Posts Tagged ‘Islamists’

Hamas says will not attend Palestinian meeting over Jerusalem

January 13, 2018

Israeli border guards prepare to disperse a protest by Palestinians against the US’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, on January 9, 2018 north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)

GAZA: Hamas said Saturday it would not participate in a meeting of Palestinian leaders to debate responses to the controversial US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The decision not to take part in the meeting to begin late Sunday is a further setback to failing reconciliation efforts between leading Palestinian factions.
“We have taken the decision not to participate in the meeting of the (Palestinian) Central Council in Ramallah,” Hamas said in a statement, however stressing its “commitment to the unity of our people.”
“The conditions under which the committee will be held will not enable it to carry out a comprehensive and responsible political review, and will prevent decisions that reach the level of our aspirations.”
The two-day meeting will bring together the heads of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian Islamist movement, were invited to attend despite not being part of the PLO. Islamic Jihad has also announced it would not take part.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, had been pushing for the meeting to be held outside the Palestinian territories but Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas decided instead to host it in Ramallah, the base of his government in the West Bank.
The Hamas statement said this left them subject to the “pressures” of Israel, which occupies the West Bank and regularly arrests Hamas officials.
The meeting is due to discuss responses to US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision infuriated Palestinian leaders, who see at least the east of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Trump’s administration has also not publicly committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and the PLO office in Washington was briefly threatened with closure.
Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party signed a reconciliation agreement in October that was meant to see the Islamists hand over control of Gaza by the end of the year.
The talks have however broken down, with disputes over the fate of tens of thousands of Hamas civil servants and the future of Hamas’ vast armed wing.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, forcing out Abbas’ forces in a near civil war.
It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and is considered a terrorist organization by the Jewish State, the United States and others.


The U.S. Pakistan Story: “There’s no amount of bribery or threat that can ultimately make people act against what they consider to be their core interests”

January 5, 2018

© AFP | Pakistani demonstrators burn the US flag at a protest in Quetta on Jan 4 as Washington escalated its criticism over militant safe havens

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Washington accuses Pakistan of playing a dangerous double game, taking billions in US aid while supporting militants attacking its forces in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.Its belated move to suspend assistance, after years of mistrust, highlights the perils of alienating a quasi-ally whose support is vital in the long-running Afghan conflict.

The dramatic freeze in deliveries of military equipment and security funding comes after President Donald Trump lambasted Pakistan for its alleged support for militant safe havens, including in a furious new year tweet.

What does the US want from Pakistan?

Washington and Kabul accuse Pakistan of cynically supporting militant groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group.

They say the insurgents have safe havens in Pakistan’s border areas and links to its shadowy military establishment, which aims to use them in Afghanistan as a regional bulwark against arch-nemesis India.

Pakistan’s support for these groups must end, Washington insists.

Islamabad has repeatedly denied the accusations, insisting it has eradicated safe havens and accusing the US of ignoring the thousands who have been killed on Pakistani soil and the billions spent fighting extremists.

It also levels the same charge at Kabul, accusing Afghanistan of harbouring militants on its side of the border who then launch attacks on Pakistan.

Why hasn’t Washington axed aid before?

US figures show that more than $33 billion has been given to Pakistan in direct aid since 2002. Given fears Pakistan is being duplicitous, cutting the money off seems an obvious step.

It has been suspended before, notably after the US raid on the Pakistani town of Abbotabad in 2011 that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The discovery of the world’s most wanted man, less than a mile from Pakistan’s elite military academy, drew suspicions that he had been sheltered by the country’s intelligence agency for years.

But despite the provocations, the US does not want to completely rupture its relationship with Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment already runs high.

Washington’s footprint in Afghanistan is much smaller than it was at the height of the war, and it needs access to Pakistan’s supply lines and airspace.

Pakistan is still believed to have the strongest influence over the Taliban, making its cooperation necessary for peace talks.

Pakistan also holds the Muslim world’s only known nuclear arsenal and the US wants to prevent it from going to war with rival nuclear power India, or collapsing and allowing the weapons to fall into the hands of extremists.

“They want to apply graduated pressure to Pakistan to change its policy, rather than abandon it altogether,” security analyst Hasan Askari said.

Will the US strategy work?

Some analysts have said there is no real way to pressure Pakistan, which believes keeping Kabul out of nemesis India’s orbit is more important than clamping down on cross-border militancy.

Askari warned the suspension of millions of dollars in security assistance might see the US lose crucial influence over Pakistan which will instead look to other countries for support.

China — which is investing some $60 billion in infrastructure projects in Pakistan — was the first to rush to Pakistan’s defence after Trump’s latest tweet criticising its militant policy.

But China may also prove to be intolerant of any double-dealing with extremists.

It has a horror of Islamist militancy and its own interests in keeping Pakistan and Afghanistan stable, from protecting its investment to ensuring security on the borders with its vast, restive western province of Xinjiang.

In the end, observers say, until Washington addresses Pakistan’s fears over India, it will not shake its support for militant proxies.

“There’s no amount of bribery or threat that can ultimately make people act against what they consider to be their core interests,” tweeted journalist Murtaza Mohammad Hussain.

Pakistan says US military aid suspension ‘counterproductive’

January 5, 2018


© AFP | The United States has been threatening for months to cut aid to Islamabad over its failure to crack down on militant groups

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan denounced Washington’s decision to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance as “counterproductive” Friday, in a carefully-worded response to the frustrated Trump administration’s public rebuke over militant safe havens.The United States has been threatening for months to cut aid to Islamabad over its failure to crack down on groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which it says operates from bases in Pakistan’s northwest.

The rhetoric has raised hackles in Islamabad and fears the row could undermine Pakistan’s support for US operations in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the State Department announced a dramatic freeze in deliveries of military equipment and security funding until Pakistan cracks down on the militants.

The announcement ignited some small protests in Pakistan on Friday, including in Chaman, one of the two main crossings on the border with Afghanistan, where several hundred people gathered to chant anti-US slogans.

But Pakistan’s foreign office issued a cautious statement in which it said it was “engaged” with US officials and awaiting further details.

Without referring to the decision directly, it warned that “arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats”.

Emerging threats such as the growing presence of the Islamic State group in the region make cooperation more important than ever, it added.

Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown Islamist groups, and says it has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.

But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the countries’ border.

In September last year the US had already suspended $255 million in funding to help Pakistan buy high-tech weaponry from American manufacturers.

Now, the Defense Department has been instructed to stop making payments from “coalition support funds” set aside to refund Pakistani spending on counter-terrorist operations.

There will be exemptions, and officials refused to put a figure on how much Pakistan will lose out on if it fails to cooperate.

But the National Defense Authorization Act permits the US military to spend up to $900 million in the 2017 financial year and $700 million in financial 2018.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the security spending would be suspended until Pakistan takes “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.

Privately US diplomats insist the relationship is not in crisis.

They say Pakistan is not refusing to fight the Haqqani network, but that the two capitals disagree about the facts on the ground.

Pakistan insists safe havens have been eradicated, but US intelligence says it is still seeing militants operating freely.

Nauert was at pains to point out that the frozen funds had not been cancelled, and would be ready to be disbursed if Pakistan takes action to prove its commitment to the fight.

“The United States stands ready to work with Pakistan in combating all terrorists, without distinction,” Nauert said.

Pakistan responds to US action after Trump’s inflammatory tweet

January 4, 2018

Pakistan’s army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor addresses a news conference, saying he wants Pakistan to continue cooperation with the US but will not “compromise on national interests and prestige.” (AP)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is ready to face any US action in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tweet on New Year’s Day threatening the country, according to the country’s defense minister and an army spokesman.

Khurram Dastagir said on Thursday there should be “no doubt or fear as the defense of Pakistan is in competent and strong hands.” Earlier, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan’s response will be “in line with the wishes of the Pakistani people.”
Trump accused Islamabad of providing a safe haven for terrorists in his tweet. On Monday, he tweeted that the United States had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but “lies and deceit.”
Washington confirmed it will withhold $255 million in US military aid to Pakistan this year, a threat first issued last August when Trump announced his Afghan policy, which took aim at Pakistan and demanded an end to Islamabad’s alleged support for the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan denies supporting militants, pointing to its own war against extremist groups battling to overthrow the government.
In contrast to recent visits by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who spoke of “engagement and trust-building during their visits here … now President Trump and Vice President Pence are talking of threats, insults and ‘putting Pakistan on notice,’” Dastagir said. “We have to develop our strategy cool-headedly, after analyzing the both sides of US administration.”
On Wednesday night, Ghafoor told local Geo TV that Pakistan wants to continue cooperation with the US but will not “compromise on national interests and prestige.”
“Allies don’t fight,” he said, adding that “the US should realize how Pakistan has been cooperative in the war against terror.”
Pakistan says much of the money it received from the US came as reimbursement in coalition support for services the country provided in the war on terror. It says the US still owes Pakistan $9 billion in the coalition support fund.
The uneasy US-Pakistan relationship has been on a downward spiral since the 2011 US operation that killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.

Trump administration to announce cuts in ‘security assistance’ for Pakistan

January 4, 2018


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been informing members of Congress that it will announce as soon as Wednesday plans to cut off “security assistance” to Pakistan, congressional aides said on Wednesday, a day after the White House warned Islamabad it would have to do more to maintain U.S. aid.


Aides in two congressional offices said the State Department called on Wednesday to inform them that it would announce on Wednesday or Thursday that aid was being cut off, although it was not clear how much, what type or for how long.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declined to say whether an announcement was imminent. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The calls to Capitol Hill came a day after Washington accused Pakistan of playing a “double game” on fighting terrorism and warned Islamabad it would have to do more if it wanted to maintain U.S. aid.

Pakistan-US war of words over Donald Trump's tweet

Ties between Pakistan and the US have deteriorated recently [File: Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that Washington would withhold $255 million in assistance to Pakistan. Her statement followed an angry tweet from Trump on Monday that the United States had been rewarded with “nothing but lies and deceit” for giving Pakistan billions in aid.

Pakistan civilian and military chiefs rejected what they termed “incomprehensible” U.S. comments and summoned U.S. Ambassador David Hale to explain Trump’s tweet.

Relations between Islamabad and Washington have been strained for years over Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban.

The United States also alleges that senior Afghan Taliban commanders live on Pakistani soil and has signaled it will cut aid and take other steps if Islamabad does not stop helping or turning a blind eye to Haqqani militants crossing the border to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

Many members of the U.S. Congress, particularly Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature, have been critical of the Pakistani government and called for cuts in military and other aid.

Pakistan bans companies from donating cash to UN-proscribed entities, individuals

January 2, 2018

In this file photo, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, speaks with a Reuters correspondent during an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan on June 12, 2017. (REUTERS)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has banned all registered corporate companies from donating cash to entities and individuals proscribed by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

“Their accounts are frozen, and the law regarding charitable organizations is being further strengthened to impose higher penalties on donations to proscribed organizations,” Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told Arab News.
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the country’s apex corporate regulator, said a fine of up to 10 million rupees ($90,600) would be imposed on companies found guilty of violating the ban.
The SECP said it “hereby prohibits all companies from donating cash to the entities and individuals listed under the UNSC sanctions committee’s consolidated list.”
The Interior Ministry has so far proscribed 65 organizations and splinter groups — including Al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Al-Harmain Foundation — as well as individuals.
The US has labeled the JuD and FIF as “terrorist fronts” for the LeT, which America and India blame for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
The JuD and FIF operate large charity networks across Pakistan, includes hospitals, seminaries, a publishing house, medical centers and ambulances.
The charities also set up free medical camps across the country all year round, and provide emergency support during natural disasters.
JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said the organization will go to court if the government takes any action against it and the FIF.
“We will not remain silent. We will fight a legal battle,” he said in a statement following reports of possible action against the charities.
“Courts have given permission to JuD to continue with their preaching, relief and welfare activities freely,” he said. “Despite this, the government often takes such steps only to please India.”
Sajid Gondal, a deputy director at the SECP, told Arab News: “For the first time, we’ve barred companies from donating cash to proscribed outfits. It’s a law now, and we’ll ensure its strict implementation.”
He said the regulator will monitor companies’ financial statements and annual returns, and impose hefty fines on those found guilty of violating the law.
But Afzal Ali Shigri, a former police inspector general, told Arab News: “I believe that none of the banned charities receive donations through banks and other traditional channels. All of them receive cash donations either by hand or through illegal channels.”

Egypt court jails ousted president Muhammad Mursi over insulting judiciary

December 30, 2017

Former Islamist President Muhammad Mursi and 18 others over insulting the judiciary, sentencing them to three years in prison. (AP)

CAIRO: An Egyptian court has convicted former Islamist President Muhammad Mursi and 18 others over insulting the judiciary, sentencing them to three years in prison.

Among defendants in the case are prominent rights activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah and political analyst Amr Hamzawy, both of whom were fined 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,688). Abdel-Fattah is serving a five-year sentence for taking part in an illegal protest in 2013. Hamzawy lives in exile.
Saturday’s verdict can be appealed.
Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was ousted by the military in 2013 following mass protests against his one-year divisive rule. He has since faced trial on a host of charges, including espionage and conspiring with foreign groups.
Egypt has since 2013 cracked down on Islamists, jailing thousands of them as well as secular and liberal activists.

Pakistan warns US against unilateral military action

December 29, 2017

Al Jazeera

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A military spokesman said that Pakistan would continue to fight armed groups in the region in Pakistan’s self-interest, rather than at the behest of other countries [File: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s military has warned the United States against the possibility of taking unilateral action against armed groups on its soil, in its strongest response yet to tensions between the two allies.

Speaking to journalists in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Thursday, Pakistan military spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor rejected the notion that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight armed groups.

“We have sacrificed a lot. We have paid a huge price both in blood and treasure,” Ghafoor said. “We have done enough and we cannot do any more for anyone.”

He said Pakistan would continue to fight armed groups in the region in Pakistan’s self-interest, rather than at the behest of other countries.

“Had we not supported [the US], al-Qaeda would not have been defeated,” he said.

Since 2007, Pakistan has been battling armed groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), al-Qaeda and their allies, who have been seeking to impose a strict version of Islam on the country. The military has launched multiple military operations to regain territory where the groups’ fighters once held sway.

Violence has dropped since the launch of the latest operation in 2014, but sporadic, high-casualty attacks continue to occur. Earlier this month, at least nine people were killed in a suicide bombing on a church in the southwestern city of Quetta.

The US has often called on Pakistan to “do more” in its fight against armed groups, accusing it of selectively targeting armed groups and not taking action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, both of whom target US and Afghan forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

US criticism

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson repeated the call for Pakistan to take on groups allegedly offered safe haven on its soil.

“We are prepared to partner with Pakistan to defeat terrorist organisations seeking safe havens, but Pakistan must demonstrate its desire to partner with us,” he wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Tillerson’s message echoed US President Donald Trump’s words when he announced a new South Asia strategy in August, singling out Pakistan for criticism. Since then, a series of high-level contacts between the two governments have taken place, although no breakthrough achievements have been announced.

During his press conference on Thursday, Ghafoor linked the difficulty of acting against armed groups such as the Haqqani Network to the number of Afghan refugees resident in Pakistan.

The country is home to more than 2.7 million Afghan refugees, by the military’s figures, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for more than three decades.

Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim


US envoy: Philippines has potential to perform better

December 26, 2017
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This file photo taken on August 17, 2017, shows people living in a settlement as the skyline of Manila’s financial district is seen in the background. President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war and armed Islamist rebellion pose “rising” risks to the Philippine economy, though it should continue to grow robustly in the short term, Moody’s Investors Service said September 16, 2017. Noel Celis/AFP, File

MANILA, Philippines — Despite huge challenges it faces, the Philippines carries a lot of potential and can improve its already robust economic performance, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

According to Kim, the Philippines has a lot of potential as a country since it has a young, hardworking and English-speaking population and great natural resources.

“The Philippines like many other countries faces some huge challenges [such as] infrastructure. But I also sense that there is tremendous potential here in the Philippines,” Kim said in an interview in ANC‘s Early Edition.

Kim said that the Philippine economy could still perform better, and he hoped that the United States would be a “key partner” in this development.

He said that the focus of the government of President Rodrigo Duterte on infrastructure was an “important initiative” which he said he hoped to be started soon.

“I always encourage US companies to think about business opportunities here in the Philippines. Likewise I think it will be good for Philippine industry to look for opportunities in the United States,” the envoy said.

The Philippines under Duterte is embarking on a massive infrastructure program aimed at improving the country’s decrepit roads, railways, sea and airports which have been blamed for the humongous traffic jams regularly seen in the capital and its surrounding provinces.

The American envoy also doused fears that the US economy would restrict its global trade initiatives following American President Donald Trump’s so-called “America First” policy. Kim said that the US was still the “most open economy anywhere” and still supportive of trade, but one which is fair to all parties.

“We want to promote trade, but what we are looking for is fair and reciprocal trade,” he said, adding that he regularly convinced American businessmen to explore the Philippines as a possible investment destination.

READ: Infra spending to boost GDP

Aside from economic relations, Kim also talked about the assistance that the US had been providing to the Philippines.

He said that the United States Agency for International Development had been providing the country with assistance in health, education, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and governance.

He added that the American government was particularly interested in helping the Philippines rebuild Marawi City, a southern Philippine city recently the scene of five months of intense clashes between security forces and militants who wanted to transform the lakeside town into the center of the Islamic State group’s province in Southeast Asia.

The US envoy said that Washington had already provided P750 million in aid that should help address short-, medium- and long-term needs in the battle-scarred Islamic city.

He also stressed the importance of countering recruitment efforts of militants who might try to exploit the resentment that young people and residents might feel following the destruction of their hometown.

Kim said that American and Filipino experts were already designing programs that would counter efforts by militants to convince affected residents to join their ranks.

“It’s important to ensure that these young people are able to make smart decisions and are able to resist evil people trying to recruit them for evil purposes,” he said.

READ: US sends water, anti-TB meds to families displaced from Marawi

Kim was appointed in November last year at the height of Duterte’s public vitriolic attacks against the US after Washington aired its concern of the brutality of the chief executive’s war against illegal drugs.

Relations between the treaty allies have generally calmed down in recent months as the Trump administration has largely refrained from issuing public rebukes of drug war and the country’s human rights record, to the disappointment of human rights groups and activists.

French President Macron highlights Niger terror fight

December 23, 2017


President Emmanuel Macron has visited French counterterrorism troops based in Niger, who are combating extremists in the Sahel. He stressed the need for development programs to tackle the root causes of extremism.

President Macron with troops at the Niamey base

A gala dinner for 700 was prepared by the presidential chef from the Elysee Palace in Paris at the base for French troops near Niger’s capital, Niamey, on Friday night.

With 500 men, Mirage 2000 fighter jets and drones, the French base is the air hub for the Barkhane force, which operates across five countries and former colonies as a “pillar of counterterrorism in the Sahel region.” It has particular focus on extremists in Mali, Chad and Niger.

A fine Christmas dinner with produce brought from France set the scene for Macron to tell the troops that their mission would be continued with the “aim of winning clear and important victories against the enemy.”

French troops on patrolFrench troops on patrol

“I am proud of you, France is proud of you…. France mourns its dead, takes care of its injured (and) is proud of its children who are fighting to protect it,” he said. Macron was accompanied by the chief of staff of the armed forces, General Francois Lecointre, who replaced General Pierre de Villiers after  Villiers had abruptly resigned earlier in the year over cuts in the military budget.

Security for the future

“I trust you,” Macron told the troops, particularly for the mission in the Sahel, which he called “a priority” because “this is where our security is played out, the future for part of the African continent.”

“We must not leave the Sahel to terrorist organizations,” Macron added. “We cannot cede to them the slightest piece of territory.”

He said the ongoing Barkhane mission had halted jihadis on various fronts and the extremists were “no longer capable of undermining a state.”

However, he said the mission would continue through 2018 to deal with the scattered and mobile bands of extremists across the desert region.

In a series of statements via Twitter, Macron praised the troops and said there was a need for long-term development in the region in order to tackle the root causes of conflicts.

Vous menez une action militaire indispensable mais il faut aussi une action de développement pour agir dans la durée et répondre aux causes profondes des conflits.

Education for girls would be a priority for the French development program, according to the presidential office.

“The root cause of the problem is not terrorism. It is underdevelopment, trafficking and the impact of population growth” that need to be resolved, said the deputy commander of Barkhane, Colonel Colcombel.

Germany’s Bundeswehr has supported a UN mission in Mali for nearly four years.

jm/sms (AFP, dpa)