Pakistan Army Chief admits that extremism is being taught in madrassas

Pakistan Army Chief accepts that extremism is being taught to students in some madrassas in his country, he wants the practice to be stopped.


Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that some religious madrassas in Pakistan teach extremism to students and called for the revision of the curricula and activities of these madrassas. 

This is the first time that a high-ranking officer of Pakistan military has criticizes activities of madrassas. Bajwa says the things that are taught in these madrassas distance the students from today’s education and moves Pakistan backward.

The Afghan Chief Executive’s Office said on Saturday that religious madrassas in Pakistan have been promoting insurgency in the region for many years.

“Pakistani madrassas have been used for promoting insurgency for so many years. The war that is ongoing in Afghanistan is fueled by fighters that come from Pakistani madrassas. If Pakistan takes practical actions to review these madrassas, it is good and we also expect that work should be done to prevent Pakistani madrassas from being centers for strengthening insurgency and extremism,” the Chief Executive Officer’s deputy spokesman, Jawed Faisal said.

Currently, over 200 000 madrassas have been registered in Pakistan and hundreds of others are not registered. Over 2.5 million students are learning in these madrassas.

“Arab countries’ intelligence and Pakistan intelligence have ISI mullahs such as Sami-Ul-Haq and Faiz-ul-Rahman. To create instability in Afghanistan and because of Pakistan’s deep strategic (goals) in Afghanistan, they want to create a force out of politics under the religious structure. That led to the establishment of madrassas to train mullahs,” former deputy minister to interior ministry Mirza Mohammad Yarmand said.

“It does not need a review. Pakistan should immediately take actions to eliminate the centers of insurgency training which are a threat to the world,” MP Fatima Aziz said.

Experts say that Pakistan’s history is bound with the Islamic extremism and that it is difficult to believe that Pakistan would close these madrassas.

Top US/UN Troublemaker, Jeffrey Feltman, Makes Unannounced 4-Day Visit To North Korea

UN official visits North Korea

Pyongyang needs to find exit from nuclear crisis


Undersecretary-General Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to North Korea appears to be a positive signal on global efforts to defuse tension over the country’s nuclear and missile threats. Feltman, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, began a four-day visit to the North, Tuesday.

The rare trip to the isolated country by a senior United Nations official is drawing keen attention. It comes after the North test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, last week, which it claimed was capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Pyongyang declared it had completed the development of its nuclear weapons system through the successful launch of the ICBM. The launch followed its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September. These provocations have escalated the tension, raising the possibility of the U.S. using military options to solve the nuclear crisis.

Feltman’s visit carries implications for the crisis as it may offer an opportunity to open dialogue between the reclusive country and international society. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Feltman will discuss “issues of mutual interest and concern” with North Korean officials.

He is expected to meet Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Vice Minister Pak Myong-guk as well as U.N. staff stationed in the North. It is unclear whether he will meet with the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. If such a meeting takes place, it may indicate that the Kim regime is interested in talks with the international body and probably with the U.S.

Feltman is also likely to talk with his hosts about a potential visit by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the North. If Pyongyang allows his visit, the U.N. chief may broker talks to find a negotiated solution to the crisis. Guterres has already shown his willingness to play a mediating role to create peace on the Korean Peninsula.

On the part of North Korea, the Kim regime may need to find an exit from the ever-rising confrontation with the U.S. and its allies. Speculation has it that the North will come back to negotiations after it completes its nuclear program. Pyongyang reportedly wants to have direct talks with Washington on the condition that the latter recognizes it as a nuclear state. But the U.S. and its allies cannot accept this condition.

For now, it is unlikely there will be a major breakthrough from the U.N. official’s mediating efforts because no one knows what the North really wants. Critics question the intention of Pyongyang’s invitation to Feltman to the country. The North may try to use his visit as a ploy to prevent the world from taking harsher sanctions against it.

Despite such skepticism, we hope that the U.N. will keep serving as a mediator to solve the North Korean issue peacefully. Feltman ought to deliver to the Kim leadership the international community’s determination not to tolerate its nuclear blackmail. And Pyongyang should drop its hostility and return to dialogue to avoid self-destruction before it’s too late.

“Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace”…there…can be no “US airspace” in Syria.

[US concerned Russian aircraft behavior could spark clash over Syria]

“Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace…spokesman for US Air Force Central Command…,  there… can be no US airspace ‘of its own.’

Russian Su-35 chased away rogue US F-22 jet: MoD blasts US Air Force for hampering Syria op

Russian Su-35 chased away rogue US F-22 jet: MoD blasts US Air Force for hampering Syria op
A Russian interceptor has been scrambled to stop a rogue US fighter jet from actively interfering with an anti-terrorist operation, the Russian Defense Ministry said. It also accused the US of provoking close encounters with the Russian jets in Syria.

A US F-22 fighter was preventing two Russian Su-25 strike aircraft from bombing an Islamic State (IS, former ISIS) base to the west of the Euphrates November 23, according to the ministry. The ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov described the episode as yet another example of US aircraft attempts to prevent Russian forces from carrying out strikes against Islamic State.

“The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight,” Konashenkov said. He added that the US jet ceased its dangerous maneuvers only after a Russian Su-35S fighter jet joined the two strike planes.

The major general went on to say that “most close-midair encounters between Russian and US jets in the area around the Euphrates River have been linked to the attempts of US aircraft to get in the way [of the Russian warplanes] striking against Islamic State terrorists.” He also said that the US military officials provided no explanation for the November 23 incident as well as other, similar encounters.

The statement came as a response to the Pentagon’s claims about “an increase in unsafe behavior” by Russian warplanes. “We saw anywhere from six to eight incidents daily in late November, where Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, the spokesman for US Air Force Central Command, told CNN earlier on Saturday.

Konashenkov said that any claims made by US military officials concerning the fact that there is “any part of the airspace in Syria that belongs to the US” are “puzzling.” Konashenkov also said that “Syria is a sovereign state and a UN member and that means that there… can be no US airspace ‘of its own.’ Unlike the Russian Air Force, the US-led coalition is operating in Syria without any legal basis,” he added.

Pickart also said that the US’ “greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces.” Earlier, he also told the New York Times that it has become “increasingly tough for our [US] pilots to discern whether Russian pilots are deliberately testing or baiting us into reacting, or if these are just honest mistakes.”

The New York Times also listed several cases of what the US describes as “unsafe behavior” by the Russian jets, citing the data provided by the US air base in Qatar. The US accused the Russian pilots of “crossing into the airspace east of the Euphrates” and flying “dangerously close” to the “allied forces,” adding that such actions could be interpreted as “threatening” and the US pilots were “in their rights” to fire in “self-defense.”

Konashenkov said in response that the US Air Force should rather focus on destroying Islamic State in Iraq than provoking close encounters between the US and the Russian jets.

Pickart said to CNN that the US military regularly talk to their Russian counterparts “in the daily de-confliction calls.” However, the Russian military repeatedly pointed out that the US is reluctant to share its plans for combat aircraft operations, and acts secretively in Syria.

The US and the Russian military have traded jibes over various incidents involving both countries’ warplanes in the Syrian skies. Washington accused Russian jets of not carrying transponders allowing air-traffic controllers to identify them, while Moscow repeatedly said that the US military only “occasionally” indicate the time period and an approximate area of their air operations without even giving the types of aircraft and their affiliation.

Back in 2015, the US and Russia agreed upon the mutual flight safety memorandum regulating the flight paths and contacts of the countries’ air forces in Syria during an emergency situation. The two countries also set up a hotline for their militaries to discuss the approximate locations and missions of planes in an attempt to avoid operating in the same airspace at the same time.

However, both sides later repeatedly accused each other of being reluctant to use the instruments at their disposal to reconcile the issues related to their actions in Syria. Most recently, Colonel Jeff Hogan, deputy commander of the air operations center at the Qatar base, called the daily phone calls between the US and Russian military “contentious.” The US also said that the dialogue does not always reflect what happens in the skies over Syria.

In January, Konashenkov complained that the US officers often “simply cannot be found on the other side of the ‘hotline’ in Qatar, designed to discuss and resolve contentious issues” and urged them to “use this hotline more often and for its direct purposes.”

Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State]

[Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State]

“Honourable Iraqis: your land has been completely liberated. The dream of liberation is now a reality,” Abadi said in a televised address.

Iraq launches ISIS desert offensive, Russia offers help 


Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces advance on al-Qaim in western Anbar province in early November. Photo: AFP
Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces advance on al-Qaim in western Anbar province in early November. Photo: AFP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq announced their latest offensive against ISIS in its remaining holdout in the country’s western deserts on Friday.

Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militias “launched a major drive to clear areas of the al-Jazeera region between Nineveh and Anbar,” the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

While ISIS no longer holds any urban centres in Iraq, Prime Haider al-Abadi has said he will not declare final liberation until the remote desert areas along the Iraq-Syria border are cleared of the militants.

Russia, after announcing the defeat of ISIS across the border in Syria, has offered its assistance to the US-led global anti-ISIS coalition to defeat the militant group in Iraq.

“Russia is ready for dialogue to join US-led coalition to help defeat ISIS in Western Iraq,” Russia’s Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko tweeted on Thursday, referencing the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Russia has been propping up Damascus in the civil war and providing military support for Syrian regime forces, but has not played a role in the war against ISIS in Iraq.

Kurds in Syria, who had been the key coalition ally fighting ISIS on the ground, have recently begun to strengthen their ties with Russia.

Nuri Mahmud, spokesperson of the Kurdish armed forces YPG, joined Russian military personnel on December 3 to announce the defeat of ISIS in northern Deir ez-Zor province, east of the Euphrates.

In an interview with local ANF media published on Thursday, Mahmud contradicted Russian assertions that ISIS is defeated throughout all of Syria.

“ISIS still hasn’t been completely eliminated in Syria. It wouldn’t be appropriate to assume so, and that line of thought would not serve the process either, because ISIS is still on the field in the military sense,” he said. “There needs to be a great war against that.”

He stressed however, that “the support Russia will offer to the ongoing struggle against ISIS is important for us.”

The closer relations between the Kurdish forces and Russia come as the United States has said it is adjusting its support for the YPG as the focus shifts to stabilization. Mahmud, however, asserted that their ties with the United States remain strong.

“Our partnership in the fight against ISIS continues,” he said. “This relationship will continue until ISIS is eliminated.”

The main question for Syria now is what kind of a country will be built, post-ISIS, Mahmud said.

Kurds have established a semi-autonomous federal system in northern Syria – a governance style they believe will solve the problems that drove Syria into civil war.

Turkey is opposed to the Kurdish endeavours. Ankara believes the Kurdish groups, the YPG and its political wing the PYD, are extensions of the PKK, a named terrorist organization. The YPG and PYD deny the charge.

Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield operation in summer 2016 with the stated aim of clearing its borders of terrorists – battling ISIS in northern Syria and preventing Kurds from expanding their territory.

Ankara is currently threatening military action in the western Kurdish canton of Afrin and Turkish troops are establishing observation posts in Idlib province, ostensibly as part of creating a de-escalation zone as agreed to by Turkey, Iran, and Russia in the Astana process.

Mahmud said that Turkey’s “intention to invade Syria has called the stillbirth” of its relationship with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Turkey on December 11 to meet Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president’s spokesperson announced. Developments in Syria will be one topic on the agenda.