U.S. Army’s Bergdahl spared prison time for deserting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

U.S. Army’s Bergdahl spared prison time for deserting

Reuters
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U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl walks out of the courthouse after the judge said he would continue deliberating on his sentence during Bergdahl’s court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl walks out of the courthouse after the judge said he would continue deliberating on his sentence during Bergdahl’s court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) – U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl on Friday was spared prison time for endangering fellow troops when he deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009, but a military judge ordered he should be dishonorably discharged from the service.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and spent five years under brutal captivity by the insurgent group. He had faced up to life in prison after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Iran Recruits Afghans to Defend Assad, their Numbers Are a ‘Military Secret’

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

 

Iran Recruits Afghans to Defend Assad, their Numbers is a ‘Military Secret’

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 – 08:15
Syrian pro-regime forces hold a position in Aleppo’s Sheikh Saeed district, on December 12, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)
Kabul – London – Asharq Al-Awsat

Fleeing grinding poverty and unemployment, thousands of Afghan Shi’ites have been recruited by Iran to defend the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

“For me it was just about money,” Shams, a former fighter, told Agence France Presse.

Hurman Rights Watch says the Iranians refuse to provide accurate figures, but estimates there are nearly 15,000 Afghans fighting for Fatemiyoun.

Shams, a 25-year-old member of the Hazara ethnic group, went to Syria twice in 2016 to fight in a conflict that has now been raging for more than six years.

“I went there (Iran) because I was jobless and it was a way to get money for my family,” said Shams.

“My idea was to find a job in Iran. I had no plan to go to fight in Syria but after a month of being jobless I decided to go.

“They were encouraging us saying ‘you will be a freedom fighter and if you return to Iran alive you can stay with a 10-year residence permit’.”

Afghan Shi’ites are given 1.5 million toman (about $450) to register at a recruitment center for the Fatemiyoun, Shams said. Once they have signed up they receive three million toman a month, a fortune for many poor Afghans.

Shams’ first mission was in June 2016 in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he was assigned to protect a barracks for two months.

He went back to the country in September and was deployed to Aleppo, where he was given his first AK-47 after receiving rudimentary weapons training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

On the front line of the battle between ISIS militants and Al-Nusra Front group, Shams said he found himself caught up in an intense and deadly battle.

“In Aleppo we faced an ambush — out of 100 fighters we lost almost all of them. There were 15 of us left alive,” Shams said.

“The bodies were sent back to Iran and the families in Afghanistan held funeral ceremonies in mosques without a coffin or grave.”

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council, estimates more than 760 Afghans have been killed in Syria since September 2013.

The number of Afghans fighting for the Fatemiyoun is a “military secret,” said Ramazan Bashardost, a Hazara member of parliament in Kabul.

“They are used by the Iranian government, which treats them like slaves,” he said.

“The sorrow, pain and hunger of the people is not a major concern of the Afghan government,” he added.

Rex Tillerson Visits Afghanistan’s President Ghani In Kabul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Kabul on Monday in a brief, unannounced trip that had been shrouded in secrecy amid an uptick of violence in the Afghan capital.

Tillerson, who was on the ground for just over two hours, met with President Ashraf Ghani, according to the US Embassy and pool reports. The secretary of state then departed for Doha, Qatar.
The visit is part of Tillerson’s week-long trip to the Middle East, South Asia and Europe and follows a deadly string of attacks in the war-torn country.
On Saturday, at least 15 people died in a suicide bombing in Kabul, which targeted army officers at a military academy about seven miles from the city center.
It followed suicide attacks on Friday that killed nearly 60 people at two mosques: a Shia mosque in Kabul and a Sunni mosque in the central province of Ghor.
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There were no immediate claims of responsibility for Friday’s attacks, but ISIS has claimed responsibility this year for other attacks on Shiite mosques.
The day before the mosque attacks, 43 Afghan troops were killed when Taliban militants stormed the Chashmawi military base in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province.

Strategy

President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan strategy was first unveiled in August with the President vowing that the US would find victory in the 16-year war while no longer “nation-building.”
Trump declared he would no longer announce troop levels but would focus on allowing US forces to target the Taliban and other terrorist groups wherever they were in Afghanistan.
The war, which has claimed more than 2,000 American lives, began less than a month after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Over 8,000 US troops are currently deployed to Afghanistan. The majority of them — about 6,900 — are assigned to the NATO mission to train and advise Afghan security forces alongside approximately 6,000 troops from other NATO countries.
In August, Tillerson said the strategy was a “pathway for reconciliation and peace talks,” and meant to pressure the Taliban to the negotiating table by making it clear there’s no way to win on the battlefield.
In that plan, Trump authorized more troops and declared that the US would avoid nation building, concentrating instead on empowering the Afghans to fight their own battles. Under Trump, the US would also continue to engage regional neighbors, such as India and Pakistan, in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
The plan resembles the strategies of previous administrations, with a few tweaks and is deliberately short on details, including US troop numbers and how long the US will stay.

Taliban: US official preciously targeted

Security for Tillerson’s visit was extra tight in the wake of a visit by the Defense Secretary James Mattis in September, which was marred by an aborted rocket attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and claimed it was deliberately targeting Mattis.
The rockets, which caused no damage or injuries, were fired at the facility hours after Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already departed.

Tillerson: Time Iran-backed militias left Iraq

Before flying to Doha, Tillerson visited Saudi Arabia, where he sent a message to Iranian-backed militia and foreign fighters in Iraq, where the US is supporting the government in its fight against ISIS.
“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control of areas that had been overtaken by ISIS and Daesh that have now been liberated,” Tillerson said, speaking in Riyadh alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
“Allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” he said.
Last week, US-backed forces declared the liberation of Raqqa, Syria, more than three years after the city emerged as ISIS’s de facto capital.
Following Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Afghanistan, Tillerson’s trip will also include stops in India, Switzerland and Pakistan, where he will meet with senior leaders to discuss South Asia strategy and economic ties between Washington and Islamabad.
In August, when releasing his strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, Trump called out Pakistan for its role in harboring for terror groups.
“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting … that must change immediately,” Trump said at the time.
Pakistan reacted angrily to the charge, claiming it was being used as a “scapegoat” for the problems in Afghanistan.

63 Dead After Suicide Bombers Attack Mosques in Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

63 Dead After Suicide Bombers Attack Mosques in Afghanistan

2:46 PM ET

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Suicide bombers struck two mosques in Afghanistan during Friday prayers, a Shiite mosque in Kabul and a Sunni mosque in western Ghor province, killing at least 63 people at the end of a particularly deadly week for the troubled nation.

The Afghan president issued a statement condemning both attacks and saying that country’s security forces would step up the fight to “eliminate the terrorists who target Afghans of all religions and tribes.”

In the attack in Kabul, a suicide bomber walked into the Imam Zaman Mosque, a Shiite mosque in the western Dashte-e-Barchi neighborhood where he detonated his explosives vest, killing 30 and wounding 45, said Maj. Gen. Alimast Momand at the Interior Ministry.

The suicide bombing in Ghor province struck a Sunni mosque, also during Friday prayers and killed 33 people, including a warlord who was apparently the target of the attack, said Mohammad Iqbal Nizami, the spokesman for the provincial chief of police.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for either attack, the latest in a devastating week that saw Taliban attacks kill scores across the country.

In the Kabul attack, eyewitness Ali Mohammad said the mosque was packed with worshippers, both men and women praying at the height of the Muslim week. The explosion was so strong that it shattered windows on nearby buildings, he said.

Local residents who rushed to the scene to help the victims were overcome with anger and started chanting, “Death to ISIS”— a reference to the Islamic State group which has staged similar attacks on Shiite mosques in recent months.

Abdul Hussain Hussainzada, a Shiite community leader, said they are sure that Afghanistan’s IS affiliate was behind the attack. “Our community is very worried,” Hussainzada told The Associated Press.

Dasht-e-Barchi is a sprawling neighborhood in the west of Kabul where the majority of people are ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims, a minority in Afghanistan, which is a Sunni majority nation.

As attacks targeting Shiites have increased in Kabul, residents of this area have grown increasingly afraid. Most schools have additional armed guards from among the local population.

The so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan has taken responsibility for most of the attacks targeting Shiites, whom the Sunni extremist group considers to be apostates. Earlier this year, following an attack claimed by IS on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul, the militant group effectively declared war on Afghanistan’s Shiites, saying they would be the target of future attacks.

Several mosques have been attacked following this warning, killing scores of Shiite worshippers in Kabul and in western Herat province. Residents say attendance at local Shiite mosques in Kabul on Friday has dropped by at least one-third.

Hussainzada, the spiritual head of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, said the suicide bomber had positioned himself at the front of the prayer hall, standing with other men in the first of dozens of rows of worshippers before exploding his devise. He appeared to be Uzbek, added Hussainzada.

Members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militant group, who are in Afghanistan in the hundreds, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State affiliate, known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province — an ancient term for what today includes parts of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The attack on the Sunni mosque in Ghor province took place in the Do Laina district, according to Nizami, the police spokesman. Nizami says the target apparently was a local commander, Abdul Ahed, a former warlord who has sided with the government. Seven of his bodyguards were also killed in the bombing.

In his statement, President Ghani said the day’s attacks show that “the terrorists have once again staged bloody attacks but they will not achieve their evil purposes and sow discord among the Afghans.”

It has been a brutal week in Afghanistan, with more than 70 killed, mostly policemen and Afghan soldiers but also civilians as militant attacks have surged. The Taliban have taken responsibility for the earlier assaults this week that struck on security installations in the east and west of the country.

Overnight on Wednesday and into Thursday, the Taliban killed at least 58 Afghan security forces in attacks that included an assault that nearly wiped out an army camp in southern Kandahar province.

And on Tuesday, the Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan, targeting police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers, and killing at least 74 people, officials said.

Afghan forces have struggled to combat a resurgent Taliban since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, switching to a counterterrorism and support role.

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?