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The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link ?Democracy? vs. Covid ? A No-Go Sat Oct 24, 2020 01:10 | amarynth
by Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog Brussels (EU and European NATO Headquarters) ? On 21 October 2020, the German Press Agency (dpa) reports that Germany pledges NATO soldiers for

offsite link Azerbaijani Forces Rush To Capture Lachin Cororidor From Retreating Armenians Fri Oct 23, 2020 21:52 | amarynth
South Front The Armenian defense in the southern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region seems to be collapsing as the advancing Azerbaijani forces are about to reach the strategic Lachin corridor.

offsite link Make America Jeffersonian Again Fri Oct 23, 2020 17:51 | amarynth
by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times The whole planet has every reason to be terminally puzzled at how all those lofty Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson

offsite link Weekly China Newsbrief and Sitrep Fri Oct 23, 2020 16:48 | amarynth
By Godfree Roberts – selected from his extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China The Huawei complete Google alternative is being built out – You will hear about Petal again

offsite link Russian President Putin Delivers Speech at Valdai Discussion Club -2020 ? Update Thu Oct 22, 2020 17:31 | amarynth
The Transcript follows. Update : October 24th The formal transcript is now complete Update : October 23rd Note that it is not quite complete and we are waiting for the

The Saker >>

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link A Woulfe in judges clothing

offsite link Sarah McInerney and political impartiality Anthony

offsite link Did RTE journalists collude against Sinn Fein? Anthony

offsite link Irish Examiner bias Anthony

offsite link RTE: Propaganda ambush of Sinn Fein Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

Spirit of Contradiction

offsite link The Party and the Ballot Box Sun Jul 14, 2019 22:24 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

offsite link On The Decline and Fall of The American Empire and Socialism Sat Jan 26, 2019 01:52 | S. Duncan

offsite link What is Dogmatism and Why Does It Matter? Wed Mar 21, 2018 08:10 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link The Case of Comrade Dallas Mon Mar 19, 2018 19:44 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link Review: Do Religions Evolve? Mon Aug 14, 2017 19:54 | Dara McHugh

Spirit of Contradiction >>

Philip Weiss - Sat Oct 24, 2020 15:15

A few weeks ago we reported that in 1982, Senator Joe Biden had taken on an Israeli prime minister over the unending settlements project: in an angry exchange on Capitol Hill, Biden warned Menachem Begin that Israel was undermining its political support in the United States. Reports are that the discussion was “bitter,” Biden slammed a desk with his fist, and Begin accused him of threatening Israel.

Biden surrogates have gone out of their way to quash this story as “false”.

Well, now there’s fresh evidence that as a young senator, Joe Biden was critical of the settlements policy. In 1973, when Biden was 30 years old and a freshman senator, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and confronted her over the same issue.

Official notes of that meeting in Hebrew were just published in translation by Channel 13 in Israel. From reporter Nadav Eyal’s twitter feed:

Biden criticizes the Nixon admi[nistration] for being “dragged by Israel”. He says, according to this government memo, that there is no debate in the Senate about the ME [Middle East] because the Senators are “afraid” to say things that Jewish voters will dislike. (He SAYS THAT TO GOLDA)

He criticizes the Israeli labor platform arguing that it’s leading to a creeping annexation of the occupied territories. Considering Israel’s military dominance, Biden suggests it will initiate a first step for peace by unilateral withdrawals. This will be done from areas with no strategic importance- not the Golan.

Golda responds with a long speech about the history of the Zionist movement from its very establishment. The instability of Arab Regimes, the unfairness of SC [UN Security Council] decisions. Golda rejects Biden comments on the Labor platform, rejects his offers of unilateral withdrawal and continues to argue that Israel can make no major mistakes considering the situation of the Jewish people after the Holocaust.

The official making the notes remarked that Biden was full of respect to the PM yet his “enthusiasm as he as he spoke” signaled his lack of experience in the Diplomatic field.

Biden had come to Israel from Egypt, and forty days later, Egypt attacked Israel in the October 1973 war. Eyal comments, “Biden warning to the PM on the eve of the war that Israel must make some concessions is prophetic. Some historians argue that Golda’s refusal to consider Egyptian diplomatic initiatives led to war.”

The notes are fascinating because they show Biden taking a stand, but Biden himself has made shtik out of this exchange, often telling the story in a way to put himself down: Golda Meir lectured a young senator about the fact that Israel has “a secret weapon, we have no place else to go.”

The truth from this memo is that Biden at 30 held his own, and was obviously angered by Israeli policies, its unending settlements under a Labor government, and sought more debate about Israel’s actions in the Senate.

Just as he would be angry with Menachem Begin of a rightwing party when he was 39 years old.

Now Biden is 77 and has long since accommodated himself to Jewish voters and Israel’s expansion. His 2020 Democratic Party platform removed draft references to occupation and even settlements as such. It does oppose “settlement expansion” and “annexation” but assures Israel that we won’t cut aid to the country. Plus ca change

Biden has gotten used to being “dragged by Israel.” Though he knows better, or once did.

Source: Mondoweiss

A few weeks ago we reported that in 1982, Senator Joe Biden had taken on an Israeli prime minister over the unending settlements project: in an angry exchange on Capitol Hill, Biden warned Menachem Begin that Israel was undermining its political support in the United States. Reports are that the discussion was “bitter,” Biden slammed a desk with his fist, and Begin accused him of threatening Israel. Biden surrogates have gone out of their way to quash this story as “false”. Well, now there’s fresh evidence that as a young senator, Joe Biden was critical of the settlements policy. In 1973, when Biden was 30 years old and a freshman senator, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and confronted her over the same issue. Official notes of that meeting in Hebrew were just published in translation by Channel 13 in Israel. From reporter Nadav Eyal’s twitter feed:
Biden criticizes the Nixon admi[nistration] for being “dragged by Israel”. He says, according to this government memo, that there is no debate in the Senate about the ME [Middle East] because the Senators are “afraid” to say things that Jewish voters will dislike. (He SAYS THAT TO GOLDA) He criticizes the Israeli labor platform arguing that it’s leading to a creeping annexation of the occupied territories. Considering Israel’s military dominance, Biden suggests it will initiate a first step for peace by unilateral withdrawals. This will be done from areas with no strategic importance- not the Golan. Golda responds with a long speech about the history of the Zionist movement from its very establishment. The instability of Arab Regimes, the unfairness of SC [UN Security Council] decisions. Golda rejects Biden comments on the Labor platform, rejects his offers of unilateral withdrawal and continues to argue that Israel can make no major mistakes considering the situation of the Jewish people after the Holocaust. The official making the notes remarked that Biden was full of respect to the PM yet his “enthusiasm as he as he spoke” signaled his lack of experience in the Diplomatic field.
Biden had come to Israel from Egypt, and forty days later, Egypt attacked Israel in the October 1973 war. Eyal comments, “Biden warning to the PM on the eve of the war that Israel must make some concessions is prophetic. Some historians argue that Golda’s refusal to consider Egyptian diplomatic initiatives led to war.” The notes are fascinating because they show Biden taking a stand, but Biden himself has made shtik out of this exchange, often telling the story in a way to put himself down: Golda Meir lectured a young senator about the fact that Israel has “a secret weapon, we have no place else to go.” The truth from this memo is that Biden at 30 held his own, and was obviously angered by Israeli policies, its unending settlements under a Labor government, and sought more debate about Israel’s actions in the Senate. Just as he would be angry with Menachem Begin of a rightwing party when he was 39 years old. Now Biden is 77 and has long since accommodated himself to Jewish voters and Israel’s expansion. His 2020 Democratic Party platform removed draft references to occupation and even settlements as such. It does oppose “settlement expansion” and “annexation” but assures Israel that we won’t cut aid to the country. Plus ca change Biden has gotten used to being “dragged by Israel.” Though he knows better, or once did. Source: Mondoweiss
Fraser Nelson - Sat Oct 24, 2020 14:30

Sweden has rejected lockdown and face masks, but infections there are on the rise again. Yesterday, its public health agency published a report noting this – and pointing out that the elderly are at the gravest risk. In any other country, you could guess what would come next: a crackdown or curfew, a ban on socialising, a “rule of six”, no more seeing grandchildren. But what the officials had to say next was – to British ears – astonishing.

The elderly, they said, have suffered enough. They have spent months being advised to avoid public transport, shopping malls and other parts of everyday life. And the result? Loneliness. Misery. This is more than unpleasant: it quickly translates into depression, mental health issues and mortality. “We cannot only think about infection control,” said Lena Hallengren, Sweden’s health minister, “we also need to think about public health.” An important distinction: focus on Covid to the exclusion of other conditions and you risk lives.

Sweden is perhaps the first country in the world to make this case so clearly: isolation kills too. We now know much more about the virus, said Ms Hallengren, but we also know more about the side effects of lockdown – and even in Sweden’s case (where restrictions were voluntary) these effects are severe. Her 21-page report found a “decline in mental health” that was “likely to worsen the longer the recommendations remain in place”. So restrictions for the over-70s have been abolished forthwith, even with Covid rising (albeit slowly). And all this in the name of public health, not the economy.

If Sweden has found this problem, we can expect it here too. Our official surveys show rates of depression doubling amongst the over-70s (and trebling amongst the young) since lockdown was imposed. But here, the debate is very different. When argument is made for Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions – outlawing home visits and indoor socialising – there’s no mention of the side effects. Given that most Covid deaths are among the over-80s, it has been assumed that this whole lockdown project is for the benefit of the elderly. But this can overlook how they can be harmed, too.

Most pensioners in Britain are, at present, banned from receiving guests – friends or family – outside their designated support bubble. The Swedes are now emphasising the effects of such isolation. Lack of stimulation and mobility means increased blood pressure and faster cognitive decline. Studies have shown that unvisited, lonely pensioners are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and three times as likely to have a heart condition. This is for normal times, when society is open: loneliness may become an even bigger problem when young people are advised by ministers not to “kill granny”.

https://twitter.com/aginnt/status/1318993429519630336

Preparing for winter has been a Swedish obsession for centuries, so they have some expertise in how to survive them. It was researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm who found that pensioners with fewer social contacts are 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia. So looking after the elderly means thinking of ways to visit, to get people moving, to encourage them to move about. In Britain, there’s far less discussion about how to make the most of the last years of life. Maybe that is why a pensioner is more likely to die of the cold in Britain than in Sweden.

You can perhaps argue that the calculation won’t apply in Britain because the virus is now so widespread here that Covid is the bigger risk. But that’s not the argument being made. There’s still a see-no-evil approach to the side effects of lockdown, which are simply not being modelled in the way that Covid deaths are. This makes it far harder for Boris Johnson to balance the risks, or identify the point at which the cure becomes worse than the disease. When Manchester and Yorkshire were put into Tier 3 restrictions, there were plenty of graphs looking at the virus – but none looking at the side-effects.

The basic point is that it’s not just about the number of years you live, but the quality of those years. Someone aged 60 may be more inclined to go for a lockdown than those in their 80s, many of whom would be quite happy to run the risk, see their friends and go about their life. Those living alone (as almost half of over-70s do) may really struggle this winter: they’re allowed to form one “support bubble” with one other household, but that’s their lot.

Polls show that pensioners are keen on lockdowns, but we seldom hear from those opposed. We did this week when one octogenarian was stopped outside M&S in Barnsley and asked about the coming restrictions. Two million people have now watched Maureen Eames’ answer on social media, such was her eloquence. She declared herself not overly worried about the virus (“I’m 83, I don’t give a sod”) and unpersuaded of the merits of Tier 3 lockdowns. “I’ve not got all that many years left of me,” she said “and I’m not going to be fastened in a house when the Government have got it all wrong.” Her main concern was for the young, having to pay for the surge in unemployment. She would not pay, she said, “because I’m going to be dead.”

At times, it seems Britain is still stuck in the lives vs money fallacy – talking as if the problems of lockdown can be remedied by Rishi Sunak writing a very large cheque. He was doing so again yesterday – but money can’t buy company or stem the mounting mental health crisis. Those in care homes are, in all too many places, banned from seeing their family at all – which may make sense in terms of the virus, but is certain to make life more miserable. And probably shorter.

When Britain first locked down, there was no time to do such calculations. We knew nothing about the virus and it made sense to buy time, to learn more. We can now look around the world and see the effects – not just of the methods of suppressing the virus, but about the mental and physical toll taken by the experiment of lockdown. It may well be that the price of isolation is worth paying: then, and now. But we should, at least, be honest about that price.

Source: The Telegraph

Sweden has rejected lockdown and face masks, but infections there are on the rise again. Yesterday, its public health agency published a report noting this – and pointing out that the elderly are at the gravest risk. In any other country, you could guess what would come next: a crackdown or curfew, a ban on socialising, a “rule of six”, no more seeing grandchildren. But what the officials had to say next was – to British ears – astonishing. The elderly, they said, have suffered enough. They have spent months being advised to avoid public transport, shopping malls and other parts of everyday life. And the result? Loneliness. Misery. This is more than unpleasant: it quickly translates into depression, mental health issues and mortality. “We cannot only think about infection control,” said Lena Hallengren, Sweden’s health minister, “we also need to think about public health.” An important distinction: focus on Covid to the exclusion of other conditions and you risk lives. Sweden is perhaps the first country in the world to make this case so clearly: isolation kills too. We now know much more about the virus, said Ms Hallengren, but we also know more about the side effects of lockdown – and even in Sweden’s case (where restrictions were voluntary) these effects are severe. Her 21-page report found a “decline in mental health” that was “likely to worsen the longer the recommendations remain in place”. So restrictions for the over-70s have been abolished forthwith, even with Covid rising (albeit slowly). And all this in the name of public health, not the economy. If Sweden has found this problem, we can expect it here too. Our official surveys show rates of depression doubling amongst the over-70s (and trebling amongst the young) since lockdown was imposed. But here, the debate is very different. When argument is made for Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions – outlawing home visits and indoor socialising – there’s no mention of the side effects. Given that most Covid deaths are among the over-80s, it has been assumed that this whole lockdown project is for the benefit of the elderly. But this can overlook how they can be harmed, too. Most pensioners in Britain are, at present, banned from receiving guests – friends or family – outside their designated support bubble. The Swedes are now emphasising the effects of such isolation. Lack of stimulation and mobility means increased blood pressure and faster cognitive decline. Studies have shown that unvisited, lonely pensioners are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and three times as likely to have a heart condition. This is for normal times, when society is open: loneliness may become an even bigger problem when young people are advised by ministers not to “kill granny”. https://twitter.com/aginnt/status/1318993429519630336 Preparing for winter has been a Swedish obsession for centuries, so they have some expertise in how to survive them. It was researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm who found that pensioners with fewer social contacts are 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia. So looking after the elderly means thinking of ways to visit, to get people moving, to encourage them to move about. In Britain, there’s far less discussion about how to make the most of the last years of life. Maybe that is why a pensioner is more likely to die of the cold in Britain than in Sweden. You can perhaps argue that the calculation won’t apply in Britain because the virus is now so widespread here that Covid is the bigger risk. But that’s not the argument being made. There’s still a see-no-evil approach to the side effects of lockdown, which are simply not being modelled in the way that Covid deaths are. This makes it far harder for Boris Johnson to balance the risks, or identify the point at which the cure becomes worse than the disease. When Manchester and Yorkshire were put into Tier 3 restrictions, there were plenty of graphs looking at the virus – but none looking at the side-effects. The basic point is that it’s not just about the number of years you live, but the quality of those years. Someone aged 60 may be more inclined to go for a lockdown than those in their 80s, many of whom would be quite happy to run the risk, see their friends and go about their life. Those living alone (as almost half of over-70s do) may really struggle this winter: they’re allowed to form one “support bubble” with one other household, but that’s their lot. Polls show that pensioners are keen on lockdowns, but we seldom hear from those opposed. We did this week when one octogenarian was stopped outside M&S in Barnsley and asked about the coming restrictions. Two million people have now watched Maureen Eames’ answer on social media, such was her eloquence. She declared herself not overly worried about the virus (“I’m 83, I don’t give a sod”) and unpersuaded of the merits of Tier 3 lockdowns. “I’ve not got all that many years left of me,” she said “and I’m not going to be fastened in a house when the Government have got it all wrong.” Her main concern was for the young, having to pay for the surge in unemployment. She would not pay, she said, “because I’m going to be dead.” At times, it seems Britain is still stuck in the lives vs money fallacy – talking as if the problems of lockdown can be remedied by Rishi Sunak writing a very large cheque. He was doing so again yesterday – but money can’t buy company or stem the mounting mental health crisis. Those in care homes are, in all too many places, banned from seeing their family at all – which may make sense in terms of the virus, but is certain to make life more miserable. And probably shorter. When Britain first locked down, there was no time to do such calculations. We knew nothing about the virus and it made sense to buy time, to learn more. We can now look around the world and see the effects – not just of the methods of suppressing the virus, but about the mental and physical toll taken by the experiment of lockdown. It may well be that the price of isolation is worth paying: then, and now. But we should, at least, be honest about that price. Source: The Telegraph
Reuters - Sat Oct 24, 2020 13:30

The head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service made a surprise visit to Belarus on Thursday in what looked like a show of support by Moscow for veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally who is under pressure to step down.

TV footage released by Belarusian state showed Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR, smiling broadly as Lukashenko told him the two countries were facing a difficult situation and had few international allies.

In the latest uncompromising rhetoric from Lukashenko’s government, the Belarusian interior ministry said the protests were evolving into a terrorist threat.

Naryshkin’s visit is likely to be seen as a show of support from Moscow for the Belarusian leader ahead of Monday when an opposition ultimatum for Lukashenko to step down, which he shows no sign of heeding, expires.

Lukashenko, who has faced over two months of protests over an Aug. 9 election victory protesters say was rigged, thanked Naryshkin for regularly sharing Russian intelligence information with Belarus.

President Vladimir Putin has pledged to send in special Russian riot troops if necessary, and granted Lukashenko a loan, while Russian state TV specialists have flown in to help keep state TV functioning.

Russia, which has long viewed Belarus as a friendly buffer state between itself and the NATO military alliance, has said it sees the problems facing Lukashenko as the result of unwanted external influence.

Naryshkin told reporters after the talks that the two men had discussed closer military, economic and espionage ties between the two countries, which are already loosely united in a union state.

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded its annual human rights prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, to the Belarusian opposition in a show of support for those protesting against Lukashenko’s rule.

The parliament cited 10 opposition figures in its award statement, including the main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Nobel laureate author Svetlana Alexievich.

Source: Reuters


Associated Press:

“We are seeing a desire to try to change the existing order, the existing political system, by unconstitutional means,” Naryshkin said after a meeting with Lukashenko. “The outside influence is quite obvious.”

Naryshkin hailed a constitutional amendment process proposed by Lukashenko, saying that it would “give answers to many questions” while preserving stability in Belarus.

The head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service made a surprise visit to Belarus on Thursday in what looked like a show of support by Moscow for veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally who is under pressure to step down.

TV footage released by Belarusian state showed Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR, smiling broadly as Lukashenko told him the two countries were facing a difficult situation and had few international allies.

In the latest uncompromising rhetoric from Lukashenko’s government, the Belarusian interior ministry said the protests were evolving into a terrorist threat.

Naryshkin’s visit is likely to be seen as a show of support from Moscow for the Belarusian leader ahead of Monday when an opposition ultimatum for Lukashenko to step down, which he shows no sign of heeding, expires.

Lukashenko, who has faced over two months of protests over an Aug. 9 election victory protesters say was rigged, thanked Naryshkin for regularly sharing Russian intelligence information with Belarus.

President Vladimir Putin has pledged to send in special Russian riot troops if necessary, and granted Lukashenko a loan, while Russian state TV specialists have flown in to help keep state TV functioning.

Russia, which has long viewed Belarus as a friendly buffer state between itself and the NATO military alliance, has said it sees the problems facing Lukashenko as the result of unwanted external influence.

Naryshkin told reporters after the talks that the two men had discussed closer military, economic and espionage ties between the two countries, which are already loosely united in a union state.

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded its annual human rights prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, to the Belarusian opposition in a show of support for those protesting against Lukashenko’s rule.

The parliament cited 10 opposition figures in its award statement, including the main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Nobel laureate author Svetlana Alexievich.

Source: Reuters
Associated Press:
“We are seeing a desire to try to change the existing order, the existing political system, by unconstitutional means,” Naryshkin said after a meeting with Lukashenko. “The outside influence is quite obvious.” Naryshkin hailed a constitutional amendment process proposed by Lukashenko, saying that it would “give answers to many questions” while preserving stability in Belarus.
Dave DeCamp - Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:28

The State Department approved an arms sale to Taiwan on Wednesday that includes weapons capable of striking mainland China’s coastal areas. It is the first time since Washington cut off diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 that the US is providing the island with meaningful offensive weapons systems.

The $1.8 billion package includes 135 AGM-84H cruise missiles with a striking range of more than 168 miles (270km), and 11 truck-based HIMARS rocket launchers along with 64 missiles that can reach up to 186 miles (300km). The sale also includes sensor pods for Taiwan’s fighter jets.

Mei Fu-hsing, director of the Taiwan Security Analysis Center, a New York-based think tank, told The South China Morning Post that the offensive nature of the weapons is a “breakthrough” for Taiwan.

Taiwan has a large fleet of F-16 fighter jets. Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan, told the Post that Taiwan would be the first US security partner to carry AGM-84H cruise missiles using F-16s. The professor said that while the weapons are the first “offensive” ones to be sold to Taipei in over four decades, “they are primarily for deterrence purposes.”

On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said US arms sales to Taiwan should end. Zhao said the sales “severely damage China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” He also said China “will make a legitimate and necessary response.” Earlier this year, Beijing sanctioned US weapons maker Lockheed Martin over sales to Taiwan.

The Trump administration has taken other steps to increase ties with Taiwan, raising tensions in the region with Beijing. In August, US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, making him the highest-level US official to travel to the island since 1979. Azar’s visit was followed by one from US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach.

Krach’s trip sparked an increase in flights from Chinese warplanes near Taiwan’s airspace. US military flights in the region have significantly increased this year. Earlier this week, the US flew a spy plane directly over the island of Taiwan [aka Chinese territory in their eyes -- and supposedly in the eyes of the US under the One China policy], a rare move that is likely meant to send a message to Beijing.

Source: Antiwar.com

[caption id="attachment_37222" align="alignnone" width="1000"] HIMARS[/caption] The State Department approved an arms sale to Taiwan on Wednesday that includes weapons capable of striking mainland China’s coastal areas. It is the first time since Washington cut off diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 that the US is providing the island with meaningful offensive weapons systems. The $1.8 billion package includes 135 AGM-84H cruise missiles with a striking range of more than 168 miles (270km), and 11 truck-based HIMARS rocket launchers along with 64 missiles that can reach up to 186 miles (300km). The sale also includes sensor pods for Taiwan’s fighter jets. Mei Fu-hsing, director of the Taiwan Security Analysis Center, a New York-based think tank, told The South China Morning Post that the offensive nature of the weapons is a “breakthrough” for Taiwan. Taiwan has a large fleet of F-16 fighter jets. Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan, told the Post that Taiwan would be the first US security partner to carry AGM-84H cruise missiles using F-16s. The professor said that while the weapons are the first “offensive” ones to be sold to Taipei in over four decades, “they are primarily for deterrence purposes.” On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said US arms sales to Taiwan should end. Zhao said the sales “severely damage China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” He also said China “will make a legitimate and necessary response.” Earlier this year, Beijing sanctioned US weapons maker Lockheed Martin over sales to Taiwan. The Trump administration has taken other steps to increase ties with Taiwan, raising tensions in the region with Beijing. In August, US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, making him the highest-level US official to travel to the island since 1979. Azar’s visit was followed by one from US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach. Krach’s trip sparked an increase in flights from Chinese warplanes near Taiwan’s airspace. US military flights in the region have significantly increased this year. Earlier this week, the US flew a spy plane directly over the island of Taiwan [aka Chinese territory in their eyes -- and supposedly in the eyes of the US under the One China policy], a rare move that is likely meant to send a message to Beijing. Source: Antiwar.com
HI Sutton - Sat Oct 24, 2020 04:37

Last week, the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Samah entered the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. After a few miles, the 900-foot-long ship stopped reporting its position and destination. Evidence suggests the ship sailed to Syria, escorted by two Russian Navy ships, including a destroyer.

Russia’s role in protecting the shipment may change the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the past, Iranian tankers sailing to Syria have been intercepted by the U.K. Royal Navy. The Russian Navy escort could be viewed as a precautionary step, raising the political and military risks of any intervention by the Royal Navy or others.

Last July, an Iranian tanker destined for Syria, Adrian Darya-1, was seized by U.K. Royal Marines off Gibraltar. The British accused Iran of supplying Syria with oil in contravention of European Union sanctions. Iran quickly seized a British-flagged tanker in a likely retaliatory move. Eventually, in September, Adrian Darya-1 was released by a local court with the assurance that it would not deliver its oil to Syria – but days later, it transshipped its oil in Syrian waters.

Samah has taken the shorter Suez Canal route, avoiding the Strait of Gibraltar. According to data provided by MarineTraffic.com, after exiting the Suez Canal Samah disappeared from automated identification system tracking. AIS is a system used to alert ships of each other’s presence and is required to be used by ships of this size. Other ships in the vicinity remained visible on AIS, which implies that Samah deliberately stopped broadcasting. This is termed going “dark.”

At the same time, the Russian Navy ship Akademik Pashin was heading south from the Syrian Coast toward the Suez. The two ships likely met on Oct. 14, since the next day they were seen together by a passing commercial satellite, heading north towards Syria.

Accompanying them was a warship, believed to be the Udaloy-class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov. They were seen traveling in loose formation, with Akademiks Pashin leading the way and the destroyer in rear guard, according to open-source intelligence analyst Frank Bottema.

By the morning of Oct. 17, a tanker resembling Samah was anchored off the Baniyas oil terminal in Syria. Meanwhile, Akademik Pashin was sailing west toward Greece.

The Russian Navy has hinted it would be more active in escorting merchant ships in the region. After the Iranian delivery, the Russian Navy has publicized an exercise off Syria, meant to protect “smooth passage of civilian ships.” A simulated attack by a submarine was dealt with by Vice Admiral Kulakov, which may be intended to send a message to allies and potential adversaries alike that Russia will actively prevent any interference with the Iranian shipments.

Russia now maintains a permanent squadron in the Mediterranean, based in Tartus, Syria. This includes submarines and large warships. If Moscow decides the Iran-Syria oil run is now a regular mission for the Russian Navy, it’s set to complicate enforcement of international sanctions which could otherwise shut down one of the Syrian regime’s vital lifelines.

Source: USNI News

[caption id="attachment_37215" align="alignnone" width="1500"] "Last July, an Iranian tanker destined for Syria, Adrian Darya-1, was seized by U.K. Royal Marines off Gibraltar"[/caption] Last week, the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Samah entered the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. After a few miles, the 900-foot-long ship stopped reporting its position and destination. Evidence suggests the ship sailed to Syria, escorted by two Russian Navy ships, including a destroyer. Russia’s role in protecting the shipment may change the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the past, Iranian tankers sailing to Syria have been intercepted by the U.K. Royal Navy. The Russian Navy escort could be viewed as a precautionary step, raising the political and military risks of any intervention by the Royal Navy or others. Last July, an Iranian tanker destined for Syria, Adrian Darya-1, was seized by U.K. Royal Marines off Gibraltar. The British accused Iran of supplying Syria with oil in contravention of European Union sanctions. Iran quickly seized a British-flagged tanker in a likely retaliatory move. Eventually, in September, Adrian Darya-1 was released by a local court with the assurance that it would not deliver its oil to Syria – but days later, it transshipped its oil in Syrian waters. Samah has taken the shorter Suez Canal route, avoiding the Strait of Gibraltar. According to data provided by MarineTraffic.com, after exiting the Suez Canal Samah disappeared from automated identification system tracking. AIS is a system used to alert ships of each other’s presence and is required to be used by ships of this size. Other ships in the vicinity remained visible on AIS, which implies that Samah deliberately stopped broadcasting. This is termed going “dark.” At the same time, the Russian Navy ship Akademik Pashin was heading south from the Syrian Coast toward the Suez. The two ships likely met on Oct. 14, since the next day they were seen together by a passing commercial satellite, heading north towards Syria. Accompanying them was a warship, believed to be the Udaloy-class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov. They were seen traveling in loose formation, with Akademiks Pashin leading the way and the destroyer in rear guard, according to open-source intelligence analyst Frank Bottema. [caption id="attachment_37217" align="alignnone" width="1709"] Destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov[/caption] By the morning of Oct. 17, a tanker resembling Samah was anchored off the Baniyas oil terminal in Syria. Meanwhile, Akademik Pashin was sailing west toward Greece. The Russian Navy has hinted it would be more active in escorting merchant ships in the region. After the Iranian delivery, the Russian Navy has publicized an exercise off Syria, meant to protect “smooth passage of civilian ships.” A simulated attack by a submarine was dealt with by Vice Admiral Kulakov, which may be intended to send a message to allies and potential adversaries alike that Russia will actively prevent any interference with the Iranian shipments. Russia now maintains a permanent squadron in the Mediterranean, based in Tartus, Syria. This includes submarines and large warships. If Moscow decides the Iran-Syria oil run is now a regular mission for the Russian Navy, it’s set to complicate enforcement of international sanctions which could otherwise shut down one of the Syrian regime’s vital lifelines. Source: USNI News
Vladimir Isachenkov - Sat Oct 24, 2020 01:12

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now, but noted it could be forged in the future.

Putin’s statement signaled deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid growing tensions in their relations with the United States. The Russian leader also made a strong call for extending the last remaining arms control pact between Moscow and Washington.

Asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday whether a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible, Putin replied that “we don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.

Putin pointed to the war games that the armed forces of China and Russia held as a signal of the countries’ burgeoning military cooperation.

Putin also noted that Russia has shared sensitive military technologies that helped significantly boost China’s military potential, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information was sensitive.

“Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” he said, adding that the future could see even closer military ties between the two countries.

“The time will show how it will develop,” the Russian president said, adding that “we won’t exclude it.”

Russia has sought to develop stronger ties with China as its relations with the West sank to post-Cold War lows over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other rifts.

Putin on Thursday emphasized the importance of extending the New START treaty that expires in February, Russia’s last arms control pact with the United States.

Earlier this week, the United States and Russia signaled their readiness to accept compromises to salvage the New START treaty just two weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election in which President Donald Trump faces a strong challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign has accused Trump of being soft on Russia.

New START was signed in 2010 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Russia had offered to extend the pact without any conditions, while the Trump administration initially insisted that it could only be renewed if China agreed to join. China has refused to consider the idea. The U.S. recently modified its stance and proposed a one-year extension of the treaty, but said it must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on nuclear warheads.

The Kremlin initially resisted Washington’s demand, but its position shifted this week with the Russian Foreign Ministry stating that Moscow can accept a freeze on warheads if the U.S. agrees to put forward no additional demands.

Putin didn’t address the issue of the freeze on warheads, but he emphasized the importance of salvaging New START.

“The question is whether to keep the existing treaty as it is, begin a detailed discussion and try to reach a compromise in a year or lose that treaty altogether, leaving ourselves, Russia and the United States, along with the rest of the world, without any agreement restricting an arms race,” he said. “I believe the second option is much worse.”

At the same time, he added that Russia “wasn’t clinging to the treaty” and will ensure its security without it. He pointed at Russia’s perceived edge in hypersonic weapons and indicated a readiness to include them in a future pact.

“If our partners decide that they don’t need it, well, so be it, we can’t stop them,” he said. “Russia’

Despite indications earlier this week that Russia and the U.S. were inching closer to a deal on New START, the top Russian negotiator said that “dramatic” differences still remain and strongly warned Washington against making new demands.

Sergei Ryabkov cautioned the U.S. against pressing its demand for more intrusive control verification measures like those that existed in the 1990s and aren’t envisaged by the New START. The diplomat argued that new control mechanisms could be discussed as part of a future deal, saying firmly that Russia will not accept the demand that amounts to “legitimate espionage.”

“If it doesn’t suit the U.S. for some reason, then there will be no deal,” Ryabkov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Source: Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now, but noted it could be forged in the future.

Putin’s statement signaled deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid growing tensions in their relations with the United States. The Russian leader also made a strong call for extending the last remaining arms control pact between Moscow and Washington.

Asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday whether a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible, Putin replied that “we don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.

Putin pointed to the war games that the armed forces of China and Russia held as a signal of the countries’ burgeoning military cooperation.

Putin also noted that Russia has shared sensitive military technologies that helped significantly boost China’s military potential, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information was sensitive.

“Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” he said, adding that the future could see even closer military ties between the two countries.

“The time will show how it will develop,” the Russian president said, adding that “we won’t exclude it.”

Russia has sought to develop stronger ties with China as its relations with the West sank to post-Cold War lows over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other rifts.

Putin on Thursday emphasized the importance of extending the New START treaty that expires in February, Russia’s last arms control pact with the United States.

Earlier this week, the United States and Russia signaled their readiness to accept compromises to salvage the New START treaty just two weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election in which President Donald Trump faces a strong challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign has accused Trump of being soft on Russia.

New START was signed in 2010 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Russia had offered to extend the pact without any conditions, while the Trump administration initially insisted that it could only be renewed if China agreed to join. China has refused to consider the idea. The U.S. recently modified its stance and proposed a one-year extension of the treaty, but said it must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on nuclear warheads.

The Kremlin initially resisted Washington’s demand, but its position shifted this week with the Russian Foreign Ministry stating that Moscow can accept a freeze on warheads if the U.S. agrees to put forward no additional demands.

Putin didn’t address the issue of the freeze on warheads, but he emphasized the importance of salvaging New START.

“The question is whether to keep the existing treaty as it is, begin a detailed discussion and try to reach a compromise in a year or lose that treaty altogether, leaving ourselves, Russia and the United States, along with the rest of the world, without any agreement restricting an arms race,” he said. “I believe the second option is much worse.”

At the same time, he added that Russia “wasn’t clinging to the treaty” and will ensure its security without it. He pointed at Russia’s perceived edge in hypersonic weapons and indicated a readiness to include them in a future pact.

“If our partners decide that they don’t need it, well, so be it, we can’t stop them,” he said. “Russia’

Despite indications earlier this week that Russia and the U.S. were inching closer to a deal on New START, the top Russian negotiator said that “dramatic” differences still remain and strongly warned Washington against making new demands.

Sergei Ryabkov cautioned the U.S. against pressing its demand for more intrusive control verification measures like those that existed in the 1990s and aren’t envisaged by the New START. The diplomat argued that new control mechanisms could be discussed as part of a future deal, saying firmly that Russia will not accept the demand that amounts to “legitimate espionage.”

“If it doesn’t suit the U.S. for some reason, then there will be no deal,” Ryabkov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Source: Associated Press
Zoran Vukosavljević - Fri Oct 23, 2020 23:36

Editor's note: Armenian anti-aircraft defenses are not particularly modern or potent, but they are perfectly adequate to keep at bay the modest Azeri airforce, which can field only two squadrons of Su-25 ground-attack jets, a squadron of MiG-29 fighters, and two squadrons of Mi-24 attack helicopters.

However, the problem for the Armenian side is that the Azeris are instead relying on slow-flying drones that Armenian anti-aircraft systems are ill-equipped to handle, having been developed before the advent of drones and with different roles and capabilities in mind.

The impression that one gets is that the Armenian side would benefit immensely by an urgent transfer of heaps of anti-drone systems (and training).


Machine translated from Serbian. Excerpted from a much longer analysis here by a Serbian air defense vet.


Unmanned aerial vehicles, kamikaze drones and reconnaissance aircraft, fly at speeds ranging from just over 100 km/h to 250-300 km/h. These speeds are very problematic for tracking in air defense radar systems. Namely, there is no big difference in the air defense systems in terms of whether they are "newer" or "older", the problem is present in almost everyone.

Thus, the air defense systems "S-300PT" and "S-300PS" cannot, with their radars for tracking targets and guiding missiles, track targets that fly slower than 50 m/s and about 180 km/h, respectively. The same applies to the air defense system "S-125M1 Neva". In the case of the air defense system "9K37 BukM1-2", "2K12 Kub and 2K11 Krug", that limit varies between 50-60 m/s, which means from 180-216 km/h. This practically means that these air defense systems will practically not be able to react effectively against an unmanned reconnaissance or attack aircraft, if it flies at speeds below 50 or 60 m/s.

There is also the question of altitude.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the Bayraktar TB2, can fly at altitudes of over 7,000 meters, which is enough to "exceed" the battery monitoring radar of the "2K12 Kub" system, even when and if the aircraft flies slightly faster than 60 m/s, so in addition to low flight speed, altitude may be a problem here.

The exception is the air defense system "9K33 Osa-AK/AKM" which should be the "right" solution to these problems. The system has a very solid observation radar that can detect very low-flying targets, but also floating targets. In that sense, there is no problem with low flight speed. The problem here is a limited observation height of only 5 km, but also the fact that slow targets flying at speeds below 100 m/s (360 km/h) can be detected at distances less than 6.4 km. In this sense, this is a problem, when attackers are aircraft that fly slower than 100 m/s at altitudes over 5 km, or at altitudes up to 5 km, but at distances over 6.4 km and which can operate laser-guided missiles from distances up to 8000 m (Bayraktar TB2). Also, a certain "internality" of the radar system, which is quite complex, but also single-channel in purpose, showed in this conflict that the air defense system "9K33 Axis AK/AKM" is not able to cope with these challenges of drones and was a frequent victim of unmanned aerial vehicles and kamikaze drones, although it had some success in shooting them down.

Certainly, the best solution for the drone problem would be the "Tor M2KM" system, but the problem here is that Armenia simply does not have enough of these systems, and considering that they were only delivered in the beginning of the year, the level of crew training is also a question.

The system is very atypical. Namely, it is a "container system" that is delivered without an accompanying vehicle or semi-trailer, and can therefore be placed on the supporting structure of a wheeled or tracked vehicle of any suitable type (load capacity above all), as well as on a semi-trailer. The "container" can also be placed on warships. The Armenian army decided that the carrier would be a KAMAZ-63501 8 × 8 truck, a priest.

The Tor-M2KM system can use 9M331 and 9M332 projectiles. The launch vehicle with radar system consists of an observation-acquisition radar with a range of up to 25 km, a target tracking radar and guidance missiles with a range of up to 20 km, an electro-optical tracking system and 8 ZV "9M331" or 9M332 "missiles housed in 2 containers with 4 rockets. The maximum range in distance is up to 16 km, and in height up to 10 km.
The system has very few restrictions on its use for action against drones, low-flying helicopters and piston planes, and it can be said that this system is in fact the right solution to this problem that the Armenians had in the first days of the war. The only question is how many of these systems are available and what is the current status in terms of technical equipment and staff training.

The next issue concerns the angles of attack at which unmanned aerial vehicles, primarily kamikaze drones of the "IAI Harop" type, but also quasi-ballistic missiles "Lora" can attack targets, including air defense systems (especially stationary or semi-mobile).

Kamikaze drones of the "IAI Harop" type, but also locally produced "Orbiters 1/3", are able to hover-cruise at altitudes up to 3000-4000 meters and to optically or passively radar search for their target. When they find a target, they head towards it, fly low following the configuration and relief of the terrain, and then crash at high angles of attack, which can be problematic for tracking the radars of air defense missile systems. Given that they fly low, before the attack, following the configuration and relief of the terrain, bearing in mind that most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region is hilly and mountainous, all radar-guided air defense missile systems may have problems tracking a target that can be temporarily "blocked" behind a hill, which causes the loss of radar coverage for illuminating the target and the loss of radar-guided missile air defense system.

Source: Tango Six (excerpt)

[caption id="attachment_37162" align="alignnone" width="600"] An Armenian 9K33 Osa (Russian for "wasp") destroyed by Azeri drone[/caption] Editor's note: Armenian anti-aircraft defenses are not particularly modern or potent, but they are perfectly adequate to keep at bay the modest Azeri airforce, which can field only two squadrons of Su-25 ground-attack jets, a squadron of MiG-29 fighters, and two squadrons of Mi-24 attack helicopters. However, the problem for the Armenian side is that the Azeris are instead relying on slow-flying drones that Armenian anti-aircraft systems are ill-equipped to handle, having been developed before the advent of drones and with different roles and capabilities in mind. The impression that one gets is that the Armenian side would benefit immensely by an urgent transfer of heaps of anti-drone systems (and training).
Machine translated from Serbian. Excerpted from a much longer analysis here by a Serbian air defense vet.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, kamikaze drones and reconnaissance aircraft, fly at speeds ranging from just over 100 km/h to 250-300 km/h. These speeds are very problematic for tracking in air defense radar systems. Namely, there is no big difference in the air defense systems in terms of whether they are "newer" or "older", the problem is present in almost everyone. Thus, the air defense systems "S-300PT" and "S-300PS" cannot, with their radars for tracking targets and guiding missiles, track targets that fly slower than 50 m/s and about 180 km/h, respectively. The same applies to the air defense system "S-125M1 Neva". In the case of the air defense system "9K37 BukM1-2", "2K12 Kub and 2K11 Krug", that limit varies between 50-60 m/s, which means from 180-216 km/h. This practically means that these air defense systems will practically not be able to react effectively against an unmanned reconnaissance or attack aircraft, if it flies at speeds below 50 or 60 m/s. There is also the question of altitude. Unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the Bayraktar TB2, can fly at altitudes of over 7,000 meters, which is enough to "exceed" the battery monitoring radar of the "2K12 Kub" system, even when and if the aircraft flies slightly faster than 60 m/s, so in addition to low flight speed, altitude may be a problem here. The exception is the air defense system "9K33 Osa-AK/AKM" which should be the "right" solution to these problems. The system has a very solid observation radar that can detect very low-flying targets, but also floating targets. In that sense, there is no problem with low flight speed. The problem here is a limited observation height of only 5 km, but also the fact that slow targets flying at speeds below 100 m/s (360 km/h) can be detected at distances less than 6.4 km. In this sense, this is a problem, when attackers are aircraft that fly slower than 100 m/s at altitudes over 5 km, or at altitudes up to 5 km, but at distances over 6.4 km and which can operate laser-guided missiles from distances up to 8000 m (Bayraktar TB2). Also, a certain "internality" of the radar system, which is quite complex, but also single-channel in purpose, showed in this conflict that the air defense system "9K33 Axis AK/AKM" is not able to cope with these challenges of drones and was a frequent victim of unmanned aerial vehicles and kamikaze drones, although it had some success in shooting them down. Certainly, the best solution for the drone problem would be the "Tor M2KM" system, but the problem here is that Armenia simply does not have enough of these systems, and considering that they were only delivered in the beginning of the year, the level of crew training is also a question. The system is very atypical. Namely, it is a "container system" that is delivered without an accompanying vehicle or semi-trailer, and can therefore be placed on the supporting structure of a wheeled or tracked vehicle of any suitable type (load capacity above all), as well as on a semi-trailer. The "container" can also be placed on warships. The Armenian army decided that the carrier would be a KAMAZ-63501 8 × 8 truck, a priest. The Tor-M2KM system can use 9M331 and 9M332 projectiles. The launch vehicle with radar system consists of an observation-acquisition radar with a range of up to 25 km, a target tracking radar and guidance missiles with a range of up to 20 km, an electro-optical tracking system and 8 ZV "9M331" or 9M332 "missiles housed in 2 containers with 4 rockets. The maximum range in distance is up to 16 km, and in height up to 10 km. The system has very few restrictions on its use for action against drones, low-flying helicopters and piston planes, and it can be said that this system is in fact the right solution to this problem that the Armenians had in the first days of the war. The only question is how many of these systems are available and what is the current status in terms of technical equipment and staff training. The next issue concerns the angles of attack at which unmanned aerial vehicles, primarily kamikaze drones of the "IAI Harop" type, but also quasi-ballistic missiles "Lora" can attack targets, including air defense systems (especially stationary or semi-mobile). Kamikaze drones of the "IAI Harop" type, but also locally produced "Orbiters 1/3", are able to hover-cruise at altitudes up to 3000-4000 meters and to optically or passively radar search for their target. When they find a target, they head towards it, fly low following the configuration and relief of the terrain, and then crash at high angles of attack, which can be problematic for tracking the radars of air defense missile systems. Given that they fly low, before the attack, following the configuration and relief of the terrain, bearing in mind that most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region is hilly and mountainous, all radar-guided air defense missile systems may have problems tracking a target that can be temporarily "blocked" behind a hill, which causes the loss of radar coverage for illuminating the target and the loss of radar-guided missile air defense system. Source: Tango Six (excerpt) [caption id="attachment_37159" align="alignnone" width="2000"] Azeri gains in blue[/caption]
Freddie Sayers - Fri Oct 23, 2020 16:25
  • "These people are blinded, even scientists, to the data because they despise the political side of this. And they have a massive ego, and can’t admit they’re wrong"
  • "I’ve gone through various levels of being angry. I’m not angry but I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things… It’s just sad to me. I’m cynical about the state we’re in right now and the future… I’m disturbed."
  • "I am angry at the people who were wrong and who insist on prolonging these policies that are killing people, particularly people who are not in their socioeconomic class."
  • "It’s no problem for a person who has a high level job in government, or an academic job, to sit there and pontificate when the average guy is being destroyed."
  • "I certainly have lost some friends, there’s no question about that — would I do it again? Absolutely. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done."
  • "I’m disgusted by politics – completely disgusted — and it’s a sad statement."

Freddie Sayers caught up with Scott Atlas, a healthcare policy academic from the Hoover Institute at Stanford, who has become the latest lightning rod for the controversy around Covid-19 policy and his support for a more targeted response.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpn3JxXqnp4

Speaking from inside the White House, where he is now Senior advisor to the President and a member of the Coronavirus task force, he does not hold back. He tells us that he is disgusted and dismayed at the media and public policy establishment, sad that it has come to this, cynical about their intentions, and angry that lockdown policies have been allowed to go on so long.

He won’t be rushing back to Stanford, where his colleagues have rounded on him, if the President loses in November.

KEY QUOTES

Why him?

“I’m a healthcare policy person — I have a background in medical science, but my role really is to translate medial science into public policy. That’s very different from being an epidemiologist or a virologist with a single, limited view on things.”

Dr Fauci

“He’s just one person on the task force — there are several people on the task force. His background is virology, immunology and infectious disease. It’s a very different background, it’s a more limited approach, and I don’t speak for him.”

Herd immunity policy?

“No. It’s a repeated distortion, lie, or whatever you want to call it… What they mean by ‘herd immunity strategy’ is survival of the fittest, let the infection spread through the community and develop a population immunity. That’s never been the policy that I have advised. It’s never even been discussed inside the White House, not even for a single minute. And that’s never been the policy of the President of the United States or anybody else here. I’ve said that many many times… and yet it persists like so many other things, hence the term that the President is fond of using called fake news.”

On herd immunity

“Population immunity is a biological phenomenon that occurs. It’s sort of like if you’re building something in your basement: it’s down on the ground because gravity puts it there. It’s not a ‘strategy’ to say that herd immunity exists — it is obtained when a certain percentage of the population becomes resistant or immune to an infection, whether that is by getting infected or getting a vaccine or by a combination of both. In fact, if you don’t that believe herd immunity exists as a way to block the pathways to the vulnerable in an infection, then you would never advocate or believe in giving widespread vaccination — that’s the whole point of it… I’ve explained it to people who seemingly didn’t understand it; I’ve mentioned this radioactive word called herd immunity. But that’s not a strategy that anyone is pursuing.”

What is his policy?

“My advice is exactly this. It’s a three-pronged strategy. Number one: aggressive protection of high risk individuals and the vulnerable (typically the elderly and those with co-morbidities). Number two: allocate resources so that we prevent hospital overcrowding, so that people can be treated for this virus and get the other serious medical care that is needed. Number three: open schools, society and businesses because keeping them closed is enormously harmful — in fact it kills people.”

Has the policy changed?

“It is the White House policy on Coronavirus, but it always was. The President started this with an observation that was overlooked by most people in the world: he said in the third week of March that the cure cannot be worse than the disease… In April the White House released a formal ‘opening up America’ document, which included extreme protection of the vulnerable and opening up society… It’s not been a shift.”

Effect of lockdowns

“We must open up because we’re killing people. In the US, 46% of the six most common cancers were not diagnosed during the shutdown… These are people who will present to the hospital or their doctor with later stage disease — many of these people will die. 650,000 Americans are on chemotherapy ­— half of them didn’t come in for their chemo because they were afraid. Two-thirds of screenings for cancer were not done; half of childhood immunisations did not get done; 85% of living organ transplants did not get done. And then we see the other harms: 200,000 cases plus of child abuse in the US during the two months of spring school closures were not reported because schools are the number one agency where abuse is noticed; we have one out of four American young adults, college age, who thought of killing themselves in the month of June…

All of these harms are massive for the working class and the lower socioeconomic groups. The people who are upper class, who can work from home, the people who can sip their latte and complain that their children are underfoot or that they have to come up with extra money to hire a tutor privately — these are people who are not impacted by the lockdowns.

This is the topic, this is why you open up. A secondary gain might be population immunity, but this is the reason to open up.”

On short-term immunity

“We don’t know how long someone’s immunity lasts to this, but this is a coronavirus, this is not a completely novel disease… Coronavirus exposure typically has a year, or even a few years, of immunity — we can make a first guess that probably there’s a good chance that will happen… Yes, we know that antibodies disappear… but that’s true for every infection, that’s a typical scenario and not a cause for panic. Why? Because we know there is resistance to infection that seems to be coming out in the literature that is not purely due to antibodies, there are other components of the immune system. Suffice to say this: do we know that people have immunity? You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that when you hundreds of millions of cases… do you know how many cases of reinfection there are? At the most, five in the world… It is not true that there is no immunity to this, that would be a bizarre conclusion.”

Climate of fear

“This is one of the biggest failures of the voices of public health in the United States and in the world — they specifically instilled fear with their proclamations and statements… And the models that were put forward that were worst case scenarios and were just hideously wrong, and the media that has hyped up these rare exceptions like multi-system inflammation in children even though we know the overwhelming evidence is that this disease is absolutely not high risk for children. All the hyperbole, the sensationalising and the failure of public health officials to articulate what we know instead of what we don’t know… The fear is due to what was said by the so-called experts, by the media and by a failure to understand or care that they were instilling hear… I just heard a famous epidemiologist from Harvard the other day say that to have the idea of herd immunity even being discussed is ‘mass murder’ — these kinds of statements are hideously outrageous.

It’s never appropriate to have fear. There is no such thing as a government leader who is competent who instils fear.”

How to protect old people

“We have not been perfect at it, there’s no question — it’s very challenging. The first is to educate people: put forward the guidelines. I think our society has learned — no-one knew what social distancing meant… that was a foreign concept and we now understand that — but there are more specific measures. We have shipped every single nursing home point of care rapid testing — we have mandated weekly testing of every staff that enters a nursing home, but when there is community increase we recommend going up to… four times a week.

We cannot guarantee that we can protect everybody — there is not such thing as zero risk in life…”

But

“I have a 93 year old mother in law, and she said to me 2 months ago, “I’m not interested in being confined in my home. I am not interested in living if that’s the life… I’m old enough to take a risk, I understand social distancing. I’m going to function, otherwise there’s no reason to live.”

This sort of bizarre, maybe well-intentioned but misguided idea that we are going to eliminate all risk from life, we are going to stop people from taking any risk that they are well aware of, we’re going to close down businesses, we’re going to stop schools — these are inappropriate and destructive policies.

There are between 30,000 and 90,000 people a year that die — that are high risk elderly — in the United States every flu season. We don’t shut down schools in response to that…”

Is it politics?

“I see that there is a different philosophy in life. In my own family we have different views on things. But we need to start by looking at the data.

One thing that’s been really shocking to me is that in the US and I think all over the world, we have a really contaminated media. Their politics has really distorted truth… I think that has now contaminated public policy and science. There’s been a massive distortion — a complete almost disregard for objectivity, including in some of what were the world’s best journals like LancetNew England JournalNatureScience: these people feel compelled to be politically visible, and that’s contaminated the discussion.”

On test and trace

“Now, there are 7 million registered cases in the US but even the CDC says that it’s probably tenfold that, that’s 70 million people at least [IFR = 0.28%]; if we look at the world’s cases, maybe 40 million cases but we know that it’s probably 10 to 20 times that. So it’s not possible to do things like contact tracing and isolating asymptomatic people.

A lot of these people who have very fancy CVs have engaged in very sloppy thinking. And now, partly because it’s a political year in the US with a massively polarised electorate, the politics have entered the scene and there’s a massive amount of digging in to the original beliefs even though they are completely wrong…”

On his own reputation

“My position here is not political — zero politics. My motivation was that the President of the United States asked me, a public health policy person who understands medical science, to help in the biggest healthcare crisis of the century. There would be something wrong with you if you would say no to that, no matter what your politics…

When I did that though, I knew I would be vilified, because in the US there are a lot of people who think that this President is radioactive, so there is a massive destruction that ensues immediately when you associate with this President. It’s a very sad statement on America, on American culture, on the world — these people are blinded, even scientists, to the data because they despise the political side of this. And they have a massive ego, and can’t admit they’re wrong. Ok I’m a contrarian, I’m used to being a contrarian, I’m proud to be an outlier when the inliers are wrong.

I’ve gone through various levels of being angry. I’m not angry but I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things… It’s just sad to me. I’m cynical about the state we’re in right now and the future… I’m disturbed. I have children of my own who are in their twenties, and I wonder what the future is if we have lost truth in the media, to a great extent, and we are now starting to lose truth in science…

I am angry at the people who were wrong and who insist on prolonging these policies that are killing people, particularly people who are not in their socioeconomic class.

It’s no problem for a person who has a high level job in government, or an academic job, to sit there and pontificate when the average guy is being destroyed. That I am angry about and I think history will record these people very harshly — it is an epic failure of massive proportion that they have abandoned regular people here with their own hubris and political agenda. In that sense – yeah I’m angry.”

On masks

“Things like universal mask wearing — honestly that is contrary to the science as well as common sense, to think that you need to wear a mask when you’re in the middle of the desert, when you’re in the car on your own, when you’re bicycling through St James’s Park. This kind of stuff is nonsense. There is no science to support universal masking.

You can look at LA County, Miami-Dade county, many states in the US, the Philippines, Spain, France, the UK, all over the world mandating masks does not stop for the population does not stop cases. That is just super naïve, wrong, and that’s just garbage science really. The WHO does not recommend widespread mandatory masks, the NIH does not recommend that, the CDC data itself shows that that doesn’t work. That’s bordering on wearing a copper bracelet as far as I am concerned.

I do think masks have a role… in medicine we wear masks for surgical procedures. The reason you wear a mask is when you’re very close to somebody, or a sterile environment like an open incision, you want to stop a cough or droplets from getting in there and infecting something. That’s very different from breathing… If you’re socially distanced, there’s no reason to wear a mask.”

On the Stanford letter

“They expose themselves for who they were when they wrote that letter… It’s preposterous what was said. But I have a lot of support inside Hoover Institution, a lot of support in faculty… I certainly have lost some friends, there’s no question about that — would I do it again? Absolutely. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.

I’m disgusted by politics – completely disgusted — and it’s a sad statement. People were exposed when someone came into power who they didn’t agree with it they were exposed for who they were. That’s a gross embarrassment, and its sad.. There’s a tremendous amount of emotion rather than rational thought.”

Source: UnHerd

[caption id="attachment_37145" align="alignnone" width="800"] "These people are blinded, even scientists, to the data because they despise the political side of this. And they have a massive ego, and can’t admit they’re wrong"[/caption]
  • "These people are blinded, even scientists, to the data because they despise the political side of this. And they have a massive ego, and can’t admit they’re wrong"
  • "I’ve gone through various levels of being angry. I’m not angry but I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things… It’s just sad to me. I’m cynical about the state we’re in right now and the future… I’m disturbed."
  • "I am angry at the people who were wrong and who insist on prolonging these policies that are killing people, particularly people who are not in their socioeconomic class."
  • "It’s no problem for a person who has a high level job in government, or an academic job, to sit there and pontificate when the average guy is being destroyed."
  • "I certainly have lost some friends, there’s no question about that — would I do it again? Absolutely. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done."
  • "I’m disgusted by politics – completely disgusted — and it’s a sad statement."
Freddie Sayers caught up with Scott Atlas, a healthcare policy academic from the Hoover Institute at Stanford, who has become the latest lightning rod for the controversy around Covid-19 policy and his support for a more targeted response. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpn3JxXqnp4 Speaking from inside the White House, where he is now Senior advisor to the President and a member of the Coronavirus task force, he does not hold back. He tells us that he is disgusted and dismayed at the media and public policy establishment, sad that it has come to this, cynical about their intentions, and angry that lockdown policies have been allowed to go on so long. He won’t be rushing back to Stanford, where his colleagues have rounded on him, if the President loses in November. KEY QUOTES Why him? “I’m a healthcare policy person — I have a background in medical science, but my role really is to translate medial science into public policy. That’s very different from being an epidemiologist or a virologist with a single, limited view on things.” Dr Fauci “He’s just one person on the task force — there are several people on the task force. His background is virology, immunology and infectious disease. It’s a very different background, it’s a more limited approach, and I don’t speak for him.” Herd immunity policy? “No. It’s a repeated distortion, lie, or whatever you want to call it… What they mean by ‘herd immunity strategy’ is survival of the fittest, let the infection spread through the community and develop a population immunity. That’s never been the policy that I have advised. It’s never even been discussed inside the White House, not even for a single minute. And that’s never been the policy of the President of the United States or anybody else here. I’ve said that many many times… and yet it persists like so many other things, hence the term that the President is fond of using called fake news.” On herd immunity “Population immunity is a biological phenomenon that occurs. It’s sort of like if you’re building something in your basement: it’s down on the ground because gravity puts it there. It’s not a ‘strategy’ to say that herd immunity exists — it is obtained when a certain percentage of the population becomes resistant or immune to an infection, whether that is by getting infected or getting a vaccine or by a combination of both. In fact, if you don’t that believe herd immunity exists as a way to block the pathways to the vulnerable in an infection, then you would never advocate or believe in giving widespread vaccination — that’s the whole point of it… I’ve explained it to people who seemingly didn’t understand it; I’ve mentioned this radioactive word called herd immunity. But that’s not a strategy that anyone is pursuing.” What is his policy? “My advice is exactly this. It’s a three-pronged strategy. Number one: aggressive protection of high risk individuals and the vulnerable (typically the elderly and those with co-morbidities). Number two: allocate resources so that we prevent hospital overcrowding, so that people can be treated for this virus and get the other serious medical care that is needed. Number three: open schools, society and businesses because keeping them closed is enormously harmful — in fact it kills people.” Has the policy changed? “It is the White House policy on Coronavirus, but it always was. The President started this with an observation that was overlooked by most people in the world: he said in the third week of March that the cure cannot be worse than the disease… In April the White House released a formal ‘opening up America’ document, which included extreme protection of the vulnerable and opening up society… It’s not been a shift.” Effect of lockdowns “We must open up because we’re killing people. In the US, 46% of the six most common cancers were not diagnosed during the shutdown… These are people who will present to the hospital or their doctor with later stage disease — many of these people will die. 650,000 Americans are on chemotherapy ­— half of them didn’t come in for their chemo because they were afraid. Two-thirds of screenings for cancer were not done; half of childhood immunisations did not get done; 85% of living organ transplants did not get done. And then we see the other harms: 200,000 cases plus of child abuse in the US during the two months of spring school closures were not reported because schools are the number one agency where abuse is noticed; we have one out of four American young adults, college age, who thought of killing themselves in the month of June… All of these harms are massive for the working class and the lower socioeconomic groups. The people who are upper class, who can work from home, the people who can sip their latte and complain that their children are underfoot or that they have to come up with extra money to hire a tutor privately — these are people who are not impacted by the lockdowns. This is the topic, this is why you open up. A secondary gain might be population immunity, but this is the reason to open up.” On short-term immunity “We don’t know how long someone’s immunity lasts to this, but this is a coronavirus, this is not a completely novel disease… Coronavirus exposure typically has a year, or even a few years, of immunity — we can make a first guess that probably there’s a good chance that will happen… Yes, we know that antibodies disappear… but that’s true for every infection, that’s a typical scenario and not a cause for panic. Why? Because we know there is resistance to infection that seems to be coming out in the literature that is not purely due to antibodies, there are other components of the immune system. Suffice to say this: do we know that people have immunity? You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that when you hundreds of millions of cases… do you know how many cases of reinfection there are? At the most, five in the world… It is not true that there is no immunity to this, that would be a bizarre conclusion.” Climate of fear “This is one of the biggest failures of the voices of public health in the United States and in the world — they specifically instilled fear with their proclamations and statements… And the models that were put forward that were worst case scenarios and were just hideously wrong, and the media that has hyped up these rare exceptions like multi-system inflammation in children even though we know the overwhelming evidence is that this disease is absolutely not high risk for children. All the hyperbole, the sensationalising and the failure of public health officials to articulate what we know instead of what we don’t know… The fear is due to what was said by the so-called experts, by the media and by a failure to understand or care that they were instilling hear… I just heard a famous epidemiologist from Harvard the other day say that to have the idea of herd immunity even being discussed is ‘mass murder’ — these kinds of statements are hideously outrageous. It’s never appropriate to have fear. There is no such thing as a government leader who is competent who instils fear.” How to protect old people “We have not been perfect at it, there’s no question — it’s very challenging. The first is to educate people: put forward the guidelines. I think our society has learned — no-one knew what social distancing meant… that was a foreign concept and we now understand that — but there are more specific measures. We have shipped every single nursing home point of care rapid testing — we have mandated weekly testing of every staff that enters a nursing home, but when there is community increase we recommend going up to… four times a week. We cannot guarantee that we can protect everybody — there is not such thing as zero risk in life…” But “I have a 93 year old mother in law, and she said to me 2 months ago, “I’m not interested in being confined in my home. I am not interested in living if that’s the life… I’m old enough to take a risk, I understand social distancing. I’m going to function, otherwise there’s no reason to live.” This sort of bizarre, maybe well-intentioned but misguided idea that we are going to eliminate all risk from life, we are going to stop people from taking any risk that they are well aware of, we’re going to close down businesses, we’re going to stop schools — these are inappropriate and destructive policies. There are between 30,000 and 90,000 people a year that die — that are high risk elderly — in the United States every flu season. We don’t shut down schools in response to that…” Is it politics? “I see that there is a different philosophy in life. In my own family we have different views on things. But we need to start by looking at the data. One thing that’s been really shocking to me is that in the US and I think all over the world, we have a really contaminated media. Their politics has really distorted truth… I think that has now contaminated public policy and science. There’s been a massive distortion — a complete almost disregard for objectivity, including in some of what were the world’s best journals like LancetNew England JournalNatureScience: these people feel compelled to be politically visible, and that’s contaminated the discussion.” On test and trace “Now, there are 7 million registered cases in the US but even the CDC says that it’s probably tenfold that, that’s 70 million people at least [IFR = 0.28%]; if we look at the world’s cases, maybe 40 million cases but we know that it’s probably 10 to 20 times that. So it’s not possible to do things like contact tracing and isolating asymptomatic people. A lot of these people who have very fancy CVs have engaged in very sloppy thinking. And now, partly because it’s a political year in the US with a massively polarised electorate, the politics have entered the scene and there’s a massive amount of digging in to the original beliefs even though they are completely wrong…” On his own reputation “My position here is not political — zero politics. My motivation was that the President of the United States asked me, a public health policy person who understands medical science, to help in the biggest healthcare crisis of the century. There would be something wrong with you if you would say no to that, no matter what your politics… When I did that though, I knew I would be vilified, because in the US there are a lot of people who think that this President is radioactive, so there is a massive destruction that ensues immediately when you associate with this President. It’s a very sad statement on America, on American culture, on the world — these people are blinded, even scientists, to the data because they despise the political side of this. And they have a massive ego, and can’t admit they’re wrong. Ok I’m a contrarian, I’m used to being a contrarian, I’m proud to be an outlier when the inliers are wrong. I’ve gone through various levels of being angry. I’m not angry but I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things… It’s just sad to me. I’m cynical about the state we’re in right now and the future… I’m disturbed. I have children of my own who are in their twenties, and I wonder what the future is if we have lost truth in the media, to a great extent, and we are now starting to lose truth in science… I am angry at the people who were wrong and who insist on prolonging these policies that are killing people, particularly people who are not in their socioeconomic class. It’s no problem for a person who has a high level job in government, or an academic job, to sit there and pontificate when the average guy is being destroyed. That I am angry about and I think history will record these people very harshly — it is an epic failure of massive proportion that they have abandoned regular people here with their own hubris and political agenda. In that sense – yeah I’m angry.” On masks “Things like universal mask wearing — honestly that is contrary to the science as well as common sense, to think that you need to wear a mask when you’re in the middle of the desert, when you’re in the car on your own, when you’re bicycling through St James’s Park. This kind of stuff is nonsense. There is no science to support universal masking. You can look at LA County, Miami-Dade county, many states in the US, the Philippines, Spain, France, the UK, all over the world mandating masks does not stop for the population does not stop cases. That is just super naïve, wrong, and that’s just garbage science really. The WHO does not recommend widespread mandatory masks, the NIH does not recommend that, the CDC data itself shows that that doesn’t work. That’s bordering on wearing a copper bracelet as far as I am concerned. I do think masks have a role… in medicine we wear masks for surgical procedures. The reason you wear a mask is when you’re very close to somebody, or a sterile environment like an open incision, you want to stop a cough or droplets from getting in there and infecting something. That’s very different from breathing… If you’re socially distanced, there’s no reason to wear a mask.” On the Stanford letter “They expose themselves for who they were when they wrote that letter… It’s preposterous what was said. But I have a lot of support inside Hoover Institution, a lot of support in faculty… I certainly have lost some friends, there’s no question about that — would I do it again? Absolutely. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done. I’m disgusted by politics – completely disgusted — and it’s a sad statement. People were exposed when someone came into power who they didn’t agree with it they were exposed for who they were. That’s a gross embarrassment, and its sad.. There’s a tremendous amount of emotion rather than rational thought.” Source: UnHerd
Wesley Morgan - Fri Oct 23, 2020 13:17

Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Frye was stuck on base last summer in Afghanistan, bored and fiddling around on a military network, when he came across live video footage of a battle in the Korengal Valley, where he had first seen combat 13 years earlier. It was infamous terrain, where at least 40 U.S. troops had died over the years, including some of Frye’s friends. Watching the Reaper drone footage closely, he saw that no American forces were involved in the fighting, and none from the Afghan government. Instead, the Taliban and the Islamic State were duking it out. Frye looked for confirmation online. Sure enough, America’s old enemy and its newer one were posting photos and video to propaganda channels as they tussled for control of the Korengal and its lucrative timber business.

What Frye didn’t know was that U.S. Special Operations forces were preparing to intervene in the fighting in Konar province in eastern Afghanistan — not by attacking both sides, but by using strikes from drones and other aircraft to help the Taliban. “What we’re doing with the strikes against ISIS is helping the Taliban move,” a member of the elite Joint Special Operations Command counterterrorism task force based at Bagram air base explained to me earlier this year, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the assistance was secret. The air power would give them an advantage by keeping the enemy pinned down.

Last fall and winter, as the JSOC task force was conducting the strikes, the Trump administration’s public line was that it was hammering the Taliban “harder than they have ever been hit before,” as the president put it — trying to force the group back to the negotiating table in Doha, Qatar, after President Trump put peace talks there on hold and canceled a secretly planned summit with Taliban leaders at Camp David. Administration officials signaled that they didn’t like or trust the Taliban and that, until it made more concessions, it could expect only blistering bombardment.

In reality, even as its warplanes have struck the Taliban in other parts of Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been quietly helping the Taliban to weaken the Islamic State in its Konar stronghold and keep more of the country from falling into the hands of the group, which — unlike the Taliban — the United States views as an international terrorist organization with aspirations to strike America and Europe. Remarkably, it can do so without needing to communicate with the Taliban, by observing battle conditions and listening in on the group. Two members of the JSOC task force and another defense official described the assistance to me this year in interviews for a book about the war in Konar, all of them speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about it. (The U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan declined to comment for this story.)

With the Taliban fighting the Islamic State in Konar, a peace deal was always going to require at least tacit U.S.-Taliban cooperation against their mutual foe. In March, days after U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives inked a withdrawal deal in Doha, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for Afghanistan and the Middle East, told the House Armed Services Committee that the Taliban had received “very limited support from us.” He declined to elaborate, and the form that support took has not been publicly revealed.

But inside JSOC, the team working on this mission is jokingly known as the “Taliban Air Force,” one task force member told me. As negotiators closed in on their deal in Doha, officers repurposed tools honed against the Taliban: Reaper drones and an intelligence complex with nearly two decades of practice spying on Afghan guerrillas. Unwilling to communicate directly with Taliban commanders, the task force worked to divine where and how its old foes needed help by listening to their communications.

By using such signals intelligence, members of the task force told me, they could tell when and where in the mountains the Taliban was preparing thrusts against the Islamic State, then plan airstrikes where they would be most useful. Taliban units on the ground appeared willing to take the help, waiting to assault Islamic State positions until they heard and saw the explosions of bombs and Hellfires. “It’s easy to capture the Taliban’s communications — a lot of it is just push-to-talk radio comms,” meaning walkie-talkies that anyone can listen in on, SAID Bill Ostlund, a retired Army colonel who led the JSOC task force in Afghanistan earlier in the war. “Why directly coordinate with them when you can do it that way?”

The Konar operations may offer a glimpse of what lies ahead for the United States in Afghanistan: the outsourcing of what has long been a core U.S. military mission — fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda — to the uneasily coordinated forces of the Afghan government and the Taliban, with U.S. counterterrorism forces in some cases helping both. Under the Doha agreement, the Trump administration hopes to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan next spring, but a CIA presence reportedly may remain. And if a new U.S. administration halts the military withdrawal, it will have to find ways to hunt the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just the 4,500 uniformed troops the Pentagon has said will remain by November, or even fewer — a smaller force than the United States has had in the country since the early months of 2002.

The precursor to this strategy has been in place for years. Joseph Votel, a retired Army general who commanded JSOC, told me that during his 2016-2019 tenure heading Central Command, even before the U.S. military provided air support, it “deconflicted” with the Taliban — refraining from bombing Taliban units that seemed to be preparing for attacks against the Islamic State. “I can understand a certain distaste for doing it,” Votel said about the new approach. “But if you buy into the overall strategy of bringing the Afghan government and the Taliban into reconciliation while maintaining pressure on international terrorist groups, it’s the kind of thing that needs to happen.”

It’s not clear whether the government in Kabul — which was not a party to the Doha negotiations but is now in its own talks with the Taliban — is aware of the role U.S. airstrikes have played in Konar. (Afghan government officials declined to comment for this story.) But government troops have cooperated with the Taliban there, too, even as they fight bitterly in most other parts of the country. When U.S. soldiers visited the province in 2018 to support an Afghan military offensive against the Islamic State, Afghan troops would sometimes bring in tough-looking, heavily bearded locals from the battlefield for American medics to treat. It was clear, some of the U.S. advisers told me, that the men were Taliban fighters who were collaborating with government troops as guides and scouts, although Afghan officers wouldn’t say so explicitly since they knew that the United States considered the Taliban a hostile force. And during Afghanistan’s presidential elections in September 2019, Taliban fighters guarded some villages in Konar’s Pech Valley against the Islamic State, burning the houses of suspected members of the group and encouraging residents to vote.

The silent rapprochement with the Taliban puts the U.S. military in an odd spot. Even though the group is fighting the Islamic State, it remains allied with al-Qaeda, the enemy that brought U.S. troops to Afghanistan in the first place.

Yet Konar veterans I spoke with seemed realistic about the calculus, seeing this as necessary to keeping U.S. troops out of harm’s way. “I don’t think Americans should be on the ground in firefights with the Taliban, and we need somebody fighting ISIS, so I don’t see a problem with it. That doesn’t mean I want to break bread with them,” said Jason Dempsey, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who fought in Konar in 2009. “Emotionally it’s hard partly because we’ve spent nearly 20 years conflating al-Qaeda with the Taliban, but the Taliban didn’t strike the United States on 9/11.”

Votel, who spent time in Konar in 2007 and 2008, drew a comparison to the way U.S. forces handled Iranian-backed Shiite militias — including some that had previously fought against U.S. troops — during the campaign to push the Islamic State out of Iraq. “It’s not a whole lot different,” he said. The Shiite groups “were playing a role against a common enemy, and we tried not to do anything that might make ISIS’s job easier fighting them.”

Other veterans were less sure that the United States is backing the right horse. The Islamic State’s Afghan branch doesn’t appear to have plotted any attacks on the West, as its counterparts in Iraq and Syria have; the Taliban, meanwhile, has yet to break its long-standing relationship with al-Qaeda. “Just as an American taxpayer, are we more concerned about ISIS taking over Afghanistan, or the Taliban?” asked Loren Crowe, a two-time Konar veteran who was shot in the leg as an infantry company commander there.

What if the U.S. withdrawal plan has its calculus backward? The Doha agreement requires the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups from using its territory to plan international attacks, but not for the Taliban to break its ties with al-Qaeda — and last summer, a top Taliban spokesman refused to acknowledge that al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Although its numbers are always hazy, the U.S. military guessed last year that the Taliban hosts 300 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan’s east and south, more than double its estimate a decade ago, when nearly 100,000 U.S. troops were in the country. And there’s no indication yet that the Taliban has any plans to break with its old ally after the U.S. withdrawal, which will take away most of the tools — like aerial surveillance and drone strikes — long used to keep a lid on al-Qaeda.

The Afghan branch of the Islamic State, meanwhile, appears to be composed mostly of local fighters from Konar and surrounding areas, not foreign terrorists. Some have joined for ideological reasons, but many others have done so because the organization offers high wages and the promise of advancement. “We’re not seeing foreign fighters up there. These are localized folks,” two-time Konar veteran Brig. Gen. Joe Ryan told me of the Islamic State last year in a book interview. “I’m not saying there aren’t worrying indicators, but I don’t believe that a transnational terrorist attack is going to emanate from Konar anytime soon.

If it’s true that the Islamic State doesn’t pose much threat to the United States or its allies from Afghanistan, and that the Taliban can keep that group under control or even defeat it with a little help from the U.S. military on its way out, it’s a point in favor of the Trump administration’s withdrawal plan. But officials expect that al-Qaeda can be finished off in much the same way. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy who negotiated the withdrawal deal, told an audience in Washington last month that the remaining al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan are on the run. But if U.S. counterterrorism strikes can’t defeat them in the coming months, that could scuttle the pullout and force Washington to keep troops in the country after all. In which case, the JSOC task force would keep pursuing al-Qaeda and the Islamic State indefinitely, and weighing what to do about the Taliban day by day and valley by valley — using drone strikes in some provinces to aid the group against the Islamic State and in others to kill off the al-Qaeda operatives who are the Taliban’s allies.

That answer is too convoluted for some to stomach. Crowe, the former company commander wounded in Konar, told me that with U.S. drones helping the Taliban fight a group that didn’t even exist in Afghanistan during his deployments, he worried that the military was acting like a hammer seeking nails to pound, inflating the threat posed by local and regional militants whose decision to take refuge in inhospitable terrain reflects their weakness and inherently constrains their actions. “How much do we really need to worry about dudes in the back of these valleys, no matter what flag they’re flying?” Crowe asked. “If ISIS in the Korengal is mostly a bunch of Korengalis, why do we care?”

As long as the soldiers, intelligence officers and contractors charged with America’s counterterrorism mission go looking for people to kill there, that is, they will keep on finding them. “There will always be dragons to slay up there,” Crowe said.

Source: The Washington Post

[caption id="attachment_37134" align="alignnone" width="512"] "Taliban units on the ground appeared willing to take the help, waiting to assault Islamic State positions until they heard and saw the explosions of bombs and Hellfires."[/caption] Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Frye was stuck on base last summer in Afghanistan, bored and fiddling around on a military network, when he came across live video footage of a battle in the Korengal Valley, where he had first seen combat 13 years earlier. It was infamous terrain, where at least 40 U.S. troops had died over the years, including some of Frye’s friends. Watching the Reaper drone footage closely, he saw that no American forces were involved in the fighting, and none from the Afghan government. Instead, the Taliban and the Islamic State were duking it out. Frye looked for confirmation online. Sure enough, America’s old enemy and its newer one were posting photos and video to propaganda channels as they tussled for control of the Korengal and its lucrative timber business. What Frye didn’t know was that U.S. Special Operations forces were preparing to intervene in the fighting in Konar province in eastern Afghanistan — not by attacking both sides, but by using strikes from drones and other aircraft to help the Taliban. “What we’re doing with the strikes against ISIS is helping the Taliban move,” a member of the elite Joint Special Operations Command counterterrorism task force based at Bagram air base explained to me earlier this year, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the assistance was secret. The air power would give them an advantage by keeping the enemy pinned down. Last fall and winter, as the JSOC task force was conducting the strikes, the Trump administration’s public line was that it was hammering the Taliban “harder than they have ever been hit before,” as the president put it — trying to force the group back to the negotiating table in Doha, Qatar, after President Trump put peace talks there on hold and canceled a secretly planned summit with Taliban leaders at Camp David. Administration officials signaled that they didn’t like or trust the Taliban and that, until it made more concessions, it could expect only blistering bombardment. In reality, even as its warplanes have struck the Taliban in other parts of Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been quietly helping the Taliban to weaken the Islamic State in its Konar stronghold and keep more of the country from falling into the hands of the group, which — unlike the Taliban — the United States views as an international terrorist organization with aspirations to strike America and Europe. Remarkably, it can do so without needing to communicate with the Taliban, by observing battle conditions and listening in on the group. Two members of the JSOC task force and another defense official described the assistance to me this year in interviews for a book about the war in Konar, all of them speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about it. (The U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan declined to comment for this story.) With the Taliban fighting the Islamic State in Konar, a peace deal was always going to require at least tacit U.S.-Taliban cooperation against their mutual foe. In March, days after U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives inked a withdrawal deal in Doha, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for Afghanistan and the Middle East, told the House Armed Services Committee that the Taliban had received “very limited support from us.” He declined to elaborate, and the form that support took has not been publicly revealed. But inside JSOC, the team working on this mission is jokingly known as the “Taliban Air Force,” one task force member told me. As negotiators closed in on their deal in Doha, officers repurposed tools honed against the Taliban: Reaper drones and an intelligence complex with nearly two decades of practice spying on Afghan guerrillas. Unwilling to communicate directly with Taliban commanders, the task force worked to divine where and how its old foes needed help by listening to their communications. By using such signals intelligence, members of the task force told me, they could tell when and where in the mountains the Taliban was preparing thrusts against the Islamic State, then plan airstrikes where they would be most useful. Taliban units on the ground appeared willing to take the help, waiting to assault Islamic State positions until they heard and saw the explosions of bombs and Hellfires. “It’s easy to capture the Taliban’s communications — a lot of it is just push-to-talk radio comms,” meaning walkie-talkies that anyone can listen in on, SAID Bill Ostlund, a retired Army colonel who led the JSOC task force in Afghanistan earlier in the war. “Why directly coordinate with them when you can do it that way?” The Konar operations may offer a glimpse of what lies ahead for the United States in Afghanistan: the outsourcing of what has long been a core U.S. military mission — fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda — to the uneasily coordinated forces of the Afghan government and the Taliban, with U.S. counterterrorism forces in some cases helping both. Under the Doha agreement, the Trump administration hopes to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan next spring, but a CIA presence reportedly may remain. And if a new U.S. administration halts the military withdrawal, it will have to find ways to hunt the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just the 4,500 uniformed troops the Pentagon has said will remain by November, or even fewer — a smaller force than the United States has had in the country since the early months of 2002. The precursor to this strategy has been in place for years. Joseph Votel, a retired Army general who commanded JSOC, told me that during his 2016-2019 tenure heading Central Command, even before the U.S. military provided air support, it “deconflicted” with the Taliban — refraining from bombing Taliban units that seemed to be preparing for attacks against the Islamic State. “I can understand a certain distaste for doing it,” Votel said about the new approach. “But if you buy into the overall strategy of bringing the Afghan government and the Taliban into reconciliation while maintaining pressure on international terrorist groups, it’s the kind of thing that needs to happen.” It’s not clear whether the government in Kabul — which was not a party to the Doha negotiations but is now in its own talks with the Taliban — is aware of the role U.S. airstrikes have played in Konar. (Afghan government officials declined to comment for this story.) But government troops have cooperated with the Taliban there, too, even as they fight bitterly in most other parts of the country. When U.S. soldiers visited the province in 2018 to support an Afghan military offensive against the Islamic State, Afghan troops would sometimes bring in tough-looking, heavily bearded locals from the battlefield for American medics to treat. It was clear, some of the U.S. advisers told me, that the men were Taliban fighters who were collaborating with government troops as guides and scouts, although Afghan officers wouldn’t say so explicitly since they knew that the United States considered the Taliban a hostile force. And during Afghanistan’s presidential elections in September 2019, Taliban fighters guarded some villages in Konar’s Pech Valley against the Islamic State, burning the houses of suspected members of the group and encouraging residents to vote. The silent rapprochement with the Taliban puts the U.S. military in an odd spot. Even though the group is fighting the Islamic State, it remains allied with al-Qaeda, the enemy that brought U.S. troops to Afghanistan in the first place. Yet Konar veterans I spoke with seemed realistic about the calculus, seeing this as necessary to keeping U.S. troops out of harm’s way. “I don’t think Americans should be on the ground in firefights with the Taliban, and we need somebody fighting ISIS, so I don’t see a problem with it. That doesn’t mean I want to break bread with them,” said Jason Dempsey, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who fought in Konar in 2009. “Emotionally it’s hard partly because we’ve spent nearly 20 years conflating al-Qaeda with the Taliban, but the Taliban didn’t strike the United States on 9/11.” Votel, who spent time in Konar in 2007 and 2008, drew a comparison to the way U.S. forces handled Iranian-backed Shiite militias — including some that had previously fought against U.S. troops — during the campaign to push the Islamic State out of Iraq. “It’s not a whole lot different,” he said. The Shiite groups “were playing a role against a common enemy, and we tried not to do anything that might make ISIS’s job easier fighting them.” Other veterans were less sure that the United States is backing the right horse. The Islamic State’s Afghan branch doesn’t appear to have plotted any attacks on the West, as its counterparts in Iraq and Syria have; the Taliban, meanwhile, has yet to break its long-standing relationship with al-Qaeda. “Just as an American taxpayer, are we more concerned about ISIS taking over Afghanistan, or the Taliban?” asked Loren Crowe, a two-time Konar veteran who was shot in the leg as an infantry company commander there. What if the U.S. withdrawal plan has its calculus backward? The Doha agreement requires the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups from using its territory to plan international attacks, but not for the Taliban to break its ties with al-Qaeda — and last summer, a top Taliban spokesman refused to acknowledge that al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Although its numbers are always hazy, the U.S. military guessed last year that the Taliban hosts 300 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan’s east and south, more than double its estimate a decade ago, when nearly 100,000 U.S. troops were in the country. And there’s no indication yet that the Taliban has any plans to break with its old ally after the U.S. withdrawal, which will take away most of the tools — like aerial surveillance and drone strikes — long used to keep a lid on al-Qaeda. The Afghan branch of the Islamic State, meanwhile, appears to be composed mostly of local fighters from Konar and surrounding areas, not foreign terrorists. Some have joined for ideological reasons, but many others have done so because the organization offers high wages and the promise of advancement. “We’re not seeing foreign fighters up there. These are localized folks,” two-time Konar veteran Brig. Gen. Joe Ryan told me of the Islamic State last year in a book interview. “I’m not saying there aren’t worrying indicators, but I don’t believe that a transnational terrorist attack is going to emanate from Konar anytime soon.If it’s true that the Islamic State doesn’t pose much threat to the United States or its allies from Afghanistan, and that the Taliban can keep that group under control or even defeat it with a little help from the U.S. military on its way out, it’s a point in favor of the Trump administration’s withdrawal plan. But officials expect that al-Qaeda can be finished off in much the same way. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy who negotiated the withdrawal deal, told an audience in Washington last month that the remaining al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan are on the run. But if U.S. counterterrorism strikes can’t defeat them in the coming months, that could scuttle the pullout and force Washington to keep troops in the country after all. In which case, the JSOC task force would keep pursuing al-Qaeda and the Islamic State indefinitely, and weighing what to do about the Taliban day by day and valley by valley — using drone strikes in some provinces to aid the group against the Islamic State and in others to kill off the al-Qaeda operatives who are the Taliban’s allies. That answer is too convoluted for some to stomach. Crowe, the former company commander wounded in Konar, told me that with U.S. drones helping the Taliban fight a group that didn’t even exist in Afghanistan during his deployments, he worried that the military was acting like a hammer seeking nails to pound, inflating the threat posed by local and regional militants whose decision to take refuge in inhospitable terrain reflects their weakness and inherently constrains their actions. “How much do we really need to worry about dudes in the back of these valleys, no matter what flag they’re flying?” Crowe asked. “If ISIS in the Korengal is mostly a bunch of Korengalis, why do we care?” As long as the soldiers, intelligence officers and contractors charged with America’s counterterrorism mission go looking for people to kill there, that is, they will keep on finding them. “There will always be dragons to slay up there,” Crowe said. Source: The Washington Post
Charlie Spiering - Fri Oct 23, 2020 07:33

President Donald Trump on Thursday at the final 2020 presidential debate said that the United States would have to learn to live safely with the coronavirus rather than lock down the country to prevent the spread.

“We’re learning to live with it; we have no choice. We cannot lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” Trump said. “He has the ability to lock himself up. I don’t know, he’s obviously made a lot of money someplace.”

Trump said that Americans have to go back to work and that children have to be able to go back to school to keep the country going.

“He has this thing about living in a basement. People can’t do that,” Trump said about Biden.

President Trump said that he could not lock himself up in a basement either, or even in the White House. He said that he continued events, meeting military families, and hosting events as the leader of the United States even though it is dangerous.

“This is dangerous, and you catch it, and I caught it. I learned a lot — great doctors, great hospitals — and now I recovered,” he said.

The president noted that 99.9 percent of young Americans who contract the virus recover, and 99 percent of all Americans recover.

“We have to open our school and we cannot close our nation or we will not have a nation,” he said.

Source: Breitbart

President Donald Trump on Thursday at the final 2020 presidential debate said that the United States would have to learn to live safely with the coronavirus rather than lock down the country to prevent the spread.

“We’re learning to live with it; we have no choice. We cannot lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” Trump said. “He has the ability to lock himself up. I don’t know, he’s obviously made a lot of money someplace.” Trump said that Americans have to go back to work and that children have to be able to go back to school to keep the country going. “He has this thing about living in a basement. People can’t do that,” Trump said about Biden. President Trump said that he could not lock himself up in a basement either, or even in the White House. He said that he continued events, meeting military families, and hosting events as the leader of the United States even though it is dangerous. “This is dangerous, and you catch it, and I caught it. I learned a lot — great doctors, great hospitals — and now I recovered,” he said. The president noted that 99.9 percent of young Americans who contract the virus recover, and 99 percent of all Americans recover. “We have to open our school and we cannot close our nation or we will not have a nation,” he said. Source: Breitbart

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