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Rex Tillerson says US is ready to work with Taliban…while fighting them

US policies on Afghanistan are either devious or based purely on ignorance.




US policies on Afghanistan continue to delve deeper into total strategic dissonance. Many observers used to mock the fact that after 2001, the US fought to depose the Taliban after weakening the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, something which led to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The left-wing Afghan government eventually fell in 1992 and the Islamic State of Afghanistan (no relation to the group ISIS/Daesh which coalesced 10 years later in Iraq) was established. Beginning in 1996, the ethnic Pashtun Sunni hard-line group Taliban took full control over most of the country and proclaimed the Islamic State of Afghanistan. After 2001, the US fought to destroy a Taliban it had a hand in bringing to power.

While the US is now fighting a group whose prescience in Afghanistan was made possible due to the strong US backing of Mujaheddin terrorists in the 1980s, in their fight against the socialist Afghan government of the time, this is no longer even the most embarrassing feature regarding America’s Afghan debacle.

Today, most of the world understands that peace in Afghanistan will not be possible while the Taliban remains excluded from any formal peace process. This has less to do with the Taliban’s ideology, than with the ethnic complexities of Afghanistan and the territorial realities on the ground.

First of all, the Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns who are the ethnic majority of Afghanistan. Because of this, they have accrued a natural support base which due to Afghanistan’s tribal nature, will not be easily broken at this point in history. This helps explain why the Taliban control as vast amounts of Afghan territory. By some accounts, the Taliban control 40% of all Afghan territory while others put Taliban control at over 50%.

Making matters all the more awkward for the US, while the US continues to attempt and fight the Taliban while treating the group as a kind of terrorist organisation, in reality, the Taliban are in fact the “moderate rebels” which the US once spoke about in Syria, even though in Syria, moderate rebels objectively do not exist. Yet in a country, where there is a “moderate rebellion”, the US continues to take a generally hard-line approach. This attitude goes against the grain of world opinion including that of Russia, Pakistan and China who each favour military de-escalation and a peace process that, once certain conditions are met, would include the more amiable factions of the Taliban.

As I previously wrote:

“Many have long lamented and continue to lament the fact that the US hasn’t really had a plan for Afghanistan since the time in 2001 when George W Bush formally ousted the Taliban who had controlled virtually all of the country since 1996. Since 2001, the official US plan has looked like a strategy best defined as “now what?”

The truth, however, is that the Americans do more or less have an Afghan strategy. The problem is that they don’t know it. All one needs to do in order to find it is dust off Barack Obama’s Syria strategy.

In Syria there was and there remains an experienced, broadly popular, secular central government whose Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party has governed the country effectively since 1963 and governed it stably since 1970, the year Hafez al-Assad (the current president’s father) came to power.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration insisted that it should fully back and arm the “rebels” it had largely created along with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Israel providing the hallelujah chorus of “intelligence” to back the operation all the while.

In spite of reams of evidence to the contrary, Obama and his secretary of state John Kerry insisted that the future of Syria lay in the hands of the so-called “moderate rebels” and that no peace could be brought to the country without such “moderate rebels” playing a leading role.

Then two things happened. First of all, it became apparent that the only effective forces opposed to the Syrian government were those moderate enough to behead civilians with a sharp rather than a rusty blade. No matter how much the mainstream media tried to suppress this grim truth, it gradually came out.

Second, when Russia began helping Syria militarily after 2015, it became increasingly clear that the previously strong central government of Bashar al-Assad was not going anywhere.

Today, the myth of moderate rebels has been abandoned quietly by its former champions in Washington and Ankara. The Saudis and Qataris have descended into a moderate cold war in the desert and Israel is kicking and screaming about the fact that it didn’t get its way and likely never will in respect of seeing through regime change in Damascus.

This same plan of Obama’s that has abjectly failed in Syria is ironically one that, with slight modifications, could succeed in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, there exists a very weak, divided government with an extremely dubious historical pedigree. The opposition Taliban factions have perversely become forces that, in spite of an ideology that would be as foreign in Los Angeles as in Pyongyang, are increasingly seen by many Afghans – and crucially many former opponents both in Afghanistan and in the wider world – as a force that must be dealt with diplomatically if there is to be any lasting compromise settlement for the turbulent country.

After years of war between feuding warlords, militant factions and former governing factions, the Taliban are all of a sudden those “moderate rebels” that the US tried so hard to create and then locate in Syria”.

Adding confusion to the hypocrisy and shortsightedness, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s deeply compromised Secretary of State, has said that the US is willing to speak to the Taliban, but only after a further period of fighting them.

Tillerson said during his recent stop in Afghanistan,

“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government. There’s a place for them in the government if they’re ready to come renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan”.

However, Tillerson also stated that the fight against the Taliban would continue “in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory”.

If Tillerson admits that there are moderate voices among the Taliban, something Pakistan, China and Russia have been alluding to and in some cases stating directly for years, then what is the point of a prolonged military engagement before an inevitable negotiation? The only answer other than utter stupidity, is that a prolonged crisis in Afghanistan will allow the CIA to continue their exploitation of poppy harvesting in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has a lucrative poppy sector as well as untapped minerals worth millions. While the US will find it hard to get its hands of all of Afghanistan’s wealth as perpetually unwanted “visitors”, what the US can do is prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe and prosperous state, one which borders key areas along China’s One Belt–One Road. Indeed, Afghanistan could potentially be part of One Belt–One Road were the situation to stabilise. While America cannot win the war in Afghanistan, they can attempt to make sure that others, namely China, lose out. This is the key element behind America’s strategic dissonance in Afghanistan. On the one hand, they want a good clean win for US business interests. On the other hand, knowing such a thing is next to impossible, they want to proverbially salt the earth before China or any other potential economic partner can reap any benefits from Afghanistan.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran



Via RT

Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”



Via Zerohedge

Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran



Authored by Al Masdar News:

Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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