Friday, July 29, 2016

The Afghan Taliban Are Winning the War

Afghan special forces arrive for a battle with the Taliban in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan, September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Al Jazeera: SIGAR report: Taliban gained territory in Afghanistan

US watchdog says area under Kabul government's "influence" shrank by nearly 5 percent since beginning of this year.

The Afghan government has lost control of nearly 5 percent of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of this year, according to a report by the US government's top watchdog on Afghanistan.

Published on Friday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the report says the area under Afghan government "control or influence" decreased to 65.6 percent by the end of May from 70.5 percent last year, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan.

That accounts to a loss of 19 of the country's approximately 400 governing districts.

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, said most of the areas the Taliban control were rural.

Read more ....

More News On The Afghan Taliban Gaining Territory In Afghanistan

Afghan forces lose ground to Taliban despite delayed US troop withdrawal -- The Guardian
Afghan government loses 5 percent of territory in 4 months: U.S. government watchdog -- Reuters
Afghan forces fail as Taliban gains 5% more territory in 4 months, US military report finds -- International Business Times
Afghan Forces 'Lose Ground' To Taliban -- RFE
Afghan Forces Fail to Turn Back Taliban Gains -- New York Times
US-trained Afghan forces keep losing territory to Taliban – US govt report -- RT

A Photo Gallery Of Aleppo Before And After That Show The Devastation of This Ancient City


RT: Aleppo before & after: Shocking images underscore war devastation of ancient Syrian city (PHOTOS)

Five years on since civil war broke out in Syria, shocking photos show the destruction caused to Aleppo, the country’s largest city before the conflict, in grim before and after pictures.
Aleppo, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site, has been at the forefront of the war since July 2012 and has suffered catastrophic devastation as a result.

Thousands have been killed in the Battle of Aleppo and much of its ancient heritage has suffered significant damage.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Aleppo is one the world's oldest cities. The destruction and devastation .... this will be remembered through the ages.

Top U.S. Intelligence Official: Turkey's Purges Are Harming The War Against The Islamic State

U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper attends the ''Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL: Joint Plenary Session'' at the State Department in Washington, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS

Reuters: Turkey shakes up armed forces, U.S. says purges harming cooperation

Turkey has begun overhauling its armed forces following a failed coup, but its NATO ally the United States complained that the purges of generals and officers were hindering cooperation in the fight against Islamic State.

The military announced late on Thursday the promotion of 99 colonels to the rank of general or admiral, part of a shake-up that left General Staff chief Hulusi Akar and the army, navy and air force commanders in their posts.

The announcement came shortly after the dishonorable discharge of nearly 1,700 military personnel over their alleged roles in the abortive July 15-16 putsch, in which at least 246 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured. About 40 percent of all generals and admirals have been dismissed since the coup.

Read more ....

Update: US intel director: Turkish purge impeding fight against 'Islamic State' (DW)

WNU Editor: Turkey is saying that these purges will actually enhance the fight against the Islamic State .... Turkey: military purge good for 'IS' fight (DW). What's my take .... when you fire and/or imprison a good part of your senior military staff, it will impact all operations. But .... considering what has happened .... the Turkish government had to get rid of these generals in order to insure their own security.

Will Hillary Clinton Be A 'War President' On Day One?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates looked out over North Korea during a tour of the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday. July, 2010. Credit Cherie Cullen/DOD, via Reuters

Micah Zenko, Foreign Policy: Hillary the Hawk: A History

From Haiti to Syria, the Democratic candidate’s long record suggests she’s looking forward to being a war president on day one.

Whoever is elected on Nov. 8 will be a war president on day one, with the power and autonomy to undertake destabilizing shows of force, drone strikes, special operations raids and ever-deepening military interventions. Today, combat troop deployments are routinely made by executive branch spokespeople, decisions to back open-ended air wars in places like Yemen by “partners” like Saudi Arabia are announced via press release, and congressional oversight hearings largely boil down to legislators pleading with commanders to ask for more troops and looser rules of engagement.

And much of this probably suits Hillary Clinton just fine.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Micah Zenko breaks down Hillary Clinton's history on what has been her positions and proposals on past (and current) wars and conflicts. If that is her past .... a Hillary Clinton Presidency is probably going to mean more military interventions, and definitely more wars.

Mystery Fireball Seen Over Utah, Nevada and Californiia Was From A Chinese Rocket Breaking Up After Launch



Daily Mail: Mystery fireballs that lit up the nights sky across three states sparking fears they could be a plane disintegrating or a meteor shower are revealed to be a Chinese rocket breaking up after launch

* Mystery fireballs were spotted across Utah, Nevada and California
* They streaked past the sky as many feared they could be a plane disintegrating or some guessed it was a meteor shower
* The objects were later revealed to be debris from a Chinese rocket launch
* The objects were traveling at about 18,000mph some 50 miles overhead

Thousands of people across three US states watched the night sky in awe on Wednesday as mystery fireballs streaked past.

Many feared they could be a plane disintegrating while others guessed it was a meteor shower.

It was later revealed the objects ablaze — seen in Utah, Nevada and Californiia — were debris from the Chinese rocket launched last month and were travelling at around 18,000mph, about 50 miles overhead, the LA Times reported.

Read more ....

Update: Streak of light across night sky is reentry of decaying Chinese rocket, defense officials say (LA Times).

WNU Editor: My brother lives in California. He saw this .... and was impressed.

FBI Director: Islamic State Fighters Will Go To The U.S. And Europe If They Are Defeated In Syria And Iraq

FBI Director James Comey takes a question from a reporter during a news conference at the FBI office in Boston, Massachusetts November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Wall Street Journal: FBI’s Comey Warns ISIS Fighters Could Spread to U.S., Western Europe If Defeated in Middle East

‘Greater than any diaspora we’ve seen before,’ director says of possible outcome

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey warned of a potential consequence of a future Islamic State defeat in the Middle East: a migration of the group’s fighters to Western Europe and the U.S.

In a speech at Fordham University on Wednesday, Mr. Comey said counterterrorism officials are focused on the prospect of hundreds of Islamic State fighters surviving the battlefield and flowing into Western Europe to commit attacks like the recent ones in Brussels and Paris. The ease of travel would also make the U.S. vulnerable to this threat, he said.

“This is an order of magnitude greater than any diaspora we’ve seen before,” Mr. Comey said. “A lot of terrorists fled out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is 10 times that or more.”

Read more ....

Update: FBI director: The terrorism threat out of Syria is 'an order of magnitude greater than anything we’ve seen before' (Business Insider).

WNU Editor: His warnings are too late .... the terrorists are already there.

New Law In Venezuela May Force People To Work In The Fields For 60 To 120 Days

Venezuelans carrying groceries cross the Simon Bolivar bridge from Cucuta in Colombia back to San Antonio de Tachira in Venezuela, on July 17, 2016 (AFP Photo/George Castellanos)

VICE News: Venezuela has a new 'forced labor' law that can require people to work in fields

International human rights activists are complaining that new laws have introduced forced labour in Venezuela.

"A new decree establishing that any employee in Venezuela can be effectively made to work in the country's fields as a way to fight the current food crisis is unlawful and effectively amounts to forced labor," Amnesty International said in a statement released on Thursday.

President Nicolás Maduro signed a decree at the end of last week that gives powers to the labor ministry to order "all workers from the public and private sector with enough physical capabilities and technical know-how" to join a government drive aimed at increasing food production.

They can be required to work in the agricultural sector for a 60-day period that can be extended for another 60 days "if the circumstances require it."

Read more ....

Update #1: Venezuela Workers & Business Owners Denounce New “Forced Labor” Decree (Latin American Herald Tribune)
Update #2: Going hungry in Venezuela (BBC)

WNU Editor: I have another word for this "forced labour law" .... it is called slavery. I have mentioned more than once in the past few months that it is going to get worse in Venezuela ....  it is still going to get worse.

U.S. Intelligence Officials Will Begin Giving Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Their Intelligence Briefings Next Week

A combination photo shows U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) in Los Angeles, California on May 5, 2016 and in Eugene, Oregon, U.S. on May 6, 2016 respectively. REUTERS/LUCY NICHOLSON (L) AND JIM URQUHART/FILE PHOTOS

Reuters: Trump, Clinton to be given intelligence briefings: U.S. officials

U.S. intelligence officials next week will invite the presidential and vice-presidential candidates from both political parties to receive top secret briefings on world crises and security threats, two U.S. officials familiar with the plans said.

Now that their nominations have been confirmed, Democrat Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, and Republican Donald Trump and his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, will be offered identical intelligence briefings, the officials said.

Candidates customarily get one briefing although they may ask that it be broken into segments.

Aides and advisors to the candidates will not be allowed to attend the briefings unless they have security clearances granting them access to Top Secret intelligence, the officials added.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I expect no leaks from either candidate.

Tweet For Today

Director of U.S. National Intelligence Is Not Ready To Name Who is Responsible For The DNC Hack

National Intelligence Director James Clapper, shown at the State Department in Washington on July 21, said U.S. intelligence agencies haven't reached a firm conclusion as to whether Russia or any other country was behind the recent computer breach that stole emails and other records from the Democratic National Committee. PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

Reuters: U.S. intelligence chief not ready to identify source of Democratic email hack

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking about the hack of Democratic Party emails, said on Thursday the U.S. intelligence community was not ready to "make the call on attribution" as to who was responsible.

The White House said earlier the FBI had not disclosed any information about who was behind the hack.

Cyber security experts and U.S. officials said on Monday there was evidence that Russia engineered the release of sensitive Democratic Party emails in order to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The emails were released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, and appeared to show that the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton over her chief rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Read more ....

More News On The Director of U.S. National Intelligence Not Ready To Name Who is Responsible For The DNC Hack

Top spy: Despite intelligence 'war' with Russians, it's too soon to blame them for DNC hack -- Politico
Top Intel Official Tells Americans to End 'Hyperventilation' Over DNC Hack, But Calls Breach Potentially 'Serious' -- ABC News
US Intelligence Not Ready to Name Party Behind DNC Hack -- Sputnik
U.S. Intelligence Chief James Clapper Says Russia Sees Meddling in Election as Payback -- WSJ
Intel chief: Americans need to calm down about DNC hack -- Washington Examiner
America's top spy just hinted at how much leverage Russia truly has over Washington -- Natasha Bertrand, Business Insider

U.S. Military Photos From July (Photo Gallery)


WNU Editor: For more photos from this photo gallery, go here.

U.S. Navy To Name Ship After Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk

Photo: US Navy portrait of then Ens. Harvey Milk.

USNI News: Navy to Name Ship After Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk

The Navy is set to name a ship after the gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a Congressional notification obtained by USNI News.

The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). The ship would be the second of the John Lewis-class oilers being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, Calif.

The Secretary of the Navy’s office is deferring releasing additional information until the naming announcement, a Navy official told USNI News on Thursday.

Mabus has said the John Lewis-class – named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – would be named after civil rights leaders.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus insists that politics is not involved in deciding what name to choose for a ship .... Are Politics Involved In The Naming Of U.S. Navy Ships? (May 21, 2016). Who does he think he is fooling .... if his track record is any indication .... politics is overwhelmingly involved in the naming of ships under this Navy Secretary.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

International Observers Of The Ukraine War Keep 'Banking Hours'

Monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe spoke with a Ukrainian soldier to determine patterns of movement by civilians through a crossing point between Ukrainian government-controlled territory and the rebel-held Donetsk People’s Republic at a checkpoint in Zaitseve, Ukraine. Credit Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

New York Times: Keeping Bankers’ Hours, European Observers Miss Most of Ukraine War

AVDIIVKA, Ukraine — As the afternoon shadows grow long, nocturnal creatures begin to stir. A stray cat rises from a nap, stretches and trots off to hunt. Overhead, swallows swoop and screech in the deepening twilight.

Soon, the human inhabitants of this town in eastern Ukraine set about their evening rituals.

Green-clad soldiers strap on their helmets and load their guns, while white-clad European cease-fire observers pocket their notebooks, climb into their cars and drive away. And then the fighting starts.

This improbable routine between soldiers and monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe plays out nightly, illustrating the glum quagmire of the Ukraine war, now entering its third year.

“I never see them here at night,” said Tatyana Petrova, whose apartment looks over a parking lot that is a frequent listening post for the monitors. “In the evening, I look out and they are gone, and then the concert starts.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: My contacts in Ukraine have been telling me this since last year .... and I dutifully noted it at the time in this blog. The European press have reported on it .... and have mocked the OSCE .... but this is the first time that I am reading a major U.S. news outlet reporting on it.

Has The Islamic State Created A New Type Of Bomb?

The aftermath of Karrada suicide bombing in Baghdad. Iraqi News

BBC: Iraq violence: Did IS use new type of bomb for deadliest attack?

On a Baghdad street once throbbing with life, there is a soft recitation of prayers, a silent lighting of candles, and quiet sobbing at the edges of charred ruins.

Sweepers start to clear away debris, and drills buzz in the shells of gutted shops.

But the scene of the deadliest ever attack carried out by so-called Islamic State (IS) anywhere in the world is still a makeshift shrine. On 3 July, 292 Iraqis lost their lives here.

This week, the haunting strains of a cello wafted through the cavernous black hulks where two popular centres once drew in Iraqis for shopping and socialising.

Read more ....

Update: 'Unique, strange, and terrible' — ISIS may have created a new type of bomb (Business Insider)

WNU Editor: The Islamic State probably has a few chemists helping them in developing these bombs .... and I would not be surprise if these chemists are high priority targets for coalition and Iraqi forces.

China Will Develop Their Own Anti-Missile System



Reuters: China says pressing ahead with own anti-missile system

China's Defence Ministry confirmed on Thursday that it was pressing ahead with anti-missile system tests after pictures appeared on state television, amid anger at South Korea's decision to deploy an advanced U.S. anti-missile system.

An announcement by South Korea and the United States this month that they would deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) unit has drawn protests from China, which warned that the system would destabilize regional security.

The decision by the United States and South Korea is the latest move to squeeze increasingly isolated North Korea, but China worries the system's radar will be able to track its military capabilities. Russia also opposes the deployment.

Pictures broadcast this week on Chinese television were the third time since 2010 that China has publicly indicated tests of its own anti-missile system, state media said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: To stress their point .... China Releases Video Of First-Ever Ballistic Missile Defence System Test (NDTV).

Now Is The Time To Discuss America's Wars Since 9/11

Lance Cpl. Nilton Castro, a radio operator with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, along with two Afghan Army soldiers walk past the Helmand River while on patrol in Gowragi, Afghanistan, during a clearing operation, Sept. 29, 2010. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

James Clark, Task & Purpose: It’s Time We Address The Consequences Of America’s Recent Wars

Task & Purpose spoke with former State Department official John Kael Weston about his time working seven straight years alongside combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In 2010, John Kael Weston came home after seven years as a State Department official and advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the next two summers, he visited 31 gravesites across the United States.

The graves belonged to Marines killed in a January 2005 helicopter crash in Iraq. A State Department official in Fallujah at the time, Weston advocated for additional military support in locations away from major population centers. The 30 Marines and one Navy Corpsman killed were enroute to provide security for the elections.

The tragedy has stayed with Weston for years and is detailed in his war memoir, called “The Mirror Test: America At War In Iraq And Afghanistan.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Such a discussion is long overdue.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- July 28, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) looks back at U.S. President Barack Obama (L) as they arrive with Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit plenary session at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake, in Beijing, China. REUTERS/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/POOL (CHINA - TAGS: POLITICS BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Peter Apps, Reuters: Is Vladimir Putin deliberately destabilizing U.S. politics?

When WikiLeaks dumped tens of thousands of often embarrassing internal Democratic Party emails, it didn’t take long for the finger to be pointed at Moscow.

In many ways, that should hardly be surprising. The distinctly idiosyncratic dynamic between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has long been a topic of fascination for pundits. Some of the Republican presidential candidate’s approaches and statements – particularly questioning the U.S. commitment to NATO – are almost certainly appealing to Moscow.

The Russian intelligence services have a largely deserved reputation for excellence when it comes to cyber-spying, not to mention dirty political tricks. And, perhaps most importantly of all, a growing number of Western officials and security experts are increasingly convinced that Russia is doing everything it can to politically destabilize the West.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- July 28, 2016

Russian Meddling in U.S. Election - Cyberwarfare? -- Alex Mitchell & Alex Schulz, VOX

AP EXPLAINS: Why Syria's al-Qaida may be considering a split -- Bassem Mroue, AP

Islamic fundamentalists have a special loathing for Christianity -- Damian Thompson, Spectator

Quietly, Iran keeps taking hostages, exposing an internal rift -- Howard LaFranchi, CSM

Why the situation in Turkey may only get worse -- Lauren Bohn and Elmira Bayrasli, Reuters

Will Turkey be expelled from NATO? -- Semih Idiz, Al-Monitor

Why Palestinians are on the verge of civil war -- Benny Avni, NYPost

Why has Russia teamed up with China in the South China Sea? -- Ben Rosen, CSM

Shamefare: How Vietnam Could Push Back Against China in the South China Sea -- Harry J. Kazianis, National Interest

China and Japan have long, close ties, that even WW2 sensitivities can't shake -- Aza Wee Sile, CNBC

Unstable Nepal not good for India -- M.K. Bhadrakumar, Asia Times

Facing North Korea's Nuclear Reality -- Rodger Baker, Stratfor

Trump gets media, Clinton to play his tune -- Joe Concha, The Hill

Trump Shows the Flaws of NSA Surveillance -- Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

Can the World Deal With a New Bank Crisis? -- Satyajit Das, Bloomberg

World News Briefs -- July 28,. 2016 (Evening Edition)

Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pick-up truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, in this December 1, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

Reuters: Syria's Nusra Front says ending al Qaeda ties; U.S. fears for Aleppo

Al Qaeda's powerful Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, announced on Thursday it was ending its relationship with the global jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden, to remove a pretext used by world powers to attack Syrians.

The announcement came as Russia and President Bashar al-Assad's government declared a "humanitarian operation" in the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo, opening "safe corridors" so people can flee Syria's most important opposition stronghold.

Washington said that appeared to be an attempt to depopulate the city and make fighters surrender. The opposition called it a euphemism for forced displacement.

In the first known video statement ever to show his face, the leader of the Nusra Front, Mohamad al-Golani, announced that the group would re-form under a new name, with "no ties with any foreign party".

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Syria conflict: 'Exit corridors' to open for Aleppo, says Russia. "Large-scale humanitarian operation" to start in besieged Aleppo.

US says 6 airstrikes killed 14 civilians in Iraq and Syria.

Yemen government says peace talks 'ended' after rebels form council.

Anti-US rally staged at NATO Incirlik air base in Turkey (VIDEO, PHOTOS).

Saudi Arabia GDP growth to slow to 1.2% in 2016, budget deficit to narrow to 13%.

Fear spreads throughout Turkish press after post-coup crackdown.

Erdogan wants army under president's control after coup: Turkish official.

Turkey creates 'Traitors' Cemetery' for dead coup plotters.

Israel PM says he backs Egypt's peace push.

US envoy Kerry to meet with Palestinian leader Abbas.

ASIA

N. Korea: US has crossed red line, relations on war footing.

Deadline looms for displaced Pakistanis living in Afghanistan.

China says to hold drills with Russia in South China Sea.

Reports: Indonesia executes drug convicts. Indonesia executes three Nigerians, one local, despite protests.

Thailand to try opposition figures in military court.

Japan to spend $120 million on counter-terrorism in Africa.

Over 100 dead in South Asia monsoon flooding. Flash floods kill scores in Nepal, India.

AFRICA

Zimbabwe war veterans' spokesman arrested after Mugabe rebuke.

UN condemns 'barbaric' Boko Haram violence in Nigeria.

Aid agencies call on UN to ensure security for civilians in South Sudan.

Morocco arrests 52 suspected militants, foils several attacks.

South Sudan on the brink of abyss: UN chief.

Aid agencies seek $1.2 billion to fight southern Africa drought.

Little progress made in efforts to dismantle human smuggling rings.

EUROPE

Russia: DNC hacking accusations are 'total stupidity'.

Merkel rules out migrant policy reversal after attacks.

Migrants stranded in Serbian no-man's land.

Italy launches campaign to warn migrants of risks.

Weary Armenians show surprising support for Yerevan gunmen.

Putin reshuffles regional leaders ahead of vote; Russian customs chief out.

Spain's Rajoy accepts mandate to form government, warns he may fail.

IMF 'overly optimistic' about success of EU bailouts.

AMERICAS

In speech of her life, Clinton seeking to dispel doubts.

US election: Obama endorses Clinton as political heir.

WikiLeaks releases hacked Democratic Party voicemails.

Trump: Comments about Russia, Clinton emails were sarcastic.

RIO Readies for worst as terror threat hangs over Olympics.

Brazil's Lula tells U.N. his rights violated in corruption probe.

Guatemalan ex-leader Perez Molina faces new graft probe.

Peru: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski sworn in as president. Peru's Kuczynski takes office with a vow to fight inequality.

Venezuela's opposition-run congress defies government over ban.

Animals go hungry in Venezuela zoos due to shortages.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Syrian Nusra Front announces split from al-Qaeda.

Islamic state posts video of men it says were French church attackers.

Pentagon: More than 4 terabytes of ISIS data shedding light on foreign fighters.

Homeland Security chief: Biggest fear is militants 'radicalized in secret'.

Missing former Gitmo detainee seen in Venezuela.

U.S. board declines to release '20th hijacker' from Guantanamo.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Goldman Sachs says current oil prices are here to stay. Oil down 2 percent; July to be worst month in a year for U.S. crude.

Google's profit soars.

Amazon's 'monster' results as quarterly profit jumps ninefold to $857 million.

Facebook profits beat expectations. Facebook just passed Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in market value.