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Is The TAPI Pipeline Finally Ready To Go?

Zero Hedge | January 19, 2022

Submitted by James Durso, Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consultancy.

The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline has been long aborning, but its prospects recently got a shot in the arm.

The 1100-mile, $10 billion project has seen numerous delays since the pipeline consortium was announced in late 2014, though the project was first mooted in 1991. Construction started in early 2018 with a projected in-service date of 2021, but halted later that year after workers clearing the route were killed by unknown assailants. Also, the project’s $10 billion cost estimate is a decade old, and an update may cause further delay to the Asian Development Bank-funded effort that is now slated to resume work in September 2022. Turkmenistan will loan Afghanistan the funds for its share of the project, to be repaid from gas transit revenues.

Representatives of the government of Tajikistan recently met officials in Afghanistan, and the Taliban announcement that it will dedicate 30,000 troops to pipeline security may motivate the parties to start construction.

The completed pipeline will allow Turkmenistan to reduce its reliance on its biggest gas customer, China, which has recently taken most of Turkmenistan’s gas exports, though in 2021 the country doubled its gas exports to Russia, which used to be the biggest importer of Turkmen gas until it was displaced by China in 2010. The pipeline will generate additional income that Ashgabat can use to improve services to citizens, a priority after the recent unrest in neighboring Kazakhstan.

But there may be competing opportunities. For example, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan recently signed a trilateral gas swap deal for up to 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. It’s not a large amount – Turkmenistan exports about 40bcm to China every year – but it’s another income stream that should be managed with an eye to future growth. Then there’s the possibility of a connection to the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) to supply Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). Connecting to the SGC would require a 200-mile subsea pipe between Baku and Türkmenba?y, but may face opposition from Iran and Russia on (probably spurious) environmental grounds. Once the politics are resolved, the project would likely be cheaper and carry less of a security burden than the overland TAPI route, and build on the January 2021 agreement between Baku and Ashgabat to jointly develop the Dostluq (“friendship”) oil and natural gas field in the Caspian Sea.

For Afghanistan, the project would provide transit fees of about $500 million per year, along with an annual share of 500 million cubic meters of gas for the first ten years, ultimately increasing to 1.5 bcm per year.

For the Taliban government, a successful project would: demonstrate it can be a reliable partner in a major infrastructure project, employ demobilized Taliban troops so they don’t defect to the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, earn revenue to pay for electricity imports (the country relies on imports for 78% of its power), demonstrate to China it is safe to invest in Afghanistan, and be an opportunity for cooperation with Pakistan despite the dispute over their shared border.

Of course, Kabul will have to figure out what to do with that natural gas, in addition to its one trillion cubic feet of reserves. The U.S.-driven development plan for the country emphasized renewables, like solar and wind, and the U.S.-funded $335 million Tarakhil Power Plant near Kabul, which relied on expensive, imported diesel fuel, is now used as a back-up facility when hydropower and imported power aren’t available. An International Finance Corporation-sponsored 59-megawatt gas-to-power plant in Mazar-i-Sharif would have boosted the country’s current total domestic generation by up to 30 percent, but can it be revived under the Taliban?

And time is of the essence as Uzbekistan recently reduced its power exports by 60%, possibly due to increased domestic demand as winter sets in, possibly to nudge Kabul (or the UN) to start paying the $90 million owed to power suppliers in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran.

For Pakistan, the pipeline would help solve the country’s persistent energy shortfalls, such as the deficit between current gas production of 4 Billion Cubic Feet per Day (BCFD) against demand of 6 BCFD. By 2025, gas production is expected to fall to less 1 BCFD due to depletion of gas reserves while demand increases to 8 BCFD.

And Pakistan won’t have to wait to 2025 for an economic impact: Between 2008 and 2012, 40 percent of Pakistan’s textile sector moved to Bangladesh, one reason being the uneven supply of gas and electricity.

Then there’s Pakistan’s view of its regional interests and its endless search for “strategic depth.” The pipeline would be an independent source of revenue for Afghanistan, just when Pakistan feels the Taliban government should be beholden to it. And India would be able to increase the share of gas in its energy mix from 6.5% to 15%, possibly encouraging more trade between Kabul and New Delhi. To Islamabad, it will add to an already bad outcome: the ungrateful Taliban still aren’t helping Pakistan isolate the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, while India is expected to be the world’s fastest growing economy in 2022, according to the World Bank.

They say “all politics is local” and that may be the case here. One Pakistani observer, Hina Mahar Nadeem, noted the country’s gas shortfalls have a silver lining – for the interests that control the import of expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG). Accordingly, TAPI and the much-delayed (mostly by U.S. sanctions on Iran) Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline are a threat to their economic and political power.

In late 2020, Pakistan and Russia signed a deal to complete the 700-mile Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline, to move LNG from Port Qasim (Karachi) to Kasur, in the Punjab. Pakistan may be treating with Russia to balance against China, or maybe the deal was decided on strictly dollars-and-cents terms. Regardless, this project may crowd out attention and funding for Pakistan’s phase of TAPI.

A richer energy mix and pipeline transit revenues would strengthen Pakistan as it negotiates new efforts with China under the umbrella of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan’s leaders will need to strengthen their position vis-à-vis China while demonstrating to Beijing they are a reliable partner that will develop energy resources that can accommodate China’s projects. But first, those leaders must take on entrenched business and national security interests to successfully support TAPI, despite the economic benefits to its neighbors. But this assumes the country’s leaders aren’t captive (willing or otherwise) to their business confederates  and the securicrats.

For India, TAPI would add to the country’s energy mix, propelling its impressive economic growth. India is the world’s third-largest energy consuming country, and has doubled energy use since 2000, with 80% of demand still being met by coal, oil and solid biomass. TAPI gas would allow India to use less coal, helping it meet its COP26 carbon emission goal, and satisfy increased energy demand by 2030 of 25% to 35% according to the International Energy Agency.

India has built a connection for TAPI at Fazilka at the Indo-Pakistan border in the Punjab region, a location on the border with Pakistan that may be subject to cross-border attacks by Pakistan-affiliated groups. Will Pakistan or its proxies be able to resist attacking such a key piece of infrastructure if India-Pakistan relations fail to improve?

For India, the best approach may be “wait and see” if the U.S. threatens sanctions against TAPI partners, whether the Taliban can prove they know how to govern and secure the country against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, and how serious is the announced Russia-Pakistan pipeline deal.

Where does this leave Turkmenistan?

It, too, should take it slow. It is no longer 2014, and it now has opportunities for increased swaps with Iran and Azerbaijan, and further opportunities with Iran may blossom if Tehran and Washington can secure a nuclear deal. The opportunity to connect to Europe via the TCP/SGC may present more revenue with fewer security concerns, or iffy partners like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, Washington needs to clear the way regarding sanctioned officials in Kabul, though the acting minister of defense, Mullah Muhammad Yaqub, who declared “I am directly responsible for and overseeing the security of the TAPI project” hasn’t been sanctioned by Washington… yet.

Washington might get behind TAPI in the wake of the recent deployment of Collective Security Treaty Organization peacekeeping troops to Kazakhstan, which has increased Russia’s clout in Central Asia. Increased revenue for Ashgabat that can be directed to services for its citizens may prevent the public unrest that gave Moscow an opening to intervene, and Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow may not need much convincing in this regard.

But it may serve Ashgabat well to ask Washington for a blanket sanctions exemption for all project principals and suppliers, and any government officials in the mix, to make it clear who bears responsibility if the project again fails to launch. If this happens, it will be a shabby way to treat ally India, and in Pakistan it will be interpreted as U.S. revenge against the country for supporting the Taliban.

The “push” of increased regional influence for Moscow and the “pull” of clean energy for ally India will hopefully make Washington green-light (or get out of the way of) the long-delayed project.

January 19, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The US is Gaining a Foothold in Uzbekistan

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 22.12.2021 

To create sustainable groundwork for further expansion into Central Asia, Washington has recently placed particular emphasis on developing relations and cooperation with Uzbekistan.

One of such work areas in this country has been the active opening of “American Corners” in Uzbekistan. It is a US government-supported global network of more than 600 open-access educational centers, already implanted in more than 140 countries, seemingly dedicated to “spreading American culture and American values to every country in the world.” However, created in modern libraries, they are one of the main elements of American soft power. The US Embassy opened an “American Corner” in Qarshi in March 2021; the US Embassy plans to open at least six more such facilities throughout Uzbekistan. It has already allocated over $860,000.

Another area of US expansion in Uzbekistan is USAID’s aspirations to take control of the country’s pharmaceutical industry. To this end, USAID has opened a so-called “Quality Club” in Uzbekistan, which, it says, will promote the development of the pharmaceutical industry and local pharmaceutical manufacturers. According to a US Embassy release, the assistance will consist of discussions on updates, problems, and solutions related to regulating drugs and medical devices in Uzbekistan. US representatives present at the “Quality Club” opening discussed the current state of the Uzbek pharmaceutical industry, the contribution of local medicine producers to the common market, and achievements, obstacles, and development directions in the pharmaceutical industry. The advertising declarations of the US Embassy sounded, as always, noble, unless, of course, one keeps in mind that American charities do not do anything for nothing.

For the sake of objectivity in assessing this event, it should be recalled that there is a rigorous certification in the field of pharmaceutical products. And this, in particular, is clearly illustrated by the pharmaceutical war on vaccines against coronavirus. The United States has done quite a lot to keep the Russian Sputnik V vaccine out of that market. Therefore, it is easy to assume that the result of USAID activities will not be the promotion of Uzbek pharmaceutical products on the American and European markets, but the imposition of imports of American drugs to Uzbekistan and the capture of the Uzbek pharmaceutical market. As for the Uzbek industry, which has shown significant growth in recent years, it is unlikely to survive under pressure from USAID and Western corporations, as multinational corporations do not need competitors.

However, in addition to gaining complete control of Uzbekistan’s pharmaceutical industry, USAID has another goal. And it lies in the expansion through Uzbekistan to the entire EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union ) pharmaceutical industry, given that this Central Asian state has obtained observer status in the Eurasian Union and has already begun to adapt its national standards to EAEU requirements. And, given the importance of the EAEU market, USAID expects to take appropriate positions in the EAEU market through the mediation of Uzbekistan and gain access to the latest pharmaceutical developments in the EAEU.

However, the recently intensified “outreach to Uzbekistan” is being carried out by Washington not only in these directions. For example, recently, in Uzbekistan, there have been active discussions of political and economic partnership between the two countries with the participation of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu. The most promising directions of further expansion of the bilateral economic partnership, including mining, chemical, agriculture, textile, and other industries, have been outlined during the meeting held on December 13 in Tashkent. The US side emphasized that in the eleven months of 2021, trade turnover between the two countries increased by 48.5% compared to the same period in 2020. In addition, the number of enterprises with American capital in Uzbekistan has doubled over the past few years. The sides expressed readiness to hold in the first half of 2022 a business forum for representatives of American and Uzbek business communities jointly with the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC).

The US representatives also stressed the importance of strengthening security cooperation by deepening ties between defense, law enforcement, border, and customs agencies. The United States expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by Uzbekistan to humanitarian aid providers at the Termez Cargo Center and welcomed Uzbekistan’s initiative to establish a regional logistics hub in Termez under the auspices of the UN to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.

In the conditions mentioned above, the intensification of military cooperation with Uzbekistan remains on the active agenda of Washington. Uzbekistan remains the most convenient Central Asian country to locate a US Air Force base or counterterrorism center, targeting Afghanistan. Hence, discussions of American and NATO partners with Tashkent continue. Like many post-Soviet republics, Uzbekistan has partnered with NATO for peace since the 1990s, participating in consultations, delegation exchanges, and even joint troop maneuvers on US soil. And yet, for the past 20 years, Uzbek servicemen have not helped the Pentagon in Afghanistan with weapons in their hands like Georgians, Ukrainians and others. On the contrary, closer to the finish line of the infamous US mission in Afghanistan, Tashkent began to successfully establish constructive relations with the Taliban’s “political office” and promote Uzbek-Afghan economic cooperation projects.

Nevertheless, Washington has not given up hope of strengthening the strategic partnership with Uzbekistan in military projects or facilities. The regional choices are too limited. Therefore, representatives of CENTCOM will appear more than once in Tashkent, but the influence of Americans on the situation in the hot region will steadily diminish.

December 22, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Papers reveal what CIA did to captives in Afghanistan

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | December 7, 2021

New published documents have shed fresh light on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program in Afghanistan, describing in alarming detail some of the extreme techniques used by officers that resulted in deaths in captivity.

In a recent legal filing, the lawyers of Abu Zubaydah – the Guantánamo Bay detainee almost tortured to death by the CIA, held without charge by the US for nearly 20 years – urged that their client be released, given Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and with Al-Qaeda are finally over.

Writing to a DC district court, they argued that these developments meant there was no legal justification for keeping him captive, and he must be immediately discharged. What the petition omits to mention, however, is that Zubaydah’s detention was, from day one, intended to be permanent in order to keep the CIA’s criminal maltreatment secret and ensure his abusers were insulated from prosecution in perpetuity.

In July 2002, four months after his capture in Pakistan, the Agency’s team in Afghanistan specifically sought “reasonable assurances” from superiors that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” In response, a memo stated that there was “fairly unanimous sentiment” within CIA headquarters that Zubaydah “will never be placed in a situation where [he] has any significant contact with others and/or has the opportunity to be released,” and would “remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

Langley’s desire for total omerta in all matters concerning its torture program is understandable, for a great many people have much to hide.

At the start of December, BuzzFeed published hundreds of declassified papers related to CIA Inspector General investigations into child sexual abuse by Agency staff and contractors. Buried among these was a May 2004 Special Review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, launched after Gul Rahman, an Afghan suspected of having militia ties, died at the ‘Salt Pit’ black site in Kabul 18 months prior.

It notes that Rahman was subject to sleep deprivation sessions lasting 48 hours, during which he was denied clothing “to cause cultural humiliation,” and subject to “hard takedowns” – a euphemism for “rough treatment.” Despite this, he remained uncooperative and provided no intelligence, only admitting his identity after several days “in cold conditions with minimal food and sleep.” A psychological assessment in November 2002 noted his “remarkable physical and psychological resilience,” and resultantly recommended “continued environmental deprivations” to get him to talk.

One afternoon that month, when food was delivered to Rahman, he reportedly threw a water bottle and his defecation bucket at guards, warning that he’d seen their faces “and would kill them upon his release.” When Salt Pit’s manager learned of this incident, he authorized ‘short-chaining’ the prisoner – tying his hands and feet to the floor so he could not stand or sit comfortably – naked from the waist down in his cell.

On the morning of November 20, Rahman was found dead. Subsequent investigations by the Inspector General found that Salt Pit staff had employed a number of techniques and “improvised actions” approved by neither the Department of Justice nor CIA headquarters. These included frequent freezing showers, at such icy temperatures they left the suspect unable to speak properly.

A psychologist present at Salt Pit recalled observing Rahman “showing the early stages of hypothermia” after being subjected to one such shower, and ordered guards to give him a blanket. Another contractor declared that these showers were a deliberate “deprivation technique,” deployed when it was perceived he was being uncooperative, and never for “hygienic reasons.”

Nonetheless, when asked by investigators whether cold was used for the purposes of interrogation, a nameless CIA staffer coyly responded, “not per se,” but acknowledged physical and environmental discomfort “was used to encourage the detainees to improve their environment.” They went on to argue that “cold is hard to define,” asking rhetorically “how cold is cold? How cold is life-threatening?’”

While the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program remains classified today, its 525-page executive summary referred to Rahman over 100 times. Details of his death were largely absent, although it was revealed that not only was no Agency staffer disciplined as a result of it, but Salt Pit’s manager – who was not a trained interrogator, and had a history of behavioral issues – was recommended for a $2,500 cash award for “consistently superior work” four months later.

An Agency Accountability Board eventually decided to take the mild step of suspending the most junior CIA officer involved for 10 days without pay, but even this was overturned by the Agency’s then-Executive Director Kyle Foggo, who wrote to the staffer personally to say, “while not condoning your actions, it is imperative, in my view, that they… be judged within the operational context that existed at the time of Rahman’s detention.” Foggo was subsequently jailed for fraud, having helped friends improperly profit from CIA contracts in Iraq.

The executive summary names Rahman as the only prisoner known to have died in CIA custody – although the Inspector General Review shows this to be untrue. It records how in June 2003, an Afghan citizen allegedly implicated in rocket attacks on a joint US Army and CIA position in the country’s northeast attended Asadabad Base “at the urging of the local Governor,” whereupon he was detained in a facility guarded by US soldiers for four days.

During his brief period in captivity, a CIA contractor “severely [beat] the detainee with a large metal flashlight and kicked him during interrogation sessions,” leading to his death. His body was then turned over to a local cleric and his family, without an autopsy being performed. Neither the contractor nor his Agency supervisor was trained or authorized to conduct interrogations, although he faced no penalty, bar his contract not being renewed.

The review also makes clear that a penchant for extreme violence among CIA staff in Afghanistan, and the impunity with which they committed crimes, wasn’t restricted to its assorted prisons in the country. For example, it records how in July 2003, an officer visited a religious school, to determine if any staff or pupils could offer information related to the detonation of a remote-controlled explosive device that had killed eight border guards a few days earlier.

A teacher reportedly “smiled and laughed inappropriately” while being interviewed by the officer, prompting them to strike the man twice in the torso with their rifle butt, then repeatedly kick him as he lay prostrate on the ground – the incident was said to have been witnessed by 200 students. In response, the CIA simply brought the officer back home, whereupon they were “counseled and given a domestic assignment.”

Still, the review cannot be considered comprehensive, for it merely reflects what incidents were officially recorded. Disturbingly, the document concludes by noting that while documentation of the capture, rendition, detention, and interrogation of “high value detainees” was “comprehensive,” documentation related to detainees of “lesser notoriety” was “far less consistent.”

As the CIA wasn’t compelled to document the capture and detention of all individuals until June 2003, the Inspector General was “unable to determine with any certainty the number or current status of individuals who have been captured and detained.” In other words, the question of how many detainees were actually murdered under the auspices of the CIA torture program remains very much open – which in turn means anyone who could shed light on the matter, such as Zubaydah, can never be at liberty again.

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. 

December 8, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Why is the US Hyping Up the Threat of ISIS in Afghanistan?

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 16.11.2021

To justify its interventionist actions in the Middle East, the United States, following the now cliched example, actively uses its alleged commitment to fighting against terrorism, focusing on countering such well-known terrorist formations as Al Qaeda and ISIS. The same goes for the actions of the USA in Afghanistan. However, Washington didn’t take any accountability before the rest of the world about the results of this fight against terrorists in Afghanistan during its 20 years of abysmal military intervention.

At the same time, the Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mentioned several times that Russia has sufficient facts backing the claims about the USA’s cooperation with the ISIS militants in the northern part of Afghanistan. In particular, since 2017, unmarked helicopter flights have been recorded within areas of ISIS militant activity, not without the explicit knowledge of US and NATO forces in their area of responsibility, especially in northern Afghanistan… According to Afghan sources, these aircraft have been used to deliver manpower, weapons, and ammunition to ISIS militants. Moreover, there were recorded instances of surgical strikes by the US Air Force not against terrorists, but positions of radical Taliban fighters engaged in combat against ISIS.

After the termination of the US military intervention in Afghanistan in August this year under the pressure of the international public and Americans themselves, certain American politico-military circles, clearly dissatisfied with this step, started to spin the propaganda campaign about the allegedly intensified in recent months “danger of ISIS activity in Afghanistan” through their lackey media. With the apparent hope of triggering a new international armed aggression in Afghanistan, again under “US patronage.”

Thus, on September 28 this year, General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the supposedly obvious danger of strengthening of Al-Qaeda and ISIS positions in Afghanistan: “And we must remember that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization, and they still have not broken ties with al-Qaeda. I have no illusions about who we are dealing with.” “A reconstituted al-Qaeda or Daesh/ISIS with aspirations to attack the US is a very real possibility,” General continued.

The allegedly growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan has recently been actively picked up by the American media, handy to the current military and political elite. In particular, recently The New York Times began to scare the world with stories that, since the Taliban came to power, ISIS militants in Afghanistan have intensified, their terrorist attacks are exhausting the new government and raising fears among Western powers of a potential revival of the group. During his speech in Congress, US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl admitted that the ability of Afghan authorities to combat the Islamists “has yet to be determined.” However, he did not say anything about who and when will determine the results of 20 years of fighting them by the United States itself.

The New York Times acknowledged that, after its disgraceful flight from Afghanistan in August, Washington had lost reliable access to intelligence. Limited drone flights now provide only partial information given the distance they need to travel to reach Afghanistan, and its established network of informants has been destroyed.

However, the real reason behind Washington’s new propaganda wave regarding the allegedly heightened threat of ISIS from Afghanistan becomes apparent in one of the final paragraphs of the article published by this newspaper. It states that the Taliban “refuse to cooperate with the United States in fighting ISIS by fighting the war on their terms.”

As for the organization of today’s fight against ISIS, Dr. Bashir, head of the Taliban’s intelligence services, has directly pointed out that such work is constantly being done, and his men have adopted the methods of this fight from their predecessors. Moreover, they even rely on Western equipment to intercept messages and radio communications. He insists, however, that the Taliban have something the past government and the Americans did not have: widespread local support that can alert authorities to attacks and militant positions, something that has always been hard to detect in the past.

As for some Western propagandists who attempt to use the thesis about the alleged merger of the Taliban with ISIS terrorists at the instigation of Washington, keep in mind that ISIS does not have such a strong influence in Afghanistan as the Taliban, and they are seen as antagonists in the country. The fact is that ISIS relies on Salafi ideology, while most Afghans identify themselves with the Hanafi school of fiqh. Therefore, the organization is a foreign body in the structure of Afghan society, which undoubtedly limits its growth of influence and popularity in the country.

As you know, ISIS announced the formation of the group in Iraq in 2014. Then came the ISIS affiliate in Pakistan. As for Afghanistan, a branch of ISIS emerged here in January 2015 under the Islamic State – Khorasan Province, which later the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan joined with. In 2015, several regional media reports revealed that the National Directorate of Security (NDS), under complete US control, had helped ISIS gain a foothold in Nangarhar province. There have also been reports that some leaders of the Afghan branch of ISIS, including Sheikh Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost (a former Guantanamo Bay detainee!), traveled in Afghan intelligence vehicles and lived in guesthouses belonging to Afghan intelligence agencies. Therefore, some analysts accuse US intelligence services of involvement in creating and strengthening ISIS in Afghanistan.

At a certain point, the Taliban viewed ISIS as temporary “allies” fighting against US intervention within Afghanistan. However, after ISIS demanded that Taliban leaders swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, clashes broke out between the Taliban and ISIS, especially in Nangarhar province. Notably, after such clashes broke out, government helicopters rescued ISIS fighters besieged by the Taliban in some areas, such as Jawzjan province. In particular, Afghan army helicopters supported by US forces evacuated ISIS fighters and their families and housed them in guesthouses in Sheberghan, Jawzjan province, belonging to Afghan intelligence. Afghan intelligence agencies implicitly acknowledged this.

The estimated number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is 5,000. A UN report released in mid-July said the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan ranges from 500 to 1,500. Currently, ISIS does not possess heavy weapons, guns, and tanks, even though such equipment was abandoned in large numbers by the US army after fleeing Afghanistan, and has no centers, headquarters, or open fronts on Afghan soil. In these circumstances, ISIS can gain a foothold in Afghanistan only if some foreign patrons support it with people, arms, and money to use this organization to weaken the Taliban’s power and turn Afghanistan into a new breeding ground for terrorism. And here, one cannot rule out such actions precisely on the part of the United States and its Western allies. For example, Washington has done it before by supporting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in its confrontation with the Soviet Union.

In a sense, former Afghan army and Afghan intelligence officers trained in the United States, who had already joined ISIS in Afghanistan in August after the US fled Afghanistan, could be used by the United States to manipulate ISIS. Their numbers, as admitted by The Wall Street Journal, “are still relatively small, but they are growing, according to those who know these people, and also according to Afghan and Taliban intelligence agencies.”

Today, the Taliban control the entire country and view ISIS as a foreign group to be fought and wholly expelled from Afghanistan. As for the restraints the Taliban has towards carrying out joint counter-terrorist actions against ISIS, confirmed by the Taliban on October 11 at the meeting with the Americans in Doha, one cannot rule out that it was Washington’s former ties with ISIS that could lie behind such a position of the current rulers of Afghanistan.

November 16, 2021 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Pakistan reaches ‘complete ceasefire’ with local Taliban faction

RT | November 8, 2021

Pakistan’s government has agreed a total ceasefire with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, Information Fawad Chaudhry has announced, noting that talks leading to the move were facilitated by authorities in Kabul.

Speaking on Monday, Chaudhry told reporters that “a complete ceasefire” agreement has been reached and further talks were taking place to ensure a lasting peace. “The talks will focus on state sovereignty, national security, peace, social and economic stability in the areas concerned,” he said, according to local media.

The minister described the move as a “positive development” and said that it would help achieve peace after a long period of conflict, adding that the Taliban, which now rules over Afghanistan, facilitated the talks.

In October, Prime Minister Imran Khan told Turkey’s TRT World that some factions of the TTP were looking for reconciliation and were speaking with the government. “There are different groups that form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace. So, we are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process,” Khan stated.

It had previously been suggested by Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi that a conditional amnesty for TTP members could be granted if they surrendered their weapons, accepted the state constitution, and refrained from any criminal activity.

Reuters, citing sources, reported on Saturday that the TTP had requested certain prisoners be released as a prerequisite for peace talks.

Despite being weakened by a 2014 Pakistani military campaign which drove the TTP out of its stronghold in North Waziristan, the group still has an estimated 4,000-5,000 fighters, many based across the border in Afghanistan, and has been continually involved in bloody incidents.

The TTP is an ideological twin to the Afghan Taliban and wishes to establish its interpretation of Sharia – a hard-line form of Islamic governance – in Pakistan.

November 8, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

The U.S. Moral Superiority Complex Is Accelerating Its Decline

By Laura Ruggeri | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 4, 2021

Soon after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and Deep State insider, remarked “The reversals in Afghanistan are confounding for a Biden national security team that has rarely known personal failure (…) These are America’s best and brightest, who came to the messy endgame of the Afghanistan war with spotless résumés.

Though his criticism of the national security team is understandably guarded, anyone taking a dispassionate look at the establishment liberals who are deemed America’s “best and brightest” in Washington circles would reach the conclusion that they are stronger on slogans than substance, which leads to a disconnect between ideas and implementation, and lack overseas experience: there is only one career diplomat in a senior position on the National Security Council, the director for Africa.

Their ability to display ideological cohesion at the expense of a reflexive process of dialogical thinking is remarkable but not surprising: establishment liberals do see themselves as the centre of political enlightenment. If they appear vainglorious and self-righteous it is because they are part of a power structure that produces and perpetuates these character traits. Those who entertain the possibility of failure are side-lined as bearers of bad news, the centre-stage is reserved for those who project confidence and a sense of moral superiority. As to considering opposing viewpoints, that is entirely optional.

In the same Washington Post article Ignatius observed “Failure can shatter the trust and consensus of any team, and that’s a danger now for the Biden White House. This group has been extraordinarily close and congenial during Biden’s first seven months. But you can already see the first cracks in Fortress Biden.

Are these the kind of cracks that appear when reality hits delusions, when ‘what is’ collides with ‘what ought to be’, when military logic makes a dent in the fairy tale of a benign power successfully exporting “freedom, democracy and human rights”?

Trained for hybrid warfare, Biden’s aides were suddenly dealing with a conventional military crisis and looked out of their depth. As we have seen, managing a retreat and putting a spin on it require a completely different set of skills.

There is no doubt that the optics of one of the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history damaged the reputation of the U.S. both at home and overseas and that’s why we should expect new and more aggressive initiatives to harden American soft power and tighten control of the narrative through underhand methods.

Carefully crafted narratives are crucial for the U.S. because it is selling the world a failed model of development. Trumpeting it as inclusive, gender equal, green and sustainable is like putting lipstick on a pig, it looks grotesque. Managing perceptions, denigrating alternative civilizational and economic models, and demonizing the competition is no longer working, an increasingly large segment of the world population is developing stronger antibodies to the virus of American propaganda. That’s why traditional soft-power tools — trade, legal standards, technology — are increasingly being used to coerce rather than convince.

After the Afghanistan disaster former French ambassador to Israel, UN and U.S. Gérard Araud shared his dismay on Twitter: “The absence of self-examination in the West is seen elsewhere with disbelief. Wars waged by the West have recently cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians for no result and we still lecture the world about values. Do you have any idea about how we are seen abroad?

If even allies are growing tired of America’s preaching, guess how it is going down in the rest of the world.

At the end of August, when U.S. allies were weighing what the shambolic, badly-coordinated retreat means for Western power and influence, Biden delivered a speech in which he explained “This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It is about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”

His statement signalled the intention to extricate the U.S. army from a war that had exhausted itself, politically, militarily and epistemically, but didn’t suggest that the U.S. will renounce its imperialistic ambitions. In the last twenty years there have been tectonic shifts: cyber, biological, information, cognitive and economic warfare are changing the way wars are being fought. Putting boots on the ground is no longer the best nor the only option to subjugate an adversary.

The reconfiguration of the geopolitical landscape and rapidly changing power relations also required a reassessment of priorities. Now that all eyes are on the Asia-Pacific region the question is whether Biden’s team is the best fit for the challenges U.S. power is facing.

Biden’s closest aides never learned the fundamentals of realpolitik, they hold the belief that liberal values are universally valid and the use of force (rebranded “humanitarian interventionism”) morally motivated. They never doubted that the Western model would conquer the world because they grew up at the end of the Cold War, a time that was indeed characterized by a “unipolar moment”. This period is well and truly over and the Western liberal order in its present form is a fraying system.

While the U.S. allocated resources to the destruction and destabilization of sovereign countries, and ignored the widening income gap at home, their main competitor, China, lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty and kept building state-of-the-art infrastructure at home and abroad, that is projects that make a tangible difference in people’s livelihoods. No wonder concealing the truth has become a matter of national security.

Democrats openly admit their intent to co-opt Silicon Valley to police political discourse and silence the bearers of inconvenient truths. They effectively sowed the seeds for a future where everything and everyone can be(come) a national-security threat. Glenn Greenwald revealed that Congressional Democrats have summoned the CEO’s of Google, Facebook and Twitter four times in the last year to demand they censor more political speech. They explicitly threatened the companies with legal and regulatory reprisals if they did not start censoring more. Pulling the plug on dissenting opinions and de-platforming people who challenge the dominant discourse makes a mockery of free speech, one of the rights that the U.S. claims to be defending when it selectively condemns alleged violations of human rights in other countries. Increasing censorship is also an indication that control of the narrative both at home and overseas has become vital for the U.S.

The conviction that “for America, our interests are our values and our values are our interests’’, one of the tenets of NeoCons, has been revamped by the liberal Left to aggressively promote a different kind of values and causes. A sort of symbolic capital that would allow the U.S. to maintain dominance as rights defender while its own constitutional rights are being eroded at home. Moral grandstanding can only compound the hypocrisy, but that is not stopping liberal totalitarians who are trading off freedom of speech for a child’s right to gender self-identification or for a binding gender or race quota on corporate boards.

History shows that declining empires tend to produce incompetent, self-delusional and divisive leaders who unwittingly accelerate the inevitable fall. That’s exactly what seems to be happening now. Not only the radical liberalism embraced by the Biden administration and Western elite has already antagonized millions of Americans leading to social and political polarization, it is also antagonizing foreign leaders, including the leaders of allied countries such as Hungary and Turkey who are being labelled as ‘authoritarian’. As the U.S. system of alliances is becoming increasingly fragile, dogmatic progressives in the current administration look more and more like Aesop’s donkey in a pottery shop, or a bull in a China shop, if you prefer.

The current National Security Council (NSC) is staffed with advisers who are the product of the kind of groupthink that has long been dominant in Anglo-American universities, those madrassas of the liberal Left where debate is stifled by ideological purges. The opinions and worldviews that are shaped and reinforced in these echo chambers are disseminated and amplified by the media and other industries. Countless careers depend on exporting simulacra of freedom, democracy and human rights, not only because these “experts” have internalized a conviction that these immaterial goods possess an intrinsic moral value, but also because the U.S. has little else to offer the world and leverage on, unless you count assured mutual destruction as leverage.

A case in point is The Summit for Democracy that Biden will convene in virtual mode on December 9–10, 2021, while a second meeting will take place a year later. The plan is to bring together over 100 leaders from selected governments (some of the choices have already stirred controversy among democracy advocates) plus various NGOs, activists (regime change actors) and corporations to “rally the nations of the world in defence of democracy globally” and “push back authoritarianism’s advance”, “address and fight corruption”, “advance respect for human rights”.

Though this initiative is mainly a way to strengthen ideological cohesion among allies by appealing to “common values” and conjuring up yet another global threat, namely “authoritarianism”, it effectively divides the international community into two Cold War-style blocks, friends and foes. On one side countries that earned a seal of approval for toeing the line and therefore deserve to be labelled “democratic”; on the other side a basket of deplorables that refuse to recognize the superiority of the U.S. model of governance and civilizing mission. Basically, the politically correct version of neocolonialism.

The Summit for Democracy will take place against the backdrop of AUKUS, the new Anglo-Saxon alliance that effectively joins NATO to the Asia-Pacific through Britain. What is clearly intended as an alliance against China severely damages regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and jeopardizes international efforts against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

On one hand the U.S. is flexing its military muscle, on the other hand it is flexing the ideological muscle that, in the intentions of the Summit organizers, will provide the impetus to renew and strengthen the liberal international order that has served U.S. interests since the end of WW2.

The Summit for Democracy may have a higher profile convener than similar events held in the past but its premise sounds just as tone-deaf and over-ambitious. Take for example The Copenhagen Summit for Democracy that was organized in May by the “Alliance of Democracies”, a foundation set up by former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen in 2017. Its objective was to create a Copenhagen Charter, modelled on the Atlantic Charter, having a Clause 5 similar to NATO’s Article 5, whereby “a state coming under economic attack or facing arbitrary detentions of its citizens due to its democratic or human rights stance could ask for unified support including retaliatory measures of fellow democracies.” This and other creative proposals included in the Copenhagen Charter will likely be rehashed at the Summit to be opened by Biden in December.

Rasmussen too can boast a spotless resume as cheerleader for U.S. global leadership, and that might explain why he seems trapped in a time warp and blind to the actual state of that leadership. If the reader needs further confirmation of Rasmussen’s complicated relationship with reality, here is an excerpt from an article titled ‘The Right Lessons From Afghanistan’ that he wrote for Foreign Affairs a few weeks after the Afghanistan fiasco, “The world should not draw the wrong lessons from Afghanistan. This fiasco was far from inevitable. It would also compound the folly if the world’s developed democracies stopped supporting the quest for freedom and democracy in authoritarian states and war-torn countries. That includes Afghanistan, where the United States and its partners should lend their support to the ongoing resistance efforts to oppose the Taliban.” We all know what happened to those “resistance efforts”, but Rasmussen won’t let reality get in the way of his illusions.

It is unlikely the Summit for Democracy will achieve the unspoken objective of creating an Alliance of Democracies that could bypass the UN Security Council. But it is undeniable that international law has long been under attack and is incrementally replaced with the Atlanticist concept of a “rules-based international system”, which does not have any specific rules but allows the West to violate international law under the pretext of advancing liberal ideals and exporting democracy.

It’s expected that USAID will be called to play a major role at the summit. USAID under Samantha Powers has a seat in the NSC and has been tasked with the mission to “modernize democracy assistance across the board”. This includes “supporting governments to strengthen their cybersecurity, counter disinformation and helping democratic actors defend themselves against digital surveillance, censorship, and repression.” In typical Orwellian doublespeak the U.S. is seeking help by claiming to help. With a military budget already stretched over the limit, enlisting foreign actors (both state and non-state) to do its bidding in the information and cognitive warfare becomes imperative.

NED, USAID, USAGM, “philanthropic” organizations like Open Society Foundations and the Omidyar Network have long been grooming and bankrolling journalists, activists, politicians, various types of influencers and community leaders. Their job is to paint a negative picture of China, Russia and any country resisting U.S. diktats. In Africa, just to mention one of many examples, “independent” journalists are paid to investigate Chinese companies that are involved in mining, construction, energy, infrastructure, loans and environment and portray them as causing harm to communities, environment and workers.

At the beginning of October, Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled a new partnership with the OECD in Paris: the overt goal was to combat corruption and promote “high-quality” infrastructure. But the partnership is part of a broader effort to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The U.S. has also appealed to the G7 and QUAD to provide the financial muscle for its Build Back Better World initiative (BW3), a rehash of Trump’s Blue Dot Network. Since the U.S. and its partners cannot respond to BRI symmetrically — they are unable to match China dollar for dollar, project for project — they are relying on virtue-signalling both as a marketing and bullying tactic. According to this initiative, infrastructure building in developing countries should comply with a certification scheme and lending rules set by the U.S. and its partners, rules that are cloaked in the familiar jargon of social and environmental sustainability, gender equality, and anti-corruption.

In case the competition with China in Asia, Europe and Africa does turn into open confrontation, the U.S. could use the BW3 to increase pressure on investment funds, global financial institutions and insurance companies to discriminate against projects that don’t meet standards set by the U.S. in return for concessions and sweeteners. When Western companies cannot compete fairly with Chinese ones, they can always rely on friendly officials in Washington to rewrite the rules of the game in their favour.

American policymakers seem unable to abandon a Cold War mentality that is essentially utopian in expectations, legalistic in concept, moralistic in the demands it places on others, and self-righteous. Some analysts believe that the source of the problem might be the force of public opinion, deemed emotional, moralistic and binary, the old “Us vs Them.”

Classical international relations theorists have long held the assumption that American public opinion has moralistic tendencies: for liberal idealists the moral foundation of public opinion, mobilized by norm entrepreneurs, opens up the possibility of positive moral action, whereas for realists, the public’s moralism is one of the main reasons why foreign policymaking should be insulated from the pressures of public opinion.

However it is myopic to conceive of public opinion and policymaking as separate entities when in fact they are both shaped by the interests of powerful elites. Public opinion doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is swayed by new and old media that are often controlled by the same interest groups and corporations that fund the think tanks and foundations influencing U.S. foreign policy.

For instance, not only was the collusion and revolving door between government and the tech industry a feature of the Obama administration, it characterizes the Biden administration as well. The transnational interests of these elite groups are usually cloaked in a progressive, inclusive, democratic rhetoric to make their narrow agenda appear big enough so that unsuspecting ordinary people may want to claim ownership and subscribe to it. Corporate interests and national interest are a tangled web no longer subjected to public scrutiny since national level democracy has been hollowed out. When the trilemma of democracy, state, and market becomes irreconcilable, global market players call the shots without democracy or state being able to control them, oversee unceasing technological innovation (including artificial intelligence) or curb the excessive financialization of the economy.

Though U.S. attempts at nation-building result in chaos and misery for local populations, Americans haven’t given up on trying to remake the world in their own distorted image by aggressively promoting their worldviews, exporting a simulacrum of democracy and politicizing human rights issues.

They reject true multilateralism by trying to dominate the international organizations that were created to further cooperation and harmonize national interests. For the corporate donors of both the Democratic and Republican Party other countries’ national interests are a relic of the past that should be done away with. And indeed national interests would hardly be compatible with a world order led by the U.S. in partnership with global stakeholders (global corporations, NGOs, think-tanks, governments, academic institutions, charities, etc.)

These global stakeholders and their political representatives effectively want to replace the modern international system of sovereign states that is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Under this system, commonly referred to as Westphalian system, states exist within recognised borders, their sovereignty is recognised by others and principles of non-interference are clearly spelled out. Since this model doesn’t allow the government of one nation to impose legislation in another, the U.S. loudly promotes the idea of global governance, under which a global public-private partnership is allowed to create policy initiatives that affect people in every country as national governments implement the recommended policies. Typically this occurs via an intermediary policy distributor, such as the IMF, World Bank, WHO, but many international organizations now play a similar role.

In the Biden administration we see a dangerous convergence of the national security establishment and Silicon Valley tech giants. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines both worked for WestExec, the consulting firm that Blinken cofounded with Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defence under President Obama. Google hired WestExec to help them land Department of Defense contracts. Google’s former Chief Executive Eric Schmidt made personnel recommendations for appointments to the Department of Defense. Schmidt himself was appointed to lead a government panel on artificial intelligence. At least 16 foreign policy positions are occupied by CNAS alumni. The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is a bipartisan think tank that receives large contributions directly from defence contractors, Big Tech, U.S. finance giants.

These donors spend considerable resources shaping the intellectual environment, academic research and symposia in order to build consensus around their agenda. The Biden administration also features dozens of officials hailing from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank set up by John Podesta, a longtime Clintonworld staple, with George Soros’ generous contribution. The ties between Open Society Foundations (OSF) and CAP are so strong that Patrick Gaspard, the former head of OSF, was nominated president and CEO of CAP.

When government becomes the expression of global corporate interests and channels the belief system of a small, privileged elite it can be hard to tell who is leading who, who is really making policy and setting national security strategies and goals.

Biden’s national security team is the product of this corrupt system. Its members may tone down the “freedom, democracy and human rights” rhetoric if it gets in the way of achieving a particular strategic goal, but they won’t abandon it because it has proven to be effective in providing a legitimating frame and moral justification to U.S. hegemony.

If we look at the Roman empire we see how one constant theme was “expand or die”. Expansion isn’t only to be intended as territorial or military. Expanding influence, alliances, the use of Latin, the spread of Roman laws, currency, standards, culture and religion all contributed to the cohesion of the Empire. Given the current constraints to U.S. ambitions — namely the strategic partnership between China and Russia, BRI, the more assertive role played by regional powers, nervousness and conflicting interests among U.S. allies and a large budget deficit — the room for expansion has been considerably reduced. Thus the U.S. is doubling its efforts in areas where it still has room for maneuver.

Biden’s slogan “America is Back” sought to reassure allies but cannot hide the fact that the emperor is naked. Advertisers, politicians and psyops planners are continuously manipulating people into changing their perceptions of reality and making choices that ultimately do not benefit them. But no matter how hard the power-knowledge regimes of Western intellectual production work to conceal the decline, the West no longer dominates the world and the values it advocates are not unanimous, far from it. Labelling governments that don’t embrace liberal values and U.S. standards as “autocratic regimes” is just foolish sloganeering and doesn’t take into account the changing balance of power on the ground. The world is evolving toward a multipolar system and the U.S. had better take notice of it. Those serving in the NSC are still imagining a world that no longer exists, one where America has the power to force other countries into doing its bidding. The current ideological approach blinds pragmatic thinking, thus impeding discussions and negotiations.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Someone should tell the Biden team.

November 5, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

NATO, Not Russia, Perpetuates Cold War Logic… It is a Relic Best Ignored

Strategic Culture Foundation | October 22, 2021

It was the end of an era this week when Russia announced that it was severing diplomatic links with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For the past 30 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has engaged with the US-led military bloc in a bid to establish partnership and secure peace.

The incipient detente culminated in the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997 which demarcated certain boundaries for peaceful coexistence. Those boundaries were subsequently flouted as NATO doubled its members over the ensuing years to stand at the current membership of 30 countries, including states that share a border with Russia.

There was also established in 2002 a NATO-Russia Council which in principle provided a forum for dialogue between delegations hosted in the Belgian capital Brussels where NATO has its headquarters.

But the truth is initial promises of partnership have waned. For several years now, at least since the 2014 Ukraine crisis, NATO’s relations with Russia have been characterized more and more with an imperious attitude of lecturing Moscow over a litany of alleged transgressions. These allegations are more accurately described as slanders because they are never substantiated beyond bald accusation.

Russia is routinely accused of posing a threat to Europe and plotting to sabotage Western democracies. This week the NATO defense ministers held a summit in which it was breathlessly claimed that Russia is becoming an even greater threat to the transatlantic alliance. On the back of that hysterical claim, NATO has now moved to implement  a “master plan” to “defend” Europe from a “potential Russian attack on multiple fronts”.

Reality check. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it has no intent of aggression towards the United States, NATO, Europe or anyone else for that matter. Despite this categorical assurance, the Western bloc has persisted in talking up tensions with Russia.

It is the United States that has abrogated several arms-control treaties and introduced new missile systems into Europe. It is NATO that is encroaching on Russia’s territory. Reality is turned on its head by Western accusations.

Indeed there have been conflicts over Georgia in 2008 and ongoing in Ukraine. But in each case, there are substantial grounds for laying the blame of these conflicts on NATO. How did the coup d’état in Kiev happen in 2014, who supported it? And why did the people of Crimea vote in a constitutional referendum to secede from Ukraine to join the Russian Federation with which they have centuries of shared history and culture?

In any case, if there were proper partnership and dialogue between NATO and Russia then such concerns and disputes could have been appropriately aired and discussed in the assigned forum. But the fact is there was never any genuine attempt at dialogue by NATO. Russia has become an object of harangue and hostility. The supposed partnership envisaged some three decades ago became a travesty. Instead of dialogue and debate there was simply disdain. Instead of equality there was vilification, opprobrium, and sensationalized smears without the slightest due process afforded to Russia (the Skripals, Navalny, Novichok, electoral interference, cyberattacks, shooting down a Malaysian airliner, and so on and so on, like an old skipping vinyl record incapable of moving on.)

The supposed diplomatic channels were nothing but echo chambers for NATO propaganda talking points, rather than being used as a means to resolve misapprehensions through mutual dialogue and presentation of evidence.

As the Russian foreign ministry noted this week in explaining the severance of diplomatic ties, it is NATO that systematically destroyed relations and “chose the Cold War logic”.

Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, commented that normal relations were not possible amid unfriendly steps taken by NATO “sliding into Cold War schemes”.

The last straw was the expulsion earlier this month by NATO of Russian diplomats from the NATO forum in Brussels. The Russian staff were accused of being “undeclared spies” allegedly working for military intelligence. No evidence was provided, as usual, by the accusers. It was the familiar high-handed approach of fait accompli and Russia “guilty until proven innocent”.

Everyone recognizes that relations between the Western states and Russia are at their lowest since the end of the former Cold War. Thus it may be put to Moscow that it is being reckless to close down channels of communication at this precarious time.

Russia has not ruled out pursuing a more productive relationship in the future. It has said, however, that it is up to NATO to make the first move towards improving relations. Until then, henceforth, any communications can be submitted through Russia’s ambassador to Belgium.

It is our view that Russia has made the correct call to drop diplomatic channels with NATO. Russia will pursue bilateral relations with individual nations as it does already, for example, with the United States on the vital issues of arms control and cybersecurity. NATO has proven to be incapable of progressive negotiations owing to an organizational “groupthink” that is encumbered with Russophobia and Cold War ideology.

By engaging directly with individual nations, it may be more productive for mutual understanding to be advanced because the noise of “groupthink” and of competing group negativity is removed.

Unfortunately, it has to be noted that the original purpose of NATO when it was formed in 1949 was rooted in Cold War hostility towards the Soviet Union. Such animosity has not abated even though the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Fundamentally, NATO is an organization in search of enemies in order to justify the militarism that is essential for the functioning of Western capitalism. There is a pivotal contradiction between NATO and today’s emerging world of multipolar cooperation and peaceful development. Its disgraceful, diabolical destruction of Afghanistan alone debars that organization from having any progressive role in today’s world.

Russia is right to disabuse the illusion of “partnership” with NATO. It is a relic of Cold War hostility that belongs in a war museum not in a modern forum for diplomacy.

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , , | 2 Comments

Who gains from a sectarian war in Afghanistan?

By Finian Cunningham | RT | October 19, 2021

Two bombings in as many weeks causing hundreds of casualties at Shia mosques in Afghanistan raises fears of a sectarian war erupting in the Central Asian country.

The surge in atrocities comes at a challenging time for the new Taliban government which is trying to establish international recognition as the legitimate authorities of Afghanistan. Much of the Taliban claim to rule relies on assurances that it would bring stability and security following the historic withdrawal of all US troops on August 31.

The Taliban – like the majority of Afghanistan’s 38 million population – is mainly of Sunni muslim faith. It has every incentive, however, to protect the lives of the minority Shia community. The bomb massacres at the two mosques in the northern city of Kunduz on October 8 and Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, on October 15 were claimed by the ISIS affiliate group, Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

This same group carried out the attack at Kabul airport on August 28 killing 13 US troops and over 160 Afghan civilians. It is officially designated as an enemy by Washington as well as by the Taliban. But is there a case of “my enemy’s enemy might be useful”?

The Taliban have vowed to root out ISIS-K and other Al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists. They all share an ultra-conservative profession of Sunni Islam, but it is not in the interests of the Taliban to see Afghanistan descend into a sectarian war when it is trying to mobilize national reconstruction after 20 years of war against the United States and other occupying NATO forces.

ISIS-K and other Al-Qaeda affiliates are also known by other terms, including Daesh, Takfiri or Wahhabi. They view Shia as heretics and liable to be put to death. Their cult-like theology put them in a different category from the Taliban who are rational players committed to national development.

But the surge in sectarian killings in Afghanistan has bigger geopolitical connotations.

conference in Moscow planned for October 20 will bring together regional countries to chart a way forward for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Attending the summit will be senior Chinese government officials and Taliban representatives. While the group is listed as a terrorist organization in Russia and banned, its delegation has been invited to Moscow to discuss the situation in the region.

Beijing has offered investment of billions of dollars to help Afghanistan recover from years of war devastation. The Taliban, for their part, have welcomed the “fraternal” contribution from China.

All regional countries have much to gain if Afghanistan can harness stability and economic development. The country’s prodigious mineral wealth and its strategic geographical location for transport and energy links make Afghanistan a potential linchpin in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and more generally Eurasian economic integration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed deep concern about the growing presence of terrorists in Afghanistan and a potential spread of extremism to the neighboring former Soviet republics.

China has also legitimate security concerts over threats posed by thousands of Uighur Islamists who have been engaged in terrorist violence in Afghanistan and Syria. Beijing has been assured by the Taliban that Kabul will not provide a safe haven for Uighur terrorists to launch attacks into its neighboring western province of Xinjiang.

In the first Shia mosque bombing on October 8, ISIS-K reportedly named one of its suicide bombers as a Uighur member.

The geopolitical significance seems clear. The surge in violence in Afghanistan is aimed at preventing the country from creating a stable government and to stifle a postwar reconstruction from cooperation with regional partners, in particular China.

In contrast to the overtures from Beijing, Moscow, Iran, Pakistan and others, the United States has sought to throw obstacles in the way of Afghanistan’s new Taliban government. Of course, revenge over Washington’s shameful retreat from the country is to be expected.

But Washington’s freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves estimated at $10 billion as well as cutting off international finance from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund at a time when the country is facing an acute humanitarian crisis goes beyond vengeance. There seems to be a calculated agenda to consign Afghanistan to a fate of permanent failed state and to ensure that it won’t become a thriving part of the Eurasian model. In short, vindictive sabotage.

This then begs the question of whether the US has some clandestine role in supporting ISIS-K and its sectarian war agenda?

Speaking about the Shia mosque bombings, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raesi has openly accused the United States of sponsoring the growth of Daesh terror groups in Afghanistan with the purpose of inciting sectarian conflict.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the atrocities demonstrated that the objective of ISIS-K was to embroil Afghanistan in religious civil war and he also accused the American CIA as being responsible for the bloodshed. He claimed that the US has transported Daesh militants from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan for a new phase of dirty war.

The collusion between US military intelligence and Islamist extremists has been spotlighted elsewhere. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed in 2017 that the Pentagon had assisted the infiltration of his country with ISIS brigades.

In 2018, the Russian government said it recorded transport of ISIS militants across Afghanistan with the use of “unidentified helicopters”.

We also know that massive supplies of weaponry and finances were funneled by the Pentagon to jihadi terror groups in Syria under the guise of arming “moderate rebels”.

During its occupation of Iraq, the US is documented to have used a counterinsurgency policy known as the Salvador Option in which pseudo-gangs led by American special forces deliberately incited sectarian violence as a way to manage political interests. The British authorities deployed similar dirty war tactics during the conflict in Northern Ireland and in other colonial-era campaigns.

With all of these things in view, it bears asking the question: is sectarian war in Afghanistan being fomented by powers who do not want to see the country prospering in a peaceful and stable Eurasian region led by China and Russia?

Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist. For over 25 years, he worked as a sub-editor and writer for The Mirror, Irish Times, Irish Independent and Britain’s Independent, among others.

October 20, 2021 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Taliban say special forces to provide security for Shia mosques

Press TV – October 16, 2021

The Taliban say their forces will be tasked with providing security at Shia mosques in in the southern city of Kandahar, in the wake of a “brutal attack” on Friday prayers, which killed at least 60 worshippers.

The head of Kandahar’s police, Maulvi Mehmood, said on Saturday that Shia mosques had so far been guarded by local volunteer forces with special permission to carry weapons. But after the Friday attack on the Bibi Fatima mosque, the Taliban would take charge of its protection.

“Unfortunately, they could not protect this area and in future we will assign special security guards for the protection of mosques and Madrasas,” Mehmood said. He made the remarks as hundreds of people gathered on Saturday to bury the victims of the Friday bomb attack.

According to religious authorities, the toll from the bombing had reached 60. Health officials say the casualties could rise further as “some of the wounded are in a critical condition and we are trying to transfer them to Kabul.”

The massacre came just a week after another Shia mosque in Afghanistan’s northern city of Kunduz was targeted in a bombing during Friday prayers, leaving at least 150 people dead and over 200 others injured.

Both tragedies were claimed by a local affiliate of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which has a long history of attacking Afghanistan’s Shia minority.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the killings as a “despicable attack” and demanded those using violence to restrict Afghans’ religious freedom be brought to justice.

The Friday attack was the fourth since the Taliban took power in mid-August. The Taliban first ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when the United States invaded the country and toppled the Taliban-run government on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in the US.

Political commentator Edward Corrigan told Press on Friday that “somebody is trying to provoke a sectarian war between the Shias and the Sunnis.”

“Who is going to benefit from that is the ultimate question,” Corrigan asked. “There is evidence that the British, the Americans, and the Israelis have been setting up bombs trying to provoke a conflict between the Shias and the Sunnis.” He further noted that US occupation of Afghanistan as well as the messy withdrawal of foreign troops from the country in August was clearly a big part of the problems that the Afghans are facing now.

October 16, 2021 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Chinese Uyghur responsible for suicide bombing; Taliban and Turkey accuse CIA of creating ISIS-K

By Eric Striker | National Justice | October 14, 2021

Afghanistan’s ISIS-K has identified the suicide bomber behind last weeks gruesome suicide attack on a Shiite mosque, “Muhammad al-Uyghuri,” a member of China’s Uyghur population that the United States has in recent years claimed is being oppressed by Beijing.

The bombing in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province killed up to 80 people and injured 143 others and represents a drastic escalation in ISIS-K’s war on the Taliban’s rule.

Both the Taliban and even NATO ally Turkey are publicly accusing the CIA and US government of creating ISIS-K to destabilize the region.

It is rare for ISIS to identify the ethnicity of its suicide bombers. Experts believe the decision was made to recruit Uyghurs in China and inspire them to commit similar attacks.

According to a statement made by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last Saturday, his nation holds credible intelligence showing that the CIA and US military were covertly transporting members of ISIS out of Syria and unleashing them in Afghanistan. It is believed that thousands of Chinese Uyghur jihadists, who developed a close relationship with Washington under former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, fought with and beside ISIS in Syria.

ISIS-K has officially declared war on the Taliban, citing its diplomatic overtures towards China and Iran. Ahmad Yasir, a Taliban spokesman in Qatar, has also said that his government has evidence that ISIS-K is an American intelligence operation and will be releasing it in the future. The Taliban has held that the ISIS-K problem is manageable because the group has no local contacts or popular support in Afghanistan.

Numerous governments have blamed the US for the sudden resurrection of ISIS in Central Asia. Last May, Iran provided reports and testimony, including from former US allies in the Afghan government, revealing that CIA aircraft was transporting jihadists out of Syria and Iraq and into Afghanistan.

The cruel acts this latest iteration of the terrorist group has performed in the last two years has made it such a pariah that even Al Qaeda has vowed to fight against them. Last year, ISIS-K was identified as the group that committed a suicide bombing targeting a maternity ward in Kabul that slaughtered dozens of mothers in labor and newborn babies.

piece published yesterday by analyst Julia Kassem theorizes that ISIS-K is part of an American geopolitical operation that seeks to drag China into a costly Afghan quagmire. The large number of jihadists belonging to China’s Uyghur population, who come from the Xinjiang province, that have spread throughout Central Asia and the Middle East create a risk of terrorism against Chinese economic ambitions in the region.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, has written and spoken extensively about discussions inside the Pentagon regarding the use of the CIA to penetrate Xinjiang to destabilize China.

The goal would not only be to create chaos in the Chinese mainland, but also to encourage and support terrorist groups that target the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in neighboring countries. The Taliban has shown significant interest in joining the BRI since taking power.

Neo-conservative writers in America have started calling for a military re-entry into Afghanistan to address the supposed threat of ISIS-K. The Taliban is adamantly opposed to the idea.

Little is known about ISIS-K other than many of its members were interned in the US’ Bagram Air Base and released during the withdrawal.

This follows a pattern in the history of ISIS, which was reportedly created at Camp Bucca in Iraq under the supervision of US forces. The Pentagon has claimed that ISIS was created by inmates who radicalized one another at the camp under the noses of US personnel because they did not speak Arabic and had no idea what the inmates were talking about.

October 14, 2021 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban, Iran conclude bilateral economic deals

MEMO | October 6, 2021

Afghanistan and Iran yesterday concluded “important” bilateral economic and trade agreements, a spokesman for the Taliban said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, who is also acting deputy minister of information and culture in the interim Afghan government, said in a statement that a meeting was held between Afghan and Iranian officials “with the aim of strengthening economic ties and providing necessary facilities for trade issues between the two countries”.

According to the statement, the two sides have decided to increase working hours to facilitate the flow of goods at the Islam Qala-e-Dogharoon border, reviewing existing tariffs on goods and services, as well as launching discussions on fuel supplies.

Last year, Iran’s exports to Afghanistan amounted to about $4 billion while Afghan exports to Iran ranged between $40-$50 million only.

The statement added that a Taliban delegation will visit Tehran to meet officials from the Iranian Oil Ministry.

The two sides also agreed that Iran would build roads in eight Afghan provinces in order to improve trade and transportation within the next month.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics | , | 3 Comments

Taliban reinforces warning to US not to use drones in Afghan airspace

By Lucas Leiroz | September 29, 2021

The US, which recently withdrew its troops during the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, apparently is still active in the Central Asian country. Clandestine operations involving drones allegedly aimed at combating Daesh K agents have caused controversy in the region in recent days. The Taliban emphatically affirms that it will not tolerate a foreign presence and that it will fight American drones in the same way it fights terrorists, while Washington insists on a “global police” posture and says that it will continue to use drones against the Daesh K.

In late August, a drone strike by the US military against Daesh K militants caused outrage in the Taliban. The de facto government in Kabul repudiated the American measure not only because Washington disrespected Afghan sovereignty by carrying out incursions into the country after its participation in the war ended, but mainly because the operation was a complete disaster, resulting in the death of ten civilians, including seven children and a humanitarian NGO agent. In fact, the terrorists were not affected by the American operation, which only killed innocent people and caused massive humanitarian damage.

In response, the Taliban warned that Washington would suffer consequences for its interventionist stance if there were new drone operations in Afghan territory. The group emphasized the fact that operating in Afghan airspace without prior authorization from the local government is an international crime and can be responded with military action. Considering that the Taliban is currently the group that controls Afghanistan, establishing a real government, although not internationally recognized, Washington should ask the Taliban for authorization to act in the region. Without this authorization, there is a crime of territorial invasion.

On Tuesday, the Taliban published a new statement reaffirming its authority over the entire Afghan territory and prohibiting unauthorized foreign military actions in the country. The group also highlighted the clauses of the Doha peace agreement, signed by Washington in 2020, which established non-intervention as one of the prerequisites for the future of the Afghan issue. In the statement, we can read: “The United States has recently violated all international law and its commitments to the Islamic Emirate in Doha, Qatar, and Afghanistan’s sacred airspace is being occupied by US drones. These violations must be corrected and prevented (…) We will call on all countries, especially the United States, to abide by their international commitments and laws in order to prevent any negative consequences”.

Previously, the US government had stated that last month’s attack was not the last and that new actions in Afghan territory using military drones were about to take place. Apparently, there is an understanding on the part of Washington that the end of the participation in the Afghan war does not imply the end of “security measures” against targets identified as terrorists, which is quite contradictory. The mentality of acting as “global police” is so strongly rooted in US security policy that the country simply believes it really has the right to invade other states’ airspace and does not consider it an international crime.

The increase in the activities of terrorist groups has influenced this scenario because these terrorist organizations’ actions “justify” to Western public opinion the “need” for new interventions in Afghanistan. The largest of these groups is Daesh K itself, a Central Asian branch of ISIS, which operates heavily in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has been involved in terrible episodes of violence since the Taliban’s takeover. The group has established itself as the number one enemy of the new government, operating several attacks against civilians with the objective of generating social chaos and preventing the Taliban from consolidating in power.

Washington sees this fact as evidence that the West needs to remain involved in Afghan internal disputes and, with no possibility of sending human military personnel, considering the recent withdrawal, the American government mobilizes drones to carry out the attacks. However, it is clear that the Taliban has strength enough to deal with this situation without international coalitions. The Taliban’s military potential is far greater than the power of the former Afghan government – it is not by chance that the former government collapsed within a few days. In addition, a substantial portion of the American military apparatus passed into the hands of Afghan leaders after the seizure of Kabul, resulting in a Taliban far stronger than any terrorist group currently present in Afghan territory.

Considering this scenario, the American “concern” seems unnecessary. The US has no right to intervene in Afghanistan unless the Taliban itself requests it. The group appears to have enough strength to resolve its disputes with other terrorist organizations – and even if the Taliban were weaker than Daesh K, other countries would need authorization to operate in Afghan territory. The US government is visibly invading the airspace of another sovereign state and needs to be punished internationally for it.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

September 29, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , | 3 Comments