Monday, October 24, 2016

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WNU Editor: The things that you can find in the countryside.

U.S. And North Korean Officials Pursuing Peace Talks?

A North Korean delegation led by its deputy foreign minister held talks with former government officials of the United States in Malaysia for a second day on Saturday to discuss pending issues such as the North's nuclear and missile tests. / Yonhap

Korea Times: N. Korean diplomats meet with ex-US officials in Malaysia

A North Korean delegation led by its deputy foreign minister held talks with former government officials of the United States in Malaysia for a second day on Saturday to discuss pending issues such as the North's nuclear and missile tests.

The U.S.-North Korea contact, although it is informal or unofficial, came after North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test in September, just eight months after its previous nuke test.

"I came here through Beijing," the North's deputy ambassador to the United Nations Jang Il-hun told Yonhap News Agency. As for topics discussed during the dialogue, he said the two sides talked about several "pending issues and each other's thoughts on them."

Read more ....

Update #1: Informal Talks between US and North Korea over Denuclearization hit Big Snag (China Topix)
Update #2: US Delegate: N. Korea Calls for Peace Treaty at Kuala Lumpur Track 2 Talks (KBS)
Update #3: US exploring new options for N. Korean policy (Korea Times)

WNU Editor: The U.S. Government is pouring "cold water" on these talks .... U.S. gov't dismisses rare talks involving N.K. diplomats as 'Track 2' meeting (Yonhap News Agency). The South Koreans are very sceptical .... Seoul sees little progress at informal US-NK talks (Korea Herald).

What's my take .... it looks like the back channels between the U.S. and North Korea are very active right now.

Picture Of The Day

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
Soldiers of the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) celebrate while standing in trenches in Lelo, outside Malakal, northern South Sudan, on October 16, 2016. Heavy fighting broke out on Ocotober 14 between SPLA (Government) and opposition forces in Wajwok and Lalo villages, outside Malakal. SPLA commanders claim they succeeded to keep their positions and assure their forces just responded "on self defence". © AFP 2016/ ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN

Somalia's al-Shabaab Militants Recapture Key Town In Central Somalia

Reuters: Somalia's Shabaab seize third town this month after peacekeepers withdraw

Islamist militant group al Shabaab on Sunday seized control of yet another town in central Somalia after it was abandoned by African Union peacekeepers, a militant spokesman and a local official said, the third to fall to insurgents this month.

On Sunday, an Ethiopian contingent abandoned the town of Halgan in the Hiran region, allowing the group's fighters to enter soon after, said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman on military operations.

A military offensive launched in 2014 by AU forces and the Somali army pushed out of major strategic centers, but the insurgents, who once held sway over much of the Horn of Africa country, still control some settlements and rural areas.

Read more ....

More News On Somalia's al-Shabaab Militants Recapturing A Key Town In Central Somalia

Shabaab takes Somali town after Ethiopia troop pullout -- AFP
Somalia's extremists re-take town in country's center -- AP
Al Shabaab takes over Somali town after Ethiopian troop pull out -- Africa News
Somalia: Al Shabaab militants retake control of town in Southern Somalia -- Garowe Online

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Saudi Arabia Resumes Its Bombing Campaign In Yemen As Ceasefire Ends

DW: Saudi-led warplanes pound Yemen after ceasefire ends

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has resumed airstrikes in Sanaa, hours after a three-day truce expired in Yemen. The ceasefire was declared in order to supply crucial humanitarian aid to civilians.

Yemen's government continued to blame Shiite Houthi rebels for not upholding the 72-hour truce, forcing the Saudi-led coalition to strike targets in the capital, Sanaa. "The [Houthi] coup militias deliberately thwarted the truce, and that further convinced our military and political leadership of their unwillingness to accept peace," Yemen's army chief of staff Mohammed Ali al-Miqdashi told reporters.

Airstrikes were reported from military sites near Sanaa, in the Hafa camp towards the east and the Nahdein area in the south. Planes also targeted the Houthi-controlled city of Hodeida and Taiz, the Reuters news agency reported residents as saying.

Read more ....

More News On The End Of The Ceasefire In Yemen

Saudi-led coalition stages airstrikes after Yemen truce ends -- AP
Airstrikes begin as ceasefire expires in Yemen -- UPI
Saudi-led air strikes pound Sanaa once again as Yemen truce expires -- The Independent
Yemen raids intensify as UN call to extend truce ignored -- AFP
Saudi-led airstrikes recommence as Yemen ceasefire ends -- ABC News Online
Airstrikes in Yemen Resume as Cease-fire Ends -- VOA
Sanaa air raids resume as Yemen truce expires, say residents -- Reuters
Coalition resumes air strikes as Yemen truce ends -- The National

White House Stops Plans To Send Heavier Weapons To CIA-Backed Rebels In Syria

President Barack Obama is photographed through the window as he speaks in the Oval Office during a conference call at the White House in Washington, June 2, 2014.

Washington Post: Plans to send heavier weapons to CIA-backed rebels in Syria stall amid White House skepticism

As rebel-held sections of Aleppo crumbled under Russian bombing this month, the Obama administration was secretly weighing plans to rush more firepower to CIA-backed units in ­Syria.

The proposal, which involved weapons that might help those forces defend themselves against Russian aircraft and artillery, made its way onto the agenda of a recent meeting President Obama held with his national security team.

And that’s as far as it got. Neither approved nor rejected, the plan was left in a state of ambiguity that U.S. officials said reflects growing administration skepticism about escalating a covert CIA program that has trained and armed thousands of Syrian fighters over the past three years.

The operation has served as the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside. But U.S. officials said there are growing doubts that even an expanded version could achieve that outcome because of Moscow’s intervention. Obama, officials said, now seems inclined to leave the fate of the CIA program up to the next occupant of the White House.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: There is no hint of stalling/ambiguity/or scepticism coming from the Kremlin on what needs to be done in Syria .... Kremlin says all of Syria must be “liberated” (AP).

Aleppo Ceasefire Ends. Heavy Fighting Returns

Wall Street Journal: Fighting Returns to Aleppo After Cease-Fire Ends

Besieged Syrian city sees fresh clashes after three-day ‘humanitarian pause’

ANTAKYA, Turkey—Fighting returned to the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday following the end of a three-day humanitarian cease-fire that expired with no planned aid deliveries or medical evacuations.

Russia implemented the cease-fire along with Syrian armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the city.

Moscow billed the move as an opening for residents and rebels to leave opposition-controlled neighborhoods. But no aid arrived and rebel factions vowed to remain and continue fighting.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said assistance couldn’t be delivered because of security conditions. Russia’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Read more ....

More News On The End of The Aleppo Ceasefire

Syria: heavy clashes mark end of Aleppo ceasefire -- The Guardian
Cease-fire crumbles in Aleppo as fighting resumes -- Washington Post
Syria: heavy clashes mark end of Aleppo ceasefire -- The Guardian
Aleppo: Battle for Syrian city intensifies after ceasefire ends -- ABC News Online
Fighting intensifies in Syria's Aleppo -- Al Jazeera
Aleppo cease-fire ends in Syria, bombing resumes -- USA Today
Aleppo: Mortar attack marks end of ceasefire -- CNN
Russian Jets Pummel Aleppo, Kurds and Syrian Rebels Clash North of City -- VOA
Battle for Aleppo intensifies after cease-fire ends -- Daily Sabah
Aleppo rebels issue warning to civilians -- DW

Drone Video Shows Iraqi Army Preparing For Mosul Offensive (Video)

RT: Drone films Iraqi army piling up forces near Mosul before attack on ISIS (VIDEO)

Spectacular drone footage released by RT's RUPTLY video agency shows the Iraqi army amassing its forces at the gates of Mosul, preparing to retake the city on Monday as the large-scale government offensive enters its second week.

Scores of Iraqi army armored vehicles have been stationed at a camp on the southeast edge of Iraq’s second-largest city, which has been for two years an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold. The footage captures vehicles surrounded by the Iraqi army servicemen scattered on the vast camp territory. Some of the excavators are still digging up trenches in last-minute preparations for what is anticipated as a pinnacle of the operation that has been under way for a week already

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Impressive video.

So Much For Iraqi Government Promises That They Will Help The Refugees From Mosul

A tent camp was being prepared in Khazer, Iraq, to absorb the expected flow of refugees fleeing Mosul. Credit Azad Lashkari/Reuters

The Telegraph: Iraqi troops 'snatch Mosul refugees’ tents and water'

The Iraqi army has been accused of taking tents from refugees for their own troops, despite pledging to help the hundreds of thousands expected to be made homeless by their operation to liberate Mosul from Isil.

When the Telegraph visited a camp in the town of Tinah, near Qayyarah in northern Iraq, this week they were told by local Iraqi police guarding the site that soldiers had come and loaded the tents, as well as eight UN-supplied water tanks, onto their trucks and left.

“They were coming from Baghdad, they said they were the rapid response unit,” said one officer who did not wish to be named to protect his identity.

Read more ....

Update: Iraqi troops in Mosul 'took tents and water from refugees they pledged to liberate' (IBTimes)

WNU Editor: This is not how you win the "hearts and minds" of the local population.

The EU Expects A Flood Of Islamic State Fighters Fleeing To Europe Once Mosul Falls

Washington Post: E.U. authorities brace for wave of Islamic State fighters after Mosul assault

BRUSSELS — A long-awaited offensive this week to dislodge the Islamic State from its stronghold city of Mosul is fueling fears of renewed terrorist attacks, as European counterterrorism officials say more fighters are returning home after waging jihad in Syria and Iraq.

The security concerns are a major focus of European intelligence agencies as the Iraqi army and its partners press the assault on Mosul, which the Islamic State has used as a capital for planning and operations for more than two years. Attacks in Paris and Brussels in recent years have been conducted by locally born attackers who in some cases trained with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, then returned home.

The threat underlines a central dilemma facing leaders of nations where the Islamic State has carried out terrorist attacks: Even as they support efforts to defeat the group on the ground, they risk dislodging its adherents and casting them elsewhere. Top officials say that they are raising their vigilance as thousands of people stream out of Mosul, which is under heavy bombardment in the largest operation for Iraqi security forces since they were formed after toppling Saddam Hussein.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: If they remain in Iraq they will eventually be hunted down and killed. Faced with such an option .... I expect most will flee to Syria, and the rest (especially the European fighters) will flee back to Europe.

U.S. Accelerates Its Killings Of Islamic State Leaders

Qayyarah Howitzer
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin howitzer conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The support provided by the Paladin teams denies safe havens to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant while providing Iraqi forces with vital artillery capabilities during their advance. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht

Defense One: US Special Operators Accelerate Killings of ISIS Leaders

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says this will weaken Mosul’s defenders and stop attacks in the United States.

ERBIL, Iraq – U.S. special operators in northern Iraq and Syria are killing Islamic State leaders at a faster pace, disrupting the organization’s defense of Mosul and, more importantly to Pentagon leaders, their ability to plot attacks against the United States and other targets outside the region.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Sunday visit with American and coalition forces at the Joint Operations Center in Erbil, the Kurdish capital in northern Iraq, said he commended American fighters here who are supporting “elements in Syria” and working to envelop Raqqa. Quickening the pace of targeting ISIS leaders, known in military parlance as “high-value targets” or “high-value individuals,” has hurt the terrorist group’s ability to launch external “attacks aimed at our own people, our own country, and friends and allies,” he said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The U.S. may kill its leaders .... but in the end it is the ideology that spawned this movement that needs to be killed.

The Battle For Mosul -- News Updates October 23, 2016

BBC: Mosul offensive: Turkish and Kurdish forces launch attacks on IS

Kurdish forces have carried out new attacks on positions of so-called Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq to retake the town of Bashiqa, near Mosul.

Kurdish Peshmerga commanders said they made large advances into IS territory and secured part of a highway that will limit IS's freedom of movement.

Turkey joined the fight against IS on Sunday, directing artillery fire at jihadist positions in Bashiqa.

The Iraqi PM had rejected an offer of Turkish involvement on Saturday.

Read more ....

The Battle For Mosul -- News Updates October 23, 2016

Iraqi Kurds claim capture of town in advance on Mosul -- Reuters
Iraqi forces advance near Mosul as IS attacks western town -- AP
Iraqi forces push into town near Mosul after IS group assault on Kirkuk -- France 24
Battle for Mosul: Turkey confirms military involvement -- Al Jazeera
Iraqi Kurds, Turkish Artillery Pound IS Stronghold Near Mosul -- VOA
Peshmerga forces 5 miles from Iraq's Mosul in key battle against ISIS -- CNN
Iraqi forces just three miles outside Mosul after dawn offensive on Isis -- The Independent
Iraqi forces liberated 9 villages on 7th day of offensive -- RUDAW
Iraqi, Kurdish forces intensify fighting to take back Mosul from 'Islamic State' -- DW
Islamic State lights sulfur plant ablaze to slow Iraqi advance on Mosul -- UPI
Source: ISIS executes hundreds of Mosul area residents -- CNN
ISIS kills hundreds in Mosul as Iraqi forces close in: report -- The Hill
Iraq turns down Turkey's help in battle for Mosul -- Al Jazeera
Mosul: Turkey insists its forces 'cannot remain idle' -- BBC

Iraq Bans Alcohol

Alcohol is readily available in the small shops and bars of Baghdad. BBC

The Independent: Iraq parliament bans alcohol in surprise vote

Opponents say law violates constitution guaranteeing traditions of religious minorities such as Christians

Iraq's parliament has voted to ban the sale, import and production of alcohol in a surprise move. Proponents of the ban argue the ban is justified by the constitution, which prohibits any law contradicting Islam.

Opponents say it violates the same constitution which guarantees the traditions of religious minorities such as Christians and have vowed to appeal against the decision.

Those violating the law will be fined between 10 million and 25 million dinars (roughly £7,000 to £17,500).

Read more ....

WNU Editor: In a country that is being torn apart by sectarian and religious strife, war and terrorism, corruption and poverty .... banning alcohol is the priority for the Iraqi parliament.

More News On Iraq Banning Alcohol

Iraq alcohol: Parliament imposes ban in a surprise move -- BBC
Iraq parliament in surprise vote to ban alcohol -- AFP
Iraq's parliament passes law banning alcohol -- The Guardian/AP
Iraqi parliament bans alcohol, opponents to appeal ‘unconstitutional’ measure -- RT
Why Has Iraq Banned Alcohol? Opponents Say They Will Appeal The Move -- IBTimes

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Editor's Note

The girl friend's basement is flooded (it looks like the sump-pump broke). So much for my day off where I can catch up on stuff. Must rush out to see what I can do (fortunately I am good at plumbing) .... blogging will return when I get back .... and I have no idea on when that will be.

Update Sunday 12:40 AM EST: One thing I learned from my dad is to never buy property that has a high risk of being flooded .... a lesson that the GF sadly learned today. Fortunately her basement is bare-bones  .... so the damage is minimal .... but we are doing a major clean-up right now. Unfortunately this clean-up is going to take a while. I hope to get back to blogging late Sunday afternoon or evening.

Update Sunday 21:20 EST: I am back. Blogging will return within the hour, Sighhh .... and this was suppose to be a quiet weekend. Blogging. Reading. Emailing and talking to friends. Maybe watching a hockey game at a sports bar with a few friends. It is amazing how a GF can turn your entire life upside down with just one phone call.

Clinton And Trump Are Ignoring Afghanistan

Yochi Dreazen, VOX News: Americans are still dying in Afghanistan. Clinton and Trump are ignoring it.

ISIS is seen as America’s biggest threat. The Taliban have been basically forgotten. So here’s a grim and surprising statistic: The same number of Americans have died in Afghanistan this year alone as have been killed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria since the group’s rise to power in 2014.

The fact that America’s longest war is going off the rails isn't something you would know from listening to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

During the first presidential debate, Afghanistan came up exactly once, as part of a longer Clinton answer on NATO. It didn’t come up during the second debate at all. On Wednesday, in the final clash between the two candidates, neither made any reference to Afghanistan — even though just hours earlier a gunman in an Afghan military uniform killed two Americans and wounded three others.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The candidates are not the only ones who are ignoring Afghanistan. Coverage of the Afghan war has all but disappeared from the U.S. media .... and the public has shown zero interest on what needs to be done.

Is Now The Time To Negotiate With The Taliban?

William Goodfellow, US News and World Report: There's No Military Solution in Afghanistan

History offers lessons for finally ending the conflict with the Taliban.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Rather than ending the war before he leaves office, as he had promised, President Barack Obama is escalating America's involvement in the war.

The Pentagon has deployed special operations troops to support the Afghan army and, for the first time since 2006, has sent B-52 bombers back to Afghanistan to bomb Taliban insurgents. While the bombing has temporarily slowed the Taliban offensive in Helmand province, strategic bombing is unlikely to defeat a resilient guerrilla force that is steadily gaining ground on an Afghan government weakened by corruption and infighting.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is just an acknowledgement that the war is lost, and that the time is now to find a mechanism that would incorporate the Taliban to run the country. Unfortunately .... I do not think this proposal would not work. Afghanistan is a country with multi-ethnic and sectarian groups .... who have a long and bloody history with the Taliban. They would never accept the Taliban coming back to power, and the Taliban have shown no history in the past to share power with them. Bottom line .... if the Taliban do come back to power .... it would probably produce a refugee crisis that would pale in comparison to what is happening in the Middle East today. But it is also true that at the moment there is no military solution to the war .... and that a new strategy must be found.

Another Afghan Provincial Capital Is Being Threatened By The Taliban

Long War Journal: Taliban threatens another provincial capital in Afghan north

The Taliban has surrounded yet another provincial capital in Afghanistan and recently launched an attempt to overrun it. The Taliban is now threatening six of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal, and its operations are not nearly confined to one region of the country.

On Oct. 16, the Taliban assaulted Maimana, Faryab’s capital, “from three directions,” and attacked the city’s airport and an Afghan Army base, but were rebuffed by Afghan forces, according to TOLONews. Taliban fighters withdrew to “bases to Khaja Sahib Posh and Pashtun Kot districts” after failing to achieve their objectives.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is just another sign that the Taliban are winning this war.

Afghan Taliban Officials In Pakistan To Discuss 'Peace Talks' And the Arrest Of Key Taliban Leaders

Taliban militants appear at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. Reuters

Reuters: Afghan Taliban envoys in Pakistan to discuss possible peace talks: official

A delegation from the Taliban's political office visited Pakistan over the weekend, senior officials said on Saturday, for discussions that could include the latest informal effort to restart talks to end Afghanistan's long war.

The visit comes days after Taliban sources said they had held informal meetings with Afghan and U.S. officials in Qatar, the first direct meetings in more than a year after a fledgling process to halt the 15-year-old conflict collapsed.

Taliban sources said Mullah Abdul Manan - brother of the late Taliban founder Mullah Omar - met with U.S. and Afghan officials but there was no breakthrough toward restarting formal talks.

Read more ....

WU Editor: I am sceptical on these "peace talks", and as for this Taliban delegation meeting Pakistani officials, I think it is more to do with Pakistan arresting some of the Taliban leaders that has forced them to meet Pakistani government officials .... Pakistan: Afghan Taliban delegation to discuss peace, arrests (Indian Express). More here on these arrests .... Taliban delegation arrives in Pakistan to 'discuss arrests of key members' (Express Tribune).

More News On Afghan Taliban Officials In Pakistan To Discuss 'Peace Talks' And the Arrest Of Key Taliban Leaders

Taliban envoys travel to Pakistan to discuss Afghanistan peace talks -- The Guardian
Officials: Taliban Brief Pakistan About Talks With Kabul -- New York Times/AP
Taliban leaders share information with Pakistan regarding Qatar talks -- Khaama Press
Afghan Taliban Political Envoys in Pakistan for Serious Talks -- VOA
Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan to discuss "refugees problems" -- Global Times