Sen. Lindsey Graham has accused Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai of “empowering” Taliban terrorists by releasing 65 dangerous Afghan “thugs” from jail.
The South Carolina Republican, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned Karzai for freeing the prisoners who pose an immediate threat to U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in the war-torn country, McClatchy reports.
“Karzai is doing a lot of damage to his country and to the relationship between us and Afghanistan,” said Graham, who once traded jokes with Karzai over dinners at his presidential palace in Kabul.
“He’s undercutting a relationship (with the U.S.) that most Afghans want and empowering the Taliban…
“The Taliban look at something like this (the release of prisoners), and they’ve got to be encouraged. I’ve been to that prison dozens of times, and it makes my blood boil to see these thugs walk out of there.”
Graham said he’s been unable to confirm reports that Karzai has held secret talks with the Taliban, Muslim fanatics who ruled the country and imposed strict Islamic laws there until the U.S. invasion in October 2001.
Although the Taliban have recently launched a new offensive in the region, Graham said, “(Karzai) doesn’t treat the Taliban as an insurgency. He calls them ‘wayward brothers’ rather than thugs that are killing people.”
“I’ve known Karzai for 10 years, but he’s getting completely irrational. He’s totally detached from the reality about what’s going on in his own country.”
Graham, who has made several trips to Afghanistan as a senator and as an Air Force Reserve colonel, even met with Karzai in Kabul last month, along with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and pleaded with him to keep the “thugs” behind bars, McClatchy reported.
But Karzai dismissed them, saying that the national detention center in Parwan that housed the inmates and was built with U.S. funds was “a black hole.” Although the jail is guarded by U.S. troops, the Karzai government has authority over the handling of prisoners and claims the 65 detainees were being held without cause.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S troops in Afghanistan, attacked Karzai’s decision because he believes that some of the freed prisoners will join forces with the Taliban insurgency.
“They have killed Afghan men, women and children,” Dunford said, noting that two dozen inmates were tied to roadside bombs, the number one killer of Afghan citizens. “We believe some of the individuals previously released have already returned to the fight.”
Now a furious Graham is fighting back by demanding that Congress cuts off U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, and he’s enlisted the support of House Speaker John Boehner.
“After years of fighting alongside our Afghan partners — who have sustained serious casualties themselves from common enemies — this decision is especially egregious,” said Boehner.
The tense relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. have sunk to an all-time low, with U.S. officials claiming that Karzai has gone back on a bilateral agreement to keep a small military contingent in the country after the remaining 34,000 U.S. troops pull out by the end of the year.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House may now wait until Karzai leaves office in April before attempting to sign a new pact with the next government to keep peace-keeping troops on the ground there.
Expressing growing impatience, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday he doesn’t know what to believe about new assurances from Afghanistan that President Hamid Karzai is moving closer to signing a pact to keep American troops in his country next year as advisers.
“What is coming out of the presidential palace today, or what President Karzai says today, I don’t know,” Hagel told a news conference in Warsaw. “It changes constantly.”
Hagel pointedly noted that Karzai had “agreed — personally agreed — to the bilateral security agreement” negotiated between the two nations last year, yet continues to balk at signing it.
The deal would allow some U.S. service members to remain and keep training Afghan soldiers after most of the 39,000 troops now there withdraw. The 12-year-old U.S. combat mission is set to end in December.
The Obama administration has indicated it might be willing to keep as many as 10,000 military trainers in Afghanistan to advise forces fighting the Taliban insurgency.
Earlier, on his overnight flight from Washington to Warsaw, Hagel told reporters that Karzai’s foot-dragging puts at risk the planning necessary for a post-combat mission.
“You can’t just keep deferring and deferring,” he said, “because at some point, the realities of planning and budgeting — it collides.”
Since the new year, the Obama administration has repeatedly said it needs an agreement signed in weeks, not months, if it is to keep any troops in Afghanistan in 2015.
In Kabul on Thursday, Karzai’s national security adviser voiced optimism about the pact.
Rangin Dadfar Spanta said he has grown more hopeful that the Afghan leader will sign the agreement before leaving office this year. Karzai has repeatedly said he wants to wait to sign the document until after the country chooses his successor in April 5 elections.
At a news conference, Spanta said intense talks in the last few days have made him “more optimistic” that the stalemate can be broken.
“We are working very intensively together with the United States authorities to reach and sign this agreement soon,” Spanta said. “I cannot go today into detail, but I don’t know — since two, three, four days, I am more optimistic compared to last week. Let us wait a few days more.”
If the deal falls apart, Afghanistan could lose up to $15 billion a year in aid, effectively collapsing its fragile economy and making it unable to pay its 350,000-strong army and police.
Hagel, who was visiting Polish leaders to consult on Afghanistan and other security issues, sounded skeptical at his news conference in Warsaw when asked about Spanta’s remarks.
Saying that the Afghan president’s position keeps changing, Hagel noted that U.S. officials, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, have pressed Karzai and “talk with him constantly.” But they have limited ability to influence his decision, Hagel said.
He added that U.S. allies who are willing to help train and advise Afghan forces beyond 2014 also are eager to know if there will be a U.S.-Afghan security agreement soon.
Insurgents in Afghanistan have intensified attacks recently in a campaign to regain territory as foreign forces prepare to leave the country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai believes the United States has conducted a series of bombings and terror attacks in his country as part of a campaign to destabilize his regime and draw attention away from airstrikes that caused civilian casualties.
Citing unnamed senior Afghan officials, The Washington Post reported late Monday thatKarzai blames the U.S. for the Jan. 17 bombing of a popular Lebanese-style restaurant in Kabul that killed 21 people, among them three Americans, as well as assaults on the Justice Ministry in Kabul and a provincial courthouse that took 50 lives.
The Taliban has taken credit for the attacks, but Karzai still blames the U.S., pro-Karzai sources told the Post, because he believes the attack against the restaurant was “too sophisticated to be the handiwork of [the] Taliban.” The Post also noted that Karzai has acknowledged there is no evidence to back up his charges.
In response, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham, told the Post, “It’s a deeply conspiratorial view that’s divorced from reality.”
He suggested Karzai’s claims could be part of an effort to “throw us off balance” because he has yet to sign a security agreement already negotiated that would leave a substantial U.S. military presence in the country beyond the scheduled withdrawal date at the end of this year.
“It flies in the face of logic and morality to think that we would aid the enemy we’re trying to defeat,” said Cunningham.
Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, also said that “any suggestion that the U.S. has been involved in any way in suicide attacks or deliberate attacks on Afghan civilians is ludicrous.
“We have spent 12 years trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan in the face of threats from terrorist and insurgent networks . . . To suggest otherwise does a grave disservice to those who have sacrificed for the people of Afghanistan.”
The latest claim from Karzai follows a charge he made last year alleging the U.S. had joined with the Taliban to conspire against him, The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time.
WASHINGTON — U.S. efforts to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a long-term security agreement according to Washington’s timetable will likely fail, the lead American negotiator has warned the Obama administration, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
In a classified cable that the Post said was transmitted in recent days, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham wrote that he did not think Karzai would agree to sign the agreement before Afghanistan’s presidential election in April, the newspaper said, citing U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Relations between the two countries are already near breaking point over Karzai’s refusal to sign the security deal to shape the U.S. military presence after most foreign troops leave this year
The United States wants the Afghanistan government to sign the agreement in matter of weeks if a contingent of U.S. troops is to remain there after 2014, the White House said on Monday.
Without a deal, the United States could pull out all troops, the “zero option,” leaving Afghan forces to battle the Taliban on their own.
Karzai has called that an empty threat and suggested any security deal could wait until after the April elections.
The United States has 46,000 troops in Afghanistan, but that figure is set to fall to 34,000 by early 2014.
In a another move likely to strain U.S.-Afghan ties, a spokesman for Karzai said on Thursday that Afghanistan had enough evidence to try only 16 of 88 prisoners the United States considers a threat to security and plans to free the remaining detainees.
Washington strongly opposes their release because it says the prisoners being held in Afghanistan have been involved in the wounding or killing of U.S. and coalition troops.
An embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, says the attack happened at around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday, when “two rounds of indirect fire impacted the U.S. Embassy compound.” Indirect fire can refer to either mortars or rockets.
The Taliban claimed they fired four rockets at the embassy on Wednesday and inflicted heavy casualties. But the insurgents often exaggerate their claims.
Meanwhile, a roadside bombing in eastern Kabul wounded three Afghan policemen Wednesday.
Kabul police chief, Mohammad Zahir, says one suspect was arrested over that attack. He says police later uncovered an unexploded bomb in the same area and successfully neutralized it.
NEW YORK — Lawsuits claiming Saudi Arabia aided al-Qaida and should be held liable for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack were revived by a U.S. appeals court in a decision that allows victims and their families another chance to seek compensation from the kingdom.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York Thursday said a lower-court judge “rested on an error of law” in rejecting a request to reopen the cases against the country’s government and an affiliated charity.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina won a ruling dismissing them from the lawsuits on the grounds that a foreign government is immune from suit.
Subsequently, the appeals court made inconsistent rulings on whether the terrorism claims made in the case fall under sovereign-immunity rule, according to yesterday’s opinion.
The lower-court judge should have granted a request to re- open the cases to allow the inconsistency to be addressed, the appeals court said.
The inconsistent rulings caused “a disparity” between two cases “where none should ever have existed,” the appeals court said.
“We conclude that the circumstances of this case are extraordinary,” warranting its re-opening the three-judge panel said in the ruling. The case will be returned to the lower-court judge for consideration as to whether it should move forward.
Michael Kellogg, a lawyer for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, didn’t immediately return a call yesterday seeking comment on the ruling.
Jerry S. Goldman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the decision is “soundly grounded and restores this case to the proper procedural posture.”
“This is a big step forward in the process of obtaining fair justice for the victims of this tragedy,” he said.
Goldman’s clients include family members of John O’Neill, a former federal counter-terrorism agent who had led investigations of Osama bin Laden and was working as the chief of security for New York’s World Trade Center when the attacks occurred.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest source of funds for militant Islamic groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2009 cable obtained by Wikileaks.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Six U.S. soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, NATO said, the largest death toll in a single incident to hit the international force in months.
“The cause of the crash is under investigation; however, initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time,” a NATO statement said.
U.S. defense officials said the soldiers killed in the crash, which occurred in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province, were American. One person survived the crash but suffered injuries.
Zabul’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, said a crash had taken place in the Shah Joy district of Zabul.
A Taliban spokesman claimed on Twitter that Taliban militants had shot down a helicopter on Tuesday in the same district. The Taliban often claims responsibility for incidents in which it is not involved.
Aircraft crashes are not uncommon in mountainous Afghanistan.
The worst such incident was in August 2011 when the Taliban shot down a transport helicopter, killing all 38 people on board, including 25 U.S. special operations soldiers.
The Pentagon said that about 67,000 NATO-led troops remain in Afghanistan, including about 43,000 from the United States. Foreign forces are looking to curtail their decade-long fight there.
The United States continues to press Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a bilateral security deal that would allow Washington to keep some troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of next year.
Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed one day before Pakistani officials say they were scheduled to send a three-member team to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.
Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar, told a local TV news channel, Geo, that the drone strike was an attempt to “sabotage” Pakistan’s peace talks with Taliban.
But many believe Mehsud’s death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan.
One of these groups is headed by Khan Said Sajna, the successor of Waliur Rehman, a militant commander who favoured talks with Islamabad and once contested for the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). Rehman was killed in a drone strike in May.
Mr Sajna is one of those now tipped to succeed Mehsud as the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan’s government has issued a statement strongly condemning the drone attack, saying such strikes were a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Friday’s strike targeted Mehsud’s vehicle in the Dande Darpakhel, some 5km (3miles) north of the region’s main town, Miranshah.
A senior US intelligence official told the Associated Press that the US received positive confirmation on Friday morning that he had been killed.
Hakimullah Mehsud had come to prominence in 2007 as a commander under the militant group’s founder Baitullah Mehsud, with the capture of 300 Pakistani soldiers adding to his prestige among the militants.
In January 2010 he gained further notoriety when he appeared in a video alongside a Jordanian who is said to have blown himself up, killing seven CIA agents in Afghanistan to avenge Baitullah Mehsud’s death.
Hakimullah Mehsud had a $5m FBI bounty on his head and was thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.
Mehsud became leader of the Pakistani Taliban in 2009, aged 30, after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud died in a US drone strike at his father-in-law’s residence in South Waziristan.
The strike against Baitullah Mehsud reportedly came after repeated complaints by Pakistani officials that the Americans were not hitting militant groups who attacked targets in Pakistan.
Hakimullah Mehsud spoke exclusively to the BBC in a recent interview
His second-in-command, Waliur Rehman, died in a drone strike in May.
The attack targeting him comes on the same day that the Pakistani government announced it was about to send a delegation to North Waziristan to try to get peace negotiations with the Taliban under way.
Pakistani Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif had pledged to talk with the Taliban to try to end its campaign of violence, which has left thousands dead in bombings and shootings across the country.
In a rare interview with the BBC two weeks ago, Mehsud said he was open to “serious talks” with the government but said he had not yet been approached.
Mehsud denied carrying out recent deadly attacks in public places, saying his targets were “America and its friends”.
He had loose control over more than 30 militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
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It took a long time, but finally Jon Stewart is not reporting the fake news. In a rare moment of genuine humility, the Daily Show host conducted possibly his most compelling interview to date—with a teenager from Swat Valley in Pakistan.
At the ripe old age of 11, Malala Yousafzai launched her blog (under a pseudonym) for BBC, detailing her life under the oppressive rule of the IslamicTaliban. A few years later, a terrorist’s bullet entered her head, seeking to silence her forever—and to silence any other would-be voices of freedom.
By Oct. 9, 2012, everyone in her region knew who she was. She was no longer hiding behind a fake name but openly challenging the terrorists. On that “muggy day last October, a Taliban fighter leapt onto a school bus, shouted, ‘Who is Malala?’ and shot her point-blank in the head for speaking out about her God-given right to attend school.”
Amazingly, the young girl survived and is now shining the light ever brighter on the oppression of Islamic terrorism.
According to Yousafzai, the Taliban terrorists have bombed more than 400 schools in Swat. Innocent victims have been flogged and many murdered systematically. These victims are not from the West. They are not Christians or Jews. They are not Israeli or American. These are Pakistani Muslims who are simply not Islamic enough for the Taliban.
When young girls were forbidden to study, young Malala said to herself, “Why should I wait for someone else. … Why don’t I raise my voice? … I need to tell the world what is happening in Swat.”
While the West placates terrorism and does everything it can to pretend there is a simple answer to Islamic fanaticism, this young girl took the Taliban head-on. She went on radio and TV and did newspaper interviews, calling for girls to be educated.
And last week, she shared with Stewart a tale to which Arabs of Gaza can relate. When the Taliban came to her city, they offered a better life—better services than they were receiving from their own government, such as a speedier justice system. However, once in power, the oppression began and women were stuck in their homes, not allowed to go to the market or to school.
Malala believes the answer to terrorism is not war but education. While I don’t share the brave teenager’s pacifist views, I do think she has a point. When it comes to the Islamic world, there is a narrative, which spreads like a deadly virus. Young Muslim children learn from the time they are weaned from their mother’s breast that the West, particularly the United States, wants to destroy Islam. The narrative is drilled into the minds of not only radical Muslims, but moderate ones as well.
My friend Umar Mulinde grew up as a Muslim in Uganda. After becoming a believer, he wanted to visit Israel. When he discovered his Israeli cab driver was an Arab, he was stunned. When he noticed most of the workers at his hotel were Arabs, he was flabbergasted. This went against the narrative that had been drilled into him since he was young—that Israel oppresses and kills Arabs and that Arabs have no freedom in Israel. (One of our three Supreme Court justices is Arab!)
I believe the West needs to focus on education more than on drones and missiles. I didn’t say instead of, but more than. The truth is that force must be used, since a lack of force invites more terror. President Obama’s show of camaraderie in his now infamous Cairo friendshipspeech of 2008 did nothing to stop terror. In fact, terror has increased.
Malala, through education, whether from her parents or by the fact that it was in a British hospital that her life was saved, clearly rejects this narrative that the U.S. is out to destroy Islam or that Jews are evil. Her interview took place in the heart of the America—in New York City—and her host, Jon Stewart, is Jewish.
Sadly, most Western nations reject using force or education altogether and pursue the path of placation instead. In the West, you can burn a Bible, but God forbid you burn a Quran. Draw a funny picture of Jesus, but don’t you dare draw a cartoon of Muhammed. Make movies and write books that Jesus was gay or had an affair with Mary Magdalene—not a problem; but don’t focus on the perversions of Muhammed, who had sexual relations with his 9-year-old wife!
The most ironic event to take place in light of Malala’s newfound fame is that just days ago, she did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. Many expected her to take home the prize, but instead it went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (where were they on Aug. 23?). I don’t mock the work of the OPCW; by all accounts, they do good work.
Duesche Welle, the German equivalent of the BBC, wrote in January 2013 that Malala may have become “the most famous teenager in the world.”
United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a U.N. petition in Yousafzai’s name, using the slogan “I am Malala,” demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015—a petition that helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill.
In the April 29, 2013, issue of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured on the magazine’s front cover.
Time magazine also named her as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
On July 12, Yousafzai spoke at the U.N. to call for worldwide access to education.
Yousafzai is the recipient of the Sakharov Prize for 2013, an award handed out to those who fight for human rights.
In addition, her first book, I Am Malala,just came out last week.
So why would such a brave young girl get the Nobel snub? Journalist Leha Gilbert asks, “How could that brilliant, courageous Pakistani girl be overlooked in favor of some faceless, virtually anonymous agency?”
My guess is that the left-leaning Nobel committee was too gutless to name someone who is confronting Islamic radicalism as an award recipient. Who knows? They may even think of recent the heroine, Who is she to challenge deeply held community values? If it weren’t for people like her, the radicals wouldn’t be so … well, radical. I would like to believe that no decent-minded human being could think that way, but so many progressives agree with Muslims that Israel (the only true democracy in the region, with freedom for all her citizens) is the problem in the Middle East—not Islamic fundamentalism.
Gilbert asks some probing questions:
Is it safer for the Nobel Committee to ignore the reality of radical Islamist violence than to risk putting a spotlight on it?
Is it more comfortable to brush off Malala Yousafzai’s story as an unfortunate but isolated incident in some remote village?
Or is it simply politically incorrect to applaud her?
How ironic that a young lady who stands up to Islamic bullies may have been snubbed by the Nobel gang because of their fear of those very bullies. They are not Malala!
Ron Cantoris the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, was released April 16. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.
KABUL, Afghanistan — A security deal to allow some U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida was at risk of collapse Tuesday after President Hamid Karzai said he was prepared to walk away from negotiations.
The United States has pushed for the bilateral security pact (BSA) to be signed by the end of this month so that the U.S.-led NATO military coalition can schedule its withdrawal of 87,000 combat troops by the end of next year.
But Karzai said he refused to be rushed into signing the deal, and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly to be convened in a month’s time.
“The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways,” Karzai said in a BBC interview in Kabul.
According to the Afghan government, talks ground to a halt over U.S. demands for the right to conduct unilateral military operations after 2014, and on how the United States would pledge to protect Afghanistan.
Defense SecretaryChuck Hagel last week described the deal as “critically important” and said he hoped it would be signed by the end of October.
The collapse of a similar agreement with Iraq in 2011 led to the United States pulling all its troops out of the country, which is currently suffering its worst sectarian violence since 2008.
But Kabul has dismissed the possibility that the United States may enact the “zero option” of a complete pull-out after its troops have fought the Taliban for 13 years since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Karzai is keen to secure a legacy as a strong leader before he steps down next year, and his stance on the BSA matches his incendiary accusation that the NATO war effort has caused “a lot of suffering” without delivering any gains.
“The president is trying to show he’s tough, he’s not a puppet, he’s not giving in easily and he’s there for his people,” Waheed Wafa, the director of Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, told AFP.
“Criticizing the West has become a habit of the president’s. Maybe it is because it is his last days in office,” Wafa said, adding the BSA deal could still be signed after tortuous last-minute negotiations.
After Karzai’s latest comments, Washington said it remained committed to talks and urged Kabul to stay focused on concluding the deal.
“We’ve made progress, but these kind of negotiations are complex with any country,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We always expected there would be sticking points and bumps in the road . . . We need to really be focused on this agreement and get it done soon.”
President Barack Obama this week said he would consider a limited US mission after 2014 only if the Afghan government “was willing to work with us in a cooperative way that would protect our troops.”
One key bone of contention is how the security pact should define an attack on Afghanistan that would trigger U.S. protection.
“We believe that when terrorists are sent to commit suicide attacks here, that is also aggression,” Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said recently, referring to Pakistan-based militants whom Afghanistan believes are supported by Pakistan’s intelligence services.
Karzai officially suspended BSA talks in June in a furious reaction to the Taliban opening a liaison office in Qatar that was presented as an embassy for a government in waiting.
The Taliban regime was driven from power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001 for sheltering the al-Qaida leaders behind the 9/11 attacks.
Since then the Islamist rebels have fought a bloody insurgency, and both the United States and Afghan governments now back peace talks to end the conflict.