Donald Trump Warns Turkey Of Economic Devastation If It Hits Kurds As US Troops Pull Out Of Syria


Washington: 

President Donald Trump warned Turkey on Sunday of economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish forces in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria, while also urging the Kurds not to “provoke” Ankara.

“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile (30-kilometer) safe zone.

“Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”





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America begins the process of withdrawing troops from Syria । अमेरिका ने सीरिया से सैनिकों की वापस बुलाने को प्रक्रिया शुरू की


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US Has Begun Pulling Equipment, Not Troops From Syria: Official


Washington: 

The US military has started moving non-essential equipment out of Syria but it is not withdrawing troops for now, a defense official said Friday as the Pentagon sought to clarify an earlier statement.

“We are not withdrawing troops at this stage,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, US military spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan had said the US had begun “the process of our deliberate withdrawal” from Syria.

President Donald Trump last month claimed the ISIS group had been defeated and said US troops would return home “now.”

A second US defense official said the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal.

“That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment,” the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

The Pentagon stressed it would not telegraph its troop movements or give timelines for when they may leave Syria.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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US-Led Coalition Begins Withdrawal Of Troops From Syria


Hasakeh: 

The US-led coalition in Syria has begun withdrawing its troops, a spokesman said Friday, less than a month after US President Donald Trump made his shock announcement.

The force which has battled the ISIS group since 2014 started scaling down but it remained unclear how long the drawdown process would last.

“CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told AFP in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-ISIS force.

“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements,” he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the Hasakeh province in northeastern Syria.

“On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, said.

“This is the first such pullout of American forces since the US president’s announcement” of a military withdrawal from Syria last month, he said.

The US-led coalition has several other bases across northeastern Syria, as well as in neighbouring Iraq, where Trump has said his forces would remain.

A US defence official in Washington had earlier confirmed to AFP that equipment was being removed from Syria.

Pompeo visit

The US-led coalition, which also includes countries such as France and Britain, was formed in mid-2014 to counter the expansion of the ISIS group after it proclaimed its self-styled “caliphate”.

Trump claimed last month that the ISIS had been defeated and that US troops could therefore come home.

Fighter jets and special forces have played a key role in efforts to claw back the territory lost to ISIS.

A Kurdish-led group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is currently flushing out the very last pockets of land controlled by the ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley.

The beginning of the drawdown coincided with a visit to the Middle East by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who insisted in Cairo Thursday that the withdrawal would go ahead despite widespread criticism.

Earlier this week, US National Security Advisor John Bolton laid out conditions for the pullout, including the defeat of the ISIS in Syria and guarantees for the safety of Washington’s Kurdish allies in the campaign, who have been threatened with an imminent offensive by Turkey.

Bolton’s comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump’s announcement, including by Turkey which described them as “unacceptable”.

The battle against die-hard ISIS in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man, could last indefinitely however.

Anti-ISIS fight

And the Kurdish militia which has spearheaded the ground battle against the ISIS group is left exposed to a Turkish offensive by the US withdrawal.

The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian offshoot of the PKK group which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has already started cosying up to Damascus and its Russian sponsor.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist announcement and has repeatedly threatened to move into Syria to create a buffer zone along the border.

Critics of Trump’s decision, including within his own Republican camp, have said that a precipitous withdrawal would shatter US policy in Syria and allow ISIS to rebuild.

They have also argued that it would further allow Damascus ally Iran to extend its influence across Syria and potentially threaten Israel.

Since his surprise announcement last month, Trump has stressed any withdrawal would be coordinated, gradual and “prudent”.

But observers have stressed that the announcement of the withdrawal was having the same impact in reshuffling the cards of the conflict as the withdrawal itself.

“The damage is done. On the ground, the announcement of the pullout is as if they were already gone,” said Fabrice Balanche, a geographer and Syria expert.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Chinese Military, China Military Equips Troops In Tibet With Mobile Howitzers: Report


Last week, Xi Jinping ordered the armed forces to enhance their combat readiness (File Photo)

Beijing: 

After the recent induction of light weight battle tank in Tibet bordering India, the Chinese military has equipped its troops stationed at the Himalayan plateau with new vehicle-mounted howitzers to improve their combat capability, official media in China’s capital Beijing reported on Tuesday.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stationed in Tibet Autonomous Region has been equipped with mobile howitzers which aims to boost the troops” high-altitude combat capability to improve border security, state-run Global Times reported.

It quoted Chinese military analysts as saying that the new equipment would be the PLC-181 vehicle mounted howitzer. The announcement was made in an article released by the WeChat account of the PLA Ground Force on Saturday, the report said.

The equipment was used in an artillery brigade in Tibet during the 2017 China-India stand-off at Doklam, it said.

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told Global Times that the howitzer has a 52-caliber cannon with a range of over 50 kms and shoots laser-guided and satellite-guided projectiles.
It will boost the high-altitude combat capability of the PLA in Tibet, Song said.

The induction of the mobile howitzers followed the move by the PLA to put into service the light weight battle tank, which was tested by its military during exercises in Tibet held at the peak of the Doklam standoff.

The Type 15 has an engine capable of 1,000 horsepower and is significantly lighter than the PLA’s other main battle tanks in service, weighing about 32 to 35 tonnes. The tank meant for rugged and mountainous terrain of the Himalayan region.

The induction of the tank and the mobile howitzers highlighted the PLA’s efforts to reinforce its troops with new equipment despite steady normalisation of military relations since last year.

As part of the military training in 2019, an artillery brigade in the Tibet Military Command ordered soldiers to take part in a military skills competition at a training ground on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau 3,700 meters above sea level, the report said.

Last week, President Xi Jinping, who also heads the military, ordered the armed forces to enhance their combat readiness to make sure they are always ready for battle, saying risks and challenges for China are on the rise.

China’s border issue has not been completely resolved, and was challenged by pro-Tibet independence forces and terrorists, the report quoted analyst as saying.

Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the daily that the military investment in Tibet has been rising, but is primarily meant for defence and not to provoke conflict with neighbouring countries.

He said the PLA troops stationed in Tibet need to improve their combat capabilities in plateau areas and strengthen their willpower in extreme weather as they are primarily responsible for the border defence against terrorists and foreign invaders, he said.

To cope with altitude sickness, the PLA built oxygen stations for the soldiers in Tibet in 2015, which were used for medical purposes, but are now also being used in regular training.





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As US Plans Troops Pull-Out, 29 Killed In Attack At Afghan Building


Afghan security forces stand guard at the site of an attack in Kabul. (Reuters)

Kabul, Afghanistan: 

A suicide and gun attack on a Kabul government compound killed at least 29 people on Monday, an official said, in the latest bloody violence to strike the Afghan capital.

The raid capped a tumultuous few days in Afghanistan where officials are reeling from US President Donald Trump’s plan to slash troop numbers, which many fear could harm efforts to end the 17-year war with the Taliban. It also comes after a major security shake-up in Kabul.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault on the site where the Ministry of Public Works and other offices are located, which officials declared over after more than seven hours.

At least 20 people were wounded in addition to those killed, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said. Most of the victims were civilians.

Afghan forces killed three of the attackers and freed more than 350 people trapped inside the compound, Danish added. A fourth attacker died in a car bomb explosion that launched the attack.

One of the wounded civilians broke several bones after jumping from the third floor of a building to escape the attackers, an AFP correspondent at a hospital said.  

Plumes of black smoke could be seen rising from the compound, with at least two military helicopters circling above.

Journalists near the scene reported hearing numerous explosions in the hours after the attack began mid-afternoon.

Ashraf, a witness who works at the Ministry of Public Works and who goes by one name, said earlier he had heard militants inside the compound exchanging gunfire with security forces.

“They are also firing at the NDS facility nearby,” he told AFP after escaping the compound, referring to the Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.

Public works ministry spokesman Mehdi Rohani spoke to AFP as he and his colleagues were fleeing to a safe room shortly after the gunmen stormed the area.

“A car bomb detonated at the entrance of the ministry’s parking lot,” he told AFP by mobile phone as he ran from the scene.

“I can hear some gunfire outside the building. We are fine.”

Soft targets

The attack came after an American official told AFP late last week that Trump had decided to pull out “roughly half” of the 14,000 US forces in the country.

The unexpected move stunned and dismayed foreign diplomats and Afghan officials in Kabul who are intensifying a push to end the conflict with the Taliban.

The assault also comes a day after President Ashraf Ghani appointed Amrullah Saleh and Assadullah Khaled, both former spymasters known for their anti-Taliban and Pakistan stance, to head the interior and defence ministries, respectively.

Militants have previously attacked government ministries and departments because they are often poorly defended and seen as soft targets.

Monday’s attack was the biggest in Kabul since November 28 when the Taliban detonated a vehicle bomb outside the compound of British security firm G4S, killing at least 10 people and leaving a massive crater in the road.

While there has been no official announcement of a US drawdown, the mere suggestion of the United States reducing its military presence has rattled the Afghan capital and potentially undermined peace efforts.

General Scott Miller, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday he had not received orders to pull forces out of the country.

Trump’s decision apparently came Tuesday as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, part of efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table with Kabul.

Many Afghans are worried that President Ashraf Ghani’s fragile unity government would collapse if US troops pulled out, enabling the Taliban to return to power and potentially sparking another bloody civil war.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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US Withdrawal Of Troops In Afghanistan Raises Big Questions


Donald Trump has long questioned the utility of US involvement in Afghanistan. (AFP)

The 17-year-old US war in Afghanistan took a new turn last week when President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops from the country.

Trump has long questioned the utility of US involvement in Afghanistan, seeing it as a wasteful expense – and a conflict without a clear victory strategy. The White House decision was followed by the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who had pushed for continued US engagement in Afghanistan.

Here are three questions about how the troop drawdown may affect the situation in Afghanistan.

What happens now to the peace talks with the Afghan Taliban?

The drawdown risks undermining the nascent peace process between the United States and the Afghan Taliban, ultimately making it more difficult for the US government to leave the country on its terms. In 2018, US diplomats worked to persuade the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table. For much of the year, the Afghan Taliban remained unwilling to talk.

Scholars of civil war suggest that rebels prefer fighting over negotiations when external state support and illicit economies make them confident of their military prospects – criteria which the Taliban meet. This past week, the Taliban came around to some preliminary talks but refused to speak to the Afghan government.

The Taliban’s long-held strategy has been to erode the US government’s resolve to stay in Afghanistan. Even with 14,000 American troops fighting alongside Afghan security forces, the Taliban inflicted sustained losses on Afghan forces, retaining control of large parts of the country and challenging key urban centers.

With only half as many US troops remaining in the country, the Afghan Taliban may press home their advantage by accelerating the pace of attacks. The reduction in force level could now give the Taliban confidence that their strategy is working and that a full withdrawal of US forces is a reasonable expectation.

The drawdown, in fact, might have been a potential US bargaining chip on the negotiating table with the Afghan Taliban. But the White House decision was out of sync with the negotiations. It appears to have undercut the US diplomat leading the negotiations with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, who was trying to signal that “American commitment was firm.”

Will Afghanistan see domestic political realignment and renewed danger of a civil war?

The US drawdown risks triggering serious domestic political realignments in Afghanistan, destabilizing the political structure underlying the US-backed regime. Senior Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai observes that Afghan political elites are comparing the modern period to the chaos following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Back then, the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Najibullah, after losing its great power patron, rapidly lost ground as warlords and armed groups wrestled for control.

Those memories, combined with the state of the Taliban insurgency, may prompt domestic players to prepare for the worst-case scenario – a multiparty civil war. Some leaders may mobilize their ethnic bases of support while stepping up the process of arming themselves. Others may reach out to their foreign patrons and seek direct material support. These political realignments may increase the already high rate of defections from rank-and-file Afghan security forces.

Such realignments pose a threat to the faltering coalition of President Ashraf Ghani, who announced he will seek re-election in the April presidential election. The worsening security situation combined with elite squabbling may make an election more improbable.

And will terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, stand to gain?

The drawdown can help Afghanistan-based terrorist groups intent on attacking the United States, specifically al-Qaida. In 2015, battered by the US drone war in Pakistan, al-Qaida revived some operations in Afghanistan, using its South Asia franchise, al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent.

The US government claims al-Qaida’s strength in Afghanistan remains checked. My field research, however, suggests that al-Qaida still has a serious skeleton capability in the region, specifically in eastern provinces like Paktika, which it is actively trying to rebuild.

Reduction of US forces is likely to ease existing military pressures on al-Qaida – and give it more space to rebuild for local and external operations. Al-Qaida may be able to allocate more resources in support of the Afghan Taliban’s military campaign. And it may be able to better marshal the capability needed for a major international terrorism operation.

The pressure on al-Qaida might be sustained if Afghan intelligence agencies can substitute for the US intelligence infrastructure that will fold with the drawdown. A surge in offshore US capabilities, like aerial surveillance and communication interception, and armed striking platforms such as drones could enable the US government to manage al-Qaida’s threat.

But Afghan intelligence suffers from defections and rampant corruption, and has struggled to provide high-quality support to the US government. In addition, any meaningful increase in aerial and communication surveillance across Afghanistan will be costly. These expenditures may not be a priority in a White House with a stated goal of reducing US military deployment expenses.

That doesn’t mean al-Qaida will be able to mount a major attack in the United States. Even with a robust external operations infrastructure, al-Qaida will struggle to execute an attack inside the United States because of the layers of US counterterrorism vigilance. However, the availability of a relatively conducive safe haven in Afghanistan can improve al-Qaida’s ability to train recruits and plot the group’s next moves.

The situation in Afghanistan was grim as is. The unexpected drawdown adds to the complexity of a difficult situation. And it adds to the woes of Afghan civilians who have been caught up in the web of internal conflict for four decades.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Pak Troops Violate Ceasefire In Jammu And Kashmir’s Rajouri, Target Forward Posts


Army personnel guarding the LoC retaliated sharply to the ceasefire violation.(Representational image)

Jammu: 

Pakistani troops on Monday opened fire and shelled forward posts and villages along the LoC in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said. 

The firing and shelling from across the border started in Keri, Lam, Pukharni and Peer Badaser areas of Noushera sector around 9.30 am, a police officer said.

Army personnel guarding the LoC retaliated sharply to the ceasefire violation. 

There was no immediate report of any casualty, the officer said.





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US To Withdraw Significant Number Of Troops From Afghanistan: Official


The decision to pull troops from Afghanistan came right after the US withdrew troops from Syria

Washington: 

US President Donald Trump has decided to pull a significant number of troops from Afghanistan, a US official told AFP on Thursday, a day after he announced a withdrawal from Syria.

“That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Currently, the United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan working either with a NATO mission to support Afghan forces or in separate counter-terrorism operations.

Trump made his decision Tuesday, the same time he told the Pentagon he wanted to pull all US forces out of Syria.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit earlier Thursday, saying his views were no longer reconcilable with Trump’s.

The president’s twin foreign policy decisions on Syria and Afghanistan are nothing less than epic, and could begin to unspool a series of cascading and unpredictable events across the Middle East and in Afghanistan.

Mattis and other top military advisors last year persuaded Trump to commit thousands of new troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban were slaughtering local forces in the thousands and making major gains.

Trump at the time said his instinct was to get out of Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 7,000 troops would be returning from Afghanistan.

The pull out comes as the US pushes for a peace deal with the Taliban.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Inmates Posing As Women Online Blackmailed Hundreds Of Troops


South Carolina inmates victimized hundreds of people, investigators say. (Representational image)

The South Carolina inmates filled their time posing as women and scrolling social media and dating sites until a few key details caught their eye.

Cropped hair. Proximity to military bases. Maybe a photo or two in uniform.

Then, the messages to entrap and blackmail service members began from within the walls of South Carolina correctional facilities, crafted with a simple and terrifying scheme, authorities said.

After romantic messages and racy photos were exchanged, prisoners would pose as the fictitious girl’s father, telling victims that she was underage and the images constituted child pornography.

Pay money to make it go away, the inmates demanded, or police would be notified.

In all, 442 troops from across the country fell prey, paying out more than $560,000 in the so called “sextortion” scheme, authorities said Wednesday, after five arrests and 15 indictments in the wake of a crackdown on an elaborate network.

“With nothing more than smartphones and a few keystrokes, South Carolina inmates along with outside accomplices victimized hundreds of people,” Daniel Andrews, an Army investigator focused on computer crimes, said in a news release.

Operation Surprise Party was launched in January 2017 by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, officials said, and later joined by Army, Air Force, state and federal agents. The announcement marked the first phase of the operation, though it is unclear when the investigation began or what alerted authorities to the practice.

More than 250 other people are under investigation and could face charges, said Jeff Houston, an NCIS spokesman.

Victimized troops paid out of fear that their careers would be jeopardized by the fake claims, officials said. Sometimes blackmailers would also pose as police. It is not clear how the extortion ring grew so elaborate or how inmates were marshaled into the operation.

NCIS could not say why troops were specifically targeted. It is possible schemers leveraged feelings of integrity and professionalism to shame military personnel. And troops are subject to both civilian and military laws – which could raise the perception that a crime would be even more personally and professionally catastrophic.

Online romance scams have frustrated military officials for years, as they disrupt military duties and erode resources.

In one common scheme, scammers steal online photos of fit men in sharp uniforms and post them on dating sites. Women looking for romance are taken in by invented stories of widowers or single parents on combat deployments and in need of money, said Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.

Stories of wartime danger with a tinge of romance helped sell the scam. And the unpredictability and long duration of deployments provide a baked-in excuse for scammers to never quite meet or speak on the phone, Grey told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

In past years, angry calls flooded military investigator offices and other commands. Women wanted information on troops who took money and disappeared. But the troops were unwittingly used, Grey said.

The calls still come, Grey said. But increasingly, suspicious targets now call to check whether a wartime love story is just too good to be true.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)





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