America’s Cycles of Change

Taliban Pulls Off Major Terror Coup Against Afghan Government

Thu, 21 April 2016

What difference does yet another extreme Islamist terror bomb attack make? Especially in a country that has not known even the illusion of peace in more than 14 years? But Tuesday’s outrage in the Afghan capital of Kabul was different.

The bomb did not devastate one of the usual “soft” targets – buses, schools, soccer games or open air markets so beloved of the extremists. It took out one of the most strongly defended centers in Afghanistan The compound that is headquarters for the special security service tasked with protecting the president and the top political and military leaders of the nation.

And to maximize both casualties and the feelings of helplessness, even as the cloud of ashes rose over the heart of the city, according to Western reports, Taliban terrorists opened fire on the dazed survivors with automatic weapons.

By Wednesday, the death toll stood at 64 and likely to rise with another 347 injured.

The attack was a devastating blow to the embattled Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. And it gave renewed credibility the extreme Islamist Taliban movement that only a week before had announced it was going to launch a new wave of attacks in the spring.

The Washington Post, in its report admitted “The target — the main training ground for an Afghan intelligence unit tasked with protecting senior officials — represented a direct strike against the Western-aided government as it takes the lead role in the fight against the Islamist militants.”

But the attack was also a major humiliation for US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry has “signaled” with Obama’s approval US willingness to engage the Taliban in talks seeking a compromise government. But the bombing is the Taliban’s real, clear and devastating answer.

Taliban leaders sense weakness and irresolution from a US government that lacks the decisiveness to either pull out of Afghanistan or drastically revise its strategy there, while being pulled deeper into other military confrontations around the world.

The Story Behind the Donald Cook Incident

The Russian Air Force close flybys the US Arleigh Burke –class missile destroyer in Baltic Sea on April 12 was not an isolated event.

In an important and almost totally ignored analysis, veteran journalist John Helmer identified it as an almost routine step in escalating tensions between the United States and Russia, egged on by America’s powerless and irresponsible minor NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Kaliningrad is a Russian city of half a million people and the main Russian military, missile and naval base on the Baltic Sea. The Donald Cook, the modern equivalent of a World War II battleship thanks to its advanced firepower and nuclear-capable missiles, was operating close by in international waters carrying out practice maneuvers with a destroyer of the Polish navy.

Helmer, citing detailed press an accounts and official reports in Warsaw made clear that the Russians knew what they were doing:

“What actually had happened has been more precisely reported in the Polish press. There it has been revealed that the Russian aircraft were not armed with ordnance, but with electronic countermeasures pods designed for jamming hostile gunnery and missile targeting systems. If the commanders and their signals staff on board the Donald Cook were not themselves confused or jammed, they knew that the final two passes, after the nine earlier ones that afternoon, was anything but an attack simulation.”

In fact, Helmer pointed out the USS Donald Cook carried an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system so its “port-call in Poland, and its subsequent cruise across the Baltic to Lithuania, make, for the Russian side, a US violation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 2010, amounting to an ‘extraordinary event’ and cause for Russia’s withdrawal from the pact, according to Article XIV.

To the best of my knowledge Helmer’s report on his web site was the only significant English language report so far identifying the three day cruise of the Donald Cook from the Polish port of Gdania or Gdansk (once known as Danzig) on April 11 to Kleipeda in Lithuania on April 14 as an actual and clearly deliberate violation of the most recent START treaty.

That treaty was US President Barack Obama’s pride and joy when it was negotiated and heralded as again banishing the specter of nuclear war. But Obama is paying no attention to its provisions now in his eagerness to face off against Russia in lands that were historically ruled from Moscow for centuries.

Helmer’s report can be found in full at : http://johnhelmer.net/?p=15464

Next US NATO Chief’s Message to Russia: ‘We Won’t Back Down on Land or Sea’

US European Commander (EURCOM) chief and Supreme NATO Commander (SACEUR) Air Force General Philip Breedlove is stepping down after enthusiastically overseeing a level of military confrontation between the US, its NATO allies and Russia unprecedented even during the darkest days of the Cold War.

Now Obama has picked Breedlove’s designated successor, Army General Curt Scaparrotti and Scaparrotti has made clear he is determined to rush down the same fateful road towards a thermonuclear confrontation.

In testimony on Thursday to a clearly awed and uncritical Senate Armed Services Committee Scaparrotti made clear was determined to maintain the forward presence of US naval vessels in the Baltic and Black Seas because of – and not despite – the close encounter between Russian combat bombers and the USS Aegis missile cruiser Donald Cook on April 12.

“From a military perspective, we should sail and fly wherever we are allowed to by international law, and we should be strong, clear and consistent in our message in that regard,” he insisted.

Scaparrotti was equally unyielding and reckless in his determination to support the chaotic, corruption-filled and Nazi-militia-supported regime of President Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine.

“I believe that we should continue both assistance and aid in the kinds of assets that they (the Ukrainians) need in order to defend their country, their sovereignty and their territorial integrity, and that we ought to continue building partnership capacity to help them do that on their own,” Scaparrotti said.

Scaparrotti openly acknowledged that the United States has provided military training and assistance to Ukraine.

The Pentagon was certainly not ashamed of Scaparrotti’s testimony. Military officials splashed it prominently on the Department of defense’s main web site page.

The fading of Senator Bernie Sanders and the disputes tearing the Republican Party apart increase the likelihood that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an arch hawk on European and Middle East security issues, will be the next President of the United States.

Sixth Fleet Concludes Mediterranean Naval Exercises With Israel, Greece – US Navy

A quiet strategic revolution is taking place between Athens and Jerusalem. On Monday, April 18, the US Sixth Fleet announced that the United States, Israel and Greece have just completed two weeks of combined naval exercises practicing anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and combatting smuggling in the eastern Mediterranean.

“US, Hellenic and Israeli naval and air forces completed the annual maritime-focused exercise Noble Dina 2016, which took place March 31-April 14 in the Mediterranean Sea,” the Sixth Fleet public affairs office announced in a statement said.

Noble Dina is an annual trilateral naval exercise designed to increase maritime proficiencies among participating nations, and enhance security, stability, and cooperation in the region, the statement from the Sixth Fleet office of public affairs noted.

The exercise was certainly not unprecedented, but it took place as the Greek and Israeli defense establishments quietly are developing closer ties.
Two major regional issues are bringing together the small, US-backed nations that historically have always been wary of each other.

First, Israel has discovered and is exploiting the giant Leviathan natural gas field close to its 200 mile limit. After decades of pipedreams and fantasies about ever achieving energy independence, Leviathan now has the clear size and potential to give Israel the kind of bonanza – on a relative scale – that North Sea oil provided for 40 years to Britain, The Netherlands and Norway.

But the Israeli Navy is small and relations with Turkey, the local regional military and naval giant have been strained in recent years. They are now improving, but the Israelis are still alarmed by growing instability in Ankara and between the Turkish military and its 20 million strong Kurdish minority Israel strongly supports the Kurdish minorities in Iraq and Syria to weaken the power of the traditionally hostile governments in Damascus and Baghdad.

Also, Israel, almost as much as Greece, benefits from the flood of offshore capital and development in the independent Greek half of Cyprus.

Israel and Greece lack the sheer size needed to give each other strategic, regional security. But look for them to quietly support each other’s backs in dealings with the European Union and the United states.