Underground network of spies helped Taliban score decisive victory in Afghanistan

Taliban

THE TALIBAN RELIED ON an extensive network of intelligence operatives and sleeper agents in major Afghan cities, in order to sweep to power with stunning ease last summer, according to a new report. These networks of spies had infiltrated state agencies and civil society organizations throughout Afghanistan over many years. They were quickly able to neutralize opponents of the Taliban from the inside when commanded to do so, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a lengthy exposé published on Sunday, the newspaper said that Taliban spies had managed to successfully penetrate most government ministries, military and security bodies, as well as business entities over several years. Many Taliban operatives were also present within universities and even inside Western-funded aid organizations, especially those were headquartered in the Afghan capital Kabul, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The two authors of the report, Yaroslav Trofimov and Margherita Stancati, said they spoke about the Taliban’s spy network with Mawlawi Mohammad Salim Saad, a senior Taliban commander who belongs to the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network is a Sunni militant group that works closely with the Taliban, but has retained its operational independence over several decades. Saad told the Wall Street Journal that Taliban spies had posed as ordinary Afghan citizens, living in large urban centers without arousing suspicion from other Afghans or foreigners. Most of them had been specifically instructed by their Taliban handlers to adopt Western customs, such as wearing jeans and shaving their beards, said Saad.

But on August 15 of this year, large units of Taliban sleeper agents received simultaneous instructions to access hidden caches of weapons and neutralize government personnel in strategic locations around the country. The Wall Street Journal discusses the example of one such unit of Taliban spies, who quietly stormed a government compound in downtown Kabul and disarmed the stunned guards. Several of these units had specific instructions to stop government personnel from destroying classified and other sensitive documents as the state around them collapsed, according to the article.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 November 2021 | Permalink

Trump transition was ‘far and away’ most difficult in CIA history, internal report claims

Donald Trump CIA

THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the electoral victory of Donald Trump in 2016 was “far and away the most difficult” transition between administrations in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is the conclusion of a recently declassified CIA analysis of how American presidents-elect are briefed. The term ‘president-elect’ refers to individuals who have won the US presidential election, but have yet to assume the presidency. Presidents-elect are briefed by the CIA during the transition period, which typically lasts about 75 days, from early November until late in January of the following year.

The CIA analysis appears in the most recent edition of Getting to Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect, 1952–2016. It is authored by John L. Helgerson, a 38-year veteran of the CIA, who retired in 2009 as the Agency’s Inspector General. The volume contains lessons learned by analysts who briefed presidents-elect in over sixty years. Chapter nine of the book, which contains an assessment of Trump as president-elect, was released [pdf] last week.

The chapter chronicles some of the challenges faced by the CIA in the days immediately after Trump’s electoral victory in 2016. Such challenges included CIA analysts having to wait for over a week for the Trump team to begin communicating them, its members “apparently having not expected to win the election”. Additionally, the Trump transition team had not thought of a way to safeguard printed documents shared with them by the CIA, which necessitated the Agency having to install a safe in the Trump transition team’s headquarters.

Eventually, president-elect Trump began receiving the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a highly sensitive classified document produced each morning for the eyes of the president, vice president and a limited number of senior administration officials. However, unlike his vice-president elect, Mike Pence, Trump did not read the PDB, and eventually told the CIA he wanted a less text-heavy approach to the document if he was going to read it. The CIA complied with the request, as it tries to adapt its briefing method to the intelligence consumers’ preferred mode. Read more of this post

Book review of “We Never Expected That” by Avner Barnea

Barnea We Never Expected ThatIN HIS NEW BOOK, We Never Expected That: A Comparative Study of Failures in National and Business Intelligence (Lexington Books), Dr. Avner Barnea has coined two new terms in the field of strategic surprise. One is diffused surprise and the other is concentrated surprise, two terms that help us to better understand why intelligence failures occur. In a diffused surprise there is difficulty in identifying the intelligence target and therefore the chance of a surprise increases; while in a concentrated surprise the intelligence target is usually a recognized organization. At the same time, the mistake lies in the assessment of the target’s abilities and intentions.

To illustrate the difference between the types of strategic surprises in the two areas, the author analyzes these types of surprises through a discussion of four test cases. Two of them are from the field of national intelligence and two from the field of competitive intelligence. In the field of national intelligence, Barnea analyzes the surprise of the outbreak of the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in 1987 and the surprise of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The first Intifada was a strategic surprise for the State of Israel and broke out as a result of a popular uprising. Therefore Barnea defines it as a diffused surprise. The September 11 terror attack is defined by Barnea as a concentrated surprise, since the terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, which was known to American intelligence, initiated and carried out the terrorist attack. One of the reasons for the surprise was that the American intelligence agencies did not properly assess al Qaeda’s intentions and capabilities, nor did they share the intelligence information that had accumulated.

In competitive intelligence and the business world, units within an organization share intelligence information. One of the lessons of the September 11 surprise in the United States is that intelligence information needs to be shared between the various intelligence organizations. The test cases that Barnea discusses in the field of competitive intelligence include the process of deterioration of the IBM Corporation that almost led to its demise in 1993. This is a classic case of concentrated surprise. IBM’s board  of directors did not internalize the processes and transformations in the field of computer hardware, while competing companies like Dell, Toshiba, and others were aware of the changing needs of customers in this field and also offered customers appropriate solutions. As a result of this failure of a concentrated surprise, IBM’s revenue fell sharply and the company almost declared bankruptcy. The new CEO of IBM, who took office during the crisis, has since adapted the company to changes in the competitive environment. Read more of this post

US intelligence reports suggest possible Russian military invasion in Ukraine

UkraineINTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS IN THE United States are becoming increasingly convinced that Russia is contemplating extensive military action in Ukraine, according to Western insiders. Russian troop concentrations near the Ukrainian border have been “large and unusual” for several weeks, according to observers.

The New York Times reports that American intelligence assessments do not view war in Ukraine as an inevitable outcome of Moscow’s military maneuvers in western Russia. In fact, many suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has not yet decided” how to proceed in Ukraine. Nevertheless, “all the pieces are in place” for a large-scale military invasion, according to experts who spoke to The Times.

The number of American intelligence observers who believe that Moscow’s military maneuvers may represent a bluff is gradually shrinking. Some believe that the Kremlin’s goal is to establish command over a larger and more unified landmass than the one it currently controls in southeastern Ukraine, and thus secure a contiguous land linking Russian soil with the territory it occupies in Ukraine.

Washington has been sharing intelligence on this fast-changing situation with Ukraine, while also briefing its North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners. Last week, the United States Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines visited Brussels for discussions with NATO ambassadors. The unusual visit to Russia by Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, which took place in early November, may also be connected to the rising tensions in Ukraine, according to The Times.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 November 2021 | Permalink

Sweden arrests second suspect in high-stakes espionage case involving Iran

Säpo sweden

AUTHORITIES IN SWEDEN HAVE arrested a second suspect in an espionage case that appears to implicate Iranian agents operating inside some of the most secretive units of Swedish civilian and military intelligence. The most recent arrest was announced on Tuesday with statement by the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO), which said that an individual had been arrested in “central Sweden”.

The statement gave no further information about the suspect’s identity, but said that the suspect had been charged with “aggravated espionage”. It added that the arrest was connected with “a similar case” that led to an arrest of an intelligence officer in September, also connected to espionage. The “similar case” mentioned in the statement refers to the arrest of Peyman Kia, a senior civil servant and former intelligence officer, who was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on September 20 of this year.

Kia is believed to have been an officer in SÄPO, as well as in the Office for Special Information Gathering (KSI) of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST). The KSI is reportedly among the most sensitive branches of the MUST. According to a number of reports in the Swedish media, Kia is of Iranian origin and is accused of having provided Iran with intelligence information. Specifically, he is “suspected of having committed serious crimes against the security of the Swedish state during the period 2011–2015”, according to reports.

The most recent arrest is reportedly directly connected with that of Kia. Swedish counterintelligence officials have described these cases as “complex”, adding that they have been “working on them for a long time”. If the charges hold in court, it will make this the first espionage affair affecting an employee of SÄPO since 1979.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 November 2021 | Research credit: A. | Permalink

Recent conviction of Chinese spy in a US court could be game changer, say insiders

Chinese Ministry of State Security

THE RECENT CONVICTION OF a Chinese intelligence officer for espionage in a United States court could be a “seminal moment” for American counterintelligence, according to several former intelligence professionals. They spoke to The Daily Beast’s Shannon Vavra about the case of Yanjun Xu, who is also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui. As intelNews and others reported last month, Xu is a deputy division director in the Ministry of State Security (MSS) —China’s intelligence agency.

Xu was arrested by Belgian police in April 2018, while attempting to meet an employee of GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, whom he had allegedly tried to recruit at an academic conference in China in 2017. The Belgians extradited Xu to the United States, where he was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to commit acts of economic espionage against GE Aviation. During the trial, which took place in Cincinnati, prosecutors successfully made the case that Xu’s espionage activities were part of a broader 10-year plan by the MSS to spy on aviation manufacturers around the world.

Xu’s extradition marked the first time that an employee of a Chinese intelligence agency was tried on American soil. His conviction could be a game changer, says to Bill Evanina, who was director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center until earlier this year. Evanina told The Daily Beast that the case against Xu will almost certainly serve as a “legal template for future cases” by the United States government against Chinese espionage. Evanina’s view was echoed by Jim Olson, former Chief of Counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency. He told The Daily Beast that Xu’s arrest, extradition and conviction “is a huge shakeup for the MSS” and its impact on how China conducts its espionage operations against the United States will be “tremendous”.

Meanwhile China has rejected all accusations against Xu. Liu Pengyu, spokesman for China’s embassy in the United States, told The Daily Beast that the charges against Xu were “pure fabrications”. He added that the Chinese state demands that Washington handles Xu’s case “according to the law and in a just manner”, so that this Chinese citizen’s “rights and interests” would be ensured.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 November 2021 | Permalink

Norway charges former Iranian diplomat in 1993 assassination attempt

William NygaardTHE GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY has pressed charges against two men, among them a former diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Oslo, for the attempted murder of a high-profile Norwegian publisher in 1993. The case centers on an attempt against the life of William Nygaard, a Norwegian publisher and former director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1989 Nygaard was behind the publication of the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. The bestselling novel was condemned as blasphemous by conservative Muslims, due to its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. In the spring of 1989, Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) sentencing to death the novel’s author and all those who had a role in publishing the book, and urging followers of Islam to execute them at will. Nygaard began receiving threats almost immediately, and was given police protection for almost a year.

On the morning of October 11, 1993, Nygaard was shot and left for dead outside his house in the northern outskirts of Oslo. He survived after being rushed to the hospital, where he remained for several months during what became a long and painstaking period of recovery. The police was unable to find the culprits of the attempted murder, and the investigation stalled after a few years, as it was unclear whether the motives were political or personal. Nygaard consistently argued that the attempt on his life was politically motivated.

Nygaard’s claims were revived in 2018, when the Norwegian Police Service said it had pressed charges against two individuals for the attempted murder of the publisher. No information was publicized about the identities of the two suspects. However, a clue emerged when a spokeswoman for Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said that the incident “was about more than an attack on one man” and represented “a violent attempt to shut down free speech”.

Since then there have been rumors about the identities of the two suspects. Last week, Iranian dissidents living abroad began claiming that one of the men was a Lebanese national, and the other a retired Iranian diplomat. On Friday, a report by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company stated that the Iranian former diplomat in question is Mohammad Nik-Khah. The report added that Nik-Khah served as first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Norway when Nygaard was shot, and that he now lives in Iran.

Over the weekend, a press statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Oslo confirmed that Nik-Khah served as a diplomat there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the statement claimed that Nik-Khah had left Norway several days prior to the attempted killing of Nygaard.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 November 2021 | Research credit: LCP | Permalink

Hacker behind attack on popular booking site has ties to US intelligence, paper claims

Booking.comA HACKER WHO TARGETED a major Dutch-based reservations website has ties to intelligence agencies in the United States, according to a new report. The claim was made on Wednesday by three Dutch investigative journalists, Merry Rengers, Stijn Bronzwaer and Joris Kooiman. In a lengthy report published in NRC Handelsblad, Holland’s newspaper of record, the three journalists allege that the attack occurred in 2016. Its target was Booking.com, a popular flight and hotel reservations website, which is jointly owned by Dutch and American venture firms.

The authors argue that the interest Booking.com poses for security services is “no surprise”. The website’s data includes valuable information about “who is  staying where and when, where diplomats are, who is traveling to suspicious countries or regions, where top executives book an outing with their secretary —all valuable information for [the world’s intelligence] services”.

According to the report, the hacker was able to penetrate an insufficiently secured server belonging to Booking.com, and gain access to the accounts of customers, by stealing their personal identification numbers, or PINs. Accordingly, the hacker stole “details of hotel [and flight] reservations” of thousands of Booking.com customers in the Middle East. The report claims that targeted customers included Middle East-based foreign diplomats, government officials and other “persons of interest” to American intelligence.’’

After detecting the breach, Booking.com allegedly conducted an internal probe, which verified that the hacker —nicknamed “Andrew”— had “connections to United States spy agencies”, according to the report. The company then sought the assistance of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). At the same time, however, Booking.com consulted with a British-based law firm, which advised it that it was not obligated to make news of the hacker attack public. It therefore chose not to publicize the incident, according to the NRC article.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 November 2021 | Permalink

Israel wants United States to lift sanctions on controversial cyber-spy firms

Computer hacking

THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL is pressuring the United States to reverse its recent decision to blacklist two controversial digital surveillance companies, which Israel sees as “a crucial element of its foreign policy”. The US Department of Commerce placed the two firms, NSO Group Technologies and Candiru, on a sanctions list on November 3. According to a statement issued by the US Department of Commerce, the two firms engaged “in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

The move followed revelations of a spy software known as Pegasus, which is marketed by NSO Group. As intelNews and others reported back in July, Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

The US is among several Western governments that have criticized the Pegasus software as a malicious tool used by some of NSO Group’s customers to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers”. Software tools such as Pegasus have enabled a host of governments around the world to “conduct transnational repression [by] targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent”, according to the US Department of Commerce.

According to The New York Times, however, the government of Israel supports the work of NSO Group and Candiru, and “sees the Pegasus software as a crucial element of its foreign policy”. The Israelis were thus “alarmed” by Washington’s decision to blacklist the two firms, and are determined to lobby the White House on their behalf. The goal of the Israeli government, according to the paper, is to convince the American administration that the activities of NSO and Candiru, “remain of great importance to the national security of both” Israel and the US. In return for the US reversing its decision to blacklist the companies, Israel is willing to exercise “much tighter supervision” of these and other similar firms, through its software-licensing system, according to The Times.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 November 2021 | Permalink

US citizen wanted for January 6 attack on Capitol seeks political asylum in Belarus

US Capitol

AN AMERICAN CITIZEN WHO allegedly participated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol appears to have fled abroad and is said to be seeking political asylum in Belarus. Five people died as a result of a concerted attempt by thousands of supporters of the then-President Donald Trump to storm the United States Capitol Complex and invalidate the electoral victory of Joe Biden. Over 650 individuals are now facing federal charges for participating in the insurrection.

According to reports, California resident Evan Neumann was among those participating in the attack. Neumann, 48, is reportedly a handbag manufacturer who until recently lived in the well-to-do city of Mill Valley, near San Francisco. In March of this year, he was charged with six counts of criminal activity, including felonies for participating in a civil disorder and assaulting a police officer. He now appears to have fled the United States and to be seeking political asylum in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus, which is often referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship.

In a widely publicized television news segment aired on November 7, Neumann told the state-owned Belarus 1 news channel that he had been advised by “his lawyer […] to flee to Europe”. He had therefore traveled to northern Europe, ostensibly for business, from where he entered Switzerland by train, before traveling to Germany and Poland. From Poland he entered Ukraine in April, where he rented an apartment and planned to settle permanently. He claims, however, that he was “being followed by agents” of the SBU, the Security Service of Ukraine.

One night in August, Neumann “crossed illegally by foot into Belarus”, trekking through thick forest and swamps, and “dodging wild boars and snakes”. He is now seeking political asylum in Belarus. He is hoping to avoid American justice, given that Belarus does not share an extradition treaty with the United States. Under its authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus has faced concerted criticism from Western nations about its human rights record and fraught election practices. In the November 7 news segment, Neumann described the outstanding federal charges against him as “unfounded”, and said that they amounted to “political persecution”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 November 2021 | Permalink

Percentage of unvaccinated US spy agency employees remains unknown: report

COVID-19 Pentagon

MOST AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES will not disclose the percentage of their employees who are vaccinated for COVID-19, or how many are resisting government vaccination mandates for federal workers. All United States federal government employees and federal contractors are required to comply with vaccination mandates by November 22. Those who refuse to get vaccinated without having been granted a medical exemption, are likely to face a suspension for up to 14 days, which could result in permanent dismissal.

The vaccine mandate for government workers is part of a nationwide effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 people in the United States since early 2020. Studies by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that unvaccinated virus hosts are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. It is currently estimated that around 80 percent of the adult population of the United States has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and around 70 percent is fully vaccinated.

The percentage of intelligence employees and contractors who are vaccinated against the coronavirus is not known, though it is generally believed to be higher than the percentage among the general population in the country. The Central Intelligence Agency has disclosed that fewer than 3% of its employees are unvaccinated, while the National Reconnaissance Office has stated that about 9 percent of its employees have yet to receive a single shot of the vaccine. No information is available about the 16 other agencies of the United States intelligence community.

Last week, Chris Stewart (R-UT), who is a member of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, claimed that as many as 20 percent of government personnel remain unvaccinated in some of the intelligence agencies. He added that agencies “that are more closely affiliated with the military tended to report lower vaccination rates”. He did not elaborate, but questioned whether suspending or dismissing unvaccinated employees of intelligence agencies was a prudent course of action, given their role in national security.

But other lawmakers expressed support for implementing the government’s vaccination mandate in the intelligence community. Jason Crow (D-CO), who also belongs to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the nation’s intelligence agencies were seeing high rates of vaccination. He added that, if some employees are “not willing to do what’s necessary to protect their own health and the health of their unit, that actually calls into question their ability to effectively do the job” of protecting national security.

In reporting on this story, the Associated Press said last week it had contacted a number of intelligence agencies to inquire about the vaccination rates among their employees, but had received no information. The news agency said that several intelligence organizations, among them the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, had “declined to provide their vaccination rate when asked”. Similarly, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates the activities of the intelligence community, also “declined several requests to provide figures for the intelligence community” as a whole.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 08 November 2021 | Permalink

US government report details first-ever drone attack on energy grid

Electrical substation

A REPORT ISSUED BY the United States government last month provides details of what is thought to be the first known attack on the country’s energy infrastructure by an unmanned aircraft system. The report appears in a Joint Intelligence Bulletin (JIB) dated October 28, 2021. The JIB is a collaborative intelligence product of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Counterterrorism Center.

The report documents an apparent drone attack that took place on July 16, 2020. The target of the attack was an electrical substation in the state of Pennsylvania. The document does not provide details about the geographic location of the attack, nor does it identify the substation that was targeted. It does, however, give details about the type of commercial drone that was used, which it identifies as a Chinese-built DJI Mavic 2. The DJI Mavic 2 is a compact quadcopter drone, which is popular among aerial photography enthusiasts in the United States. It costs between $1,300 and $4,450, depending on its design and amount of features.

The specific device used in the attack in Pennsylvania had been modified by its operator, most likely in order to cause a short circuit and damage the distribution lines or transformers it came in contact with. The device had a thick copper wire hanging from its body, which was attached with nylon cords. Additionally, the perpetrator of the attack had taken steps to anonymize the device, be removing its quality control markings and other identifying information from it. The camera and internal memory card, which are standard technical features of DJI Mavic 2 drones, had also been removed, according to the report. As a result, the operator of the device has not been identified.

The report concludes that illicit [drone] activity is expected “to increase over energy sector and other critical infrastructure facilities as use of these systems in the United States continues to expand”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 November 2021 | Permalink

CIA director concludes surprise two-day visit to Russia for high-level meetings

William BurnsTHE DIRECTOR OF THE United States Central Intelligence Agency has returned to Washington from a surprise visit to Russia, where he led a high-level team of American officials in meetings with their Russian counterparts. The two-day visit was announced almost simultaneously by both the American and Russian governments, following the arrival of the CIA director, William Burns, to Moscow on Tuesday.

Little information has emerged about the participants in the meetings. A statement from the American embassy in Moscow said simply that Burns had traveled there at the request of President Joe Biden, and that other United States officials had traveled with him. It is believed that Karen Donfried, the State Department’s assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, traveled with Burns. According to the American embassy, the meetings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday and concerned “a range of issues in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia.

A minute-long video, which was posted on social media by the Russian TASS news agency on Tuesday, showed a group of five American officials meeting with five Russian officials. The latter appeared to include Nikolai Patrushev, a close political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heads the Security Council of Russia —a body that is roughly equivalent to the United States National Security Council. Prior to his current role, Patrushev served as director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

It is worth noting that Burns speaks Russian and served twice as a diplomat in Russia, most recently as the American ambassador there. Some observers noted that Burns’ trip to Moscow is part of a broader pattern of increasingly frequent meetings between American and Russian officials in recent months. The last four months have seen at least four visits to Russia by senior officials in the Biden administration.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 November 2021 | Permalink

Mossad officials visited Sudan before coup, but had no warning, reports claim

Sudan civil unrest

A DELEGATION OF ISRAELI government officials, which likely included members of the Mossad spy agency, paid a secret visit to Sudan in the days prior to the October 25 coup d’état, but were given no indication of what was about to happen, according to reports from Israel. The Israeli delegation’s goal was to assess the Sudanese government’s ongoing interest in establishing bilateral relations with the Jewish state, according to Walla News, which is among Israel’s most popular news websites.

According to the report, the Israeli delegation held several meetings with leading Sudanese government officials, among them Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, a general in Sudan’s notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group. The RSF was a leading actor in the October 25 coup, which resulted in the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and most of his cabinet. In Hamdok’s place, the coup plotters installed Sudanese Army General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, who proceeded to declare a state of emergency and suspend civil liberties across the nation.

According to the report, the main purpose of the Israeli delegation’s secret visit was to assess the prospects of continuing normalization between Sudan and Israel —a process that began in early 2020 under American tutelage. Anonymous officials told Walla News that the Israeli delegation was given no indication by the Sudanese military officials that they were planning a coup d’état, though they could easily have expected it, given the volatile state of Sudanese politics in the past year.

It is worth pointing out that, as noted recently by The Times of Israel, although “much of the Western world has condemned the [Sudanese] coup, Israel has remained noticeably silent”. According to observers, this is likely the case because the Sudanese military, which carried out the October 25 coup, is the main supporter of normalizing Sudan’s relations with Israel. On the other hand, the civilian-led revolutionary movement, which helped topple Sudan’s longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, has been critical of Israel and has expressed strong support for the Palestinians.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 November 2021 | Permalink

Some US-trained Afghan elite soldiers and intelligence officers are joining ISIS

Armed guerillas Khost Afghanistan

SMALL BUT GROWING NUMBERS of American-trained members of Afghanistan’s elite special forces and intelligence agencies are joining the Islamic State in order to fight the Taliban, according to a new report. Some observers are expressing concerns that these new recruits are equipping the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate with advanced skills and expertise that might make the group difficult to defeat in the coming months or even years.

In the weeks after the Taliban’s take-over of Afghanistan, a small group of fighters in the northern regions of the country vowed to engage in armed resistance against the group. They teamed up under Ahmad Massoud, son of anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. They since seem to have been defeated, however, and most of them have now fled the country —a development that apparently marks the end of all armed resistance to the Taliban by former members of the American-supported Afghan government. Other Afghans with access to weapons, most of them members of the army and security forces, have not returned to work since the Taliban take-over, fearing that they will be killed.

For now, the only armed resistance to the Taliban comes from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan Province, also known as ISIS-K. According to The Wall Street Journal, “relatively small, but growing” numbers of former members of Afghanistan’s security and intelligence agencies, are now joining ISIS-K. In making this claim, the paper cites “Taliban leaders, former Afghan republic security officials and people who know the defectors”. Some of those joining ISIS-K have been trained in unconventional warfare and intelligence-gathering by the United States, claims the paper.

According to the report, those joining ISIS-K appear to do so for two reasons: first, in order to secure a regular income, as they have been left without wages since the collapse of the Washington-supported government in Kabul. Second, because ISIS-K is currently the only armed group that is putting up resistance against the Taliban. Thus, in addition to fighting the Taliban, the former members of Afghanistan’s security and intelligence forces, are also receiving protection from ISIS-K fighters, says the paper.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 November 2021 | Permalink

%d bloggers like this: