Archive for June 5, 2012

5 September 2011

At least one in seven Afghan soldiers deserted from the Karzai’s puppet army during the first six months this year, according to statistics compiled by NATO that shows an increase in desertion, reports the Washington Post.

Between January and June, more than 24,000 militants from Kazai’s armed formations walked off the job, more than twice as many as in the same period last year, according to the NATO statistics. In June alone, more than 5,000 soldiers deserted, nearly 3 percent of the 170,000-strong force.

As recently as September 2009, more Afghan soldiers had been quitting than joining the army, but that trend had been reversed by aggressive recruiting, salary increases and guarantees of regular leave.

According to Karzai and NATO officials, soldiers who leave often complain about poor living conditions or commanders who do not allow a regular vacation schedule.

In addition, the devastating effect on soldiers has been created by rampant corruption in the ranks of the army, as well as poor management. These problems, according to Washington Times, existed for many years.

Afghan apostates and NATO aggressors said they believe they can continue to make progress toward expanding the army to about 200,000 soldiers. But such a high rate of desertion may hinder their plans.

Moreover, the reduction of the Karzai armed formations is very dangerous for the Kabul regime in connection with the withdrawal of US-NATO troops from the country.

“The army has got to figure out how to get their attrition down”, said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who oversees NATO’s efforts to build up the Afghan security forces.

NATO commanders are trying to reduce the scale of defections to approximately 17% per year. Meanwhile, about 35% (on an annualized basis) of the soldiers and officers fled this summer from the Afghan army.

However, the puppet “defense minister” of the Karzai regime, Abdur-Rahim Wardak, expressed his confidence that the problem of desertion “does not exist”.

However, Canadian major-general Michael Day acknowledged that the current scale of the problem is a direct threat to American plans to transfer all power in Afghanistan to the puppet Karzai’s Kabul administration by the end of 2014.

“We shall have serious problems in 3.5 years, if the situation doesn’t change”, said Day.

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Tue Sep 6, 2011

Libyan fighters and tribal leaders in the besieged town of Bani Walid agree to a peaceful takeover of the town, a report says.

Reports coming out of Libya indicate that tribal elders in the town of Bin Walid have been persuading ex-regime forces to end the fighting amid fresh signs of retreat by the Gaddafi loyalists.

However, other reports suggest more resistance from pro-Gaddafi men as Gaddafi regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim has claimed that the fugitive leader will continue fighting.

Gaddafi is “in excellent health, planning and organizing for the defense of Libya,” the Associated Press quoted Ibrahim as telling Syrian television on Tuesday.

“We are fighting and resisting for the sake of Libya and all Arabs,” Ibrahim noted. “We are still strong and capable of turning the tables on NATO,” he went on to say.

This is while thousands of Libyan fighters have closed in on the besieged town, waiting for orders from their commanders to launch fresh assaults on Gaddafi’s last stronghold.

The fighters have built a field hospital near Bani Walid and installed 10 volunteer doctors prepared to treat injured fighters in the event of a battle with forces still loyal to the former regime in the town.

Revolutionary forces control most of the oil-rich North African nation, except for some central and southern areas, including Bani Walid and Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirt.

Source: PressTV.

Tue Sep 6, 2011

AMMAN, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Syria’s minority Kurds support the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad because it could usher in democracy but long-standing grievances have to be addressed in any post-Assad order, Kurdish activists said.

In a declaration issued on Monday at the conclusion of a conference in Stockholm to unify Kurdish efforts against Assad, the activists said they will strengthen backing for Kurdish protests against Assad, led by a younger generation of street leaders critical or elders in established Kurdish parties.

“The Kurdish people, as a part of Syria’s diverse mosaic, are a main component of the revolt against the regime and it is in their full interest for the regime to fall,” the statement said.

With Syria’s one million Kurds concentrated in the oil- producing northeast, the Kurdish issue would loom large if Assad, who is struggling to contain a five-month uprising against his rule, was removed, with regional implications for Turkey, which also has a large Kurdish minorities, and Iraq, where Kurds have a large degree of autonomy.

Syria’s overall population is around 20 million.

Pro-democracy protests have spread to Kurdish areas in Syria, but the authorities, mindful of a 2004 Kurdish uprising crushed by force, have not used the same level of deadly violence employed to crush protests elsewhere.

The two-day conference at the Swedish Parliament building, which drew 50 participants, was the first to bring a broad group of Kurdish activists since the uprising. Among the participants were Kurdish writer Massoud Akko, who fled Syria several years ago and now resides in Norway, and dissent Mohammad Sida, who lives in Sweden.

The statement said the removal of Assad and his ruling Baath Party could allow for a new political system that divulges power to the provinces and “free of racist and extremist ideology.. a nation where tolerance would prevail”.

“The Syrian revolution will not be complete without a just solution to the Kurdish cause,” the statement said, adding that any new constitution should recognize Kurdish as an official language and that Kurds have a right to seek compensation for “historic discrimination and persecution”.

A month into the uprising in April, Assad sought to placate Syria’s Kurds by issuing a decree to grant thousands of disenfranchised Kurds Syrian nationality and easing discrimination on the transfer of properties in Kurdish areas.

But activists and Kurdish politicians said little progress has been made on the ground, with only a fraction of the stateless Kurds becoming citizens and a multitude of other laws that still discriminate against Kurdish language and customs, as well as heavy secret police presence in Kurdish areas.

Source: Reuters.

Sep 5, 2011

Beirut – Syrian troops and security forces intensified Monday their assault on the central cities of Hama and Homs, while the government granted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit a detention center.

Hisham Hassam, the ICRC Public Relations Officer in the Near and Middle East, confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa from Geneva that the ICRC were granted access to visit a jail in Syria.

ICRC’s president, Jakob Kellenberger, who concluded a two-day visit to Damascus on Monday, said ICRC delegates started visiting on September 4 the Damascus Central Prison, in the suburb of Adra.

‘The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time. Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees,’ said Kellenberger.

‘This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria,’ he added.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi was also due to visit Damascus on Wednesday to discuss recent developments, at the request of Arab foreign ministers, the Al Arabiya Satellite channel reported.

Last month, the Arab League launched a peace initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Syria, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-regime protests since March.

The developments came as security forces intensified their assaults against pro-democracy protesters in the central cities of Hama, Homs and in the province of Idlib, killing at least nine people and arresting dozens.

‘Dozens of troops backed by at least 30 military vehicles and security forces raided Hama,’ a spokesman of one of the Local Coordination Committees who identified himself as Omar Idlibi told dpa.

He added that security forces carried out a similar operation in Homs.

Idlibi said some 100 people were rounded up in the Khan al Sabul, in the province of Idlib.

‘Security forces were seen dragging men from their houses, blindfolding them and pushing them into buses,’ Idlibi said.

Earlier, activists in Lebanon told dpa that ‘at least nine people were killed in Homs by firing by the Syrian security forces.’

They added that Syrian security forces were conducting arrests in the Al-Khalediya neighborhood of Homs, ‘when the troops started shooting randomly at a group of people near a mosque in the area.’

Activists based in northern Lebanon told dpa that sounds of heavy shelling could be heard in the Wadi Khaled, an area facing Tal Kalakh.

They told dpa that one of their members was killed by the Syrian security forces as he was trying to escape from Syria into Turkey.

The dead man was identified as Adelsalam Hassoun, 24. He was killed by Syrian army snipers just after he had crossed into Turkey from the village of Ain al-Baida on the Syrian side.

Activists based in the Syrian capital said soldiers have defected from the Syrian army at Mezzeh airport in Damascus. They gave no further details.

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees said the defected Syrian soldiers had escaped to Turkey.

Meanwhile former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam – who now lives in exile in Paris – demanded a military intervention in Syria, Al-Jazeera reported.

In his letter to ‘Syrian revolutionaries,’ Khaddam said the country needed an intervention like the one in Libya. ‘Military intervention is not the same as an occupation,’ he added.

In another development, the Syrian attorney general of the city of Hama – who announced his defection last week – arrived in Cyprus, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel reported, without providing further details.

Activists based in Lebanon confirmed to dpa that Bakhour was ‘safe and sound,’ but refused to say where he was.

Bakhour appeared in videos last week, saying he had resigned because of a massive government campaign of killing and torture in Hama. The government responded that Bakhour had been kidnapped and was forced to issue the statement.

On August 15, the 22 members of the Arab League called for an ‘end to the spilling of blood and (for Syria) to follow the way of reason before it is too late.’

Syria rejected the statement at the time, saying it amounted to ‘a clear violation … of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action.’

Source: Monsters and Critics.

By Nehad Ismail

The Terrorists and Thugs of Syria

Not a single serious analysis of the Syrian situation I read these days that does not have a reference to the two most dreaded words in Syria “Al Baath and Al Shabbiha”. In my view these are the twin evils of Damascus.

Al Baath means in Arabic the rebirth or the renaissance. This is the original meaning. The new meaning for Al Baath, thanks to Al Assad Clan of Syria is synonymous with the Terror. It is a terrorist political party of thugs and murderers.

In the 1950s the Baath Party in Syria and Iraq became popular because they offered slogans of unity, liberty, and the liberation of the Arab people from foreign domination. As it happened the Baath became violent and repressive and produced dictatorial and unstable leaders such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez al Assad the father of Bashar al Assad of Syria. Both men were ruthless in dealing with their opponents. The promise of liberating the Arab man from foreign domination was replaced by tyranny, torture and death. The Baath was a violent ideology that thrives on flogging empty slogans to the Arab street, but nothing more. It became a corrupt, single party state that does not tolerate any opposition or dissent. The Baathist Syrian regime has been a Police State since 1970. Just one example illustrates the sick mentality of the Baathist thinking. In 1970 Nureddin Al-Atassi a former Pre-Baath President was imprisoned by Hafez al-Assad. Nureddin spent 22 years in a small cell in al Mazza prison without any charge or trial. He had been denied medical treatment for cancer which killed him in December 1992. Saddam Hussein brought ruin and destruction to Iraq. Bashar and his younger brother Maher are now doing the same to Syria. Clause 8 of the Syrian Constitution states that the Baath is the sole ruling party of Syria. The opposition groups are demanding the immediate abrogation of this Clause from the Constitution. The regime is refusing to budge, so for the time being the Syrian people are stuck with the abhorrent al-Baath Party ruling over them with an iron fist.

Al Shabbiha:

Since the middle of March 2011 over 2200 unarmed civilians have been killed by the Syrian security forces and the Para-military groups working on behalf of the ruling al-Assad family. These Para-militaries are called “Shabbiha”.

The term Shabbiha means in Arabic “ghostlike” or “Phantoms” with evil intentions. In reality they are groups of sinister thugs who appear from nowhere like ghosts and proceed to kill and maim demonstrators. Al Shabbiha direct their violence against the protest movement aided and abetted by the Syrian security forces. The Shabbiha operate a criminal network throughout Syrian coastal regions and specialise in smuggling, blackmail, robbery and prostitution. Members are drawn from the Pro-Bashar al-Assad Alawite Sect which is regime’s loyalists. The senior leaders of the Shabbiha are said to be first cousins of Assad.

According to a recent study by the Henry Jackson Society (a London based Think Tank) the extent to which the militia are taking orders from Assad is unclear. It is also unclear whether they seek to capitalise on civil unrest and consolidate their criminal network through intimidation.

We have seen on Aljazeera and other networks footage of al Shabbiha in action against helpless protesters, old men and women. They are a bunch of criminal thugs and are not held accountable for their criminal activities because they are doing the dirty work on behalf of the Bashar al Assad’s clan.

What the West can do?

The Syrian people are not demanding direct military action against the regime. At the moment, they don’t want external intervention. This may change however, if the regime continues with its unprecedented brutality against its own people. In the immediate term the Syrian people demand a stronger unambiguous stance by the Western democracies to impose tougher sanctions against the regime such as the freezing of assets, the severing of diplomatic relations with Syria and a unanimous declaration by the US, the EU and the UN that the regime is illegitimate and must go. In the eyes of most Syrians, the regime has already lost its legitimacy. President Obama’s recent call for Bashar al Assad to step aside is welcome but insufficient unless backed by concrete action.

What we expect from a regime that rules with an amalgamation of torture, beating, assassinations, disappearances, indiscriminate shooting at civilians, the shelling of apartment blocks and the cutting off of water and electricity from the Syrian population?

A regime that wages a war against its own people does not deserve to survive.

Nehad Ismail is a London-based writer/broadcaster. He contributed this article to Ammon News English.

Source: Ammon News.

While Algeria’s shot at the African Cup of Nations is now gone, Libya’s national team racked up their first victory under the independence flag.

By Abdou Tadjeddine for Magharebia in Algiers – 05/09/11

Algeria drew 1-1 with Tanzania on Saturday (September 3rd) in Dar es Salaam, ending the Greens’ hopes at qualifying for next round of the 2012 African Cup of Nations (CAN).

The Algerian national team led by Vahid Halilhodzic performed better than in recent games, despite having suffered physically. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the Tanzanians.

“We really wanted to achieve victory, which would have strengthened our slim chances of qualifying,” Halilhodzic said after the match. “Despite our disqualification by a large margin, I think that there were some positive points in the game, such as the improved performance of the players and the return of some confidence, which will help us in the future.”

The Greens performed well in the first 15 minutes of the match, reminding fans of their game against Morocco. However, the Algerian team couldn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities, with Karim Matmour missing twice. A third chance was lost when Nadir Belhadj passed the ball to Karim Benyamina when he could have struck.

The Fennecs made one mistake in the 23rd minute, after a cross by Nizar Khalfan towards Mbwana Samatta, where the bad positioning of Rais M’bolhi and the lack of cover by Abdelkader Laifaoui enabled Samatta to score the opening goal in front of loud cheers in the stands.

Despite that, the Algerian national team did not give up. Coach Halilhodzic made changes, putting in striker Hameur Bouazza, who managed to score the equalizer in the 53rd minute. The offensive waves continued on both sides, as a draw would not serve either of the two teams.

The Tanzanians nearly scored a second goal if not for the successful intervention of goalkeeper M’bolhi. Meanwhile, the Algerian team were unable to make use of several opportunities, including Ghezzal’s pass to Matmour during stoppage time and finally Matmour’s strike that was saved by the Tanzanian goalkeeper. The game ended with a draw, making both the Algerian and Tanzanian teams disqualify from the competition by a large margin.

In other CAN action on Saturday, Libya’s national team defeated Mozambique 1-0 in Cairo. The match was the first for the team since Kadhafi was forced from Tripoli and the first under the independence flag. Rabie el-Lafi scored the lone match goal in the 30th minute with a pass from teammate Mohamed Al-Mughrabi. Libya will next face Zambia in October.

Source: Magharebia.

After the downfall of Kadhafi, many Touaregs who once relied on his largesse are now heading back to Mali.

By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 05/09/11

With increasing swaths of Libya coming under control of rebel forces, many Malian Touaregs accused of supporting Moamer Kadhafi are now returning home.

“Scores of cross-desert vehicles entered Malian soil at a late hour last Thursday (August 25th) carrying tens of Malian young people,” Timbuktu resident Brahim al-Ansari told Magharebia.

“However, we don’t know whether they are fleeing the Libyan war after the fall of Tripoli at the hands of revolutionaries or they are gunmen who hail from the area and who want to return and settle there,” al-Ansari added.

Residents of some villages in north-eastern Mali, on the border with Niger, said they saw a group of about 10 vehicles crossing the border. Outhman Ould Aweysoun, a trader in Bokossa village in the Kidal region of Mali, said he saw “a convoy of vehicles under the command of a Touareg military officer holding the rank of lieutenant colonel in the pro-Kadhafi Libyan army”.

“Those vehicles passed by without talking to the local residents and without getting water supplies or anything else. Those vehicles were without number plates,” Ould Aweysoun said.

Analysts have expressed concern that the convoys could be involved in arms trafficking. However, experts downplayed the likelihood that the returnees could spark a new Touareg rebellion because of the sudden death of Touareg rebel leader Ibrahim Ag Bahanga.

“The talk about a possible start of the rebellion is excluded for the time being because Touaregs will now be busy looking for a new leader capable of unifying their ranks and having the same kind of charisma that Bahanga had,” security expert Iselkou Ould Rajel said.

“The other option that can be thought of is that those Malian military personnel are returning with these weapons to sell them to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and integrate into Malian locals for two reasons,” he added.

Ould Rajel said the Touaregs could either sell the weapons to earn a profit or dispose of them to “avoid a reaction from the Malian army that is prepared to attack them with the first sign of any military action that may hinder the major development project that the Malian government started to execute in early August.”

Some Malian security experts speculated that these armed vehicles could indicate a desire on the part of the fugitive Kadhafi to open a new front against NATO out of northern Mali where he has strong ties with the local Touareg and Arab population.

“The friendly relations that Col. Kadhafi has always had with the residents of that area, where he invested in several projects and built a number of infrastructure, made the local Touaregs and Arab population owe allegiance to Kadhafi more than they do to the Malian state which they belong to,” political analyst Betar Ould Naji said.

“It was Kadhafi who supported Touareg rebels against the Malian state, providing them with weapons, and opening the Libyan borders for them at the expense of Libyan citizens,” he added. “It was also him who convinced them to disarm and sign the agreement with the Malian government. Therefore, he considers himself to be their king.”

Meanwhile, some northern Mali residents expressed their willingness to protect Kadhafi in the event he fled Libya.

“I’m ready to provide shelter for Kadhafi rather than abandon him because we’re not mean,” one Gao resident told Jeune Afrique. The magazine also quoted two other Gao residents as saying they were “prepared to protect Kadhafi”.

Analyst Mohamed Ould Taqi said that Malians sympathize with Kadhafi because “they don’t know the size of destruction he has caused to his own people. In addition, the residents of those regions didn’t know any investments or assistance before Kadhafi, who wanted with such moves to control the Malian government.”

“Things will change now that the Malian government has launched the major development project in northern regions,” Ould Taqi said. “As a result, the loyalty of local population to the government will be enhanced, and the young people will be a part of the production process; something that will create difficulties for al-Qaeda to recruit them.”

Source: Magharebia.

June 03, 2012

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators on Sunday staged the largest protest yet against plans by Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government to curb abortion, which critics say will amount to a virtual ban.

Around 3,000 women — their ages ranging from 20 to 60 years old — gathered at a square in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district. Some carried banners that read “my body, my choice” and shouted anti-government slogans.

Many of the women were accompanied by husbands and boyfriends. One young protester — her left fist clenched aloft — carried a placard that read “State, take your hands off my body,” while a man waved a slogan reading “My darling’s body, my darling’s choice.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called abortion “murder,” and his government is reportedly working on legislation to ban the operation after 4 weeks from conception, except in emergencies. Fusun Sirkeci, a London-based obstetrician and gynecologist, said in an email Saturday that most women don’t learn they are pregnant until after 4 weeks and it is also difficult to establish the placement of the pregnancy sac during that period.

Abortion is presently legal in Turkey up to 10 weeks from conception. “They say it is my body, my choice. Feminists say this,” Erdogan said Saturday during a rally in the country’s southeast. “No one has the right to abort a fetus in a body.”

Analysts say Erdogan is pursuing a delicate strategy of beefing up Turkey’s regional power with a large population, while trying to balance the country’s demographics in the face of a high birth rate among the country’s Kurds, a source of concern for Turkey since it is engaged in a bitter fight against Kurdish rebels who want autonomy in the largely Kurdish southeast.

Remarks by members of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, however, have also revealed deep-rooted moral and religious concerns. Health Minister Recep Akdag caused an outcry Thursday when he told reporters that if necessary the government would even look after the babies of “rape victims.” Facing criticism, he said Saturday that he did not mean rape victims can never have an abortion.

Deniz Ulke Aribogan, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, wrote in Aksam newspaper Friday that the government was seeking to use abortion to balance the Kurds’ high birth rate, since “ethnic reproduction is used by some organizations as a political tool” — an apparent reference to the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that is fighting for autonomy, and a pro-Kurdish political party also demanding the same.

“The problem is the rapid rise of population in eastern regions, while it has almost came to a standstill in western regions,” Aribogan wrote, adding that the decision had been taken for political reasons, rather than out of moral or religious concern.

The largely Kurdish southeast has the highest birth rate in Turkey with 27.3 births in every 1,000, compared to 11,4 births in the northwest, according to the latest available figures in 2010 by the Turkish Statistical Institute. More than 25 percent of Turkey’s nearly 75 million population is under the age of 14, according to a December survey.

Tino Sanandaji, a post-doctoral fellow at Chicago University who researches demographic change and its link to policy, said in an email Saturday that in the long run the higher Kurdish growth rate is certain to have social and political implications, although the process is “quite slow” for now.

“If it continues for four to five decades, however, the balance of power could start shifting, which is what seems to concern Turkish nationalists,” he said. Sirkeci warned in her email of the dangers of a virtual ban saying it will force “some women to terminate themselves which could potentially be fatal or disabling.”

Sirkeci said any ban would also create an illegal market for abortions, and have a huge psychological impact on women. “I feel the danger is very obvious,” she said.