India-Pak nuke war could trigger another ice age: Study

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

An India-Pak nuke war could trigger another ice age: Study

In the scenario, simulated using state-of-the-art global climate models, India and Pakistan use 100 and 150 strategic nuclear weapons respectively, releasing 16-36 million tonnes of soot (black carbon) in smoke that would rise into the upper atmosphere, blocking solar radiation.

INDIA Updated: Oct 03, 2019 07:25 IST

Dhrubo Jyoti
Dhrubo Jyoti
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbours in 2025.
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbors in 2025. (Reuters file photo)

At least 50 million people could die and the world will be hit by a decade-long global atmospheric catastrophe if a nuclear war broke out between India and Pakistan, said a new study published on Wednesday, though Indian experts termed the chances of such a conflict astonishingly small.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbors in 2025.

In the scenario, simulated using state-of-the-art global climate models, India and Pakistan use 100 and 150 strategic nuclear weapons respectively, releasing 16-36 million tonnes of soot (black carbon) in smoke that would rise into the upper atmosphere, blocking solar radiation.

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This could lead to a decline in sunlight reaching the Earth by 20 to 35%, cooling the surface by between two and five degree Celsius.

“In addition, severe short-term climate perturbations, with temperatures declining to values not seen on Earth since the middle of the last Ice Age, would be triggered by smoke from burning cities,” read the paper.

This could reduce precipitation by up to 30% and diminish the rate at which plants store energy as biomass by almost a third on land. “Crops would be affected by colder temperatures, less precipitation, less sunlight, and more ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion,” Alan Robock, a professor at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the paper, told HT.

The paper found a high casualty figure because both India and Pakistan are densely populated, and based its calculation on a scenario where both countries attack urban centres. Under its scenario, Pakistan’s losses would be about twice those of India in terms of a percentage of the urban population.

“Smoke from burning cities will rise into the stratosphere and spread globally within weeks. Widespread agricultural failures are likely,” Owen B Toon, lead author and professor at the University of Colorado, told HT. Impact on food production is seen to range from crop-growing regions of North America and Eurasia, Southeast Asia and fisheries in the north Atlantic and Pacific.

Robock said such instant climate change was only experienced after super volcanic eruptions, such as the Toba eruption roughly 74,000 years ago in present day Sumatra, Indonesia. It is one of the largest Earth’s largest known eruptions.

Nuclear rhetoric in the sub-continent has been charged in recent weeks, especially by Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan who warned at the United Nations General Assembly of a potential of a nuclear war over Kashmir.

But experts said the chances of such a conflict realistically breaking out are next to zero. “The possibility is almost non-existent is because of the shared culture and communities. The two countries have never fought wars of annihilation because you’re literally cutting too close to the bone. Our wars have been very limited,” said Bharat Karnad, a professor at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi. He added that the rhetoric around nuclear war is often used for deterrent purposes.

First Published: Oct 02, 2019 23:33 IST

IDF said to arrest 3 Palestinians during hunt for terrorists behind bomb attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF said to arrest 3 Palestinians during hunt for terrorists behind bomb attack

Israeli troops reportedly confiscate cameras, raid homes in West Bank villages near site of bombing that killed Israeli teen Rina Shnerb

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, following a deadly terror bombing near the Dolev settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, following a deadly terror bombing near the Dolev settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces reportedly arrested three Palestinian men in the West Bank early Saturday as they searched for the terrorists behind a bombing attack that killed an Israeli teenager.

According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli soldiers arrested two of the men during raids in the village of Ein Arik. The third man was said to be a resident of the nearby village of Ein Qiniya.

It was not clear what their connection to the bombing near the Dolev settlement was.

Troops also reportedly seized a number of surveillance cameras in Ein Arik.

المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

@PalinfoAr

لحظة اعتقال قوات الاحتلال الأسير المحرر والطالب في جامعة بيرزيت إصرار معروف من منزله في قرية عين قينيا شمال غرب رام الله .

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The two villages are located near Ein Bubin, a natural spring where an explosive device detonated Friday as three members of the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod were visiting.

The teenage daughter, Rina, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and her brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in serious condition.

Rina Shnerb, 17, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on August 23, 2019 (courtesy)

The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

Following the bombing, security forces launched a large-scale manhunt in the area, with the IDF chief saying he believed they would apprehend the killers “quickly.”

“We are in the midst of a manhunt that is being led by troops from the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police. We are focusing our large operational intelligence effort to finding the perpetrators of this severe and deadly terror attack,” IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said at the site of the bombing on Friday afternoon.

Rabbi Eitan Shnerb speaks to reporters from his hospital bed after being wounded in a terror attack that also killed his daughter Rina and wounded his son Dvir on August 23, 2019 (Screencapture/Ynet)

IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the military did not yet know the identities of the culprits or if they belonged to an established terror group or were acting alone.

Channel 12 quoted unnamed officials as saying that the size and complexity of the the device indicated that one of the major terror groups was behind the attack.

Troops were working to find the terrorists behind the attack as quickly as possible, under the general understanding that the more time they have to flee, the more difficult the search effort becomes.

Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security forces.

“Security forces are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking with reporters Friday from his hospital bed, Eitan Shnerb said he was in good condition, but had a piece of shrapnel in his stomach and a broken hip.

Dvir’s condition on improved to moderate on Saturday morning and he was conscious after undergoing surgery the day before, according to Channel 13 news.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

Last Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off duty police officer who was driving behind him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli religious seminary student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinian cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Israel: Teen Israeli girl killed as family hit by bomb at West Bank spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Teen Israeli girl killed as family hit by bomb at West Bank spring

Rina Shnerb, 17, succumbs to injuries as father, brother badly injured by blast at popular hiking spot near Dolev; army hunts for culprits as it decries ‘serious terror attack’

  • 17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)
    17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)
  • Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli security forces stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli medical teams and security forces and gather at the site where a bomb exploded in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and seriously injuring her father and brother (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli medical teams and security forces and gather at the site where a bomb exploded in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and seriously injuring her father and brother (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli security forces gather at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces gather at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • An Israeli military helicopter picks up two victims of a terror attack in the central West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Dolev settlement)
    An Israeli military helicopter picks up two victims of a terror attack in the central West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Dolev settlement)

A teenage girl was killed and her father and brother were seriously injured in a terrorist bombing at a natural spring outside the central West Bank settlement of Dolev on Friday morning, Israeli officials said.

Rina Shnerb, 17, of Lod, was critically wounded in the attack and received treatment at the scene from civilian and military medics before being pronounced dead of her injuries. Her father Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in serious condition, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the army considered the blast to be a “serious terror attack.”

Shnerb was laid to rest on Friday afternoon, with hundreds attending her funeral in her hometown of Lod in central Israel. Her father and brother were unable to attend, due to the serious injuries they sustained.

The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)

Security services were reportedly tracking a car that fled the scene shortly after the explosion. “IDF soldiers are searching the area,” the military said in a statement.

Manelis said the IDF did not yet know the identities of the culprits or if they belonged to an established terror group or were acting alone.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security forces.

In a statement Netanyahu offered his “deep condolences” to the family and wished swift recuperation to the wounded. “We will continue to strengthen [Jewish] communities. We will spread our roots deeper and strike out at our enemies.”

Rina Shnerb’s funeral was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in her hometown of Lod.

Troops were working to find the terrorists behind the attack as quickly as possible, under the general understanding that the more time they have to flee, the more difficult the search effort becomes.

“Security force are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu said.

The explosion occurred at the Bubin spring — a popular hiking spot — approximately 10 kilometers east of the city of Modiin.

“Our surroundings are full of natural springs and hiking to them is an inseparable part of residents’ lives,” Yael, a resident of Dolev, told Channel 12 news. “There is a difficult feeling.”

She said a bomb attack was “a severe escalation” the likes of which the community had not encountered “in over 20 years.”

Palestinian media reported that the IDF had begun setting up roadblocks and conducting searches in the western Ramallah area, southeast of Dolev.

Israeli sodleirs stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, injuring three people (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

“This [search] mission is being led on several fronts — the first is the intelligence front with other intelligence services, the second front is the manhunt in the field with roadblocks… The third front is the regular security effort to prevent similar events,” IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said.

Another IDF spokesperson said the military was working with the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police to track the culprits.

She said additional troops were also being sent into the West Bank both to find the terrorists and to boost security to settlements in the area.

Large numbers of emergency response personnel were called to the area, including the IDF helicopter that evacuated the victims.

One of the Magen David Adom medics said: “When we arrived at the location, the scene was difficult… We saw three victims lying on the ground, a 46-year-old man who was fully conscious and suffering from wounds to his upper body. Lying next to him was a [19-year-old man] with injuries to his limbs and upper body and a 17-year-old girl with multi-system injuries.”

Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller said the father, despite his injuries, had called in the medics.

The father and son were taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem for treatment, MDA said.

A hospital spokesperson said the father was now considered to be in moderate, stable condition. The 19-year-old son sustained injuries throughout his body, including to his stomach, from the blast. He was unconscious and connected to a respirator.

Israeli ambulances leave the site where an explosive device killed an Israeli teenage girl and injured two others in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The Dolev settlement told residents that they could not leave the community and that those outside should remain there for the time being in light of the bombing.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

“The army is dealing with attempted terror attacks, with lone-wolf assailants and with terror cells,” Manelis said.

Last Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off duty police officer who was driving behind him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli religious seminary student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinina cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.

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Afghanistan: 50 children injured in Kabul bomb blast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

50 children injured in Kabul bomb blast

AFP
50 children injured in Kabul bomb blast

AFP

Wounded Afghan men receive treatment at the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital following a car bomb attack in Kabul on July 1, 2019.

At least 50 children were among more than 100 people wounded yesterday when the Taliban detonated a powerful car bomb in Kabul, officials said, the latest deadly attack in one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a child.

Save the Children led international condemnation of the blast targeting a defence ministry building, which sent a plume of smoke into the air during rush hour and shook buildings nearly 2 kilometers away.

It was followed by gunmen storming a nearby building and triggering a gun battle with special forces in the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the Afghan capital.

Officials said all five attackers have been killed and a clearing operation is ongoing.

At least three people have been killed, including one child, and 116 wounded, according to the health ministry, though that figure is expected to change once the clearing operation has been completed.

Among the wounded were 50 children, the education ministry said in a statement, adding that most had been hurt by flying glass and were in stable condition. Some social media images purportedly taken at a hospital showed wounded, stunned children in school uniforms, still clutching books as they arrived for treatment.

In its statement, the education ministry said five schools had been partially damaged, and asked “all sides involved in fighting to guarantee the safety of students, teachers, education workers and schools.”

Such an attack was “utterly deplorable,” Save the Children said in a statement, warning that “children’s smaller bodies sustain more serious injuries than adults.”

America Are You Ready For The Bombs, Bullets, And Blades

America Are You Ready For The Bombs, Bullets, And Blades

 

There is nothing about this title that I like, there are many things that go on in the world daily that I don’t like so my disliking something obviously has no effect on their continued existence. I am a person who hates all forms of human violence, I do not condone offence yet believe everyone has the God-given right to defend themselves and their loved ones. If there were never any attacks upon another then there would be no need to invest in defense. Unfortunately for all of us this is just a fantasy, a dream world. As long as there is hate in people’s hearts no one is ever really safe anywhere.

 

Recently the NSA was rebuked in public for some of their intelligence gathering methods by the Congress. They were ordered to discontinue some programs and methods of operations. Whether they really did stop the programs or not for now few will really know. Did they just change the name of things, give it another fancy code name? Personally I doubt if much of anything besides cosmetics will change. Here is a question for each of us to ponder, if we now have a few attacks here in the States as there are thousands of soft targets in every state, will we ever know if they could have been avoided if NSA programs weren’t scaled down?

 

Here is another tough thought or question for you to think about, would it be possible that bureaucrats would let a few attacks go through on purpose so to prove to the people how much they are needed, along with those old programs? Could such horrible human beings exist? I hope you know the truth about that question, some people kill people everyday without any concern for human life at all. There is such a thing as Evil that walks the Earth 24/7 and there is such a thing as people who are just naturally mean and they are proud of it, they wear it like a badge of honor. Then there are those who use their religion, government, or personal financial situation to condone their either illegal and or inhumane activities. I personally believe that there are very good people and very bad people in every government everywhere. Could any of our people do something illegal or evil believing it is for the good of the country? Humans have the ability of free though and free choice, some choose well, some not so much.

 

Personally I hate the concept of any big government anywhere in the world but this is not reality. But the reality is the Security Agencies have so far done a fantastic job here in the States. I do believe that America is going to have many future attacks on our home soil, just how close that future starts is the only question. Hate filled people world-wide recognize that you don’t have to have 9-11’s to destroy an economy, a way of life. Fellow Americans how are we as a country going to react when Houses of Prayer are attacked, our supermarkets, bridges, transportation lines, power grids, our children’s schools? I hate the thought of all this evil, and that is what it is, evil. Yet unfortunately we must all face the fact that this Hell will infect our children and their children’s lives. It is sad that in so many ways that today, these days, are going to be our little ones good old days.

 

Have to add this last paragraph because of the recent Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriages. I know just as you do that there are some people who are going to blame any future attacks on our Home Land because of this Sin. Some will believe this, correct or not. Could there be homegrown attacks on the Courts or government for these decisions which removes God’s Grace from our people? I hope not, no violence, no more blood upon mother earth, such a fantasy. Evil does beget evil, this there is no doubt, we just cannot let ourselves get caught up in the hate, for hate can easily saturate ones own Soul. There is nothing on this planet that is worth the loss of ones own Soul, and how does our actions affect the lives and Souls of those we love that are around us? Our actions, our knowledge, can save our loved ones, or it can kill them, and condemn them.

 

The US Has No Long-Term Plan In Syria, And That’s Dangerous

 

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, looks at smoke rising in the al-Meshleb neighbourhood of Raqa as they try to advance further into the Islamic State (IS) group's Syrian bastion, on June 7, 2017 two days after finally entering the northern city.

NEWS
The US Has No Long-Term Plan In Syria, And That’s Dangerous

on June 20, 2017

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On June 13, coalition warplanes from the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS rained 28 airstrikes down across eastern Syria. Along the Jordanian border, coalition forces moved a long-range artillery system into a recently declared “de-confliction zone,” the first time the weapon system has made an appearance in the country’s south. A few hours to the north, U.S. special operations forces embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces pushed deeper into Raqqa, ISIS’s defacto capital.

That same day, nearly 6,000 miles away, Task & Purpose asked U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, about the U.S government’s plan for Syria once ISIS is defeated. Cole, who sits on the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and has called for a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Syria, paused. “I don’t think a plan’s been fully formulated.”

As the United States and its allies slog toward their final goal of toppling the so-called caliphate of ISIS, decision-makers in Washington have no real plan for what comes next. The results could be disastrous.

We are now nearly three years into Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led military effort to defeat ISIS initiated under President Barack Obama. The campaign’s raw numbers are staggering: More than 22,600 airstrikes, nearly 9,650 of them in Syria; more than 84,000 bombs and missiles used against the group; tens of thousands of militants killed by coalition-backed local forces and torrents of precision munitions dropped above the battlefield.

Without question, the coalition is making progress. ISIS is significantly weakened, having lost nearly a fourth of its territory and several high-profile leaders in the last year. In Iraq, the jihadists are on the verge of losing their stronghold in Mosul, the site of a grueling nine-month battle led by the Iraqi security forces. With pressure mounting, influxes of foreign recruits have slowed dramatically and vital revenue streams have begun evaporating.

The real fight for Raqqa is now underway. The U.S. military has played an enormous role in the offensive to retake the city, training and arming the Syrian Democratic Forces and hammering strategic ISIS positions in the area with repeated air and mortar strikes. The group will almost certainly lose Raqqa and, in time, be chased to the far reaches of Syria by a disparate group of coalition forces, their Arab and Kurdish partners on the ground, and forces fighting for the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad — all of whom will then have to deal with each other.

A day will come that marks the end of large-scale military operations against ISIS, but it may resemble other so-called victories in the Global War On Terror, a declaration similar to President George W. Bush’s often-derided ‘‘Mission Accomplished” speech or President Barack Obama’s premature announcement about withdrawing troops from Iraq. With no clearly defined strategy, the United States is at risk of being dragged into fighting yet another protracted insurgency, being pulled into a possible military confrontation with Iran or Russia, or some combination of all three — a scenario that will only perpetuate the ruin wrought by Syria’s civil war and provide fertile ground for ISIS to flourish once again.

The Trump administration’s position on Syria has always been murky, apart from his campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. In April, the White House went from tacitly accepting Assad’s rule — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called it “a political reality” — to launching a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in just a few days. The scramble to clarify the U.S. position following the strikes was marked by no less than five policy changes in a matter of two weeks, as The Guardian pointed out at the time, leaving observers guessing about Assad’s fate and what, if anything, might prompt future U.S. intervention in the region.

As coalition forces gird themselves for the protracted “annihilation” campaign that Secretary of Defense James Mattis outlined in May, the scope of U.S. strategy will remain crucial in determining the United States’ future involvement in Syria. Will Washington opt for a short-term outlook, working to crush ISIS militarily and then, following some arbitrary “victory” point, immediately withdraw, leaving allied militias fighting to ensure the jihadists don’t return? Or will the Pentagon find itself drawn into a long-term engagement in the country, caught between mopping up ISIS and the deeper regional rivalries at play in the war?

According to the Department of Defense, the choice might be an elementary school favorite: all of the above. The Pentagon doesn’t “currently envision maintaining a ‘permanent’ military presence in Syria after ISIS’s defeat,” DoD spokesman Eric Pahon told Task & Purpose via email. But the U.S. military will, however, “provide support as necessary to ensure vetted local partners can provide security to prevent ISIS from re-establishing its networks.” In short: We’ll work with our local partners to make sure ISIS doesn’t regroup, but don’t look for some long-time commitment — the same “should I stay or should I go” logic that’s plagued the government’s fraught efforts to extricate itself from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. But given the complexity of Syria’s conflict, that roadmap could prove near impossible to follow.

While the collapse of the Assad regime once seemed plausible, it no longer seems likely any time soon. Crucial military support from Russia and Iran has rejuvenated the Assad war machine, and battlefield successes and sectarian population transfers have allowed the Syrian government to increase its holdings across the country. Emboldened, pro-regime forces have now turned their attention to Syria’s east, where they are steadily pushing into ISIS-held territory and openly clashed with the coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on June 18.

This advance has serious implications for the future of ISIS and the coalition’s partners on the front lines.

A despot with a much higher death count than ISIS, Assad’s continued rule would virtually guarantee that the issues that fueled the group’s rise remain unaddressed. More than six years of brutal civil war have left the country deeply fractured along sectarian lines, and the number of people killed could now be approaching 500,000, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. The vast majority of rebels will never accept Assad — a man whose face has become synonymous with the barrel bombs that have showered down on schools and hospitals.

And what will become of our local partners, those U.S.-armed Kurdish and Arab fighters, once the ISIS fight is over? The DoD doesn’t really seem to know or care. Pahon told Task & Purpose that “U.S. interaction with these forces is focused on the lasting defeat of ISIS,” and while they may have a role in security operations, “questions about the long-term roles of these forces would be better directed to local provisional councils.” If Assad’s forces continue to advance, who’s to say how long these local councils will exist — and in what capacity they’ll be able to focus resources on keeping ISIS at bay?

OIR’s public campaign design isn’t much help. The plan is divided into four phases, with the final stage — “Support Stabilization” — calling for the coalition to provide “security, planning, and required support to the government of Iraq and appropriate authorities [emphasis added] in Syria.” Note the ambiguity here: We don’t even know who those authorities will be.

OIR spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon couldn’t provide any real answers about future plans either. “These are largely political questions outside of what it is that we have been directed to do: defeat ISIS,” Dillon told Task & Purpose via email. “[The] future presence of U.S. forces in Syria will be a political decision made by our leadership in Washington.”

The coalition deferring to decision-makers in Washington should be reassuring, given Trump’s recent, unusual move to place Mattis in charge of setting troop levels. But with top policy jobs temporarily occupied by Obama-era fill-ins — only five of the Pentagon’s most-senior 53 jobs have been filled — who is actually making those decisions? The Department of State, where only a handful of more than 100 appointments have been confirmed, never responded to multiple inquiries from Task & Purpose.

Rep. Cole’s comments provide a stark illustration of the uncertainty in Congress about what’s happening in Syria. Cole described the idea of a military escalation with Iran as “certainly possible” adding that “removing ISIS and replacing it with Iranian-backed militias is hardly a situation we want to end up at.” But this is exactly where we could be heading: Having invested deeply in Assad, Tehran is playing a long game in Syria, gambling that the money and material it pours into the country will allow it to secure a lasting foothold there.

As part of this effort, pro-regime militias have repeatedly violated the U.S. de-confliction zone near the strategically important Tanf garrison over the past month or so. The moves, which analysts have described to Task & Purpose as a way for Iran to test the U.S. position in Syria, have been met by three coalition airstrikes against pro-regime fighters in the last month; coalition planes have also shot two armed Iranian-made drones out of the sky. The last thing Iran wants is any kind of long-term U.S. presence in Syria. According to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Washington feels the same way about Iran. If you’re not worrying about the possibility of a U.S.-Iran clash in Syria, now’s the time to start.

Escalating tensions with Russia could prove just as rocky. On June 18, a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government plane that had dropped bombs close to fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces near Tabqa, a critical town located to Raqqa’s southwest. The incident, the first time a U.S. jet has downed an Assad pilot, caused Russia’s Defense Ministry to suspend air coordination with the coalition over Syria’s crowded skies. Russia also threatened to track any coalition jets or drones that stray west of the Euphrates river, significantly increasing the chances of a confrontation between coalition and pro-regime forces.

Considering the trajectory of the conflict, and the potential for escalation, you’d think Washington would have well-developed plan in place. But judging by all appearances, you’d be wrong. Speaking on June 13, days before the sudden spike in tensions across Syria, Cole said he’d “leave it to the administration to see if they’ve got an endgame,” adding that “nobody I’m aware of in Congress has a clear idea about what that endgame will be.” Given the stakes at hand, Americans should find this uncertainty deeply disturbing.

Russia probes Islamic State links as St Petersburg mourns its dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

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Russia probes Islamic State links as St Petersburg mourns its dead

ON a day when a grieving city was again mourning its dead, Russian investigators were yesterday trying to find out what motivated the man behind the bomb blast in the St Petersburg metro that killed 14 people.

The attacker has been named as 22-year-old Akbarjon Djalilov, believed to be a Russian national born in central Asian Kyrgyzstan.

He also planted a bomb at another station that was successfully defused, investigators said.

Authorities searched Djalilov’s residence and said CCTV footage showed him leaving his home ahead of the attack “with a bag and rucksack.”

The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin ordered officials to look into any potential “links” between the alleged attacker and the Islamic State group.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

But jihadists from Islamic State have repeatedly threatened an attack on Russian soil in revenge for Moscow’s military backing of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

In the first sign of a crackdown on suspected Islamists since the attack, authorities in St Petersburg said they had detained six alleged “terrorist” recruiters from central Asia, working for groups including Islamic State, but stressed there was no proof yet of any links to Djalilov.

Djalilov’s fragmented remains were found at the scene of the blast, but it remains unclear whether he was included in the official death toll.

His distraught parents have flown to St Petersburg from their home city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Authorities in the mainly Muslim nation say Djalilov and his parents are ethnic Uzbeks with Russian citizenship and that Djalilov has lived in Russia since he was 16. They said Djalilov flew back to Russia on March 3 after a visit home.

There was no confirmation by Russian officials of any of these details.

As the authorities probed the circumstances of the attack, they also released the identities of most of the victims, as dozens of injured remained in hospital.

The ages of those killed ranged from around 17 to 71 with nationals of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan reported among the dead.

Dozens of people gathered in a St Petersburg cathedral for a memorial service for the dead, as Russia marked a second day of national mourning.

“She was a remarkable, creative person,” said the sister of 50-year-old Irina Medyantseva, a dollmaker who died in the blast. “What happened is terrible.”

The attack has stunned Russia’s second city and posed tough security issues as it gears up to host the opening game and final of the Confederation Cup football tournament in June, ahead of the country holding the World Cup in 2018.

Russia suffered a wave of brutal attacks in the 1990s and 2000s blamed mainly on a rebellion in Chechnya that morphed from a separatist uprising into an Islamist insurgency.

The country’s transport network — including the metro in Moscow — was hit repeatedly by suicide bombers leaving scores dead.

But there had been no attacks against a major city since blasts in the southern city of Volgograd in December 2013, weeks ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Islamic State, however, has struck at Russia abroad, claiming a bomb attack in October 2015 that blew up a passenger jet packed with holidaymakers returning to St Petersburg from Egypt, killing all 224 people onboard.

In the wake of the metro bombing, President Vladimir Putin held talks with world leaders including US President Donald Trump to push for greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The Kremlin has called the attack a “challenge to every Russian, including the head of state.” Putin raised the issue at a meeting scheduled before the attack with security bosses in Moscow.

“We see that the situation unfortunately is not improving,” Putin said in televised comments.

“We know that each of our countries … is a potential target for terrorist attacks.”

In The Name Of God We Kill You And Your Families!—Really, In The Name Of God?

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

Dozens Dead In Multiple ISIS Bombings Across Baghdad

Bystanders inspect the scene after a car bomb explosion at a crowded outdoor market in the Iraqi capital’s eastern district of Sadr City on Monday.

Karim Kadim/AP

Dozens are dead in Baghdad after bombs were detonated across the city on Monday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The death toll from the attacks is still climbing.

NPR’s Alice Fordham reported on the bombings, telling our Newscast Unit:

The first attack came in Sadr City on the edge of Baghdad, still reeling from a bombing on Saturday. The bomber pretended to be recruiting casual laborers for the day, so those killed were mainly poor manual workers. The next ones came at roughly the same time near two hospitals in the city, followed by three bombs in the poor Shaab area of the city.

The BBC reported that at least 35 people were killed and at least 61 injured by the blast in Sadr City, which is a “predominantly Shia Muslim” neighborhood. The BBC wrote: “The Sunni jihadist group Islamic State said it had carried out the attack, which ‘targeted a gathering of Shia.’ ”

Reuters reported that “nine of the victims were women in a passing minibus.” The news service wrote: “Their charred bodies were visible inside the burnt-out remains of the vehicle. Blood stained the ground nearby.”

The attacks followed other bombings in the city on Saturday, which killed 28 people, according to the BBC. Reuters wrote also wrote that “an attack near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday left seven policemen dead.”

Monday’s attacks coincide with an Iraq visit by French President Francois Hollande. Hollande gave a press conference with Iraqi prime minister Haider al Abadi, vowing to defeat ISIS.

“The terrorists will attempt to attack civilians in order to make up for their losses, but we assure the Iraqi people and the world that we are able to end terrorism and shorten its life,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, according to the BBC.

The ISIS bombings come as Iraqi security forces continue their offensive to push the self-proclaimed caliphate from the country. The U.S.-supported offensive was launched in mid-October, as the Two-Way reported, and has recaptured part of the city of Mosul, the terrorist group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

According to Reuters, “Abadi has said the group will be driven out of the country by April.”

Turkey: Twin Bombs Outside Istanbul Football Stadium Kill Dozens

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Turkey: Twin explosions outside football stadium kill 29 in Istanbul

WORLD Updated: Dec 11, 2016 07:51 IST

AFP

Highlight Story

Smoke rises from a car after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)

Twenty nine people were killed — mainly police officers — and 166 wounded in double bombings that struck Istanbul on Saturday after a home football match hosted by top side Besiktas, Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu said.Twenty-seven of those killed were police and two were civilians, he told reporters in Istanbul, adding that 10 suspects had already been detained over the bombing.

A car bomb detonated outside the Vodafone Arena football stadium on the shores of the Bosphorus after the Super Lig match between Besiktas and Bursaspor while a suicide attacker struck a nearby park, officials said.

The authorities did not say who was behind the blasts but the attacks were the latest in a year that has seen Istanbul and other Turkish cities rocked by a string of attacks blamed on Islamic State jihadists and Kurdish militants.

The health ministry said in a statement that 15 people were killed and 69 wounded.

“An act of terror targeted our security forces and citizens at Besiktas tonight,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement. Besiktas is also the name of the neighbourhood around club’s arena.

Erdogan said the blasts shortly after the end of the match sought to cause maximum loss of life.

“We have witnessed once more here in Istanbul the ugly face of terror which tramples down any form of value and morals,” he said.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu said one blast took place outside the stadium and another at Macka Park, a popular meeting place just above the sports venue.

“The explosion at Macka Park is believed to have been carried out by a suicide bomber.”

He said the stadium attack targeted a bus of riot police.

‘We will stand firm’

State broadcaster TRT showed images of the wreckage of a car, engulfed in flames with emergency services swarming around the scene outside the sports venue.

Other footage showed severely damaged police vehicles, while witnesses said the force of the blast had shattered the windows of several nearby homes.

An AFP correspondent near the stadium saw ambulances gathering in the aftermath of the explosion, as well as broken glass on the road.

“I heard two explosions in less than one minute, followed by the sound of gunshots,” one witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Police and ambulances arrive the scene after a blast in Istanbul. (Reuters Photo)

Besiktas football club issued a statement condemning the attack and confirming none of the fans or players were hurt.

“Terrorists… attacked our heroic security forces who ensure that both our fans and Bursaspor’s supporters are safe. We will stand firm against the vile attackers who will never achieve their goal.”

Police cordoned off the area around the stadium immediately after the blasts, which occurred near the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce palace that houses Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s offices in Istanbul.

The scene is also about a kilometre (0.6 miles) from the busy Taksim Square, a magnet for tourists.

Erdogan was in Istanbul at the time of the blast at his residence in the suburb of Tarabya further down the Bosphorus, state media said.

The government slapped a broadcast ban on footage of the attack, as is becoming typical in the aftermath of major incidents in the country.

‘We will defeat terror’

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack.

In his statement, Erdogan said that “the name or the method of the terrorist organisation which perpetrated the vile attack” did not matter.

“Nobody should doubt that we will defeat terror, terror groups, terrorists and of course the forces behind them, with God’s help,” he said.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, with authorities blaming IS.

Another 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in August in a suicide attack by an IS-linked bomber at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

But there have also been deadly bombings claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), seen as a splinter group of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The US embassy in Turkey condemned the latest attack.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the people of #Istanbul tonight,” the embassy wrote on Twitter. “We condemn tonight’s cowardly attack, and salute the courage of the Turkish people as we stand with them against terror.”

Turkey is still reeling from a failed July 15 coup blamed by the government on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen that has been followed by a relentless purge of his alleged supporters from state institutions.

Saturday’s attack came after the Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies on Saturday entered the IS bastion of Al-Bab in northern Syria, according to a monitoring group.

Wounded police officers are helped after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)

Al-Bab is the last bastion IS has in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.

The explosions also came hours after Turkey’s ruling party submitted a parliamentary bill that would expand the powers — and possibly the tenure — of Erdogan, a move his opponents fear will lead to one-man rule.

Israeli Air Force Bombs ISIS Base In Southern Syria After ISIS Attack On IDF Soldiers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

The Israeli Air Force struck a military target belonging to the Islamic State terror group on the Syrian side of the southern Golan Heights overnight Sunday-Monday, the military said in a statement Monday morning.

The raid came after an Israeli airstrike killed four members of an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group in southern Syria on Sunday morning, following a clash near the border. No Israeli soldiers were injured in the exchange, the army said.

The military said that the additional airstrike Monday was also in response to the attack on Israeli forces on Sunday when, while conducting an “ambush operation,” according an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had come under attack from small arms fire after crossing the security fence with Syria while remaining inside Israeli territory. They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells.

The IDF said Monday that the target in the overnight airstrike was an “abandoned UN building that has been used by the Islamic State as an operations center along the border in the southern Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “the compound was the base for yesterday’s attack against IDF forces.”

“This is an additional response to yesterday’s attack, and it is aimed at preventing the terrorists from returning to the installation which poses a significant threat,” the IDF said.

The IDF “will not hesitate to act against terror groups that operate against the State of Israel,” the statement added.

In its immediate response to the attack on Sunday, the Israeli Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it.

“It was a short exchange, but it was productive,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

The incident Sunday occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m., east of the Avnei Eitan community in the southern Golan Heights, the army said.

Map data ©2016 Google, Mapa GISrael, ORION-ME

According to the IDF, the four men were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State.

“The army will not tolerate any impairment to its sovereignty and will respond severely to any attempt to damage it,” the army said in a statement.

The army would not go into details about the Golani reconnaissance unit’s ambush, saying only that it was “planned by operational intelligence.”

The incident was the first major confrontation between Israeli forces and Islamic State affiliated terrorists in the Golan, though Israel has clashed with other fighters on the Syrian side of the border several times.

Speaking at a weekly government meeting shortly after the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that Israel “won’t allow Islamic State figures or other enemy actors, under the cover of the war in Syria, to set up next to our borders.”

Both the IS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the al-Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, have actually been present on Israel’s borders for years, though they and the IDF had maintained a “live and let live” relationship until Sunday.

The Syrian Golan has been the site of intense fighting in recent years between Assad regime forces and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, though the front on the border with Israel has been relatively quiet in recent months after seeing intense bouts of violence.

Israeli officials fear Hezbollah and Iran’s al-Quds Force, which are allied with Syrian leader Bashar Assad, are aiming at using the area to open a new front against Israel in any future conflict.

Since March 2011, when the war broke out, dozens of mortars have landed in Israeli territory as a result of spillover fighting. The IDF often responds to fire that crosses into Israel by striking Syrian army posts.

Israel maintains a policy of holding Damascus responsible for all fire from Syria into Israel regardless of the source.

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