Rebels Clash: Al-Qaeda Seizes Syria Border Town From FSA

At Least Five Secular Rebels Killed in AQI Offensive

Another clash between Islamist and secular Syrian rebels took place today along the Turkish border, when fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) attacked the town of Azaz, ousting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the area.

azazReports say that the fighting began when AQI fighters arrived in town, announcing their intentions to capture a German doctor working as a volunteer, and the FSA refused to hand him over. Five FSA fighters were killed.

The FSA and other secular factions have regularly come into conflict with al-Qaeda factions in recent months, and today’s fight is just the latest instance of the two sides being on the brink of violence at any given time.

The attack on Azaz might be part of a broader effort by al-Qaeda to secure border crossings into Turkey, as the town lies just outside of the major crossing north of Aleppo. Much of the fighting by AQI and other jihadist blocks with secular rebels has concentrated on taking out border regions.

by Jason Ditz

Attacking Syria, US Bolsters al-Qaeda-Dominated Rebels

Administration Trying to Ignore the Implications of Latest War

When the US attacks a nation with an ongoing civil war, the underlying assumption has always been that they are backing the rebels, and whatever collection of warlords and military defectors happens to make up that rebellion suddenly becomes the avatar of international democracy. In Afghanistan it was the Northern Alliance, in Libya it was the LNC. In Syria, it’s al-Qaeda.

syriaAnd that’s a bridge too far. Not that it’s going to stop the US from launching a war that directly benefits al-Qaeda, but they’re not going to publicize that fact, and rather seem to be going to great lengths to avoid the implications of the war they’re about to start.

The reality is that the US war on Syria is bringing the al-Qaeda dominated rebels closer to power,  and that even though the US isn’t going to be directly coordinating its attacks with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), at least one assumes not, they will be the de facto air force for them.

The administration is trying to present the idea that this new war is completely distinct from the ongoing Syrian war, even though they’re both in the exact same place and against the same government, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Indeed, this idea that the US doesn’t expect their attacks to do anything, and is just a military operation with no military goals and an agenda of just really sticking it to Assad, is an excuse that they’ve been forced into simply to avoid admitting that the war risks turning Syria into a foreign-dominated Islamist caliphate with al-Qaeda at the helm.

By Jason Ditz

More Drones, Marines to Libya, But Did They Ever Leave?

Apparently, there is nothing so permanent as a temporary US war

LibyaThe Obama administration has ordered military reinforcements to Libya following the attack on the US consulate building this week, but the truth is drones had never left Libya’s skies and US Marines have been carrying out missions on the ground since the end of NATO’s war there last year.

The US suspects al-Qaeda affiliates were involved in starting the attack on the US consulate in Libya, which killed the American ambassador and three others, and has not only started an FBI investigation into the incident, but has ordered more drones to surveil Libya, as well as up to 50 additional US Marines and US warships equipped with Tomahawk missiles off the northern coast.

But the Defense Department told Wired‘s Danger Room that the drones never left, despite the fact that the NATO air war in Libya came to an end almost a year ago.

“Yes, we have been flying CAPs [combat air patrols] since the war ended,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. These have apparently been done for surveillance purposes with the consent of the new Libyan government.

Similarly, the 50 additional US Marines being sent to Libya won’t exactly be new. One of the four Americans killed in this week’s consulate attack told ABC News last month he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to find  some of the hoards of weapons strewn about the country following the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime.

The late economist Milton Friedman was famous for saying that there is nothing so permanent as a government temporary program. He was referring to domestic policies and bureaucracies, but the same principle applies here. When the US government engages in military action abroad, the tendency is for such military engagements to remain open-ended, in keeping with America’s long history of spreading its military across the entire globe.

by John Glaser

Former CIA Chief: Obama’s War on Terror Same as Bush’s, But With More Killing

President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to tactics used in the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying, according to Michael Hayden, Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

“But let me repeat my hypothesis: Despite the frequent drama at the political level, America and Americans have found a comfortable center line in what it is they want their government to do and what it is they accept their government doing. It is that practical consensus that has fostered such powerful continuity between two vastly different presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, when it comes, when it comes to this conflict,” Hayden said Friday while speaking at the University of Michigan.

The comments come two months before the Nov. 6 elections, where Obama, a Democrat, faces off for re-election against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. And Hayden’s remarks give credence to what many who cared about the topic had already realized: Obama largely mirrors Bush when it comes to the war on terror.

Hayden, who oversaw the CIA’s use of torture techniques against detainees and the expansion of the NSA to illegally spy on American citizens, admitted to an initial skepticism of Obama. He also publicly criticized the administration in 2009 for making public the Bush-era legal memos that attempted to re-define torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

But Hayden, in a nearly 80-minute lecture posted on C-Span, said Obama came to embrace Bush’s positions. Both Bush and Obama said the country was at war. The enemy was al-Qaida. The war was global in nature. And the United States would have to take the fight to the enemy, wherever it may be, he said.

“And yet, you’ve had two presidents, the American Congress, and the American court system, in essence, sign up to all four of those sentences,” Hayden said.

Moments later, Hayden added:

“And so, we’ve seen all of these continuities between two very different human beings, President Bush and President Obama. We are at war, targeted killings have continued, in fact, if you look at the statistics, targeted killings have increased under Obama.”

He said that was the case because, in one differing path between the two presidents, Obama in 2009 closed CIA “black sites” and ratcheted down on torturing detainees. But instead of capturing so-called “enemy combatants,” President Obama kills them instead, Hayden said.

“We have made it so politically dangerous and so legally difficult that we don’t capture anyone anymore,” Hayden said. “We take another option, we kill them. Now. I don’t morally oppose that.”

Obama’s kill list has even included American citizens.

Hayden noted Obama campaigned on promises to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, and to bring more transparency to government.

Obama failed to close Guantanamo and continued the use of the often-cited “state secrets” defense in court cases challenging the government’s policies on the war on terror.

“Despite a campaign that was based on a very powerful promise of transparency, President Obama, and again in my view quite correctly, has used the state secrets argument in a variety of courts, as much as President Bush,” Hayden said. He noted that he appreciated Obama’s invocation of the state secrets privilege, as Hayden himself was named as a defendant in some of the cases.

Hayden also noted that Obama, as an Illinois senator in 2008, eventually voted to legalize President Bush’s once-secret warrantless spying program adopted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The measure also granted America’s telecoms immunity from lawsuits for their complicity in the spy program.

The law authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mail without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

“The FISA Act not only legitimated almost every thing president Bush had told me to do under his Article II authorities as commander in chief, but in fact gave the National Security Agency a great deal more authority to do these kind of things,” Hayden said.

The law, now known as the FISA Amendments Act, expires at year’s end. The Obama administration said congressional reauthorization was the administration’s “top intelligence priority,” despite 2008 campaign promises to make the act more privacy-friendly.

As for the election, Hayden indicated it may not matter, at least when it comes to anti-terrorism policy. He seemingly confirmed that the rock band the Who was correct when it blurted “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Hayden, who said he was an adviser the Romney presidential campaign, said Romney would largely follow Obama’s same path, too, if Romney was elected.

“If we’re looking forward,” Hayden said, “I actually suspect there is going to be some continuity between a President Romney and and his predecessor, too, if that came to pass

Afghan Soldier Shoots Two US Soldiers in Faryab Province

Second ‘Green-on-Blue’ Attack in Two Days

Marking the second “green-on-blue” attack in the past two days, an Afghan soldiers has turned his gun on NATO soldiers, injuring two US soldiers before being killed himself in return fire.

Afghan officials familiar with the incident say that the soldier, who has not been named, was carrying out training missions with the US forces in Faryab Province. There was no indication of an argument before the shooting, but the Taliban claimed credit for it.

Just yesterday, an Afghan policeman attacked and killed three US civilian contractors, who were also involved in a training mission in the Herat Province. An Afghan translator and an unnamed foreign adviser were also wounded.

Such attacks have become increasingly common over the past year, and while a few have involved Taliban “infiltrators” most of them have been the result of arguments or disagreements with the occupation forces.

By Jason Ditz

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