Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Music Video - t.A.T.u. - All The Things She Said

Forever Captive? Soviet soldiers captured in Afghanistan 30 yrs ago... that never come back

Video Report - Inside Story - Refugees and Europe's dilemma

Video - President Xi meets foreign leaders attending Sept. 3 parade

Video - What’s in store for China’s V-Day anniversary

Putin to make two-day visit to China

During his two-day visit, Putin will hold a number of bilateral meetings with Chinese partners and leaders of other states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will go to China on Wednesday to take part in commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two and the allied victory over Japan.
During his two-day visit at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Putin will hold a number of bilateral meetings with Chinese partners and leaders of other states, the Russian president’s top foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told journalists.
Outlining Putin's planned meetings with foreign leaders during his trip to China, Ushakov said the Russian president would primarily hold talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on September 2.
"They will mainly focus on issues of trade and economic cooperation," Ushakov said.
Putin and Li are expected to exchange views on current international and regional issues and on prospects for deepening cooperation within the United Nations, the Group of 20 leading economies, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and other international organisations, Ushakov said. The two men will also discuss plans to link Beijing's Silk Road East-West trading route and the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, he said.
Putin’s busy schedule also includes meetings with the presidents of Venezuela, Laos and Czech Republic, Nicolas Maduro, Choummaly Sayasone and Milos Zeman, due to take place on September 3.
Putin and his Venezuelan counterpart will discuss practical steps of further cooperation in trade and economy, Ushakov said. "Special attention will be paid to possible joint steps on stabilising prices in the global oil market, particularly in the context of cooperation between Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)," he said.
At talks with the president of Laos, Putin will focus on key aspects of traditionally friendly relations between the two countries and development of strategic partnership in the Asia-Pacific region. Ushakov noted that Russia and Laos were implementing several very promising joint investment projects.
The meeting with Czech President Milos Zeman will focus on cooperation between Moscow and Prague in the spheres of trade and economy, investment, energy and culture.
Ushakov noted that bilateral meetings would kick off after a military parade and an official reception held by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Putin says dump dollar

Russian President Vladimir Putin has drafted a bill that aims to eliminate the US dollar and the euro from trade between CIS countries.
 This means the creation of a single financial market between Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
“This would help expand the use of national currencies in foreign trade payments and financial services and thus create preconditions for greater liquidity of domestic currency markets”said a statement from Kremlin.
The bill would also help to facilitate trade in the region and help to achieve macro-economic stability.
Within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) the countries have also discussed the possibility of switching to national currencies. According to the agreement between Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan, an obligatory transition to settlements in the national currencies (Russian ruble, Belarusian ruble, dram and tenge respectively) must occur in 2025-2030.
Today, some 50 percent of turnover in the EEU is in dollars and euro, which increases the dependence of the union on countries issuing those currencies.
Outside the CIS and EEU, Russia and China have been trying to curtail the dollar’s dominance as well.
In August, China's central bank put the Russian ruble into circulation in Suifenhe City, Heilongjiang Province, launching a pilot two-currency (ruble and yuan) program. The ruble was introduced in place of the US dollar.
In 2014, the Russian Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China signed a three-year currency swap agreement, worth 150 billion yuan (around $23.5 billion), thus boosting financial cooperation between the two countries.

China Slams Japan for Protesting UN Secretary-General Visit to WWII Parade

China finds it "irritating" that Japan is complaining about UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s scheduled visit to Beijing to watch a military parade marking the anniversary of the end of World War II.

Thousands of Chinese troops and military vehicles will travel through Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war's end. The parade will be overseen by Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with most other Western leaders, has declined to attend.
News that Ban plans on attending the parade prompted Japan's Foreign Ministry to express its "strong displeasure," according to Japanese media reports.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed those remarks.
"At the moment the international community is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the World Anti-Fascist War, Japan's so-called protest or remarks sound very irritating, which is deliberately provocative," she was quoted as saying by Reuters.
"We hope Japan can truly face up to and deeply reflect on its history of militarism with an honest and modest attitude."
Last week, Ban said he was aware of Japan's complaints, but that it was important to recognize China's sacrifices and contributions during the war, Chinese state-run media reported.
Many people in China, as well as in North and South Korea, hold hostility toward Japan over their belief that it has failed to properly atone for wartime atrocities.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye will also attend the Beijing parade, along with a senior North Korean official, Reuters reported.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/asia/20150901/1026461844.html#ixzz3kXlkpj8S

China - Invite of Bashir to WWII parade justified

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir embarked on a four-day trip to China on Monday. During his stay, he will also attend commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. As Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the conflict in Darfur in 2009, his visit to China has raised eyebrows in the West.

The US expressed concerns on Monday, with State Department spokesman Mark Toner saying, "We oppose invitations, facilitation or support for travel by persons subject to outstanding ICC warrants." He also warned that China should take into account worries of the international community as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. 

Both China and the US are not signatories to the ICC Rome Statute. This means China has no obligations to cooperate with the ICC's indictment.

The causes of the Darfur conflicts were complicated. The decisions made by the ICC were very controversial in Africa. 

Bashir has visited a number of Middle East countries these years and also attended the African Union Summit held in South Africa. He visited China in 2011. As the North African region was a battlefield during WWII, there are no grounds to criticize China's invitation of Bashir for commemorative events for WWII.

The ICC's decisions over some former or current non-Western leaders in recent years are apparently based on a Western mind-set. The US, while supporting ICC principles, has not signed the ICC Rome Statute. 

Washington fears thorny issues once the ICC decisions involve the Americans or its allies. The US supports the ICC to charge its enemies, but avoids its interests being hurt by not signing the Rome Statute.

Sudan is a friendly country to China. China should invite Bashir to come and treat him with hospitality. This is the responsibility of a big power in the current international political context. 

If China dare not make independent judgments and avoids developing ties with a certain country simply because the West doesn't like it and its leaders, China can never establish its own prestige and will fall into being a political vassal of the West.

Controversies around Bashir have been brewing for years and the West has almost got tired of them. There is little room for the West to make a fuss about China's invitation. China can just shrug it off.

It is the Africans that will decide African matters. External factors can generate less impact. Bashir, although indicted by the ICC, has still ruled for years. Washington should respect realities and spend some efforts on exploring a new world instead of insisting it is the center of the world.

Commentary: Debates on V-Day Parade Indicate China's Progress

By Xiaoyuan Ai

China will hold its first military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 3, which has undoubtedly been a hot topic amongst the Chinese social media recently.
Everyone seems to have their own concerns about the parade. Some people wish to take a glimpse of the foreign troops; some want to widen their knowledge of the armaments; others are making efforts to get tickets that could get them into the scene. Still, some are complaining about the inconvenience caused by the recent traffic control and other regulations.
These are all normal reactions in a Chinese society where an important event is approaching. Chinese people have become more willing to express their own feelings, share their personal experiences, and take different perspectives. It is encouraging to see people taking diverse look at the current issues rather than agreeing or disagreeing on something altogether. Such a phenomenon truly indicates China as a more open, tolerant, and advanced society. It is also important for us to think, amongst all the emotions, what core facts of the happenings are and what reflection we could gain from it.
Last week, China’s latest model of military jets performed a display during parade rehearsals in Beijing. Many of those who were able to take photos of the scene and then post online were actually those who got stuck on the road by temporary roadblocks. With the sounds of the rolling tanks rumbling pass, and with all the photos of the heroic soldiers on news reports, one can hardly act indifferently about the significant progress China has made during its past 70 years.
Indeed, China has gone through too many things in the past century, and people view and judge them differently. But when speaking of the end of WWII and the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, the majority of Chinese people hold a solidary attitude of pride and excitement. Therefore, on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, is it appropriate to revive the old spirit that once supported us during the anti-war period? Is it meaningful for modern China to commemorate the legacy of the wars and to rethink the development of our country? The answer is YES.
Because of this, it is respectable of people to pay constant attention to the parade, bear some inconveniences in this period of time, and share their true feelings in this. In some way, it is like the annual travel rush during Spring Festival, people have to make all efforts to book a train ticket in the midnight, prepare all kinds of New Year’s gifts for extended families, and change from one vehicle to another just for family reunion. Once all family members are reunited, all exhaustion will be washed away. And same thing applies to this V-Day parade. Compared with some daily inconveniences, the inner fulfillment people will get is far more significant.
Liang Qichao, a famous Chinese scholar and journalist, once compared a young nation to a teenager, who needs not only physical growth but also the development of mind. During the past years, China has grown from a teenager to a young man, who is now facing more challenges and responsibilities. In some sense, the upcoming parade and many other efforts China has made, such as improving the legal system, commemorating the history, as well as highlighting heroes and heroines, are of great significance. More importantly, we also need to build a modern country with strong mobilization ability.
In this way, the heated discussion on the upcoming V-Day parade shows that Chinese people are actively participating in thinking about the development of their country. How can we make September 3 a more meaningful day? How should we maintain memorial constructions and hold commemorative activities? And what can we learn from the war of resistance against aggression? People across the nation have been thinking deeply about these questions. It also indicates that Chinese people are making new progress.

Music Video - Rachel Platten - Fight Song

Video - Sen. Chris Coons to Vote 'Yes' on Iran Deal

Mr. Obama’s Urgent Arctic Message

A presidential trip has enormous power to focus attention on a place and an issue, and President Obama’s trip to Alaska has been minutely choreographed with visits to glaciers, threatened Inuit villages and the like to provide a stunning and alarming context to his message on the urgent need to address climate change.
Four times in a 24-minute speech in Anchorage he declared that “we’re not acting fast enough,” a message especially true in the countdown to December’s United Nations climate conference in Paris. This will be the most ambitious effort by the world’s nations to produce an equitable deal on reducing greenhouse gases, and the United States, as the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon gases (after China), must be at the forefront of the effort.
Alaska is the president’s last stop on a late-summer climate change tour designed to enhance his record on the issue as well as America’s leadership position and its leverage at the Paris talks. At a conference in Las Vegas, he threw his weight behind the solar energy industry and unveiled initiatives aimed at increasing energy efficiency. In New Orleans, on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he spoke of the need to make coastal cities more resilient as they face the rising seas and stronger storms that a warming planet is likely to bring.
Mr. Obama’s theatrical visit to Arctic Alaska, the first by a sitting American president, reinforced these themes. In no state are the effects of climate change more visible. Yet the trip also had the effect of highlighting other forces that to one degree or another complicate the environmental agenda he would like to be his central focus.
One is the fundamental conflict between the need to reduce greenhouse gases and the imperatives of economic development. If Alaska is unusually vulnerable to climate change — the Arctic is warming faster than any other part of the globe — it is also among the most economically dependent on natural resources, notably oil. The precipitous drop in oil prices has severely affected Alaskans, many of whom are opposed to any cutback in drilling.
This conflict has been thrust to the forefront of Mr. Obama’s visit by the administration’s approval last month of Shell Oil’s plans to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Shell’s permit to drill could not be easily denied, given that the company acquired the lease for more than $2 billion in 2008. The administration has also imposed extensive safeguards against oil spills. But the decision was roundly criticized by environmental groups and could not help but cast a shadow on Mr. Obama’s message.
Then there are the major economic and security issues raised by the retreat of Arctic sea ice and the opportunities this has created for mineral exploration, shipping and fishing. Russia, which controls by far the longest stretch of Arctic coast, has actively expanded its military presence in the far north, while American forces in Alaska have been drawn down. On this trip, Mr. Obama is calling for more icebreakers for Arctic service to add to the two the Coast Guard now has. Russia already has about 40 icebreakers, with 11 more in the works.
Mr. Obama is right to focus his powerful presidential spotlight on climate change, an enormous threat to the planet and one requiring an urgent and ambitious response. Given the foolish skepticism about climate change among many leading politicians and parts of the American public, and the resistance among Republicans to Mr. Obama’s bold efforts to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, it is important for the president to drive home the reality of what is happening to our planet. But it is also good that this voyage is drawing attention to the other challenges of the thawing Arctic, including the fact that the same greenhouse gases that are raising temperatures are also opening access to vast deposits of fossil fuels.
These issues cannot be compartmentalized. Combating carbon emissions is the priority, but it is also imperative that the United States and other Arctic nations reach negotiated agreements on how to handle the challenge of the melting ice before it turns into a new Cold War.

Video - President Obama says world must speed climate change fight

President Obama: Violence against police ‘is completely unacceptable’

By Mark Berman

President Obama called the widow of the Texas sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot last week to offer his condolences and condemn any violence against police officers.
Darren Goforth, a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County, was shot and killed Friday at a gas station in suburban Houston. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman called the shooting “an unprovoked, execution-style killing of a police officer,” saying that the gunman came up behind Goforth as he pumped gas and opened fire.
Obama called Kathleen Goforth, the deputy’s widow, on Monday while he was traveling to Alaska, according to a statement from the White House. During the call, Obama said he offered her prayers on the loss of “a veteran law enforcement officer who was contemptibly shot and killed.”
He went on to decry any violence against officers, saying that Americans must stand up for the safety of police across the country.
“I also promised that I would continue to highlight the uncommon bravery that police officers show in our communities every single day,” Obama said in the statement. “They put their lives on the line for our safety. Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable — an affront to civilized society.”
After the shooting, authorities in Harris County linked Goforth’s death to ongoing protest movement criticizing how police officers use lethal force. Hickman, the sheriff, said the “rhetoric had gotten out of control,” although he later said police were “still searching to find out if that’s actually a motive.”
Fewer police officers are shot and killed each year, statistics show, but as the protest movement has surged over the past year, current and former law enforcement officials have said they are concerned the heightened atmosphere presents an increased danger to police. In quickly tying the shooting to the protests, Hickman tapped into a larger sentiment among police officers worried about the tense atmosphere.
Over the weekend, authorities arrested Shannon J. Miles, 30, and charged him with capital murder. Miles was arraigned Monday. Devon Anderson, the Harris County district attorney, said Miles “unloaded [his] entire pistol into Deputy Goforth” during the shooting.
Goforth’s funeral has been scheduled for Friday morning at a Baptist church in Houston.

VIDEO Song - 'Selfie Le Le Re'

Religious radicalism rising in India, Bangladesh: Taslima Nasrin

Afghanistan: Defeat, Despair And A Murky Future

The Taliban Summer Offensive has largely been a failure. The Taliban lost far more men (dead, captured, deserted) than the security forces and failed to gain lasting control of any territory. Moreover the recent announcement that Taliban founder and leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital back in 2013 caused long-standing disagreements among Taliban leaders to turn violent. In the last month there have been several known gun battles between rival Taliban factions. There may have been some assassinations as well because this is a common weapon in such internal disputes. It is believed that one reason for keeping Omar’s death a secret was to keep the peace within the Taliban. The post-revelation splits have caused some factions to switch allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and become even more violent and reckless. This is particularly true of some Taliban and al Qaeda groups who feel restrained by defeat or growing calls for peace from many long-time Islamic terrorist leaders. Going ISIL means more suicidal violence and less regard for killing Moslem women and children (traditionally something Afghan warriors avoided). If Islamic terrorism is a disease ISIL appears to be the terminal phase. Afghanistan is particularly hostile to this sort of thing and one side effect of that is more tips from rural Afghans about where the newly declared ISIL members are. This in turn led to more effective UAV surveillance and more ISIL leaders being found and killed by UAV missile attacks.
The Afghan Army currently has 17 major offensives going on against Islamic terrorists in 16 provinces. Afghan military leaders point out that these operations are most successful when they have American air support and the U.S. has apparently responded to that by quietly sending more warplanes and helicopter gunships to Afghanistan, along with more ground control teams to work with Afghan ground forces.
At the end of July the Afghan Taliban announced the selection of a new leader (Mullah Akhtar Mansour) to replace founder and longtime leader Mullah Omar. Mansour has been the acting head of the Taliban since 2010 because Mullah Omar was said to have health problems. In the last week the Taliban admitted that Omar had been dead since 2013 but have not revealed exactly why his death was concealed. The reason may have been to maintain unity because after the appointment of Mansour was made several Taliban factions went public complaining of how the selection was made. The Afghan Taliban is known to be sharply divided over the subject of peace talks with the Afghan government. Some factions also complain openly that Pakistan (in the form of the ISI) actually controls the Taliban leaders living in Baluchistan under the protection of the ISI. Mansour backs peace talks while Omar was said to have opposed them. The official shift in Taliban leadership caused the resumption of peace talks (between the Taliban and the Afghan government) scheduled for today to be delayed until sometime in the future. Afghanistan is now willing to renew the talks but only if Pakistan is excluded. More Afghans (especially prominent ones) are openly accusing Pakistan of being actively hostile to Afghanistan and backing several Islamic terrorist groups (especially the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network) that cause most of the terrorist violence in Afghanistan. Pakistan has always denied this, despite all the evidence, and continues to do so.
So far this year another 50,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan have returned home. Not all of these returning refugees went voluntarily. Since 2014 there has been increasing anti-Afghan feelings in Pakistan. This led to another effort to persecute and expel several million Afghans living (often illegally) in Pakistan. So far this year over 7,000 such refugees a month are returning from Pakistan. While many of these refugees could evade expulsion efforts over 40 percent of those who return cite growing anti-Afghan attitudes and harassment as the main reason for coming back to Afghanistan. Since 2002 nearly four million of these refugees have returned to Afghanistan. There are still about 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and only 60 percent of these are registered.
While Afghanistan wants good relations with Iran Afghan officials are quietly trying to get Iran to back off on its recruitment Afghan Shia to fight in Syria. The main draw is money (up to a thousand dollars a month) and permission to legally settle in Iran if the fighter survives. Iran officially denies this recruiting but there is growing evidence that it exists and is believed to have sent over 3,000 Afghan Shia (many of them illegal immigrants living in Iran) to Syria so far. Many of these Afghans did not survive the experience and the families are angry. Iran has long supported the Shia in Afghanistan. Only 15 percent of Afghans are Shia and these Shia are a particular target for Sunni Islamic terrorists (like the Taliban). Most of these Shia are the Hazara, who are ten percent of the population and the descendants of the hated Mongols who conducted several invasions during the 13th and 14th centuries and destroyed more of the country and its population than any other conquerors. For centuries Hazara have suffered a lot of discrimination and actual violence in Afghanistan.
Since NATO forces left in 2014 a lot of Afghans have lost hope. This can be seen in the number of Afghans applying for passports. In the last year the number has gone from about a thousand a day to as high as 7,000 a day. Currently the daily average is about 5,000 a day. Most of these people are not coming back and use one of the growing number of smuggling gangs to get them to the West. Those without the money for this try to legally enter a neighboring country and head for a city and seek employment.
August 31, 2015: The NDS (National Directorate of Security) revealed it had recently arrested 30 members of the Haqqani Network and the Taliban who were planning another 13 terror attacks in Kabul. The NDS has been around since 2002 and is often called the Afghan CIA. While the NDS does a lot of same intel work as the CIA it is part of the Defense Ministry and also functions like the American FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) as well. The NDS has over 20,000 personnel including many former Islamic terrorists as well as Russian trained operatives (from the 1980s when there was a pro-Russian national government). Over the last three months the NDS has arrested nearly 600 people suspected of Islamic terrorist activity and seized over 16 tons of explosives plus other bomb making components, weapons and much else.
The U.S. Embassy has advised Americans in Afghanistan to consider leaving the country because of the increased efforts by Islamic terrorists and gangsters to kidnap (or just kill) foreigners. The gangsters want to take foreigners for the ransom potential while the Islamic terrorists want to kill foreigners to force foreigners out of the country. The government relies on foreigners (air workers and contractors) to keep the economy going and handle high-tech equipment.
August 29, 2015: In the capital there were two large explosions that, at first, were believed to be terror attacks. But after a while media realized that there were no casualties and that it was actually military explosives experts detonating large terrorist bombs that were too unstable to dismantle and were instead detonated after evacuating all people in the area. The police complained that they should have been notified so they would not have had to dispatch emergency forces to what at first was believed to be another terror attack.
In the south (Helmand) security forces drove the Taliban out of a district (Musa Qala) near the Pakistan border. A large Taliban force had taken the district on the 25th. This was mainly a publicity stunt. Taking control of a district is a popular attention-getter. Seizing control of a remote district or just the district capital is not that hard. The remoteness of some of these towns means it takes a few days, or weeks, for the security forces to get enough troops into the area to chase the Taliban out. “Capturing a district capital” is always good for a headline in foreign media because the foreigners don’t really understand that a lot of these district capitals are small towns in remote areas that few Afghans care about. The Taliban, or local drug gangs only have a meaningful amount of control in a few of the 373 districts (each of the 34 provinces is composed of districts). The Taliban are active in 10-15 percent of districts, mainly in the south (Helmand and Kandahar, where most of the heroin is produced) and the east (where many Pakistan/ISI supported Islamic terrorist groups operate). The Taliban suffered several hundred casualties in taking, defending (for three days) and losing Musa Qala. It is unclear if the Taliban leaders felt it was worth the losses. It appears that control of Musa Qala was considered essential to maintaining opium and heroin production. Similar Taliban offensives in the north (the Tajik border) and the east (the Pakistani border) were for securing smuggling routes to get the drugs safely out of the country where they could be sold for a lot more than Afghan addicts will pay.
August 26, 2015: The U.S. has sent 90 SOCOM (Special Operations Command) troops to Helmand in the south. The SOCOM force includes ground control teams to provide precision air support for Afghan soldiers and police. The Taliban has become particularly active and aggressive in Helmand and more air support greatly increases Taliban casualties. Elsewhere in the south two men in Afghan army uniforms opened fire on some U.S. troops, killing two of them. This brings the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year to four. These “insider attacks” peaked in 2012 when there were 47 of them, which killed 62.
In the east (Nangarhar province) American UAVs used missiles to kill four Taliban leaders.
August 24, 2015: In the west (Badghis province) police raided an Islamic terrorist hideout and arrested three of four suicide bombers who were staying there. One of the bombers got away. The four were part of a larger group of Taliban who were going to attack the home of First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. This comes three days after about thirty Taliban ambushed a convoy Dostum was in. The attack failed and eight Taliban were killed and 13 captured. Dostum has been a foe of the Taliban since the 1990s. Dostum is a powerful Uzbek politician, and a long time warlord (he was a general in the communist army that was dissolved in 1992). The Uzbeks are Turks, and comprise nine percent of the population. The Uzbeks have always been hostile to the Taliban and drugs. Dostum is their leader but has become popular will most anti-Islamic terror Afghans. Dostum makes the most of this by regularly giving speeches condemning Islamic terrorism. This involves constantly travelling and exposing himself to terrorist attack. So far he has survived dozens of attacks and this increases popularity while enraging the Islamic terrorists he publicly berates and condemns.   
In the north (Kunduz) an American air strike killed the leader of Jundullah, a Pakistani Taliban, faction that switched to ISIL in late 2014. Three Jundullah sub-commanders were also killed in this strike.
August 19, 2015: The newly proclaimed leader of the Taliban openly reaffirmed Taliban allegiance to al Qaeda and opposition to ISIL.
August 17, 2015: In central Afghanistan (Wardak Province) two separate U.S. UAV attacks left seven Islamic terrorists dead.
In Kabul a female German aid worker was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.
August 14, 2015: In Afghanistan a senior official (First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum) publicly repeated what many Afghans have been saying; the Pakistan continues to support Islamic terrorists operating in Afghanistan.

Viewpoint: Ghani is running out of options in Afghanistan

Ahmed Rashid

Afghanistan is in dire crisis as the Taliban battle a weak government, and peace talks with the militants are put on hold, writes guest columnist Ahmed Rashid.
The Taliban have captured most of Helmand province, including for several days a strategic district headquarters, Musa Qala. They are growing stronger in the north and east holding more territory than ever before and mounting ferocious attacks in Kabul in which some 100 people have been killed in the past few weeks.
Talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban and Pakistan are at an impasse following the recent announcement of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in 2013. Afghan criticism of Pakistan for allegedly not reining in the Taliban is increasing daily.
President Ashraf Ghani's approval rating has fallen from 50 percentage points to 38, while his partner in power Abdullah Abdullah's ratings are even lower, according to Tolo news. The government is paralysed, apparently incapable of still filling empty slots in the cabinet, while key projects such as identity cards and electoral reforms are on hold and mired in controversy.
The government has failed to tackle corruption or bolster the economy. There is large-scale capital flight, especially to the Gulf where many Afghans have bought houses. Afghans constitute the third largest group of migrants after Syrians and Iraqis trying to escape into Europe by land and sea.
The international community is delaying or withholding vital financial contributions to a government that has long run out of money. Some government salaries have not been paid for months.
Afghanistan's army is heroically struggling to contain the Taliban and hanging on to district capitals but is incapable of going on the offensive or regaining lost territory. Officers are struggling to contain sizeable desertions from the army and police by refusing home leave. The casualty rates are the worst ever and according to US officers, "unsustainable". The remaining US and Nato forces are expected to leave at the end of the year.
According to the New York Times, about 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed and another 7,800 wounded in the first six months of this year. That is 50% more than the same period last year. Meanwhile warlordism is back with a vengeance as leading figures from the 1980s jihad (holy war), including Vice President Rashid Dostum, Balkh province Governor Atta Mohammed Nur and others raise militia armies across the country.
The country's best hope in years - opening talks with the Taliban - has been stymied by the leaking of Mullah Omar's death. Pakistan and some Taliban leaders tried to keep it secret for unknown reasons until the news broke after the first meeting between the Taliban and Afghan officials in Pakistan on 7 July.
Mullah Omar's death has created a struggle for power within the Taliban and there is a growing conviction amongst many ordinary Afghans that Pakistan is trying to install its chosen favourite, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, as the new Taliban leader.
It also became clear that Jalaluddin Haqqani, a leading jihadi figure wanted for terrorism by the US and a major Taliban operative also died a year ago.
This lack of transparency has destroyed the trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his opening address to the Taliban, Mullah Mansour took a belligerent stance, dismissing talks about peace as "enemy propaganda". Before that he was seen as a moderate figure.
Meanwhile in Kabul, new anti-Ghani groupings are emerging, especially among those who resent the president surrounding himself with fellow Ghilzai Pashtuns.
In conversations with many Afghans over the last few months there seems to be a growing consensus that Afghanistan's internal sovereignty is at stake and that the national unity government has not worked. Many feel constitutional changes are urgently needed in order to prevent the disintegration of the country, a coup by one or more warlords or a section of the army, or a power grab by disgruntled politicians.
One popular solution being hotly debated by Afghan intellectuals and politicians is for President Ghani to call an emergency loya jirga that would choose an interim government and president for a period of no more than a few months. Such a grand assembly would then initiate debate and pass constitutional and electoral reforms, as President Ghani and Mr Abdullah had promised to do when they were installed as joint power holders in the national unity government.
These reforms would introduce constitutional amendments to make the country a parliamentary democracy - something that the non-Pashtun groups and many urban Afghans have been demanding since 2001. These reforms could be coupled with a renewed attempt to bring the Taliban into talks or even encourage them to take part in the loya jirga debate. The Taliban have made it clear that they also want changes to the constitution.
Finally after the passage of new electoral laws that would eliminate vote rigging, and the issuance of new ID cards, the interim government would oversee fresh parliamentary elections. The newly elected parliament would then choose a new prime minister to lead the country and a president as head of state, after which the interim government would resign.
Ambitious and difficult though such a path may be, many Afghans are convinced that ultimately Mr Ghani has no choice but to radically shake up the system. If he takes such a risk then who knows - he may remerge as the winner once again.

Pakistan has lost international support on Kashmir: ex Pak envoy

Pakistan no longer enjoys international support on Kashmir and is unlikely to get an approval for a referendum in the region from the UN Security Council, a former Pakistani envoy to the US has said.
"Kashmir is an emotive issue in Pakistan because of the failure of its leaders to inform their people that Pakistan no longer enjoys international support on the matter," said Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US.
Haqqani, who is currently director of South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, said for years Pakistan has sought international support for its position that Kashmir's future must be resolved through dialogue with India and a plebiscite among the Kashmiri people.
India does not even want to discuss the dispute without the end of Pakistan-sponsored terror, he added."What most Pakistanis do not know is that the last United Nations Security Council resolution on Kashmir was passed in 1957 and Pakistan could not win support for a referendum in Kashmir today if it asked for a new vote at the United Nations," Haqqani said in an op-ed published on the website of the Hudson Institute, a US-think tank.
"Instead of accepting that it might be better for India and Pakistan to normalise relations by expanding trade and cross-border travel, Pakistani hardliners have stuck to a 'Kashmir first' mantra, which they know is unrealistic," said Haqqani, who was at the loggerheads with the powerful Army when in office.
Posturing on Kashmir gets Pakistan nowhere but its leaders feel they need to do it any way to maintain support from Islamists and the military at home, he said.
According to Haqqani, hardliners in an increasingly self-confident India play on Indians' frustration with Pakistani state support for jihadis, such as those responsible for terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
"There is empty talk of 'teaching Pakistan a lesson' without acknowledging that teaching military lessons to nations armed with nuclear weapons is never easy. Indians could learn from the United States' frustrations with North Korea," he said.

Haqqani Network Leadership and Sanctuaries Still based in Pakistan

The Afghan government slammed Pakistani officials for their remarks regarding the elimination of Haqqani Terrorist Network following military operations in tribal regions of Pakistan.
The Presidential Palace issued a statement after Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz claimed that the terrorist network is no more operational in Pakistan and that they have shifted to Afghanistan.
The statement by the Presidential Palace stated “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan believes that one of the major differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan is regarding the presence of terrorist groups, specifically the Haqqani Network in Pakistani soil.”
“The recent remarks by Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz, suggesting that the Haqqani Network has been decomposed following military operations, are repeated claims by Pakistani officials during the past one decade,” the statement said.
The Palace insisted that documents and evidences shows that the network’s leadership, commander and control, supportive infrastructure and sanctuaries are still operational in Pakistan.
The statement further added that the government of Afghanistan has repeatedly handed over evidences regarding the Haqqani Network operations in Pakistan and has urged the Pakistani government to take action.
“The International Community has also understands that the terrorist networks including the Haqqani Network are based in Pakistan,” the statement said, adding that “The recent step by United States is an approval of Afghan government’s stance after putting conditions on military aid to Pakistan which is subject to Islamabad’s practical steps against terrorist groups including Haqqani Network.”
The Palace warned that ignoring the issue by Pakistani will further weaken cooperation between the two nations to jointly fight terrorist and ensure peace and stability in the region.

U.S. Should Stop Reinforcing Pakistan's Delusions


Susan Rice, the U.S. national security advisor, apparently traveled to Pakistan on Sunday August 30 to tell Pakistani officials that operations of militant jihadi groups like the Haqqani network from Pakistani soil were "absolutely unacceptable" to Americans. She is not the first official to convey that message to Pakistan. American and Pakistani officials have discussed the elimination of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan for at least the last two decades. Why, then, has the United States failed to secure Pakistan's acquiescence to its demands?
Ms. Rice's demand that Pakistan "do more" to curb terrorism from its soil will most likely have no more effect on Pakistan's all powerful military than earlier similar entreaties. The United States has been reluctant to exert leverage and pressure on Pakistan that might actually work, like international isolation, targeted sanctions or cutting off aid. The periodic suspension and conditionality of aid that the U.S. resorts to are too familiar to Pakistanis to make a difference.
In the end, it is all about how Pakistan's power centers view their national interest and the extent they fear (or, actually, do not fear) the Americans. The Pakistani military views the Haqqani network and allied groups as assets to help achieve its desire for a pro-Pakistan regime in Afghanistan. U.S. officials, in their desire to obtain Pakistan's support for American global aims, do not understand Pakistan's regional aspirations. Pakistan promises support to U.S. global aims, secures Washington's support and then goes on with pursuing its regional aims without regard for American concerns about its methods in the region.
The Pakistani assumption is that America protests but does not really care about its nuclear proliferation or support for terrorism as long as Pakistan's target is India or Afghanistan. The Taliban, the Haqqani network and the assorted anti-India jihadi groups nurtured by Islamabad did not attract American attention until 9/11. Since 2001, Pakistan has balanced its support for regional Jihadis with some cooperation with the U.S. in going after Al-Qaeda. Instead of seeing through and confronting Pakistan, Americans are all too willing to encourage Pakistan in persisting with its policies by praising the one step forward (in fighting some terrorist groups) without focusing on the many steps back.
Pakistan's regional preoccupation has been seeking military parity with its much larger neighbor, India. It doesn't matter that each one of the Pakistan's four wars with India were initiated by Pakistan. An existential threat from India is at the heart of Pakistani nationalism, the defining characteristic of a nation only 67 years old that lacks both history and an established national identity.
Pakistan has wooed the United States since its independence because Pakistani strategists and policy makers believed the U.S. was the ideal superpower ally who would build Pakistan's economic and material resources in order to help it stand up to India. From the 1950s until 1990s, Pakistan for the United States was one of many allies helping fight international communism.
American policy makers have consistently ignored, even when internal intelligence and staff memos said otherwise, the harsh reality of Pakistan never sharing American goals. When the Americans turned to Pakistan to fight international communism, Pakistan saw Hinduism as the threat. Now, despite being America's nominal allies in the fight against international terrorism, Pakistan still sees 'Hindu India' as the principal threat. Jihadi groups, such as the Haqqani Network, are Pakistan's instruments in its own war with India for influence over Afghanistan.
While the United States' focus has been global, Pakistan's focus has been regional: the desire for parity -- primarily military but also economic -- with India. Economic and military aid from the US has been one part of the strategy for achieving parity, the other has been using non-state actors or jihadi groups to keep both its neighbors - India and Afghanistan - tied down.
Fearful of one neighbor, India, Pakistan's early leaders hoped that their western neighbor, 'Muslim' Afghanistan would accept the Pakistani viewpoint and avoid ties with 'Hindu' India. However, Kabul and New Delhi have had close ties right from the 1950s with the exception of the years of Taliban rule.
To prevent a strategic encirclement by India and Afghanistan, Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment has supported Islamist groups in Afghanistan in the hope of a pro-Pakistan anti-Indian Afghan government. This has led Pakistan to support not just the Afghan Taliban but also the Haqqani network and allied groups.
Washington has known -and ignored -- Pakistan's security fears (and paranoia) about India and Afghanistan for decades. American policymakers and leaders have, however, always hoped that by giving more aid and arms to Pakistan they would reassure Pakistan's leaders that there was no threat to their territorial integrity and this would lead Pakistan to change its worldview.
Ironically, every American president in his first year (with the exception of Kennedy) tries to reach out to Pakistan and sees it as an American ally and in his last two years realizes the problem of divergent objectives.
In his book 'Magnificent Delusions -Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding,' Husain Haqqani (former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.) tells the fascinating story of how President Dwight Eisenhower (along with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles) initially saw Pakistan as America's 'Most Allied Ally in Asia,' only to wonder in his second term whether military aid to Pakistan served any useful American purpose. President Lyndon Johnson asked the same question in 1965 and every American President, with the exception of Richard Nixon, has done so since then.
Despite the $12 billion in aid that the US provided to Pakistan after 9/11, former President George W. Bush wrote in his memoirs that then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf "would not or could not fulfill his promises."
The Obama administration, too, has followed the familiar pattern of assuming that aid will buy America leverage with Pakistan. The Kerry Lugar Berman Bill, authorized by Congress in 2009, promised $1.5 billion in aid annually for 5 years, in the hope that this would encourage Pakistan to abandon support for Jihadi groups. The aid has flown uninterrupted even though Taliban operating from Pakistan attacked American troops in Afghanistan. US intelligence found the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network responsible for an attack on the American Embassy in Kabul and suspected Pakistani intelligence officers of directing the attack.
Ms. Rice's visit to Pakistan is unlikely to change Pakistani policy any more than the several visits to Islamabad by her predecessor General Jim Jones. Former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, met the Pakistan army chief 26 times in three years, hoping to initiate a change in Pakistani behavior. Towards the end of his tenure, Mullen voiced his frustration that the Haqqani Network operated as 'a veritable arm' of Pakistan's army. Apparently, frequent meetings with Pakistan's top general was not guarantee that the general would redirect the effort of his ground troops.
High-level visits by American officials to Pakistan do not help change Pakistan's strategic mindset. They only reinforce the belief of Pakistani leaders in the centrality of their country to global order. The belief that Pakistan is indispensable to the United States and is the pivot of the world for other major powers has encouraged Pakistan's irresponsible behavior.
Instead of feeding Pakistan's psychoses of self-importance and paranoia, the U.S. would do better by jolting its leaders into facing the realities of their domestic failures and the elusiveness of their dream of regional pre-eminence through terrorism.