General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army staff today visited Afghanistan and held separate meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and General John F Campbell, ISAF commander. Matters related to security situation along Pak-Afghan border region came under discussion. Vital elements of intelligence were shared with concerned authorities, with regard to Peshawar incident. Afghan President assured General Raheel Sharif that Afghan soil will not be allowed for terrorists activities against Pakistan and any signature found in this regard will be immediately eliminated.
COAS also assured Afghan President full support to the Unity government in all spheres including joint efforts against terrorists.
ISAF commander also assured of its complete support in eliminating terrorist in his area of responsibility.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been at odds about Taliban factions within each country using it as a haven from which to attack the other. ToloNews reports on the potential for the Peshawar attack to change this relationship:
Following his visit, General Sharif said that the Afghan president and ISAF commander assured him that the Taliban would not be allowed to use Afghan soil as a launching pad for attacks on Pakistan, exposing the simmering distrust that remains between the sides after 13 years of war. The general’s comments come after Afghan and NATO coalition leaders have for years pleaded with the Pakistani government to do more to keep the Taliban from using the tribal belt as a safe haven for recruiting fighters and launching attacks into Afghanistan.
But after the Tuesday’s deadly attack by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on a military-run school in Peshawar, it is possible the Pakistani armed forces and civilian government in Islamabad are more inclined to crack down on terrorism and seek help in doing so than ever before. A number of security analysts have encouraged that view, arguing that Afghanistan and Pakistan should come together and establish a joint counter-terrorism task force.
Other steps that Pakistan has taken have been swift. Military courts for trial of terrorism suspects are being established and Pakistan’s moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism offenses has been lifted. Six executions are expected within the next 24 hours. In choosing to move forward with military courts, I guess Pakistan is overlooking the horrible track record in the US for military commissions at Guantanamo when compared to trying terror suspects in criminal court.
Pakistan’s military action against terrorists launched in June, Zarb-e-Azb, is being expanded, with attacks now taking place outside the tribal areas. But it is not just Pakistan’s military that is expanding its activity outside the tribal area. A drone strike today took place right on the Afghan border with Pakistan, just outside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. US drone strikes in Pakistan have been almost exclusively in the tribal region, so an attack right on the border of another province is rare. Dawn reports that the attack targeted those believed to be responsible for the Peshawar attack: Continue reading
It seems that various extremist groups are in a demented contest to see who can commit the biggest atrocity. Boko Haram shocked the world with their kidnapping of school girls and claims that they had married the girls. ISIS surged into the lead with their professionally produced videos of beheadings of prisoners. But for calculated moves carrying both a high level of carnage and huge symbolism, today’s attack on Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) reaches new levels of sickness.
Pakistan’s military has been conducting the Zarb e-Azb campaign against terrorist groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas since June. The choice of a school with an army affiliation, then, is a clear message that the attack is in response to the ongoing military campaign. Further, December 16 is the anniversary of the surrender of Pakistan’s military to India in 1971, creating Bangladesh from East Pakistan. With the choice of this date, the TTP is aiming for further humiliation of Pakistan’s military.
Some information on the attack is filtering out. From the New York Times:
The siege started Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. when at least five to six heavily armed Taliban gunmen entered Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. According to initial reports, the gunmen opened fire on students and have taken dozens of them as hostages. Some students managed to escape the school compound, the local news media reported.
The gunmen entered after scaling a wall at the rear of the main school building. They opened fire and took dozens of students hostage in the main auditorium of the building, the news media reported.
Live updates on developments are being provided here by Dawn.
The attack seems to be unifying Pakistan at a time when political divisions have been deepening. Imran Khan (whose PTI party governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) has postponed his next large demonstration in the series of actions in which he has been calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down.
As the Express Tribune points out, the TTP has a history of attacks on education, with the most famous previous attack being that on Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai in 2012. Undaunted, Malala has already denounced today’s attack. And the TTP, along with other extremist groups, have been attacking health care workers administering polio vaccines, killing one as recently as last week and four in late November.
It’s really hard to see how extremist groups think that they are helping their cause when they commit such huge crimes against humanity.
So, just a quick thought here, and with a little prompting by Jon Turley, obviously there is torture, and outright homicide thereon, spelled out and specified by the SSCI Torture Report. As I have said on Twitter, there are many things covered in the SSCI Torture Report and, yet, many things left out.
There are too many instances in the SSCI Torture Report to catalogue individually, but let’s be perfectly clear, the failure to prosecute the guilty in this cock up is NOT restricted to what is still far too euphemistically referred to as “torture”.
No, the criminality of US Government officials goes far beyond that. And, no, it is NOT “partisan” to point out that the underlying facts occurred under the Cheney/Bush regime (so stated in their relative order of power and significance on this particular issue).
As you read through the report, if you have any mood and mind for actual criminal law at all, please consider the following offenses:
These are but a few of the, normally, favorite things the DOJ leverages and kills defendants with in any remotely normal situation. I know my clients would love to have the self serving, toxically ignorant and duplicitous, work of John Yoo and Jay Bybee behind them. But, then, even if it were so, no judge, court, nor sentient human, would ever buy off on that bullshit.
So, here we are. As you read through the SSCI Torture Report, keep in mind that it is NOT just about “torture” and “homicide”. No, there is oh so much more there in the way of normally prosecuted, and leveraged, federal crimes. Recognize it and report it.
But, without any question, my best early takeaway key is that the United States Government, knew, they bloody well knew, at the highest levels, that what was going on in their citizens’ name, legally constituted torture, that it was strictly illegal. They knew even a “necessity” self defense claim was likely no protection at all. All of the dissembling, coverup, legally insane memos by John Yoo, Jay Bybee et. al, and all the whitewashing in the world cannot now supersede the fact that the United States Government, knowing fully the immorality, and domestic and international illegality, proceeded to install an intentional and affirmative regime of torture.
Here, from page 33 of the Report, is the language establishing the above:
…drafted a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking the Department of Justice for “a formal declination of prosecution, in advance, for any employees of the United States, as well as any other personnel acting on behalf of the United States, who may employ methods in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah that otherwise might subject those individuals to prosecution. The letter further indicated that “the interrogation team had concluded “that “the use of more aggressive methods is required to persuade Abu Zubaydah to provide the critical information we need to safeguard the lives of innumerable innocent men, women and children within the United States and abroad.” The letter added that these “aggressive methods” would otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute, “apart from potential reliance upon the doctrines of necessity or of self-defense.”
They knew. And our government tortured anyway. Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid instead of protecting and defending the ethos of our country and its Founders.
We need no other indicator of just how bad the situation in Afghanistan really is than that, with no previous announcement of the schedule that I am aware of, the US staged a ceremonial “end of combat operations” in Kabul today, more than three weeks before the December 31 scheduled end of the current NATO mission. The NATO mission is supposed to transition from a stated combat operation to one of support (as noted in its name: Resolute Support). We can only conclude that the date of the ceremony wasn’t announced because it would become an obvious target for the increased number of Taliban attacks in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan.
But like most of what the US says and does in Afghanistan, this was all really just bullshit. In a visit to Kabul on Saturday, which, like today’s ceremony also was unannounced due to the horrid security situation in Afghanistan, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel admitted that the non-combat designation for US troops in Afghanistan from 2015 onward is in name only. First, the claim of support:
“As planned, Resolute Support will focus here in Kabul and Bagram with a limited regional presence,” he said. “As part of this mission, the United States is prepared to provide limited combat enabler support to Afghan forces.
See? Right there, he says we only are there to enable Afghan troops to take part in combat.
Oops. Hang on, Hagel wasn’t finished:
Hagel said U.S. forces in Afghanistan would “always” have the right and the capacity to defend themselves against attacks.
“We’re committed to preventing al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven,” Hagel said, to threaten the United States, the Afghan people, and other U.S. allies and partners.
Also, the United States will take appropriate measures against Taliban members who directly threaten U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al Qaeda, he added.
Oh. So we are “only” combat support, unless we decide we aren’t and that there are targets we need to hit because they pose a threat to us.
And why are our troops there threatened? Simply by being there:
Yet Obama’s decision to allow American forces to remain behind in a more active role suggests the U.S. remains concerned about the Afghan government’s ability to fight. Chances of Ghani restarting peace talks with the Taliban also appear slim as he signed agreements with NATO and the U.S. to allow the foreign troops to remain behind — a red line for the militants.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP that the group would continue to fight “until all foreign troops have left Afghanistan.”
“The Americans want to extend their mission in Afghanistan, the motive being to keep the war going for as long as possible,” Mujahid said. “And for as long as they do, the Taliban will continue their fight against the foreign and (Afghan) government forces.”
And there we have it. The Taliban and US troops continue their sick cycle of co-dependency. The Taliban will fight us as long as we are there, and we refuse to leave while they still want to fight us.
I’m used to fearmongering out of NYC and especially out of the NY Post. But this article is remarkable.
Having read it, I’m convinced the headline should be,
NYPD admits its Counterterrorism squad can’t even track peaceful protestors operating publicly, to say nothing of terrorists operating in secret
Instead, three journalists repeated apparently verbatim a bunch of bitching from cops without exhibiting an ounce of skepticism.
Here’s how it described the NYPD’s concern that there will be protests in the wake of the Eric Garner verdict.
Tech-savvy anarchists ran rings around the NYPD during last week’s Ferguson-related protests — and cops are now on edge over what the renegades may be able to pull off after a ruling in the Eric Garner case.
“Anarchist … renegade,” the Post describes people peacefully availing their First Amendment rights.
But it’s the “tech savvy” that is all the more ridiculous. Before I look at what the anonymous sources told the NYP about tech, though, consider the implications of this:
Last week, activists armed with untraceable “burner phones” used social media and online bulletin boards to stay one step ahead of city cops and create mayhem after a grand jury cleared Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The sources at least suggest they’re tracking the communications, if not wiretapping, protestors. That is, they’re using some electronic means to track protestors; they’re not doing it all manually.
Nevertheless, the NYPD is just helpless in the face of high tech like … WiFi.
A “technology gap” also favors the activists, many of whom have the newest electronic gear, sources said.
“A lot of these anarchists are from the Occupy Wall Street group. They are little rich kids, little techie brats,’’ a source said.
“They get their money from Mommy and Daddy. And they travel from the West Coast to the East Coast and everywhere in between to disrupt events that involve corporate America, world summits, civil rights and especially those that involve law enforcement.”
“They have their little MacBook Air computers, their Wi-Fi, their smartphones, and they’re off to the races. We’re reacting to these situations, which means we are not fully in control of them,” the source said.
I mean, if the protestors did have smart phones, it’s highly unlikely they’re using burner phones, as the two are fairly incompatible in terms of security and cost considerations. But seriously. The cops want us to believe that human beings organizing with smart phones exceeds the tech they have available to them?
If I were a NYC taxpayer, I’d call for the CT squad to be shut down right away. Partly because of the insubordination in the face of people peacefully protesting. But just as significantly, because of this claimed helplessness in the face of a far easier target than they’re ostensibly paid to pursue.
There simply is no level of duplicity that Iraqi or Afghan military leaders can engage in that will lead to the US re-examining the failed assumption that “training” armed forces in those countries will stabilize them. Between the two efforts, the US has now wasted over $80 billion and more than a decade of time just on training and equipping, and yet neither force can withstand even a fraction of the forces they now face.
The latest revelations of just how failed the training effort has been are stunning, and yet we can rest assured that they will be completely disregarded as decision-makers in Washington continue to pour even more money into a cause that has long ago been proven hopeless.
Consider the latest revelations.
We learned yesterday that a cursory investigation in Iraq has already revealed at least 50,000 “ghost soldiers”:
The Iraqi army has been paying salaries to at least 50,000 soldiers who don’t exist, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday, an indication of the level of corruption that permeates an institution that the United States has spent billions equipping and arming.
A preliminary investigation into “ghost soldiers” — whose salaries are being drawn but who are not in military service — revealed the tens of thousands of false names on Defense Ministry rolls, Abadi told parliament Sunday. Follow-up investigations are expected to uncover “more and more,” he added.
We can only imagine how much larger the total will become should Iraq actually follow through with a more thorough investigation, but already one Iraqi official quoted in the article hinted the monetary loss could be at least three times what is now known. But that isn’t even the worst condemnation of US practices in this report. Consider this quote that the Post seems to consider a throw-away since it is buried deep within the article:
“The problems are wide, and it’s an extremely difficult task which is going to involve some strong will,” said Iraqi security analyst Saeed al-Jayashi. “Training is weak and unprofessional.”
So the glorious training program in Iraq, which was proudly under the leadership of ass-kissing little chickenshit David Petraeus when it was being heralded, is now finally exposed as “weak and unprofessional”. And the US will do exactly diddly squat about these revelations. Recall that last week we learned that the Defense Department does not consider reducing corruption to be part of their role as advisors in Iraq. I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that when confirmation hearings are held for a new Secretary of Defense, there won’t be a single question aimed at asking how our current training program will be improved to avoid the failures that have been so clearly demonstrated in the previous attempts.
The situation in Afghanistan, although it is receiving less attention, is no better. Reuters reported yesterday on how poorly equipped Afghan forces are for dealing with the Taliban, despite over $60 billion that the US has spent to train and equip those forces:
Afghan district police chief Ahmadullah Anwari only has enough grenades to hand out three to each checkpoint in an area of Helmand province swarming with Taliban insurgents who launch almost daily attacks on security forces.
“Sometimes up to 200 Taliban attack our checkpoints and if there are no army reinforcements, we lose the fight,” said Anwari, in charge of one of Afghanistan’s most volatile districts, Sangin.
“It shames me to say that we don’t have enough weapons and equipment. But this is a bitter reality.”
The article goes on to utterly destroy the ridiculous statements from Joseph Anderson, commander of ISAF Joint Command, back on November 5. Despite Anderson claiming that Afghan forces “are winning”, Reuters points out that claims that the ANSF remains in control of most of the country are grossly overstated:
And while the coalition says Afghan forces control most of the country, the reality on the ground can be very different.
Graeme Smith, senior Kabul analyst for the International Crisis Group, says that in many remote districts, the government controls a few administrative buildings “but the influence of Afghan forces may not extend far beyond that point”.
And yet, despite this clear history of failed efforts to train and equip forces, the US now plans to spend more than another $5 billion fighting ISIS. If it weren’t for the carbon dioxide that would be released, it would probably be better for all of us if that money were simply incinerated.
There are multiple reports that President Obama is considering nominating Jeh Johnson to head DOD.
I get the attraction. Obama and Johnson get along well. Johnson only recently left DOD, so he knows it — and the legal loopholes it exploits — well. And in Johnson, Obama would have someone who would gloss his warmaking as something noble.
I even think Obama might welcome the way such a nomination would heighten the confrontation with the GOP on immigration.
Still, Johnson has served as head of DHS for less than a year. His tenure is only now marking a transition from a period during which DHS had such a wildly spinning revolving door that it could begin to serve its alleged mission.
An exodus of top-level officials from the Department of Homeland Security is undercutting the agency’s ability to stay ahead of a range of emerging threats, including potential terrorist strikes and cyberattacks, according to interviews with current and former officials.
Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as in the federal government overall, and the trend is accelerating, according to a review of a federal database.
The departures are a result of what employees widely describe as a dysfunctional work environment, abysmal morale, and the lure of private security companies paying top dollar that have proliferated in Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
And all that’s on top of DHS’s almost impossible mandate, both because it is either too big or poorly defined.
Look, I’m sure Johnson’s a nice guy and maybe a great manager (he hasn’t been in place long enough for us to know).
But if DHS is a necessary agency, if its domestic spying and immigration and cybersecurity and disaster recovery missions are vital to this nation, if it is going to survive as a many-headed monster, then it should have the person Obama thinks is his best Agency head leading it. If that person is Johnson — as Obama’s consideration of him to lead DOD suggests — then moving him would seem to be a concession that DHS, and its obvious failures, really isn’t all that important after all.
If Obama moves Johnson from DHS to DOD, he should, at the same time, break DHS back up into more manageable agencies, declare the whole experiment an expensive failure, eliminate the word “Homeland” from our vocabularies. Because it is not working, and if there’s no urgency to make it work, then we should break it up into parts that can function competently again.
The report apparently admits that MI5 tried to recruit Adebolajo — but it claims it didn’t have him under close surveillance and so couldn’t see him planning his attack.
The Kenyans passed him over to the British and MI5 tried to recruit him as an informant.
MI5 has always maintained that although Adebolajo was on their radar, he was not considered a high priority, and therefore not worthy of a time-consuming, resource-sapping surveillance operation, which are reserved for the most dangerous suspects.
Sky News understands the investigation is likely to sympathise with that decision, although the committee, chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, will say there were clues in the online behaviour of Adebolajo.
While it might have been possible to uncover his plot if his online activity been monitored, requests to monitor his phone or internet activity would not have passed the requisite threshold because he was not deemed high risk.
I’ve pointed before to the evidence that informants are hidden in databases, as a way to deconflict them.
Which, in a case like this, would lead the British government to ignore Adebolajo’s online posting showing him prepping an attack, which would lead to one of theirs getting killed.
I’m not certain that’s what happened, but there does seem to be a pattern of attempted or known informants launching terror attacks.
In what may serve as the public transition moment from Dianne Feinstein to Richard Burr (in part because Saxby Chambliss was absent), the Senate Intelligence Committee considered the nomination of Nick Rasmussen to head National Counterterrorism Center yesterday. He’s long served as the Deputy anyway, so he’s very well qualified, and the hearing was one of those love affairs you often see (though in this case I’m not aware of any big flags that the Committee might soon regret, as I predicted during John Brennan’s confirmation).
That said, I highly recommend Rasmussen’s Additional Prehearing Answers. Along with a really accessible (and welcome) description of many of NCTC’s functions, it includes (question 17) what appears to be his description of his role in developing the Drone Rule Book.
I wanted to also point to his discussion of the Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning (see questions 11 and 13). In 2012, DSOP was described as an important part of CT, but one Congress had largely neglected:
The Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning is supposed to be the mechanism for government-wide strategic operational planning and is half of NCTC’s mission, yet oversight is negligible. The seeming importance of DSOP has been highlighted in testimony by NCTC leadership, yet relatively unchallenged by Congress in hearings. In his statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as nominee for the Director of the NCTC, Adm. John Scott Redd called strategic operational planning “substantial, daunting and, I believe, very necessary.”[xii] Through the years, SOP has been called “truly revolutionary”[xiii] as the government has “come together in ways…never seen during…decades of government service.”[xiv] Despite caveats of strategic operational planning as “new to the US government,” [xv]SOP was called “foundational”[xvi] to counterterrorism efforts. Succeeding NCTC Director Michael Leiter said he was “more convinced than ever that success against terrorism will only come through such coordinated and synchronized efforts—to include the full weight of our diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement activities.” [xvii] For such weighty importance, however, Congress hardly paid attention to DSOP.
Since then, however, it has become clear that one reason Congress hadn’t been paying attention is because the Executive wasn’t sharing details on it. In John Brennan’s prehearing questions, for example, the Committee hammered him a bit for withholding information.
Question 23: Please describe any involvement you have had in the Administration’s responses to the Committee’s requests for the strategies produced by the Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning, including whether you personally made any decision or recommendation regarding the Committee’s access to such strategies and, if so, providing the specific legal basis for your decision or recommendation.
A: In my capacity as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, I have conferred with NCTC Director Matt Olsen on how to determine what elements of those NSS-led counterterrorism implementation plans that NCTC’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning (DSOP) has contributed to should be shared with the Committee. DSOP supports the NSS in helping to draft and coordinate some–not all–CT implementation plans and to compile related department and agency activities. These documents often contain policy-focused information from the NSS that is deliberative in nature; include information on non-intelligence-related activities that departments and agencies may be pursuing; and, in some cases, access to documents is limited by the NSS due to security sensitivities around the CT planning/implementation effort. I have worked with Director Olsen to share with the SSCI those plans or parts of plan that are not deliberative in nature and that involve intelligence activities. I have supported NCTC’s decision to respond to SSCI requests for briefings/information on the non-deliberative, intelligence-related aspects of particular plans and would support SSCI requests for briefings/information from other parts of the intelligence community, including CIA, as it relates to particularly plans.
The question on this topic addressed to Rasmussen is more circumspect.
Question 13: Historically, the Committee has had difficulty in obtaining the strategies that are produced by NCTC’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning. If confirmed, will you abide by the current accommodation that has been reached between the Committee and NCTC?
A: Yes. I am familiar with the accommodation that has been reached with the Committee with respect to the strategies that DSOP produces and, if confirmed,, I would continue to abide by it.
The response doesn’t really reveal whether the SSCI is actually learning what kind of schemes get considered during this strategic response to terrorism; it sure seems to be limited.
As it happens, two of the maybe 12 questions addressed to Rasmussen addressed the question as well. Rising Chair Burr challenged Rasmussen what he — in this DSOP role — would do strategically to combat terrorism (I liked his emphasis that DSOP, not NSC, is actually the agency in charge).
Burr: What is NCTC as the Executive agent for our nation’s strategy gonna do about [the broad threat of terrorism]?
Rasmussen: [pauses] The role that NCTC plays in carrying out Strategic Operational Planning in support of the government is one that has us tied very closely to the National Security Council staff and the policy development process for pursuing strategies against–on counterterrorism. We work with the National Security Council staff to develop whole of government plans to address our counterterrorism concerns in each of the theaters around the world. Not just one single theater, for ex–as you would well expect, Senator. The efforts to develop strategies against ISIL is at a particularly energetic pace right now. But our Strategic Operational Planning capability is also brought to bear on the whole array of CT challenges we face, in Africa, in Asia, in South Asia, every region you can think of. And so I would consider our job at NCTC to make sure that we aren’t leaving any holes in that fabric of strategy as we look out across all of the different CT challenges that we face, while at the same time prioritizing where effort needs to be most energetically directed. And that of course right now would argue for a lot of effort to be directed at the challenges we’re facing in Syria and Iraq.
And Angus King askedwhy we don’t develop something akin to the Kennan containment strategy used against the Soviet Union.
Rasmussen: The strategies that we try to help produce at NCTC in support of the National Security Council staff — in my answer to Chairman Feinstein [sic] are typically whole of government strategies, not just relying on our intelligence capabilities or our military capabilities but also trying to take advantage of the abilities, the resources we have across the government to try to produce the conditions that would over time eat away at support for terrorism in some of these conflict locations, um, overseas. At the same time, we all go into it understanding well that those effort will ultimately take years if not decades to play out for us to reap the benefits of those kinds of strategies, and in the meantime, you’re left to manage a very difficult threat environment.
Note that, whatever Rasmussen’s commitment to the DSOP “accommodation” to share information with SSCI, he still seems to defer to NSC on this topic, even though the law says that NCTC should take the lead.
It may well be that the White House (properly, to a point) believes that strategic planning against terrorism is an inherent Executive function. But it doesn’t seem like the White House should be hiding all this — to whatever extent it is — from its Congressional overseers, particularly given how easily the fight against terrorism can turn into support for terrorism.