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Afghan Peace Negotiator Shot and Killed

Negotiations for peace and a cease fire between the Taliban and Afghan government took a major hit when a senior peace negotiator was assassinated.

is an ex-Taliban minister and the leading member of the High Peace Council, which has been trying to reach out to the Taliban to come up with a peace deal to put a halt to the violence. Rahmani was in the middle of talks with Taliban commanders, and his death is a setback for President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government.

Rahmani’s death marks the second assassination of a High Peace Council member. Last September, Burhannudin Rabbani, the council’s chief of peace, was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.

According to police chief, Gen Ayub, Rahmani was shot in his car on his return from western Kabul. Police believes that this was a carefully planned attack. A gunman using a silencer fired a single shot that hit Rahmani in the heart, killing him instantly. His driver wasn’t even aware immediately that he had been shot.

Death threats have been made against Rahmani in the past, and it is unclear why he travelled without an armed escort. The Taliban are suspected of orchestrating the attack, though a spokesman for the terror organization denied involvement.

Rahmani was a critical figure in President Karzai’s attempts to persuade Taliban commanders to engage in peace talks. Being a former member of the militant group, Rahmani was able to provide valuable insight into the inner dealings of the Taliban leadership.

Afghan’s peace council has been successful in engaging in talks with Taliban field commanders but has been unable to convince senior members to put a halt to their campaign against the western backed Afghan government. It is unclear at this time what kind of impact Rahmani’s death will have on the peace talks.

Anniversary of Bin Laden’s death is marked by Attack from al-Qaeda

One year ago, an elite team of Navy Seals stormed a compound in Pakistan and shot to death the most wanted terrorist in the world. Now, a year after Osama Bin Laden’s demise, al-Qaeda is beginning to show signs of fracture.

Intelligence believes that the terror organization has been diminished and now just numbers in the few hundreds due to relentless air strikes by the U.S. and coalition forces. It is speculated that their infrastructure is now just engaging in small operations and no longer capable of large-scale attacks like the one that was carried out on 9/11.

This doesn’t mean, however, that al-Qaeda is no longer a threat. They are still capable of inflicting heavy damage; this was evident when they launched an assault on a housing compound for foreign workers in Afghanistan that claimed seven lives.

The attack started off with a car bomb that ripped the compound entrance. Militants disguised in burqas then tried to force their way into the Green Village complex through the damaged gateway. Their assault was repelled by Afghan forces, which engaged in a two hour gun battle with the insurgents.

When the smoked cleared, four civilians passing by in a car were killed. A Nepalese security guard and a student on his way to school were also among the casualties.

The attacks came just hours after President Obama made a secret visit to Kabul to deliver a message of hope and praise to the troops. A Taliban spokesman later claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that the president was “not welcome.”

Though it appears that al-Qaeda’s foundation is in shambles, it is clearly no time to celebrate. For the same reason that a wounded animal is more dangerous, a wounded al-Qaeda will likely act out of desperation. There will likely be more attacks to come in the near future. Vigilance is more crucial than ever.

The Obama visit to the troops is also a matter of debate as its been seen a part of the November Election campaign and an asset used by the Obama campaign. The GOP is calling it a “Play on Politics” (CNN):

Gillespie, a former aide to former President George W. Bush and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said utilizing the raid for political purposes is one of the reasons Obama has “become one of the most divisive presidents in American history.”
“He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans, and he’s managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan political attack,” Gillespie said in a separate interview on the same NBC program. “I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.”

Osama Bin Laden’s Wives Detained in Pakistan

A lawyer has confirmed that Osama Bin Laden’s three wives and two of his daughters have been detained and charged for illegally crossing Pakistan. The sentence for the women includes a 45 day jail sentence and a fine of 10,000 rupees each. They have been in custody ever since a U.S. Navy Seal team killed Bin Laden last May.

The widows have been held with their children in Islamabad in what has been described as a “sub-jail.” Two of the wives are from Saudi Arabia while the third and youngest wife is a citizen of Yemen. Upon their release, each woman will be deported back to their country of citizenship and be reunited with their families.

While it is unclear exactly how many children Bin Laden fathered, he is believed to have at least 10 between the three wives. Bin Laden’s wives and children were scattered across the region, and he would meet up with them during his travels.

After nearly a 10 year man hunt, Bin Laden was finally located and killed by Seal Team 6 back in May of last year. He was originally believed to be taking refuge in a cave along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Intelligence eventually pinpointed his location at a compound in Abbottabad.

Osama Bin Laden is believed to have a total of five wives and was living with three of them at the time of the raid. It was reported that there was some bickering among them, especially between his oldest and youngest wife. Some of his close aides were also concerned that his eldest wife was plotting to betray him, though Bin Laden brushed aside any concerns of a double-cross.

Whatever the situation was in the Bin Laden household, all that is certain is that the guy is dead and that leaves one less terrorist for the world to worry about.

Pakistan Will Not Be Attending Afghani Conference

Pakistan has vowed not to attend an upcoming conference geared at starting a reconciliation in Afghanistan. The Afghani president has asked the country to reconsider, but the Pakistani cabinet has unanimously voted against the attendance. The conference is to be held in Bonn, Germany. Pakistan has refused to go because of the kill of two-dozen NATO troops last week.

The Afghani president has urged Pakistan to reconsider, citing that the killing is even more reason for the region to start a reconciliation. Pakistan has been a very valuable land supply for the United States armed forces bringing equipment into the country for their troops. Pakistan is known to have accused Afghanistan of harboring Al Quaeda forces while Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of aiding forces against their military.

The US Secretary Of State, French Foreign Minister, British Foreign Secretary and the Russian Foreign Minister are among 65 heads of international organizations that are expected to participate in the conference. Although Pakistan will not be attending the conference, they have stated their support peace in the region. They also support the importance of a Afghanistan establishing peace in their own country.

The Pakistani cabinet has closed all of their supply lines to the region and has requested that the United states vacate the air base of Shamsi. The country would like to maintain their relationship with the country, but they ask for mutual respect for Pakistani sovereignty. The Pakistani cabinet has also been reviewing their cooperation with the ISAF, NATO and the United States.

General James Mattis has ordered that Brig. Gen. Stephen Clarke lead the investigation into the NATO killings. More than a thousand people are expected to attend the conference in Bonn, Germany. German political officials are said to be meeting with Afgan officials Thursday and Friday before the conference starts.

Oh Aafia!

Aafia Siddiqui is a 37-year-old Pakistani scientist who trained in the US at Brandeis and at MIT. She was convicted on Wednesday of charges that she tried to kill Americans while being detained in Afghanistan in 2008. The jury was deliberated three days in a Manhattan federal court, before the gavel sounded its final slam.

As the jurors left the courtroom she raised her arms and shouted,

“This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America.”

She then turned toward the spectators and said,

“Your anger should be directed where it belongs. I can testify to this and I have proof.”

Siddiqui was convicted of two counts of attempted murder, even though the crime was not found to be premeditated. She was also convicted of armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and assault of US officers and employees.

Before the arrest, US authorities had called Siddiqui an al-Qaeda sympathizer. She was never charged with terrorism, but prosecutors called her a grave threat that carried bomb-making instructions and a list of New York City landmarks including the Statue of Liberty at the time of her capture.

Attorney Christopher La Vigne said in his closing arguments that she

“is no shrinking violet…She does what she wants when she wants it…These charges are no joke. People almost died.”

Siddiqui testified in her own defense. She had been tortured and held in a “secret prison” before her detention. Charges that she had attacked US personnel who wanted to interrogate her were “crazy,” according to her. “It’s just ridiculous.”

In the courtroom, Siddiqui veiled her head and face with a white scarf and often sat slumped in her chair. She openly sparred with the judge and her own lawyers, insisted she could single-handedly bring peace to the Middle East and lashed out at witnesses in tirades, getting her kicked out of the courtroom on repeated occasions.

“I was never planning a bombing! You’re lying!”

she yelled while an Army captain testified.

In her closing argument, defense attorney Linda Moreno accused the prosecutors of trying to play on the jury’s fears:

“They want to scare you into convicting Aafia Siddiqui…The defense trusts that you’re much smarter than that.”

During the two-week trial, US soldiers and FBI agents testified that when they went to interrogate Siddiqui at an Afghan police station, she snatched up an unattended assault rifle and shot at them while yelling,

“Death to Americans.”

She was wounded by return fire but recovered and was brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder, assault and gun charges.

One chief warrant officer, who testified in uniform but did not give his name, told jurors that he had set down his M4 rifle after being told Siddiqui had been restrained. He testified that he was shocked when she suddenly appeared from behind a curtain wielding his M4 rifle and yelling,

“Allah akbar.”

“It was pretty amazing she got that thing up and squared off,”

he said.

“She was looking at me and aiming dead at me.”

Hearing the rifle go off, the officer pulled out his pistol. Siddiqui was wrestling with an interpreter when he shot her in the stomach.

“I operated within the rules of engagement to eliminate the threat,”

the unnamed officer said.

I wonder what she meant when she said that the verdict came from Israel…hmm

Obama’s Egyptian Overture

He came with all the fanfare and adulation as a newly crowned Prince of Peace. Only this time, Barack Hussein Obama came to speak in Cairo as the 44th President of the United States of America, and spoke before a packed audience within the opulent Presidential Palace, the former residence of King Faruk, the last Egyptian king. He began his fine toned and eloquent address by saying “Al Salaam Aleikum”, May Peace be Upon You, and told the packed auditorium that he hopes to usher in a new era of relations between his country and the Nation of Islam, of which he said, the country of Egypt and City of Cairo are one of that religion’s finest realms.

Obama in EgyptIn regards to the religion of Islam, Obama told his audience that America is “not at war with Islam”, but will confront violent extremism and their aspiration to “kill as many innocent people as they can”, especially those small groups (such as Al Qaeda) which have gone against the positive dictates of the religion and have committed gross acts of terror, such as 9-11; and who still vow to commit more such acts.

After noting what his country plans to do in regards to the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where American soldiers are still on active duty, Obama reached the part of speech we all had been waiting for , i.e. that part regarding his plans and desires for dealing with the situation involving Israel and the Palestinians. While he did say that his country has a ” very close and historic relationship with the State of Israel”, and mentioned the long persecution of the Jewish People and the horrors of the Holocaust ( “anybody who denies the Holocaust is ignorant and hateful”) he then countered by comparing this with the “suffering of the Palestinians in pursuit of a homeland” and that for more than 60 years they have lived in refugee and displaced person’s camps due to the occupation ( in all of Israel, perhaps?).

And again, he received loud applause when he spoke about “two states for two peoples to live side by side in peace and security” and that “America will not turn her back on a state for the Palestinian People”.

Side by side – peace and security. Many in Israel wonder how this will be accomplished, especially in light of current realities; and in light of Hamas’ (and even Fatah’s ) relations with Israel.

Obama also went on to speak about achieving democracy in the Middle East, saying that “elections alone do not make democracy”. He was obviously referring to the situation in counties like Egypt where the situation is far from being democratic (probably making his host Hosnei Mubarak squirm a bit). He also talked about women’s rights (a topic probably added by his wife Michelle and by his Sec. of State Hillary Clinton), saying that women who are denied an education are denied equality. He said: “I am convinced that our daughters (he has two) can contribute as much as our sons to society” and promised that his country will help Muslim countries to give more opportunities to women” (that must have gone over like a lead balloon to any male listening in countries like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan).

We’re sure Mr. Obama does realize that Israel gives more opportunities to women than any country in the entire region, and that this will always be the case. Perhaps Palestinian women might pick up on this message though, providing their men-folk are willing to let them do so.

He ended his speech by quoting the Golden Rule, which he noted is also found in the Quran: “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In a way, this “rule” has been practiced in this region, although not exactly in a positive framework. And that is where the entire matter may be found; i.e. in how this rule can be more positively applied.

In any respect, people will be analyzing his speech in the weeks and months to come, as well as being on the lookout for any hidden meanings. He did tell the young people of the region (including young Israelis we presume) that “you have the ability to change and reshape this world”.

Let’s all hope that this “changing and reshaping” will be within a positive framework.

7 Years to 9/11

It’s been seven years since the world’s largest terror attack. Thousands of people died within minutes, in one surrealistic September morning. And then the world changed forever.

What would the world be like if there was no 9/11? Would America still go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would George W. Bush still be elected for a second term? Would the Georgian conflict and the possible emergence of a second Cold War still be happening?

We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. This is the world we live in, and we have to do our best with what we’ve got. More than 3000 people did die 7 years ago, and this wasn’t a Hollywood special effects scene. Personally, I still cannot comprehend the full meaning of that morning in New York. The mind cannot deal with such surrealism, so we try to repress what happened — and once a year, the unreal penetrates through our defense shield and we remind ourselves that life is ultimately uncertain.

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