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Russia/Ukraine: Russian armour moving into Ukraine

August 15, 2014

Summary: Western journalists following the Russian “humanitarian” convoy report Russian military vehicles crossing over into Ukraine.

map donetsk, luhanskMore salami slices here.  The Russian convoy has not ended up at the border entry point north of Kharkiv (and controlled by Ukraine border troops) as originally intended but has ended up opposite eastern Ukraine bear to the only border entry point controlled by separatists.  No one (and certainly not the Red Cross!) is really sure what is going to happen with it.  A photo of the contents of one truck seemed to show a lot of space inside.

Possible to squeeze a little more aid in here...?

Possible to squeeze a little more aid in here…?

Russian armoured convoys and helicopters in large quantities are being routinely observed by the equally numerous Western journalists on the fields, roads and motorways in and around Rostov – some are being spotted with peacekeeping signs on the vehicles.

 

The Daily Telegraph (and other journalists) are reporting Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine over last night:

Daily Telegraph, 14 Aug: A column of armoured vehicles and military trucks crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine on Thursday night, in the first confirmed sighting of such an incident by Western journalists.

A separate, larger convoy of around 270 Russian trucks, which Moscow claims is carrying aid, rumbled to a halt just short of the border on Thursday night, while in east Ukraine, shells hit the centre of rebel-held Donetsk for the first time.

The Telegraph witnessed a column of vehicles including both armoured personal carriers and soft-skinned lorries crossing into Ukraine at an obscure border crossing near the Russian town of Donetsk shortly before 10pm local time.

The Ukrainian and Western governments have long accused Russia of filtering arms and men across the border to fuel the separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but such an incident has never before been witnessed by Western journalists.

The convoy, which included at least 23 vehicles, appeared to be waiting until sunset near a refugee camp just outside Donetsk, before moving towards the crossing without turning off headlights or making any other attempt to conceal itself.

 

Russia, selection of armour

And this:

The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk.

After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border. Armed men were visible in the gloom by the border fence as the column moved into Ukraine. Kiev has lost control of its side of the border in this area.

The trucks are unlikely to represent a full-scale official Russian invasion, and it was unclear how far they planned to travel inside Ukrainian territory and how long they would stay. But it was incontrovertible evidence of what Ukraine has long claimed – that Russian troops are active inside its borders.

Russia/Ukraine: Salami Tactics – “slice by slice”

August 14, 2014

Summary:  A humourous and still oh-so-relevant lesson in realpolitik from a 1980s comedy as we contemplate a Russian humanitarian convoy’s meanderings close to the Ukrainian border…

I am not being particularly original here but I still want this on record.  The classic “salami tactics” clip from the BBC’s 1980s comedy “Yes Prime Minister” gives salient political lessons as we contemplate a Russian humanitarian convoy’s meanderings close to the Ukrainian border.  First watch and enjoy the masterclass itself:

So, following the syle of the scenarios offered to Jim Hacker, in the context of trying to understand Russian military intentions regarding the Ukraine, we might have:

Scenario 1:

  • Russian aid convoy genuinely full of aid
  • Seeks entry to Ukraine but deliberately mismanages its dealings with the ICRC and the Ukraine government (eg by not informing anyone of the convoy’s movements, desired entry location, contents of lorries and claiming agreements from ICRC and Ukraine) to ensure it is turned away.  This really does sound like the curent situation.
  • Russia gets to pose as a genuine helper and the Ukrainians as mean-spirited fascists who cannot or will not even want to help their own people – eastern Ukraine looks more towards Russia and away from Kiev, reinforcing and extending separatist sentiment

Scenario 2:

  • Similar to Scenario 1.
  • Russian convoy genuinely full of aid
  • Seeks entry to Ukraine but deliberately mismanages its dealings with the ICRC and the Ukraine government (eg by not informing anyone of the convoy’s movements, desired entry location, contents of lorries and misrepresenting any discussions with ICRC and Ukraine as approval for their actions)
  • Engineers a clash with Ukrainian troops/border guards as it tries to force its way into Ukraine
  • Provides justification for military action

Scenario 3:

  • Russian aid convoy genuinely full of aid
  • Seeks and gains entry
  • Gets to distribute aid, gaining a useful pause in all the negative media stories – much needed positive PR

Scenario 4:

  • Similar to Scenario 3 but establishes principle that Russian “humanitarian” personnel can come and go across the border, more convoys follow
  • establishes semi-permanent aid bases inside Ukraine for distribution purposes, manned by Russian personnel – access to bases by ICRC, journalists, Ukrainian representatives is restricted
  • Russian Emergencies Ministry security personnel involved – just for base security/crowd control
  • Riots/rocket attack/explosion occurs – Russian military personnel brought in to provide additional security, punish any attackers, etc, etc…

Scenario 5:

  • Aid convoy story “will it/won’t it cross the border” a distraction for some planned military intervention

Scenario 6:

  • Aid convoy is attempting to take weapons (or other forms of support) into separatists.  I really find this unlikely as it would be too easy to uncover the truth now the media spotlight is on it and the Russians have likely been running weapons into eastern Ukraine already anyway.  Suggestions that the convoy might now have divided into two parts,

BBC, 14 Aug: More than 100 lorries carrying Russian aid have set off towards the border with Ukraine, amid continuing confusion over their final destination

however, might suggest the idea that a smaller part of the convoy could break away from the main body with a more secretive mission in mind

Scenario 7:

  • The aid convoy is more or less genuine, but Putin really doesn’t know yet what to do and is still attempting to seize some form of media initiative.  This is at best an exercise in stalling for time while he decides what next.

As I look at these scenarios, I think I have accidentally produced them in ascending order of likelihood – that is Scenario 1 may be the most likely.  But the whole approach by the Putin regime has been to throw up as much sand and dust as possible to cloud issues until he can introduce another initative.  I think he quite likes having the world’s attention as it tries to guess what is coming next…

 

 

Russia/Ukraine: “humanitarian” convoy clouds, confuses and complicates…

August 12, 2014

Summary: A Russia humanitarian aid convoy will reach the border of Ukraine probably tonight.  No one is sure whether this is a genuine attempt to assist (less likely) or a further attempt by the Putin regime to distort, provoke, pressurise or subvert in some way (more likely).  At worst it could be some form of further military intervention…

Meaning what, exactly?

Meaning what, exactly?

Amongst much internet and media chatter, Russia appears to be sending a 280-truck convoy full of humanitarian aid towards (and presumably across) the Russo-Ukrainian border into the Ukraine:

12 August, Financial Times: As 280 lorries made their way from a military base near Moscow towards the Ukrainian border, some Russian internet users passed around photos of the convoy as it was sighted along the route. Others shared video clips of the Trojan Rabbit, the Monty Python episode involving King Arthur and his knights trying to cheat their way into a French castle.

Confusion, fear and satire followed the convoy as it made its way to the border. Russia says it carries humanitarian aid for the tormented residents of Ukraine; Kiev and most western governments suspect Moscow is plotting a Trojan Horse to trigger or conceal a military intervention.

Russian bloggers are more or less plotting the route from Moscow towards Kharkov live with a series of geo-located video clips.  As you can see, the trucks are painted white and flying the Red Cross.  Footage at the beginning of the convoy’s journey showed inside the vehicles and water, food, blankets and sleeping bags all visible, but the Red Cross have no idea what is in the vehicles and there is little clarity whether the Red Cross or the Ukrainian government actually approve this convoy at all.

12 August, Daily Telegraph: Ukraine has said it will not allow a mammoth Russian convoy reportedly carrying aid for the war-torn east to enter its territory and that any assistance should be handed over at the border.

“We will not consider the possibility of any movement of the Russian column on the territory of Ukraine,” said Valeriy Chalyy, deputy head of the presidential administration, adding that any aid would have to be loaded onto transport provided by the Red Cross and that no Russian personnel would be allowed to escort it.

People have been calling “invasion imminent” for some while now, particularly after the exercises of 10,000-20,000 Russian troops over the last couple of weeks.  I still struggle to believe that such a highly telegraphed manouvre as a humanitarian convoy will be a military trigger.  But it could be a distraction or it could be the first in a series of similar activities that might slowly lead to more efforts to develop influence inside eastern Ukraine.  One report says that other Russian military movements are now taking place in Belarus, directly to the north of Kiev, however:

The Interpreter:Russian Armored Convoys On The Move In Belarus

Over the last several days there has been a significant uptick in Russian troop movements on the move in Belarus. This video, reportedly taken today in Vitebsk, shows troops, transport trucks, and armored-personnel carriers moving through the city. The city is due north of Kiev:
This video…reportedly shows a massive armored convoy iin Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov region of Russia,  on August 10th. The geolocation is done in the actual video…The point, which we will be illustrating in depth in a later update, is that Russia is deploying and mobilizing forces near multiple border crossings, in every direction of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, but also in regions (and even other countries) that are further away but still within striking distance of Ukraine within hours or days. Russia could easily put troops into Ukraine west of the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, perhaps in Kharkiv, or even Kiev, and they could do this nearly as easily as they could put troops into Lugansk or Donetsk.
Vladimir Putin is, at the very least, seizing the media initiaitive in an impressive style – everyone is dancing to the beat of his new story.  But this is getting tiresome.  To put it crudely, will he take it to the next level or is he as much in the dark about what to do next as everyone else is?  Something will have to give soon:

“No state or regime goes to war firmly convinced that it will lose it,” Andrey Piontkovsky says, and Vladimir Putin is no exception: if he goes to war with NATO and even if he escalates that conflict by using nuclear weapons, he will be acting on the basis of a belief that he can win it.

That belief, the Russian commentator says, is based on Putin’s assumption that the logic of mutually assured destruction (MAD) which prevented a major war between Russia and the West has broken down because of divisions within the West about how to respond to Russian use of a limited nuclear strike.

Piontkovsky does not provide direct evidence for this, but his argument is both suggestive and disturbing because if he has read Putin correctly, the world is in a far more dangerous situation than most have thought and the risks to Russia’s neighbors, the West and Russia itself are far greater…

Putin’s actions would be “revenge for the defeat of the USSR in the third (cold) world war just as the second world war was for Germany an attempt at revenge for defeat in the first.”

If the Russian speakers of Narva in Estonia were to conduct a referendum and Moscow sent in its forces overtly or covertly, how might NATO react? Piontkovsky asks. If NATO did not respond, “that would mean the end of NATO and the end of the US as a world power and the complete political dominance of Putin’s Russia not only in the area of the Russian World but in the entire European continent.”

I guess we will find out tomorrow.  Or maybe not.

Ukraine and MH17: A lesson in the value of Open Source Intelligence…

August 3, 2014

Summary: The Daily Beast crunch the data and demonstrate how hard it is to hide an armoured vehicle these days…

 

BUK air defence missile system, Torez, 17 July 2014

BUK air defence missile system, Torez, 12.30 pm, 17 July 2014

Some fascinating OSINT – ie Open Source Intelligence – here, using social media and local accounts to trace the route of the BUK missile system believed to be responsible for shooting down flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine:

“Over the last two weeks I’ve documented the various open source information that has revealed key pieces of information about the Buk Missile Launcher linked to the downing of flight MH17.  Now, using that information, I believe it’s possible to construct a timeline of events on the ground in Ukraine on July 17th that can be evidenced using a variety of open source information…”
It is definitely worth going through in full.

Mullah Omar and the Taliban statement on the occasion of Eid ul Fitr

August 2, 2014

Summary: Taliban annual statement hits usual themes, but looks lighter, more cautious and less confident than usual

Taliban alemarahOn 25th July the Taliban released a statement greeting the people of Afghanistan on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. This has been a Taliban custom since their ejection in late 2001 from at least 2006. This year, the Taliban claimed the “military situation is in favour of the Mujahideen” and called upon Afghan security personnel and citizens to side with them. The statement noted progress beyond the battlefield in education, justice, culture and other matters, including “coordination of NGOs”, “prisoner’s affairs” and “civilian casualties”. They claimed a great success for Taliban political recognition as a result of the release of a US military prisoner in exchange for Taliban prisoners. There were standard rejections of the current Afghan electoral process, reaffirmation of Sharia as the guiding principle for any Taliban-based government and calls on Afghans to reject any extension of the international military force presence in the country. Exhortations were made for Taliban fighters to avoid civilian casualties (on pain of investigation and punishment) and “win their hearts and minds”.

Analysis and Outlook

My standard caveat at this stage is that we do not have any strong proof that these are in fact the words of Mullah Omar or that he might have been involved in drafting them. However, they are generally accepted by knowledgeable analysts as emanating from the Taliban and I myself am reasonably comfortable with this assumption, not least because they appear on the Taliban’s own website as an official statement and have done regularly. I will therefore analyse the statement on the basis that this is a genuine statement from within the Taliban leadership.

The major milestones of Taliban official communiques each year are at the beginning of Eid, the end of Eid and the start of the “Spring Offensive”.  This statement is actually quite short and, well, dull, when compared to previous statements. It is broad, light and generalised.  There is some good analysis from Geopolicraticus here.  The word count clocks in at 2002 and compares against previous statements as follows:

Year   Word count

2014      2002
2013      2649
2012      3574
2011      2946
2010      3716
2009      2456
2008      1726
2007       666
2006       948

Word count is not everything, of course, but this looks like some slow, cautious beginnings, reaching a confident peak around 2010/12 and now perhaps more caution (proclamations of victory haven’t worked in the past) and uncertainty regarding the future. For some time now, the Taliban have had to contemplate future battles mainly against Afghan Moslems vice international infidels, albeit still with a significant international military presence and financial commitment. The usual subjects are touched upon: military prowess, calls on Afghans to shun the Westerners, rejection of electoral/political engagement with a corrupt, Western-backed regime, and to avoid civilian casualties. But the detail is lacking. They seem to be running out of things to say and ways of saying them. And the results that they want – lower civilian casualties, more security force and government defections, greater recognition form the international community – still are not happening in any significant degree. Better, perhaps, to be a little bit more guarded in their utterances for the moment?

But there are nuances that poke out and perhaps the omission of particular subjects can give us some clues. There is less about military victory. There are less overt “reach-outs” to the international community, which might suggest a shrinking desire for political engagement. In fact, there is nothing on talks, negotiations or reconciliation other than to suggest that the Taliban managed a “spectacular achievement” in getting Guantanamo detainees released in exchange for a US captive soldier. There is virtually nothing on any form of future government – and certainly not any government power-sharing – merely references to Sharia as the defining principle for governance and the basis of determining rights for men and women. In the 2013 Eid ul Fitr statement, Mullah Omar declared “we do not think about monopolising power”. In 2014 if feels more like they plan on being the government but would allow other ethnic groups to be represented.

Having a department that now specifically addresses civilian casualties, combined with continued Mullah Omar reminders that Mujahideen must refrain from abusing the populace, shows that, despite their angry rejections of international evidence, they recognise at some level their attacks are killing more Afghans than they would like and that this is affecting the way in which they are perceived across the country and internationally. They are continuing to learn from, and adopt, Western approaches. I am not sure whether the translation that gives us “hearts and minds” in the statement is accurately reflecting the Taliban’s usage of terminology, but clearly they continue to struggle with this issue – probably due, in large part, to their employment of suicide bombing.

By way of conclusion, we should of course be wary of any “official government statement”, as the Taliban would clearly like this statement to be seen, But, from these 2,002 (presumably carefully honed) words, the Taliban still show real uncertainty about the future and offer little evidence that they have prepared any peaceful, inclusive, political, governmental sets of solutions for Afghanistan. At best they offer a “war economy” and a simplistic set of aspirations that do not (or cannot) recognise how far the Afghan people have travelled since 2001 and the extent to which their life aspirations (and the country’s potential) may go beyond strict Sharia enforcement and agriculture.

This statement confirms to me that the Taliban are running out of ideas, have little idea about “post-2014” beyond fighting and do not understand the complex demands and desires of the Afghan populace.

Unfortunately – and I defy any Afghan analyst to say otherwise – they are still in with a chance to spoil things (ie pull everyone down to another mindless, brutal and fragmenting civil war) because no one really knows what is going to happen over the next couple of years. There is a great risk that the Afghan government (whatever it finally turns out to look like) will implode, be rendered inactive or grind to a rapid halt through the usual corruption, incompetencies and incoherencies.

 

Taliban flagThe Taliban statement is given in full here:

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Sustainer of (all) Creations, (Whose Way is to) help Mujahideen and humiliate the tyrants and arrogants. Peace be on our Master and Prophet, Mohammad, the Leader of the White- faced and footed (persons on the Day of Judgment) and (peace be on) his all descendants and companions.
The Almighty Allah says:” Allah is with those who keep from evil and those who do good.”
(16: 128)
Muaaz bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) has reported that the Holy Messenger of Allah said, “The head of the matter (religion) is Islam and its pillar is prayer and its peak jihad.” quoted by Termizi.

(My) Muslim Brothers and Mujahid Nation:
I extend my felicitation to you all on this occasion of Eid-ul-fitr, a day filled with joy and blessings. May Allah (SwT) accept, in His Sight, your fast, worships, charities, invoking, jihad and all good deeds.
Muslim brothers!
It is a matter of joy and gratitude that Allah, the Almighty , has bestowed on us this day in a time that we are witness to consecutive victories and achievements on the ground of Jihad. Praise be to Allah (SwT), the military situation is in favor of Mujahideen at the country’s level. The blanket of invasion has rolled back from vast areas, thanks to the help of Allah (SwT) and the unparallel sacrifices of the Mujahideen and people. Vital centers of the enemy have come under successful attacks in cities. Writ and administration of the Islamic Emirate has become stronger comparatively. Ranks of Mujahideen are now more well-organized, active and unified in contrast with the past. However, it is a pity that the enemy uses some non-aware and non-informed sons of the nation as an instrument for obtainment of their wicked objectives. They, themselves, are retreating from the ground of the battle while sending them forward (to the front of battles).
I call on all soldiers, police and generally, on the very Opposition, not to destroy yourselves for the goals of the invaders and against your own people. Come and wage jihad alongside with your own people and together with the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate against the common enemy in order to gain the bliss of the two worlds.
I urge religious scholars, tribal elders and the influential to convince these non-aware (youngsters) who are being used by the enemy and I call on their parents and relatives to strive to prevent their children from facing a loss of this world and the world to come.
As per the policy of the Islamic Emirate, Mujahideen should have a conduct of sympathy with those who leave ranks of the enemy. Give them (a warm) welcome. Appreciate and reward heroism of the committed Afghans who launch attacks on the enemy and then join the ranks of Jihad.
Praise be to Allah (SwT), the level of cooperation and trust of the people with Mujahideen has growingly enhanced. I thank, therefore, my faithful and patriotic people on behalf of the Mujahideen. I ask Allah (SwT) to grant them success, prosperity and happiness of the two worlds for the honest support.
Parallel to the battle ground, activities of the Islamic Emirate are forging ahead with initiatives in other sectors as well. Great services have been rendered in sectors of education, economy, adjudication and justice, call and guidance, cultural activities, martyrs, the handicapped, coordination and management of NGOs, prisoner’s affairs and civilian casualties. While asking Allah (SwT) to generously reward superiors and subordinates of these sectors for their efforts, in the mean time, I hope that more progress be made and effective activity carried out in the said areas.
Due to the efforts of the Political Office which performs its task under our instructions, Islamic Emirate has gained a political facade at world’s and internal levels. Many entities that used to oppose us now have come around to accept the Islamic Emirate as a reality. Exchange of the detainees with America as a result of the efforts of the representatives of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate is a spectacular achievement.
The invaders- installed Administration has failed entirely, to the extent that it has lost trust of its domestic supporters and those who are funding it. It holds top position in corruption, usurpation of lands and public properties, plundering and lootings.
The current fake process under the name of elections has plunged the Kabul Administration and Western democracy into disrepute. In fact, the invaders and their internal allies wanted through the said process, to show to the Afghans that a (tangible) change has taken place. But the Afghans had realized their ambitions from the beginning. That is why majority of the people boycotted the process. Now all have come around to see that election and the ballots of the people were mere slogans to deceive people; sow racial, geographical and lingual and other hatred among the people. We all now see that the American game under the name of elections proved, as in the past, to be selections. So we had predicted. The power is in the hands of the invaders. What they say is compulsory on their internal allies to obey without taking into account interests of their country and people.
We want to tell American and European governments who have troops in Afghanistan or are intending to maintain political influence or military bases in Afghanistan, let the Afghans establish an independent Islamic government on the basis of their religious and national aspirations. If you want to deprive them of their right to form a government, it will be not only a tyranny and violation of human norms but also will result in the self-same consequences that you have seen in the past thirteen years. You might have realized that the Afghan people, whose history is full of struggles for the cause of Islam and independence, are not willing to accept governments installed by foreign hands.
We believe the war in Afghanistan will come to an end when all foreign invaders pull out of Afghanistan and a holy Islamic and independent regime prevails here. Presence of limited number of troops under whatever title it may be will mean continuation of occupation and the war. This is because none can tolerate invading forces in one’s soil. Similarly, we would like to tell those who are contemplating to sign a security treaty with the invaders to desist from acts which add to prolongation of the invasion and to causes of the war. The presence of the invaders in our country is not in the interest of anyone. The continuation of war aggravates security of the region and the country, particularly; it is a hurdle in the way of establishment of an Islamic regime and political independence; negates territorial integrity; gives rise to expansion of cultural invasion and bring about causes for ruining the coming generations.
We assure the world and the neighbors as we assured them in the past that our struggles are aimed only at forming an independent Islamic regime and obtaining independence of our country. We are not intending to interfere in the (internal) affairs of the region and the countries of the world, nor do we want to harm them. Similarly, we don’t tolerate their role to harm us and urge them to have reciprocal stance. I call on all Mujahideen in the frontier areas to protect their borders and maintain good relations with neighboring countries on the basis of mutual respect.
Concerning events and developments of the Middle East, I want to say that the global powers should leave people of the region to reach their legitimate aspirations. This is not justifiable to blame people’s uprising as terrorism and then rain down bombs on them or make prisons full with them. Such conduct will not break determination of a people.
We condemn, in strongest terms, the Israeli brutal action of martyring, injuring and driving from homes of hundreds of Palestinians. We call on the world, particularly, on the Islamic world that their remaining tight-lipped versus these brutalities is injustice and harms all. Practical and swift steps should be taken to prevent these gruesome brutalities, so that the security of the region and the world may not aggravate further.

Brave Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate:
It is your religious and national duty to try for the prosperity of the people and win their hearts and minds. Shun arrogance, vanity. To use weapon and force without justification allowed by Sharia rules; to threaten, harass and oppress people or harm their life, property and honor is a great crime. You will not be able to escape accountability in this world and the world to come for committing that. Your conduct with people should be nothing but tolerance, humility, forbearance, selflessness and mutual respect. Remember, God does not look at (judge) our outward image but look at our hearts and deeds that how we behave with people.
Mujahideen should make honest efforts to maintain justice and security in areas under the rule of the Islamic Emirate. They should clear (the areas from) thieves, highway robbers and saboteur elements and procure a conducive atmosphere of security and well-being for people.
Every caution should be taken to protect life and property of the public during Jihadic operations, so that, God forbid, someone is harmed. The Department of Prevention of Civilian Casualties should seriously pay attention to its task to prevent civilian casualties. Mujahideen should always remember that our steadfastness and success against the global invaders is the result of our holding the rope (religion) of Allah. So Mujahideen should, within the framework of obedience, follow the injunctions of Allah (SwT); the (traditions) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and obey their superiors. Avoid hypocrisy, disagreements and discrimination. Strengthen the thread of unity, brotherhood and internal trust. Keep the rank of Jihad against the enemy as unbreakable as a cemented wall.
Mujahid Countrymen:
Our country is at the threshold of independence and freedom. We believe that the Almighty Allah (SwT) will bestow the blessing of a prosperous and self-reliant Islamic regime on the Afghans like the glory of defeating the invasion and tyranny. Afghanistan is a shared home of All the Afghans. They have right to serve this home. Islamic Emirate wants to establish a regime in which all ethnicities, tribes and groups of the Afghan society will see themselves. None will feel being alien.
As to the economic sector, Islamic Emirate will focus on agriculture, husbandry, and extraction of mines, infrastructures, developmental and technical systems with the help of the world’s assistance. (It will be) a regime which is servant of the society and will render service to the country and people in the light of justice and transparency, in the field of moral upbringing, educational, cultural, social, constructional and developmental sectors.
The Islamic Emirate believes implementation of an Islamic system guarantees well-being (of people) in this world and the world to come. Likely, it believes that science, technology, humanities sciences, incorporation and dissemination of new and positive (scientific) breakthroughs is a vital need for a strong and powerful nation to strengthen, stabilize and enrich itself and stand on its own feet. Therefore, we strongly reject the propaganda against the Islamic Emirate or the allegations that it is against education. Islamic Emirate believes getting knowledge (education) is a religious obligation.
The Islamic Emirate admits and totally believes in the rights given to men and women in the framework of Sharia which the holy religion of Islam has granted them and is committed to implementation of those rights.
To end, I extend you my felicitation on the occasion of Eid-ul-fitr and ask Allah, the Almighty to enable you to help the miserable and bereaved families in these holy days of felicity; to show compassion towards the orphans; to help the families of the martyrs, prisoners and refugees; to visit prisoners and the injured, serve them and admire them. Peace is on you all.
Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid
Amirul Momineen, Servant of Islam

1435/9/27
2014/7/25

MH17: don’t expect information and evidence gathering to be easy…

July 18, 2014

Summary:  Efforts underway by pro-Russians and separatists to destroy evidence and hinder information gathering…

HelItR ohjuspäivät Helsingin Ilmatorjuntarykmentti ItO 96, BUK M1Good report from the Guardian, printed in full here, about the seemingly inevitable attempts by separatists to cover up their tracks and destroy any evidence – including information that might have appeared on social media…

Russian separatist groups in eastern Ukraine are hastily covering up all links to the Buk missile battery suspected to have been used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, according to western-based defence and intelligence specialists.

As the UN security council called for a “full, thorough independent international investigation” into the downing of the plane, concern that a cover-up was under way was fuelled by a standoff at part of the crash site between observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and rebel gunmen, which ended with a warning shot being fired.

Postings on rebel websites immediately after the crash boasted of having shot down what they claimed was an Antonov Ukrainian military transport plane, but these have been deleted.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha POSCEower, blamed a surface-to-air missile fired by rebels in eastern Ukraine and hinted that they might have had Russian technical help. The rebels are suspected of having used a Russian-built, vehicle-mounted Buk missile system to bring down MH17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Power called for the crash site to be preserved. “All evidence must be undisturbed,” she said. “Russia needs to help make this happen.”

But hopes are not high. The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

MH17 crash map There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn . The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.

A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”

Video footage allegedly taken on Thursday appeared to support the idea that pro-Russia separatists had been to blame. It showed a Buk battery seemingly being moved in the rebel-held area between Snizhne and Torez close to the crash site. A still picture allegedly shows a missile in vertical launch mode beside a supermarket in Torez. However, the location has still to be established.

Ukrainian intelligence has published a tape said to be a recording between rebels and Russian intelligence in which they realise there has been a catastrophic blunder. One recording is said to be between a rebel commander, Igor Bezler, and a Russian intelligence officer in which he says: “We have just shot down a plane.” A second recording from an unidentified source puts the blame on Cossack militiamen.

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

Nato had Awacs surveillance and command-and-control planes flying in the Baltics around the time of the crash, but Pentagon officials did not think the aircraft picked up indications of the disaster.

Bob Latiff, a former US weapons developer for the air force and the CIA and now a professor at Notre Dame University, said he leaned towards a belief that it was a case of mistaken identity on the part of those who pressed the button.

“A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.

“My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 feet or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”

Latiff said that if they had only one radar, as Ukrainian officials suggest, it would have been pointed at the target. A second, rotating one would normally have been part of a battery to pick up other planes in the immediate vicinity, but he said even that would not have established whether it was a commercial plane and there would normally have been communications equipment to pick up signals showing the plane was non-military.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russian separatists or Russia itself.

But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.

How’s this for “irreversible consequences”?

July 18, 2014

Summary: In my opinion Russian-backed (and likely Russian-armed) separatists mistook MH17 for a Ukrainian military aircraft and shot it down.

My heading is based on President Putin’s 13th July statement that Ukraine may suffer “consequences” as a result of a reported artillery round that landed in Russian territory, reportedly killing a Russian civilian. 

MH17 wreckageI spent quite a few hours through last night and early morning reading (and re-reading, in many cases) the various feeds coming through on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.    The detailed minute by minute reports I don’t intend to air here, but the BBC live feed has been very useful.  I will cut to the chase and give my first pass at an assessment, while awaiting investigation results (reports that the black box recorders may be on their way to Moscow do not look encouraging).  In an “Information War”, the evidence collected over the coming days will also become a crucial battlefield to be fought over.

This looks to have been a mistaken shoot-down by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists based in eastern Ukraine.  These forces had reportedly recently gained access to at least one powerful surface to air missile system – BUK, or SA-11 “GADFLY”, in NATO parlance.  Separatists had been boasting about this acquisition and had been using it to effect – they had already shot down several Ukrainian aircraft.  At more or less the same time that MH17 lost contact with ground control, a separatist leader (Strelkov) of highly dubious repute appears to have gleefully claimed via social media to have shot down a Ukrainian AN-26 large military transport aircraft.  Transcripts of the separatist’s triumph followed shortly by recognition that a civilian aircraft had struck the ground, followed by “radio silence” read convincingly.  The separatist leader rapidly deleted the Facebook claim and separatists appear in denial mode.

The responses of Presidents Obama and Putin have both been limp thus far.  Obama has been very cautious, calling it a “tragedy” and prioritising the establishment of US casualties.  Putin is treading very carefully – he likely recognises most of the world believe Russia is meddling dangerously in eastern Ukraine.  He does not come out fighting (or denying) and, in my reading in of it, almost – in the first line here – seems to accept some blame:

this tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.

Lets see how Putin and the separatists deal with this.   But this is the downside of clever schemes to create and manipulate armed groups and firing up (or manufacturing) ancient hatreds.  They are much easier to turn on than turn off and hard to control and direct.  At least, for the moment, Putin finds it convenient to acknowledge Ukraine as a state.

Don’t expect to hear much from Strelkov for a while – he’s probably been reassigned to Georgia or Chechnya…

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