Monday, September 1, 2014

Afghanistan's Unity Government Agreement Has Collapsed

Afghan Talks On Unity Government Collapse; Crisis Deepens -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Talks on a power-sharing deal between Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates have collapsed, a top leader said on Monday, rekindling fears of ethnic unrest over disputed election results.

Under the terms of a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the runner-up in the vote was to name a "chief executive" in a national unity government conceived to keep the lid on political tensions.

Abdullah Abdullah was runner-up in the official election results. Mohammad Mohaqeq, one of Abdullah's vice presidential running mates, told Reuters the two sides could not agree on the powers of the chief executive, accusing the camp of election winner Ashraf Ghani of hardening its position.

"The talks collapsed two days ago. The political process is now at a stalemate, we don't see any way out," Mohaqeq, a leader of the minority Hazara community, said in an interview in Kabul, as a months-long power struggle to succeed President Hamid Karzai showed no signs of a resolution.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is a breaking news story .... and if true .... another disaster for Afghanistan and U.S. policy in the region..

President Obama Prepares To Head To Europe To Reassure Allies On U.S. Committment

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference on the second day of the NATO Summit in Chicago (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

From Syria To Ukraine, Crises Fill The Obama-NATO Agenda -- McClatchy News

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama heads to Europe next week, looking to assure nervous allies of the United States’ commitment to the region, as NATO prepares to beef up forces amid fears that Russia will step up its provocations beyond Ukraine.

Obama arrives in Estonia late Tuesday, where he’ll meet with the presidents of the three Baltic states, along with U.S. and Estonian troops. He’ll also travel to Wales to meet with world leaders at a NATO summit, as the group that was created in 1949 to bolster security against the Soviet Union finds itself gearing up to respond to a new type of Russian aggression.

“The two stops are essentially part of the same effort to send a message to the Russians that their behavior is unacceptable,” said Charles Kupchan, senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council.

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My Comment: ISIS, Ukraine, Russia .... it is going to be a busy week. But will he be offering concrete policies and a plan of action separate from what has already been discussed .... I guess we will know in the next few days.

NATO To Create A Rapid-Response Force For Eastern Europe

NATO to Create a Rapid-Response Force for Eastern Europe, Officials Say -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — As Ukrainian leaders warned on Monday of “a great war” with Russia, NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most concrete response yet to increased Russian military intervention in Ukraine: establishing a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe, officials of the alliance said.

The new force of some 4,000 troops, capable of moving on 48 hours’ notice, will be supported with logistics and equipment pre-positioned in Eastern European countries closer to Russia, with an upgraded schedule of military exercises and deployments that are intended to make NATO’s commitment of collective defense more credible and enhance its deterrence.

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Update: NATO to create new 'spearhead' force to respond to crises -- Reuters

My Comment: The creation of a rapid response force of a few thousand men is not going to impress anyone .... least of all Moscow. This is more of a PR exercise to give the appearance that the U.S. and Europe are doing something within the framework of NATO.

NATO Is At Odds On How To Counter Russia's Intervention In Ukraine

Nato Allies At Odds Over Response To Russian Aggression -- Financial Times

In late March, Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, made a plea to Nato: put 10,000 troops in Poland, permanently, he asked.

But to the consternation of many in Poland and the Baltics, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last week slapped down any notion of Nato boots in a long-term positioning on eastern European soil during a visit to Latvia.

In the wake of Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine, the debate over how Nato should respond has been an impassioned one that threatens to divide the alliance.

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My Comment: NATO is in disarray right now. No leadership from the White House. And as for Europe .... a limit on how far they will go.

Ukraine Refuses Russia's Call For A Cease-Fire With Rebels

Russia Calls For Cease-Fire With Rebels, But Ukraine Vows To Keep Up The Fight -- Washington Post

MOSCOW — Russian officials pressed Ukraine on Monday to declare a cease-fire with separatists, but Ukrainians say they are locked in a war not just against the rebels but also against Russia — on behalf of Europe.

“A great war has come, the likes of which Europe has not seen since the Second World War,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said on his Facebook page Monday, adding that the fight must go on to “show that Ukrainians are not going to give up.”

Lost territory, trapped soldiers and increasing reports of Russian tanks and troops operating in eastern Ukraine have changed the course of events in the past few days. Newly emboldened separatist forces are bearing down on strategic targets, such as the port city of Mariupol — which the Ukrainian military maintains it can defend — and the airport in Luhansk, where troops retreated in the face of a rebel onslaught Monday.

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My Comment: The rebels have dropped their demands for independence .... and are willing to accept autonomy in a Ukraine. This is a shift (albeit a small one) .... but like the offer for a ceasefire .... the government in Kiev is not interested.

Ukraine Warns Of An Escalating Conflict

Ukraine Warns Of Europe’s Worst Conflict Since World War II -- Bloomberg

Ukraine warned of an escalating conflict in its easternmost regions as a rebel leader said talks this week may include negotiations for a truce.

The country’s military will take on Russia’s “full-scale invasion,” Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey said on Facebook today, a shift away from the government’s earlier communication that focused on an offensive against insurgents. Ukraine “must urgently build up defenses against Russia,” which is seeking “to advance to other areas in Ukraine,” Geletey said.

Ukraine and its allies in the U.S. and Europe are accusing Russia of dispatching troops and backing militias to open a new front in the conflict that the United Nations estimates has claimed 2,600 lives. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied involvement in the unrest. Talks today between representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the separatists will continue Sept. 5.

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My Comment: This assessment is probably correct.

Russia's Military Led Bloc May Deploy 'Pecekeepers' To Ukraine

Military servicemen during the Interaction 2014 military drill for the Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, at the Spassk Training Center near the city of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. (RIA Novosti / Sergey Kuznecov)

Russia-Led Military Bloc Ready To Send Peacekeepers To Ukraine -- RT

The head of the CSTO says its peacekeepers are ready for any operations, including in Ukraine, but their deployment requires the go-ahead from leaders of all member-countries.

"Deployment of the CSTO peacekeeping force can be ordered only by the Collective Security Council – the supreme body formed with heads of state of the member countries. By a joint decision these leaders can order the use of peacekeepers both on the territory of the member-states and also outside their borders,” General-Secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Nikolay Bordyuzha, stated on Friday.

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My Comment: If these reports are true .... it is another ominous development on where the Ukrainian civil war/Russian intervention is going. In short .... by officially positioning military forces in eastern Ukraine, it will then become a defacto state independent from Kiev protected by the CSTO.

Update: Here is another equally bad idea .... U.S. lawmakers call for arming Ukraine government -- Reuters

Is Russia's Version Of The U.S. Navy SEALS Fighting In Ukraine?

Russia’s Version Of The Navy SEALs May Be Fighting In Ukraine -- Business Insider/Bellingcat

The Instagram account of a Russian special forces operative reveals that members of the elite Alpha Group took part in military operations in Ukraine.

Ilya Gorelyh, who has been highly decorated for his service in special operations, has suggested that he and his colleagues took part in the fighting against Ukrainian forces.

On the 21st of July, Gorelyh posted a photograph of his car driving through the border crossing at Nehoteevka with the comment “we are already close, fucking Banderas”. The reference is to Stepan Bandera, who led a nationalist movement in Ukraine during the Stalinist era and who remains notorious in Russia for his collaboration with the Nazis.

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My Comment: Russia's Alpha Group .... like the U.S. Navy SEALS and The British SAS do not make it a habit to advertise their operations. But if I was a betting man, I would bet that some these units are now in Ukraine.

Ukraine Army In ‘Very Difficult State’ (Video)

From PBS Newshour: Overnight there was a rare moment of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine as 9 Russian soldiers were swapped for 63 Ukrainian soldiers at the border. But, the crisis continues as officials said Sunday a Ukraine Navy vessel came under fire from pro-Russian rebels on shore. James Marson of the Wall Street Journal joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Mariupol, Ukraine with the latest.

My Comment: A sober assessment on what is happening on the ground in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Military Ship Sunk By Artillery Fire From Pro-Russian Separatists

Ukrainian Patrol Ship Sunk By Artillery Fire -- IHS Jane's 360

A Ukrainian patrol ship has been sunk in the Azov Sea after coming under artillery fire, the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service (DPSU) announced on 1 September.

Two Ukrainian Coast Guard vessels based in Mariupol had been patrolling three miles off the Ukrainian coast near Bezimenne when they came under shore-based artillery fire on 31 August, the DPSU said.

Read more ....

More News On Pro-Russian Separatists Attacking A Ukrainian Military Ship With Artillery Fire

Ukraine Launches Rescue Operation After Ship Attacked by Separatists -- Moscow Times
Rebels Fire on Ukrainian Ship at Sea -- VOA
Separatists claim first attack on Ukrainian ship -- The Telegraph
Pro-Russian Separatists Attack Ukrainian Military Ship -- IBTimes
Ukraine Says Naval Ship In Flames After Attack By Rebels -- Radio Free Europe
Rescue under way after separatists claim first attack on Ukrainian ship -- Reuters
Igor Strelkov Claims Responsibility for Ukrainian Ships Attack in Azov Sea -- IBTimes

Russian President Putin Outlines His Terms For A Ceasefire Agreement In Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin. © RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimentyev

Putin's "Statehood" Gambit Raises Stakes In East Ukraine -- Reuters

Shift in Kremlin language steps up pressure on Kiev

* Ambiguous 'statehood' comment played down by spokesman
* Use of term 'New Russia' becoming more frequent
* Putin keeps Kiev, West guessing over ultimate aim

MOSCOW, Sept 1 (Reuters) - A shift in President Vladimir Putin's language on the conflict in eastern Ukraine reflects a transformation in the situation on the battlefield and sounds a warning to Kiev to negotiate sooner rather than later.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quick to tell journalists that the Kremlin leader was not demanding independence for pro-Russian separatists when he said on Sunday that talks should take place immediately "on the political organisation of society and statehood in southeastern Ukraine".

But in the context of the separatist war in which the rebels have made startling gains in the space of a week - with the help, Ukraine and its Western allies say, of Russian tanks and troops - the formulation had an ominous ring for Kiev.

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Update #1: Putin seeks ‘statehood’ talks for Ukrainian rebel regions -- Irish Times
Update #2: Putin to Ukraine: Begin immediate talks on east -- Navy Times

My Comment: The Ukrainian government is not going to accept these terms .... but events on the ground are now quickly going Putin's way .... and he knows it.

A Fascinating Answer - Question Session On Ukraine Between BBC Observer John Sweeney And Russian President Putin

My Comment: The body language. The look in his eyes. This video is a must see just for that.

Russian President Putin Warns Of Nuclear War

Russia's President Vladimir Putin.(RIA Novosti / Alexey Druzhinin)

Putin Threatens Nuclear War Over Ukraine -- Gordon G. Chang, Daily Beast

Raising the spectre of nuclear war over Ukraine, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is playing a new, and dangerous, game.

On Friday, as Russian Federation tanks and troops poured across the border into eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin talked about his country’s most destructive weaponry. “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations,” he said. “This is a reality, not just words.” Russia, he told listeners, is “strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces.”

That same day, Putin used a term for eastern Ukraine meaning “New Russia.” So when he refers to repelling “any aggression against Russia” and speaks of “nuclear deterrence,” as he did on Friday, the Russian president is really warning us he will use nukes to protect his grab of Ukrainian territory.

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My Comment: Is Russian President Putin serious .... I doubt it .... but he is scaring everyone right now.

Update: Russia is denying reports that it is making nuclear threats .... Russia outraged after Kiev accuses Moscow of nuclear attack threats -- RT

Russian President Putin: 'If I Want To I Can Take Kiev In A Fortnight'

Warning: Mr Putin (right) made a bellicose statement to the European Commission President, Jose Manual Barroso (left), telling him that his armed forces could 'take Kiev in a fortnight'. The pair are pictured here on August 20

'If I Want To I Can Take Kiev In A Fortnight': Putin's Threat To Europe Revealed By EU Boss As Ukraine Loses Control Of Key Airport -- Daily Mail

* Putin made an incendiary remark to the European Commission President
* He said that his forces could march to the Ukrainian capital in two weeks
* Two seamen are missing after a rebel artillery attack on a patrol boat
* Sergei Lavrov said negotiations on Monday should seek a ceasefire
* Putin says rebel-held areas should be granted 'statehood', splitting Ukraine
* Analysts say Putin wants to establish a 'frozen conflict' to solidify his gains
* 'There are no limits to the unpredictability of Putin' - Angela Merkel

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a bellicose statement to the European Commission President, telling him that his armed forces could 'take Kiev in a fortnight'.

The warning was made to Jose Manual Barroso over the phone, according to an Italian newspaper and came as Ukraine lost control of a key airport in the east of the country.

Mr Barroso relayed what the Russian leader said to a European council meeting at the weekend in Brussels.

Read more ....

More News On Russian President Putin's Remarks That 'If I Want To I Can Take Kiev In A Fortnight'

Vladimir Putin: 'I Can Take Kiev In Two Weeks If I Want' -- Huffington post
Ukraine Crisis: 'If I Want, I Will Take Kiev in Two Weeks', Putin Warns EU's Barroso -- IBTimes
Vladimir Putin: I can 'take Kiev in two weeks' if I want -- The Week

My Comment: These remarks are not receiving the media attention that it should .... these remarks also reflect on how dangerous the situation has now become in eastern Europe.

Editor's Note.

I live in Canada ... and today is a big national holiday. The girlfriend wants to do a family thing this morning and afternoon .... so alas .... blogging will return later this afternoon.

Somalia's Intelligence HQ Attacked By Islamist Rebels

A Somali government soldier holds his fighting position against suspected militants during an attack at the Jilacow underground cell inside a national security compound in Mogadishu August 31, 2014.
Credit: REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Islamist Rebels Attack Intelligence Site In Somalia, 12 Killed -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Islamist rebels blew up a car bomb and gunmen attacked a national intelligence site in Somalia's capital where suspected militants are held, in an assault on Sunday that left at least 12 people dead.

Three soldiers and two civilians were killed along with seven militants, including the suicide bomber who detonated the vehicle packed with explosives, government officials said.

After the initial blast, gunmen stormed the compound but did not reach the underground cells where suspected militants were being detained, Security Ministry spokesman Mohamed Yusuf told reporters at the site.

Read more ....

Update #1: Shebab rebels stage major attack on Somalia intelligence HQ -- AFP
Update #2: Al-Shabab attacks Somalia's intelligence HQ -- Al Jazeera

My Comment: This is an embarrassing intelligence failure.

Islamist Fighters Have Taken Over The Abandoned U.S. Embassy In Libya

Islamist Militia 'Seize' U.S. Embassy Compound In Libya And Post Video Online Of Triumphant Gunmen Leaping Into The POOL While Giving Tours Around The Evacuated Residents Quarters -- Daily Mail

* Footage reportedly taken inside the compound shows men gathered around the embassy villa's swimming pool, with some even jumping in
* An official claims the compound is being 'safeguarded' and was not 'ransacked'
* The compound has been unoccupied since July 26 when U.S. diplomats evacuated to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort
* It comes near the two-year anniversary of the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi

Islamist militiamen stormed the residential annex of America's embassy in Tripoli on Sunday then took the time to give curious journalists in the Libyan capital a tour.

The group has taken up residence in the annex just over a month after diplomats fled to Tunisia over fears of mounting violence in the North African nation in recent months.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the U.S. Embassy compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside.

Windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group said his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week and are there to protect the compound from looters.

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Update #1: Islamist militia now guards US Embassy in Libya -- AP
Update #2: Libyan Armed Faction Takes Over U.S. Embassy Annex In Tripoli -- Reuters

My Comment: I have a feeling that communiques have already been sent to the U.S. State Department from this militia .... and they are promising that they will guard the abandoned U.S. embassy .... but for a price.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Amazing Video Featuring Some Really Cool Planes And Flying Scenes

WNU Editor: Director Eric Magnan from Airborne Films shares his showreel featuring some really cool planes and flying scenes.

Hat Tip: Theo Spark

A Look At The Legacy Of Adm. William McRaven, The Man Who Hunted Bin Laden, Saddam And Pirates

The Man Who Hunted bin Laden, Saddam And The Pirates -- Peter Bergen, CNN

(CNN) -- On Thursday in Tampa, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel presided over a change of command ceremony during which Adm. William "Bill" McRaven handed over the reins of Special Operations Command to his successor, Gen. Joseph Votel.

As McRaven stepped down he observed, "We are in perilous times." He pointed out that U.S. Special Operations Forces are helping to fight the fast-growing Islamic State in Iraq; the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines; the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

McRaven also said, "We are in the golden age of Special Operations" in which elements of the 67,000 men and women under his command have deployed to 92 countries.

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My Comment: A truly long and distinguished career.

A Small But Significant Military Defeat For The Islamic State In Iraq


Iraqi Forces Said To Break Islamic State’s Siege -- Washington Post

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military carried out airstrikes on Islamic State militants near the besieged Iraqi town of Amerli on Saturday night, boosting morale for thousands of residents who have been trapped inside for two months, Iraqi officials and the Pentagon said.

The assault, which came alongside a coordinated humanitarian aid drop, marks the second time this month that the United States has intervened militarily in Iraq to prevent an Islamic State attack on thousands of trapped civilians.

Iraqi state media said Sunday afternoon that government forces had broken the siege. Kurdish pesh merga fighters also battling the militants near Amerli and reached by telephone confirmed that Iraqi army forces aided by Shiite militias had entered the town. But Kurdish forces continued to fight the jihadists in surrounding villages, they said.

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Iraqi And Kurdish Forces With Assistance From U.S. Air Strikes Break The ISIS Siege Of Amerli

Iraqi forces break two-month siege of Amerli: officials -- Reuters
Iraqi Forces Enter Besieged Northern Iraqi Town -- VOA
Iraqi forces break jihadist siege of Amerli -- AFP
US planes drop aid and strike IS positions near Iraq's Amerli -- BBC
Islamic State siege of Amerli broken by Iraqi forces -- Channel 4 News
ISIS siege of Iraqi town over after U.S. airstrikes, aid drops -- BBC
IS in Retreat as Kurdish, Iraqi Forces Advance to Amerli with US Air Support -- Rudaw
Iraqi forces ‘break’ Islamic State’s two-month Amerli siege -- Irish Times

No Democracy For Hong Kong

China Denies Open Elections For Hong Kong -- Globe and Mail

A billionaire media baron pledged to join pro-democracy protests after Beijing offered Hong Kong a form of election that requires patriotic candidates and gives China significant influence in who leads the financial centre.

For months, protesters have threatened to shut down Hong Kong if Beijing did not provide the right to openly nominate and vote for the territory’s powerful chief executive position.

On Sunday, Chinese authorities offered a broad rejection of those pleas, allowing only a form of partially open election — derided by critics as a “bird-cage democracy” — that maintains a secretive system where candidates are nominated by a 1,200-person committee. Those candidates must, the National People’s Congress said Sunday, bear allegiance to China.

“The chief executive shall be a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong,” the decision text says.

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Update #1: China: No open nominations for Hong Kong leader -- AP
Update #2: Fully democratic Hong Kong vote ruled out by China -- Irish Times

My Comment: Here comes the protests.

Iran Lashes At The U.S. Over New Sanctions

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives at the airport in Baghdad August 24, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Hadi Mizban/Pool

Iran Says Possible Response To New U.S. Sanctions Could Not Be 'Pleasant' -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Iran's possible response to new U.S. sanctions could "not be pleasant", its foreign minister said on Sunday, raising the prospect of tit-for-tat retribution against the Islamic Republic's old adversary weeks ahead of fresh nuclear talks.

Iranian leaders reacted with dismay to Friday's announcement that Washington was going to penalize a number of Iranian and other foreign companies, banks and airlines for violating sanctions against Tehran, most of which are tied to a decade-old dispute about its nuclear program.

Washington said the moves were a signal that there would be no let-up of sanctions while international talks were underway to ease the economic measures in exchange for Iran's agreement to curb its nuclear activities.

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Update #1: Facing Hard-Liners and Sanctions, Iran's Leader Toughens Talk -- NYT
Update #2: Iran FM: Sanctions May Meet Iran's Retaliatory Move -- Fars News Agency

My Comment: Both sides are far apart on resolving the nuclear issue .... but some in the U.S. media still have hope .... Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama (VOA)