurgents also died.

The New York Times cites a military official who requested anonymity as saying the helicopter was shot down by insurgents using a rocket-propelled grenade.

In June 2005, 16 American troops were killed when a U.S. helicopter crashed in eastern Kunar province after apparently being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, an official said it was a twin-rotor Chinook helicopter. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was receiving his information from an Afghan officer in Kabul.

Tajikistan Opting-Out of NATO Steppe Eagle War Games

Avaz Yuldoshev

DUSHANBE, August 4, 2011, Asia-Plus  — Tajikistan will not participate in an annual international peacekeeping exercise, dubbed “Steppe Eagle,” in Kazakhstan this year, Faridoun Mahmadaliyev, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan, told Asia-Plus Thursday afternoon.

According to him, an operational group of the Ministry of Defense was supposed to join Kazakh, Kyrgyz, US, British, and Lithuanian servicemen for the ninth annual “Steppe Eagle” peacekeeping exercise.  “But since soldiers and officers of the Tajik national army will be involved in celebrations dedicated to mark the 20th anniversary of Tajikistan’s Independence we will not be able to send the operational group to Kazakhstan,” the spokesman stressed.

He added that Tajikistan is sure to participate in the Steppe Eagle exercise next year.

The purpose of the exercise that is scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan this month is reportedly to rehearse coordination and interaction in carrying out demining operations and peacekeeping missions as well as in discovering and neutralizing illegal armed gangs.

In the meantime, according to information posted on Kazakh Defense Ministry’s website, the first preparatory phase of the special tactical peacekeeping exercise “Steppe Eagle – 2011″, which will open on August 8, began at the “Iliskiy” training center on August 1.

Launched in 2003, the annual “Steppe Eagle” program reportedly aims to promote coordination between Kazakh troops and NATO peacekeepers in carrying out peacekeeping missions as well as to raise practical skills of commanders on management of subunits and organize interaction between them in carrying out peacekeeping missions.