Pakistan to work with Kabul, Delhi on water management

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWS PAPER ‘DAWN’)

Pakistan to work with Kabul, Delhi on water management

UPDATED ABOUT 15 HOURS AGO

ISLAMABAD: The government is seeking a joint mechanism with India and Afghanistan for joint watershed management and trans-boundary aquifer sharing to minimize the negative impact of development projects of neighbors.

Watershed management relates to the land and water management practices that can help protect and imp­rove the water quality, while aquifer refers to the underground layer of rock or minerals that holds water.

This is part of the National Water Policy, which also seeks to ensure 100pc metering of urban water uses, including drinking and sanitation. The policy finalised by the Centre and the provinces was on the agenda of the Council of Common Interests on Tuesday, but could not be taken up due to the prime minister’s political engagements.

A copy of the policy, seen by Dawn, concedes that the Indus Waters Treaty provided a mechanism for water-sharing with India, but its provisions on hydropower development across the line of control had the potential of threatening Pakistan’s water availability during low-flow periods.

The treaty also does not provide for minimum environmental flows downstream of the international boundary for the Eastern Rivers — whose waters lie with India — exposing the population living downstream to serious hazards.

It said that regional mechanisms involving more than two neighbours shall be explored for a viable solution to Pakistan’s growing vulnerability to hydro-meteorological disasters, owing to trans-border winter releases and stoppages at critical times of monsoon and during rabi and kharif planting seasons.

A mechanism shall also be worked out for sharing of trans-boundary aquifers and joint watershed management, including sharing of real-time water flow information.

A study would also be conducted to analyse the impact of challenges arising out of developments on the western rivers and examine measures to minimise the impact within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty and international water laws.

The new policy acknowledged that water was a ‘highly under-priced commodity’ and its prevailing cost recovery through cess (known as ‘abiana’) was hardly able to meet a fraction of the operating and maintenance cost of the irrigation infrastructure.

The policy said that full financial sustainability shall be ensured to provide progressively safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. “This shall be facilitated by effective reduction in wastage, theft and reduction of non-revenue water and 100pc metering” while providing safety nets for impoverished communities.

A mechanism would be put in place by all the federal and provincial governments to charge all types of water use in order to ensure the recovery of the cost of repair and maintenance of water infrastructure.

For the first time, policy-makers seem to have recognised that freshwater is a finite resource, which cannot meet the unlimited demand of numerous users and that increasing population is a key factor for the increase in water demand.

The concept of “More Crop Per Drop” will be pursued to ensure food security through a national plan to improve irrigation methods and practices and introduce new varieties of crops of high yields and lower water consumption, resistant to heat stress, drought tolerant, and less prone to insects and pests.

Ground water tables will be managed to ensure that crop growth is not impeded and prevent land salinity or underground saltwater intrusion. It has been feared that continuous ground water extraction through tubewells could soon lead to the extraction of saltwater.

Rural water supply and sanitation services will be charged at affordable rates and it will be mandatory for the relevant agencies to keep the quality of drinking water, urban or rural, above specified standards.

A plan for flood zoning will be implemented to prevent losses to people living along river banks. For this, respective governments to restrict or prohibit permanent settlements in high and medium flood risk areas on the basis of zoning and mapping of the River Indus and its tributaries — Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, Kabul and Swat.

The sources of surface and underground water will be diligently protected from contamination and maintained in a healthy state. Development of hydroelectric power will also be treated as a high priority objective.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2017

 

Hekmatyar Calls Taliban to End ‘Pointless Unholy War’

 

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

Hekmatyar Calls Taliban to End ‘Pointless Unholy War’

Kabul — In his first speech after his first public appearance in Afghanistan after nearly two decades underground, warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called on Taliban insurgents to “join the peace caravan and stop this pointless unholy war.”

He also urged all political parties to reconcile and seek change “without bloodshed.”

In September last year, the Afghan government signed a peace agreement with Hekmatyar and his militant group. In February, the UN Security Council lifted the sanctions imposed on Hekmatyar, which paved the way for his return to Afghanistan and involvement in the political process.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Hekmatyar’s public return, saying the former strongman would cooperate with the government.

“Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s return will have remarkable effects on peace, stability, prosperity and development in all aspects,” Ghani’s office said in a statement.

The agreement between Hekmatyar and Afghani government has been criticized by human rights groups because of the pardon he was granted. Afghani analysts and activists stated that the return of Hekmatyar and some of his fighter is an insult to the victims.

Hekmatyar was controversial during the Afghani war against the Soviets in the 80s. He was accused of ordering his fighters to bomb Kabul causing several casualties. He was Afghanistan’s prime minister for two brief periods, however, he did not rule Afghanistan sitting in Kabul.

Hezb-i-Islami led by Hekmatyar does not have any significant role in the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan currently. He was designated as a “terrorist” by the US state department in 2003.

Western and US officials praised the deal reached with Hekmatyar, hoping it would lead to a comprehensive peace agreement in Afghanistan.

During his speech, Hekmatyar focused on ending the current war in the country and urged the Taliban to adopt politics rather than war.

No one can rule the country by force, he said.

“If you are working to help Afghanistan, then we are grateful, but if you are fighting here for your own political and economic interests, we ask you to stop using Afghanistan as your rivals’ battlefield and instead face each other directly,” Hekmatyar said to the gathering in Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman. “Don’t test your ammunition on our oppressed people.”

He stressed that negotiations must be done to achieve stability and peace in Afghanistan, saying that violence and war are not options. He addressed his opposition saying that everyone should forget the past and work together to build a country based on peace.

Hekmatyar’s return was welcomed in eastern Afghanistan by residents who have been exhausted by decades of war.

Between 1992 and 1996, he was known as the brutal warlord who destroyed entire neighborhoods during the civil war, and later took up arms against civilian rulers.

After the September 11 attacks in the US and the ensuing US invasion, Hekmatyar refused to join the new government and declared “Jihad” against foreign troops.

Some analysts believe that his return will further deepen the sectarian and ethnic disagreements thus creating more problems for the government.

Political analyst Ahmad Saeedi said that the Ghani will face more isolation from the allies who supported him during the elections. He added that disagreements between politicians of different ethnic groups are beginning to emerge.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

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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How The World Sees Trump, 100 Days In—(And It Isn’t Pretty)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

How the world sees Trump, 100 days in

Updated 4:53 PM ET, Sat April 29, 2017

(CNN) The world was dumbfounded by the election of Donald Trump, and his first 100 days in office have done little to alleviate a deep sense of uncertainty and unpredictability. Indeed, as one observer put it, the last few weeks alone have caused a severe case of global geostrategic whiplash.

The number of campaign promises that have morphed into presidential U-turns is staggering. Allies and adversaries alike are trying to figure out whether a Trump Doctrine is emerging, or whether, as former CIA Director Michael Hayden recently told me, a discernible doctrine does not exist in what resembles a family-run business of policy from the White House.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster “has hired a very bright woman to write the US National Security Strategy,” he said. “It’s a tough job. I did it twice for George H.W. Bush. But I was building on precedent and historic consensus. It’s really going to be interesting to see what an America First national security strategy looks like when you’ve got to write it down.”
Long-time American allies are comforted, though, knowing McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis make up an experienced national security team. NATO partners also welcomed Trump’s declaration that he no longer considers the transatlantic military alliance obsolete.
They, along with regional allies, supported Trump enforcing the previously declared US red line in Syria against the regime’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. After such an attack that the West attributed to the Syrian government earlier in the month, Trump launched retaliatory strikes.
But Asian allies, such as South Korea and Japan, are worried about US policy on North Korea. They welcome the tougher stance against Kim Jong Un’s ramped up nuclear missile program, but they were rattled by the USS Carl Vinson debacle, when for a time it was unclear if the aircraft carrier was steaming towards North Korea or not. It raised the question of whether the administration really has its deterrence policy in order, and South Korea was said to feel utter confusion, even betrayal, when the carrier was actually found to be steaming away from, not towards, the Korean Peninsula.
On Iran, signals are slightly harder to read. On the one hand, the State Department again certified Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Yet a day later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly hinted the US could walk away from it, or try to link it to other issues it has with Iran. So far the deal remains in place and neither the EU nor the UN would agree to reimpose international sanctions on Tehran, which helped bring the country to the negotiating table.
On the Paris Climate Accord, Trump’s closest advisers seem to be having an almighty tussle about whether he should stay or stray from the historic deal. Big US companies like ExxonMobil are urging the US to abide by the deal and thereby have more say at the table.
Trump has also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and seems to have reversed many of his pledges to play hardball with Beijing. But on trade, just recently a Financial Times newspaper headline blared: “Trump Fires First Protectionist Warning over steel Industry,” saying this paves the way for a global showdown on steel and possible sweeping tariffs on steel imports.
In his first 100 days, President Barack Obama visited nine countries. President George W. Bush visited two. Trump has visited none. But next month he visits Brussels for a NATO summit, and Sicily, for a meeting of the G7. Whether he can convince America’s allies that they have a trust-worthy friend with a strategic worldview as their most powerful ally remains to be seen, abroad and at home.
“I think I know what the policy is,” Hayden told me. “I have more difficulty, Christiane, putting this policy into a broader global view. And I think that’s causing unease with you, with me, and with a whole bunch of other folks who are trying to see, ‘Where are the Americans going globally?'”

Afghanistan

Nick Paton Walsh
It was the mother of all statements, but he may have had nothing to do with it.
The MOAB (officially know as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast) wiped out an ISIS tunnel complex in the volatile eastern part of the country last week, killing around 90 militants.

Why did the US use the MOAB?

Why did the US use the MOAB?
It was the largest non-nuclear bomb used by the US in combat, but whether the new commander in chief personally approved its use is unclear.
The airstrike was immediately followed up by National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster visiting Kabul and assuring President Ashraf Ghani his country had a friend in the US and a strategic review was under way.
Yet outside of the huge bomb and its message of might, little has changed — as the new White House is inheriting the exhaustion of both resolve and policy options of the last.
A massive troop surge? Talks with the Taliban? A lighter footprint training Afghan security forces to secure the country? All have been tried, and all have failed to stop the insurgency controlling or contesting over half Afghanistan, and the heavy-handed rise of ISIS. Add to that the intense and escalating in-fighting in the Kabul political elite, and there is a very messy summer ahead, with few decent options.

China

David McKenzie
It’s arguably the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
But when President Donald Trump was inaugurated back in January, several Chinese policy experts told me there was a lot of nervousness about the incoming leader.

China's delicate balance with North Korea

China’s delicate balance with North Korea
After all, during the campaign Trump said he would name China a currency manipulator on Day One of his term and threatened a trade war.
As President-elect, he spoke to Taiwan’s president on the phone and openly questioned the ‘One China’ policy, a cornerstone of Washington-Beijing relations in which the US recognizes Taiwan as part of China. And Trump accused China of not doing enough to put pressure on North Korea.
100 days on? Well, it’s a 180-degree shift.
In his first phone call with President Xi Jinping, Trump reaffirmed the One China policy. He has praised Beijing for taking some positive steps on the North Korea issue and he recently said that China is not manipulating its currency.
Trump denies these positions represent a flip-flop; the businessman-turned-president is saying it’s all part of a deal.
“I actually told him (Xi Jinping), I said, ‘You’ll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea.’ Because that’s what it is, it’s a menace right now,” Trump said last week.
Trump said he has developed a strong relationship with Xi Jinping and that their scheduled 15-minute meetings at the Mar-a-Lago summit stretched into “hours.”
But Yan Xuetong, a foreign policy expert at Tsinghua University, told me that the Chinese are skeptical. He said that if North Korea goes ahead with its nuclear program, then China will take the blame.
“Trump will use China as scapegoat to tell (the) American public that it is not his problem,” said Yan.
In Yan’s eyes, at least, the Chinese suspect more Trump policy turns.

Egypt

Ian Lee
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was the first foreign leader to congratulate President Donald Trump after he won the November 2016 presidential election. The two leaders had instantly hit it off when they met a few months earlier in New York.
Their views are more aligned than were those of President Barack Obama, which reacted coolly to the 2013 coup by Egypt’s military — led at the time by Sisi. When he became president soon afterward, he ushered in a new low between Washington and Cairo.

ISIS claims responsibility for church blasts

ISIS claims responsibility for church blasts
It was an open secret that Cairo wished for a Trump victory over Obama’s former secretary of state, Hilary Clinton. Trump was perceived by Cairo as a pragmatist who had little interest in human rights.
In his first days in office, Trump invited Sisi to visit him in Washington. The Egyptian president arrived with three main objectives: deepen military cooperation, strengthen the war against terror and revive Egypt’s economy. The invitation to the White House also gave the Egyptian president a legitimacy that the Obama administration had previously denied him.
Recently, in a gesture of good will and eagerness to cooperate, American Aya Hijazi was released from an Egyptian prison after Trump directly intervened to secure her release.
Expect relations to remain warm as long as Trump’s administration keeps the lid on any criticism of Sisi.

Germany

Nic Robertson
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took heat from Donald Trump even before he was sworn in as president.
He accused her of making a “catastrophic mistake” on migrants, only being as trustworthy as Vladimir Putin, and intentionally trying to take business from the US.

Pence reassures NATO allies in Munich speech

Pence reassures NATO allies in Munich speech
For Europeans, Trump’s attitude to Merkel is symptomatic of wider issues: his like of Brexit and his dislike of the EU’s single market and liberal trade values.
At the EU leaders summit in Malta this February, both French and German leaders said openly that Trump’s attitude was uniting Europe to stand on its own feet.
Since then, Trump has said the EU is “wonderful” and he is “totally in favor of it.” Yet he still supports Brexit and seems unaware of the instability and frustrations Europe feels because of it.
It’s not the only cross-Atlantic reversal he has had. Coming into office, he said NATO was “obsolete.” He told the alliance nations they need to pay their way, and has given them a deadline to promise they will.
In recent weeks Trump has changed his tune. NATO, he said, is “not obsolete” — but he still wants members’ money.
Merkel’s March visit to see Trump at the White House did little to quell European concerns over his attitude to Europe, and trade in particular.
That Merkel was ignored by Trump when asking for a handshake in the Oval Office, and embarrassed by him again at the news conference that followed with an awkward comment about being spied on, reveals this relationship has some way to go before it gets on an even keel.
Iran
Frederik Pleitgen
Iran’s leadership realized that Donald Trump was an unknown commodity, but many in the country’s senior leadership hoped they would be able to deal with the new man in the White House.
“We hope that he will have a pragmatic approach,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister, Amir Hossein Azamaninia, told me in an interview during the transition period shortly before Trump took office. He suggested that perhaps President Donald Trump would similar to the businessman Donald Trump — a shrewd dealmaker, whom the Islamic Republic with its oil wealth could possibly even strike deals with.

Iranians worried about US-Iran relationship

Iranians worried about US-Iran relationship
But Iran soon learned that the new administration was going to take a harder line towards Tehran than President Barack Obama had. When Iran tested ballistic missiles in late January — which the US believes could strike targets in Israel — then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn came down hard and fast on Tehran, announcing there would be new sanctions. He also said the US was “putting Iran on notice,” without specifying what that meant.
This harsh reaction and subsequent statements by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have sowed further uncertainty in Tehran about America’s strategy on Iran. The tough talk and action have put a severe damper on any notion the Rouhani administration had that its fairly constructive relations with Washington during the Obama years would continue.
At the same time, the Trump team’s hard line seems to be having an effect on Iran’s behavior.
There have so far been fewer reports of incidents and close encounters between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf’s narrow Strait of Hormuz than during the end of the Obama administration. And during Iran’s National Revolution Day in February, the leadership did not display ballistic missiles as it usually has.
This has led some experts to believe that Tehran — for all its harsh rhetoric — is making an effort to not further antagonize an American president and Cabinet whom the Iranians view as erratic and very hostile towards the Islamic Republic.
If this was the Trump administrations intent, it could be working.

Iraq

Ben Wedeman
“I would bomb the s**t out of them,” declared candidate Donald Trump, summarizing his strategy to defeat ISIS. “I would bomb those suckers … and I’d take the oil.” The crowds loved it.
A decisive victory over ISIS, plus a grand prize of a lot of cheap oil, sounds great, but the real world just doesn’t work that way and slowly, perhaps, the new administration has learned this in its first 100 days.

Trump's son-in-law visits Iraq

Trump’s son-in-law visits Iraq
For one thing, the battle to liberate the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, Iraq — now into its seventh month — has underscored just how hard it is to defeat the extremists. Since the push in the western part of the city began in February, both the US-led coalition and Iraqi forces have been bombarding ISIS as promised, using much heavier firepower than during the battle for west Mosul in the waning months of the Obama administration.
But the tactic has come at a high cost in terms of civilian casualties, brought home by what US officials concede was probably a US-led airstrike on March 17 that mistakenly killed almost 150 civilians. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still in western Mosul, often exploited by ISIS as human shields.
But even with the heavy assault, the Trump administration is largely settling down and following the same slow, deliberate approach of the Obama administration.
The battle for Mosul has taken more than half a year and may take many more months. In neighboring Syria, there are nearly a thousand US boots on the ground, backing a mixed Kurdish-Arab force that aims at overrunning the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS. When this will happen is anyone’s guess.
And then there’s that other topic Trump has toyed with: taking Iraq’s oil. That was decisively shot down by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who flew to Baghdad in February and told reporters, “We’re not in Iraq to seize anyone’s oil.”

Israel

Oren Liebermann
Donald Trump’s fiery pro-Israel rhetoric during the campaign had the right and far right in Israel salivating at the prospects of a Trump administration, while Palestinians worried about an American government adopting a more hostile stance.
Trump pledged to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, “dismantle” the Iran deal, reduce funding to the United Nations and cut aid to the Palestinians. At the same time, Trump said he wanted to close “the ultimate deal” — a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump ties to Israeli settlements

Trump ties to Israeli settlements
Save for the last, Trump has moderated his stance and backed off his positions in his first 100 days in office. The Trump administration has said its still considering an embassy move, but has also called Israeli settlements in the West Bank unhelpful for peace and acknowledged that Iran is sticking by the terms of the nuclear deal. Some analysts in Israel have pointed out that Trump’s positions on the region are beginning to resemble Obama’s positions.
The Israeli right wing’s fervor over Trump has cooled somewhat, but it still expects him to be a friend in the White House. From Israel’s perspective, the big star of the Trump administration so far is US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who has repeatedly criticized the United Nations for focusing disproportionately on Israel. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly praised Trump, refusing to suggest even the slightest hint of criticism, since he entered office.
Meanwhile, a recent visit by Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, left Palestinians cautiously optimistic that prospects weren’t as grim as initially feared and that Trump was serious about attempting to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet Trump in Washington shortly after Trump hits the 100-day mark. The meeting could be a litmus test of how the dynamic between Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas develops.

Mexico

Leyla Santiago
President Trump still has yet to meet face-to-face with Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, after an awkward encounter during the 2016 campaign. According to Mexican government officials, no plans are in the works, signaling tensions remain between the two leaders.

Mixed messages as top U.S. diplomat visits Mexico

Mixed messages as top U.S. diplomat visits Mexico
Twitter exchanges, however, have cooled down since a public war of words in January between @EPN and @realDonaldTrump over payment for a wall along the US-Mexico border. Mexico still maintains it will not pay for Trump’s muro (wall).
Many Mexicans still fear Trump could cut off a portion of their income, if he imposes taxes on remittances as a form of payment for the wall.
The Mexican government says, though, that its No. 1 concern is human rights violations. It has invested $50 million to expand legal services at its consulates and embassies in the US in an effort to help Mexicans fearing deportation.
Major questions also loom over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has called the 23-year-old deal that allows free trade between Mexico, Canada and the US a one-sided agreement.
If a good deal is not renegotiated, Mexico plans to walk away from the pact. The uncertainty in trade relations has led Mexico to strengthen ties with other countries and explore opportunities in Asian, European and South American markets instead of the US.
After Mexico featured repeatedly in the US elections, Trump himself is now playing a role in who will become Mexico’s next leader. Anti-Trump rhetoric has become a central part of Mexican campaigns heading toward the 2018 election. Leading candidates are hoping a stance against Trump will protect Mexico’s interests and win over voters.

North Korea

Will Ripley
When I ask ordinary North Koreans about the impact of President Donald Trump on their lives, they give strikingly similar answers. The response is usually something like this: “It doesn’t matter who the US president is. All that matters is that they discontinue America’s hostile policy against my country.”

North Koreans celebrate 'Army day'

North Koreans celebrate ‘Army day’
Of course, they are only repeating the same message given to them by their state-controlled media, the only media North Koreans have access to. Because US politics are not a primary focus of North Korean propaganda, the vast majority of citizens are blissfully unaware of Trump’s twitter account or the cloud of controversy that has swirled around the first 100 days of his administration.
But they are aware of a few key facts. They know that Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian regime air base, viewed by many as an indirect threat to Pyongyang. They also know that Trump dispatched the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, albeit by an indirect route.
The reason North Koreans know these things is simple: The actions of the Trump administration play right into their government’s long-standing narrative that they are under the imminent threat of attack by the ‘imperialist’ United States.
People have been told for their entire lives that America could drop a nuclear bomb at anytime. Citizens always voice their unanimous support of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Of course, in an authoritarian country where political dissent is not tolerated, there are no opposing voices.
The North Korean government uses this ‘imminent threat’ to justify its substantial investment in weapons of mass destruction, even if this means citizens must sacrifice. And government officials in Pyongyang told me the policies of the Trump administration in its first 100 days only add to their sense of urgency to accelerate development of a viable intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the mainland US.
They say such a weapon is key to their survival as a nation, even as critics fear North Korea continuing down the nuclear road will only lead to further diplomatic isolation, economic hardship or worse.
There are signs that North Korea is monitoring and responding to the unpredictable rhetoric and actions of the Trump administration. After news broke that the USS Carl Vinson strike group was headed to the Korean Peninsula, I was hand-delivered a statement in Pyongyang saying, “The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US.”
We’ve never seen dynamics like this before. An untested US President who tweets in real time and isn’t afraid to launch missiles to prove a point. And a North Korean leader who has consolidated his power by purging opponents (including his own uncle) and has launched more missiles than his father and grandfather combined.
This could be a recipe for disaster. Or a recipe for lasting peace. Or perhaps a recipe for the continuation of a decades-long stalemate. If Trump’s first 100 days provide any clues, it’s going to be a wild ride regardless.

Russia

Matthew Chance
President Donald Trump entered the White House on a promise of improving the strained relationship between Washington and Moscow.
He was full of praise for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, suggesting he might recognize annexed Crimea as Russian, cooperate over international terrorism and join forces in Syria.

Lavrov to US: Respect Syrian sovereignty

Lavrov to US: Respect Syrian sovereignty
It was all music to the Kremlin’s ears and talk was of a pivotal moment, of the Trump administration transforming the way in which the United States and Russia saw each other.
But 100 days on, none of that has come to pass.
“One could say the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved,” said Putin on April 12, “but rather has deteriorated.”
US officials have criticized Russia for fueling conflict in Ukraine, castigated the Kremlin for its treatment of sexual minorities, even bombed Russia’s Syrian ally while implying Moscow might have been complicit in dozens of agonizing deaths there caused by chemical weapons.
Part of the reason is undoubtedly the toxic political atmosphere in Washington, where lingering allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential election are being investigated by Congress.
But there is also a growing sense that the Trump administration, at 100 days old, has finally encountered a stark reality: Russia and the United States simply have different geopolitical priorities — whether in Syria, Ukraine or elsewhere — that won’t be easily reconciled.

Syria

Clarissa Ward
When President Donald Trump first assumed office, his strategy on Syria, like much of his foreign policy, was opaque. On the campaign trail he had said that his priority was to eliminate ISIS — indeed, he promised to put together a plan to do so in his first 30 days. He attempted to place a ban on any Syrian refugees entering the US, calling them a security threat. But on the subject of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and the brutal civil war he has presided over that has claimed more than 400,000 lives, he was noticeably silent.

Syria, a war on children?

Syria, a war on children?
Trump’s strong admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and interesting in getting the relationship with Russia back on track led many to assume that he would do little to interfere in Syria, where Moscow is closely allied with Damascus. This was reinforced by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment in March that it would be “up to the Syrian people” whether or not Assad would go, a demand long made by the Obama administration. Regime change, it seemed, was no longer desirable for the US.
Yet, within a few weeks, everything changed.
After seeing the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib that killed dozens of children, Trump suddenly took action against the Assad regime. Two days later, dozens of American tomahawk missiles rained down on the regime’s Shayrat air base.
The Syrian people were stunned. Those who oppose Assad had dreamed of this moment for many years, but after President Barack Obama had chosen not to enforce his red line against Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, their dream had died. Suddenly, Trump was hailed as something of a hero. Some took to calling him by a new nom de guerre, Abu Ivanka al Amriki.
The strikes on Shayrat changed very little on the ground in Syria. The regime was continuing its daily bombardment within hours.
Still, after six years of standing on the sidelines, the shift in US policy (if it is a sustained shift) has given some cause for optimism. There is hope that perhaps Assad will think twice before using chemical weapons against his own people, that the US may now have more leverage at the negotiating table.
Yet the question still remains: What is the US’s policy on Syria? 100 days into the Trump presidency, we still don’t really know.

Turkey

Ian Lee
Relations with the Obama administration warmed under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when that suited him and then soured accordingly. They have yet to be really tested under President Donald Trump.
Since taking office, Trump has taken a softer tone in dealing with Turkey. Ankara responded positively to the United States’ missile strike on a Syrian air base. Trump congratulated the Turkish president for the success of his referendum, giving him significantly expanded powers, despite the process being deeply flawed according to international monitors, an opinion echoed by the State Department.

Turkish demonstrators protest vote result

Turkish demonstrators protest vote result
By the time President Barack Obama left office, US-Turkish relations had cooled. The two leaders had differing opinions regarding Syria. Where Obama wanted to focus on defeating ISIS while Erdogan wanted to oust President Bashar al-Assad. The United States saw Syrian Kurdish militants, the YPG, as an ally against ISIS, while the Turks viewed them as terrorists. And Obama criticized Turkey’s crackdown on the political opposition, intellectuals, activists and journalists and wouldn’t extradite spiritual leader Fetullah Gulen, on whom the Turkish blames July’s coup attempt. Elements of Erdogan’s party even accused the United States of supporting the failed effort.
There is optimism in Turkey among the government and its supporters that a new page can be turned, especially when both leaders plan to meet in Washington in May.
But Trump is likely to face similar tensions as Obama did. One of the toughest will be the upcoming operation against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria. Turkey wants to take part but won’t fight along side the YPG. Trump will likely have to choose between a NATO ally and a proven fighting force.

The UK

Phil Black
President Donald Trump helped create what is so far the most iconic image of Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May — the American president holding May’s hand as they walked outside the White House in January.
May later said Trump was “being a gentleman.”

Scotland calls for independence referendum

Scotland calls for independence referendum
She provided the opportunity for his gallantry by swiftly moving to be the first world leader to visit the new president.
May has unashamedly pursued a close bond with Trump, believing “the special relationship” between the UK and US is especially important as Britain prepares for a future outside the European Union.
May has pushed for a quick post-Brexit trade deal while also trying to persuade Trump to align with Britain’s traditional positions on key foreign policy issues like NATO (crucial) and Russia (deserves suspicion).
The British Prime Minister also threw in a sweetener. She invited Trump to visit the UK with full state honors. That usually means time with the Queen, banquets, parades and gilded carriages.
Such invitations are rarely offered to new presidents and it’s proved to be hugely controversial in a country where many disagree with Trump’s policies, including his attempts to block immigration from select, majority-Muslim countries.
More than 1.8 million people signed a petition opposing a state visit “because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.” Thousands protested on the streets and have promised to do so again when Trump arrives. That could create some awkward moments.
May’s efforts to stay close to Trump will likely be judged by whether she secures a free trade agreement with the United States. But they can’t even begin talking about that officially until after Brexit has taken place, so that’s at least two years away.

World’s biggest bombs: India’s SPICE no match for America’s MOAB or Russian FOAB

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

World’s biggest bombs: India’s SPICE no match for America’s MOAB or Russian FOAB

INDIA Updated: Apr 14, 2017 12:03 IST

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
US

A Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon is prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Centre in March 11, 2003. (REUTERS)

Less than three months after Donald Trump took over as President, an MC-130 aircraft operated by the United States Air Force Special Operations Command dropped one of the biggest conventional bombs in country’s arsenal in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday.Deployed by the US military for the first time in combat, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) is one of the most powerful non-nuclear weapons in the possession of any military worldwide. The 21,000-lb MOAB’s sheer destructive power has earned it the nickname ‘Mother of All Bombs’.

Neither India nor Pakistan nor even China possesses non-nuclear bombs that are in the league of MOAB, developed in the early 2000s. In fact, their stockpile doesn’t come anywhere close to MOAB-like munitions.

Read | US drops GBU-43 bomb in Afghanistan: What we know about the ‘mother of all bombs’

The rare strike against Islamic State fighters with a weapon of this size has turned the spotlight on the world’s biggest and largest contemporary non-nuclear bombs, primarily held only by the militaries of Russia and the US.

Here’s a quick look at some of these deadly air-delivered monster munitions whose efficiency and power almost match nuclear weapons, and the smaller bombs that the air forces of India, China and Pakistan hold in their inventories:

Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power: Also known as the ‘Father of All Bombs’ (FOAB), it is the Russian answer to the American bomb. Moscow successfully tested the weapon in 2007; four years after the US developed the MOAB. It is reportedly the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, capable of unleashing 44 tons of explosives compared to 11 tons in the GBU-43 MOAB. At 15,650 lb, the FOAB is lighter than the American bomb but the former’s significantly higher blast yield makes it far more lethal.

GBU-43 MOAB: Designed to destroy underground facilities, caves and tunnels, the US had developed the GPS-guided bomb for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but it was never used in combat until Thursday evening. Just like the Russian bomb, the 30-foot MOAB detonates before hitting the ground and causes unthinkable destruction by sending deadly shockwaves up to a distance of over a mile in all directions. The GBU-43 MOAB, however, is not the heaviest conventional munition in the American arsenal.

GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator: Known by its acronym MOP, the 30,000-lb American bomb is perhaps the heaviest conventional weapon in the world. However, the bunker buster bomb’s explosive power doesn’t match that of the MOAB or the FOAB. Manufactured by US defence giant Boeing, the GBU-57A/B MOP is designed to obliterate underground nuclear facilities and deeply buried enemy targets.

GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrator: The air forces of Israel and South Korea have the 5,000-lb GBU-28 bunker buster munitions supplied by the US in their inventories. The bombs were deployed by the USAF during Operation Desert Storm to carry out strikes against Iraqi bunkers, military installations and high value strategic targets in 1991. The GBU-28, a variant of the Paveway III bomb, can reportedly blast through six metres of concrete.

Read more

GBU-24 Paveway II bombs: The French Air Force’s Rafale omni-role fighters can carry a number of bombs from the US Paveway family of munitions. The heaviest air-to-surface conventional weapon the fighter can be equipped with is the GBU-24 Paveway II 2,000-lb laser-guided bomb.

INDIA

SPICE: The Israel-manufactured SPICE (smart precise impact and cost effective) bomb is the biggest conventional bomb that can be delivered by the Indian Air Force. Manufactured by Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, the 2000-lb precision guided bombs are used on the French-origin Mirage 2000 fighters.

The IAF’s Jaguar deep-strike penetration aircraft can be fitted with 1,000-lb bombs for destroying the enemy’s ammunition dumps during combat. In one configuration, a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter can carry 26 bombs of 550-lb class to destroy a concentration of enemy armour and personnel. The fighter can also carry 1,000-lb HSLD (high speed, low drag) bombs to destroy enemy airfields. Indian fighter planes can also drop indigenously produced 1,000-lb bombs fitted with Israel Aircraft Industries-produced Griffin laser-guided systems

CHINA AND PAKISTAN

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a variety of conventional bombs ranging in the 500 lb to 3,000-lb class. Most of these general purpose bombs have been developed by the China’s North Industries Corporation. Most of the designs are reportedly based on bombs earlier imported from Russia.

Some of the designs also reportedly draw inspiration from the US Mk 80/82/83/84 bombs. Some other bombs in the Chinese inventory are also suspected to have been copied from Western designs. The conventional bombs with Pakistan Air Force are in the 250 lb to 2,000-lb class, with the design again based on the US Mk 80 series bombs and mated to laser guided systems of American origin. Former IAF vice chief Air Marshal KK Nohwar told HT on Friday, “India, China and Pakistan largely have a similar stockpile of lighter non-nuclear bombs. It’s nowhere close to the mega bombs that the Russians and the Americans can deploy in combat.”

The U.S. Just Dropped The ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ In Afghanistan. But What Is That?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

The U.S. Just Dropped the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in Afghanistan. But What Is That?

Apr 13, 2017

The United States on Thursday dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, on an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in eastern Afghanistan.

The bomb, officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said, according to the Associated Press. The target was near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

President Donald Trump said Thursday the bombing was a “very successful mission,” according to Reuters, and he touted the mission as evidence of a stronger foreign policy under his administration. It was not immediately clear how much damage the bomb did, how many militants were killed, or whether any civilians were killed.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is the bomb?

The GBU-43 is a GPS-guided weapon that weighs an enormous 21,600 pounds, according to an article from the Eglin Air Force Base. Each one costs $16 million, according to military information website Deagel.

During testing in the early 2000s, it created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away, according to the Air Force story.

Why was it developed?

The MOAB was designed in 2002 as a replacement for the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, according to the Air Force article. Its purpose was initially to put pressure on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates,” said then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a 2003 interview, according to the Air Force article. “Short of that — an unwillingness to cooperate — the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition.”

Has it been used before?

The bomb was sent to the Middle East in 2003, but it had never been used before this week.

How many does the U.S. have?

The U.S. military says it has 20 MOAB bombs and has spent about $314 million producing them, according to CNBC.

What kind of destruction does it cause?

While not all details from Thursday’s blast have been made public, the bomb is very powerful. “What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Air Force Times. “It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.”

While it was initially intended to deter U.S. opponents, this week’s strike marks a change to using the weapon as an active tool in fighting ISIS. The use of the MOAB in the Nangarhar province indicates the U.S. still considers ISIS a threat in the area.

U.S. Drops 21,600 Pound Bomb On ISIS Tunnel System In Eastern Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) The United States on Thursday dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its military arsenal for the first time in history.

But President Donald Trump declined to say whether he personally signed off on the use of the GBU-43/B MOAB, also known as the “mother of all bombs,” in a strike on ISIS militants in Afghanistan.
“Everybody knows exactly what happens. So, what I do is I authorize our military,” Trump said when asked whether he authorized the strike. “We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing.”
Sources told CNN that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb. The White House was informed of the plan before the MC-130 aircraft delivered its 21,600-pound payload.
Trump has given military commanders broader latitude to act independently on several battlefields where US forces are involved, which Trump touted as making a “tremendous difference” in the fight against ISIS.
While Trump’s comments Thursday suggested that he was not personally involved in the decision to drop the bomb, Trump was eager to associate himself with the bold display of power.

US drops 'mother of all bombs'

 US drops ‘mother of all bombs’ 01:45

Trump praised the military for the bombing run and called it “another very, very successful mission.”
The bombing in Afghanistan comes a week after Trump authorized a US missile strike against a Syrian government air base — the first US strike against the Syrian government in the country’s six-year civil war.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier on Thursday confirmed the strike took place, targeting “a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters use to move around freely,” but also declined to answer any questions about Trump’s role in authorizing first-ever use of the MOAB bomb on the battlefield.
Spicer also deferred all questions about the decision to use the bomb and the potential for future uses of the bomb on other battlefields to the Defense Department.

For Those Of You Who Have Survived The Past 60 Years Here On Earth With Me

 

Holy cow folks, what a ride life has been for those of us fortunate enough to have been allowed to ride it. Think of all of the things each of us have lived through. For me, I was in second grade in Nov of 1963. Bobby and Dr King, I was 11. Nixon, China, still a kid. Vietnam and the Draft ended when I was 16.

Now these days and it seems that Russia is becoming a ‘dirty word’ in D.C. politics. Who knows, who even cares these days about what is honest or not, or just a good story. Ethics in our world seems to be only a distant memory of our childhood lives. Life is still primal above all else, what will people do in their attempt to keep the wolf out of their kitchen or into their bed. Humans have proven to be fascinating creatures, both good and bad. So many mass murderers, so many wars, so many lost lives, why, what for? Just a couple of years ago I watched a Documentary about the dollar cost to the U.S. Treasury of the U.S. led War in Afghanistan. Up to that given point in time it was $1.1 Trillion. worse was the next statement the announcer gave, he said that about 90% of the people in the country only had no more than one extra change of clothes. If those stats are correct and it wouldn’t shock me if this story is validated, its sickening. I/we are the generation of a lot of ‘awakening’ of our Country.

 

We’ve seen Vietnam on our family T.V.’s every night, we watched Saddam smile as he hid behind children. We all most likely can remember where they were at when we first seen and heard the audio on 9/11, then there was 5/01/11, I believe this is the day Osama lost his head. We watched Elvis live, and die. Two of the Beatles are gone. We have actually had a professional Actor become our President, no it is not President Trump, I said a professional Actor. I was speaking of Ronald Reagan of course, and we have had a ‘shocker’ of course in the election of a half Black and half White Social Worker from Chicago as our President, for two terms. We have seen ‘A Polish Pope’, we heard Johnny Carson say, good night. Now we and our children and theirs will be at war until the ‘end of days’.

 

I hope that each and everyone of you were able to relate to these or maybe other events in your personal life. Another one for me is the Belvidere Tornado of April 21st of 1967. There are great moments of glory like the birth of your children and your grandchildren and there is crushing heartache like the deaths of so many loved ones. I thank God everyday that I believe in Him and He in me and I feel so sad for those who beat their own chest and brag their own names. These people are dead already and they don’t even know it. This is not some kind of a suicide note, I do not believe in the ethics of suicide so that will never ever happen. I’m just reminiscing with some old friends about some of the stars and highlights and low points of our own lives. All people who have taken of your time to read this article I would like to just say thank you. I hope it gave you some smiles, and a few good memories.

Taliban Attack Military Hospital In Kabul Afghanistan: At Least 30 Dead And 50 Wounded

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN NEWS)

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) Gunmen disguised as medical personnel stormed a military hospital near the US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people in a six-hour siege before Afghan security forces killed the attackers, authorities said.

The ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq said the terror group claimed responsibility for the attack near Kabul’s heavily fortified diplomatic quarter.
First, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the south gate to the Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan hospital, said Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman. Known as “the 400-bed hospital,” it’s the country’s biggest and best-equipped medical facility.
Three gunmen then invaded the hospital, made their way to the second and third floors and opened fire, Sediqqi said. Among those killed were Afghan military personnel recovering from battle wounds, doctors and hospital employees.
Security forces and police mounted a counteroffensive. Heavily armed soldiers and armored vehicles surrounded the facility, a helicopter landed on the roof and a few patients climbed out of windows and stood on a ledge to escape the violence, video shows.
Soldiers killed the attackers about 3:30 p.m. local time (6 a.m. Wednesday ET) after six hours of fighting.
As soldiers cleared the building, they discovered bodies and the number of casualties quickly grew.
More than 50 people were wounded and taken to the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, said Smael Kawosi, media relation officer for the Ministry of Health. It’s not known whether any security personnel or police officers were killed.

Afghan security personnel gather outside the hospital.

The Taliban has claimed credit for other recent attacks. But a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mojahid, denied responsibility for this rampage in a tweet, saying: “Today’s attack on hospital in Kabul has nothing to do with the Mujahidin of Islamic Emirate,” using the group’s formal name.
In the vacuum of a Taliban claim, Amaq said ISIS claimed responsibility. Though it is credible that ISIS planned and carried out the attack, CNN has not independently verified the claim.
This is not the first attack at the hospital named after Afghanistan’s first president. In May 2011, suicide bombers got inside, and killed six people and injured 26 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Explosions, then gunfire

Attackers killed at least 30 people at the hospital.

Witnesses told CNN an explosion was first heard at 9 a.m. local time (11.30 p.m. Tuesday ET).
Afghan National Police special forces rushed in. “At first there was a firing followed by a huge blast,” an employee at a nearby hospital said.
An employee at an Italian restaurant nearby said she heard one explosion, then heard gunfire about 25 minutes later.
The attackers were not immediately killed because security forces were busy evacuating patients, the defense ministry statement said.

Attack condemned

US Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support and US Forces in Afghanistan, said the attack “is an unspeakable crime.” He praised security forces for the swift response, saying the forces deserve “our highest praise and respect.”
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said the attack shows terrorists “don’t follow rules and laws.”
“According to international humanitarian laws, hospitals are immune from attacks,” he said.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted: “I condemn the terrorist attacked on hospital in Kabul. While we work for peace, we’ll avenge the blood of our people.”
The US Embassy in Kabul said, “Targeting a medical facility providing care for the brave Afghans working to protect their fellow citizens has no possible justification in any religion or creed.”