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.

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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.