CANADIAN INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH RESEARCH PRESENTS THE 28TH ANNUAL GALA 2016: Israel in Space: Beyond the Blue (and White) Horizon — “Technology, Economy, Security.” In commemoration of Ilan Ramon z”l. Keynote speaker: Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center, the Fischer Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies. Mr. Inbar will discuss the topic “The Israeli Space Endeavor: Accomplishments and Future Challenges.” Join CIJR for this special event that will include a special video presentation by Rona Ramon (Ilan Ramon’s widow), greetings from the Canadian Space Agency, and more. This event will take place in Montreal, Thursday, April 14, and in Toronto, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. For more information and tickets, call 1-855-303-5544, email email@example.com, or register online at our website: www.isranet.org
AS WE GO TO PRESS: BRUSSELS AIRPORT AND SUBWAY ATTACKS KILL AT LEAST 30; ISIS CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY — The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a series of deadly terrorist attacks that struck Brussels on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people at the city’s main international airport and in a subway station at the heart of the city, near the headquarters of the European Union. The deadly violence began shortly before 8 a.m. with an explosion in the departure terminal at Brussels Airport, followed shortly by another. Then, at 9:11 a.m., a bomb tore through the last car of a subway train as it was pulling out of the Maelbeek station. At least 30 people were killed: around 10 at the airport and 20 at the subway station — and more than 230 others were wounded. “
In the afternoon, Amaq, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic State, issued a bulletin saying the militant group was responsible for the attacks. “Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State,” it said. “Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maelbeek metro station.”
The attacks occurred four days after the capture on Friday of Europe’s most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam. He is the sole survivor of the 10 men believed to have been directly involved in the Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris on Nov. 13. (New York Times, Mar. 22, 2016)
Belgian Attacks Horrific, But Expected: IPT, Mar. 22, 2016— As shocking as this morning's simultaneous terror attacks at Belgium's airport and in its Metro system may be, they show the disturbing depth of the terrorist infrastructure which was allowed to take root in the European Union capital's back yard.
Obama Courts Chaos With His Taliban Fantasy: Husain Haqqani, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2016— Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, the recently nominated commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has confirmed what many of us have feared.
White House Ignores Mounting Failures in Afghanistan: Mark Moyar, National Review, Feb. 4, 2016— We have made gains over the past year that will put Afghanistan on a better path,” said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on January 27, in a message of congratulations to outgoing commander General John Campbell.
Brussels Attacks Highlight Europe's New Reality: Lili Bayer, Real Clear World, Mar. 22 2016
Belgium Warned of Attacks. It Wasn’t Enough: Josh Rogin, Bloomberg, Mar. 22, 2016
The Challenging Road Ahead in Afghanistan: Marvin Weinbaum, Real Clear World, Feb. 22, 2016
Facing the Taliban and His Past, an Afghan Leader Aims for a Different Ending: Mujib Mashal, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2015
IPT, Mar. 22, 2016
As shocking as this morning's simultaneous terror attacks at Belgium's airport and in its Metro system may be, they show the disturbing depth of the terrorist infrastructure which was allowed to take root in the European Union capital's back yard. A series of police actions reportedly are underway targeting elements of that infrastructure. It's a safe bet that some of those raids will be in Molenbeek, a Brussels suburb.
It has been dubbed "Europe's terrorism capital." Saleh Abdeslam, the key surviving player in November's horrific attacks in Paris, was arrested in Molenbeek Friday. Police were thanked by a hail of bottles, stones and other debris by locals more loyal to the terrorist than the land that gave them refuge. Authorities "don't have control of the situation in Molenbeek at present" and said the authorities needed to "clean up" the area, said Interior Minister Jan Jambon.
In raids last week, authorities found an ISIS flag, a book about Salafism, a sizable cache of weapons, indicating more attacks were in the works. They just didn't realize how close to completion those plans were. The Paris attacks were planned in Molenbeek – three of the attackers grew up there – and the resulting investigation last November prompted officials to place the entire country on lockdown, fearing attacks like Tuesday's in Brussels were imminent.
"We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said Tuesday. Belgian Muslims have left Europe to join the Islamic State in greater numbers per capita than any other country. It is so pervasive, Buzzfeed reports, that Belgian law enforcement admits being overwhelmed by the volume of open terrorism investigations.
Their challenge is compounded by the depth of Islamist radicalization which has taken root in Molenbeek, as Friday's violent reaction to Abdeslam's arrest shows. "There is a sort of clannishness in the area that is stronger than anything else," Claude Moniquet, a former intelligence agent now with the European Centre for Strategic Intelligence and Security in Brussels, told London's Telegraph.
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2016
Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, the recently nominated commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has confirmed what many of us have feared. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his Jan. 28 confirmation hearing that security in Afghanistan is worsening. The Taliban are emboldened by the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal. On Monday the United Nations reported that 2015 civilian casualties from terrorist attacks in Afghanistan reached an all-time high since 2001, a 4% increase over 2014.
The Obama administration pins its hopes on China and Pakistan persuading the fundamentalist Islamist group to negotiate the end of its insurgency. Yet the Taliban’s main demand—the establishment of what they deem to be an Islamic order—is nonnegotiable. They talk not with the intention of giving up fighting but to regroup and attack again.
Liberal Americans, encouraged by the Taliban’s main backer, Pakistan, assume that there is a deal to be made. This is the same mirage the U.S. has pursued since the Taliban emerged in 1993 out of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen movement and initially found favor among many Afghans disenchanted by the corruption and lawlessness of the first post-Soviet regime.
The Clinton administration believed the Taliban’s aspirations were limited to asserting ethnic Pashtun supremacy and were nationalist, not Islamist, in nature. The Taliban’s subsequent ruthlessness and imposition of Islamic law once they took power didn’t get the Clinton administration’s full attention until 1998, when the group’s decision to host Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda resulted in U.N. sanctions. That left Pakistan as the only country with full diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime.
Then, as now, a Democratic administration tried to negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan. This time, too, the Taliban’s precondition seems to be that the U.N. withdraw the post 9/11 resolution that froze the movement’s assets—estimated in 2001 to be $100 million in the U.S. alone, with additional assets in Gulf states and in Pakistan—and limited international travel by its leaders. The Taliban have since increased their assets to at least $400 million through drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and by extorting U.S. and Afghan-government contractors.
Although Pakistan felt compelled to join the international coalition against al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, it never severed ties with the Taliban. Most Taliban leaders ended up on the Pakistani side of the 1,398-mile-long Pakistan-Afghan border. Some of them secured protection from tribes straddling the two countries; and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) protected others, who lived openly in Quetta and Peshawar. The ISI wanted to keep using the Taliban as an Afghan proxy in Pakistan’s perennial competition for influence with India. The U.S. couldn’t or wouldn’t move against the fugitive Taliban leaders for fear of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. (The search for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a one-time exception.)
The Obama administration initially spoke of coercing Pakistan into giving up support for the Taliban. In 2011 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Pakistan couldn’t keep “snakes” in its backyard. The very next year, President Obama announced a schedule for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. That made the Taliban and their Pakistani backers intransigent; they knew that all they had to do was wait. With another U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, leaving a small force of some 5,500, it is no wonder that Taliban attacks in provinces bordering Pakistan have increased.
The Obama administration’s decision to negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan was embraced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after his election in 2014. China, Pakistan’s major international supporter, was brought in as a facilitator, arranging meetings in Beijing between the Taliban and the Afghan government. China was expected to broker a deal involving Kabul, Islamabad and Pakistan’s Afghan proxies.
Yet Pakistan may no longer be able even to bring a unified Taliban movement to the negotiating table. The Taliban have splintered, and factions affiliated with ISIS have emerged to compete with groups tied to al Qaeda. Although the Taliban continue to depend upon the ISI for money, training and arms, it is becoming clear that at least some Taliban leaders would rather follow an independent course.
Former Taliban negotiator Tayeb Agha reportedly resigned last year after the election of new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, saying Taliban leaders should relocate to Afghanistan from Pakistan to “preserve their independence.” This is not the only reason talks will likely fail. Afghan security forces and intelligence services don’t trust Pakistan because of the haven it provides the Taliban. The Taliban look upon ISI with suspicion because of its connection with the U.S.—further diminishing Pakistan’s capacity to broker peace in Afghanistan.
Faced with international pressure as well as growing internal threats from the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistan has cleared out some known jihadist sanctuaries in the border region of North Waziristan, depriving Afghan groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network of their historical base of operations. The assumption in Washington is that Pakistan wouldn’t like to see the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan.
But a similar assumption in 1993 was shown to be naïve as the Taliban marched into Kabul with full Pakistani backing. Neither is there any sign today that Pakistan’s military is willing to give up its decades-long pursuit of paramountcy over Afghanistan. So unless the U.S. is willing to keep sufficient troops in Afghanistan, the outcome of the “fight and talk” policy now being pursued by the Taliban and the U.S. will only feed chaos. Or a return of the Taliban as a fait accompli when the troops finally leave.
National Review, Feb. 4, 2016
“We have made gains over the past year that will put Afghanistan on a better path,” said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on January 27, in a message of congratulations to outgoing commander General John Campbell. But the upbeat pronouncements of top administration officials are inconsistent with nearly all the information coming out of Afghanistan. On the day after Carter’s statement, the latest quarterly report from the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction observed, “In this reporting period, Afghanistan proved even more dangerous than it was a year ago. The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since 2001.” An independent assessment by Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal also concluded that the Taliban has rapidly extended the terrain it controls since President Obama announced the official end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. has the ability to blunt the Taliban’s momentum, but a President who refuses to recognize the problem is not likely to provide the necessary resources.
On December 21, a Taliban suicide-bombing attack at Bagram air base killed six Americans. On January 5, an American Special Forces soldier, Staff Sergeant Matthew McClintock, died and two others were wounded in Helmand province while assisting Afghan forces. As of mid-2015, American Green Berets were still accompanying their Afghan counterparts on six to ten missions per week, according to Major General Sean Swindell, commander of the Coalition’s special-operations forces. Forty times per week, Americans were providing Afghan special-operations forces with intelligence, logistical support, air cover, or other assistance. In December, Stars & Stripes reported, “U.S. troops are increasingly being pulled back into battle to aid overstretched Afghan forces.”
From the vantage point of the White House, these activities do not amount to war. On the White House website, a list of President Obama’s accomplishments says he “responsibly ended the U.S. combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Shortly before the President’s final State of the Union address, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price tweeted, “The U.S. ended two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing home 90% of 180K troops deployed.” In the address itself, President Obama offered nary a word of thanks to the 9,800 troops who remain. He mentioned the country only once, as part of a list of places where “instability will continue for decades.”
Within the military, many dispute the White House portrayal. “I still call it a war,” said General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding, “What we’ve shifted away from is a large presence of U.S. combat forces fighting that war.” Defense correspondent Nancy Youssef reported that “several defense officials just shook their heads” when they learned of Price’s claim that the U.S. had “ended” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of “the war we must win,” Afghanistan has become the war that must not be named. This past Thursday, at a confirmation hearing for the incoming U.S. commander, Lieutenant General John W. Nicholson Jr., Senator John McCain asserted, “The security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating, rather than improving.” He then asked, “What is your assessment, General, of the overall tactical situation in Afghanistan?” Nicholson responded, “Sir, I agree with your assessment.”
In the December edition of the twice-a-year reports required by Congress, the Department of Defense stated, “In the second half of 2015, the overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated with an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher [Afghan security force] and Taliban casualties.” According to NATO officials, Afghan casualties increased 28 percent from 2014, a year when such casualties had already risen to rates that U.S. military leaders had deemed “unsustainable.” In September, the insurgents overran the city of Kunduz, freeing Taliban prisoners and killing government officials before withdrawing after several days. It was the first time since 9/11 that insurgent forces had retaken a provincial capital.
In October, the Taliban stepped up their attacks in the key southern province of Helmand, and continued to attack into the cold winter months, a season during which they previously had taken a break from fighting. The epicenter of Afghanistan’s poppy trade, Helmand had largely been pacified by a large U.S. Marine offensive from 2010 to 2012. Toward the end of 2015, the Taliban made large gains in the Helmand districts of Sangin and Marjah, two areas where the U.S. Marines had suffered some of their heaviest casualties. The Taliban also cut the roads leading into Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. The deputy governor of the province became so desperate in December that he went on Facebook to publish a plea to Afghanistan’s president for assistance, a decision that cost him his job though it may have helped to prevent a catastrophe. A U.S. military spokesman stated that Afghan military forces in Helmand had failed to stop the Taliban because of “a combination of incompetence, corruption and ineffectiveness.” These problems were traced to the leadership of the 215th Afghan National Army Corps, of which the corps commander, several brigade commanders, and senior corps staff officers were fired at the end of the year.
The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan also proved beneficial for extremist organizations determined to wage a global jihad. In October, U.S. and Afghan forces found and eliminated an al-Qaeda training camp in Kandahar province. Thirty square miles in area, it was the largest al-Qaeda camp found in Afghanistan since 2001. It was believed to have been in existence for close to a year, a discouraging indicator of America’s diminished ability to keep track of its enemies in Afghanistan with the “light footprint” that the Obama administration has adopted. In the eastern province of Nangarhar, the Islamic State established a wilaya, or province, whose forces gained control of several districts in 2015. Taliban forces have clashed with the Islamic State in Nangarhar, but a rapprochement between the two is not impossible, considering that both despise the Kabul government more than they despise each other. In light of the growing threat, President Obama authorized American forces to target the Islamic State as well as al-Qaeda…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Brussels Attacks Highlight Europe's New Reality: Lili Bayer, Real Clear World, Mar. 22 2016—Two explosions hit Brussels Zaventem airport today, followed by another explosion at the Maelbeek metro station.
Belgium Warned of Attacks. It Wasn’t Enough: Josh Rogin, Bloomberg, Mar. 22, 2016—Only days ago in Brussels, as Western leaders celebrated the arrest of a key terrorist suspect, Belgian officials warned that there were dozens more jihadists at large in the city and that more attacks were being planned. They couldn’t have known how right they were.
The Challenging Road Ahead in Afghanistan: Marvin Weinbaum, Real Clear World, Feb. 22, 2016—Many of the Afghan state's vital signs are weakening. The transition necessitated by the withdrawal of most American and NATO forces has proven exceedingly difficult. Security has diminished, especially over this last year, as the Taliban have made steady military gains.
Facing the Taliban and His Past, an Afghan Leader Aims for a Different Ending: Mujib Mashal, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2015—When mujahedeen guerrillas captured this southern provincial capital in 1993, Gen. Abdul Jabar Qahraman was the Afghan government commander on the last flight out, surrendering the city. In a resonant twist more than two decades later, Mr. Qahraman is again the face of the Afghan government here as an insurgency threatens to overrun his post.