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An Al-Qaeda Resurgence? / Iraq Deteriorates

An Al-Qaeda Resurgence? / Iraq Deteriorates Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Africa, Iraq, Terrorism, Updates    

This Update discusses the apparent resurgence of al-Qaeda after 22 US diplomatic missions across the Middle East were forced to close due to intelligence of a serious al-Qaeda plot allegedly originating in Yemen and ordered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. It goes on to discuss the deteriorating situation in Iraq - in part due to al-Qaeda's increasing efforts there....

Mob violence, human rights and Pakistan's blasphemy laws

Mob violence, human rights and Pakistan's blasphemy laws Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

Rimsha Masih, a 12-year-old Christian Pakistani girl has been jailed for allegedly desecrating Holy Scripture, after a local cleric claimed that she burnt pages of Noorani Qaida, a children's textbook about the Koran.

On closer examination, it appears likely that putting the girl, and her mother, behind bars is claimed to be for their own protection. The case draws a sad picture in which one of the most severe implications of the blasphemy laws is "mob justice."

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings about democracy

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings about democracy Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Tunisia, Turkey, Updates    

The Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project has just released the results of surveys it conducted throughout the Middle East in the wake of the "Arab Spring." The surveys reveal some interesting insights about attitudes in the Middle East in the wake of the recent uprisings, including how Middle Easterners weigh democracy, Islamism, economic strength and political stability in their own societies.

AIR
In the workplace? In a car? Middle East grapples over women's whereabouts

In the workplace? In a car? Middle East grapples over women's whereabouts Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Gulf states, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

As I wrote earlier this year, a great deal of the problems facing the Arab world as it stumbles towards democracy stem from a conservative culture that is inhibiting female participation in society. Some very illuminative data on this issue is provided by Sara Hamdan in today's International Herald Tribune. As Hamdan explains, initiatives to develop an entrepreneurial culture in the public-sector dominated Arab states only address a small part of the issue; a much greater problem facing the Arab states is the absence of a great deal of their population from the workforce, this segment being overwhelmingly female.

Encouraging entrepreneurs to start new companies is one way to tackle this problem and promote job creation ... Analysts say these efforts will not make a big difference, however, if social attitudes do not change in societies that traditionally embrace culturally enforced gender roles and the social traditions of a patriarchal hierarchy - particularly in the Gulf countries...

 How do you solve a problem like Pakistan?

How do you solve a problem like Pakistan? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Updates    

Pakistan is a foreign policy conundrum for the West. While Pakistan has publicly been an ‘ally' to the West in fighting al-Qaeda and supporting the war in Afghanistan, privately its intelligence agencies work with the Taliban and support terrorist organisations. In addition, Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is considered by many to be unstable, and therefore poses a very real threat to international security should it end up in the wrong hands.

An important article by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic, entitled "The Ally from Hell' provide some interesting new insights and information relevant to the significant dangers posed by Pakistan's complex dual game:

"Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the US will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With friends like this, who needs enemies?"

The Unholy Alliance of Iran and al-Qaeda

The Unholy Alliance of Iran and al-Qaeda Author: Allon Lee Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Terrorism, Updates    

The Obama Administration has released explosive details of how Iran has become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

It comes as the Administration is reportedly interested in refocusing world attention on, in the words of US Treasury Department's Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen, Iran's "unmatched support for terrorism" as well as its ongoing nuclear weapons program.

 

Updates
US cuts funding to Pakistan

US cuts funding to Pakistan Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Terrorism, Updates    

Relations between the USA and Pakistan have been cool for some time, especially when it was revealed that the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden had been hiding for at least five years in Abbottabad - a town at the centre of Pakistan's military infrastructure. This revelation prompted a new round of accusations about Pakistani complicity with al-Qaeda.

The US has now announced that it is withholding $800 million ($A748 million) of cash and equipment to Pakistan's military. On July 10, William Daley, President Obama's Chief of Staff, said that the US had decided to withhold more than a third of the more than $2 billion annual package in protest at Pakistan's decision to cut back on counter-terrorism co-operation after Osama bin Laden's killing.

 

Taliban show Obama what they think of the troop withdrawal

Taliban show Obama what they think of the troop withdrawal Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Terrorism, Updates    

Just a few days after US President Barack Obama controversially announced a major withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have struck the Intercontinental Hotel in the heart of Kabul.The ABC has reported that at least 6 gunmen and one suicide bomber attacked the hotel and holed-up for several hours, before they were eventually taken-out by NATO helicopters. The death toll currently sits at a minumum of 10. 

Witness Sayed Hussain said he was inside the hotel compound when the attack started.

"I saw five to six men in civilian clothing armed with rifles who started shooting when they entered,'' he said, speaking close to the scene. "I lay down on the ground and soon after the police arrived.''

Bold or spineless? Strong conviction or a lack of direction? Responses to Obama's speech

Bold or spineless? Strong conviction or a lack of direction? Responses to Obama's speech Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Just a few hours after President Obama's recent speech on Afghanistan, there was a wide array of responses, positing a number of theories as to the ramifications of the new US policy.

In general, the focus was on Obama's decision to end the troop surge that he implemented only 18 months ago. Michael Cohen from the American Security Project writes in The Atlantic that Obama was never fully invested in the surge strategy and is now returning to a strategy which is more congruent with his generally dovish stance on foreign policy.

If there is one overriding takeaway from Obama's speech tonight, it is that the same President who 18 months ago was led by his generals into an escalation that he didn't appear to fully support has now taken back control of his policy in Afghanistan.

Breakdown of Obama's Afghanistan announcement

Breakdown of Obama's Afghanistan announcement Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Updates    

As reported recently on this site, US President Barack Obama has just given a landmark speech on the US policy in Afghanistan, including a timetable for the withdrawal of combat troops. The President gave a brief history of the war, concentrating primarily on his December 2009 "troop surge" decision, where he increased the number of US combat troops in Afghanistan by 33,000 in order to counter a resurgent Taliban. As he explained (Transcript via CBS):

...in one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda; reverse the Taliban's momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country.

Obama then announced that the surge was successful and will be withdrawn by the end of the year and the combat mission will end by 2014.

Obama confirms Afghanistan troops drawdown Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Middle East, Updates    

After much speculation that the US was gearing-up to pull out of Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has just given an address confirming that the US combat mission in Afghanistan will end by 2014, with the withdrawal beginning this year. He explained that 33,000 troops will be withdrawn by next year, thereby ending the controversial troop surge that is a hallmark of his presidency.

The speech is embedded below and the transcript can be viewed HERE. More on this shortly.

Essay: The Crossroads

Essay: The Crossroads Author: Peter Bergen Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan    

The death of Osama bin Laden will raise the inevitable question: What are we still doing in Afghanistan? The answer, of course, is that the mission in Afghanistan is about something bigger and more ambitious than eliminating al-Qaeda's leaders - most of whom, in any event, are probably living in Pakistan, as bin Laden was when the United States finally tracked him down. No, the mission in Afghanistan isn't about killing al-Qaeda members. It's about stabilising the country so that it can never again serve as the hotbed of extremism that it was until 2001, with all of the attendant national security and human rights problems that resulted.

Bin Laden's death and its implications

Bin Laden's death and its implications Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

There is so much material being published on the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Sunday by US forces that this Update will not attempt to duplicate the widely reported news. Instead, it will focus on pieces providing an unusual perspective or analysing some under-reported elements and implications of this event.

First up is Barry Rubin who, in his usual insightful fashion, tries to place this event in some sort of historical context of the larger Islamist movement. Importantly, he argues that the Islamist movement extends way beyond the fate of al-Qaeda, and that other Islamist groups which are seeking to exploit state power - including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - may be even more important and more dangerous in the long run.

AIR

A Crossroads in Afghanistan Author: Alex Alexiev Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan    

The capture of the Taliban's second in command in Karachi in early February has been treated in the media as a major US coup and a watershed event in US-Pakistani cooperation in the war against the Taliban. It is, regrettably, nothing of the kind.

Updates

Essay: How to win in Afghanistan Author: Max Boot Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan    

When General Stanley McChrystal was selected on May 11 of this year as the American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, it was by no means certain which approach he would employ. His background is almost entirely in counterterrorism.

The Jakarta Bombings/ Understanding the Taliban Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Asia, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Terrorism, Updates    

Today, we offer an interpretation of the most recent Jakarta hotel bombings from one of the world's top experts on extremist terrorism in Southeast Asia, Dr. Zachary Abuza of Simmons College in the US. Abuza agrees with the dominant view that Malaysian-born terrorist Noordin Mohammed Top was likely behind the latest bombings but takes issue with arguments, particularly in the Australian media, that Top is operating largely independently of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Washington and Teheran Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Iran, Updates    

This Update adds more on Washington's possible policy toward Iran, as th Obama Administration pursues engagement, at a time when both the US Congress and the Israeli government are attempting to maximise the leverage the US President will have.

AIR

Proliferation, North Korea and Iran/The Haaretz allegations revisited Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Asia, International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Israeli commentators have watched with interest the reaction to North Korea's illegal ballistic missile launch - under cover of a "civilian satellite" launch - on Sunday. They see the reaction of the US administration and international community as important signposts for their treatment of the Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation threat.

Israel's New Government Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Updates    

As readers will be aware, Israel's new government was sworn in on Tuesday. First up, the Jerusalem Post editorialises both about the bloated size of the new cabinet - 30 ministers and seven deputy ministers - and the need to move forward on a number of fronts despite the problematic size created by coalition politics.

Yes, We Can Author: Frederick W. Kagan, Max Boot & Kimberly Kagan Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Middle East, Terrorism    

Fears of impending disaster are hard to sustain, however, if you actually spend some time in Afghanistan, as we did recently at the invitation of General David Petraeus, chief of US Central Command. We spent eight days travelling from the snow-capped peaks of Kunar province near the border with Pakistan in the east to the wind-blown deserts of Farah province in the west near the border with Iran.

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Iran's enriched uranium and satellites Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iran, Updates    

As readers may have seen, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report says Iran probably now has enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb, if it were further processed. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, Iran launched a small satellite, indicating improvement in its ballistic missile technology...

Israel goes to the polls Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Updates    

As readers will doubtless be aware, Israelis are beginning to go to the polls for a general election even as this Update is being posted. This Update is devoted to material which hopefully will help readers understand better the implications as results come in.

AIR Updates

Ceasefire terms, and regional context for the Gaza conflict Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

The UN Security Council has just passed a somewhat ambiguous call for a Gaza ceasefire, which is supposed to be "immediate" and "durable". The Israeli papers largely agree that Israeli forces have now reached a decision point - will they go into Gaza's cities and engage in house to house fighting with Hamas forces or accept the ceasefire and talks proposed by Egypt and France

Jabaliya School Tragedy/ "Proportionality", International Law, and Gaza Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

As readers will probably be aware, Tuesday night saw tragic news that more than 30 people were killed at the Fakhura UNWRA school in Jabaliya after it was struck by Israeli counter-fire responding to Hamas mortar attacks from the school grounds. The official Israeli Foreign Ministry statement on this terrible incident is here.

The Goals of Operation "Cast Lead" Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

There is a great deal of significant information, analysis and opinion available on the current Israel-Hamas military clashes in and around Gaza, and unfortunately, not all of it can appear in this Update. So, as a starting point, this Update will focus on the goals of Israel's military offensive, codenamed "Cast Lead"

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On the Iraqi SOFA Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iraq, Updates    

This Update deals with the situation in Iraq, and the policy framework there for the Obama Administration, following the passage by the Iraqi parliament of the "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) with the US last week.

Updates AIR Updates

Al-Qaeda Today/ Syria's Nuclear Secrets Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Middle East, Multimedia, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

Today's Update features two new pieces detailing expert debates about the current status and capabilities of al-Qaeda. First up, Peter Bergen discusses the controversy between analysts who argue that the organisation has become largely localised and leaderless and those who argue that the central organisation in northern Pakistan is getting stronger.

Hezbollah and Lebanon Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update focuses on Lebanon, and the progress of growing Syrian and Hezbollah dominance of that country, especially in the wake of a recent government decision which effectively makes Hezbollah and its "resistance" against Israel an official arm of the Lebanese government.

Olmert Throws in the Towel Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Updates    

As readers will largely be aware, on Wednesday night, embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced to Israelis that he would not be contesting the leadership primary for his party, Kadima, scheduled for September 17, and will resign the prime ministership at that time.

AIR

Israel debates Hezbollah Prisoner Deal Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

Israelis are intensely debating at the moment the pros and cons of prisoner swap overnight with Hezbollah, which includes Israel trading five Lebanese prisoners, including the notorious child-killer Samir Kuntar, in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, abducted in the raid which sparked the 2006 war.

Hamas' post-ceasefire strategy Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features two pieces dealing with Hamas' strategy now that a ceasefire has been declared. First up is the always uniquely tuned-in Ehud Yaari arguing, based on his incomparable sources on the Palestinian side, that Hamas wants the ceasefire to last and will likely seek to extend it even beyond the six months it is scheduled to run.

Iran's response to the latest nuclear offer Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Updates    

Today's Update offers analysis of the ostensibly ambiguous, but actually very negative, Iranian response to the latest international offer of incentives (called the "P5+1" proposal, because it is signed by the 5 permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany) to halt its nuclear enrichment efforts - which have been repeatedly declared illegal by the UN Security Council.

Updates

Terrorism in Jerusalem Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Today's Update opens with a discussion of Wednesday's terrorist attack on one of Jerusalem’s busiest streets, when a Palestinian construction worker from eastern Jerusalem ploughed a bulldozer into cars and buses. Three people were killed and 66 wounded in the attack.

The Gaza Ceasefire Updated Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update covers the week since the Gaza ceasefire, which has been marked by a lack of fire ceasing. Islamic Jihad fired three rockets into Israel from Gaza five days after the ceasefire went into effect. It said the attack was in response to an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad target in the West Bank.

Israel and Syria / Arab World reacts to Olmert's legal problems Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Multimedia, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update contains some more differing analysis and opinion on the new indirect Israeli-Syrian talks. First up, top Israeli journalist and author Yossi Klein Halevi explains the sceptical view that appears to be predominant in Israel about the talks and the prospects of an Israeli-Syrian agreement.

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1948 Revisited Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel's 60th Anniversary celebrations led to much comment on the real circumstances of 1948, and especially the causes of the Palestinian refugees from that war. Below are three good comments on that history from prominent Israeli academics.

Discussing an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The Israeli government is reportedly considering whether to accept a truce deal with Hamas and twelve other Palestinian terrorist factions brokered by Egypt, with senior Defence Ministry official Amos Gilad off to Egypt shortly to discuss the deal with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman. This Update provides some background on the reported terms of the deal, and the considerations that will shape Israel's decision.

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Nuclear Revelations about Syria/ Israel-Syria negotiations? Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Israel, Multimedia, Syria, Updates    

This Update focuses on two recent developments vis a vis Syria. Firstly, according to the US CIA Director, what Israel destroyed in a mysterious airstrike in Syria last September was a plutonium producing nuclear reactor, capable of producing enough plutonium for one to two nuclear bombs per year, built with North Korean assistance.

Countering Iran/Jimmy Carter and Hamas Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iran, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

This Update leads with some comment from the Washington Post on the latest revelations about the degree of Iranian involvement in the violence in Iraq. The editorial notes that the testimony of US Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker about the role of Iranian "special groups" in recent fighting in Iraq only adds to a general profile of Iranian regional aggression, including in Gaza and on the nuclear front.

Hamas' Build-up and Tactics/ Terrorism and Tribalism Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

A new study has come out detailing the military build-up Hamas has been undertaking in Gaza. Among its findings are that Hamas has brought 80 tons of explosives into Gaza since last summer, that it now has 20,000 men under arms, hundreds of whom have been trained in Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and has established a special suicide bomb unit.

Managing the reality of Gaza Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update focuses again on the situation in Gaza, and especially on Israeli options for managing it, as well as the original responsibility for the admittedly very difficult situation of Gazans. First up, the always insightful Professor Barry Rubin looks again at Israel's various options for dealing with the violence coming out of Gaza. Rubin argues that there are no good solutions, only plans to manage the problem.

Gaza and Annapolis Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is back in the Middle East trying to get the Israel-PA talks, begun at Annapolis in November, restarted after the recent clashes in and around Gaza. This Update look at how the Gaza problem is hampering prospects in this area.

AIR Updates

More Gaza Dilemmas Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The debate in Israel about how to react to the constant threats and rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza continues to be very intense. A major military operation into Gaza is being again debated, as are other methods, such as targeted attacks on the Hamas political leadership, and small temporary cuts to electricity supplies.

Dealing with Iran after the NIE Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Iran, Updates    

Iranian President Ahmadinejad is claiming that the controversial US National Intelligence Estimate earlier this month, which asserted that Iran had stopped its nuclear weaponisation efforts in 2003, was a US "declaration of surrender." Iran is also hailing the Russian delivery of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor a "great achievement".

AIR Updates

Political Crisis in Lebanon/ The case for "Jihadism" Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Multimedia, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

As readers may be aware, Lebanon has had no president since last week. The term of the last president, pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud, ended on Nov. 23. However, no successor has been elected because of a stand-off between the pro-Syrian opposition, led by Hezbollah, and the anti-Syrian government, led by PM Fouad Sinora and Saad Hariri, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Iran, the IAEA and the Bomb Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update is devoted to the Iranian nuclear issue, and the debate sparked in recent weeks by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed elBaradei, who has been making statements opposing both sanctions and force as a response to the Iranian nuclear stand-off, saying there is no evidence Iran is planning to make weapons, and anyway, it would take them three to eight years.

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Trouble along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border/ Holocaust Inversion Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Antisemitism, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Terrorism    

As widely reported, a major renewal of fighting in Afghanistan is expected shortly. The Taliban, based across the border with Pakistan, are expected to make large scale incursions as soon as the mountain snows allow. This Update leads with two pieces on Pakistan's invidious role in encouraging this problem.