Monday, December 8, 2014

Turkey Is a Bad Ally


Being a superpower has its drawbacks. One of them is being manipulated by smaller countries that know that American wants to be "Big Man on Campus" in the world, usually giving its taxpayers only vague "influence" around the globe for all the money they pour into military power and foreign aid. However, sophisticated countries usually flatter the musclebound purveyor of military power, labeling it the "indispensable nation," without which the world would fall into chaos and ruin. These wily countries also normally at least make some attempt to justify U.S. armed intervention into a particular problem in their region in terms of being required for American security, as well as their own. In other words, they try to argue that it also would be in the American interest to solve their problem. But not Turkey.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not known for his humble governing style, is issuing blunt demands for him to allow the United States to use the Turkish Incirlik air base to essentially help defend Turkey from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical army that has taken over the Sunni parts of neighboring Iraq and Syria. In fact, Erdogan has gone farther, aiming his invective against the United States by saying that he was "against impertinence, recklessness and endless demands" emanating from "12,000 kilometers away." In the normal world of "diplospeak," allies rarely speak to each other in these hostile terms.
Furthermore, contrary to popular belief in the United States, stoked by recent alarmist statements from the FBI, ISIS is primarily an army that operates in the open and is a threat to those in the Middle East region, rather than being a secretive terrorist group, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose bomb-making ability and networks of operatives in the West make it a wider threat.
And what does Turkey want in return for U.S. access to the Incirlik base from which to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria? Turkey wants the United States to create a no-fly zone on the Turkish-Syrian border, ostensibly to protect Syrian war refugees. Yet ISIS is not known for having a vaunted air force. What creating such a no-fly zone is likely to do is to bring the United States into conflict with the air force of Syria's ruler, Bashar al-Assad. Establishing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory would likely deny the Syrian air force access to its own airspace and might require the United States to suppress Syria's air defenses by force. And that's what Turkey really wants: Its American big buddy to put out more of an effort to get rid of Assad.
Turkey and Assad used to be friends, but then Turkey decided it would like to get rid of Assad. It began allowing anti-Syrian guerrilla fighters to cross its borders to battle Assad in the still ongoing Syrian civil war. Some of the fighters that Turkey supported were radical Islamists, such as those of ISIS.
So the United States is in the absurd situation of essentially bribing Turkey to be permitted to defend it from both radical ISIS and hostile Syria, both threats of its own making. Who needs enemies when you have allies like this?! This episode is even worse than the United States begging close ally Saudi Arabia to be allowed to defend it in Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991 after Saddam Hussein had invaded neighboring Kuwait.
Because although ISIS has done gruesome beheadings of a few hostages in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group, beheadings have occurred elsewhere in the world without the United States escalating a war there -- for example, by the group Boko Haram in Nigeria and routinely by the U.S.-friendly government of Saudi Arabia. Also, funding for Sunni Islamist radical groups, such as ISIS, has flowed from the Saudi kingdom into Syria's civil war.
Thus, the U.S. government should not exaggerate the threat to the United States from ISIS and once again get distracted from the bigger threat of al Qaeda and some of its related affiliates--as it did previously when George W. Bush got diverted from al Qaeda after 9/11 and caused many of the current problems in the region by conducting an unrelated invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Getting back into the unsolvable internecine conflict in Iraq and getting into the same in Syria are bad ideas. Despite the new Shi'i leadership in Iraq, government forces are still ethnically cleansing Sunni areas in that country. These ethno-sectarian divisions will be insurmountable unless governance in Iraq is decentralized, so that the Sunni Arabs and Kurds no longer fear the powerful Shi'i central government. If given more autonomy to govern themselves, the Sunni Arab tribes would be more likely to overthrow the brutal ISIS, which they now fear less than the oppressive Iraqi government. As for Syria, why not take a lesson from Bismarck and let parties unfriendly to the United States fight it out amongst themselves -- ISIS and al-Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, against the authoritarian Assad government.
If the United States would resist getting more involved in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars, it could then tell Turkey to "go fish" and defend itself. The arrogant Erdogan would be flummoxed at the abnormal astuteness of a musclebound, but usually kind of dim, U.S. government.

SYRIA: The ISIS Militant Who Sold Captive Females Killed In Airstrikes-Families Buying Back Thier Girls

According to latest reports the leader of the Islamic State terror group who sold the abducted girls in a slave market in Syria was killed as a result of air strikes by the US- led coalition. 34 other ISIS fighters were also killed along with him.
Female captives of ISIS
Female captives of ISIS
According to details, Mustafa Sulaiman Qarabash, also known as Abu Husam al-Iraqi was responsible for selling kidnapped girls in a slave market in Syria is said to have been killed near the al-Faruq mosque in Tal Afar close to the Syrian border. Husam was among 35 ISIS armed militants who were killed, and their base destroyed, during air strikes on ISIS positions near Gayara.
Estimates say, more than 5,000 Christian and Yazidi girls and women were taken captive by ISIS to be sold or given to fighters as slaves in August earlier this year. Due to the worsening humanitarian crisis in the region, the U.S.-led coalition has been conducting air strikes on ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria since August.
In the intervening time, about 150 of the kidnapped girls were lucky enough to come back to their families in Kurdish-controlled areas recently after families paid almost their one year’s income to buy them back. A 15-year-old girl kidnapped by ISIS, told the Christian Science Monitor that she and many others were taken to a school in Tel Afar. “Lots of men used to come and look around and when they would see a girl they liked they would say ‘I want to buy that one,'” she was quoted as saying. “There was an emir who was taking money for the girls – $1,000 to $1,500.” However, there are still many of the captive girls, living in areas of northern or western Iraq in the captivity of the ISIS, while many have been sold and sent to Syria or other countries, victims and their advocates told The New York Times.
- See more at:

Moscow demands Israel explain ‘unacceptable use of force’ in Syria

Russia demanded Monday that Jerusalem provide explanations following reports that Israeli jets had carried out airstrikes on multiple targets in Syria, reportedly killing two Hezbollah operatives.
Moscow, considered a main backer of Syria’s ruling regime, said it had turned to the United Nations to bring Israel to account for the strikes, which reportedly targeted weapons shipments at two sites outside Damascus.
“Moscow voices deep concern over the dangerous development of events. Their circumstances should be clarified. In any case it is certain that the use of force is unacceptable in interstate relations and deserves disapproval,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday in a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
“It is important to prevent additional risks of further destabilization of the extremely tense situation in Syria and in the Middle East region as a whole,” he added.
Russia sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decrying the “aggressive actions of Israel” and issued “an appeal to prevent the recurrence of such attacks in the future,” the statement in Russian read.
Moscow remains a staunch supporter of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, repeatedly blocking attempts at the UN Security Council over the years to pass resolutions against his government.
Earlier Monday, the Syrian and Iranian foreign ministries condemned Israel for the airstrikes, calling the operation an act of aggression that proved Israel was “in the same trench” with extremist groups fighting the Syrian government.
Arabic media reported Monday that two alleged Israeli airstrikes the day before had targeted advanced Russian-made air-defense missiles bound for Hezbollah.
The reports said that eight Israeli fighter jets were involved in the attacks, one of which took place near Damascus international airport and the other at an airfield in the Dimas area, northwest of the Syrian capital and near the Lebanese border.
Israel made no official comment on the report, but ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government vehemently denied that the alleged airstrikes were ordered by Netanyahu to boost his ratings as election campaigns begin in earnest.
Israel has reportedly carried out several airstrikes in Syria since the revolt against Assad began in March 2011. Most of the strikes were said to have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian- and Iranian-made anti-aircraft batteries, believed to have been slated for delivery to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Assad and Iran.
Read more: Moscow demands Israel explain 'unacceptable use of force' in Syria | The Times of Israel Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Anger in Bahrain over first British base 'east of Suez' in 40 years

The announcement that the UK is to build a new naval base in Bahrain has provoked rage from activists in the tiny Gulf kingdom, who say the decision is a “reward for Britain’s silence” over the kingdom’s poor human rights record.
The governments of the UK and Bahrain inked a deal on Saturday that will see Britain establish its first military base in the Middle East since it formally withdrew from the region in 1971.
Bahrain will contribute most of the $23mn needed to establish a new base at the Mina Salman Port, an existing facility jutting out from the eastern edge of the island and separated from the coast of Iran by some 220 kilometres of Persian Gulf waters.
The British will pay upkeep costs going forward after the base is established.
The historic deal was announced at a security forum hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, on Saturday.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid said the agreement “reaffirms our joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of challenging circumstances".
Khalid added that the kingdom looks forward “to continuing to work with the UK and other partners to address threats to regional security".
The US already has a naval base in Bahrain, known as the Naval Support Activity (NSA) base. Its ownership was transferred from the British navy to the US forces in the 1970s after the UK’s withdrawal from the region.
Khalid’s British counterpart Philip Hammond, who signed the deal on behalf of his government, said the move is “just one example of our growing partnership with Gulf partners to tackle shared strategic and regional threats".

‘Permanent expansion’ east of Suez
Though the UK officially withdrew from active operations in the region over four decades ago, it has always maintained a presence.
Hammond pointed on Saturday to Britain’s “30-year track record of Gulf patrols,” saying the new base would allow the UK to build co-operation with Gulf States.
The UK already has four minesweeper ships stationed in Bahrain on a rotating basis, but currently has to piggyback off the US naval base there.
Saturday’s deal is a reversal of a decision taken by the UK government in 1968, when then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced that British forces would withdraw from major military bases in the region by 1971.
Referencing that decision, widely seen as a landmark for Britain’s imperialist adventures in the Persian Gulf, Hammond said on Saturday that the new deal shows Britain’s “commitment to a sustained presence east of Suez".
report published last year by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a think tank with strong links to the military, said the UK is attempting to establish a “strong shadow presence” around the Gulf.
UK defence secretary Michael Fallon agreed with this assessment, calling the new base in Bahrain “a permanent expansion of the Royal Navy's footprint…in the Gulf".
"We will now be based again in the Gulf for the long term.”
Angry reaction against Bahrain's rulers
Responding to the news, Bahraini activists took to the streets in the restive eastern province of Sitra over the weekend, shooting red flares into the air and cheering in celebration as they set fire to what appears to be a police vehicle.

e it was taken “by the King and his family” without the agreement of the people.
“The base and British imperialism in the base” must be countered, Muhafiza said in a statement on Sunday.
UK 'taking the side of the oppressive regime'
While many opposition figures within Bahrain denounced the ruling family for signing the agreement, others also raised concerns over the British government’s part in the deal.
Rajab flashes victory sign as he leaves court in November (AFP)
Prominent campaigner Nabeel Rajab warned that the decision is a continuation of Britain’s tacit support for the kingdom, whose record on civil liberties is “regressing”, according to Human Rights Watch.
Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights who spoke while on bail for posting “offensive tweets,” said “the British government has always taken the side of the oppressive regime and all the dictators in the Gulf region".
Britain has long been a close ally of Bahrain, and has come under criticism for failing to speak out about what Human Rights Watch calls the continued “arbitrary” arrest of scores of individuals during anti-government protests.
The deal comes just days after pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja was jailed for three years for ripping up a picture of Bahrain’s King Hamad.
Activists have responded with anger to what they see as a stepping up of military co-operation after decades of reticence.
However, RUSI’s 2013 report found that the UK never fully withdrew militarily from the Gulf – the current build-up of British presence in the region, according to the report, is “more evolutionary than revolutionary".
During the past three years, activists have documented the use of UK and US-made tear gas and birdshot by Bahraini police to quell anti-government demonstrations.
Since 2008, the UK has also sold some $48.9mn in military equipment to Bahrain, including gun silencers and anti-riot shields.
With concerns around the Bahraini government’s use of force against its own citizens growing, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights watch, slammed the timing of the UK government’s decision.
“As Bahrain pursues a brutal crackdown, what better time for the UK to build a military base there?” 
- See more at:

Syria, Iran Condemn Israeli Airstrikes, Call it Act of Extremism

The foreign ministers of Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers have condemned Israeli airstrikes on two areas near Damascus, calling themit an act of aggression that proves Israel iswas in the same trench with extremist groups fighting the Syrian government.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif have condemned Israeli airstrikes on two areas near Damascus, AP reports reported on Monday.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Tehran, the politicians have called these attacks an act of aggression that proves Israel was is in the same trench with extremist groups that are fighting the Syrian government.
Walid al-Moallem also added that Syria, along with its Russian and Iranian allies, is working on a political solution for to the Syrian conflict which is based on a dialogue between Syrians and without any outside intervention. And said that Syria was subject to a conspiracy led by the United States and certain European countries.
Earlier on Monday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry asked UN to impose deterring sanctions on Israel over its airstrikes.
Israeli warplanes bombed the two areas on Sunday, striking near Damascus' international airport and outside a the town of Dimas, close to the Lebanese border.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is trackings the conflict through a network of sources on both sides, said that 10 explosions were heard near Dimas, according to a Reuters report.
It said that one missile hit a warehouse for imports and exports at the Damascus international airport.
The Syrian government has said the attacks caused material damage.
An Israeli army spokesman said he would not comment on the foreign reports.

China - Abe’s denial of history panders to ultra-right - "comfort women"

Japan has long been at odds with its neighbors over historical issuesChinaSouth Koreaand other adjacent neighboring countries often criticize Japanese politicians for denyingits history of aggression in the 20th centuryA number of recent events have broughtTokyo's attitude toward its wartime history into the world spotlight.
In Novemberthe Japanese government asked a New York- based publishing house tochange descriptions about "comfort womenin its world history textbookEntitledTraditions &EncountersA Global Perspective on the Pastthe textbook was published bythe New York-based McGraw-Hill Companies.
According to Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishidathe portion - "The Japanese army forcibly recruitedconscriptedand dragooned as many as two hundred thousand women aged fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothelscalled 'comfort houses'" is not in line with the position of the Japanese governmentHis ministry even plans to investigatehow many states and schools in the US are using this textbook.
The issue of "comfort womenhas caused quite a stir within JapanIn early Augustthe Asahi Shimbunone of Japan's biggest left-leaning newspapersmade a public statementthat its past reports on "comfort womenwere based on false testimony by Seiji Yoshida.Thereforethe paper retracted the articles and apologized publiclyInevitablyit hasencountered fierce attacks by other Japanese media outlets and right-wing groups.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also denounced this newspaper on manyoccasions.
In OctoberJapan required the amendment of a 1996 UN special rapporteur's report on"comfort women." This report described "comfort womenforced into prostitution inwartime Japanese military brothels as "sex slavesand called on the Japanese governmentto apologize and pay compensation to victimsThe Abe administration claimed part of thecontent was "falseand asked author Radhika Coomaraswamy to revoke itBut the requestwas denied.
It is Abe's attitude toward the "comfort womenissue that has decided Tokyo's frequentmaneuvers in recent monthsAbe believes the reports based on testimony by Yoshidasolicited undue criticism from the rest of the world and therefore Japan must rehabilitateits reputationTo this endhe even tabled a plan to review the 1993 Kono Statementthough he said previously he would not deny the landmark apology for sexual slaverybefore and during WWII.
Neverthelessthe logic of Abe and his cabinet can in no way hold waterThe lack ofcredibility of Yoshida's testimony does not mean the world's attitude toward the "comfortwomenissue is mistakenActuallyinvestigations and studies by historiansincludingJapanese scholars like Yoshiaki Yoshimihave demonstrated in an explicit way that theJapanese military coerced and raped "comfort womenin East and Southeast AsiaSo far,no other country has shown any understanding of Abe's positionAnd the UN issued astatement in Augustexpressing deep regret over the attitude of the Japanese governmenttoward the "comfort womenissue.
In additionthe USJapan's close allyhas also conveyed an articulate position on this issueThe US Congress passed a resolution to condemn Japan's coercion of "comfortwomenin 2007. In June 2014, the Japanese government released the result of a review ofthe Kono Statement and raised doubts about its drafting processthough not publiclydenying itLater, 18 members of the US House of Representatives wrote a letter to theJapanese ambassador to the USseverely criticizing the review.
ConsequentlyAbe's position on Japan's history of aggression and the "comfort women"issue is not based on the factsbut rather is pandering to his supportersFor any politician,it is unwise and irresponsible to go in a direction opposite the rest of the world for the sakeof domestic politics.

U.S. Trying to Force Regime Change in Russia With Sanctions, Official Says

A senior Russian diplomat accused the United States on Monday of trying to bring down President Vladimir Putin with the sanctions it has imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told parliamentary deputies that ties between Moscow and Washington were in a very deep chill and were likely to remain so if the sanctions remained for a long time.
"It is hardly a secret that the goal of the sanctions is to create social and economic conditions to carry out a change of power in Russia," Ryabkov told a hearing in the lower house. "There will be no easy or fast way out of this."
He said he did not expect the United States to recognize Crimea as part of Russia "for decades to come" and accused Washington of trying to drive a wedge between Russia and the other former Soviet republics.
Ties between Russia and the United States took a dive this year as the Cold War-era foes traded accusations over the crisis in Ukraine, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Washington of seeking "regime change."
President Vladimir Putin has portrayed Western sanctions as an attempt to contain Russia and punish it for becoming strong and independent.
State media have often repeated this message and an opinion poll released by the independent Levada research group on Monday showed 74 percent of Russians have negative views of the United States, compared to 18 percent who think the opposite.
Levada said the figures marked the lowest point in Russians' attitudes toward the United States since 1990, the year before the Soviet Union collapsed.

Video - President Obama Speaks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception (Dec 7, 2014)

Why Eric Garner is the turning point Ferguson never was

Ferguson, Mo., has captured the nation's attention for the better part of the past four months. But in just a few short days in the national news, Eric Garner has become the political rallying point that Ferguson never has.
A new poll shows considerably more unhappiness with the lack of an indictment in Garner's case than in the one in Ferguson. And, perhaps most important as far as its impact goes, that unhappiness is significantly less connected to a person's race.
The Selzer and Company poll for Bloomberg News finds that 60 percent of Americans disagree with the lack of an indictment against officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold apparently led to Garner's death in July. For comparison's sake, just 36 percent say they disagree with the lack of an indictment against officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson.

Although 40 percent disagree "strongly" with there being no indictment in Garner's case, just 24 percent say the same about the case in Ferguson. And in Ferguson, there's majority support -- 52 percent -- for no indictment.
(A Washington Post/ABC News poll last week showed a closer split on Ferguson, with 48 percent agreeing with the grand jury and 45 percent disagreeing.)
So basically, Americans as a whole favor no indictment in Ferguson. In Garner's case, they overwhelmingly think there should have been one. And in fact, just one-quarter of Americans agree with the grand jury's decision not to indict.
The differences in the two cases are almost completely because of whites.
In both cases, nine in 10 African Americans say they disagree with the decision. Although just 25 percent of whites disagree with the decision in Ferguson, a majority (52 percent) disagree with the decision in Garner's case.
There isn't quite consensus -- about one-third of whites agree with the lack of indictment in Garner's case -- but that's far less than the 64 percent of whites who sided with the lack of indictment in Ferguson.
We've written before about why the Garner case hasn't split the country along racial and party lines like Ferguson has. Basically, the political and racial disagreement in Ferguson was all about the still-unclear sequence of events that preceded the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown; it actually had little to do with politics, per se. In the Garner case, there is a video, leading to less debate about the particulars of precisely what happened.
As this poll shows, that is much more conducive to building consensus. And when it comes to taking action in response -- action of any kind -- that kind of bipartisan and biracial consensus makes it significantly more likely.
Of course, getting both parties and Americans of all races to agree on what kind of action should be taken is another question entirely.

US unveils federal law enforcement profiling ban

The Obama administration issued guidelines Monday that ban federal law enforcement from profiling on the basis of religion, national origin and other characteristics, protocols the Justice Department hopes could be a model for local departments as the nation tackles questions about the role race plays in policing.
The policy, which expands decade-old guidelines established under the Bush administration, also will require new training and data collection.
Civil rights advocates said they welcomed the broader protections, but were disappointed that the guidelines will exempt security screening in airports and border checkpoints and won't be binding on local and state police agencies.
Though the guidelines — five years in the making — were not drafted in response to recent high-profile cases involving the deaths of black individuals at the hands of white police officers, they're nonetheless being released amid an ongoing national conversation about standards for police use of force, racial justice and the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.
"Particularly in light of certain recent incidents we've seen at the local level — and the widespread concerns about trust in the criminal justice process which so many have raised throughout the nation — it's imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices," said Attorney General Eric Holder, referring to the August shooting by a white police officer of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death weeks earlier of a man in New York City.
Local grand juries declined to indict either officer. The Justice Department is investigating both cases.
The guidelines cover federal agencies within the Justice Department, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They also extend to local and state officers serving on joint task forces alongside federal agents.
A memo implementing the new rules was being released later Monday.
Their practical impact remains to be seen, especially since local police officers are the ones primarily responsible for traffic stops, 911 calls and day-to-day interactions with the communities they patrol. But the Obama administration envisions the rules as a possible roadmap for local police, with Holder expected to brief local law enforcement officials Monday to encourage them to adopt the federal guidelines.
Holder, who has made the release of the guidelines a priority before leaving the Justice Department next year, called the guidelines a "major and important step forward to ensure effective policing" by federal law enforcement.
The guidelines extend a ban on routine racial profiling that the Justice Department announced in 2003 under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Civil rights groups have long said those rules left open too many loopholes by allowing an exemption for national security and border investigations and by failing to extend the ban to characteristics beyond race and ethnicity.
The new guidelines would end the carve-out on national security and border investigations and widen the profiling ban to prohibit the practice on the basis of religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity — though agents would still be able to consider those factors if they had information linking a person of that characteristic to a specific crime or threat.
Some advocacy groups for minority communities said the new guidelines didn't go far enough. Muslim Advocates, a national organization, noted that federal law enforcement would still be permitted to "map communities based on race, ethnicity or religion."
"You can't be against profiling in some contexts but for it in other contexts," Rajdeep Singh, policy director of the Sikh Coalition.
The new protocols allow for significant exemptions, including for Homeland Security officials who screen passengers at airports and do inspections at the border. Homeland Security officials argued for the exemptions on the basis of what they said was "the unique nature of border and transportation security as compared to traditional law enforcement."
"This does not mean that officers and agents are free to profile," the department said in a statement. "To the contrary, DHS' existing policies make it categorically clear that profiling is prohibited," while allowing for limited circumstances in which race, ethnicity and other characteristics could be considered.
The American Civil Liberties Union objected to those exemptions.
"It's so loosely drafted that its exceptions risk swallowing any rule and permit some of the worst law enforcement policies and practices that have victimized and alienated American Muslim and other minority communities," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "This guidance is not an adequate response to the crisis of racial profiling in America."
The department said other activities, such as civil immigration enforcement and Coast Guard law enforcement actions, would still be covered.

Music Video - Beyoncé - 7/11

US, NATO ceremonially end Afghan combat mission


The U.S. and NATO ceremonially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan on Monday, 13 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks sparked their invasion of the country to topple the Taliban-led government.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, which was in charge of combat operations, lowered its flag, formally ending its deployment.
U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO and U.S. forces, said that the mission now would transition to a training and support role for Afghanistan's own security forces, which have led the fight against the Taliban insurgents since mid-2013.
"The Afghan security forces are capable," Campbell said. "They have to make some changes in the leadership which they're doing, and they have to hold people accountable."
From Jan. 1, the coalition will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak around 140,000 in 2011. There are around 15,000 troops now in the country.
The mission ends as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. U.S. President Barack Obama recently allowed U.S. forces to launch operations against both Taliban and al-Qaida militants, broadening the mission of the U.S. forces that will remain in the country after the end of the year.
Violence continued Monday in the country, as suicide bombers launched an assault on a police station in southern Kandahar province. Police killed three suicide bombers, said Samim Akhplwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. He said casualty figures were unclear.
Campbell said that Afghan security forces, including the army, police and local militias, were capable of securing the country despite record-high casualty figures that have risen 6.5 percent this year, to 4,634 killed in action, compared to 4,350 in 2013. By comparison, some 3,500 foreign forces, including at least 2,210 American soldiers, have been killed since the war began in 2001.
Up to 10,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan for the first three months of next year, 1,000 more than previously planned as the new mission, called Resolute Support, waits for NATO partners to deploy, said a NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss troop deployments.
As a result, there will be little, if any, net drop in U.S. troop numbers between now and Dec. 31. By the end of 2015, however, the U.S. troop total is to shrink to 5,500, and to near zero by the end of 2016.
Monday's ceremony was the first of two that will draw a formal close to NATO's combat mission by Dec. 28.

Ghani wants slower withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan

In a meeting with the American defense minister Chuck Hagel, Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani sought a slower pace of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
American president Barack Obama recently signed a decree allowing 9800 additional soldier in Afghanistan which will put the number of the US soldier in this country to 10800, but Afghan president says America needs to review its strategy.
Reports states in the meeting with Chuck Hagel, Afghan president was keen to have a larger number of foreign soldiers till the end of 2016.
A large number of foreign soldiers are scheduled to be leaving Afghanistan till the end of this year and only a specific number of them will remain in Afghanistan.

Opinion: ''Afghanistan'' - The donors are tired

If the Afghan NGOs and the international aid organizations can't see eye to eye, there will be no fresh money from the West, says DW's Florian Weigand.
Symbolbild Hilfsorganisationen in Afghanistan

When you don't know what to do, you create a study group; on a larger scale, you call a conference. For two days, NGOs, aid organizations and leading politicians discussed how to cope with the mess in Afghanistan with civilian means. Innovative ideas, however, were rare, although they were sorely needed.
The balance of 13 years of international commitment is shattering. Afghanistan is still 90 percent dependent on international aid. Corruption, crime and political violence are still words the world associates with Afghanistan. In three weeks' time, NATO's most costly mission to date will end, and while most of the soldiers in the camps are already busily packing their things, already back home in their minds, a new wave of violence has hit the country. Were 13 years and billions in aid money in vain?
 Florian Weigand
Florian Weigand, head of DW's Pashtu/Dari service
Not completely: Schools were built, and education, in particular for girls, has improved. Thanks to a lively media presence, the widespread use of smart phones and the Internet, the Afghan people are more closely connected to the world than ever before. And they have shown that they are willing and able to live democracy. They hurried to the ballot boxes in droves to vote for their president and showed exceptional patience during the six-month process with two rounds of voting. While there was widespread voter fraud, the voters were not to blame, but the leaders in Kabul and their cronies in the election offices.
The international financial donors are tired, however, and new pledges were not made in London. The Afghan NGOs and foreign aid organizations have already begun to notice that funding is getting scarcer. The governments in the West still spend a lot of money, but they have capped the budgets for the country's civilian reconstruction and democratization. They prefer to invest in visible hardware to prove their success to the taxpayers and voters at home. The millions pledged by Germany are geared to road construction, electrification, hospitals - and of course on security.
That won't change if the Afghan NGOs continue their navel-gazing, each intent on doing their own thing, if need be on a reduced level.
A new program for women here, a peace initiative there - what's lacking is a comprehensive strategy that could convince donors and bundle all the forces. That's what the country needs more desperately than new financial aid.
No progress was made in London. But liberal teachers, engineers and journalists can only stay in the country if a positive, committed and strong civilian society develops. You might be skeptical in view of the daily violence there - but the Afghans still want to make it work. I recently asked a young colleague from Kabul why he had returned to Afghanistan despite having graduated from Oxford and he simply said: "Because it's my country!"