ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

3 Car Bombs Hit Damascus—45 Dead

Upgrade the 45 martyrs and wounding 40 people as a result of three terrorist bombings in the town of Sayeda Zeinab in Rural Damascus

Sana

02

Damascus, (SANA)

A source at the Interior Ministry upgrade the 45 martyrs and 40 injured, some in serious condition as a result of three terrorist bombings at the locality of elbow Sudan in the town of Sayeda Zeinab in Rural Damascus.

The source told SANA correspondent that the infidels terrorists detonated a car bomb at a passenger buses in the parking elbow Sudan area in the town of Sayeda Zeinab, followed by suicide bombers blow themselves up with explosives Bhzaman when citizens gathered to rescue the wounded.

The source indicated that the bombings caused to ascend the 45 martyrs and 40 injured, some in serious condition and the occurrence of significant material damage in place.

The government condemned the bombings: cowardly acts aimed to raise the morale of the defeated terrorists before military victories

Cabinet condemned the terrorist bombings that occurred in the Sayeda Zeinab district of Damascus countryside, which led to the martyrdom and wounding a number of innocent citizens.

In a statement to SANA he received a copy of Dr. Wael annular Prime Minister stressed that “the aim of this cowardly and desperate terrorist acts to raise the morale of terrorist organizations Midhorh and defeated thanks to major victories achieved by our military valiant in all regions and that led to the collapse of these organizations and defeated.”

The new annular “confirming that these terrorist acts will not deter malevolent Syrian people to continue the process of national reconciliation in the growing areas, particularly in Damascus and the fight against terrorism and the liberation of every inch of the Syrian land.”

He held the ring of countries supporting terrorism responsible for these cowardly acts and flagrant stressing the importance of having a real international will to fight terrorism and to put pressure on states that support it to stop these terrorist acts that pose a threat to global stability.

NATO Pushing the Idea of An ISIS “Navy”…, Next, An ISIS NASA

Islamic State Group to Create Naval Force, Says NATO Commander

telesur
The Islamic State group has taken advantage of the chaos left behind by the U.S. in Libya.
The Islamic State group has taken advantage of the chaos left behind by the U.S. in Libya. | Photo: AFP

 

The NATO official said the Islamic State group wants a powerful navy to carry out “terror” attacks in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Islamic State group’s annihilation is further away than the U.S. and their allies have attempted to make global public opinion believe, which is confirmed by a NATO statement that the militants are planning to create a naval force to carry out attacks on commercial and cruise ships in the Mediterranean.

“We know they (Islamic State group leaders) have had ambitions to go offshore, we know they would like to have a maritime arm, just as al-Qaida had a maritime arm,” warned chief of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, according to The Telegraph.

​The NATO commander said the extremist group would be using highly sophisticated sea-based weapons to “carry out terror attacks in the Mediterranean.”

Johnstone said the increased presence and influence of Islamic State group in the Mediterranean reveals their objective of creating their naval force, which would endanger civilians traveling at sea.

“NATO must not think the Mediterranean is just about immigration,” he added. “It is the spread along the North African seaboard, it is the Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] entry into Libya, it is the Daesh control of Sirte and other places, which has an uncomfortable shadow over maritime trade and maritime access.”

Although the NATO official did not provide conclusive evidence to back his claims, he mentioned that “really quite capable Korean, Chinese and Russian hardware” is being acquired through various means by various extremist groups in the region, including the Islamic State group.

Libya’s collapse into chaos and the Islamic State group’s takeover of the port city of Sirte has caused great alarm in Europe, with countries including Britain and Italy considering sending thousands of troops to train local forces, The Telegraph said.

​Johnstone concluded predicting that an attack by the Islamic State group in the Mediterranean “won’t be a planned, horrible mischievous act, I think it will be an act which is almost a mistake, or it will be an act of random terrorism that will suddenly have extraordinary implications for the Western world.”

WHY THEY HATE US—“I Helped Create ISIS”

I Helped Create ISIS

telesur
By: Vincent Emanuele

Many have begun to refer to the Islamic State group as Daesh.
Many have begun to refer to the Islamic State group as Daesh. | Photo: andaluciainformacion.es

After 14 years of War on Terror the West is great at fomenting barbarism and creating failed states.

For the last several years, people around the world have asked, “Where did ISIS come from?” Explanations vary, but largely focus on geopolitical (U.S. hegemony), religious (Sunni-Shia), ideological (Wahhabism) or ecological (climate refugees) origins. Many commentators and even former military officials correctly suggest that the war in Iraq is primarily responsible for unleashing the forces we now know as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, etc. Here, hopefully I can add some useful reflections and anecdotes.

Mesopotamian Nightmares

When I was stationed in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 2003-2005, I didn’t know what the repercussions of the war would be, but I knew there would be a reckoning. That retribution, otherwise known as blowback, is currently being experienced around the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, France, Tunisia, California, and so on), with no end in sight.

Back then, I routinely saw and participated in obscenities. Of course, the wickedness of the war was never properly recognized in the West. Without question, antiwar organizations attempted to articulate the horrors of the war in Iraq, but the mainstream media, academia and political-corporate forces in the West never allowed for a serious examination of the greatest war crime of the 21st century.

As we patrolled the vast region of Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province, throwing MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) trash out of our vehicles, I never contemplated how we would be remembered in history books; I simply wanted to make some extra room in my HUMVEE. Years later, sitting in a Western Civilization history course at university, listening to my professor talk about the cradle of civilization, I thought of MRE garbage on the floor of the Mesopotamian desert.

Examining recent events in Syria and Iraq, I can’t help but think of the small kids my fellow marines would pelt with Skittles from those MRE packages. Candies weren’t the only objects thrown at the children: water bottles filled with urine, rocks, debris, and various other items were thrown as well. I often wonder how many members of ISIS and various other terrorist organizations recall such events?

Moreover, I think about the hundreds of prisoners we took captive and tortured in makeshift detention facilities staffed by teenagers from Tennessee, New York and Oregon. I never had the misfortune of working in the detention facility, but I remember the stories. I vividly remember the marines telling me about punching, slapping, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and head-butting Iraqis. I remember the tales of sexual torture: forcing Iraqi men to perform sexual acts on each other while marines held knives against their testicles, sometimes sodomizing them with batons.

However, before those abominations could take place, those of us in infantry units had the pleasure of rounding up Iraqis during night raids, zip-tying their hands, black-bagging their heads and throwing them in the back of HUMVEEs and trucks while their wives and kids collapsed to their knees and wailed. Sometimes, we would pick them up during the day. Most of the time they wouldn’t resist. Some of them would hold hands while marines would butt-stroke the prisoners in the face. Once they arrived at the detention facility, they would be held for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Their families were never notified. And when they were released, we would drive them from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the middle of the desert and release them several miles from their homes.

After we cut their zip-ties and took the black bags off their heads, several of our more deranged marines would fire rounds from their AR-15s into their air or ground, scaring the recently released captives. Always for laughs. Most Iraqis would run, still crying from their long ordeal at the detention facility, hoping some level of freedom awaited them on the outside. Who knows how long they survived. After all, no one cared. We do know of one former U.S. prisoner who survived: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

Amazingly, the ability to dehumanize the Iraqi people reached a crescendo after the bullets and explosions concluded, as many marines spent their spare time taking pictures of the dead, often mutilating their corpses for fun or poking their bloated bodies with sticks for some cheap laughs. Because iPhones weren’t available at the time, several marines came to Iraq with digital cameras. Those cameras contain an untold history of the war in Iraq, a history the West hopes the world forgets. That history and those cameras also contain footage of wanton massacres and numerous other war crimes, realities the Iraqis don’t have the pleasure of forgetting.

Unfortunately, I could recall countless horrific anecdotes from my time in Iraq. Innocent people were not only routinely rounded-up, tortured and imprisoned, they were also incinerated by the hundreds of thousands, some studies suggest by the millions.

Only the Iraqis understand the pure evil that’s been waged on their nation. They remember the West’s role in the eight year war between Iraq and Iran; they remember Clinton’s sanctions in the 1990s, policies which resulted in the deaths of well over 500,000 people, largely women and children. Then, 2003 came and the West finished the job. Today, Iraq is an utterly devastated nation. The people are poisoned and maimed, and the natural environment is toxic from bombs laced with depleted uranium. After fourteen years of the War on Terror, one thing is clear: the West is great at fomenting barbarism and creating failed states.

Living with Ghosts

The warm and glassy eyes of young Iraqi children perpetually haunt me, as they should. The faces of those I’ve killed, or at least those whose bodies were close enough to examine, will never escape my thoughts. My nightmares and daily reflections remind me of where ISIS comes from and why, exactly, they hate us. That hate, understandable yet regrettable, will be directed at the West for years and decades to come. How could it be otherwise?

Again, the scale of destruction the West has inflicted in the Middle East is absolutely unimaginable to the vast majority of people living in the developed world. This point can never be overstated as Westerners consistently and naively ask, “Why do they hate us?”

In the end, wars, revolutions and counterrevolutions take place and subsequent generations live with the results: civilizations, societies, cultures, nations and individuals survive or perish. That’s how history works. In the future, how the West deals with terrorism will largely depend on whether or not the West continues their terroristic behavior. The obvious way to prevent future ISIS-style organizations from forming is to oppose Western militarism in all its dreadful forms: CIA coups, proxy wars, drone strikes, counterinsurgency campaigns, economic warfare, etc.

Meanwhile, those of us who directly participated in the genocidal military campaign in Iraq will live with the ghosts of war.

Vincent can be reached at vincent.emanuele333@gmail.com

 

Taliban Resurgence Under Mullah Mansour, According To Pentagon/Pakistan Plan

[Pentagon no longer targeting the Taliban (SEE: Pentagon Views Taliban As Future Partners In Peace).]

PressTV
"Instead of ramping up its military presence in Afghanistan, the US needs to butt out and encourage an entirely regional political process unfold," Grossman said.

“Instead of ramping up its military presence in Afghanistan, the US needs to butt out and encourage an entirely regional political process unfold,” Grossman said.

Washington has been a “willing participant” in regional decisions that led to a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the continued US military presence is impeding peace in the country, says an international lawyer and political analyst.

“Whatever other nations may think of the Taliban ethos, the only way forward is to encourage a multilateral dialogue among those states and stake-holders in the region which are directly affected,” Barry Grossman said in an interview with Press TV on Saturday.

“Instead of ramping up its military presence in Afghanistan, the US needs to butt out and encourage an entirely regional political process unfold, while taking steps to stop the flow of money and improper influence from [Persian] Gulf states in Afghanistan,” he continued.

A US government watchdog has reported that the Taliban militant group is now stronger than at any time since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) made the assessment in its quarterly report to Congress that was published Friday.

Pakistan’s dangerous game 

Grossman said that “the US was entirely unable or unwilling to prevent Pakistan’s security apparatus from corruptly helping Mullah Mansour consolidate control of the Taliban leadership.”

“Pakistan is of course playing a dangerous game by encouraging the Taliban to take the fight to the puppet regime in Afghanistan in order to discourage Taliban elements in Pakistan’s tribal areas from focusing their outrage on Pakistan’s government,” he added.

“Clearly Mansour’s consolidation of power brought a resurgence of Taliban power and — bearing in mind the support he has received from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency which some observers see as a branch office of the CIA — it would be naive to imagine that the US was not a willing participant in the decisions which have seen a resurgence of Taliban power under his leadership,” the analyst noted.

US must pack up and leave 

Grossman argued that if peace is indeed the priority in Afghanistan, the US should wind down its military presence and take steps to rein in those Middle East allies that support the Taliban.

“How quickly we have forgotten that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan was justified as an operation to eliminate Afghanistan as a safe haven for Osama bin Laden,” the former leader of al-Qaeda, he said.

“Ironically, in the process of eliminating bin Laden, al-Qaeda, which did not exist as anything that could properly be called an organization in 2001, evolved into a genuine, full-blown threat for a number of years — encouraged by the US carpet-bombing of Iraq,” he noted.

Leaving more difficult than arriving 

“With the US-led alliance having long ago achieved their stated objective for invading Afghanistan, there is little or no reason for their continued presence in a nation which largely rejects them,” Grossman said. “Moreover, having largely destroyed Afghanistan’s political structures and replaced them with a system which thrives on corruption, leaving has proved to be a lot more difficult than arriving.”

Despite a previous pledge to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Barack Obama has announced plans to keep 5,500 of the troops in the country when he leaves office in 2017.

Prince Turki Loses Defamation Case Over 9/11 Documentary Against Patrick de Carolis and France Télévision

France: Court ruling in ‘11 September’ Saudi documentary defamation row

human rights europe

Judges ruled today that French legal action against an 11 September documentary-maker and his television company for defamation, breached European human rights law.

In today’s judgment, in the case of de Carolis and France Televisions v. France (application no. 29313/10) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court decided that defamation claims against Patrick de Carolis and France 3 were upheld in breach of their right to freedom of expression.

The case concerned an accusation of defamation brought by Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal, on account of a September 2006 documentary on the France 3 television channel concerning complaints lodged by families of the victims of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The documentary focused on the complaints lodged by families of the victims of the attacks and the proceedings against over one hundred individuals suspected of having helped and funded al-Qaeda.
The investigations by the journalist who made the report highlighted the claimants’ concerns and their fears that the trial might be jeopardised by the economic links between their countries and Saudi Arabia.

According to the complaint, Patrick de Carolis, who was chairman of the national television channel France 3 and the journalist who made the documentary, were found guilty of public defamation against an individual, Prince Turki Al Faisal, who had joined the proceedings as a “civil party.”

The court declared the TV channel France 3 civilly liable for the damage caused.

The European court found, after a detailed examination, that the way in which the subject was dealt with did not contravene the standards of responsible journalism. As regards the sanctions, the fine to which de Carolis had been sentenced and the civil liability finding against France 3 were a disproportionate interference with their right to freedom of expression which was not necessary in a democratic society.

 

[The following is the official judgement in the case, released only in French.  The translation is posted here.  Evidently, Prince Turki introduced a civil suit against the French TV defendents, claiming personal defamation in the French 9/11 documentary, “September 11, 2001: The prosecution case, by Vanina Kanban.  Turki’s suit does not challenge the truth of anything in the documentary, yet it claims “defamation” for making the claim.  The suit was merely a stalling tactic to discourage others from trying to broadcast the truth about the Wahhabi kingdom in a form understandable to the masses.]

Judgment de Carolis and France Télévisions v. France – defamation claims against Patrick de Carolis and France 3

http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng-press?i=003-5277562-6561162  —ENG

http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-160220  —FR

 

FIFTH SECTION

CAROLIS MATTER OF TELEVISION AND FRANCE v. LA FRANCE

(Application No. 29313/10)

STOP

STRASBOURG

January 21, 2016

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of France Télévisions Carolis and c. La France,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Angelika Nußberger, President,
Ganna Yudkivska,
André Potocki,
Faris Vehabović,
Siofra O’Leary,
Carlo Ranzoni,
Mārtiņš Mits, Judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private 15 December 2015,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1. At the root of the matter in an application (No. 29313/10) against the French Republic by a national of that State, Mr. Patrick de Carolis, as well as company France Televisions (“the Convention” ), lodged with the Court 6 May 2010 under Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”).

2. The applicants were represented by E. Piwnica, the SCP Piwnica-Molinie, lawyer to the State Council and the Court of Cassation. The French Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr F. Alabrune, Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3. The applicants alleged a violation of Article 10 of the Convention because of their conviction.

4. On 26 May 2014, the application was communicated to the Government.

IN FACT

5. The first applicant was born in 1953 and lives in Paris. He was president of the state-owned television France 3, to whose rights the company France Televisions has also applicant and located in Paris.

6. On 8 September 2006, France 3 aired a show lasting one hour and twenty-two minutes, entitled “September 11, 2001: The prosecution case”, conducted by Vanina Kanban journalist.

7. This report questioned the lack of trial five years after the event, posing as the “Investigation on the instruction of a trial that promises to be the trial of the century”. He was devoted to the complaint filed by the families of victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the procedures aimed over a hundred natural and legal persons suspected of having aided and financed Al Qaeda. Investigations conducted by the journalist during eighteen months, five years after the fact, made reference to the questions and fears of complainants to see the trial jeopardized because of economic ties between their countries and Saudi Arabia. The victims’ lawyers seeking to pursue those who had helped finance the attacks, the survey also covered this aspect, including tracing the path of Osama bin Laden and the organization he founded Al Qaeda.

8. In the report, the lawyers for the victims’ families, and Mike Gerson My Allan Eisner, were questioned, as well as specialists of terrorism (including Jean-Charles Brisard), Muslim religious leaders, victims or their parents ( like Matt and Elizabeth Alderman Sellito), a former French Interior Minister (Charles Pasqua) and former officials or members of various US services (James Woolsey, director of the CIA from 1993 to 1995; Paul Pillar, head of the anti-terrorist section of the CIA from 1978 to 1998, Daniel Benjamin and Lee Wolosky, members of the anti-terrorist cell of the National Security Council, respectively, 1994-1999 and 1998-2001; Jack Cloonan , member of the anti-terrorist squad of the FBI from 1972 to 2002; Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State between 2001 and 2005). Al Faisal Prince Turki Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (“Turki Al Faysal Prince”), around whom the complaint of victims who accused him of having aided and financed the Taliban when he served as head of the secret services Saudi Arabia, was also questioned. Its maintenance was taken over twelve times in the report.

9. On 7 December 2006, Prince Turki Al Faisal the quote was the first applicant, as director of the channel France 3, Vanina Kanban in his capacity as a journalist, and the company France 3 in his capacity as civilly responsible to the Paris Criminal Court for defamation. He was referring to the five extracts of the report:

10. The first single contentious reproduced by the Court reads as follows:

“Allan Gerson (Lawyer families of victims) – They can run, they can hide, but they will not escape us.

Journalist – We went to Charleston, South Carolina. It is the headquarters of trial lawyers […]

Allan Gerson – The families we still repeat and again “We do not want others to suffer the same terrible tragedy we have suffered.”

Me Ron Motley (Lawyer families of victims) – My clients want to know who funded Al Qaeda to be able to stop al Qaeda funds. They continue to operate freely. As we sat there, they are going to blow up half of Iraq. Someone continues to fund Al Qaeda.

Journalist – To support them, they hired high-level investigators. Mike Eisner, head lawyer of evidence, Jean-Charles Brisard, expert on international terrorism, responsible for investigations, Evan Kohlmann, an analyst in Islamist terrorism, computer engineering.

We were able to access the most secure location in the building. It was here that thousands of evidence, documents, videos or photos are recorded: information classified top secret, and for good reason.

Me Mike Eisner (Lawyer families of victims) – There are a lot of very sensitive information in this document. We have spent millions of dollars to get this type of information. Most of those who investigate terrorism investigate those who commit the attacks but do not always target the money. We, we did. We followed the money trail, where it comes from, where it goes and that makes it available. With these documents, we will show how this money is used.

Journalist – Al Qaeda operates as a business. The terrorist group receives immense support hardware that allows it to carry out attacks.

Me Mike Eisner – The truck you see provides logistical support. Once the material in place, Al Qaeda can then start broadcasting hatred, terror and ideas of Jihad.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Who supports now Al Qaeda? Today, the firm Motley Rice gathered enough evidence against almost three hundred accused Osama bin Laden, the most famous, but also seven international banks, eight Islamic charities, the Government of Sudan, Saudi princes and about 300 individuals and entities. We took the party to focus on a few defendants, influential men who today still occupy space on the international leading positions with impunity: Hassan Al-Taroubi (image), the Sudanese ideologue of Islamism , Ramam AJ-Kathim (image), the Defence Minister of Sudan, Al-Awdah Gutbi, a Saudi radical preacher, Turki Al Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence (image). All are accused of having been at one time the allies of Osama bin Laden. They would have helped, supported, in its ideology, but also financially and materially. All would have enabled it to become the worst enemy of the West. One of the main suspected supporters: Turki Al Faisal.

Prince Turki Al Faisal (Saudi Intelligence Chief 1977-2001) – I am accused of having supported materially stocked and had even participated in the organization of Al-Qaeda.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – It was in 1979 that the Saudi prince met Osama bin Laden for the first time during the war in Afghanistan.

To understand how the links were forged between the head of Saudi intelligence and public enemy number one, you have to trace the history of this war.

11. The report then continued by evoking the support that the Mujahideen had received from Saudi Arabia and the United States during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Prince Turki Al Faisal on it indicated that his country had of course helped by providing them weapons, money, medicines and training them, all through the Saudi secret services. He added he met five times Osama bin Laden, he presented as one of the main supports for Mujahideen. The report then came back on the victory of the latter in Afghanistan, who was also and especially that of Osama bin Laden, income and celebrated as a hero in Saudi Arabia; how he had tried unsuccessfully to engage in combat with his mujahideen during the first Gulf War and at the end of the fighting, called for revolt against US troops left behind Saudi authorities and accused of being accomplices. The report then evoked his deportation to Sudan in 1991, where his mujahideen had joined, enabling the development of Al Qaeda. The report then lingered on financing network that Osama bin Laden enjoyed in those days.

12. The second extract reproduced disputed by the court was as follows:

“Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – To fund the expansion of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden has already implemented a major fundraising network.

Lee Wolosky – Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are not only based on a fixed sum of money on the family, relatives or even existing networks around the world that could have been used for operations and support the organization. No, what was happening, however, is that al Qaeda constantly raised funds to finance its activities.

Jean-Charles Brisard (Islamist terrorism Specialist) – That, that represents the extent of the financial network of Osama bin Laden as it was known in 2001, that is to say before the attacks of September 11th. Over a period of ten years, nearly 500 million that reached the Al-Qaida network to fund. So it’s very important. This is a historic day for the fight against terrorism.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Jean-Charles Brisard is the principal investigator firm Motley Rice. He was hired by US attorneys in 2002. The French terrorist financing specialist tracking money from al Qaeda worldwide. He has in his possession an original document in which we can read the names of the first financial organization.

Jean-Charles Brisard – There is an important item that was recovered in the course of our investigation, it is one of the founding documents of Al Qaeda that designates as the Golden Chain, the gold chain. This is the list of twenty personalities, all Saudi, which were considered within al Qaeda as the main financial organization at its inception. We find in this list of well-known, former ministers, bankers among major Saudi bankers, businessmen course and merchants.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – In this donor list are, in particular the name of a famous Saudi businessman close to the bin Laden family.

Jean-Charles Brisard – … including Osama bin Laden, a number of his relatives. There was the name of a donor, Bin-Mafouz, which gives, within Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Khalid Bin-Mafouz is none other than the biggest bank of Saudi Arabia. His name is inscribed in the complaint of the families of September 11 victims. He is accused of being one of the financiers of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

In 1986 he became head of the first Saudi bank, NCB, National Commercial Bank.

End 90, the Saudi Central Bank made a survey of the funds paid by the NCB. It puts particular finger on transfers of large sums of money to charities.

Jean-Charles Brisard – It was revealed that a number of funds have been diverted to NGOs controlled by bin Laden or direct payments to persons associated with Usama bin Laden. So we have a bank which may be suspect, even then, she participates in the financing of terrorism.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – And these money movements concerned beyond the Saudi borders.

Jean-Charles Brisard – In the mid-90s, a number of Western and Arab politicians have traveled to Saudi Arabia, went to see the king, the interior minister, the defense minister, the head the intelligence services and told them: “We have evidence that a number of Saudi NGO fund terrorist networks, and networks who commit violent attacks”.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – France is one of the first countries to worry about this situation. In 1994, Charles Pasqua, Interior Minister of the time, made the trip to Saudi Arabia. It will be a witness for the prosecution at trial. He has already made his deposition with American lawyers.

Charles Pasqua – I visited Saudi Arabia. I met with Prince Nayef, who was my counterpart, and a number of Saudi officials, including Prince Turki, who was in charge of intelligence, and I told them that a significant part of the funds they affected the Muslim World League in reality served – could be used, but from my perspective was used – the construction of radical Islam and therefore a basis for violent actions.

Prince Turki Al Faisal – The financing of terrorism did not come as Saudi Arabia but also other countries in the Middle East. There were also terrorist financing from individuals in France, Germany, England or other European cities. So it was not just from Saudi Arabia.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – In South Carolina financial terrorism investigation has been ongoing for four years now. Lawyers know that much of the money donated to Al Qaeda comes directly from Islamist charities.

Me Mike Eisner – They use a large portion of these donations, transfer money claiming he used to buy clothes or food for the poor.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Obviously, Matt Sellito is angry.

Matt Sellito – So people give money and this money finds its way into terrorists eventually be used in order to kill Americans?

Me Mike Eisner – Yes, absolutely.

Jonathan Sellito (Brother of a victim) – How do they go about it is not seen?

Me Mike Eisner – He was seen. You could see it. Everyone knew. With the war in Afghanistan against the Russians, they have perfected the money circulation mechanism. Today, it still continues.

13. The report then chained with the recall of the car bombs attacks committed by Al-Qaida in November 1995 before a building of the Saudi repository in Riyadh in June 1996 against the American base at Khobar in Dhahran. The journalist stated that no one seemed to have measured the size and firepower of Al Qaeda, while the families of the victims said they were convinced that the US authorities were already aware of terrorist financing. She then remembered that Osama bin Laden had made a sensational statement in 1996 by declaring “jihad” against the Americans, thus also becoming the official enemy of the United States. The testimony of the head of Sudanese intelligence, Jack Cloonan (FBI agent -Federal Bureau of Investigation -, anti-terrorist cell, 1972-2002) and Paul Pillar (head of the anti-terrorist section of the CIA – Central Intelligence Agency – in 1978-1998) explained how the Sudan, under US pressure to expel Osama bin Laden, had come to propose to deliver them, which had been refused for lack of sufficient evidence to convict him hope. Finally expelled and returned to Afghanistan with mujahideen, hosted by the Taliban who had taken power and their leader, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden had then called for global jihad, which had decided the Saudis and the US to try to stop it. Al Faisal Prince Turki said it had been sent to Afghanistan to this end.

14. The third single contentious reproduced by the court was as follows:

“Daniel Benjamin – Prince Turki Al Faisal was one of the only people who had influence over the Taliban. Our hope was that he would come to persuade them to make the right choice. First, because Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan had good relations. Then, because the Saudis supported the Taliban. Finally, because Saudi Arabia was playing his religious stature.

Prince Turki Al Faisal – I met Mullah Omar at that time, and he said this: “We should unite together with Ben Laden, who is someone fabulous, which should not be judged and that we should instead support “. So I got up and I left.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – But lawyers for the complaint of September 11 do not have the same version as Turki Al Faisal, and they claim to have proof.

Among the hundreds of videotapes collected, Mike Eisner shows us the testimony of a key witness.

What speak these witnesses?

Me Mike Eisner – They talk about the financial contribution of Prince Turki paid to the Taliban and members of Al Qaeda. They testify of Prince Turki Al Faisal activities in Afghanistan. Turki was providing the Taliban in vehicles and bringing them aid of all kinds.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – How did you find this man?

Mike Eisner me – I can not reveal all my secrets. (Laughter.) We found in Afghanistan, and there are still many others like him who are willing to testify.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – To protect this essential witness, Mike Eisner can show us this recording, but he agreed to give us a part of the written testimony of the witness.

15. At this point of the story, a picture appears on the screen: it is the French translation of the complaint, on which one can read the particular § 346 that evokes the “affidavit” of a witness in Afghanistan, said:

“Mullah Kakshar is an important leader, now dissident Taliban (…). The affidavit Mullah Kakshar involves Prince Turki for its auxiliary role in these remittances to help the Taliban, Al-Qaida and international terrorism. “

16. The report continues:

“[The journalist] – Prince Turki Al Faisal totally refute this accusation.

Prince Turki Al Faisal – This is fabricated. I already told you why I went to Kandahar. This was to ensure that bin Laden is delivered to restore the kingdom to justice.

Me Mike Eisner – Of course they deny all, but we have evidence to show that what they say is wrong,

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – We wanted to interview lawyers Turki Al Faysal order to have the point of view of the defense of the evidence held by the civil party.

[Phone ringing]

Voice on the phone – I do not think we are interested.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – You do not want to talk to me for a few minutes?

The voice on the phone – No, we have no comment.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – We again tried to contact the lawyer, but she always refused to receive us.

17. The journalist says at this stage the failure of several diplomatic attempts to recover from the Taliban Osama bin Laden. The latter could expand its organization, who committed two simultaneous attacks in August 1998 against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, resulting in the response by US bombing in Sudan and Afghanistan.

18. The report then stated that in addition to military action, the US had created a special cell in order to dismantle the financial networks of terrorism, linking this fourth excerpt reproduced disputed by the court:

“Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – But nothing can stop the US government in its fight against terrorism. In addition to military action, the United States to address its funding. To track down money from Al Qaeda, they create a special unit whose goal is to dismantle the financial networks. They back the streams of money and then discover the main sponsors of terrorism.

Lee Wolosky – One of the things that the US government discovered after 1998 is that charities and individuals based in Saudi Arabia was an important, if not the most important source of international funding. Funding that supported Al Qaeda and its organizations at the time.

James Woolsey – There was concern from some wealthy Saudi families. They made money transfers that could indirectly help terrorist movements.

Prince Turki Al Faisal – Again, we asked the Americans to give us accurate information on bank accounts, names of people or cities in which the financing of terrorism was supposed to unfold. But we have never been able to discover the least amount of money that went directly to some of Saudi Arabia terrorist organization whatsoever.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Jack Cloonan Yet, the FBI agent in charge of counterterrorism, visited Saudi Arabia at that time and his version of events contradicts Turki Al Faisal.

Jack Cloonan – I personally attended a meeting with General Souleyman and his staff (?). And I gave them the name of a person who lived in the city of Jeddah. I gave them the name of a bank. The Arabi Investment Company. I told them about a transfer of funds. I told them that it was intended, how he rose and every possible detail. That’s a specific example, and I can tell you that because it was me who did it and I have nothing to hide. I asked them information and they did not give me anything.

Paul Pillar – There was a lack of zeal for cooperation and there were more than declarations of good intentions, “Yes, yes, we would help you” that real action on their part. They did not go far enough, not enough to describe policies or important personalities, princes or businessmen who were related to this. Politically, it would have been difficult to do so.

Allan Gerson – They did nothing or almost nothing in terms of cooperation with the US government, asking them to regulate the flows of money in order to stop Al Qaeda financing.

If a country is actually responsible, and it is up to us to prove it before the Court when the government in question must be held responsible for damage caused to the victims.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – The lawyers of the complaint have countless evidence against the Saudi charities.

Me Mike Eisner – Here, look: that’s the Saudi Red Crescent. This is the translation of the document. There is their phone number and we see the signature of someone Crescent and that of Bin Laden. Bin Laden wrote: “Our brother Abu Mazen is in urgent need of weapons and I ask you to send already 25% of the expected delivery.” What bin Laden is asking is that weapons transit through a charity.

The Saudis have been warned several times that charities financed terrorism, and they have always turned a blind eye.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – And that makes them guilty of doing nothing?

Me Mike Eisner – Of course. When one knows that organizations are involved in the financing of terrorism, and on your own territory, you have an obligation as a government to do everything you can to prevent them, and that, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia it is never interested and never did anything.

19. The victims’ families were then share their questions and the fact that the United States had not acted strongly enough against Saudi Arabia. The testimony of Daniel and Benjamin Lee Wolosky then indicated that there were no other additional means of pressure available, while highlighting the limits of political and diplomatic action given the energy dependence of the United States vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. The report then focalisa on the terrorist threat on US soil during the months before the attacks of September 11, 2001, and on the fact that the government had encouraged the complaints against financial al Qaeda, to finally grant no assistance to complainants.

20. The fifth disputed extract reproduced by the court was as follows:

“Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Today in 2006, officials of September 11 are still not judged. Yet in 2002, less than a year after the attacks, lawyers designate those who supported Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. So why George Bush he did not keep his promise?

Lee Wolosky – I will not be surprised that these people in government, individuals belonging to the Government, want this trial never takes place.

Richard Armitage – There always are political considerations when it comes to conflicts in legal matters that are managed by the State Department. In this case, the State Department would focus the importance of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Lee Wolosky – If the Saudis made this complaint a central issue in their diplomatic relations with the United States, while the US government certainly suffer great pressure because they ask for things the Saudis. Sometimes diplomacy, it’s give and take. You get something only if you give something and vice versa.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – The diplomatic ties between the US and Saudi Arabia remain inalienable. For proof, for a year, Turki Al Faisal lives in Washington. He held the post of Ambassador of Saudi Arabia with the support of the US government. Yet it is one of the main accused in the complaint.

Prince Turki Al Faisal – It was not for me to refuse, but if the US government believed in this complaint against me, I guess he would not have accepted me as ambassador.

Richard Armitage – If our government and the State Department had reason to think that Turki Al Faysal were things to be ashamed of in the past, they would not have signed this approval. If they have done is that they have nothing to complain about.

Matt Sellito – You can not tell me you are looking for people who financed terrorism and the day after, give these same people a reward for that. Or appoint ambassadors.

Elizabeth Alderman – He was named in our complaint and now he is an ambassador of their country in our country. Stunned is the only word that comes to mind. It was just to show the Saudi royal family: “Hey, we are always with you and we will stay by your side.” I think it was a big slap for people who initiated this complaint and for those who believe and know that the Saudis have financed terrorism.

Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – The families fear that ties between their country and Saudi Arabia could jeopardize the trial of leaders of 11 September.

As for the accused, they do not seem frightened by the prospect of this trial.

21. Several defendants in the complaint, including Prince Turki Al Faisal on, indiquèrent whereas they would not appear if called to appear before the American courts. The journalist continued:

“Five years after the deadliest attacks in history, officials still at large. Osama bin Laden has not been captured. Al Qaeda continues to exist and the financing of terrorism are still relevant.

“All the accused are free. Four years after the filing of the complaint of the victims of September 11, nothing seems made to the way that the trial date. ” [End of story on an extract of a televised speech President Bush]

22. In a judgment of 2 November 2007, the Paris Criminal Court declared the first applicant and the public Kanban Vanina journalist guilty of defamation against an individual, Turki Al Faysal Prince, a civil party. It sentenced them each to pay a fine of 1000 euros and jointly and severally to pay the Prince one euro in damages and 7,500 euros for costs.

Perpetrators of Huge Indianapolis Gas Blast Begin To Pay For Their Terrorism

[SEE: Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard, Robert Leonard Arrested for Murder and Arson In Indianapolis Home Explosion ; Richmond Hill Trial: Jury finds Mark Leonard guilty on ALL 53 counts, including murder ]

dion longworthjennifer
Dion and Jennifer Longworth
killed in the blast

Jurors chosen for Richmond Hill explosion trial of Bob Leonard Jr.

INDYSTAR

FORT WAYNE, Ind.  –  Twelve jurors, eight men and four women, have been chosen to hear the murder, arson and conspiracy charges against Bob Leonard Jr. in a Fort Wayne courtroom.

Six alternate jurors were selected, completing the jury selection process, according to Fox59.

Leonard is accused of conspiring with his half-brother, Mark Leonard, to blow up Monserrate Shirley’s home in the Richmond Hill community on the south side of Indianapolis in November of 2012 in an insurance fraud scheme.

Mark Leonard was convicted of the identical 53 charges that Bob Leonard faces and was sentenced to life without parole.

Shirley testified against her ex-lover during his trial in South Bend last summer and is expected to take the stand against Bob Leonard.

During jury selection, Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson explained to jurors that Leonard faces both murder and felony murder charges for the deaths of Jennifer and Dion Longworth, Shirley’s neighbors on Fieldfare Way.

Robinson said Leonard should have known his actions in alleging setting the trigger on the house explosion would have killed the neighbors even if that was not his intent.

Prosecutors contend Leonard entered Shirley’s home the day of the blast, as it was filling with natural gas, and set a timer on a microwave oven that triggered the explosion.

It is often during jury selection that defense attorneys not only seek to size up potential jurors but they also reveal their strategies.

Defense Counsel Ted Minch explained to jurors that while DNA evidence can place a suspect at the scene of a crime, it cannot prove when the suspect visited that location.

During recent telephone interviews and an in-person meeting at the Marion County Jail, Leonard told FOX59 that he expected his DNA would be in Shirley’s house and in Mark Leonard’s van, which was spotted in the Richmond Hill neighborhood the day of the explosion, as he had visited the home in the weeks before the tragedy and also driven the vehicle.

Defense Attorney Mark Inman asked potential jurors, “Do you think witnesses can have motives?”

“Yes,” answered one man who was later chosen to sit on the panel.

Leonard’s defense will rely on destroying the credibility and testimony of Shirley who has told investigators that the half-brother visited her home and conspired with her boyfriend to set the blast and had met the couple the night before to receive final instructions and reminded her afterwards that the trio was in the conspiracy together no matter how many neighbors had died.

Leonard told FOX59 that Shirley embellished her account to include him to curry favor with prosecutors and secure herself a more lenient sentence as part of her plea agreement to testify and he denied her statements.

Seventy-eight of the potential 100 Allen County citizens summoned arrived for jury selection.

Several of them were dismissed before examination after confirming their past knowledge of the case which received extensive state and even national media coverage.

Allen Superior Judge Frances Gull said opening statements would be held Thursday morning after preliminary jury instructions at 8:30 a.m.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.

 

 

 

Pakistan Riding A Two-Headed Taliban Tiger It Cannot Hope To Control

“They are riding a tiger that they cannot control”: Pakistan and the future of Afghanistan

vox

by    @jenn_ruth jennifer@vox.com

An Afghan man assists two schoolgirls in the vicinity of an attack from a building close to the Pakistan consulate in Jalalabad on January 13, 2016. NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images

This is part three of our three-part series on the war in Afghanistan. Part one explained why 2016 could be a very bad year for the country. Part two discussed the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan.

2016 is shaping up to be a potentially critical year for Afghanistan. ISIS is rising there, the Taliban is gaining ground, the stability of the Afghan government is deteriorating by the day, and national elections are coming in October. The US, China, Pakistan, and the Afghan government are currently holding talks aimed at bringing the Taliban to the table to try negotiate an end to the war.

Of those countries, it’s Pakistan that is the most significant. Pakistan has probably the most influence of anyone over whether those talks will succeed in getting the Taliban to agree to sit down and negotiate a peace agreement with the Afghan government. But there’s a lot more going on with the peace talks that are perhaps the country’s best or only remaining hope.

To understand how this works and why it matters, I spoke to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution and an expert on Afghanistan. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length.

Jennifer Williams: Could you start by just explaining how Pakistan has been involved in the conflict between the Taliban and Afghanistan historically?

Vanda Felbab-Brown: That goes back to the creation of independent Pakistan, with issues having to do with the Pashtun minority in Pakistan, which is also the majority population of Afghanistan, and irredentist claims by Afghan Pashtun politicians, as well as the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, who at different times supported either Pakistan or Afghanistan and played the two against each other.

Then you have the Taliban emerging in the 1990s, and Pakistan fully supports the Taliban: They help equip it, they provide intelligence, advisers, and during the Taliban era when they ruled country, Pakistan is one of only three countries that recognize the Taliban regime.

They continued supporting the Taliban throughout the past decade, and US-Pakistan relations became very fraught and complicated. It’s never been easy. Pakistanis sometimes use the expression that the United States treats Pakistan like a condom: uses it when they need it then discards it when they are finished with it. It’s a fairly common saying in Pakistan, especially in the military. So there is a sense of betrayal on the part of the United States, untrustworthiness, that it’s an exploitative relationship on the part of the US toward Pakistan.

I should also say that Pakistan has long supported many Islamic extremist groups as part of its asymmetric policy toward India, and some of these groups have now mutated, or they slipped Pakistan’s full control.

Even with respect to the Afghan Taliban, there is a lot of support from the Pakistani state intelligence services and military to the Afghan Taliban. At the same time, Pakistan has been under enormous US and international pressure to act against them, and so they will take the occasional action against the Afghan Taliban as well. But those actions are mostly seen as halfhearted, incomplete window dressing.

JW: So what role is Pakistan playing today? I know that they just had the four-party talks and that Pakistan has been insisting that these talks take place in Pakistan. Are they trying to speak for the Taliban?

VFB: I’m not sure that it’s a fair characterization that they are speaking for the Taliban. Certainly the Afghan government, including in the latest talks, often insinuates or alleges that Pakistan speaks for the Taliban. But they clearly do not.

The relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan is hardly smooth and perfect. Many members of the Afghan Taliban deeply resent the level of Pakistani interference, even as the group has been supported by Pakistan. There is a lot of Afghan Pashtun nationalism also among the Taliban that deeply resents the influence and attempts at control by the Pakistani state.

Part of the key issue in the relationship is that although Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban, and although it has historically supported other extremist groups, it does not have perfect control. And arguably, its control is diminishing. And so they posture, they do their double game. They want to appear strong, and so they posture that they have much greater control than they have, but at the same time they deny that they have any nefarious role.

In reality, they are playing both sides against the middle, and they often have much less capacity to control and rein in the extremist groups, including the Afghan Taliban, than many assume. The widespread criticism of Pakistan is one of its duplicity and its nefarious activity and its lack of willingness to act against the Afghan Taliban. Those are true, but they are also coupled with limits to their capacity. They are riding a tiger that they cannot control fully.

So they have been hosting these four-way talks that involve them, the US government, the Afghan government, and the Chinese government. The Afghan government is desperate to achieve some sort of negotiated deal with the Taliban. It feels under tremendous pressure, the military is taking a pounding from the Taliban, and the government lacks legitimacy.

The US has similar views on the notion that the way out of the predicament in Afghanistan is a negotiated deal. The Chinese also like the idea. They have their own influence in Pakistan. China would very much like to say that they finally achieved what the US failed to do over the past decade, that they will bring peace to Afghanistan, and that they will do it by enabling the negotiations.

Pakistan is responsive to China. Their relationship with China is much stronger than their relationship with the United States. They often tell the US that China is their old friend, that China is the country that hasn’t betrayed them, unlike the United States. China has promised massive economic development in Pakistan at $40 billion. The Pakistanis often say to the US that the Pakistan-China relationship is “greater than the Himalayas and deeper than the ocean.” Very flowery.

JW: What’s the relationship like between the Afghan government and Pakistan today?

VFB: The crucial man there really is the Pakistani chief of the army staff Raheel Sharif; no relation to [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif. I think that there is sort of goodwill and motivation right now, even on the army staff — but that is juxtaposed with, again, the limits of control even the chief has. With almost clockwork regularity you have a round of negotiations in Pakistan or you have a meeting between Raheel Sharif and [Afghan President Ashraf] Ghani, and the next day a bomb goes off in Kabul and people die, or the Indian consulate is attacked.

All those ploys are meant to destroy any beginning of a more positive relationship and have been very effective in subverting the process. The same goes on between Pakistan and India. Meanwhile, Ghani is taking an enormously risky strategy with respect to the negotiations. It’s vastly unpopular in Afghanistan, and many, many Afghans hate Pakistan and blame it for all of their troubles.

They use Pakistan as the explanation of everything that ever goes wrong in Afghanistan. And the Pakistanis are responsible for a lot, but there’s much, much blame and responsibility that lies on Afghan politicians and Afghan people.

So Ghani’s outreach and engagement with Pakistan is extremely unpopular. He’s spending an extreme amount of political capital, and does not have support from his partner in the government, Abdullah Abdullah, and the northern Tajik factions that hate Pakistan with great vitriol. So the more Pakistan is unable to deliver things like the Haqqani network, reducing or stopping its attacks in Kabul, the more politically impossible for Ghani the process will be.

JW: So what does that mean in terms of the stability of Afghanistan’s unity government?

VFB: The unity government is extremely strained. “Unity” it isn’t. The Pakistani negotiation angle is just too big for the strain. It might be strategically important. It might be a very significant element in getting any negotiation going, but it’s also extremely politically costly, and the longer it doesn’t produce anything, the more politically costly and unsustainable it will be.

In October, there are supposed to be parliamentary elections and district elections in Afghanistan, and, more important, this loya jirga [a national assembly of Afghan elders]. And unless there is some sort of major breakthrough by the summer, a lot of the negotiations and political process with both the Taliban and Pakistan will be put on ice, because it will just be politically impossible in the context of the loya jirga and the elections.

So they really have until the summer to make some sort of breakthrough, and then you will have months of morass and extreme political instability in Afghanistan, but it will also not be conducive in any way to improving either the relationship with Pakistan or the negotiations.

JW: How does Pakistan fit into the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan? What’s the relationship there? And how might this affect the peace negotiations?

VFB: The rise of ISIS-Khorasan is one of the most interesting developments. It complicates the negotiations for the Taliban. They oppose the negotiations, and they’re a big problem for Mullah Mansour and those who want to negotiate. They enable defections, make them easy, and make them costly.

At the same time, it is interesting because ISIS does not have the same linkages to Pakistan that the Afghan Taliban had, even though ISIS includes many defectors from the Taliban. They quite specifically reject what they call the “yoke” that Pakistan has put on the Afghan Taliban, and they call the Afghan Taliban leadership traitors because of the close relationship with Pakistan.

Moreover, ISIS-Khorasan also has quite a few members of various Pakistani extremist groups like Lashkar-e Taiba and members of TTP [Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan]. So there is also a lot of resentment and hostility toward Pakistan.

I think the rise of ISIS might make Pakistan be cooperative to some extent, but on the other hand, I think it will also reinforce in the mind of many Pakistan security controllers that it’s important to cultivate the Afghan Taliban as friends against the bigger danger of ISIS.

JW: Now that ISIS-Khorasan has directly targeted Pakistan, the consulate in Jalalabad, do you think Pakistan will take action?

VFB: I think they’ll take action against ISIS and groups like Tehrik-e Taliban. I don’t think it will produce more resolve to go after the Afghan Taliban. That’s my view. Others are hoping that they will finally accept the realities and really believe that they have to fight all of the insurgents, all of the terrorists, and that they cannot differentiate among them. I am not persuaded that that will, in fact, happen.

JW: So what does this all mean for the prospects for peace? Are you hopeful at all?

VFB: I think the peace negotiations are important, but I am skeptical that anything will happen quickly.

I think that if by summer the Taliban has been willing to join the negotiating table, that will be an important breakthrough, but nothing will be agreed. The summer will be very bloody, and then there will be the political [wrangling] associated with the loya jirga and the elections.

In my view, even if the Taliban comes to the negotiating table, we are looking at years of negotiations, and certainly no breakthrough before 2017 and likely much longer.

And so the question is whether we, the United States, are prepared to stand by with Afghanistan for that long and whether the Afghans will have the resolve. So it’s really important that the military and the police fight as hard as they can, because the weaker they fight, the more they defect, the more intimidated they are, the more brain drain that flows from Afghanistan, the stronger the Taliban is viewed and the more intransigent they will be in the negotiations. Now the negotiations will be very much about the military battlefield as much as they will about what’s happening at the table for a long time.

Govt. Assault On Oregon Protestors—One Dead

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Robert LaVoy Finicum
On day before his death, Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum spoke about potential encounters with feds The day before he was killed in a gunfight, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum spoke in an interview with The Oregonian about increased tensions with federal agents.

Oregon standoff spokesman Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum killed, Bundys in custody after shooting near Burns

the oregonian

By Les Zaitz | The Oregonian/OregonLive

BURNS – Oregon standoff spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed and other leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation were arrested Tuesday after the FBI and state police stopped vehicles about 20 miles north of Burns.

Authorities did not release the name of the person who died at the highway stop, but Finicum’s daughter confirmed it was Finicum, 55, of Cane Beds, Arizona, one of the cowboy-hat wearing faces of the takeover.

“My dad was such a good good man, through and through,” said Arianna Finicum Brown, 26, one of Finicum’s 11 children. “He would never ever want to hurt somebody, but he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved.”

Ryan Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nev., suffered a minor gunshot wound in the confrontation about 4:30 p.m. along U.S. 395. He was treated and released from a local hospital and was in FBI custody, authorities said.

Also arrested during the stop were his brother, Ammon Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho, Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada, and Shawna J. Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah. They were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, a felony.

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said that Ammon Bundy called his wife, Lisa Bundy, from the back of a police car on Tuesday night.

Fiore, a vocal supporter of the Bundy family, said that Ammon Bundy told his wife that Finicum was cooperating with police when he was shot.

But sources told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Finicum and Ryan Bundy disobeyed orders to surrender and resisted arrest. No other details were available.

Finicum on Monday said an interview that “the tenor has changed” between the occupiers and federal authorities.

At the refuge Tuesday evening, occupier Jason Patrick reported no unusual activity. “It’s pretty quiet here,” Patrick said. He said no one was leaving as of 6 p.m.Hours later, Patrick said the refuge remained quiet but “we’re all standing here ready to defend our peaceful resolution.” He wouldn’t elaborate.

In the meantime, Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and patriot sympathizers, issued a call on its website for help at the refuge. The post was written by Gary Hunt, a board member from California who has expressed support for Timothy McVeigh, who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City and had ties to the patriot movement.

“You have an obligation to proceed to the Harney County Resource Center (the wildlife refuge) immediately,” Hunt wrote. “If you fail to arrive, you will demonstrate by your own actions that your previous statements to defend life, liberty, and property were false.”

In Burns, Oregon State Police also arrested Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, 45, Cottonwood, Arizona, known in militia circles as “Captain,” and Pete Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, an independent broadcaster known for his aggressive manner and live streaming refuge events. They face conspiracy charges of impeding federal officers.

Jon Ritzheimer, 32, a key militant leader, surrendered to police in Arizona on the conspiracy charge. He gained national fame for complaining on a video about the delivery of sex toys to the refuge in response to the occupiers’ plea for supplies.

Pete Santilli was arrested while live-streaming reports of Ammon Bundy’s arrest on YouTube. Warning: this video includes strong language.

Gov. Kate Brown called for calm late Tuesday night.

“The situation in Harney County continues to be the subject of a federal investigation that is in progress,” she said in a statement. “My highest priority is the safety of all Oregonians and their communities. I ask for patience as officials continue pursuit of a swift and peaceful resolution.”

Little detail was available about the dramatic finish to the free-roaming ways  of the militant leaders. State police said troopers were involved in the shooting and that one person died, another suffered non-life-threatening injuries and no police were hurt.

The militants seized the wildlife refuge on Jan. 2, insisting they wouldn’t leave until their demands were met, including the freeing of two Harney County ranchers jailed on federal arson charges.

One militant on Tuesday afternoon posted a video of Ammon Bundy talking earlier in the day with an FBI negotiator identified only as “Chris.” The two have been negotiating since last week, with Bundy dictating the circumstances under which he would talk and what the group wanted.

The leaders were on the highway bound for John Day, where they were scheduled to participate in an evening community meeting set up by local residents. A crowd of several hundred had gathered at the John Day Senior Center and were subsequently told the the “guest speakers” would not be appearing.

The highway was blocked for a 40-mile stretch between Burns and John Day. Police were stationed near Seneca, a small city of 200 south of John Day, with long guns. They said they didn’t know how long the roadblock would be place. Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was there.

Palmer two weeks ago had met with Payne and Ritzheimer. He later publicly declared that Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven, should be freed from federal prison to help end the standoff. Palmer also has recommended that the FBI leave the Harney County scene and turn the matter to local police.

The armed militants took over the vacant headquarters compound at the refuge. They have been using refuge buildings for meetings and lodging, posting armed security guards.

The occupiers have been moving without police interference between the refuge and Burns, even attending a county-sponsored community meeting at the Burns High School a week ago. Police estimated at least 50 militants scattered through the crowd of about 400 people.

The dramatic event came days after public officials had gone public complaining about the apparent inaction by law enforcement. The governor had complained directly to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey as well as the White House. On Monday, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, who chairs the county commission, also publicly urged police to resolve the occupation.

Payne and Bundy have been in and out of Harney County since November, aroused by the sentencing of the Hammonds. In October, they were ordered back to federal prison to finish five-year terms for deliberating starting fires that burned federal land in 2001 and 2006. Bundy and his followers had demanded that Harney County Sheriff David Ward protect the ranchers from having to surrender, a demand Ward rejected.

Payne and other militia met local residents in an informal meeting on New Year’s Day in Burns, vowing they had peaceful intentions. The next day, about 300 people – a mix of militia and local residents – paraded in protest through downtown Burns, stopping at the sheriff’s office and then stopping at the home of Dwight Hammond and his wife Susan.

That afternoon, a splinter group of militants drove out to the refuge, left vacant after federal authorities warned employees to stay away over safety concerns. Later, Payne confirmed in interviews with The Oregonian/OregonLive that the group had long planned to seize the refuge.

Besides demanding freedom for the Hammonds, the Bundy group wanted the refuge turned over to prior private owners and to the county. They insist that the federal government has no constitutional authority to control land in Harney County, a county that measures 10,000 square miles. The federal government controls 76 percent. The Bundy group also has encouraged ranchers to renounced their federal grazing permits, showcasing a New Mexico rancher Saturday at the refuge who did just that.

— Laura Gunderson, Carli Brosseau, Denis Theriault, Luke Hammill, Elliot Njus, Anna Marum, and Ian Kullgren of The Oregonian contributed to this post.

GulfNews Reports Mullah Fazlullah Killed By Drone In Joint Pak/US Operation

Peshawar school massacre mastermind Mullah Fazlullah executed in joint-operation led by Pak-US forces: Report

india tv

India TV News Desk

Peshawar school massacre mastermind Mullah Fazlullah executed in joint-operation led by Pak-US forces: Report

Dubai: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah, the mastermind behind the Peshawar school massacre that killed 148 people including schoolchildren, along with the commander Qari Hedayatullah, were reportedly killed in an air strike in Afghanistan.

As per the reports by a Dubai’s leading daily, Fazlullah was assassinated during a joint-operation of Pakistan army and US-led forces in Afghanistan. This execution is being touted as a ‘big blow’ that will break the back of “TTP terrorists”.

Although no official statement has been issued till yet, confirming Fazlullah’s death, but the source that has made this revelation is said to be highly reliable. The source has also claimed that the ‘big news’ will be soon made public.

However, the killing of Taliban commander Hedayatullah has been confirmed by an Afghan News agency on its Twitter feed.

This joint operation was conducted when Raheel Sharif, Pakistan Army Chief General rushed to Afghanistan immediately after the school massacre on Friday and demanded Afghan government to take action against TTP’s most feared leader.

The army chief shared intelligence details with the Afghan officials which showed Fazlullah giving directives to terrorists from his hideout in Afghanistan.

Pak President Mamnoon Hussain had said, “Peshawar tragedy has united the nation and people are now seeking the complete elimination of terrorists to make the country safe.”

PM Nawaz Sharif was informed about the joint operation on Saturday, sources said.

Clooney’s Gal Springing Israeli Puppet and Spreading ISIS Propaganda

[(SEE: Zionist International Frees Sycophant Puppet Former President In Maldives).  An Internet search reveals that it was Mohamed Nasheed himself, who supplied the “facts” on ISIS in the Maldives, meaning that there is no truth to the claims made by Mrs. (George) Clooney’s legal team, that Maldives has more ISIS volunteers than any other nation.  Further research into Islamists and Maldives reveals a long history of radicalization, originating in Pakistan’s tribal region, later capitalized upon by India’s RAW, to produce Islamic anti-jihadis in Maldives to send to Pakistan (SEE: The Indian Art of Turning Jihadis Into Anti-Jihadis and the War On Pakistan).]

How Amal Clooney Is Helping Fight ISIS In The Maldives: Former Leader Mohamed Nasheed Calls For International Sanctions

international bus. times

RTX23XQ0Lawyer Amal Clooney sits with Mohamed Nasheed at a news conference in central London on Jan. 25, 2016. Photo: Reuters

 

The first democratically elected president of the Maldives sought to highlight human rights abuses in his homeland Monday with the help of lawyer Amal Clooney during a news conference in London where he called for sanctions against Maldivian government figures. Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed described being held in solitary confinement after he was forced from office and the need for political reform in the Indian Ocean nation.

“Sanctions imposed can easily be rolled back. But unless they are imposed, President [Abdulla] Yameen will have no incentive to take further action,­” Nasheed told reporters in London in his first comments since being released from prison. Yameen has been president of the small island nation since 2013, when he defeated Nasheed at the ballot box.

Nasheed was released last week to seek hospital care in the U.K. He was given a 13-year prison sentence on terrorism charges in March at the end of a trial that drew international condemnation. The United Nations, the United States and human rights groups have said Yameen’s government did not follow due process and that the case was politically motivated.

Nasheed had permission to leave the Maldives for 30 days for treatment for his back, but he indicated Monday that he would not return before the deadline. He reunited with his wife in London last week.

Clooney, the wife of activist actor-director George Clooney, said last week that Nasheed’s arrival in London had brought him “one step closer to justice­” but there was more work to be done. “We cannot forget that he has not been pardoned in the Maldives. He has not been given permission to run in the next presidential elections,” she said Monday. “He was also not the only political prisoner behind bars in the country. You have, at the moment, two former defense ministers, one former vice president, one former deputy parliamentary speaker and leaders of every opposition party in prison in the Maldives. You also have a further 1,700 people who are either facing charges or currently being prosecuted by the authorities in the Maldives for simply peaceful political activity and speech.”

Nasheed is being represented by Clooney, who said he was released only after the threat of action. Ben Emmerson, another member of Nasheed’s legal team, said the Maldives had become a “hotbed of fundamentalism and terrorism.”

More than 200 people from the Maldives have joined the Islamic State militant group, the highest number per capita of any state in the world, in recent years. “It is only a question of time before the Maldives witnesses an incident comparable to the tragedy that occurred on the beaches of Tunisia last year,” he said. A beach hotel in Tunisia was attacked and 38 tourists, mostly British, were killed in July by Islamic State supporters.

Nasheed served three years as president before what he describes as a gunpoint coup and what the government claims was a voluntary resignation, NBC News reported. Clooney has told reporters “democracy is dead” in the Maldives as political repression, abuse of women and jihadism are on the rise.

Zionist International Frees Sycophant Puppet Former President In Maldives

[Maldives: ‘Pro-Israel President booted out’]

Ex-Maldives leader says he may not return after UK treatment

asian-correspondent-logo

by AP News

Hong Kong Occupy EvictionMohamed Nasheed. Pic: AP

LONDON (AP) — The jailed former president of the Maldives says he may not return home after being temporarily freed to seek medical treatment in Britain.

Mohamed Nasheed says he has yet to decide whether he can better serve the struggle for democracy inside his country or abroad.

Nasheed became the Indian Ocean nation’s first democratically-elected president in 2008. In 2015, he was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for ordering the arrest of a judge when he was in power in 2012.

He was released last week to so he could undergo spinal surgery. The Maldives government says he has given a guarantee to return and serve out his sentence.

Nasheed told reporters in London on Monday that “I will definitely go to the Maldives … The question is how and when.”

Taliban Peace Talks Without Mullah Mansour Are Meaningless

Interview: Taliban leader’s participation in talks essential to success of Afghan peace process: provincial police chief

Xinhua net

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — The Kandahar police chief and strongman of Afghanistan’s southern region, General Abdul Raziq, has linked the success of the Afghan peace talks to the participation of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and top leaders of Haqqani network in the coming peace dialogue.

“No talks would deliver unless and until Taliban top leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and Sarajudin Haqqani attend it,” General Raziq told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Arch rival of Taliban militants in the troubled Kandahar and neighboring Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces, Raziq, who is also chief of military operational in the volatile southern region, observed that the Afghan government, besides continuing the peace efforts, should also get military preparation in winter to face Taliban threats in the coming spring and summer.

“Taliban by staying away from talks, virtually bought time to regroup in winter and launch bloody offensives in the spring and summer,” the officer said.

The first round of face-to-face talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government under the mediation of Islamabad was held in Pakistan in July 2015.

However, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, who succeeded Mullah Mohammad Omar after his death was confirmed last August, termed the peace talks as “meaningless” practice and halted the process.

Nonetheless, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States, in efforts to revive the stalled talks, have held two rounds of meeting earlier this month.

The third round of the quadrilateral talks is scheduled for Feb. 6 in Pakistan to revive the stalled talks and work out a roadmap to bring the Taliban outfit to the negotiating table and find a political solution to Afghanistan’s lingering conflict.

General Raziq, who has been for the past few years fighting Taliban insurgents to evict them from Kandahar and Zabul provinces, said catiously, “I am praying for the return of lasting peace through negotiation in its earliest.”

However, he said with observation that the Taliban’s reluctance to participate in the talks would overshadow the ongoing peace process.

Although the Afghan government is desperately working to bring Taliban to the negotiating table, the armed outfit militants and Haqqani network have yet to give the green light to join the peace talks.

Again, the US Uses Qatari “Taliban” To Derail Real Afghan/Taliban Negotiationss

DOHA, Qatar—Taliban envoys laid out preconditions for peace talks to begin during meetings with people close to the Afghan government on Sunday, reiterating that a formal process can’t start as long as foreign troops remain in the country.

The Taliban also called for lifting United Nations sanctions that ban its leaders from flying internationally and tie up their financial assets.

They also said their political office in Qatar should reopen before peace talks start. The office was shut down days after it opened in 2013 following protests by the Afghan government.

“As long as foreign forces are in Afghanistan, peace and stability is impossible,” Mohammad Naim Wardak, a member of the Taliban delegation, said on the sidelines of the event. “We will take every path which leads to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and to the establishment of an Islamic system.”

It was the first time members of the group’s political commission, which is based in the Qatari capital and has a mandate to lead peace efforts, have publicly discussed reconciliation initiatives since President Barack Obama dropped plans in October to withdraw almost all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

The U.S. will keep at least 5,500 U.S. troops in bases across the country until Mr. Obama leaves office in January 2017.

The closed-door forum, which took place in a five-star hotel in central Doha, was organized by the international group Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which works on conflict resolution. It followed a similar event organized by the same group in May.

The Afghan government opposed the event and tried to stop it, fearing interference with simultaneous Pakistan-brokered efforts to restart peace talks.

The government said foreign troops had a legal right to remain in Afghanistan, and complained that the international platform gave the Taliban undue legitimacy.

“The government is open to talking with Taliban groups and is ready to discuss their concerns, but for the Taliban to set condition for talks is unacceptable,” said Zafar Hashemi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Participants, who attended the two-day conference on an individual basis rather than as the government’s representatives, included Mr. Ghani’s uncle Qayyum Kochai, an informal adviser to the president on peace-related issues and Malalai Shinwari, another adviser who was one of the few women in attendance.

Officials from Pakistan and Qatar also participated, as well as former U.S. diplomat and regional expert Robin Lynn Raphael.

“We have all expressed our opinion and encouraged the Taliban to go and talk to the government,” Mr. Kochai said. “Why should the government send representatives if they are not ready to talk?”

The conference provided a rare opportunity for Taliban representatives to engage with Afghan lawmakers, civic activists and others associated with the government and speak publicly on their conditions for joining a peace process.

“It was a good beginning,” said Umar Daudzai, a former Afghan interior minister who is now a leading member of an opposition party. “If we can build on this common ground, I am hopeful it can lead to formal peace talks.”

The Pugwash organizers said the talks showed there was common ground and an opportunity for progress. “The freedom for all parties to discuss the path to peace needs to be ensured from now on,” they said, adding, “The highest priority in this regard is enabling all sides to sit together.”

Mr. Ghani sees Pakistan’s participation as key for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Afghan and Western officials have long accused Islamabad of supporting the Taliban, who are based in Pakistan. Pakistan’s government has acknowledged it has some influence over the insurgents, but insists it doesn’t control the group.

Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and their backers the U.S. and China are holding a series of talks aimed at preparing the framework for a possible peace process, with a next meeting scheduled for Feb. 6.

Write to Jessica Donati at Jessica.Donati@wsj.com and Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com

Charsadda Terrorists Had No Suicide Vests, 2 Grenades, 2 Xtra Clips Each, and No Food

Army men take part in a search operation at Bacha Khan University. ─ AFP/FileArmy men take part in a search operation at Bacha Khan University. ─ AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The militant attack on the Bacha Khan University Charsadda appears to be the first of its kind in the province as the attackers didn’t wear suicide vests in sharp contrast to the past.

Security officials say they’re curious to know why the militants didn’t use suicide jackets while storming the university.

A senior security official told Dawn that none of the university attackers had worn suicide vests nor did they have other paraphernalia like edibles and water bottles.

“They (attackers) didn’t carry even candies or biscuits on their bodies,” he said.


Security officials insist militants wanted to flee after attack but plan foiled by guards, locals


The official said ostensibly, the attackers didn’t intend to lay long siege or take students or staff members hostage.

He said unlike terrorist incidents of the past, the BKU attackers were not heavily armed either.

GUNS[Guns recovered at Charsadda]

“They (attackers) carried hand grenades and AK-47 rifles only,” he said.

The official said the hand grenades the attackers carried didn’t total more than eight.

“The militants apparently detonated a grenade at the university’s parking lot, where its buses were parked,” he said, adding that grenade splinters were found on the attack site.

The official said four attackers carried two extra magazines and that the use of lighter arms was rare.

“A rapid fire exhausts half of the magazine in one burst. They (militants) would have been without ammunition in just five minutes with two spare chargers,” he said.

Another official said the absence of suicide jackets and use of lighter weapons pointed to an assumption that the militants wanted to flee the scene after attacking the varsity but the plan was possibly thwarted by the resistance showed by the university’s guards and local residents.

He said the response of Palosa villagers to attackers was something previously not seen anywhere.

“All villagers came to defend the university with whatever they got their hands on,” he said.

The official said coming out in large numbers, the villagers had surrounded the campus, which might have foiled the terrorists’ plan to escape.

He said all in the village knew each other and the venturing back into village was like walking to death for attackers, so it might have prompted them to stay back and die after a firefight.

The official said it was a positive sign that villagers came to the rescue of the students.

“Had this been in a city, the attackers might have been able to flee,” he said.

The official said the attackers were not properly trained and were not able to properly execute their mission and that was the apparent reason of smaller death toll.

He said the attackers managed to enter the campus at around 8:45am and could have inflicted greater damage during the first 30 minutes of their entry to the premises.

The official said usually, a killing spree took not more than five to 10 minutes.

“They (militants) were confused and were not fully trained. They had not done careful reconnaissance of the target,” he insisted.

The official said apparently, the attackers wanted to give a message that they still had the ability to hit a target.

“There were rumours of attack on some educational institution. With this attack, they (militants) have managed to reinforce the view that they can still strike targets,” he said.

The official said attackers had two phone numbers written on a piece of paper with them in addition to the mobile phones they carried. He however did not disclose whether the numbers were local or foreign.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2016

Pak Media Claims Charsadda Attackers Traced To Indian Embassy In Jalalabad, Afghanistan

Charsadda incident: Taliban Commander’s phone call traced, Indian embassy provided money

dunya news DUNYA NEWS

Plan of the attack on Bacha Khan University was cooked in Afghanistan with the help of India

PESHAWAR (Dunya News) – Sources revealed on Wednesday evening that the Taliban commander involved in Charsadda university attack had been in contact with Indian embassy in Afghanistan. The connection was revealed when the calls of the commander got traced, reported Dunya News.

According to the sources, the whole plan of the attack on Bacha Khan University was cooked in Afghanistan with the help of India. It is also revealed that the attackers were provided with 30 lac Indian rupees from Indian embassy in Jalalabad Afghanistan to use for the preparations of the deadly attack.The commander, who conducted the attack, had been working as the right hand of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban’s chief Mullah Fazalullah. The traced calls proved that the commander had been continuously in contact with the attackers through the phone numbers 0093774022167, 0093782552489 and 0093774262593. The commander was controlling the activities of the terrorists from Afghanistan.

Pakistani government has decided to raise the issue in front of Afghan government.

Radio Wars Along the Durand Line

IS radio beams propaganda, threats across rural Afghanistan

foxnews

The Afghan reporters recognized the voice threatening them with death on the Islamic State group’s local radio station. It was a former colleague, who knows their names and where they work.

The threats were made during a discussion program on “Voice of the Caliphate,” an elusive radio station operated by one of the extremist group’s newest affiliates. The so-called Khorasan Province has battled Afghan forces and the Taliban alike, carving out an enclave in Nangarhar, a rugged eastern province bordering Pakistan.

It has adopted the media strategy of its mother organization in Syria and Iraq, including the production of grisly, professionally made videos showing battles and the killing of captives. But in impoverished Afghanistan, where few have access to the Internet, radio could prove more effective at recruiting fighters and silencing critics.

The group is actively targeting other media outlets to prevent them from competing with its chilling broadcasts. Militants bombed a building housing two radio stations in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, in October, and attacked the local offices of the independent Pajhwok news agency and Voice of America in July.

The menacing broadcast in mid-December, in which a former local radio broadcaster called on reporters to either join IS or risk being hunted down and killed, could be heard across Jalalabad.

“It is a great concern for us because he knows all the journalists who are working locally,” said Shir Sha Hamdard, chairman of the Journalists’ Union of Eastern Afghanistan.

“He also knows that as journalists we do not take sides and that our only weapon is the pen. We’ve tried to talk to representatives of IS to make sure they know this but we haven’t been successful,” he said. He and other Jalalabad-based reporters asked that The Associated Press not name the IS broadcaster for their own safety.

IS radio can be heard across Nangarhar on an FM frequency for 90 minutes a day in both the Pashto and Dari languages. Programs include news, interviews, vitriol against the Afghan government and the Taliban, recruitment propaganda, and devotional music in multiple languages.

The message is clear: the Afghan government is a doomed “puppet regime” of the Americans. The Taliban are a spent force hijacked by Pakistan. The caliphate is coming.

“Soon our black flag will be flying over the (presidential) palace in Kabul,” an announcer crowed in a recent broadcast.

The IS affiliate “is against everything — free media, civil society, education, all of which they say are secular, un-Islamic,” said Haroon Nasir, a civil society activist in Nangarhar. He said the message likely resonates among young men in impoverished rural areas, where after nearly 15 years of war many have soured on both the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban.

In those areas — which make up most of Afghanistan — Internet access is spotty at best, and computers and smartphones are a luxury. Just 10 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million people have access to the Internet.

But nearly everyone has a radio.

A 2014 study by Altai Consulting found that 175 radio and 75 television stations had been set up since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban — which had one radio network and banned television. Wind-up radios that operate without electricity or even batteries have been widely distributed since then.

IS militants are believed to use mobile broadcasting units and cross back and forth along the porous border with Pakistan, making them difficult to track. The National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency, did not respond to requests for comment.

Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, the spokesman for the Nangarhar police chief, said “Voice of the Caliphate” broadcasts had been banned and were rarely picked up, especially in Jalalabad.

But residents tell a different story. Jalalabad shopkeeper Janat Khan said IS radio is popular chiefly due to its novelty. “Most people are listening to them because they want to know about Daesh and its strategy,” he said, referring to the extremist group by its Arabic acronym. “The preachers are strong, their message is clear — they talk against the Taliban and against (President Ashraf) Ghani’s government.”

Although IS and the Taliban both want to impose a harsh version of Islamic rule, they are bitterly divided over leadership and strategy, with the Taliban narrowly focused on Afghanistan and IS bent on establishing a worldwide caliphate.

The U.S. State Department recently added the IS Afghan affiliate to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. It said the group emerged in January 2015 and is mainly made up of disenchanted former Taliban fighters.

Over the last six months the group has taken over four Nangarhar districts, where it has imposed the same violent interpretation of Islamic law championed by the IS group in Syria and Iraq, including the public execution of alleged informers and other enemies. In August, students at Nangarhar University staged a pro-IS demonstration. Security forces swooped in to make arrests and have since cracked down on campus activism nationwide.

As the group has expanded its reach, its media strategy has grown more sophisticated and more brutal.

“They have not only made every attempt to promote themselves through all mediums from mainstream media to social media, but they have also resorted to coercing tactics to force local media to publish their news and follow their agenda,” said Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee.

“In areas where the government cannot provide sufficient security, media might resort to compromising their editorial independence out of fear — something that could make media turn into the propaganda machinery of Daesh.”

___

Associated Press writer Humayoon Babur in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

Pakistani Taliban Fight To Impose Sharia Law, While Afghan Taliban Wage War for Afghanistan

[SEE: Sharia for Malakand as Zardari signs law]

Pakistani Taliban attack kills hope for talks

usa_today_long

Latest strike leaves the United States with no good way to exit Afghanistan.

andelsman012016
Students inspect a bloody room after a Taliban attack on Bacha Khan University in Pakistan on Jan. 20, 2016.
(Photo: Bilawal Arbab, epa)

The vicious, ISIL-style attack by the Pakistani Taliban on the Bacha Khan University campus near Peshawar has suddenly laid bare one of the nasty, unsung undercurrents of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, barely 25 miles to the west.

Quite simply, the United States has no path to an exit. Those forces of evil with whom we had been hoping to negotiate pale by comparison with their even nastier Taliban cousins further back behind the mountains of the rugged Hindu Kush. For years, America held firm to the hope that we had found elements of the Taliban with whom we could negotiate. But that has been exposed as the ultimate pipe dream. Perhaps they do indeed exist. But they don’t count for much when it comes to a search for peace, or at least an end to war, in that part of the world. It’s increasingly clear that the Taliban is not going to facilitate any graceful U.S. exit.

It had been a long-standing diplomatic tenet that Pakistan, through its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, had close ties with the Taliban. The regime in Islamabad saw that as a critical counterweight to the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which in turn maintained close ties to India. India and Pakistan, each with formidable nuclear arsenals, have viewed each other as mortal enemies. The theory went that if we could get the Pakistanis on the side of peace and coerce their Taliban friends to the bargaining table, the combined weight of the world could persuade the Taliban to stand down.

Now all these ideas have been smashed to smithereens by a series of attacks on Pakistan by at least some elements of the Taliban. Born in Afghanistan, but hosted for years in the mountainous terrain of Pakistan’s North West Frontier province, many Taliban leaders and their followers now want nothing short of imposing a harsh sharia law on the entire nation of Pakistan.

Little more than a week before the campus attack that left at least 21 dead, diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China (which shares a border with both  countries) and the United States met in Islamabad to discuss how best to revive talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Such a revival hardly appears likely at this point.

The last time everyone convened was last July in Pakistan. It was subsequently revealed that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who supposedly had approved the talks, had been dead for two years. At that point, no one knew who might come to the bargaining table, or what they’d be able to guarantee even if any agreement could be reached. Omar’s putative successor, his deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, might himself have been fatally shot last month in a battle with a rival, breakaway faction.

Moreover, for the moment, the Taliban writ large has the upper hand on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan frontier. Last month, a dozen  Taliban fighters killed dozens of adults and children outside the airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. There has been a string of similar terror attacks, many aimed at showing that even in the less hospitable rainy season, the Taliban is still a potent force.

America still has a major stake in all of this. First, there is growing evidence that the Islamic State terrorist group has taken root in some scattered stretches of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan. That could be a game-changer. ISIL is even more ferocious than the Taliban, and it’s more attractive to any number of Afghan warriors — particularly if the Taliban is seen to be negotiating with the officials of their great foe, the United States.

Moreover, the last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, its leaders gave carte blanche to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who planned the 9/11 attacks from the territory controlled by the Taliban.

So what is the United States to do?

We have little choice but to wait it out. Our forces must stay in some numbers on the ground for quite an indefinite future. There must also be at least the perception of a unified American position rather than a deeply divided United States slogging through a bitter political campaign for another year. The risk, otherwise, is another debacle along the lines of what happened when U.S. forces bolted from Iraq. Remember how that vacuum was filled. By ISIL.

David A. Andelman, a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.

Syrian Army Moves To Close Turkish Border To Militants and Supply Operations

[ Islamist militants in Aleppo, Syria, got reinforcements from Turkey – Russian Foreign Ministry]

New regime campaign aims for ‘total isolation’ of Idlib province

Syria Direct

AMMAN: Regime forces have launched a new campaign just west of Aleppo city to cut off neighboring Idlib province from the Turkish border, a correspondent on the frontlines with the pro-regime Lebanese al-Mayadeen channel told Syria Direct Tuesday.

The endgame is the capture of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, said Ridha al-Basha, who is currently embedded with Syrian army forces west of Aleppo city. If the Syrian army can take back the border post, it would “isolate Idlib from the Turkish border,” he said.

The army’s campaign, which began on Monday, aims first to capture the town of Khan al-Asal, approximately 2.5km west of Aleppo city, in a four-pronged attack, reported state-owned news agency SANA Monday.

Khan al-Asal was the site of a 2013 massacre in which rebel forces executed surrendered Syrian soldiers en masse. Pro-regime media reported at the time that up to 100 civilians were also killed.

From Khan al-Asal, regime forces intend to move west into the Aleppo countryside, said embedded correspondent al-Basha. The area is controlled by Jabhat a-Nusra, Feilaq a-Sham and Ahrar a-Sham.

From there, the Syrian army would move a few dozen kilometers northwest to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in Idlib province. Bab al-Hawa is the only rebel-held border connecting Turkey to Idlib province, as well as a crucial point on rebel supply lines originating from Turkey.

“Idlib is now a priority for the Syrian army…separating Idlib and isolating it totally, then liberating it,” said al-Basha.

The regime’s push towards Bab al-Hawa coincides with a campaign in the northern Latakia countryside to take rebel-held areas along the Turkish border, including Jabal a-Turkman and Jabal al-Akrad. Both offensive campaigns are unfolding just days before the international talks in Geneva to bring about a political solution for Syria, scheduled to take place on January 25.

That Latakia campaign also aims to isolate Idlib from neighboring rebel-held areas in the province’s north, namely Jabal al-Akrad, Mohammed al-Hassan, a citizen journalist from the Idlib countryside told Syria Direct Tuesday. On the same day, regime forces captured Salma, a rebel-held outpost in north Latakia that serves as the first line of defense for Jabal al-Akrad.

The Khan al-Asal operation in Aleppo province is occurring “in harmony and cooperation with the Syrian army operations room in the Latakia province,” said Ridha al-Basha.

As of Monday, regime forces had reached the outskirts of Khan al-Asal, reported the state-owned Organization of Syrian Arab Radio and TV Monday.

Osama Abu Zeid

Osama Abu Zeid is a native of Homs, where he served as a media activist and founding member of the Homs Revolutionary Council after the Syrian uprising began in 2011.

Dan Wilkofsky

Dan Wilkofsky was a 2013-2014 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman, Jordan, where he worked with Talal Abu Ghazaleh Translation and the Ministry of Social Development. He has a BA in Classics (Latin) and Middle East Studies from Brown University.

TOLO NEWS Identifies Mullah Rasoul Faction As Pro-Peace Talks vs Pro-Pakistani Taliban of Mullah Mansour

After the death of the Taliban’s former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban split into two main factions – the first one led by Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and the second led by Mullah Mohammad Rasoul.

TOLOnews reporter Sharif Amiri has assessed the issue in a special report.

According to him, Mullah Akhtar Mansour has two deputies – including Haibatullah Akhundzada and Sarajuddin Haqqani [If Sarajuddin Haqqani is Mansour’s #2, then the ISI is still running Afghan Taliban (SEE:  The Bear Trap, Afghanistan’s Untold Story)], the leader of Haqqani network.

He said the Quetta Shura (Council) has 18 members, which has the responsibility of making Taliban’s strategies. The council is considered as the main factor behind the war in Afghanistan, Sharif said.

Based on him, another group which is led by Mullah Rasoul has focused more on Afghanistan.

Mullah Manan Niazi and Mullah Baz Mohammad Haris are his deputies, Sharif said in his report.

He added that he has found that Pakistan has little control over the Taliban faction led by Mullah Rasoul. The group led by Mullah Rasoul is more interested to join the peace process – compared to other factions of Taliban, he added.

In addition he said there are a number of key Taliban leaders in Qatar, including Abbas Stanikzai, head of the office, Mullah Jan Mohammad Madani, Mullah Shahabuddin Dilawar, Suhail Shahin, Mohammad Zahid Ahmadzai and Abdul Salam Hanafi.

According to him, the Qatar Taliban office has the responsibility of Taliban’s foreign policy. This office takes orders from Quetta Shura, the report said.

According to the report, there are five key members of Taliban – including Mullah Fazil Akhund, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwah, Mullah Abdulhaq Wasiq, Mullah Noorullah Noori and Mullah Mohammad Nabi Omari.

Sharif said that the Taliban is not the only problem for Afghanistan; there are up to 5,000 foreign rebels, including Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters, fighting against security forces in Afghanistan.

It is believed that if the Taliban agrees to peace with the Afghan government, the groups will still pose a threat to the country’s security.

Taliban Stage Suicide Attack Against TOLO TV Personnel In Kabul

https://i1.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/160120180120-afghanistan-security-media-bus-exlarge-169.jpg
Afghan security forces check out the bus that was carrying employees of an Afghan TV network  CNN

 

Organizations from around the world have strongly condemned the suicide attack on Wednesday that claimed the lives of at least seven TOLO TV staff members and injured 26 others.

The incident occurred after a suicide bomber detonated explosives targeting the bus that was carrying over 30 TOLO TV staff members.

In a statement issued by the U.S Embassy in Kabul, they said: “We strongly condemn tonight’s [Wednesday] attack on a bus carrying media professionals on Darulaman Road in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families during this difficult time.”

“Murdering those who work to enlighten, educate, and entertain will not stop Afghans from exercising their universal human right to freedom of expression. A vibrant media is one of the great successes of the Afghan people over the past 14 years. We stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government as they work to build peace and security in the country,” read their statement.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a statement condemned the attack and said it extends its condolences to the families of all of those killed and wishes a speedy recovery for those injured.

“Strong and independent journalism, free from intimidation and fear of criminal violence, is essential for a healthy democracy and decent society,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Acting-Head of UNAMA.

“Afghanistan can be justly proud of its flourishing media sector. All steps must be taken to safeguard media professionals and freedom of expression against those who would use violence to impose their voice and views alone,” he added.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the attack and said: “Attacks aimed at crushing independent media organizations in Afghanistan are a direct assault on the very foundation of Afghan democracy – a free and open press.”

According to Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Today’s killings not only underscore the vulnerability of the media in the country, but the fragility of Afghan security under which the media must operate. We call on the government to seek out and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime as quickly as possible.”

Human Rights Watch meanwhile called on anti-government insurgency groups to immediately stop intentionally targeting civilians.

“The January 20 suicide attack on a minibus in Kabul transporting journalists affiliated with TOLO TV, Afghanistan’s 24-hour news channel, was an atrocity designed to undermine Afghanistan’s still-fragile media freedom,” they said in a statement.

“Both the Taliban and an individual who claims to represent a group that affiliates with the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed seven journalists from the entertainment channel TOLO TV and its production wing.”

“A Pashto-language Taliban statement described the bombing as “revenge” for alleged “false allegations” against the insurgency group. The statement explicitly listed both TOLO TV and its news channel rival 1TV as “military targets” for allegedly serving as “informational warfare tools of the American and Crusading forces,” their statement read.

“The targeting of journalists reflects a depraved strategy to make media freedom a casualty of the ongoing conflict,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Designating journalists and other civilians as ‘military targets’ does not make them so, and deliberately attacking them constitutes a war crime.”

Gossman said Afghan media has faced increasing intimidation and violence in recent years and that the Taliban and other insurgent groups have used the media as a propaganda platform, and actively court the media in their campaign against the government, including pressuring reporters to cover their statements or not to write articles deemed critical.

“Afghan insurgents should respect the right for journalists to operate without fear for their lives from deliberate targeted attacks,” Gossman said.

“So long as insurgents falsely categorize journalists as ‘military targets,’ media freedom in Afghanistan is in peril,” she said.

Reporters Without Borders also stated that after the TOLO TV attack, entire media organizations are under threat of attack.

“Journalists are targeted throughout the world but now entire news organizations are threatened by large-scale attacks,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Jihadists are among press freedom’s worst predators. As in Paris a year ago, killers decided to target a media outlet out of hatred for its editorial policies and hatred for free speech in general. We call on the Afghan authorities to assign all available resources to catching those responsible for this bombing as quickly as possible.”

TOLO TV and 1TV – Afghanistan’s two leading privately-owned TV channels – were named as “military targets” in a Taliban communiqué on 12 October last year.

The Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) also condemned the attack and passed on their condolences to MOBY media group and TOLO TV.

“All media and journalist community is shocked and seriously sad at hearing this sad news,” they said in a statement.

“AIJA leadership and members across the country are saddened and share their condolences and sympathy with MOBY group and all media family of Afghanistan.”

Fazlullah’s Terrorists Occupy Pakistan’s Bacha Khan University In Charsadda—25 Dead So Far

LIVE: TTP attacks Bacha Khan University in Charsadda

the nation pakistan

At least 25 people have been killed and over 60 injured as unidentified gunmen stormed inside Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. According to Waqt News, firing followed blasts, with eyewitnesses claiming that five blasts were heard. Pakistan Army personnel have undertaken the rescue operation.

Bilal, Rescue 1122 spokesperson, told Waqt news said that there are dead bodies inside the university but nothing can be ascertained until Army clears the operation.

A security official told Reuters that the death toll could rise to as high as 40 as the army cleared out student hostels and classrooms. A spokesman for the rescue workers said the dead included students, guards, policemen and at least one professor.

Around 50 students have been rescued from the university premises. The injured have been shifted to District Headquarters Hospital, while emergency has been imposed in all hospitals in Charsadda.

Reports reveal that gunmen entered the university through the admin block.

PTI’s Information Secretary Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed that at least 25 people have been killed in the attack. “Four terrorists have been killed as well,” he told the media.

According to ISPR, Army troops have cordoned area with the gunmen contained inside two university blocks. Air surveillance is being done.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has taken responsibility for the attack. Omar Mansoor, the mastermind of the APS Peshawar attack, claimed the attack through a Facebook post on his page.


Security personnel outside Bacha Khan University (Photo Ubaid Awan)

The gunmen attacked as the university prepared to host a poetry recital on Wednesday afternoon to commemorate the death anniversary of Bacha Khan. Vice Chancellor Fazal Rahim told Reuters that the university teaches over 3,000 students and was hosting an additional 600 visitors on Wednesday for the recital.

Police inspector Wazir said 70 percent of students had been rescued.

“All students have been evacuated from the hostels, but militants are still hiding in different parts of the university and some students and staff are stuck inside,” he said before the firing had stopped, adding that it was unclear how many gunmen were involved.

ANP’s Iftikhar Hussain while talking to Waqt News said “We should start joint operations with Afghanistan. We should look upon development in the tribal belts because they have become the home for terrorists. Federal and provincial governments have failed in implementing National Action Plan.”


Scenes from Bacha Khan University (Photo Ubaid Awan)

PTI spokesperson Naeem-ul-Haq while talking to Waqt News ‘strongly condemned the attack’. “My deepest condolence is with families of martyrs. Counter-terrorism laws should be more stringent and there should be public hangings”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemened the attack. The PM’s spokesperson said that he is being constantly updated.

“Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is deeply grieved over the sad incident of terrorists’ attack on Bacha Khan University, Charsada, which has reportedly resulted into the loss of precious human lives and injured many others,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office read.

“While condemning the cowardly attack of the terrorists, the Prime Minister said that those killing innocent students and citizens have no faith and religion.”


Security personnel outside the university (Photo: AFP)

ANP’s Haji Adeel criticised the intelligence. “Our ground intelligence is very weak. We have two dozen intelligence agencies. Why were they not able to forestall the attack?” he asked. “It’s because the sharing system between different departments is very weak, he added. “Why do religious leaders like Tariq Jameel not say anything ever about terrorism?”.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan told the media he going to Charsadda to evaluate the situation. “We will see what our mistakes were and what could be done,” he said. “The whole nation is united against terrorism and we will fight against it together” Khan said.

Yousafzai said that whole world is fighting against terrorism. “We are in state of war as Operation Zarb-e-Azb continues. We have been fighting terrorism as a nation” he said. “These elements are taking there last breathes and these are there final desperate attempts” he added.

Yousafzai confirmed that KP is on high alert, while security has been beefed up in Islamabad and Peshawar schools. All education institutes in Charsadda will remain closed till January 31. Educational institutes all over Pakistan have been issued red alert.

Bacha Khan University was founded in 2012 and named after Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a Pashtun independence activist known famously as Bacha Khan. Today is his 28th death anniversary.

The university is located near the border with Afghanistan, less than 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar.

This is the third back-to-back terror attack in the last three days, after an FC vehicle was targetted in Quetta on Monday, while Karkhano market near Peshawar was attacked yesterday. This is the biggest attack on an educational institute since the APS attack in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, which killed 144 most of whom were students. The APS attack triggered the government’s National Action Plan, designed to curb militancy all over Pakistan.

Pak Taliban (TTP), Turned “ISIS,” Bomb Police Torkham Crossing

Ten persons killed, 16 injured in blast near Khasadar force check post in Jamrud

dunya newsDUNYA NEWS

The bomb targeted Political Administration’s Line Officer Nawab Shah.

PESHAWAR (Web Desk / AFP) – At least ten persons including six security personnel and a journalist were killed in a bomb blast near Khasadar check post in Jamrud town of Khyber Agency on Tuesday, Dunya News reported.

The blast took place in Karkhano Market.

According to security sources, Political Administration’s Line Officer Nawab Shah, a local journalist Mehboob Afridi and child were among those killed in the incident.

Several nearby vehicles and shops were also destroyed in the incident.



“We have received reports that it was a suicide attack but we are yet to confirm this information,” said Ismatullah, a Khyber tribal district administration official.

Security forces have cordoned off the area and launched search operation. The injured persons were shifted to Hayatabad Medical Complex.

The Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) is gathering evidence from the site.



Khyber is one of Pakistan’s seven tribal districts situated next to Peshawar and bordering Afghanistan.

The mountainous forest regions have for years been home to some of the world’s most notorious militants linked to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Pakistan launched a military offensive in 2014 that has reportedly killed thousands of militants and pushed the rest over the border to Afghanistan, resulting in improved security inside Pakistan. However, militants associated with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) occasionally carry out attacks from bases in Afghanistan.

The attack in Jamrud comes a day after Pakistan-unrest-southwest lead at least six paramilitary soldiers were martyred when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan.

A separatist militant group said it planted the bomb in the Marget area, around 30 kilometres (19 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta.

Thousands of paramilitary troops are deployed in troubled areas of the country to carry out security checks and help police in maintaining law and order.


An armed paramilitary soldier stands guard after a suicide bomber blew himself up close to a police checkpoint in Peshawar.


The Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We detonated a remote-controlled bomb and then ambushed the security forces personnel,” said group spokesman Meerak Baloch.

“This is part of our war against security forces.”

Baloch separatists demanding greater autonomy have been waging an insurgency for years, and the province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence.

US NAVY Begins Construction of New Base On Palawan Island, Philippines

A Philippine Navy ship is seen in Oyster Bay. A naval facility is being built in waters close to disputed territory to house the US navy. Photo: Inquirer

A Philippine Navy ship is seen in Oyster Bay. A naval facility is being built in waters close to disputed territory to house the US navy. Photo: Inquirer

Manila quietly building US naval base near disputed waters

EJInsight

An existing naval facility off the Philippines’ Palawan island is being quietly developed into a military base for US troops.

However, while construction is continuing, there has been no confirmation from local military and civilian officials, the Inquirer reports on its website.

The naval base in Oyster Bay is being developed into a “mini Subic”, a former US naval base north of the capital Manila.

The Subic facility was shuttered together with Clark Air Base in 1992 after the Senate voted to terminate the US-Philippine Military Bases Agreement.

Oyster Bay is close to the islands and reefs that the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, China and Taiwan are disputing.

Previously accessible only by sea from the pier of its local host community, Puerto Princesa’s northern village of Macarascas, Oyster Bay will soon be linked to the urban center by a highway now under construction.

Work on the 12-kilometer access road is being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways Navforwest, the navy’s western command.

“The purpose of this road is for easy access of our troops from Oyster Bay to Puerto Princesa, transporting materials for construction of new barracks for our troops and accessibility of Navy ships,” Lt. Ariesh Climacosa, spokesperson for Navforwest, told the Inquirer.

The road is expected to be completed in October.

By then, the base would be less than an hour’s drive from Puerto Princesa.

Some local officials, however, have complained about the “haste” by which the road project was started.

Community Environment and Natural Resources (Cenro) officer Emer Garraez said the project proponent had been cited for bypassing the agency’s permit.

He said the project required the clearing of primary forest vegetation to make way for the road.

“They started it without a tree-cutting permit,” Garraez said.

The project, however, received endorsement and approval of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development last year.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

Zionism—Imperialism in the Age of Counter-revolution (Erased from Orig. Site)

Zionism: Imperialism in the Age of Counter-revolution

dissident voice

Coercive Engineered Migration: Zionism’s War on Europe (Part 2 of an 11 Part Series)–[Part 1 HERE]

In this essay we have argued that the contemporary form of this counter-revolutionary ideology, of this imperial drive for global domination, is Zionism. One could therefore assert that Zionism is imperialism in the age of capitalist counter-revolution. In other words, Zionism is the very form of contemporary Western imperialism. Therefore, unlike Russian and Chinese imperialism, Western imperialism or Zionism has both a religious and ethnic dimension. Zionism is a Messianic and racist ideology based on Talmudic Judaism.

Zionism, through its control of Western finance capitalism, is striving for global governance. Lenin, writing in 1915, described as ‘indisputable’ the fact that ‘development is proceeding towards monopolies, hence, towards a single world monopoly, towards a single world trust’. But Lenin also pointed out that this drive towards unipolar global power would also intensify the contradictions in the global economy. A cogent example of this today is the low-intensity covert war currently being waged by the United States/Israel against Germany: The Western imperial alliance is turning on itself.

However, no people’s resistance to Zionism can be mounted if the empire continues to outsmart its opponents. The aforementioned General Barnett understands his enemies well. He used to teach Marxism in Harvard university and has written a book comparing the African policies of the German Democratic Republic and the Socialist Republic of Romania. In his book Blueprint For Action, he points out that the father of Fourth Generation Warfare is Mao Tse Tung. Imperial grand strategy is now waging war using techniques developed during the Chinese revolution, one of the greatest anti-colonial struggles in history. The key for anti-imperialist resistance today is, therefore, to understand how to turn the tools of imperialism against imperialism.

Marxism is a useful and indispensable tool but is insufficient for an full understanding of the complexities of the information age in the context of imperial strategy and tactics. Barnett and many other US and Israeli military strategists are keen students of social psychology, and in particular General Boyd’s OODA Loop Theory. The OODA stands for observation, orientation, decision, action. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.

One could see this psychology at work during the Arab Spring. The rigid ideological orientation of the average ‘leftist’ saw the uprisings in Tunisia as proof that people were rebelling against a US-backed dictator and his ‘neo-liberal’ regime. This interpretation was reinforced by strategically placed ‘critics’ of US-foreign policy in the news station of Zionism’s ancillary regime, Qatar, while the initial indifference of the Western press confirmed the interpretation of the Tunisian revolt as a genuine, grass roots uprising against US imperialism.

US and Israeli strategists were capable of doing this through their deep understanding of ‘leftist’ discourse. They also understood that the ‘anti-globalisation’ form of the protest movement would fool genuine critics of US imperialism, thereby impeding their ability to react to the US-orchestrated revolutions in a rational manner.

In the Arab Spring, inverted Marxian dialectics, Systems Theory, Psychology, Military Science and Utility Theory were waged against a feckless and discombobulated anti-war movement who would repeat the sound bites of ‘popular uprising’ and the ‘defeat of US imperialism in the Middle East’ implanted in their minds by one of the most impressive and successful US/Israeli geostrategic operations in modern history.

On the eve of NATO’s bombing of Libya, the BBC predictably called upon an old reliable ‘critic of US foreign-policy’ Noam Chomsky. The veteran American philosopher agreed that the West had a “duty” to “stop the massacres” in Libya thus ensuring there would be no moral outrage among the so-called anti-war movement. The invitation of Noam Chomsky by the Zionist-controlled BBC shows the importance for British intelligence of ideologically disarming potential ‘leftist’ opponents in the run-up to meticulously planned wars of aggression, disguised as ‘humanitarian interventions’.

Given Chomsky’s anarchist ideology, the very ideology instrumentalised by the CIA in colour revolutions, the BBC knew he would go along with their fake ‘popular uprising’ in Benghazi, thus providing justification to wage ‘humanitarian’ warfare in support of the ‘revolution’.

In 2013, a massive military destablisation of Brazil was undertaken by US NGOs, operating under the guidance of the CIA, in order to weaken the popularity of a government moving far too close to Russia and China in the eyes of Washington. Again, the CIA’s ‘Vinegar revolution‘ received full support from most ‘leftist’ quarters. Once again, military geostrategy had triumphed over anti-imperialist analysis.

The current refugee crisis proves that US/Israeli military geostrategy is running circles around its opponents, who, instead of identifying the culprits who are using human beings as weapons, are unwittingly collaborating with Zionism’s plan to inundate Europe with migrants for the purposes of fomenting civil war in the European peninsula, in a desperate effort to prevent Eurasian integration, a prospect inimical to what the Pentagon refers to as ‘full spectrum dominance’, US/Zionist global hegemony.

Those who have joined in the chorus of welcoming the refugees/migrants are unwitting participants in an extension of Zionism’s neo-colonial wars in Africa and the Middle East. They are also complicit in the endorsement and cover-up of a modern slave trade. Opposing imperialism requires study of the logic of its geostrategic operations. Imperialism’s deliberate flooding of Europe with a Wahhabised lumpen-proletariat from a war-torn Southern Hemisphere will not help the cause of labour, the cause of human freedom. Rather, it will contribute to prevent the unification of the European-peninsula with Russia and Asia. It will contribute towards the further colonisation and destruction of independent African and Middle Eastern nations such as Eritrea and Syria.

An example of Marxist Leninist parties’ inability to deal with imperialism’s weaponization of migrants comes from the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist). Their argument in favour of immigration is sound under normal circumstances but they fail to address the problem of when immigration becomes a tool of imperialism, a specific geopolitical strategy aimed at destabilizing both the country of origin and the destination of the migrant.

The recent resolution of the CPGBML is worth reproducing here in full:

This party firmly believes that immigration is not the cause of the ills of the working class in Britain, which are solely the result of the failings of the capitalist system.

Immigration and asylum legislation and controls under capitalism have only one real goal: the division of the working class along racial lines, thus fatally weakening that class’s ability to organise itself and to wage a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of imperialism.

These controls have the further effect of creating an army of ‘illegal’ immigrant workers, prey to super exploitation and living in dire conditions as an underclass, outside the system, afraid to organise and exercising a downward pull on the wages and conditions of all workers.

The scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism. But since immigration can no more be abolished under capitalism than can wage slavery, our call should not be for the further control and scapegoating of immigrants, but the abolition of all border controls, as part of the wider fight to uproot racism from the working-class movement and build unity among workers in Britain, so strengthening the fight for communism.

The problem here is that no distinction is made between immigration into imperialist countries and immigration into semi-colonial type countries. For example, Syria has been forced to close its borders due to the passage of terrorists in the service of imperialism. In such circumstances, it would be ludicrous to condemn the Syrian government for erecting fences to protect its borders. Similarly, Hungary, a small country which has just taken modest steps towards escaping from the clutches of US imperialism under the control of the IMF, has decided to erect fences to protect its borders from what it perceives as an attempt by US imperialism to destablize the country. Under these conditions, such a decision is entirely justified. The CPGBML argues correctly that “the scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism.”  The erection of fences in Hungary is part of that fight against imperialism, when migrants are clearly being used as weapons of imperialist strategy against recalcitrant nation-states.

The fact that Zionism is using the refugee crisis to further its imperialist agenda does not mean, however, that all refugees in the world are being used for this purpose. Rather, just as in the Arab Spring where the social inequalities of capitalism were used by imperialism to further the cause of capitalism, so are many refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa being used for the same purpose.

Throughout the world Homo sapiens is being supplanted by homo economicus: a vacuous, brain-washed, rootless cosmopolitan, a deterritorialised and acculturated nomad, hopelessly blown hither and thither by the exigencies of capital. Meanwhile, Zionism continues to stoke up the incessant and utterly fraudulent ‘War on Terror’, with omnipresent mass surveillance of the “nations” (goyim) while at the same time Jews are being encouraged by the Israeli regime to leave Europe for settlement on Arab lands, ruined and depopulated by Zionism’s wars.

The ‘refugee crisis’ is indubitably one more step towards the creation of a Greater Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu recently told the Israeli National News that Israel must become a “world power”.

To politically correct pundits, Victor Orban’s fence might appear inhumane and xenophobic, but at this moment in history the concrete choice presented to us is between temporary fences designed to protect nations from imperialism or Zionist walls built to imprison humanity.

Gearóid Ó Colmáin is a journalist and political analyst based in Paris. His work focuses on globalization, geopolitics and class struggle. He is a regular contributor to Global Research, Russia Today International, Press TV, Sputnik Radio France, Sputnik English , Al Etijah TV , Sahar TV,and has also appeared on Al Jazeera and Al Mayadeen. He writes in English, Gaelic, and French. Read other articles by Gearóid.

Saudi Royals Trying To Bribe the World Into Turning Against Iran

Saudi splurging out to rally support against Iran: Report

Saudi Arabia pledged the Somali government USD 50 million in aid on the same day Mogadishu declared it had severed ties with Iran, a report says.

Pak defence minister cancels visit to Iran

ISLAMABAD: Defence minister Khawaja Asif has cancelled a planned trip to Tehran, apparently due to Iran’s tension with Saudi Arabia – a key ally of Pakistan.

Asif was scheduled to travel to Tehran on a two-day visit from Monday for promoting defence ties between the two countries, the Dawn reported.

According to the paper, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the cancellation of the trip.

Bahrain, Sudan and UAE follow Saudis in diplomatic action against Iran

Saudis’ 10 million-dollar bribe to UN Special rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran

Pakistan PM to visit Riyadh, Tehran to ease tensions

gulf-times

‘He will try to convince the two leaders that their tension was adding to the problems faced by the Muslim world’

Image Credit: AP  Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammad Bin Salman with Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi on January 10.

Islamabad
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to undertake an important visit to Iran and Saudi Arabia on Monday to reduce tensions between the two nations, his office said yesterday.

He will travel first to Riyadh and proceed from there to Tehran after meetings with Saudi leadership, according to official sources.

The decision was taken after behind-the-scene contacts by Pakistan with both countries to lower temperatures in the region after Iranian rioters attacked and set fire to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a local Shiite cleric along with dozens of other Islamists convicted of terrorism.

Riyadh responded to the attacks by severing all relations with Iran.

Iran then snapped all commercial ties with Saudi Arabia and stopped pilgrims from travelling to Makkah for Umrah.

Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said yesterday that Sharif would depart tomorrow for Riyadh, where he will meet with King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz. On Tuesday Sharif will meet with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran.

“The prime minister’s crucial initiative comes after positive indications from both sides,” a senior government official who did not want to be named told Gulf News, referring to two high-profile visits from Riyadh to Islamabad earlier this month as well as discussions held by Pakistani authorities with Iranian officials.

The crisis in relations between the two major Muslim states was at the centre of talks during separate visits of Saudi foreign minister and defence minister to Islamabad.

Pentagon Views Taliban As Future Partners In Peace–(updated)

“What we’re not doing (is) counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis.

US sees Taliban as reconciliation partners: Pentagon

dawn

We actually view the Taliban as being an important partner in a peaceful Afghan-led reconciliation process, says Pentagon.—Creative Commons

Capt Davis said that some “lone wolves” in Pakistan and Afghanistan were using the IS brand to raise their stature but the group did not have an institutional presence in the region.

He said the IS had a “pretty good” command and control system in Iraq and Syria but those claiming to represent the group in Afghanistan and Pakistan did not have the command and control relationship with the main IS.

The Pentagon official said the United States was working “very extensively” with the Pakistani government in the fight against terrorists.

Capt Davis explained that while the Coalition Support Fund was aimed to enhance Pakistan’s ability to fight the Haqqani Network, it also helped develop other broader spectrum counter-terrorism capabilities.

In Afghanistan, the US ended its combat operations last year and its role there now was simply to advise and assist the Afghan forces, he said.

Capt Davis said the US also had “unilateral role” of being able to conduct counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan primarily against Al Qaeda and its remnants.

“But IS would be fair game as well,” he added.

Pakistan Wants To Keep Its Taliban, While the CIA Just Wants the Drugs

The Afghan Puzzle

counter punch

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Just like Lazarus, there were reasons to believe the Afghan peace process might have stood a chance of being resurrected this past Monday in Islamabad, as four major players – Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China – sat together at the same table.

The final communiqué though was not exactly ground breaking: “The participants emphasized the immediate need for direct talks between representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and representatives from Taliban groups in a peace process that aims to preserve Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

A week before the Islamabad meeting, while in the Persian Gulf, I had an extremely enlightening conversation with a group of Afghan Pashtuns. After the ice was broken, and it was established I was not some Sean Penn-style shadowy asset with a dodgy agenda, my Pashtun interlocutors did deliver the goods. I felt I was back in Peshawar in 2001, only a few days before 9/11.

The first groundbreaker was that two Taliban officials, currently based in Qatar, are about to meet top Chinese and Pakistani envoys face to face, without interference from the US. This fits into the strategy laid out by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by China and Russia, according to which the Afghan puzzle must be solved as an Asian matter. And Beijing definitely wants a solution, fast; think Afghan chapter of the New Silk Roads.

The post 9/11 Afghan War has been going on for an interminable 14 years; taking a cue from Pentagonese, talk about Enduring Freedom forever. No one is winning – and the Taliban are more divided than ever after the previous peace process collapsed when the Taliban announced Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.

That good old “strategic depth”

Still, it all hinges on the complex interplay between Kabul and Islamabad.

Take the see saw of Afghan CEO (yes, that’s his title) Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. He juggles between Tehran – where he emphasizes terrorism is a threat both to Iran and Afghanistan – and Islamabad, where he discusses peace process arcana with Pakistani officials.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for his part, never skips a beat renewing his commitment towards peace and economic development in Afghanistan.

When an attempt towards a peace process actually started – informally – in Doha, in 2012, including eight Taliban officials, the Taliban were furious that Kabul actually privileged talking to Islamabad. The official Taliban position is that they are politically – and militarily – independent from Islamabad.

As my Pashtun interlocutors emphasized, most people in Afghanistan don’t know what to make of all that Kabul-Islamabad talk, including what they regard as dangerous concessions, such as sending young Afghan military to be trained in Pakistan.

Islamabad plays a highly leveraged game. The Haqqani group – which Washington brand as terrorists – finds safe harbor inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. If the Taliban will be on the table at any peace process that will be brokered by Pakistan – which still enjoys a lot of leverage over those Taliban clustered around the new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.

My Pashtun interlocutors are adamant; the Taliban and the ISI remain indistinguishable. Their strategic alliance is still in place. All Taliban in Doha are monitored by the ISI.

On the other hand, there seems to be a subtle shift involving the Pakistani military and the ISI (which knows everything there is to know, and is complicit on much that happens concerning the Taliban). Last month, Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif went to Afghanistan by himself; so that could mean the military will privilege real peace on the ground instead of manipulating Afghanistan as a “strategic depth” Pakistani pawn.

Caution: pipeline ahead

So, in principle, the Afghan talkfest will remain in effect. The Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – another key player on Washington’s Top Ten Terrorist List – is also interested in the peace process. But HIA says it must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned – meaning no Pakistani interference. Hekmatyar is clearly positioning himself for a future leading role.

The plot thickens when we turn from the Taliban to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh’s advances in Afghanistan. For circles close to former President Hamid Karzai, a.k.a. the former “mayor of Kabul” (because he controlled nothing else), Daesh is a creation of Islamabad’s foreign policy, so Pakistan may gain full access to energy-rich Central Asia, China and Russia.

That sounds a bit far-fetched when compared to what’s actually going on in Pipelineistan.

Kabul has committed to a huge 7,000-member security force to guard the $10-billion, 1,800 km long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline within Afghanistan, assuming it will really be finished by December 2018. Optimistically, heavy work on clearing TAPI’s passage – and that includes demining – will begin in April.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov already
ordered state companies Turkmengaz and Turkmengazneftstroi to begin building the country’s 214-km section of TAPI. The pipeline will also travel 773 km in Afghanistan and 827 km in Pakistan before entering India. Whether all this frenzy will actually materialize by 2018 is open to never-ending question.

Where’s my heroin?

Meanwhile, what is the CIA up to?

Former acting CIA director Michael Morell is now spinning “the reemergence of Afghanistan as an issue”, so “the debate on how many troops we [the US] keep in Afghanistan is going to reopen.”

The Pentagon for its part is spinning the need for 10,000 boots on the ground. The top NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, wants his 10,000 with a vengeance; “My intent would be to keep as much as I could, for as long as I could.” Enduring Freedom forever, indeed – as the Pentagon has been forced to admit, on the record, that the Afghan security forces are incapable of “operating entirely on their own” despite a whopping Washington investment of $60 billion-plus since 2002.

The latest Pentagon reports describe security in Afghanistan going down, down, down. Which brings us to Helmand.

Only a few days before the Islamabad meeting, US special forces shadowing Afghan troops got into a tremendous firefight with the Taliban in Helmand. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, in trademark newspeak, didn’t call it “combat” – but a “train, advise and assist” mission.

The Taliban control more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the 2001 American bombing. The Taliban control no less than four Helmand districts. Civilians are caught in the crossfire. And yet Pentagon special forces and air strikes in Helmand are just qualified as sightseeing.

In the end, everything comes back to Helmand. Why Helmand? My Pashtun interlocutors loosen up and say it with a mouthful: it’s all about the involvement of the CIA in the heroin trade in Afghanistan; “The Americans simply can’t let it go.”

So here we are delving into perhaps a new chapter in a gas and poppy epic at the heart of Eurasia. The Taliban, divided or not, have come up with their ultimate red line; no talking with Kabul until they get a direct talk with Washington. From a Taliban point of view, it makes total sense. Pipelineistan? Fine, but we want our cut (that’s the same story since the first Clinton administration). CIA heroin? Fine, you can keep it, but we want our cut.

My Pashtun interlocutors, about to board a flight to Peshawar, lay out the road map. The Taliban want their Qatar office – a really nice palace – officially recognized as a representation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan; that’s what the country was from 1996 to 2001. They want the UN – not to mention the US – to remove the Taliban from its “most wanted” list. They want all Taliban prisoners released from Afghan jails.

Will that happen? Of course not. So it’s up to Beijing to come up with a win-win scenario.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

The Collective Delusions of the American Republican Party and Our Next President

The GOP debate described a terrifying world that doesn’t actually exist

vox

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ted Cruz ended his performance at Thursday’s night’s debate, at which he was one of the clear winners, by pitching not a policy but an action movie: 13 Hours — Michael Bay’s Hollywood retelling of the real-life 2012 Benghazi attacks.

13 Hours. Tomorrow morning, a new movie will debut about the incredible bravery of the men fighting for their lives in Benghazi and the politicians that abandoned them.

Cruz is correct that the movie portrays politicians as “abandoning” the Americans in Benghazi. But in reality, that is a conspiracy theory that has been roundly debunked.

This moment, Cruz citing a fictitious movie as truth, was of a piece with the debate as a whole. In it, much of conversation about world affairs existed in a make-believe world, and a terrifying one at that, in which the very existence of America is in perilous danger. In other words, it wasn’t just Ted Cruz who was living in a fiction last night — it was the entire stage.

ISIS poses an existential threat … except it doesn’t

 (John Moore/Getty Images)
Kurdish soldiers after seizing the strategic Sinjar town from ISIS.

A major theme of last night’s debate was that ISIS, and “radical Islamic terrorists” in general, are not merely dangerous but actually pose a fundamental threat to America. When moderator Maria Bartiromo asked Marco Rubio about President Obama’s claim that ISIS wasn’t a threat to America’s existence, Rubio framed the issue in apocalyptic terms:

There is a war against ISIS, not just against ISIS but against radical jihadist terrorists. That is a war they win or we win.

It’s not totally clear what Rubio means about ISIS winning the war against America. Is he alluding to ISIS’s plan to establish a global caliphate? Does he think the strongest military in history is on the verge of crumbling before a few thousand fighters based half a world away?

“The simple fact,” Jeb Bush said, “is the world has been torn asunder,” citing ISIS as an example:

The president talks about [ISIS] being a JV team. They form a caliphate the size of Indiana with 35 or 40 thousand battle-tested terrorists. He is missing the point. America’s leadership in the world is required for peace and stability.

Even Bartiromo, the moderator, got in on it. “We know that recent global events have many people worried,” she said. “ISIS is getting stronger.”

In reality, ISIS is getting weaker; for example, it has lost large chunks of its territory, especially in Iraq. There is just no evidence that the group is gaining strength.

Still, it is of course true that ISIS’s threat is real, and Americans are right to worry. But the candidates, and, indeed, the moderator, exaggerated that threat so far beyond reality it is hardly recognizable. The San Bernardino attacks, for example, killed 14 Americans — which is a real danger that needs to be taken seriously, but not exactly the existential threat or imminent American defeat that the candidates portrayed.

It’s worth, just for a bit of perspective, comparing terrorism deaths in the United States with firearm deaths, a threat that the Republican candidates generally downplay:

Guns in the US kill more people than terrorism (Javier Zarracina)

Again, this by no means obviates the real threat from terrorism generally or ISIS specifically, but it makes the rhetoric on the GOP stage seem a bit hysterical.

For even more perspective: The number of Americans killed per year by terrorism is the same as the number crushed to death by their own furniture. Obviously one key difference here is that terrorist groups would like to kill many more Americans, and are surely trying to accomplish just that, whereas presumably your sofa is not plotting any major attacks. But the point is that the risk terrorism poses to everyday American lives is not where you might have thought it was from this debate.

America just doesn’t have much of a domestic terrorism problem. Incidents like the shootings in San Bernardino are vanishingly rare, as violent extremist groups have very few adherents here. US intelligence operations make it very difficult for foreign terrorist groups to bring operatives into the US and plan an attack.

Another reason for this is that the United States spends billions of dollars every year to weaken terrorist groups. Some of those efforts are working, at least against ISIS: The group has lost something like 25 percent of its territory from its 2014 peak, and continues to lose ground as US airstrikes support local Iraqi and Syrian forces clearing out ISIS on the ground.

Iran is humiliating America … except it isn’t

riverine command boat navy bahrain
US sailors on a riverine command boat in Bahrain, the type of ship that Iran detained and then released. (Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran, and its detention of 10 American sailors on Tuesday, was also a major item in the GOP debate. Each candidate discussed it as proof that America under Obama was being humiliated, and that Iran was taking advantage of America’s profound weakness. Donald Trump, of course, blamed the Iran nuclear deal:

They were watching the humiliation of our young 10 sailors, sitting on the floor with their knees in a begging position, their hands up, and Iranian wiseguys having guns to their heads. It was a terrible sight. A terrible sight. And the only reason we got them back is because we owed them with a stupid deal, $150 billion. If I’m president, there won’t be stupid deals anymore.

Chris Christie blamed the whole thing on funding cuts to the military, which is odd given that the US military remains many times more powerful than Iran’s:

We are not the world’s policeman but we need to stand up and be ready. The problem, Maria, is the military is not ready either. We need to rebuild the military. This president let it diminish to a point where tin pot dictators like the mullahs in Iran are taking our Navy ships. It is disgraceful.

There are many other examples, all making the same point.

But as my colleague Max Fisher explains, this is a bizarre reading of the Iran incident. In actuality, the American sailors wandered or drifted (it’s still not clear) into Iranian waters without warning, where Iran picked them up. They were returned in about a day after direct negotiations between the US and Iran. Though Iran published embarrassing photos of the Americans being detained, the effect of this was mostly wounded pride, and in all what could have been a dangerous incident was resolved quickly and peacefully.

“I would describe this as not outside of the norm,” Robert Farley, a professor of international relations at the University of Kentucky, told me about the handling of the Iran-sailor situation. “Polite powers manage to resolve these kinds of issues without actually arresting and seizing and pointing guns at each other.”

This wasn’t an example of “American weakness”; it was an example of diplomacy managing and defusing a bad situation.

American power is collapsing … except it isn’t

us training iraq soldier sentences (John Moore/Getty Images)
An American trainer works with an Iraqi soldier in April.

Another common argument in the debate was that America’s global position is collapsing and the US military’s competence is in free fall. Here’s Marco Rubio on America’s precipitous decline:

Barack Obama does not believe that America is a great global power. Barack Obama believes America is an arrogant global power that needs to be cut down to size. That is how you get a foreign policy where we cut deals with our enemies like Iran and we betray our allies like Israel and we gut our military and we go around the world like he has done on ten separate occasions and apologized for America.

Jeb Bush sees American enemies growing stronger and more terrifying by the day:

China, Russia [are] advancing their agenda at warp speed. And we pull back. As president of the united States I will be a commander-in-chief that have the back of the military. We will rebuild the military to make sure it is a solid force. Not to be the world’s policeman to make sure in peaceful world people know that the United States is there to take care of our own national interests and take care of our allies.

Ben Carson warned about an impending disaster of an EMP attack (something that exists only in movies) as posing, despite being made-up, an “existential threat”:

Now we have dirty bombs and we have cyber attacks and we have people who will be attacking our electrical grid. And you know, we have a whole variety of things that they can do and they can do these things simultaneously. And we have enemies who are obtaining nuclear weapons that they can explode in our exoatmosphere and destroy our electric grid. So think about a scenario like that. They explode the bomb; we have electromagnetic pulse…

He needs to recognize that those kinds of things are in fact an existential threat to us, but here’s the real key. We have the world’s best military, even though he has done everything he can to diminish it. And the fact of the matter is, if we give them a mission and we don’t tie their hands behind their back they can get it accomplished.

It is true that spending cuts, imposed under the so-called sequester, have hurt the military somewhat, but it is still by far the best-funded and most powerful military on Earth. Consider a few facts:

  • The US spends more on defense than the next nine countries combined.
  • America has partners or allies on every populated continent on Earth, and faces no opposing superpower as it did during the Cold War.
  • America’s most significant rival, China, shows zero interest in fighting a war with the United States.
  • Russia is bogged down in an expensive and increasingly unwinnable quagmire in Ukraine. Its bombing campaign in Syria has failed to meaningfully change the reality on the ground.
  • And, more broadly, the tide of war is on the decline. While the wars in places like Syria are certainly terrible, we’re living through one of the most peaceful times in human history:
battle deaths chart(Joe Posner/Vox)

Given what actual evidence tells us about the world, there’s basically no way to sugarcoat it: The Republican debate’s view of the world is as much a work of fiction as Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie.

Jalalabad Bombing of Anti-ISIS, Anti-Taliban Local Councilman

Daesh A Threat To Nangarhar: Officials

“Daesh activities have increased in Nangarhar, and residents of Nangarhar fear that extreme Taliban members might join Daesh, whose members themselves are extremists,” said Obaidullah Shinwari, a Nangarhar provincial council member.

 Nangarhar Police Chief Claims Pakistan’s ISI Supporting Daesh

“Daesh militants are supported by regional countries especially Pakistan but government forces are investigating attack on the Pakistani consulate,” said Sherzad.

Death Toll Rises To 13 In Jalalabad Blast

TOLO NEWS

Nangarhar-suicide-attack-16-January-2016

At least 13 people were killed and 14 injured in a suicide bombing at a house belonging to provincial council member Obaidullah Shinwari in Jalalabad, Nangarhar on Sunday morning.

According to officials the attack took place during a gathering of tribal elders who had come together to celebrate the release of Shinwari’s brother, who had been held hostage by the Taliban for nine months.

The attack took place at about 10:20am in PD3 in the city when the suicide bomber reportedly entered the house. Once inside he detonated his explosives.

According to the provincial governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khoghyani,  the death toll has risen to 13. He said 14 others were injured.

Khoghyani initially said the brother, Saminullah Shinwari, was among the dead but later retracted his statement and said the freed hostage was alive but injured. Khoghyani also confirmed that Shinwari’s father, Malek Osman – who is a tribal elder – was injured.

Officials said most of the victims are from the Shinwar tribe.

Saminullah Shinwari told TOLOnews journalist Ziar Khan that he was released by the Taliban five days ago.

He said relatives had come together on Sunday morning to welcome him home when the explosion took place. “I heard the blast but don’t know what happened after that,” he said.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. A Taliban spokesman said the group had not been involved in the attack.

Security forces have cordoned off the area and all injured have been taken to hospital.

On Saturday afternoon, President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack on the guesthouse of the member of Nangarhar Provincial Council.

He said via twitter that he expresses his deep condolences to the families of the victims and asks the Almighty Allah to bestow paradise on the martyrs.

He said that all concerned government officials were directed to utilize available resources for treatment of the injured countrymen.

He added that the terrorists attack public places and martyr innocent citizens because they fear facing the Security and Defense Forces on the battlefield.

He said that government will not enter into the peace talks with those that continue the war and shed the blood of innocent people.

He also said that the National Security and Defense Forces will fight back the terrorist groups with full force to protect the people and the country.

Provincial council and tribal elders of Nangarhar province have become progressively more concerned over the activities of Daesh in some districts in the province.

These members have said that both the Taliban and Daesh are increasing their activities in the area but that Daesh fighters are seen as a bigger threat than the Taliban.

Meanwhile, local officials in Nangahar said that currently Afghanistan National Security Forces are fighting anti-government armed groups in five different districts in the province.

Nangarhar provincial council warns however that if government does not step in and eliminate Daesh, the group will expand activities into neighboring provinces.

“Daesh activities have increased in Nangarhar, and residents of Nangarhar fear that extreme Taliban members might join Daesh, whose members themselves are extremists,” said Obaidullah Shinwari, a Nangarhar provincial council member.

“In some areas of the districts of Nangarhar, Taliban have taken down the white flag of Emirate, and have instead raised the black flag under the name of Daesh,” says Zabhiullah Zemarai, a member of Nangarhar provincial council.

Meanwhile, Nangarhar tribal elders have also shown concerns over increasing activities of Daesh in the province.

“Daesh group has started its activities in many districts of this province. Taliban have been destroyed in these districts and Daesh has instead started its activities,” says Malek Usman, tribal elder from Nangarhar.

The spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar has not however provided details about Daesh in the province, but said that at the moment Afghanistan National Security Forces are fighting anti-government armed groups in Kot, Nazyan, Acheen, Deh Bala and Rodat.

Reports indicate that the leader of Daesh in Khurasan is a Nangarhar resident who has been actively recruiting local Taliban for Daesh.
But some sources have said all is not always well between Daesh and Taliban with the occasional skirmish between them.

Nangarhar is in the eastern part of Afghanistan and borders Pakistan. It is divided into twenty-two districts and has a population of about 1,4 million people. The city of Jalalabad is the provincial capital.

Hundreds of Anti-ISIS Militiamen Absorbed Into Afghan National Forces

Hundreds of anti-ISIS militiamen led by MP Qadir placed under ANSF control

By Khaama Press

Khaama

Hundreds of militiamen fighting the emergent loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan were placed under the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) control on Saturday.

The militiamen were led by Deputy House Speaker Zahir Qadir to suppress the ISIS loyalists as they were rapidly gaining foothold in different parts of Nangarhar province.

The provincial security officials said Saturday nearly one thousand militiamen were placed under the ANSF control in a bid to re-organized them.

Deputy Provincial Intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief Baz Mohammad Hanifi told reporters the militiamen have agreed to jointly fight the ISIS terrorist along with the Afghan security forces and within the framework of the security institutions of the Afghan government.

He said the militiamen are equipped with weapons and the government will consider wages and other facilities for them after completing it’s formalities.

The step to include the militiamen under the government control came days after reports emerged regarding the brutal execution of detained ISIS fighters in an apparent revenge attack that sent shockwaves across Afghanistan and globally.

The brutal execution and display of the decapitated heads of the ISIS loyalists on a roadside sparked furor among the Afghans and government officials.

Qadir had earlier said the militiamen started fight in the form of public uprising forces after the government failed to curb the growing insurgency activities of the terror group in Nangarhar.

The loyalists of the terror recently stepped up insurgency activities in different parts of Nangarhar province despite the counter-insurgency activities by the Afghan forces have been rampant to suppress the activities of the terror group.

The terror group has been described to be in an emergent stage in Afghanistan with the coalition forces officials saying the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to establish a regional base in Jalalabad, the capital city of eastern Nangarhar province.

The commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell said last year that foreign militants from Syria and Iraq had joined the loyalists of the terror group in eastern Nangarhar province and are trying to consolidate links with the leadership of the terror group based in Syria and Iraq.

Financial collapse leads to war

Financial collapse leads to war

CLUBORLOV

DMITRY ORLOV

Scanning the headlines in the western mainstream press, and then peering behind the one-way mirror to compare that to the actual goings-on, one can’t but get the impression that America’s propagandists, and all those who follow in their wake, are struggling with all their might to concoct rationales for military action of one sort or another, be it supplying weapons to the largely defunct Ukrainian military, or staging parades of US military hardware and troops in the almost completely Russian town of Narva, in Estonia, a few hundred meters away from the Russian border, or putting US “advisers” in harm’s way in parts of Iraq mostly controlled by Islamic militants.

The strenuous efforts to whip up Cold War-like hysteria in the face of an otherwise preoccupied and essentially passive Russia seems out of all proportion to the actual military threat Russia poses. (Yes, volunteers and ammo do filter into Ukraine across the Russian border, but that’s about it.) Further south, the efforts to topple the government of Syria by aiding and arming Islamist radicals seem to be backfiring nicely. But that’s the pattern, isn’t it? What US military involvement in recent memory hasn’t resulted in a fiasco? Maybe failure is not just an option, but more of a requirement?

Let’s review. Afghanistan, after the longest military campaign in US history, is being handed back to the Taliban. Iraq no longer exists as a sovereign nation, but has fractured into three pieces, one of them controlled by radical Islamists. Egypt has been democratically reformed into a military dictatorship. Libya is a defunct state in the middle of a civil war. The Ukraine will soon be in a similar state; it has been reduced to pauper status in record time—less than a year. A recent government overthrow has caused Yemen to stop being US-friendly. Closer to home, things are going so well in the US-dominated Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that they have produced a flood of refugees, all trying to get into the US in the hopes of finding any sort of sanctuary.

Looking at this broad landscape of failure, there are two ways to interpret it. One is that the US officialdom is the most incompetent one imaginable, and can’t ever get anything right. But another is that they do not succeed for a distinctly different reason: they don’t succeed because results don’t matter. You see, if failure were a problem, then there would be some sort of pressure coming from somewhere or other within the establishment, and that pressure to succeed might sporadically give rise to improved performance, leading to at least a few instances of success. But if in fact failure is no problem at all, and if instead there was some sort of pressure to fail, then we would see exactly what we do see.

In fact, a point can be made that it is the limited scope of failure that is the problem. This would explain the recent saber-rattling in the direction of Russia, accusing it of imperial ambitions (Russia is not interested in territorial gains), demonizing Vladimir Putin (who is effective and popular) and behaving provocatively along Russia’s various borders (leaving Russia vaguely insulted but generally unconcerned). It can be argued that all the previous victims of US foreign policy—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, even the Ukraine—are too small to produce failure writ large enough to satisfy America’s appetite for failure. Russia, on the other hand, especially when incentivized by thinking that it is standing up to some sort of new, American-style fascism, has the ability to deliver to the US a foreign policy failure that will dwarf all the previous ones.

Analysts have proposed a variety of explanations for America’s hyperactive, oversized militarism. Here are the top three:

1. The US government has been captured by the military-industrial complex, which demands to be financed lavishly. Rationales are created artificially to achieve that result. But there does seem to be some sort of pressure to actually make weapons and field armies, because wouldn’t it be far more cost-effective to achieve full-spectrum failure simply by stealing all the money and skip building the weapons systems altogether? So something else must be going on.

2. The US military posture is designed to assure Americans of their imagined “full-spectrum dominance” over the entire planet. But “full-spectrum dominance” sounds a little bit like “success,” whereas what we see is full-spectrum failure. Again, this story doesn’t fit the facts.

3. The US acts militarily to defend the status of the US dollar as the global reserve currency. But the US dollar is slowly but surely losing its attractiveness as a reserve currency, as witnessed by China and Russia acting as swiftly as they can to unload their US dollar reserves, and to stockpile gold instead. Numerous other nations have entered into arrangements with each other to stop using the US dollar in international trade. The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t take a huge military to flush one’s national currency down the toilet, so, once again, something else must be going on.

There are many other explanations on offer as well, but none of them explain the fact that the goal of all this militarism seems to be to achieve failure.

Perhaps a simpler explanation would suffice? How about this one:

The US has surrendered its sovereignty to a clique of financial oligarchs. Having nobody at all to answer to, this American (and to some extent international) oligarchy has been ruining the financial condition of the country, running up staggering levels of debt, destroying savings and retirements, debasing the currency and so on. The inevitable end-game is that the Federal Reserve (along with the central banks of other “developed economies”) will end up buying up all the sovereign debt issuance with money they print for that purpose, and in the end this inevitably leads to hyperinflation and national bankruptcy. A very special set of conditions has prevented these two events from taking place thus far, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t, because that’s what always happens, sooner or later.

Now, let’s suppose a financial oligarchy has seized control of the country, and, since it can’t control its own appetites, is running it into the ground. Then it would make sense for it to have some sort of back-up plan for when the whole financial house of cards falls apart. Ideally, this plan would effectively put down any chance of revolt of the downtrodden masses, and allow the oligarchy to maintain security and hold onto its wealth. Peacetime is fine for as long as it can placate the populace with bread and circuses, but when a financial calamity causes the economy to crater and bread and circuses turn scarce, a handy fallback is war.

Any rationale for war will do, be it terrorists foreign and domestic, Big Bad Russia, or hallucinated space aliens. Military success is unimportant, because failure is even better than success for maintaining order because it makes it possible to force through various emergency security measures. Various training runs, such as the military occupation of Boston following the staged bombings at the Boston Marathon, have already taken place. The surveillance infrastructure and the partially privatized prison-industrial complex are already in place for locking up the undesirables. A really huge failure would provide the best rationale for putting the economy on a war footing, imposing martial law, suppressing dissent, outlawing “extremist” political activity and so on.

And so perhaps that is what we should expect. Financial collapse is already baked in, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens, and precipitates commercial collapse when global supply chains stop functioning. Political collapse will be resisted, and the way it will be resisted is by starting as many wars as possible, to produce a vast backdrop of failure to serve as a rationale for all sorts of “emergency measures,” all of which will have just one aim: to suppress rebellion and to keep the oligarchy in power. Outside the US, it will look like Americans blowing things up: countries, things, innocent bystanders, even themselves (because, you know, apparently that works too). From the outside looking into America’s hall of one-way mirrors, it will look like a country gone mad; but then it already looks that way. And inside the hall of one-way mirrors it will look like valiant defenders of liberty battling implacable foes around the world. Most people will remain docile and just wave their little flags.

But I would venture to guess that at some point failure will translate into meta-failure: America will fail even at failing. I hope that there is something we can do to help this meta-failure of failure happen sooner rather than later.

India’s Ambassador To Damascus Says Gulf States and Media Ignited Syrian War

https://www.littlebhutan.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/V.P-Haran-clarified-that-the-withdrawal-of-subsidies-on-LPG-and-kerosene-to-Bhutan.jpegIndia’s Ambassador confirmed: war in Syria has been instigated from outside–[Goog. trans.]


German Economic News

DWN deutsche wirtschafts nachrichten

A revealing report of the former Ambassador of India in Damascus makes clear that the representation of the West, the Syrian President Assad should be overthrown by a popular uprising, is not tenable. The war was instigated from outside, including from the Gulf States and the Al Qaeda. With it, the US worked together over the Al Nusra Wing. Assad has the risk underestimated – because he knew his people behind him.

Der syrische Präsident Baschar al-Assad hat die Gefahr unterschätzt, die ein vom Ausland angezettelter Aufstand für ihn bedeuten würde. (Foto: dpa)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has underestimated the risk, which would mean a revolt instigated from abroad for him.
(Photo: AP)

VP Haran served 2009-2012 as India’s ambassador to Syria. He has spoken with the multi-award winning Indian magazine Fountain Ink about how parts of the media have exaggerated the rebellion and sign the Al-Qaeda since the early days of the conflict a teammate was (translation: German Economic News). The assessment of the Ambassador confirmed the findings of the US journalist Seymour Hersh that Assad had to fear no militant opposition among their own people.

How was Syria when they got there in January 2009?

VP Haran: Syria was a peaceful country and there was no underlying tensions. The Syrian economy was doing well and the average growth rate was more than 5 percent. Unemployment stood at about 8 percent, but unemployed Syrians could not find work in the Gulf States. However, there was a high proportion of educated unemployed. Syria was also in a comfortable position in terms of foreign debt at 12.5 percent of GDP. Much of it was owed to Russia, but which many wrote off the debt. The real problem was the drought in the north-east, which had led to a massive resettlement in the South and the South-west.

What was life like in Damascus?

VP Haran: As a diplomat, you tend to live a retired life, but sometimes I drove into the city center, sometimes by taxi, drinking a cup of tea in the cafe and talked to the people. Those were wonderful moments and wonderful days. The public order was never a problem. My female colleagues told me that they could wear jewelry and the morning run by two clock home alone and thereby feel safe. In some districts restaurants had opened up at five clock in the morning. You never had the feeling that there would be trouble on the streets. Some say that would be the Mucha Barat owed (military intelligence), but I felt that the people felt responsible for their collective security.

When I reached Damascus, I was told that every second part of the Mucha Barat would. This is a gross overestimation. There is an intelligence department and they work internally very efficiently, but for me it has never been a direct encounter. In my four years of service, I was once persecuted in the media {} in Idlib province. A Jeep has appended to us, but it was not intimidating.

Do you foresee the Arab Spring in Syria?

VP Haran: As the situation in Tunisia and Egypt tense, President Bashar al-Assad gave a television appearance, in which he stated that the political and economic conditions in Syria have been otherwise. He said he was confident that Syria would not follow suit. That was the general assessment of the diplomatic community.

Bashar al-Assad was a popular leader and carries partly in also means that he is still in power. There is no adequate internal opposition and many of the problems in Syria come from foreign sources that are trying to get rid of an inconvenient regime. 67 percent of the entire Arab world had voted for him in a 2009 survey for most popular Arab person. Even the diplomatic community was generally agreed that he had the support of about 80 percent of Syria. Even Western diplomats said that. He had begun in 2000 reforms, but which he did not complete because of the opposition by the Baath party.

That too is not simply a struggle between Sunnis and Shiites. Have a look at the numbers. There are more than 50 percent Sunni Muslims in Syria. And there are Kurds, Druze, Maronites, Assyrians, Alawites and others making up the rest. Bashar al-Assad has the full support of these minorities and even a large part of the Sunni Muslims supported him. But up to the time when I went in 2012, Syria had changed a lot. During the first few years were like in heaven, things worsened early in the year 2011th

Can you remember the first protests?

VP Haran: From February, when Bahrain witnessed protests, there have been attempts by some NGOs protests in Damascus to organize. Two were organized over two weekends, but only 20 or 30 people participated. The number of journalists and members of the diplomatic community was far greater than that of the protesters. Then the March 18th 2011, the children wrote on the walls of the school and then was a large protest occurred. In the following week, there was another protest in Latakia and then happened with every other Friday something.

Soon it was chaotic in parts of Latakia, Homs and Hama, Aleppo remained calm but what the opposition really bothered. The opposition could the people of Aleppo not to bring against the regime to get up, so they sent busloads of people to Aleppo. These people then burned something on the streets and went back. Journalists then reported it and said Aleppo had rebelled.

A few things need to be said about it: some parts of the media have exaggerated in their negative representations of Syria. Sometimes it was reported about things that are not happening. For example, I spoke with a prominent sheikh, as my colleague phoned me totally stressed out and felt the sheikh would play a role in, scheduled for the afternoon, protests. But that did not happened. For indeed I was sitting at the moment yes with him at lunch. There was a lot of exaggeration by the media.

There is an opportunity to stand out. In Idlib belonging to the hard-core Sunni had gone to Aleppo and had people persuaded to join the opposition. People in Aleppo began to beat them and sent them away. The mass had become unruly and the police had to come and bring them under control. The Sunnis of Idlib had to be brought into a house and the police had to give them their uniforms so they could go without being lynched.

Damascus changed much in that time?

VP Haran: I can remember one incident on 14 April, when I took my daily walk to the stage, which was about two kilometers away. On the way I came to the bakery past where I always came over, but there was a long queue in front of the unusually silent bakery. On the way back, the snake was still there and I asked for. The people coincided with a bread, because they had heard that something was going to happen. The next day nothing happened, even though it was a Friday.

As the situation worsened, my walk to the stage in the second half of 2012 has been replaced by a around the park in the Mezzeh district. One day, a motorcycle at high speed and turned off at a corner, from where it brought the engine revved. A short time later, a jeep of security people came over, but it missed the branch, the motorcycle had taken. After they could not find the bike, they came to the park and asked the people if they had seen what had happened. Then we were told that the people on the motorcycle were planning attacks.

In Mezzeh, not far from the district where the diplomats live, there is a cactus field, and rebels were through a tunnel device, you come into it there had a camp set up, from the shot fire rockets at the office of the Prime Minister made it. Then the security forces invaded and destroyed the camp. This was a targeted operation and I was talking with someone who had an apartment with a clear view, and he told me that they had taken a building targeted and completely destroyed. A huge secret camp with arms and ammunition was recovered from the building.

But parts of the country remained calm.

The external opposition supporters could not digest. They sent a group of people at the Syrian-Jordanian border, where they overran two security guards. They brought all the people around there. Some of them were killed in the most gruesome way al-Qaida. The government reported that not immediately, but a member of the diplomatic community confirmed that it had been from Iraq Al-Qaida. It was obvious that al Qaeda was in Iraq since April 2011 in Syria.

Al-Qaeda was on there from the first week, and if not, then, appeared since the first week since the end of 2011 as Al-Qaeda flags. It was these groups that provided the opposition with support from outside the borders. In Raqqa the fighters came from the north and it was clear that it was Al-Qaeda.

Assad has repeatedly said that there were terrorists from the beginning. Why has no one believed him?

VP Haran: The heads of the people were not open. What should interest for Al-Qaida in Iraq have in mind, to create chaos in Syria? Much of this was driven by outsiders, namely the Gulf States. Al Jazeera has also played a role. In April, I had led a guest to the amphitheater in Bosra and then to Sweida, for which I had to take the highway to the Jordanian border. On this day an Al Jazeera correspondent was asked to leave Syria and he traveled on the same road. The correspondent reported that checkpoints every few seconds. My message called me in a panic, because of what they had seen on television. I told them that I had encountered only a checkpoint.

Why the Syrian government did not provide better arguments in favor of the presence of terrorists?

VP Haran: We asked to see the lack of analysis of the media and they said, no one believed them. They had very bad PR and media handling. On the other hand, there were riots by the government. Syria has very inadequate police forces. And when began the problems, the government was forced to stop security forces in order to address problems that would otherwise be handled by the police. Some in the army committed excesses and even the government had to make some of them under house arrest or in jail, but they did not publicize.

Bashar al-Assad was not slow to adopt reforms in, but slowly it to announce changes that have been made. For example, when they enacted the reform, which reduced the primacy of the Baath party, have been reported from this reform only after three months. Their PR was not wise. You have handled the crisis not good.

The Blasphemy of Pakistani Blasphemy Law

[Pakistani barbarity in the name of “Islam” rivals the worst of ISIS or Saudi Arabia.  True BLASPHEMY is murder, maiming and torture in the name of any cause, even the invisible ones.]

islamic justicePakistani boy cuts off own hand after blasphemy mistake: Police

hindustan

  • AFP, Lahore

The 15-year-old cut off his hand in accordance with Pakistan’s notoriously strict blasphemy laws. (Representative PhotoA 15-year-old Pakistani boy cut off his own hand believing he had committed blasphemy, only to be celebrated by his parents and neighbours for the act, police said on Friday.

Local police chief Nausher Ahmed told AFP how an imam told a gathering at a village mosque that those who love the Prophet Mohammad always say their prayers, then asked who among the crowd had stopped praying.

Mohammad Anwar, 15, raised his hand by mistake after apparently mishearing the question.

The crowd swiftly accused him of blasphemy so he went to his house and cut off the hand he had raised, put it on a plate, and presented it to the cleric, the police chief added.

The incident took place at a village in Hujra Shah Muqeem district, some 125 kilometres (77 miles) south of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, about four days ago, according to the policeman.

Ahmed said that he has seen a video in which the boy is greeted by villagers in the street as his parents proclaim their pride.

No complaint has been made, he said, so no police report has been filed and there will be no investigation.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, an Islamic republic of some 200 million, where even unproven allegations frequently stir mob violence and lynchings.

Critics including European governments say the country’s blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores.

PHOTO: BOLOBHI

‘Anti-Islamic’: Pakistan rejects bill banning child marriage

Russia-Today

Legislation to ban child marriages was struck down in Pakistan as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) said it was “anti-Islamic” and “blasphemous.” The new law failed at the first stage of the legislative process.

The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014, which would have made it more difficult for children to marry, was quickly withdrawn on Thursday by Marvi Menon of the Pakistan Muslim League party.

The decision to pull the plug on the anti-pedophilia bill was triggered by CII speaking out against the idea. The council provides advice for lawmakers on whether the newly proposed laws comply with Sharia laws.

The proposed legislation was shut down in its infancy on “purely religious grounds,” The Express Tribune reported.

CII Chairman Mohammad Khan Sheerani said the proposed law contradicted Islamic teachings.

“Parliament cannot create legislation that is against the teachings of the Holy Quran or Sunnah,” Sheerani had.

According to Pakistan’s Constitution, the CII Chairman has the final say in the Council and can overrule all of the other members. Even though the CII rulings have no power over Parliament, lawmakers take its suggestions as guidance when passing laws.

The move to withdraw the new bill goes against Pakistan’s pledge to end child marriages by 2030.

The rejected bill would have introduced tougher punishments for those entering into marriage with minors, including prison terms for up to two years. It also proposed raising the minimum age for marriage up to 18.

Current legislation is already in violation of Islamic law, according to CII, since it requires a minimum age of 16 for girls to marry.

In contrast, the CII believes that girls as young as nine could be married off, “if the signs of puberty are visible,” according to a May 2014 statement.

Over 21 percent of Pakistani girls enter into marriages before they turn 18, according to the organization Girls Not Brides.

Pakistan Flushed Fazlullah’s TTP Taliban Are Suddenly “ISIS,” Once Inside Afghanistan

Afghan ambassador claims 80 percent IS fighters came from Pakistan

business recorder

Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai on Wednesday claimed that 80 percent fighters and leadership of Daesh in Afghanistan came from Pakistan to the country and suggested that the two counties need to co-ordinate efforts to deal with the potential threat of the terror network to the neighbours. The outgoing Afghan ambassador was speaking at a public talk, organised by Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

The ambassador stated that 80 percent fighters and the current leadership of Daesh in Afghanistan came from Pakistan’s tribal belt – Orakzai, Mohamand and Bajaur agencies. “So this is a challenge, which is a common threat for both the countries [Pakistan, Afghanistan] and closer coordination is needed between the two countries to deal with it,” he said, adding Afghan security forces, intelligence agencies and their counterparts in Pakistan need to make co-ordinated efforts to deal with the menace of Daesh, which is a potential threat to the regional security.

On the Afghan reconciliation process, he said that Afghanistan’s legitimate government was facing an armed opposition, having “external linkages and connections”, and both the Afghan government and vast majority of the people have expressed sincere desire of a political solution with the armed opposition. He said that in the process all the neighbours especially Pakistan and the key international allies particularly China and United States had an essential role to play. However, he pointed out that there was need for reduction in the ongoing violence in Afghanistan for the success of the reconciliation process.

The Ambassador stated that there was no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered heavily at the hands of the terrorists, he said, adding that after the Murree talks proved futile, another effort is now being made in the form of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group dialogue. On economic cooperation, he expressed the importance of close economic cooperation between the two countries, adding that it would not only help lift millions out of poverty but also help restore Afghanistan’s natural role as a leader in the region instead of a country which serves as platform for proxy wars.

He stated that Kabul recognises the importance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said that the multi-billion dollar project would have a positive impact on the economy of Afghanistan as well. He highlighted President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan in November and applauded all the developments that took place during the visit.

The solution to the region’s problems lay in progressively narrowing down differences, which needs strong linkages, he added. The Ambassador also talked about the vitality of transit trade and highlighted developments in the energy sector, namely the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project and the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000).

To queries, the Afghan envoy said that his country was pursuing a strict policy of non-interference, adding that Kabul will not allow any group or state to use Afghan soil against any other country including Pakistan. However, he said that India was playing an important role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development, adding that Afghanistan was ready to work under a trilateral mechanism to address concerns of Pakistan if it believes that India is involved in any anti-Pakistan activities.

Referring to historic ties between the two countries, he said that millions of Pakistanis trace back their ancestry to Afghanistan, adding the relationship between the two countries is not only one of a shared culture and beliefs but also of blood. He thanked government of Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees and was grateful for the kindness and hospitality with which they were treated on a daily basis stating that the Afghan refugees held tremendous goodwill for the people of Pakistan.

However, he voiced his concern about the recent trend where these refugees had been blamed for terrorist activities in Pakistan and voiced earnest hope that in future such statements would not be issued. He further stated that the refugees want to go back home with dignity and till that time this issue should be treated on purely humanitarian grounds and not politicised.

Ambassador Mosazai pointed out that Pakistan and Afghanistan are two independent countries with intertwined destinies. Hence they cannot isolate each other under any circumstance. Earlier, Director General ISSI former ambassador Masood Khan highlighted that Pakistan and Afghanistan were bound by the ties of geography, history, ethnicity, and religion.

He highlighted that how the two countries have restarted their joint quest for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process – the Quadrilateral Coordination Group Dialogue and stated that in this “quad”, Afghanistan is the key actor, while the other three countries are playing a supportive, facilitative role. He laid emphasis on the fact that direct talks without any preconditions and red lines were vital for the peace process to move forward, adding the key challenge was to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

 

Fake “ISIS Attack” On Pak TV Station, 2 Shots In the Air and 2 Empty Grenades

Grenade hurled at TV channel in Islamabad

the nation pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Terrorists linked with Daesh Afghanistan chapter yesterday attacked ARY News Islamabad bureau office with hand grenades and also fired gunshots, injuring a non-linear editor, the ARY management said.
Unidentified assailants riding a motorbike lobbed crackers on ARY News office and fired two shots. Security guards present at the office entrance retaliated swiftly, forcing the attackers to flee away dropping pamphlets.
Afghanistan chapter of the global terror outfit Daesh, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack in the pamphlets ‘in reaction to the channels coverage of ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb’.
Two unknown persons reached at the ARY office in F-7 Sector on a number-less Honda-125 motorcycle at around 6:20pm and lobbed two grenades over the office gate. The veiled attackers also fired gun shots but they did not hit anyone. However, grenade caused injuries to an ARY employee. The attackers then fled the scene as an office security guard retaliated with a couple of gunshots.
According to the security guard, the attackers also threw pamphlets at the scene inscribed with slogans against the Zarb-e-Azab operation being conducted by Pak Army in restive areas of the country. An ARY official Umar Hayat got head injuries in the grenade attack and was shifted to the Polyclinic hospital for treatment.
Soon after the incident, PTI leadership including Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen visited the ARY office to express solidarity with the media workers. Islamabad Police IG Khalid Khattack also visited the scene and directed his officials to conduct a thorough inquiry into the incident. Islamabad police beefed up security at the media houses in the city after the attack.

‘Pak. officers involved in attack on Indian mission’

‘Pak. officers involved in attack on Indian mission’

The Hindu

They were from Pakistani military, says Afghan province police chief

Afghan security forces surround a house which is used by gunmen to attack the Indian Consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan recently.— FILE PHOTO: AP

Afghan security forces surround a house which is used by gunmen to attack the Indian Consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan recently.— FILE PHOTO: AP

Pakistani military officers were involved in the attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in which assailants attempted to storm the mission building, a senior Afghan police official said on Tuesday.

“We saw with our own eyes and I can say 99 per cent that those attackers were from Pakistani military and used special tactics while conducting their operation,” Sayed Kamal Sadat, police chief of the Balkh province, said of the attack that took place last week.

Mr. Sadat said the attackers — officers from across the border — were well-trained military men who fought the Afghan security forces in the 25-hour siege.

“The attackers were military personnel. They were educated and well prepared and had intelligence. They fought us and only by Allah’s grace were we able to control them and eliminate them,” Mr. Sadat was quoted as saying by Tolo News.

The police official said efforts were under way to track down, identify and detain those who assisted the attackers to gain access to the building that was opposite the Indian Consulate.

An intense gun battle between the security forces and the attackers took place outside the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif after assailants attempted to storm the mission building on Jan. 3.

The standoff ended on the night of January 4 after the attackers, who entered the building opposite the Indian Consulate, were killed.

One police man also lost his life and nine others including three civilians were wounded in the incident.

As the Consulate came under attack, Indo-Tibetan Border Police guards deployed on the sentry post foiled their attempt by raining heavy fire on them. — PTI

2 Guardsmen Killed In IED Blast Near Jinnah Naval Base At Gwadar

2 Pakistani coastguards killed by Balochistan landmine

“Two Pakistani coastguards were killed and another three injured on Saturday by a landmine blast in Gwadar.”

Jinnah Naval Base – Navy expands strategic outreach to West Coast, Persian Gulf

pakistan today

Pakistan Navy (5)

While China and Pakistan endeavour to develop Gwadar Port as a commercial hub for the entire region, Pakistan Navy is gearing up to new face challenges and threats which might come its way after the port become functional; the navy has fully operationalised its strategic Jinnah Naval Base near Gwadar Port at Ormara, Balochistan.

India has increased its naval strength in recent years and aims at transforming itself into a ‘blue-water navy’ within the next 10 to 15 years. By 2022, the Indian Navy will have 50 warships including three aircraft carriers, five nuclear submarines, 22 conventional submarines and a number of long range maritime patrol aircraft.

India acquired a nuclear submarine (Akula-II) from Russia in April, 2012. A second nuclear submarine of the same class will be inducted soon. Moreover, the sea trials of its indigenous nuclear submarines are also in progress. Pakistani defence establishment is looking at this induction of nuclear submarines in Indian fleet as a cause of great concern.

With minimal budgetary allocations, Pakistan Navy is quietly relying on minimum deterrence to counter any external threat. Jinnah base may just be the answer to Pakistan’s prayers.

The base is situated 350 km west of Karachi and 285 km east of the Gwadar Port, and has been connected with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“With the development of this base, Pakistan has acquired the capacity to secure naval trade in these waters. Moreover, we have expanded Pakistan naval forces’ outreach towards the west coast into the Strait of Hormuz where all the oil traffic flows in and out,” an officer at the base told Pakistan Today during a recent visit to the base at Ormara which is otherwise restricted for media.

“Karachi would remain our focus for the foreseeable future. However, Jinnah base would reduce reaction time of Pakistan Navy to six to 8 hours in case of any adversity,” the officer said, adding that the base had a berthing facility “for anything from warships to submarines and from heavy ships to warplanes”.

Asked whether or not Gwadar would also act as a naval base for Pakistan, the officer said that Gwadar would act purely as a commercial base.

“Though Pakistan Navy has a small base at Gwadar, its main focus would be security of Gwadar. Jinnah base, on the other hand, would be a purely naval base which would help maritime forces monitor the entire coastal area from Ormara to the Gulf waters,” the officer said.

Rear Admiral (r) Pervez Asghar, an expert on naval defence, told Pakistan Today that Pakistan Navy had developed four bases along the coastal areas of Balochistan including Ormara, Pasni, Jewani and Gwadar which had helped expand its ‘strategic outreach’ towards the west coast.

“In the past, we only had one [naval] base at Karachi and our military installations were vulnerable to any Indian adventure. However, with the development of these new bases towards the west coast, not only do we have alternative options to defend our positions, our reaction time has also decreased significantly in case of any attack,” the retired naval admiral said.

He said that the navy now also had a submarine base at Ormara. “We have developed Pakistan marine corps to thwart enemy designs of amphibious landing around the coastal areas,” he added.

“Pakistan Navy is now well placed to secure all sea lines of communications (SLOCs) emanating from the Persian gulf towards Pakistan. Moreover, the naval infrastructure including Radars and communication gadgets, have now been able to overlap each other – a capability we had severely missed in the past,” he added.

He said that the new bases had also helped secure Gwadar Port as there was no military presence on the port due to its being commercial in nature.

“Now, navy’s special forces are better placed in Ormara to secure Gwadar Port and nearby sea routes. Moreover, Ormara base would also help neutralise the enemy’s narrative that they would be able to block Karachi’s harbour in case of a showdown,” he added.

Asghar said that Pakistan had also developed a jump-off base for Pakistan’s maritime aircraft at Pasni.

He said that Pakistan Navy had recently raised another naval station at Turbat, namely PNS Siddiq for P-3c Orion aircraft.

“These P-3cs are capable of flying over 14 hours nonstop without refueling. They have stealth technology and can fly below the radar and strike India’s Eastern coast. Pakistan Navy has also developed Naval Base Jewani, about 60 km from Iran to help expand its outreach into the Gulf waters,” he added.

Jinnah base would act as an alternative option for Pakistan Navy to Karachi where all the logistic and technical support for berthing navy’s ships and even submarines were available.

“We have developed the required facilities for technical repair of ships and submarines at the base. It is an alternative arrangement to the Karachi base and can easily meet our defence requirements. However, Karachi dockyard would still be the center for major overhaul or repair,” the Jinnah base officer said.

The officer said that during the next five years, navy plans to develop huge workshops at Ormara, which would also have the ability to overhaul submarines and warships.

He said that the Jinnah base’s positioning provided cover against natural calamities and enemy’s advances as it was covered by sea on two sides and a 2 km wide hill stood on the third.

On the top of the hill, called `Hammer Mountain’ due to its shape, Navy’s surveillance unit RDS-Mianwali is stationed to help the officers keep an eye on movements taking place in and around the area.

Since the Karachi coast has become a hub of commercial activity, making it difficult for the Navy to perform its tasks and the industrial waste in Karachi’s waters has been damaging the Navy’s assets and reducing the life of the ships, Ormara is a better option for future Naval operations.

The law and order situation in the entire coastal belt is far better than other parts of the restive Balochistan province as well as Karachi where Rangers along with other paramilitary forces is involved in a clean-up operation.

Jewani, with a population of around 100,000 people and approximately 90 km away from Gwadar Port City, serves as a main surveillance point for Pakistan Navy to keep an eye on all the maritime traffic in the Arabian Sea.

Due to proximity of the area with Iran, many inhabitants of the area are duel nationals and can freely visit Iran on a mere permit from the deputy commissioner.

But navy has also has reached out to the locals in the area to win hearts and minds of the Baloch people. It has set up educational and health facilities, many of which provide free of cost services to the local people. Under Chief of Naval Staff’s scheme ‘Adopt A Child’, navy officers are paying educational and other expenses of 100 children in the area. The navy also provides jobs to locals in their facilities.

The navy operates a PN Hospital in Ormara which contains facilities like emergency department, trauma center, intensive care unit, labour room, operation theatre and a pharmacy.

A Navy Cadet College has also been set up the area, where 50 per cent of the admissions are offered to candidates from within Balochistan under a district-quota system. The other 50 per cent seats are offered to candidates from other provinces of the country.

A Bahria Model School is also working in the area to impart education to Baloch children. The school runs on donations and financial support of the provincial government.

 

The writer heads Pakistan Today’s Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions.

Pakistan finalises LNG deal with Qatar

[Pakistan’s penchant for breaking contracts and stalling tactics, as tools to prevent the loss of some better deal in the future, may piss-off the inscrutable Chinese so much that they opt-out for a better gas deal with Iran.  That is what happens when you allow greedy, millionaire generals to set national policies.]

 

Pakistan ready with last part of LNG pipeline link to Iran

“The pipeline spur would run from Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar, where it has nearly completed its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) intake plant, to Iran’s border 80 kilometres away.”

India-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline may not happen

HEAD OFFICE

Crescent Petroleum- Sharjah, U.A.E.
Crescent Tower

P.O. Box 211, Corniche Al Buhaira
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Pakistan finalises LNG deal with Qatar, NA told

January 12, 2016

“Pakistan has finalised a sale and purchase agreement with Qatar for the import of LNG”

Frontier Works Organization (FWO)

FWO frontier works organizationFWO frontier works organization1

29 June 2015: Visit of FWO Projects in Balochistan

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal accompanied by DG FWO Maj Gen Muhammad Afzal visited Sorab-Panjgur-Hoshab (N-85) and Gwadar Turbat Hoshab (M-8) routes of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to review the progress of work on 29 June 2015. The Federal Minister has appreciated the work being done by FWO.
29 Jun 2015 Visit by DG FWO to Bln Projs 129 Jun 2015 Visit by DG FWO to Bln Projs 2

Controversy on CPEC can derail economy

the news pak

LAHORE: The controversy on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), termed a game changer by all, has disturbed the Chinese. Distracters fail to appreciate that the entire project was be completed in 10 years, when all their apprehensions would be fully addressed.

The first priority of any prudent planner should be to ensure that mother ships carrying 4,000-12,000 containers, dock at its natural deep sea port at Gwadar. Currently mother ships dock at Dubai where the port is deepened through regular dredging. From there the goods are transshipped to Pakistan, India, Iran, and Central Asian States. A road network from Gwadar to Kashghar (China) would incentivise the Chinese to bring mother ships carrying its goods to Gwadar.

Mother ships would not come for Pakistani goods, where maximum cargo from any foreign destination is less than 300 containers.  The mother ships pass Karachi through high seas to go to Dubai that is located 1,600km from the Karachi port. This means that Pakistani importers and exporters bear additional transport of 3,200km. A fully activated Gwadar would reduce this transportation cost, as the same mother ships that carry two cargo of Chinese and Central Asian States would also bring Pakistani cargo.

Making the road connecting Gwadar with Kashgar is therefore the number one priority of both the Chinese and Pakistani planners. There is no dispute between any of the provinces on the construction of this road and route is being built as per the minutes of May 28, 2015 APC meeting. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government however insists that other facilities like fibre optic, railway track, gas and oil pipeline, and LNG projects should also be started simultaneously on the Western route, as the same are being built on the eastern route between Gwadar and Rawalpindi.

This seems to be a political ploy, because almost 70 percent of infrastructure and facilities already exist on the Eastern route and important missing communication links could be established in a year or two. For the difficult Western terrain it could take up to six years.

Is it worthwhile to keep the entire CPEC nonoperational for such a long period? The benefits of the operational CPEC would be spread all over Pakistan, but since most of the route would pass through the least developed regions-Balochistan and KP-the benefits would be higher for the two provinces.

Another objection by the KP government is about further broadening of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) on its difficult mountainous track. At the APC of May 28, the route and width of the new KKH and the feasibility of the project was evaluated on the basis of that width.

Who will provide the additional funding if the dual carriage highway is to be further broadened? About 1,600km of KKH will pass through KP and the rest through Gilgit-Baltistan. Dual carriage highway is a norm on difficult terrains even in developed economies.

The planners have tried to include KP in other CPEC development projects like, the 840MW Suki Kinari hydropower project located in KP is the largest private sector hydropower initiative in Pakistan. The work on this project is expected to start in March 2016. As far as the railway track is concerned, it may be mentioned that a dilapidated railway track already exists between Peshawar and Karachi. However, in view of theCPEC, a feasibility study to modernise the track has already been completed. Updated railway track is expected to be commissioned in the next two to three years.

As already pointed out, the CPEC will be completed in 10 years during which the missing facilities on the route will be commissioned. Besides the railway track, the issue of fibre optic connectivity has also been raised by KP. It may be mentioned that the CPEC planners have already announced the plan to install optical fibre link from Khunjerab to Islamabad via the KKH. The fibre optic would first be laid on 820km on the KHH.  After that, another 1,000km of fibre optic would be laid on the western route up till Gwadar.

Havelian dry port project is destined to be complete by 2017. This project would accelerate business activities in KP besides enriching its government with higher revenues. The CPEC would make Pakistan the epicentre of global business activities. Bickering on non-issues to gain political mileage should now stop. Gwadar is not the only alternative available with China. Port of Chabahar in Iran is another option, though it is a longer route, but feasible if Gwadar is not possible.

Kuchlak area of Balochistan, HQ for Mullah Akhtar Mansour Group

[Top Afghan Taliban commander, Mulla Mohammad Alam, Mullah Mansour’s top aid, was reportedly killed in the same Balochistan town where Mansour was also reported to have been killed in an “incident following a verbal dispute at a meeting of militant commanders in the Kuchlak area of Balochistan.”  He was reportedly killed in a firefight with Mullah Mansour Dadullah, whose fate is also uncertain afterwards, since he was also reported killed in a fight in Kulgharan, Zabul, which he promptly denied.]

Afghan Taliban concerned over killing of commander near Quetta

the news pak

PESHAWAR: The assassination of a known Afghan Taliban commander Mulla Mohammad Alam in Balochistan has caused concern among the Taliban and their families.

Mulla Alam, who was loyal to the new Afghan Taliban head Mulla Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Kuchlak near Quetta on January 7. The Taliban subsequently confirmed his death.

Some Taliban officials blamed the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, for the murder. Others felt the dissident Taliban group may be involved in the killing.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

The deceased had taken part in the fighting against the dissident Taliban commander, Mansoor Dadullah, in Zabul province recently. Mansoor Dadullah and his elder brother Moula Dada aka Haji Lala were killed in the fighting.

A number of their Uzbek allies from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)  who had pledged allegiance to the militant group Islamic State, or Daesh, were also killed or had to surrender during the fighting in Zabul with Mulla Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor’s fighters.

There was speculation among Taliban circles that Mansoor Dadullah’s men could have killed Mulla Mohammad Alam to avenge his death.

In the last few years, a number of senior Taliban figures have been assassinated in Balochistan.

Taliban routinely blame the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, for these killings. Taliban also once got hold of five Afghans in Balochistan and got confession from them that they were sent by the NDS to assassinate Taliban leaders. The five Afghans were later executed by the Afghan Taliban.

ISI LOSES CONTROL—Taliban Lay Seige To Pakistani Consulate In Jalalabad, Afghanistan

Nangarhar-attack-13-January-2016

Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi has confirmed at least seven policemen were killed in an attack on the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province early Wednesday.

In addition, seven other policemen were injured. However, local security sources said civilians were also injured, including a consulate staff member.

The siege ended after almost four hours.

The source said that the attack took place at about 9:00am local time in PD 3 in Jalalabad after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the Pakistan Consulate. At least two other attackers were also involved.

However, officials stated during the siege that the consulate was under attack and that insurgents had entered the building. But once the siege was over, security officials said the consulate had not been stormed and that attackers had fired on the mission from a building next door.

But the consul general Farmanullah Khan Yousafzai told TOLOnews that the mission had been under direct attack.

Daesh on Wednesday afternoon claimed responsibility for the attack.

Jalalabad-attack-05-January-2016

A blast occurred outside a Pakistan guest house in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Tuesday morning. 

India/Pakistan Peace Talks Await Concrete Proof of Pakistani Sincerity

[SEE:  Pathankot attack: Pakistan acts on India ‘leads’, arrests some suspects ]

With only 72 hours to go, no clarity on talks with Pakistan

The Hindu

 

Islamabad conducts raids; Delhi says there has been no official communication from Pakistan on action taken.

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol the border fence at Bamial border in Pathankot. Pakistani authorities had reportedly carried out raids in the wake of the Pathankot attacks.
PTI   Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol the border fence at Bamial border in Pathankot. Pakistani authorities had reportedly carried out raids in the wake of the Pathankot attacks.

With just 72 hours to go for the proposed talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan, there was still little clarity over the meeting planned in Islamabad.

Mixed signals emerged from the highest echelons of the Indian government, even as reports said Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered a joint investigation team (JIT) — comprising officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI) — to look into the leads provided by India on the Pathankot airbase attack.

Reports said Pakistani authorities carried out raids in Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahwalpur. Among the places raided was the house of Ashfaq Ahmed, brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, named as one of the handlers of the terrorists.

According to the Pakistani newspaper Tribune, the raids were being carried out under the supervision of the JIT.

In New Delhi, the government would not comment whether the steps taken in Pakistan would be seen as the “action on the ground” that India has been demanding, and said there had been no official communication from Pakistan on action taken against the Pathankot attackers. Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval denied he had said in a newspaper interview that the talks would be cancelled.

Inflict pain on masterminds, says Parrikar

In an interview to Dainik Bhaskar newspaper, an audio clip of which was made available online, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was heard saying: “We have told them [Pakistan] what they need to do. They have given us assurances they will take those steps. When they do, talks can go ahead; if they don’t, there is no question of them [being held on January 15].” Mr. Doval later clarified that he had not said the talks would be cancelled, as the paper had originally claimed.

However, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar took a markedly tough line in contrast to his Cabinet colleagues, calling for “pain” to be inflicted on “individuals and organisation” responsible for the Pathankot attack, believed to belong to Pakistan.

“We are proud of the seven soldiers [killed in Pathankot] but I get pain when my soldiers die,” Mr. Parrikar said at a defence seminar in Delhi on Monday.

“I always believe that anyone who harms you, he understands the same language. How, when and place should be of your choice. But if someone is harming this country, that particular individual or organisation should also receive the pain of such activity. Until this pain can be transmitted he will always enjoy giving that pain.”

Hours after Mr. Parrikar’s statement, the strongest made by the government thus far, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Home Minister Rajnath Singh reportedly to discuss the latest in the investigations and the way forward with Pakistan, but gave no official statement.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, who is expected to lead the delegation to Islamabad for talks on January 15, left for Male and Colombo, without giving any comment whether he would travel to Pakistan for talks after those visits.

When asked, an MEA spokesperson said it would be “premature to say anything at this stage,” indicating that no decision had been taken on the talks.

Mr. Doval left for Paris on Monday night, as scheduled earlier.

Pakistan’s Poisonous Ideas About Peace and Terrorism

The Fatal Flaw: Nine Points India Ignores about Pakistan

INDIAFACTS

After the Pathankot terror attack we again find ourselves to be on the receiving end…

After the Pathankot terror attack we again find ourselves to be on the receiving end in another round of proxy war imposed upon us by Pakistan. However, the old narrative on Pakistan continues to be prevalent in India though many presumptions on which it is based simply don’t add up.

Indian national discourse on Pakistan is based on many suppositions, assumptions, conjectures and surmises which do not match up with our past and present experiences. This article is not about making out a case against talks with Pakistan. It is an appeal to be realistic about Pakistan and accept it as it is and deal with it as it is instead of being wishful about it.

  1. Terror during the Talks – It is widely understood that terror attack on Pathankot Air Base happened because PM Modi reopened talks with Pakistan. There is no direct evidence to prove this except an assumption that the Pak Army and its proxies like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar don’t want good relations between the two countries. If we extend this logic, PM Modi should not have visited Afghanistan either to prevent attack on Indian Consulate in Mazaar-e-Sharif as there is wide consensus in Pakistan against good Indo-Afghan relations. The harsh reality is that such attacks have always happened no matter whether India was talking to Pakistan or not.

Maulana Masood Azhar

 

Terror attacks do not necessarily happen during India-Pak dialogue to break it. Such attacks happen because war by terrorism is the primary leverage Pakistan has against the Indian State.  The game works like this: First, Pakistan tries to push India into talks by harassing it through terror attacks and ceasefire violations.

The peace lobby in India which is unable to contemplate any scenario between absolute war and absolute peace with Pakistan and is ostensibly more concerned about India’s economic development than ordinary Indians raises a hue and cry. Ultimately Indian Government of the day agrees to open talks.

And as the Indian political and bureaucratic leadership sits for negotiations, Pakistan unleashes another deadly phase of terror attacks, this time to extract a deal by inflicting unaffordable collateral damage which essentially involves popular backlash against the Indian government of the day as ordinary Indians find it incapable of protecting human lives and the national pride.

Pakistan thinks that a harassed and helpless Indian Government will yield to at least some of its demands. Even if that does not happen it will contribute to making party in power less popular and hence the Government of the day more insecure and unstable. It’s a nasty game of bullying and subversion.

And Pakistan has had near successes in this game. By harassing Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments through these tactics, Pakistan almost got them to endorse the so called ‘Musharaff Formula’ which requires India to give up its claim on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and vacate the Siachen Glacier.

Given Pakistan’s well known record of never honoring written agreements it signed with India, it would have been start of another phase of the Kashmir dispute and not the end of it as once Pakistan legally gets 1/3rd Kashmir, it can still continue the proxy war and fuel internal unrest in the rest of it. Now, Pakistan is trying the same game with the Modi Government as it has been assertively claiming POK and also giving some ear to the plight of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Afghan govt-Taliban peace talks at Murree

Harsh reality is that Pakistan never turns off the terror tap. Talk to Afghans, they will tell you. Last year, Pakistan hosted the Murree talks between Afghan government and Afghan Taliban. These talks were preceded and succeeded by horrific terror attacks in Afghanistan by the Afghan Taliban.

Last month, when Pakistan hosted the Heart of Asia Summit on Afghanistan (which was also attended by India’s Minister of External Affairs Mrs. Sushma Swaraj), its proxy Afghan Taliban carried out majestic suicide attacks on the Kandahar Airport. Afghan Intelligence Chief Rahamatullah Nabil felt so betrayed that he vented out his frustration about Pakistan double games on his Facebook page before resigning from his job.

Fact is that Pakistan wages a relentless sub-conventional war against its financer USA as well as against India and Afghanistan. It is Pakistani way of bullying these countries into accepting the deal they are offering. Pakistanis are confident that one day they will succeed.

  1. We can’t change neighbours– This is the catch line of reopening talks with Pakistan and the rationale of case for uninterrupted dialogue with Pakistan. No I am not making a case for no talks with Pakistan. But the problem is that every time we repeat this line publicly, we actually acknowledge that we either have no other options (and thus helpless before Pakistan’s terror onslaught) or we lack will power to exercise the other options. We go to talks with Pakistan with ‘No Other Options’ placard. So, Pakistan does not even take our polemic seriously; neither when we talk nor when we do not talk.

Then there is another problem with the “we can’t change neighbors” line of thought. It basically lacks strategic, historical and futuristic imagination. We did change neighbors in 1971. And the bigger question we need to ask ourselves is what we will do if our neighboring country itself changes for more bad. Pakistan is becoming a more radicalized society with each passing day; it has a booming small nuclear weapons program (to which terrorists may get access one day) and aggravating secessionist movements. Are we prepared to handle the contingencies if nightmares about Pakistan turn into reality?

Army chief General Raheel Sharif.

  1. Pak Army does not want talks with India- Actually there are times when Pak Army does want talks with India. Wasn’t General Musharraf all the time trying to have talks with India particularly after Operation Parakram? Recently, when PM Modi and PM Nawaz Sharif decided to engage with each other, Pakistan’s military complex was in the line of fire from international media as the San Bernardino attack (first by ISIS ideologues on US soil) was traced back to Islamabad’s Red Mosque which Pak Army had claimed to have cleansed of Jihadists long ago. Soon, international media’s focus got diverted to breakthrough between India and Pakistan. Talks with India also sometimes help Pak Generals to portray themselves as responsible guys. For instance, in the present scenario; it may help them to rescue the proposal of US-Pak civil nuclear deal out of the taboo zone. Generals also look forward to again propose the “Musharraf Formula” to Indian political class as a cure for its Pakistan migraine.
  2. Nawaz Sharif is great friend of India– This myth was floated by Americans in the immediate aftermath of Kargil war to help India get out of intense feeling of betrayal. According to this story (widely assimilated by Indians), Gen Musharraf kept Nawaz Sharif in dark about the Kargil infiltration and he genuinely wanted to pursue peace with Vajpayee.

So according to this theory there was a good guy in Pakistan who did not want to do that to India. Tune into any TV Debate or open any Newspaper, you will be told that Nawaz Sharif wants peace with India but Pak Army is not allowing him to have his way.

This narrative ignores many insider accounts which tried to inform us about Nawaz Sharif’s double games with India. For instance, in his recent book “Where Borders Bleed: An insider account of India-Pak relations”, former Indian Consul General in Karachi, Ambassador Rajiv Dogra described how Nawaz Sharif was aware of the fact that Pakistani soldiers had already occupied Kargil heights when he was welcoming PM Vajpayee to Lahore.

The same book also claims that as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif had approved 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. In 2013, Vajpayee’s Minister of External Affairs, Jaswant Singh told PTI that “I do not think a Prime Minister [Nawaz Sahrif] can remain unaware”. Bruce Riedel who was present in one on one meeting in Washington between President Bill Clinton and PM Nawaz Sharif on July 4, 1999 notes in his book “Avoiding the Armageddon” that when confronted and threatened by Clinton, Nawaz Sharif “reluctantly” agreed to withdraw troops from Kargil, knowing “he would be castigated at home for giving up Pakistan’s territorial gains with nothing to show for it.”

He would later be removed when he tried to shift the blame of Kargil debacle on his Army Chief. Actually, if Pak Army had succeeded in Kargil, Nawaz Sharif would have readily claimed the credit of victory. In an Interview, a Pak Army whistleblower Lt. Gen Abdul Aziz claimed that Nawaz Sharif wanted to know when the Pak Army “gifting him Kashmir”.

Nawaz Sharif was not going to ask a winning Pak army to withdraw from Kargil for the sake of friendship with India. He had to announce withdrawal for multiple reasons: Pak Army was loosing, Indians were threatening to give up self-imposed restraint, Indian Navy had adopted aggressive postures in Arabian Sea, Americans threatened sanctions and Chinese left Pakistan in cold.

Sharif tried to cover up his double game and tried to make General Musharraf and his Lieutenants scapegoats and got toppled in the process. Musharraf blamed Nawaz Sharif of betraying the Pak Army. A victim of his own double game with India became a subject of Indian sympathy.

And here lies another big problem. Nawaz Sharif can’t afford to be seen as yielding to India. He is damn careful about that. After PM Modi’s Lahore trip, Pak Foreign Secretary took great pains to explain how PM Modi invited himself to Lahore.

Recently, Nawaz Sharif wrote an open letter of support to Kashmiri Islamist Asiya Andarabi. Asiya Andarabi has been in news for addressing Hafiz Saeed’s rally over phone. Last month three potential ISIS recruits from India’s Hyderabad were nabbed when they were going to board a flight to Srinagar where Asiya was going to put them in direct contact with ISIS commanders.

Leaving all this aside even if we are to go by the popular narrative that Nawaz Sharif wants peace but is powerless, the next question that naturally crops up is if he is powerless what goods he can deliver? And if is not all that powerless then isn’t he complicit at least by way of omissions?

  1. Civilian versus Military Leadership- According to this popular Indian narrative Pakistan’s civilian and military leaderships have conflicting interests and they are not on the same page on foreign policy issues. However, reality may be a bit more nuanced. Off course no civilian Prime Minister wants himself to be toppled and imprisoned by Generals but that does not make him a great friend of India by default.

Firstly, if the civilian leadership portrays itself to be soft on India, it will be weakening itself.

Secondly, except the 1999 coup whereby Nawaz Sharif was toppled there was no India factor in whatever happened to the civilian leaders of Pakistan. It was mostly their internal political dynamics.

Thirdly, the civilian leadership in Pakistan belongs to the feudal elite class which was at the forefront of Muslim League’s Pakistan movement. These civilian leaders are not at all interested in so advanced a democratic system which destroys the feudal turfs on which they thrive. So, they too have some convergence of interests with the military deep state.

Even a cursory glance at the career of most Pakistani Civilian leaders including that of Late Benazir Bhutto makes it clear that anti-India rhetoric and conspiracies have been their favorite pursuits and they were always counting upon ISI’s proxy war against India to extract something on Kashmir.

However, there is utter confusion in India on this issue. When there happens to be Army rule in Pakistan, we say that it will be easier to deal with a democratically elected government. When such a government comes to power, we say it is powerless and it would have been easier to deal with a General.

More interestingly, the assumption that the civilian and military leaderships are not on the same page is extended only to Pakistan’s policy towards India. You will never hear anyone suggest that PM Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif are not on the same page regarding Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy, whereby it wages another deadly war by means of terrorism.

  1. Economic relations will help check terrorism– According to a school of thought in India, if India somehow succeeds in upgrading its economic relations with Pakistan, we will get a leverage which will be helpful in ebbing the tide of India centric terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil.

However, before believing all this there is a need to understand the psyche of Pakistan’s rulers and how Pakistan as a Nation sees itself. In his recent exhaustive and seminal work on the Partition historiography, “Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late colonial North India”, Prof Venkat Dhulipala notes that “it [Pakistan] was not just envisaged as a refuge for the Indian Muslims, but as an Islamic utopia that would be harbinger for renewal and rise of Islam in the modern world, act as the powerful new leader and protector of the entire Islamic world and, thus, emerge as a worthy successor to the defunct Turkish Caliphate as the foremost Islamic power in the twentieth century”.

So, Pakistan was primarily conceptualized as a Nation State with a pan-Islamic mission and everything including economics comes next. In 2008, Start for author George Freidman noted that Pakistan is “modern day remnant of Muslim rule over medieval India”.

And what were the Mughal rulers of Delhi trying to do all the time at great cost of human lives and money? They were trying to capture Afghanistan and expand into whatever was out of their domain in India.  They failed again and again but never stopped sending new armies to conquer Kabul and south India and ultimately ended up weakening and finishing their own empire.

Pakistan’s rulers see themselves as their proud legatees. They all the time try to capture Afghanistan as well as expand into India through Kashmir. And for that they are ready to afford the unaffordable cost of nurturing the Jihadist forces which are also ruining Pakistan.

The whole world has tried to explain to Pakistani rulers how this war by means of terrorism is ruining them and their nation but they never heed these sane counsels.

If something does not fit into Pakistan’s religious-strategic revivalist theories, its economic rationale doesn’t matter much. If it does even the losses are welcome. So, Pakistan is happy with China despite the fact that Chinese exporters have ruined Pakistani exporters simply because Chinese diplomatic and military backing helps Pakistan in pursuing its dreams and wage proxy wars.

Pakistan sponsors Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network who kill American soldiers in Afghanistan despite knowing that only Americans give Pakistan economic “grants” (even Chinese have declined) and help it secure finances at International monetary institutions.

Let’s consider the case of TAPI Project about which Pakistan is making all the good noises. Project will not be financially viable unless India joins it and Pakistan suffers from acute energy crisis. But once India joins it and becomes a bit dependent upon supplies, Pakistan can exploit the opportunity through its proxies.

Let’s not forget how Pakistan’s proxies burnt NATO supply trucks passing into Afghanistan through Pakistani territory (for this transit route Pakistan draws bills on NATO) whenever US tried to be tough with Pakistan. This does not mean that India should not explore such economic opportunities but expecting that such projects will give us some leverage over Pakistan which will make it roll back its proxy war against us is expecting too much.

  1. Dossier Diplomacy– After 26/11, India embarked upon what came to be known as the dossier diplomacy which involved supplying Pakistan with evidence about the involvement of Pak proxies and Pak intelligence officers in the 26/11 carnage. It was like giving evidence to a ganglord against his gang members and expecting him to punish them. It placed Pakistani State in the seat of a Judge in a prosecution where it was itself an accused.

Under intense international pressure, Pakistan did institute a trial, arrested some members of LeT and placed some others in preventive detention. Many are already out on bail and trial is most likely to collapse as bizarre things are happening in the trial court.

Ajmal Kasab

For instance, last month, a hostile prosecution witness told the Court that Ajmal Kasab is alive and may be produced in the Court! Pakistan banned Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammed after attack on the Indian Parliament.

Today, the recruitment networks and operational capabilities of these terror groups are even more potent and their stock is higher in the Jihadist world. After the Pathankot attack we are again sharing evidence with Pakistan.

PM Nawaz Sharif has promised to PM Modi to take “prompt and decisive” action against the perpetrators of the attack. But it is unlikely that this decisive action will go much beyond then rounding up some Jihadists, placing some under preventive detention and instituting a trial which ultimately may go nowhere.

In the meantime, terror infrastructure will continue to thrive on Pakistani soil as before and terrorist threat to India will continue to persist. What we need to understand here is that counterterrorism is not necessarily about proving things to terror sponsors; it is more about knowing and acting upon what we know.

  1. American and Chinese Pressure– Despite trying both carrots and sticks with Pakistan, US has not been able to dissuade it from supporting Afghan Taliban and Haqqqni Network. So now with Pakistan’s help, it wants to make a deal with these groups whereby the democratic regime in Kabul somehow survives after US troops leave Afghanistan and Jihadist won’t be able to claim that they have defeated another Superpower.

Pakistan enacts a drama and says it will get the deal done but Washington should extract some concessions for it from New Delhi. This is the genesis of much talked US pressure (I would prefer the word persuasion as US-India mutual stakes in international politics are so high now that US can’t pressurize India in the manner it could have done 10 years back).

Indian leadership should ask Americans that if they can’t stop Pakistan from getting their own troops killed through its proxies, how India can rely upon their guarantees. Actually, the occasions on which Americans took our complaints seriously are the ones when we threatened to redress the wrongs done to us instead of obeying the American advice of being good boys.

China’s case is quite similar though a bit more complex. It is fine with Pakistan waging a sub-conventional low intensity war with India. It wants Pakistan to act as a strategic drag which does not allow Indian horse to run too fast. But that’s it.

China knows that if Pakistan does too much mischief and India responds with its full State power either covertly or overtly, Pakistan’s efficacy as a strategic drag may get severely corroded. So, Chinese always refused to help Pakistan in its direct wars with India-be it 1965,1971 or 1999 Kargil war- though during each of these wars Pakistan’s military or civilian leaders traveled to Beijing seeking help. Moreover, unlike Pakistan, Chinese do care about economics and there is lot of economics between India and China.

The limited point is that unless we don’t learn to impose back crises instead of just patiently weathering the ones imposed on us, no one is going to take us seriously.

  1. Proxy War and Pakistan’s Comfort Zone– After defeat in Kargil War, Pakistan’s leaders- both civilian and military- know it in their bones that they can’t even win a limited war with India. So, all of them want talks.

But they simultaneously continue to wage a proxy war against us to bully us into a deal and they carry out this sub-conventional war under the Nuclear Umbrella. US war college-trained generals fully understand that any kind of nuclear adventurism may finish Pakistan but they are also aware that Indians have missed the fact that an umbrella is not meant to hit.

Pak generals want to carry on this proxy war from their low risk comfort zones because they know that we won’t invade their comfort zones. They sponsor a terror attack during talks with India and then say that the dialogue should not be interrupted because of that.

We need to beat them at their own game. We should also respond to a terror attack during talks with both over and covert means and then say that such a response should not interrupt the dialogue as we are just acting against terrorists. As soon as India starts dragging Pakistan’s leaders into high risk zone they will learn to behave themselves. Until we don’t do that we will keep reeling under the Pakistani strategy of bleeding India through thousand cuts.

 

Divya Kumar Soti is a national security analyst and a Lawyer specialising in comparative business and tech laws. He avidly studies geopolitics, history, radicalism and theology

Does Afghanistan Peace Surrender Give Pakistan Authority To Dictate Terms?

[SEE:  Kabul Hosting US/China Sponsored Afghan Peace Talk Meeting Which Excludes India ]

Pakistan to present list of Taliban open to Afghanistan peace talks

the indian express

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States will meet in Islamabad on Monday to discuss a road map for peace talks.

Afghanistan-taliban-759 Pakistan has agreed to cut off financial support to Taliban fighters based in Pakistani cities. (File)An Afghan official says Pakistan will present a list of Taliban willing to negotiate with Kabul at a meeting this week aimed at reviving the Afghan peace process.Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States will meet in Islamabad on Monday to discuss a road map for peace talks. The meeting will not include the Taliban.

Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said Sunday that Pakistan’s list will include Taliban who do and do not want talks with Kabul on ending the 15-year war.

Faisal says Pakistan has agreed to cut off financial support to Taliban fighters based in Pakistani cities. He says insurgents based in Pakistan would not be allowed to resettle in Afghanistan.

He says the agreement would also include “bilateral cooperation on eliminating terrorism.”

 

US Providing Air Cover To Taliban Anti-ISIS Operations?

[SEE:  Govt Air and Ground Forces Apparently Back-Up Afghan Taliban Assault Upon ISIS In Nangarhar]

Daesh militants killed by US drone, clashes with Taliban

turkish-weekly1

Daesh militants killed by US drone, clashes with Taliban
At least 28 Daesh militants were killed on Friday by a U.S. drone strike and in clashes with local Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, provincial officials have said.

The drone strike occurred as militants were in the process of beheading several Taliban fighters and an Afghan soldier following Friday prayers in Nangarhar’s restive Achin district, located some 150 kilometers east of capital Kabul.

“At least 15 Daesh fighters were killed by a U.S. drone strike as they were beheading Taliban fighters,” provincial police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal told Anadolu Agency.

The Daesh militants had reportedly forced local residents to watch the executions.

While some local sources have said that the drone strike had also caused civilian causalities, Mashriqiwal rejected these assertions, saying: “We haven’t received any information regarding civilian losses.”

He went on to say that four local Daesh commanders had been among those killed in Friday’s drone strike.

In a similar incident on Saturday, another drone strike killed at least four Pakistani militants in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, which shares a border with Pakistan.

According to Abdul Ghani Mosamim, a spokesman for the provincial governor, the strike occurred in Kunar’s Shegal district.

Neither the Taliban nor Daesh, however, has so far commented on the reported incident.

The U.S. military and the Afghan air force have been striking Daesh positions from the air and ground since late last year, when the militants began carrying out deadly attacks on local security posts.

In a related development, another 13 Daesh militants — along with three Taliban fighters — have been killed since Friday, when clashes erupted between the two groups in the villages of Dago, Sangini and Kariz in Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district.

Daesh first gained notoriety inside Afghanistan after beheading a number of civilians in Nangarhar. Since then, it has targeted anyone opposed to its extremist views, including Afghan government officials, security personnel and members of the rival Taliban group.

Source: AA

Lebanon Awaits To Be Redefined By the Raging Regional War

[Excellent analysis of the multi-sided conflict in the Levant.]

Lebanon awaits winner in regional war: Shias or Sunnis? Iran, Saudi Arabia or Isis?

guardian

Tied by history and intrigue to other parts of the Middle East, divided into 18 religious sects, the country has long been the victim of others’ conflicts


Hezbollah leader Nasrallah comments on Saudi exeuctions on Al-Manar TV channel. Photograph: AL-MANAR TV / HANDOUT/EPA

Gareth Smyth for Tehran Bureau

 

A doctor specialised in geriatrics tells me he has more and more patients presenting with conditions stemming from anxiety. “It’s somehow worse than the civil war [1975-90],” he says. “In the war, there were clear sides.”

“In a war you can see the gunman in front of you, and you can hope for a ceasefire,” says Yasser Akkaoui, who has edited the Beirut-based business magazine Executive for the past 15 years. “But today in Lebanon there is a distant hand controlling things, you don’t see the threat. So there’s a fear of the unknown.”

This week Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Shia party Hezbollah, decried Saudi Arabia’s “tyrannical, criminal, terrorist and takfiri face” after the Saudis beheaded the leading Shia cleric, Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr. In response, Ahmad Fatfat, an official in Lebanon’s mainly Sunni Future movement, called Hezbollah “an Iranian militia” that wanted to “take control of Lebanon”.

In neighbour Syria, where the death toll has passed 250,000 in four years, the Islamic State (Isis) this week released its latest video, showing the execution of five “spies”. Meanwhile, Israel shelled south Lebanon after Hezbollah bombed Israeli soldiers in a disputed area along the Israel-Lebanon-Syria border. Barely noticed, the UN put the death toll in Yemen at nearly 2,800 after nine months of fighting.

And that’s all just since last Saturday. In Lebanon in 2015, there were suicide car bombs claimed by Isis, popular ‘You Stink’ protests against the government that were crushed by security police, fighting between Islamist and other factions in Palestinian refugee camps, and the sentencing of a former minister for importing explosives to kill politicians and religious figures.

Ordinary Lebanese are bewildered, their population of around 4.5 million swelled by over 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Mountains of rubbish and electricity cuts are tangible consequences of government corruption and incompetence. There has been a political crisis with the presidency vacant since Michel Sleiman’s term expired in 2014, and paralysis in government for far longer.

A Lebanese man covers his nose from the smell as he passes by a pile of garbage on a street in Beirut, Lebanon.

 

Akkaoui believes Lebanon has lacked political direction since Syria withdrew its forces in 2005. “Everything in Lebanon is self-inflicted, we are unable to discern our own interests,” he says. “The Lebanese are left waiting to see who is going to rule the region. Since the development of the ‘Axis of Evil’, there has been a regional civil war, sometimes cold but increasingly hot. Will the axis of Russia-Syria-Iran gain power? We’re waiting to find out.”

Just across the border in Syria, Russia and Iran are backing president Bashar al-Assad, from the minority Alawi sect, against a collection of rebels who are mainly Sunni and have various degrees of support from the authorities and non-governmental groups in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries.

There are Lebanese from Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) fighting alongside Assad, while on the other side Lebanese Sunnis have joined the rebels. So far, the violence has spilled over only occasionally into Lebanon.

Lebanon has 18 distinct religious sects. Most parties are based on sect and linked to regional interests – the mainly Sunni party Mustaqbal to the Saudis, the Shia parties Amal and Hezbollah to Iran. Lebanon’s Christians, largely hostile before 2005 to Syrian dominance in Lebanon, are now unsure where to turn: some sense Assad and Hezbollah are a better bet than militant Sunnis like Isis, and one Christian leader, Michael Aoun, is openly allied to the ‘party of God’.

“In terms of the region, Lebanon is unimportant – beyond the fact that the Saudis and Iranians couldn’t resolve enough of their differences to allow the Lebanese to elect a new president,” says Yezid Sayigh, senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “Lebanon doesn’t figure much, other than the Saudis don’t like Hezbollah, which is strong in Lebanon and that’s exactly why there is an issue about the presidency.”

A crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary are seen on the roof of a shop in Jdeideh, northeast of Beirut. Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

The problem in waiting for the end of the regional war is that there seems no sign of how and when it will end. Or if anyone will win it; or even if anyone will ‘win’ in Syria.

Both Hezbollah and Iran have lost ‘martyrs’ in Syrian – just over 1,000 Lebanese Hezbollahis according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 400 Iranians according to Irna last June – but why, exactly, are they fighting there?

Officially to protect Shia shrines, some of which have been destroyed by Isis. And to advise an allied government fighting ‘terrorists’.

But also to maintain a supply route to Hezbollah in Lebanon? As part of an ‘axis of resistance’ to Israel? Even as Hezbollah’s losses in Syria approach the 1,300 killed fighting the Israelis in south Lebanon?

The links between Lebanon, Syria and Iran are complex.

Nadia von Maltzahn, research associate at the Orient-Institut in Beirut and author of The Syria-Iran Axis, recently elaborated to me on Tehran’s active, long-term cultural diplomacy in Syria, recalling her visits in 2008-10 to the Iranian cultural centre in Latakia, the Alawi heartland, where the Iranians’ work seem to find more resonance than in mainly Sunni Damascus. She had also noticed, on research trips to Iran, popular scepticism about such outreach.

“In Iran itself there was very little support for the policy towards the region, especially because ‘so much’ money was being spent on it,” she told me. “In 2009, even before the current situation in Syria, people in Iran were complaining about money being given to Syria and Hezbollah – probably it wasn’t based on real figures, but it was a perception.”

Is the regional conflict about religion?

No, and yes, says Sayigh: “Most of these seemingly religious sectarian rivalries and disputes are about different communities competing for a resource. People identity themselves in certain ways in order to mobilise against each other. A nationalist like Hitler spoke of the ‘German nation’ when most of the ‘Germans’ in Ukraine or Poland were so distant that they were almost unrecognisable and had to be re-Germanised. These are all political agendas.”

Iran’s links with the Assad regime did not begin, as some argue, with a simple marriage of convenience between the supposed secular Baath party and Shia Iran in 1980 against their common enemy Saddam Hussein, who had attacked Iran.

Back in the 1970s, the Qom-born Lebanese Shia cleric Musa Sadr developed close links with Iranian revolutionaries like Mostafa Chamran and Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who were in Lebanon working with Palestinian militants. Sadr was also close to Hafez al-Assad, who had taken power in Syria in 1970 and styled himself an Arab nationalist, and Sadr’s religious ruling in 1973 that Alawi were Shia was important in helping legitimise Assad as Syrian president, a post reserved for Muslims.

This was not the first attempt to bring the Alawi into the Muslim ‘mainstream’ and neither was it wholly successful. The Alawis’ esoteric beliefs – including the transmigration of souls and the sense of Ali, the prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law, as divine – were one remnant of a vast variation in religion that had characterised the Levant: the valleys and mountains of Lebanon and coastal Syria were for hundreds of years attractive territory under the Ottoman Empire for minority faiths, including the Alawis, Druze, and even Maronite Christians who spoke Syriac rather than Arabic well into the 19th century. Hidden away, it was possible to practise beliefs looked down on by larger groups of Muslims and Christians.

“Those were times when there wasn’t today’s news flow,” notes Sayigh. But even before Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, identity could adapt and sometimes needed to. “Religion as daily practice is a reinvention of tradition,” says Sayigh. “There are always different political and social agendas, and if you look at any religion you’ll see constant redefinition.”

In 1922 the French, ruling Syria under a League of Nations mandate and keen on ‘modernisation’, established Alawi courts under Shia judicial rules. But this did not transform the Alawis into Shia, wrote historian Martin Kramer in 1987:

This emerges from an anecdote about a visit to Latakia in the 1930s by Lebanon’s preeminent Twelver [ie Shia] divine [cleric], Shaykh Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din of Tyre. To his host, a leading Sunni notable and sayyid of Latakia, he said: ‘I have come first of all to visit you and then to ask about the doctrine of the Alawis among whom you live. I have heard it said that they are ghulat’ [literally ‘exaggerators’ or ‘extremists’, usually applied to people attributing divine characteristics to members of the prophet’s family].

In this curious scene, a Twelver Shi’ite inquired of a Sunni about the beliefs of an Alawi. In fact, the Alawi shaykhs were no more prepared to bare their doctrines to Twelver Shi’ites than to Sunnis. The Alawis had simply chosen to judge themselves, in their own courts, by the principles of Twelver Shi’ite jurisprudence. The religious shaykhs had not decided to submit their beliefs to the scrutiny of Twelver Shi’ites, or to recognize the authority of living Twelver divines.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, and heady days of ‘anti-imperialism’ that brought together militant Lebanese, Palestinians and Iranian revolutionaries not just in discussion but for military training. Ali Shariati had developed ‘red Shiism’ as a kind of liberation theology, and knew Chamran and Ghotbzadeh through the Freedom Movement of Iran, founded in 1961. Long before the Revolutionary Guards went to the Bekaa in the early 1980s to train what would become Hezbollah, PLO fighters mixed in Lebanon with Chamran and others who would later lead the IRGC.

And while after 1979 Iran’s Islamic Republic saw itself as neutral in the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, the international battle between ‘capitalism’ and ‘communism’ was helping shape the Middle East. Lebanon was caught up from 1958, when US marines came ashore on the beaches just south of Beirut to support the Christian president Camille Chamoun. Lebanon was also embroiled in the struggle of the Palestinians against Israel, especially when the PLO occupied much of south Lebanon and Beirut after their expulsion from Jordan in 1971.

Amid the ‘anti-imperialism’ of the 1970s, Musa Sadr established Harakat al-Mahroumin (the movement of the deprived), later known as Amal and still one of Lebanon’s two Shia parties. Ayatollah Khomeini adopted the nomenclature in identifying Islam with the mahroumin and the mostazafin (dispossessed) against the mostakberin (oppressors).

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Photograph: Issam Kobeisi/Reuters

By the time he disappeared in Libya in 1978, a year before Iran’s Revolution, Musa Sadr had helped forge links between Assad and Iran’s revolutionaries, which would work to Iran’s benefit in the 1980s war with Iraq. But these links were already valued by Assad who in 1977, according to Yossi Alpher, then in Mossad, turned down an offer from the Shah’s foreign minister to cut Iran’s relations with Israel in return for Syria rejecting the Iranian opposition.
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Knowing Iran’s revolutionaries in turn helped facilitate Assad’s links with Hezbollah, which emerged in Lebanon around 1983, even if the 80s were messy years when Assad did not approve all of Hezbollah’s actions in taking western hostages or attacking US and French troops.

But the era of anti-imperialism was coming to an end, and this too would shape Lebanon.

“The US Soviet divide went on until the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, which was the same year as the Taef agreement ended the Lebanese civil war,” says Akkaoui. Brokered by Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Taef opened a period in which Lebanon, even with the Israelis occupying a ‘security zone’ in the south, was at peace and even began to prosper.

The drift towards a new polarisation – the ‘regional civil war’ – was uneven. In 2000, all Lebanese factions welcomed Israeli withdrawal from the south and with varying degrees of enthusiasm saluted Hezbollah’s role in helping bring it about.

Some date the change to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, when Iran welcomed the downfall of Saddam Hussein, a change that alarmed Saudi Arabia. Others date it to 2005, when Lebanon’s former Sunni prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated, or to 2008, when Hezbollah, which had refused to disarm after the Israeli withdrawal, asserted itself militarily against a Lebanese government led by a Saudi-backed coalition, over its control of security around Beirut’s airport.

By May 2011, ‘Arab spring’ protests prompted Saudi intervention in Bahrain to protect a Sunni monarchy facing protests amid a mainly Shia population, and in Syria demonstrations against president Assad’s regime in early 2011 morphed within months into an armed conflict with increasingly sectarian dimensions.

By 2015, with the Saudis using air attacks to back ousted Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Al Hadi against the Houthis, who are mainly Zaidi Shia, the regional civil war looked distinctly Sunni-Shia.

But while events in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iran can reverberate around the region, people may lack real knowledge of each other. Flights between Beirut and Tehran, for example, cater mainly for Shia pilgrims going to Mashhad, and Nadia von Maltzahn’s book is peppered with anecdotes of misunderstanding between Syrians and Iranians.

Instant reactions may not be informed ones. Saeid Golkar – a lecturer at the Northwestern University, Illinois, who closely monitors Basij social media activity – contrasts a wave of meetings organised by Basijis over the Saudis’ execution of Nimr with a lack of interest, or even contempt, among many other Iranians.

“People are saying, who cares, he’s an Arab. They’re asking, ‘Why do we need [diplomatic] relations anyway with the Saudis? They’re so backward’.”

Golkar is uneasy about regional tensions. He believes “hardliners” in Tehran will provoke “distractions” to undermine President Hassan Rouhani in the run-up to elections in late February. “I will not be surprised if there is another crisis in the next month,” he says.

“Ideologies can plug into all sorts of dynamics and fault lines,” says Sayigh. “In Saudi Arabia and Iran you have had governments and elites that have been actively pursuing a particular discourse, a sectarian ideology. It’s difficult to say it [Shia-Sunni tension] is a long-standing, deep-routed issue when it’s so clear that Saudi and Iranian politicians are deliberately using sectarian discourse. They push it, through education, media, everything.”

But playing up external threats for political reasons can have uncertain consequences.

“None of these conflicts is something natural between the people,” says Golkar. “The creation of political identity along the lines of Sunni and Shia is playing with fire, there will be negative consequence for the countries concerned and for the region as a whole. The fodder for this regional war are the young, the poorly educated, the unemployed. In a way, the hardliners on all sides – Saudi, Iran, the US, Israel – have a subtle alliance, in which they enhance and strengthen each other.”
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There is little sign of any interruption in the supply of raw material. In October Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, said that with oil revenues falling, 10 million additional people would be seeking work in the region’s oil-exporting countries by 2020.

Back in Lebanon, Yasser Akkaoui, a champion of regulated capitalism, bemoans poor education and the shrinking of the country’s middle class through emigration and lack of social mobility. He despairs at resentment towards the better-off, which he traces back to Musa Sadr’s championing of the mahroumin (deprived).

“Showing wealth shouldn’t be a crime,” he says. “Yet if you display wealth in Lebanon you attract the interest of the state and the envy, or the anger, of the people. Our politicians show no commitment to change this by fostering a middle class and encouraging education – the only two means to develop our country.”

And just like Lebanon, warns Akkaoui, Saudi Arabia has its own uneducated, unemployed mass all too willing to follow populist, sectarian leaders: “If the house of Saud falls, it would be 20 times worse than Syria. Any weakening of Al-Saud means civil war, and if you think Daesh are bad, just wait.”

This article was amended to reflect that the PLO occupied much of south Lebanon and Beirut after their expulsion from Jordan in 1971, not 1970.

The Tehran Bureau is an independent media organisation, hosted by the Guardian. Contact us @tehranbureau

Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Immovable Terrorist Object Forever Between India and Pakistan

India called on Pakistan on Thursday to take “prompt and decisive” action against militants it blames for an attack on an air base, days before fraught peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours are scheduled to resume.

NEW DELHI: India called on Pakistan on Thursday to take “prompt and decisive” action against militants it blames for an attack on an air base, days before fraught peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours are scheduled to resume.

A meeting between the foreign secretaries of both nations had been tentatively scheduled for Jan. 15, but it is unclear if it will still happen after the weekend attack on the Indian Air Force base near the Pakistan border. India’s foreign ministry said Islamabad has been given actionable intelligence that those who planned the assault came from Pakistan.

“As far as we are concerned the ball is now in Pakistan’s court,” spokesman Vikas Swarup told reporters when asked if the talks were on. “The immediate issue in front of us is Pakistan’s response to the terrorist attack.”

A senior Pakistani official said India provided intelligence that included telephone numbers, call intercepts, and locations where they believe the attackers or their handlers were.

Pakistan is following up the leads, the official said, and hopes that the talks would not be cancelled while it explores them.

Prime ministers Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan are struggling to keep their renewed dialogue on track after the militant attack killed seven Indian military personnel and wounded 22. Modi made a surprise stopover in Pakistan last month, the first time an Indian premier has visited in over a decade.

LATEST TALKS

The standoff after the apparent thaw is part of a pattern over the years. Attempts to restart talks have been frequently thwarted by attacks between the two countries, which have fought three wars since becoming separate nations in 1947.

With such an eventuality in mind, the national security advisers of the two countries agreed on a process during a meeting in early December to keep dialogue going in case of a potential disruption, the Pakistani official said.

As a result, Indian NSA Ajit Doval has spoken at least three times by phone with his Pakistani counterpart, Naseer Khan Janjua, since the attack, including last Saturday evening when the fighting was still ongoing, the Pakistani official said.

India’s security establishment has blamed the attack on militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, alleged to have been behind an assault on the country’s parliament in 2001 that almost brought the two countries to war for a fourth time. The Pakistani official said Pakistan could temporarily arrest Jaish-e-Mohammad’s leader Masood Azhar to appease India, but only if the leads checked out.

Pakistan also expects DNA evidence, bodies and other forms of identification from India “within days”, the official said. Sharif met senior ministers and his national security advisers on Thursday and discussed “issues pertaining to national and regional security”, according to a statement from his office.

(Additional reporting by Paritosh Bansal in New Delhi and Asad Hashim in Islamabad; Writing By Andrew MacAskill)

Pak Army Will Not Fight Kashmiri Terrorists

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Stone pelters use minors as shields in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

Afzal Guru: Spreading terror from beyond the grave?

Maulana Masood Azhar2 Maulana Masood Azhar

  • Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif
     Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif

Won’t target Kashmir ultras, Pakistan Army told Sharif

The Hindu

Vijaita Singh

Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Lahore in December, intelligence agencies had told him that the Pakistan Army had conveyed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that they would not take action against “Kashmir-focussed groups.”

The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) is learnt to have made a presentation on the issue for Mr. Modi at the DGPs’ conference in the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, on December 19. In the presentation, the R&AW said the Pakistan Army was against taking action on terror groups active in Jammu and Kashmir such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad. By then, the talks between the National Security Advisers had taken place in Bangkok.

Mr. Modi was alerted to the influence of the “deep state” and was also told that the newly created Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent was being prepped by Pakistan’s ISI to carry out terror strikes in India. This information assumes significance as the 2001 Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013, has emerged as a common link between the Pathankot attack and the foiled attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-I-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Attacks in the name of Afzal Guru

The 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013, has emerged as a common link between the Pathankot airbase attack and the foiled attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-I-Sharif, Afghanistan.

The Pathankot attackers left behind a handwritten note in English in the vehicle of the former Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police, Salwinder Singh. It said the ‘A.G.S’ squad of the Jaish-e-Mohammad planned attacks from Tangdhar (in the Kashmir valley) to Samba, Kathua and Rajbagh (in Jammu) and Delhi to avenge the death of Afzal Guru.

The note was dated December 25, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Afghanistan and later made a surprise visit to Lahore.

A fidayeen squad (suicide bombers), which tried to storm the Indian Consulate, left two messages written in blood on the walls of the building they had occupied. The messages said their mission was to avenge Guru’s hanging.

A senior government official said infiltration of six Pathankot attackers could not have been possible without the help of a government entity in Pakistan.

“One or maximum two persons will be able to infiltrate the border on their own, but it takes state sponsorship to make six persons infiltrate across the border and, that too, with heavy explosives and ammunition,” said an official.

Should Blood-Soaked, Avaricious Saudi Royals Cut Their Own Throats Or Drown In Their Cheap Oil?

Saudi Arabia has a giant economic mess on its hands
Saudi Arabia faces ‘economic bomb’ and hikes gas prices 50%

Pressure Grows on Saudi Arabia to Ditch Dollar Peg

Wall Street Journal

Forward contracts surge to 16-year high this week seen as sign of increasing strain on the peg

Women shop at a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A devaluation would ease the government’s budget woes but boost the cost to consumers of buying imported goods and repaying foreign-currency debt. Women shop at a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A devaluation would ease the government’s budget woes but boost the cost to consumers of buying imported goods and repaying foreign-currency debt. Photo: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

 

By Tommy Stubbington and Nikhil Lohade

The prolonged rout in oil has left Saudi Arabia’s long-standing peg of its currency to the dollar at its most vulnerable point in more than a decade.

For almost 30 years, the kingdom has held the riyal at a fixed exchange rate and that has brought stability to government finances. Ninety percent of the government’s revenue comes from oil, which is priced in dollars.

But fewer dollars are coming in now, straining a budget that is committed to generous subsidies and public-sector wages. Abandoning the peg would make those dollars stretch further when converted to a local riyal, because without the peg, the riyal would weaken.

What’s more, to hold the peg, Saudi Arabia spends billions of its dollars buying riyals in foreign-exchange markets.

With oil trading around $36 a barrel, some investors and Saudi Arabian businesses believe the government will succumb to the pressure and let the peg go—something long regarded as unthinkable. That is a minority view, but one that is growing in popularity.

This week, the number of riyals that forward contracts can buy for a dollar in a year’s time surged to a 16-year high.

“We have a new economic reality in the Gulf region, with oil prices so much lower,” said Michael Cirami, a portfolio manager at Eaton Vance. “That requires an adjustment.”

Mr. Cirami isn’t betting on a weaker riyal, but he thinks Riyadh could shift its policy in the next few years.

The debate over the Saudi peg underscores how the oil-price rout has upended conventional wisdom in economies linked to crude. OPEC’s supremacy, for instance, has been eroded and rich oil states have fallen into budget deficits.

The riyal is fixed at roughly 3.75 to the dollar, and one-year forward contracts were buying the greenback for 3.822 on Tuesday, close to the high of 3.8235 hit on Monday. The moves reflect both speculators betting on a weaker riyal and some local businesses hurrying to lock in better rates, analysts say.

ENLARGE

The price of oil has fallen by more than half since the middle of 2014, forcing the kingdom to run a record deficit of nearly 367 billion riyals ($98 billion) last year. Last week the government laid out billions of riyals in budget cuts.

Meantime, Saudi Arabia and Iran have intensified their diplomatic spat over the kingdom’s execution of a dissident cleric. That clash could push Saudi Arabia’s defense costs up while it is already fighting an expensive war in Yemen and supporting allies in conflicts elsewhere, analysts say.

To prop up its currency, the kingdom is buying the riyal with the dollar reserves accrued during years of high oil prices, analysts say. Those reserves fell to $635.2 billion at the end of November, down 15% from a peak of $746 billion in August last year, according to the latest central bank data.

It is impossible to say how far the riyal would fall were the peg to be removed, but a decline likely would be far greater than the 2% devaluation implied by the forward rates.

Many economists said the Saudi government will keep spending dollars to avoid devaluation, which would come with uncomfortable long-term consequences. Households and businesses have debt in foreign currencies, and payments costs would rise if the local currency falls. Consumers also would have to pay more for imports, from cars to luxury goods.

That could be a tough path for the government, local analysts said. Saudis already are angered by cuts to subsidies in the state budget.

“Speculation over a devaluation of the Saudi riyal has mounted in the past few days, but we think such a move is likely to be used as a last resort,” said Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics. “In light of the potential political ramifications, this is something that the authorities will be extremely keen to avoid.”

During last week’s budget announcement, Saudi officials gave no indication that they were considering a change to the peg. But some analysts are reluctant to take the dismissals at face value. Officials at the Swiss National Bank, for instance, publicly backed the franc’s link to the euro mere days before the bank stunned markets by abandoning it a year ago.

In recent months, two oil-rich nations also have abandoned their dollar pegs.

Azerbaijan scrapped its peg to the greenback in December and its currency quickly lost half its value. Kazakhstan, another economy dependent on natural resources, let its currency float freely in August and saw it lose more than a quarter of its value in one day.

China has also moved to devalue the yuan since the summer as it grapples with slowing economic growth.

“The last year has shown us that when economic fundamentals change, pegs break,” said Peter Kinsella, an emerging-market strategist at Commerzbank in London.

Govt Air and Ground Forces Apparently Back-Up Afghan Taliban Assault Upon ISIS In Nangarhar

https://i0.wp.com/www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Afghan-Air-Force-1.jpgAir and ground forces intensify operations against ISIS fanatics in Nangarhar

Khaama

By Khaama Press

The Afghan national security forces have intensified air and ground operations against the fanatics loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province as the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to expand foothold in the country.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Murad Ali Murad said the Afghan forces have inflicted major casualties to the fanatics of ISIS terror group in Nangarahr, particularly in Achin district.

Gen. Murad told Radio Free Europe (RFE) during an exclusive interview that the public uprising forces (Taliban?) are also supporting the Afghan national security forces to suppress the activities of ISIS loyalists in Nangarhar (SEE:  2,500 Taliban Fighters Kill 150 Daesh Terrorists In Nangarhar Fight To the Death).

In regards to the deployment of terrorists by unidentified choppers in parts of Nangarhar province, Gen. Murad said they have not received concrete reports or evidences to prove the allegations.

The Afghan Air Force carried out its latest airstrike on ISIS fanatics in eastern Nangarhar province on Friday, leaving at least 14 loyalists of the terror group dead.

There have been growing concerns regarding the threats posed by emergent ISIS loyalists in Afghanistan with the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter saying late last year that the threat posed by the terror group is being tracked very closely as they have started creating ‘little nests’ in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell earlier said the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to establish a regional base in Jalalabad, the capital city of eastern Nangarhar province.

Gen. Campbell, said Tuesday that foreign militants from Syria and Iraq had joined the loyalists of the terror group in eastern Nangarhar province and are trying to consolidate links with the leadership of the terror group based in Syria and Iraq.

2,500 Taliban Fighters Kill 150 Daesh Terrorists In Nangarhar Fight To the Death

Bloody battle: Afghan Taliban capture Da’ish stronghold in Nangarhar province

express tribune

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: The Taliban have captured a stronghold of the Islamic State (IS)’s Khurasan chapter in the Afghan province of Nangarhar after three days of fierce fighting that claimed over 150 lives on both sides, The Express Tribune learnt from officials on Monday.

Saad Muradi, a front-line man of IS, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, was also killed in the three-day long battle, according to officials monitoring the Pak-Afghan border in Khyber Agency. “The Taliban now control Batitkot and Chaparyal areas which were captured over the last two days while Nazyan fell today,” one official said.

Banned TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah had survived a drone strike in Nazyan, while several IS fighters have been killed in the region in the US drone campaign. Local sources confirmed the development, saying more than 2,500 Taliban fighters were involved in the battle. They added that over 150 fighters were killed in fighting which is ongoing. “Of them, 35 are Taliban fighters.”

Sources also confirmed that the Afghan Taliban had taken control of the command and control centre of Da’ish in the area. They claimed that some rogue elements in the Afghan National Army were supporting Da’ish fighters.

Tribesmen from Nangarhar said the Afghan Taliban had convened a Jirga a fortnight ago to enlist support of the local villagers against Da’ish. They said the Taliban were advancing into other areas under IS influence and also eyeing parts of Kunar province.

A security official said Pakistani authorities have tightened security on the border with Afghanistan, particularly in Khyber Agency and the area around Rajgal, which remains a contested space for Pakistani militants and the security forces.

Indian Consulates In Afghanistan Again Come Under ISI Attack

An Afghan National Army (ANA) helicopter drops commandos on the roof of a building during an operation near the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on Monday.
Reuters   An Afghan National Army (ANA) helicopter drops commandos on the roof of a building during an operation near the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on Monday.

Afghanistan: Terrorists gunned down after 25-hour gunfight at the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif

 

the indian express

 

afghanistan, afghanistan indian consulate, indian consulate afghanistanMilitary choppers of the Afghanistan security forces have dropped commandos atop the building holding the remaining militants and the battle is “inching towards final assault.”

By: Express News Service | Kabul/new Delhi
Afghan security forces surround a house which is used by a group of gunmen to attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, capital of northern Balkh province, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 4, 2016. (Source: AP)

An intense 25-hour gun battle between security forces and terrorists outside the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif came to an end on Monday night after all the attackers who attempted to storm the building were gunned down.

“The clearance operation is over and all the terrorists have been killed,” said provincial police chief Sayed Kamal Sadat, according to AFP.

An Indian government source said: “Afghan officials have confirmed that the operation has ended.”

Some reports said one of the attackers was captured alive but there was no confirmation on it.

One policeman was killed and 11 others injured in the encounter, AFP quoted Afghan government spokesman Shir Jan Durrani as saying.

Earlier on Monday evening, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called up PM Narendra Modi who told him that India will always stand with the people of Afghanistan notwithstanding the terror attack.

Ghani briefed Modi about the incident and Modi expressed appreciation for the exemplary bravery and courage shown by the Afghan forces in thwarting the attack and ensuring safety of the consulate staff.

Sources in Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which guards various Indian missions in Afghanistan, said two of the five terrorists had tried to storm the consulate and fired rockets. They added that at least seven rocket-propelled grenade rounds were fired, but all missed.

In retaliation, ITBP personnel fired from within the consulate premises. Soon, Afghan forces arrived and engaged the terrorists.

Officials added that while there has been no damage to the five-storeyed Consulate building, the adjacent building, from where the terrorists were firing, has been badly hit by fire from Afghan forces. “There has been no damage to the diplomats and consulate staff,” they said.

Security of the consulate was recently heightened after the ITBP deployed over 35 commandos at Indian missions in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, Kandhar and Mazar-i-Sharif.

[with PTI inputs]

Jalalabad-attack-05-January-2016

A blast occurred outside a Pakistan guest house in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Tuesday morning. 

Initial reports indicated the attack was close to the Indian Consulate. However, the target appeared to have been the Pakistan guest house.

The blast took place at about 11.30am and no casualties were reported.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

1,000 Brit Troops Take Action To Save Libya’s………oil wells

1,000 crack British troops deployed to Libyan oil fields to ‘halt the advance of ISIS’

Russia-Today

© Stringer
British Special Forces have been deployed in Libya to wrest back control of more than a dozen oil fields seized by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants, it has emerged.

Approximately 6,000 European and US soldiers, including 1,000 British troops, will be involved in a number of offensives set up to halt the advance of the jihadist terror group.

The operation will be led by Italian forces and supported mainly by Britain and France.

Special Forces, including military close observation experts from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, are spearheading the major coalition offensive against the jihadist group, according to the Daily Mirror.

IS has seized several revenue-boosting oil fields in Libya and is eager to win more control over the country, as the land could provide them with millions of dollars to fund terror attacks.

The terrorist network is now targeting the Marsa al Brega oil refinery, the biggest in North Africa.

If jihadists successfully capture the oil refinery, located between Sirte and Benghazi, they would gain full control of the country’s oil.

Britain’s SAS is working with Libyan commanders to advise them on key “battle-space management” tactics to control the battlefield using troops, tanks, warplanes and navy ships.

They will also send intelligence to Ministry of Defence (MoD) chiefs that could be used to determine whether airstrikes are needed.

A senior military source told the Mirror: “This coalition will provide a wide range of resources from surveillance, to strike operations against Islamic State who have made significant progress in Libya.

We have an advance force on the ground who will make an assessment of the situation and identify where attacks should be made and highlight the threats to our forces.”

Moreover, the ideologies of jihadism and of political Islam are alive and well. It is far too soon to write off Islamic State and organizations similar to it.”

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told IB Times: “In Libya, there is the perfect mix ready to explode and in case it explodes, it will explode just at the gates of Europe.”

The Libya intervention would mark the first time British troops have officially taken part in a direct ground assault against IS.

Libya has been in the throes of a chaotic civil war since the 2011 ousting of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. Today, two rival governments and parliaments compete for dominance amid a deepening Islamist insurgency.

More than 5,000 IS extremists are active in the country, according to the Libyan Interior Ministry.

Obama Helping Afghanistan To Drown In A Sea of Taliban

[Obama has run a very dishonest war policy in Afghanistan since inheriting the mess from W.  He has managed to create the worst of circumstances for our erstwhile Afghan (and Iraqi) allies in the run-up to the fake/staged withdrawal in 2014.  In Iraq, he actually withdrew US forces in 2011, allowing Iraq to drown in its own sea of terrorism, while setting ISIS loose upon the unsuspecting Iraqis.  Iraq was made into an example for Afghanistan.  Afghan President Karzai was intimidated into a corner, using the nightmare image of the Iraqi example, before he had to hand power over to Ashraf Ghani.  Karzai bore the brunt of American psychological warfare, clearly seeing beforehand, the ferocity of the new Taliban war, which was to come after the death of Mullah Omar was revealed.

Pentagon “decapitation” strategy has had no real effect upon militant strength.  Drones do not eliminate combat readiness, unless they target military resources.  The strategy of going after militant leadership merely speeds-up the succession process, bringing-in new, perhaps more aggressive leaders, each of them armed with the power of “vendetta” to stir-up the ire of their troops.

The drawdown of forces and the end of American air support has effectively curtailed anti-Taliban operations for the Afghan authority, despite being pressured by the fake American “peace talks” with counterfeit Taliban “authorities.”  Now that the replacement Afghan govt has accepted the rigged game with Pakistan to fight the terrorists that Pakistan still creates and sponsors (SEE:  Pakistan, US agree on new Afghan set-up), India is being cut out of Afghanistan (SEE:  Kabul Hosting US/China Sponsored Afghan Peace Talk Meeting Which Excludes India]), despite having just celebrated groundbreaking for the new TAPI pipeline from Turkmenistan to India.  With Afghanistan now playing according to American/Pakistani rules, security for the pipeline through the Afghan war zone may be contingent upon Taliban goodwill (SEE:  We’ll talk to Taliban for TAPI security assurance: Kh Asif).]

Afghans Gird to Go It Alone As U.S. Shuts Down Bases

Wall Street Journal
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal

By Yaroslav Trofimov

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan—When the Taliban fired rocket-propelled grenades at a police outpost last fall, police chief Lt. Abdulrauf Faizi asked neighboring U.S. Marines for help.

Tracking insurgents in the dark was near impossible for Afghan police. But the Marines had a highflying surveillance balloon, with sophisticated cameras that followed the attackers for miles, almost to their homes. As the insurgents came close to escape, the Marines launched a deadly Hellfire missile strike.

Photos: Afghans Prepare for U.S. Drawdown

“No one is bothering us in the area anymore,” Lt. Faizi told the head of the Marine police advisory team, Maj. Zachary Martin, last week.

But the surveillance balloon will soon be gone, along with Maj. Martin’s men, who leave this month. The Marine base, which at the peak of the surge housed hundreds of troops inside the mud walls of a 17th-century castle, will shut down in March. As the U.S. withdraws its remaining 66,000 troops by the end of 2014, Afghans here and across the country wonder what will follow.

After investing tens of billions of dollars to recruit and train the Afghan army and police, the U.S. is gambling those 350,000 men can maintain the fragile security gains of President Barack Obama‘s troop surge. Afghans say they worry their troops won’t match up to the Taliban without the U.S.—with its superior air power, high-tech surveillance devices and intelligence intercepts.

ENLARGE

Col. Austin Renforth, who commands the 7th Marine Regiment combat team here in the southern Helmand province, said Afghan troops don’t have to be perfect. “We just want them to be a little bit better than the Taliban,” he said, “and I believe they are.”

Mr. Obama is expected to outline the U.S. troop drawdown, as well as the size of the permanent force he seeks to maintain in Afghanistan, as soon as his State of the Union address next week. In talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last month, Mr. Obama agreed that U.S. troops would shift from a combat to an advisory role this spring, months earlier than planned.

When Marines exit their base here, the district’s 20,000 residents will find out if Lt. Faizi’s 100 or so police officers can keep out the Taliban. Similar questions echo in other regions, as hundreds of U.S. bases close down in coming months, leaving Afghans to confront an undefeated insurgency.

“The Taliban are telling people, ‘Soon, there will be no airplanes to bomb us, no cameras to watch us.’ That’s what they’ve been scared of,” said Lt. Faizi. His police force, he said, needs such heavy weapons as machine-guns, as well as reinforcements. There are no Afghan army troops in his district.

The Taliban maintain a steady income for arms and other supplies by taxing poppy farmers here in Helmand, which produces half of the world’s illegal opiates. A Taliban emissary was captured by Lt. Faizi’s police last month as the man tried to swallow a handwritten list, which had the names of farmers who paid off the insurgents.

The Marines don’t interfere with the poppy crop, seeking not to alienate villagers whose income depends on the illicit trade. Afghan government and police officials, too, also are involved in the drug trade, according to U.S. officials. The acreage used for poppy cultivation more than doubled in Helmand between 2005 and 2012, according to a United Nations survey. The salty soil of Khan Neshin is suited to grow little else.

Helmand was the focus of Mr. Obama’s troop surge in 2009, as tens of thousands of Marines reinforced outgunned British troops and battled their way through Taliban strongholds along the snaking Helmand river.

Security has since greatly improved in most parts of the province, including Khan Neshin, the most distant U.S. outpost down the river. About 106 residents, including 20 policemen, were killed by the Taliban here in the Afghan solar year that ended last March, according to the district governor. Since then, he said, five civilians have died—all in a roadside bombing this weekend—and two police officers.

On Khan Neshin’s main street, flanked with ramshackle shops nestled alongside the mud castle’s ramparts, the residents who sided with Americans and embraced the Afghan government are especially afraid. “The Taliban are very happy that the foreigners pull out. When the Marines go, war will come back,” said 65-year-old Ali Mohammed Khan, elder of the Karabay village.

Before the Marines took over Khan Neshin in 2009, Afghan police were helpless against the Taliban, Mr. Khan said. The man recalled passing food to a police patrol and the Taliban burning his car in front of villagers as punishment. This time, Mr. Khan said, he plans to flee as soon as the last Marine truck departs.

In the town’s new medical clinic, built after the Marines arrived, medic Sidiqullah, who like many Afghans has only one name, said he also was preparing for the worst.

“There will be a lot of change here, a lot of security problems,” said Mr. Sidiqullah, who moved here in 2011 from the eastern city of Jalalabad. After the U.S. troop departure, he said, he will seek through local elders Taliban permission to keep providing medical services. “If the Taliban agree, if the elders guarantee my safety, I will stay,” he said. “And if not, I’ll move out.”

The Marines and the district’s governor, Shah Mahmood Mir, said the district won’t return to Taliban rule. “All the villages now are on our side, not the enemy’s side. When the Marines leave, there may be some problems, like roadside bombs, but the enemy will not be able to confront us face to face,” said Mr. Mir, a landowner from the neighboring district of Garmsir.

If anything, Mr. Mir added, the U.S. troop withdrawal could weaken the insurgency’s appeal. “Before, the Taliban were telling everyone they are fighting to free our country from the foreigners,” he said. “So now, I will be telling the elders: There are no foreigners anymore, just the Afghan troops, so come on over to our side.”

In the district, Marines have already shut down a smaller outpost in the village of Taghaz. Although insurgent attacks there intensified since the Marines left on Jan. 7, Afghan border police in Taghaz are so far repelling the Taliban.

“We haven’t lost anything,” said Col. Renforth, who commands Marine ground troops in Helmand. “These guys are doing operations on their own. I, frankly, don’t believe they need us anymore.”

The Afghan troops in Taghaz have become more aggressive now that their lives are in their own hands, setting up ambushes and conducting patrols, said senior border police adviser, Capt. Ryan Hunt. “We’ve been a crutch. When the Marines had the big balloon, the Afghans didn’t feel they had to do too much,” he said.

To keep up the fight, the Afghan border police in Taghaz need more men, weapons and, above all, equipment and specialists to defuse bombs the Taliban seed under dirt roads, said their commander, Col. Ismail Khan Karokhil. “We hear that the enemy is waiting for the full withdrawal of the foreigners to strike us,” he said. “But we are ready to defend our country on our own.”

The Afghans are already operating with minimal U.S. assistance in Khan Neshin, said Maj. Martin, the police adviser. To ease the coming withdrawal and give Afghans time to adjust, Maj. Martin said he removed the surveillance balloon’s video feed from the Afghan side of the base shortly after the September airstrike, though it is still seen at the nearby Marines operations center.

In December, the Marines also withdrew their 24-hour presence in the joint coordination center, visiting only occasionally to discuss operations with Lt. Faizi and other district officials.

“They were really upset for a few days, and then they went out and had a major drug bust,” Maj. Martin said. “Pulling out made them step up. They didn’t really need us; they just had the perception that they did.”

With Afghan police conducting their own patrols, the remaining Marines in Khan Neshin are working on closing the outpost, known formally as Forward Operating Base Castle.

Every day, Marines and private contractors from DynCorp dismantle tents and pack air conditioners, mattresses and generators onto pallets, removing the support system that once served hundreds of troops. Meals these days are military rations. The hot showers no longer operate.

By the time the Marines turn over their side of the castle to the Afghans next month, they will leave behind only a handful of concrete mortar bunkers in what was once a small military town.

“We’re here to take down everything the U.S. government has paid for, and to take it out with us,” said DynCorp’s site manager, Baron Todd Willis.

Lt. Mike Breslin, who commands the Marine infantry platoon occupying the base, said that he has already shipped out excess ammunition and weapons, and soon patrols will cease.

On his previous Helmand deployment, at the height of the surge in the Marjah district two years ago, squad leaders tallied some 300 combat patrols in their six-month tour, Lt. Breslin said. In Khan Neshin, they have conducted no more than 20 patrols since November.

“What takes away most of my time is getting all this gear out of here and shutting down the place,” Lt. Breslin said. “We all know that the war is ending.”

The war likely isn’t about to end anytime soon for the Afghans, whose forces—especially the lightly armed police—sustain increasing casualties.

Down the river from Khan Neshin, the neighboring district of Dishu remains under Taliban control, with its town of Baramcha on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border functioning as a drug-and-weapons bazaar, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

“The Taliban are all coming back here. Even their women and children are coming back to fight,” said Nassir Ahmad, a 29-year-old police officer in Khan Neshin. “They are coming to take over the whole country, and I will stay here to fight them until I die.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

Replacing the TAPI Pipeline with TII?

[SEE:  Turkmen gas – under US control ]

modi, abdullah abdullah

Replacing the TAPI Pipeline with TII?

by

 

A very nice article by the Diplomat, titled “Modi in Central Asia: Goodbye TAPI, Hello TII?”, July 2015. The article refers to the Indian Prime Minister’s travel to Turkmenistan, and to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI), which has been promoted by India and the USA during the last quite a few years. For a very rough sketch of TAPI see the red line on the following map. It seems that the Indians are a bit tired of waiting TAPI. The construction of the pipeline is very difficult because the pipeline will have to cross Afghanistan and pass through the Talibans before reaching India.

Picture 1

TAPI vs TII

The Indian Prime Minister said that after a deal was reached for Iran’s nuclear program, an alternative to TAPI should be considered, and more specifically the TII solution (Turkmenistan-Iran-Pakistan-India). India would like to avoid Pakistan, her great opponent, and in the past Iran and India examined the possibility of the Iran-Oman-India Pipeline. See yellow line on the map. However even this pipeline would have to pass through the Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan, in order to be economically viable. Therefore it seems that only through Pakistan a pipeline can reach India. The other option would be a pipeline from Russia and China, but that would involve China i.e. India’s other great rival. See purple line on the map.

India has of course the option of building LNG plants in order to receive liquefied natural gas and convert it to its original form. There are already LNG plants at India’s coasts, but LNG has two disadvantages. The first one is that it costs a lot more, and the second is that in case of a war, a rival’s navy can block energy supplies.

China on the other hand, is promoting the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, and at the same time she is promoting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Therefore China will be able to receive Iranian oil and natural gas through her two allies, Iran and Pakistan, without India interfering at all. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is a network of roads, railways and pipelines that will be constructed by Pakistan and China, and it will be mainly financed by China. The CPEC involves over 40 billion dollars investments. For a very good article about the energy game between China and India you can read the Diplomats “Modi and the Sino-Indian Game for Iranian Gas”, July 2015. See following link.

http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/modi-and-the-sino-indian-game-for-iranian-gas/

The first article that I mentioned wonders whether the TII pipeline solution, as proposed by India, will also meet the US geopolitical objectives, so that the Americans can support it too. The Diplomat mentions that theoretically speaking the TAPI is not dead, but it also says that the TII might be born from TAPI’s ashes. Even though I do not know whether TAPI is dead for good, I know for sure that the Americans will not be very happy with Turkmenistan-Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline. They might accept it in the end, but for the Americans the TII is not a replacement for the TAPI. I say that after taking into account what the Americans expect from Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural gas reserves. It is the 4th richest country, as you can see at the following Wikipedia link.

Picture 2

Πλουσιότερες χώρες σε αποθέματα Φυσικού Αερίου

Some other measurements show Turkmenistan in the 6th place, as you can see in the following table of the Energy Information Administration. I believe the difference arises when shale gas is also taken into account, but I am not sure. What is important though is that Turkmenistan is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural gas reserves.

Picture 3

Πλουσιότερες Χώρες στον Κόσμο σε Φυσικό Αέριο

For the time being Turkmenistan is tied to China, which is the main buyer of Turkmen gas. The only other solution for Turkmenistan is Russia. Turkmenistan can export its gas to Europe through Russia, but Russia is for Turkmenistan a competitor, and a lot should be paid to Russia in terms of transit fees and commissions. Therefore both the United States and Turkmenistan would like to find another export route for the Turkmen gas. Turkmenistan wants that in order not to rely completely on China, which will allow it to get better prices, and the Americans want that because they do not want such a rich country in natural gas to be totally controlled by China.

Turkmenistan has two choices. The first one is through the Trans-Caspian pipeline, the blue line on the map, which will allow Turkmenistan to export its natural gas to Europe through Turkey, and the other is the TAPI pipeline, which will allow Turkmenistan to export its gas to Asia. At the following map you can see the two options that the Americans have in order to send the Turkmen gas to Europe and Asia, avoiding Russia, Iran and China. The available routes are between the black lines.

Picture 4

TAPI

Therefore the Iran solution is not the best one, given that Iran is a geopolitical rival for the US, and a commercial rival for Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan would prefer not to count on Iran for one more reason i.e. to avoid paying transit fees. For Iran however this would be a good deal, because it would prevent Turkmen gas to flow to Asia on its own, competing Iran. Also note that Iran and Russia are blocking the Trans-Caspian pipeline, which could send Turkmen gas to Europe.

The Americans recently reached a deal with the Iranians, about Iran’s nuclear program. But that does not mean that the Americans and the Iranians suddenly became best friends. The Americans need the Iranians, in order to supply their allies in Europe through the Southern Energy Corridor i.e. through Turkey. The Americans also needed to make an agreement with Iran, because if Iran’s oil and natural gas comes to the market, the prices of oil and natural gas will be pushed downwards, which is a very good thing for the big importers of oil and natural gas i.e. USA, Europe and China. But the fact that the Americans need the Iranians does not mean that the deal will work out perfectly. Only time will tell.

Therefore the pipeline proposed by India i.e. the TII, is not really a replacement for the TAPI pipeline, as far as the Americans are concerned. For India on the other hand, a traditional Russian ally, and a country which has very good relations with Iran, the TII is a very good alternative to the TAPI one. India is a traditional Russian ally, but recently, due to her rivalry with China, she improved relations with the US as well. That’s why India did not want to push for a solution that involved Iran, as is the case with the TII pipeline. But now the Americans have reached a deal with the Iranians. The Americans do not like the Iranians, but that does not change the fact that they reached a deal with them. Therefore it is very reasonable for India to promote a solution that also involves Iran. After all, for how many more years can India wait for the TAPI pipeline?

On the other hand, for the Americans the TAPI pipeline is good for one more reason. TAPI would stitch together Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that would be a very positive thing for NATO. One should not forget that the Taliban have been traditionally supported by the Saudis and the Pakistanis. Recently, because the TAPI pipeline also hurts the Iranian interests, the Iranians have been supporting the Taliban too, even though the Talibans have been a traditional Iranian rival. But today both the Arabs and the Iranians want to block the TAPI pipeline. If the TAPI was constructed, the Pakistanis would have a motive to help the US and not the Saudis and the Iranians in Afghanistan. That’s why the Diplomat says that with the TAPI the Americans want to “stitch” Afghanistan in Central Asia.

But the TAPI seems to be a very difficult project for the US. After all the Americans sent their army for almost 10 years in Afghanistan. If they did not manage to get rid of the Talibans during that time, how on earth are they ever going to make it? A pipeline network that runs through a country partially controlled by terrorists, as is the case with Afghanistan, is condemned to be always full of holes. With the Arabs and the Iranians being united against TAPI, the Indian proposal might seem to be the only realistic one. It remains to be seen whether the Americans will give up on the TAPI pipeline or not, which will heavily depend on how things between the Americans and the Iranians turn out.

For the first article of the Diplomat that I mention see:

“Modi in Central Asia: Goodbye TAPI, Hello TII?”, Ιούλιος 2015

http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/modi-in-central-asia-goodbye-tapi-hello-tii/

For the Iranian support to the Talibans see the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “Iran Backs Taliban With Cash and Arms”, June 2015.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-backs-taliban-with-cash-and-arms-1434065528

ISI Pops-In To Pathankot Air Base After Modi’s Surprise Visit To Lahore

[Mr. Modi’s straight road to Lahore]

  • Security forces stand outside the air force base in Pathankot, on Saturday. Gunmen attacked the air force base and exchanged fire with security forces, officials said.
    AP  Security forces stand outside the air force base in Pathankot, on Saturday. Gunmen attacked the air force base and exchanged fire with security forces, officials said.

Terrorists storm air force base, first challenge to Modi’s Pak outreach

The Hindu

The terror attack on a forward fighter base is qualitatively very different from the Gurudaspur attack.

In a reality check for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to reach out to Pakistan on Christmas day, four terrorists, who in all probability sneaked in from across the border, launched an audacious attack on Pathankot air force base on early Saturday morning.

Four terrorists have been killed along with two commandos, some civilians and air force personnel were injured.

The gunbattle between terrorists and security forces at the Air Force Base here that lasted for more than five hours and left two Air personnel and four terrorists dead, has come to an end.

Combing operations are underway.

“The gunbattle between terrorists and security forces ended after more than five hours,” Punjab Police ADGP (Law and Order) H S Dhillon said.

Available information shows that the terror attack was a New Year present and message to the Indian establishment, with the four of them in all probability sneaking in from Pakistan on January 1, and launching the attack on the early morning of January 2. It may never be clearly known if even a section of the Pakistan establishment was involved in the attack, or which other elements were party to the terror plan. That fog of war will also create complex challenges to decision making in New Delhi.

According to air force sources, the attack started around 3:30 am. It is not clear how they entered the base. Some said dressed in army fatigues, they used an official car to come close by, while others said they started firing from a nearby building and moved forward.

Air Force sources said while the terrorists were successful in entering the base, they have not been able to breach the technical area, where MIG-21 fighters are based. Air Force’s Garud commandos of the air force, local police, probably army and the BSF are all involved in the operation.

A commando team from the National Security Guard (NSG) was on its way.

According to indications, the terrorists were the same group who abducted a Superintendent of Police (SP) in Pathankot on Friday night, in his official vehicle. After thrashing the SP and his associates, the terrorists first dumped SP Salwinder Singh a few kilometers away and sped away into the night.

Later, they pushed another person out of the vehicle near Pathankot and slit the throat of the third man. He was dropped near Damtal hills on the Punjab-Himachal border after he pretended to be dead. This was just 15 kilometers from Pakistan border.

The attack is the first reality check for Modi’s efforts to reach out to Pakistan, and the global community would be watching closely how the NDA government in New Delhi will react to the attack. Evidence of the terrorists coming in from Pakistan would not be difficult to find. But will it be enough to blame the Pakistan establishment, and call off peace efforts?

Pattern of terrorists sneaking in from Pakistan and launching attack on high profile targets within hours of infiltration has been the new pattern in the last couple of years. In July this year a similar attack was launched in Gurudaspur by terrorists who came in from across the border.

However, the terror attack on a forward fighter base is qualitatively very different from the Gurudaspur attack. The targeting of a military installation will not be just countered with mere condemnation. It will have to be seen what concrete steps will Modi government take, and what fate the new peace efforts will have in the coming days.

Saudi Butchers Stage New Year’s Bloodbath, Crucify Shia Cleric Nimr, Behead 46 Others

[SEE: Iran threatens to turn Saudi Arabia into hell If They Crucify Sheikh al-Nimr]

Nimr
In this Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 file photo, a Saudi anti-government protester carries a poster with the image of jailed Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr during the funeral  

Saudi Arabia executes top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr along with 46 others

(From Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has executed 47 people for terrorism, including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and al-Qaeda-affiliated Faris al-Zahrani.

Most of those executed on Saturday were involved in a series of attacks carried out by al-Qaeda from 2003 to 2006, the interior ministry said.

A list of the executed, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Sunday, included 45 Saudi nationals, an Egyptian man and a Chadian man.

Saudi Arabia Supreme Court upholds death sentence on Shia cleric.

In October 2015, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the death sentence passed earlier on Nimr, 55, who had called for pro-democracy demonstrations and whose arrest in 2012 sparked protests in which three people died.

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticize the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections.

He has in the past demanded increased rights for the Shiite minority, who make up some 15% of the Saudi population.

He also threatened to lead the country’s oil-rich eastern region to secession if the monarchy did not change its policy.

He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say.

That did not prevent the Saudi interior ministry from accusing him of being behind attacks on police, alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of Shia Iran, the kingdom’s main regional rival.

Nimr’s brother said he was found guilty of seeking “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, “disobeying” its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces.

Al-Zahrani, affiliated to al-Qaeda, once considered one of Saudi Arabia’s “most wanted terrorists”, was detained in 2004 while allegedly in possession of weapons.

The executions are Saudi Arabia’s first in 2016. At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the 90 people killed in 2014.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities appear intent on continuing a bloody execution spree,” Amnesty’s report released on Monday said, quoting James Lynch, deputy director at the Middle East and North Africa programme.