by Abdel Haleem
Newscast Media KABUL—Washington’s latest decision to pull out roughly half of its forces from Afghanistan within the year could embolden the Taliban in its objective of toppling the present regime in Kabul and reinstalling its unique brand of Islamic rule in the country, local analysts here said.
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night in Washington D. C. (Wednesday in most parts of Asia), U.S. President Barack Obama announced the pullout of some 34,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan within the year.
Presently there are about 100,000 troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with around 66,000 of them Americans.
“The Taliban would certainly describe the troop withdrawal as defeat of U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and they would benefit from it in the propaganda war,” political analyst and retired Army General Amrullah Aman told Xinhua.
Under the agreement reached among the NATO-member states and troop-contributing nations to Afghanistan in 2010, the ISAF would complete its pullout from the war-torn country by the end of 2014. Washington has said that with Obama’s announcement, the U.S. is on pace to finally put an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in 2014.
Aman said that Obama’s announcement was made in a critical stage since the U.S.-led “war on terror” is still unfinished and there is a resurgence of violence in the country perpetrated by Taliban insurgents.
Aman also doubts whether the Afghan national security forces with its limited firepower and expertise can deal with the Taliban threat after the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.
“Since the Afghan forces do not have air power and heavy artillery it is difficult for Afghan forces to ensure security all by themselves after the troop withdrawal,” the retired general said, adding that the Taliban fighters are mainly guerillas and have mastered the “hit and run” tactic, making it difficult for the government forces to confront the insurgents in frontal combat.
“So, it will be difficult for the poorly equipped Afghan forces to check the Taliban-led insurgency without the support of NATO- led coalition and U.S. forces in 2013, 2014 or beyond,” Aman said.
Another military expert and political analyst retired General Atiqullah Omarkhil also said that the withdrawal of 34,000 U.S. forces within the year amid increasing militancy would make Afghans worry.
“I think the pullout of 34,000 troops at this stage is premature because Afghan national security forces are not capable of filling the void to be left by the departure of foreign forces, ” Omarkhil said.
“The end of combat mission in 2013, in my opinion would undermine the capability of Afghan security forces and can even boost the moral of the Taliban which could eventually affect the security situation in Afghanistan,” Omarkhil said.
Like Oman, Omarkhil said the Taliban would describe the pullout “as the defeat of infidels” at the hands of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and would use it to recruit more fighters in their continuing armed struggle to return to power in Afghanistan.
Newscast Media MOSCOW—Russia denied on Friday its top diplomat Mikhail Bogdanov made any statement on Syria, stressing it would not change its stance concerning the ongoing crisis in the Middle Eastern country.
“We would like to remark that he (Bogdanov) has made no statements or special interviews with journalists in the last days,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
The press reported earlier on Thursday that Bogdanov told a meeting of the Public Chamber official oversight body that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was losing more and more control of Syria.
Lukashevich confirmed that the hearing with the Social Chamber had taken place but said Bogdanov had “once again confirmed the principled Russian position about the lack of alternative to a political solution in Syria.”
He also gave assurance that Moscow has never changed its position from the Syrian crisis.
“We have never changed our position (on Syria) and we never will,” Lukashevich said.
“Our position remains in effect,” he told reporters. “It is unchanged.”
There are new findings, according to Al Manar news, that two Russian warships docked in the port of Tartus today, for several hours but their crews did not go ashore, the Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies reported.
“They loaded up on fuel and water and had minor repairs. No shore leave was planned for the crew,” a source in the naval chief of staff told the Interfax news agency.The Tartus base is Russia’s only remaining foreign military base outside the former Soviet Union and is seen as a major strategic asset for Moscow. READ FULL ARTICLE>>
Newscast Media WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. State Department announced on Friday that it has imposed sanctions on Syria’s state-run oil company for selling 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran in April. The State Department said this kind of trade allows Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian government with resources to oppress its own people.
“The United States remains deeply concerned about the close ties shared by the Iranian and Syrian regimes and is committed to using every tool available to prevent regional destabilization,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement August 10.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on her way to Turkey for talks with Turkish leaders and Syrian opposition activists to coordinate efforts to oust the regime of Bashar al-Assad and start planning to help Syria after Assad falls, according to the article on the State Department’s Web site.
Meanwhile, the sanctions on Hezbollah were placed because the U.S. believes it is providing training, advice and “extensive logistical support” to the Assad regime. According to a Wall Street Journal, the U.S. said Hezbollah has been working closely with Iran, Mr. Assad’s other close supporter and the main U.S. nemesis in the region.
“I think it is safe to say that Hezbollah is playing a critical role in advising the Syrian government and training its personnel in how to prosecute a counterinsurgency,” Daniel Benjamin, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, said Friday. “At this point…we’re satisfied by our assessment that the group is playing an absolutely integral role in helping the Assad regime try to put down this popular movement.”
Analysts in the region argue that the U.S. is overstating Hezbollah’s role in Syria, and say the group has chosen to limit its support for Mr. Assad—endorsing Syria’s regime but not publicly taking up arms to defend it.
“Although the final decision hasn’t been made, Hezbollah has come to realize that it doesn’t serve its core objectives to get involved in Syria and Iran’s conflict,” said Omar Nashabi, a columnist for the Al-Akbar newspaper, which leans toward supporting Hezbollah. The Reuters full article can be read here.
In other reports, the rebel gangs in Aleppo are asking for more weapons from the West, because they are “slowly losing the battle” against Assad. Syrian rebels were running low on ammunition and guns Friday and appealed for international help as government forces tried to consolidate their control over Aleppo, the country’s largest city and a deadly battleground in recent weeks.
“The warplanes and helicopters are killing us, they’re up there in the sky 15 hours a day,” said Mohammad al-Hassan, an activist in Aleppo’s main rebel stronghold of Salaheddine. “I don’t know how long this situation can be sustained,” the New York Times reported in this article.
Regardless of whether the sanctions against Hezbollah will have any effect, the group has now been dragged into the crisis in Syria, and it will be interesting to see what Hezbollah’s reaction, covert or overt, will be in the weeks ahead.
Newscast Media WASHINGTON, D.C.—After yesterday’s consultative meeting that was held in Iran, in which 30 countries converged on the capital city Tehran, US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice said the alliance of Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and Assad’s government—a group that considers itself the Middle East’s “an axis of resistance”—was “bad for the region.”
“They view this as an axis of resistance along with Hezbollah, so there is no question that Iran is playing a nefarious role, not only in Syria but more broadly in the region, actively supporting the Assad regime,” she told NBC.
“One of the reasons why we are quite clear that the end result must be and will be the departure of Assad, is because this alliance, so to speak, is bad not only for Syria, but it is bad for the region and bad for our interests,” she added.
Iran creates a united nations within the United Nations
On such short notice, Iran successfully created a group of nations united in ideology, and their first meeting was headquartered in Tehran, spearheaded by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
This was a profound achievement considering two of the heavyweights with veto power in the United Nations (Russia and China) were at the roundtable meeting. As time goes on, there is no doubt that other countries whose ideology is different from the West will join the 30-plus countries, and they could even sign trade treaties and decide what currency to use in the global market. This possibility is not sitting well with the West which explains the public statements by Susan Rice, who is opposed to the key players.
About Syria, Ambassador Rice acknowledged, “the Syrian air defenses are among the most sophisticated in the world. Their military is quite a different beast.”
Ahmadinejad—life after the presidency in 2013
According to Al Arabiya News, President Ahmadinejad plans to exit politics after his term ends in 2013.
“Two terms in office is enough,” Ahmadinejad told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in its July 16 edition. According to Al Arabiya, Ahmadinejad plans to pursue scientific work at a university as a college professor.
However, the dynamics have now changed. With the assassinations on Iranian scientists, and abductions, Ahmadinejad is less likely to pursue work at a university as a permanent profession. The reason is because he would become an easy target since his schedule would be predictable. If he were to give a lecture in Quantum Physics at a particular university, in Hall C, Room number 100, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 9:00 A.M. and 9:50 A.M. those who would want to harm him would know exactly where and when to find him.
Right now Ahmadinejad’s schedule is extremely unpredictable and almost impossible to pinpoint where and when he will make an appearance. Using this logic, it is improbable that he would make himself vulnerable by teaching at a university. He could still teach using video or satellite technology, where he conducts his lectures remotely, and students submit their work using an intranet or via the Web.
The likely role Ahmadinejad may play, considering the success of being able to create a group of nations within the United Nations, is the role of a diplomat. In this capacity as a special envoy, he could act as a mediator, affiliated with no political party, to resolve disputes on a national and international scale.