Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Suicide bombers, gunmen attack Afghan police training centre: officials

October 17, 2017


© AFP | Map of Afghanistan showing Gardez, site of a suicide bombing and gun attack Tuesday

KHOST (AFGHANISTAN) (AFP) – Suicide bombers and gunmen launched an attack on a police training centre in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday in the latest violence to rock the war-torn country.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a tweet for the continuing attack in the centre in Gardez, capital of Paktia province which borders Pakistan.

“At first a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives near the training centre, making way for a number of attackers to start their assault,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

A battle between the attackers, armed with guns and suicide vests, and security forces was under way inside the centre which is located near the Paktia police headquarters, it said.

There was no immediate information about casualties.

A local official said two car bombs blew up near the compound that also houses the provincial headquarters of the national police, border police and Afghan National Army.

“A group of gunmen have entered the compound and fighting is ongoing,” Allah Mir Bahram, a member of the Paktia provincial council, told AFP.

Photos posted on Twitter purportedly show two large plumes of smoke rising above the city, suggesting two bombs were detonated in the assault.

Paktia borders Pakistan’s militancy-plagued tribal areas where the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network has a presence.

The extremist group has been blamed for carrying out spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001 and is known for its frequent use of suicide bombers.

It was blamed for the truck bomb deep in the heart of the Afghan capital Kabul in May that killed around 150 people.

The Haqqanis have also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.

That includes recently released Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity — as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.

Late Monday a US drone strike in Pakistan’s Kurram tribal district, part of which borders Paktia, killed at least five Haqqani militants, officials have said.

The latest attacks comes as four-way talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China reportedly are being held in Oman with the aim of ending the Taliban’s 16-year insurgency.



Taliban suicide attack on provincial Afghan police HQ kills at least 12

October 17, 2017


U.S. Targets Haqqani Network in Pakistan — Death toll from US drone strike in Pakistan rises to 26

October 17, 2017

A file photo of a RQ-4 Global Hawk drone is conducting tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, US in this undated US Navy photo. (Reuters)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: The death toll from a US drone attack on a compound used by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network has risen to 26, officials said Tuesday, less than a week after a US-Canadian family held captive by the militants was rescued.
The barrage on Monday targeted a meeting of Haqqani fighters in Pakistan’s remote tribal Kurram district along the Afghan border in the deadliest attack on the group this year.
Image result for Kurram, tribal areas, pakistan, map
“First drone strike killed five fighters from Haqqani network and minutes apart a second drone then fired two more missiles after militants arrived to retrieve dead bodies from the rubble,” a senior government official in Kurram told AFP Tuesday.
“So far 26 dead bodies have been retrieved and drones are still flying in the sky,” the official said.
The US has increased pressure on Pakistan in recent months to crack down on the outfit.
A second government official in Kurram confirmed the drone strikes and the new death toll.
Both officials said the strikes took place on the border with Afghanistan, with part of the compound sited in Afghan territory.
The Haqqanis are one of the strongest factions in the Afghan Taliban insurgency and have earned a fearsome reputation for their vicious attacks on NATO troops and Afghan installations over the years.
The group has long been suspected of having ties to Pakistan’s shadowy security establishment, souring relations with Washington.
Islamabad has repeatedly denied the accusations of turning a blind eye to militancy, lambasting the United States for ignoring the thousands who have been killed on its soil and the billions spent fighting extremists.
Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle and his American wife and three children were freed on October 11 in Pakistan after five years of captivity at the hands of the Haqqani network.

Who are the Haqqanis, Afghanistan’s most feared insurgents?

October 17, 2017


© AFP/File / by David STOUT | This 1991 file picture shows Jalaluddin Haqqani, centre, the founder of the Haqqani network who rose to prominence as an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – The rescue of an abducted US-Canadian family in Pakistan last week has spotlighted their captors the Haqqani network, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban’s deputy leader, the extremist group has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since after the US invasion.

Long suspected of links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment, the network was described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.

“When you hear US officials, including in private settings, talking about what worries them the most, they always talk about the Haqqanis,” said analyst Michael Kugelman, of the Wilson Center in Washington.

– Who are they? –

The group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s with the help of the US and Pakistan.

Jalaluddin gained notoriety for his organisation and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US congressman Charlie Wilson.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists, including Osama Bin Laden, who flocked to the region during the war and later became a minister in the Taliban regime.

Now designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.

They were blamed for the truck bomb deep in the heart of Kabul in May that killed around 150 people — though Sirajuddin later denied the accusation in a rare audio message.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.

That includes recently released Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity — as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.

– Where are they now? –

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban fighters flooded across the border into Pakistan, where they regrouped before launching an insurgency against the Americans.

That included the Haqqanis, who coordinated attacks on NATO from across the border in their stronghold of Miran Shah, the biggest town in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous border tribal areas.

The US has launched repeated drone attacks targeting the group — including one late Monday — while Pakistan’s military has conducted successive clearing operations, though sceptical Afghan officials have noted they always seemed to miss the Haqqanis.

Pakistan intensified a military operation in the area in 2014, however, and some militant sources say the pressure has forced many of the Haqqanis underground or over the border into their Afghan strongholds, claims that AFP could not confirm.

– Why are they linked to Pakistan? –

Pakistan sees its arch-nemesis to the east, India, as an existential threat, and has long sought influence over Kabul as a bulwark against Delhi.

The Haqqanis have frequently been accused of targeting Indian installations in Afghanistan, spurring speculation they were overseen by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“For Pakistan the calculus comes down to India,” said Kugelman.

“It views the Haqqanis and also more broadly the Afghan Taliban as a useful asset to help push back against the presence of India in Afghanistan.”

Politicians and retired military officials in Islamabad acknowledge privately that having open channels with the Haqqanis is vital.

Some stressed the nature of the connection. “There’s a difference between contact and supporting them or being part of them,” Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier who worked in Pakistan’s tribal areas, told AFP.

– What does the US want Pakistan to do? –

Washington has long pressured Pakistan to crack down on militant groups, with the Haqqanis a top priority.

US President Donald Trump turned up the heat this summer when he accused Pakistan of playing a double game in Afghanistan and upbraided Islamabad for sheltering “agents of chaos”.

Islamabad has repeatedly denied the claims and accused Washington of ignoring the thousands of Pakistani lives lost in its struggle with militancy.

The recovery of Boyle, Coleman, and their children came weeks later, with Pakistan using its role in securing their freedom to urge the US to trust it is doing its best.

But, Pakistan’s desire for strategic depth aside, a crackdown on the Haqqanis might not be easy in a tribal society where social relations matter, warned Pakistani political analyst Imtiaz Gul.

“You can’t simply pluck out somebody because they’ve gone politically incorrect,” he said.

by David STOUT

Suspected US missiles kill 5 militants in NW Pakistan

October 16, 2017

The Associated Press

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani intelligence officials say suspected U.S. missiles have struck a home in the Kurram tribal region, killing five militants.

Two intelligence officials said missiles fired from a suspected US drone hit a compound in the Mukbal area near the Afghan border Monday evening. They added that it was being used by militants from Haqqani network and that one of their top commanders, Sangeen Wali, was killed.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.,

The strike comes a day after roadside bombs killed four security troops engaged in a search operation for militants in Kurram.

Pakistan considers the drone strike a violation of its sovereignty, while the U.S. accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens for militants, which Pakistan denies.

Pakistan tells Afghan Taliban to ‘prepare’ for political dialogue

October 16, 2017

Taliban yet to respond to the appeal * Islamabad can go tough on Taliban if they refuse to come to table this time

China understands that India is no longer weak

October 15, 2017

Rajnath Singh (TOI file photo)

Rajnath Singh (TOI file photo)

Under Narendra Modi, India has become a powerful country and its prestige at the international level has grown.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said the country’s borders were “completely safe” and China has also understood that “India is no more weak”.

Mr. Singh said under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has become a powerful country and its prestige at the international level has grown.

“India’s borders are completely safe, and China has started to understand that India is no more weak. Its strength has grown,” he said.

Mr. Singh, who represents Lucknow in the Lok Sabha, was addressing people at a programme organised here by the Bhartiya Lodhi Mahasabha.

“Since the formation of government at the Centre under the leadership of PM Modi, India has become a powerful country in the world. India’s prestige at the international level has grown,” he said.

The Union home minister also hit out at Pakistan for “sending terrorists” to India.

“It (Pakistan) tries to break India, but our security personnel every day kill two to four terrorists,” he added.

Bomb kills four Pakistani troops searching for kidnappers

October 15, 2017


© AFP | Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle talks on the phone outside the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – A bomb Sunday killed four Pakistani soldiers as they searched for militants linked to the kidnapping of a US-Canadian family who were freed last week.The incident happened near the Kharlachi checkpoint in Kurram district in the restive tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

The family were being held by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network in the tribal area until they were rescued during a Pakistani military operation Wednesday.

“Four security force troops including a captain embraced shahadat (martyrdom) while three others sustained injuries when an improvised explosive device went off,” the military said in a statement.

“The troops were part of a search party for handlers of the rescued foreigners,” it added without offering further details.

Officials told AFP the search party belonged to the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that provides security in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

Joshua Boyle and his American wife and three children were freed after five years of captivity at the hands of the Haqqani network, a notorious militant group that operates on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The Haqqani network is headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Afghan Taliban’s deputy leader.

In a chilling statement on the family’s arrival in Toronto, Boyle accused his kidnappers of murdering their infant daughter and raping his wife, Caitlan Coleman.

Pakistan, which has long been accused of having links to groups such as the Haqqanis, has faced increased pressure from Washington to crack down on militants after it was lambasted by US President Donald Trump in August.

Following the family’s release, Trump tweeted that relations were improving and thanked Pakistan for “their cooperation on many fronts”.

Remarks by President Donald Trump at the 2017 Values Voter Summit — “We Don’t Worship Government. We Worship God.”

October 14, 2017

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

10:22 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Tony.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  You know, I’ve been here before.  (Laughter.)  You do know that.  Before the big day on November 8th, I was here.  I want to thank Mark Meadows and all of the folks that have really made this possible.  And, Tony, tremendous guy.

We have some incredible people that we love and that we’re involved with.  So we all know that.  And I’m being followed by Mr. Bennett — you know that, right?  And I’ve been watching him say nice things about me before I knew him.  Those are the ones I like — (laughter) — where they speak well of you before you know them.  Right?

But I really want to thank everybody, and, Tony, for your extraordinary leadership of this organization.  And I want to thank, also, Lawana, for your dedication to the faith community and to our nation.  Work so hard.

It’s great to be back here with so many friends at the 2017 Values Voter Summit, and we know what that means.  (Applause.)  We know what that means.  America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer.  (Applause.)

Image result for donald trump, values voters, photos

As we gather for this tremendous event, our hearts remain sad and heavy for the victims of the horrific mass murder last week in Las Vegas.  It was an act of pure evil.

But in the wake of such horror, we also witnessed the true character of our nation.  A mother laid on top of her daughter to shield her from gunfire.  A husband died to protect his beloved wife.  Strangers rescued strangers, police officers — and you saw that, all of those incredible police officers, how brave they were, how great they were running into fire.  (Applause.)  And first responders, they rushed right into danger.

Americans defied evil and hatred with courage and love.
The men and women who risked their lives to save their fellow citizens gave proof to the words of this scripture: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (Applause)

All of America is praying for the wounded and the grieving, and we will be with them today and we will be with them forever.  (Applause.)  Just want to finish by saying that — really, and we understand it was so horrific to watch and so terrible — but to those who lost the ones they love:  We know that we cannot erase your pain, but we promise to never, ever leave your side.  We are one nation, and we all hurt together, we hope together, and we heal together.  (Applause.)

We also stand with the millions of people who have suffered from the massive fires, which are right now raging in California, and the catastrophic hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands.  And I will tell you, I left Texas, and I left Florida, and I left Louisiana, and I went to Puerto Rico, and I met with the president [governor] of the Virgin Islands.

These are people that are incredible people.  They’ve suffered gravely, and we’ll be there.  We’re going to be there.  We have, really — it’s not even a question of a choice.  We don’t even want a choice.  We’re going to be there as Americans, and we love those people and what they’ve gone through.  And they’re all healing, and their states and territories are healing, and they’re healing rapidly.

In the wake of the terrible tragedies of the past several weeks, the American people have responded with goodness and generosity, and bravery.  You’ve seen it.  The heroism of everyday citizens reminds us that the true strength of our nation is found in the hearts and souls of our people.

When America is unified, no force on Earth can break us apart.  (Applause.)  We love our families.  We love our neighbors.  We love our country.  Everyone here today is brought together by the same shared and timeless values.  We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.  (Applause.)

We believe in strong families and safe communities.  We honor the dignity of work.  (Applause.)  We defend our Constitution.  We protect religious liberty.  (Applause.)  We treasure our freedom.  We are proud of our history.  We support the rule of law and the incredible men and women of law enforcement.  (Applause.)  We celebrate our heroes, and we salute every American who wears the uniform.  (Applause.)

We respect our great American flag.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

And we stand united behind the customs, beliefs and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people.

George Washington said that “religion and morality are indispensable” to America’s happiness, really, prosperity and totally to its success.  It is our faith and our values that inspires us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right.

The American Founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence — four times.  (Applause.)  How times have changed.  But you know what, now they’re changing back again.  Just remember that.  (Applause.)

Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer.

Religious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.  And we all pledge allegiance to — very, very beautifully — “one nation under God.”  (Applause.)

This is America’s heritage, a country that never forgets that we are all — all, every one of us — made by the same God in Heaven.  (Applause.)

When I came to speak with you last year, I made you a promise.  Well, one of the promises I made you was that I’d come back.  See?   (Applause.)  And I don’t even need your vote this year, right?  That’s even nicer.  (Laughter.)

But I pledged that, in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected, and defended like you have never seen before.  That’s what’s happening.  That’s what’s happening.  You see it every day.  You’re reading it.

So this morning I am honored and thrilled to return as the first sitting President to address this incredible gathering of friends — so many friends.  (Applause.)  So many friends.  And I’ll ask Tony and all our people that do such a great job in putting this event together — can I take next year off or not?  (Laughter.)  Or do I have to be back?  I don’t know.


THE PRESIDENT:  He’s saying — they’re saying no.  Lawana is saying no.  That’s means no.  (Laughter.)

So I’m here to thank you for your support and to share with you how we are delivering on that promise, defending our shared values, and in so doing, how we are renewing the America we love.

In the last 10 months, we have followed through on one promise after another.  (Applause.)  I didn’t have a schedule, but if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)

Some of those promises are to support and defend the Constitution.  I appointed and confirmed a Supreme Court Justice in the mold of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, the newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch.  (Applause.)

To protect the unborn, I have reinstated a policy first put in place by President Ronald Reagan, the Mexico City Policy.  (Applause.)  To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony at the White House on our National Day of Prayer — (applause) — which day we made official.  (Applause.)

Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors or our ministers or rabbis.  These are the people we want to hear from, and they’re not going to be silenced any longer.  (Applause.)

Just last week, based on this executive action, the Department of Justice issued a new guidance to all federal agencies to ensure that no religious group is ever targeted under my administration.  It won’t happen.  (Applause.)

We have also taken action to protect the conscience rights of groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor.  You know what they went through.  (Applause.)  What they went through — they were going through hell.  And then all of the sudden they won.  They said, how did that happen?  (Laughter.)

We want to really point out that the Little Sisters of the Poor and other people of faith, they live by a beautiful calling, and we will not let bureaucrats take away that calling or take away their rights.  (Applause.)

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  And something I’ve said so much during the last two years, but I’ll say it again as we approach the end of the year.  You know, we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore.  (Laughter.)  They don’t use the word “Christmas” because it’s not politically correct.  You go to department stores, and they’ll say, “Happy New Year” and they’ll say other things.  And it will be red, they’ll have it painted, but they don’t say it.  Well, guess what?  We’re saying “Merry Christmas” again.  (Applause.)

And as a Christmas gift to all of our hardworking families, we hope Congress will pass massive tax cuts for the American people.  (Applause.)  That includes increasing the child tax credit and expanding it to eliminate the marriage penalty.  (Applause.)  Because we know that the American family is the true bedrock of American life.  So true.  (Applause.)  This is such an exciting event because we are really working very hard, and hopefully Congress will come through.

You saw what we did yesterday with respect to healthcare.  It’s step by step by step.  (Applause.)  And that was a very big step yesterday.  Another big step was taken the day before yesterday.  And one by one it’s going to come down, and we’re going to have great healthcare in our country.  We’re going to have great healthcare in our country.  (Applause.)  We’re taking a little different route than we had hoped, because getting Congress — they forgot what their pledges were.  (Laughter.)  So we’re going a little different route.  But you know what?  In the end, it’s going to be just as effective, and maybe it will even be better.  (Applause.)

For too long, politicians have tried to centralize the authority among the hands of a small few in our nation’s capital.  Bureaucrats think they can run your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith, and tell you how to live, what to say, and how to pray.  But we know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society.  (Applause.)

We know that faith and prayer, not federal regulation — and, by the way, we are cutting regulations at a clip that nobody has ever seen before.  Nobody.  (Applause.)  In nine months, we have cut more regulation than any President has cut during their term in office.  So we are doing the job.  (Applause.)  And that is one of the major reasons, in addition to the enthusiasm for manufacturing and business and jobs — and the jobs are coming back.

That’s one of the major reasons — regulation, what we’ve done — that the stock market has just hit an all-time historic high.  (Applause.)  That just on the public markets we’ve made, since Election Day, $5.2 trillion in value.  Think of that:  $5.2 trillion.  (Applause.)  And as you’ve seen, the level of enthusiasm is the highest it’s ever been, and we have a 17-year low in unemployment.  So we’re doing, really, some work.  (Applause.)

We know that it’s the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities.  (Applause.)  And above all else, we know this:  In America, we don’t worship government — we worship God.  (Applause.)  Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.

This afternoon, in a little while, I’ll be giving a speech on Iran, a terrorist nation like few others.  And I think you’re going to find it very interesting.  (Applause.)

Yesterday, things happened with Pakistan, and I have openly said Pakistan took tremendous advantage of our country for many years, but we’re starting to have a real relationship with Pakistan and they’re starting to respect us as a nation again, and so are other nations.  They’re starting to respect the United States of America again, and I appreciate that.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the leaders of Pakistan for what they’ve been doing.

In this administration, we will call evil by its name.  (Applause.)  We stand with our friends and allies, we forge new partnerships in pursuit of peace, and we take decisive action against those who would threaten our people with harm.  (Applause.)  And we will be decisive — because we know that the first duty of government is to serve its citizens.  We are defending our borders, protecting our workers, and enforcing our laws.  You see it every single day like you haven’t seen it in many, many years — if you’ve seen it at all.  (Applause.)

In protecting America’s interests abroad, we will always support our cherished friend and partner, the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  We will confront the dangers that imperil our nation, our allies, and the world, including the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.  (Applause.)

We have made great strides against ISIS — tremendous strides.  I don’t know if you’ve seen what’s going on, but tremendous strides against ISIS.  They never got hit like this before.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Stand up.  Stand up.  Let me see — he’s a rough guy.  I can see it.

But they’ve been just ruthless and they’ve ruthlessly slaughtered innocent Christians, along with the vicious killing of innocent Muslims and other religious minorities.  And we’ve made their lives very, very difficult — believe me.  (Applause.)
We’ve done more against ISIS in nine months than the previous administration has done during its whole administration — by far, by far.  (Applause.)  And ISIS is now being dealt one defeat after another.  We are confronting rogue regimes from Iran to North Korea, and we are challenging the communist dictatorship of Cuba and the socialist oppression of Venezuela.  And we will not lift the sanctions on these repressive regimes until they restore political and religious freedom for their people.  (Applause.)

All of these bad actors share a common enemy, the one force they cannot stop, the force deep within our souls, and that is the power of hope.  That is why, in addition to our great military might, our enemies truly fear the United States.  Because our people never lose faith, never give in, and always hope for a better tomorrow.

Last week, Melania and I were reminded of this in a powerful way when we traveled to Las Vegas.  We visited a hospital where some of the survivors were recovering from absolutely horrific wounds.  We met a young man named Brady Cook.  He’s 22 and a brand-new police officer.  That night was Brady’s second day in field training — his second day as a policeman, can you believe that?  But when the shooting began, he did not hesitate.  He acted with incredible courage, rushing into the hail of bullets, and he was badly shot in the shoulder.

This is what Brady said: “I didn’t expect it, but it’s what I signed up for.  When stuff goes down, I want to be there to face evil and to protect the good, innocent people that need it.”  And here’s a young guy, great guy — and second day.  I said, Brady, don’t worry about it, it’s going to be easier from here.  (Laughter and applause.)  Brady is a hero, and he can’t wait to get back on the job.

Several weeks before, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, a local furniture storeowner, who’s known in Texas as “Mattress Mack,” decided he had to help.  When the rain began to flood the streets of the city, he sent out his furniture trucks to rescue the stranded.  He brought them back to his stores, and gave them food and a clean, dry place to stay, even if it meant ruining countless dollars’ worth of furniture.

As “Mattress Mack” put it, “My faith defines me, it’s who I am.”  “We can afford [the cost]…what we can’t afford” — we can’t — and he said this very strongly, “what we can’t afford is to cause people to lose hope.”

In Brady and Mack, we see the strength of the American spirit.  This spirit of courage and compassion is all around us, every day.  It is the heartbeat of our great nation.  And despite certain coverage, that beat is stronger than it’s ever been before.  You see right through it.  (Applause.)  That beat is stronger than it’s ever been.

We see this spirit in the men and women who selflessly enlist in our armed forces and, really, who go out and risk their lives for God and for country.  And we see it in the mothers and the fathers who get up at the crack of dawn; they work two jobs and sometimes three jobs.  They sacrifice every day for the furniture and — future of their children.  They have to go out.  They go out.  They work.  The future of their children is everything to them.  They put it before everything.  And they make sure that the future of their children has God involved in it.  So important to them.  (Applause.)

We see it in the church communities that come together to care for one another, to pray for each other, and to stand strong with each other in times of need.

The people who grace our lives, and fill our homes, and build our communities are the true strength of our nation, and the greatest hope for a better tomorrow.

As long as we have pride in our country, confidence in our future, and faith in our God, then America will prevail.

We will defeat every evil, overcome every threat, and meet every single challenge.  We will defend our faith and protect our traditions.  We will find the best in each other and in ourselves.  We will pass on the blessings of liberty, and the glories of God, to our children.  Our values will endure, our nation will thrive, our citizens will flourish, and our freedom will triumph.

Thank you to the Value Voter Summit.  Such an incredible group of people you are.  Thank you to all of the faithful here today.  And thank you to the people of faith all across our nation and all over the world.

May God bless you.  May God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END                10:51 A.M. EDT

China Wants To Duplicate Its South China Sea Success in the Indian Ocean

October 12, 2017

By Brahma Chellaney

Beijing is looking to repeat its aggressive success in the South China Sea

Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, right, greets U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis upon his arrival at the Defense Ministry in New Delhi on Sept. 26. © AP

The Indian Ocean, with its crowded and in some cases contested sea lanes, is becoming the focus of international maritime rivalry as various powers joust for advantage and influence in one of the global economy’s most vital transit routes.

As if to highlight this trend, the Chinese navy recently conducted live-fire drills in the western Indian Ocean. China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted the fleet commander as saying that his ships “carried out strikes against ‘enemy’ surface ships.” Earlier this year, a Chinese fleet carried out similar live-fire drills in the eastern Indian Ocean.

As these exercises show, the geostrategic maritime environment in the Indian Ocean is changing fundamentally. A 1971 United Nations resolution declaring it a “zone of peace” has fallen by the wayside.

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EXTENDING OUTWARD China’s increasing activity reflects a strategic shift from “offshore waters defense” to “open seas protection,” carried out in the name of safeguarding its trade and energy interests. This mirrors the evolution of its land-combat strategy from “deep defense” (luring enemy forces into Chinese territory, where they can be annihilated) to “active defense” (a proactive posture designed to fight on enemy territory).

Beijing is also pursuing ostensibly economic initiatives to advance its geostrategic ambitions, including implementing its Maritime Silk Road project to gain a major foothold in the Indian Ocean and chip away at India’s natural geographic advantage.

The growing importance of the Indian Ocean’s resources and sea lanes is apparent. More than half of the world’s container traffic, two-thirds of its seaborne petroleum trade and a third of all maritime traffic traverse the ocean, much of it through chokepoints such as the Malacca and Hormuz straits. The Indian Ocean is also rich in mineral wealth, with deep seabed mining emerging as a major new strategic issue.

The dangerous rush to exploit its mineral and fishing resources threatens to exact a considerable environmental cost and may spark new conflicts. For example, several studies have indicated that commercial fishing by foreign fleets, by depleting local resources, has driven poor Somali fishermen to piracy.

The rise of nonstate actors such as pirates, terrorists and criminal syndicates off the Horn of Africa and elsewhere is also linked with the increasing density and importance of maritime flows through the Indian Ocean. At the same time, this development has become a pretext for outside powers to intervene and project their naval power. China, for example, has cited piracy as an excuse to launch naval operations around the Horn of Africa and to set up its first overseas naval base at Djibouti.

China’s increasing boldness in the Indian Ocean is inspired by its success in changing the status quo in its favor in the adjacent South China Sea, where it has pushed its borders far out into international waters in a way that no power has done elsewhere. By erecting military facilities on man-made islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, China has positioned its naval and air power at the mouth of the Indian Ocean.

It is now rapidly expanding its Indian Ocean footprint. In addition to setting up the Djibouti base, it is also investing in building regional ports, including in Pakistan at Gwadar, in Sri Lanka at Hambantota, and in Myanmar at Kyaukpyu. It also has port projects in the Seychelles and the Maldives. China’s fast-growing submarine fleet is best suited not for the shallow South China Sea but for the Indian Ocean’s deep waters, a message Beijing has conveyed by dispatching attack submarines to the area.

It was always clear that if China got its way in the South China Sea, it would turn its attention to the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. Yet U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration allowed China to forcefully change the status quo in the South China Sea with impunity. Under Donald Trump, the U.S. has shown no desire to rectify the situation. As a result, China is solidifying its dominance there while the U.S. conducts symbolic freedom-of-navigation operations.

NO CONSEQUENCES In effect, China has demonstrated that defiant unilateralism carries no costs. This has left countries bearing the brunt of Beijing’s aggressive policies with difficult choices. China’s actions have, however, prompted Japan to reverse a decade of declining military outlays and India to revive stalled naval modernization.

Japan, which is heavily dependent on the Indian Ocean region for supplies of energy and raw materials, has also stepped up its regional engagement. For example, it is investing in eight port construction or renovation projects in Indonesia, India, Iran, Oman, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Seychelles. Japan is also seeking to play a more active role in protecting the Indian Ocean sea lanes.

India, despite its strategic depth in the Indian Ocean, faces a new threat from the oceanic south. With Chinese submarines now making regular forays into India’s maritime backyard, New Delhi must devise concrete steps to deal with China’s growing presence. It needs a comprehensive maritime security strategy backed by naval capabilities that can take on tasks ranging from protecting and securing the seas to projecting power across the Indian Ocean region.

The Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, in the Bay of Bengal, is a critical asset for India to counter China’s growing maritime presence and to blunt its increasing land-based, trans-Himalayan military threat. Located next to the Strait of Malacca, the archipelago offers control of this strategic chokepoint, which is one of China’s greatest maritime vulnerabilities. Just as the Chinese military harasses and threatens Indian border patrols in the Himalayas, India can potentially play the same game off the Andaman and Nicobar chain, including by establishing China-style civilian maritime militias backed by the Indian Coast Guard.

The importance of this chokepoint can be easily stated: A third of the 61% of global petroleum and other liquid products transported on maritime routes transits the Strait of Malacca, including around 82% of China’s fuel imports.

More fundamentally, greater maritime cooperation among democratic powers is becoming an unavoidable necessity. Cooperation between Japan, India, Australia, Indonesia and the U.S. must extend to guarding the various “gates” to the Indian Ocean by exerting naval power at critical chokepoints. The aim should be to forestall the emergence of a destabilizing Sinocentric Asia. The common observation that “whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia” is unattributed but nonetheless true.

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and author of nine books, including the award-winning “Water: Asia’s New Battleground.”