Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan!’

Pakistani Journalists Protest in Support of the Fallen in Afghanistan

May 4, 2018

A day after a suicide attack in Kabul left 10 journalists among 25 people dead , journalists in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi held a somber ceremony to express solidarity with their colleagues across the Durand Line.

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Members of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) on Tuesday lit candles and earthen lamps to mourn the passing of the journalists in Afghanistan.

Members of the foreign press corps, including those from Agence France Presse (AFP), the Associated Press (AP) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) also attended the ceremony, alongside local union leaders and senior journalists.

Outrage after bloody day for Afghan journalists

Journalists from the AFP, the BBC, Radio Free Europe and Afghan broadcaster Tolo News and 1TV were killed in the attack.

The participants lit candles and earthen lamps and observed a moment of silence in memory of the departed souls. RIUJ President Mubarak Zeb Khan said that all journalists from the region were like a family because they had to report under adverse conditions from some of the most restive areas in the world.

He lauded the sacrifices of those who laid down their lives in their quest to report the heinous actions of terrorists that have ravaged society on both sides of the border.

NPC Secretary Shakeel Anjum said that Pakistani journalists also share the pain of their Afghan colleagues and would continue to stand with all journalists in their hour of need.

A double suicide blast in Kabul on Monday killed 25 people, in what Reporters Without Borders said was the most lethal single attack on the media since the fall of the Taliban.

The attack, claimed by Islamic State (Da’esh), was condemned by the United Nations and the European Union and spurred an outpouring of grief among Afghan journalists, many of whom took to Twitter to post tributes to colleagues and friends. Kabul police spokesperson Hashmat Stanikzai said the second explosion came minutes after the first and targeted reporters at the scene.

“The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd,” he said.

The interior ministry confirmed the number of deaths and said 49 people had been wounded amid fears the toll could rise.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2018.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1700287/1-attack-afghan-journalists-mourned/

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Israel Takes Offensive Against Iran in Syria — “The final situation is the removal of all the Iranian-Shi’ite forces from Syria, including Hezbollah and the militias.”

April 10, 2018

This resolute stance, shared by all branches of Israeli security, was recently presented to political officials. IDF chief and Defense Minister Lieberman clarify that increased Iranian military presence in Syria will be perceived as a red line

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Members of the Israeli security cabinet during a security tour of the Golan Heights, February 6, 2018
Members of the Israeli security cabinet during a security tour of the Golan Heights, February 6, 2018Kobi Gideon

Security officials support an offensive and determined approach to stop Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria. This tough stance, shared by all branches of Israeli security, was recently presented to political officials. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot have made clear a number of times over the past few months that increased Iranian military presence in Syria will be perceived as a red line and that Israel will act to protect its security interests.

Last week, the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Ankara to discuss the situation in Syria. The meeting raised major concerns in Israel. The impression is that Russia is now backing Tehran in its continued military actions in Syria, even if it means increased friction on the border with Israel.

The Shi’ite forces in Syria that answer to Iran now number somewhat fewer than 20,000, and in recent years there that number has not changed dramatically. According to IDF estimates, there are about 2,000 Iranian advisers and fighters in Syria, about 7,500 members of Hezbollah and about 9,000 militia fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

>> Israel Is Now Directly Confronting Iran in Syria | Analysis <<

“The final and desired situation is the removal of all the Iranian-Shi’ite forces from Syria, including Hezbollah and the militias. We won’t let them get near the borders,” Eisenkot told Haaretz in an interview to mark the Passover holiday. The chief of staff said that Israel had defined a strip along the Syrian border in which it would not permit entry to forces loyal to the regime in Tehran, but he gave no details as to what that line is geographically.

But Iran’s efforts to establish itself in Syria are not limited to land; they also involve increasing the regime’s aerial capabilities. The T-4 Syrian air force base that was attacked on Monday was used in the past was used by the command module for the operators of the Iranian drone that penetrated Israel. Not far from there is another air base that serves Iran and its allies, the Shayrat airbase.

China, Pakistan, Afghanistan ask Taliban to join peace process — “China’s political and economic clout”

December 27, 2017

 

Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, center, is flanked by Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, left, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif during the First China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue. (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Islamabad)

ISLAMABAD: China hosted the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday, in a bid to improve the neighbors’ historically fractious relationship.

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Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani of Afghanistan and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif led delegations from their respective countries.
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According to a joint communique, the three countries agreed to strengthen counterterrorism coordination and cooperation. “The three sides will communicate and consult on developing a memorandum of understanding for counterterrorism cooperation,” it read.
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All three countries urged the Taliban to join the peace process “as soon as possible,” calling a broad-based and inclusive peace and reconciliation process, which is Afghan-led and fully supported regionally and internationally the “most viable solution to end violence in Afghanistan.”
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In the first trilateral dialogue between the three countries, the foreign ministers reiterated their “strong determination not to allow any country, organization or individual to use their respective territories for terrorist activities against any other countries,” according to their joint statement.
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Speaking at a joint press briefing after their meeting, Asif said: “It was agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential for our shared objective of development, deepening connectivity and economic prosperity.”
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“Pakistan emphasized the importance of border management, the return of Afghan refugees, and intelligence sharing for effective counter-terrorism cooperation.”
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Afghanistan’s Rabbani said: “Terrorism is growing by the day and to turn around this trend will require full, sincere and practical cooperation among states in our own region and beyond to defeat this common menace.”
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declined to comment, but the Taliban have previously rejected any offer to participate in the peace process.
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China has serious concerns about the often-tense relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in view of its huge investment in the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as well as its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
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Pakistani experts believe China has now adopted a proactive regional diplomatic approach to promote peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan, in cooperation with Pakistan, which would also help ensure security in China’s Xinjiang province, which borders both countries.
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China has already hosted a meeting between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government officials in 2015, and a delegation of Qatar-based Taliban political representatives traveled to China earlier this year, according to a Taliban official.
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Sen. Mushahid Hussain, chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Defense Committee, said China is uniquely positioned to play an active role not only in economic development, but also in peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
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“Unlike others, China carries no extra-baggage, having stayed out of the internecine civil strife in Afghanistan,” Hussain told Arab News. ”Beijing enjoys the confidence of both the Afghan government and the Taliban, as well as Pakistan and the US, which has a diminishing military presence without China’s political and economic clout.”
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“China’s economic growth southward, especially the CPEC, is directly impacted by Afghanistan,” said Ishaq Ahmed Khattak, director, intelligence and international security studies, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI).
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And, given the investment China has made in Afghanistan, it has to play a “predominant role in bringing peace through economic development and negotiations,” he explained.
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Foreign Minister Yi visited Kabul and Islamabad in June this year to mend ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. During that visit, the three countries agreed to establish a mechanism for regular interaction.
In their meeting on Tuesday, the foreign ministers decided that their next gathering would be held in Kabul in 2018.
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Afghan forces to launch operation against IS in the north

December 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The operation against IS comes as the group expands its presence in the north after carrying out multiple attacks in Kabul

KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan’s military plans to launch a major operation to stop the Islamic State group making inroads into the country’s northern provinces, officials said Tuesday, after AFP reported that fighters including French nationals were present there.”(The) ministry of defence is planning to launch an operation against Daesh in northern provinces of Sari Pul, Faryab and Jowzjan,” defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for the Middle Eastern jihadist group.

“We know there are foreign fighters among them, but we will eliminate all of them regardless of their nationality,” he said, without elaborating further.

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On Sunday, AFP reported that French and Algerian fighters, some arriving from Syria, had joined the ranks of the Islamic State group in northern Afghanistan where the militants have established new bases.

European and Afghan local sources confirmed that French citizens were among the fighters in Darzab district of Jowzjan province, suggesting they may have links to Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K), the group’s franchise in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is the first time that the presence of French IS fighters has been recorded in Afghanistan, and comes as analysts suggested foreigners may be heading for the war-torn country after being driven out of Syria and Iraq.

“We have reports that more than 40 foreign Daesh fighters, mostly Uzbeks, are present in Darzab and Qushtepa districts. They are there to recruit locals and train them to become fighters,” Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, a spokesman for the governor of Jowzjan, told AFP.

“The government is planning to launch an operation to clear the area from them soon,” he said, also without giving further details.

When it first emerged in 2015, IS-K overran large parts of eastern Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, though initially its part in the Afghan conflict was overshadowed by the Taliban.

The jihadists have since spread north, including in Jowzjan on the border with Uzbekistan, and carried out multiple devastating attacks in the capital Kabul.

 

Afghan Official: 13 Civilians Killed in Battle in the North

August 12, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan official says at least 13 civilians, including women and children, have been killed after their house was hit by mortars during a battle in northern Faryab province.

Gen. Dilawer Shah Dilawer, Faryab provincial police chief, said Saturday that three other civilians were wounded after two mortars hit the house Friday evening.

Dilawer says it isn’t clear who targeted the house in Dawlat Abad district — the Taliban or Afghan National Security Forces. He said a delegation has been sent to the area to find out more about the attack.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

Faryab province has witnessed an increase in violence in recent months and both sides have been accused of targeting civilians.

Afghan officials seize truck with 16 tonnes of explosives

August 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Afghan security arrive at the site of a suicide blast last month: intelligence officials say they have found a huge cache of explosives in Kabul

KABUL (AFP) – Afghan intelligence officials said Sunday they seized a truck in Kabul carrying more than 16 tonnes of explosives hidden in boxes marked as poultry feed, months after a truck bomb killed about 150 people.

The truck, with Pakistani license plates, was seized in District 9 of the capital, the National Directorate of Security said in a statement, adding that five people were arrested.

“It was loaded with explosives to make bombs, suicide vests and conduct terrorist activities in Kabul,” the statement said, adding that 16,500 kg of explosives was seized.

On May 31 a massive truck bomb ripped through the Afghan capital’s diplomatic quarter during the morning rush hour, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack that was caused by over 1,500 kg of explosives hidden in a sewage truck, according to Western officials.

Taliban militants rarely claim responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians.

The militants have intensified their attacks since they launched their “spring offensive” in late April, with civilians bearing the brunt of the conflict.

According to UN figures, more than 26,500 civilians have died and nearly 49,000 have been injured as a result of armed conflict in Afghanistan since January 2009.

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Some of the wounded arriving at a hospital after the attack by a truck bomb. Credit Mohammad Ismail/Reuters.

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Damaged cars are seen after a blast at the site of the incident in Kabul, Afghanistan May 31, 2017. Photo credit Omar Sobhani, Reuters

Trump Says U.S.‘Losing’ Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals — Leaders Lack a Strategy Approved By The President

August 3, 2017

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials.

During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.

 Exclusive: In Meeting, Pres. Trump Lashed Out at Military Leaders on Afghanistan 2:07

Trump is the third president to grapple with the war in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, two American troops were killed in Afghanistan when a convoy they were in came under attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump’s national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush went through multiple strategies over the course of their presidencies to try to stabilize Afghanistan. What set Trump apart in the July meeting was his open questioning of the quality of the advice he was receiving.

Image: Trump is introduced by Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia
President Donald Trump is introduced by Defense Secretary James Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

During the meeting, Trump criticized his military advisers seated around the table in the White House Situation Room for what he said was a losing U.S. position in the war, according to the senior administration officials. At one point the president directed his frustration at Mattis, saying Trump had given the military authority months ago to make advances in Afghanistan and yet the U.S. was continuing to lose ground, the officials said.

Related: Pentagon Weighs More Aggressive Role in Afghanistan

“We aren’t winning,” Trump complained, according to these officials. “We are losing.”

One official said Trump pointed to maps showing the Taliban gaining ground, and that Mattis responded to the president by saying the U.S. is losing because it doesn’t have the strategy it needs.

The White House declined to comment on internal deliberations.

“The president’s national security team is developing a comprehensive, integrated strategy for South Asia that utilizes all aspects of our national power to address this complex region,” said Michael Anton, spokesman for the National Security Council. “That strategy has been worked carefully in the interagency process and while no decision has been made the president’s team continues to develop options for him that address threats and opportunities to America arising from this vital region.”

Told that Trump was considering firing Gen. Nicholson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “I can’t think of a good reason to fire the general. I think he’s done an admirable job.”

Image: Joseph Dunford
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford testifies on Capitol Hill on March 22. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP File

“If the president doesn’t listen to the generals, like Gen. Nicholson and he goes down the road that President Obama went, Afghanistan is going to collapse,” Graham said. “Here’s my advice to the president — listen to people like Gen. Nicholson and McMaster and others who have been in the fight.”

Trump Compares Afghanistan to a Famous New York Restaurant

The president’s advisers went into the mid-July meeting hoping he would sign off on an Afghanistan strategy after months of delays, officials said. One official said the president’s team has coalesced around a strategy, though it had presented him with other options as well such as complete withdrawal.

Trump, however, appeared to have been significantly influenced by a meeting he’d recently had with a group of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and he was unhappy with the options presented to him.

Trump vented to his national security team that the veterans told him forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have not been helpful, and he lamented that China is making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war, officials said. Trump expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly, one official said.

China purchased mineral rights in Afghanistan a decade ago, an investment the U.S. supported at the time. Beijing has since had teams mining copper outside of Kabul.

 Casualties Reported After Taliban Suicide Bomber Targets NATO Convoy 0:34

The focus on the minerals was reminiscent of Trump’s comments early into his presidency when he lamented that the U.S. didn’t take Iraq’s oil when the majority of forces departed the country in 2011.

To underscore his view that the veterans who fought in the war may be better positioned to advise him on an Afghanistan strategy, Trump compared the policy review process to the renovation of a famed New York restaurant in the 1980s, officials said.

Trump told his advisers that the restaurant, Manhattan’s elite ’21’ Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for a renovation. After a year, Trump said, the consultant’s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.

Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result. He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn’t a three-star general he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that in his own experience in business talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcomes.

The ’21’ Club, which has been one of Trump’s favorite New York spots, closed for two months in 1987 while it underwent a full renovation and reopened to great fanfare.

Image: U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province
U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan July 7, 2017. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

One senior administration official said the president mentioned the restaurant in an attempt to convey to his advisers that sometimes the best advice comes from those working day-to-day in a place, rather than those who are farther removed.

“The clear message if you heard the story was: high-priced consultants or high-priced anybody, expensive supposedly-big-brained people, but who are physically far from the source of the problem, often give you much worse advice than the supposedly low-ranking guys who are right there,” the official said.

Mattis Upset After Trump Meeting

Trump left the national security meeting without making a decision on a strategy. His advisers were stunned, administration officials and others briefed on the meeting said.

Two Pentagon officials close to Mattis said he returned from the White House that morning visibly upset. Mattis often takes a walk when grappling with an issue. That afternoon, the walk took longer than usual, the officials said.

Among those at the meeting were Trump’s senior White House advisers including Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and then chief-of-staff Reince Priebus, plus Mattis, Dunford, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

At one point, Dunford offered to set up a meeting for Trump with Gen. Nicholson in the hopes that personal interaction may soothe Trump’s concerns about his leadership.

Mattis also defended Gen. Nicholson, an official said, adding that the conversation about the commander ended inconclusively.

In an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, McMaster praised Nicholson.

“I’ve known him for many years,” McMaster said. “I can’t imagine a more capable commander in any, on any mission.” Asked whether the president had confidence in Nicholson, McMaster said “absolutely.”

But a defense official confirmed that discussions are underway at the Pentagon regarding Nicholson’s future in Afghanistan.

Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White told NBC News that Mattis “has confidence in Gen. Nicholson’s leadership.”

Image: General John Nicholson speaks during an opening ceremony of "Invictus Games" at the Resolute Support Headquarter in Kabul
General John Nicholson, the Commander of US Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, speaks during an opening ceremony of “Invictus Games” at the Resolute Support Headquarter, in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 13 , 2017. Massoud Hossaini / AP file

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former head of NATO and an NBC News analyst, suggested the delay in finalizing a strategy has hurt U.S. efforts in the war.

“The situation in Afghanistan is not improving, but I think it’s hardly irretrievable at this point, and what the president needs to be doing is deciding on the strategy,” Admiral Stavridis said.

“What is hurting the process at the moment is this back and forth about do we stay or do we go, how many troops,” he added. “Any commander is going to be incredibly handicapped in an environment like that. So I think the fundamental problem here is lack of decisiveness in Washington, specifically in the White House.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump often talked about knowing more than U.S. military generals. Last September, he suggested he would probably have different generals from those who served under former President Barack Obama.

Related: Afghan Violence: Attack Hits Convoy, Kills 2 U.S. Service Members

Retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey advised against shaping a strategy around advice from troops serving on the ground.

“One of the last things you necessarily want to do is form policy advice based on what the current combatants think about something in a war zone,” said Gen. McCaffrey, an MSNBC military analyst. “They’re qualified totally to talk about tactics and things like that and what they’re seeing, but the president’s job is to formulate strategy and policy not to do tactical decisions.”

He also said acquiring mineral rights in Afghanistan is complicated and potentially costly because it would require the type of security the U.S. has been unable to achieve, as well as a workforce and access to a port to ship the materials.

Nicholson has called the war a “stalemate” and said he needs a “few thousand” additional troops. “Offensive capability is what will break the stalemate in Afghanistan,” he said in February during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

 7 US soldiers wounded during another insider attack in Afghanistan 0:18

His comments angered White House officials who thought they boxed in the president before he had made any decisions, according to Pentagon officials.

In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of key counties where Trump had broad support in the November election, 46 percent of respondents supported sending more troops to Afghanistan while 36 percent opposed.

Related: Watchdog: Pentagon Should Declassify Report on Afghan Military Sex Abuse

Heading into its 16th year, the war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history.

A decision on an Afghanistan strategy was expected more than two months ago, but it has been delayed as the president remains unsatisfied with the options. Last month he gave Mattis authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, but Mattis has been unable to do so absent a presidential strategy. Trump also gave his military commanders broad authority to make key decisions. The move resulted in the U.S. dropping its largest non-nuclear weapon in Afghanistan several months ago.

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Some of Trump’s advisers are advocating for a very limited U.S. role in the war, while others have recommended several thousand additional troops. Officials said it’s unclear when the president will sign off on a new strategy.

Includes videos:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-says-u-s-losing-afghan-war-tense-meeting-generals-n789006

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Security officials inspect the scene of the blast outside the Great Mosque in Herat, August 1, 2017.

Afghanistan: Kabul Car Bomb Kills At Least 24 — “Unrelenting violence in Afghanistan”

July 24, 2017

KABUL — A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in the western part of Kabul on Monday, killing at least 24 people and wounding 40, and the death toll could rise, an Interior Ministry spokesman in the Afghan capital said.

Police cordoned off the area, located near the house of the deputy government Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq in a part of the city where many of the mainly Shi’ite Hazara community live, but they said the target of the attack was so far unclear.

A small bus owned by the Ministry of Mines had been destroyed, government security sources said.

Acting Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said at least 24 people had been killed and 40 wounded but the casualty toll could rise further.

Salim Rasouli, director of the city’s hospitals, said at least 13 dead and 17 wounded had been taken to hospitals.

The latest suicide bombing adds to the unrelenting violence in Afghanistan, where at least 1,662 civilians were killed in the first half of the year. It came two weeks after the Islamic State group claimed an attack on a mosque in the capital that killed at least four people.

Kabul has accounted for at least 20 percent of all civilian casualties this year, including at least 150 people killed in a massive truck bomb attack at the end of May, according to United Nations figures.

The Taliban, which is battling the Western-backed government for control of Afghanistan, has launched a wave of attacks around the country in recent days, sparking fighting in more than half a dozen provinces.

On Sunday, dozens of Afghan troops were under siege after Taliban fighters overran a district in northern Faryab province, a spokesman for the provincial police said.

There was also fighting in Baghlan, Badakhshan, Kunduz, Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan provinces, according to officials.

The resurgence of violence coincides with the U.S. administration weighing up its strategic options for Afghanistan, including the possibility of sending more troops to bolster the training and advisory mission already helping Afghan forces.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and James Mackenzie; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Suicide car bomb hits Afghanistan’s Kabul

Taliban claim responsibility for attack that killed at least 24 people in a western Kabul neighbourhood.

The attack took place in a neighbourhood that is home to many Shia Hazaras [Reuters]

At least 24 people have been killed and more than 40 wounded after a suicide car bomb targeted Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, officials have said.

The target of Monday’s attack was a bus carrying staff of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, intelligence officials told Al Jazeera.

Najib Danish, an acting Interior Ministry spokesman added that the casualty toll could rise.

Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.

The attack came just before 7am local time (02:30 GMT) and took place close to the house of Hazara leader Mohammed Mohaqeq.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said the Hazara community had called a demonstration for Monday to commemorate a suicide bombing that killed 84 in the same area on July 23 last year.

The demonstration was postponed because of security risks.

“Security has been very tight in Kabul,” she said.

“This morning, new barrier gates went up that limit the height of trucks coming in to the city.”

The Hazaras are one of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minorities, accounting for up to 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million inhabitants.

The latest suicide bombing adds to the unrelenting violence in Afghanistan, where at least 1,662 civilians were killed in the first half of the year.

It came two weeks after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed an attack on a mosque in the capital that killed at least four people.

Kabul has accounted for at least 20 percent of all civilian casualties this year, including at least 150 people killed in a massive truck bomb attack at the end of May, according to UN figures.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/casualties-feared-kabul-car-bomb-attack-170724034019038.html

If Trump Really Loves America, He’ll Resign

July 15, 2017

Handcuffed by Ego

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Commentary

By John Francis Carey

Donald Trump Jr. “took a meeting” with a Russian government attorney and a group working to defeat Hillary Clinton.

At least, that’s what he thought, according to his email records.

No other facts are relevant.

Republican commentator Charles Krauthammer says it may be bungled collusion but it’s still collusion.

Meanwhile, the healthcare bill is going nowhere fast, there is no tax overhaul plan, and no infrastructure spending plan has been passed and funded.

The stock market is going great but the Wall Street Journal reports that the gains in the stock market haven’t translated very much into the real economy. Manufacturing is still slow, jobs have been made but the future is unclear, retail is not doing well and optimism for the U.S. economy is slipping.

“Hopes for a prolonged period of 3% GDP growth sparked by Trump’s victory have largely vanished,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment survey.

We are in a tough spot in North Korea — maybe on the brink of war. American troops remain involved in wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, along with the occasional bombing in Somalia or someplace else.

The nation needs the full attention of the Commander in Chief.

Trust in any White House policy with regard to Russia is now under assault. China is watching closely as Donald Trump looks more and more to them as a temporary stand-in president under siege and perhaps just hours or days from incapacitation due to lack of public support.

Xi Jinping can watch CNN, too.

Never in the history of the nation has a “resistance movement” dogged a U.S. president from within. Never have the media been so emotionally transfixed upon who said what in the White House, in Air Force One, on the trip and the rest. Never have we seen so many leaks and unnamed sources. Committees of Congress are questioning former Directors of National Security and the FBI, plus a long list of lesser notables. Doubt reigns.

Then, somewhere in the bowels of the FBI, there’s Robert Mueller III, lingering like the hangman.

It sounds like a bad movie. The perfect storm in Washington D.C.

But it’s real: offering three plus years of gridlock — or worse.

Doctor Charles Krauthammer has called Donald Trump “pathological” — and more than once.

Nobody has to have a medical degree to see, watch and judge for themselves.

Donald Trump’s treatment of Jeff Sessions is a lesson in bad behavior and maybe even ego-driven illness.

But there is a way out. There is always a way to do what is in the best interests of the people of the United States. There is always a way to do what’s right for the sake of the nation. There is always gain in uniting the nation and ending the foul stench — of just about anything.

Donald Trump will have to resign. His pride will refuse to entertain the notion, of course.

But the alternatives may sway him.

The best part of the Trump Presidency may be over. Many achievements already won can be maintained under a new Republican President. Maybe a healer can even start the process of moving us past…

If President Trump decides to stay, and fight a war of a 10,000 tweets all the way to impeachment — as his ego will tell him to do — his place in history will be destroyed.

If some sort of medical intervention comes to pass, his legacy, and maybe even his business empire, will be destroyed forever.

Plus, no matter what happens, enemies around the globe will be gloating at the prospect of the U.S. on the brink of ungoverned and ungovernable for the next year or two.

Putin’s evil master plan has already succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

As Trump stands today, to many he’s the rock star of the age that got into the White House in a kind of miracle of populism. The dream of “Making America Great Again” is a good one and could be preserved, and maybe even fulfilled in some ways, if he resigns.

If he stays, ignoring the advice of national solons who tell him he should resign “for the good of the nation,” the historians will rip him to shreds as a selfish, ego driven megalomaniac that really doesn’t or didn’t care if American ever became Great Again. He will be seen as one who only cares about schmoozing with Mrs. Macron in the Eiffel Tower and sending insulting tweets to the Mayor of London.

Now who should lay all this out for Donald Trump? Who can engineer the intervention?

My first thought is for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, two brothers from different mothers.

But more importantly, two men who have worked in the Oval Office to serve the American people.

Two former presidents. Two men in Trump’s same unique club.  They have to make the case to their successor in the Oval Office.

But the only people Donald Trump really trusts are those in his inner circle: Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and Ivanka. They got him where he is. They will have to play a role in getting him out.

Otherwise, they will all become a part of a long, painful, ego-fueled national nightmare.

And nobody will be better for it.

In the meantime, we await Mr. Mueller.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Mr. Carey has written commentary for The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and other newspapers.

Related:

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What Robert Mueller Learned From Enron

Robert Mueller, foreground, arriving at the Capitol for a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June. Credit Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

It seems safe to assume that nobody read Donald Trump Jr.’s damning emails with a Kremlin-connected lawyer more closely than Robert Mueller.

Mr. Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, will surely be looking into the now infamous meeting, including the president’s son; the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort.

As he does, will Mr. Mueller be able to build a case that goes all the way to the top?

That could depend on what lessons he learned from overseeing the task force that investigated one of the biggest fraud cases in American history: the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

In December 2001, Enron filed what was then the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Just weeks later, Mr. Mueller, then the F.B.I. director; Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson; and the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Michael Chertoff, formed the Enron Task Force, an elite team of F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors assigned to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the Houston-based energy trader. Andrew Weissmann, who recently joined Mr. Mueller’s Russia team, later led the task force.

The Enron team was patient and learned from its investigative and trial mistakes. After its yearslong run, it set a high-water mark for complex, high-profile financial inquiries, successfully indicting and imprisoning almost all of the company’s top executives.

Early on, the Enron team also won a jury conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, Enron’s auditor, on an obstruction-of-justice charge. That experience could prove valuable as the Russia team investigates — among many possible routes — whether President Trump obstructed justice when he fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director.

Prosecuting the Enron executives went slowly. Not until 2006 did a jury find the former chief executive, Jeffrey K. Skilling, and the former chairman and chief executive, Kenneth L. Lay, guilty. (Mr. Lay died before sentencing.)

The frauds Enron was accused of were audacious. The company had hidden debt in a complex web of off-the-books companies and had faked its profits. Yet prosecutorial success was not inevitable. Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay pleaded ignorance, blaming lower-level employees and arguing they had relied on the advice of their attorneys and auditors. The government did not have damning emails or wiretap evidence from either man. Prosecutors may face a similar challenge with Mr. Trump, who tweets but reportedly does not use email.

The Enron team got off to an auspicious start, with the Department of Justice providing adequate prosecutorial resources. Mr. Mueller helped recruit talented prosecutors and investigators from around the country and then got out of their way.

He and other top Justice Department officials then gave their team political cover. Enron and its executives were particularly close to the Bush family and top Republican officials. Early on, the team interviewed White House officials about their recollections. Republican political operatives voiced displeasure, but the team persisted.

The task force conducted its investigations effectively, flipping lower-level employees to build cases against the top bad actors. The Enron team made aggressive and risky moves. For example, it shocked Houston high society by charging the wife of Andrew Fastow, the chief financial officer, with tax evasion to put pressure on him. It worked. Mr. Fastow began to cooperate with the government. (His wife pleaded guilty.) Every prosecutor knows this strategy works, but for various reasons today, few put in the painstaking work needed to penetrate the sophisticated legal defenses of highly paid executives.

As it proceeded, the task force weathered relentless attacks. First, critics charged it was moving too slowly. Later, white-collar defense lawyers accused the team of intimidating witnesses and overzealously charging executives. The legal establishment particularly criticized the prosecution of Arthur Andersen. The government won at trial in 2002, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict three years later on a narrow issue involving jury instructions.

Despite its successes, the Enron Task Force emerged with a mixed legacy thanks to its trial losses and reversals from higher courts. Among them, the Supreme Court reversed part of the Skilling verdict.

Today, many Justice Department officials have learned the wrong lessons from the Enron experience, accepting the idea that the task force was overzealous. Even Democratic appointees like Mary Jo White, President Obama’s chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Lanny Breuer, his assistant attorney general for the criminal division, came to believe the prosecution of Andersen had been a mistake.

Drawing the wrong lessons has consequences. In subsequent years, the Justice Department did not assign prosecutors to work solely on financial crisis cases. While the Bush Justice Department had acted quickly to create the Enron Task Force, the Obama department allowed plans to create a similar task force, after the banking collapse of 2008, to die amid bureaucratic infighting.

It was no surprise, then, that the Justice Department never put any top bankers from the biggest banks in prison after the financial crisis. Forgetting what went right with the Enron prosecutions has contributed to a problem that still plagues the Justice Department: It has lost the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives from the largest corporations.

Today Mr. Mueller’s team is operating in an even hotter kitchen than the Enron Task Force did. The president has repeatedly called the investigation “a witch hunt,” and rumors abound that he could fire Mr. Mueller any day. A Trump ally, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has grumbled conspiratorially that the former F.B.I. director was the “tip of the deep state spear” aimed at the president.

But the Enron Task Force may have given Mr. Mueller a hide thick enough to protect him from those attacks. More than that, Enron honed skills he’ll need now in the Russia investigation, which may well touch on money laundering, secrecy havens, complex accounting maneuvers, campaign finance violations — and multiple lies.

As I talked with Mr. Mueller’s former Enron Task Force colleagues in recent weeks, it became clear to me that he believes the Enron team was successful — and understands why. That means his special counsel team will probably move more slowly than people anticipate. But it might also shock people with its aggressive investigative and prosecutorial tactics. If Mr. Trump and his advisers committed crimes, Mr. Mueller will find them.

Police evict thousands of migrants from north Paris sidewalks in yet another crackdown far from the Mediterranean — Where 49 missing and presumed drowned in another boat tragedy

July 7, 2017

Fri Jul 7, 2017 | 4:11am EDT

Reuters

French police evict thousands of migrants living on sidewalks near the reception center for migrants and refugees at porte de la Chapelle, north of Paris, France, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

French police evicted thousands of migrants living on sidewalks in an area of northern Paris as dawn broke on Friday – many of them people who fled war or strife in countries as far away as Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

Dozens of police and white police vans moved in at around 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) to clear the area where Paris City Hall official Dominique Versini said numbers have swollen to between 2,000 and 2,500 people.

About 100 a day were arriving in the area called the Porte de la Chapelle in the north of Paris, she told CNews TV station, noting many came from eastern Africa as well as the Middle East.

“These illegal camps present a security and public health risk for both the occupants and local residents,” the Paris police prefect’s office said in a statement as 350 police and other officials conducted the clear-out.

The migrants were being escorted onto buses to be taken to temporary lodgings such as gymnasium buildings in Paris and areas ringing the capital. Live TV footage showed what appeared to be a peaceful evacuation.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said earlier this week the situation was getting out of hand with more than 400 arrivals a week in the area.

“It’s always the same problem,” he said on Thursday. “First off you say ‘I’m going to open a center for 500 people’ and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you’re left having to sort the problem out.”

He has been asked by President Emmanuel Macron to produce a plan to accelerate processing of asylum requests with a view to deciding within six months who will be granted refugee status and who gets sent back.

The camp in Paris has swollen despite the creation of two new centers by Paris City Hall to register and temporarily house migrants arriving in the city.

Local authorities have also reported a rise in recent weeks in the number of migrants roaming the streets of the northern port city of Calais, where a sprawling illegal camp was razed to the ground last November and its inhabitants dispatched to other parts of France.

Calais, from which migrants hope to reach Britain, has come to symbolize Europe’s difficulty in dealing with a record influx of men, women and children who have fled their native countries.

(Reporting By Brian Love and Julie Carriat; Editing by Andrew Callus)

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  (But the ministers are not at work…)

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Almost 50 refugees feared drowned in the Mediterranean

Three men rescued but 49 missing after boat from Morocco sinks near Spain’s Alboran Island, coastguards say.

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Sixty migrants have died trying to cross the waters to Spain from North Africa since January [File: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters]
Sixty migrants have died trying to cross the waters to Spain from North Africa since January [File: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters]

Almost 50 refugees are feared dead after their rubber boat sank in the Alboran Sea in the Mediterranean, Spanish coastguards said.

Three “exhausted and disorientated” people were rescued from the deflated rubber boat on Tuesday that is believed to have left Morocco with 52 people aboard.

The “half-sunk” boat was spotted around 50km southwest of Spain’s Alboran Island, which lies in the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean.

When asked if the 49 people left unaccounted drowned, a spokeswoman for the coastguards told AFP news agency: “We suppose.”

Rescue workers were searching for survivors in the water near the Spanish island.

Image result for mediterranean, refugees, rubber boat, photos

The three rescued men, aged 17 to 25 from sub-Saharan Africa, “explained that more than 50 people were on board the rubber boat which had been drifting for several days after leaving the northern coast of Morocco”, the coastguards said in a statement.

READ MORE: Irish naval ship ‘rescues 712 people’ off Libyan coast

The three people were taken to hospital in Almeria in southern Spain after suffering from dehydration.

If the missing 49 are confirmed dead, this will be the deadliest sea crossing in the western part of the Mediterranean this year.

So far, 60 refugees and migrants have died trying to cross the waters to Spain from North Africa since January, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Image result for mediterranean, refugees, rubber boat, photos

The UN’s migration agency said 6,464 people reached Spain after crossing the Mediterranean between January 1 and June 25 this year.

In total, at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to cross the sea into Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece this year, the IOM said.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/50-migrants-feared-drowned-mediterranean-170705060131951.html