A Taliban suicide bomber penetrated Bagram Air Base, one of the most secure facilities in Afghanistan, and killed four people and wounded 17 more. The base has been the focus of high-profile Taliban and jihadist attacks in the past. ...
Afghanistan: 34 Taliban administrators captured or killed in 2014. The Taliban lost 34 "shadow administrators" - governors and lower-level officials - last year, throughout half of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. 'Approximately 57 percent of the Taliban shadow administrators reportedly killed in 2014 died in clashes with Afghan security forces [see second graph below]. It should be noted, however, that drone strikes in Kunar and Farah provinces resulted in the deaths of at least four Taliban shadow district administrators in 2014. And incidents involving "airstrikes" killed an additional two Taliban shadow district administrators in Kapisa and Badakhshan provinces; it is unclear if those airstrikes were conducted by conventional air assets or drones. In a separate case, one Taliban shadow administrator was killed during an incident of infighting. And in another unique case, Afghan residents gunned down a Taliban district administrator in Farah province in early June 2014. Only 11 percent of the Taliban administrators removed from the battlefield in 2014 were captured alive by security forces. ...' Go to the link for details and statistics.
Israel: Majority of Israeli Arabs proud to be Israelis - survey. '65% of Arabs described themselves as proud to be Israeli, and 59% said they felt a part of the state.' This via the Times of Israel; the American Interest adds, 'This does not mean that Israel is without flaws—as the survey showed, both Israelis in general and Arab Israelis in particular had lots they want to change about their state. But a majority clearly do not think it is evil or illegitimate; on the contrary, pride is a pretty strong word.'
Kenya: Activists challenge Security Act. 'Human rights groups are warning that Kenya's controversial Security Amendment Act still poses a threat to refugees' rights despite a high court decision on Friday that suspends parts of the bill for 30 days pending a full court hearing. The suspension included a section of the wide-ranging bill, popularly known as the 'anti-terror' law, that amended Kenya's Refugees Act. The amendment stipulates that, "the number of refugees and asylum seekers permitted to stay in Kenya shall not exceed 150,000." ...'
Afghanistan: Woman beheaded for refusing prostitution. 'Mah Gul, 20, was beheaded after her mother-in-law attempted to make her sleep with a man in her house in Herat province last week, provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada said. ''We have arrested her mother-in-law, father-in-law, her husband and the man who killed her,'' he said. Gul was married to her husband four months ago and her mother-in-law had tried to force her into prostitution several times in the past, Mr Sayedzada said. ...'
Afghanistan: CIA officer, US Army analyst killed. 'A CIA officer and a U.S. Army intelligence analyst were among those killed in a suicide bomb attack last weekend in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. ...'
"On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of the Armstrong family on the passing of Neil Armstrong. As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own.
"Besides being one of America's greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation.
"As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero."
Italy / USA: Unicredit Bank in Iran sanctions investigation.BBC reports that Unicredit is cooperating with a US investigation over a possible breach of Iran-related sanctions.
Afghanistan: Haqqani figure confirmed killed.Fox reports that Badruddin Haqqani, the son of the founder of the powerful Haqqani militant network has been killed in an airstrike in Pakistan, citing Afghan intelligence sources.
USA: Family Research Council shooter politically motivated.CNN: '[Floyd Lee Corkins II], 28, was reportedly a volunteer at an organization in Washington serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. CNN was unable to discern a known job or source of income for Corkin and he did not appear to leave a significant online presence. He had no significant criminal record. But a court filing Wednesday suggests that Corkins may have had something else -- an ideology. And those political leanings could have been behind the Tuesday morning shooting at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian policy group. ...'
Afghanistan / USA: Panetta wants answers from Karzai.Fox: 'Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday to discuss the rising number of "insider" attacks in which Afghan security forces have turned their guns on American and other coalition troops. ...'
Iraq: Bomb injures Sunni cleric.Stratfor reports that Sheikh Mahdi al-Sumaidaie was injured in a Baghdad bombing that killed one of his bodyguards.
China: Censors tip Beijing's hand.Analects at The Economist covers online censorship in China. 'Teams at Harvard and the University of Hong Kong have been using new software that allows them to watch the censoring of posts on Chinese social-media sites more closely than before,' the Economist's Asia blogger reports, and as many as 13 pct of all social-media posts are censored. In another censorship-watch program, 'researchers at the University of Hong Kong have developed a program that concentrates solely on China’s most popular microblogging site, Sina Weibo.' They also discovered that an uptick in official censorship often portends an imminent crackdown.
Syria: Assad regime running out of options.Strategy Page notes that 'with more cash and weapons flowing in from the wealthy Persian Gulf Arab states, and Turkey providing bases and training for the growing number of Syrian men fleeing the country, the number of trained and armed rebels within Syria grows.'
Sardar Mohammad Zazai, police chief of Khost province, said the bomber, riding a motorbike, detonated his explosives at the checkpoint manned by local and foreign security forces.
The attack took place near a mosque in a crowded part of the city, which lies near the border with Pakistan. Women and children were among the wounded, local officials said.
Khost is a main area of operations for the Taliban-linked Haqqani militant group which the United States says has been behind a string of bombings in Kabul as well as attacks on foreign forces in the countryside. ...
Initial summaries of the complex attack indicated that members of the Taliban, including several individuals wearing suicide vests, had launched a coordinated assault that breached the perimeter of the American facility. A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into the base's fence, and attackers entered through the gap. The insurgents were then "neutralized" by US and Afghan forces, according to a Regional Command - East spokesman. Fourteen attackers were killed in the assault. International Security Forces (ISAF) personnel "suffered minor wounds", but none were killed.
Photos of the aftermath show that the attack caused considerable damage, however ...
But the old ways are disappearing. China has long been active in development across Africa, and so has Brazil. Neither has been able to escape the blow back that typically follows such activities: Africans across the continent are rarely wholeheartedly happy and occasionally get violent when large numbers of foreign workers come to town, and they don’t like it when big bribes get paid to corrupt officials. ...
Read the rest to find out why Mead thinks this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Barbara Slavin moderated a panel of leading experts on Egypt, co-sponsored by Al-Monitor, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Thursday to debate these questions and what they mean for Egypt.
Despite their varying views, all three panelists seemed to agree that the choice Egyptians are left with is, for the most part, one between the lesser of two evils. On the one hand, there is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammad Morsi. On the other, former Mubarak player, Ahmad Shafiq. Samer Shehata, an Egypt scholar at Georgetown University, put his money on a win for Morsi, saying he could not imagine a Mubarak remnant taking power after the revolution. Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst with the Century Foundation, appeared to lean toward Shafiq, after initially ducking the question. And Marina Ottaway, a senior associate at Carnegie, put the question to rest when she said, “It doesn’t matter who wins.”
Even if Morsi wins, she said, the bureaucracy that was in place under Mubarak is still intact. ...
The US killed a commander loyal to 'good' Taliban leader Mullah Nazir in a drone strike in South Waziristan. Today's strike is the first in South Waziristan since mid-March.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired missiles at a vehicle and a motorcycle in a village near Wana. Dawn reported that the strike took place in the village of Doog and killed two Taliban fighters, while Geo News said the strike occurred in Khawashi Khel and killed four fighters.
According to Dawn, Rahmanullah, "a key commander of the Mullah Nazir group and a brother of commander Malang of the same group," was killed in the strike. Nazir administers the Wana area and supports and shelters al Qaeda leaders and operatives. ...
What's so "good" about Mullah Nazir? Good question. 'Mullah Nazir has openly supported Taliban emir Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Asia Times, Nazir rejected claims that he opposed al Qaeda, and affirmed that he considered himself to be a member of the global terror organization. ... Pakistan's military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers "good Taliban" as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state.' Go to the link for the full article.
Russian defense spending.Stratfor (requires login for non-subscribers) notes that Russia's finance ministry has proposed a federal budget cut of $125 billion, mainly in defense, while Vladimir Putin wanted to increase the defense budget by almost as much. The finance ministry is concerned about the price of oil (Russia depends on oil revenues), the financial crisis in Europe (including the possibility of a Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone), and keeping a balanced budget.
India's economy stumbles.The Economist: 'But India's GDP figures, the worst for at least nine years, will have a deep impact on the sub-continent. The country was meant to grow in its sleep—regardless of what happens in the rest of the world. A quick bounce back looks unlikely. The central bank has cut interest rates a little this year, but will struggle to loosen policy further given high inflation. The ruling coalition keeps on promising a bout of reforms to boost confidence, but it is so divided, its behaviour so erratic and its record of delivery so poor that few believe this will actually happen. Expectations for growth over the next couple of years will probably slip further, to 6%. ...' This may suggest that India's rapid growth spurt of 2004 - 2007 was a blip, not a trend.
Death threats for Robert Spencer. 'Robert Spencer, director of the website “Jihad Watch,” questioned the source of Islam in a new book, “Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into the Obscure Origins of Islam,” published by ISI Books. Spencer is also the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth about Muhammad (both New York Times best-sellers) and is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine. But upon publication of his latest book, which theorized that the founder and prophet of Islam, Muhammad, did not really exist, Spencer was threatened with a violent death. ...'
BBC on 'New York's Republican enclave', Brighton Beach. A refreshingly sympathetic piece on Republicans from the BBC: 'These are people who remember the Soviet Union all too well and resist what they see as big government and anti-business programmes. They may be liberal on social issues, like abortion, but anything that feels like socialism - even if it is not - makes them queasy. In Brooklyn, Republicans have found a home by the sea. ...'