Militants Fire Rockets At Prominent Taliban Critic, Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf

[Sayyaf urge militants to end slavery, insisting Taliban defeated in Operation Omari ; Several rockets fired on Sayyaf’s residence, no casualties reported ]

Sayyaf’s house comes under rocket attack in Kabul

Khaama

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The residence of a prominent former Jihadi leader Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf once again came under rocket in Kabul this morning.

Sources close to Sayyaf said at least two rockets were fired in the early hours of Friday morning which landed in the vicinity close to his house.

There are no reports regarding the casualties and no group has so far claimed responsibility behind the attack.

This comes as several rockets were fired on the residence of Sayyaf nearly a week ago but the attack did not result into any casualties.

 

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Former Jihadi leader Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf on Tuesday once again blasted in strong words Taliban’s so-called Jihad in Afghanistan, calling the war in opposition to Islam and against the will of people of Afghanistan.

Addressing a ceremony in Kabul commemorating the second death anniversary of former Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Sayyaf stated that Taliban’s war was neither Jihad nor in the interest of the country.

“They [Taliban] think they fight for the country but in fact they ruin the country,” said Sayyaf, who is popular for being a strong anti-Taliban figure. “It is not for Islam and it is not Jihad.”

In addition, he praised the sacrifices of security forces fighting the militant groups.

Security forces are “obliged to fight Taliban” to defend the country, he continued.

Abdullah Abdullah, CEO of National Unity Government, was also present at the event where he maintained that government’s efforts to make peace with Taliban didn’t mean to surrender to the group.

“Those who reject the call for peace are responsible for their lives themselves,” Abdullah warned.

Officials from High Peace Council (HPC) were also present at the ceremony where they insisted the past achievements would not be jeopardized in peace negotiations with Taliban.

Deputy head of HPC Abdul Karim Khalili, who was the second Vice President in Hamid Karzai’s government, declared that no one would be allowed to compromise on the gains of past 15 years in the peace talks with Taliban.

Discussions on peace talks keep circulating these days as the Afghan government and the Taliban were expected to hold a face-to-face talks this week in neighboring Pakistan.

Taliban however in a statement rejected to come forward for direct talks unless they said their demands are met.

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ENTER THE HEKMATYAR—Afghanistan Signs “Peace Agreement” with Notorious Warlord

Image 392 Wahab Raofi Interpreter for NATO/International Security Assistance Forces, Kabul Law School grad with Afghanistan Ministry of Justice, U.S. residence.

Like a buzzing mosquito that just won’t go away, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is back in the news. He sent a video from his unknown hideout in Pakistan, asking for reconciliation with Afghanistan’s government and presenting himself as a peacemaker.

This is the same Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was branded a global terrorist by the United States, founded the militant Hezb-i-Islami group and is blamed for killing thousands of his fellow Afghan citizens with indiscriminate artillery shelling during the 1990’s civil war.

Hekmatyar also served briefly as Prime Minister of Afghanistan, a position he “earned” by virtue of a coup d’etat in Kabul. At age 68, after living in exile in Iran and Pakistan for decades, he is now trying to carve out a new position of power for himself with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

President Ghani has extended an olive branch of peace to various factions, including the Taliban, and Hekmatyar looks to exploit those soft sentiments for a ticket back into Afghanistan. He says he wants a “real and fair peace.”

Instead, I believe Hekmatyar covets a supreme-leader role for himself, like Kim Jong-Un in North Korea or Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei in Iran.

I have been familiar with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar since our college days together, when we both attended Kabul University in the early 1970’s. He was a freshman in the engineering department while I was in law school. I remember him as a very good orator. He was already assembling supporters, mostly rural young Pashtuns from the Ghilzai tribes.

One day he climbed a tree and delivered a long speech, railing against the Afghan government for not taking action against Maoist groups, such as the student Progressive Youth Organization (PYO). Hekmatyar’s supporters attacked the PYO students with rocks, and multiple sources say that Hekmatyar personally assassinated poet Saydal Sokhandan, a prominent PYO activist. It may have been his first murder, but it certainly wasn’t his last. To escape arrest, Hekmatyar fled to Pakistan.

Hekmatyar became a master at switching sides in Afghanistan’s never-ending wars. He fought Soviet Union forces during the 1980s, then engaged in infanticide during a civil war with the mujahideen. Although he took CIA funding to help fight the Soviets, his military wing repeatedly attacked Afghan and U.S. forces – including a 2013 car bombing that killed 16 persons, including six American advisers in Kabul.

In his book The Main Enemy, former CIA officer Milt Bearden wrote that “Hekmatyar thought nothing of ordering an execution for a slight breach of party discipline.”

He is well-known for being brutal, ruthless, ungrateful and a notorious warlord who would do anything to serve his own purposes. His latest move toward “peace” was triggered by a confluence of events.

Since taking office in 2014, President Ghani has been seeking a reconciliation with insurgents. The Taliban refused and intensified their attacks on Afghan security forces.

Equally desperate for tranquility is Afghanistan’s Peace High Council, established in 2010 by former president Hamid Karzai. It has failed to produce anything tangible. Under public pressure because of its bloated budget and staff and a marked lack of results, the Peace High Council is pushing to show some kind of progress, no matter what the price.

Hekmatyar is trying to seize this opportunity to make his next move. His Hezb-i-Islami party fragmented over the years, and most of his military wing defected and joined the Karzai government. He also lost support among Pashtuns who were once the backbone of his party.

Anyone who dreams of ruling Afghanistan must carry the support of the Pashtun-dominated south, from which Afghan kings and the Taliban hailed. The traditional south would rather be ruled by the Taliban, which doesn’t pose a threat to its lifestyle, than by someone who wants to impose a party platform.

Hekmatyar’s image in the south was further damaged when he reportedly took sides with Al Qaeda against the Taliban.

If anything is certain about Hekmatyar, it is that he has become predictable. He is an opportunist and will not miss a chance to quench his never-ending thirst for power. I believe that his peace overture with the embattled Ghani government is a gambit. He still has many of his ex-commanders and loyalists in high positions within the Afghan government and parliament.

If Hekmatyar were welcomed back into a position of influence in Afghanistan, I see three possible scenarios:

(1) Hekmatyar stirs trouble by demanding more power for his close associates. This further polarizes and widens the Afghan rivalries, especially between two large ethnic groups: the Pashtun, who are behind President Ghani, and the Tajik, who support Abdullah Abdulla, CEO of the unity government. In the resulting chaos, Hekmatyar tries to emerge as supreme leader.

(2) Hekmatyar finds himself unable to impose his will on a nation that has changed so much since 2001, in terms of expanded human rights, freedom of press and social liberties. His ambitions are squashed, and he flees back to Pakistan.

(3) Hekmatyar keeps his promise to live as a responsible citizen. This encourages other insurgents to lay down arms down and join the peace process.

We can hope against hope that the third option is the one that materializes – or we can avoid the terrible risk simply by ignoring the peace offering that is almost certainly a ruse by the notorious Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Former NATO Dep. Commander Predicts War with Russia Within One Year

Former British general predicts Russia will seize territory in eastern Ukraine and invade Baltic states, sparking war

Joint military exercise of forces from Georgia, Britain and the US.
Joint military exercise of forces from Georgia, Britain and the US. Photograph: Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

In a book published on Wednesday, 2017 War With Russia, Shirreff argues that the events in Crimea have destroyed the post-cold-war settlement and set the stage for conflict, beginning next year.

In a chilling scenario, he predicts that Russia, in order to escape what it believes to be encirclement by Nato, will seize territory in eastern Ukraine, open up a land corridor to Crimea and invade the Baltic states.

Shirreff, who was deputy supreme allied commander Europe from 2011 to 2014 and before that served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and the Balkans, is risking his reputation by making such a bold prediction. But he claims his narrative is closely modelled on his Nato experience of war-gaming future conflicts.

His scenario is specific, naming Latvia as the first of the Baltic countries to be invaded, in May next year. Such specifics open him to potential ridicule.

At the book launch at London’s Royal United Services Institute, he heavily caveated the scenario by saying it was still avoidable provided Nato took the necessary steps to pre-position forces in large enough numbers in the Baltic states. Nato is planning to make a start on just such a move at a Nato summit in Warsaw in July.

Faced with scepticism from journalists at the book launch – the Baltic states, unlike Ukraine, are members of Nato, and Russian action against any of them would in theory trigger a response – Shirreff said history was full of irrational decisions by leaders.

He said Putin could invade the Baltic states and then threaten nuclear action if Nato threatened to intervene.

Shirreff’s warning about the danger posed by Russia is echoed in the foreword by US admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander Europe, who writes: “Under President Putin, Russia has charted a dangerous course that, if it is allowed to continue, may lead inexorably to a clash with Nato. And that will mean a war that could so easily go nuclear.”

Shirreff insists that retention of a nuclear deterrent is essential. “Be under no illusion whatsoever – Russian use of nuclear weapons is hardwired into Moscow’s military strategy,” he writes.

He describes Russia as now the west’s most dangerous adversary and says Putin’s course can only be stopped if the west wakes up to the real possibility of war and takes urgent action.

He also rounds on the UK for what he says is the emasculation of its conventional military capability on the assumption that the international scene will remain benign. He says Nato increasingly lacks the knowledge, capability and military hardware to match what he describes as Russia’s ever-improving conventional capability.

He is scathing about David Cameron and Philip Hammond, who was defence secretary before becoming foreign secretary, over cuts in the military. Speaking about Cameron, he writes that he has “made himself increasingly irrelevant on the international stage”.

Shirreff discloses a clash with Hammond, then defence secretary, in 2014 after the general wrote a piece in the Sunday Times saying that cutbacks were a big gamble. “The defence secretary was so infuriated at being questioned in public that I was summoned by General Sir Peter Wall, the chief of the general staff and head of the army, and told that the defence secretary wanted ‘formal action’ against me.

“However, formal action would have involved a court martial and, fortunately for the latter’s political reputation – it also seems he had not appreciated that I reported to Nato and not to him – wiser counsel had prevailed.”

Asked at the book launch about the incident, he said “I think it is the duty of senior soldiers engaged with politicians not to think like politicians, not to make life easy for politicians, but to lay out the military consequences of political decisions. And I sense that is something that has got blurred in recent years.”

The latter point appeared to be a reference to the failure of senior British military figures to stand up to Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq. The Chilcot inquiry into Iraq is expected to criticise senior British commanders over this failure.

Asked about the consequences for British security of leaving the European Union, Shirreff said it would make the EU weaker and that a weaker EU would make Britain weaker.

Trump may be onto something with his anti-NATO stance

Trump may be onto something with his anti-NATO stance

the californian

 

One of the more unusual topics of this very unusual election year has been the hitherto uncontroversial issue of the U.S. commitment to NATO. Last month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed NATO for being “obsolete.” This week, as he swept closer to the GOP nomination, he softened that to “outdated” but repeated his call for changes – including making allies pay more. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders similarly has argued that the United States should scale back its NATO commitments.

These ideas have drawn fierce criticism from the defense and foreign policy establishments. Victor Davis Hanson, a historian at the Hoover Institute, acknowledged the salience of Trump’s argument but then backflipped to argue for the organization’s continued relevance anyway: “A powerful Russia will always have to be watched. A dynamic and headstrong Germany will always have to be integrated into some sort of military alliance. And the United States will always have a natural self-interest in pre-emptively keeping kindred Europeans from killing each other.”

Since 1949

Yet there are good reasons to take Trump’s and Sanders’ arguments seriously. On one level, NATO really is obsolete. It was established in 1949 to ensure the collective defense of Western Europe against the threat of a Soviet invasion. At the time, this did not seem like a particularly remote possibility.

NATO succeeded in keeping Western Europe safe for more than 40 years, until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Then a curious thing happened: NATO both lost its rationale for existing and went through a dramatic expansion of member states.

As the Soviet sphere collapsed and Russia struggled with persistent economic malaise, the U.S. pushed through the admittance of Eastern European countries into NATO. By 2009, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary were members. So were the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – all of which, unlike other NATO members, have common borders with Russia.

Russian leaders have argued that in expanding NATO, U.S. leaders broke their promise to not exploit the Soviet collapse to extend NATO into Russia’s sphere of interest. Many foreign policy writers and journalists – consistent with the official Russian line – say Western efforts to bring Ukraine into NATO led to the prolonged political crisis and partial Russian occupation of that beleaguered country.

War on terrorism

Now, NATO no longer has a clearly defined contemporary purpose. If anything, it has been the source of increasing friction.

Most important, it is incapable of dealing with the threats of the 21st century, especially terrorism. Collective defensive treaties are meant to ensure the safety of states against other states. They don’t provide an effective framework for confronting non-state threats such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which use guerrilla tactics rather than amassing armies on a nation’s borders.

Let’s call out NATO for what it is: a 20th century organization adrift in a 21st century world. Instead of paying the majority share of its exorbitant costs, the U.S. should shift more of the burden to its NATO partners and transition to a more flexible defensive system. NATO should be phased out and replaced by bi- or multilateral arrangements between America and different countries.

Under NATO, defense defines the nature of U.S. relations with the other 27 member countries. A phaseout would allow a greater role for diplomatic relations where appropriate. Some countries might need more military assurance than others. Estonia and Latvia, for instance, could have greater defensive needs against Russian incursion than France.

By reducing the financial burdens of NATO, America also would be freer to develop and strengthen partnerships in the Middle East, where Russian involvement in Syria marks a new challenge, and in the Pacific, where North Korea and China remain concerns. Finally, phasing out NATO would signal to Russia that the U.S. and Western Europe were no longer attempting to encroach on its interests.

Renegotiating our alliance system will better reflect U.S. economic reality and allow us to better handle an increasingly complex world. We need to be able to grapple with tomorrow’s problems unburdened by the legacies of yesteryear.

Dean Michael Harris - College of Public Service Michael Harris is dean of the College of Public Service at Tennessee State University. Kenneth Garner is a visiting assistant professor at Kalamazoo College.