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Thursday, July 30

The virtue of patience

Not that I'm promoting gambling but it's the larger point --

Patience pays off for $70 million Powerball winners
Jul 29th 2015
Associated Press via AOL
 ST. LOUIS (AP) – For two decades, Tom Rea of St. Louis played the same Powerball numbers.
It finally paid off — in a big way.
The Missouri Lottery on Wednesday introduced the 62-year-old Rea and his wife, Cathy, as winners of a $70 million Powerball jackpot from the July 4 drawing. The couple claimed the prize at the Missouri Lottery headquarters in Jefferson City on Friday.
The winning numbers, a combination of family birthdays, matched all five white balls and the Powerball. Rea purchased the winning ticket at a Gas Mart store on Hampton Avenue in south St. Louis.
Rea says he had been playing the same number combination every Wednesday and Saturday for 23 years.
For most of us I think patience would pay by socking away for 23 years the money we would otherwise spend on the lottery.   

****** 

Wow



The full moon rises over the illuminated Kazan Kremlin with the Qol Sharif mosque illuminated in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, located in Russia's Volga River area about 700 km (450 miles) east of Moscow, early Wednesday, July, 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

Until I saw the caption I thought it was a painting of an imaginary place.  On one level everything is perfect.


Sheesh, what does a guy have to do to get deported these days?

So is Homeland saying that if he gets out of prison, he can stay in the USA free as a bird while they launch a deportation process?

From Los Angeles Times July 29,  Immigrant in U.S. illegally was released before Ohio crime spree in which he's charged:

Since the Obama administration relaxed deportation policies for certain immigrants in November, Robinson said, “you’re really going to have a hard time getting deported” without committing a serious crime, an assertion disputed by the administration and immigrant rights advocates.

Officials say Razo-Ramirez’s crime spree began with the attempted rape of his 14-year-old niece in Concord, Ohio.

Then, officials said, he shot a 40-year-old woman on a bike path, wounding her in the arm, and fatally shot 60-year-old Margaret Kostelnik in her nearby home.

Another resident called police to say Razo-Ramirez was pointing a shotgun at the caller’s son in his backyard. When police responded, the suspect apparently fired at officers, who returned fire, officials said. Razo-Ramirez was unhurt, but surrendered, officials said.

[...]

Razo-Ramirez, who has no criminal record, had been stopped on July 7 by Lake County sheriff’s officials. They released him after speaking with federal immigration officials.

“As far as I can tell, and from what I heard him admit, he says he’s undocumented — he’s not legally in the United States,” Lake County Prosecuting Atty. Charles Coulson said in an interview Wednesday.

Painesville Municipal Judge Mike Cicconetti appeared furious at Tuesday’s arraignment. “He’s here illegally? And they didn’t take him? ... I can’t set a bond high enough.” 

He set bond at $10 million.

Razo-Ramirez pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. More charges are expected to be filed.

The Department of Homeland Security said it would pursue deportation after the trial, and after Razo-Ramirez serves any sentence that may be imposed.

[...]

********

Taliban amnesia: Our calendar always so full we get confused

Associated Press, July 30 via Fox News: Afghan Taliban issue statement saying they're 'not aware' of new round of peace talks

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan Taliban have issued a statement saying that they are "not aware" of a new round of peace talks that had been expected to take place in Pakistan on Friday.

The statement appears to indicate the Taliban will not participate in the second round of the official face-to-face talks with the Afghan government.

It was not immediately clear if they were completely pulling out of the talks, which began earlier in July.

The statement was emailed to The Associated Press on Thursday, a day after the Kabul government announced the reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has been dead for more than two years.

President Ashraf Ghani's office said the announcement would strengthen conditions for peace talks.

The Taliban have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government since 2001.

[END REPORT]

TRANSLATION:  RAWALPINDI HOPPING BARKING MAD. INDIAN GOV. SAID TERRORISTS WHO ATTACKED PUNJAB INFILTRATED FROM PAKISTAN

********



Channel Tunnel: Who's orchestrating the assault on UK via Calais?

From CNN,  July 29:  3,500 migrants try to enter Channel Tunnel to go from France to UK
On Tuesday night, 1,500 migrants tried to enter the Channel Tunnel, operator Eurotunnel said.  ... And overnight Monday, 2,000 migrants tried to enter the Channel Tunnel through the French terminal near Calais, Eurotunnel said.
[...]
Calais police Officer Gilles Debove told French state radio that "2,000 migrants didn't arrive just like that."
"We can't possibly imagine it's a wave of 2,000 migrants," Debove said. "Let us be clear: Those are 2,000 intrusions on the site. To compare, about three weeks ago, it was around 500."
Debove said about 1,000 migrants had been waiting around the Eurotunnel site and had repeatedly cut fences.
NATO needs to find out very quickly who's organized and directed this sophisticated operation because its implications are alarming.  I don't want to hear, and the French and UK authorities shouldn't want to hear, that it's just a few well-meaning European and British humanitarian organizations trying to help the downtrodden get into the UK. 

But right now the French and British need to call in the military and treat the operation as an assault. The most troubling aspect of the op is that it's clearly designed to probe for weaknesses in European/UK border security.   

See also BBC July 29, Channel Tunnel lorry drivers 'threatened with [steel] bars and knives.' 
Thousands of truckers recounting they're being threatened by 'migrants.'  The situation is escalating.  

********


Wednesday, July 29

Death in Pakistan of a suddenly inconvenient terrorist: "No other witnesses to the shooting could be immediately located."

[laughing]  All right, Pundita, settle down.  [laughing]  I'm sorry I can't do this. Here. Here's the AP report.  More headline-making news today: Still unconfirmed reports that Mullah Omar is reportedly dead of health problems in Pakistan and has been dead of health problems since 2013.  ("The Taliban is expected to issue an announcement soon.")  Those Pakistanis sure do believe in showing up for negotiations well prepared.  [laughing]  What next?  Ayman al-Zawahiri shot by Pakistani police while resisting arrest?   [wiping tears of laughter]  

********

  

Tuesday, July 28

Poverty in Mexico deepening

Thanks for letting us know, Bloomberg!  It's a very helpful report, too.  Mexico is one of America's two neighbors, but U.S. reporting on Mexico is generally such that the country might as well be located in the South Pacific.  As a matter of fact the only reason poverty in Mexico is getting attention from Bloomberg is because of Wal-Mart's poor sales in the country.

As to U.S. reporting on America's other neighbor -- the country might as well be situated on Mars. I take that back; actually there's been more reporting about Mars during the past couple years than on Canada during the past 20 not counting wildfires this year but that's only because smoke from the fires was giving people in Iowa respiratory problems.  Just ask an American to name Canada's national leader. Go ahead; see the blank look you get in reply.  All right, Pundita, that's enough.  

Wal-Mart Rebound Imperiled by Mexico’s Worst Poverty in 14 Years
by Nacha Cattan
July 27 10:05 PM EDT updated July 28 4:22 PM EDT
Bloomberg Business

Just as Mexico’s consumer sector begins to emerge from the doldrums of the 2009 recession, a new government report suggests the recovery’s foundation is on shaky ground.
An additional 2 million Mexicans have become poor since 2012, pushing one poverty gauge to a 14-year high, Mexico’s social policy evaluation council said. The data show the challenges faced by President Enrique Pena Nieto to meet campaign promises to lift millions out of poverty and expand the middle class.
The report is also spurring questions about whether first-half consumer spending gains had more to do with government outlays for mid-term elections and a favorable comparison to 2014, when new sales taxes hit shoppers, and less to do with a sustainable recovery. Rallies at companies like Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB and Kimberly Clark de Mexico SAB may not have much fuel left in them.
Rising poverty “poses a risk for all retailers,” said Giselle Mojica, an analyst at Monex Casa de Bolsa. “There could be an impact on formats that target low-income shoppers. With people’s purchasing power falling, they wouldn’t be able to shop there and they’d focus more on informal and roving markets. It’s cheaper there and they can bargain.”
Wal-Mex’s shares plunged the most since August 2012 on July 22 after second-quarter earnings missed analysts’ estimates. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said profit margins will probably narrow as the company lowered prices to reignite store traffic. Wal-Mex rose 1.1 percent to 38.76 pesos at the close in Mexico City Tuesday.
Coneval, the social policy evaluation council, conducts the poverty study every two years. Based on income alone, poverty climbed to 53 percent from 43 percent in 2006, the highest since 2000.

Wrong Direction

On a broader metric, taking into account access to basic services such as education, the numbers were lower but still pointing in the wrong direction. In 2014, 46.2 percent of Mexicans, or 55.3 million people, fell below that version of the poverty line, up 44.3 percent from 2008.
Average household income in Mexico dropped 3.5 percent in real terms in 2014 from 2012, according to Coneval. That’s just one sign of stagnant salaries in Mexico, pressuring policy makers in September to announce a committee to study the minimum wage. The group has yet to decide on raising it from 70.10 pesos per day in Mexico City. The rate has plunged 70 percent in the past four decades in inflation-adjusted terms, according to Bank of America.
“My salary is frozen, but prices keep rising,” said Andrea Martinez, who cleans houses for 4,000 pesos ($246) a month and switched last year from shopping at Wal-Mex discount stores to street markets. “It’s more affordable.”

Crowded Market

Negative net migration to the U.S. from Mexico is “crowding” the labor market and slow economic growth is hurting chances of accommodating those workers to help curb poverty, said Pia Orrenius, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
The number of undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. fell to 5.9 million in 2012 from 6.9 million in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center. That also means fewer workers in the U.S. sending money home to their relatives in Mexico, Orrenius said.
She said growth in anti-poverty efforts are likely to slow by limited government spending because of falling prices for oil, which accounts for about a third of the federal budget.

Campaign Spending

Consumers’ early gains this year may not be sustainable, said Francisco Guzman, an analyst at Interacciones Casa de Bolsa SA. The increases may have been overstated by political-campaign spending and easy comparisons with 2014, when new taxes took effect, he said.
Mexico defines as poor families whose monthly income is below 2,595 pesos per mouth to feed in cities and 1,659 pesos in villages, and that lack a basic need like education, health or living space.

No Fruit

Alicia Garcia Gonzalez falls in that category. Her husband earns about 2,000 pesos a month working corn fields in a village 138 kilometers (88 miles) northwest of Mexico City for her and her four children, she says. They share one room in her mother-in-law’s adobe home, a space considered insufficient by government standards.
“I no longer buy fruit,” said the 40-year-old Garcia, who wore a rhinestone-studded belt and scarf to swaddle her 2-year-old daughter as she shopped at Mexico City’s Lagunilla market. “We eat meat once a month.”
There are several positive signs for Mexico’s consumer industry, according to Grupo Financiero Santander Mexico SAB, thanks to slowing inflation, lower unemployment and a shrinking informal economy.
Retail sales were growing more than 4 percent each month on an annual basis through May, a sign that the industry is improving this year, according to Orrenius of the Dallas Fed. A depreciating peso will also help poor families that receive remittances in dollars, said Interacciones’ Guzman.
That may not be enough to persuade Andrea Martinez to return to the aisles of Wal-Mex’s Bodega Aurrera discount chain near her house. On Saturday, she purchased 200-peso knockoff Adidas high tops for her grandson at a Mexico City street market.
“Ten years ago 200 pesos a day was a real salary,” said Andrea, who also supports her husband. “Not anymore.”
[END REPORT]


 

Sandra Bland was "marijuana impaired" when she hung herself in a Texas jail

The toxicology report on Bland, whose seemingly inexplicable suicide led to obsessive media coverage, was released to the public yesterday.  She had so much THC in her system that a toxicology professor observed it was possible she'd used marijuana in the jail. From the Associated Press report today, via M Live (Woman who died in Texas jail may have used pot there):
HEMPSTEAD, Texas — An initial toxicology report for Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell three days after her arrest during a traffic stop, raises the possibility that she may have used marijuana while in custody, two experts said.
The amount of THC, one of the active components of marijuana, in Bland's system was 18 micrograms per liter, according to the report released Monday. That's more than three times the legal limit for drivers in Colorado and Washington, states that permit the recreational use of marijuana.
"I don't think it's possible to rule out the possibility of use while in jail," said University of Florida toxicology professor Bruce Goldberger, who reviewed the report for The Associated Press. Bland was impaired by marijuana at the time of her death, Goldberger said.
Bland, a black 28-year-old from suburban Chicago, was found dead in the Waller County jail on July 13. Authorities have said Bland hanged herself with a garbage bag, a finding that her family disputes. She was in custody after a traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation with a white state trooper.
Robert Johnson, chief toxicologist at the Tarrant County medical examiner's office in Fort Worth, Texas, told the AP that a THC level as high as Bland's suggests she "either had access to the drug in jail or she was a consistent user of the drug and her body had accumulated THC to the point that it was slowly releasing it over time."
But, Johnson added, "I have never seen a report in the literature or from any other source of residual THC that high three days after someone stops using the drug."
Goldberger, who is also the president of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology, said Bland had a "remarkably high concentration" of THC for someone who had been in jail for three days.
He noted that while chronic users who stop using the drug will have higher concentrations than non-chronic users, "the concentrations do not persist at this level, at least in my opinion."
He defined chronic as someone who uses cannabis daily, sometimes repeatedly.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis declined to comment Monday on the toxicology report, saying final findings were still being prepared.
However, one of his prosecutors, Warren Diepraam, said last week that he wouldn't rule out the drug being smuggled into the jail.
"It may be relevant as to her state of mind to determine what happened on the street," Diepraam said. "It may be relevant to her state of mind to determine how or why she committed suicide."
[...]
A brief quote at Live M from another Associated Press report mentions that Bland's family does not accept the official cause of her death because they believe she wouldn't commit suicide, that she had everything to live for and was getting ready to start a new job at the time of her arrest.

If Bland was a chronic heavy marijuana user, it could be that her family didn't know her as well as they thought.  On the other hand, if she used marijuana for the first time in jail and wasn't familiar with the way it could work, she was unwittingly playing Russian Roulette. 

It would be the same if ordinarily, prior to her arrest, she had been a casual marijuana user who smoked the drug, but then ingested it in a food item that someone gave her in jail. Under that circumstance Bland might have had no idea how much THC she was taking into her body.

And, as the case of Levy Thamba illustrates, marijuana in edible form can be be deceptively slow in the onset of its effects, depending on the person's physiology. This can cause the person to eat an inordinate amount of the drug-laced food before feeling 'high.'  

But by the time the drug's effects have caught up, so much THC is in the person's system the high can be closer to psychosis.           

********

Yeah, we sure gave those Russians their Vietnam in Afghanistan



Taliban seize control of 80 villages in Kunduz

Kunduz Province is in the north of Afghanistan, next to the border with Tajikistan.

From Afghanistan's TOLO News, Tuesday, 28 July 2015 08:27 - Last Updated 16:57:

Taliban insurgents reportedly seized control of as many as 80 villages on Monday night in northern Kunduz province, local officials said on Tuesday.

The incident took place after Taliban insurgents attacked Khan Abad district of the province two days ago and started clashes with residents in the district. The residents are fighting the insurgents, head of provincial council of Kunduz, Mohammad Yousuf Ayoubi said.

"The Taliban last night took control of as many as 80 villages and about 14 residents who are fighting the insurgents have been killed or injured so far," he said.

The attack has resulted in hundreds of families fleeing their homes, he added.

However, security officials have not yet commented over the incident.

A number of key districts fell into Taliban hands over the past few months, but have been retaken by security forces.‎

[END REPORT]

Death by Marijuana Cookie: CDC report on Levy Thamba's death is damning

Marijuana legalization advocates have been skating by on the public's ignorance about the potency of modern strains of marijuana. Taken together, the coroners and police reports on the death of Levy Thamba in 2014 have exposed the seriousness of the drug's effects and the CDC has taken up the cudgel:

DC Cites Teen’s Death as Evidence of Dangers of Edible Pot
By Lisa Rein
The Washington Post via Valley News
Tuesday, July 28, 2015  

Washington — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing chilling new details about a 19-year-old college student who leaped four stories to his death at a Holiday Inn in Denver after eating a pot cookie.

The case is Exhibit A in a stern warning about the dangers of edible pot that calls for clearer labels, better education and dosage guidelines that advocate limited portion sizes.

“Although the decedent in this case was advised against eating multiple servings at one time,” researchers wrote of Levy Thamba, an exchange student from the Republic of Congo on spring break with his friends in Denver in March 2014, “he reportedly consumed all five of the remaining servings of the THC-infused cookie within 30-60 minutes after the first serving.” 

Thamba was “marijuana-naive, with no known history of alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, or mental illness,” the CDC said.

The warnings could further fuel the debate about legal marijuana use in the four states and the District of Columbia that now allow anyone over 21 to legally purchase the drug, including in sweet products, such as cookies, brownies and candy. Colorado, along with Washington, were the first states to legalize marijuana use.

Denver coroners listed “marijuana intoxication” from cannabis-infused [cookie] as a significant condition contributing to Thamba’s death, which was classified as an accident.

The CDC gives us more detail: A police report indicated that at first he ate only a single piece of his cookie, as directed by the sales clerk. But “approximately 30-60 minutes later, not feeling any effects, he consumed the remainder of the cookie. During the next 2 hours, he reportedly exhibited erratic speech and hostile behaviors. 

Approximately 3.5 hours after initial ingestion, and 2.5 hours after consuming the remainder of the cookie, he jumped off a fourth floor balcony and died from trauma,” the police report said.

[...]


Taliban launch another massive offensive in North Afghanistan

Xinhua is not my favorite news source but it's the only English-language one reporting on the offensive so far -- and Xinhua was able to get a statement on the attack directly from an Afghan police official. I note this attack came only four days before the next scheduled round of peace talks between the Taliban and Ghani's government.

Taliban attacks district in N. Afghanistan
July 28, 2015 - 14:33

SARI PUL, Afghanistan, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants have overrun Kohistanat district in Sari Pul province since Monday night, police said Tuesday.

"Hundreds of Taliban militants launched massive offensive on Kohistanat district Monday morning and fierce fighting lasted till 11:00 p.m.Security forces retreated enabling militants to enter the district," provincial police chief Mohammad Asif Jabar Khil told Xinhua.

The official said 17 police personnel have gone missing.

He said, however, security personnel are consolidating their positions in neighboring Sozma Qala and Sayyad districts.

Head of provincial council of Sari Pul province confirmed the fall of Kohistanat district to the Taliban outfit, saying disharmony among security organs has paved the way for the collapse of Kohistanat district.

[END REPORT]

********



Now which two countries would be conspiring to balkanize Afghanistan?

Somehow I don't think it's Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  The obvious prime suspects are Pakistan and Iran; from the following news reports filed yesterday I'll assume Amrullah Salah has those two countries in mind.  But there would be another suspect. Way back in September 2012, The Independent reported on a very elaborate plan put foward by a Tory MP to divide up Afghanistan, with each division to be overseen by a different foreign country. 
... Afghanistan could be carved into eight regional zones – with some of them potentially ruled by the Taliban – according to a controversial plan under discussion in London and Washington. Code-named "Plan C", the radical blueprint for the future of Afghanistan sets out reforms that would relegate President Hamid Karzai to a figurehead role.
Devised by the Conservative MP and Foreign Office aide Tobias Ellwood in 2011 (when he was Permanent Private Secretary to the then Defence Secretary, Liam Fox), it warns that the country faces a "bleak" future when it is left to fend for itself. ...
A footnote is that Liam Fox, who had to step down to avoid a scandal, is rabidly anti-Russian. Also, I have it on authority that the real Liam Fox was kidnapped just before he became Defense Secretary. He was replaced by a body double who is a shape-shifting alien from another planet.  This became an open secret in the British government after Fox was overheard at a defense meeting saying to the 'advisor' who always stuck to him like glue, "Tell me again the name of this hick galaxy and why we're here."

I think it had something to do with cricket but don't quote me on that.  

More recently the British hand was suspected in the strange agreement between Pakistan's ISI and Afghanistan's NDS intelligence services, which set off an uproar in Afghanistan. 

The Independent report has more on Plan C, if you're interested.

Certain countries planning to break Afghanistan in two parts: Saleh
By KHAAMA PRESS (Afghanistan)
Monday, July 27 2015

The former Afghan NDS (National Directorate of Security) chief Amrullah Saleh said Monday that certain countries are planning to break up Afghanistan in two parts by sparking divisions among Afghans in North and South.

The head of the Green Trend Movement was speaking during the signing of an agreement with Sulaiman Cultural Society and Noor Social Trend from southeastern Paktika and Paktiya provinces.

The agreement between the three movements is aimed at launched joint campaigns to thwart the conspiracies to split Afghanistan.

Saleh promised to stand against all conspiracies to split the nation and insisted that any other flag apart from the national flag of Afghanistan would mean to create divisions among Afghans in a bid to break up the country.

Without naming any specific country Saleh said “all those internal and external groups dreaming to create divisions among Afghans and once again spark civil war, are invalid, since we were one nation and will remain as one nation.”

He said the foreign countries are following their specific interests in breaking up Afghanistan, although he did not elaborate further regarding the targets of the countries looking to break up Afghanistan.

Saleh also insisted that the new generation of Afghanistan will never agree to break up the country, with Sulaiman Cultural Society chief Asifullah Ikhlas saying the main purpose of the agreement is to unite the young generation fo the country and eliminate discrimination.
[END REPORT]

Another report on the same announcement:

Saleh's Green Trend Announces New Political Alliance, Affirms Support for Afghan Forces Monday, July 2015

Amrullah Saleh, the former head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the founder of the Rawand-e Sabz-e Afghanistan (Afghanistan Green Trend) political party, held a press conference on Monday to announce the signing of an agreement with two other groups declaring their support for the Afghan security forces and any others dedicated to defending the people of Afghanistan.

Accompanying Saleh's Green Trend party, leaders of the Sulaiman Ghar cultural society and Noor social movement were also at the press conference to announce their new memorandum of understanding.

In his remarks, Saleh warned the public that the nation's true enemies are those trying to divide it into factions. And he said that any group looking to combat terrorists in Afghanistan should be leant support.

"The fact is that the enemies are the foreigners who strive to divide the people of Afghanistan by name, language and so on to score points for themselves and to provoke people's sentiments against each other," Saleh said on Monday. "They want to use a weak Afghanistan for their own benefits," he added.

Saleh maintained that Afghanistan's enemies believe the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) lack backing from the international community and can be easily defeated.

The stated principles and objectives of the memorandum of understanding are to defend the independence and territorial integrity of the country, protect the Afghan flag, defend the principles and values of the Constitution and fight against all kinds of discrimination.

"Defending the nation's sovereignty, national unification, national flag, territorial integrity, political activities and civil freedoms are our job," Green Trend member Sayed Abdul Hadi Hedayat told TOLOnews. 
"The raising of other flags alongside the national flag means the division of Afghanistan."

[END REPORT]

********

Almost every week brings a surprise about water management; this one, though, takes the cake

The following report is a mind bender, like the explanation that certain water conservation methods are counterproductive-- such as the drip tape irrigation method; they reduce ground water flows into aquifers, making them harder to recharge.

Now comes this counterintuitive stunner (emphasis mine):

NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE USES OLD METHOD TO FIGHT DROUGHT
by Christine Park
July 27, 2105
ABC 7 News (California: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose)

Meadow restoration in the mountains is creating more water for the Valley.

(MADERA COUNTY, Calif.) In the Madera County foothills, above Oakhurst, Native American tribes and the Forest Service are working together on a solution to California's drought. It doesn't involve building dams, or digging wells. Instead, they're chopping down trees. It's an ancient practice producing more water.

On a July morning at the Progeny Meadow in the Sierra National Forest, the scent of burning sage filled the air. About a dozen people gathered in a circle to listen to a voice raised in prayer, asking for ancestors' blessing before the day's work began. That voice belongs to Ron Goode, tribal chairman of the North Fork Mono Indians.

He pointed out a section overgrown with trees: "These are water suckers. They take a lot of water."

He knows a thing or two about the forest ecosystem. His people have been here for thousands of years.

"The more water they're pulling out of the meadow, that's also less amount of water going down to the Valley," he explained.

While chopping down trees might not seem like restoration, Goode says it's vital. When the meadows become overgrown, any rain or snowfall gets sucked up by the trees, instead of soaking into the aquifers and feeding the streams.

Thanks to their efforts the water is flowing, even in late July. This is the same water that eventually ends up in the Valley's rivers and reservoirs. A University of California study found forest thinning could add up to 16 percent more water flow yearly out of the Sierra Nevada and into California's water supply.

Goode sees this work as a long-term solution to California's drought: "As Native Americans we know for a fact that there's another drought coming in the next 10 years. But if you're not preparing for the future, you're gonna have the same problem the next time a drought comes."

Because only when there's water, can there be life. Since the meadow restoration work began, dozens of species have returned to live here in the meadow, from birds, to butterflies, to beetles. Some species are not so welcome, like the invasive thistle plants. Those are removed.

Forest service crews work side by side with the Native American tribes in a partnership that is now looking to expand to the public. Dirk Charley is also Native American and serves as the liaison between the Forest Service and local tribes: "Oh, there's still a lot to do. Therefore by doing this, you're educating the people, you're able to invite them to come and join. And make a difference."

A difference that is already paying off. Meadows are also natural fire breaks. And fewer trees and debris on the ground mean less fuel for wildfires, like the recent Sky Fire, which burned dangerously close to several of the meadows.

So their efforts in the meadows continue because with every falling tree in our mountains, comes more water for a thirsty state. 

For more information on the meadow restoration efforts and how you can help, visit the tribe's Facebook page: North Fork Mono Tribe.

[END REPORT]

Of course tree cover is vital and its importance to rainfall and micro-climates is only recently becoming better understand. But from the article, it seems it depends on where the trees are. 

The takeaway for me is that we're still in our infancy when it comes to learning how to manage our resources. Yet many ancient practices, long ago fallen into disuse, reflect a wisdom about water management that took a long time to develop.  

Then again, the ancient civilizations were done in many times by droughts -- and they didn't have the huge numbers of livestock and humans that we contend with today.  

It's going to take a combination of the best of the old practices and cutting-edge science and technologies to get humanity through its present water management crisis.  Yet the most innovative technologies won't amount to much unless large numbers of people, and governments, are motivated to use them.  Truly, we need to develop water consciousness.      

********




Monday, July 27

How Islamic State is grabbing territory in the Middle East

IS version of M4 Sherman tank


That one was taken out by a U.S. airstrike but the contraption IS rigged out of a simple pickup truck has the same advantage that the Sherman tank did in World War II.  Here's what the M4 looks like:



From the Armed Forces Museum website article about the top ten tanks used in World War II:
M4 Sherman – This World War II medium tank was used primarily by the U.S. with thousands more being used by the Allies. The main gun mounted on the M4 Sherman – a 75 mm M3 L/40 - allowed the crew to fire with a fair amount of accuracy even if the tank was moving. The advantages of this tank led to its high demand. As a result, more than 50,000 M4 Sherman tanks were produced during WWII.
The top photo accompanies the BBC July 26 report, Iraqi forces attack Islamic State base in Ramadi. It's unclear whether the Iraqi army was able to rout IS from the university it was using as a base although the Beeb notes "Some reports suggested Iraqi forces had retaken control of the complex." 

The complex in Ramadi was virtually destroyed in the assaults, which needs to be read in the context of an IS assault last week that completely blew up a sports stadium, funded by Turkey, near Ramadi that was used as a base for the Iraqi military and allied Shiite militias.  

ISIS has completely blown up the Olympic Stadium in Ramadi. Photo: iraqi news

ISIS blows up sports stadium near Ramadi

July 21, 2015
By Associated Press via Rudaw

BAGHDAD— Militants from the Islamic State group blew up a sports stadium in the western Anbar province that in recent months had been used as a military base, officials said Monday.

There may have been fighters with the country's Popular Mobilization Unit, the Shiite militias known as Hashd al-Shaabi, inside the 30,000-capacity stadium when it was destroyed Sunday, military and security officials in Anbar said, but they were unable to provide a specific estimate and officials with the Shiite were not aware of casualties.

The Turkey-funded stadium, near the militant-held city of Ramadi, had never been used for sports. In recent months, it was used as a military base for Iraqi security forces and allied militia groups.

The officials spoke anonymously as they are not authorized to brief journalists.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry said last week that security forces were able to "cleanse" the stadium from militants taking refuge inside. It did not elaborate.

The militants seized control of Ramadi in May in what was a major blow to Iraqi security forces on the heels of a victory in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

A US-led coalition has been conducting intense airstrikes in Anbar in an effort to help the Iraqi government regain control of the long-volatile province. Iraqi security forces last week announced the launch of a large-scale operation to retake Anbar province from the militants. However, little progress has been reported so far.

The Islamic State group controls about a third of Iraq and Syria, ruling a self-styled "caliphate" where it enforces its radical interpretation of Sunni Islam. It regularly carries out attacks on Iraqi security forces in an effort to destabilize the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Also in Anbar, officials say the Islamic State group ambushed a military unit near the city of Fallujah, killing the group's commander, Ali Ahmed, and four of his men.

[END REPORT]
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In Iraq, U.S. can't tell the good guys from the bad guys

"The chain of command in Iraq has frayed since the Islamic State's battlefield victories last year ..."

Real U.S. allies in Iraq difficult to identify, experts say
By Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer
3:46 p.m. EDT July 27, 2015
Military Times

The steady growth of Shiite militias in Iraq is making it increasingly difficult for American forces deployed there to determine exactly which Iraqi forces they are supporting, experts say.

The official line from Defense Department is that the U.S. will support operations involving both the Iraqi army and some militia forces that are operating "under command and control of the Iraqi government."

But the Pentagon wants to avoid providing direct support for anti-Islamic State militia forces loyal to Iran, a longtime enemy, a reflection of the deeply opaque and tumultuous politics of the Middle East.

"I love this line, 'We only want to support the militias under the command and control of the Iraqi government.' You can't really look at it that way. There is a lot of fuzzy gray area in that zone," said Phillip Smyth, an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"It's not some binary situation like people keep trying to make it out to be," Smyth said.

The chain of command in Iraq has frayed since the Islamic State's battlefield victories last year inspired the creation of the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, a loose-knit patchwork of mostly Shiite militias with scattered loyalties to leaders in both Iraq and Iran. 
 
The PMF are not part of Iraq's Ministry of Defense, which has close ties to the U.S. military after years of receiving money and training from Americans. Instead, the PMF militias operate — technically — under Iraq's Ministry of Interior, which has direct links to Iran.

[...]

Plenty more in the report that's important.

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Google News comes to its senses, at least temporarily

I've just returned to the internet so I don't know when it happened this afternoon but the Google News website is no longer featuring links to reports, ruminations, etc. about the death of Bobbi Brown at the top of its Top Stories, as it had been earlier in the day and ever since news of her death broke. 

For the moment, Google News looks like a real "breaking news" aggregator site. At the left side of the web page it does list the name "Bobbi Kristina Brown" in the #1 position under its "Top Stories" header but the main page has a good mix of breaking news reports.

I don't know how Google decides which stories qualify as important breaking news but my concern is that Google has confused Twitter chatter with news.  

If American Twitter users want to chirp at each other about the death of Bobbi Brown until their attention flits elsewhere, it's their prerogative.  But if you want to be a responsible news aggregator website, you must stop pandering to people who suffer from the internet version of rubbernecking. 

For many months, Google News hasn't been acting responsibly. It turned itself into the website version of CNN, with 'saturation coverage' of just one news event related to a racially charged incident or mass killing in the United States.  

Now I do not want Google News to inform me that it's top news what color nail polish Bobbi Brown's corpse is wearing for the funeral.    

Fire the person who's making the calls about Google News and get someone who has journalistic integrity.  And I don't want to hear, 'Oh we're not actually part of the journalism profession; we're just an internet business.'

Then make your business something else besides the news of the day.   

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Terror attacks in Afghanistan: "The Americans are casting around for a strategy."

I remain unpersuaded that Isis, and the Taliban for that matter, are the big terror problem in Afghanistan.  The problem, as I see it, is Pakistan.  In any event the U.S. government and its dear NATO allies are unwilling to do anything about Pakistan -- and are once again wholly dependent on Pakistan as a supply route after they picked a fight with Russians -- and so face the conundrum of how to keep on emptying the ocean with a sieve in Afghanistan while mollifying taxpayers in their home countries, and now with Islamic State allegedly in the mix ..... 

Would you buy a used car from this man?
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar 

From Kim Sengupta's July 23 report for The Independent (UK), Isis in Afghanistan: The country's Taliban problem hasn't gone away – and it has new extremists to contend with

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was the poster boy of the West when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. There were lavish gifts from the CIA, MI6 and the Saudis; tonnes of arms and tens of millions of dollars. Ronald Reagan praised him as a great hero; he was invited to tea with Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street.

Hekmatyar later fell out with his sponsors with his fighters, Hezb e-Islami, carrying out lethal attacks against US and British forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistani secret police, the ISI, who had funnelled American supplies to him in the past, found him increasingly difficult to handle. His standing in Islamist circles, however, remained strong.

The jihadist journey of the veteran Mujaheddin leader has continued, with him instructing Hezb i-Islami to throw its weight behind Isis. Not all his followers agree with the move, but the development will, nevertheless, add fuel to the incendiary three-cornered strife between the Afghan government, the Taliban and the new adherents of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Americans, who were, just three months ago, dismissing the arrival of Isis in Afghanistan as nothing more than an internal squabble within Taliban, now belatedly acknowledge they are facing a growing threat with very limited means of response after the withdrawal of the bulk of international forces at the end of last year.

The head of the US military has held an urgent meeting with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to discuss how to “oppose the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant”. General Martin Dempsey spoke afterwards about the need to address “the transregional nature of what is clearly a persistent threat that has to be addressed at a sustainable level over a period of time”.

The Americans, in other words, are casting around for a strategy. Barack Obama, who declared the Afghan war over, has already been forced to add another thousand troops to the 9,800 left behind in the country. That number is due to be reviewed again after Gen Dempsey’s report back in Washington; but the remit of the force is training the Afghan army and police rather than take part in military operations.

The Afghan president has been speaking of the “terrible threat” from Abu Bakr’s men, stressing to the US Congress that “terrorists neither recognise boundaries nor require passports to spread their message of hate and discord”. The advent of Isis is a major problem for Mr Ghani: after winning a fiercely disputed election against former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, he has staked all on rapprochement with the Pakistani security establishment, hoping they would be able to deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table.

On his first official visit to Pakistan after coming to office, Mr Ghani rushed to the Pakistani Army headquarters in Rawalpindi before even meeting the elected government in Islamabad – a break with protocol and one which was viewed with dismay by politicians and civic society leaders in Pakistan, a state which has experienced repeated military coups.

But although talks have been held between the Taliban and Afghan representatives in Pakistan, attacks have continued relentlessly with his critics at home charging that Mr Ghani had “sold out”, without getting anything in return. 

Now there is another force in this equation over which the Pakistanis have no leverage. Isis has been posting videos of Pakistani soldiers being beheaded and has declared that the “Islamist State” will spread across Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As well as seizing territory from the Taliban, Isis are grabbing opium, of which Afghanistan is the biggest producer in the world, and moving it west along parts of Iraq under its control, adding to their already substantial war chest.

The Afghan security forces have fought to the point of exhaustion against the Taliban since the departure of international forces, suffering horrendous casualties, and they appear to be in no position to take on Isis.

[...]

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Question for Google: How many days do you plan to keep the death of Bobbi Brown as the top story at Google News?

Reports obsessing over her death have only been at the top of Google News ever since the news broke that she was dead.  Who is Bobbi Brown?  Some druggie who drowned in a bathtub and whose mother was a singer named Whitney Houston, who also drowned in a bathtub.  Actually I loved Houston's performance in The Bodyguard but what passes for a news establishment in this country is turning me into a curmudgeon.

As for Google News -- I'm beginning to realize that "free" isn't a bargain when it comes to news aggregator sites.

The security situation in Afghanistan is at a crisis level.  But you should see the reports that Google News is posting on Afghanistan.  At least  four  -- given separate postings -- are on a shooting at a wedding party. Another is about crossing-dressing children.  Another is about banning toy guns in Afghanistan.

In short Google is unable to find news reports that can give Americans an understanding of what is happening that is of great import in the country in terms of its politics and security and about NATO efforts in the country.

Given the huge investment of American lives and money in Afghanistan, that's an outrage.  And given the scope of the tragedy in the country -- a tragedy that can be blamed in no small part on the most influential NATO countries pandering for years to Pakistan's regime -- the death of one spoiled American doesn't mean a damn to me.

But shouting this at Google is like telling the lame to run faster.  Google can't do any better than they're doing to keep Americans informed because after all it is an American company -- a very American company.

UPDATE 7:48 AM EDT
Yes, Bobbi Brown stories are STILL at the top of Google News  

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What is NATO doing in Afghanistan? Picking its nose?

When it's not bombing Afghan Army posts by mistake?  When I went looking for news on the joke called Operation Resolute Support I came across the following report at the Army Times. But first here's a photograph.

  An Afghanistan National Army soldier stands guard in a trench in district of Baraki Barak in Logar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 20, 2015 (VOA).

Army engineers build roads, reassure European allies
By Michelle Tan, Staff writer
July 26, 2015
Army engineers are spread across Eastern Europe this summer building roads and constructing training facilities as part of the United States' efforts to assure its allies in the face of Russian aggression.
Why can't the East Europeans build their own roads?  Because the road-building effort is a cash cow for contractors the U.S. senators who've led the charge against Russia favor. And that's what the provocations against Russia have been all about. Cash on the barrelhead.  

As for Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan:  
NATO to have no military role in Afghanistan after 2016Brooks Tigner, Brussels
IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
05 July 2015
NATO's next foray in Afghanistan after its Resolute Support military train-and-advise mission ends in December 2016 will be a civilian-led effort.
It will have neither a military dimension nor any responsibility to counter the country's resurgent poppy production, according to a senior NATO official who said that must fall to other parts of the international community. Afghanistan's opium trade fuels arms to the Taliban.
"We are trying to avoid anything militaristic [within the next mission]," Nick Williams, head of NATO's Afghanistan team, said during a security policy debate in Brussels on 2 July.
"We are already thinking ahead to 2017 - beyond Resolute Support," he said, adding that during a 24-25 June meeting in Brussels of allied defence ministers the latter supported the idea of "a civil-led approach to continue the capability-building effort in Kabul".
What is NATO doing at this time to counter the poppy production?   What is it doing in Afghanistan, period?  Certainly not building roads for the ANA.

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"On four continents historic droughts wreak havoc"

"Overall, tracking droughts globally is difficult: No country outside the U.S. has a comprehensive effort to monitor it, said climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb." -- from the USA TODAY report

I've mentioned the tracking problem before. It is a very big issue that isn't being acted on by the 'international community.' Odd, wouldn't you say? Particularly given all the hoopla about climate change, global warming -- and global water shortages.  I guess governments don't want the tracking, or they want someone else to pay for it.  


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Pakistan violates ceasefire again along IB in Jammu.

Pakistan has carried out over 13 ceasefire violations this year.  PTI via Times of India has the report on the latest.  Now there's an idea for a horror movie: what if every country had a neighbor like Pakistan.  

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India's Salma Dam project in Afghanistan nears completion: finally some good news

I wasn't aware that India had also funded the building of a new Parliament building in Kabul until I read the following report.  Wonder if that was a factor in the recent attack on the country's Parliament.  But to return to good news:

India's dam project in Afghanistan approaches completion
26 July 2015 
Anadolu Agency

Multimillion dollar infrastructure project moves forward as dam reservoir begins to be filled

(KABUL) The Indian-sponsored multimillion-dollar Salma Dam project in Afghanistan has passed a critical stage on Sunday with the closure of Diversion Tunnel Gate and the start of the filling of the dam reservoir.

The 20-km long and 3.7 km wide reservoir is expected to take 9 to 12 months to be filled. The dam, located in the western province Herat near Iran, has a storage capacity of 640 million cubic meters.

Salma Dam is among the major Indian-sponsored projects alongside the new parliament building in the Afghan capital Kabul and the Chah Bahar Port in Iran aimed at harnessing Indo-Afghan ties.

The reservoir project was first conceived in the late 70s, but was damaged early during the civil war in the 1990s. The project was left incomplete for a significant period of time due to the ongoing instability. Local press also blamed Iran for hindering the project.

It is the “flagship infrastructural project of India’s developmental assistance program to Afghanistan”, the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan said.

Salma Dam is a hydroelectric and irrigation project being constructed on Hari River in Chist-e Sharif district of Herat. Afghanistan is likely to get around 42 MW of power from it besides improved irrigation facilities for some 80,000 hectares of land.

The project includes the construction of a 107.5 m high and 550 m long rock fill dam and other typical components of any hydroelectric power project, i.e. a spillway, powerhouse, switchyard, and a transmission line.

Revised estimates of the project put its cost at $300 million.
[END REPORT]
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Indian official: suspect Pakistan's LeT in Punjab attack; 9 dead so far, several injured; attack still in progress (UPDATED)

UPDATE 4:00 AM EDT
Frm The Hindu 'live blogging' of the incident
-  Gunmen reportely holed up in an empty building
-- MoS Jitendra Singh goes on record to say that ISI likely behind the Gurdaspur attack.
-- Security forces want to capture the gumen for questioning so they're going slow as there doesn't seem to be a hostage situation.

The situation is still fog of war so this will be my last update for this post.
******

Zee News reports
A high alert has been sounded and security strengthened across Punjab, neighbouring Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh in the wake of the terror attack which came less than three weeks before the country's Independence Day. ... A senior police official says that in view of the attack, "maximum alert" has been sounded across the state and security has been beefed up along its borders with neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir.
From another report at Zee, a countrywide terrorist alert has also been issued by the government.

Sophisticated, complex attack in Punjab; concerns are that it's meant to derail negotiations between India and Pakistan on a range of issues. Bloomberg reported at 1:49 AM EDT that India's government suspects LeT (a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency) is the perp:

[...] Security forces have surrounded the militants, who are holed up in a police complex in the town of Dinanagar, Abhinav Trikha, a deputy commissioner in Punjab, said by phone.
India’s Home Ministry suspects that Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind the attacks, a government official told reporters in New Delhi. He asked not to be identified, citing ministry rules.
The incident is the most serious since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year. While border incidents are common in Jammu and Kashmir state further to the north, Punjab has been relatively peaceful over the past decade. [...]
No mention of the accusation in what seems to be the latest report on the attack:

9 killed in suspected terror attack in PunjabTNN via Times of India
Jul 27, 2015
10.21 AM IST

GURDASPUR: In a suspected terror attack, gunmen wearing army uniform on Monday went on a rampage attacking a bus, a health centre and a police station, leaving nine persons, including a policeman, dead and several injured in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.

Army has launched an operation against the militants numbering about five who are holed up in Dinanagar police station complex.

The assailants also targeted a building where the families of police personnel reside and threw grenades.

According to police, the mayhem started at about 5am when the attackers first targeted a roadside eatery and took off in a car after killing a person who was sleeping near Dinanagar bypass.

They opened fire on a moving bus, in which four passengers were injured, they said.

They also targeted a community health centre adjacent Dinanagar police station, in which a policeman and three civilians including a woman who were present in the premises were killed.

READ ALSO: Govt monitoring situation, Rajnath says

The gunmen entered the Dinanagar police station and opened fire on policemen there in which five policemen were seriously injured. They then targeted other part of the building where the families of police personnel reside.


[END REPORT]

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A few reasons it does no good for the US to attempt cooperation with Pakistan

Quotes that highlight some U.S. evidence on Pakistan's support on terror;  from a lengthy article about the (leaked) secret U.S.-Pakistan agreement on use of armed drones in Pakistan: 

Secret memos reveal explicit nature of U.S., Pakistan agreement on drones
by Greg Miller, Washington Post Intelligence reporter, and Bob Woodward 
October 24, 2013
The Washington Post
[...]

The files serve as a detailed timeline of the CIA drone program, tracing its evolution from a campaign aimed at a relatively short list of senior al-Qaeda operatives into a broader aerial assault against militant groups with no connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The records also expose the distrust and dysfunction that has afflicted U.S.-Pakistani relations even amid the undeclared collaboration on drone strikes.

Some files describe tense meetings in which senior U.S. officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, confront their Pakistani counterparts with U.S. intelligence purporting to show Pakistan’s ties to militant groups involved in attacks on American forces, a charge that Islamabad has consistently denied.

[...]

In one case, Morell indicated that the CIA was prepared to share credit with the Pakistanis if the agency could confirm that it had killed Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaeda operative suspected of ties to plots against India. The agency would do so “so that the negative views about Pakistan in the U.S. decision and opinion making circles are mitigated,” according to a diplomatic memo.

But Morell was also sent on occasion to confront Pakistan with what U.S. officials regarded as evidence of the nation’s support for terrorist groups. In June 2011, he arrived at the embassy with videos showing militants scrambling to clear materials from explosives plants that the United States had discovered and called to the attention of counterparts in Pakistan.

Rather than launching raids, the Pakistanis were suspected of tipping off the militants, who dispersed their materials in a “pickup truck, two station wagons and at least two motorcycles to multiple locations in South Waziristan,” according to the memo summarizing the meeting with Morell.

Morell warned that “these videos left a bad taste” among lawmakers and other senior officials in Washington.

Tim Craig in Islamabad and Scott Wilson, Evelyn Duffy and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

[END REPORT]

More on Taliban capture of military base in N. Afghanistan

Long War Journal certainly did much better at piercing the fog of war than the Voice of America report yesterday -- but then LWJ always does better at war reporting than the mainstream press outlets. There are still questions about the attack but one thing is clear: NATO-US forces are letting the north of the country twist in the wind.  

Taliban overrun base, capture and release 100 Afghan security personnel
BY BILL ROGGIO
July 26, 2015
The Long War Journal 

The Taliban overran a military base in the remote northern Afghan province of Badakhshan this weekend, capturing more than 100 police and tribal fighters before disarming and freeing them.

Taliban fighters began their assault on the Qala base in the embattled district of Warduj beginning on July 24, according to the jihadist group and Afghan press reports. The base was overrun by July 25, but the Afghan government and the Taliban differ on the reasons why.

Afghan officials claimed that a police commander known as Amanullah and his officers defected to the Taliban, TOLONews reported.

“Amanullah head of the border police in the military base made a deal with the Taliban insurgents because the military base did not have any problems and they had all the equipment,” a spokesman for the provincial chief of police said.

The Taliban claimed credit for the assault in a statement that was released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, but did not give any indication that the police defected. Instead the Taliban said the assault force detained “110 hireling ANA [Afghan soldiers], police and Arbaki militiamen.” Additionally the Taliban said it seized “10 PKM machine guns, 10 RPG launchers, 90 rifles, 3 Dshk heavy machine guns, 2 mortar tubes, an artillery piece as well as a large amount of ammunition and other military gear.”

The Taliban also said it overran “6 check posts near the base” and drove Afghan security forces from 12 nearby villages, putting the jihadist group in effective contol of Warduj.

“The enemy now only controls small pockets around the district center while the entire district is currently under the control of Islamic Emirate,” according to the Taliban statement.

The Taliban’s claims cannot be independently verified. But Afghan press reports do back the Taliban’s assertion that it seized the base, captured the Afghan security personnel, and confiscated their weapons. A provincial official told Khaama Press that 107 security personnel captured at the base have subsequently been freed and the facility remains under Taliban control.

Badakhshan, which had been a relatively peaceful province up until several years ago, has become a battleground for the Taliban and its allies. The Islamic Jihad Union, an al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group, said it has deployed fighters to the province as part of the Taliban’s “azm” offensive. The districts of Jurm, Warduj, and Yamgan have shifted between government and Taliban control several times over the past year. The Taliban have taken advantage of the government’s inability to maintain security in the remote, mountainous province.

The Taliban have publicized much of the recent fighting in Badakhshan. In a video released in May, the Taliban highlighted the fighting in Warduj and Yamgan districts. Qari Fasehuddin, the Taliban shadow governor for Badakhshan who is said to have 1,000 fighters under his command, was featured in the video. [See LWJ report, Former Taliban shadow governor appears in new propaganda video depicting recent combat in Badakhshan province.]

The fighting in Badakhshan almost backfired on the Taliban after fighters beheaded seven Afghan soldiers this spring. The jihadist group was forced to issue an official statement in which it admitted the beheadings were wrong, but then placed the blame for the grisly acts on the Afghan military, claiming its forces executed Taliban fighters and civilians. [See LWJ report, Taliban admit to beheading Afghan soliders ‘in revenge’.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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