Saturday, October 31, 2015

Music Video - Cher Lloyd - Want U Back

China proposes four-step initiative to help solve Syrian crisis

China on Friday urged the international community to take actions, set aside interest conflict and seek a common ground to create conditions for the political settlement of the Syrian crisis.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong proposed at the Vienna talks on Syria a four-step initiative to help politically solve the Syrian crisis.

Li said China urged all sides in Syria for an immediate cease-fire with commitment to fighting terrorism.

He suggested that Syria's warring sides, under the auspices of the United Nations, should have comprehensive, inclusive and equal dialogues to make arrangements for political transitions.

Li said that the United Nations should play the role of the main channel of mediation in the Syrian crisis.

He also proposed the start of the reconstruction process in Syria to let the warring sides see the peace dividends once the war ends.

The talks would be resumed in two weeks to push the diplomatic process forward, seeking a solution for ending years of conflict in Syria which has led to humanitarian crisis in the country and migration crisis in EU.

Russia warns of growing US-funded bio-weapons labs in region

A senior Russian security official has warned of a rising number of US-funded research facilities that produce biological weaponry in countries near Russia’s borders, describing the effort as “a real problem.”
Speaking after a Russian Security Council meeting, the head of the agency, Nikolay Patrushev, said that Washington pours “tens of billions of dollars” into bio-weapons laboratories that operate on the territories of the Commonwealth of [newly] Independent States (CIS) that were part of the former Soviet bloc and that now surround Russia, RT reported Saturday.
“There are also other problems, such as the production of military-oriented biological weapons and the very large funding allocated to this,” Patrushev added.
“This is tens of billions of dollars. Additionally, the number of laboratories under US jurisdiction or control has increased 20 times,” he said, expressing further concerns that such laboratories “operated and operate” on CIS territories.
According to the report, among Moscow’s primary concerns is a US-funded research facility for high-level biohazard agents based near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, called the Richard G. Lugar Center for Public and Animal Health Research.
“American and Georgian authorities are trying to cover up the real nature of this US military unit, which studies highly dangerous infectious diseases. The Pentagon is trying to establish similar covert medico-biological facilities in other countries [in Russia’s neighborhood],” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released in June.
At the time, Moscow also blamed the US for derailing “decades of international effort to strengthen” the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), a 1972 international treaty aimed at eliminating bio-weapons across the globe. It also accused Washington of encircling Russia with bio-weapons labs.
Chemical weapons
Patrushev, the head of the Russian Security Council, also pointed to Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile, reiterating that Russia plans to dispose of its remaining arsenal by 2020 – eight years earlier than the US.
“We are putting into practice a program to get rid of chemical weapons. Russia will dispose of these weapons by 2020. It was expected that the US will also destroy these weapons by that time, but according to today’s plans, it will carry out the disposal by 2028,” said the senior Russian security official.
Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), there is a legally binding, world-wide ban on the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors.
However, large stockpiles of such weapons continue to exist, including in Russia, usually justified as only a precaution against putative use by an aggressor.
As of September 2015, 192 states have given their consent to be bound by the CWC. The Israeli regime has signed but not ratified the agreement. Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan have neither signed nor acceded to the treaty.

Turkey goes to polls with critical media silenced, rumors of election fraud circulating

Turkey is holding a general election on Sunday not only at a time when critical media outlets are under heavy government pressure, but also when there are significant fears by the opposition about possible electoral fraud at the ballot box.
Just days before the pivotal election, partisan trustees were appointed to take over the management of Koza İpek Holding, which also owns some critical media outlets, based on a controversial court order at the beginning of the week.
The move has been blasted by the opposition, the Turkish Bar Association and media organizations alike as an unlawful seizure and a coup against the rule of law.
“This is an outright [illegal] seizure by force,” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Celal Adan told Sunday's Zaman, arguing the takeover is aimed at preventing the public from receiving information ahead of the election from outlets that are not under government control.
There are rumors circulating that the interim ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) may attempt to rig ballot boxes on Nov. 1 to be able to come to power alone.
In the general election on June 7, the AK Party got 258 deputies in Parliament by receiving 41 percent of the vote. It needs an additional 18 deputies, which would give it an absolute majority in Parliament, to come to power alone.

Opposition concerned about vote rigging

Opposition parties have been alarmed by claims that the results of the Sunday election could be manipulated.
Their concerns were reinforced by a government whistleblower who tweets under the pseudonym Fuat Avni. In some of his latest tweets, Fuat Avni argued government figures are holding regular meetings on election fraud and the Anadolu news agency will play a central role by announcing public support as high as 55 percent for the AK Party on the night of the election.
The Cihan news agency, the only other agency that reports on ballot box results all across Turkey, will be subjected to cyber attacks to prevent it from releasing the results of the ballot box, Fuat Avni also claimed.
Potential election fraud also includes manipulating the computer-based elector record system (SEÇSİS). The Supreme Election Board (YSK), however, says the system is reliable.
Despite such assurances, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the MHP and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have installed similar systems in their party headquarters as a precaution.
Erdal Aksünger, a chief adviser to the CHP chair, recently told Sunday's Zaman the party will compare the ballot box results with the data sent by the party's members to the CHP headquarters on election night.
The main opposition CHP is being particularly careful to develop ways to prevent possible election fraud. The main opposition party is concerned because since his election to office President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has regularly met with muhtars, the lowest-level local administrators including village headmen.
“This gives the impression of a possible election fraud that could involve them,” Erdal Aksünger, a chief adviser to the CHP chair, recently told Sunday's Zaman.
Noting that the voting cards of those who are not considering casting their votes in the election are kept by these local administrators, Aksünger said: “We have doubts [over] what [might] happen to these certificates. We are taking some measures on this matter, but we also believe the YSK should take strong measures to prevent systematic election fraud.”

‘672,000 people missing from voter lists'

Aksünger said at the beginning of the week the names of around 672,000 people who cast their votes in the June election are missing from the voter lists prepared for the Nov. 1 election.
According to Aksünger, in addition to the approximately 672,000 missing names, about 422,000 new names that did not appear on the June 7 election list have been added to the current voter lists.
Noting that perhaps some 200,000 people may have died since the June election, Aksünger said: “But there are still [at least] 472,000 others unaccounted for. On the other hand, there are 422,000 additional voters on the lists of the Nov. 1 election. This is interesting and we believe this is something that needs to be investigated for the sake of election security.”
Given that the AK Party narrowly lost a seat in the June election in some provinces but won some seats in the same manner in other provinces, the mobility of voters is unsettling.
For instance, in Amasya, which is represented by three deputies in Parliament, the MHP lost one seat to the AK Party by only 681 votes.
The MHP also lost three seats to the AK Party in the provinces of Malatya, Çankırı and Çorum by garnering approximately 1,500 fewer votes. Similarly, in Ankara's second constituency, the provinces of Kırklareli, Karaman, Şanlıurfa and Düzce, the AK Party beat the MHP by margins ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 votes.
The MHP also has concerns about election security. MHP Deputy Chair Semih Yalçın recently told Sunday's Zaman, “We are taking measures because we have not ruled out the possibility that they [AK Party] may commit election fraud.”

Bar association says seizure on shaky legal ground

The takeover of critical media outlets owned by the İpek Media Group was denounced as illegal by the Turkish Bar Association (TBB).
TTB head Metin Feyzioğlu said on Wednesday when the police raided the İstanbul headquarters of the media group that the court's decision does not have legal grounds.
In a written statement, Feyzioğlu said: “We see the decision to appoint trustees to the Koza İpek group was made despite the fact that the conditions set by Article 133 of the Criminal Code of Procedures [CMK] were not met. It is not understood why there was a need to assign trustees to collect evidence to show [the culpability of company]. … This appointment of trustees violates many basic rights and liberties, such as the right to property and freedom of the press.”
Article 30 of the Constitution says: “A printing house and its annexes, duly established as a press enterprise under law, and press equipment shall not be seized, confiscated or barred from operation on the grounds of having been used in a crime."
According to the MHP's Adan, the seizure of critical media outlets indicates the AK Party is worried that it will fail in the election.
The election is vitally important for the future of democracy in Turkey as it is widely perceived as an election between an authoritarian government bordering on fascism by the Islamist AK Party and democracy.
It is widely feared the interim ruling AK Party, which has been in power since the end of 2002, may resort to any means necessary to win the election and become more authoritarian, as it has been strongly beset by sweeping allegations of widespread corruption and illegal activities such as providing weapons to radical rebel groups in Syria.
“No matter what they do, they [AK Party] will lose power on Nov. 1 and will be called to account before law for the unlawfulness, the unjust seizure,” the MHP's Adan noted.
Many in Turkey are concerned the government crackdown on critical and independent media has reached such a point that takeovers will soon extend to other media groups.
Government whistleblower Fuat Avni, whose earlier prophecies have been found to be true, claimed back in August Koza İpek and later the Doğan Media Group would be seized by the government.

CHP deputy: 'Despotic regimes silence critical media'

The whistleblower who tweets under the pseudonym Fuat Avni also claimed in the past week that President Erdoğan is preparing a “massive” crackdown on critical media outlets following Sunday's election.
Claiming that the seizure of İpek Media Group was directly orchestrated by Erdoğan, the whistleblower said: “[Erdoğan] is in the process of materializing his long-planned coup on media outlets. He is creating a state within the state. The raid on the İpek Media Group will continue. Sözcü, Cumhuriyet and Doğan media are the next targets.”
According to Mahmut Tanal, a deputy of the main opposition CHP, the government-backed seizure is aimed at preventing the public from being informed about reports that would put the government in trouble.
In remarks to Sunday's Zaman, Tanal, who is a lawyer by profession, said, “The most characteristic feature of despotic regimes is the silencing of the [critical] media.”
The takeover of the holding was carried out based on an expert's opinion which said there was no fault in the accounting reports of the holding. The prosecutor argued, in his notice, that it is dubious that a holding has such clean accounting practices given that it is almost impossible in Turkey to achieve such a thing.
The trustees appointed to manage the critical media outlets -- which include Bugün and Kanaltürk television channels and Bugün and Millet dailies -- are either members of the AK Party, relatives of AK Party members or people who formerly worked for pro-government media groups.
According to the relevant law, trustees are required to be independent and impartial figures.
Both the TV stations were taken off air on Wednesday. The editors-in-chief of the Bugün news channel and the Bugün daily -- Tarık Toros and Erhan Başyurt, respectively -- as well as some reporters working for İpek Media Group were dismissed following the seizure carried out by the use of police force.
Riot police stormed the headquarters of Koza İpek media outlets in İstanbul shortly after dawn on Wednesday, with journalists from the paper making fruitless efforts to prevent them from entering the building and eventually cutting the broadcast.
The seizure is seen by many as an attempt to silence critical media and opposition figures' voices.
Taking over critical media outlets just before the election will not only prevent the opposition parties from communicating their messages but also give a distinct advantage to the AK Party, which already enjoys the support of dozens of pro-government media outlets.
Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member İsmet Demirdöğen told Bugün TV shortly before it was taken off air that the law does not allow police to enter the premises of a company placed in guardianship.
“This is out of the question. … The Constitution only allows the trustees to enter the building but not to intervene in broadcasting,” he said.
The remaining media outlets that are critical and independent of the government line are also under risk of unlawful seizure. Just like Koza İpek, the Doğan and Feza media groups are currently facing anti-terror probes through government-backed judicial investigations.
Just a day after the court's decision to appoint trustees, an AK Party deputy, Aydın Ünal, threatened the remaining critical media outlets, saying they would also be brought to account after Sunday's election.
After accusing the critical media of hate crimes and discrimination, Ünal said, speaking on the pro-government television station A Haber: “We are not in a really comfortable environment right now. However, after the Nov. 1 election, they [critical media outlets] will all be brought to account.”
Ünal is a former top adviser to President Erdoğan, who headed AK Party governments for years before being elected president last year.

'Silencing opposition is fascism'

According to Ruhsar Demirel, another MHP deputy chairman, the seizure by force of the media outlets is evidence enough of the country's transition into fascism from authoritarianism.
Noting that the move aims, ahead of the election, to deprive the opposition of channels by which it can communicate its message to the public, Demirel told Sunday's Zaman, “Silencing the opposition is fascism.”
She added that concerns about election security are at an all-time high given such unprecedented pressure over the media.
The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) expressed concerns about arbitrariness in the takeover of the critical media outlets in a statement, saying, “The society should be persuaded that the measures taken [in the Koza İpek probe] are proportionate and not arbitrary.”
TÜSİAD also warned that doubts over the correctness of a judicial decision such as appointing trustees to a company would deal a severe blow to the business and investment environment in the country.
A media mogul, Aydın Doğan, owner of Doğan Media Group, said at the beginning of October that he has never witnessed during his 40 years in the sector the kind of pressure the media is faced with today.
“I witnessed periods of martial law as well as many other [tense] times of pressure on the media. However, I have never seen this much pressure put on journalists,” Doğan told reporters following a visit to a Hürriyet daily columnist who had shortly before been beaten by some figures linked with the AK Party.
Ahmet Hakan of the Hürriyet daily, which is part of the Doğan media, was attacked after a pro-government columnist, Cem Küçük of the Star daily, issued death threats to Coşkun over his critical comments on Erdoğan and the government.
Küçük targeted Coşkun, saying, “We can smash you like a fly.”
Freedom House, a leading watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, denounced the takeover of a large media group in what it said was a "politically motivated" move, highlighting that the latest crackdown damages the fairness of the upcoming parliamentary election. "The government's seizure of Koza İpek undermines the fairness of the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections,” Robert Herman, vice president for international programs at Freedom House, said in a statement.
In yet another instance of pressure over the critical media, seven critical television channels were recently dropped from TV streaming platforms, muffling the opposition's voice.
The state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) also recently notified Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, known for their critical stance against the government, that their contracts would not be renewed as of November.
The channels were told to remove their platforms from Türksat's infrastructure by the end of the last month.
Türksat's move to drop Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk is the latest instance of TV streaming platforms removing channels critical of the government and means that viewers will not be able to tune in to the channels on any platform, with the exception of the channels' own online streaming applications.
Similarly, Digiturk, Turkcell TV+, Tivibu, Teledünya and Kablo TV removed last month seven TV channels critical of the government, namely Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Kanaltürk, Samanyolu TV, S Haber, Irmak TV and Yumurcak TV from their services.
The removal came based on an order from the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on the suspicion that the TV channels support a terrorist organization.
The removed TV channels are close to the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, against which the government and President Erdoğan has been conducting a large-scale smear campaign since the graft probes of December 2013.
A report made public by the İstanbul Institute's Center of Media and Communication Studies in May also highlighted the fact that government pressure on the media over the past several years has become more intense than ever.
In December 2014, in a government-led crackdown against the Zaman daily and the Samanyolu television channel, daily's then editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı and the TV channel's general manager Hidayet Karaca were detained on charges of establishing and leading a terrorist organization.
Some soap opera scriptwriters and police officers were also detained in the operation on Dec. 14, 2013.
Despite the lack of any solid evidence, Karaca and three police officers have remained, behind bars since then, while Dumanlı, the script writers and the producers of soap opera "Sungurlar" were released pending trial.
Both Zaman and Samanyolu are also critical media outlets that are close to Gülen, whose teachings are an inspiration for millions of people.

#Turkey - Int’l editors urge for ensuring press freedom in Turkey in letter to Erdoğan

A group of international editors and news publishers have penned an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 30 on the eve of the Nov. 1 general elections voicing concerns over the retrogressive state of press freedom in the country. 

The letter, signed by more than 50 members of World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), World Editors Forum (WEF), International Press Institute (IPI) and International PEN,  listed the recent attacks targeting journalists and media outlets in Turkey including the attack on daily Hürriyet HQ, the assault of Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan, the seizure of Gülen-linked Koza İpek Company and the detention of VICE News journalists.

“On the eve of an important election on Nov. 1, which will be of concern and interest to those in Turkey and internationally, the Turkish government’s failure to support and to protect journalists where necessary is undermining the country’s international reputation and damaging its standing as a democracy. We share widespread concerns that recent events are part of a concerted campaign to silence any opposition or criticism of the government in the run up to the election,” said the letter signed by more than 50 prominent editors around the world, including Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times; Michèle Léridon, global news director of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker.

The international editors also pointed to the rising “culture of impunity” in the country hindering journalists from doing their work and the government’s setback on condemning the attacks targeting journalists.

“As editors, we are dismayed to see individual journalists, along with publications and media groups targeted in this way. We are increasingly concerned at the impact on reporting events in Turkey fully and accurately, both at home and abroad. We urge you to foster a culture where press freedom is fully respected,” the letter concluded.

Music Video - Demi Lovato - Cool for the Summer

Poll: Hillary Clinton Hits 50 Percent Support

President Obama Probably Misses John Boehner Already


A guy from Ohio named John, who used to be Speaker of the House of Representatives, is wrapping up his government-service farewell tour this week.
Soon-to-be-regular-dude John Boehner'sofficial good-bye and his exit interviews have been tinged with nostalgia, but considering he's likened his job as Speaker to that of agarbage man or toy monkey, he's probably pretty happy to finally hang up his spurs. But there's one person that might be kind of broken up about it: President Obama.
In an interview with Fox News that aired Friday, Boehner discussed working with President Obama, who was, pretty frequently, at odds with the Republican-led House. Nevertheless, "the president and I have a good relationship," Boehner said. "We have disagreements over all kinds of issues. But we have a good relationship because I think it's essential that the leaders be able to work with each other, have a relationship, build some trust, so that we can do the nation's business."
Boehner then mentioned a "nice conversation" the two frenemies had the day Boehner announced he was retiring. Obama called him upon hearing the news, and "at one point he said, 'Boehner, man, I'm going to miss you.'"
"Yes, you are Mr. President," Boehner replied, and then for apparent dramatic effect added: "Yes, you are."
President Obama won't have too much time to ruminate over Boehner's prophecy, as he's already got to start figuring out how to work with his successor, Paul D. Ryan. So far the White House sounds hopefully optimistic about its prospects of working with Ryan, despite very public differences the president has had with the Wisconsin congressman and former GOP vice-presidential candidate over the Ryan budget plan. "He’s somebody who is willing to do his homework, and that is worthy of some respect,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “That doesn’t in any way minimize the significance differences between the two of them.”

Yet things aren't off to the best start. Apparently a Ryan spokesperson has already come out and said the new Speaker does not like to golf — a sport over which the president and Boehner tried to work out their differences — and prefers hunting. Boehner, though, will be hitting up the links either way.

Video - Trick-or-Treat with the President and First Lady Michelle Obama

Video - President Obama's Weekly Address: It’s Time To Reform our Criminal Justice System

'We are flying home:' Grief & disbelief in Russia over shocking Sinai air crash

November 1 declared national day of mourning in Russia over plane crash in Egypt

Cultural institutions and television and radio broadcasters should cancel entertaining events and programs on the day of mourning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared national day of mourning on November 1 over Russian plane crash in Egypt, the Kremlin press service said on Saturday.
"On the day of mourning, Russian national flags will be flown at half-mast across the country. Cultural institutions and television and radio broadcasters should cancel entertaining events and programs on the day of mourning. The Russian government, together with local authorities, should take appropriate measures to provide assistance to the families of the victims," the press service cited the presidential decree as saying.

Video Report - Bodies of 224 Sinai crash victims delivered to Cairo morgue

Video Report - Russian A321 fell 'almost vertically', technical fault behind crash

Video Report - First video from 7K9268 A321 crash site in Sinai

Kal Bhi Bhutto Zinda Tha,Ajj Bhi Bhutto Zinda hai

Publisher of Secular Books Killed, 3 Wounded in Bangladesh

A publisher of secular books was hacked to death and three other people were wounded in two separate attacks Saturday at publishing houses in Bangladesh's capital, police said.
The attacks in Dhaka come amid fears about the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh. At least four atheist bloggers have been murdered in the impoverished country this year, while the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for three other attacks.
Both of the publishers involved in Saturday's attacks had published works of Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death on the Dhaka University campus while walking with his wife in February.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks. The local Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team had claimed responsibility for the blogger killings and recently threatened to kill more bloggers.
The slaughtered body of publisher Faisal Arefin Deepan of the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house was found inside his office following the second of Saturday's attacks, senior police officer Shibly Noman said. Earlier in the day, publisher Ahmed Rahim Tutul and two writers were shot and stabbed by three men in the office of the Shudhdhoswar publishing house, said police officer Abdullah Al Mamun. Local police chief Jamal Uddin Meer said the assailants then locked the wounded men inside the office before escaping. "We had to break the lock to recover them," Meer said.
The two writers were identified by police as Ranadeep Basu and Tareque Rahim. All three of the victims were hospitalized, and Tutul was in critical condition, Meer said.
Bangladesh has been rocked by a series of attacks this year claimed by Islamic extremists, including the blogger murders and, more recently, the killing of two foreigners — an Italian aid worker and a Japanese agricultural worker. An Oct. 24 bomb attack on thousands of Shiite Muslims in Dhaka killed a teenage boy and injured more than 100 other people.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the two foreigners and the bombing, but Bangladesh's government has rejected that the extremist Sunni militant group has any presence in the country.
The government has instead blamed domestic Islamist militants along with Islamist political parties — specifically the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its main ally, Jamaat-e-Islami — for orchestrating the violence to destabilize the already fractious nation.

‘Probably the largest’ al-Qaeda training camp ever destroyed in Afghanistan

By Dan Lamothe

A multi-day operation in southern Afghanistan this month that involved 200 Special Operations forces and scores of American airstrikes targeted what was “probably the largest” al-Qaeda training camp found in the 14-year Afghan war, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan said on Friday.
Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the four-star officer in charge of the U.S. war effort, said the camp was used by AQIS, an acronym for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. The group’s formation was announced last year by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and is believed to be based in Pakistan and focused on India, Pakistan and other nations in southern Asia.
The operation, announced by the U.S. military on Oct. 11, hit one training area that sprawled over 30 square miles and another small one that was about one square mile, U.S. military officials said. U.S. and Afghan troops were involved in the ground assault, with 63 airstrikes launched to cover them. Some 160 al-Qaeda fighters were reported killed.
The training camps were found in Kandahar province’s Shorabak district, a sparsely populated area along Afghanistan’s southern border with Pakistan, and the facilities are believed to have been in existence for up to a year.
That in itself has raised questions about the effectiveness of the U.S. military to find and strike the militants 14 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks prompted the United States to topple the Taliban and begin hunting al-Qaeda. U.S. officials have long said that only the bare remnants of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan, and that they were concentrated in a few valleys in the eastern part of the country.
“It’s a place where you would probably think you wouldn’t have AQ. I would agree with that,” Campbell said of the Kandahar operation, using an acronym for al-Qaeda. “This was really AQIS, and probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”
Campbell, speaking in an interview in his office, said the existence of the camps in Kandahar province were discovered after a raid this summer on another al-Qaeda facility in the Barmal district of eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. That rugged, mountainous district borders North Waziristan, in one of Pakistan’s tribal areas with a long history of both al-Qaeda and Taliban operations.
“We looked at it for a while to make sure we reduced the risk to the forces that go in on a target like that,” Campbell said of the operation this month. “It was a very complex target set over several days.”
Campbell said it was initially surprising to find the camps in the south, “but I think as we step back now and really analyze it, it shouldn’t.” The enemy continues to evolve, he said, especially as Pakistan launches operations on its side of the border to root out insurgent fighters and the Islamic State competes with al-Qaeda for global influence.
“What I think you have to do is challenge your assumptions here,” the general said. “Things change, and what was good here in 2010 or 2011 may not necessarily be good today as far as the enemy.”
The training camps were hit just days before President Obama announced Oct. 15 that he will be keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of 2016 and 5,500 into 2017, rather than reducing the force to about 1,000 service members by the end of 2016, as he had announced eatlier. He did so after a months-long review and a bloody year in which insurgents have successfully, albeit temporarily, taken control of cities like Kunduz in the north and Musa Qala in Helmand province.
The Islamic State militant group that has terrorized parts of Iraq and Syria also has sprung up in Afghanistan, recruiting in several parts of the country and launching operations in Nangarhar province in the southeast. It also has fought the Taliban, who exert control in the same area.
AQIS began migrating from North Waziristan to southern Afghanistan last year with other al-Qaeda-linked groups after Pakistan launched a military offensive in the region, said Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. Timing was everything, he added: It would have been helpful to the governments in Kabul and Washington if Pakistan had done so a few years earlier, when the United States had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“Instead, you’ve had all these AQIS and other al-Qaeda fighters and their allies flowing into a region of Afghanistan without a foreign combat presence, but with a strong Taliban presence, which in many cases exerts de facto control,” Kugelman said.
Kugelman warned against assuming that all of the militants at the camps targeted were “uniquely AQIS fighters.” Al-Qaeda has a deep bench of militant allies, he said, including fighters who are in the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
Campbell did not detail the composition of the ground force involved in the operation in Kandahar province, but credited Afghan Special Operations troops with being involved in a series of raids that produced key intelligence about insurgent groups.
The Afghan government also established this summer an American-style intelligence “fusion cell” that analyzes and compares information collected by Kabul’s defense and interior ministries and its security forces.
Asked about the operation last week, the senior officer in charge of Air Force aviation in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. David Julazadeh, said that the 455th Expeditionary Air Wing that he commands from Bagram Airfield north of Kabul was “intimately involved” in the planning of the operation in Kandahar province. His wing has F-16 fighter jets at Bagram, along with armed MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones flying from Jalalabad Airfield and Kandahar Airfield, respectively.
“It was pretty awesome,” Julazadeh said. “I’ll just leave it at that. It was highly coordinated between us and the Special Operations folks.”