November 18, 2017

China will decide when the Afghanistan war ends


by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD November 18, 2017

It is simply a matter of reverse engineering. If you get to the Taliban through Pakistan and you get to Pakistan through China, then clearly, Beijing is in the driver's seat. Pakistan merely holds the valve that regulates the Taliban and the supply of our troops.

The conflict will end in a whimper, a political settlement whose main purpose is to provide a graceful exit that politely delays the announcement of a Taliban victory and a humiliating defeat for the U.S. and NATO, all choreographed by China, who will then set up shop as the dominant regional power.

China's strategy is based on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, which aims to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. CPEC is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar in Balochistan Province and Karachi in Sindh province, both located on the Arabian Sea.

Control of Afghanistan via its proxy Pakistan will allow China to complete transportation corridors, power grids and oil and gas pipelines throughout Central and South Asia. China can then begin to exploit Afghanistan's estimated $3 trillion in untapped mineral resources, in addition to Balochistan's $1 trillion in gold, copper, oil, precious stones, coal, chromite and natural gas.

CPEC calls for the influx of up to 500,000 Chinese professionals into Gwadar for port and naval facility development as well as expansion of the international airport to handle heavy cargo flights. The Chinese have visited and bought land in Sonmiani, which houses Pakistan's spaceport and space research center as well as a planned liquid natural gas terminal. In addition, Balochistan's Arabian Sea coast will become dotted with Chinese military bases, from which Beijing will dominate the vital sea lanes leading to the Persian Gulf and provide a link to the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, both strategic choke points.

Breitbart News Executive Chairman and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon warned recently that America's attention needs to be focused on China, or it will be left behind in the communist country's wake.

Bannon stated that China would become the dominant global power if that country achieved five things in the coming years and the U.S. did not thwart them:

1.      The rollout of fifth generation mobile technology - known as "5G."

2.      The expansion of the One Belt One Road Initiative - a transport system to go through central Asia and connect China to the Middle East.

3.      Plan 2025 - 10 industries the Chinese have aimed to dominate by 2025. Bannon described the Chinese as "way ahead." Bannon said three of those are silicon chips, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

4.      Conversion of all oil transactions into Chinese currency, which he said will end America as a reserve currency and force the U.S. to start paying off the 20 trillion debt.

5.      Financial technology. Bannon said the true piece of leverage with North Korea is the ability to decouple countries from the world's financial system, sanction companies, and shut banks off from capital markets. He predicted that in 5-10 years that ability is gone.

The continued presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan remains an obstacle to China's regional ambitions (Bannon's item #2), which are both economic and military.

The United States and NATO have been expending huge quantities of blood and treasure to create a stable and democratic Afghanistan, free from transnational Islamic extremists and as a "useful platform for the regional counterterrorist effort," so claims retired Gen. David Petraeus, although he doesn't use the word "Islamic."

Never mind that the "useful platform" has been unable for over sixteen years to counter the terrorists operating freely from safe havens just across the border in Pakistan or that the transnational terrorists that struck on 9/11 originated from outside of Afghanistan, that is, Pakistanis and Arabs.

Compared to 2001, there are now a far greater number of terrorist epicenters from which strikes can be made against the U.S. or its NATO allies, not the least of which are Islamic terrorists inside western societies linked to those epicenters.

Current U.S. Afghanistan policy can profit from a healthy injection of realpolitik.

The U.S. has actually more to gain by leveraging instability and thwarting Chinese ambitions in South Asia than by continuing the expensive and exhausting tasks of counterinsurgency and nation building in Afghanistan from which we will accrue a diminishing number of strategic benefits.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

Read more: Family Security Matters http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/detail/china-will-decide-when-the-afghanistan-war-ends?f=must_reads#ixzz4yo0shfa2 

November 17, 2017

The Convoluted Arguments Underlying U.S. Afghanistan Strategy


OPINION

http://dailycaller.com/2017/11/17/the-convoluted-arguments-underlying-u-s-afghanistan-strategy/

LAWRENCE SELLIN

Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

3:29 PM 11/17/2017

In a brief four minutes during a June 2017 PBS interview, retired Gen. David Petraeus, unconsciously revealed just how convoluted the thinking behind U.S. strategy in Afghanistan truly is.

Petraeus said, “We need to recognize that we went there for a reason and we stayed for a reason, to ensure that Afghanistan is not once again a sanctuary for al-Qaida or other transnational extremists, the way it was when the 9/11 attacks were planned there. That’s why we need to stay. We also have a very useful platform there for the regional counterterrorist effort.”

Yet, according to Petraeus, that useful platform for the regional counterterrorism has been ineffective against “transnational extremists” on Afghanistan’s doorstep, unable to “pressure the leaders of the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and even some of the other insurgent groups, because they’re out of our reach. They’re in sanctuaries inside Pakistan.”

Petraeus describes the war in Afghanistan as a “generational struggle” requiring a “sustainable sustained commitment.” He said the 3,000 to 5,000 troops added by the Trump Administration was “very sustainable,” but admitted “we are not going to permanently win this.” Petraeus compared it to the commitment the U.S. made in Western Europe after World War Two and to South Korea, “we have been in Korea for 65-plus years because there is an important national interest for that. We were in Europe for a very long period of time, still there.”

Unlike Western Europe and South Korea, however, Afghanistan is land-locked, and surrounded by countries hostile to the U.S. mission. Even when he commanded 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, Petraeus conceded that the Taliban could only be “turned back,” not defeated.

Modestly raising troop levels or changing tactics on the ground, like relaxing “the remaining restrictions on the use of our airpower” will not improve the unfavorable strategic conditions. Due to the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, the U.S. will never gain the military initiative and, because its interests diverge from those of the U.S., Pakistan will maintain a chokehold on the supply of our troops.

In other words, Pakistan, not the U.S., determines what is “sustainable.”

Although Petraeus recognizes that terrorism is transnational, he recommends a strategy delimited by geography.

The 9/11 attack was concocted outside of Afghanistan, the perpetrators were Arab and the planners were Pakistani.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), son of a Deobandi cleric and often referred to as the “architect” of the 9/11 attacks is Pakistani and was born in Balochistan.

Ramzi Yousef is KSM’s nephew and one of the main perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434, and a co-conspirator in the Bojinka plot, which included assassinating Pope John Paul II while he visited the Philippines, and planting bombs inside 12 United and Delta Air Lines flights out of Bangkok. He allegedly worked together with KSM on the Bojinka plot. Although he was born in Kuwait, Ramzi Yousef is Pakistani. His father was from Balochistan and his mother is KSM’s sister.

Adel Anonn, aka Adel Bani, who had an Iraqi passport and believed to be Ramzi Yousef’s twin brother, was arrested in the Philippines in 1995 as part of a suspected terrorist cell.

Abdul Qadir Mehmood, Ramzi Yousef’s older brother, is wanted in connection with a 2015 terror attack that killed 45 people traveling on a bus from the Safoora Chowk area of Karachi, Pakistan. Best known as a provider of financial and materiel support for terrorist attacks, Abdul Qadir has reportedly switched allegiance from al Qaeda to the Islamic State (IS) and is hiding in Wadh, Balochistan presumably under the protection of IS leader, Shafiq Mengal, a former Pakistani intelligence asset.

Ammar Al-Baluchi, cousin of Ramzi Yousef and maternal nephew of KSM, is a Pakistani citizen in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Charges against him include facilitating the 9/11 attackers, acting as a courier for Bin Laden and plotting to crash a plane packed with explosives into the US consulate in Karachi. His former wife, Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani militant, was convicted of shooting at US soldiers and is incarcerated in the U.S.

The point being, that transnational terrorism, like fog, moves, and that the future of Afghanistan will be determined more by events outside its borders. In Pakistan’s southwest province of Balochistan, for example, there is brewing a toxic mixture of Chinese hegemony, Pakistani and Iranian regional ambitions, a growing Taliban infrastructure and increasing numbers of transnational Islamic terrorists as well as a potentially new, Syria-like, Sunni-Shia battleground, all of which will eventually undermine current U.S. plans.

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is not only illogical, it is being overtaken by events.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

Baloch activists condemn detention of leader Mehran Marri

https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/baloch-activists-condemn-detention-of-leader-mehran-marri201711171025090002/

ANI | Updated: Nov 17, 2017 10:26IST

Washington/Geneva [USA/Switzerland], November 17 (ANI): Baloch leaders and activists across the world have condemned the detention of key leader of their struggle, Mehran Marri, by the Swiss authorities at the Zurich Airport.

"The generals of the Pakistan Army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are the most deceptive bullies and blackmailers in the world," said Ahmar Mustikhan, a senior journalist and founder of the American Friends of Balochistan (AFB).

Mustikhan asked the Baloch leaders to not delay hiring the best lawyers to counter Pakistan's illegal moves.

"Pakistan generals have looted as much as USD 150 billion in kickbacks, commissions and bribes during arms deals and much of this money is stashed in Swiss bank accounts. This dirty money explains the Swiss action," he added.

France-based Baloch activist Munir Mengal said the Baloch Voice Association condemned the barring of Mehran Marri from entering to Switzerland with his family.

"The detention of Mehran Marri and a lifetime ban on his entry in Switzerland by the authorities is very discouraging and a sorrowful incident. Marri is a secular political pro-independence Baloch leader who has been politically struggling for the independence of occupied Balochistan," Germany based Shafi Burfat, the chief of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), said.

Switzerland based United Kashmir People's National Party activist, Nasir Aziz, said, "I am surprised to know that Mehran Marri, a Baloch Nationalist leader and Human Rights activist, who has been regularly participating in the UNHRC Sessions at Geneva, has been prevented to enter Swiss."

Aziz added that Marri had raised cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in Balochistan in the UNHRC.

Marri was detained by the Swiss authorities at the Zurich airport yesterday. Informing the same, he tweeted, "Friends, I have been detained at Zurich Airport for the last few hours and feel I am under arrest by Swiss authorities on request of the Pakistan Govt. My wife and children are also with me in detention. Don't worry, being detained is nothing new for the Baloch..."

"My father spent many years in far worse conditions, but never have up. The peaceful & legal struggle for an independent #Balochistan free of Pakstani occupation shall continue no matter what the Punjabi generals & babus of that excuse of a country plan. We'll persevere"

He further said, "I have now been informed that I have been placed under a lifetime ban on entering Switzerland at the request of Islamabad. So much for the Geneva UNHRC being the world capital of human rights. I am still in detention at Zurich Airport with my wife and children. Stay tuned 4 more."

The youngest son of the late Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Mehran Marri, was travelling to Geneva to attend the Baloch unity moot called by his brother-in-law, Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP).

Brahamdagh, who organised the meeting in Geneva, speaking to ANI on the detention, stated, "It is sad and shocking for me that he was stopped and detained with his family and children."

"I am really shocked how a neutral country like Switzerland can do that. Mehran's visiting the country is not new," Brahamdagh said, adding that the former used to often visit Switzerland "for last 15 years".

Baloch activist Bhawal Mengal also condemned the Pakistani military's "malicious and desperate attempt".

"This is a malicious and desperate attempt by the Pakistani military establishment to malign and curtail the freedom of Baloch representatives, who are working to raise awareness on the worsening situation in Balochistan and Pakistan's crimes against humanity . Developed countries should not be intimidated by Pakistan, which has been an international sponsor of terrorism," Mengal said.

Other than Mehran Marri, his estranged elder brother Hyrbyair Marri, who heads the Free Balochistan Movement, was expected to attend the Baloch unity meeting, that begins this Saturday.

Meanwhile, reports say that Marri has now been released and he, along with his family, has now taken off to London. (ANI)

Intel Committee Ranking Member Schiff Opening Statement at Open Hearing with Tech Companies

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Washington, November 1, 2017 | comments

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered the following open statement during an open committee hearing titled “Social Media and the 2016 Election.” Below is his remarks, as prepared:

In March of this year, our committee had its first open hearing and then FBI Director Comey revealed that he had opened a counterintelligence investigation involving Trump associates and the Russians. Then, we knew next to nothing about the Russians use of social media to attack Hillary Clinton — indeed the technology companies themselves only recently have identified the reach of that facet of the Kremlin’s active measures campaign.

Today, you will see a representative sample of those ads, and we will ask the social media companies what they know about the full extent of Russian use of social media, why it took them so long to discover this abuse of their platforms, and what they intend to do about it to protect our country from this malign influence in the future.

But first, it is worth taking stock of where we are in the investigation. During our March hearing, I posed the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in any aspect of its influence operations.  In essence, did the Russians offer to help the campaign, and did the campaign accept? And if the Trump campaign did accept, explicitly or implicitly, what did the Russians do to make good on that understanding?

We now know, as a result of the guilty plea by Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopolous, that the Russians approached the Trump campaign as early as April of 2016, to inform them that they were in possession of dirt on Hillary Clinton, in the form of thousands of stolen emails. This timing is significant, because it means that the Trump campaign was informed of Russia’s involvement with stolen emails, and their intent to release them, before anyone else.

But Mr. Papadopolous was not the only Trump campaign figure the Russians approached, nor would his lies to federal agents be the last example of Trump associates making false statements about their interactions with the Russians. 

We now know that the uppermost levels of the Trump campaign were also informed that the Russians had dirt on Clinton, and that it was offered to the campaign in what was described as part of the Putin government’s effort to help Trump.  That offer appears to have been accepted when the President’s son said that he would love the assistance and suggested that the best timing would be late summer.  And in late summer, the Russians would begin dumping the dirt on Hillary Clinton. The President and his son would later deceptively claim the meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower was about adoptions.

It is not clear from Mr. Papadopoulos’ plea or the emails which established the meeting at Trump Tower, whether the Russians communicated that the mechanism they would use to help the campaign may not involve the direct provision of the stolen emails to the campaign, but their publication through Wikileaks and Moscow’s own cutouts, like Guccifer 2.  What is clear is this: The Kremlin repeatedly told the campaign it had dirt on Clinton and offered to help it, and at least one top Trump campaign official, the President’s own son, accepted.

Apart from publishing stolen emails, the Russians also used social media to assist the Trump Campaign.  Whether the Russians and Trump coordinated these efforts, we do not yet know, but it is true that the Russians mounted what could be described as an independent expenditure campaign on Trump’s behalf.  Russian ads on Twitter, for example, promoted stories about Hillary Clinton’s allegedly poor health or legal problems.

But the social media campaign was also designed to further a broader Kremlin objective: sowing discord in the U.S. by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues. The Russians did so by weaving together fake accounts, pages, and communities to push politicized content and videos, and to mobilize real Americans to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests. They also bought ads, like these:

·         [Ad 1] Black Matters was brought to us from St. Petersburg and amassed over 224,000“likes.”

·         [Ad 2] This page garnered over 135,000 Facebook followers. The Russians bought sufficient ad space for it to appear almost 145,000 times across Facebook accounts that had expressed an interest in Donald Trump, stopping illegal immigration, conservatism, Confederate States of America, Dixie, or the Republican party.

Russia exploited real vulnerabilities that exist across online platforms and we must identify, expose, and defend ourselves against similar covert influence operations in the future.  The companies here today must play a central role as we seek to better protect legitimate political expression, while preventing cyberspace from being misused by our adversaries. 

Memo Describing Representative Sampling of Advertising

Exhibits Used During Open Hearing

Additional Advertising Not Used During Open Hearing

Russian-linked Twitter Handles