US Intelligence Aware of Increasing Capabilities of Islamic State Radicals

Islamic State flag and ammunition

The intelligence that the United States has gathered on Islamic State radicals points to their growing strength in the Middle East, CIA Director John Brennan said in an interview with CBS, adding that the rise of ISIL should be countered with both military and political means.

   The recent advances that the militants made in Iraq and Syria show that the fight against the group that has ceased vast areas in both countries will be a long one, Brennan claimed on Sunday.

“But I must say that there has been a fair amount of intelligence about the growing capabilities of ISIS, as well as the challenges that beset the Iraqi government, the sectarian tensions that continue to fuel a lot of these problems.”

Brennan stressed that a successful strategy for countering the rise of ISIL both in Iraq and Syria would be to combine military and political tactics.

“I believe firmly that we’re not going to resolve this problem on the battlefield. We have to keep the pressure on them but at the same time there has to be a viable political process that’s able to bring together the actors inside Iraq and Syria and for them to be able to decide how they’re going to have a peaceful future.”

The United States formed an international coalition to fight against ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria in September, 2014. The coalition has been conducting airstrikes against ISIL positions in Syria, also continuing the air attacks on the group in Iraq, first launched by the United States in August, 2014.

The United States has claimed some successes in the fight against the Islamic State. However, in recent weeks the militants made advances, capturing the city of Ramadi in central Iraq and Palmyra in Syria.

ISIL-affiliated groups also operate in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan and are known to have been behind several terrorist attacks in Europe.

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Down the rabbit hole: Bin Laden raid was staged after extensive Pakistan-US negotiations – report

 Mideast Russia's photo.

Washington fabricated several key claims regarding the 2011 mission in which a US Navy SEAL team killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to legendary journalist Seymour Hersh in the latest challenge to the White House’s narrative of the raid.

Hersh, writing in the London Review of Books, has alleged that the United States government and Pakistani officials in fact worked closely–attempting to smooth political and financial concerns between the two nations–prior to the May 2011 assault on bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound.

“The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account,” Hersh wrote.

“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations?”

Contrary to US claims, bin Laden was not located through tracking of his couriers but through a “walk-in,” Hersh wrote in the piece, which was sourced mainly by a “retired senior intelligence official,” among a handful of anonymous others.

In August 2010, a “former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad” approached the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad to report bin Laden’s whereabouts. Once deemed reliable, the unnamed source — later moved to Washington to work as a CIA consultant — collected the outstanding $25 million reward offered by the US for information about bin Laden.

Bin Laden, Hersh wrote, was captured by Pakistan in 2006 and kept warehoused at the expense of Saudi Arabia, which wanted to keep the Al-Qaeda leader under wraps based on Riyadh’s close ties to the jihadist group. In addition, bin Laden was also considered a bargaining chip for Pakistan against Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

“The ISI was using bin Laden as leverage against Taliban and al-Qaida activities inside Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the retired official told Hersh. “They let the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership know that if they ran operations that clashed with the interests of the ISI, they would turn bin Laden over to us. So if it became known that the Pakistanis had worked with us to get bin Laden at Abbottabad, there would be hell to pay.”

Once confronted by the US about bin Laden’s location following the “walk-in” source’s information, Pakistan sought increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan” from the US in exchange for bin Laden.

 Pakistani Army Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of Pakistan’s ISI, negotiated and facilitated terms surrounding the raid, including the assurance that “Pakistan’s army and air defence command would not track or engage with the US helicopters used on the mission.” The Pakistani officials operated under the assumption that President Barack Obama would not trumpet the killing in public for at least a week — which was not the eventual result.

“Then a carefully constructed cover story would be issued: Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border,” Hersh wrote.

 

Upon reaching the facility in Abbottabad, Navy SEAL Team Six encountered no resistance, as an “ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters,” Hersh wrote.

The “invalid” bin Laden “was cowering and retreated into the bedroom. Two shooters followed him and opened up. Very simple, very straightforward, very professional hit,” the retired official said. Bin Laden was not, as the White House said, killed by the SEALs out of self-defense amid a firefight.

The SEALs had so much clearance, Hersh wrote, that after the raid – which included the crashing of a Black Hawk helicopter – they were able to wait several minutes unimpeded for additional air transportation outside the compound in a resort town very near Pakistani military installations and rife with armed personal bodyguards at private residences.

During the raid, bin Laden’s body was torn to pieces by rifle fire, according to the account, and parts of his body were later “tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains.” His burial at sea consistent with Islamic custom — a claim made by US officials — was also fabricated, Hersh wrote.

  The supposed cache of intelligence material taken from the compound was another lie, Hersh reported, used to justify the raid.

CIA Confirms Pakistan Knew Bin Laden’s Location Before His Killing

Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (File)

 

The Pakistani authorities knew whereabouts of former al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden before he was killed by a US Navy SEAL raid in 2011, NBC news said Tuesday, citing sources in the US intelligence.

 The Pakistani intelligence shared the information on bin Laden’s location with the US CIA a year before the raid, the news outlet reported. The government of Pakistan was also up to date, according to the sources.

 

On Sunday, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed that the US government lied about the details surrounding the raid on bin Laden’s Pakistani compound and his subsequent death in 2011.

 

US President Barack Obama stated that Pakistan did not know about the raid and it was a fully US mission.

 

On Monday, the White House said that Hersh’s story was inaccurate and baseless.

CIA Runs Archipelago of Torture Around the World – Award-Winning Journalist

The National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md. The National Security Agency has been extensively involved in the U.S. government's targeted killing program, collaborating closely with the CIA in the use of drone strikes against terrorists abroad, The Washington Post reported Wednesday Oct. 16, 2013 after a review of documents provided by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ran an extensive worldwide network of black-sites and has since passed on its torture practices to local authorities, investigative journalist and winner of the Ridenhour Book Prize for truth-telling, Anand Gopal told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Gopal, who served as an Afghanistan correspondent for multiple US newspapers, explained that United States Army commanders in Afghanistan are “very well aware” of the torture practiced by Afghan security forces and warlords.

 

According to international human right organizations, the United States co-opted up to 54 foreign countries to take part in its extrajudicial rendition and interrogation program during the War on Terror.“The CIA essentially ran an archipelago of torture around the world,” Gopal said on Wednesday. “It is actually still being committed [in Afghanistan], but it is now outsourced to local actors who are deputized to carry out these atrocities.”

Individuals who are accused of terrorist activities “will be taken away, they will be beaten, tortured and many times killed,” Gopal said.

The practice is not done by “rogue elements,” he argued, but has become “standard operating procedure” during the US War on Terror.A February 2015 United Nations report documented the forms of torture taking place under the Afghan security forces, and local warlords.

These actors “have been created, armed and funded by the United States,” Gopal alleged, continuing that the torture practices are “going on as we speak.”

US officials disregard the human rights concerns, he said, because the officials in question “are too important for national security.”

Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu brought to light new revelations on US overseas black-sites when he confirmed that Romania had hosted at least one CIA facility. In a Wednesday blog post, Iliescu acknowledged that he had approved CIA requests to set up at least one black site in Romania where detainees were held and subjected to torture.

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German Spies Abroad At Risk As Double Agent Steals List of Their Real Names

Bundersnachrichtendienst

Up to 3,500 German intelligence officers working undercover abroad as diplomats and serving in countries where Germany has military missions are now at risk of being uncovered after investigators found a list of their real names on a hard drive belonging to a US double agent.

 

MOSCOW, January 15 (Sputnik) – Up to 3,500 German intelligence officers working abroad, posing as diplomats and serving in countries where Germany has its military missions, now risk being uncovered, according to a report published by the German tabloid Bild.The investigators found a list of the real names, identities and aliases of German foreign intelligence agency officers stored on the hard drive of a US double agent who was uncovered and arrested this past summer.

The name of the agent has not been released and was identified only as Markus R due to Germany’s strict privacy laws.

The list is believed to contain the real identities and aliases of up to 3,500 German officers working for the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, abroad. Investigators fear that the information might have been passed to foreign intelligence agencies.

 

The German intelligence sources however say that the list was out of date and contained far fewer than 3,500 names, The Telegraph quotes Germany’s DPA news agency as reporting.Markus R was arrested last summer after being uncovered as a double agent working both for the BND and CIA.

He has reportedly confessed to passing the CIA more than 200 secret documents over a period of two years, in return for payments of €25,000 ($29,460).

Markus R worked in the registry section of BND’s overseas operations department, which is responsible for the protection of soldiers serving abroad. There, he had access to top secret documents, including the identities of operatives posted abroad.

 

The investigators now fear he could have sold the details to some foreign intelligence agencies for a fee.The-then 31-year-old BND employee was described as “walk-in agent” — someone who presents himself on his own to a foreign spy service and dangles an offer of secrets, according to Reuters.

He approached the CIA by email in 2012, offering to provide them with information. However, he was caught only in 2014 after he sent a similar email to the Russian Embassy in Berlin offering to sell secrets in exchange for cash, which was intercepted. At the time, the German investigators were stunned at his confession that he had been spying for the US.

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‘Germany’s intel agency is (apparently) branch of CIA’

The main entrance of Germany's intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) headquarters (Reuters / Michael Dalder)

The main entrance of Germany’s intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) headquarters (Reuters / Michael Dalder)

The German BND is not an independent intelligent service but more like a CIA branch, Manuel Ochsenreiter, Editor-in-Chief of Zuerst magazine, told RT. Its so-called evidence on the MH17 tragedy is questionable and contradicting, he added.

RT: German intelligence says they have damning evidence, why didn’t they make it public?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We shouldn’t forget that the German intelligence service, the BND, is not the “Mercedes” among the intelligent services, it is not an independent intelligence service. It is more or less a branch of the CIA or other American intelligent services. When we [look] back in the history of the BND we see some similar stories. For example, last year the BND claimed that they have evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for the chemical attack in Ghouta close to Damascus. This so-called evidence has never appeared. In 2003 the BND delivered the main witness…named Curveball to the world who was testifying that the Iraqi army, Iraqi government, had weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons. So we see there is a history of those so-called evidences to support the Western political position. I think we should be now very careful and simply wait if or until the so-called evidence is presented to public.

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the village of Rassipnoe. (AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the village of Rassipnoe. (AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)

RT: What impact could German claims have on the official investigation?

MO: The investigation is still going on and it is deeply questionable simply to claim that there is now the evidence which proves 100 percent which side is responsible for shooting down the airplane. And we can see this as a sort of PR attempt of influencing the international investigations on the plane crash because the question is, if the BND really has that evidence, why don’t they deliver the evidence to the investigation team? Instead of this, they take care that it becomes public that they might have this evidence. So we can see this as an attempt at influencing the international investigations and to put pressure on the investigators.

RT: Do you think this raises more questions? If this is the case why didn’t Kiev mention the missile system was missing months ago?

MO: The situation is much, much more ridiculous…The point is that the Ukrainian government said in July that no rocket system was stolen or captured by the other side so they said from the beginning that they are not missing any rocket systems. So they already said that it is not possible that the pro-Russian fighters got into power of one of those systems. So how should they use then those systems to shoot down the airplane? We see that…the so-called evidence of the BND is deeply questionable and contradicting the official statements of Kiev, and we know that Kiev is an ally of the West. Here we see the conflicting news I think this is a strong sign how deeply unreliable [it is].

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Not-so-cold turkey: US ponders leaving 3,000 troops in Afghanistan after ‘withdrawal’

Not-so-cold turkey: US ponders leaving 3,000 troops in Afghanistan after ‘withdrawal’

US President Barack Obama considers leaving 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, while three other options are being hotly debated between the White House and the US military, with the latter believing such a small figure to be a mistake.

The key factors relate to the four options being discussed as to the number of troops and where they’ll be positioned. The United States has been in discussions over the past months as to the longer-term implications of such a decision, the Washington Post reports.

An update on the government’s decision-making will be given by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at an upcoming high-level NATO meeting with his peers in Brussels this week, a senior official said. Regarding numbers, it is too soon to tell, but “we’ll have to tell people where we stand in our thinking and planning,” a top official told the Post.

Under Option One – favored by military commanders, 10,000 troops remain in the capital, Kabul, Kandahar, Bagram and Jalalabad until the end of 2015, while another 5,000, together with some internationals, will be to the north and west. The mission would be called Resolute Support.

Option Two sees the number diminish slightly, and is geographically centered on Kabul and Bagram, but with a lengthier pullout to last until 2016. They would, however, be mobile and the plan includes training local forces across the country wherever necessary. Plans are also being drawn up to make the operation last until the end of Barack Obama’s term as president and merge it with the first option.

Option Three relates to the 3,000 troops currently favored by the president, but criticized (as all other variations) by his military commanders on the grounds that it’s too small and poses great security risks for continuing US operations in Afghanistan, which also involves humanitarian projects and other government assistance programs, not to mention providing security for CIA operations outside Kabul – particularly in the east, where extremism runs rampant.

This is also crucial for America’s drone program in Pakistan, since all of its operations are run from Afghanistan. Obama’s military advisers have already said that the administration can kiss the drone program goodbye under any other option than the one involving 10,000 troops. Previously, Obama’s authorization rested on the foundation that the drones were for protecting US forces in the country – something that by extension included strikes on Pakistani soil.

The given plan also revolves around Kabul and Bagram, but doesn’t set a withdrawal date. Also, troops would not travel the country as they would under the second option, but a part of the Bagram air base would be repurposed for drone operations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) (Reuters / Larry Downing)

The last option, and least favored by all, would be complete withdrawal. The White House doesn’t believe this to be the end of the world, as far as its reputation is concerned. Polls have shown that for the first time since 2001, the same number of people that initially thought Afghanistan was a good idea now believes that it wasn’t; that is 66 percent of the American population, a December survey revealed.

The United States is in a hurry to come to an agreement, as the upcoming Brussels meeting has already been pushed back because of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s indecisiveness. It is now viewed as a “cutoff” point for him to sign a bilateral agreement on further cooperation. The Obama administration has made clear that failure to do so would result in complete US withdrawal. One official said that the White House has “taken the position that we shouldn’t harass [Karzai] anymore, because it doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Apparently, the Obama administration is already in contact with potential candidates to replace Karzai, with elections coming up in April. All of them have reportedly said yes to the agreement.

But continuing US presence will also be a key decider in another sense, since those NATO members who have agreed to a post-2014 deployment – mostly Germans and Italians – see complete US withdrawal as a disincentive to remain at all.

A study by Congress says that any pullout until 2018 would be unwise, as it would risk a quick Taliban resurgence. But in either case, they predict a big spike in militant activity in 2015-2018, with or without the US there. In fact, it posits that only a minimal reduction in forces would lead to “a negotiated political settlement to end the war” in 2019-2023.