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Taliban Praises Recent Talks With Washington as ‘Very Helpful’

Sputnik – August 13, 2018

The Arch enemies entered into talks following the successful implementation of a three-day ceasefire in June for the Muslim holiday of ‘Eid al-Fitr.’

A Senior Taliban official has described peace talks held last month with the US as “very helpful” in envisaging a path out of Afghanistan’s seventeen year old war.

The leader, from an organisation within the Taliban called ‘Quetta Shura,’ has been quoted as saying that both sides intend to hold the next round of talks in September, and that these “will be more specific and focused on key issues.” He also added that, “once the breakthrough is started it will be stunning for all.”

The comments come on the heels of a string of reports since the end of July, which describe an unprecedented face-to-face meeting held in the Qatari capital, Doha, between a Taliban delegation and officials from the US State Department, led by senior diplomat Alice Wells. Representatives from the Islamist insurgency were quick to laud discussions at that time too, describing them as “very positive.”

While Washington officials with detailed knowledge of the negotiations remain tight-lipped, Taliban delegates who were in attendance let a few of the specifics loose: allegedly, a key US demand is for Washington to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan while peace talks are ongoing. While initially hostile to such a suggestion, reports suggest that the insurgency’s leadership council has since suggested that it could be open to the idea on the condition that the US plays an active political role in the peace process.

The Taliban has long refused to hold discussions with Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul until it is given the opportunity for direct talks with the US. However, leading talks for reconciliation between the central government in Kabul and the Taliban has long been anathema to Washington, which has maintained that it would not heavily involve itself in “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” negotiations. Echoing that sentiment in early July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proclaimed that the Trump administration would “support, facilitate and participate in peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them.”

Yet, as time has ticked by, reports suggest that President Donald Trump has grown impatient with the tactical stalemate on the ground and NATO’s inability to retake chunks of territory controlled by the Taliban. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, as of January 30 2018, approximately 56.3% of Afghanistan was under the Taliban’s sway. Frustration at such a reality may have culminated in the US president’s decision to dispatch envoys to Afghanistan in early July to open up channels for backdoor diplomacy.

The US’ sudden willingness to sit down with the Taliban has likely been bolstered by the group’s apparent commitment to extirpating foreign terrorist groups from Afghan territory — namely Daesh. This month, a Taliban onslaught reportedly caused 200 Daesh fighters to surrender in the North of the country. Additionally, the group are advancing on a Daesh stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where a large-scale battle is expected to take place.

Despite the optimism among the Taliban’s echelon, fighting with the Afghan Security Forces continues unabated. In the early hours of Friday, the group’s fighters launched an assault for control of the eastern city of Ghazni. According to the country’s 1TV television station, so far 100 people have been killed. In an effort to repel the advance, the US Air Force launched a series of air strikes on Taliban positions, raising questions as to how likely it is that these old foes are ready to sit down at the negotiating table.

August 13, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Taliban cross the Rubicon

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 12, 2018

The Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry announced in a terse statement on Saturday that a Taliban delegation led by the head of its political office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai visited Tashkent last week and the two sides “exchanged views on prospects of the peace process in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban has been somewhat more forthcoming with details. A press statement said that the 5-day visit (August 6-11) took place on the basis of a “formal invitation” from Tashkent and talks were held with Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov and the Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev. The press release added that the two sides “discussed current and future national projects such as security for railroad and power lines,” apart from exchanging views “about the withdrawal of foreign forces and how to achieve peace in Afghanistan.”

The Uzbeks have had direct dealings in the past with the Taliban. Kamilov himself is known to have visited Afghanistan and negotiated with the Taliban government in the late 1990s. Irgashev, too, is a familiar face to the Taliban, having served as deputy foreign minister under Kamilov. But this is the first time that a Taliban delegation has been invited to visit Tashkent for formal talks at the Uzbek Foreign Ministry.

This is an extraordinary development. It significantly enhances Taliban’s regional profile and standing and is precedent setting.

The relations between Tashkent and the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani have been exceptionally warm of late. The bilateral exchanges intensified in the past year with Uzbek companies picking up lucrative contracts in northern Afghanistan. The US has actively encouraged such collaboration. Most certainly, Washington promoted the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan on March 27, which was attended among others by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon. The event was intended to marshal some degree of regional consensus behind an “Afghan-led, Afghan controlled” peace process without any preconditions regarding the presence of US troops in Afghanistan.

As a gesture of gratitude, President Donald Trump rewarded Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev with an invitation to visit the White House on May 16, the first-ever visit of that kind. Indeed, things have been going splendidly well in the US-Afghan-Uzbek triangle. During a visit to Kabul on July 9 Kamilov discussed with Ghani several big investment projects such as a free trade zone spread over 3000 hectares on the Uzbek-Afghan border, a $500 million railway project to connect Mazar-i-Sharif with Herat (linking northern and western Afghanistan), establishment of 6 textile factories in Afghanistan by Uzbek companies and so on.

However, the Uzbeks have a reputation for making their foreign policy moves very cautiously and therefore, the meeting in Tashkent last week should not be seen as signifying a shift in the Uzbek policies toward Afghanistan.To be sure, Tashkent has closely coordinated with Kabul and Washington. Interestingly, Kamilov also had made a phone call to Lavrov on July 31. The crisply worded readout from the Russian Foreign Ministry merely said that the two ministers “exchanged opinions on topical bilateral matters and cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan on the international agenda.” Quite obviously, consistent with the Uzbek style of diplomacy, Tashkent touched base with Moscow before the Taliban arrived.

Ostensibly, therefore, Tashkent is following up on the offer made by Mirzoyiev after the Tashkent conference in March when he had said: “We stand ready to create all necessary conditions, at any stage of the peace process, to arrange direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban movement.” Clearly, Washington has encouraged Tashkent to be a peace broker between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Following the first-ever direct talks between the Taliban and US officials at Doha last month, a second round is expected in September. The meeting at Tashkent comes in between.

However, it is highly improbable that the Taliban will accept Ghani as its interlocutor. Tashkent must be quite aware of the strong undercurrents in regional politics as well. Therefore, trust Tashkent to have made its own calculations in self-interest, too.

The point is, there is dire necessity today for Tashkent to maintain a direct line to the Taliban. The security situation in the Amu Darya region bordering Uzbekistan is steadily deteriorating. The growing presence of Islamist State-Khorasan (ISK) in northern Afghanistan worries Uzbekistan, since its ranks have a preponderance of fighters drawn from the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is sworn to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia.

Meanwhile, Ghani’s ill-advised standoff with the ethnic Uzbek leader in Amu Darya, Rashid Dostum (who was forced into exile in Turkey for a year and was prevented from returning. Dostum’s prolonged absence seriously destabilized the northern region, which also worked to the advantage of the ISK. Ghani finally made peace with Dostum and beseeched him to return – and eventually went overboard by giving him a grand ceremonial welcome on arrival in Kabul last month. But the ground realities in northern Afghanistan have changed phenomenally. The old stability that Dostum provided has disappeared.

There was a time in the 1990s when the Uzbek leadership of late president Islam Karimov had regarded Dostum as its Praetorian guard in the Amu Darya region. He used to be lionized and lavishly funded by the Uzbek intelligence during his regal visits to Tashkent. But Tashkent summarily dumped him once the US moved into Afghanistan in 2001 and co-opted him as their warlord. (The US too subsequently dumped him.)

In sum, Dostum is today a freewheeling entity available to the highest bidder and is no more the uncrowned king of the Amu Darya. And yet, he is still locked in a blood feud with the Taliban dating back to 2001 when in a bloody massacre he slaughtered a few thousands Taliban fighters who had surrendered in the northern provinces following the US intervention and were assured of safe passage to Pakistan.

Tashkent seems disinterested in Dostum. On the other hand, the Taliban have emerged today as the most promising counterweight to the ISK in the Amu Darya region. In such murky situations, Tashkent never loses clarity of purpose. Realism always prevails. Conceivably, Tashkent is beginning to see the Taliban as the most meaningful Afghan interlocutor for today and tomorrow  – and, perhaps, forever.

Of course, for Taliban, this is like hitting the jackpot. The invitation from the foreign minister of an important neighboring country to hold direct talks is a novel experience. It is a game changer, no doubt. The Taliban have crossed the Rubicon in their long search for gaining international legitimacy.

August 12, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

By Maya Evans | Dissident Voice | August 5, 2018

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism. While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe. The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul. This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.” There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)

Maya Evans coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK and has visited Afghanistan 9 times since 2011. She is a writer and a Councillor for her town in Hastings, England.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban claims victory over ISIS fighters in NW Afghanistan

RT | August 1, 2018

More than 150 Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces in the northwestern province of Jawzjan after they were defeated and driven out by the Taliban, government officials and Taliban said on Wednesday.

The defeat represents a major setback for the group. IS first appeared in eastern Afghanistan around four years ago and gained a foothold in southern Jawzjan, where it fought for control of smuggling routes into neighboring Turkmenistan, Reuters reports.

“The evil phenomenon of [IS] has completely been eliminated and people have been freed from its tortures in Jawzjan province of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

The Taliban launched an offensive several weeks ago in Jawzjan against the group, which they oppose as much as they do the Western-backed government in Kabul.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

Here comes the Mali mission media manipulation

By Yves Engler · July 17, 2018

For the military, shaping media coverage of deployments is what roasting a marshmallow is to a summer camper’s S’mores; there isn’t one without the other.

Even before beginning a small “peacekeeping” mission, the Canadian forces have an elaborate media strategy.

At the end of June, Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance brought journalists with him on a visit to Mali. They toured the facilities in Gao where an advance team was preparing for Canada’s UN deployment to the African nation. An Ottawa Citizen headline described Vance’s trip as part of an effort at “selling the public on the Mali mission.”

The tour for journalists was followed by a “technical briefing” on the deployment for media in Ottawa. “No photography, video or audio recording for broadcast purposes” was allowed at last week’s press event, according to the advisory. Reporters were to attribute information to “a senior government” official. But, the rules were different at a concurrent departure ceremony in Trenton. “Canadian Armed Forces personnel deploying to Mali are permitted to give interviews and have their faces shown in imagery,” noted the military’s release.

None of these decisions are haphazard. With the largest PR machine in the country, the military has hundreds of public affairs officers that work on its media strategy. “The Canadian Forces (CF) studies the news media, writes about them in its refereed journals — the Canadian Army Journal and the Canadian Military Journal — learns from them, develops policies for them and trains for them in a systematic way,” explains Bob Bergen, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. ”Canadian journalists simply do not access the Canadian Forces in the scholarly fashion that the military studies them. There are no peer-reviewed journals to which they contribute reflections on their success or failure as an industry to cover the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 1999 Kosovo Air War.”

While the tactics have varied based on technologies, balance of power and type of conflict, the government has pursued extensive information control during international deployments, which are invariably presented as humanitarian even when motivated by geostrategic and corporate interests. There was formal censorship during the First World War, Second World War and the Korean War. In recent air wars the military largely shut the media out while in Afghanistan they brought reporters close.

Air wars lend themselves to censorship since journalists cannot accompany pilots during their missions or easily see what’s happening from afar. “As a result,” Bergen writes, “crews can only be interviewed before or after their missions, and journalists’ reports can be supplemented by cockpit footage of bombings.”

During the bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999 the CF blocked journalists from filming or accessing Canadian pilots flying out of Aviano, Italy. They also refused to provide footage of their operations. While they tightly controlled information on the ground, the CF sought to project an air of openness in the aftermath of the Somalia scandal. For 79 days in a row a top general gave a press conference in Ottawa detailing developments in Yugoslavia. But, the generals often misled the public. Asked “whether the Canadians had been targeted, whether they were fired upon and whether they fired in return” during a March 24 sortie in which a Yugoslavian MiG-29 was downed, Ray Henault denied any involvement. The deputy chief of Defence Staff said: “They were not involved in that operation.” But, Canadians actually led the mission and a Canadian barely evaded a Serbian surface-to-air missile. While a Dutch aircraft downed the Yugoslavian MiG-29, a Canadian pilot missed his bombing target, which ought to have raised questions about civilian casualties.

One reason the military cited for restricting information during the bombing campaign was that it could compromise the security of the Armed Forces and their families. Henault said the media couldn’t interview pilots bombing Serbia because “we don’t want any risk of family harassment or something of that nature, which, again, is part of that domestic risk we face.”

During the bombing of Libya in 2011 and Iraq-Syria in 2014-16 reporters who travelled to where Canadian jets flew from were also blocked from interviewing the pilots. Once again, the reason given for restricting media access was protecting pilots and their families.

Since the first Gulf War the military has repeatedly invoked this rationale to restrict information during air wars. But, as Bergen reveals in Balkan Rats and Balkan Bats: The art of managing Canada’s news media during the Kosovo air war, it was based on a rumour that antiwar protesters put body bags on the lawn of a Canadian pilot during the 1991 Gulf War. It likely never happened and, revealingly, the military didn’t invoke fear of domestic retribution to curtail interviews during the more contentious ground war in Afghanistan.

During that war the CF took a completely different tack. The CF embedding (or in-bedding) program brought reporters into the military’s orbit by allowing them to accompany soldiers on patrol and stay on base. When they arrived on base, senior officers were often on hand to meet journalists. Top officers also built a rapport with reporters during meals and other informal settings. Throughout their stay on base, Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) were in constant contact, helping reporters with their work. After a six-month tour in Afghanistan PAO Major Jay Janzen wrote: “By pushing information to the media, the Battalion was also able to exercise some influence over what journalists decided to cover. When an opportunity to cover a mission or event was proactively presented to a reporter, it almost always received coverage.”

In addition to covering stories put forward by the military, “embeds” tended to frame the conflict from the perspective of the troops they accompanied. By eating and sleeping with Canadian soldiers, reporters often developed a psychological attachment, writes Sherry Wasilow, in Hidden Ties that Bind: The Psychological Bonds of Embedding Have Changed the Very Nature of War Reporting.

Embedded journalists’ sympathy towards Canadian soldiers was reinforced by the Afghans they interviewed. Afghans critical of Canadian policy were unlikely to express themselves openly with soldiers nearby. Scott Taylor asked, “what would you say if the Romanian military occupied your town and a Romanian tank and journalist showed up at your door? You love the government they have installed and want these guys to stay! Of course the locals are smiling when a reporter shows up with an armoured vehicle and an armed patrol.”

The military goes to great lengths to shape coverage of its affairs and one should expect stories about Canada’s mission in Mali to be influenced by the armed forces. So, take heed: Consume what they give you carefully, like you would a melted chocolate and marshmallow-coated graham wafer.

July 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Regional states muscle in to seek a bigger ‘say’ in Afghan conflict

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 19, 2018

A new strategic fault line appeared in the Afghan conflict last week when Islamabad hosted an unusual meeting of the heads of the intelligence agencies of Russia, China and Iran on July 11.

Moscow thoughtfully publicized the event both for its optics as well as to pre-empt misperceptions that some sort of zero-sum game might be afoot.

The focus was on joint measures to stop the terrorist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) from threatening the territorial boundaries of the four regional states. In the Russian estimation, there could be up to 10,000 fighters in IS-K’s ranks already and the group is already active in nine of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

The four participating countries “reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, where from they would pose risks for neighboring countries.” But they also “stressed the need for a more active inclusion of regional powers in the efforts” to end the war in Afghanistan.

Clearly, the leitmotif is in the latter claim by the regional states seeking a greater say in Afghan peace-making. Three related developments over the weekend also signal the new churning. One, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Mohammad Baqeri, started a three-day visit to Islamabad on July 15 at the invitation of Pakistani army chief General Qamar Bajwa.

This is the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that a chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces visited Pakistan. No doubt, the visit signals Tehran’s appreciation that Pakistan is no longer in the US orbit. General Bajwa visited Tehran in November.

According to the Pakistani readout, General Bajwa noted that Pakistan’s military cooperation with Iran would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region.” Later, General Baqeri told the Iranian media that the US and its allies seek to weaken security in the region and Iran and Pakistan are “duty-bound to take actions” to safeguard regional peace and security.

There is a history of cross-border terrorism from across the porous Pakistani border in which Tehran suspected the hidden hand of hostile powers. Therefore, today, the Iranian calculus prioritizes the “return” of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the Afghan chessboard recently, after a prolonged absence, given the geopolitical rivalries playing out in a diverse theatre across the Greater Middle East.

Curiously, although the newfound Saudi-Emirati pro-activism in Afghanistan is coinciding with the steady expansion of IS-K, the two Gulf states today are preoccupied with weakening the Taliban, whom they had mentored in an earlier era in the 1990s. The Kabul government approved on June 6 the deployment of UAE Special Forces to Afghanistan.

On July 11-12, Saudi Arabia hosted an Ulema conference in Jeddah and Mecca, which issued a ‘fatwa’ against the ‘jihad’ waged by the Afghan Taliban. Washington encouraged these parallel Saudi-Emirati moves, which implies a concerted attempt to weaken the Taliban whom the US military failed to defeat, with a view to force it to compromise.

However, on the contrary, a paradigm shift is under way in the regional perceptions regarding the Taliban. The special envoy of the Russian president on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, disclosed on the weekend that Moscow proposes to invite the Taliban to the second round of the Russian regional initiative on Afghanistan, which is expected to be held sometime late in the summer.

Kabulov characterized the Taliban as a force that has “integrated” with the Afghan nation, and therefore, having a legitimacy, which in some respects even exceeds the Kabul government’s, and controlling more than half the territory of Afghanistan. Kabulov implicitly doubted the representative character of the present Afghan government.

Suffice to say that the Russian policy is incrementally redefining the battle lines in Afghanistan from ‘Taliban versus the Rest’ to ‘Afghanistan versus the IS-K.’ Conceivably, Iran, China and Pakistan are in harmony with the Russian thinking.

The heart of the matter is that while these regional states regard the Taliban as an Afghan movement indigenously rooted in traditional Islam and with a political agenda confined to their homeland, they abhor the IS-K as a brutal terrorist group weaned on Salafi-Wahhabist teaching which casts a seductive appeal to misguided Muslim youth worldwide.

However, in the final analysis, the above interplay needs to be juxtaposed with recent reports that President Trump may order a policy review of his one-year old Afghan strategy. In fact, the sudden visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul on July 9 only reinforced that impression in the region. Unsurprisingly, Pompeo maintained while in Kabul that the Trump administration’s “strategy is working.”

But then, instead of heaping praise on the US military, he instead stressed the urgency of a peace process with the Taliban. Pompeo offered that the US will “support, facilitate and participate in these peace discussions.” He then added meaningfully: “We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces.”

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

While His Opponents Cry Treason Trump Sues for Peace

By Tom LUONGO | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.07.2018

For the second time in as many months President Trump went against the grain of US foreign policy.

I will not mince words. I was hoping for more from the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki; something concrete. Even a small agreement about a quid pro quo in Syria would have been welcome.

But, given the level of histrionics on display in the US media and on the left I guess I should have tempered my expectations. Cries of Trump being guilty of ‘treason’ and ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ are rampant.

And they aren’t going to stop.

Crying treason for opening up diplomatic contact with a foreign leader whom we are not at war with is beyond hyperbole. It is the height of insanity. And I don’t use that term lightly.

Trump’s opponents both from members of the Deep State and media as well as those citizens supporting ‘The Resistance’ are so unhinged they have become indistinguishable from Colonel Jack T. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove.

I swear I saw a tweet from Obama Administration CIA Director John Brennan discussing bodily fluids, but I may have misread it.

They have nurtured their own angst and denial at having lost an election they have erected a bogeyman in Vladimir Putin as the only way in which the disgusting Trump could possibly have won.

And the Deep State of permanent government has cultivated this psychological poison perfectly. Now there are truly millions of otherwise normal people frothing at the mouth about everything Trump does is proof that he is the puppet of Putin, his evil master.

This has placed them firmly in the camp of wanting perpetual, undeclared war with everyone Trump wants peace with.

All because they don’t have the emotional maturity to accept reality.

And Trump, never one to miss an opportunity to twist the knife, in a moment of near sublime statesmanship during the post-summit press conference declared, “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. I will not make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, the media, or Democrats who want to resist and obstruct.”

That statement won his candidates the mid-term elections and likely won him re-election in 2020. It’s a statement that he can campaign on and give not only his base a boost but convince even more of the political center to reject the insanity of the left and side with him.

After all, he just put something above politics and that something is the very thing that got him elected in the first place, peace.

And that is eternally to his credit.

It is also in stark contrast to his ill-conceived bombing of the Al-Shairat airbase while hosting Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in April of 2017. This was an act of pure political optics, designed to appease his virulent critics.

But, as he learned from that act and many others since then, nothing will appease these people than his removal from the office. The Resistance needs it to vindicate their descent into madness. The Deep State needs it to ensure the gravy train keeps flowing.

There are too many cozy relationships at risk, too many think tank jobs on the block, and too many weapons contracts at stake and too many more taxpayer-funded junkets to attend for Trump and Putin to remake the post-WWII political order.

Putin, for his part, was obviously firm in his dealings with Trump. There were many rumors of offers being made which were rejected. As myself and many others have pointed out, Trump didn’t have much to offer Putin in concrete terms on many of the outstanding issues of the day.

I believe the only thing they can agree on is that Syria is nearly settled in Assad’s favor and all that needs to be done now is convince the Israelis and Iran to behave themselves. In all of the furor over Trump’s meeting with Putin this tweet from uber-hawk and MIC-mouthpiece, Senator Lindsay Graham is the most telling.

“It is beyond absurd to believe that Russia will ‘police Iran’ or drive them out of Syria. Iran is Assad’s biggest ally – even more so than Russia. Russia policing Iran makes about as much sense as trusting Russia to police the removal/destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.” — Lindsay Graham, July 16th

No one that I know of other than myself and a very small handful of equally obscure political commentators have broached the subject of Russia policing Syria after the US picks up and leaves as any Grand Bargain for Middle East Peace.

Remember, Graham was just in Syria trying to drum up further support for Kurdish independence in a clear attempt to undermine what he just told everyone Trump’s plan was.

So, to me, this signals strongly that peace in Syria is what Trump and Putin discussed at length in their meeting and why the Deep State has so thoroughly gone off the deep end. Graham just told everyone what the plan is, folks.

And the plan is peace in the Middle East.

Trump and Putin both referenced working with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to craft a post-Civil War plan of action in Syria. Putin mentioned restoring Syria to the 1974 border of the Golan Heights while Trump made it clear he no longer wants our people there.

Moreover, Trump sent an envoy from the US to sit down and talk peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan, putting paid Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that the US is ready to talk. Lindsay must be shaking in his thigh-highs over the prospect of this as well.

Remember, the US only negotiates when it knows it is losing. Empires dictate terms, they don’t sue for peace.

And that is exactly what Trump is beginning to do with Russia on a number of fronts across Central Asia. And for this he is being vilified by his opponents for being a traitor. A traitor to what?

Chaos.

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

US ready for direct talks with Afghan Taliban: Top commander

Press TV – July 16, 2018

The United States has expressed readiness to initiate direct talks with the Taliban in an attempt to end a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, a significant shift in American policy in the conflict-ridden country.

General John Nicholson, the top commander of US forces in Afghanistan, made the announcement on Monday, saying the move was intended to bring the Afghan government and the militants closer and culminate in formal peace negotiations to end the long-running war.

“Our Secretary of State, Mr. (Mike) Pompeo, has said that, we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces,” Nicholson said. “We hope that they realize this and that this will help to move the peace process forward.”

Earlier, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s administration had ordered diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban in a bid to jump-start peace negotiations.

Reaffirming Nicholson’s comments, US officials said the talks would start without any preconditions and that the future of US and NATO forces would be discussed.

Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end when the US and its allies invaded the Asian country on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but ever since, the group has been involved in widespread militancy, killing thousands of civilians as well as Afghan and American forces and displacing tens of thousands of people across the country.

Back in February, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to join peace talks “without preconditions.”

Speaking at a peace conference in Kabul, Ghani proposed measures, including a ceasefire and prisoner swaps.

In return, Ghani said the Taliban would need to recognize the Afghan government and respect the rule of law.

The Taliban have repeatedly declared that they would not enter talks until US-led foreign troops left the country.

July 16, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

The world ‘knows’ bin Laden did 9/11 — so why isn’t there any evidence?

By Geoffrey O’Neill | Truth and Shadows | July 14, 2018

He is arguably the most notorious person in the 21st century.

The world takes for granted that Osama bin Laden was the architect of the “terror attacks” of Sept. 11, 2001. But why was this man singled out for this horrific crime? How did we learn of his alleged guilt? And what is the evidence used to support his guilt?

These questions are critical because the allegation against bin Laden led, less than a month later (on Oct. 7, 2001), to the launching of the Global War on Terror with the invasion of Afghanistan. The mission, called Operation Enduring Freedom and ordered by President George W. Bush, and was supposedly intended to capture or kill bin Laden.

This is what we know about the claims of evidence against bin Laden:

Just hours after the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, a man by the name of L. Paul Bremer appeared on an NBC affiliate in Washington D.C. Less than a minute into the interview with host Jim Vance, Bremer mentioned bin Laden as potentially being the mastermind of the event. It appears that the bin Laden myth was created at this point, and it soon went viral.

Who is L. Paul Bremer, and what was he doing in Washington at the time?

Bremer, like Bush, is a graduate of Yale and, like Bush, is also a member of the notorious Skull and Bones fraternity. After leaving government in 1989, he became managing director of Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm owned by Henry Kissinger. (It’s worth noting that Kissinger was the original choice to head the 9/11 Commission.)

In May 2003, following the introduction of “shock and awe” in Iraq, Bremer was named director of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Without question, he was a Republican insider. He was supposed to be on his way to New York City, to his office in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept., 11 but his plane was diverted due to the events of that morning.

In addition to speculating in the interview about bin Laden’s complicity, Bremer said that “terrorists declared war on the United States, and we declared war on the terrorists.” What was this supposed to mean? Would it follow that the United States would have carte blanche to invade any country anywhere if a terrorist or terrorists were thought to be living there? Would that include Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, or France?

Bremer also said, “We can’t throw away democratic freedoms and civil liberties that are the heart of our society.”

But those liberties were not thrown away; they were taken away by Bremer’s colleagues in the Bush administration. This happened through the passage of the Patriot Act, the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, the spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, the prosecution of whistleblowers, and the stifling our 1st and 5th Amendment rights. The list is long.

Bremer continued: “There will be consequences. In fact, I hope the most severe military consequences we can come up with.”

In this he was prescient. Using the justification of 9/11, the United States invasion of Afghanistan was followed by the invasion and destruction of Iraq, the bombing of Libya into the Stone Age, the arming and aiding of Saudi Arabia in their mission to destroy Yemen, and the instigation and perpetuation of the Syrian horror. Add in drone wars and proxy wars in God-knows-how-many countries, and Bremer must have swelled with pride over the level of carnage.

Bush names bin Laden

On the evening of Sept. 11, President Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office of the White House and said this: “Today was the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century. We think it’s Osama bin Laden.” For the second time on that day we hear the name bin Laden from a national bully pulpit.

Without a shred of evidence to support their claim, two high-profile government officials, speaking to Americans, put bin Laden in the crosshairs. He instantly became America’s public enemy number one, guilty by government decree.

The accusation was further reinforced by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who appeared on the BBC the morning of 9/11 (even before the buildings came down) and pointed to bin Laden and al-Qaeda as likely being behind the event. He called for the U.S. to launch an “operational, concrete war on terror.”

Before the dust had settled from the destruction of the towers, Bremer and Bush, along with Barak and the worldwide media, implicated bin Laden without offering any evidence. A little more than a week later, on Sunday, Sept. 23, Colin Powell made it official. With host Tim Russert on Meet the Press, Powell named bin Laden the architect of 9/11.

Russert asked Powell for evidence, and he responded: “We are hard at work bringing all of the information together, intelligence information, law enforcement information. And I think, in the near future, we will be able to put out a white paper, a document that will be able to describe quite clearly the evidence we have linking him [bin Laden] to this attack.” He told Russert he would make it available to him once it was completed.

Fleischer slams the door

The day after Powell’s promise, the New York Times devoted a front page article to the evidence that it believed was forthcoming, citing statements by government officials that “the evidence reaches from the southern tip of Manhattan to the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.”

But the same afternoon, Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer met with the media and said Powell’s statement of a white paper had been “misinterpreted.” There was no plan to release the information. “It is classified.”

A reporter had the audacity to ask, “Is there any plan to present to the public evidence so the average citizen, not just Americans but people all over the world, can understand the case against bin Laden”?

Fleischer’s response was predictably condescending: “In a democracy it is always important to provide the maximum amount of information possible. But I think American people understand that there are going to be times when that information cannot immediately be forthcoming.”

On one issue, Fleischer spoke truthfully: the white paper was not immediately forthcoming. In fact, it has never been produced. No white paper exists in the public domain containing forensic evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks.

The arrogance, hypocrisy, and disregard for human life of this man and the entire Bush administration cannot be overstated. American troops were about to be sent to war. Many would die or be seriously injured for life. Afghan civilians, considered collateral damage, would be killed in large numbers as always happens in war. Yet no soldier, American citizen, or Afghan citizen was allowed to see the evidence cited to justify why the United States was about to invade one of the poorest countries in the world.

It gets worse.

The NATO alliance was formed following WWll, ostensibly to protect East European countries from naked aggression by the Soviet Union. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack against any member nation is an attack against all member nations, was invoked for the first time on Sept. 11, 2001. And it wasn’t a small NATO country that needed help; it was the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world.

On Sept. 12, 2001, NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson summoned the North Atlantic Council to meet in Brussels. All 19 members agreed that the attack on the U.S. was an attack from abroad. All Robertson needed to invoke Article 5 was the responsible party with evidence to wage war on the perpetrators. He soon got what he needed, or so he thought.

U.S. State Department representative Frank Taylor met in secret with all NATO representatives on Oct. 2, 2001 and provided documents that supposedly contained “clear and compelling” evidence of bin Laden’s guilt to the Secretary General. After the meeting, Robertson met with the press and predictably said the evidence provided by Taylor was classified. In all, 29 countries joined the U.S. in the invasion of Afghanistan, including Britain, France, and Canada. They joined in the invasion of this tiny impoverished country based on “evidence” that the public could not see.

It gets even worse.

A revelation from the FBI

On June 5, 2006, investigative reporter Ed Haas from the Muckraker Report noticed from bin Laden’s Most Wanted Page on the FBI’s website that he was wanted for several crimes but not for 9/11. He eventually spoke with Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity of the FBI and the exchange went like this:

Haas: “Why is there no mention of 9/11 on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted web page?”

Tomb: “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s web page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”

Haas: “How is this possible”?

Tomb: “The FBI gathers evidence. Once evidence is gathered it is turned over to the Department of Justice who then decides whether it has enough evidence to present to a grand jury. In the case of bin Laden he has not been formally indicted and charged because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”

So how does this work? Bremer, hours after the towers were destroyed, blamed bin Laden. Bush, later that day, blamed bin Laden. Powell days later on national television claimed to have solid evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. Taylor supposedly turned over “clear and compelling evidence” of bin Laden’s guilt to the head of the NATO Alliance a few weeks after 9/11. Yet, the chief law enforcement agency in the United States, the FBI, admitted years later that they have “no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”

It should also be mentioned that a “confession video” by bin Laden was found in Afghanistan in December 2001, which was immediately used to bolster the claim of bin Laden’s guilt. The video was soon debunked by a leading expert on bin Laden, professor Bruce Lawrence of Duke University, who called the tape “bogus.”

This also begs the question as to why, if authentic, the tape was not used on bin Laden’s Most Wanted Page in the FBI file. One also has to wonder why this evidence, unlike all the other evidence the Bush administration claimed to have in its possession, was widely disseminated to the public while the rest remained classified.

And it gets worse yet!

Bush refuses to show proof

The evidence presented to NATO by Frank Taylor was in document form and immediately classified by U.S. and NATO authorities.

Before the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan, the country’s Taliban government offered to extradite bin Laden pending receipt of evidence of his guilt. But Bush refused the offer.

Could Bush have avoided the Global War on Terror by turning over the “clear and compelling” evidence in the Frank Taylor documents? The simple answer is no. There was no evidence to turn over.

The State Department documents were declassified in 2008 with little fanfare. Dr. Niels Harrit, a former professor of chemistry at the University of Copenhagen—now a researcher and writer active in the 9/11 Truth Movement—found them, and in an article on the Global Research website exposed them for public scrutiny.

According to Harrit’s assessment, “There is absolutely no forensic evidence that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated from Afghanistan.” He goes on: “Only a small part of the introductory text deals with 9/11. The main body of the text deals with the alleged actions of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the nineties.”

There isn’t now, nor was there ever, any evidence to connect Osama bin Laden to 9/11!

An addendum to the story, and certainly red meat for conspiracy theorists, seems to make the government’s case against bin Laden even more contrived. In a segment on NBC Nightly News with Dan Rather on Jan. 28, 2002, foreign correspondent Barry Peterson, standing in front of a military hospital in Pakistan, reported that bin Laden was getting a dialysis treatment on Sept. 10, 2001, a day prior to 9/11. According to Peterson, “He [bin Laden] arrived at the hospital in Rawalpindi under heavy security provided by the Pakistan secret service (ISI).”

If the report is accurate, it would be reasonable to wonder how an NBC News crew tracked down bin Laden while George Bush with 19 intelligence agencies at his disposal, never had a clue about his whereabouts.

We might also ask why Pakistan, an ally of the United States, didn’t turn bin Laden over to U.S. authorities after escorting him to one of his hospital visits. And we might wonder how bin Laden commuted from the mountains in Tora Bora to a hospital and back three times a week for kidney dialysis treatments.

And, years later, we might wonder why there is not a shred of evidence that supports the claim that bin Laden was killed in a Navy Seals raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011, as was reported and heralded by the Obama administration.

Public enemy number one

In a press conference at the White House on Sept. 13, 2001, President Bush said, “The most important thing for us is to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority, and we won’t rest until we find him.” It is important to note that by that date the government had still not declared publicly that there was evidence against bin Laden. He was guilty by decree only.

On March 13, 2002, less than seven months after the beginning of the Global War on Terror, justified by 9/11 and the accusations against bin Laden, Bush said this: “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It is not our priority.”

Then, in a speech delivered to a group of military officers on Sept. 5, 2006, Bush compared bin Laden to Lenin and Hitler. He said: “The world had ignored the writings of Lenin and Hitler and paid a terrible price. Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them.

Imagine if Winston Churchill had said that, “I really don’t care, it’s not that important, he is not our priority” when speaking about Hitler during the Battle of Britain? The absurd comparison to Hitler and the disparity, going back and forth from monster to afterthought and back to monster when speaking about bin Laden, in my view, speaks volumes.

Most citizens of the United States are decent and law abiding. Most pay their taxes willingly in a timely fashion. Most try to raise their families and teach them the difference between right and wrong. Most Americans are patriotic. Most would never harm anyone unless provoked. Most have integrity, decency, and values. Many have worn the uniform and taken an oath to serve and protect. So is it inappropriate to ask why our government and the press treat all of us like children? The bin Laden story is a testament to this along with the entire Global War on Terror, a complete fraud that has caused so much devastation to our reputation in the world and to the lives of millions in the Middle East and elsewhere.

If there is no clear, compelling evidence against the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, would it be fair to say that the Global War on Terror in its entirety, including the invasions, the bombings, the drone strikes, the millions killed, the tens of millions of refugees, all of the families destroyed, all of the despair and loss of hope the United States has brought to bear in so many parts of the world, is a fraud?

One would think.

Geoffrey O’Neill is a former Marine officer, Vietnam veteran, former business owner, and unexceptional American citizen who believes in the right of all people to live in peace and with dignity with their families. Geoffrey can be reached at goneill460@gmail.com

July 14, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

‘Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan intelligence chiefs discuss Daesh threat in Afghanistan’

Press TV – July 11, 2018

Moscow says the heads of intelligence services of Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan have sat down in Islamabad for talks on the rising threat of Daesh in Afghanistan after the Takfiri terrorist group lost its strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Sergei Ivanov, the chief of the press bureau of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, told the TASS news agency on Tuesday that the officials had stressed the need for “coordinated” measures against the Daesh relocation to Afghanistan.

The quadripartite discussions in Islamabad “focused on the dangers arising from a buildup of Daesh on the Afghan territory,” he said.

“The conference reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS (Daesh) terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan where from they would pose risks for neighboring countries,” he added.

Ivanov also noted that the intelligence chiefs, among them Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin, had underlined the need for more active regional cooperation to settle the conflict in Afghanistan.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan under the guise of the war on terror. Some 17 years on, the Taliban militant group has only boosted its campaign of violence across the country, targeting both civilians and security forces in bloody assaults.

More recently, Daesh has also taken advantage of the chaos and established a foothold in eastern and northern Afghanistan.

The Takfiri group has stepped up its terror attacks in the war-torn state despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops on Afghan soil.

Recently, there have been reports suggesting that the US military is allowing Daesh elements to infiltrate into Afghanistan following their defeats in Syria and Iraq.

In February, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said that by transferring Daesh to Afghanistan, Washington was seeking “to justify the continuation of its presence in the region and to create security for the Zionist regime.”

Daesh started a campaign of terror in Iraq and Syria in 2014, occupying territory in the two Arab countries and establishing a self-proclaimed “caliphate” there.

Soon, the Iraqi and Syrian armies galvanized to retake Daesh-held territory and the terror outfit was gradually stripped of all the land it had occupied in the two Middle Eastern states.

July 11, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia and UAE Return to Afghanistan

By Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.07.2018

The 17-year old Afghan war is entering a new phase, as the Pentagon co-opts as allies the two Gulf Arab states that used to be the Taliban regime’s friend, guide and philosopher in the 1990s – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It’s a double whammy for Pentagon – sheikhs usually carry moneybags, and secondly, the exasperating war is getting outsourced.

A conference of the ulema (religious scholars) drawn from 30 Muslim countries is taking place in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on July 9-10. The host is notionally the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), who is not known to act except at the bidding of Saudi Arabia.

The agenda is to issue a fatwa effectively de-legitimizing the Taliban’s ‘jihad’, sowing seeds of ideological disarray amongst the insurgents and encouraging defection from their ranks. The tantalizing idea to hold such conferences in various Muslim countries was an American brainwave, which took shape during the visit by US Defence Secretary James Mattis to Riyadh in February when he sought a proactive Saudi role in Afghanistan after a prolonged period of absence since 2001.

Mattis reached an understanding with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the latter’s visit to the US in end-March. Alongside, Washington hosted a meeting in March of top security officials of the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Afghanistan to draw up a coordinated strategy whereby NATO will also be inducting Emirati military contingents to join the operations against the Taliban. Kabul has duly given formal approval.

Prima facie, all this is packaged as a new resolve on the part of the two Gulf Arab regimes to fight international terrorism. This is the first time that the Emiratis will be wading into the killing fields of the Hindu Kush. It is a poignant moment since Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the only two countries (other than Pakistan) to recognize the Taliban regime in the 1990s.

Curiously, this time around, their compass is reset to counter the Taliban’s expansion in Afghanistan. But appearances can be deceptive in the Hindu Kush. A deep American game plan could be unfolding with multiple objectives in view.

The US commanders cannot be unaware that if the stalemate in the war cannot be broken and sooner rather than later, a clamor will begin in Washington to disengage from the futile war and withdraw troops.

But then, they visualize open-ended military presence and preservation of the bases in Afghanistan as imperative for the US’ global strategies.

Hence the innovative approach to try to fragment the Taliban and buy off the reconcilable elements through the Saudis and Emiratis. The Saudi imprimatur is useful, given the prestige of the office of the Custodian of Holy Places. The UAE is already a battle-scarred veteran of hybrid wars.

Of course, there are sub-plots. It is a masterstroke that the OIC stamp is put to de-legitimize the Taliban’s ‘jihad’. This will put Pakistan in some quandary, but that is also the US intention. The Taliban has reacted strongly to the conference in Mecca and Medina, branding it as another “absolute anti-Islamic” plot by Washington, which has not only mooted this idea but also handled “logistical support and implementation”.

A Taliban statement on July 7 said, “The US wants through these conferences to find justification for their military occupation, legitimize their stooge Kabul Administration and thus weaken the Jihadic resistance of Afghan Muslim nation being put up against them. But, Americans and their allies should understand that as they have failed in fighting, political sphere and in the field of propaganda, likewise, Allah, the Almighty will stymie this scheme of invaders as well.”

It will be interesting to see how the Emirati special forces hunt down Taliban fighters under NATO supervision. On a broader plane, though, the Gulf regimes’ formal partnership with the NATO’s war carries much symbolism.

The disconcerting part of this new American enterprise is that the very same Gulf states, which have been responsible for fuelling the Syrian conflict, are being cast in a revamped role in a new theatre where the Islamic State of Khorasan is steadily expanding its presence. Ironically, Afghanistan is beckoning both the fighters who were defeated in Syria and their mentors for new adventures.

No doubt, Washington hopes to pit the two Gulf Arab regimes against Pakistan with a view to pressure the latter to cave in to the American demand to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Although the kinship between the Saudi regime and Pakistani ulema is deep-rooted, there is only scant representation from Pakistan at the conference in Saudi Arabia. On July 5, Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman rejected the US call that Pakistan should take “sustained and decisive action” to bring the Taliban to peace talks.

Equally, it is in US interest to trigger a vicious proxy war on Afghan soil between these two Sunni Arab states and Iran, which fits in perfectly with Washington’s containment strategy against Tehran. The Islamic State’s Afghan wilayat, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan, is an enigma wrapped in mystery. But that may not remain so for long if Iran enters the fray.

NATO has been notably passive toward the vanquished IS fighters from Syria regrouping in Afghanistan. There have been accusations that NATO’s remarkable passivity reflected a deliberate policy to justify its long-term occupation of Afghanistan. All in all, therefore, the return of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in a newfound role to weaken the Taliban looks an ominous development for regional security and stability.

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran rejects allegation of training Taliban

ISNA | July 4, 2018

Tehran – Iran’s embassy in Kabul rejected allegations of providing military training to Taliban militants, stressing on contribution to strengthen peace and stability in the war-torn country.

Iran’s embassy in Kabul rejected a report by some Western media, which claimed that members of Afghanistan’s Taliban militant group are being trained in Iran, saying such accusations are meant to harm close relations between the two neighbors.

The embassy said in a statement on Wednesday, “Terrorism and extremism are a common threat to all countries in the region and joint efforts and collective actions are an inevitable necessity to confront such a threat”.

“The goal of such unrealistic and baseless allegations is to wage a psychological war and damage friendly relations between the Iranian and Afghan governments,” it added.

The embassy reaffirms Tehran’s strong commitment to peace and stability in the friendly and neighboring country of Afghanistan.

“Instead of leveling baseless accusations against Afghanistan’s neighbors, the Western media should focus their attention on the real reasons behind the failures of the Afghan governments in combating terrorism in Afghanistan and avoid diverting public opinion. ” the statement said.

“As the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly said, it has never extended its rifts with other countries to Afghanistan’s domestic affairs and seeks an increase in global efforts to reinforce the Afghan government and decrease its people’s suffering,” the statement added.

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment