Posted tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Pakistan Secures Release of American Family Held Hostage for 5 Years

October 12, 2017

Pakistan Secures Release of American Family Held Hostage for 5 Years, Washington Free Beacon, October 12, 2017

Caitlan Coleman and family in a Taliban proof of life video / Screenshot via YouTube

The release surprised many in the U.S. government since the action marks a departure from Islamabad’s lukewarm cooperation with the United States against terrorism in the past.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said in the past Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service had been known to support Afghan terrorist groups.

Trump criticized Pakistan in a major speech in August outlining a new strategy to dealing with the war in Afghanistan.

Trump identified the United States’ tougher approach to Pakistan as a key pillar of the administration’s new strategy toward the war in Afghanistan.

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The government of Pakistan, under pressure from President Trump to do more against Islamic terrorism, secured the release of an American mother and her family after five years captivity at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, and three children, including a very young child, were freed from control of the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network terrorist group Wednesday night and were in Pakistani government custody awaiting transfer to American officials.

The years’ long hostage case was resolved after the Islamabad government notified the U.S. government several days ago it had located the family and was close to securing their release.

“We’re tremendously grateful to the government of Pakistan for securing the release of Caitlan Coleman and her family,” said a senior official.

“The relationship with Pakistan has had its challenges but this is exactly the kind of action that will put the relationship on the right track. This could be a new beginning.”

The release surprised many in the U.S. government since the action marks a departure from Islamabad’s lukewarm cooperation with the United States against terrorism in the past.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said in the past Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service had been known to support Afghan terrorists groups.

Trump criticized Pakistan in a major speech in August outlining a new strategy to dealing with the war in Afghanistan.

Trump identified the United States’ tougher approach to Pakistan as a key pillar of the administration’s new strategy toward the war in Afghanistan.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said in the Aug. 21 speech.

Trump said Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States in Afghanistan and “much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

The president said in his speech that Pakistan had sheltered terrorist organizations that were killing Americans. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said.

“But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace,” Trump said.

Coleman, her husband Josua Boyle, and two of her children were last heard of during a proof-of-life video made public in December in which she urged then-President Obama to secure their release before leaving office.

Officials said a robust U.S. diplomatic effort in support of Coleman has been under way for the past several months and gained momentum when the Pakistani government contacted U.S. officials to say they had located the family and were arranging for their release.

The family was held as hostages by the Haqqani Network, a faction of the Islamist Taliban terror group currently the target of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan.

They were captured in 2012 while hiking in Wardak Province, near Kabul. Coleman was pregnant at the time with their first child.

Officials said the location of the family that includes three small children, had been the subject of intensive U.S. intelligence and military operations.

“We’d only been able to get very few indications of where they were located,” said one U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The Haqqani Network is believed to have kept the family in isolation in the remote border region of Waziristan, located along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the Director of National Intelligence, the Haqqani Network is a Sunni Islamist terror group founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who first emerged during the 1980s as an Afghan warlord opposing the Soviet Union.

Haqqani was part of the Hezb-e Islami faction headed by mujahedin commander Younis Khalis.

Haqqani was an associate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin and was regarded as a close mentor to bin Ladin, according to the DNI.

The Haqqani network is currently headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son.

The main operating area for the group is North Waziristan, Pakistan.

“The Haqqanis are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting U.S., coalition, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan; they typically conduct coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks, IEDs, suicide attacks, and attacks using bomb-laden vehicles,” the DNI said.

In the video made public in December, Coleman said her family’s captivity was “Kafkaesque” and that her children had witnessed their mother being defiled.

In the video, she was shown with two children. U.S. officials said the family now has a very young third child, who is being released.

“Please don’t become the next Jimmy Carter,” said Coleman stated in the video. “Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face so we can leave the region permanently.”

The reference to Carter likely was meant as the failed efforts of Carter to secure the release of American hostages held captive in Iran from 1979 to 1980.

The New York Times reported in December that efforts to broker the release of Coleman were set back as the result of an American military drone strike that killed an Afghan Taliban leader in May 2016.

The Times reported that the Haqqani network had demanded the release of one of its commanders, Anas Haqqani, captured by Afghanistan’s government in 2014.

At least two other Americans reportedly are being held hostage by the Haqqanis.

Pentagon Chief James Mattis: Iran, Russia Still Arming Afghan Taliban

September 29, 2017

Pentagon Chief James Mattis: Iran, Russia Still Arming Afghan Taliban, BreitbartEdwin Mora, September 29, 2017

Getty Images

The Trump plan to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan is “determined” to force the Taliban to the peace negotiation table, said Gen. Nicholson.

Moreover, Trump’s plan is expected to pressure Pakistan to no longer harbor terrorist groups fighting and killing Americans in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their ally the Haqqani Network, among others.

Unlike the failed policy of the previous administration, conditions on the ground will drive Trump’s strategy rather than arbitrary timelines.

In other words, the Trump administration has not set any timetables to draw down its forces, choosing to wait until it accomplishes its goals instead.

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Russia and U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism Iran continue to provide weapons and other military aid to Taliban jihadists in Afghanistan, reiterates United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, repeating accusations made by the United States armed forces.

During his first visit to Afghanistan since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a new South Asia strategy last month, Secretary Mattis discussed the ongoing 16-year-old war in Afghanistan with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and American Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. and international troops in the conflict-ridden nation.

The Pentagon chief blasted Russia and Iran’s continued support to Taliban jihadists, echoing concerns previously expressed by U.S. officials, including Gen. Nicholson, who has also noted that Pakistan is assisting the terrorist group as well.

“Those two countries have suffered losses to terrorism, so I think it would be extremely unwise if they think they can somehow support terrorism in another country and not have it come back to haunt them,” declared Mattis, referring to Iran and Russia, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). 

Support from Russia and Iran is strengthening the Taliban and lending legitimacy to the jihadist organization, notes the newspaper, citing unnamed U.S. military officials.

“That’s a lot more dangerous right now than what they’re providing in terms of material,” a military official told the WSJ. 

Russia and Iran have conceded sharing information with the Taliban to fight their mutual enemy, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but both countries deny providing military assistance to the group.

Afghanistan’s neighbor Iran, which the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) recently said “remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” has also dismissed accusations that it is providing sanctuary to the Taliban.

In December 2016, Gen. Nicholson told Pentagon reporters that the United States is concerned about the “malign influence of external actors” in Afghanistan, such as “Pakistan, Russia, and Iran,” noting that the countries are assisting the Taliban.

The general explained:

Russia has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban. And their narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the [U.S.-backed] Afghan government… this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents.

Soon after the top U.S. general made those remarks, Reuters learned from unnamed Taliban fighters that the jihadist group had maintained “significant contacts” with Russia since at least 2007, long before ISIS came into the scene.

An anonymous senior Taliban fighter told Reuters that the “sole purpose” of their cooperation with Russia is to push the U.S. military and their allies out of Afghanistan.

The Taliban alleges that Russia’s support is only “political.”

As part of President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, the United States has authorized the deployment of 3,000 additional American troops, bringing the total in Afghanistan to 14,000.

The Trump plan to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan is “determined” to force the Taliban to the peace negotiation table, said Gen. Nicholson.

Moreover, Trump’s plan is expected to pressure Pakistan to no longer harbor terrorist groups fighting and killing Americans in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their ally the Haqqani Network, among others.

Unlike the failed policy of the previous administration, conditions on the ground will drive Trump’s strategy rather than arbitrary timelines.

In other words, the Trump administration has not set any timetables to draw down its forces, choosing to wait until it accomplishes its goals instead.

Gen. Nicholson has welcomed the changes, recently telling reporters the Taliban leadership has “atomized” as a result, reveals the WSJ. 

“For years, they thought we were leaving,” he added, noting that new U.S. and NATO commitments have eliminated that notion.

Although the Taliban remains the most prominent terrorist group in Afghanistan, ISIS has strengthened its reach and influence in the country in recent months.

The Taliban contests or controls 45 percent of Afghanistan, reported the Long War Journal this week, echoing assessment by the U.S. military and the terrorist group itself.

Terrorists launched a rocket attack on the Kabul international airport soon after Mattis landed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, allegedly targeting the Pentagon chief.

The incident is a testament to the deteriorating security conditions Trump inherited from his predecessor.

Both the Taliban and its alleged rival ISIS have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around

September 13, 2017

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around, Clarion Project via YouTube, September 12, 2017

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Clarion Project’s Shillman Fellow, Prof. Ryan Mauro, reacts to reports that the Trump Administration is planning a more aggressive strategy towards Iran by pointing to the CIA’s “Dark Prince” and Secretary of Defense Mattis as reasons why the ayatollahs in Tehran should be worried.

Trump Makes the Right Decision on Afghanistan… and Pakistan

August 22, 2017

Trump Makes the Right Decision on Afghanistan… and Pakistan, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, August 21, 2017

Immediately after Donald Trump’s Afghanistan speech, Lindsey Graham — not always the president’s biggest fan — praised the address and noted Trump was smart to leave the actual direction of day-to-day conduct of warfare to those trained to do it: the generals. He contrasted Donald with Obama, whom Graham called a “bad general.”

True enough, but it’s worse.  Obama wasn’t just a bad general or even an atrocious one.  Consciously and/or unconsciously, he was on the other side.

Sound exaggerated? Then ask yourself this — why would a man as intelligent as Barack Obama 1. telegraph his intentions and pull-out date to the enemy, 2. not keep a decent military presence in Iraq, leaving it wide open to the nascent ISIS or similar religious maniacs and 3. give so much money to the Iranian mullahs in pursuit of a chimerical nuclear deal with a result that they are now all over the Middle East, killing as many people as possible and perpetuating the endless Syrian civil war (with literally millions of refugees), while testing ICBMs for the day when that (sort of) deal expires? And that’s leaving out the red line, the complete punting on North Korea, etc.

I thought this was supposed to be the smartest guy in the room.  Well, if you don’t like America and want to see it neutered, maybe he is.

But our media of course will not even go near this.  They would rather attack Trump for whatever — in the case of his Afghanistan speech for using it to again downplay Charlottesville.  (For an example, see the tweets from NPR’s oh-so-sophisticated political editor. These people are so fixated on Trump’s non-existent racism, they probably wouldn’t have even alter their views if half their families had been wiped out on Barcelona’s La Rambla last week.  It’s almost a monomania with them.  Two hundred hapless loser neo-Nazis with comb-overs are more of a threat than radical Islamists who have killed 1275, wounded 932, in 179 attacks in 25 countries in July 2017 alone! )

As for the specifics of the speech, I have always thought Donald Trump would end up a hawk after all, because — much as we may like to think otherwise — you can’t make America great again without being one.  I never bought the palaver coming from the alt-right and Rand Paul about having to withdraw from all or most international engagements.  It’s based on a theory of human nature that alas makes no sense.  The world has been filled with evil since the beginning of recorded time and no doubt before. Historian Victor Davis Hanson has noted that war, not peace, is the natural human condition.   Someone’s got to be the sheriff to keep things under control, to actually maintain the peace. America — of all nations — has done by far the best job of that, historically. No one else is even close.

So, unfortunately, we’re stuck with the job — unless you can think of a good replacement. That means we have to hold down the fort in Afghanistan lest it be used once again as a staging area for international terrorism, just as it was for 9/11. They seem to have been planning that and more already.  In October 2015, the U.S. military took out an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan that was an incredible thirty square miles.  That’s approximately half the size of Pittsburgh.

This does not, of course, mean that we have any business or should waste one minute trying to turn places like Afghanistan or Iraq into Denmark.  While we can excuse ourselves for believing that dream before the Iraq War, certainly the results of the conflict — actually about a week of it — should have  disabused us of that notion.  It wasn’t the first time idealism has been smashed, but that’s what happens when, just as in life, political reality collides with your ideological theories. Hopefully, you learn.

Praise is also due Trump for, finally, challenging Pakistan, the nuclear-armed, semi-terror state that hid Osama bin Laden virtually in plain sight. The nefarious Pakis and their notorious intelligence service have played both sides agains the middle for too long.

With all that, questions arise about the size of Trump’s commitment.  No mention was made of the number of new troops in the speech, though 4,000 has been bandied about.  Not many, it would seem, in the grand scheme of things.  But who knows?  It would be nice if such a small amount could keep things under control.  If not, as Trump has said himself, it’s in the hands of the generals.

WORTH NOTING: The speech was again well-crafted.  Trump has some excellent writers in Stephen Miller and Michael Anton (aka Publius Decius Mus).

Winning Afghanistan: Support Trump’s Strategy

August 22, 2017

Winning Afghanistan: Support Trump’s Strategy, Clarion ProjectRyan Maur0, August 22, 2017

A US soldier holds the national flag ahead of a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017. (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

We have made progress, but the American public rarely heard about it because President Obama did not wish to bring attention to the war and its political liabilities. The progress was then lost due to the rapid withdrawal based on an arbitrary timeline.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistakes our leaders made in Iraq,” Trump said.

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President Trump is pledging to “win” in Afghanistan by defeating the terrorist “losers.” He is correct about the disaster ahead if the U.S. retreats from Afghanistan, but his speech doesn’t seem to have addressed the concerns of those who believe that the campaign there is a lost cause.

Trump rightly pointed out that there are 20 groups designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the U.S. abandons Afghanistan, these groups will use the country as a launching pad to target the U.S. and destabilize the region, including nuclear-armed Pakistan.

From this base, they will likely be able to roll back progress we’ve made against terror havens in Iraq, Syria and Libya. And, of course, each success breeds a multitude of new members for the victorious terrorist group as momentum is interpreted as Allah’s blessing.

Yet, these realities do not address the core skepticism of those who oppose the war in Afghanistan — that there’s simply nothing more we can do. President Trump needed to confront this head on.

It’s extremely important that the American public understand that the war in Afghanistan is not like a videotape on loop. We have made progress, but the American public rarely heard about it because President Obama did not wish to bring attention to the war and its political liabilities. The progress was then lost due to the rapid withdrawal based on an arbitrary timeline.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistakes our leaders made in Iraq,” Trump said.

Addressing the need to make a long-term commitment to Afghanistan to defeat the terror forces there, Secretary of Defense Mattis said it best when he told President Trump, “Mr. President, we haven’t fought a 16-year war so much as we have fought a one-year war 16 times.”

In 2014, 95% of all operations were being done by the Afghans and they were taking 95% of all casualties, according to Michael O’Hanlon. Foreign forces were only 15% of coalition manpower. The Taliban and other jihadists had a growing presence in the areas where foreign forces decreased, but this territory only encompassed about 10% of the Afghan population.

The Defense Department’s April 2014 report said that U.S. casualties had “dropped significantly” over the previous year and the Afghan forces conduct “virtually all of these operations independently.” The Afghan economy was lunging forward and the Defense Department reported a “dramatic increase in basic education.”

The mantra we always hear in the media is that the Afghans won’t fight the Taliban and other terrorists. They did.

There was also major economic, educational and political progress.

That year, Afghanistan held a hotly-contested presidential election where all of the major candidates agreed that the U.S. military should be asked to stay. The election was a big success, as U.S.-backed Afghan forces made the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists fail miserably in achieving their stated goal of wreaking havoc during the voting.

Despite the extremely high risk, voter turnout was about 58%, matching that of America’s 2012 presidential election. One in three voters were women and a record number of women were running for office, including two for vice president.

After the vote was held, accusations of fraud came from both sides. Sectarian tension was high as each candidate represented different constituencies. Amazingly, despite all these pressures, the parties then reached a power-sharing agreement and had Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of the presidency through elections.

It is absolutely essential for President Trump to mention this progress to the skeptical American public so that they can know we haven’t been simply running in circles in Afghanistan. It is also important for the U.S. military that sacrifices so much to hear that their gains are known and appreciated.

Any progress that this new strategy makes will be limited by the assistance that the Taliban and other terrorists are receiving from Pakistan, Iran and Russia.

President Trump put Pakistan on notice like never before. The Pakistani government is going to be held accountable for harboring and materially supporting the terrorist network that sustains the jihad in Afghanistan. It is probable that we’ll see an increase in cross-border operations.

Trump’s praise for India as a strategic partner is a powerful lever to pull to pressure Pakistan. The State Department’s recent designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization shows that the Trump Administration is serious about this. Hizbul Mujahideen is a terror group that primarily targets India and is backed by Pakistan.

It was strange that Iran’s role in assisting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda went unmentioned in Trump’s speech. Iran is actively murdering U.S. and Afghan troops. However, Secretary of Defense Mattis’ desire to deliver some payback to the Iranian regime for targeting the U.S. military is well-known. You can bet he has plans in mind for that.

All of the talk about the war in Afghanistan inevitably brings up the experience of the Vietnam War. Although there is much to criticize about National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, he wrote a critically-acclaimed book about the Vietnam War.

There should be no doubt that the lessons of Vietnam are in the mind of McMaster and have been discussed within the Trump Administration every step of the way towards crafting the U.S.’ strategy in Afghanistan.

As Trump acknowledged, Americans are understandably frustrated and sick of being at war in Afghanistan. But there is reason to believe we can be successful. Moreover, advocates of a withdrawal have yet to explain how we can withdraw and still stop Afghanistan from becoming an extremely dangerous terrorist base.

If we would withdraw from Afghanistan now, how would we feel seeing images on our TV screens of the Taliban coming back to power, carrying out massacres and once again stopping girls from going to school, knowing that we could have stopped it.

We’ve sacrificed too much already to hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban and regressive forces. The consequences of retreat are so dire that it’s worth giving Trump and his team a chance for their strategy to work.

President Trump Addresses the Nation | Full Speech 8/21/17 [Afghanistan]

August 22, 2017

President Trump Addresses the Nation | Full Speech 8/21/17 via YouTube

(The full text is available here. — DM)

 

 

Trump reportedly thinking about making Mike Pompeo national security adviser, shipping H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan

August 3, 2017

Trump reportedly thinking about making Mike Pompeo national security adviser, shipping H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan, Washington ExaminerDaniel Chaitin, August 2, 2017

(Please see also, McMaster, On ‘Warpath,’ Purges Key Trump Allies From White House NSC. — DM)

President Trump is looking at shifting CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the White House as national security adviser, according to a report Wednesday evening.

The move would bump H.R. McMaster, the current national security adviser. McMaster, a three-star Army general, would in turn be sent to Afghanistan to command U.S. forces in that country, the New York Times reported, citing several unnamed administration officials. The move could help McMaster earn his fourth star.

Trump has reportedly expressed frustration with Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, because the U.S. and its allies are not “winning” the war there.

The White House shuffle, if it came to pass, would be the latest in a string of staffing changes, including the exit of Reince Priebus as chief of staff. He was replaced by John Kelly, a retired general who had been serving as secretary of homeland security.

McMaster too has overseen a National Security Council that has recently seen some people ousted.

McMaster was named national security adviser in February, replacing Michael Flynn after it was revealed he misled the administration about his communications with a Russian envoy. Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, was sworn in as CIA director in January, days after the inauguration.