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Tag: taliban

Obama’s Afghan Failure Underlines Biden’s Hard Choices Now

Shortly before becoming vice president, Joe Biden traveled to Afghanistan in his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When he returned, he had a succinct assessment of the situation there: "a real mess."

When he takes the presidential oath on Jan. 20, Biden will find not much has changed. He will find himself saddled with a host of serious problems — a raging pandemic, a struggling economy, a toxic political environment — that are largely the fault of Donald Trump. But the blame for being stuck in Afghanistan lies mostly with Barack Obama.

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CNN: Trump May Have Skipped Briefing On Russian Bounties

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

CNN is reporting that, despite denials by Donald Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, information on Russia paying bounties for the murder of American soldiers was included in Trump's "daily brief." That briefing happened "sometime in the spring," though CNN does not indicate that their source provided a precise date for the briefing. The source indicated that this was such a big deal — directly involving the safety of American forces in Afghanistan — that it certainly would have been included in information that reached Trump.

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Trump Claims He Was Never Briefed About Russian Bounty On US Soldiers


President Trump denied on Sunday that American spy agencies ever briefed him about intelligence showing that Russia had offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for killing US troops in Afghanistan. Trump bristled in tweets excoriating the report by The New York Times as "Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax."

"Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an 'anonymous source' by the Fake News @nytimes,"

"Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us...."

"Nobody's been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration."

Citing anonymous official sources, the newspaper said Trump was briefed on the US intelligence findings in March, but has not decided how to respond. The Times investigation has since been confirmed by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

According to the Times, US intelligence officials learned that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered "bounties" to Taliban fighters to kill soldiers belonging to of the US-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

Trump’s Taliban Deal Is Already Falling Apart

The peace deal Donald Trump struck with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan is already falling apart, with the top U.S. commander saying that the Taliban is already violating the agreement by resuming attacks on Afghan forces.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday that if the Taliban continues with the level of violence, he will recommend that the military not withdraw troops from Afghanistan, as laid out in a deal Trump announced on Feb. 29.

“To date, Taliban attacks are higher than we believe are consistent with an idea to actually carry out this plan,” McKenzie said, according to the Associated Press. “If they’re unable to draw down the current level of attacks, then the political leadership will be able to make decisions based on that.”

The deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban would require the group to renounce al-Qaida and prevent terrorist attacks in the country. In exchange, the United States would begin drawing back troops from the country, with a full draw down to occur in 14 months.

Trump personally took credit for the deal, saying, “We think we’ll be successful in the end.”

However, it apparently took less than two weeks for the Taliban to drop its end of the deal, carrying out at least 76 attacks since the deal was announced, the New York Times reported.

One Democratic senator who was briefed on the situation said he thinks Trump got played by the group.

“I got a classified briefing today on the agreement with the Taliban. I have been a supporter of negotiations with the Taliban, but the more I learn, the more concerned I become that Trump got fleeced,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted late Monday night.

According to Murphy, “The Taliban’s security guarantees are so vague as to be effectively void. It’s not clear how we will track whether they are indeed renouncing terrorist groups.”

McKenzie was asked about this specific concern on Tuesday. He agreed that it was challenging to determine whether the Taliban was, in fact, renouncing al-Qaida.

“That’s something they [the Taliban] are going to have to demonstrate that has not yet been demonstrated,” he said, according to the AP.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

#EndorseThis: Kimmel Mocks Trump’s ‘Taliban Sleepover’

“Donald Trump invited the Taliban to Camp David — three days before 9/11! Next month, he’s taking Al Qaeda to Six Flags, did you know that?”

So begins Jimmy Kimmel’s scorching monologue, which captures the absurd dynamics now at work in the Trump White House. As Kimmel notes, even Republicans were appalled by this mad scheme, although most of them are still groveling publicly.

He moves briskly on to the president’s absurd Twitter spat with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen (won decisively by the lady) and provides bonus video of Don Jr. in village idiot mode.

Don’t miss it. Just click.

Pakistan Can’t Confirm Taliban Leader Is Dead, Criticizes U.S. Drone Strike

By Asad Hashim and Syed Raza Hassan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s interior minister said on Tuesday he could not confirm that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike, and described Washington’s justification for the attack as “against international law”.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Mansour had been killed in the drone strike, and the Pentagon said separately that Mansour was plotting attacks that posed “specific, imminent threats” to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that the body recovered on Pakistani soil, near the Afghan border, was charred beyond recognition, adding that DNA samples would be tested against a relative who had come forward to claim the body.

“The government of Pakistan cannot announce this without a scientific and legal basis,” Khan told a news briefing.

He did not identify the relative or say whether he or she claimed to be related to the Taliban leader or someone else.

Two U.S. officials told Reuters that U.S. intelligence and military agencies used multiple streams of intelligence, including human intelligence and electronic surveillance to locate and identify the car carrying Mansour.

That enabled multiple drones operated by the Joint Special Operations Command to incinerate the car when it reached an empty stretch of road in a remote area where there was little danger of causing civilian casualties.

“There were multiple forms of intelligence attributed to tracking him down,” a U.S. official said.

Khan rejected the U.S. argument that it could launch attacks across borders in order to protect its interests.

“For the U.S. government to say that whoever is a threat to them will be targeted wherever they are, that is against international law,” he said. “And if every country in the world adopts this rule, it will be the law of the jungle.”

Pakistan and the United States have been uneasy allies in the war against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in the region.

Critics in Afghanistan and the United States accuse Pakistan of allowing the Afghan Taliban’s leadership to take shelter on its territory, something that Islamabad has denied.

The militant movement has made territorial gains and carried out a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan since NATO forces officially wound down their combat mission at the end of 2014, undermining the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Recent events echo those in 2011, when U.S. special forces raided a building in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad that killed longtime al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, infuriating and severely embarrassing Islamabad.

 

CROSS-BORDER STRIKE?

Khan said the car was destroyed on Pakistani territory but was fired “from another country”, presumably Afghanistan, where more than 10,000 U.S. and coalition troops remain.

Khan added that Pakistani authorities were also investigating a passport bearing the name of Wali Muhammad, which was found near the burned out shell of the car believed to have been the target of the drone attack.

He confirmed the passport in question had been used to travel from Pakistani airports multiple times, and that it held valid visas for Iran, Dubai and Bahrain.

If the travel document proves to have been used by Mansour himself, it would raise fresh questions about how the Taliban leader was able to move freely in and out of Pakistan and whether he had help from the country’s security apparatus.

Khan on Tuesday disputed that elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus supported the Taliban leadership.

“If (Mansour) was availing Pakistani intelligence agency support and help, would he be traveling like this?,” he asked, referring to reports that the target was alone with a single driver.

The circumstances surrounding the killing remain murky, including how the U.S. verified it was Mansour who was killed in the attack and how any documents could be recovered from the fiery scene.

“You could not see a spot of paint … that’s how bad it was hit,” Khan said. “How was a passport lying just a few yards away? So first we have to establish that, whether he was actually using it.”

The Taliban have not issued any official statements on Mansour since Saturday’s drone strike.

However, Taliban officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Mansour is dead and a council is meeting to choose a successor, the second such leadership shura in a year after the death of the movement’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was confirmed in 2015.

 

MYSTERIOUS PASSPORT

Authorities in Quetta, the Baluchistan capital, showed a copy of the recovered passport, which has a photo bearing a strong likeness to the officially released Taliban picture of Mansour, to a Reuters reporter.

They also noted that it bore an exit stamp from Iran’s land border with Pakistan dated May 21, the day of the drone strike.

Pakistani immigration records show that the Wali Muhammad passport was used at least 18 times since 2006 to travel internationally, two senior officials in the Federal Investigation Agency, which manages borders, told Reuters.

One of the officials in the southwestern province of Baluchistan said the passport was used mostly over the land border with Iran and from the airport in the southern city of Karachi, with the last exit from Karachi en route to Dubai on March 31, 2015.

The second official reviewed computerized records of the passport and said there were “18 travel events” from Karachi airport starting in 2007, with the last arrival at Karachi on April 2, 2015.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry was quoted on state media denying that such an individual had crossed the border from Iran to Pakistan at the time in question.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates did not respond to questions on whether Mansour might have entered Dubai using an assumed name or whether there was any record of a Wali Muhammad visiting.

 

(Additional reporting by Gul Yousufzai in QUETTA, Idrees Ali and Mark Hosenball in Washington.; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Alan Crosby)

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 52, Mostly Women, Kids In Pakistan Park

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 52 people, mostly women and children, at a public park in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, government officials and police said, striking at the heart of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political base of Punjab.

The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few feet away from children’s swings. Around 150 people were injured in the explosion, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people, is plagued by a Taliban insurgency, criminal gangs and sectarian violence. Punjab is its biggest and wealthiest province.

Eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast.

The park had been particularly busy on Sunday evening due to the Easter holiday weekend.

Salman Rafique, a health adviser for the Punjab provincial government, put the death toll at least 52 people.

“Most of the dead and injured are women and children,” said Mustansar Feroz, police superintendent for the area in which the park is located.

Media footage showed children and women crying and screaming and rescue officials, police and bystanders carrying injured people to ambulances and private cars.

In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated jihadist fighters in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Punjab has traditionally been more peaceful than other parts of Pakistan. Sharif’s opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies.

Last year, a bomb killed a popular Pakistani provincial minister and at least eight others when it destroyed the minister’s home in Punjab.

 

(Writing and Additional Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Editing by Gareth Jones)

Photo: Rescue workers move a body from the site of a blast outside a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, March 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Taliban Appoints New Leader After Mullah Omar’s Death

dpa (TNS)

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban has officially appointed a new leader following the death of its founder, Mullah Omar, officials say.

“Senior deputy leader Akhtar Mansoor has now been appointed the leader of the movement,” a Taliban official from Kandahar tells dpa on condition of anonymity.

“The leadership council met in Quetta on Wednesday and Thursday to deliberate on the ongoing issues,” another Taliban leader from Kunar Province tells dpa.

Mansoor was the aviation minister when the Taliban ruled the country, and he had been acting as the deputy leader for the past four years.

Photo: Mullah Omar of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime is shown in this undated U.S. National Counterterrorism Center image.  REUTERS/National Counterterrorism Center/Handout via Reuters