A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.
The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops....
-bth: about enough time for the equipment to wear out and the money to be stolen. Karzai will be long gone and someone else left holding the bag.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Friday, December 27, 2013
Al-Qaeda-linked Yusuf Al Qadi and Osama Khoutub, who are among the suspects in a major graft probe, have reportedly fled Turkey after the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) blocked a police raid on Wednesday as İstanbul police refused to comply with orders of prosecutors to detain several suspects in the second leg of the investigation
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen. The İstanbul Police Department, which saw an extensive purge of its top officers over the last week, has not complied with the order, however.
News reports suggest that when the list of 30 suspects leaked to media on Wednesday, some of the suspects took precautionary measures to avoid incriminating themselves in the case of a police raid on their homes or offices.
And some suspects fled Turkey, including al-Qaeda Turkey operatives Al Qadi and Khoutub, after government blocked the investigation through newly appointed police chiefs who refused to comply with court decision....
"By not implementing the court decisions, police chiefs committed a crime. An opportunity was given to suspects to take measures, escape or mitigate the evidence," he said.
Saudi businessman Al Qadi's assests were frozen in Turkey after he was named a financer of terrorism in the international community. News reports point out that the al-Qaeda suspect is allowed to enter Turkey freely and has access to high-level diplomats and security officials, including Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan.
According to claims, former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who left his post on Wednesday in a major Cabinet reshuffle, asked the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor to close the case.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan replaced almost half of his cabinet on Wednesday after three members stepped down following corruption allegations. Despite replacing 10 of his ministers, many Turks are calling on Erdogan to resign. A number of people, including the sons of two ministers, are allegedly suspects accused of corruption such as money laundering and bribery to secure construction permits. ...
A 40-Second Guide To The Crisis In Turkey That Sent Markets Tanking And Put The Government In Its Weakest Position - Business Insider
...Here's what has happened in the last few days:
- At the heart of the scandal is an allegedgas for gold schemeinvolvingThe drama surrounding two personalities are particularly eye-popping: Police reportedly discovered shoeboxes containing $4.5 million in the home of Suleyman Aslan, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, and also arrested Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who primarily deals in the gold trade, and who allegedly oversaw deals worth almost $10 billion last year alone. - See more at:The drama surrounding two personalities are particularly eye-popping: Police reportedly discovered shoeboxes containing $4.5 million in the home of Suleyman Aslan, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, and also arrested Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who primarily deals in the gold trade, and who allegedly oversaw deals worth almost $10 billion last year alone. - See more at:the CEO of the state-owned Halkbank, who had $4.5 million in cash stored in shoeboxes in his home, and an Iranian businessman who was involved in about $9.6 billion of gold trading last year. Both men were arrested this week. (Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz explain "Iran's Turkish Gold Rush" in Foreign Policy.)
- On Friday, a Turkish court blocked a government attempt to force police to disclose investigations to their superiors. The initial order came after Erdogan's government purged about 70 of the police officers, including the head of the force in Istanbul, who were involved in the corruption probe.
- Also on Friday, senior prosecutor announced that he had opened a corruption investigation targeting the prominent Turkish charity TÜRGEV, where the prime minister's son Bilal is a board member.
- On Wednesday three member's of Turkey's cabinet quit, one of whom called on Erdogan to resign, after their sons were detained in connection with the probe.
- Apart from the gold trade, much of the alleged corruption involves Turkey's construction industry, which has boomed under Erdogan.
- Dozens of people, including officials in three government ministries and some of Turkey’s most powerful businessmen, have been reportedly implicated in overall probe. Twenty-four people are currently arrested.
- A prosecutor fired on Thursday alleges that police failed to carry out some arrests, including that of a Saudi businessman named Yusuf Al Qadi who is linked to al-Qaeda and has access to high level security officials....
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
,,,Two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, Christianity is under assault more than at any time in the past century, prompting some to speculate that one of the world's three great religions could vanish entirely from the region within a generation or two.
From Iraq, which has lost at least half of its Christians over the past decade, to Egypt, which saw the worst spate of anti-Christian violence in 700 years this summer, to Syria, where jihadists are killing Christians and burying them in mass graves, the followers of Jesus face violence and vitriol as well as declining churches and ecumenical divides. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the population of the Middle East, down from 20 percent a century ago. Many Arab Christians are upset that the West hasn't done more to help.
Though many Muslims grew up with Christian friends and colleagues, powerful political and social forces have made such coexistence more difficult. As political Islam gains support, Christians can no longer find refuge in a shared Arab identity with their Muslim neighbors, but are instead increasingly marooned by an emphasis on religious identity. Calls for citizenship with equal rights are punctuated with stories of Islamist extremists demanding that Christians convert to Islam or pay an exorbitant tax. And many Muslims are facing persecution themselves as the Arab upheavals of 2011 continue to ripple across the region and nations try to find an equilibrium between freedom and stability.
"Whatever happens, it is going to be very difficult to put it back together again," says Fiona McCallum, a scholar of Middle Eastern Christians at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
To be sure, Christians have confronted difficult times before, from the killing of Jesus' immediate followers to the Mamluk oppression of Christians beginning in the 13th century to the rise of Islamist militant activity in Egypt in the 1970s. Warriors who came in the name of Christ have been responsible for egregious interreligious violence as well, such as during the First Crusade in 1099, when Christians took over Jerusalem and massacred nearly all the city's residents.
Whether today proves to be yet another ebb in the flow of Christian history or something more fundamental remains uncertain. But what is evident is that both Muslims and Christians, as well as the region's other minorities, are likely to be significantly affected by a continued deterioration.
Christians have traditionally run some of the region's top schools, been active members of the merchant class, and brought a moderating influence to society and politics. That has led not only Christians and human rights activists to lobby for the preservation of these communities, but some Muslim leaders as well.
"The protection of the rights of Christians is a duty rather than a favor," declared Jordan's King Abdullah in September, speaking to delegates at a palace-sponsored conference on Arab Christian persecution. "Christians have always played a key role in building our societies and defending our nations."...
-bth: it is a fact that Christianity is being forced out of large sections of the middle east by islamic extremists. Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Syria.
stanbul (CNN) -- The government of key U.S. ally Turkey began to crack this week. There are rumblings that an Islamic cleric living in the United States may have something to do it.
But prosecutors in Istanbul have said corruption is the culprit.
Three Cabinet ministers resigned their posts Wednesday, days after their sons were arrested or temporarily detained in an anti-graft sting, semiofficial news agency Anadolu reported.
One of them -- Urbanization and Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar -- went further than the other two, not just resigning his Cabinet position but also calling on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down....
-bth: and over 50 police chiefs were fired or forced to resign. A nuanced power struggle going on on Turkey
'Unit set up by V K Singh used secret funds to try, topple J&K govt, block Bikram Singh' - India Express
Misusing secret service funds to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, to pay off an NGO to try change the line of succession in the Army top brass, to buy off-air interception equipment, to conduct "unauthorised" covert operations — a string of alleged irregularities by the Technical Services Division (TSD), a controversial Military Intelligence (MI) unit set up by former Army Chief General V K Singh in May 2010, should come under the scanner of an external agency like the CBI....
-bth: so what does this mean the IA is doing in Indian politics?
Turkey has been shaken by the most extensive and sensational corruption investigations of its recent history that have led to dozens of detentions - from renowned business people to senior bureaucrats and sons of ministers.
There is a consensus in Turkey that the graft crackdown is linked to the recent tensions between the United States-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen's movement and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that, many analysts say, used to be allies in the past in their struggle against Turkey's politically dominant military.
Erdogan was furious in his first reactions to the crackdown. He called the probe a "dirty operation" to smear his administration and undermine the country's progress.
The prime minister said that those behind the investigations were trying to form a "state within a state" in an apparent reference to the movement of Gulen, whose followers are apparently highly influential in Turkey's police forces and judiciary....
-bth: major political events unfolding in Turkey. Watch mayorial elections in 2014 for trend indicators.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials say a car bomb went off near a Baghdad church during Christmas Mass, killing at least 15 people.
A police officer says Wednesday's explosion took place in the city's southern Dora neighborhood, which has a small Christian population.
The officer says more than 30 people were wounded in the bombing.
A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Iraq's dwindling Christian community, which is estimated to number about 400,000 to 600,000 people, has often come under attack by al-Qaida and other insurgents.
The latest attack comes as Iraqi security forces are carrying out a massive military operation in Iraq's western desert, hunting for al-Qaida and militant hideouts near the border with Syria.
Monday, December 23, 2013
Israeli Mossad agents operating in Ethiopia in 1962 unwittingly trained Nelson Mandela in hand-to-hand combat, weaponry and sabotage, according to a document released by Israel's state archives.
A letter from a Mossad official to the foreign ministry, dated October 11, 1962 titled "THE BLACK PIMPERNEL" and released to the public yesterday, recalls a conversation in which "we discussed a trainee in Ethiopia named David Mobasari, from Rhodesia".
"The aforementioned was trained by the Ethiopians in Judo, sabotage and weapons," the letter read.
"The Black Pimpernel" was the nickname given at the time to Mandela, the revered anti-apartheid hero and former ANC leader who died this month, while he was on the run from white South Africa during the liberation struggle.
According to Haaretz newspaper, which first reported the story, the term "Ethiopians" was probably a code name for Israeli Mossad agents working in Ethiopia.
"He greeted our men with (Hebrew salutation) 'Shalom', was familiar with the problems of (Jewish diaspora) and Israel and created the impression of an educated man," the letter read.
"The Ethiopians tried to make him a Zionist."
"It now emerges from photographs in newspapers on the arrest of the Black Pimpernel in South Africa that the trainee from Rhodesia was using a pseudonym, and the two are actually the same person," the letter read.
According to the letter, Mandela took an interest in the methods of the Hagana and Jewish militias that existed before Israel's creation in 1948....
- fascinating article worth full read.
...The fallout of those four days spent off the Fukushima coast has been tragic to many of the 5,000 sailors who were there.
At least 70 have been stricken with some form of radiation sickness, and of those, “at least half . . . are suffering from some form of cancer,” their lawyer, Paul Garner, told The Post Saturday.
“We’re seeing leukemia, testicular cancer and unremitting gynecological bleeding requiring transfusions and other intervention,” said Garner, who is representing 51 crew members suing the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant.
“Then you have thyroid polyps, other thyroid diseases,” added Garner, who plans to file an amended lawsuit in federal court in San Diego next month that will bring the number of plaintiffs past 70.
Senior Chief Michael Sebourn, a radiation-decontamination officer, was assigned to test the aircraft carrier for radiation.
The levels were incredibly dangerous and at one point, the radiation in the air measured 300 times higher than what was considered safe, Sebourn told The Post....
-bth: the basic question I have is was the location of the ship downwind from the plume necessary?
Sunday, December 22, 2013
...Bangladesh’s decision to purchase the submarines from China is unsurprising as Dhaka has long relied heavily on Beijing for military equipment. In 2012, it was the second largest market for Chinese arms exports behind Pakistan.
Still, the move has deeply unsettled Bangladesh’s neighbor India, who is concerned about Chinese influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. News of the submarine negotiations between Bangladesh and China had already led India’s Eastern Naval Command to seek a larger presence in the Bay of Bengal, The Times of India reported earlier this month.
The newspaper quoted a senior Indian defense official as saying:
“Why would Bangladesh need submarines? This decision by the government there and the ongoing strife in the country is a matter of concern for us. We also suspect that Chinese submarines are sneaking into Indian territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal region, though none has been detected as yet. This is reason enough for greater naval presence in the region. At the moment, India isn’t really prepared for any conflict in the Bay of Bengal region near West Bengal due to the lack of adequate infrastructure.”
The report went on to describe a number of infrastructure upgrades India’s Navy is making in the area, primarily land it is looking into purchasing on Sagar Island. These include building a new port. Also in West Bengal, India is constructing a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle base in the city of Kolkata....