ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

CIA Terrorists Fighting Pentagon Terrorists Near Aleppo

President Barack Obama recently authorized a new Pentagon plan to train and arm Syrian rebel fighters, relaunching a program that was suspended in the fall after a string of embarrassing setbacks, which included recruits being ambushed and handing over much of their U.S.-issued ammunition and trucks to an al-Qaida affiliate.

Syria

Syrian rebels aim during a weapons training exercise outside Idlib, Syria. (AP Photo)

Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter 5-year-old civil war.

The fighting has intensified over the past two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other as they have maneuvered through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.

In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.

“Any faction that attacks us, regardless from where it gets its support, we will fight it,” said Maj. Fares Bayoush, a leader of Fursan al Haq.

Rebel fighters described similar clashes in the town of Azaz, a key transit point for fighters and supplies between Aleppo and the Turkish border, and March 3 in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud.

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.mintpressnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/map-of-rebels-2.jpgThe attacks come amid continued heavy fighting in Syria and illustrate the difficulty facing U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that are trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight the Islamic State militant group and battle one another all at the same time.

“It is an enormous challenge,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who described the clashes between U.S.-supported groups as “a fairly new phenomenon.”

“It is part of the three-dimensional chess that is the Syrian battlefield,” he said.

The area in northern Syria around Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city, features not only a war between the Assad government and its opponents, but also periodic battles against Islamic State militants, who control much of eastern Syria and also some territory to the northwest of the city, and long-standing tensions among the ethnic groups that inhabit the area, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.

“Once they cross the border into Syria, you lose a substantial amount of control or ability to control their actions.” — Jeffrey White, former Defense Intelligence Agency official.

“This is a complicated, multisided war where our options are severely limited,” said a U.S. official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “We know we need a partner on the ground. We can’t defeat ISIL without that part of the equation, so we keep trying to forge those relationships.” ISIL is an acronym for the Islamic State.

President Barack Obama recently authorized a new Pentagon plan to train and arm Syrian rebel fighters, relaunching a program that was suspended in the fall after a string of embarrassing setbacks, which included recruits being ambushed and handing over much of their U.S.-issued ammunition and trucks to an al-Qaida affiliate.

Amid the setbacks, the Pentagon late last year deployed about 50 special operations forces to Kurdish-held areas in northeastern Syria to better coordinate with local militias and help ensure U.S.-backed rebel groups aren’t fighting one another.

But such skirmishes have become routine.

Last year, the Pentagon helped create a new military coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces. The goal was to arm the group and prepare it to take territory away from Islamic State in eastern Syria and to provide information for U.S. airstrikes.

The group is dominated by Kurdish outfits known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. A few Arab units have joined the force in order to prevent it from looking like an invading Kurdish army, and it has received airdrops of weapons and supplies and assistance from U.S. Special Forces.

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Richard Jones (right), stands with YPG official (left) near Syria/Turkish border in Ras al Ayn, Syria.

Gen. Joseph Votel, now commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the incoming head of Central Command, said this month that about 80 percent of the fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were Kurdish.

The U.S. backing for a heavily Kurdish armed force has been a point of tension with the Turkish government, which has a long history of crushing Kurdish rebellions and doesn’t want to see Kurdish units control more of its southern border.

The CIA, meanwhile, has its own operations center inside Turkey from which it has been directing aid to rebel groups in Syria, providing them with TOW antitank missiles from Saudi Arabian weapons stockpiles.

While the Pentagon’s actions are part of an overt effort by the U.S. and its allies against the Islamic State, the CIA’s backing of militias is part of a separate covert U.S. effort aimed at keeping pressure on the Assad government in hopes of prodding the Syrian leader to the negotiating table.

At first, the two different sets of fighters were primarily operating in widely separated areas of Syria — the Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeastern part of the country and the CIA-backed groups further west.

But, over the past several months, Russian airstrikes against anti-Assad fighters in northwestern Syria have weakened them.

That created an opening that allowed the Kurdish-led groups to expand their zone of control to the outskirts of Aleppo, bringing them into more frequent conflict with the CIA-backed outfits.

“We’ll fight all who aim to divide Syria or harm its people. ” — Suqour Al-Jabal Brigade fighter.

“Fighting over territory in Aleppo demonstrates how difficult it is for the U.S. to manage these really localized and, in some cases, entrenched conflicts,” said Nicholas Heras, an expert on the Syrian civil war at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington. “Preventing clashes is one of the constant topics in the joint operations room with Turkey.”

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This picture taken on Jan. 31, 2014, and released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, queuing to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. A Norwegian humanitarian group report says a record 38 million people have been internally displaced in their countries worldwide, with 2.2 million Iraqis alone fleeing in 2014 after ISIS seized their areas. (UNRWA via AP)

Over the course of the Syrian civil war, the town of Marea has been on the front line of the Islamic State’s attempts to advance across Aleppo province toward the rest of northern Syria.

On Feb. 18, the Syrian Democratic Forces attacked the town.

A fighter with the Suqour Al-Jabal Brigade, a group with links to the CIA, said intelligence officers of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State know their group has clashed with the Pentagon-trained militias.

“The MOM knows we fight them,” he said, referring to the joint operations center in southern Turkey, which is known as MOM from the acronym of its name in Turkish, Musterek Operasyon Merkezi.

“We’ll fight all who aim to divide Syria or harm its people,” said the fighter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Marea is home to many of the original Islamist fighters who took up arms against Assad during the Arab Spring in 2011. It has long been a critical way station for supplies and fighters coming from Turkey into Aleppo.

“Attempts by Syrian Democratic Forces to take Marea was a great betrayal and was viewed as a further example of a Kurdish conspiracy to force them from Arab and Turkmen lands,” Heras said.

The clashes brought the U.S. and Turkish officials to “loggerheads,” he added.

After diplomatic pressure from the U.S., the militia withdrew to the outskirts of the town as a sign of good faith, he said.

But continued fighting among different U.S.-backed groups may be inevitable, experts on the region said.

“Once they cross the border into Syria, you lose a substantial amount of control or ability to control their actions,” said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official. “You certainly have the potential for it becoming a larger problem as people fight for territory and control of the northern border area in Aleppo.”

W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett reported from Washington and special correspondent Nabih Bulos from Amman.

Brahmin Family Has “Untouchable” Dalit Son-In-Law Hacked To Death

Dalit murder case: Youth’s mother-in-law surrenders

hindustan

  • PTI
Shankar, a Dalit, who married Kausalya, a high-caste Hindu, was hacked to death by hired killers in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, on Sunday March 13, 2016 in a case of suspected honour killing. (Special arrangement)

Mother of Kausalya, the 19-year-old widow of the Dalit youth who was hacked to death in full public view at a bus stand in Tirupur in a suspected honour killing, surrendered before a local court in Theni.

Judicial Magistrate Sundari remanded Annalakshmi to judicial custody and ordered to produce her before the Udumalpet court on Thursday.

So far five persons have been arrested in connection with the case.

Kausalya’s father Chinnasamy had already surrendered before the police.

Shankar (22) and Kausalya, married eight months ago despite opposition from their families. While waiting at the Udumalpet bus stand,

sicklesthey were attacked by a gang with sickles in full public view on March 13 in nearby Tirupur district, resulting in Shankar’s death.

Kausalya who had been under treatment at the Government hospital in Coimbatore was discharged on Monday.

Later, she was taken to Komaralingam in Tirupur District to her in-laws’ house, as she had expressed her wish to stay with them.

The girl had earlier demanded that her parents be punished for murdering her husband.

Taliban No Talks

Taliban talks

dawn
Moeed Yusuf

THERE has been no fresh movement on the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. This should worry the Pakistani establishment. For once, Pakistan stuck its neck out by acknowledging the Afghan Taliban presence on its territory and promised to pressure them to come to the negotiating table.

While Pakistan has reiterated that it doesn’t control the Taliban, the spiel has always acknowledged that even if we can’t make the horse drink water, we can lead it to the pond. This had to be said, for it was the very basis of Pakistan’s argument that it must be kept central to all reconciliation efforts.

By all accounts, the Taliban’s recent refusal to talk has shocked Pakistani interlocutors. Over the years, it had become clear to the establishment that the Taliban would never want to be seen playing to the agencies’ tune.

But even more overbearing was the reality that their leadership’s presence in Pakistan and their inability to operate wholly from Afghanistan gave Pakistan leverage. Even if no one felt it would be easy, there was a firm belief that Pakistan could do enough to get the Taliban talking.
Nations are seeing an antidote to IS in the Afghan Taliban.

The problem all along was that Pakistan had never really tested this proposition, not until President Ashraf Ghani came to power and Pakistan organised the first round of Taliban talks in Murree last July. This should have been a wakeup call: while Pakistan did manage to bring Mullah Mansour to the table, the Taliban were literally forced to show up, courtesy of a promise that Murree wouldn’t be anything more than an icebreaker and threats of undefined consequences if the Taliban didn’t oblige.

It seems the establishment ended up drawing the wrong lesson: that Murree confirmed they could create opportunities for talks. They probably were further reassured when the head of the Taliban’s political commission, Tayyab Agha, resigned after the Murree round. Agha was against the idea of Pakistan-brokered talks.

Pakistani efforts as part of the quadrilateral have drawn blanks despite hints that Pakistan has somewhat uncharacteristically flexed its muscle to coerce them.

None other than the army chief himself has been involved in trying to get things going. He even made a not-so-secret trip to Qatar, presumably to use Qatari influence over the Taliban’s political commission. There have been arrests of Taliban in Pakistan and life has been made uncomfortable for a number of Taliban families. At least one respected expert confirmed that this is the farthest Pakistan has ever gone in putting a squeeze on the Taliban.

And yet, the ultimate tool up Pakistan’s sleeve remains missing: Pakistan is showing no inclination of going all-out after the Taliban as the world hopes it will if all else fails.

Here, its position remains unchanged. In fact, a rethink is less likely now given the growing belief that other regional players are offering to play patron to the Taliban. Countries like Iran and Russia are reportedly beginning to see a potential antidote to the militant Islamic State group in the Taliban. Media reports suggest that Taliban battlefield gains give them more space to hide within Afghanistan than they have had since 9/11. Some symbolic relocation from Pakistan into Afghanistan has also taken place.

Hence, the Taliban defy. And why wouldn’t they. Here is an insurgency operating in an environment where the Afghan state’s inability to defeat them is considered a foregone conclusion; Afghans recognise this, but are tired of the violence and want peace soon; the US attention is diverted towards IS in the Middle East; the insurgency seems to have better regional realignment options than before precisely because of IS’s rise; and there is no threat of complete obliteration in Pakistan. This is a dream scenario for any insurgent, one that is clearly egging them to fight on to see if they can bring the counterinsurgent to its knees.

If so, Pakistan’s stance is all but upended. For if its efforts are drawing blanks and it isn’t going to go much further in terms of its coercive tactics, Pakistan loses the most potent argument in support of Pakistan-brokered talks. The even bigger problem is that minus talks, the risk of Afghanistan’s descent into outright chaos is a real possibility, with the worst possible outcome for Pakistan.

The establishment knows its quandary. But that isn’t enough. Someone must be asking: is it time to think of radical options, whether in terms of acting against the Taliban in whatever way may get them to talk, and talk sincerely, or to stop insisting on Pakistan-brokered talks and let others see if they can engage the Taliban directly? The world will expect Pakistan to answer this question soon. Pakistan needs to, most of all for its own sake.

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, DC.

 

Why Peace Talks With the Taliban Are Designed to Fail

Neil Krishan Aggarwal is a cultural psychiatrist and the author of two books: Mental Health in the War on Terror (2015) and The Taliban’s Virtual Emirate (2016).

For the second time in nine months, the Afghan peace talks have stumbled because of differing expectations between the Taliban and the Quadrilateral Coordination Group formed by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States. On March 5, the Taliban released a statement spurning the talks; it complained that its authorities had “not been kept informed about negotiations” and that “unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, blacklists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed, such futile, misleading negotiations will not bear any results.” The same day, The New York Times reported that an Afghan official close to President Ashraf Ghani dismissed this statement as “just public bargaining.” After all, the official said, Taliban representatives initially opposed the first round of talks, in May 2015, but showed up anyway.

Unfortunately, the Taliban’s “public bargaining” is not empty rhetoric, and to discredit its statements demonstrates either willful ignorance or brazen callousness toward the Afghan war’s human toll. Its participation in the first round of talks did not herald good faith efforts toward peace. Afterward, the Taliban seized Kunduz, the first city to fall after the 2001 U.S.-led NATO invasion. And the United Nations reported more than 11,000 Taliban-related civilian casualties in 2015, more than the previous record, set in 2014.

Instead, all of us should understand the Taliban’s worldview on its own terms, and for this, there is plenty of fodder: Since 1998, the Taliban has used the Internet to disseminate messages in Arabic, Dari, English, Pashto and Urdu. There is no mystery about the Taliban’s goal to implement Islamic law throughout Afghanistan. After the first round of talks, representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government supposedly agreed to negotiate the status of the constitution and the role of women’s education. However, the Taliban followed up with a statement suggesting such negotiations could lead to “un-Islamic and illegitimate agreements” that would tangle up the peace process. It alleged that Afghanistan’s Constitution was coerced, “drafted under the shadow of B-52 bombers of the foreign invaders.” And regarding women’s education, the Taliban wrote that it was committed to women’s rights, in so far as those rights are “bestowed upon them in the sacred religion of Islam.”

For two decades the Taliban has fought relentlessly to implement its interpretation of Islamic law throughout Afghanistan. We saw what that looked like between 1996 and 2001, when the Taliban ruled more than 90 percent of Afghanistan: Islamic law, to the Taliban, means subjugating women and minorities. There is no reason to believe its interpretation has changed.

We should not let our desire to end this war of attrition lead the Quadrilateral Coordination Group to negotiate away the very rights and liberties that have been hard won in the first place. Each QCG member knows the high stakes involved. Afghanistan’s government must demonstrate its ability to govern beyond the capital, Kabul. China remains suspicious about the Uighur Muslims training with the Taliban. Pakistan no longer controls the Taliban officials who splintered into competing factions after the reported demise of Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder and supreme leader. And the U.S. needs an exit. Already, the Afghan conflict is the longest war in U.S. history, and has cost more than $700 billion and 2,300 lives.

Member nations of the QCG are tired. But we need to understand whether the Taliban is acting as a good faith negotiating partner or just biding its time until the war-weary QCG members accept defeat. Rather than initiate talks without preconditions — as the QCG has done — we should do the opposite: Before talks begin, we must demand that the Taliban explain its positions in writing — which shouldn’t be difficult, given its propensity for issuing statements. Does the Taliban consider the peace process illegitimate, and any potential agreement as “un-Islamic”? What rights — whether based on Islamic law or secular republican traditions — would women, religious minorities, Shia Muslims and non-Pashtun Sunnis have in any future with the Taliban? If the Taliban were included in any power-sharing agreement, would it respect international laws and treaties? How will the Taliban faction negotiating with the QCG enforce peace upon other factions?

We should also question the QCG’s concessions. Why have QCG members dismissed Taliban statements as public bargaining? Why have QCG members equivocated in taking the Taliban’s worldview seriously? Two rounds of unsuccessful talks have exposed the bitter truth that QCG members may only be acting in their own best interests — not those of Afghan civilians or the international community.

Pak Radical Islamists Continue Islamabad Rally Defending Murder of Blasphemists

[SEE:  The Blasphemy of Pakistani Blasphemy Law]


Protesters violate government deadline as sit-in enters fourth day
ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The sit-in at Islamabad entered its fourth day on Wednesday as protesters violated a deadline given by the government to vacate the Red Zone by midnight.

A delegation representing the government negotiated with the protesters all night long.  At four in the morning, a satisfied Professor Ashraf Jilani, who represented the protesters, told media that many of their demands were being considered by the government.

Sources said the next round of talks was expected to take place at 12 noon today, and that a breakthrough is expected by this evening.

Several rounds of talks between the government and protesters have taken place since yesterday. In the first round of talks the administration and cleric Ovais Noorani met Ijaz Qadri and Professor Ashraf at Punjab House.

A second round of talks was held at federal minister Khwaja Saad Rafique’s residence.

The government wants protesters to disperse without it having to use violence.

Meanwhile in Karachi, supporters in solidarity with the Islamabad protest have staged a sit-in at Numaish Chowrangi, blocking the flow of traffic through MA Jinnah Road for three days now.

On Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that if protesters at D-Chowk in front of the Parliament building did not disperse by midnight then the sensitive Red-Zone area of the federal capital would be evacuated ‘peacefully’ by Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference here, he said some people were found involved in damaging government installations and inflicting injuries to the security officials. “We want to evacuate D-Chowk area in presence of the media peacefully [on Wednesday].”

Meanwhile, mobile phone services remained blocked for a fourth day in Islamabad today as hundreds of activists belonging to various religious groups continued to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.

The government had on Monday registered an FIR against Sarwat Qadri, Khadim Hussain, Afzal Qadri and Dr Ashraf.

The cases have been registered at the I-9, Secretariat and Kohsar police stations. Charges against them include violating the Loud Speaker Act, vandalizing public property, instigating hate against the government and violating section 144 at the Red Zone.

 

Full transcript: What the ‘Indian spy’ says in the video released by Pakistan

Full transcript: What the ‘Indian spy’ says in the video released by Pakistan

IBN LIVE

India and Pakistan continue to spar over the alleged admissions of former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has claimed that he was acting at the behest of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and working in Balochistan region. While Pakistan claims that Jadhav is an Indian spy who was trying to stir trouble in Balochistan, India has rubbished the reports.

In a video released by Pakistan, Jadhav is seen and heard purportedly “confessing” to his “involvement” in terror activities in Balochistan at RAW’s behest. The head of Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa and Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid held a press conference in Islamabad to release the video, saying Kulbhushan Jadhav “confessed” to working for Indian intelligence agency RAW to “foment trouble” in the restive province of Balochistan.

Calling the tape doctored and baseless, India has sought mandatory consular access to him. India has claimed that his presence in Pakistan raises questions, including the possibility of his abduction from Iran.

Here is the full transcript of the admission of the ex-naval officer as recorded in the video:

I am Commander Kulbhushan Jadav number 41558Z. I’m a serving officer of the Indian Navy. I am from the cadre of engineering department in the Indian Navy and my cover name was Husasain Mubarik Patel which I had taken for doing some intelligence gathering for the Indian agencies.

I joined National Defence Academy in 1987 and I subsequently joined the Indian Navy in 1991 and was commissioned into the Indian Navy and subsequently served in the Indian Navy till around 2001 December when Parliament attacks occurred. That is when I started contributing my services towards the gathering of information and intelligence within India. I live in the city of Mumbai in India.

I’m still a serving officer in the Indian Navy and will be due for retirement by 2022 as a commissioned officer in the Indian Navy. After having completed 14 years of service by 2002, I commenced intelligence operations in 2003 and established a small business in Chabahar in Iran. As I was unable to achieve undetected existence and visits to Karachi in 2003 and 2004 and having done some basic assignments within India for RAW, I was picked up by RAW in 2013 end. Ever since I have been directing various activities in Baluchistan and Karachi at the behest of RAW and deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. I was basically the man for Mr Anil Kumar Gupta who is the joint secretary RAW and his contacts in Pakistan especially in the Baloch student organisation.

My purpose was to hold meetings with Baloch insurgents and carry out activities with their collaboration. These activities have been of criminal nature. This have been of anti-national, terrorist leading into the killing of or maiming the Pakistani citizen also. I realise during this process that RAW is involved in some activities related to the Baloch liberation movement within Pakistan and the region around it. There are finances which are led into Baloch movement through various contacts or various ways and means into the Baloch liberation and the various activities of these Baloch liberation and the RAW handlers go towards activities which are criminal, which are anti-national which can lead to maiming or killing of people within Pakistan and mostly these activities were centred around what I have knowledge is of ports of Gawadar, Pasni, Jeevani and various other installations which are around the coast damaging to the various other installations which are in Balochistan. So the activity seemed to be revolving around trying to create a criminal sort of a mindset within the Baloch liberation and lead to instability within Pakistan.

In my pursuit towards achieving the set targets by my handler in RAW, I was trying to cross over into Pakistan from the Saravan border in Iran on 3rd March 2016 and was apprehended by the Pakistani authorities on the Pakistani side and the main aim of this crossing over into Pakistan was to hold meeting with the BSN personnel in Balochistan for carrying out various activities which they were supposed to undertake and carrying backwards the messages which they had to deliver, backwards to the Indian agencies. The main issues regarding this were that they were planning to conduct some operations within the next immediate future, near future. So that was to be discussed mainly and that was the main aim to coming into Pakistan.

So the moment I realised that my intelligence operations have been compromised on my being detained in Pakistan, I revealed that I’m an Indian Naval officer and it is on mentioning that I’m an Indian Naval officer the total perception of the establishment of Pakistan changed and they treated me very honourably and with utmost respect and due regards, and have handled me subsequently on a more professional and proper courteous way. And they have handled me in a way that befits that of an officer and once I realised that I have been compromised in my process of intelligence operations I decided to just end the mess I have landed myself in and just wanted to subsequently move on and cooperate with the authorities in removing the complications which I have landed myself and my family members into. And whatever I’m stating just now, it is the truth and is not under any duress or pressure. I’m doing it, it is totally out of my own desire to mention and come clean out of this entire process which I have gone through for the last 14 years.

Pakistan’s Policy of Using Terrorist Proxies Now Biting It On the Ass

‘Pakistan policy to liberate Kashmir with jihadis has backfired’

The Hindu

Husain Haqqani. File Photo.
AP

Husain Haqqani.

Haqqani said the fact of the matter is that the Pakistani military and civilian leadership easily gets distracted by delusions of fighting India and its influence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s involvement with jihadi groups at the highest level aimed at “liberation” of Jammu and Kashmir has backfired, ex-diplomat Husain Haqqani said on Tuesday following the deadly terror attack in Lahore.

And even as its decades-old policy has backfired, the Pakistani establishment is reluctant to declare an all-out war against terrorist groups, Mr. Haqqani, the country’s former envoy to the U.S., told PBS in an interview.

“Pakistan’s involvement with jihadi groups initially was primarily as a strategic investment, which was supposed to bring them benefits through influence in Afghanistan and the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir from India. That has backfired,” said Mr. Haqqani.

“Now even though it has backfired, Pakistan has been very selective in going after these jihadi groups. That is the reason why the jihadis pick specific targets like Shias, Ahmadis or Christians, to improve their recruitment, playing on various kinds of polarisation, and taking advantage of that to advance in society further,” he said.

“The real problem lies in that attitude of the government of trying to protect the parties in Punjab, while going after the terrorists in other parts of the country, but not in the Punjab. That’s what has come back to bite them,” he said.

Mr. Haqqani said the fact of the matter is that the Pakistani military and civilian leadership easily gets distracted by delusions of fighting India and its influence in Afghanistan and allowing certain jihadi groups to pursue those objectives, not realising that they can end up having offshoots, just like the Pakistani Taliban emerged out of the Afghan Taliban.

“The Pakistani component of the Afghan Taliban ended up becoming a separate group. And now Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has broken away from the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan has to make a decision to go after all terrorist groups, as well as the mindset that breeds these terrorists. And Pakistan has not been able to make that decision,” he observed.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for Sunday’s grisly suicide attack in Lahore that killed 72 people.

Mr. Haqqani said the Pakistani establishment is not taking action against India-centric terrorist groups.

“The state has not taken the measures that are necessary to isolate them all. So, there are groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed which attack India. They are spared. Once they are spared, it’s very possible that some of their members will actually join splinter groups which will attack Pakistan,” he argued.

Israeli Court Blocks Leviathan Sweetheart Deal, Keeping Trillions Cubic Feet Gas In Ground

[High-Pressure In Leviathan Basin Cuts Into Potential Israeli Profits ; ZIONIST Stench Killing Leviathan “Bonanza” for Big Oil ; Leviathan Gas Still Trapped Between Jews Seeking Profit and Jews Seeking Discounts]

Israeli gas decision will have some impact on Cyprus, expert says

Cyprus mail

Elias Hazou

WHEREAS a court ruling in Israel complicating plans to develop that country’s natural gas fields does impact the development of Cyprus’ Aphrodite prospect, the effect is a lateral one, an energy analyst has told the Cyprus Mail.

Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday issued a ruling barring the government from giving a 10-year guarantee for no legislative or taxation changes to Texas-based Noble Energy and their Israeli partners Delek.

The court decision invalidated the stability clause in a deal reached last year between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the consortium holding concessions on the massive Leviathan play as well as other gas fields.

The judges said the government is not in the position to make such a long-term concession and gave the sides a year to come up with an alternative arrangement for the government to provide stability assurances.

Noble called the court’s decision “disappointing” and said it risked causing a delay in the $5 billion-$6 billion project to develop the 22 trillion-cubic-foot gas field.

Noble and Delek have held off on developing Leviathan until the deal with the government was approved, but had planned to start production in 2019.

According to Charles Ellinas, the development in Israel does affect Cyprus’ own gas plans, but only tangentially.

“Aphrodite was always linked to the development of Leviathan. Noble’s top priority is to develop and monetise Leviathan, since it is the bigger and more important field,” said Ellinas.

“Once Leviathan’s development is assured, then on the back of that Noble and their partners would be able to develop Aphrodite, because of the synergies – same companies and so forth.”

Either way, the analyst added, nothing has been happening with Leviathan as no gas markets have been found yet.

Sales to Egypt were never likely to happen due to price considerations, whereas exporting to Europe seems an even more remote possibility.

“As things stand, Turkey remains the only credible market for Leviathan. However, although Turkish-Israeli relations are thawing, they are not there just yet. And there is also the question of needing to solve the Cyprus problem before a pipeline can be built from Israel to Turkey.”

In short, court decision or not, at the moment Noble do not have the cash to develop Leviathan, so Aphrodite must necessarily also be put on hold.

“On a PR level, at least Noble can now blame the Israeli government for any delays,” he observed.

Still, the Israeli court’s decision does not necessarily stymie Leviathan’s development.

“The court threw out the stability clause of the deal between the Israeli government and the energy companies, on the grounds it was unconstitutional,” explained Ellinas.

“But the rest of the deal is intact, and it’s up to the government to tweak it in order to make it work.”

Indeed, as reported by the Oil & Gas Year website, Delek Group on Monday sounded upbeat that development of the Leviathan gas field could still proceed on schedule.

Yossi Abu, the chief executive of Delek subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil, was quoted as saying the group would “act so that the timetable won’t be hurt.”

Discovered in 2010, the Leviathan field is estimated to hold natural gas reserves of around 21.9 trillion cubic feet (tcf)

Cyprus’ Aphrodite field is estimated to hold 4.5 tcf.

Obamacare—6 Years of Lies

Obamacare at Six: A Legacy of Deception

 

american spectator

Virtually every promise the president made on behalf of his “reform” law has been broken.

By David Catron
Screen%20Shot%202016-03-27%20at%207_09_43%20PMWH.gov (Health care speech before Congress)

Obamacare just turned six and the president is still attempting to convince a skeptical public that his “reform” law is working. On the anniversary of its passage, the White House issued a statement from Obama containing all manner of hilarious claims including the following howler: “Thanks in part to this law, health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years … premiums for a family with job-based coverage are almost $2,600 lower than if trends from the decade before the law had continued.” As Emily Zanotti pointed out in this space, not even Chelsea Clinton buys that whopper.

The president’s claim that job-based family coverage costs less than it would had he refrained from meddling with health care flunks the laugh test. Employer-based health insurance premiums have continued to rise unabated. And, as the Kaiser Family Foundation reports, “Since 2010, both the share of workers with deductibles and the size of those deductibles have increased sharply. These two trends together result in a 67 percent increase in deductibles since 2010.” In his statement, however, Obama makes a specious claim about premiums while studiously ignoring skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs.

The claims the president makes about Obamacare are rife with such omissions. His claim that it has contributed to a slowdown in health care inflation, for example, is an Orwellian fantasy. According to a report produced by his own health care bureaucrats, the slowdown to which he refers began before the “reform” law was passed. In reality, Obamacare actually reversed the trend: “In 2014, U.S. health care spending increased 5.3 percent following growth of 2.9 percent in 2013 … The faster growth experienced in 2014 was primarily due to the major coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act.”

The president’s sixth anniversary statement also claims that Obamacare has made dramatic cuts in the uninsured rate, but that too conflicts with the facts. On September 9, 2009, Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to push his health reform agenda, and said this about the uninsured: “There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.” Naturally, he claimed his reform plan would drastically reduce this number. According to the most recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “On average, about 27 million people … will be uninsured in 2016.”

 
In other words, despite extravagant claims made by the White House about Obamacare’s impact on the uninsured rate, the net reduction has been about 3 million. This is modest progress indeed, considering the enormous cost and rampant corruption that have characterized Obamacare’s passage and implementation. And yet the president’s celebratory statement contains the following claim: “Thanks to this law, 20 million more Americans now know the security of having health insurance.” What this means, of course, is that most of the 20 million were already insured but lost their coverage due to Obamacare.

This not only highlights the president’s most notorious lie about Obamacare (“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”), it dovetails with CBO projections about things to come: “Over the next few years, more employers are expected to respond to the availability of coverage through the marketplaces by declining to offer insurance to their employees. As employers change their insurance offerings, some of their employees are expected to enroll in coverage through [Obamacare exchanges].” Presumably, this will also be celebrated by the White House, at least until Obama is finally evicted.

Naturally, the president’s sixth anniversary statement steers away from a great many promises that he presumably hopes we have long since forgotten. For example, the CBO report expects the government to raise about $38 billion in penalties from people who flout the individual mandate by refusing to purchase coverage. Obama originally ran for president on a platform that included a pledge that he would never countenance a mandate in any health reform law approved by his administration. But a few months after taking office, he demonstrated that this was just another manifestation of his bent toward prevarication.

Even worse, for many Americans, was Obama’s phony abortion pledge. During the 2009 speech referenced above he said, “Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” In 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted an investigation of plans certified and sold by the Obamacare exchanges. The GAO discovered that 1,036 such plans covered abortion. In other words, while the Obama administration was bullying Little Sisters of the Poor to cover abortifacients, it was turning a blind eye to Obamacare plans that were breaking federal law by funding abortions.

Another fraud perpetrated by the president during his 2009 speech to Congress was included in his list of allegedly inaccurate statements made by opponents of his health care plan: “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false.” That was too much for Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who responded by shouting “You lie.” Representative Wilson took a lot of heat from the media over this, but he was later vindicated when it was discovered that illegal immigrants have indeed been receiving hundreds of millions of Obamacare subsidies.

The list of individual lies goes on and on, but perhaps they can be summarized thus: The basic premise of Obamacare is deliberately deceptive. The president and his supporters sold it as a health reform bill meant to control costs, increase access, and improve quality. But virtually none of its provisions really addressed the components of our medical delivery system that affect these things. So, the most important deception was the pretense that it was ever about health care. That was the big lie. Obama and his accomplices called it “health care reform” when it was really just a government power grab.

Iran Joins China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Iran, Pakistan look set for multi-trillion dollar zone

khaleej times-logo-s

M.Aftab
 President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addressing the Pakistan-Iran Joint Business Forum.
(APP)

AdTech AdThe Iran-Pakistan Summit has decided to push the fast formation of the new Central Asia-China economic and investment trade zone that ultimately will sweep through to embrace Turkey.

Bilaterally, we will raise their mutual trade from the present $270 million a year to $5 billion in less then five years, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said.

Will it turn into a multi-trillion dollar business zone, rivaling the EU? Many top economists and engineers are answering with a “yes.” There is a strong-prevailing sentiment following the just concluded Islamabad Summit meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

President Rouhani’s two-day talks at the Summit with Nawaz Shrif besides business and investment, and Tehran joining the Chinese-built China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at Beijing’s urging, will also serve as “a cushion against any future US adventurism against any of our  member countries,” a top source told the Khaleej Times. “Everyone knows how hard the just-lifted US sanctions Tehran hit Iran.

Similarly, though Washington is at present and friendly towards Pakistan, Islamabad is always fearful of American adventurism against itself over its nuclear prowess, the source also said.

Energy is the life of the industry which has been tied to Iran with a big expansion and supply plan. President Rouhani announced: “From now onwards, Iran is responsible for the provision of Pakistan’s energy and energy security. Based on our commitments in the areas of electricity and gas, we have fulfilled them and will do so in future, too.”

“Iran will inject around 12,00 megawatts of electricity. By 2018, and another 13,000 megawatts later, as our power generation is growing, the Pakistani nation should be assured that Iran, as a strategic partner for Pakistan will always explore its potential in the field of oil and gas to satisfy the needs of the Pakistani nation,” he assured.

The business community, industrialists, the financial sector and consumers have widely welcomed the decisions taken at the Iran-Pakistan Summit.

“The business community is pinning high hopes over the decisions of the summit’s success and the talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Nawaz Shaif,” Abdul Rauf Alam, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCC&I), said.

“The decisions have begin a new era by strengthening bilateral relations, particularly now when sanctions on Iran have been lifted, which has opened a new era and new avenues for enhancing interaction. The decisions will promote Iranian exports to Pakistan including export of electricity, natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products, and the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline will go on stream,” he said.

Construction of the 1,800 kilometers of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline has been constructed on Iran’s side. The work on the Pakistan side of the pipeline, which was started during March 2013, has not been completed due to the sanctions.

“Its unfortunate,” Alam said. “Pakistan-Iran trade, just before the sanctions were imposed, was over $1 billion a year, which has come down to almost nothing. But after the summit, and the subsequent signing of a number of agreements it can go up to $1 billion again.”

Alam also said that the strengthening of the economic links with Iran is in the interest of Pakistan and the whole region, as it will pave the way for cooperation on regional and international basis, like the under-construction China Pakistan Economic Corridor which will definitely extend from these two countries to Iran and Afghanistan in Pakistan’s west to the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Turkey and EU in the north-and north-west.

A fast track revival, and raising the industrial output of the Pakistani economy, and overcoming the energy shortfalls are high priority areas for Pakistan, which can be tackled with Iranian help to achieve economic stability and raise the GDP to 5.5-7.0 per cent range from the present 3.0-4.0 per cent. Energy shortage eat up to two per cent of GDP annually, according to the latest World Bank report for 2015-16.

Hopes on both sides are very high because of the centuries old relations, their closeness as their borders meet at the shores of the Arabian sea, and United Arab Emirates-GCC counties just across the board, their cultural and business relations.

Iran is one the second biggest economies in the region, with its exports rising as high as $74 billion, while imports are recorded at $54 billion, according to the official Iranian Foreign Trade data for 2014.

The top Pakistani exports to Iran have been rice, raw cotton, and petroleum products. These items, put together, can help earn $1.283 billion annually. It includes rice at $1.6 billion, cotton at $123 million, and petroleum products at $100 million. Add to that, a huge volume of fruits and other products like halal meat.

Mehdi Sobhani, the consul general of Iran says: “The two countries have been enjoying good relations for years. But, unfortunately trade and economic relations are not on equal basis in this era of inter-dependence. Economic sanctions have been lifted, and now there will be no hindrance to expanding trade and economic relations. Pakistan can put an end to its energy crises after completing its own side of the project of the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline as well as buying electricity from Iran.”

 

Terrorist’s Head From From Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal Suicide Bomber Identified

, 4 brothers, uncle taken into custody

dunya newsDUNYA

The suicide bomber has been identified as Yousaf, son of Ghulam Fareed.

LAHORE (Dunya News) – The suicide attacker involved in the deadly blasts that rocked Lahore s Gulshan-e-Iqbal area, has been indentfited as as Muhammad Yousaf, son of Ghulam Fareed. Dunya News obtained the ID card of the suicide bomber involved in the attack that left at least 71 dead and more than 300 injured, mostly children. According to police sources, 20kgs of explosives were used in the bomb along with ball bearings.

Police, conducting raid in Basti Baitwala, arrested four brothers and an uncle of the suspect.

According to the suspect’s ID card details, the terrorist belonged to Muzaffargarh.

The ID card details further describe him being born in the year 1988. The picture on the ID card also matches with body found from the attack site.

Family sources say that Yousaf had not been in contact with his family since 2 months.

Security agencies also traced his phone number. Yousaf had been living in Sharif Park, Ferozepur road for about a month

The terrorist had obtained the mobile SIM from Islamabad on 19th September 2013.


 WATCH VIDEO BELOW:


http://video.dunyanews.tv/must_watch_files/44081.html

 

blastGulshan-e-Iqbal Park

Pak Taliban Bomb Easter Egg Hunt In Lahore—60+ Dead, Mostly Women and Children

‘Targets were Christians’: Taliban faction claims Pakistan park attack that killed over 60

Russia-Today

 

Pakistani rescuers use a stretcher to shift a body from a bomb blast site in Lahore on March 27, 2016. © Arif Ali
Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s suicide blast outside a public park in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore that killed at least 65 people and injured more than 280. Most of the injured are women and children.

The targets were Christians,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the faction, said, threatening that more attacks in the region would follow.

We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants but he won’t be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.

Salman Rafique, a health adviser for Punjab’s provincial government, put the death toll at over 60 people.

There are more than 280 injured people,” Rafique said. “Many are now being treated, and we fear that the death toll may climb considerably.

Police say the blast had been carried out by a suicide bomber.

Most of the dead and injured are women and children,” Mustansar Feroz, superintendent of police for the area told Reuters.

The explosion happened outside Gulshan Iqbal Park, near the park’s parking lot, just outside the exit gate and a few meters away from children’s swings.

The park was crowded because Christians are celebrating Easter holiday and many families were leaving the park when the blast occurred, according to senior police officer Haider Ashraf. He also said the death toll could still rise as many of the wounded were in critical condition.

Police said it was not clear whether the attack had deliberately targeted mainly Muslim Pakistan’s small Christian minority.

Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for Recuse 112, told Reuters most of the victims are women and children.

DawnNews reports there was little or no security present in the park area and around it.

An eyewitness, talking to DawnNews, said: “The park is huge and has many entrance gates. There was almost no security personnel present there.”

An emergency has been declared at all state hospitals in the city. Authorities are asking for blood donations because supplies are low.

Following the attack, the local government also ordered all public parks to be closed and announced three days of mourning in the province. The main shopping areas have also been shut down and many of the city’s main roads are now deserted.

ecurity officials gather at the site of a blast outside a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, March 27, 2016. © Mohsin Raza

Facebook has activated its ‘Safe Check’ feature created to help track people after deadly incidents for Lahore.

Waqt News also reports the security personnel have surrounded the area and launched a search operation in and around the park, with rescue teams dispatched to the site.

The army was called in to control crowds outside the park, as some distraught relatives clashed with police and rescue officials.

The United States, Pakistan’s strategic ally, condemned the attack.

The United States stands with the people and government of Pakistan at this difficult hour. We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region… to root out the scourge of terrorism,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Islamist militants in Pakistan have often attacked Christians and other religious minorities over the past decade, while Christians have accused the government of doing little to protect them.

Lahore is the capital of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political heartland of Punjab, which is the country’s biggest and wealthiest province.

Megalomaniacal Turkish Dictator Slams Western Diplomats For Defending Terrorized Turkish Press

[Erdogan’s Anti-Gulen Witch-hunt Devours Zaman News]

Erdogan slams diplomats for attending journalists’ trial

ap

//

Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, right, and Erdem Gul, left

//

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s president has criticized foreign diplomats who attended the trial of two prominent journalists in a show of support for media freedoms in Turkey.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul went on trial on Friday accused of espionage and terror charges for their reports on alleged government arms shipments to Syrian rebels. The government says their reports are part of a conspiracy to bring it down.

In a speech in Istanbul Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the diplomats present at the opening hearing of “violating” boundaries and siding with those want to carry out “a coup” against the government.

“Who do you think you are? … This is not your country, this is Turkey.” Erdogan said.

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Pakistani Recriminations and Indian Denials Continue Over RAW In Balochistan Case

[SEE: Pak Nabs RAW Spy In Balochistan]

Pak. summons envoy on ‘spy’ arrest, India rejects claims

The Hindu

Suhasini Haidar

Pakistan had accused India of stoking violence in Balochistan and Karachi in the past but it is for the first time that it has claimed arresting a RAW officer.

India on Friday rejected Pakistan’s claims that it had arrested a serving naval officer in Balochistan for what it called “subversive activities”. In a statement, the Ministry of External affairs however, admitted that the man believed to be arrested was a former officer of the navy.

“The said individual has no link with Government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy,” said the MEA statement, adding that India has now sought consular access to him. The government also denied the Pakistani claim that the former officer was spying, saying that “India has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region.”

According to documents released by Military intelligence sources in Pakistan, the arrested man identified himself as Kulbhushan Yadav, formerly a commander in the navy, who, Pakistan claims, was sent under deputation to the Research and Analysis Wing of the government to Iran. A passport (No. L9630722), purportedly belonging to the arrested man, showed his assumed name as ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’, born in Sangli, Maharashtra, and living in Powai, as well as a valid Iranian visa in his name.

The details were shared with Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale on Friday morning, when he was summoned by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury, when Mr. Chaudhury lodged a protest with India.

However, officials denied that any documents had been handed over, and were able to verify the identity of the former Naval officer on the “basis of the name provided by Pakistan.”

The arrested former official is believed to have been flown to Islamabad, where he will be further interrogated.

Pakistan lodges protest over arrest of ‘RAW agent’

“The Indian High Commissioner was summoned by the Foreign Secretary and through a demarche conveyed our protest and deep concern on the illegal entry into Pakistan by a RAW officer and his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi,” a Pakistan foreign ministry statement said.

Sources told The Hindu that during the conversation, Pakistani FS Mr. Chaudhury said that the arrest was in line with previous protests by Pakistan over what it calls Indian support to Baloch national groups, waging an insurgency in Pakistan. India has denied the charges of any involvement, but this is the first time Pakistan has alleged it has arrested a serving officer of the external intelligence agency R&AW.

The case has dominated Pakistani headlines after the details of the arrest of Mr. Yadav on March 21st were disclosed to the media. According to State Interior Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, the arrest took place in the Chaman area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and Mr. Yadav had disclosed his real name, and said he worked for the R&AW and the Afghanistan intelligence agency NDS. ““It has been our contention that RAW has been involved (in creating unrest) in Balochistan,” Mr. Bugti told reporters on Friday.

According to intelligence officials in Pakistan, Mr. Yadav had entered Pakistan illegally through the border with Iran. While sources in the government said they had no information on why he would have crossed over from Iran, they said he was believed to be contracted privately with a construction project linked to the Chabahar port in Iran. Significantly, the arrest was announced on the day Iranian President Rouhani landed in Pakistan for a bilateral visit.

In India, military sources refused to comment on the issue. However one official, who didn’t wish to be named, pointed out that the speed of the MEA statement acknowledging the identity of the arrested man indicated that India had been given prior information about the arrest.

It is understood that NSA Ajit Doval has been in regular contact with the Pakistan NSA Janjua, with unconfirmed reports that they had shared intelligence on terror inputs as well in the past two months.

The arrest comes a week before Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif travel to Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit on March 31st. While no bilateral meeting has been confirmed by either side, the arrest in Balochistan is likely to come up in future talks between both countries, officials said.

Short But Bittersweet—Learning from Vlad’s Way of War

Learning From Vladimir

Wall Street Journal

 

American strategists might learn a thing or two from Russia’s in-and-out Syrian war.

Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Oct. 20, 2015.
Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Oct. 20, 2015. Photo: Associated Press

Vladimir Putin’s splendid little war in Syria did not go off without a hitch. There was the set-to with Turkey; the downed Sukhoi jet. There was international condemnation for bombing civilian targets while sparing ISIS. There were personal frictions between Bashar Assad and Mr. Putin, which might explain the abruptness with which Mr. Putin announced Russia’s departure.

Yet it took Mr. Putin just six months to show the world that modest military inputs can decisively tilt the balance of power, and that not every Mideast intervention descends into quagmire. Too bad it was in the service of propping up two dictatorships—Russia’s as well as Syria’s.

Could the next U.S. president learn something from this case study in the use of power? Let’s stipulate that no future president is likely to order aircraft to drop unguided munitions on village marketplaces, as Mr. Putin did in Idlib and Aleppo. Gratuitous cruelty is not the American way of making war in the 21st century, whatever Donald Trump may think. Still, there are some lessons here for future interveners. Like:

1) Take a side. “A prince,” wrote Machiavelli, “is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy”—an approach, the Florentine added, that “will always be more advantageous than standing neutral.” In Syria, Mr. Putin took the side of the regime. In previous interventions in Ukraine and Georgia, he took the side of local Russian minorities.

That’s an improvement over the Obama Method, which is to take the side of “history” while casting feckless and irritating aspersions on everyone. It’s an improvement, too, over the Bush Method, which was to go to war for the sake of a concept, like democracy, and then cross fingers that it would find a competent local champion.

2) Use proxies. The point of proxies is to avoid doing all the fighting yourself. And to have someone who will be beholden to you after you leave. But a proxy is pointless if you aren’t willing to support him properly, whether out of moral squeamishness or indifference to the outcome of the war.

In the Balkan wars, we used the Croatian army as a proxy to help blunt Serb power in Bosnia. In Afghanistan we had a proxy in the Northern Alliance, which explains why the Taliban were deposed so swiftly. In Iraq, we made insufficient use of one proxy, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and disbanded what could have been the other, the standing Iraqi army. We had to do everything ourselves. If we’re not prepared to accept that our proxies may not perfectly represent our values, perhaps it’s best not to intervene at all.

3) Define a realistic objective. Mr. Obama’s constant assessment of Russia’s intervention in Syria was that it was destined to become a replay of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with hundreds of thousands of ground troops taking ever-greater casualties from wily mujahedeen fighters.

Yet again, Mr. Obama didn’t know what he didn’t know. Mr. Putin couldn’t afford a long intervention in Syria. But he knew that a small but dynamic deployment of aircraft could destroy the Assad regime’s relatively weak moderate opposition, turning the Syrian war into a referendum—both domestically and internationally—between the regime and ISIS. Whose side are we on, now?

4) Remember the Earl Butz rule. It’s named after the former secretary of agriculture, who remarked, in reference to a papal edict regarding contraception, “You no play-a da game, you no make-a da rules.” One of the purposes of military intervention is to shape the diplomatic outcome, which is why Mr. Kerry is so strikingly irrelevant in negotiating an end to the Syrian war.

5) Preserve your options. Russia has withdrawn from Syria—except where it hasn’t. It will maintain an upgraded naval facility in the port of Tartus, along with an air base. Mr. Putin has made it clear he’s prepared to return forces to Syria at will, and the success of the operation means any return will have popular backing. That was an option the U.S. could have exercised in Iraq, or Libya, by maintaining a military presence sufficient to suppress insurgents, deter Iranians, and balance competing sectarian interests. We didn’t, and the results are well known.

So what should the U.S. do in Syria? Here’s a thought: Give up on a unitary Syrian state, which guarantees a zero-sum struggle for power instead of a division of territorial spoils. Support Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria, backed by a tripwire U.S. force to deter Turkish intervention, and an Alawite state around Latakia, backed by Russia, with the proviso that the Assads must go. Destroy ISIS and other Sunni jihadist groups by combining massive U.S. air power and a coalition of Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian troops.

Problem fixed? Not quite. But it shrinks the Syrian tumor. The point of intervention isn’t to solve everything. And as Vladimir has reminded the world again, trying to solve everything solves nothing.

Write bstephens@wsj.com.

Pak Nabs RAW Spy In Balochistan

Afghan intelligence agency hosted Indian spy Yadav in Kabul

daily pakistan

gg12
by Khawaja Daud

ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – Kulbhushan Yadav, the Indian Naval Commander who was working for spy agency RAW, has confessed to Pakistani security agencies that he was hosted in Kabul by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security.

Security forces arrested the Indian spy from Balochistan province on Thursday. His arrest was confirmed by Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, who said Yadav was working for Research and Analysis Wing and was in contact with Baloch separatists and other militant organisations.

Related: Pakistani forces arrest Indian Naval officer spying inside Balochistan

The Indian spy also confessed that a senior officer of Afghan intelligence agency had arranged his meeting with Baloch separatist Dr Allah Nazar.

Yadav, who has been taken to Islamabad for interrogation, also admitted his involvement in terrorist activities in Karachi and Balochistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly alleged that Indian spy agencies have been providing support to militants in Balochistan and other sectarian extremists.

In the past Pakistan had provided proof of Indian support of terrorism to the Indian authorities in a high-level meeting at Sharm-el-Shaikh, and also provided proof of the same at the United Nations more recently.

Pakistan Vows To Eliminate Terrorism, Doesn’t Consider Afghan Taliban “Terrorists”

Pakistan has resolved to wipe out terror from its soil: Nawaz Sharif

times of india

Noting that Pakistan is faced with “unprecedented” threat of terrorism and extremism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday asserted that these “evils” will be defeated and “completely wiped out from our soil”.

PTI

NEW DELHI: Noting that Pakistan is faced with “unprecedented” threat of terrorism and extremism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday asserted that these “evils” will be defeated and “completely wiped out from our soil”.

In a written message on the occasion of 76th Pakistan Day being observed here, Sharif also said that the country has resolved to ensure freedom, equality and social justice for all its citizens.

“Today, we are confronted with unprecedented threats and challenges in the form of extremism and terrorism, but we are resolved to defeat these evils. The menace of terrorism and extremism will be completely wiped out from our soil,” Sharif said.

He said his government has taken “landmark” initiatives to safeguard minorities in Pakistan and empower women.

“Our endeavours are aimed at mainstreaming the marginalised segments of our society as we believe that each and every Pakistani is an equal citizen of the land,” he said.

The celebrations held at Pakistan high commission here were attended by its high commissioner to India Abdul Basit, his deputy Ubaid-Ur-Rehman Nizamani and others.
A reception will also be held at the high commission this evening which is expected to be attended by Indian guests, members of the diplomatic corps here and Pakistan women’s cricket team, a high commission statement said.

Obama Tries To Whitewash US War Crimes In Argentina’s CIA Operation Condor

Obama Tells Argentina to Forget US-backed Bloodbath

telesur

When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in Argentina on Tuesday, it seemed like an opportune, if not essential, moment to acknowledge the U.S. role in the bloodbath that occurred 40 years ago.

IN DEPTH: 40 Years Since Argentina’s Dictatorship and the Fight for Justice

In 1976 the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew Isabel Peron, would be the starting point of years of violence in which 30,000 Argentines were disappeared and countless others murdered and tortured under Operation Condor.

Throughout the communist-cleansing program condoned and funded by the U.S., with Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State, innumerable atrocities were committed by the military, including the practice of giving the children of the deceased and disappeared to more favorable families.

Campaign groups, like the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, still fight for justice and look for their stolen grandchildren.

But on the eve of this sensitive and commemorative day, when Argentines remember their lost ones, Obama did not apologize for the misery dished out by the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, the U.S. president was dismissive during a joint press conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

IN DEPTH: Obama Visits Argentina

“I don’t want to go through every action carried out by the U.S. in Latin America over the last 100 years. I suspect everybody here already knows,” President Obama stated in response to a question about the role of U.S. foreign policy during the Argentine dictatorship-era. He referred to the U.S. policy of backing regimes that tortured, murdered and disappeared tens of thousands as “counterproductive.”

Obama continued that he believed the U.S. administration had improved over the years due to engaging in “self-criticism.”

“There is no shortage of self-criticism in the United States. Certainly no shortage of criticism of its President or its government or its foreign policy,” he told reporters.

But, after the comment branded “insufficient” by Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Obama essentially told Argentina that the U.S. had learned from and washed its hands of its destructive history.

ANALYSIS: Obama Showed His “True Neoliberal Face” in Argentina

“And we have learned some of the lessons that we may not have fully learned at an earlier time. And I think our experiences with a country like Argentina helped us to develop that more mature and, ultimately, I think, more successful approach to foreign policy,” he said.

Just as the leader of the world’s most powerful country failed to acknowledge or apologize for the suffering caused by the illegal blockade on Cuba on his recent visit, Obama did not ask the Argentine people for forgiveness for the grief his country caused them. As a spokesperson for the U.S., on the eve of Argentina’s most painful day, there was an expectation that he would speak up.

WATCH: Obama Visits Casa Rosada

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The Anti-Taliban-Taliban Continues Its Challenge To Mansour’s Legitimacy

[Pakistan Arrests Mullah Rasoul After He Outs CIA/ISI Taliban Mansour; Taliban Shootout Perhaps Claims Life of CIA/ISI Strawman Taliban Leader Akhtar Mansour]

taliban-23-march-16

Fighters loyal to the leader of the splinter group of the Taliban, Mullah Rasoul, in Badghis province, reportedly announced war against fighters of the Taliban faction led by Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor.‎ The commander of the splinter group accused Mansoor of killing and detaining Taliban leaders and said the Pakistani spy agency and Mansoor have pushed Afghanistan towards destruction.

After several days of fighting between the two groups of the Taliban in Shindand district of western Herat province, fighters loyal to Mullah Rasoul hoisted the Taliban’s flag under the name of the Taliban’s High Council in Qads district of Badghis province and vowed to fight supporters of Akhtar Mansoor.

Commander of the splinter group in Badghis said that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Akhtar Mansoor have been involved in killing a number of Taliban leaders, particularly the group’s supreme leader Mullah Omar.

“The reasons for our differences [with Akhtar Mansoor] were that Mullah Obaidullah has been martyred in prison, Mullah Beradar is in jail and Mullah Omar was killed by Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor. Akhtar Mansoor has created an office in Qatar and he along with the Pakistani spy agency has taken a number of decisions without coordinating them with the Taliban, which are not acceptable for us,” said Mollah Ghafar Tofan, military commander of Mollah Rasoul’s splinter group in Badghis. He added that Pakistan and other countries have pushed Afghanistan towards fratricide.

Meanwhile, Badghis provincial council expressed its deep concerns over gathering of the Taliban in Qads district of the province and said that infighting between the Taliban will affect civilians. Mohammad Naser Nazari, a member of the council, said that the government should not allow militants to mobilize the public.

“People expect government to conduct airstrikes, wherever they organize gatherings. It should not allow the Taliban to organize gatherings,” he added.

Badghis police chief, Abdul Rauf Taj, urged people not to allow the Taliban to organize gatherings in their villages.

“People should not allow the enemies to organize such sessions. The Taliban by such events want to weaken people’s morale,” he said. Fighting between fighters of Akhtar Mansoor and Mullah Rassoul in Zer Koh area of Shindand district of Herat left more than 200 people dead, including scores of civilians. The probability of infighting between Taliban in Badghis has raised concerns of people in Badghis.

Pushtun Genocide by Pakistan


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Pushtun Genocide by Pakistan

By
By Faiz Mohammad Zaland

As of June 2014, the Pakistani army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azab along the Durrand line has taken the lives of 40,000 ethnic Pashtun civilians and internally displaced another 1 million. Entire cities and villages have been destroyed forcing people to flee the region; some 200,000 have crossed over into Afghanistan and the rest displaced in and around Peshawar.

 UNHCR has tried its best to assist the migrants but the Pakistani army has made it very difficult if not impossible to enter the region and offer any assistance to civilians. International and local media is denied access to the area, specifically the North Waziristan (Wana, Miransha) region, in order to report the massive human rights violations on going.

The Zarb-e-Azab military operation was launched as a renewed effort against militancy; instead militants have been given a safe haven while civilians are being massacred. The situation this has created brings about an increase in militancy, insecurity and distrust of the government/army.  The Pakistani army under the guise of “good Taliban” are fighting Pashtun nationalism by supporting these terrorists.  Civilians are forced to leave their homes and migrate to the other side of the Durrand line/Afghanistan.  This tension created in the region benefits terrorists groups to destabilize not only Afghanistan, but the Asian continent as a whole; specifically Southeast and Central Asia.

Since 2003, when Taliban regrouped in Pakistan in order to fight the ISAF forces in pursuit of Pakistan’s policy of strategic depth, Pakistan has been vehemently denying any role in this ongoing war.  However; former Pakistani president and COAS, General Musharraf, in a recent interview, accepted the fact that Pakistan did support Taliban in their fight against the government of Hamid Karzai; whom Musharaf alleged to be anti- Pakistan. Even after the launching of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June, 2014, both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif categorically stated that Afghan Taliban will also not be spared during this operation, but it is quite evident by now that Pakistan still regards Afghan Taliban as strategic assets and they were only relocated during the operation.

Publically, Sar Taj Aziz accepted that Afghan Taliban are set up in, and being supported by Pakistan.   This means that Pakistan has not only supported, but aided in what Afghanistan has suffered over the past 14 years – they have allowed aggression against Afghanistan and its government from Pakistani territory. I am here to lend a voice the suffering Afghan civilians, who are suffering from a war supported by Pakistan’s government in Afghanistan. I beg the world to not turn a blind eye to this situation and to end Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan.  Condemn the proxy war played by Pakistan in my country

Afghanistan is on the verge of political collapse and imminent civil war, doomed to fall into the harsh conditions it found itself in the 90s.  To further its own agenda, the government of Pakistan and its army has made victims of terrorism seem like terrorists. The question remains that will Pakistan be held accountable for its contribution to this collapse by the UN and other international entities that have been working for over a decade to bring peace and rebuild the war torn country. 

I am here to be the voice of the innocent civilians, orphans and widows of this war waged by Pakistan against its own people and against Afghanistan.  I am here to plead with the UN agency’s Human Rights Council to assist Afghans in creating a stable and prosperous Afghanistan by restraining Pakistan from its ongoing genocidal activities along the Durand line.   I implore the council put a stop to the systematic operations launched by Pakistan along the border of Afghanistan; operations that have destroyed the homes and lives of those living on both sides of the Durand line. 

I appeal now to this council that it should assign a special representative or commission to analyze the situation on both sides of the Durand line to determine what the ground realities of the recent military operations by Pakistan are and to share this information with the UN and Security Council for further investigation and Hearings.

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

Clinton’s Selective Amnesia About Her Role In the War To Destroy Libya

The Big Lie About the Libyan War

In this fifth anniversary week of the U.S.-led Libya intervention, it’s instructive to revisit Hillary Clinton’s curiously abridged description of that war in her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton takes the reader from the crackdown, by Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime, of a nascent uprising in Benghazi and Misrata; to her meeting — accompanied by the pop-intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy — with Mahmoud Jibril, the exiled leader of the opposition National Transitional Council; to her marshaling of an international military response. In late March 2011, Clinton quotes herself telling NATO members, “It’s crucial we’re all on the same page on NATO’s responsibility to enforce the no-fly zone and protect civilians in Libya.”

Just two paragraphs later — now 15 pages into her memoir’s Libya section — Clinton writes: “[By] late summer 2011, the rebels had pushed back the regime’s forces. They captured Tripoli toward the end of August, and Qaddafi and his family fled into the desert.” There is an abrupt and unexplained seven-month gap, during which the military mission has inexplicably, and massively, expanded beyond protecting civilians to regime change — seemingly by happenstance. The only opposition combatants even referred to are simply labeled “the rebels,” and the entire role of the NATO coalition and its attendant responsibility in assisting their advance has been completely scrubbed from the narrative.

In contemporary political debates, the Libya intervention tends to be remembered as an intra-administration soap opera, focused on the role Clinton — or Susan Rice or Samantha Power — played in advising Obama to go through with it. Or it’s addressed offhandedly in reference to the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. special mission and CIA annex in Benghazi. But it would be far more pertinent to treat Libya as a case study for the ways that supposedly limited interventions tend to mushroom into campaigns for regime change. Five years on, it’s still not a matter of public record when exactly Western powers decided to topple Qaddafi.

To more fully comprehend what actually happened in Libya five years ago, let’s briefly review what the Obama administration proclaimed and compare that with what actually happened.

On March 28, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation: “The task that I assigned our forces [is] to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger and to establish a no-fly zone.… Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” Two days later, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon declared, “The military mission of the United States is designed to implement the Security Council resolution, no more and no less.… I mean protecting civilians against attacks from Qaddafi’s forces and delivering humanitarian aid.” The following day, Clinton’s deputy, James Steinberg, said during a Senate hearing, “President Obama has been equally firm that our military operation has a narrowly defined mission that does not include regime change.”

From the Defense Department, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen informed David Gregory of Meet the Press, “The goals of this campaign right now again are limited, and it isn’t about seeing him go.” Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed the administration line: “Regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of the military mission.” (Emphasis added.)

Now, contrast Gates’s assertion in 2011 with what he told the New York Times last month:

“I can’t recall any specific decision that said, ‘Well, let’s just take him out,’” Mr. Gates said.

“I can’t recall any specific decision that said, ‘Well, let’s just take him out,’” Mr. Gates said. Publicly, he said, “the fiction was maintained” that the goal was limited to disabling Colonel Qaddafi’s command and control. In fact, the former defense secretary said, “I don’t think there was a day that passed that people didn’t hope he would be in one of those command and control centers.”This is scarcely believable. Given that decapitation strikes against Qaddafi were employed early and often, there almost certainly was a decision by the civilian heads of government of the NATO coalition to “take him out” from the very beginning of the intervention. On March 20, 2011, just hours into the intervention, Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from a British submarine stationed in the Mediterranean Sea struck an administrative building in Qaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound, less than 50 yards away from the dictator’s residence. (This attack occurred just 100 yards from the building that Ronald Reagan authorized to be bombed by F-111s a quarter-century earlier in retaliation for a Berlin discothèque bombing ordered by the Libyan leader.) Just as the dictator somehow survived the attack on his personal residence in 1986, he also did in 2011.

Later that day, Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, was asked by the press, “Can you guarantee that coalition forces are not going to target Qaddafi?” Gortney replied, “At this particular point, I can guarantee that he’s not on a targeting list.” When it was then pointed out that it was Qaddafi’s personal residence that had been attacked, Gortney added, “Yeah. But, no, we’re not targeting his residence. We’re there to set the conditions and enforce the United Nations Security Council resolution. That’s what we’re doing right now and limiting it to that.”

In fact, not only was the Western coalition not limiting its missions to the remit of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, but it also actively chose not to enforce them. Resolution 1970 was supposed to prohibit arms transfers to either side of the war in Libya, and NATO officials claimed repeatedly that this was not occurring. On April 19, 2011, a brigadier general stated, “No violation of the arms embargo has been reported.” Three weeks later, on May 13, a wing commander admitted, “I have no information about arms being moved across any of the borders around Libya.” In fact, Egypt and Qatar were shipping advanced weapons to rebel groups the whole time, with the blessing of the Obama administration, while Western intelligence and military forces provided battlefield intelligence, logistics, and training support.

Yet, the most damning piece of evidence comes from a public relations video that NATO itself released on May 24, 2011. In the short video, a Canadian frigate — the HMCS Charlottetown — allegedly enforcing the arms embargo, boards a rebel tugboat and finds small arms, 105mm howitzer rounds, and “lots of explosives,” all of which are banned under Section 9 of Resolution 1970. The narrator states, “It turns out the tugboat is being used by Libyan rebels to transport arms from Benghazi to Misrata.” The Charlottetown captain radios NATO headquarters for further guidance. As the narrator concludes, “NATO decides not to impede the rebels and to let the tugboat proceed.” In other words, a NATO surface vessel stationed in the Mediterranean to enforce an arms embargo did exactly the opposite, and NATO was comfortable posting a video demonstrating its hypocrisy.

In truth, the Libyan intervention was about regime change from the very start.

In truth, the Libyan intervention was about regime change from the very start. The threat posed by the Libyan regime’s military and paramilitary forces to civilian-populated areas was diminished by NATO airstrikes and rebel ground movements within the first 10 days. Afterward, NATO began providing direct close-air support for advancing rebel forces by attacking government troops that were actually in retreat and had abandoned their vehicles. Fittingly, on Oct. 20, 2011, it was a U.S. Predator drone and French fighter aircraft that attacked a convoy of regime loyalists trying to flee Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. The dictator was injured in the attack, captured alive, and then extrajudicially murdered by rebel forces.The intervention in Libya shows that the slippery slope of allegedly limited interventions is most steep when there’s a significant gap between what policymakers say their objectives are and the orders they issue for the battlefield. Unfortunately, duplicity of this sort is a common practice in the U.S. military. Civilian and military officials are often instructed to use specific talking points to suggest the scope of particular operations is minimal relative to large-scale ground wars or that there is no war going on at all. Note that it took 14 months before the Pentagon even admitted, “Of course it’s combat,” for U.S. soldiers involved in the ongoing mission against the Islamic State in Iraq. Meanwhile, the public learned just this week — only because Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed on Saturday — that there is a previously unannounced detachment of Marines in northern Iraq providing “force protection” for the Iraqi military and U.S. advisors. The gradual accretion of troops, capabilities, arms transfers, and expanded military missions seemingly just “happens,” because officials frame each policy step as normal and necessary. The reality is that, collectively, they represent a fundamentally larger and different intervention.

During the theatrical and exhaustive Benghazi hearing in October 2015, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) asked Clinton about a video clip that read, “‘We came, we saw, he died [meaning Qaddafi].’ Is that the Clinton doctrine?” Clinton replied, “No, that was an expression of relief that the military mission undertaken by NATO and our other partners had achieved its end.” Yet, this was never the military mission that the Obama administration repeatedly told the world it had set out to achieve. It misled the American public, because while presidents attempt to frame their wars as narrow, limited, and essential, admitting to the honest objective in Libya — regime change — would have brought about more scrutiny and diminished public support. The conclusion is clear: While we should listen to what U.S. and Western officials claim are their military objectives, all that matters is what they authorize their militaries to actually do.

Photo credit: ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images

 

 

Bleeding Hearts, Empty Minds and the Rotten Heart of Europe

[Even though all of this was predictable (Europe being overrun by the refugees as a result of the Euro nations regime change wars staged in MINA), any apparent solution to fixing the situation will be unacceptable to the bleeding hearts.  By setting nations in Middle East and North Africa on fire, destroying anything resembling armies, police forces or governments, entire populations were set upon the road seeking safety, any road to anywhere but the war zone. 

By listening to the pleas of human misery, instead of listening to the voices of reason, Euro leaders publicly spoke of opening their arms to the refugees, which instantly turned entire refugee herds towards Europe.  If ISIS, or AQAP, or others failed to seed the fleeing refugee populations with agents of terror, then they would have been negligent in the commission of their terrorist duties. 

Europe will have this terrorist/refugee problem from now on.  There will be NO SOLVING Europe’s new terrorism problem without a mass expulsion of all recent refugees from Europe.]

The Rotten Heart of Europe

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The Rotten Heart of Europe

Four days after Belgian police captured suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam in Brussels –triggering a round of congratulatory news conferences in which French President François Hollande deemed the arrest “an important moment” in the fight against Islamist extremism — terror struck the Belgian capital.

The Islamic State has claimed another hit on West European soil and here we go again: the gut-wrenching images of panicked people fleeing attack sites, the crushing stories of pain and loss, the displays of solidarity on social media and public buildings across the world, and, once again, the grief, shock, and panic.

But this attack — callous as it may sound to say — was coming. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said as much during a news conference in Brussels just hours after the attacks. “We feared a terror attack,” Michel said, “and it happened.”

“It happened” is just not a valid excuse for governments anymore. After two years of European nationals joining “the jihad” in Syria in droves, with the Islamic State repeatedly calling for attacks in the infidel lands in an ever-increasing array of languages, we need to be better prepared.

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Belgium, in particular, needs to do better — for its own security and for the security of the world.

During the past 15 years, tiny little Belgium has made an appearance in far too many terror attacks. Back in 2001, Afghan resistance hero Ahmad Shah Masood’s killers transited through Brussels, picking support and resources, before they arrived in Afghanistan, where they killed Masood two days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Mehdi Nemmouche — whose deadly May 2014 attack on the Jewish Museum of Belgium became the first case of blowback on European soil from the Syrian jihad — spent time in the now-infamous Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital. When Amedy Coulibaly — the Frenchman who attacked a Paris kosher store days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks — needed weapons, he headed straight for Brussels. And of course, as we all now know, four of the suspected Nov. 13 Paris attackers — including the brutal, unsavory coordinator, Abdelhamid Abaaoud — hailed from Molenbeek.

It’s too early to say if there are direct links between the latest Brussels attacks and Abdeslam’s arrest. Belgian authorities say they don’t have any evidence yet, but then they never do. Or if they do, they won’t tell you in an official, centralized way. That’s for the media to glean, working sources, local officials in decentralized communes, bit by bit, piece by piece, until some semblance of the big picture emerges. On Tuesday afternoon, Michel arrived at his news conference without a death toll, or even a preliminary one, to relay. “Many deaths, many injuries,” is all he could manage. Casualty figures were left to the Belgian local media to glean the slow, Belgian way.

That’s how Belgium works. That, in fact, is how Belgium does not work and that’s how the tiny European nation, the seat of the EU, has gotten to the state it is in today.

But more on that later — back to Abdeslam. The 26-year-old Molenbeek resident of Moroccan origin, who has French citizenship, was arrested Friday, March 18, in his old neighborhood after a three-day police raid.

On Tuesday, March 15, Belgian police arrived at an apartment at 60 rue du Dries in the Forest district of Brussels on what they believed was a routine search. But when the small police team encountered heavy gunfire, they called in enforcements, including specialized teams and French police officials cooperating on the Paris attacks case, and proceeded to kill one man. He was later identified as Mohamed Belkaïd, a 35-year-old Algerian living illegally in Belgium. Two other men are believed to have escaped via the roof. Belgian police officials “confirmed” the raid was not linked to Abdeslam, the only suspected Paris attacker still on the run. But then Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in the Forest apartment, raising questions about whether one of the two men who had escaped was indeed Europe’s most wanted man.

The morning after the Brussels attacks, Belgian state broadcaster RTBF identified two of the three men captured from CCTV footage at Zaventem Airport shortly before the attack. The two suicide bombers were identified as Khalid and Brahim El-Bakraoui, brothers who were known to the police, said RTBF, quoting police sources. One of the brothers, Khalid, had rented the apartment at 60 rue du Dries under a false name, according to the state broadcaster.

The third man in the CCTV footage, who is the subject of a massive manhunt, was identified as Najim Laachraoui, according to the Belgian newspaper DH. Laachraoui’s DNA has been found in houses used by the Paris attackers last year, and he had traveled to Hungary in September with Abdeslam.

Shortly after Abdeslam was finally captured in Molenbeek last week, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters the suspected Paris attacker had been planning further attacks. “We found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons in the first investigations, and we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels,” said Reynders, sparking speculation that Abdeslam was forming a “new cell”.

In the immediate aftermath of this week’s Brussels attacks, there was speculation that the assaults were conducted to avenge Abdeslam’s arrest. That’s rather unlikely given the scope and complexity of the two strikes on the Brussels Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station. These coordinated plots take time to plan and execute. Judging from the footage revealing the extent of the damage at the Zaventem departures lounge, the suicide bombings required sophisticated explosives in vast quantities. Putting it all together from scratch in four days is not possible, no matter what Islamic State sympathizers believe and say.

Abdeslam’s arrest, however, could well have accelerated a long-planned terror plot. Shortly after his capture, officials confirmed that the suspect at a high-security Belgian jail was talking and cooperating with investigators. It’s possible that the latest attacks were fast-tracked amid fears within the Islamic State that the 26-year-old Frenchman in captivity might spill the beans.

What this reveals is the existence of multiple embedded networks in a European city working simultaneously on plots. This is alarming, of course, and not good news for security services. But in this day and age, we’d better get past the alarm, and fast, so we can concentrate on how to tackle the latest challenge before it’s too late.

For the longest time Belgium seemed such an obvious target for jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, I sometimes wondered if these militants were steering clear of targeting the tiny European nations because things were just so good there for a rising jihadist.

Belgium has long been the one-stop shop for weapons, especially automatic rifles favored by the likes of Coulibaly and Abdeslam, in a continent with strict gun control laws. Weapons make their way from the former Yugoslav war zones and Eastern European arms black markets to Belgium, where they can be accessed with a few criminal-jihadist contacts. This is common knowledge in Belgium and France. On Jan. 7, 2015, as I stood outside the Charlie Hebdo offices with the press teams shortly after the attack,

I asked my French colleagues where they thought these amounts of arms could have originated, given that we were in gun-controlled France. “Belgium,” came the prompt reply with a deep certainty.

I asked my French colleagues where they thought these amounts of arms could have originated, given that we were in gun-controlled France. “Belgium,” came the prompt reply with a deep certainty.The reason Belgium has a problem dealing with the weapons black market is the same reason the country can’t come to grips with its criminal-jihadist menace: The country is run by a decentralized administration, in a federal nation riven by divisions between French-speakers and Dutch-speakers.

In the field of law enforcement, the extreme decentralization and lack of coordination among various entities can be comical. In the old days, Brussels, which is divided into 19 communes or boroughs, had one police force for each commune — that’s 19 police forces, each policing between 20,000 and 150,000 people. They now have been consolidated into six police forces — still insane for a city with a population of 1.4 million. The failure of information and data sharing among various agencies is so acute, a researcher confessed to a Reuters journalist days after the Paris attacks, that, “in Belgium, there’s a problem with data management. Nobody knows how many illegal weapons there are in Belgium. … The reality is we have no idea.”

The debate around Molenbeek, Brussels’ most infamous borough, turned deeply political after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, with center-right politicians blaming the Socialists, notably Philippe Moureaux, Molenbeek’s mayor from 1993 to 2012, for the unhappy state of affairs. In a Nov. 17 column in the Belgian daily Le Soir titled “Molenbeek: Merci Philippe!” Alain Destexhe, a senator from the conservative-liberal MR (Mouvement Réformateur) party that is part of the ruling coalition, accused Moureaux of “clientélisme” and cronyism. According to Destexhe, his political rival willfully turned a blind eye to the worsening situation within his constituency while courting community leaders in return for electoral victories. “For 20 years,” Destexhe noted in French, “a kind of omerta reigned,” where anyone who tried to break the silence or call attention to the problem was labeled an “Islamophobe or racist.”

Certainly when journalist Hind Fraihi, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, published her book Undercover in Little Morocco: Behind the Closed Doors of Radical Islam in 2006, she was dubbed a traitor by her community and criticized by the liberal press. Ignoring voices of alarm from within the community and labeling them “self-hating” Arabs or Muslims is a common theme in left-liberal circles. As the discourse on Islam in the United States and Europe gets genuinely racist and Islamophobic with the likes of Donald Trump and all sorts of nasty European right-wing politicians, this tendency to shush people from the community raising alarm bells will become only more acute in leftist circles.

This of course is a pity since the left — or progressives, or whatever you want to call them — will only be ignoring members of the community who actually have a deep understanding of the social dynamics at play. And they are the ones with the ability to raise early alarms when they spot something amiss. The majority of Muslims, we all know, have no patience for the Islamic State-style nihilistic nonsense passing for Islam. But in a democracy, all – and I mean all — opinions must be heard as long as they don’t incite violence.

In Belgium, alas, few mainstream officials genuinely understand their Muslim fellow citizens. Unlike France, which has a long history with the North African and sub-Saharan African Muslim world, Belgium has no colonial history with Muslim-majority regions. Most Belgian Muslims — estimated to be between 320,000 to 450,000, or about 4 percent of the population — are of Moroccan origin, followed by those of Turkish origin. Belgium’s history with Muslim communities dates back only to the postwar economic boom years, when low-skilled workers from the villages of Morocco and Turkey began working in Belgian coal mines and factories, with migration peaking in the 1960s.

But while Europe offered the sort of economic opportunities for which the 1960s generation of migrants was grateful, their children have been not so lucky. The economic downturn since the late 1970s saw the closure of Belgian coal mines and heavy industries, leaving areas of urban blight. Belgium’s national unemployment rate, hovering around 8 percent, climbs to more than 20 percent among the youth population. Among Belgians of Moroccan or Turkish origin, that figure can double to around 40 percent. Add high unemployment to the mix of poor policing, fuddled administration and services, and you have the perfect breeding grounds for marginalization and radicalization. Tiny Belgium today has the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest per capita numbers of nationals or residents who have traveled to the Islamic State-held Syria-Iraq badlands.

To be sure the bulk of Belgium’s Muslims want nothing to do with the Islamic State. But for those unemployed youths with few job opportunities and easy access to drugs and arms-dealing rackets, places like Molenbeek are a home away from home, where old, idealized codes of conduct from the rural heartlands their parents left behind can be transplanted to a cold, dreary Brussels hood.

Here in Europe, those codes of conduct, which place hospitality and kinship above the law, serve as ties that bind. And it was those ties that helped Abdeslam hide for four months under the noses of the Belgian security services. In the end, it was family and friends, not ISIS operatives, who helped Europe’s most wanted man hide from the law. “Abdeslam relied on a large network of friends and relatives that already existed for drug dealing and petty crime to keep him in hiding,” said Belgium’s federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw shortly after the capture. “This was about the solidarity of neighbors, families,” he told Belgian state broadcaster RTBF.

The problem, of course, is that there’s growing evidence of small, compartmentalized jihadist cells operating in places like Molenbeek across the European continent. These cells will be bound together by codes of conduct that put loyalty above all else. But they may not necessarily know what another cell may be plotting and planning. For law enforcement services, there is no alternative but to understand and try to infiltrate these networks. The time for excuses and maintaining that the problem is too big to contain is long over. Understaffed security services? Well, boost training and hiring programs. Not enough Arabic-speakers and people of Arab origins in the services? Well, for crying out loud, it’s time to reach out to the most economically marginalized of marginalized sections of the population. If places like Molenbeek need to be refurbished, revitalized, and reintroduced into the national mainstream, well do it, Belgium. We’re as tired of blaming Belgium as Belgians are of being blamed.

 

US Bombs Saudi Sheltered Al-Qaeda In Yemen Camp–50+ Killed

ADEN: At least 50 militants were killed in a U.S. airstrike on an al Qaeda training camp in the mountains of southern Yemen, medics and a local official said Wednesday.

The attack took place as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) recruits queued for dinner at the camp, west of the port city of Mukalla on Yemen’s south coast.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that a U.S. airstrike on an AQAP training camp had killed dozens of fighters but it gave gave no further details.

The Yemeni sources said that at least 50 people were killed and 30 wounded. The airstrikes set off huge fires inside the camp, residents said.

“The planes struck as al Qaeda people stood in line to receive their dinner meal,” a local official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by telephone.

Yemeni residents had earlier said the attack on the base was carried out by war planes from a Saudi-led coalition which over the past year had been trying to stop the Iran-allied Houthi group from completing its takeover of the country.

AQAP has exploited the war to expand its control in Yemen, seizing control of Mukalla, capital of Hadramout province, last year and recruiting more followers.

The United States regards AQAP, formed by the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni wings of the group in 2009, as one of the deadliest branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.

The group had used Yemen to plot attacks against Western targets, including an attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner in 2009.

It also claimed responsibility for an attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that killed 12 people last year, although some analysts suspect its role was more inspirational than direct.

The United States has frequently targeted al Qaeda militants across Yemen with drone strikes, killing many prominent leaders of the group over the past few years.

Pakistan Arrests Mullah Rasoul After He Outs CIA/ISI Taliban Mansour

[Arresting Taliban To Cover America’s Ass; Taliban Shootout Perhaps Claims Life of CIA/ISI Strawman Taliban Leader Akhtar Mansour]

https://i2.wp.com/www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Mullah-Rasool.jpgMysterious arrest of Taliban supreme leader’s arch rival in Pakistan

Khaama

By Ghanizada

 

A top dissident Taliban leader and arch rival to Taliban supreme leader has been arrested in Pakistan, days after he favored talks with the Afghan government, provided that Mullah Akhtar is not available in the talks.

According to the local media reports, the top Taliban leader, Mullah Rasool was arrested shortly after entering Pakistan following fierce infighting earlier this month that left almost 200 Taliban insurgents dead.

Mullah Rasool appeared to have a moderate thinking towards the reconciliation process but was strongly opposing with Mullah Mansoor’s appointment as Taliban supreme leader and his participation in peace talks under Mansoor’s leadership.

In an interview around a week ago, Mullah Rasool called the efforts to revive talks between Afghan government and Taliban group ‘Pakistani dictated’.

“Earlier we were thinking that the Afghan Government wanted peace talks with all Taliban, but when we saw that it is interested only in making peace with Mullah Mansur because of the dictates of the Pakistani Government, we decided we cannot start peace talks with the Afghan Government,” Rasool told the UK-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Insisting on exclusion of Mansoor from reconciliation process, Rasool said he considers Mansoor’s claim to leadership spurious.

Rasool had also favored the inclusion of neighboring Iran in the Afghan reconciliation process, saying the quadrilateral approach (involving US, Chinese, Pakistani and Afghan diplomats working together to re-launch negotiations with the Taliban) does not sufficiently represent the variety of regional interests.

Kuwait Follows Saudi Orders and Expels Lebanese Workers, Claiming “Hezbollah”

[Saudis continue to punish Lebanese as ungrateful slaves.  Until now, Saudi money has manipulated religious tensions in Lebanon under the guise of financial aid and political reform.  The Zionist Saudis are revealing their true natures, now that they can no longer purchase Arab and Muslim souls, not with banknotes, bombs or plain old bullying.]

Kuwait to expel 1,100 Lebanese and Syrians over ‘Hezbollah links’: report

Kuwaiti parliament Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim and his Lebanese counterpart Nabih Berri give a press conference at the Kuwait’s national assembly in Kuwait City on February 16, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / YASSER AL-ZAYYAT)

Kuwait is expected to deport around 1,100 Lebanese and Syrians over their alleged ties to Hezbollah, days after Bahrain announced a similar move in an unending conflict pitting Lebanon and the Gulf, a newspaper reported Friday.

Indianapolis Arsonists Bob and Mark Leonard Each Get 2 LIFE SENTENCES

[SEE: Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard, Robert Leonard arrested in deadly Indianapolis home explosion]

Indianapolis man gets life sentence in deadly house explosion

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Bob Leonard in 2013.

Bob Leonard in 2013. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

A judge has sentenced an Indianapolis man to life in prison without parole for his role in a 2012 house explosion that killed two people and destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes.

Bob Leonard was sentenced on Friday after being convicted of murder, arson and insurance fraud charges last month. Allen Superior Court Executive John McGauley says the life sentence came on the two murder counts.

Jurors convicted Leonard last month on all of the 51 counts he faced. Prosecutors said surveillance video, witness testimony and DNA evidence proved he was involved in the plot with his half brother and others to use natural gas to blow up a house in Indianapolis for $300,000 in insurance.

His half brother, Mark, Leonard, was sentenced in August to two life sentences.

Russia Busts IS Cell In Dagestan, Recovers 1 Ton Explosives

Russia Detains IS Militants In Turbulent Caucasus Region 

nigeria leadership

Authorities have detained a group of Islamic State militants in southern Russia’s turbulent Caucasus Mountain region of Dagestan, a news report said on Thursday.

The report said that the three militants were preparing a terrorist attack in Russia and revealed information about an abandoned house where they were keeping explosives.

It reported that about a tonne of explosives were found in the building, citing authorities in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, which borders Chechnya.
It added that for decades, Russia has struggled with a homegrown Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus Mountain regions of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

According to International Crisis Group, an anti-war organization, the insurgency has quieted down in recent years as many of the militants went to Syria to join IS and other extremist groups.

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that during Russia’s military operation in Syria, it eliminated over 2,000 rebels who had come to Syria from Russia, including 17 rebel field commanders. (dpa/NAN)

Neocon Cow Planning Further Intrigues In Macedonia

US Neocon pays a surprise visit to Macedonia

mina

nuland

United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland paid a visit Thursday to the “Vinojug” transit registration center near Gevgelija and was briefed on the challenges of Macedonian authorities and living conditions of migrants.

Nuland met with Public Security Bureau director Gorance Savovski, focusing on the current developments in the migrant crisis, future solutions towards avoiding tensions at borders along the Balkan route, registration of migrants, ways to further enhance cooperation in the management of migration flows among all stakeholders, as well as the humanitarian aspect of the crisis.

The United States salute the efforts for settlement of the migrant crisis and continue to encourage coordinated and comprehensive solutions focusing on human rights of migrants and promotion of proper and humane migration policies, the Ministry of Interior said in a press release.

During the visit to the center, Nuland also met with representatives of several international organizations and NGOs who are funded by the U.S.

The real reason for Nuland’s visit is much more sinister, as is the norm

Last time Nuland visited Macedonia, we saw the introduction of Katica Janeva and the subversion of Macedonia’s constitutional order, which continues to this day.

Nuland is troubled that several countries within the EU have broken away from U.S. orders. Brussels, Rome, Berlin and Paris are 100% under US control.

However, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw and to some extent Skopje are not, despite having Jess Bailey as our Prime Minister.

The V4 group, joined by Austria and most of the Balkan nations formed their own security plans (without inviting anyone else to the meeting). This meeting immediately stopped the flooding of muslim migrants to the continent, most of which are not even refugees.

This is the reason for Nuland’s visit, the wave of migrants cannot stop.

Here is what U.S. journalist Robert Parry writes about Nuland and her husband:

Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan have a great mom-and-pop business going. From the State Department, she generates wars and from op-ed pages he demands Congress buy more weapons. There is a pay-off, too, as grateful military contractors kick in huge money to think tanks where other Kagans work.

Parry goes on:

This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.

Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert’s brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.

What Perry is trying to eloquently explain is that Nuland is in the business of destabilization and wars. She uses her role within the US Government perfectly to destabilize nations, governments, with the end result being “major profit”. Look at Ukraine (their gold was stolen, all of it , companies worth billions over night were made worthless and handed to US corporations…).

The muslim population flooding Europe is the perfect geopolitical toy for the U.S. The CIA will have a field day using the muslim population across Europe as a proxy to destabilize any Government that does not follow US geopolitical marching orders, in the same way the CIA has been using Albanians in Macedonia.

Therefore, a visit by Nuland entails a destabilization that is not going according to plan. Don’t be too surprised if Macedonia opens the borders in the coming days. //Gorazd Velkovski

‘Logical end of Zarb-e-Azb lies in Afghanistan’

‘Logical end of Zarb-e-Azb lies in Afghanistan’

the news pak

 

Karachi

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan will remain caught in the quagmire of militancy and politics of militancy unless political solutions are offered to what are essentially political problems.

Though the entire Pakistani state seems to be putting its weight behind the Zarb-e-Azb operation as strong military action uproots terrorists’ networks in northern parts of the country, its effectiveness is stymied by the fact that around 1,500 militant leaders have crossed over to hostile territories in Afghanistan where there is no mechanism or will to take them to task.

These views were expressed by journalist and author Ahmed Rashid while delivering a lecture titled “Continuing search for stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan” at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Friday.

He said Pakistan right now had been backed into a tight corner from where it could claw its way out only if its both hands — politics and the military operation — were in sync with each other. Right now, he said, Pakistan was only relying on military action, that too without any help from across the Afghan border, which was neither enough nor a smart way to go about attaining even a degree of stability in the region.

The biggest example of this dichotomy, according to Rashid, is that the state of Pakistan feels the need to act like the big brother and host the Afghan Taliban and persuade them to talk to Kabul, the very same Afghan Taliban who hosted anti-Pakistan elements on the other side of the Durand Line.

Then there was the problem of soft influence which militant groups were allowed to wield in several parts of the country, especially Punjab, and had put Pakistan through the Pathankot incident and its aftermath, he said.

Author of five books, Rashid stated that Pakistan had been dabbling in proxy wars even before the Russian invasion. “By the time invasion actually happened, we had already been training militant leaders,” he said. “However, after Pakistan became a nuclear state, instead of being toned down, proxy elements and their use intensified. And we see the results today.”

Harbouring and using proxies by Pakistan actually prompted other countries in the region, including Iran, Central Asian states and even China, to do the same to try to maintain the balance of power. “But the liabilities they pose right now for the state far outweigh their short-lived advantages,” he said.

There were several opportunities for Pakistan to wash its hands off the proxies. “The first was right after the end of the Cold War in 1991-92. But that was when the state began moving its proxy resources to Kashmir. The second lost opportunity was in the aftermath of the 9/11. Immediately after 9/11 the state announced its resolve to fight extremism but then this policy took a U-turn in 2003 when President Musharraf called for the revival of Taliban. If you remember, between 2001 and 2003, Taliban had been defeated in the tribal areas and there was talk of reforms in Fata. This U-turn resulted in the formation of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its subsequent attacks from the Pakistani soil, on the Pakistani soil, since then.”

On the other hand, in Afghanistan, said Rashid, the US made the same mistake in 2003 that they later made in Iraq — withdrawing too soon from a war they started and leaving a weak state to fend for itself without any means to do so.

The western forces left without having created any human or state infrastructure. “Even the little employment that had been there in Afghanistan was due to the presence of Nato forces. And then they left the country worse than before and went on to endorse two consecutive rigged elections, that caused ethnic divisions to resurface in Afghanistan.”

Hence, in other words, said Rashid, a multi-pronged problem could not be resolved with a linear and over simplistic solution. This is the age of connectivity, and that is the key to finding solutions. “Until and unless all neighbours, benefactors and stakeholders connected with Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Russia, the US, Iran, Central Asian states and Taliban factions, come to the negotiating table and agree upon a power-sharing formula and Pakistan adopts strong diplomacy, we will keep tying ourselves up in knots.”

Dynacorp Mercenaries Deploy To Yemen After Blackwater/Academi Gets Their Asses Kicked

The first batch of mercenaries from the private US military firm DynCorp has arrived in the Yemeni city of Aden to replace paid militants from another American company.

The first batch of mercenaries from the private US military firm DynCorp has arrived in the Yemeni city of Aden to replace paid militants from another American company.

Under a USD-3-billion contract between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and DynCorp, mercenaries from the company are to be deployed to Yemen, where UAE forces are fighting against the Yemeni army and Popular Committees on Saudi orders, Khabar News Agency quoted an official with Yemeni Defense Ministry as saying.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the first group of the mercenaries recently arrived in the port city of Aden to replace those of Blackwater, a notorious American group now renamed Academi.

He added that the new militants included special naval forces, who entered the port of Ras Omran southwest of Aden.

DynCorp is a rival of Blackwater, which hires mercenaries and sends them to fight in foreign countries on paid missions.

Blackwater had decided to withdraw from Bab-el-Mandeb region after the Yemeni forces inflicted heavy losses on them. The UAE was forced to bring in the new mercenaries from DynCorp for the same reason.

Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March last year. At least 8,400 people have been killed so far in the aggression and 16,015 others sustained injuries. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

American extremism

American extremism

daily times pak

The case of Pakistan provides a useful measure of America’s increasing inability to sift fairy tales from reality

The fringes of the American political spectrum are becoming, simultaneously, more extreme and mainstream. Reminders of that are delivered daily via the fascistic ravings of Donald Trump, the obnoxious reality TV star who may be president by year’s end, and whose popularity is a salient expression of American decay.

The case of Pakistan provides a useful measure of America’s increasing inability to sift fairy tales from reality. Case in point: in large sections of America’s intelligentsia, media and government it has become acceptable to assert, without proof, that Pakistan is uniquely evil and that it needs to be brought to account for its interference in Afghanistan. In aid of this campaign, accusations that border on the conspiratorial are routinely deployed without challenge.

Recently, for instance, it was darkly suggested by Carlotta Gall that Pakistan should be held responsible for the phenomenon of ISIS, a point that relies on selective amnesia concerning the invasion of Iraq and its subsequent destruction under occupation. This now can now be counted among other sinister claims that are asserted as fact, without scrutiny and which form the bedrock of the charge that Pakistan is an ‘unfaithful ally’ and an ‘enemy’.

It was therefore unsurprising when, over the course of the last few months, a muscular opposition to the U.S government’s sale of eight F-16 fighter jets was mustered by elements in the U.S Senate. The chosen path of attack was predictable: that the F-16s would be used against India; that Pakistan is in league with the Taliban and also al Qaeda, and may have harboured Osama bin Laden; and that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal poses a unique disturbance in the world’s otherwise peaceful nuclear equilibrium.

On the F-16 question the Senate opposition appears to have omitted the awkward detail that the United States itself relies on those very same planes for a variety of counterinsurgency operations. Abu Musab Zarqawi, the petty thief and sex offender who founded of Da’esh, was killed, in 2006, by F-16 fighter jets back. To this day, American and coalition F-16 jets roar over Iraq as they “degrade, and destroy” the terrorist group’s presence.

The point regarding bin Laden is, similarly, bereft on substance. Consider the recent trove of bin Laden letters taken from Abbottabad and declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. A clear theme emerges in the documents: a much diminished al Qaeda incessantly complains of being under intense pressure by Pakistan’s forces; Osama, its kingpin, is reduced to scolding the two Pakistani helpers that were his lifeline to the world; and jihadists vent their frustration by obscenely calling for attacks against Pakistan and its people. While this is unlikely to satisfy Pakistan sceptics, it does neatly illustrate how the heft of facts cannot match the allure of fiction in Washington.

The Indian government, predictably, also chimed in and chided the United States for the proposed F-16 sale, cleaving to their traditional policy of reflexive opposition. The Indian minister of foreign affairs noted her “displeasure”, hinting that it would complicate what is vulgarly called the “power balance” of South Asia.

Should this be true, however, it is difficult to then argue that the signing of the celebrated U.S-India nuclear agreement and the salivating prospect of assembling F-16s in India is anything but a minus for regional stability. For the time being, the lucrative commercial prospects of Indian market have silenced any mention of such awkward realities in U.S commentary, which remains strangely preoccupied with Pakistan.

This dichotomy was acknowledged during the course of the Pakistan-themed Congressional proceedings when a representative of the Carnegie Endowment noted, “The nuclear deal that we made with India puts no limits on India’s strategic nuclear capabilities. There are no limits on the growth of its nuclear arsenal. There are no limits on its missile programme and trajectory.”

Then there is the Haqqani network. The United States is adamant that Pakistan provides succor to this group, which has been linked to countless atrocities across Afghanistan. The critique of Haqqani is on solid footing until one considers that U.S officials insinuate that were the Haqqani network to dissipate into the shadows tomorrow, Afghan stability would be all but guaranteed, and the marines could finally end their occupation by invitation with grace.

This is untrue. Over the course of the Afghan war, much ink has been expended studying this point, and it is clear that Afghan insurgency, while led by the Taliban, also has deep connections to local political struggles. This does not factor in the inability of the U.S-installed Afghan governments to provide even a semblance of governance beyond certain parts of Kabul. The shady kleptomania exhibited by Hamid Karzai’s family is still remembered with disgust by large segments of the Afghan population.

The current political situation in Afghanistan consists of an Afghan revolt that is supported by Pakistan but also an American-sponsored political process that counts in its ranks ‘rehabilitated’ war crimes suspects such as Abdul Rashid Dostum, and a NATO force that itself is no stranger to accusations of atrocities. The troubling alliance the Afghan state has forged with narcotics kingpins is also a cause for international concern (only Taliban linked drug traffickers have, so far, been targeted by the U.S Treasury). Therefore, the elimination of the Haqqani network is only a small part of a much broader balancing equation to stabilise Afghanistan.

These arguments should not be taken to mean that Pakistan’s conduct is beyond reproach. On the contrary, holding the Pakistani establishment to account for its policies, particularly its reliance on militant proxies is an issue of vital concern. Equally important to acknowledge, however, is that Pakistan’s policies are patterned very closely to those of its U.S patrons, and are more alike than dissimilar.

However, the extremism exhibited by American political system is unable to absorb or even acknowledge this widely understood problem. Instead, the popular narrative finds it convenient to lay blame elsewhere whenever convenient: Pakistan in Afghanistan; Maliki in Iraq; the Palestinians instead of Israel and so on; an endless permutation of blame rather than introspection. The steady advance of American radicalism, as epitomised by Trump and his ilk will continue to shrink the space for the rational in exchange for the cheap platitudes of making “America great again.” One can only hope that, in the event of a Trump victory, Pakistan or the ISI will not be held responsible.

 

The writer is a columnist based in Toronto. He has consulted across the Middle East and currently advises on economic sanctions related issues

50,000 Tajik/Russian Troops Practice Sealing Afghan Border

Russia, Tajikistan Hold Huge Military Drills Near Afghan Border

military dot com

Russia and Tajikistan have begun large-scale military drills close to the Central Asian state's border with Afghanistan (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/File)

Russia and fragile ex-Soviet ally Tajikistan have begun large-scale military drills close to the Central Asian state’s restless border with Afghanistan, a Tajik military official confirmed Tuesday.

A spokesman for Tajikistan’s defence ministry said the drills involved about 50,000 Tajik troops and 2,000 Russian troops, including paratroopers flown in from Russia.

“The maneuvers involve around 1,000 armored vehicles, artillery, and 32 combat and transport aircraft,” spokesman Faridun Makhmadalizoda told AFP, adding that they would continue until the end of the week.

This is the first time troops from Russia’s Central Military District have been involved in exercises in Tajikistan, highlighting Moscow’s growing unease over chaos in Afghanistan’s northern provinces.

The other Russian troops engaged in the exercises are from Moscow’s 201st military base in Tajikistan, the spokesman confirmed.

Last year a contingent of 2,500 troops from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a military bloc led by Russia and including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, also staged military exercises in the country.

Afghanistan’s northern provinces have been rattled by militancy amid government infighting in Kabul and the drawdown of the US-led military presence.

Skirmishes along the porous 1300-kilometre (810 mile) frontier Afghanistan shares with Tajikistan occur frequently.

Earlier this month the Tajik border service confirmed that one of its officers and a militant had been killed in a shootout after an armed group crossed into Tajikistan from Afghanistan.

Brit Press Amplifies the Lie of “Taliban Independence From Pakistan”

[Taliban (religious students) have always been tools of the CIA and the ISI, there to project Pakistan’s power into Afghanistan, without projecting blame for the murderous war crimes committed by them (SEE:  Taliban Have Always Been ISI Foot Soldiers, Working For the CIA).  There can be no independence from their parent paramilitary institutions in Islamabad. 

Afghan Pres. Ghani is just like Hamid Karzai, in that, both of them were there because the Pentagon/CIA wanted them there, to serve Western will.  It is a calculated seduction, intended to seduce the Afghan people into surrendering to Taliban fascism once again, and to seduce the American people into surrendering to Pentagon plans for permanent war in Southeast Asia and a permanent US presence in Afghanistan.  The Western peace ploy was never intended to foster peace in Afghanistan, but merely to make possible the placement of (some other nations’) military forces along planned pipeline routes and highways, in sufficient numbers to limit property damage to Western and Arab-financed development projects.  Everything else is just play-acting and media disinformation, intended to push the broadway production, disguised as “war” to people in love with war and Hollywood-style entertainment.  War movies have always fascinated the American public.]

In Secret Meetings, Taliban Rejected Pakistan Pressure On Peace Process

ndtv

Reuters

In Secret Meetings, Taliban Rejected Pakistan Pressure On Peace Process

File photo: A member of Afghan security forces holding up his rifle as he walks at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan February 27, 2016. (Reuters Photo)

Islamabad/Peshawar, Pakistan:  Pakistani officials threatened to expel Afghanistan’s Taliban from bases in Pakistan if they did not join peace talks this month, but the militants rebuffed their traditional patron, two officials said, casting doubt on how much influence Islamabad retains over them.

After the secret meetings with Pakistani officials about two weeks ago, the Taliban’s Supreme Council met at an undisclosed location and voted to reject the talks scheduled for early March with the Afghan government, according to a council member.

Instead, the insurgents are now pouring back into Afghanistan for what they say will be a fierce spring offensive to be launched soon.

Pakistan’s influence over the insurgents is the lynchpin to the peace plan developed over last few months by Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China to bring an end to the 15-year-old war in Afghanistan.

A Pakistani official in Islamabad said the Taliban’s recent success on the battlefield inside Afghanistan had changed the equation.

“They no longer need their Pakistan bases in the same way, so if Pakistan threatens to expel them, it does not have the same effect,” said the official, a retired military officer close to the talks.

The insurgents have won new zones of influence – if not outright control – from Afghan security forces since the United States and its allies pulled most combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, Afghan and Western officials acknowledge.

“Pakistan’s trump card – safe havens on its soil – is in danger of being snatched away,” said Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

“The Taliban have little incentive to step off the battlefield now, given recent gains and those likely to come in the next few months. In effect, why quit while you’re ahead?”

Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, said he had no knowledge of meetings with the Taliban but added, “We usually don’t know who has met with whom” in the sensitive and high-level peace initiative.

In Kabul, however, members of the Afghan government were sceptical about Pakistan’s assertions.

“Pakistan’s honesty and sincerity with regard to the Afghan peace process has always been a question,” said an Afghan cabinet member, echoing the sentiment of several officials interviewed there.

Pakistan’s military has long been accused of fostering the Taliban as a way of pursuing regional rivalry with India.

Pakistani officials, however, deny the charge and insist the government and military recognise that Afghanistan’s war threatens their own security .

“Their Dream”

A member of the Taliban’s leadership council, or shura, whose members are mostly based in Pakistan and Afghanistan but also travel between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, said rebel representatives met in Islamabad with Pakistani officials a little more than two weeks ago.

“They have asked our representatives to bring more decision-making people to the next meeting … to the meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials. This is their dream, but they will not be able to see our senior commanders,” the Taliban council member said.

A senior Pakistani security official with knowledge of the talks said: “I don’t think the talks are dead, but they are definitely plagued by a serious illness.

“The ones who are in Pakistan … We have told them repeatedly that they will have to leave if they don’t participate in the process,” the Pakistani official said..

“We have done what we can … but influence does not mean control. Those days are long gone.”

The Taliban source had knowledge of, but did not attend, the meeting with Pakistani officials in Islamabad. He was at the subsequent Taliban council meeting to decide on whether to join the peace talks.

The pro-talks camp largely comprised supporters of nominal Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, believed to be hiding in Pakistan after being shot in a leadership dispute last year and rumoured killed, and his chief rival, Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, who is believed to be in Afghanistan.

“I personally feel that Mullah Mansour and some other leaders are in favour of peace talks and they don’t want to annoy Pakistan … but they can’t make decisions without approval of other shura members,” said the Taliban council member.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declined to comment on any meetings with Pakistani representatives. He confirmed the Leadership Council meeting but would not give details.

Publicly, both the Afghan and Pakistani government are expressing hopes that peace talks can begin before the traditional Taliban spring offensive .

Pakistan’s top diplomat Sartaj Aziz spoke last week of progress in restarting talks “in coming days”.

However, Taliban commanders told Reuters that with the council’s decision, they are focusing on launching their annual fighting season with the hopes of grabbing more territory.

“We already have started focusing on the spring offensive, and that’s why the majority of the fighters and commanders are going there (Afghanistan),” said a senior Taliban figure, based in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Taliban Have Always Been ISI Foot Soldiers, Working For the CIA

[I used to wonder about Mr. Saleh, when he was Afghan intelligence boss, but now, after reading the following explanation of the Afghan Taliban, I am finally starting to see what all of Afghanistan’s neighbors have long understood.  The Taliban have always been the hands of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence.  Thanks to years of ISI treachery and double-crosses, the Taliban has now self-destructed into multiple factions, leaving only one in Pakistan’s hands.  ISI control over the Mansour faction is close to total.  All opposing factions remain cut off from ISI supply lines, because of their resistance to agency domination.  This would appear to corroborate the claims recently made by Mullah Mansour Dadullah, when he alleged that he was released from Pakistani jail and dispatched to Afghanistan with ISI orders to carry-out specific attacks and assassinations (which he refused to comply with, thus explaining the reason why he was attacked by Mansour’s thugs).]

catch news

The increase in violence was predictable. The number of foreign troops has decreased by almost 90%. By virtue of that decrease, the economy has also gone down. A lot of companies who were catering to foreign troops have nothing to do now. Obviously, the Pakistanis had kept the Taliban, supported them for this day to increase their activities and push for more gains in the battlefield.

Then there was a very turbulent but peaceful transfer of power. It didn’t go well and created a weak government. Weak in the sense that there are too many stakeholders who do not necessarily share the same vision and who are thinking about their own future. The government of Afghanistan today is under a lot of internal as well as external stress. The internal stress is stemming from the group of rivals who are in the government. The external stress is the fight with the Taliban and the continued support from Pakistan.

Against all of these negative trends there is a positive trend which is constant and that is unlike the trend in the Middle East, Afghans do not have second thoughts about their Afghan-hood, they do not have a second thought about their nationhood and the need for having a single state in the country. While the country suffers from a lot of stress, these solid foundations keep us together. What doesn’t have a solid foundation are the institutions.

You spoke about the stress that this government is facing. How long will it survive?

This government will complete its term. Unlike India and other parliamentary systems, the government in Afghanistan does not rest on the number of MPs in Parliament. The government is not under any immediate threat. The relevant question, however, is can this government create a different environment where less Afghans leave the country, where the economy grows, there are lesser attacks. We all worked towards that end. But in 2016 I am not sure we will achieve those goals.

There have been talks of new initiatives, like the one involving neighbours. How do you see them, what is their future?

There is one outlier in the 6 neighbours of Afghanistan that is Pakistan. We don’t have problems with the other 5. We have a problem with Pakistan or to put it the other way they have a perceived problem with us. What formula is a good formula to get out of this vicious circle. In the last 14 years we enjoyed good support from western countries and India but there was a void in the strategy of the Americans and other as to how to deal with the root of extremism in the region. It will be wrong to call it Afghanistan’s problems with Pakistan.

We need to isolate Pakistan. We should recognise that they are part of the problem

We may be a battleground for Pakistan based extremism today but it is a global problem. We were saying the same things in the 1990s and people did not listen to us until 9/11 happened. The rhetoric from a lot of countries with regard to Afghanistan is a repeat of the 1990s where they try to portray it as an Afghanistan-Pakistan problem. The real nature of the problem is that we are the victim and Pakistan is the perpetrator. Pakistan uses extremist groups to fight in Afghanistan, to pursue its foreign policy. The right mechanism to overcome this problem will be for us and our allies to be on one side and Pakistan on the other side.

Is that happening?

It should be 5 neighbours of Afghanistan and Afghanistan on one side and Pakistan on the other side. Look at how Iran’s nuclear deal was reached. It was five plus one. UNSC plus Germany on one side and Iran on the other side. We need a solution like that. We need to isolate Pakistan. We should recognise that they are part of the problem. A few days back, not to my surprise, because I knew it already, Sartaj Aziz said they have influence over Taliban because their leaders live in Pakistan.

You have been saying it for long…

Yes, I have been saying it for so long. Now what is left for us to provide what they call hard evidence, smoking gun, to implicate Pakistan in terror. The question has now narrowed down or widened depending on how you interpret it to geopolitics. Our western allies should not look at this as an undefinable problem. It is defined, it is terrorism.

Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammad are terrorists. These are parties who do not contest elections. These are parties who do not do grassroots work. They have very little or no political activism. They brainwash select number of youth, give them military training, preach them about afterlife, identify everyone else as enemies and then they use them as human bombs. These are not parties but groups of people used by a state for specific geo-political purposes. We are the primary victim of such industrial scale terrorism, unfortunately at the hands of our biggest neighbour.

Does President Ashraf Ghani still believe that reaching out to Pakistan will yield something good for Afghanistan, or has the strategy changed now? He had repeatedly called for closer co-operation so much so that there was the possibility of a deal between the intelligence agencies of both countries…

It didn’t work at this point of time. Maybe it will change next week. When it comes to Pakistan, I feel the policies of the Government of Afghanistan are in a hibernation mode. President Ghani went to Pakistan. He breached protocol and reached out to the Pakistan army. He broke his silence and criticised Pakistan for sponsoring urban bombings in Afghanistan. Now the question is reciprocation.

Pakistanis have reciprocated only in one area. They have paid several visits. The army chief has visited 5 times. Prime Minister of Pakistan has also visited Afghanistan. But in substance which means stopping the Taliban from doing terror acts, stopping explosive material to Taliban, denying the wounded Taliban hospitality and treatment in Pakistan, pushing them either for negotiations or capturing them and handing them over to Afghans, these are set of measurable actions which was expected and none has taken place.

Do you think that it was under pressure from Pakistan that the last chief of the NDS, Rahmatullah Nabil had to resign?

In a note which led to his resignation, he leaves an impression that’s the case. I don’t know what was the truth behind it. If Pakistan treats Afghanistan with respect and not try other things which they have been doing for the past so many years, they will achieve what they have not been able to all these years. For a lot of us, one unsellable commodity we have is our pride. And what Pakistan is doing is trying to shatter that pride.

Mullah Omar’s death may have been announced last year. His relevance died in 2001 itself

The set of people they are supporting as a set of Afghan leaders, and projecting them as real Afghans are uneducated, backward, tribal group completely dependent on Pakistan’s madrasa system.We take that as a direct assault on the Afghan pride, on our societal sophistication. Like any other nation our society is diverse. To impose a few illiterate, uneducated Mullahs upon us is not going to work regardless of the lethality of these Mullahs. A nuclear power of 200 million people, which should be soft, humble, sometimes behaves like a bully teenager in the neighbourhood.

Since the Chinese are very worried about their investments, do you think the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will bring any stability?

We have not seen any map to show how relevant Afghanistan is in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). To this date, for Afghanistan and for a lot of Pakistan, the CPEC is a slogan, a motto. There is no solid work towards it in Afghanistan and it bypasses Khyber Pakhtunwa. I don’t know its strategic value for Afghanistan. Afghanistan has always shown enormous respect to China. The hope in Afghanistan is that China as a real, deep ally of Pakistan, should influence their policy towards Afghanistan and make it softer.

China has been lately playing an important role in trying to bring the Taliban to talk. What do you make of that? And who are these groups which are coming for the talks? How relevant are they in the larger scheme of things?

I have not come across any measurable progress on that. There were a couple of initiatives, one in China, one in Islamabad, then the one in Qatar where some of Taliban came for talks. But it lacks a framework. It lacks terms of reference. These were lose and vague consultations initiated by government of Pakistan in the case of Murree, which a few weeks later faltered completely because it was revealed that Mullah Omar was not alive.

Do you think he is dead?

I think his relevance had died in 2001 and his body died in 2013. Between 2001 and 2015 when his death was announced,his myth was used by the ISI to fight the Afghans. For us he was not a factor for all those years.

Coming back to talks with the Taliban, we were discussing progress on that front...

There is no progress.

Who are these people who are involved in talks? And what kind of importance do they exercise in the Taliban structure?

Regardless of how many groups which came up after the death of Mullah Omar, at the end of the day what matters in situations like this are the resources and the foreign sanctuary. Pakistan’s sanctuary is intact for Mullah Mansour, and they are providing him with the core resources. Therefore, other groups are largely irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. They don’t get funding, training and weapons supplies from ISI. At the strategic level, things have not changed. Twenty years ago it was ISI, 15 years ago it was ISI, today it is ISI. So, when journalists and analysts try to show that there is a part of Taliban which has its own character, in my opinion it is wrong. I say so because minus the assistance of Pakistan they will hardly survive a year.

There were reports, days before Nabil resigned that he mentioned how there were serious internal problems after Mansour took over. And there was an incident where Mansour was attacked and suffered injuries. What sort of influence does Mansour exercise as the Chief of Taliban now…

I don’t buy the reports that he was wounded. The intent of those reports was to show that he can operate outside the ISI. The entire effort was to again solidify his “myth” and say he can move, fight, organise and speak. It was part of a psychological operation to create a cult, a persona for Mullah Mansour on the lines of Mullah Omar.

In reality, Mansour never attended any rally, never ventured out from the ISI safe house, never travelled to Dubai or Iran. This was all orchestrated for one purpose to create some kind of an alibi for Pakistan that look yes we may know this guy but he also has a degree of independence. So it was deceptive. I do not echo the notion that Mansour went out to calm down his fighters and he got wounded. No! He was in Karachi and maybe he travels to Quetta sometimes, he does go to Peshawar under heavy ISI protection.

Islamic State has emerged as a threat in Afghanistan…

They don’t exist in Afghanistan. But that’s a topic for another conversation.

The increase in violence was predictable. The number of foreign troops has decreased by almost 90%. By virtue of that decrease, the economy has also gone down. A lot of companies who were catering to foreign troops have nothing to do now. Obviously, the Pakistanis had kept the Taliban, supported them for this day to increase their activities and push for more gains in the battlefield.

Then there was a very turbulent but peaceful transfer of power. It didn’t go well and created a weak government. Weak in the sense that there are too many stakeholders who do not necessarily share the same vision and who are thinking about their own future. The government of Afghanistan today is under a lot of internal as well as external stress. The internal stress is stemming from the group of rivals who are in the government. The external stress is the fight with the Taliban and the continued support from Pakistan.

Against all of these negative trends there is a positive trend which is constant and that is unlike the trend in the Middle East, Afghans do not have second thoughts about their Afghan-hood, they do not have a second thought about their nationhood and the need for having a single state in the country. While the country suffers from a lot of stress, these solid foundations keep us together. What doesn’t have a solid foundation are the institutions.

You spoke about the stress that this government is facing. How long will it survive?

This government will complete its term. Unlike India and other parliamentary systems, the government in Afghanistan does not rest on the number of MPs in Parliament. The government is not under any immediate threat. The relevant question, however, is can this government create a different environment where less Afghans leave the country, where the economy grows, there are lesser attacks. We all worked towards that end. But in 2016 I am not sure we will achieve those goals.

There have been talks of new initiatives, like the one involving neighbours. How do you see them, what is their future?

There is one outlier in the 6 neighbours of Afghanistan that is Pakistan. We don’t have problems with the other 5. We have a problem with Pakistan or to put it the other way they have a perceived problem with us. What formula is a good formula to get out of this vicious circle. In the last 14 years we enjoyed good support from western countries and India but there was a void in the strategy of the Americans and other as to how to deal with the root of extremism in the region. It will be wrong to call it Afghanistan’s problems with Pakistan.

We need to isolate Pakistan. We should recognise that they are part of the problem

We may be a battleground for Pakistan based extremism today but it is a global problem. We were saying the same things in the 1990s and people did not listen to us until 9/11 happened. The rhetoric from a lot of countries with regard to Afghanistan is a repeat of the 1990s where they try to portray it as an Afghanistan-Pakistan problem. The real nature of the problem is that we are the victim and Pakistan is the perpetrator. Pakistan uses extremist groups to fight in Afghanistan, to pursue its foreign policy. The right mechanism to overcome this problem will be for us and our allies to be on one side and Pakistan on the other side.

Is that happening?

It should be 5 neighbours of Afghanistan and Afghanistan on one side and Pakistan on the other side. Look at how Iran’s nuclear deal was reached. It was five plus one. UNSC plus Germany on one side and Iran on the other side. We need a solution like that. We need to isolate Pakistan. We should recognise that they are part of the problem. A few days back, not to my surprise, because I knew it already, Sartaj Aziz said they have influence over Taliban because their leaders live in Pakistan.

You have been saying it for long…

Yes, I have been saying it for so long. Now what is left for us to provide what they call hard evidence, smoking gun, to implicate Pakistan in terror. The question has now narrowed down or widened depending on how you interpret it to geopolitics. Our western allies should not look at this as an undefinable problem. It is defined, it is terrorism.

Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammad are terrorists. These are parties who do not contest elections. These are parties who do not do grassroots work. They have very little or no political activism. They brainwash select number of youth, give them military training, preach them about afterlife, identify everyone else as enemies and then they use them as human bombs. These are not parties but groups of people used by a state for specific geo-political purposes. We are the primary victim of such industrial scale terrorism, unfortunately at the hands of our biggest neighbour.

Does President Ashraf Ghani still believe that reaching out to Pakistan will yield something good for Afghanistan, or has the strategy changed now? He had repeatedly called for closer co-operation so much so that there was the possibility of a deal between the intelligence agencies of both countries…

It didn’t work at this point of time. Maybe it will change next week. When it comes to Pakistan, I feel the policies of the Government of Afghanistan are in a hibernation mode. President Ghani went to Pakistan. He breached protocol and reached out to the Pakistan army. He broke his silence and criticised Pakistan for sponsoring urban bombings in Afghanistan. Now the question is reciprocation.

Pakistanis have reciprocated only in one area. They have paid several visits. The army chief has visited 5 times. Prime Minister of Pakistan has also visited Afghanistan. But in substance which means stopping the Taliban from doing terror acts, stopping explosive material to Taliban, denying the wounded Taliban hospitality and treatment in Pakistan, pushing them either for negotiations or capturing them and handing them over to Afghans, these are set of measurable actions which was expected and none has taken place.

Do you think that it was under pressure from Pakistan that the last chief of the NDS, Rahmatullah Nabil had to resign?

In a note which led to his resignation, he leaves an impression that’s the case. I don’t know what was the truth behind it. If Pakistan treats Afghanistan with respect and not try other things which they have been doing for the past so many years, they will achieve what they have not been able to all these years. For a lot of us, one unsellable commodity we have is our pride. And what Pakistan is doing is trying to shatter that pride.

Mullah Omar’s death may have been announced last year. His relevance died in 2001 itself

The set of people they are supporting as a set of Afghan leaders, and projecting them as real Afghans are uneducated, backward, tribal group completely dependent on Pakistan’s madrasa system.We take that as a direct assault on the Afghan pride, on our societal sophistication. Like any other nation our society is diverse. To impose a few illiterate, uneducated Mullahs upon us is not going to work regardless of the lethality of these Mullahs. A nuclear power of 200 million people, which should be soft, humble, sometimes behaves like a bully teenager in the neighbourhood.

Since the Chinese are very worried about their investments, do you think the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will bring any stability?

CPEC

We have not seen any map to show how relevant Afghanistan is in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). To this date, for Afghanistan and for a lot of Pakistan, the CPEC is a slogan, a motto. There is no solid work towards it in Afghanistan and it bypasses Khyber Pakhtunwa. I don’t know its strategic value for Afghanistan. Afghanistan has always shown enormous respect to China. The hope in Afghanistan is that China as a real, deep ally of Pakistan, should influence their policy towards Afghanistan and make it softer.

China has been lately playing an important role in trying to bring the Taliban to talk. What do you make of that? And who are these groups which are coming for the talks? How relevant are they in the larger scheme of things?

I have not come across any measurable progress on that. There were a couple of initiatives, one in China, one in Islamabad, then the one in Qatar where some of Taliban came for talks. But it lacks a framework. It lacks terms of reference. These were lose and vague consultations initiated by government of Pakistan in the case of Murree, which a few weeks later faltered completely because it was revealed that Mullah Omar was not alive.

Do you think he is dead?

I think his relevance had died in 2001 and his body died in 2013. Between 2001 and 2015 when his death was announced,his myth was used by the ISI to fight the Afghans. For us he was not a factor for all those years.

Coming back to talks with the Taliban, we were discussing progress on that front...

There is no progress.

Who are these people who are involved in talks? And what kind of importance do they exercise in the Taliban structure?

Regardless of how many groups which came up after the death of Mullah Omar, at the end of the day what matters in situations like this are the resources and the foreign sanctuary. Pakistan’s sanctuary is intact for Mullah Mansour, and they are providing him with the core resources. Therefore, other groups are largely irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. They don’t get funding, training and weapons supplies from ISI. At the strategic level, things have not changed. Twenty years ago it was ISI, 15 years ago it was ISI, today it is ISI. So, when journalists and analysts try to show that there is a part of Taliban which has its own character, in my opinion it is wrong. I say so because minus the assistance of Pakistan they will hardly survive a year.

There were reports, days before Nabil resigned that he mentioned how there were serious internal problems after Mansour took over. And there was an incident where Mansour was attacked and suffered injuries. What sort of influence does Mansour exercise as the Chief of Taliban now…

I don’t buy the reports that he was wounded. The intent of those reports was to show that he can operate outside the ISI. The entire effort was to again solidify his “myth” and say he can move, fight, organise and speak. It was part of a psychological operation to create a cult, a persona for Mullah Mansour on the lines of Mullah Omar.

In reality, Mansour never attended any rally, never ventured out from the ISI safe house, never travelled to Dubai or Iran. This was all orchestrated for one purpose to create some kind of an alibi for Pakistan that look yes we may know this guy but he also has a degree of independence. So it was deceptive. I do not echo the notion that Mansour went out to calm down his fighters and he got wounded. No! He was in Karachi and maybe he travels to Quetta sometimes, he does go to Peshawar under heavy ISI protection.

Islamic State has emerged as a threat in Afghanistan…

They don’t exist in Afghanistan. But that’s a topic for another conversation.

Hellfire Missiles Found On Civilian Airliner Travelling From Beirut to Belgrade

[US officials claimed that the warheads were “inert training dummies.”  This source claims that they were packaged as models, another reported that they were in coffins.]

Dogs found rockets with explosives

Radio Television of Vojvodina

At the airport “Nikola Tesla” in Belgrade on Saturday night found the two rockets with explosive charges that were transported from Beirut via Belgrade and London to New York.
  • Пројектили утоварени у Бејруту
  • Ракета АГМ-114

Apparently this is smuggling weapons because the rockets were packed as the school model and had such supporting documentation. However, the dogs smelled explosives in packages and by opening it was found that it is still a battlefield rockets and launched an investigation. The missiles were discovered by police dogs detected the presence of hexogen write Belgrade media.

Missiles length of 1.5 meters were in the airplane luggage on a regular line of “Air Serbia” in Belgrade who flew in from Beirut. Cases were immediately secured and an investigation was carried out.

As you learned, missiles and are not sent to Belgrade, but the final destination of the consignment should be London or New York, where he was to take them to some company that it is not excluded that the fictitious.

From “Air Serbia” confirmed that the rockets were found in a regular control at the airport.

– Cargo shipment that was transported to distant destination, previously identified at the airport thanks to strict measures of security controls. The airline assisting in the investigation. Safety and security are the main priorities of “Air Serbia” – stated in the company.

Two rockets were found last night at the airport “Nikola Tesla” in Belgrade, on the orders of the Third Prosecutor’s Office, were temporarily seized and taken away for questioning.

Former commander of the helicopter unit of the MUP of Serbia Slobodan Glavčić for N1 indicates that the two missiles were not allowed to meet in a regular shipment and must not be transported by passenger planes, because weapons are no special procedure by which carrying dangerous substances. He adds that it is necessary to examine how such a product in general, and missiles found and came to Serbia.

According to the information N1, it is about two guided missiles AGM 114, which can be installed on planes, helicopters and armored vehicles.

Military analyst Aleksandar Radic said, commenting on the fact that two rockets were found on the plane Er Serbia to the airport “Nikola Tesla” almost daily landing planes carrying military equipment, but have not transporting passengers. Problem boarding cargo is the responsibility of airport authorities and security of the country in which the aircraft receives a burden, he added.

– There are clear procedures followed by the Serbian EU acquis and adjusted their regulations to what the developed world. Defines clearly how it is transported, and in what conditions, everything belongs to the armament and military equipment – says Radic.

He said the N1, in addition to the licenses for import or export, there is a procedure of granting flights. The Ministry of Interior is in charge here, and what informs our case, the Operational Center of Defense and the estimated potential for causing some danger through a transport, Radic said. This refers to the dedicated transport by sea, land, air, and of course that means carrying something that could harm someone, it must be subject to a specific Procedure for.

Problem boarding cargo is the responsibility of airport authorities and security of the country in which the aircraft receives a burden, says Radic.

– He can “Air Serbia” or any company in the world that has its own security organs that will make these assessments, not on them … This is a debt airport and security structures of the country where the plane was boarded cargo and passengers … it is in this case the question of Lebanon and Beirut – said Radic.

Speaking about the found AGM 114, Radic said that this is a laser-guided missile that Americans use to combat helicopters “Apache, OH58D”. As he said, it should be in a combat kit squadron of 16 helicopters that would Croatia this year should have received as a donation from the US military.

Why isn’t Gen Raheel Sharif staying on as Pakistan Army chief?

Bargain: Why isnBargain: Why isn’t Gen Raheel Sharif staying on as Pakistan Army chief?

catch news

 

The race has begun. General Raheel Sharif has made it clear he won’t follow in the footsteps of many a predecessor by seeking an extension of his term as the Pakistan Army chief.

So, who would succeed him in arguably the most powerful job in Pakistan? The contest is between Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed and Lt Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat.

My money is on Ahmad. One of Gen Sharif’s first decisions after becoming the Chief of Army Staff was to appoint Ahmad as the Chief of General Staff, or CGS – essentially the CAOS’ clearing house that keeps the lines open with the two other services.

Read: Pakistan army chief blames India for LoC violations, says Kashmir part of unfinished agenda of partition

Ahmad is now the “protector” of the Sharif brothers Nawaz and Shahbaz. He commands one of the army’s two strike corps, the II Corps based in Multan, Punjab. He has also served as the Director General of Military Operations.

Lt Gen Hayat, an artillery officer, is the current CGS. He is close to the former army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani – not really Nawaz’s favourite COAS – and was his Director General of Staff.

He has also had a stint as Director General of Strategic Plans Division – short-hand for the nuclear warfare department – and served in Punjab for about 10 months commanding the 31 Corps in Bahawalpur.

Lt Gen Ahmad was Gen Sharif’s CGS, now commands II Corps in Multan. Is he is the next army chief?

Still, given the byzantine ways of Pakistan’s Praetorian Guard – the general staff – in which decision-making is opaque, one can try to predict personnel or policy at one’s own peril. But one thing is certain: neither of the two likely chiefs will be particularly friendly towards India. And with either at the helm, Indo-Pak relations will continue to chug along, blowing alternatively hot and cold.

As for which of the two lieutenants general will get the coveted job, much will depend on how Nawaz and Raheel work out the equations. While the prime minister will be seeking regime stability, the outgoing COAS will be keen to safeguard his legacy, one that’s even acknowledged by Washington, not exactly the best of friends Islamabad can have at the moment.

Invisible hand?

Raheel has shown he has purchase to seek an invitation to visit the United States – unbidden – where all the talk could have been on Afghanistan and nuclear weapons, and connected to both, India.

Also read: Pakistan army chief’s US visit expected to be more substantive than PM Nawaz Sharif’s

One should keep in mind that the Af-Pak section of Foggy Bottom is also staffed by the Pakistani establishment’s biggest suitor in Washington, Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state. She could well be the eminence grise behind the reported attempt to merge the Af-Pak division into the South Asia desk, thus re-hyphenating India and Pakistan.

The troubled US-Pak relationship has been looking up lately, and Gen Sharif is the bright spot for the people in Washington. Most importantly for them, he has taken the battle against the Taliban to North Waziristan – something that Kayani had refused to do – and even undertaken operations against the ISI’s main sword arm for Afghanistan, and even India, the Haqqani Network.

In return for not seeking an extension, has Gen Sharif secured US money and arms for his army?

Gen Sharif’s case could well have been helped by his country’s new sponsor, China, whispering a few words in his favour at the Pentagon. But what could he have wanted from the US? Is it the India-Pak re-hyphenation? Or at least a guarantee that the US will keep flowing to Rawalpindi the milk and honey of dollar bills and F-16s?

In turn, Sharif could have figured out after his visit last November that his American friends would be happier if he retired on time – not to grow roses, of course, but bide for time in a democratic way. So, his announcement after the Pathankot attack that he would be gone by the end of the year could have signaled both Beijing and Washington that a dysfunctional state is becoming functional again.

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

US/Pakistani “Peace” Scam In Afghanistan Negotiates With Terrorist Hekmatyar To Preserve Plot

[Taliban rejection of US/Pak subterfuge forces Obama’s hand, leading him to call on Hekmatyar as “Plan B.”  Now, instead of dealing with reps of former Pres. Karzai’s High Peace Council, or Ghani’s grand jirgas, or even Taliban, US-controlled negotiators now will get to pretend their sincerity in negotiating with Hekmatyar’s son-in-law, Ghairat Baheer, who endured 6 years of torture and God knows what else, at Bagram prison.  While chained in Bagram’s dungeons, CIA torturers no doubt rendered portions of his cerebrum into silly putty.  Who better to set American demands for Afghanistan than this?]

Afghan Insurgent Group Says It Is Ready for Peace Talks

voa

FILE - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani participates in "The New Beginning in Afghanistan: A Conversation with H.E. Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" at Columbia University in New York on March 26, 2015.

FILE – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani participates in “The New Beginning in Afghanistan: A Conversation with H.E. Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” at Columbia University in New York on March 26, 2015.

Ayaz Gul
An insurgent group fighting alongside Afghanistan’s Taliban has said it is ready to join political reconciliation talks with the Kabul government, despite being deeply skeptical about peace intentions of the other side.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week renewed his offer of negotiations to all insurgent groups in his bid to seek an end to the devastating war, now in its 15th year.

The United States, China and neighboring Pakistan have all welcomed and backed Ghani’s move, though the mainstream Taliban faction has rejected the offer.

‘Prepared to participate’

But in a statement released to media on Sunday, the Hezb-e-Islami (HIG) faction led by fugitive Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said it has accepted the government’s offer and is “prepared to participate in the talks to show to the [Afghan] nation it wants peace.”

FILE - This image made from video released to the Associated Press during the week of Nov. 21, 2015 shows Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now in his late 60s, in an undisclosed location.

FILE – This image made from video released to the Associated Press during the week of Nov. 21, 2015 shows Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now in his late 60s, in an undisclosed location.

An Afghan national unity government spokesman, Javed Faisal, welcomed the announcement.

“It is an important and good news because Hezb-e-Islami has for years been fighting the Afghan government,” Faisal told VOA. He urged other armed opposition groups to join the talks to help end the war.

A senior HIG official also told VOA on condition of anonymity that a two-member team has also been formed for the negotiations. It includes the group’s central council chief, Qazi Hakim Hakim, and head of its political affairs, Ghairat Baheer, a son-in-law of Hekmatyar.

The insurgent group has accused the United States of trying to sabotage Afghan peace efforts. It cited last week’s U.S. State Department announcement in which two senior HIG members were designated as global terrorists for their roles in deadly attacks in Kabul, including a bomb blast that killed six Americans.

The Obama administration has identified the two men, Abdullah Nowbahar and Abdul Saboor, as explosive experts for the militant Hezb-e-Islami.

FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2013 photo, Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard on the outskirts of in Kabul, Afghanistan.

FILE – In this Aug. 27, 2013 photo, Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard on the outskirts of in Kabul, Afghanistan.

 

It also offered rewards of up to $2 million for Nowbahar and up to $3 million for Saboor for information leading to their whereabouts.

The designation of two Hezb-e-Islami members as terrorists and offering millions of dollars reward for their arrest at a time when President Ghani has invited the group for peace talks show that Washington is not willing to end its war in Afghanistan, the Afghan insurgent group alleged in Sunday’s statement.

It also blamed certain elements within the Afghan government for opposing peace efforts, but did not elaborate.

Chinese troops likely to be positioned in Pakistan

Chinese troops likely to be positioned in Pakistan: agency

Khaama

By Khaama Press

https://i1.wp.com/www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Chinese.jpg

Chinese troops will be positioned in Pakistan to protect the 3,000-km-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that connects the Gwadar Port in Balochistan to China’s Xinjiang region, NDTV reports.

Besides, Pakistan has raised three independent infantry Brigades and two additional artillery regiments to protect the highway, security agencies have told New Delhi. A Brigade consists of least three regiments, each with about a 1,000 soldiers.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC starts from the restive Pakistani province of Balochistan, runs along the Makaran Coast turning north to connect Lahore and Islamabad, passes through Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and then runs into the Karakoram Highway, ending at Kashgar in the Xinjiang region of China.

Although China’s People’s Liberation Army or PLA will be positioned to protect the highway, its presence in Pakistan is a cause of concern for India. New Delhi has earlier objected to the presence to Chinese troops in the Gilgit-Baltistan area and a substantial portion of the additional forces being raised in Pakistan and the Chinese PLA are likely to be deployed in that area of PoK.

“We are closely watching these developments,” a top government official told NDTV, adding, “We have a fair idea of the number of Chinese troops that are likely to be positioned in Pakistan.”
There are indications that Pakistan is seriously attempting to annex this region into a fifth province of Pakistan, government sources said.

Pakistan’s moves to annex Gilgit-Baltistan have led to massive protest in the region and brutal crackdowns on the local population.

The first phase of the CPEC is likely to be functional by December 2016 and it is expected to be completely ready in three years, giving China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

The corridor is likely to be used, among other things, to transport fuel and petroleum products from the Gulf region into China. Its will shorten the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by about 12,000 km.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to build the highway and committed a whopping US dollars 46 billion for the project, during his visit to Pakistan last April.

Saudis Stalling for Time for ISIS In Mosul?

Abadi: Hashd al-Shaabi participates in Mosul liberation20 February 2016

“Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that the Hashd al-Shaabi militias will participate in the Mosul liberation operation.”

Saudis walk out of Arab League meeting after Iraqi minister´s comments

“The Saudi delegation withdrew from the meeting hall after the speech of Foreign Minister Al-Jaafari who rejected speaking against Hashd Shaabi and other resistance groups,” the source said, declining to be named.

“In his speech he said that Hashd Shaabi and Hezbollah have preserved the dignity of the Arabs and those who call them terrorists are the terrorists,” he said.

[It is obvious that Saudi staged its recent “Northern Thunder” (‘Ra’ad Al-Shamal’) war games to intimidate both Syria and Iran, but is that the scenario which was rehearsed (Why Saudis may take on Iraq’s Shiite militias)?]

Saudis Pay Pakistan $122 Million For “Northern Thunder” Air Show

Hezbollah warns Saudi Arabia with war in case of invasion in Iraq

new europe_logo

 

Saudi Arabia, together with Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and several other Arab and Islamic countries, performed the biggest military exercise in the Middle Eastern history on the Saudi-Iraqi border


The biggest Sunni military training in the Middle East called “Northern Thunder” caused the reaction of the Iraqi Shia militia group, Hezbollah.

Israeli daily, Jerusalem Post, reported that a military spokesman for Hezbollah in Iraq said that the Shia fighters will “slaughter” the Saudi forces if they try to invade Iraq.

According to the Israeli daily, ground and air forces from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and several other Arab and Islamic countries launched the biggest military training exercise in the Middle East, on the Saudi-Iraqi border. The exercise is expected to last 18 days and involves about 150 thousand soldiers.

On Thursday, military forces of the Saudi-led coalition approached the Iraqi border and Hezbollah brigades instantly started mobilizing their forces to the border.

Besides Hezbollah, Ahmed Assadi, the spokesman for Iraq’s formation of Shiite militia groups, named Popular Mobilization Units said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia should be careful when conducting drills near the Iraqi border, as it will become a “graveyard” for those who wish to violate Iraq’s sovereignty.

“We want to clearly tell them…on behalf of all the resistance fighters in Iraq, all the soldiers, that the country’s border will be a graveyard for anyone who tries to approach it or touches the Iraqi land,” Assadi said according to the Iraqi television channel Alsumaria.

The “Northern Thunder” also worries many Iraqi politicians as it takes place too close to the Iraqi borders. The exercise is expected to last 18 days and involves about 150 thousand soldiers.

According to the Russian website, Sputnik, the member of the parliamentary security and defense committee Adnan al-Asadi told the Iraqi news agency INA that Iraq has deployed “large” military forces at the border with Saudi Arabia to oversee the ongoing military training. Asadi warned that any possible violation of Iraq’s airspace will be regarded as a violation of the stated sovereignty.

According to Sputnik another Iraqi politician Iskander Vitvit, also accused Saudi Arabia, the US and Turkey of trying to divide Iraq. “These maneuvers (meaning the military exercise) are a part of the plan on Iraq’s division, supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States, in coordination with Turkey. But they are well aware that Iraq is no longer the same as before and that it is ready to fight back,” he said.

 

Saudi Arabia’s “Northern Thunder,” Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

Saudi Arabia’s “Northern Thunder,” Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

neo new eastern outlook

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The news has been abuzz before and during the ceasefire announced amid Syria’s conflict about Saudi Arabia’s possible intervention. Saudi Arabia has threatened to intervene amid incomprehensible, contradicting rhetoric, claiming that it would enter Syrian territory to “fight” IS (the Islamic State), but would do so only now because the Syrian government has refused to step down.

Of course, the only coherent forces on the ground fighting IS now are the Syrian government’s troops and Kurdish fighters who now appear to be working with Damascus. Saudi Arabia’s intervention to remove President Bashar al Assad from power would seem to work in IS’ favor, not against it. To give Saudi Arabia’s confusing threats some teeth, Riyadh announced its “Northern Thunder” military exercises which it claimed would be one of the largest military exercises ever held. The United Arab Emirates’ “The National,” would report in an article titled, “Saudi Arabia hosts joint military exercise,” that:

Armed forces from 20 countries have begun manoeuvres in northeastern Saudi Arabia, described by the official Saudi Press Agency as one of the world’s biggest military exercises. 

Troops from the other five Gulf Arab states – the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar – as well as Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Sudan are among those participating in the Ra’ad Al Shamal, or Northern Thunder, exercise, Spa agency reported. 

The military drill – which began on Saturday and involves ground, air and naval forces – will be “one of the world’s most important military exercises based on the number of forces participating and the area of territory used”, the agency said.

While that sounds impressive, with Saudi news outlets claiming some 350,000 troops were expected to participate, not a single photo or video has surfaced so far showing this impressive force in action. The entire point of mounting such monumental military exercises is to show off one’s military power to the world, not merely write about it in news articles. And more specifically, in Saudi Arabia’s case, such exercises are meant to show those nations it is trying to coerce by threat of military force just what it faces if concessions are not made.

The National Interest in an article titled, “Saudi Arabia Goes to War,” points out some obvious shortcomings of Saudi Arabia’s military that, even at face value, undermine Riyadh’s threats before they left the mouths of its diplomatic corps. In the article it states:

Tanks, combat aircraft and missiles are only as powerful as the people operating, maintaining and supporting them. And in this domain, Saudi Arabia has a very long way to go.

Not much is known about the proficiency of Saudi Arabia’s military as a fighting force. The only real war the Saudis have taken part in was Operation Desert Storm in 1991; and most of the fighting there was done by the US. More recently Saudi Arabia has been fighting in Yemen, but unsuccessfully so far. Foreign advisers speak about the difficulties in bringing Saudi Arabian soldiers to the desired combat readiness and proficiency.

The article also mentions another key shortcoming, Saudi Arabia’s overdependence on foreign soldiers filling its ranks and the high number of contractors it relies on, as illustrated in its ongoing war with neighboring Yemen.

Multiplying Complications

There are several complications that immediately undermine Saudi Arabia’s threats. It’s one thing to have an army, but it’s another thing to actually get it into another theater of war that isn’t bordering your own nation. Moving troops into Syria will require the cooperation and complicity as well as additional logistical expertise of other nations to move troops from Saudi Arabia either through Jordan and into Syria, or in large numbers to Turkey by sea and then onward to Syria.

And, it is one thing to have such capabilities to move enough troops for any sort of meaningful incursion into Syria, and quite another thing to be able to keep them armed, fueled and otherwise supplied, especially during sustained combat operations.

However, this last point could be addressed by Saudi troops simply latching on to the supply lines already in place for Al Qaeda and IS, lines likely already very familiar to planners in Riyadh, since they have helped underwrite them to begin with. Still, the unique requirements for a modern, mechanized army would need these lines expanded and augmented, something Saudi Arabia has little experience doing.

And experience is perhaps a third failing Saudi Arabia brings with it when it tries to threaten other nations of invasion. Entering into the Syrian conflict and doing anything more than seizing a buffer zone at the edge of Syria’s territory would be the first “rodeo” of its kind for Riyadh. And if such a move was considered a “rodeo,” its move into Yemen next door could be considered a “junior rodeo,” and one Riyadh has yet to finish.

Saudi Arabia’s Threat of Invasion is Cover For Something Else…

If Saudi Arabia cannot even win on the battlefield in neighboring Yemen, with fighting even spilling over the border into Saudi territory, it is unlikely it will do any better against the battle-hardened, better organized and better equipped forces of the Syrian Arab Army, let alone Russia’s presence in the country. Clearly Saudi Arabia’s phantom military exercises and posturing are cover for something else. It is likely that anything that goes over the border into Syria under the Saudi flag will be anything other than actual Saudi forces. Remember those Al Qaeda and IS supply lines mentioned earlier? What if the fighters and equipment pouring into Syria simply changed their black flags to Saudi Arabia’s?

And though Saudi Arabia’s demands for “democracy” in Syria despite the fact that Saudi Arabia itself is an absolute monarchy devoid entirely of elections, staged or otherwise, are particularly discredited, an undeserving air of legitimacy still surrounds the regime in Riyadh, perhaps enough to make it difficult for Syrian or Russian forces to attack terrorists flagged as Saudis. Consider also that while moving thousands of additional troops into the theater may be difficult, moving Saudi warplanes is not. Many are already reportedly in Turkey, standing by for operations. Saudi-flagged terrorists backed by Saudi airpower would be a particularly potent mix that could keep supply lines to terrorists fighting in Syria’s interior open long enough to break Syrian-Russian operational momentum and create a stalemate only tough concessions made by Moscow and Damascus could break.

With this possibility, it would benefit Syria and its allies to begin considering a true no-fly-zone over the country, excluding from Syrian airspace all nations (especially the Saudis and Turks) not given authorization by Damascus. The matter could be brought before the UN under the plausible pretext that Syrian troops are closing in on IS positions in Al Raqqa and the chance of mishaps are growing by the day. This is not even a ploy, because in fact, Syrian forces are closing in on Al Raqqa. Now would be as good a time as any to begin closing off Syrian airspace and helping the US and its allies back down from increasingly desperate options, saving them from themselves and their demonstrably bad judgement.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Saudis Pay Pakistan $122 Million For “Northern Thunder” Air Show

Saudis Claim “Huge” 20 Nation War Games In Northern Saudi

Saudi extends 122 million dollar economic aid to Pak

deccan chronicle

ANI

Pakistan is a member of the military alliance of Muslim countries that Saudi Arabia formed late last year to fight terrorism.

 

The signing ceremony for the grant, which includes a 67 million dollars package, took place the day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif were attending the closing ceremony of the multi-nation 'Thunder of the North' military exercise in Saudi Arabia,reports Dawn. (Photo: AP)

 The signing ceremony for the grant, which includes a 67 million dollars package, took place the day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif were attending the closing ceremony of the multi-nation ‘Thunder of the North’ military exercise in Saudi Arabia,reports Dawn. (Photo: AP)

Islamabad: Saudi Arabia has extended a financial and economic assistance of 122 million dollars to Pakistan which is the highest amount Riyadh has officially given to Islamabad in the last five years.

The signing ceremony for the grant, which includes a 67 million dollars package, took place the day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif were attending the closing ceremony of the multi-nation ‘Thunder of the North’ military exercise in Saudi Arabia,reports Dawn.

Pakistan is a member of the military alliance of Muslim countries that Saudi Arabia formed late last year to fight terrorism.

The new assistance, though insignificant, can indicate improved economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, experts said.

Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Secretary Tariq Bajwa and Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD )Yousaf Ibrahim al Bassam signed five grant agreements valuing $67 million and a loan agreement of $55 million, according to EAD. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar witnessed the signing ceremony.

However, the commitments were more than $348 million and the rest of the amount could not be disbursed due to multiple reasons.

Saudis Claim “Huge” 20 Nation War Games In Northern Saudi

[Except for the word of the lying royal bastards and their lapdog press services, we have no proof that these massive war games even took place.  Neither Pakistan, nor any other participant state has airfift capabilities capable of relocating massive amounts of armor, troops or aircraft to the Saudi desert.  Certainly, only a couple of the participating states could afford such a massive, logistical investment in currying favor with the Wahhabi kingdom.]

20 nations, including Pakistan join major military manoeuvre in Saudi

express tribune

By AFP
A file photo of Saudi military exercise. PHOTO COURTESY: WORLD TRIBUNE

A file photo of Saudi military exercise. PHOTO COURTESY: WORLD TRIBUNE

RIYADH: Armed forces from around 20 countries were gathering in northern Saudi Arabia Sunday for “the most important” military manoeuvre ever staged in the region, the official news agency SPA reported.

The “Thunder of the North” exercise involving ground, air, and naval forces sends a “clear message” that Riyadh and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region”, SPA said.

Saudi Arabia is currently leading a military campaign against Iran-backed rebels in its southern neighbour Yemen. Last December, it also formed a new 35-member coalition to fight “terrorism” in Islamic countries.

Saudi deploys jets in Turkey for anti-Islamic State fight

Sunday’s announcement also comes as the kingdom, a member of the US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group, said it has deployed warplanes to a Turkish air base in order to “intensify” its operations against IS in Syria.

SPA did not specify when the military exercise will begin or how long it will last.

However, the agency called it the “most important and largest in the region’s history” in terms of the number of nations taking part and the weaponry being used.

Twenty countries will be taking take part, SPA said.

Among them are Saudi Arabia’s five partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Chad, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal and Tunisia, it added.

A Saudi source said on Thursday that members of the new “anti-terrorism” coalition will gather in Saudi Arabia next month for its first publicly announced meeting.

Riyadh has said the alliance would share intelligence, combat violent ideology and deploy troops if necessary.

Big Saudi War Games End, Without Scaring Anyone

Saudi Arabia concludes 20-nation anti-terror military drill

Heads of state from across the Muslim world are gathered in Saudi Arabia for the conclusion of a three-week-long counter-terrorism military exercise that included 20 participating countries.

The military drills, dubbed “Northern Thunder”, took place in an area near Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Iraq and concluded Thursday. The training focused on how to coordinate combat operations and guerrilla warfare tactics among the Muslim-majority countries that are members of a larger counter-terrorism alliance announced by the kingdom in December.

Saudi state television carried images of King Salman seated alongside the heads of state of Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Senegal, Chad and Mauritania, among others.

Troops from Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sudan and Oman also took part in the Northern Thunder exercise.

NDS arrest Taliban weapons supplier, seize 7 vehicles laden with explosives

7 carloads of explosivesNDS arrest Taliban weapons supplier, seize 7 vehicles laden with explosives

Khaama

The Afghan intelligence operatives seized huge loads of weapons, ammunition and explosives by arresting a weapons supplier of the Taliban group in central Logar province of Afghanistan.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the suspected supplier of weapons to the Taliban group was arrested during a special military operation in Khoshi district.

A statement by NDS said the weapons, ammunition and explosives were loaded on 7 vehicles which were confiscated by the intelligence operatives from Dobandi village.

The statement further added that 1 Ak-47 rifle, 16 improvised explosive device, 350 kg of ammonium nitrate explosives, 48 kg of potassium nitrate explosives, 29 mortar rounds, 680 kg of drugs, 29 BM1 warheads, and various other types of explosives were seized by the intelligence operatives.

The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the confiscation of the weapons and arrest of the group’s supplier.

This comes as the Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant during the recent months with the wave of violence being unprecedented even during the winter times when the insurgents groups were normally reducing insurgency activities.

A Nation Conceived In Ignorance

Former U.S. Presidents Explain Why the Presidency is Now Irrelevant

waking times

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Dylan Charles, Editor
Waking Times

Election time is here again, and Americans are scrambling to make sense of the choices being pimped out to us by the establishment. So much hangs in the balance right now, and it’s impossible to escape election coverage as the entire world watches with bated breath. Oh, who will it be?

Recent polls suggest around 40% of Americans consider themselves to be ‘independent’ voters, which is understandable, as this nation has always been one of maverick thinkers and innovators. The conscientious, the creative and the courageous, I believe.

Yet, now we’re also well-trained, obedient, and habituated to over-indulgence in tradition and entertainment. And as it is, the powers that be are also at the top of their game when it comes to corralling the American people into the phony left/right political paradigm. And they’re better than ever at tricking Joe Public into believing that anti-establishment candidates come from establishment political parties.

People are waking up to the charade, though, and the election cycles do highlight the ever-growing demand for something better than what we have. Eventually this awakening will reach critical mass, but this storm is a long time coming.

Some of our most revered presidents and leaders have warned us that what we see and know as the outer face of the American government is hardly the true picture of the actual forces that control the American government. Many past presidents and other prominent American figures have alluded to a secret takeover of our nation that has been underway since its inception. In this model, the president is little more than a distraction, a figure head for the people to focus on while the real work is done behind the curtain.

The Banksters – Public Enemy Number One

Without honest money, un-adulterated by private entities, human civilization will be always be paralyzed by public and private debt. The banking establishment, having been working behind the scenes to accumulate political power for centuries now, has unprecedented control over world governments and world events.

Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and third president wrote:

“I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.” —Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President (1801–1809) in a letter written to John Taylor on May 28, 1816

Furthermore, former Vice-President and U.S. Senator John C. Calhoun remarked in a speech given on May 27, 1836:

“A power has risen up in the government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various powerful interests, combined in one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in banks.” – John C. Calhoun, Vice President (1825-1832) and U.S. Senator

After president Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, giving formation to our private central bank, he is quoted to have shown considerable remorse in the following statement:

“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” – Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President (1913-1921)

Wilson went on to confide in his memoirs other things that were of concern to him regarding the hidden power structure in America:

“Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something.  They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.” – Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, The New Freedom, 1913

Franklin D. Roosevelt warned us also of the heavy influence of the banking elite on national politics in this statement:

“The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933–1945), in a letter to Colonel Edward M House dated November 21, 1933, as quoted in F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, 1928-1945.

The Military Industrial Complex, Secret Societies and the Deep State

In addition to the secretive banking powers in the US, the true power structure in America is also made up of a complex web of corporations, secret societies, think-tanks, and influential people, and this network has been exposed as well by many former leaders.

In 1913, former president Theodore Roosevelt shared his perception of how true political influence works:

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.  To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”— Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography, 1913 (Appendix B)

References to a hidden hand played by the Illuminati and Freemasonry extend all the way back to our first president, George Washington, who himself was a known member of several secret societies.

“It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am. The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may… actually had a seperation [sic] of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.” – George Washington, 1st President of the United States (1789–1797), from a letter that Washington wrote on October 24, 1798, which can be found in the Library of Congress.

President Eisenhower, in his farewell address in 1961 warned of the entrenchment of the military industrial complex:

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. President 1953-1961

Finally, former president John F. Kennedy made these poignant remarks the same year in 1961:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings… Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe… no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent… For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day.It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.” — John F Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, from a speech delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961 and known as the “Secret Society” speech (click here for full transcript and audio).

Final Thoughts

We don’t really elect our leaders, as it is now. We select people to work as agents of the Deep State, a shadowy unelected agency of interests and figures much more powerful than any elected stooge. The charade of American presidential politics is more of a drain on our society than an opportunity for renewal.

As John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, recently put, ‘does the next president matter?’

It isn’t so much about who next sits in the Oval Office or even changing the mechanics of economics. It is about changing the ideas, the dogmas that currently drive politics and economics: debt and fear, insufficiency, divide and conquer. It is about moving from ideas about merely being sustainable to ones that include regenerating areas devastated by agriculture, mining, and other destructive activities. It is about We the People taking control. It is about a revolution in consciousness and actions. It is about making the transition from a Death Economy to a Life Economy.

A turning point in the American revolution occurred when Thomas Paine helped change the perceived reality by writing, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day that my child may have peace.” This is another time of crisis, a time to follow Paine’s advice. It is a time to own up to our power and not expect the president or any other politician to change the world for us. It is a time for us to act in ways that will assure peace for our children.” – John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitmen

When the people of this nation and of this world are one day truly ready for something other than the corrupt and dangerous government we have, then, as history tells us, an unfathomable great change will come seemingly over night, without us even turning out to vote.

Read more articles from Dylan Charles.
About the Author

Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of WakingTimes.com, the proprietor of OffgridOutpost.com, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. He may be contacted at wakingtimes@gmail.com.

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This article (Former U.S. Presidents Explain Why the Presidency is Now Irrelevant) was originally created and published byWaking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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The Pakistani Taliban That the Army Missed Continue Their Sedition In Peshawar

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.sandiegouniontrib.com/img/photos/2016/03/07/62d2c56f2379790c920f6a706700c39f_tx600.JPEGVolunteers carry an injured man to a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, March 7, 2016. A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to a court in a northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing many people, police said. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)The Associated Press

Taliban Suicide Bomb Attack on Pakistan Court Kills at Least 10

nbc-logo

Suicide Attack Creates Scenes of Carnage at Court Compound

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — At least 10 people were killed Monday in a suicide attack on a court complex in northwest Pakistan.

A Pakistan Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred in the Shabqadar neighborhood of Charsadda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA) said it carried out the killings to avenge the hanging of a death-row prisoner regarded by some as a hero of Islam.

Image: Victim of bombing in Pakistan
Volunteers carry a wounded victim of Monday’s suicide bombing to a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan. HASHAM AHMED / AFP – Getty Images

 

“A suicide bomber tried to enter the judicial complex but he blew himself up at the main entrance when police stopped him,” local police chief Sohail Khalid told NBC News.

The dead included four women and two police officials while 27 others people were injured, he said.

“The police responded very well and one of them tried to physically overpower him and stop him from entering the main place where hundreds of people including judges, lawyers and others were present,” Khalid said.

At least 9 of the injured were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, spokesman Jamil Shah said. ‎”We declared an emergency at the hospital to provide better treatment to victims of the blast,” he said. “‎We received ‎nine injured, including two females, two males, two children. One lady died of her injuries.”

‎The area where the blast took place is close to Mohmand tribal region where TTP-JA has been involved in attacks against the Pakistani security forces and government installations.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the group, said it Monday’s attack was meant to avenge the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed former Punjab governor Salman Taseer in the name of defending Islam. Taseer had been accused of blasphemy.

“The judiciary has brought itself in confrontation with the Taliban,” he said. “Qadri’s sacrifice will not go into waste. More attacks on judiciary are planned.”

France Honors Saudi Prince For Pretending To Fight Terrorism and Extremism

hollande-saudi-prince.jpg

Saudis Awarded France’s “Highest National Honor” For “Fight” Against Terrorism

mina

There is perhaps no more perverse relationship in the world than that which exists between the West and Saudi Arabia – or, “the ISIS that made it,” as Kamel Daoud, a columnist for Quotidien d’Oran, and the author of “The Meursault Investigation” calls the kingdom.

We’ve been over and over the glaring absurdity inherent in the fact that the US and its partners consider the kingdom to be an “ally” in the fight against terrorism and you can read more in the article linked above, but the problem is quite simply this: the Saudis promote and export an ultra orthodox, ultra puritanical brand of Sunni Islam that is virtually indistinguishable from that espoused by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and many of the other militant groups the world generally identifies with “terrorism.”

Wahhabism – championed by the Saudis – is poisonous, backward, and fuels sectarian strife as well as international terrorism. That’s not our opinion. It’s a fact.

But hey, Riyadh has all of the oil, so no harm, no foul right?

Even as the very same ideals exported by Riyadh inspire the ISIS jihad, the kingdom is so sure it has the political world in its pocket that it sought a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, even as the country continues to carry out record numbers of executions.

They even had the nerve to establish what they called a 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism in December. Of course the members don’t include Shiite Iran (the Saudis’ mortal enemy) or Shiite Iraq, both of which are actually fighting terror rather than bombing civilians in Yemen and engaging in Wahhabist proselytizing.

But while everyone in the world is well aware of just how silly the “alliance” is, the farce will apparently continue as French President Francois Hollande on Friday awarded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif France’s highest national honor, the Legion of Honor for “for his efforts in the region and around the world to combat extremism and terrorism.”

This is the same Francois Hollande whose country was attacked not four months ago by fighters inspired by the very brand of Islam the Saudis teach.

This is like giving Obama a Nobel Peace Prize…. oh wait…

There are no words.

Erdogan’s Anti-Gulen Witch-hunt Devours Zaman News

See how a Turkish newspaper transformed into a government ‘propaganda machine’ overnight

business insider

zaman
Wikimedia Commons

The first issue of Turkey’s largest opposition newspaper, Zaman, was released Sunday since it was seized by the government in a midnight Saturday raid. It was met with widespread condemnation.

As many noted on Twitter, the paper’s front page appeared to have transformed overnight into a “propaganda machine” for the regime. It mentioned nothing about the raid on Zaman’s headquarters the night before and featured headlines praising the government’s work on a new bridge and its strengthening business ties with Iran.

Here is the cover:

The last “free” issue of Zaman was released the day before it was seized. The headline read, “Constitution suspended,” above an excerpt from Turkey’s constitution that forbids seizure of printing houses and press equipment:

Many of Zaman’s journalists were preparing for the raid after a court ordered that the paper be confiscated for allegedly acting as a mouthpiece for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETO/PDY).”

The “parallel state structure” is what Turkish President Recep Erdogan calls the Gulen movement – a social movement led by the Turkish scholar and preacher Fethullah Gulen that is openly critical of Erdogan’s government.

It is not the first time Zaman has been targeted. Zaman’s then-editor in chief, Ekrem Dumanli, was arrested in December 2014 on charges of forming and leading a terrorist organization. He he was released five days later.

Sevgi Akarcesme, editor-in-chief of Zaman’s English-language counterpart Today’s Zaman, was put on trial in August after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a member of the ruling AKP party, sued her for “insulting” him on Twitter. Akarcesme had tweeted that “Davutoglu, the prime minister of the government that covered up the corruption investigation, has eliminated press freedom in Turkey.”

Zaman’s management and editorial boards have been replaced by a three-member board consisting of pro-government “trustees.” The paper’s current editor-in-chief, Abdulhamit Bilici, had his contract voided by the trustees.

In a statement, US State Department spokesman John Kirby called the takeover “troubling.”

If Afghan “Peace Talks” w/Taliban Is Last Resort, Then India Will Prepare For More War

How, with Afghan peace plan at abyss edge, war looms for India

the indian express

Inside Afghanistan, many see Dand-i-Ghori as an abyss that the peace talks could fall into — and should that happen, India too could pay a heavy price.

Written by Praveen Swami

afghanistan peace process, afghanistan news, world news, taliban, afghan taliban, afghanistan taliban attack, latest news Afghan policemen stand guard at the site of a suicide bomb attack in an area near the Russian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 20, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

Last autumn, as the largest Taliban military campaign since 1996 swept across Afghanistan, the white-and-black flag of the Islamic Emirate began to fly over the bazaar in the small of town of Postak. Baghlan province, where the town is located, was once home to rich coal mines and rolling sugarbeet fields — as well as a giant military base that guarded the routes into the heart of the country’s anti-Taliban stronghold, Mazar-e-Sharif.

The town hadn’t fallen, though: Baghlan’s Dand-i-Ghori district had been handed over to ethnic Pashtun tribal leaders in a deal brokered by the country’s Borders and Tribal Affairs Minister, Gulab Mengal, with President Ashraf Ghani’s approval.

Like so many of President Ghani’s peace moves, things didn’t quite work to plan: the new Taliban leaders ordered girls out of school, stopped the teaching of some subjects, and imposed shari’a laws. Taliban anthems were played over public address systems. And Dand-i-Ghori became the base for the build-up that helped the Taliban overrun the city of Kunduz last year.

“The accord increased the morale of the enemy, certifying their right to the district,” Baghlan provincial council member Muhammad Hanif recently said. “It was a poisoned deal.”

Today [Monday], Kabul had hoped to begin to engage the Taliban in another round of Pakistan-brokered talks inside days. But the Taliban leadership has said it would not be participating, even though hopes are high Pakistan would be able to draw in powerful factions. Kabul, diplomatic sources say, is considering proposals to call off military operations against the Islamist insurgency in districts it now dominates, creating what will be called “safe zones”.

Inside Afghanistan, many see Dand-i-Ghori as an abyss that the peace talks could fall into — and should that happen, India too could pay a heavy price.

For one, these safe zones could potentially become bases to train and finance anti-India jihadists. Even more important, a deal would almost certainly involve a diminished strategic relationship between India and Afghanistan — which, in turn, would mean India has one fewer lever with which to pressure Pakistan for action against terrorism.

Last week, five suicide attackers targeted the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, the second strike this year on New Delhi’s diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s intelligence services believe this attack, like the others before it, were likely carried out by Pakistan-based jihadists. They were aimed at evicting Indian influence from Afghanistan’s life — part of the fee Pakistan is demanding for bringing the Taliban to the table.

Afghan leaders insist they are not planning to cede territory to the Taliban — but the facts on the ground aren’t comforting. In February, Afghan forces abandoned their bases in Helmand province’s northern districts, Musa Qala and Nawzad. The forces, the Afghan military says, were needed to reinforce bases at the provincial capital, Lashkargah, and at Gereshk, a small town that sits on the highway linking Kabul to the country’s south.

In practice, this means conceding two more of Helmand’s 15 districts — eleven of which are already held or contested by the Taliban — to the insurgent leadership. Helmand is one of Afghanistan’s most productive sources of opium, and ceding control of its administration would give the Taliban a secure revenue source.

Karmi Atal, the head of Helmand’s provincial council, is among many local residents who suspect a sellout looms.

“We want to clearly tell [Taliban chief] Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, his rival Mullah Ghulam Rasool, the Afghan defence and interior ministers, and even the Afghan president that they do not own our land,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Our land belongs to all Afghans so only they have the right to decide its future.”

***

These voices may have moral right on their side — but events are being driven by the cold calculations that the United States, China and Pakistan are making. Following a meeting on February 23, representatives of the three countries along with Afghanistan — which together constitute what is called the Quadrilateral Coordination Group — invited “all Taliban and other [armed] groups to participate through their authorised representatives in the first round of direct peace talks with the Afghan government”.

Islamabad is expected to host the first round of the dialogue — following on from earlier meetings involving the QCG and the Taliban in Pakistan’s Murree resort-town last summer — in the first days of March.

The dialogue process is driven by the great powers’ belief that Afghanistan’s 170,000-odd military just doesn’t have the numbers, equipment or morale to hold the ground. Faced with assault, records a classified report prepared for President Ghani, which was accessed by The Indian Express, the two battalions 209 Corps tasked with defending the lines of access to Kunduz simply “abandoned their base”. The troops, the investigation found, failed even to “preserve and maintain their equipment”.

In many regions, police and militia — tasked with holding ground while the military stages conventional anti-insurgency operations — haven’t been paid for months.

Last year, a staggering 11,002 civilians were injured or killed, up 4% from last year — so Afghans will likely be willing to pay almost any price for a reduction in violence.

For the talks to succeed in reducing violence, though, two assumptions have to be realised. First, Pakistan will need to corral Mullah Akhtar Mansur’s Taliban faction to the table, possibly along with second-rung groups like the Hizb-e-Islami. This, the argument goes, will put pressure on other factions, too.

Second, Islamabad will have to rein in so-called “irreconcilable” groups, or hardline jihadists, by using the coercive tools of its intelligence services.

In order to persuade Pakistan to do this, the Quadrilateral Group has two carrots in hand. President Ghani is known to be willing to bargain away his country’s increasingly close strategic relationship with India — which, in recent months, has seen the first supplies of Indian military aid to any foreign country. The safe zones proposal, in turn, will give Pakistan something with which to tempt its long-standing Taliban allies to the table.

It seems improbable though, that many Quadrilateral Group diplomats would stake their retirement funds on this outcome. The rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, as well as the splintering of the Taliban, so far seems to be leading to greater violence, with the rebels stepping up their campaign to seize the Taliban’s lead role in the insurgency.

The Taliban leadership knows, moreover, that joining in negotiations could lead its field commanders — warlords flush with opium revenues, and with little to gain from a peace deal — to abandon their ageing, Pakistan-backed leadership.

For its part, Islamabad cannot take the risk of mounting too much pressure on the Taliban, for fear of provoking its cadre to help jihadists operating against the Pakistani state.

Like so many past Afghan roadmaps for peace, chances are this one too could end up leading back to the battlefield — and to bloodshed that will continue until one side finally prevails. India, which has enormous stakes in Afghanistan’s future, will have to be prepared for the long war ahead.

a façade of peace

UNO: a façade of peace

daily times pak

The UN facilitates endless rounds of doomed negotiations between powers who will never agree because they have opposing interests

Recent history is strewn with how Pakistani establishment, its bureaucrats, its politicians, both of the right and the left, variety hide behind the controversial veil of the United Unions (UN) to maintain the status quo. When issues of conflict and diplomacy unravel out of their control they conveniently jump on the UN mantra, and its plethora of resolutions despite having no faith in this institution’s ability to resolve anything in reality. While thousands of innocent Kashmiris over the last seven decades have been killed or maimed on both sides of the border with indiscriminate firings including four full-scale wars, the UN could only table resolutions exposing its inadequacy. All this has only enabled dominating states of the region to continue brutal occupation and allowed Kashmiri nationalists to cower behind UN’s façade of peace and as an institution that could resolve conflicts. The national and economic oppression of Kashmiris has gone on unabated.
The role of the UN in the Middle East is even more horrific. Despite over 250 resolutions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict it has miserably failed to stop genocidal elimination of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Its role in Afghanistan is no different. The UN stood as a spectator while Afghanistan burned under the US and western imperialist-backed reactionary clergy in the 1980s and 1990s, and then subjugated to a barbarity of the Taliban never seen before. The horrific murder of Dr Najib Ullah by the Taliban, and mutilation and hanging of his body from a lamppost in Kabul overran the UN compound in Kabul revealed the fallacy of relying on the UN. This unfortunate country has been under direct US and western military occupation for over 14 years now under the direct authorisation and legitimacy of the UN. One can comprehend why the right sings hymns in praise of the UN but the left doing this is nothing but an outright betrayal and creating false illusions amongst the masses whether it is in Afghanistan, Palestine or Kashmir.
The same story is also true in the western politics. Foreign policy is always an extension of domestic policy. The bourgeois politicians who slash the welfare state, attack trade union rights and suppress protests at home use the same methods abroad in their pursuit of profits for their banks and big corporations. ‘Diplomacy’ is a means of dividing the loot of the exploited workers of the world, particularly in the former colonies. The UN simply is another arsenal in their stock to control and plunder. An imperialist action does not become less imperialist because it has the approval of this institution. A UN resolution is only there to sow the illusion that war is just.
The UN is governed by the main imperial powers (France, China, Russia, the UK and the USA) and can only act when these powers agree. There are very few military conflicts in which all these five powers find themselves on the same page and, consequently, the UN very rarely intervenes anywhere. As Ted Grant pointed out, “Since the Second World War, there have been wars every year, and in everyone, the United Nations has been unable to take action.” The UN ‘peacekeeping’ forces seem to resemble a man trying to mop up a flood with a hand sponge, so relentless is capitalism’s drive to war and chaos. Earlier Lenin had characterised the similar ‘League of Nations’, as “a group of beasts of prey…do not at all trust one another…” (A Thieves’ Kitchen)
The UN was founded as a result of an agreement between the ‘victor’ imperialist powers and the bureaucratic caricatures of socialist states in 1944-45 at Yalta, Tehran and Potsdam when Roosevelt, Stalin and Truman divided the spoils of the Second World War and laid the foundation for the UN. Today the UN is merely a concubine of the five veto-wielding permanent members, and in particular that of the US imperialism. It acts in accordance to the interests, desires and wishes of these bosses. It is in reality a debating club of the elite leaders who oppress billions across the planet. It is a place infested with horse trading, exchange of favours and buying of votes in the General Assembly with promises of aid, the bulk of which regularly winds up in the pockets of state and political elites. The recent controversial appointment of Saudi Arabia as the Chair of the UN Human Rights Panel is without drawing conclusions for what this implies about the UN itself. The Independent noted that “the Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a ‘macabre spike’ in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year.” It is entirely clear that the Saudis have been given this position in an attempt by the western powers to improve relations after recent deals with Iran.
Evidently, the UN has no power or interests of its own to somehow stop the endless violence of capitalism. Those who call for UN approval to legitimise imperialist bombing of other countries believe there has not been enough talking and that we are too quick to rush to action. Not enough talks! The UN facilitates endless rounds of doomed negotiations between powers who will never agree because they have opposing interests as can be seen by divisions in all UN bodies. The record of Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty speaks volumes on this as it not been able to prevent many countries from developing nuclear weapons. Similarly, the UN-sponsored climate change treaties are routinely ignored by all the polluting powers. Israel ignores what the UN says on its borders, and gets away with it. The UN issues plaintive reports about the humanitarian disaster engulfing Yemen thanks to Saudi bombing, but will do nothing because the US backs this action. It is likely that Assad has now used chemical weapons even after promising to hand them all over to the UN, but nothing will be done since the main powers cannot agree on what to do. The same situation prevailed in the 1960s and 1970s when US imperialism was carpeting Indo-china with cluster bombs.
It is an institution that plays on national divisions. All serious issues in politics and society are resolved by wars and revolutions. The imperialists are waging those endless wars. The proletarian vanguard is preparing for revolution. There is no magic power to the UN. This body is nothing but a group of disunited nations that plays on national divisions. It merely serves as an instrument for buying time and diplomatic cover for the imperial designs of the capitalist powers. Leon Trotsky argued long ago:
“The bourgeois states do not divide themselves into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ of peace — especially since ‘peace’ as such does not exist. Each imperialist country’s paramount concerns are protecting and furthering its economic interests and in the process it will trample on almost anyone that comes in its way.”

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at lalkhan1956@gmail.com

The Powderkeg Has Been Lit—EU Set To Explode On Greek Border

[In order to save itself, Europe must lose its soul.  Scholars have long foretold of the day when Europe would be overrun by poor, dark-skinned folks seeking nothing more than safety or self-betterment (THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS ).  Seeking to escape the dirty drudgery of day to day menial labor, post-colonial Europeans were ecstatic to see slave-labor imported.  Now that the cumulative effects have been made plain for all to see, it is safe to pull aside the mask of “humanitarianism,” exposing the great dangers hidden within (SEE:  EU Prepares for Mass-Deportation of Economic Refugees ).]

Greek governor urges state of emergency as thousands of migrants stranded at Macedonian border

Russia-Today

A migrant (C) arranges a blanket among tents at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 5, 2016. © Alexandros Avramidis
A regional Greek governor has urged Athens to declare a state of emergency at the Idomeni crossing on the border with Macedonia, where thousands of migrants are stranded. The former Yugoslav Republic allows only small groups of asylum seekers across.

The Governor of the Greek region of Central Macedonia, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, said Saturday that his region is unable to cope with migrant influx, which, according to his estimates, amounts to some 60 percent of the total number of migrants in the country.

While the region is equipped to deal roughly with 2,000 migrants, more than 20,000 are now waiting to continue their journey, with some 13,000-14,000 people trapped in Idomeni on the border with Macedonia, with another 6,000-7,000 held in reception centers.

“It’s a huge humanitarian crisis. I have asked the government to declare the area in a state of emergency,” Tzitzikostas said, reasoning that emergency measures would pave the way to secure emergency supplies and food for those in need. He also called on the government to provide a comprehensive plan on migration crisis.

“This cannot continue for much longer,” he said as the neighboring country only let in roughly 300 people on Friday and Saturday. Overall, Macedonia allowed some 2,000 people through its borders in the last two weeks.

“The former Yugoslav republic needs to open immediately to borders and the European Union needs to implement severe action against the countries that are closing borders today, whether they are members of the European Union or candidate members,” Tzitzikostas said. “This is unacceptable what they are doing.”

Tzitzikostas’ plea comes ahead of the European Union – Turkey refugee-crisis summit on Monday, where Tzitzikostas hoped leaders can hammer out proportional distribution between the countries.

Meanwhile Dimitris Avramopoulos, Europe’s migration commissioner, announced that “in a few weeks,” the Brussels will announce the EU’s new asylum regulations to ensure a “fairer distribution of the burden and the responsibility.”

But until that happens, the commissioner warned that another 100,000 migrants will arrive to Greek shores by the end of the month.

 

Even Mansour’s Qatari Taliban Reject Peace Talks Through Qatar “Office”

Taliban rejects offer to attend Afghan peace talks

Xinhua net

Xinhua, Editor: huaxia

KABUL, March 5 (Xinhua) — Taliban outfit once again rejected the offer for peace talks as meaningless practice, saying no official from Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (name of ousted Taliban regime) would attend the process, a statement of the armed group sent to media outlets on Saturday said.

“Neither the Islamic Emirate leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor has authorized anyone to attend the talks nor the Islamic Emirate leadership council decided to do so,” the statement categorically stated.

The four-nation talks of Afghanistan, Pakistan, U.S. and China in its fourth round conference in Kabul recently announced that direct talks between Afghan government and Taliban are expected be held in the first week of March in Pakistan.

“Once again we repeat our stance that no talks would deliver unless and until the foreign occupation of Afghanistan is over, name of Taliban leaders deleted from black list and Taliban detainees are freed,” Taliban noted in the statement.

It also noted that the political office of Taliban in Qatar has not been taken into account and the U.S.-led coalition of foreign forces are still fighting in Afghanistan and killing Afghan people.

Taliban militants, who have frequently rejected the offer for peace in the past years, in the statement called upon media outlets not to attribute any comment on Taliban with regard to peace talks unless confirmed by the outfit’s official spokespersons or its liaison office.

 

Syrian opposition groups seek Russian protection from ISIS

Syrian opposition groups seek Russian protection from ISIS – MoD

Russia-Today

 

Russia's Su-25 aircraft take off from Hmeimim airbase escorted by Syria's MiG-29 fighter jets.© Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation

A number of Syrian opposition groups are seeking Russian protection from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists who are on the hunt for those who signed the ceasefire deal, according to the Russian military.

Russian servicemen at the Hmeimim military base in Syria © Dmitriy Vinogradov Syria truce center launched at Khmeimim airbase, Russia hands over hotline contact to US “They are asking us to provide their security and defend them from militants of the ISIS group and other terrorist organizations who declared a manhunt for opposition figures signing ceasefire agreements,” the head of the Russian truce center in Syria, Lieutenant General Sergey Kuralenko told reporters on Saturday.

“From our part, we will help ensure the security of the leaders of the Syrian opposition units and heads of local administrations who signed agreements to end fighting and to start the reconciliation process,” he added.

Kuralenko also said that Russian representatives have held 23 meeting with opposition forces since opening the Russian Reconciliation Center at the Khmeimim air base last week.

Meanwhile a number of Syrian opposition factions proposed that a group be created to work on a draft constitution during a Saturday meeting held at the base. The meeting included members of the movement For Democratic Syria, leader of the National Conference and religious leaders from various groups, according to TASS news agency.

Participants of the meeting agreed that according to a new constitution Syria should be a sovereign and secular state.

“Despite the remaining disputes, the meeting participants share common views on Syria’s future. It is a secular state with its maintained integrity and sovereignty,” TASS cited an unnamed participant of the meeting as saying.

The parties at the conference are said to have stressed that the ceasefire pushed for the launching of political dialogue in Syria and praised Russia’s role in peace efforts.

“We know that Russia is playing a great role in reaching cessation of hostilities in the Syrian Arabic Republic and exerting pressure on all the parties of the conflict to establish peace. Russia is communicating with all parties to encourage them for political solution (of the conflict), said Sheikh Anas Taual, moderate opposition leader from the town of Baila in Damascus province. The comments were released by the Russian Defense Minister Saturday.

The ceasefire in Syria, pushed for by Russia and the US came into force last week with the UN Security Council having adopted a resolution that endorsed the cessation of hostilities between parties of the conflict. The ceasefire does not include internationally recognized terrorist organizations such as IS and Al-Nusra Front.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s website, around 30 opposition groups joined the truce and six more are now discussing possible armistice. At the same time the ministry every day registers violations of the ceasefire – with most of them committed in the Aleppo province.

EU Prepares for Mass-Deportation of Economic Refugees

EU ponders ‘large-scale’ deportations for migrants

the oregonian


A woman crosses her hands as migrants block a railway during a protest demanding the opening of the border between Greece and Macedonia in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

By The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Turkey is under growing pressure to consider a major escalation in migrant deportations from Greece, a top European Union official said Thursday, amid preparations for a highly anticipated summit of EU and Turkish leaders next week.

European Council President Donald Tusk ended a six-nation tour of migration crisis countries in Turkey, where 850,000 migrants and refugees left last year for Greek islands.

“We agree that the refugee flows still remain far too high,” Tusk said after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

“To many in Europe, the most promising method seems to be a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece. It would effectively break the business model of the smugglers.”

Tusk was careful to single out illegal economic migrants for possible deportation, not asylum-seekers. And he wasn’t clear who would actually carry out the expulsions: Greece itself, EU border agency Frontex or even other organizations like NATO.

Greek officials said Thursday that nearly 32,000 migrants were stranded in the country following a decision by Austria and four ex-Yugolsav countries to drastically reduce the number of transiting migrants.

“We consider the (Macedonian) border to be closed … Letting 80 through a day is not significant,” Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzals said.

He said the army had built 10,000 additional places at temporary shelters since the border closures, with work underway on a further 15,000.

But a top U.N. official on migration warned that number of people stranded in Greece could quickly double.

Peter Sutherland said the “inevitable consequence” of closed borders throughout the Balkans “is that Greece increasingly becomes a camp for refugees and migrants.”

About a third of migrants trapped in Greece are at the village of Idomeni, on the border with Macedonia. Dwellers at a sprawling camp there hold out hope for crossing in increasingly difficult conditions.

Greek police said 130 people were allowed to cross the border Thursday.

Migrants said Macedonia didn’t accept computer-generated stamps issued by the Greek police, and therefore they couldn’t prove their identity documents were genuine.

Adnan Abdallah from Syria had waited to cross from Greece to Macedonia for three days, but when he finally was let through, he was turned back because the stamp on his refugee document is computer-generated.

“They say here (in Greece) everything is OK, but on the other side this is not acceptable,” he told The Associated Press.

The EU is struggling to hold its members to plans for a Europe-wide solution in dealing with the mass migration.

Hungary has already called a referendum on EU plans for a mandatory quota system for settling migrants, and says it’s was considering action to bolster its border fences with additional police and military personnel, and extending the fence to the Romanian frontier.

Earlier Thursday, Tusk told officials in Athens that Europe had little chance of resolving the crisis without full respect of controls on the external borders of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area — signaling pressure on Athens to do more to separate economic migrants from those fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

He also had a direct message for them.

“I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants, wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe,” Tusk said.

“Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing. Greece, or any other European country, will no longer be a transit country.”

— The Associated Press

Afghan Taliban Reaffirm Steadfast Refusal To Negotiate w/US Occupation

Afghan Taliban Refuse Peace Talks With Government

abcnews_logo_v2

The Taliban said Saturday they will not participate in a peace process with the Afghan government until foreign forces stop attacking their positions and leave the country.

A statement emailed to The Associated Press by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents “reject” peace talks and that reports of their participation were “rumors.”

Face-to-face talks were expected to take place in Pakistan in early March, but Afghan officials said in recent days that they have been postponed for at least a week. Senior government officials had characterized the meeting as the first real step in a peace process aimed at ending the war, now in its 15th year.

Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said the government “has no problem holding the first round of direct peace talks.”

The Taliban have meanwhile accused the United States of boosting troop numbers and carrying out airstrikes and night raids on residential compounds. They also accuse Afghan forces of stepping up operations.

Mujahid said the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, had not given any order to take part in talks and that the “leadership council of the Islamic Emirate” had not discussed the matter.

The talks were decided on by delegates of four countries — Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States — who met in Kabul last month. No date was set, and no names of participants were announced.

The last attempt at direct talks broke down last summer after just one round when Kabul announced the death of longtime Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

20,000 ISIS, Al-Nusra Front uniforms seized in Spain

20,000 uniforms bound for ISIS, Al-Nusra Front seized in Spain (VIDEO)

Russia-Today

Spanish police have confiscated 20,000 battle uniforms destined for jihadists of the Middle East, likely Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. The uniforms were prepared for dispatch in three containers under the guise of second-hand clothes.

The Interior Ministry believes that the “roughly 20,000 military uniforms and accessories” confiscated, bound for destinations controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front in Syria and Iraq would enable terrorists to “equip an entire army,” it said in the statement.

“The containers which carried the military uniforms were declared as secondhand clothes so as not to raise suspicions and be able to pass different customs inspections without any difficulty,” the statement said.

The camouflage uniforms were packed in large bundles hidden among used clothes.

Spanish police revealed that one of the companies run by the detained suspects was specializing in importing second-hand clothes. One of the arrested used this second-hand clothing company for dispatching “military material, money, electronic and transmission material, firearms and precursors for making explosives” to Syria and Iraq, police said.

The operation took place nearly a month ago, yet Spain’s Interior Ministry only announced the results on Thursday.

“Two of the three containers were intercepted at a port in Valencia and one at Algeciras in an anti-terror operation conducted on February 7. The containers were being shipped to areas controlled by IS and Al-Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria,” said the ministry.

Spanish law enforcement also arrested seven suspects, thus neutralizing “very active and efficient business network,” whose primary purpose was to supply, maintain and strengthen Islamic extremists, the police statement said. The arrested individuals provided logistic and financial services to Islamists, maintaining a continuous flow of supplies to terrorists.

Last month, Europol officials called attention to the fact that unknown number of jihadists could have infiltrated into the EU via the poorly-controlled influx of asylum seekers coming into Europe.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 EU citizens trained in IS terror camps as so-called ‘foreign fighters’ have returned to Europe and pose a “completely new challenge,” acknowledged Rob Wainwright, Europol’s director.

According the continent’s top cop, “Europe is currently facing the highest terror threat in more than in a decade.”

The seizure in Spain of five tons of military goods destined to such a “schizophrenic” terrorist group as IS serves proof that there are established international networks illegally serving terrorist interests, Gorka Castillo, a journalist and Middle East expert from Madrid, told RT Spanish.

“It demonstrates once again that the ongoing worldwide black cash flow serves interests of such terrorist groups as Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS],” Castillo said, noting that filters the Spanish authorities use to screen asylum seekers are not exactly effective, just like the policies pursued by the EU in order to restrain terrorist groups financially.

Opium bounces back, enriching Taliban and Afghan officials

Hajji Abdul Hakin stood beside a 20-kg pile of green beans – his entire harvest after authorities in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province convinced him to stop growing opium poppies last year.

“My whole life lies in ruins,” he said in an interview in Nad-e-Ali district last October. His field, one hectare, had been destroyed by disease and his meagre harvest wouldn’t be nearly enough to support his family of 16 people.

Last year, the average poppy farm in Helmand yielded 18 kg of opium per hectare, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. A kilo of opium fetched $200, while the same amount of green beans sold for only $1.

“Once the poppy season starts, I’ll grow poppies once again,” said Hakin.

Almost six months later, poppy season is in full swing in the western province of Helmand, which last year yielded almost half of Afghanistan’s entire opium harvest, according to UNODC. Afghanistan supplies the lion’s share of the world’s opium, most of which is refined into heroin in an illegal trade that enriches government officials, the Taliban and global drug dealing networks.

The Unites States invested $8.5 billion between 2002 and mid-2015 in programmes aimed at eradicating opium poppies and coaxing farmers into growing different crops, according to the US’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

By almost any measure, that investment has been an abject failure.

Poppy production grew steadily throughout the NATO mission, which began after the US helped topple the Taliban in 2001. The NATO mission ended in 2014, the year that the UN reported a record harvest in Afghanistan, which supplied 90 percent of the world’s “illicit opiates”. Opiates were Afghanistan’s biggest exports in 2014, with UNODC estimating the vaue at $2.8 billion, or 13 percent of the country’s GDP.

Opium production fell by 19 percent in Afghanistan last year, but that was not due to eradication efforts, which reduced poppy cultivation in the province by only two percent, according to the UN. Anti-poppy campaigners instead had fungus and weevils to thank for wiping out more poppies in Helmand than eradication programmes ever have.

Production is set to bounce back this year, however, as farmers like Hakin get ready to harvest next month. And there is little effort to stop them.

The Afghan and US governments have now mostly abandoned eradication and crop substitution in Helmand, where the Taliban has in recent months managed to wrest control of many areas away from the government. As the Taliban gains more ground, the insurgents also gain more access to profits from the opium trade.

“Today, a lot of farmers in Nad-e-Ali are growing poppies again, as well as in every other district in Helmand”, said Mahmood Noorzai, the Helmand police commander responsible for narcotics.

“There is no eradication going on,” he told IRIN this week on the phone from the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Opium takes a back seat to war

Afghanistan’s military has instead diverted resources towards fighting the Taliban in a war that only appears to be getting worse. The insurgent group has made steady gains throughout the country since the NATO mission ended in December 2014 and the US pulled most of its approximately 140,000 troops out of the country.

Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics police had to transfer their 32 helicopters to the military, said Baz Mohammad, the country’s deputy head of counter-narcotics, in an October interview. He added that the military had disbanded its battalion of 850 soldiers who had been assigned to poppy eradication after the US stopped funding it.

Afghan narcotics police destroy a poppy field in Helmand
Jim Huylebroek/IRIN
Afghan narcotics police destroy a poppy field in Helmand in April 2015

Even as eradication efforts falter, experts say the Taliban is relying increasingly on the opium trade to fund its insurgency. The Taliban now reap profits at every stage of the drug business, from cultivation through production and trafficking, according to a 2 February report to the UN Security Council.

Matin Khan, a tribal elder from Taliban-controlled Nawzad District, told IRIN last October how the Taliban benefited from opium.

“Taliban demand opium taxes from farmers, levy tolls at checkpoints where smugglers pass and then escort them for money through the lawless border region between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran,” he said in an interview in Lashkar Gah, where he had travelled to meet with elders from other districts to discuss security issues.

Addicted to drug money

It’s not only the Taliban who benefit from the opium trade. Officials at every level of government are reportedly involved.

“In the Helmand districts of Nad-e-Ali, Garmsir, and Marjah – which are controlled by the government – government officials demand farmers pay 5,000 Pakistani rupees, almost 50 dollars, per hectare of poppy field,” said Noorzai, the police commander.

A former head of drug police for Helmand, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told IRIN that his record of arresting 72 dealers and confiscating 28 tonnes of drugs in Helmand did not sit well with certain parliamentarians. They managed to have him transferred out of the position.

“As a police chief I was not afraid of the Taliban or drug dealers, but of the politicians who threatened me,” he told IRIN last October.

The officer is now in the central province of Wardak, while the drug-dealing MPs remain in Kabul.

hc/jf/ag