Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Monday, February 24, 2014
War watch February 24 , 2014 - Syria Rebels in continued disarray as rebel in fighting sees another rebel leader murdered , Assad forces continue to take advantage of rebel in fighting , Saudis want to send heavy arms into this quagmire in Syria...... US Mulls Plan for 3,000 Troops to Stay in Afghanistan , while Pentagon Still Wants at Least 10,000 , meanwhile the Taliban just keep flexing their muscles ... another day of death dealing in Iraq
Publicly, President Obama and other officials have lamented the lack of an obvious military solution to the civil war in Syria. Privately, and sometimes not so privately, they’ve continued pushing forward with plans for direct military intervention in Syria.
Recently though, officials have talked of the possibility of launching air strikes against targets inside Syria, attacking al-Qaeda-linked rebels as well as government targets, and insinuating the US as yet another belligerent force in the already complex civil war.
President Obama intended a full-scale invasion of Syria last year, but was foiled by overwhelming public opposition to the war. The plan now seems to be to pretend a war is not in the offing while advancing it every chance they get, hoping that they can get the war more or less under way before anyone has a chance to object.
Israeli warplanes launched two separate bombing runs against the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon today, destroying a Hezbollah base in the area and causing an as-yet-unknown number of casualties.
The attacks hit the outskirts of the village of Nabi Sheet, and reports claim they targeted a “qualitative weapons shipment” bound for Hezbollah. The base destroyed was a training base for Hezbollah, and proximity to the border fueled speculation of it being a weapons smuggling point.
The Shi’ite villages in the Bekaa Valley have recently been under regular attack by Syrian rebel factions associated with al-Qaeda, who treat any Shi’ite villages as “Hezbollah strongholds.” The villagers now have to worry about Israel attacking them as well.
Israeli officials refused to confirm the attack, as usual, but did say that they believe there are “efforts to move serious weaponry from Syria to Lebanon” recently.
Israeli officials have long tried to simplify the Syrian Civil War, arguing that whoever replaced President Assad would be preferable. As al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and others take over much of the country, they’re starting to rethink that.
Indeed, Israeli officials say that the rise of “jihadist threats” like AQI means they’re going to considerably grow the size of their military intelligence agency, saying they are concerned al-Qaeda will be attacking them in the near future.
Not that military intelligence is just focusing on Syria. Israel is always gearing up for a “future war” on Lebanon, and also emphasized that many of the intelligence people are picking out targets for whenever that war starts.
Israel attacked Lebanon earlier today, launching two strikes on the outskirts of a village near the Syrian border. This is not believed to be the start of Israel’s long-planned next Lebanon war, but just one of those random attacks they do sometimes.
Soury’s faction is part of the Islamic Front, nominally the “moderate” Islamist faction, but Soury had bragged of close ties to al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri. AQI, by contrast, continues to use the term “al-Qaeda” in their name, but has been disavowed by al-Qaeda’s parent organizationfor being too brutal.
Islamic Front fighters issued statements on social media calling for revenge attacks on AQI, saying they have been pushed “too far this time.” The assassination took place at Ahrar al-Sham headquarters in Aleppo.
Islamic Front and AQI have been fighting over territory for months, mostly in the northwestern portion of the country. Though Islamic Front initially seemed to have momentum, they have since lost much of that territory, and AQI seems to be securely back on the offensive.
Previous reports had indicated the Saudis wanted to provide Chinese anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels, and Pakistan makes its own version of the Chinese shoulder-mounted missiles.
The plan is for Saudi Arabia to buy the missiles, have them shipped to Jordan, where the US is carrying out “training” for rebels, and smuggle them into Syria through there.
The US has claimed it is opposed to the shipments, since the rebels are openly talking about shooting down civilian airplanes with them. Past US opposition kept the shipments out, however, and there is no indication that the nominal US criticism right now is even slowing the process down.
President Barack Obama has ordered the Pentagon to plan for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year if the Afghan government refuses to sign a security agreement with the United States, the White House said Tuesday.
However, in a call with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama also said the U.S. could keep a limited troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014 if the agreement is ultimately signed. He acknowledged that Karzai was unlikely to sign the bilateral security agreement, leaving the fate of the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to the winner of the country's April elections.
"We will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA (bilateral security agreement) with Afghanistan later this year," the White House said in a summary of the call between the two leaders, adding that "the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition."
Tuesday's call was the first known contact between Obama and Karzai since last June, underscoring the White House's frustration with the Afghan leader's refusal to sign the security agreement. The White House has repeatedly said it would not leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan without an agreement.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Obama's order to the Pentagon "a prudent step," given the likelihood that Karzai will not sign a deal. But he said that the Pentagon would continue to make plans for a possible U.S. mission in Afghanistan after this year and that this mission would focus on counterterrorism and training Afghan security forces.
"Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year, should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014," the White House said.
Hagel will discuss the future of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan with NATO leaders during a summit this week in Brussels. Hagel said planning for what is known as "the zero option" is a prudent step, given that Karzai has made clear he is unlikely to sign the security deal.
The U.S. currently has about 33,600 troops in Afghanistan, down from a high of 100,000 in 2010. Obama has been weighing options from the Pentagon that would keep as many as 10,000 troops in the country after this year, contingent on the security agreement. But some White House officials are believed to support keeping a smaller troop presence.
The longer the decision takes, the more expensive and risky the troop drawdown will become. With less time to move troops and equipment, the military will have to fly assets out rather than use cheaper ground transportation.
If the security pact is not ultimately signed, the Pentagon's biggest challenge will be closing large military facilities, including the Bagram and Kandahar air bases. Shutting down a massive base typically takes about 10 months, but military officials said they are prepared to do it much more quickly — although far more expensively — if necessary.
Military officials said commanders would still like to have about six months to shut the facilities down. If there is no security agreement by late summer, the officials said closing the bases by the end of the year becomes far more difficult.
Though usually the Obama Administration is emphasizing the “zero option” for Afghanistan in an attempt to coax President Hamid Karzai into giving in to their demands, officials say the focus right now is on a 3,000 troop plan.
The plan would leave behind 3,000 occupation troops, pretty much entirely at Kabul and Bagram, for a more or less open-ended “counter-terrorism operation” that officials intend to present as something less than a war, despite continued combat.
Pentagon commanders are said to be opposed to this plan, and are pushing one that includes at least 10,000 stay-behind troops in a similarly open-ended occupation role. Other options are being discussed that might end the occupation in 2016, though these don’t seem favored by officials.
Officials say they’re not really talking to Karzai about signing off on a troop deal anymore “because it doesn’t get us anywhere.” Rather, they’re figuring on having the plans in place and then getting Karzai’s successor to sign off on whatever they decide.
An Afghan National Army outpost along the Kunar Province border with Pakistan was overrun this morning by Taliban fighters who had apparently launched the raid from across the border, killing 21 soldiers. One Taliban fighter, an apparent suicide bomber, was also confirmed slain.
The fighters raided the remote outpost pre-dawn, killing many of the soldiers in their sleep, and captured at least five other soldiers, who they are still holding. Taliban spokesmen say they also looted a large cache of weapons at the site.
Officials say the Taliban fighters outnumbered the troops at the outpost, and that a “Taliban sympathizer” was also likely at the base, helping them launch the strike.
The Afghan military sent more troops to chase the Taliban out of the base, and those troops were also caught in an ambush en route by the suicide bomber. Officials say none of the troops were killed in that ambush, and that the search continues for the soldiers who are help captive.
Clashes, Bombings, Shootings Leave 96 Dead, 95 Wounded Across Iraq