Tuesday, September 23, 2014

President Obama's 'War on Terror 2.0'

Time for change? New Zealand PM wants to cut Britain’s Union Jack out of national flag

By Ishaan Tharoor
This weekend, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key secured his third term in power after his center-right party won an increased majority in parliament. Key, a popular premier credited with steering the country through the global financial crisis, withstood the challenges of a slew of parties, including an eye-catching intervention by controversial Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, who beamed in via video link Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at an Auckland event last week.
New Zealand, instead, opted for more of the same. But that doesn't necessarily mean big changes aren't on the way.
Key suggested Monday that he wants to hold a referendum next year on the design of the country's flag. The current design, which has been in use since the 19th century, has four stars on a blue field — the Southern Cross constellation — with a Union Jack in its canton. It's a symbol shared with Australia, a fellow Commonwealth nation that also keeps the British Queen as head of state.
"I want to get on with it. To me, I'd like to do it in 2015," said Key, referring to the project of remaking the country's flag. "I'd like to complete the whole process next year. I don't think it's one of those things we should hang around with forever."
The "thing" Key refers to is a mark of a colonial identity. News of Key's mooted flag referendum comes just days after Scotland staged a vote on the question of its independence from Britain. The "No" camp won, but the angst surrounding the waning allure of British identity -- which is also wrapped up in Britain's imperial legacy -- remains.
What would a new New Zealand flag look like? The New Zealand Herald features a range of user-submitted designs. Popular choices include the silver fern on a black field identified with the country's sports teams, as well as designs that take into account the insignia of New Zealand's indigenous Maori tribes.
The issue of flag change engendered debate this year. But only a minority of Kiwis, according to a February poll, want to see their national flag change.

Experts: Terrorist Recruitment of Foreign Fighters Poses Global Threat

Jela de Franceschi
Foreign fighters are flooding into Syria and Iraq in record numbers. Up to 15,000 foreign fighters from at least 81 nations are believed to be engaged in the war in those two countries.
Some analysts say it is the largest recruitment of foreign fighters since the Afghan jihad against occupying Soviet troops in the 1980's.
As in Afghanistan, most of the foreigners fighting in Syria and Iraq come from the Arab world. But this time several thousand of them carry Western passports, including from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
At least 1,000 have arrived from Russia as well, according to intelligence experts. And as the fighting continues, the numbers of foreign fighters are growing.
Most of the militants are fighting alongside the group calling itself Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. It is the largest, most zealous and dangerous group in a battleground riddled with jihadists.
A New York-based intelligence firm, the Soufan Group, says the region has been transformed into an “incubator for a new generation of terrorists” thriving close to Western borders.
A lot of them are young and many of those arriving from the West are converts to Islam, says Patrick Skinner, the Soufan Group’s security expert, speaking via Skype.
“They appeal to target audiences - between 15 to 25-year-olds, primarily male but not always - with a sense of fun. In the West, they are making ‘jihad’ seem like a video game. They don’t show the true horrors of war. They just show Hollywood explosions and the fun. And teenagers by definition are looking for excitement," said Skinner.
“They are disaffected, they feel no connection with society, with family. So ISIS fills that void perfectly.”
Some have a sense of Muslim persecution.
“They want to go help fight for Sunnis, in this case Muslims who are being oppressed by the Assad regime and now the West," said Skinner.
Others are zealots attracted to violence, says terrorism expert Brian Jenkins.
“The fact that they broadcast that [violence] suggests that they think this will not only terrify their opponents, but will appeal to a certain group of people who want to come and participate in that," said Jenkins.
Jenkins also emphasizes the international concern over what these young men - and some women - might do once they leave the battlefield after being exposed to the radicalizing influences of jihadi extremism.
Western nations, particularly in Europe, are wary that returning jihadists could carry out terrorist acts on their soil, says Jorge Benitez, a security and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council.
"The barbarity of the things they are learning - from beheadings to crucifixion - they are very concerned that these types of individuals will return to Europe, because they still have EU passports, and will start feeding this type of malignant fanaticism and violence in Europe," said Benitez.
The issue of terrorists recruiting foreigners to fight in the Middle East has prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to preside over an unusual meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss how to halt this mounting global threat.

U.S. Air campaign "to take some time"

Video - Asif Ali Zardari - Interview 23rd September 2014

Music Video - Miley Cyrus - We Can't Stop

Video - "This is not America's fight alone" - President Obama on fight against Islamic State

Video - Young ISIS victim's incredible escape

Video - Syrian refugees flood Turkish border.

Video - President Obama: US-Arab strikes show unity against militant

Video Report - Will Afghanistan’s power-sharing deal last?

Video - President Karzai’s Farewell Speech

Afghanistan: Karzai slams US, Pakistan in farewell speech

Outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Tuesday blamed the United States for his country’s long war, a final swipe at the country that helped bring him to power 13 years ago but towards which he has become increasingly bitter.
His farewell speech came days ahead of the planned swearing in of a new president, Ashraf Ghani, after months of potentially violent crisis over a disputed election that ended in a power-sharing deal, yet to be tested, with rival Abdullah Abdullah.
Karzai blamed both the United States and neighbouring Pakistan for the continuing war with the Taliban-led insurgency and warned the new government to ‘be extra cautious in relations with the US and the West’, reports Hurriyet.
The conflict kills thousands of Afghans each year and has claimed the lives of more than 2,200 American and other international forces in Afghanistan.
‘One of the reasons was that the Americans did not want peace because they had their own agenda and objectives,’ Karzai said.
He did not elaborate, but in the past has suggested continued violence has been an excuse for the United States to keep bases in the country.
He also accused Pakistani power players of trying to control Afghanistan’s foreign policy.
‘Today, I tell you again that the war in Afghanistan is not our war, but imposed on us and we are the victims,’ Karzai said. ‘No peace will arrive unless the US or Pakistan want it.’

Pakistan: Zardari hails unity govt agreement in Afghanistan

Co-Chairman Pakistan People’s Party and former president Asif Ali Zardari has warmly welcomed the power sharing agreement for carving out a unity government in Afghanistan as ‘crossing a milestone by Afghanistan in the journey along the road to enter a new era.’
Senator Farhatullah Babar, Spokesperson of Asif Ali Zardari, said that the former president described the unity government agreement in Afghanistan as a “landmark development that raised the hopes of peace and development not only in that country but also in the neighboring regions.”
Paying tributes to Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah the former president said that the agreement demonstrated that the arch rivals for political power in Afghanistan possessed the wisdom and patriotism to rise above their personal ambitions for the sake of the country. “Both have demonstrated that they possess the extraordinary statesmanship needed to make the democratic transition peaceful and orderly for their people,” he said.
Asif Zardari said that the journey along the bumpy democratic road was a challenging. “It requires patience, tolerance, accommodation and reconciliation to overcome the humps that inevitably lies in the way,” he said.
The former president said that the agreement on unity government in Afghanistan at this critical time was a moment of celebration and rejoicing by all those who believed in reconciliation, tolerance and accommodation as essential elements of democratic transition. “There are lessons in Afghanistan’s ability to put behind the bitterness generated by contentious elections in the country and to continue the forward march,” he added.

The Islamic State Is Spreading Into Pakistan

By Kiran Nazish
In early September, about a dozen militants crossed the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan with pamphlets and flags, urging locals to join the Islamic State. They distributed hundreds of pamphlets in Afghan refugee camps and madrassas in Pakistan’s Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) regions, according to local militants. These pamphlets, published in Pushto, Dari, and Farsi, were titled “Fateh,” meaning “victory.” “Every Muslim must follow the orders of Caliph and should contribute in whichever capacity he or she can to assist the Islamic State against Taghoot (the enemies),” they said. The pamphlets also said the revival of Islam is only possible through jihad, and the final crusade between Muslims and infidels is imminent.
“The United States invaded the Muslim land, and we will use our force to invade them,” said former Al-Qaeda fighter Javed Iqbal, 32, who helped distribute the pamphlets and just returned from fighting in Syria. In many ways, Pakistan is an ideal spot for a group like IS to recruit and grow. For decades, the country has been a breeding ground for terrorism and militancy: It is home to at least 48 jihadist groups, many of which Pakistan’s military secretly backs as proxies. According to local sources in Kashmir, IS flags and slogans have been visible sporadically since June, although the Indian Army has helped prevent any terrorist attacks. In Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran and is the largest province in the country, locals have found walls chalked with messages that glorify the Islamic State and calling for fighters to join.
Local sources in Peshawar and KPK say IS started recruitment in Pakistan two years ago—“even before they emerged as ISIS themselves,” a member of the jihadist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvisaid, on condition of anonymity. “More than 200 fighters have left from Pakistan to join what is now called the Islamic State.” Most of these fighters were from the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and other militant groups. Although state authorities deny any such activity, another militant commander from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, also on condition of anonymity, said dozens of fighters left as early as November 2012 “to fight Bashar al Assad, and eventually joined [IS].”
IS’s military successes in Iraq and Syria, meanwhile, have impressed many Pakistani jihadist groups. “IS is openly distributing pamphlets in big cities like Peshawar,” said Khan, a journalist in Peshawar, who did not want to reveal his full name. “This is evidence that they have done their homework and are willing to gain influence in the region.”
One Afghan militant, who crossed over to Pakistan to distribute pamphlets in Peshawar, said IS training “is much more advanced than ours and it’s good for us to learn those techniques.” On Sep 2, he and a dozen others each distributed about 50 pamphlets “to inspire young fighters to the call of God.”
He refused to answer a question on whether IS has a physical presence in Pakistan or Afghanistan. But he did mention the willingness smaller militant groups in both countries have shown to join the cause. “We support the cause of the Caliphate and will be ready to help them,” he said, should IS want to expand into Pakistan.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesperson for the jihadist group Jamat-ul-Ahrar said Ahrar’s own local fighters will help IS if required: “We believe in those who are fighting for Islam and the rights of Muslims and this will only be possible by establishing the Caliphate.”
Although Jamat-ul-Ahrar has not declared affiliation with IS—“we are still in the organizing phase,” Ehsan said—he added that his group will support IS in any way it can. “Those who are busy in implementing system of Allah on Allah's earth, if they come to us or our home we will warmly welcome them. We'll be their protectors.”

Why Pakistan's militants can still strike at will

In recent months the fortunes and allegiances of Pakistan's militants have proved mercurial. Formerly united fronts fractured while the army drove others out of their strongholds. Then al-Qaeda said it would take the initiative in South Asia proving, as the BBC's M Ilyas Khan reports, that the insurgents are still a potent force.
The claim by al-Qaeda that it carried out the 13 September attack on the Pakistan Navy's dockyard in Karachi city yet again shows the militants' ability to strike deep in Pakistan despite recent setbacks.
In a statement placed on one of its web portals, al-Qaeda claimed the operatives of its recently launched wing - al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) - seized control of a Pakistani frigate in order to attack some nearby American vessels.
Few will believe that - not only because Pakistani forces have been able to contain similar attacks in the past, but also because the present one comes when a major offensive by the military has disrupted the militants' command centres in Miranshah, North Waziristan.
The Pakistani navy said it repelled the attack, killing two militants and capturing four others. It said it thwarted what looked like the militants' attempt to carry out an attack along the lines of the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
'Soft' militant policy
Both al-Qaeda and the Pakistani government said the attack was carried out with inside help. This admission comes as a stark reminder of the lingering concerns about the ability of jihadi militants to penetrate Pakistan's security installations.
But could a group whose formation was only announced on 4 September mount such an audacious attack just days later?
It would seem unlikely, unless one considers the Pakistani military's alleged "soft" policy towards militants in the past, and al-Qaeda's local links that go back more than two decades.
The military exposed its lower and middle ranks to a wave of radicalisation that came with the Afghan war of the 1980s. Its adoption of jihad as one of its three mottoes (the others being faith in God, and fear of God) created sympathy in its ranks for militancy and the Afghan jihad, and led to its subsequent anti-Americanism in the post-9/11 period.
During the Afghan war, and later the 1989-2003 "jihad" in Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistan's ISI intelligence service was widely accused of having worked closely with militant groups, training and arming them and underwriting their operations.
Due to the Saudi origins of its leadership, al-Qaeda emerged as the "holiest", and also the wealthiest of militant groups in the South Asian region.
Same old leaders
The organisation was formed in the city of Peshawar in late 1980s, and a number of top Pakistani militant leaders played a role in shaping its training, planning, operational and propaganda arms.
The recently appointed chief of al-Qaeda in South Asia, Asim Umar, is a Pakistani militant who has spent years with al-Qaeda leaders in North Waziristan where he moved in the early 2000s and set up his own group.
Prior to that, he worked with such Kashmir-focused groups as Harkatul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad. So neither the AQIS nor its leaders are new to the region or the task at hand.
Over the years, militants trained in North Waziristan have proved their ability to strike pretty much any target in Pakistan, irrespective of which group claims the responsibility.
The same is the case now.
Since the Pakistani military offensive, which started in mid-June, militant attacks virtually ceased in Pakistan, suggesting significant disruption to militant networks. Internal divisions in the militants also came to the fore as the main umbrella group of Pakistani Taliban, the TTP, split into at least three regional factions.
But in the past couple of weeks, there have been signs the insurgents might be coming back to life.
Last month, militants said to be affiliated with a Mehsud faction of TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) launched a synchronized attack on two air bases in the south-western city of Quetta.
More than 10 of them died in the fighting that broke out.
Foreign fighters There have also been a couple of suicide attacks on police in the northwest, and a raid on a Pakistani border post from Afghan territory - claimed by another break-away faction of the TTP which calls itself Jamiat-e-Ahrar. Not to be left behind, the central TTP franchise led by Mullah Fazlullah claimed the naval dockyard attack. In hindsight, one would imagine they are happy to share the accolades with AQIS as they never contradicted the latter's claim.
As the army's offensive in North Waziristan rumbles on, there certainly seems to be a race among the various militant factions to show that they are still alive and kicking.
For al-Qaeda, it may well be a signal to the Iraq-based Islamic State (IS) that it's still in charge in the South Asian region. While it may struggle to mount attacks in India, it has plenty of followers in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives, some of whose citizens have been training in North Waziristan.
In addition, there has been a strong presence of militants from Central Asia, north-west China, Middle East, the Caucasus region and the Far East.
Traditionally, most of the foreign groups have tended to gravitate towards al-Qaeda and its TTP allies.
Sources say the AQIS is now planning to consolidate these groups into a new force, separate from the Afghan Taliban who, according to sources, are seen by the al-Qaeda leadership as "indigenous" both in terms of ethnicity and ideological aims.

Pakistan's Polio cases in 2014 - Better Late Than Never

Two more cases in Karachi, one in FATA and one in KPK, bring the total number of polio cases in 2014 to 166. FATA alone has accounted for 119 of the cases found this year, and the explanation of this is fairly simple; it has been over two years since the last vaccination campaign in the area. However, the most troubling issue is that out of 47 cases outside of FATA, 31 were caused by the parents’ refusal to administer the vaccine. Let’s be clear: Taliban propaganda is not the only cause for hostility against the vaccine, and the government is equally responsible for remaining silent and only relying on health workers and NGOs to refute this narrative. The government has also miserably failed to provide adequate security to health workers where necessary, and has further alienated them by delaying payments for their work. With the polio count of this year almost double than previous years, it is a wonder that more health workers have not backed out of a responsibility that is a threat to their life, with their work seemingly of no importance to the state.
For the 166 children diagnosed this year, there is no hope. Those and all others before them that have been infected due to the indifference of the government, refusal by parents and countless other reasons, will be paralysed for life. They are not the last either. This year might just see Pakistan exceed over 200 polio cases. But that is all the more reason for the government to clean up its act and conduct effective vaccination campaigns in areas such as FATA which are major hotspots for the virus, and ensure that every province makes this their priority. A simultaneous awareness campaign must also be launched, using every medium available, from print, radio and television campaigns, alongside local politicians ensuring that their electorate is on board to collectively spread the right information about both polio and the vaccine. We have already failed all targets, and gone back to square one. It might be too late for hundreds of children, but for millions more, a shot at health still exists if we learn from our mistakes and mismanagement in a constructive way.

Genocide Of Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims - Ahmadi muslim doctor killed in Mirpurkhas

Gunmen in Mirpurkhas's Mali Colony area shot dead a doctor from Ahmadi community, police and members of the community said Tuesday, in the latest attack on one of the country's most persecuted groups.
The assailants stormed Mubashar Ahmad Khosa's clinic on Monday evening.
“He was attending to patients at his clinic when two unknown assailants came in and fired at him repeatedly before fleeing on a motorbike,” a statement by a community group said.
Zafarullah Dharejo, a senior local police official, added that a third attacker kept watch outside.
Khosa, who was a well-known in the area, succumbed to his injuries on his way to hospital.
Dharejo said, “The doctor got a text message half an hour before the murder asking him to come out of his clinic.”
Locals of Mali Colony told Dawn that Khosa was a resident of Satellite Town and has been working in their area for a long time.
Khosa's body was taken to Civil Hospital Mirpurkhas for postmortem. However, no First Information Report (FIR) was registered.
The police officer said that in 2008, another Ahmadi doctor was gunned down in a similar way in the same city. Earlier in July, at least three female members of the Ahmadi community, including two minors, had been killed in Gujranwala's People's Colony when a mob attacked and burnt five houses, a storage building and several vehicles over alleged blasphemy.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of the People's Colony Circle had said that the trouble started with an allegedly blasphemous post on Facebook by an Ahmadi youth.
Pakistan is believed to be home for the largest population of Ahmadis, however their standing in the nation has been questioned from the very start.
Ahmadis have been arrested in Pakistan for reading the Holy Quran, holding religious celebrations and having Quranic verses on rings or wedding cards. Four years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks in Lahore.
In early 1953s the country was surrounded in a whirl of rumours that Ahmadis were manipulating Muslims to convert, especially the influential individuals and the ones which held official positions.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemns Peshawar blast

Chairperson, Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned terrorists bomb attack, which killed three innocent people in Peshawar this morning.
In a statement issued here, PPP Chairperson said terrorists were targeting citizens and law enforcing agencies to continue their blood-shed and frighten the people but both citizens and soldiers won’t allow them to succeed. He said peace cannot return till a single terrorist is alive hence government and concerned authorities should go for a total annihilation of the militancy from the land of pure.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed sympathies with those who lost their lives and sustained injuries in Peshawar blast and prayed for them.

Pakistan attack: Bomb 'kills three' in Peshawar

At least three people have been killed in a bomb attack in Peshawar in north-west Pakistan, officials say.Nine others were injured in the blast which took place in the morning near the city's railway station.
Officials said a convoy of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) was the apparent target.Peshawar has borne the brunt of militant attacks in recent years but violence has dropped dramatically since a military offensive in June.
If the convoy is confirmed as the target it would be the first major attack on the military in Peshawar since the assault was launched against militants in their stronghold of North Waziristan.
The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says grenade attacks and targeted killings have already resumed in the city.Peshawar police chief Ijaz Khan told the media that 45kg of explosives had been packed in a vehicle which was remotely exploded.Mushtaq Ghani, information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of which Peshawar is the capital, said a woman was among the three dead in the blast.Television pictures showed the charred and twisted frame of an Frontier Corps vehicle which was still on fire.Reports said one FC soldier was among those killed.The dead woman was said to be travelling in an auto-rickshaw which was also hit by the explosion, and parts of its engine were strewn across the road.