At Least 20 Dead in Mosque Attack in Afghan Capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME WORLD.COM)

 

At Least 20 Dead in Mosque Attack in Afghan Capital

1:45 PM ET

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Militants stormed a packed Shiite mosque in the Afghan capital during Friday prayers, in an attack that lasted for hours and ended with at least 20 worshippers killed and another 50 seriously wounded, many of them children, an official said.

Two of the assailants blew themselves up and another two were shot to death by Afghan security forces, according to police official Mohammed Sadique Muradi.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest to target Afghanistan’s minority Shiites. The Taliban condemned the violence, with a spokesman for the militants, Zabihullah Mujahid, telling The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the group had nothing to do with it.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the violence and said the militants were turning to attacking places of worship because they were losing on the battlefield. He urged Islamic clerics everywhere to condemn the bloodshed.

The death toll of 20 was expected to rise because many of the victims were seriously wounded, said Mohammad Salim Rasouli, chief of Kabul’s hospitals.

Terrified worshippers endured about four harrowing hours of gunfire and explosions during the afternoon before the four attackers were killed.

The Islamic State said in a statement on the website of its Aamaq news agency that it had deployed two attackers to the mosque. There was no immediate explanation for the contradictory number of attackers.

Security forces had surrounded the mosque in the northern Kabul neighborhood but did not initially enter to prevent further casualties to the many worshippers inside, police official Mohammed Jamil said. Later, as police tried to advance, one of the attackers set off an explosion that forced them to withdraw, Muradi said.

The cleric who was performing the prayers was among the dead, said Mir Hussain Nasiri, a member of Afghanistan’s Shiite clerical council. The gunmen had taken over both the cavernous prayer hall for the men and the separate, second-floor prayer area for the women, he said.

The mosque could accommodate up to 1,000 people, Nasir added.

When police initially tried to get inside, they discovered the militants had blocked the door leading to the second floor, turning the women upstairs into hostages, Nasir said.

“I was trying to escape over the wall when I saw my daughter, who was wounded, also trying to climb the wall,” one man who gave his name only as Bismillah told the AP.

“There was another girl who was shot in the head. I saw the body myself,” he said. “Finally I managed to escape with my daughter and a police escorted us to safety from the back of the mosque.”

Last month, the Sunni-dominated Islamic State group attacked the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul and then warned Shiites in Afghanistan that their mosques would be targeted. Sunni extremists consider Shiites to be heretics.

Within days of that, IS also took responsibility for a suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in western Herat province that left 32 people dead.

In southern Kandahar province Friday, Afghan security forces repulsed a Taliban attack on an outpost overnight, according to provincial police chief’s spokesman, Zia Durrani. Four members of the security forces died in the exchange and another seven were wounded, he said.

Durrani said the Taliban sustained heavy casualties. There was no immediate comment from the militants.

Elsewhere, provincial deputy police chief Nisar Ahmad Abdul Rahimzai said Afghan security forces recaptured a district in eastern Paktia province from the insurgents.

The summer fighting season in Afghanistan has seen relentless Taliban attacks as the insurgents battle to expand their footprint.

On Thursday, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, and Hugo Llorens, the U.S. Embassy’s special chargé d’affaires, told reporters in Kabul that the new U.S. strategy was a promise to Afghans that together they would defeat terrorism and prevent terrorist groups from establishing safe havens.

Nicholson vowed to defeat both the Islamic State group affiliate and the remnants of al-Qaida, and he had the following message to the Taliban: “Stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery to the Afghan people. Lay down your arms and join Afghan society. Help build a better future for this country and your own children.”

President Donald Trump had announced the new plans for Afghanistan on Monday. While he did not give specifics, senior U.S. officials have said that he might send up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately.

Trump has no understanding of the South Asian region,’ Imran says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

PTI Chairman Imran Khan criticizes Trump's South Asia policy in a press conference.─DawnNews
PTI Chairman Imran Khan criticizes Trump’s South Asia policy in a press conference.─DawnNews

US President Donald Trump has no understanding of the South Asian region, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Wednesday as he strongly criticised Washington’s recently-revealed South Asia policy.

A day earlier, Trump had announced his long-awaited South Asia policy, calling for greater troop deployment and Indian involvement in Afghanistan. In his speech, the US president had also lambasted Pakistan for offering safe havens to “agents of chaos”.

Addressing the press on Wednesday, Imran spoke about various elements of Washington’s new policy.

“Grave allegations have been made against Pakistan,” Khan said, referring to accusations made by Trump.

Khan said that the allegations signalled that Trump has “no understanding of the South Asian region or the dynamics of the ‘war on terror'” as he pointed out the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the fight.

The PTI chairman further questioned the role allotted to India in Afghanistan in the policy.

He said that while Pakistan has made sacrifices and fought a war “that is not ours,” India has been asked to become involved even though it does not share a border with Afghanistan.

“Pakistan got involved in the [war] even though not a single Pakistani was involved in 9/11. Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. It was not necessary for [Pakistan] to get involved in this war [as it was] not at fault,” Khan said.

The PTI chief further questioned why Pakistan was being held responsible for America’s policy failures in Afghanistan.

“Over 150, 000 Nato soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan [by America], billions were spent, thousands of Afghans were killed. The world’s most powerful military machinery could not control [the situation in Afghanistan] and Pakistan is being held responsible for the failures,” Khan said.

He asked what America would accomplish by deploying thousands more troops in Afghanistan when those already stationed there had not been able to win the war.

Khan also referred to Trump’s statement that “billions and billions” of dollars have been spent on Pakistan.

He said that the amount spent by Washington on Pakistan is minuscule in comparison to the losses Pakistan has suffered in the war against terror.

Khan also criticised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Foreign Office for not putting out a strong statement in response to Trump’s “serious” allegations against the country.

“There has been no statement from the prime minister or the Foreign Office. Instead, China has come to Pakistan’s defense and issued a statement,” Khan said, calling on Abbasi to “send a strong message to the Americans”.

The Foreign Office had, in fact, put out a statement Tuesday night.

Khan also called on Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to send a unanimous message to Washington that Trump’s statements are “unacceptable”.

The PTI chief further called for the holding of a special parliament session so that a consensus may be developed by the country’s leadership on the matter.

He said that his party has filed an adjournment motion in the National Assembly for this purpose.

Trump Says “Trust Me” On Afghanistan: Is It Even Possible To Trust Him On Anything?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump to ask Americans to trust him on Afghanistan

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Donald Trump is expected to discuss Afghanistan strategy Monday night
  • The President’s first major security address is expected to be from Fort Myer
  • His speech comes after a divisive news conference he gave last week

(CNN) Donald Trump will ask Americans Monday to trust him on his new Afghanistan strategy, exercising a president’s most somber duty, a decision on waging war, at a time when his own political standing is deeply compromised.

Trump will make his first prime-time broadcast on a specific policy issue to the nation as president at 9 p.m. ET to unveil his new plan, and a potential escalation of the nation’s longest war, after a lengthy period of deliberations that carved deep splits within his administration.
The speech will test the President’s capacity to convince Americans that he has settled on the right course of action on a major national security issue, and to unify the nation around it, despite his own depleted approval ratings and behavior that has alienated many voters in his first seven months in office.
Trump’s first major national security address will also begin to show whether the credibility that the President has squandered, with his provocative rhetoric and frequent resort to falsehoods, will hamper his capacity to lead.
Monday’s address, from Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia, represents a chance for Trump to leverage the symbolism of his office to stabilize a presidency that has threatened to spin out of control over the last two weeks.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday that Trump’s policy review on the war and the entire US approach to South Asia — i.e. Washington’s tortured relationship with Pakistan and complaints that Islamabad is tacitly encouraging extremists — had been finalized.
“He wants to be the one to announce it to the American people,” Mattis said. “He now needs the weekend to collect his thoughts on how he’s going to explain it to the American people.”
While Trump will be unveiling a crucial national security decision, it will be impossible to divorce his speech from its political context. His inflammatory news conference last week in which he equated white supremacists and counterprotestors who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, triggered a stampede away from the President by senior Republican lawmakers, corporate CEOs and others that left him more isolated that ever before. His remarks also hit his own bottom line — a long list of charities has now canceled plans to host events at his Florida resort at Mar-a-Lago.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who is now a CNN national security analyst, said that after off-the-cuff moments like the Trump Tower press conference, attention will be focused on how the President presents his case — as well as the content of his new strategy.
“There is a lot of pressure on him and hopefully we will see the teleprompter President Trump tonight,” Clapper said on CNN’s “New Day,” arguing that the presidency had been “seriously, seriously, wounded” by the President’s remarks at Trump Tower last week.
The decision on Afghanistan also sets up a test for Trump with his own political base in the wake of the departure of his senior strategist, Steve Bannon, who opposed sending more troops to the war and was the closest link to the isolationist, populist beliefs of the President’s core supporters.

Trump’s long-awaited Afghanistan strategy

Trump repeatedly questioned the purpose of America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan during his campaign, but he also contradicted himself on whether the war should have been fought.
Officials say that the President remains deeply skeptical about the notion of a continued presence in Afghanistan but is concerned that if the US comes home, it will leave a vacuum that could be exploited by terror groups.
But his doubts about escalating the war come up against the determination of hawkish generals in his inner circle, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, not to give up on a war that has demanded more than a decade-and-a-half of painful American sacrifice.
Trump delegated authority to adjust troop levels to Mattis early in his administration, but he has been presented by the Pentagon with a range of options for the path forward, including a complete troop withdrawal and the deployment of up to 4,000 more soldiers to add to the more than 8,000 American forces that are already there.
Hopes that the US could finally leave Afghanistan have been checked by the Kabul government’s struggle to preserve order under a resurgent challenge from the Taliban and inroads made by extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
In June, Mattis gave a blunt assessment on the state of the war in a hearing for the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible,” he said.
Trump’s appearance Monday night follows the most polarizing chapter of a presidency that has continually exacerbated political divisions.
His handling of the aftermath of violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month has sparked outrage and accusations that Trump has irrevocably tarnished the moral authority of his presidency.
A measure of the damage that his conduct has inflicted on his political fortunes is reflected in the continued ramifications of his news conference days afterward. A flood of CEOs distanced themselves from Trump, forcing the closure of several White House advisory councils. Some senior Republicans, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, publicly questioned his fitness for office. And few senior GOP figures have been willing to publicly defend Trump, raising new questions about his capacity to enact his agenda in Congress.

Speech, then rally

Should Trump succeed in staking out a more conventional presidential posture Monday night, any political gain could be short-lived, as he is scheduled to hold a major political rally in Arizona on Tuesday night.
A vintage, pyrotechnical performance by Trump could revive the issue of his temperament following the Charlottesville drama and further anger Americans who are already disgusted by the President’s antics.
The rally offers Trump an early chance to show that despite the departure of Bannon, he remains committed to the issues and the political style that has won him steadfastly loyal support from his political base.
The issues likely to please a fervently pro-Trump crowd in Arizona are those that proved most effective for Trump in his campaign — including on illegal immigration and the need for a border wall — but which also cause the most alarm outside his core supporters.
In many ways, the Charlottesville episode has offered a reminder of why Trump was so controversial — by tearing at the societal and racial divisions in American life — but also why he was elected, since it shows how he connects with the often unspoken political instincts of a sizable slice of the country.
But in two crucial days for his administration Monday and Tuesday, Trump has to navigate two sides of his position — the duty to rally a nation behind a foreign war and a political imperative to solidify support among his most enthusiastic voters. It is not clear that either aim is compatible with the other.

President Trump Unveils His New Military Plan for Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

Watch Live: President Trump Unveils His New Military Plan for Afghanistan

11:26 AM ET

In his first primetime address since taking office, President Donald Trump will speak regarding the new American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia on Monday. Trump’s statement will be broadcast from Fort Meyer in Arlington, Virginia, starting at 9 p.m. ET; you can watch live above.

During the speech, President Trump will discuss the “path forward” for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. American troops have been on the ground in that country since 2001, marking the longest foreign entanglement in U.S. history. As a candidate, Trump was critical of the U.S. military’s ongoing presence in Afghanistan. Now, as President, he is charged with charting a path forward there, with possible options including sending more Americans off to battle or attempting a withdrawal.

Trump’s address is coming after months of deliberation between the President and his national security team, including a high-level meeting at Camp David on Friday. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed Sunday that White House officials have agreed on the country’s next steps in Afghanistan, but did not offer details. “He wants to be the one to announce it to the American people,” Mattis said, in reference to Trump.

In his address, President Trump will be calling on Americans to trust his leadership in the wake of one of his most tumultuous weeks in the White House. Following a violent and deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, Trump faced criticism for seeming to equate hate groups with the counter-protesters who challenged them. Three people died at the event, including two police officers who died in a helicopter crash and a protester who was struck by a car driven by a white supremacist.

Suicide Bombing Strikes NATO Convoy in Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

7:42 AM ET

Suicide Bombing Strikes NATO Convoy in Afghanistan

(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) — A suicide bomber struck a NATO convoy near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Wednesday, causing casualties, the U.S. military said.

Lt. Damien E. Horvath, a military spokesman, could not say how many casualties there were, or provide their nationalities. The NATO mission, known as Resolute Support, “can confirm that a NATO convoy was attacked in Kandahar. The attack did cause casualties,” he said.

Kandahar police spokesman Zia Durrani also confirmed the attack and the area on the edge Kandahar was quickly cordoned off.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Eyewitness Ghulam Ali, who runs a mechanics shop near the attack site, said the intensity of the blast knocked him out. When he came to he saw one military vehicle ablaze on the road. He stepped out of his shop but a sudden burst of gunfire drove him back inside.

He heard helicopters arriving and saw soldiers being taken away from the scene but could not determine the extent of their injuries.

Shah Agha Popal, who runs a vehicle parts shop also nearby, said he also saw soldiers being taken away by two helicopters. “But I couldn’t tell if they were wounded or if they were dead,” he said.

The combined U.S. and NATO troop contingent currently in Afghanistan is about 13,500. The Trump administration is deciding whether to send about 4,000 or more U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan in an attempt to stem Taliban gains.

The attack came as Afghan authorities in western Herat province tightened security ahead of a mass funeral for the victims there of an attack the previous evening that killed 29.

A suicide attacker opened fire inside a mosque packed with worshippers at evening prayers, before detonating his explosives. A second explosion came 10 minutes later.

No one has claimed responsibility for that attack either, but it came a day after the Islamic State group warned it would strike Shiites. The Sunni militant group considers Shiite Muslims as apostates.

Herat provincial spokesman Jilani Farhad said that to reduce the possibility of more attacks, a planned Shiite protest against the attack was to be held just before the burial on Wednesday afternoon, rather than at a separate time and location.

Along with the 29 killed, 64 people were wounded, 10 of them critically.

The U.S. And Their ‘Alliance’ (Except For The Kurd’s) Need To Leave Syria Right Now!

 

Any time that a person or more so a military, are in or flying above another Nation without the permission of that Nations government then you are an illegal intruder and you have declared war on that Nation. Syria’s President Assad has made it very clear that he considers the U.S. and their Alliance partners to be in his Country illegally and that he does not want them there. Even though I am an American citizen I cannot condone our actions in this Syrian Civil War nor with Syria’s inner-border conflict with the terrorist group called ISIS. We were never invited to step into this conflict within Syria’s borders and we should never have gone into that country, we have no right to be there. I will try to keep this article as short as I can yet I will do my best to explain my thoughts/beliefs as to why I believe as I do, for your consideration.

 

As I have written a few times before on this site that history shows within the Islamic world that it appears that about the only way to not have total chaos is if a rather brutal dictator rules their country. I personally do not like anything to do with brutality or with dictators, I am merely expressing an observation. I know that Syria’s President Assad is both of these elements yet I believe that the people of Syria as a whole were far better off six years ago than they are today. In Islamic countries there has been a civil war raging for about 1,400 years now between their two main sects and this hatred of each other still shows no sign of ending, ever.

 

Just like in Afghanistan the U.S. is in an Islamic country with our military and we have no exit strategy, as is the case in Syria. In Afghanistan the American tax payers have spent well over a trillion dollars to help bring peace to this tribal war-torn land and we have spilled the blood of many of our soldiers, and for what? In the long game our government has been trying to get the Taliban and to sit down with the very weak Government in Kabul to form a ‘sharing’ government, so why are we there? Unless a person is totally ignorant of reality they must know that once there is a ‘sharing’ government and the U.S. pulls out of the country that the Taliban will simply murder the civilian government people and everything will go back to the Taliban like it was 15 years ago. So, all of that gold and all of that blood spilled, for what? With all of this money the American government has spent in this country it is estimated that 90% of the civilians there only have one set of clothing, our occupation time there could have been spent in more productive ways.

 

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, all far away countries that in the long run where our blood and gold have really accomplished very little to nothing. There is always one ‘positive’ to these military campaigns and that is the jobs provided by the ‘war-machine’ industry and of course the billions of dollars that go to the corporations leaders and to the people who are able to afford stock in these companies. To many government leaders in to many different countries seem to believe that their infrastructure must have a very strong weapons export economic base. People in these ‘second and third’ world nations (economically) need safe housing, schools, clothing and food. They need an infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and jobs. I am sure that you noticed that these items I mentioned are the same exact things that the people of the economic powers also want and need, in most respects all people need and wish for the same things. The ‘Western Powers’ have a long history of setting up ‘war lords’ to rule small countries, then sell them a lot of weapons whom they use against their own citizens and then we wonder why their people hate us so much.

 

Now, back to the main line of thought, the situation in Syria. The Syrian President Mr. Assad has many economic and security issues within his borders and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this Civil War that has been raging for the past six years. Back in the first term of U.S. President Obama when he had Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State the so-called Arab Spring started. Mrs. Clinton pushed Mr. Obama into trying to ‘help’ fire up the civil war in Libya to over through their dictator, look at the total mess that Libya still is. Egypt came next where we helped to over through their dictator then we got the Muslim Brotherhood who had to be over thrown by the Egyptian Army before Egypt became another Libya. Then Hillary set her eyes on removing President Assad from power in Syria, now look at what a disaster Syria has become.

 

The U.S. encouraged the Syrian citizens to revolt against President Assad and we have spent several billion dollars on training and supplying weapons to ‘moderate Islamist’ whom Assad calls terrorist, if the situation were reversed would we not call them terrorist? As we all know when we decided to pull out of neighboring Iraq we opened up a vacuum along their western border which made a very weak Iraqi government even weaker. We should have stayed longer just doing border control help while the government soldiers and police tried to keep the peace in the cities and the country’s interior. Our governments failures helped open up the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq (both Shiite Islamic nations) for a new Sunni military army to step in and form their own government in these two countries. ISIS is a result of our governments ignorance of reality in this part of the world. We say we are in Syria to fight against this group of mass murderers and that we are not at war with Syria itself but that is an obvious lie. If we are training and supplying groups like the ‘Free Syrian Army’ who are fighting to bring Assad’s government down then we are in an ‘undeclared’ war with the Syrian government.

 

The Syrian government has many allies to help them fight the different intruders trying to over through them. Russia of course is their most powerful ally but they do have several more including other Shiite countries like Iraq, Iran and basically Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah. The ethnic people know as Kurd’s are also fighting against ISIS but their case is a bit different because several hundred thousand Kurdish people have lived within these borders for thousands of years so in a sense they are fighting against ISIS and to a degree against the Syrian government in an attempt to keep and to achieve their own Nation. The recent episodes where we have shot down a Syrian jet fighter and a couple of Iranian drones has brought the U.S. closer to direct war with Syria, Russia and Iran. These events would not be a reality if we simply weren’t there. Some will say that we have to be there to fight ISIS but this is not true. The American people have spent our own money and blood in a Nation who has not attacked us or declared war on us and whom does not want us there. If the U.S. and our ‘Alliance’ partners were not there then Syria’s allies would have and could have taken our place with their bombers and their soldiers. But the real question is why are we doing what we are doing there? My question is, is it because of the trillions of dollars in war materials our economy produces and of course the jobs this creates for our economy? Could the reason partly be because of the friends our politicians have on the Boards of these companies, or is it because of the stocks that our Senators, Congressmen and women and also this President own in these companies?

 

 

 

 

Afghan Soldier Kills 3 US Servicemen in Taliban Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Afghan Soldier Kills 3 US Servicemen in Taliban Attack

Achin

Kabul, Kandahar – The Taliban claimed on Saturday an insider attack by an Afghan commando that left three American Troops dead US and Afghan officials said.

One US soldier was wounded in the incident.

Nangarhar provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP the Afghan commando had opened fire on US troops during an operation in the volatile Achin district.

“The (Afghan) soldier was also killed in the return fire,” he said.

The Pentagon said the families of the three dead soldiers were being informed.

“One US soldier was wounded and has been evacuated for medical treatment,” a spokesman added. “This incident is under investigation.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths, saying the attack was carried out by an infiltrator.

This is a latest in a line of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks where Afghan soldiers have turned their weapons on international forces they are working with.

It also comes as the Taliban ramp up their campaign against the Western-backed government in Afghanistan, and as US President Donald Trump mulls sending more troops into the lengthy conflict.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that four US soldiers were killed in the attack. The insurgents are known to exaggerate battlefield claims.

Achin is also contested by militants of the ISIS group.

In April, the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on a complex of caves in Achin used by ISIS fighters.

The deployment of the so-called Mother Of All Bombs killed dozens of extremists, but fighting in the area has continued.

American troops have partnered with Afghan soldiers in raids against ISIS Khorasan, claiming the local offshoot of the militant group based in Iraq and Syria is steadily losing ground in Afghanistan.

Green-on-blue attacks have been a major problem during NATO’s long years fighting alongside Afghan forces.

Western officials say most insider attacks stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than insurgent plots.

Saturday’s attack came just hours after an errant US air strike killed and wounded at least six Afghan policemen in southern Helmand province, in the latest “friendly fire” incident.

Such strikes have bred deep mistrust between local and foreign forces.

Three US troops were wounded in March when an Afghan soldier opened fire in Helmand, in the first known insider attack on international forces this year.

Similar incidents have also plagued Afghan troops, depleting morale and causing mistrust within security ranks.

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Afghanistan cancels friendly T20s against Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN)

Afghanistan cancels friendly T20s against Pakistan

The ACB did not offer any official reason for cancelling the T20s AFP

The short-lived détente between the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and the PCB is seemingly over, barely a week after it had begun. In the wake of a bomb blast in Kabul on Wednesday that killed over 80 people, the ACB has cancelled the friendly T20 matches it had scheduled with Pakistan, to be played in July and August in Kabul and Lahore.

No official reason has been provided by the ACB but the board tweeted:

@ACBofficials cancells friendly matches including initially agreed terms of mutual cricketing relationship with @TheRealPCB

 

The two boards had come to an agreement last week to revive broken ties by playing two friendly matches in each country. As part of the agreement, the PCB was also to provide Afghanistan with venues for training and conditioning camps, and the possibility of reciprocal tours between the youth and senior teams.

A similar deal between the boards was also struck in 2013, when Afghanistan cricketers were given access to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. Eventually, however, the ACB took to using facilities in Greater Noida in India to train players for tournaments.

Last Saturday Atif Mashal, the ACB chairman, met his PCB counterpart Shaharyar Khan in Lahore and after the meeting stressed that both boards were eager to renew ties. In it he hinted at the complex geo-political scenario that inevitably has an impact on cricket relations.

“We want this relationship and rebuilt this relationship with mutual respect and mutual understanding,” Mashal had said. “Relations with Pakistan doesn’t mean we don’t have relations with India. We’re always thinking of balancing the relations between Pakistan and India.

“India is also a strategic partner, a friend, and they also support Afghanistan cricket. Pakistan did a great job in the development of Afghanistan cricket and we value both nations.

“We know there is tension in the border but it’s my job to keep this interaction between two cricketing nations going and to help governments start something positive. We are trying our best to keep sports, especially cricket, away from politics as well as looking for our national interests.”

The PCB was set to write a letter to the Pakistan government seeking permission to play in Kabul. And a number of Pakistan players – including Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir and Kamran Akmal – were part of the auction for the Shpageeza T20 League, Afghanistan’s six-team franchise-based tournament.

But ESPNcricinfo understands that Pakistani participation in the T20 league may now be in jeopardy.

Bin Laden’s son steps into father’s shoes as al-Qaeda attempts a comeback

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Bin Laden’s son steps into father’s shoes as al-Qaeda attempts a comeback

May 27 at 6:10 PM
The voice is that of a soft-spoken 28-year-old, but the message is vintage Osama bin Laden, giving orders to kill. When the audio recording began turning up on jihadist websites two weeks ago, it was as if the dead terrorist was channeling himself through his favorite son.“Prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved,” Hamza bin Laden, scion of the Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind, says in a thin baritone that eerily echoes his father. “Follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before you.”

The recording, first aired May 13, is one in a string of recent pronouncements by the man who many terrorism experts regard as the crown prince of al-Qaeda’s global network. Posted just two weeks before Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester, England, the message includes a specific call for attacks on European and North American cities to avenge the deaths of Syrian children killed in airstrikes.

The recording provides fresh evidence of ominous changes underway within the embattled organization that declared war against the West nearly two decades ago, according to U.S., European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials and terrorism experts. Decimated by U.S. military strikes and overshadowed for years by its terrorist rival, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda appears to be signaling the start of a violent new chapter in the group’s history, led by a new bin Laden — one who has vowed to seek revenge for his father’s death.

Encouraged by the Islamic State’s setbacks in Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda is making a play for the allegiance of the Islamic State’s disaffected followers as well as legions of sympathizers around the world, analysts say. The promotion of a youthful figurehead with an iconic family name appears to be a key element in a rebranding effort that includes a shift to Islamic State-style terrorist attacks against adversaries across the Middle East, Europe and North America.

“Al-Qaeda is trying to use the moment — [with] Daesh being under attack — to offer jihadists a new alternative,” said a Middle Eastern security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss counterterrorism assessments and using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “And what could be more effective than a bin Laden?”

Hamza bin Laden is hardly new to the Islamist militant world. His coronation as a terrorist figurehead has been underway since at least 2015, when longtime al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri introduced him in a video message as a “lion from the den” of bin Laden’s terrorist network. But in recent months, he has been promoted as a rising star on pro-al-Qaeda websites, with audio recordings from him urging followers to carry out attacks or commenting on current events. Longtime terrorism analysts say the promotion of Hamza bin Laden appears calculated to appeal to young Islamist militants who still admire Osama bin Laden but see al-Qaeda as outdated or irrelevant.

“Hamza is the most charismatic and potent individual in the next generation of jihadis simply because of his lineage and history,” said Bruce Riedel, who spent 30 years in the CIA and is now director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project. “At a time when Zawahiri and al-Baghdadi seem to be fading, Hamza is the heir apparent.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the Islamic State’s leader.

But Hamza bin Laden is not advocating his father’s style of jihad. Osama bin Laden was notorious for his ambitious, carefully planned terrorist operations, directed by al-Qaeda’s generals and aimed at strategic targets. His son, by contrast, urges followers to seize any opportunity to strike at Jewish interests, Americans, Europeans and pro-Western Muslims, using whatever weapon happens to be available.

“It is not necessary that it should be a military tool,” he says in the May 13 recording. “If you are able to pick a firearm, well and good; if not, the options are many.”

The faceless man

Strikingly, for a man who aspires to be the jihadist world’s next rock star, Hamza bin Laden insists on keeping most of his personal details hidden from public view. Even his face.

No confirmed photographs exist of the young terrorist since his boyhood, when he was portrayed multiple times as an adoring son posing with his famous father. He is believed to be married, with at least two children, and he lived for a time in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, although his whereabouts are unknown.

His refusal to allow his image to be published may reflect a well-founded concern about his personal safety, but it complicates the militants’ task of making him a terrorist icon, said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that monitors Islamist militancy on social media.

“People loyal to al-Qaeda and against the Islamic State are looking for inspiration, and they realize that he can provide it,” Stalinsky said. “But for today’s youth, you need more than audio and an old photograph.”

What is known about Hamza bin Laden comes from his numerous recordings as well as intelligence reports and scores of documents seized during the 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALS on Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Included in the document trove were personal letters from Hamza to his father, as well as written instructions from the elder bin Laden to his aides on how Hamza was to be educated and provided for.

The documents reveal a special bond between Hamza bin Laden and his father that persisted despite long periods of separation. The 15th of Osama bin Laden’s estimated 20 children, Hamza was the only son born to the terrorist’s third wife, and by some accounts his favorite, Khairiah Sabar, a Saudi woman whose family traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad.

He spent his early childhood years with his parents, first in Saudi Arabia and later in Sudan and Afghanistan, where his father began to assemble the pieces of his worldwide terrorism network. A family friend who knew Hamza bin Laden as a child said he showed both promise and early flashes of ambition.

“He was a very intelligent and smart boy, very fond of horseback riding, like his father,” said the friend, a longtime associate of the al-Qaeda network, contacted through a social-media chat service. “While his parents wanted him to stay away from battlefields, he had arguments with them about it.”

Then came the 9/11 attacks, which brought the bin Ladens international notoriety and made Hamza’s father the world’s most wanted man. As U.S.-backed Afghan militias closed in on al-Qaeda’s mountain redoubt at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden dispatched several of his wives and children to Iran, believing that the Islamic republic’s leaders could offer protection from U.S. airstrikes.

Hamza rarely, if ever, saw his father after that. He was still in Iran in his early 20s, living under a kind of house arrest, when he wrote a long missive to his father complaining about his life “behind iron bars” and expressing a longing to join his father as a mujahid, or holy warrior, in his fight against the West, according to a copy of the letter found in bin Laden’s safe house.

“What truly makes me sad,” he wrote in 2009, “is the mujahideen legions have marched and I have not joined them.”

Iran allowed the bin Laden clan to leave the country the following year, and by the time of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid, Hamza’s mother and other family members were living at the elder terrorist’s Pakistan hideout. Notably absent from the Abbottabad compound was Hamza. On Osama bin Laden’s orders, aides had kept him in a separate hideout with the intention of sending him to Qatar to be educated, according to U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism officials. Already, the patriarch was beginning to see his son as a future al-Qaeda leader, judging from the letters he wrote to his aides shortly before his death.

“Hamza is one of the mujahideen, and he bears their thoughts and worries,” Osama bin Laden wrote in one such letter. “And at the same time, he can interact with the [Muslim] nation.”

Jihadist royalty

Hamza bin Laden’s sense of personal destiny only deepened with the death of his father and half brother Khalid at the hands of U.S. commandos.

By 2015, when Zawahiri introduced Hamza to the world as an al-Qaeda “lion,” the then-26-year-old already had the voice of a veteran Islamist militant, urging followers in an audio recording to inflict the “highest number of painful attacks” on Western cities, from Washington to Paris.

A year later, he delivered a more personal message intended as a tribute to his dead father. Titled “We are all Osama,” the 21-minute spoken essay included a vow for vengeance.

“If you think that the crime you perpetrated in Abbottabad has gone by with no reckoning, you are wrong,” he said. “Yours will be a harsh reckoning. We are a nation that does not rest over injustice.”

Terrorism analysts have noted several recurring themes in Hamza bin Laden’s audio postings that distinguish his Islamist militant philosophy from the views expressed by both his father and putative al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri. One difference: Unlike Zawahiri, Hamza bin Laden has eschewed overt criticism of the Islamic State, perhaps to avoid antagonizing any followers of that terrorist group who might be inclined to shift to al-Qaeda.

The bin Laden family friend suggested that the omission is deliberate, part of an effort to position Hamza bin Laden as a unifying figure for Islamist militants. The associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment freely, noted that Hamza bin Laden enjoys multiple advantages in this regard, as he can claim to be both a descendant of the prophet as well a son of jihadist royalty.

“The calculation is that it will be very difficult for the Daesh leadership to denounce Hamza, given who he is,” the family friend said.

The other distinction is Hamza bin Laden’s persistent calls for self-directed, lone-wolf attacks against a wide array of targets. Here, he appears to be borrowing directly from the playbook of the Islamic State, which has fostered a kind of Everyman’s jihad that does not depend on instructions or permission from higher-ups. His Internet postings have lauded Army psychiatrist and convicted Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 people in a rampage on the base in Texas in 2009; as well as the two Britons of Ni­ger­ian descent who hacked British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a street outside his London barracks in 2013.

None of those assailants were known al-Qaeda members. Yet, by applauding such attacks, Hamza bin Laden appears to associate himself with a more aggressive style of terrorism that appeals to young Islamist militants, analysts and experts said. Such messages also convey an impression of a terrorist network that, while battered, is far from defeated, said Bruce Hoffman, a former U.S. adviser on counterterrorism and director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

“He brings assurance that, even though al-Qaeda has been hammered in recent years, it’s still in good hands, with a junior bin Laden who is ideally situated to carry on the struggle,” Hoffman said. “Since a very young age, Hamza bin Laden wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. And from al-Qaeda’s perspective, now is the critical time for him to come of age and assume the reins of authority.”

15 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

15 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

Taliban

Taliban militants attacked an Afghani army base, killing at least 15 soldiers following similar assaults earlier this week.

The Defense Ministry said that the attack took place in the Shah Wali Kot in the southern province of Kandahar.

The attack late Thursday came just three days after 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants stormed another base in the same area.

“The Taliban launched a coordinated assault on an army base last night (Thursday) in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province,” ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP.

“Fifteen Afghan army soldiers were martyred and five others wounded.”

Waziri said the insurgents were driven back and 20 of their fighters killed. There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

A provincial official who spoke on the condition of anonymity gave a higher death toll of 20.

The attack comes as Taliban insurgents intensify their annual spring offensive and their strength is growing, more than 15 years after they were toppled from power in a US-led invasion.

It highlights a growing insurgent offensive in Kandahar, where security has relatively improved in recent years under the leadership of police chief and regional strongman General Abdul Raziq.

Raziq had lashed out at the central government in Kabul on Thursday, accusing them of a plot to destabilize his province.

“Some political figures within the National Unity Government are trying to destabilize Kandahar like (neighboring) Helmand and Uruzgan provinces,” Raziq told a public gathering.

“Whenever there is an attack in Kandahar, the central government does not help.”

Also on Thursday, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at a security post in southern Helmand province killing three intelligence officials, a police spokesman said.

The attack also wounded four intelligence officials, said the spokesman, who gave his name only as Zaman. The provincial governor’s spokesman, Omar Zwak, confirmed the attack.

The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility, saying the explosion killed Tor Jan, intelligence director for the Washer district in Helmand.

In western Badghis province on Wednesday, Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints, killing six security forces, said Anwar Ishaqzai, provincial governor. He said five others were wounded, while 16 Taliban militants were killed in the fight with government forces.

The attacks mark another setback for NATO-backed Afghan forces. They come just a month after the Taliban killed at least 135 soldiers in the northern province of Balkh in the deadliest insurgent attack on an Afghan military base since 2001.

And in another deadly Taliban attack on security outposts in southern Zabul province on Sunday, local officials made desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention because they were unable to contact senior authorities for help.

The battlefield losses have raised concerns about the capacity of Afghan forces, beset by unprecedented casualties and blamed for corruption, desertion and “ghost soldiers” who exist on the payroll but whose salaries are usurped by fraudulent commanders.

The Taliban launched their annual “spring offensive” in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month warned of “another tough year” for security forces in Afghanistan.

The United States and several NATO allies are considering sending thousands more troops to break the stalemate against the resurgent militants.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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