Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan!’

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.

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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

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

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.

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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

Getting an Edge in the Long Afghan Struggle

June 23, 2017

Trump’s early approach holds promise if backed with a sustained, and sustainable, commitment.

An Afghan man reacts at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

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June 22, 2017 6:32 p.m. ET

Can the U.S. succeed in Afghanistan? Not without a sustained, and sustainable, commitment. President Trump’s decision to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to add several thousand more U.S. troops to the 8,400 currently deployed is encouraging—but only if it is a first step in a comprehensive approach.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, should also receive greater leeway in the use of U.S. and NATO air power. And officials should remain open to the possibility of reconciliation with some insurgents, probably just those that break off from the central Taliban.

An intensified military effort could arrest the gradual loss of territory held by the government in recent years—now estimated by U.S. Central Command at only 60% of the country—and to regain battlefield momentum. Congress should enable all this by appropriating the $5 billion or so a year above current levels that such a strategy will require.

America’s leaders should not lose sight of why the U.S. went to, and has stayed in, Afghanistan: It is in our national interest to ensure that country is not once again a sanctuary for transnational extremists, as it was when the 9/11 attacks were planned there. We have been accomplishing that mission since the intervention began in October 2001. Although al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is diminished, it could rebound if given the opportunity. Islamic State could expand its newfound Afghan foothold as well.

The augmented troop levels Mr. Trump has authorized would be only 12% to 15% of the peak U.S. force levels, in 2010-11. The country can sustain that level of commitment. While all casualties are tragic, our losses in Afghanistan would likely remain far fewer than the losses from another major terrorist attack in the U.S.

Today the U.S. and its coalition partners lack the capacity to train and assist Afghan forces adequately in the field. As recently as 2015, the allied forces did not even have a full-time advisory presence for the main Afghan army corps in Helmand province. Largely as a result, the Taliban gained control of much of the province. Nor did the coalition have adequate advisers to help the smaller Afghan formations near Kunduz before that city fell to the Taliban in 2015. It was later liberated only at high cost, especially to Afghan forces and civilians. Restrictions on coalition air power reduced America’s ability to help Afghan partners.

Adding some 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. and allied troops could provide the capacity for several dozen deployable mentoring teams. That is far from enough to assist each Afghan brigade or battalion. But it could support the units that are engaged in the toughest fights and are most intensively involved in rebuilding their capabilities. Supporting those teams logistically and with air power, and providing quick-reaction forces in several parts of the country to help them if they get in trouble, would drive additional requirements for coalition troops into the low thousands.

On the civilian side, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah need to continue their efforts against corruption, which have shown gradual, modest results to date. With U.S. help, they need to reform the electoral commissions that will oversee parliamentary and presidential elections over the next two years.

Then there is Pakistan, where the U.S. needs a tougher approach. Washington reduced aid to Islamabad by more than half over the past five years. More can be cut. President Trump and Congress could also designate Pakistani individuals and organizations supporting the Taliban and impose sanctions on them. The U.S. could show less restraint in striking Taliban targets within Pakistan.

There are carrots available too: trade concessions, increased aid, more assistance to the Pakistani army’s fight against internal extremists, dialogue with New Delhi to mitigate Pakistan’s worries about India’s role in Afghanistan. But these must come on the condition that Islamabad put greater pressure on the Taliban (whose headquarters is in the Quetta area) and on the Haqqani insurgent network (in North Waziristan). None of this will work unless Pakistani leaders recognize that allowing these groups’ leaders sanctuary on their soil is foolish and dangerous. Given the way extremist groups collaborate in Central and South Asia, that approach will inevitably continue to backfire. After all, the greatest existential threat Pakistan faces is internal extremism, not India.

President Trump’s early approach holds promise. In Afghanistan today, the military needs to revisit the phase of the mission it largely skipped in the years after the surge of 2010-12 or so, when it downsized too quickly and too far. This approach will not achieve “victory” in Afghanistan, after which all troops can be withdrawn. That is an impossible goal in the near-term. But it will be sustainable and it can improve the prospects of shoring up our eastern flank in the broader battle against Islamist extremism—a fight that likely is to be a generational struggle.

Mr. Petraeus, a retired Army general, commanded coalition forces in Iraq (2007-08) and in Afghanistan (2010-11) and later served as director of the CIA (2011-12). Mr. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/getting-an-edge-in-the-long-afghan-struggle-1498170753

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a helicopter over Kabul, April 24.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a helicopter over Kabul, April 24. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
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Petraeus: Afghan war a ‘generational struggle’ that will not end soon

 

BY LARISA EPATKO  June 16, 2017 at 6:17 PM EDT

The 16-year war in Afghanistan is not going to end any time soon, former CIA Director David Petraeus said Friday in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff.

“This is a generational struggle. This is not something that is going to be won in a few years. We’re not going to take a hill, plant a flag and go home to a victory parade,” said Petraeus, who also oversaw U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq during his military career. He is now a partner at KKR global investment firm.

“You know, we’ve been in Korea for 65-plus years, because there’s an important national interest for that. We were in Europe for a very long period of time,” he said. “We’re still there, of course, and actually with a renewed interest now given Russia’s aggressive actions.”

When Woodruff asked if he thought if the U.S. would need to stay in Afghanistan for 60 more years, he said he doesn’t think the U.S. involvement will last that long. But “I think we should not approach this as a year-on-year mission,” he said, noting that kind of instability gives Afghan leaders “the jitters.”

The current U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has recommended sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to the 8,400 already there. Petraeus called the possible increase in forces “heartening” and “sustainable.”

Watch Woodruff’s full interview with David Petraeus on Friday’s broadcast of PBS NewsHour.

Includes video:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/petraeus-afghan-war-generational-struggle-will-not-end-soon/

Car bomb in Afghanistan targets security forces waiting for pay

June 22, 2017

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan: A car bomb exploded outside a bank in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens of civilians and members of the security forces waiting to collect their pay, officials said.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said at least 20 people had been killed and more than 50 wounded, including members of the police and army, civilians and staff of the New Kabul Bank branch where the attack took place.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-06-22

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but insurgent groups, including the Taliban and Islamic State have in the past targeted banks where police, soldiers and other government employees collect their pay.

Last month, at least three people were killed and many wounded in an attack on a bank in the eastern city of Gardez.

(Reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai and Abdul Malek; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/car-bomb-in-afghanistan-targets-security-forces-waiting-for-pay-8968792

Trump seen hardening line toward Pakistan after Afghan war review — China expected to open a Naval Base in Pakistan

June 20, 2017

Reuters

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

President Donald Trump’s administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, U.S. officials tell Reuters.

Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some U.S. officials, however, are skeptical of the prospects for success, arguing that years of previous U.S. efforts to curb Pakistan’s support for militant groups have failed, and that already strengthening U.S. ties to India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.

U.S. officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, once the administration finishes a regional review of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Precise actions have yet to be decided.

The White House and Pentagon declined to comment on the review before its completion. Pakistan’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

But the discussions alone suggest a shift toward a more assertive approach to address safe havens in Pakistan that have been blamed for in part helping turn Afghanistan’s war into an intractable conflict.

Experts on America’s longest war argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot deadly strikes in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives.

Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a the regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.

“We’ve never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other U.S. officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behavior. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.

The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that U.S.-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent.

Without more pressure on militants within Pakistan who target Afghanistan, experts say additional U.S. troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.

“I believe there will be a much harder U.S. line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past,” Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, told Reuters, without citing specific measures under review.

Kabul has long been critical of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.

Pakistan fiercely denies allowing any militants safe haven on its territory. It bristles at U.S. claims that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, has ties to Haqqani network militants blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.

“What Pakistan says is that we are already doing a lot and that our plate is already full,” a senior Pakistani government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source doubted the Trump administration would press too hard, saying: “They don’t want to push Pakistan to abandon their war against terrorism.”

Pakistani officials point towards the toll militancy has taken on the country. Since 2003, almost 22,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 Pakistani security forces have been killed as a result of militancy, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence.

Experts say Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan is also driven in part by fears that India will gain influence in Afghanistan.

IS PAKISTAN AN ALLY?

Nuclear-armed Pakistan won the status as a major non-NATO ally in 2004 from the George Bush administration, in what was at the time seen in part as recognition of its importance in the U.S. battle against al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents.

The status is mainly symbolic, allowing limited benefits such as giving Pakistan faster access to surplus U.S. military hardware.

Some U.S. officials and experts on the region scoff at the title.

“Pakistan is not an ally. It’s not North Korea or Iran. But it’s not an ally,” said Bruce Riedel, a Pakistan expert at the Brookings Institution.

But yanking the title would be seen by Pakistan as a major blow.

“The Pakistanis would take that very seriously because it would be a slap at their honor,” said a former U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Lisa Curtis, senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, co-authored a report with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, in which they recommended the Trump administration warn Pakistan the status could be revoked in six months.

“Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” said the February report.

It was unclear how seriously the Trump administration was considering the proposal.

The growing danger to Afghanistan from suspected Pakistan-based militants was underscored by a devastating May 31 truck bomb that killed more than 80 people and wounded 460 in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said the attack – one of the deadliest in memory in Kabul – had been carried out by the Haqqani network with assistance from Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Washington believes the strikes appeared to be the work of the Haqqani network, U.S. officials told Reuters.

U.S. frustration over the Haqqani’s presence in Pakistan has been building for years. The United States designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization in 2012. U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top U.S. military officer, told Congress in 2011 that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI.

The potential U.S. pivot to a more assertive approach would be sharply different than the approach taken at the start of the Obama administration, when U.S. officials sought to court Pakistani leaders, including Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

David Sedney, who served as Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013, said the attempt to turn Islamabad into a strategic partner was a “disaster.”

“It didn’t affect Pakistan’s behavior one bit. In fact, I would argue it made Pakistan’s behavior worse,” Sedney said.

MORE DRONES, CASH CUT-OFF

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in so-called Coalition Support Funds (CSF), a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

It is an important form of foreign currency for the nuclear-armed country and one that is getting particularly close scrutiny during the Trump administration review.

Last year, the Pentagon decided not to pay Pakistan $300 million in CSF funding after then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter declined to sign authorization that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.

U.S. officials said the Trump administration was discussing withholding at least some assistance to Pakistan.

Curtis’ report also singled out the aid as a target.

But U.S. aid cuts could cede even more influence to China, which already has committed nearly $60 billion in investments in Pakistan.

Another option under review is broadening a drone campaign to penetrate deeper into Pakistan to target Haqqani fighters and other militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, U.S. officials and a Pakistan expert said.

“Now the Americans (will be) saying, you aren’t taking out our enemies, so therefore we are taking them out ourselves,” the Pakistan expert, who declined to be identified, said.

Pakistan’s army chief of staff last week criticized “unilateral actions” such as drone strikes as “counterproductive and against (the) spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan”.

(Additional reporting by Josh Smith in Kabul, Drazen Jorgic in Islamabad and John Walcott in Washington; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Howard Goller)

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China May Soon Establish Naval Base in U.S. Ally Pakistan

LONDON — Nuclear-armed Pakistan is a key ally of the United States — but the relationship is far from untroubled. And one of Washington’s main geopolitical rivals appears ready to step in.

The Pentagon is warning that the Islamic republic may soon house a Chinese military base.

Image: PLA navy war Ships arrive in Karachi, Pakistan
Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah salutes China’s People’s Liberation Army marines upon their arrival in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 10. Pakistan Navy via Twitter

While the U.S. gives Islamabad hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, the two countries are not on the same page when it comes to fighting terrorism or ending the war in Afghanistan.

A report released earlier this month suggested that Beijing would likely turn to countries such as Pakistan as it seeks to project its economic and military power abroad.

The Pentagon didn’t provide a time frame for such a move. However, a senior Pakistani diplomat confirmed to NBC News that his country invited China to build a naval facility on its territory back in 2011.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the diplomat said this request came just days after U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a secret raid to kill Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, when relations between Washington and Islamabad took a nosedive.

Despite the reports, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying dismissed the idea of a Chinese base in Pakistan as “conjecture” and “irresponsible remarks.”

But Western experts and Pakistani officials see it as a distinct possibility.

Shifting Ties

Soon after 9/11, Washington and Islamabad drew closer. The U.S. lavished Pakistan with military and civilian aid, and in return Pakistan granted the U.S. forward bases for military operations in Afghanistan and drone strikes in its own tribal areas.

But more recently Pakistan has become more estranged from the U.S. and the West because of continued allegations that it harbors militant groups. It’s also accused of not doing everything it can to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table over the war in Afghanistan.

In addition, Western countries are more interested in doing business with India, which is Pakistan’s arch-rival and a regional strategic competitor to China.

Where the West has withdrawn, China has stepped in.

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China’s “Belt and Road” plan would be the world’s largest infrastructure program.

Pakistan is set to play an important role in China’s “Belt and Road,” a $1.4-trillion global trade plan that analysts say could shift the center of global economy and challenge the current U.S.-led order.

Islamabad is banking on receiving more than $50 billion in Chinese loans and grants in relation to this initiative. Its part of the trade route — known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC — would connect the landlocked Chinese province of Xinjiang to the Indian Ocean and some of the world’s most important maritime corridors.

Common Enemy

The Chinese-Pakistan alliance also makes sense in terms of their shared rivalry with India.

“What better way for China to demonstrate clout than to build a military base right in your rival’s backyard?” said Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Wilson Center.

All three countries have nuclear weapons, and some experts have long since worried that ongoing skirmishes between India and Pakistan could one day boil over into a nuclear war — although this remains a worst-case-scenario.

Related: $46B Project Reveals Chinese Power Play in Pakistan

Because Pakistan has a smaller conventional army than India’s, a Chinese base on its soil could help the Islamic republic compete with its old Hindu rival.

“We need an equalizer against India … Previously, it was the U.S. and Saudi [Arabia]. Now, it’s China,” one Pakistani intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Image: Chinese warships arrive in Karachi, Pakistan
Chinese warships arrive in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 10. Pakistan Navy via Twitter

China has already riled the U.S. and its allies after constructing several man-made islands on reefs and rock formations in the disputed South China Sea.

With overlapping territorial claims from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines, this body of water is home to rich energy and fishing reserves and around $5 trillion of sea-borne trade passes through it each year.

Pakistan’s role in China’s global trade plans means a military base would make sense. The Chinese “may have strong incentives to protect their assets,” said Sameer Lalwani, a research fellow at the Stimson Center, a think tank based in Washington.

“Chinese deployments in Pakistan could range from Chinese intelligence personnel, naval forces in ports like Gwadar, air forces to support missions in Central Asia, or even special forces or counterterrorism strike capabilities,” he said.

Image: Map showing Gwadar, Pakistan
A map showing the location of Gwadar, Pakistan. Google Maps

Gwadar already has a commercial port built and operated by Chinese authorities and was touted by one high-ranking Pakistani military official as a possible site for the Chinese base. The other two potential locations are Jiwani and Ormara.

All three are close to the vital Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.

Signs of Strain

Even though China calls Pakistan its “Iron Brother” and “All Weather Friend,” Beijing’s patience has also been tested. Last week, ISIS claimed that it killed two Chinese teachers who were abducted in Balochistan in May.

Such incidents have prompted Pakistan to beef up security around Chinese citizens involved in the infrastructure splurge. The army has raised two new infantry divisions, speckled with commando, paramilitary and police units, to protect Chinese workers.

Related: China’s ‘Money Game’ Woos Allies Away from Neighbor

As a show of force and unity, three Chinese warships docked on Saturday for a training mission at the Pakistani port of Karachi, where China is already manufacturing four attack submarines as part of a larger arms deal.

But there are other sensitivities involved.

“There is a firm opinion against any bases being given to any foreign country inside Pakistan. We’ve seen what happened when we gave such rights to the Americans,” said Lt. General Javed Ashraf, retired chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the country’s intelligence agency known as the ISI. “This is not only what the general public feels, but the Pakistani forces are also opposed to the idea.”

Wajahat S. Khan and Alexander Smith reported from London. Eric Baculinao reported from Beijing.

President Trump’s authorization of an additional 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan — To Be Successful, Pakistan Must Close “Safe Areas” to Taliban

June 19, 2017

Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says President Trump’s authorization of an additional 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is meant to “slow the gradually deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan.

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Michael O’Hanlon. Credit Jeffrey MacMillan

“The additional 4,000 U.S. troops are meant to be trainers and advisors and to give the government and military of Afghanistan to solidify itself against the Taliban,” O’Hanlon said today.

He also said that Pakistan can help in the effort to reach stability in Afghanistan by closing any “safe areas” available to the Taliban in Pakistan, particularly in the Tribal Areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

— Peace and Freedom reporter

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WASHINGTON — When President Trump made his first major decision on the war in Afghanistan, he did not announce it in a nationally televised address from the White House or a speech at West Point.

Instead, the Pentagon issued a news release late one afternoon last week confirming that the president had given the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, the authority to send several thousand additional troops to a war that, in its 16th year, engages about 8,800 American troops.

Mr. Trump, who writes avidly on Twitter about war and peace in other parts of the world, said nothing about the announcement. But its effect was unmistakable: He had outsourced the decision on how to proceed militarily in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, a startling break with how former President Barack Obama and many of his predecessors handled the anguished task of sending Americans into foreign conflicts.

The White House played down the Pentagon’s vaguely worded statement, which referred only to setting “troop levels” as a stopgap measure — a tacit admission of the administration’s internal conflicts over what to do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

With a president who ran for office almost never having talked about the war, a coterie of political advisers who bitterly oppose deeper American engagement in it, and a national security team dominated by generals worried about the consequences if the United States does not act quickly, the decision could succeed in buying time for Mr. Trump and his advisers to fully deliberate over what to do in Afghanistan.

But former commanders and military scholars said that in sending troops before having a strategy, Mr. Trump has put the cart before the horse, eroded the tradition of civilian control over the military, and abdicated the president’s duty to announce and defend troop deployments.

“A commander in chief keeps control of limited wars by defining missions, selecting commanders and setting troop levels,” said Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who was a top commander and the American ambassador in Afghanistan. “To delegate any of these is dangerous.”

The decision to send additional troops represents at least a temporary victory for Mr. Mattis and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, over Mr. Trump’s aides, including his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who had warned that sending more troops was a slippery slope toward nation building, anathema to nationalists like him who reject both the interventionist neoconservatives of the George W. Bush administration and the limited war fought by Mr. Obama.

Those objections stymied the troop proposal several weeks ago. But officials said the White House was rattled by a huge truck bomb in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that killed more than 150, as well as by fears that military trends are running against the government of President Ashraf Ghani, an American-friendly former World Bank official, to the point that it might be in danger of collapse.

General McMaster — who served in Afghanistan as the head of an anti-corruption task force and is closely allied with Mr. Mattis, another former general with Afghanistan experience — argued passionately to Mr. Trump that the military effort had to be expanded without further delay, according to one official.

“What we are seeing now is that the president has acknowledged that the Afghan mission is important, and we ought to do it right,” said James Jay Carafano, a national security specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advised Mr. Trump’s presidential transition.

White House officials say they are still debating America’s role in Afghanistan — one senior adviser said they would consider issues as basic as whether the country needs a strong central government, rather than the warlords who have historically divided power there. In the meantime, the Pentagon is moving ahead with plans to send 3,000 to 5,000 troops to try to stabilize the country.

But it is not clear what Mr. Trump’s view of the strategy is, or even how involved he is in the debate. Officials said he did attend two National Security Council meetings last week — the first to discuss the troop issue, and the second to discuss the broader policy for South Asia.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/18/world/asia/us-troops-afghanistan-trump.html?mcubz=2&_r=0