Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Ex-general, CIA chief Petraeus gets probation, $100,000 fine in leak case

 Former CIA director David Petraeus leaves the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 23, 2015.

Former CIA director David Petraeus leaves the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 23, 2015.

Former U.S. military commander and CIA director David Petraeus was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a$100,000 fine but was spared prison time on Thursday after pleading guilty to mishandling classified information.

The retired four-star general apologized as he admitted in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, to giving the information to his mistress, who was writing his biography. He agreed under a plea deal to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler raised the fine from the $40,000 that had been recommended to the maximum possible financial penalty for that charge, noting it needed to be higher to be punitive and reflect the gravity of the offense.

“This constitutes a serious lapse of judgment,” Keesler said during the hour-long hearing.

The guilty plea ended an embarrassing chapter for a man described in letters to the court as one of the finest military leaders of his generation. Petraeus, 62, a counter-insurgency expert with a Princeton University doctorate, served stints as the top U.S. commander in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was once considered a possible vice presidential or presidential candidate.

He resigned from the CIA in 2012 after it was revealed that he was having an affair with the biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell.

Dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, he showed no emotion as he read from a prepared statement in court.

“Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half year ordeal that resulted from mistakes that I made,” he told reporters after the sentencing. “As I did in the past, I apologize to those closest to me and many others.”

Petraeus was accompanied at the hearing by three attorneys, but it did not appear that his family members attended, nor did Broadwell, who lives in Charlotte.

Keesler said the heads of state, senators and high-ranking U.S. military officials who wrote letters submitted by defense attorneys in support of Petraeus agreed he had “committed a grave but very uncharacteristic error in judgment.”

The judge said the retired Army general’s actions stood in stark contrast to his nearly four decades of public service.

Petraeus now serves as chairman for the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts‘ captive economic and geopolitical think tank, the KKR Global Institute. The White House also has continued to consult him on occasion for advice on national security matters.

Civil liberties and government transparency advocates had questioned the plea deal, saying the government’s lenient treatment of Petraeus suggested prosecutors maintain double standards. Defendants in other leak cases have received harsher punishments, including prison.

“A slap on the wrist is the most one could say about what can barely be called a sentence for what could have been treated as serious crimes including espionage,” said Michael Ratner, a U.S. lawyer who represents WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

But Petraeus’ attorney, David Kendall, said in court it would have been unprecedented to incarcerate him for the charge he faced, which carries a maximum prison term of one year.

“This is not a case about the dissemination to the public of classified information,” Kendall said. “No classified information appeared in the biography. Not a single syllable.”

A court document signed by Petraeus and prosecutors says that in 2011, just before he became the CIA director, the general illegally gave Broadwell access to official binders.

Known as “black books,” the binders contained classified information including identities of covert officers, code word information, war strategy, intelligence capabilities, diplomatic talks and information from high-level White House National Security Council meetings, according to court records.

Petraeus also was accused of improperly storing classified materials at his Virginia residence and falsely telling the FBI in October 2012 that he had not shared any classified information with Broadwell.

U.S. prosecutor James Melendres noted that Petraeus had been entrusted with the government’s highest secrets.

“The defendant betrayed that trust,” he said.

Hush Money: West turns blind eye on Qatar’s terrorism funding

British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) shakes hands with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (L)

Qatar gives Western countries money they desperately need, and in return it gets a blind eye to its actions in the Middle East, even sponsoring ISIS and other jihadists, Danni Makki, researcher specializing on Middle East security, told RT.

The Qatari royal family is planning to create a residence in the very heart of London, converting three properties in Regent’s Park into a single mega-mansion valued at over £200 million. The Al Thani family already owns some famous London landmarks like the Shard, the Olympic Park, and Harrods. While Qatar actively buys UK property and heavily invests in Britain’s economy, the appalling situation with human rights abuses in Qatar is simply ignored by London. In fact, Britain also turns a blind eye to Qatar’s links with extremist groups in the Middle East.

RT: What do you make of the accusations that Qatar is funding terrorists? They are pretty strong, aren’t they?

Danni Makki: They are very strong. Qatar is one of the global funders of terrorism in the entire world. Fair enough, Qatar has excellent economic relations with the Western countries but it has a policy of double standards. It maintains a great relationship with the Western countries and within the Middle East it fuels bloodshed, violence and lots of conflicts as we can see now from Libya to Syria, Iraq, Somalia, even the Gaza Strip. Qatar has a hand in funding terrorism in the Middle East; there are numerous radical jihadist movements within the Middle East who get funds from Qatar. And the Qatari government has turned a blind eye to its own nationals funding these movements for a number of years now. So in essence we must put the blame the US which does exempt Qatar from accountability in regard to this matter.

RT: If all this is well-known, why don’t we see more outrage over this?

DM: Of course not because the Western governments at this moment of time have fragile economies, they are struggling, they are desperate for funds. Qatar gives them funds. In response the Western governments allow Qatar to act as it wills in the Middle East and do what they want. There is in essence a kind of socio-economic agreement. Qatar has very well-known terrorist funders living within their country. Even the US Treasury added that Qatari nationals send up to £1.5 million every single month to ISIS fighters. And this is the same Islamic State which the Western countries are attacking.

RT: Britain is very sensitive to any terror-related things. ISIS killed its citizens, British soldiers are helping to root out ISIS in Syria and Iraq…Surely it would have reacted if these allegations against Qatar were true. What’s your take on it?

DM: Indeed. Qatari funds are killing Western journalists as we speak today, and there is, especially in the Western media, a kind of direction which is saying that Qatar is a terrorist state. We can get the statements of Sir Malcolm Rifkind who was a former Foreign Secretary and Defense Secretary. He stated that Qatar should be sanctioned, and this is very significant. We can argue today that people are shopping in Harrods, on a Qatari funded basis they are committing or aiding terrorism in a sense. It’s quite amazing in a sense, but this is actually reality on the ground. Qatari nationals have funded terrorism all across the Arab world. We could argue that groups like Al-Nusra Front or Ahrar Al-Sham in Syria, these groups who have been admittedly funded by Qatar, even a mayor of Qatar in his previous interview stated that “we stopped funding terrorism, we stopped funding extremism.” Of course Qatar hasn’t stopped, it has continued funding terrorism. At the same time Qatar is playing a policy of double standards, it’s almost lying in a sense to Western nations, attempting to exert its failed influence in the Arab world. The conflict zones in Iraq and Syria are very big testaments of that. We can argue that Sheikh Muhammad al-Arifi, the extremist Arab Sheikh who is banned from entering London was invited, after he was banned twice, to Qatar on government-sponsored visits. So Qatar is very complicit in aiding extremist groups, jihadists groups, and is very complicit in terrorist activities all across the world.

RT: You argue that Britain needs Qatar for the money. But why does Qatar need Britain?

DM: Qatar needs Britain first of all because Britain has a seat in the UN Security Council, because Britain is a very important country in terms of prestige. Qatar needs strong Western partners for its investments because it uses the Western world as a gateway to more economic domination, more economic hegemony. It feels that it has feasibility to roam around the Arab world, up to attempting to overthrow governments and create rebel groups who are Islamic extremists. And the West is accepting this. Why? Because they need Qatari funds. In France alone up until the year 2012 Qatar has invested up to £15 billion. In the UK today Qatar invested tens of billions of pounds. This is very significant for the actual basis of the Western economy this time and place, especially after the credit crunch. Qatar invested millions and billions into the Western economy. So without that you can argue that Western governments rely more on Qatari funds than Qatar do on Western government’s political power.

— RT Op-Edge

Yes, Mr Kerry it’s “chilling and draconian” – Guantanamo 345 : Sami Al Hajj

By : Khaled Abdel Aziz

Commenting on the verdict on three journalists from Al Jazeera “false news” The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the verdict is  “chilling and draconian.”

Judgment on journalists of Al Jazeera by a court and judges .. for publishing false and fabricated news  in trying to demolish the Egyptian state is “chilling and draconian.”, but  held a  journalist from the same Al Jazeera for six years without charge or trial in Guantanamo with all kinds of torture, ..of course, is democratic, .. American democratic ..

Mr. Kerry Let me introduce prisoner 345 to you ..

ISN_345's Guantanamo detainee assessment.

ISN_345’s Guantanamo detainee assessment.

Sami Al Hajj is a Sudanese journalist for the Al Jazeera network.

was arrested in Pakistan on December 15, 2001. He was on his way to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for Al Jazeera and had a legitimate visa.

The U.S. military held him as an “enemy combatant” in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba for over six years without charge

with Guantanamo Internment Serial Number 345, and was the only journalist to be held in Guantanamo.

He was released without charge on May 1, 2008.

According to British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith Stafford Smith, who visited him in 2005. Al Hajj had “endured horrendous abuse – he was repeatedly beaten and tortured in Guantánamo,He was attacked by dogs. He was hooded. He was hung from the ceiling. He was prevented from sleeping for days.

Interrogators questioned him more than a hundred times.

sexual abuse and religious persecution” and that he had been beaten, leaving a “huge scar” on his face.

Stafford Smith also said that Al Hajj had witnessed “the Quran being flushed down the toilet by US soldiers in Afghanistan” and “expletives being written on the Muslim holy book”.

Mr. Kerry .. please Shut your mouth 

Notice – Mr. Kerry .. kept aid for yourselves .. We know you are on close to bankruptcy

What the U.S. Gave Up to Get Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Back

Mullah Mohammad Fazl, left, and Abdul Haq Wasiq are shown in these undated photos. Image credit: Department of Defense

WASHINGTON — Most of the reaction to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release after five years as a captive of the Taliban has been celebratory, but a pair of lawmakers questioned whether the deal reached with the Taliban was legal and whether the price paid was too high.

The Army sergeant was held captive for nearly five years by the Taliban, mostly in Pakistan, U.S. officials believe, and the president, Defense secretary, secretary of State, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the sergeant’s parents all expressed relief and gratitude after 18 Taliban handed Bergdahl over to U.S. special forces in Afghanistan, spiriting him back into the care of the U.S. military.

Two senior Republican lawmakers, however, accused Obama of violating the law by failing to notify Congress 30 days before the deal to swap five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo and voiced concerns that the U.S. gave up too much.

Bergdahl Freed After 5 Years in Taliban Captivity

Taliban Captive ‘Was Never Forgotten,’ Obama Says

The top Republicans on the House and Senate armed-services committees cautioned that “we must carefully examine the means by which we secured [Bergdahl’s] freedom,” warning that the U.S. had effectively reneged on its policy not to negotiate with terrorists.

So what exactly did the U.S. give up to get Bergdahl back?

The U.S. has released five Taliban prisoners kept at Guantanamo Bay — all of them either senior Taliban figures or Taliban officials with connections to Taliban leaders, and all labeled by the Pentagon as highly dangerous to the security of the U.S. and its allies if released. They are:

Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban defense minister during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, chief of staff of the Taliban army, and commander of its 22nd Division. According to a U.S. Department of Defense document obtained by Wikileaks, Fazl is believed to be an associate of Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar and was “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites,” surrendered to the Northern Alliance commander Gen. Dostum in November 2001.

  • “Detainee is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies,” his Guantanamo detainee file reads. “If released, detainee would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with ACM [anti-coalition militia] elements participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Mullah Norullah Noori, a former Taliban military commander and Taliban governor of two Afghan provinces, who led Taliban forces against U.S. and coalition troops and was also “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims” as Fazl was, according to Noori’s Guantanamo prisoner file as obtained and posted by Wikileaks. He is also believed to be associated with Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar.

  • Noori commanded the Taliban in the northern city of Mazar e-Sharif. Like Fazl, he surrendered to Gen. Dostum in 2001.Rated a “HIGH” threat to U.S. security interests if released, Noori is or was associated with members of al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.
  • Mohammed Nabi, another senior Taliban official with ties to al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and other anti-U.S., Taliban-allied groups, according to his Guantanamo Bay file as posted by Wikileaks.Also rated as a “HIGH” security threat if released, Nabi fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets. After that, he told the Americans who captured and detained him, he was an off-and-on Taliban member in the early 2000s, worked for the chief of the Taliban’s Border Department, which controlled smuggling. In early spring of 2002, he left the Taliban to sell used cars in a small village near Khowst and became a CIA informant.According to his Defense Dept. file, Nabi was involved in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces and facilitated smuggling routes for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
  • Khairullah Khairkhwa, a direct associate of Osama bin Laden according to his Defense Dept. detainee file obtained by Wikileaks, and a senior Taliban military commander who also served as the Taliban’s minister of Interior and the governor of Herat.He represented the Taliban at meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support actions against U.S. and coalition forces after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the document. He attended a meeting at the direction of bin Laden, reportedly accompanied by members of Hamas, the document says, and is believe to have been one of the major opium lords of western Afghanistan.In 2002, he sought to negotiate an integration into the new government through Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who has been accused of corruption and drug smuggling, but was arrested by Pakistani border patrol and released by Pakistan into U.S. custody.

    He is also deemed a “HIGH” threat if released.

  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence, had direct connections to Taliban leadership and was “central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups” to fight against U.S. and coalition forces, according to his Defense Dept. file obtained by Wikileaks.He also used his position to support al Qaeda, assist Taliban personnel in eluding capture, and arranged for al Qaeda members to train Taliban intelligence staff, according to the file.He seems to have later turned informant, as his file notes that Wasiq was arrested after a meeting with two Americans and a translator, in which he was supposed to deliver information leading to the capture of Mullah Omar. Shortly after the meeting, U.S. forces arrested him.

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Berghdal’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Senate Armed Services Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a joint statement.

“In executing this transfer, the President also clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress thirty days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated. Our joy at Sergeant Berghdal’s release is tempered by the fact that President Obama chose to ignore the law, not to mention sound policy, to achieve it,” they said in the joint statement.

A senior administration official responded: “Due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life, we moved as quickly as possible. The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement” of the National Defense Authorization Act, the law in which Congress levied the Guantanamo-transfer restrictions.

The detainees left Guantanamo this afternoon for Qatar, which will take them into custody. After that, it’s not clear exactly what their status will be.

Obama said today that he has received “assurances that [Qatar] will put in place measures to protect our national security,” and a senior Defense official told ABC that Qatar will be able to secure the detainees. They will also be subject to a travel ban for one year, the Defense official said.

It’s not entirely clear what freedom of movement and communication these now-former detainees will enjoy.

The exchange had been discussed previously, and an opportunity to pursue it arose this week, U.S. administration officials said. It was facilitated by Qatar and its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with whom Obama said he has spoken.

Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry thanked the Qatari leader in their statements on Bergdahl’s release.

Ukraine Crisis Will Be ‘Game Changer’ for NATO

The US Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade carrying out a NATO-led exercise.

Artillery and tank fire reverberate around a Baltic airstrip where U.S. paratroopers are fighting alongside Lithuanian soldiers. The battle is just an exercise and it only involves 150 U.S. soldiers — but the symbolism is clear.

With Eastern European states nervous about Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and massed 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, the U.S. and NATO allies want to show Moscow that former Soviet republics on the Baltic are under the alliance’s security umbrella.

“We are ready if something were to happen, but we are not looking to start any problems,” said Sergeant James Day, from the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade, during war games on the vast Gaiziunai training ground in western Lithuania.

That chimes with NATO’s current posture. In an initial response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the U.S. has sent 600 soldiers to the three Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland to take part in exercises to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. But the alliance has no inclination to intervene militarily in Ukraine.

Longer term, the crisis will have a profound impact on NATO’s relations with Russia, its strategy and how it deploys, trains and equips its forces, although Europe has no wish to return to a Cold War-style confrontation between huge armies.

The crisis will compel the alliance to refocus on its core mission of defending its members after years in which its main effort has been far away in Afghanistan.

The 28-nation military alliance accuses Russia of tearing up the diplomatic rule book with its annexation of Crimea.

“For 20 years, the security of the Euro-Atlantic region has been based on the premise that we do not face an adversary to our east. This premise is now in doubt,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said last month.

The crisis, called a “game changer” by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, will dominate the alliance’s agenda as it prepares for a summit in Wales in September, which will mark the imminent end of the NATO-led combat mission in Afghanistan.

The U.S., Britain, Denmark, France, Canada and Germany have sent or promised extra fighter aircraft to increase patrols and training over the Baltics, Poland or Romania.

A fleet of nine minehunters from NATO countries has been dispatched to the Baltic and another task force of five ships to the eastern Mediterranean.

In the longer term, NATO will consider permanently stationing forces in Eastern Europe, something it has refrained from doing in the 15 years since the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined the alliance after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

NATO will also have to think about how it deals with the unorthodox tactics used by Russia in Crimea, including exploiting political divisions, using large-scale military exercises as cover for intervention, and denying Russian troops were operating in the peninsula.

The crisis has already affected relations between NATO and Russia, which have cooperated uneasily in recent years in areas such as combating terrorism, piracy and Afghan drug-trafficking. NATO suspended cooperation with Russia last month over Crimea.

The damage is not likely to be repaired as quickly as after Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia, when a freeze in top-level contacts between NATO and Russia lasted barely six months.

“As compared, say, with the reset after the Georgia war, this is going to be a much more prolonged and difficult period,” said a senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Vladimir Putin declared in March he had the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian speakers there, causing alarm in NATO members Estonia and Latvia, which have large ethnic Russian minorities of their own.

Officials at NATO are asking themselves if Putin would seriously consider challenging a NATO member, although if it tangled with a NATO member state, Russia would also be risking a confrontation with the U.S.

“Just as NATO does not want a war with Russia, so too Russia does not want a war with NATO, because the risks on both sides are global and catastrophic,” said Samuel Charap of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

So far, NATO has reinforced eastern allies with short-term deployments that will continue until at least the end of the year. If tensions with Russia persist, NATO may look at longer term ways to beef up its presence.

NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said last week that NATO would have to consider permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern Europe.

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Material Support to Terrorism : The Case of Libya

Libya in 2011 marks the place and the time that the United States (U.S.) and the Obama administration formally switched sides in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). A mere 10 years after al-Qa’eda (supported by Hizballah and Iran) attacked the American homeland in the worst act of terrorism ever suffered by this country, U.S. leadership decided to facilitate the provision of weapons to jihadist militias known to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to bring down a brutal dictator who also just happened to be a U.S. ally in the GWOT at the time.

And the U.S. media were silent. The major broadcast, print, and Internet outlets said not a word about this astonishing turnabout in American foreign policy. To this day, they have not seemed even to recognize that the pivot to support al-Qa’eda took place. But it needs to be said. The American people deserve to understand that their most senior leaders, both elected and appointed, have violated their oaths to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

United States law is quite explicit about providing material support to terrorists: it’s prohibited. Period. 18 U.S. Code § 2339A and 18 U.S. Code § 2339B address Providing Material Support to Terrorists or Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Together, these two sections outlaw the actions of any U.S. person who attempts or conspires to provide, or actually does provide, material support to a foreign terrorist organization knowing that it has been designated a foreign terrorist organization or engages, or has engaged, in “terrorism” or “terrorist activity.” Conspiracy means agreeing or planning to provide such support, whether or not such support ever is actually delivered. Penalties for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism are stiff: imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine of not more than $250,000. Penalties for actually providing or attempting to provide material support to terrorism are even harsher: imprisonment from 15 years to life, with a life sentence applicable if the death of any person results from such crime. Aiding, abetting, counseling, or procuring in support of a violation of Section 2339B is punishable by the same penalties as for the offense itself.

The Arms Export Control Act is another law that makes it illegal for the U.S. government to export “munitions” to any country determined by the Secretary of State to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” While this provision applies specifically to those countries—Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria—that are designated as state sponsors of terrorism, the case of Libya stands out nevertheless. Removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2006, Libya by early 2011 was swarming with al-Qa’eda and Muslim Brotherhood militias and affiliates fighting to overthrow Muamar Qaddafi’s regime.

The identities of those jihadis and their al-Qa’eda affiliations were well known to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of State, and Tripoli Embassy long before the 17 February 2011 revolt broke out against Muamar Qaddafi. As with other al-Qa’eda branches, the Libyan al-Qa’eda affiliates such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) trace their origins back to the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, which was founded in 1949 when Egyptian Brotherhood members “fled a crackdown in Cairo and took refuge in Benghazi,” according to a May 2012 study by the Brookings Doha Center. Colonel Muamar Qaddafi took over Libya in a 1969 coup d’état and showed little tolerance for Brotherhood activities. Brutal waves of repression kept the Brotherhood in check through the 1980s and 1990s when many Libyan fighters went to Afghanistan to join the mujahedeen in their battle against the Soviet Army. Some of those who fought there, like Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdelhakim Belhadj, would figure prominently in the revolt that ultimately ousted Qaddafi in 2011.

The LIFG was founded in 1990 by Libyan fighters returning from the Afghan jihad who were now intent on waging jihad at home. Qaddafi came down hard on the group, though, and crushed the LIFG’s 1995-1998 insurgency. Some LIFG members had moved to Sudan when Usama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri found refuge with Omar al-Bashir’s Muslim Brotherhood regime in the early 1990s and others (including Belhadj) eventually fled back to Afghanistan, where both bin-Laden and al-Zawahiri also had relocated by the mid-1990s. Abu Anas al-Libi is alleged to have taken part in the pre-attack casing and surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya a few years prior to the 1998 al-Qa’eda attack there.

By 1995, things were becoming hot for the jihadis in Sudan and while bin Laden and al-Zawahiri returned to Afghanistan about this time, others such as Anas al-Libi were offered safehaven by the British. In return for political asylum in the UK, MI 6 recruited Anas al-Libi’s support for a failed 1996 plot to assassinate Qaddafi. In all, Anas al-Libi lived in Manchester from 1995-2000—despite his known history of association with bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and other AQ leaders, as well as willingness to participate in assassination plots against national leaders, as I wrote in an October 2013 piece at The Clarion Project. The U.S.’s British partners also provided asylum to Abu Abdullah As-Sadeq, the LIFG’s top commander and allowed the LIFG to publish an Arabic language newspaper called al-Wasat in London. By 2000, though, as the FBI and other Western security services began to close in, Anas al-Libi and others were on the move again, leaving behind a 180-page al-Qa’eda terror training manual that became known as the “Manchester Document.” In the run-up to the 11 September 2001 attacks, Anas al-Libi, Abdelhakim Belhadj, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, and other known LIFG members reconnected with bin Laden in Afghanistan. As John Rosenthal points out in a 10 October 2013 posting, “The Inevitable Rise of Al-Qaeda in Libya,” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, “the history of close cooperation between the LIFG and al-Qa’eda was so extensive that the Libyan group figured among the very first organizations to be designated as al-Qaeda affiliates by the UN Security Council.” In fact, according to Rosenthal who cites former LIFG member, Norman Benotman, Belhadj was actually present with bin Laden at Tora Bora in December 2001. The LIFG was formally accepted as an al-Qa’eda franchise by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the AQ deputy at the time, in 2007.

In the years following 9/11, various LIFG members were detained: Abu Sufian bin Qumu was captured in 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) and in 2004, both Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdelhakim Belhadj were captured. By the mid-2000s, GITMO detainees were being released to their home countries. Abu Sufian bin Qumu, for example, was released from GITMO and returned to Libya in 2007. Beginning about 2005, Qaddafi was under pressure from both the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and his own son, Seif, to begin what came to be known as “the reconciliation process,” in which LIFG and other jihadist prisoners were released from Libyan jails. In this process, LIFG Muslim Brotherhood cleric Ali Mohammad Al-Sallabi was a key mediator. Abdelhakim Belhadj was released in 2008 (just as Christopher Stevens was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission to Tripoli) and Abu Sufian bin Qumu in 2010, after which he returned to Derna to begin plotting the revolt against Qaddafi.

Even as this “reconciliation process” was underway and Christopher Stevens was preparing for his new posting, Libyan jihadis were flowing out of eastern Libya in droves to join the al-Qa’eda jihad against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. According to a June 2010 study compiled by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” coalition forces in Iraq captured a stash of documents in October 2007 which documented the origins of the foreign fighters who’d traveled to Iraq to join al-Qa’eda between August 2006 and August 2007. Termed the “Sinjar Records” after the nearest town where these personnel records were found, the data showed that by far the largest contingent of foreign fighters per capita came from Libya. Across the spectrum, the most common cities of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq were Darnah, Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Darnah is located in the eastern Cyrenaica region of Libya, long known as an incubator of jihadist ideology and the place which would become the cradle of the 2011 Islamic uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

Nor was the new Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Christopher Stevens unaware of what was going on. A June 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli that went out over Stevens’ signature was obtained by the London Telegraph from Wikileaks. The report was given the name “Die Hard in Derna,” after the Bruce Willis movie, and described the determination of the young jihadis of this eastern Libyan town to bring down the Qaddafi regime. Because they believed the U.S. government supported the Qaddafi regime and would not allow it to fall after it had abandoned its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs and begun to provide counter-terrorism support, and as documented in the West Point study of the “Sinjar Records,” the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) instead sent its fighters to confront the U.S. in Iraq, believing that was a way to strike a blow against both Qaddafi and his U.S. backers. A local Derna resident told the visiting Embassy officer that Libyan fighters who had returned from earlier battlefields in Afghanistan (1980s) and elsewhere sometimes went on for additional “religious training” in Lebanon and Syria; when they eventually returned to Libya in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they began the process of preparing the ground for “the eventual overthrow by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) of Muammar Qadhafi’s regime…”

Career Foreign Service Officer Christopher Stevens was first posted to the American Embassy in Tripoli, Libya in June 2007 as the DCM and later as charge d’affaires until 2009. For his second tour in Libya, Stevens was sent to rebel headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, to serve as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council. He arrived on a Greek cargo ship on April 5, 2011 and stayed until November. His mission was to forge stronger links with the Interim Transitional National Council, and gain a better understanding of the various factions fighting the Qaddafi regime. His reports back to Washington were said to have encouraged the U.S. to support and recognize the rebel council, which the Obama administration did formally in July 2011.

As is now known, under urging from Sen. John McCain and other Congressional members, the White House endorsed Qatar’s plan to send weapons to the Libyan rebels shortly after Yousef al-Qaradawi, the senior jurist of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a 21 February 2011 fatwa that called for the killing of Qaddafi. Seeking a “zero footprint,” no-paperwork-trail profile itself, the U.S. instead encouraged both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to arm the Libyan jihadis, according to a key New York Times article published in December 2012. Knowing full well exactly who those rebel militias and their leadership were, and how closely they were connected with al-Qa’eda (and perhaps even mindful of the legal restrictions on providing material support to terrorism), the U.S. sought to distance itself as the source of these weapons, which included small arms such as automatic rifles, machine guns, and ammunition. The NY Times piece noted that U.S. officials made sure to stipulate the weapons provided would come from elsewhere, but not from the U.S.

But the fact that from the end of March 2011 onward, U.S. and other NATO forces completely controlled Libyan air space and the sea approaches to Libya means that the cargo planes and freighters transporting the arms into Libya from Qatar and elsewhere were being waved through with full U.S. knowledge and support. The U.S. mission in Libya, and especially in Benghazi, ramped up in this period to facilitate the delivery of the weapons to the Libyan al-Qa’eda terrorists.

What followed should hardly have come as a surprise to anyone. After NATO air support cleared the way to Tripoli, the Qaddafi regime fell in October 2011 and the Muslim Brotherhood political leadership and al-Qa’eda fighters took over. Abdelhakim Belhadj was named Tripoli military commander. Chaos reigned, especially in the eastern regions, and now the weapons flow reversed—out of Libya, and into the hands of jihadis in West Africa, the Sinai, and Syria. Some of that flow was wildly disorganized and some of it was directed, with the U.S. mission in Benghazi once again playing a key role as its teams on the ground facilitated the weapons delivery, now destined for the Syrian rebels, dominated by al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who were fighting to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. In this endeavor, the U.S. was allied with its new Libyan partner, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and once again, with Qatar.

The next chapter in the U.S. jihad wars was underway, with a new Presidential Finding, and material support to terrorism firmly established as official policy. Congress and the media and the military remained silent. The American people barely noticed.

Clare Lopez
Clare M. Lopez is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy and the London Center for Policy Research. She is also a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi.

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British Syria-radicalized jihadists biggest threat to UK national security

The MI5 headquarters in central London

Radicalized UK citizens returning from Syria are the biggest threat to national security, official reports claim. With increasing access to equipment and training, there are growing fears Brits are encouraged to carry out attacks on home soil.

The 500 Britons who have gone to fight in Syria over the past three years put the Middle-Eastern country in Whitehall’s sights as a much more dangerous place for radicalization than Iraq. An assessment by the MI5 spells out how alluring Syria has become to UK jihadists.

“The nature of the conflict in Syria and the emergence of Al-Nusra Front, which has declared its allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, is leading to the country becoming an increasingly significant potential source of future threats to the UK and UK interests overseas,” the text also reads.

Concerns over the grave threat have been confirmed to the Telegraph by an unnamed Whitehall contact.

“The threat to the UK comes from a range of countries and groups but Syria is perhaps the biggest challenge right now,” they explain. The Home Office annual review likewise states that the country has been identified as “the most significant development in global terrorism.”

This is believed to be because a whole range of potentially threatening aspects to the UK’s national security is being seen emanating from one single country.

And although the recommendations keep coming in, a lot of them aren’t new. Last year as well, the director-general of the MI5, Andrew Parker, told Parliament that the Syrian conflict has become a magnet for British nationals looking to engage in jihad, many of whom come into contact with Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

The security services are said to be closely monitoring some 250 returnees, who include several veteran hardliners who have fought in Afghanistan or Pakistan, other reports have claimed. Many others have participated in combat or received training in munitions or other skills applicable to terror operations, with some exhibiting a willingness to carry out attacks in the UK, security officials cited in another, February government report said.

But unlike the terrorism hotbeds that are Afghanistan and Pakistan, Syria is much closer to Europe, making it the ideal destination to go, get radicalized and come back with deadly ideas. And because the MI5 can’t keep a watch on all of them, just around half of the British citizens who return are essentially roaming the country without any supervision.

Even before the current report and recommendations, senior security officials in February said the number of returnees is now five times the previously reported figure.

“There are a few hundred people going out there. They may be injured or killed, but our biggest worry is when they return they are radicalized, they may be militarized, they may have a network of people that train them to use weapons,” London Police Chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe explained to the Times then.

Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra

In sum, the combination of proximity to Europe, a rise in the number of extremist groups, easy availability of training and weapons and the ability to travel back and forth through badly-controlled Middle-Eastern borders, is seen as deadly.

Further to the problem, many returning jihadists don’t fit the psychological profile. Recent months have seen details released about the first suicide attack carried out by a British national in Syria. Abdul Waheed Majeed is believed to have driven an explosives-laden truck into a jail in Aleppo earlier this month, joining some 20 British citizens to have died fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Speaking to RT in February, political commentator Mohammed Ansar explained how Majeed’s attack presented a difficulty for the security services because “he does not fit the profile of a young British jihadi who has gone to Syria to fight,” adding also that “fighters from Britain have been calling others to come and join them.”

Similar troubles with profiling occur when women fighters are involved, and such cases are increasing.

And the threat is regionally contagious. Speaking to the Independent about the recommendations he would offer, Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator expressed fears that if counter-terrorism budgets across the continent don’t go up, we will be seeing an even steeper rise in foreign radicalization than presently.

“We should be investing a lot more in counter-terrorism work, including externally, if we are to prevent or mitigate future terrorist attacks,” he said, adding that “National budgets devoted to counter-terrorism are declining across the EU. Yet the threat that we face is becoming more diverse, more diffuse, and more unpredictable.”

But while Britain’s MI5 is among the agencies promising to take an ever tougher stance on nationals planning to engage in terrorism on home soil, the public is asking questions. Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, and the author of 13 books, notably on Islam and the West, asks on his website why more returnees aren’t being monitored and why they are being allowed back into the country so easily (and if they are even British citizens).

At the same time, Spencer sees that the British government knows full well who the counter-jihadists are (Spencer included) and doesn’t hesitate to turn them away at the border. He also accuses the British government of being particularly lax on the issue for fear of hurting the Muslim community’s feelings and sparking accusations of Islamophobia.

And still not all believe the jihadists to be a lost cause. In fact some, like Ansar, believe would opt for a different strategy – that of de-radicalization and reintegration into British society. It will not be easy, Ansar claims, but studying the British jihadists’ motives will enable us to better understand how to deal with this rising problem.

via British Syria-radicalized jihadists biggest threat to UK national security — RT News.

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NATO suspends civilian and military cooperation with Russia

April 1, 2014 shows a view of the Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

April 1, 2014 shows a view of the Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

NATO has announced that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, the bloc said in a joint statement.

“We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Our political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow us to exchange views, first and foremost on this crisis,” the statement reads. The alliance plans to review its relations with Russia at a meeting in June.

The decision could affect cooperation on Afghanistan in areas such as training counter-narcotics personnel, maintenance of Afghan air force helicopters, and a transit route out of the war-torn country. Other projects around fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and dealing with the disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could also be impacted.

Despite the harsh public statement, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen backtracked when speaking to reporters after the ministerial meeting on Tuesday, apparently muddying the message the alliance wants to send. Rasmussen said that NATO expects Russia to continue working with the alliance on the important issues.

“I would expect the counter-narcotics projects to continue, I would also expect the Afghanistan-related cooperation projects to continue, the transit arrangements, as well as helicopter projects also because we have a joint interest in ensuring success on our mission in Afghanistan,” Rasmussen said.

NATO foreign ministers also urged Moscow in “to take immediate steps … to return to compliance with international law.”

The bloc said that it was stepping up its cooperation with Ukraine, promoting defense reforms and increasing the activity of a liaison office in Kiev.

The goal will be to modernize Ukraine’s armed forces, including through Ukraine’s involvement in more of NATO’s military exercises, according to Rasmussen. As of now, the efforts to modernize will come short of sending weapons to Ukraine.

Ukraine provided NATO members with a list of “technical equipment” it required for the nation’s armed forces, which did not include weaponry, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchitsya told a news conference after meeting with NATO ministers.

NATO and Ukraine issued a joint statement after a meeting of their ministers in Brussels. They said that they would “implement immediate and longer term measures to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security.”

A series of meetings in Brussels was called on Tuesday in response to what the bloc sees as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. The bloc called on Moscow to reduce its troop number in Crimea to pre-crisis levels, withdraw them to their bases and taper military activities along its border with Ukraine.

Ministers ordered military planners to “develop as a matter of urgency a series of additional measures to reinforce NATO’s collective defenses”, a NATO official told Reuters. This might include sending troops and equipment to NATO allies in Eastern Europe, holding more exercises, taking steps to ensure NATO’s rapid reaction force could deploy more quickly, and a review of NATO’s military plans.

Military planners will come back with detailed proposals within weeks, the alliance official said.

The Republic of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine following the March-16 referendum, in which 96.77 percent of the voters chose to rejoin Russia. Despite calls to boycott the vote and provocation attempts, 83.1 percent of Crimeans took part in the poll.

Crimea became part of Russia in 1783, but was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev – a move that ex-Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mikhail Gorbachev, has called a “mistake.” Following the fall of the USSR in 1991, Crimeans were forbidden to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine, and a procedure for making such a referendum possible has never been clearly defined in Ukrainian law.

Many people in the predominantly Russian-speaking region also rejected the coup-appointed Kiev authorities, and some feared that nationalist radicals aligned with the opposition might launch a persecution of Russians living in Crimea.

However, a closer look shows that the neo-Nazi scare was not the only thing that concerned Crimeans about the coup-appointed authorities. One of the first moves of the post-coup Ukrainian parliament was an attempt to strip the status of regional minority languages, including Russian. The political program of the nationalist Svoboda party, which currently occupies four seats in the cabinet of ministers in Kiev, also clearly stated that it seeks to deprive the region of its autonomy and to make it an oblast (administrative division) instead of an Autonomous Republic. According to a common belief among the Russians living in Crimea, some of the Tatars, members of the Mejlis organization, also counted on the ex-opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party to support them in declaring the region a Tatar national autonomy, despite Russians and Ukrainians making up over 70 percent of the population and Tatars accounting for only about 12 percent of it.

Crimeans have also been consistently against Ukraine becoming a NATO state, and have staged protests against Ukrainian-NATO drills in the past. Polls showed that more than half the people living in Crimea considered NATO a “threat.”

Despite Ukraine’s non-aligned status enshrined in its Constitution, the coup-appointed authorities said they are considering changing the relevant part of the supreme law, just as NATO’s chief stated they were “intensifying” their cooperation with Ukraine.

Responding to such remarks, the Russian government reminded that pushing for NATO integration in Ukraine during Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency had in the past led only to a “widening of the split in Ukrainian society, the majority of which anything but supports the idea of Ukraine entering the NATO military block.”


Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it’s in turmoil

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US war in Iraq diverted both senior level attention and military capabilities away from Afghanistan – Robert Gates, CIA director

former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who has just published his memoir Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

The War in Iraq will always be tainted by the fact that the premise on which the United States went to war was the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was proved to be not true. But the eventual assessment of this conflict will depend on how the situation in the Middle East evolves over the next decades, says Robert Gates, CIA Director (1991-1993) and the US Secretary of Defense (2006-2011).

Today we are going to talk about that little boy from Wichita, Kansas, the one who earned Eagle Scout, the one who went through life always trying to be prepared and to serve with duty, honor and distinction. Unknown to many his doctoral dissertation wrestled with both the Soviet and Chinese question. For the public he served many roles and under many presidents including Secretary of Defense for both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And while it may seem a bit too early to write his memoir as I suspect there are many pages yet to be written, Robert Gates has with Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War which gives an insider’s look to some of his experiences and thoughts.

Welcome, Secretary Gates. I want to talk about a shared moment even though we’ve never met. In 2006 I was volunteering at the cast of the contingency air medical staging facility and some of the military hospitals around Washington DC. I was working with the group that was helping families deal with their loved ones as they convalesced as they returned from the theater. While I was seeing some of the things the report came out just as you were being installed a Secretary talking about the difficulties that Walter Reed was facing and some of the things that weren’t going so well. And I remember hearing you for the first time and just taking it on a very blunt matter-of-fact, very steady way, not diverting it, not avoiding it at all and I wondered how important it was that that was part of your first impression and how that affected your course?

Certainly that was an important moment in terms of communicating how much I care about troops and particularly taking care of those who had been wounded and the families of those who had been killed. It was an opportunity to demonstrate not only that care but also that I would demand accountability when it came to taking care of the troops and as a result of the findings of that time and that investigation I fired the hospital commander, I fired the sergeant general of the army and I fired the secretary of the army. I think it sent a powerful message both to the troops but also to the leaders that people who didn’t take proper care of our troops would be held accountable people who didn’t perform their jobs well, would be held accountable and frankly that was kind of a new thing in Washington DC.

And it was probably a necessary message not just under political spectrum but as you said for the people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, because Iraq was and still remains somewhat difficult theater. The US military might be designed in fact better at winning wars than winning the peace. Do you feel that you had the tools necessary to prosecute the task you were assigned?

I think we had most of the tools, I think that there were some serious deficiencies that I moved quickly to remedy. I think and it was clear that we needed much more heavily armored vehicles and moving our troops from one place to another than relatively light Humvees that were like jeeps and that were being destroyed constantly by roadside bombs and under in the road bombs. We clearly needed more intelligent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in Afghanistan, we needed it faster. So there were number of items of equipment that frankly when I became secretary I thought were needed by the troops and it was important to get them to them in weeks of months, not in years. So a good part of my first year or so and in office was trying to get that equipment to the troops. I think part of the problem is that like most wars everyone expected that the efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan would be short so people weren’t willing to make long term investments and expensive investments in capabilities that they thought wouldn’t be needed very well. I was willing to do that, my attitude was win in a war, you are all in and you do everything that is necessary to be successful. And if you have material left over at the end, well, so be it.

In other words you wanted to make sure you were prepared just as you were trying as an Eagle Scout. But I wanted ask you then about the balance being prepared having that fore thought, making sure you are at the logistics and materials necessary but also maintaining enough mental nimbleness to be prepared for things that go wrong, because certainly in real life things always go somewhat differently as expected.

This is one of the reasons why I think people need to be more cautious about entering conflicts because they never go the way people intend, on very very rare occasions such as the first Gulf War in 1991 that go better than expected, but most of the time they got a lot worse than expected and take a lot more time than expected. But you have to be willing to do this questioning yourself routinely in terms of is the strategy working, what are the benchmarks to tell me whether or not the strategy is working and I might prepare to adjust. One of the things that I admire the most about General Petraeus, General McChrystal, General Rodriguez, General Austin, General Dempsey and others in these two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan was that if something wasn’t working they would quickly abandon it, try something different, try a different tactic, they were willing to be very creative and very innovative but they were willing to fail fast and try something that if something wasn’t working to shift gears unfortunately Washington isn’t that good in doing that and I think that is one of the things that I tried to focus on the Pentagon was that the senior military leadership needed to focus on the wars we were fighting and make sure we were doing a good job in those rather than being completely occupied with fighting future wars that might not take place at all or it may not take place for 20 or 30 years.

I imagine though that there is a fine line between questioning tactics and questioning yourself. And in giving that I want to ask a little bit about your experiences in theater amongst the troops. How did that change you? How did it inform your strategy going forward?

I think one of the things that people don’t understand that my experiences on the front lines and at the hospitals made me very watchful of anything that would put those troops on danger or in greater danger, it made me determine to do everything possible to protect them in terms of equipment and taking care of them. But at the same time you have to willing to make the decisions to send those troops, same troops, in harm’s way. And sometimes you have those two parallel plots in your mind: what do I have to do to win this battle, what do I have to do to take care of these troops? And you have to be able to do both at the same time, you can’t be so preoccupied with taking care of the troops that you don’t fulfill your responsibilities of Secretary of Defense in executing the president’s strategic decisions in war. But at the same time that doesn’t prevent you from having a deep sense of commitment and caring for the troops that you’ve sent in harm’s way leaving everything in your power to take care of.

But how do you personally develop a way to handle that? I know that when I worked in psychiatric facilities, when I worked in military hospitals I developed a sort of wall which separated the reality of working with people with serious maladies from my home life. How did you decompress? How did you escape? How did you wrestle with the problems that you knew or the deaths that were caused in part by your decisions?

President Bush and President Obama respectively were the seventh and eighth presidents that I had worked for. I had been Deputy Director and Director of CIA under President Reagan and the first president Bush. And in my CIA role I sent people in harm’s way. So I had been doing this a long time and first of all you have to be persuaded that what you are doing is in fact the right thing for the country. That in itself becomes an important psychological defense. If you believe that the actions that you are taking are important to safeguard the country and all Americans, then you are prepared to make the tough decisions that put specific people at risk. The other side of that coin is knowing that all of those people that you are putting at risk are volunteers, they have known what they were getting in to and they were prepared to take that on for exactly the same reasons – to do what is necessary to protect the country against their adversaries, against their enemies. And so knowing that they are volunteers, having confidence that you are doing the right thing I think is important in being able to deal with that on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s deal with the question about the right thing. There are many who claimed that Iraq was a diversion from the real war or the threat in Afghanistan that stands from Afghanistan. Can you respond to that? Should we have been ion Iraq?

Well, as I have said I think that is a question that history will have to answer. I think that the war will always be tainted by the fact that the premise on which we went to war was that there were weapons of massive destruction in Iraq and it proved not to be true. So that will always be a factor. But I think it will depend on how the situation in the Middle East evolves over the next 10-15-20 years in terms of whether that action is seen as the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam is the first crack in the wall of Arab authoritarianism that survived for decades and opened new opportunities or whether it led to a generation of instability and conflict in the regions. Until those questions are answered I think you can’t make a final judgment on the war itself. There is no question and I write about it in the book that Iraq diverted both senior level attention and military capabilities away from Afghanistan and probably made earlier success in Afghanistan much harder to achieve.

You mentioned earlier that you were the Deputy Director of the CIA, in 1984 Iran contra came to light when you were serving in that post. How much did you know and looking back how much should have been known? And would you do anything differently today?

It was late 1986 when it actually happened and I would tell you that there were two things going on in parallel. One was supporting the countries in Nicaragua and the other was selling weapons to Iran. I think the investigations showed that a lot of people knew that each of those two things was going on but was known only to a handful of people at the White House and Director Casey at CIA and few CIA people in the Clandestine Service that money from those arms sales in Iran was being diverted to countries in Nicaragua. So it is that redirection of the money that was this most scandalous part of the whole thing and very few people knew about that. I didn’t know about that, neither did a lot of other people.

-Now moving quickly into the present, yesterday Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine. Can you speculate on what kind of talker conversations happen when a moment like this occurs at the DOD or with the DOD in the White House?

I think that primary focus would be on the frustration at the limited options that are available in terms of retaliation or responding to the action. First of all you basically take the military option off the table, we are not going to go war with Russia over Crimea or over Ukraine and so you don’t want to end up in a military confrontation with the Russians. And actually there is nobody that I’ve heard that is arguing for that. So the question then is what kind of economic sanctions, what kind of political sanctions might have some impact on Vladimir Putin in terms of getting him either to change course or to alter his political strategy. And frankly giving the nature of the person Putin is I think that that is a very tough question because I think it will take very far reaching sanctions to have any impact on his decision making process.

I guess that leads us to the question about the balance you might have faced between pragmatism, politics, responsibility and duty. Could you talk about those and how often they went in conflict with each other?

-I don’t think that they really come into conflict that often and I think that if you believe that decisions are being made that make it tough for you to do your duty they always have a choice to resign, for example if I had faced some of the budget decisions that Secretary Panetta and Secretary Hagel had faced in terms of the consequences of sequestration I’m not sure that I would have felt like I could do my duty to the troops in carrying those out and then the question of whether you should resign would come up. That is always balance that, well, if I stake and I hope to mitigate the consequences can I make the consequences less dangerous for the country and for the troops. And I find that when you are in the situation where pragmatism becomes very important and you have to make sure that your policies are in alignment with your values, but you also have to watch out for what will protect the American people.

And finally what have you learnt that you want to make sure that your successors understand and learn going forward whether that the successors right now in this cool classroom or the people actually at the DOD or CIA?

From my personal standpoint it is the importance of being able to act, of doing things that serve the country and that means you have to compromise, it means you have to work with both Republicans and Democrats, it means that you have to make deals. That is the real world in which things get done. And those who argue that you can’t compromise I think don’t understand how the American government works and how the Constitution sets things up in terms of checks and balances, that the only way it works is through compromise and if you are in a senior position, particularly with respect to national security you have to make sure that you have been actually get things done rather than just pound the table.

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Egypt braces for Muslim Brotherhood attacks on Suez Canal | World Tribune

040711-N-7871M-008Special to WorldTribune.com

CAIRO — Egypt has been bracing for Islamist attacks on the Suez

Security sources said the intelligence community has determined that the canal would mark a leading target of attack by the ousted Muslim Brotherhood and its Al Qaida militia allies.

The sources said Brotherhood fighters were organizing a nationwide insurgency campaign on the eve of the trial of Egypt’s first Islamist president, Mohammed Mori, overthrown in a military coup in July 2013.

“A successful attack on the canal would have greater strategic repercussions than just about anywhere else in Egypt,” a source said.

The sources said the Egyptian military and security forces expanded their presence around the 160-kilometer canal, the main transit for U.S. military ships to the Gulf and Afghanistan.

The sources said thousands of additional troops, backed by main battle tanks and helicopters, were deployed on both sides of the canal.

The effort has been led by the 3rd Army, responsible for the canal. The sources said the 3rd Army, backed by the Central Security Forces, established checkpoints along all roads to the canal and was searching vehicles for weapons or fighters.

The sources said the concern was that insurgents from Ismailia or the
Sinai Peninsula would smuggle rockets to attack slow-moving ships through the canal. At least two attacks were reported on shipping over the last four months. On Nov. 3, the Egyptian military announced the destruction of eight underwater diesel depots that contained 334,000 liters of fuel meant for the Gaza Strip.

Suez-canal-egyptThe sources said the government and military were also working to enhance the communications infrastructure around the canal and in Sinai. They said the effort would facilitate rapid-response operations in the peninsula.

Egypt braces for Muslim Brotherhood attacks on Suez Canal | World Tribune.