Category Archives: Business & Finance

OIC organizing today roundtable of religious leaders on conflict in CAR

Jeddah – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in partnership with King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), and the International Network of Religious Peacekeepers (NETW) is organizing a round-table of interreligious dialogue on the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) from Friday until Monday in Dakar, capital of Senegal .

The roundtable will bring together participants from various levels including the Central African Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Senegalese government officials, representatives of the UN, the African Union and a wide range of religious and community leaders.

Participants will discuss ways and means of implementing peace agreements in the CAR. During this meeting, several sessions will be held on the critical issues, the political difficulties and the religious dimensions of the conflict that hinder the establishment of peace in CAR.

The OIC, which, from the beginning of the crisis in the Central African Republic, provides assistance by supporting the path of dialogue to achieve peace and national reconciliation and by playing a constant role at the political, diplomatic and humanitarian levels, continues its multifaceted efforts to contribute to the establishment of a lasting peace in CAR within the framework of this roundtable.

The Organization, together with neighboring CAR member states, has repeatedly undertaken various actions on the ground to bring the warring parties together and maintain a proactive role in the search for peace in CAR, by encouraging dialogue between all parties concerned.

Continuing its commitment, the OIC joins international partners in organizing the Dakar Round Table, which will provide an appropriate platform for interreligious dialogue between religious and traditional communities to bring peace to CAR.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

White House: Trump Decision on Jerusalem Doesn’t Kill Peace Process

WHITE HOUSE The White House on Thursday denied that the president’s announcement on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem meant his administration was pulling out of the Middle East peace process.

“In fact, in the president’s remarks, he said that we are as committed to the peace process as ever, and we want to continue to push forward in those conversations and those discussions,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “And hopefully the ultimate goal, I think, of all those parties is to reach a peace deal. And that’s something that the United States is very much committed to.”

No other country has immediately followed President Donald Trump’s lead in planning to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something the White House is acknowledging.

“I’m not aware of any countries that we anticipate that happening at any point soon,” Sanders said. “I’m not saying that they aren’t, but I’m not aware of them.”

A day after the president’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the Russian ambassador in Israel, Alexander Shein, said Moscow could move its embassy to West Jerusalem “after the Palestinians and the Israelis agree on all issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories.”

Russian statement

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement viewed as a surprise by Israelis, said it considered “East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

In response to Trump’s announcement, Palestinian factions announced that Friday would be a “Day of Rage,” while the Islamist group Hamas called for an uprising against Israel.

The Israeli military said one of its aircraft and a tank had targeted two militant posts in the Gaza Strip after three rockets were launched at Israel.

The Al-Tawheed Brigades � which has ignored the call of Hamas, the dominant force in Gaza, to desist from firing rockets � claimed responsibility for the launches.

Stone-throwing Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli troops, who responded by firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live bullets, on Gaza and the West Bank in response to Trump’s announcement.

Trump said Wednesday that he was directing the State Department to begin drawing up architectural plans for a U.S. embassy in the holy city. But the actual relocation of the embassy would take years, according to White House officials.

Both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed concern about the timing of Trump’s announcement, according to U.S. officials.

Asked by VOA whether the president’s declaration had been delayed at the request of the two Cabinet members in order to put in place adequate security at U.S. embassies, Sanders said the decision was made only after “a thoughtful and responsible process” and that “components of the decision went through the full interagency process.”

Palestinian officials said Trump’s decision had disqualified the U.S. as an honest broker in the peace process.

Many U.S. allies also disagreed with the move. The U.N. Security Council and the Arab League plan to meet soon to discuss the action.

‘Recognizing the reality’

Tillerson defended the decision on a visit to Vienna.

“All of Israel’s government offices are largely in Jerusalem already, so the U.S. is just recognizing the reality of that,” the secretary of state said. He noted, however, that Trump “also said the U.S. would support a two-state solution if that is the desire of the two parties, and he also said this does not in any way finalize the status of Jerusalem.”

The Russian foreign minister, with whom Tillerson met Thursday in Vienna, warned that if Washington prematurely moved its embassy to Jerusalem, it could endanger the two-state solution.

“We have asked them to explain the meaning of the decisions on eventually moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Sergei Lavrov told reporters. “We have asked to explain what consequences of this move the Americans see for the efforts taken under the U.N. aegis and by the Quartet of international mediators.”

The Quartet, established in 2002, consists of entities involved in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The members are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

Source: Voice of America

Al-Qaida Leader’s New Message Shows Increased Discord With Jihadists in Syria

WASHINGTON The al-Qaida terror organization has released a new audio message from its elusive leader in which he slams the Syrian Jihadi group Liberation of the Levant Organization, or more commonly known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), for going after senior jihadists loyal to al-Qaida in Syria.

In the 35-minute undated audio video So Let Us Fight Them With Solid Foundations, Ayman al-Zawahiri denounced HTS’s decision to break off formal ties with al-Qaida last year and betray its oath of allegiance as the offshoot of the terror organization in Syria. VOA could not independently verify the video’s authenticity.

Why did this love disappear among us and was replaced by roughness, conflict, cruelty of the heart, conspiracy to evade the oaths of allegiance, and the insubordination of the brothers and working to drive them out, curb them, and put them under captivity? al-Zawahiri said, addressing HTS leaders in the message, which was published by al-Qaida’s media propaganda al-Sahab Foundation on Tuesday.

HTS, originally called al-Nusra Front, rebranded itself last year and later merged with several smaller rebel factions into a new alliance.

A report by the Institute for the Study of War last week claimed that the group has exploited the international community’s focus on annihilating the Islamic State to significantly increase its influence in southern Syria, consolidating control over most of the northwestern province of Idlib.

Al-Zawahiri said he did not approve the HTS departure from al-Qaida. He described as a fatal mistake offers by the HTS leaders to keep their loyalty to him secret in order to avoid a U.S.-led military campaign.

In August, Michael Ratney, the top U.S. State Department official in charge of Syria policy, said Nusra and its leaders would be targets for Washington even if they rebranded and adopted new names in an effort to escape U.S. and other countries’ military campaign against terrorism in the region.

Global jihad vs. nationalism

Al-Zawahiri suggested the HTS leaders were attempting to abandon global jihad and turn to a nationalist agenda. He denounced them for starting a campaign of rounding up senior al-Qaida leaders, particularly foreign fighters and their families, to appease the U.S.

O brothers, we haven’t forced you, pressured you, threatened you with a sharp knife or a shattering bullet, al-Zawahiri said while describing the desperate state of al-Qaida loyalists under the HTS. If this is our situation, filled with fear and disturbance, during this critical phase, then what will we do to each other when we prevail?

On Monday, Syrian local media reported that HTS started a large-scale arrest campaign against people with alleged ties to al-Qaida. A day later, HTS released a statement confirming the detention of several senior jihadists, including Sami al-Oraydi and Abu Juleibib al-Urduni, both of whom have been vocal in criticizing HTS for severing ties with al-Qaida.

HTS officials said detained jihadists were leaders of dissension who were spreading specious arguments, adding that they would be put before a Sharia court.

Increasing tensions

In a response statement, which surfaced Thursday on Telegram, a top HTS leader, Abdul Rahim Atun, defended the arrests as being focused only on those who meant harm for the Syrian Islamist group.

We have not treated those who follow al-Qaida but with good, Atun said, addressing al-Zawahiri. But there must be a distinction between those who work for jihad, regardless of what group they are affiliated with, and those who seek to destroy the [HTS] in the name of loyalty to al-Qaida to vent their psychological crises.

Atun said the HTS rebranding and break off from al-Qaida was not done to appeal to the West but was an attempt to reunite with local rebel groups and achieve efficiency in decision-making.

Experts charge the arrest campaign of the al-Qaida loyalists by HTS leadership and their public shaming by al-Zawahiri signals that the relationship between them has reached a point of no return.

(Al-)Zawahiri said that he has been trying for more than a year to resolve the issue with HTS internally and privately, but this did not work out; so he had to call them out in public, Hassan Hassan, a Middle East expert at Tahrir Institute in Washington, told VOA.

Hassan said the tensions show that al-Zawahiri is disappointed with the HTS and is pleading for his followers to possibly reorganize into a new group.

Hassan added the disengagement with al-Qaida has helped HTS gain more effectiveness in the Syrian war scene.

Ayman al-Zawahiri is now hiding somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he expects people to wait for his letters that usually take months to reach them. And then a response from them to reach al-Zawahiri will take other months. This will not work. These groups need to make day-to-day decisions, Hassan added.

But their parting of ways will ultimately not spare HTS from being targeted by the U.S., Hassan emphasized.

HTS will not be attacked now, although it will be dealt with eventually as a jihadist organization. The U.S. will not remove its designation as a terrorist group, Hassan said.

Source: Voice of America

Top US General: Pakistan Has Yet to Act Against Afghan Taliban

WASHINGTON � Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of the U.S-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Islamabad has yet to take action against the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan where the group’s senior leadership still resides.

As you have heard our president say, as you have heard all of our senior leaders say, we have got to see movement on this reduction of sanctuary and support for those insurgents and terrorists operating from Pakistan who are attacking our forces and our coalition diplomats and forces, as well as the Afghans inside this country, Nicholson said Tuesday, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference from Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies allegations

Announcing his South Asia strategy in August, President Donald Trump demanded Pakistan stop providing support and sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban group. He blamed Pakistan for housing terrorist groups that are fighting Afghan and American forces in Afghanistan, and vowed not to be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for the Taliban, and other militant groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Pakistan has denied the allegations that it provides safe havens to the Taliban and maintains that the country has been a victim of terrorism and militancy itself.

Nicholson said the Pakistanis have been engaged in a tough fight against extremists in their own country and many of the Pakistani Taliban fighters have been displaced by Pakistani military offensives, but he said the Pakistani military has failed to take similar action against the Afghan militant groups on its soil.

The ones who were not displaced were the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network who continue to reside on that side of the border, Nicholson added.

Haqqani network

The Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, is considered the most lethal terrorist group in Afghanistan and has been blamed for some of the deadliest terror attacks, including attacks on embassies in Kabul, different Afghan government institutions, and U.S. military bases across the country.

General Nicholson said Islamabad needs to act against the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

The offensive operations against sanctuaries would be in other areas that we have identified with the Pakistani leadership on a number of occasions, Nicholson said.

When asked if the international coalition has seen any significant change in Pakistan cracking down on militants crossing into Afghanistan, Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon, We are hoping to see those changes, we are hoping to work together with the Pakistanis going forward to eliminate terrorists who are crossing the border.

We have not seen those changes implemented yet, he added.

Target Taliban safe havens

In a recent interview with VOA, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells urged Islamabad to take action against Afghan Taliban safe havens.

We would like to see the same commitment that Pakistan brought in 2014 to the fight against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; that same strategic commitment to the other militant proxy groups who take advantage of Pakistan territory, Wells told VOA.

Source: Voice of America

Railways operation affected by ongoing protests

The ongoing protests in different parts of the country have affected Railways operation partially.

This was stated by Pakistan Railways spokesperson Ms. Quratul Ain while talking to Radio Pakistan Lahore on Sunday.

She said Karachi to Sahiwal and Lahore section is open while sections, including from Lahore to Sheikhupura, Sheikhupura to Faisalabad, Sheikhupura to Jaranwala, and Lahore to Lala Musa have been closed.

Source: Radio Pakistan

US Has Tripled Number of Air-delivered Munitions in Afghanistan in 2017

PENTAGON � The United States has tripled the number of air-delivered munitions in Afghanistan this year and is training hundreds of soldiers who will soon start advising the Afghan army in combat areas outside of military bases.

U.S. General John Nicholson, the top commander of international forces in the country, said via teleconference from Afghanistan Tuesday that the increased air power has allowed Afghans to more aggressively pursue the Taliban.

The increased air power is made possible by new authorities granted to U.S. forces in Afghanistan under the administration of President Donald Trump. Under former president Barack Obama’s administration, U.S. airstrikes were limited to cases of self-defense when the Taliban were in close enough range to present a direct threat to American and Afghan forces.

As of October of this year, the U.S. had conducted more than 2,700 airstrikes in Afghanistan, Resolute Support spokesman Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner told VOA.

1,000 US soldiers outside the wire

During the briefing, Nicholson outlined a major effort aimed at improving the Afghan offensive that is expected to begin when the weather warms next year.

The U.S. Army is training 800-1,000 soldiers, whom Nicholson calls volunteers, for its first security force assistance brigade.

The Army will produce a total of six security force assistance brigades to advise the Afghan army at the battalion level, known as the “kandak” level in Afghanistan. U.S. military officials say this strategy has been successful with American troops who have been advising Afghanistan’s special forces at a lower level during the past two years.

This will enable us to help the Afghans with their offensive operations simultaneously in multiple corps, Nicholson said.

The general said the advisers will operate in teams that will be backed up by additional American enablers, in order to protect the U.S. forces and their Afghan counterparts.

The new strategy, however, puts hundreds more Americans at risk of getting caught in combat as they advise their Afghan partners in the field.

The goal is to secure portions of the population who are living in contested areas before the upcoming Afghan election. The government controls about 64 percent of the population, the Taliban controls about 12 percent of the population and the other 24 percent live in contested areas.

Trump’s Afghan strategy

The new Afghanistan strategy Trump announced in August adds about 3,000 American troops and additional NATO coalition partners to the Afghan fight, the bulk of whom will advise and assist Afghan forces down to the brigade level.

The strategy also aims to focus on major players in the region, including India, China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. U.S. leaders have expressed frustration over Pakistan’s seeming unwillingness to prevent terrorists from using their territory to escape pressure in neighboring Afghanistan.

Tuesday, when asked if the coalition has seen any significant change in Pakistan cracking down on militants crossing into Afghanistan, General Nicholson told Pentagon reporters, “We are hoping to see those changes, we are hoping to work together with the Pakistanis going forward to eliminate terrorists who are crossing” the border.

Source: Voice of America