Thursday, May 26, 2016

Afghan Taliban reject peace talks, vow to continue fighting - New Taliban leader named

Oh my, what a mean the Taliban in Afghanistan would rather fight for another six months and then take over the entire country than sign some sort of peace deal?  I know.  It's just so far least it is to the likes of Obama and Kerry.

The story comes from DAWN.

Afghan Taliban reject peace talks, vow to continue fighting

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban under their new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, on Wednesday rejected peace talks as a viable solution to bringing the Afghan insurgency to an end, and have stated that fighting will continue.

In an audio message released in Pushto, circulated by Taliban commanders, Haibatullah stated the "Taliban will never bow their heads and will not agree to peace talks."

Afghan Taliban's new chief added that "people thought we will lay down our arms after Mullah Mansour's death, but we will continue fighting till the end."
New Afghan Taliban chief

A spokesman of the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday confirmed the death of the group's chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike.

In a statement sent to media Wednesday, the insurgent group said its new leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a former head of the Taliban's judiciary and one of two Mansour's deputies.

It said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a network blamed for many high-profile bombs attacks in Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, will serve as deputies, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's main spokesman, said in the statement.

Both of the new deputies had earlier been thought to be the main contenders for the top job.

Mansour was reported killed in Pakistan on Saturday when his vehicle was struck by a US drone, believed to be the first time a Taliban leader was killed in such a way inside Pakistani territory.
After Mullah Mansour

The US and Afghan governments said Mansour had been an obstacle to a peace process that had ground to a halt when he refused to participate in peace talks earlier this year. Instead, he intensified the war in Afghanistan, now in its 15th year.

Examine: Mansour was not against talks, says Nisar

Mansour had led the Taliban since last summer, when the death of the movement's founder, the one-eyed Mullah Mohammad Omar became public. Mansour ran the movement in Mullah Omar's name for more than two years.

The group saw a resurgence under the firebrand supremo with striking military victories, helping to cement his authority by burnishing his credentials as a commander.

They briefly captured the strategic northern city of Kunduz in September in their most spectacular victory in 14 years. Southern opium-rich Helmand province is almost entirely under insurgent control.

The revelation of Mullah Omar's death and Mansour's deception led to widespread mistrust, with some senior leaders leaving the group to set up their own factions.

Senior Taliban figures have said his death could strengthen the movement, as he was a divisive figure. The identity of his successor was expected to be an indication of the direction the insurgency would take, either toward peace or continued war.

Akhundzada is a religious scholar known for issuing public statements justifying the existence of the militant Taliban, their war against the Afghan government and the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

His views are regarded as hawkish, and he could be expected to continue in the aggressive footsteps of Mansour.

The Taliban statement called on all Muslims to mourn Mansour for three days. It also attempted to calm any qualms among the rank and file by calling for unity and obedience to the new leader.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fallujah Today and Yesterday

So, it's time to try to take Fallujah, Iraq back from the bad guys.  Again.  For the second time.  Years ago, American Marines, primarily, as well as Army forces paid a HUGE price in freeing Fallujah from the grip of al Qaeda in Iraq.  Then, of course, Barack Obama stepped in and handed the city back to the likes of ISIS.  So now, Iraq is going to try and repeat the efforts of U.S. forces years ago.

But there is a difference.  Back when it fell upon the Americans to free this Iraqi city, those American fighting men and women were on a short leash - they had to go street to street, house to house, room to room to gut Fallujah of the jihadis of al Qaeda.  But NOW, now when it isn't American blood that will be shed, there's this big warning to the civilians of Fallujah.....why?  Here's why - because the city is going to be bombarded - something the Americans years ago WERE NOT ALLOWED TO DO, because it might hurt some Iraqi civilians.  You wait and see, the Iranian overlords are in command posts outside of Fallujah right now getting ready to lay Fallujah flat and you think those Iranian Shiite pricks give one shit about an Iraqi Sunni living in Fallujah?  Exactly.

The story comes from Al Arabiya.

50,000 Iraqi civilians ‘at great risk’ in Fallujah

The United Nations called Monday for "safe corridors" to be set up to allow Iraqi civilians to flee a military offensive against ISIS in Fallujah.

Some 50,000 civilians in the city are at "great risk" during a campaign against ISIS fighters by the Iraqi army backed by militias, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"One of the problems is that civilians are under grave danger as they try to flee," he said.

"It is important that they have some safe corridors they could use."

Iraqi forces on Monday launched an offensive to retake Fallujah, which became an ISIS stronghold after its fighters seized the city in January 2014.

The UN spokesman said some civilians were able to flee and were receiving emergency assistance, shelter and water, but he did not provide figures.

Women and children were taken to a location south of Fallujah and men to central Anbar for security screening, said the spokesman.

The United Nations is "very concerned" about the fate of civilians and mobilizing its aid partners to assess the situation and send help, he added.

On Sunday, Iraq's Joint Operations Command warned civilians still in the city to leave.

It urged families that could not depart to raise a white flag over their location and stay away from ISIS headquarters and gatherings.

Fallujah and Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh, are the last two major cities ISIS holds in Iraq.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

At least 145 dead as series of explosions rock Syrian govt strongholds

I guess Bashir al-Assad got the message that he can't start sleeping more peacefully any time soon.

The story comes from DAWN.

At least 145 dead as series of explosions rock Syrian govt strongholds

BEIRUT: Bomb blasts killed scores of people in Jableh and Tartous on Syria's Mediterranean coast on Monday and wounded many others in the government-controlled territory that hosts Russian military bases, monitors and state media said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in the cities that have up to now escaped the worst of the violence in the five-year-old conflict, saying it was targeting members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 145 people were killed in attacks by at least five suicide bombers and two devices planted in cars. State media said 78 people had been killed in what is Assad's coastal heartland.

The attacks were the first of their kind in Tartous, capital of Tartous province and home to a Russian naval facility, and Jableh in Latakia province, near a Russian-operated air base.

The Kremlin said the bomb blasts underscored the need to press ahead with Geneva peace talks after a Feb. 27 ceasefire collapsed in April as violence intensified in a war that has killed at least 250,000 people.

“This demonstrates yet again just how fragile the situation in Syria is. And this one more time underscores the need for new urgent steps to continue the negotiating process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his readiness to fight with the Syrian government against “the terrorist threat” sent his condolences to Assad, the Kremlin said.

The Syrian foreign ministry sent a letter to the United Nations, state television reported, saying the blasts were a “dangerous escalation by the hostile and extremist regimes in Riyadh, Ankara and Doha”, referring to support given to the rebels by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
Blood and bodies

One of the four blasts in Jableh hit near a hospital and another at a bus station. The Tartous bombs also targeted a bus station, the Observatory and state media reported.

Younes Hassan, a doctor working at the Jableh hospital, said he heard an explosion at the bus station, followed less than a minute later by the blast at the hospital.

“Everything went into emergency mode, wounded people began arriving,” he told Reuters by phone.

The Tartous explosions also occurred in quick succession, no more than 10 seconds apart, a driver at the bus station said.

“People began running but didn't know which direction to go, cars were on fire, there was blood and bodies on the ground,” Nizar Hamade said.

Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel showed several twisted and burnt-out cars and minivans.

Islamic State claimed the attacks in a statement posted online by the group's Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had targeted “gatherings of Alawites”.

Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview with Ikhbariya that terrorists were resorting to bomb attacks against civilians instead of fighting on the front lines, and vowed to keep battling them.

The government refers to all insurgents fighting against it in the conflict as terrorists.

Bombings in the capital Damascus and western city of Homs this year killed dozens of people and were also claimed by Islamic State, which is fighting against government forces and their allies in some areas, and separately against its jihadist rival al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

Latakia city, which is north of Jableh and capital of the province, has been targeted on a number of occasions by bombings and insurgent rocket attacks, including late last year.

Government forces and their allies have recently stepped up bombardment of areas in Aleppo province in the north, which has become a focal point for the escalating violence. Insurgents have also launched major attacks in that area.

The only road into rebel-held areas of Aleppo city has suffered a week of increasingly heavy air strikes.

Zakaria Malahefji, a senior official in the rebel group Fastaqim that operates in the Aleppo area told Reuters that the road was heavily bombarded again on Monday and was dangerous to use.

He said Iranian-backed fighters, who are supporting government forces, were mobilising in the southern Aleppo area.

France's foreign ministry called the Tartous and Jableh bombings “odious”, and said violence from all sides must stop if a political transition is to take place.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Photo of the Day: You Wanna Talk Problems?

Whatever problems you may currently have, consider yourself lucky that you aren't the young lady in the front center of this photo - talk about a serious "Grandpa Complex"......


End Times

I don't think anyone needs more handwriting on the wall.

The story comes from Yahoo News.

Pope and top imam embrace in historic meeting at Vatican

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis met the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican on Monday in a historic encounter that was sealed with a hug and an exchange of kisses.

The Vatican meeting between the leader of the world's Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam marks the culmination of a significant improvement in relations between the two faiths since Francis took office in 2013.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The World Is a Better Place As Taliban Leader Mansour Is Turned Into Worm Food

If indeed Barack Hussein Obama gave the order to have Taliban leader Mullah Mansour taken out by a U.S. drone strike, then it would be the first time in my life that I would want to slap Obama on the back and say "good job."  Ridding the world of all Taliban takes precedence over political, ideological and Constitutional objections to our traitorous President.

I won't rest easy until Mullah Mansour's death is confirmed as most Taliban leaders have nine lives so full celebration will wait, but for now, it appears the world is much better off.

The story comes from The Long War Journal.

US targeted Taliban emir Mullah Mansour in unprecedented Pakistan drone strike

The US military said it targeted and possibly killed Taliban emir Mullah Mansour today in an “airstrike” in a remote area along the “Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.” Mansour’s status is unknown and the military said it is attempting to determine if he is dead or alive.

“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an official statement.

“Mansour has been the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel, and Coalition partners,” Cook said, offering justification for the strike. “Mansour has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict.”

Mansour officially replaced Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, as the group’s emir in August 2015 when Omar’s death was disclosed. But Mansour has really been at the helm of the Taliban since April 2013, when Omar died and the Taliban kept his death secret for more than two years. Since taking the role of emir, Mansour fought and won a divisive power struggle against senior Taliban leaders who preferred Omar’s eldest son as heir to the group. Mansour led a deadly uprising that saw the resurgent Taliban gain more territory than any time since the US invasion in 2001.

It may take days for the US to receive physical confirmation of Mansour’s death, if at all possible. The Taliban has not issued an official statement announcing Mansour’s death. Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, has been offline most of the week.

While the Pentagon did not state the location of the airstrike which targeted Mansour, Reuters reported that it took place at 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (3 p.m. local time) in the town of Ahmad Wal in Baluchistan province.

“Multiple US drones targeted the men as they rode in a vehicle in a remote area in Pakistan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal,” an unnamed official told the news agency.

US intelligence officials confirmed to The Long War Journal that the strike took place in Mansour’s home Baluchistan province.

A strike in Baluchistan is unprecedented and may signal a shift in US policy which previously confined drone strikes to Pakistan’s tribal agencies. This is the first reported strike by the US in Baluchistan, where the Taliban’s top leadership setup shop in Quetta. All of the other 391 drone and airstrikes reportedly executed by the US took place in Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Only one other strike took place outside of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Of those 390 strikes that occurred in the tribal agencies, 280 took place in North Waziristan and 90 took place in South Waziristan.

Conducting a strike in Baluchistan raises questions whether or not the US sought permission from the Pakistani government to carry out the attack in an area other than North and South Waziristan. Mansour was believed to be operating under the auspices and protection of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

If Mansour is confirmed killed, one likely successor is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network which is also closely tied to the Taliban. Siraj is one of Mansour’s two deputies and serves as the Taliban’s overall military commander.

If Siraj replaced Mansour, he is even more unlikely than his predecessor to negotiate a peace agreement.The Taliban has insisted that only the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the imposition of its harsh brand of sharia – or Islamic law – and the withdrawal of all Western forces is acceptable.

The Taliban released a statement last month sternly denying another senior leader – Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, a former Guantanamo detainee – had called for negotiations with the Afghan government and the West. Although he might represent a coup for the US, Mullah Zakir is an unlikely successor to Mansour. And Zakir, who is also closely tied to al Qaeda, is just as committed to restoring the Taliban to power as Mansour and Siraj.

Two other possible successors include Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, and Omar’s brother, Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund. Both were appointed to key Taliban leadership positions last month in the group’s executive council as a way to smooth over any lingering discontent. Omar’s kin opposed the appointment of Mansour and Yaqoub was rumored to have sought the seat to replace his father. It took nearly two months after the change in leadership for Yaqoub to swear allegiance to Mansour in September 2015.

By that point, it was already clear Mansour had navigated through turbulent times. In August 2015, Mansour accepted the oath of allegiance from al Qaeda emir Ayman Zawahiri, as well as pledges from “Jihadi organizations spread throughout the globe.” Mansour’s public acceptance of Zawahiri’s fealty above all others signaled the new face of the Taliban had no intention to break longstanding ties with al Qaeda. The reconciliation with Omar’s family was a final piece to the puzzle. His apparent unification of Taliban ranks did not keep Mansour out of the crosshairs, however. In December, Mansour released an audio statement denying reports of his death, which he said were floated by his enemies to divide his group.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Holger Respite

Folks, time for a bit of a Holger break from the perils and tribulations of I'm taking about a week off or so.  Make sure to check back, though...don't make me come find you.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

ISIS Hits Baghdad HARD - Nearly 100 Dead In Bombings

Just when the Iraqis start to get a little momentum and a little spring back in their step, ISIS unloads with their deadly versions of car bombs.  Bloody man, bloody.

The story comes from DAWN.

94 killed in triple Baghdad car bomb attacks claimed by Islamic State

BAGHDAD: Three car bombs in Baghdad, including a huge blast at a market in a Shia area, killed at least 94 people on Wednesday, the bloodiest day in the Iraqi capital this year.

The attacks, the deadliest of which was claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, came with the government locked in a political crisis that some have warned could undermine the fight against the militants.

The worst bombing struck the frequently targeted Sadr City area of northern Baghdad at around 10:00 am, killing at least 64 people and wounding 82 others, officials said.

The blast set nearby shops on fire and left debris including the charred, twisted remains of a vehicle in the street.

Dozens of angry people gathered at the scene of the bombing, blaming the government for the carnage.

“The state is in a conflict over (government positions) and the people are the victims,” said a man named Abu Ali.

“The state is responsible for the bombings that hit civilians,” the local resident said. The politicians “should all get out."

Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who spearheaded a protest movement demanding a cabinet reshuffle and other reforms, has a huge following in the working class neighbourhood of Sadr City, which was named after his father.

Another suicide car bomb attack killed at least 14 people at the entrance of the northwestern neighbourhood of Kadhimiya, which is home to an important Shia Muslim shrine.

Access to the neighbourhood, which has also been repeatedly targeted over the years, is heavily controlled.Several members of the security forces were among the victims, hospital sources said.

In the Jamea district in western Baghdad, another car bomb went off in the afternoon, killing at least eight people and wounding 21, an interior ministry official and medics told AFP.

IS issued an online statement claiming responsibility for the attack in Sadr City and saying a suicide bomber it identified as “Abu Sulaiman al-Ansari “detonated the explosives-rigged vehicle.
Political crisis

There was no immediate claim for the two subsequent bombings but all such attacks recently have been perpetrated by IS.

The UN's top envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, condemned the bloodshed.

“These are cowardly terrorist attacks on civilians who have done nothing but going about their normal daily lives,” he said.

IS, which overran large areas in 2014, considers Shias, who make up the majority of Iraq's population, to be heretics and often targets them with bombings.

Iraqi forces have regained significant ground from IS, but the militants still control a large part of western Iraq, and are able to carry out frequent bombings in government-held areas.

The months-old political crisis has led to repeated mass demonstrations that required a huge security deployment and hampered government action at a time when Iraq is still battling militants on several fronts.

Security forces are currently engaged in large-scale military operations in the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh as they close in on Fallujah and Mosul, IS's two major remaining hubs in Iraq.

The United States and the United Nations have warned the political impasse could undermine the fight against IS.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sought to replace the cabinet of party-affiliated ministers with a government of technocrats, a move opposed by powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

Angry demonstrators last month broke into central Baghdad's fortified Green Zone and stormed parliament after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers.

While the protesters withdrew the following day, parliament has still yet to hold another session.

Zainab al-Tai, a lawmaker from Sadr's political movement, said the most recent efforts to resume the parliamentary process were still floundering Wednesday.

“Some disagreements remain, there is no session and we have yet to set a date for the next session,” she told AFP.

“Parliament is divided in three groups... I don't think we can reach a result, the decision will be in the hands of the people,” she added.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

China Puts the Transgenders In Their Place

 In this photo released by Mr. C, a transgender man who uses the name Mr. C to protect his parents from discrimination, holds up the arbitration results while posing for a photo at a government office in Guiyang

The timing of this is hilarious - while we have the U.S. federal government suing a state over transgender access to public restrooms, China has told the first transgender complainant to pound sand.  That's the world we know now....we root for Putin over Obama and China over our own government.

And it sucks.

The story comes from CNS News.

Chinese man loses in country's 1st transgender labor dispute

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese transgender man said he was disappointed but will continue to fight for equality after a labor arbitration panel on Tuesday rejected his complaint that he was fired unfairly, in China's first transgender job discrimination case.

The man, who uses the name Mr. C to protect his parents' privacy, said the panel in the southwestern province of Guizhou granted his demand for about $62 in back wages but also ruled that his employer broke no law in dismissing him.

"I am not satisfied with just the paid-back wages. What I want is respect, and respect from the whole of society for minorities like us," Mr. C said in a phone interview shortly after the arbitration panel handed down its decision.

"I am very disappointed about the result," he added. "This (arbitration) process has made me realize that discrimination against sexual orientation is far worse than I had expected, and I will continue to appeal to defend my rights."

Mr. C was hired in 2015 for a sales job with a local health services center but was let go eight days later, when the probation period ended. Mr. C believed he was dismissed because he lives as a man even though he was born a woman.

The arbitration panel rejected a voice recording in which the company's sales manager told Mr. C that the way he dressed would negatively affect the firm, said Huang Sha, a lawyer for Mr. C. The panel ruled that the conversation "did not represent the company's true intent," citing the fact that the sales manager did not work in the personnel department.

Instead, the panel accepted a performance evaluation produced by Ciming Health Exam Center that stated Mr. C did not demonstrate adequate skills for the sales job, Huang said.

"We think the evaluation is an excuse," the lawyer said, adding that the sales manager had previously acknowledged Mr. C's abilities.

Both Huang and Mr. C said they plan to appeal the labor panel's decision at a local court.

A woman who works for Ciming denied Tuesday that the company discriminated against Mr. C. She refused to provide her name or further details.

China does not recognize many LGBT rights such as gay marriage and its laws do not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.