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American Resistance To Empire

Massive Taliban Assault On Helmand Coinciding With Pakistan’s North Waziristan Offensive

[SEE:  Pak. Army Finally Kicking the Crap Out North Waziristan Militants–40,000 Troops Involved ; Thousand flee North Waziristan on last day of evacuation]

Afghan troops battle mass Taliban assault in Helmand

BBC

US Marines of 2nd Battalion 2 Marines of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade take positions in Helmand 25 November 2009 Helmand province has been the scene of fighting involving US and British troops

At least 100 Taliban militants have been killed in fighting around four military checkpoints in southern Afghanistan, local officials say.

Five days of clashes in Sangin district in Helmand province left 35 civilians and at least 21 Afghan troops dead.

Tribal elders in the area say over 2,000 families have been displaced.

Three US soldiers died just last week in an explosion in Helmand. Last month, British troops left their last outpost, withdrawing to the Camp Bastion base.

Sangin district in northern Helmand is regarded as a strategic area as drug dealers and Taliban insurgents have been active in the area, and they often work together, reports the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul. The district lies on the border with Pakistan.

There is no independent confirmation of the number of dead. The militants said on Tuesday that only two of their fighters had been killed and that more than 40 soldiers had died.

The Afghan military does not have its own air force and President Karzai has banned it from asking for Nato air power to be used in populated areas, our correspondent notes.

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Analysis: Bilal Sarwary, BBC News, Kabul

With no air support available, the fighting in Sangin is a litmus test for Afghan forces as Nato pulls out.

Insecurity has spread in Helmand since British and American forces pulled out of many districts and withdrew to small outposts. Many of the roads connecting the capital, Lashkar Gah, to outlying districts have been a no-go area for government officials, and roadside bombs have prevented ground reinforcements.

Afghan intelligence officials in the area say the insurgents launched the attack so that drug dealers could smuggle opium and heroin from the district towards the Iranian border. During my two visits earlier this year, local officials dubbed Helmand Afghanistan’s Falluja, referring to the Iraqi city under Sunni extremist control.

But it is the civilians who continue to bear the brunt of this conflict. More than 2,000 families have been forced to flee their homes and farms in Helmand.

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The Afghan government has sent additional troops to the area to support the military response, officials say.

“There was a major attack by the Taliban. We are reinforcing Afghan national security forces and have suffered no major loss of territory,” interior ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi told the AFP news agency.

Estimates by local Afghan officials of the total number of Taliban attackers vary from 800 to more than 1,000. Reports said heavily armed militants struck in a co-ordinated attack.

A local official in Helmand told the BBC that at one checkpoint police had fought hard – but with no reinforcements available immediately, the Taliban overran it.

Fighting has now extended from Sangin district into the neighbouring areas of Kajaki, Musa Qala and Nowzad.

Royal Marines from 45 Command stop and search a man while on patrol in the Sangin district of Afghanistan 24 January 2009 Britain’s troop presence in Helmand is due to end within months

“At least 21 Afghan forces have been killed and more than 40 wounded during five days of clashes in four districts,” Said Omar Zwak, the spokesperson for the Helmand governor told the BBC.

Off the record officials say the insurgents have killed 35 Afghan soldiers and nearly twice that number of police.

Some of those civilians who fled the fighting walked long distances to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Displaced people are reported to be sleeping in the open, amidst reports of a shortage of food and water in the city.

A tribal elder in Sangin told the BBC’s Mamoon Durrani in Kandahar that locals faced fuel shortages and that prices had risen tenfold.

“If the government can’t do anything, then they have to give us weapons to defend our villages and families,” Haji Akhtar Mohammad said.

Last week three US soldiers and a military dog were killed in an improvised explosive device attack in the Nad Ali district of Helmand.

In a matter of months UK forces will withdraw from Helmand completely, closing their main base at Camp Bastion.

Free Syrian Army Fires Its Leadership As Obama Tries To Send Them $500 Million

[SEE:  Obama Seeks $500M to Arm Select Syrian Rebels]

Syria opposition sacks rebel command over corruption

daily star LEB


Free Syrian Army fighters react to the camera as they ride in a vehicle mounted with a weapon in the Hama countryside May 22, 2014. (REUTERS/Nour Fourat)

BEIRUT: Syria’s opposition government sacked the military command of the rebel Free Syrian Army late Thursday over corruption allegations, as the White House asked lawmakers for $500 million for moderate insurgents.

A statement by the opposition government said that its chief Ahmad Tohme “decided to disband the Supreme Military Council and refer its members to the government’s financial and administration committee for investigation.”

The decision came amid widespread reports of corruption within the ranks of the FSA, which is backed by Western and Arab governments in its battle to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The government in exile said that it was also sacking FSA chief of staff Brig. Gen. Abdel-Ilah Bashir.

It called on “revolutionary forces on the ground” to set up within a month a new defense council and to fully restructure the rebel army’s command.

The announcement on Facebook came as US President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $500 million to train and equip “the moderate Syrian opposition.”

The request coincides with growing unrest in Syria’s neighbor Iraq where Sunni militants led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are battling the government.

ISIS, which aspires to create an Islamic state that straddles Iraq and Syria, has spearheaded the lightning jihadist offensive that has already captured swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad.

ISIS reportedly bolstered Thursday its presence in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal on the border with Iraq, a day after Al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, Nusra Front, pledged loyalty to the group there giving it control over both sides of the frontier.

ISIS and other Islamists fighters in Syria are better armed and financed than the FSA, which has been pleading for greater support from the international community.

Since the Syria conflict erupted three years ago, the United States has provided “non-lethal” support to the moderate opposition trying to oust Assad.

Earlier this month National Security Advisor Susan Rice acknowledged that the Pentagon was also delivering “lethal” support.

About $287 million in mainly non-lethal support has been cleared for the rebels since March 2011, and the CIA has participated in a covert military training program in neighboring Jordan for the moderate opposition.

Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova Seal Their Fates, Signing-On To EU

EU signs pacts with ex-USSR states

BBC

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Council President Herman van Rompuy - 27 June Mr Poroshenko (C) said the pact was a “symbol of faith and unbreakable will”

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed partnership agreements with the European Union, in a move strongly opposed by Russia.

The pact – which would bind the three countries more closely to the West both economically and politically – is at the heart of the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia said that while the signing of the deal was the right of any state there could be grave consequences.

A ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine is due to end on Friday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the signing as Ukraine’s most historic day since independence in 1991, describing it as a “symbol of faith and unbreakable will”.

Mr Poroshenko also said he saw the signing as the start of preparations for joining the bloc.

“Ukraine is underlining its sovereign choice in favour of membership of the EU,” he said.

Meanwhile European Council President Herman van Rompuy described it as a “great day for Europe”.

Ukrainian president signs partnership deal - 27 June Mr Poroshenko used a pen stamped with the date November 2013, when the deal was originally meant to be signed

“The EU stands by your side, today more than ever before,” he told leaders of the three countries, adding that there was nothing in the agreements that might harm Russia in any way.

‘Nazi’ jibe

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Interfax news agency that the move was fraught with difficulties.

“The signing of this serious document is, certainly, a sovereign right of each state,” he said.

“[But] the consequences of the signing by Ukraine and Moldova no doubt, will be serious.”

Earlier senior Kremlin adviser Sergei Glazyev described Mr Poroshenko as a “Nazi” and said his presidency was illegitimate because parts of Ukraine did not vote in the May elections.

He also said that Mr Poroshenko had no constitutional right to sign the treaty, which would damage the Ukrainian economy.

However, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian media that Mr Glazyev’s comments did not reflect the official Kremlin position.

Mr Poroshenko’s predecessor Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the deal under pressure from Russia and protests led to his overthrow.

After this Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and pro-Russia separatists in eastern regions declared independence, claiming that extremists had taken power in Kiev.

Fighting is said to have continued in some areas of eastern Ukraine despite a temporary ceasefire this week.

Talks on extending the truce in in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are also set to take place on Friday.

In another development, rebels released four international observers captured more than a month ago.

Alexander Borodai, head of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, said the members of the Vienna-based Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been freed as a goodwill gesture.

More than 420 people have been killed in fighting between pro-Russia rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, the UN estimates.

Divergent visions could split Iraq’s revolt

Divergent visions could split Iraq’s revolt

daily star LEB

BAGHDAD/DUBAI: The militants dismantling Iraq’s borders and threatening regional war are far from united – theirs is a marriage of convenience between extreme religious zealots and more pragmatic Sunni armed groups.

For now, they share a common enemy in Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Iraq’s Sunni minority accuses of marginalizing and harassing them.

The question looms over who will triumph: The Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which aims to carve out a modern-day caliphate, or myriad Iraqi Sunni armed factions, who fight based on a nexus of tribal, family, military and religious ties, and nostalgia for the past before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Many experts and Western officials believe ISIS, due to its internal cohesion and access to high-powered weapons and stolen cash, will overpower its Sunni rivals.

They point to the lessons of Syria’s 3-year-old civil war, where a unified ISIS leadership entrenched itself as the force to be reckoned with in eastern Syria. They warn that even the Sunni revolt against Al-Qaeda during the last decade in Iraq would not have succeeded without the decisive punch of American firepower.

Cracks are already showing in the loose alliance in Iraq, suggesting the natural frictions will inevitably grow.

In the town of Hawija, ISIS and members of the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, which includes former Iraqi army officers and is rooted in the ousted Baath Party, fought turf battles from Friday to Sunday when ISIS demanded a pledge of loyalty from its rivals, according to locals. At least 15 people were killed before the clashes ended in stalemate.

Such confrontations could become the new reality without a swift political resolution to the crisis that began two weeks ago when ISIS stormed Mosul, seizing it in hours and then dashed across northern Iraq grabbing large swaths of land.

According to a high-level Iraqi security official, ISIS has about 2,300 fighters, including foreigners, who have led the speedy assault from Mosul through other northern towns, including Hawija, west of oil-rich Kirkuk; Baiji, home of Iraq’s biggest refinery; and Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Tikrit.

The high-level official said that as ISIS has raced on from Mosul, other Iraqi Sunni groups have seized much of the newly gained rural territory because ISIS is short on manpower.

The different groups appear to be following ISIS’ lead in the bigger communities it has captured such as Tikrit and Baiji. But as the new order settles, the security officer predicted: “They will soon be fighting each other.”

Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi security expert with good contacts in Gulf Arab governments, also expects friction to grow. “How long can this honeymoon last?” he asked. “ISIS is not acceptable among the people, either socially or politically.”

If the alliance does fracture, battles could drag Sunni regions of Iraq into a state of permanent internecine war.

A Sunni politician sketched out the future.

“[ISIS] will take a stand in favor of [its] Islamic law, and the people of the region will refuse because they will want to protect their rights,” said Dr. Muhannad Hussam, a politician with the nationalist Arabiya list. “I am afraid for the Sunni areas. They will be burned. No one will win.”

He said that other insurgent groups, even if unable to defeat ISIS, would eventually adopt guerrilla tactics and still be able to hurt ISIS, regardless of the jihadists’ superior arms. “They can fight as gangs, not as a military.”

“They are tied to the land, and ISIS is not. ISIS can’t fight an enemy from all sides.”

For now, the front rests on two strong pillars: the groups’ common membership of the Sunni minority and a conviction that Sunnis have been marginalized and persecuted by Maliki.

Both factors have helped ISIS win the cooperation if not the hearts of war-weary Sunni communities. Many of ISIS’ current partners initially collaborated with its parent organization Al-Qaeda before revolting between 2006 and 2008, disgusted by its extremists’ agenda.

Then, when they rebelled against Al-Qaeda, they were bolstered by U.S. firepower, winning promises of reconciliation with Maliki, who then failed to deliver on those pledges and oversaw a crackdown in the face of militant threats.

As violence has exploded in the last two years, ISIS has seized on such communal grievances.

ISIS has multiple internal strengths – ruthlessness, self-funded wealth estimated in the tens of millions of dollars from sophisticated extortion rackets, kidnap ransoms, smuggling of oil and other goods, diplomats and counterterrorism experts say, and eye-catching social media skills.

It also has open lines of communication to support bases in Syria. Its bastion in the town of Raqqa gives it proximity to Turkey, a conduit for foreign recruits, as well as access to oil reserves, which it sells. They have tapped similar markets in Iraq.

Its achievement in dismantling much of the border drawn by European colonialists nearly a century ago is a source of prestige in the transnational community of Islamist sympathizers that provides a steady flow of foreign recruits.

And yet, although seemingly self-sufficient in material terms, ISIS recently has consciously teamed with other Iraqi factions – by partnering with them, or by choosing not to hunt them down over past grudges or eliminate alternative voices.

These militias include the Islamic Army, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Mujahedeen Army, the Rashidin Army and Ansar al-Sunna, and bring together Islamists, military veterans, tribal figures and professionals, marginalized after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Another leading group is the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, a Baathist offshoot created by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former lieutenant of Saddam’s.

ISIS coexisted with such factions first in the vast desert areas west of Baghdad, where tribes rose up in late December, and then in the sudden advance this month in the north.

The Sunni revolt against Maliki in the desert cities of Fallujah and Ramadi since early this year allowed ISIS to enter urban areas and seize ground.

In Mosul, ISIS has mostly tolerated the different factions. Its members brag they are converting their fellow fighters. “Other groups are pledging loyalty,” one pro-ISIS fighter claimed.

An Islamic Army member said the equation was simple: “The people of Mosul are fed up with the oppression of Maliki’s forces.”

In Tikrit and Baiji, where militants are laying siege to Iraq’s biggest refinery, a similar dynamic is in play. ISIS has the best arms, while tribal fighters, including members of the Islamic Army and Mujahedeen Army, are bolstering ISIS’ numbers in the offensive on the Baiji refinery, a second Iraqi security official said.

Anna Boyd, an expert on Al-Qaeda at IHS risk consultancy, said that ISIS’ decision to partner with other groups over the past year suggests its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is conscious of the pitfalls of factionalism.

Aware of its fractious reputation, ISIS in Syria has attempted “soft power” initiatives – aid provision and community activities – to present a more acceptable face, but its brutality has largely left a legacy of violent clashes with Islamist and mainstream Syrian rebel groups.

Now, in Iraq, Baghdadi’s solution may be to keep raising the levels of violence against Shiites to goad Iran to intervene and compel other Sunni factions to cling with him.

Such a development would attract more recruits from Gulf states, where ISIS’ gory video messages are believed to have an attentive audience on Twitter. “The risk is that, despite its tendency to feud with other Sunni groups, its military gains … are such that they will inspire support for [ISIS] beyond Iraq and Syria,” Boyd said.

ISIS is careful to keep an upper hand with its Sunni peers.

Upon the capture Sunday of the town Al-Alam, just outside Tikrit, an ISIS leader touring the area was asked why the group had bothered to seize the Sunni community.

He explained the town fell in a broader strategic region, where other armed factions also held sway, and ISIS needed to impose some cohesion.

Pak. Army Finally Kicking the Crap Out North Waziristan Militants–40,000 Troops Involved

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army for the first time announced that the Haqqani network in North Waziristan is also a target of the current military operation.

“For the military, there will be no discrimination among Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) groups or Haqqani network, all terror groups are going to be eliminated,” DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa told a briefing at GHQ.

He said so far 327 terrorists and 10 security personnel have been killed.

The DG ISPR confirmed the presence of a large number of Uzbeks and other foreign militants in North Waziristan, saying that they will all be wiped out.

“The Pakistan Army has requested the Afghan military to take action against terrorist hideouts in Kunar and Nooristan, but so far there has been no action taken,” General Bajwa said.

The chief military spokesman said it is solely a Pakistan Army operation and not a joint Pak-US military offensive, adding that Pakistani security forces are capable of doing such an operation.

“North Waziristan has become a hub of terror and suicide attacks in the country because planning of such attacks was taking place here,” Bajwa remarked.

He dispelled the impression that the operation was launched without political approval and said, “The operation was launched after a decision was made at the political level.”

On Wednesday Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said security forces were conducting the operation against militants without discrimination.


Also read: Thousands flee North Waziristan region on last day of evacuation



North Waziristan ground operation kicks off


Ground troops were moved in to Miramshah Bazaar on Thursday as tanks and artillery continued to pound militant hideouts in and around the bazaar.

Sources said that after weakening the targets with air assaults, security forces were now moving into the built area and clearing hideouts. The officials said that security forces were also consolidating the positions in and around Miramshah Bazaar.

The official sources also said that the ground offensive in Miramshah has started at 6 am and would continue.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) is yet to issue an official confirmation of casualties in the operation.

The military operation named ‘Zarb-i-Azb’ was initiated in the North Waziristan region in June. At least 430,000 people have fled the region into nearby areas of Pakistan as well as neighbouring Afghanistan, the biggest movement of refugees in Pakistan in years.


Examine: All-out military operation launched in North Waziristan


Security officials had claimed that over 200 local and foreign militants had been killed in the aerial bombings.

Earlier a ground assault was delayed due to the issues that cropped up during evacuation of internally displaced people (IDPs).


Operation Zarb-i-Azb: Interactive map


Latest: Ground offensive kicks off as troops move into Miramshah.


Miram Shah3

Interactive map produced by: Sana Malik | Mahnoor Bari | Gulzar Nayani

Data gathered from ISPR and Dawn