Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites): “2016 Presidential Election Investigation” – Google News: US aircraft carrier deployed over Iran remains outside Gulf – KLEW

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US aircraft carrier deployed over Iran remains outside Gulf  KLEW

A U. S. aircraft carrier ordered by the White House to rapidly deploy to the Mideast over a perceived threat from Iran remains outside of the Persian Gulf, so far …

“2016 Presidential Election Investigation” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites)


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Cambridge Analytica from Michael_Novakhov (4 sites): “cambridge analytica” – Google News: Facebook is now cleaner, faster and group-focused, but still all about your data – The Conversation AU

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Facebook is now cleaner, faster and group-focused, but still all about your data  The Conversation AU

Facebook is built on harvesting platform data about its users, crunching that to predict behaviours and allegiances and then selling this package to advertisers.

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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites): Cambridge Analytica from Michael_Novakhov (4 sites): “cambridge analytica” – Google News: Facebook is now cleaner, faster and group-focused, but still all about your data – The Conversation AU

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Facebook is now cleaner, faster and group-focused, but still all about your data  The Conversation AU

Facebook is built on harvesting platform data about its users, crunching that to predict behaviours and allegiances and then selling this package to advertisers.

“cambridge analytica” – Google News

Cambridge Analytica from Michael_Novakhov (4 sites)

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites)


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Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): “political crimes” – Google News: Judge orders Paul Manafort to be transferred to New York City’s notorious Rikers Island – Fox News

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Judge orders Paul Manafort to be transferred to New York City’s notorious Rikers Island  Fox News

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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Afghanistan-US: Slow Surrender – Analysis

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By Joy Mitra*

The latest round of talks held
in the second week of May 2019 between the United States (US) and
Taliban left US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressing frustration about the “slow
progress” of the peace talks, even as dead bodies continued to pile up
high. This was the sixth such meeting between the two sides since the
process commenced in October 2018, and there have also been secret
meetings before the engagement turned overt and high-level. The six
rounds of peace talks have yielded a tentative “draft agreement” on two
issues: first, Taliban’s primary concern with withdrawal of “Foreign
Forces”; and second, on assurances that Afghan territory will not become
a base for use by international terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda (AQ) and
the Islamic State (IS), to hurt the US or any other country.

In theory,
a conflict is ripe for resolution if a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’
prevails, at which stage the conflict is essentially deadlocked, and no
actor can unilaterally “escalate to victory and this deadlock is painful
to both of them (although not necessarily in equal degree or for the
same reasons), they seek an alternative policy or way out.” The
important condition here is not the existence of an objective mutually
hurting stalemate, but rather that both sides perceive it as such,
regardless of what the objective state of the conflict is.

The evidence from the conflict
in Afghanistan demonstrates that the current peace process does not
satisfy the criteria for the existence of a mutually hurting stalemate.
This is because the conflict is not militarily in a static state, and
because the stalemate is not perceived to be mutually hurting by
Taliban. Indeed, the Taliban not only view the current state of conflict
as a stage from where they can escalate to a position of strength, but
also as one where the stalemate is not necessarily damaging to their
position in the battlefield or on the negotiating table.

Crucially, the Taliban’s
assurances belie facts on the ground. According to the Armed Conflict
Location and Event Data (ACLED) Project, during the first four months of
2019, the Taliban military offensive increased
in the month of March, even as offensive operations by the state
decreased. This was followed by the official announcement of the spring
offensive by the Taliban on April 12, 2019, after which Taliban-led
attacks spiked sharply. This is corroborated further by SIGAR’s April
Quarterly Report, which says that the average monthly enemy-initiated attacks have risen by 19% from November 2018 to January 2019.

According to partial data
compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Taliban
initiated at least 53 attacks in Afghanistan in 2019 (data until May 31)
in which 50 civilians perished, as against 54 such attacks between
January and May 2018 in which 66 civilians were killed.  There has
certainly been no diminution in military activity by the Taliban.

The SATP database indicates
that, through 2018, 5,455 militants have been killed in 717 incidents
involving the Taliban, while 2,037 were injured. The numbers for 2019
already stand at 2,982 militants killed and 652 injured in 432 incidents
(data until May 31). Despite suffering comparable losses over years,
there has been no degradation
in Taliban’s operational capacity to carry out offensive military
action and large scale assaults, indicating that the fighting manpower
available to the outfit is much larger than the estimated 50,000 permanent and temporary fighters.

Clearly, the military stalemate
is either not a stalemate or not damaging enough to them in their own
estimation. This is also borne out by United States Forces own assessment
that the Taliban are preparing to attack more provincial centers in
2019.Crucially, District level Stability assessments by Resolute Support
(RS) which include district, population and territorial control data,
last produced in October 22, 2018, indicated that Districts under Afghan Government control
or had already fallen to 219, 7 per cent down from the previous
quarter. Taliban controlled or influenced districts had increased
marginally to 50, while the number of contested districts went up from
132 to 138 Districts over the same period.  Since October 2018, this
data has not been released publicly, in line with the earlier
discontinuation of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF)
casualty data since October 2017, suggesting that both these metrics
could be out of tune with the narrative of the stalemate in the Afghan
conflict.

The sixth round suggests that
the negotiation process has in fact essentially boiled down to the
timeline for withdrawal of Western Forces – the Taliban’s core demand –
that could be hammered out by the two sides. The Taliban has focused its
attention on this key deliverable, after which it purportedly intends
to begin intra-Afghan negotiations for a comprehensive ceasefire. On the
other hand, US frustration with the pace of the talks is highlighted in
the six statements made by the US after these rounds, as no concrete
outcome was achieved beyond the draft agreement, until the fifth round.
Even this draft doesn’t seem to be nearing completion anytime soon. But
the presence of foreign troops is a necessity that arises out of the
absence of a ceasefire. The withdrawal of foreign forces prior to such a
ceasefire would eliminate all pressure on or motivation for the Taliban
to push for a negotiated settlement with a progressively weakening
Kabul, or with any other marginal adversaries.

The futility of the current
process and the divergence between the perceptions of the two sides are
evident in the juxtaposition of statements emanating from the six stages
of the negotiation process:

No.

Talk Round

Statement/Outcome

Reporting Source

1

12 October 2018

“They talked about the end of occupation and a peaceful resolution for the Afghan issue,”
“Both sides agreed to continue their meetings in the future.”              

-Zabiullah Mujahid

“The United States shares the aspirations of all Afghans for a peaceful Afghanistan where all Afghans see themselves included”

-Zalmay Khalizad

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/13/world/asia/us-talks-taliban-afghanistan.html

2

16-18 November 2018

“We’re watching every
diplomatic move of the U.S. officials. We’ll continue our fight until
the U.S. accepts our demands” “These were preliminary talks and no
agreement was reached on any issue”

Zabiullah Mujahid

“The second round of talks
went on for three days. This clearly proves that both sides are
exercising patience and caution during their diplomatic engagement”

– U.S. Official (Anonymous)

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-taliban/u-s-peace-envoy-seeks-to-reassure-kabul-it-wont-be-blocked-from-talks-idUSKCN1NL1JJ

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-taliban/taliban-say-no-pact-struck-with-u-s-on-deadline-to-end-afghan-war-idUSKCN1NO0SD

3

17-19 December 2018

“Future negotiation
meetings shall continue after deliberations and consultations by both
sides with their respective leaderships.”

Zabiullah Mujahid

“…(held) productive”
meetings with Afghan and international partners in Abu Dhabi “to promote
intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict in Afghanistan.”

Zalmay Khalizad

https://www.voanews.com/a/afghan-us-taliban-talks/4707000.html

4

21-26 January 2019

“…the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and other vital issues saw progress.”
“The policy of the Islamic Emirate during talks was very
clear: Until the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan
is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible”.
“Reports by some media outlets about agreement on a
ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration are not true”

-Zabiullah Mujahid

“a number of issues left to
work out” and that there could be no overall agreement without a
cease-fire period that includes dialogue among Afghans. “Nothing is
agreed until everything is agreed”

-Zalmay Khalizad

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/us-taliban-talks-appear-closer-to-pact-after-marathon-talks-in-qatar/2019/01/26/685e638e-20f5-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html?utm_term=.27138912cde3

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/progress-taliban-talks-qatar-190126131202251.html

5

25 February-12 March 2019

“This round of talks saw
extensive and detailed discussions taking place regarding two issues
that were agreed upon during January talks”

“Those two issues were the
withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing anyone
from harming others from Afghan soil.”

-Zabiullah Mujahid

“a withdrawal timeline and
effective counterterrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other
Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations
on a political settlement and comprehensive cease-fire.” “We will meet
again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed”

-Zalmay Khalizad

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/world/asia/afghanistan-us-taliban-talks.html

6

1-5, 7-9May 2019

“some progress” on a draft agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops

-Taliban Spokesperson

“We made steady but slow
progress on aspects of the framework for ending the Afghan war. We are
getting into the nitty gritty. The devil is always in the details”.
“However, the current pace of talks isn’t sufficient when so much
conflict rages and innocent people die. We need more and faster
progress. Our proposal for all sides to reduce violence also remains on
the table.”

-Zalmay Khalizad

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/taliban-talks-peace-afghanistan-190510062940394.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-talks/sixth-round-of-taliban-u-s-peace-talks-end-idUSKCN1SF1PR

Table 2.Actor Stance on Negotiations: 

US Stance

Taliban Stance

Comprehensive Ceasefire

Counter-terrorism assurances

Bar International terror outfits like Islamic State and Al Qaeda from operating in Afghanistan

No direct talks with the Afghan Government

Complete Withdrawal of Foreign Forces

If the nature of talks is
indicative of anything, it is that ‘time’ is a greater consideration for
the US than it is for the Taliban. Contrary to the received wisdom that
the US would deploy military power to “coerce Taliban to the
negotiating table” and “bargain from a position of strength”, the
reality is, the US stance is progressively weakening. The Taliban is
very much in the process of simultaneous bargaining, signaling its
intent to sustain negotiations, and to engage in violence. As the
negotiations stretch out, the Taliban is strengthening its military
position on the ground, and its appetite for relentless attacks does not
seem to diminish.

The New York Times reported
that the withdrawal timeline that is being negotiated between the two
sides ranges from six months put forth by Taliban to three years put
forth by the US. If the past is any precedent, the Taliban will have an
interest in prolonging the process until the withdrawal approaches a
stage where a reversal of the process is difficult, if not completely
impossible.

Worse, fissures within the Afghan polity are already visible. President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a Consultative Jirga
(Congregation of Elders, Tribals, ethnic groups) in the month of April
2019, which had some normative value for the Afghans, was boycotted by
the High Council of Jihadi and National Parties encompassing many
important political formations. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of
Afghanistan and stakeholder in the National Unity Government (NUG)
Abdullah Abdullah, himself boycotted the Jirga – perhaps the most
visible proof of the lack of unity and consensus within the Afghan
leadership. Further, on May 27, CEO Abdullah confirmed that he was not
in the loop when President Ashraf Ghani appointed three new acting
ministers. Abdullah noted, “Any change in ministers recently is only
considered a political decision, not another move… It is unfortunate
that when the changes happen, the people of Afghanistan, including the
relevant ministers are informed through social media… As the chief
executive, I was personally embarrassed when I was asked about one of
the ministers, who was dismissed, and I replied that I was not aware of
that. I was not informed”. To complicate the issue the NUG’s
constitutionally mandated term ended on May 22, further eroding its
legitimacy and credibility.

Consequently, even if the
intra-Afghan talks begin, the Taliban could well exploit the political
fissures to prolong the process. Earlier, in February 2019 and again in
May 2019, the Taliban further tried to widen this wedge by engaging
with Afghan politicians outside the NUG in the talks held in Moscow,
even as it steadfastly refused direct engagement with the Afghan
Government. In the six rounds of talks held with the US, the Taliban has
refused
to talk directly to the Afghan Government, and Kabul has been excluded
from the process. However, President Ghani’s political opponents,
including former President Hamid Karzai, continue to attend the Moscow
rounds, eroding the legitimacy of the Ghani-led administration.

The Taliban has cleared
benefited from its intransigence in these talks. The US and Afghan
Government positions have been considerably diluted, as a war of
attrition drained resources and resolve. As time passes, these resources
– in men, materials and morale – have been delivering diminishing
returns. From throwing the Afghanistan constitution under the bus, to
directly engaging with the Taliban to the exclusion of Kabul,
concessions have been rolled out, without any reciprocity from the
Taliban in terms of a cessation or even diminution of hostilities on the
ground.

Significantly, Taliban’s assurances in the negotiations inspire little confidence. According to The Long War Journal, contrary to the Taliban’s counter-terrorism assurances, al Qaeda continues to operate across Afghanistan and has done so over the past two decades. Indeed, Zalmay Khalizad, in his own testimony
to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2016, noted that the
Taliban had enduring ties with al Qaeda and the two were unlikely to
part ways. Further, US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Forces Commander General Scott Miller confirmed, on May 22, 2019, that Al Qaeda had been seen operating across different parts of Afghan territory.

Clearly, though the negotiation process is on, the conflict is not in a mutually hurting stalemate from Taliban’s perspective. Taliban continue to initiate attacks across Afghanistan and has sought to use the peace process to consolidate their position militarily as well as politically. In the meantime the military component of the US strategy has contracted to an exclusive reliance on its air campaign, which has had questionable deterrent value. As the US calculus of its interests in the Indo-Pacific region compel it to pull out resources from Afghanistan, the so called ‘peace talks’ look increasingly akin to a slow surrender, both on the table and on the ground.

*Joy Mitra
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites)


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“fbi” – Google News: Retiring FBI agent gives intimate look at 30-year career – KCCI Des Moines

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“fbi” – Google News: Retiring FBI agent gives intimate look at 30-year career – KCCI Des Moines
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Blogs from Michael_Novakhov (21 sites): The FBI News Review: “fbi” – Google News: Retiring FBI agent gives intimate look at 30-year career – KCCI Des Moines

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June 03, 2019
“fbi” – Google News: Retiring FBI agent gives intimate look at 30-year career – KCCI Des Moines
“fbi scandal” – Google News: USC says Tony Bland ‘caused significant harm’ in college basketball corruption case – Los Angeles Times
“fbi criticism” – Google News: Christopher Wray, FBI director, fights to restore confidence in bureau amid GOP criticism – Washington Times
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The actual amount Bland received appears to have been less than $4,100. Christian Dawkins, the chief executive of the fledgling company, testified in federal court last month that he pocketed the $13,000 bribe provided by an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor in the company, then gave Bland “between a thousand and two thousand dollars” to use at a friend’s bachelor party.
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Twitter Search / PalmerReport: The real reason Watergate figure John Dean is testifying before Congress about Donald Trump’s criminal scandals https://www.palmerreport.com/analysis/john-dean-testify-trump-criminal/18398 …

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