Afghanistan to arm 20,000 civilians to fight ISIS

The proposal for a government-backed armed group that would protect its own communities from the Taliban and ISIS comes as Afghanistan's security forces, demoralized by killings and desertions, struggle to beat back a rampant insurgency, AFP reported.

But the proposal has raised concerns that the local forces could become unruly and turn into another abusive militia terrorizing the people it is supposed to defend.

"The Afghan government's expansion of irregular forces could have enormously dangerous consequences for civilians," said Patricia Gossman, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based group said Western diplomats in Kabul familiar with the plan - modelled on the Indian Territorial Army that supports the country's regular forces - said Afghan officials had expressed concerns the militia could be used by "powerful strongmen" or become "dependent on local patronage networks".

American and Afghan officials told AFP the fighters would come under the command of the Afghan army and be better trained than the Afghan Local Police - a village-level force set up by the United States in 2010 and accused of human rights violations.

"Right now we rely on commandos and air strikes to retake the lost territories but after the commandos leave we don't have enough forces to hold onto the territories," said a senior defense ministry official who asked not to be named.

"The force will operate under an army corps and will be used to fill the gaps. They will be recruited from the locals and will be numbered around 20,000."

Defense ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri confirmed to AFP that a plan for "local forces" was being discussed.

"People will be recruited from their areas because they know their regions and how to keep them," Waziri said, but added there was no guarantee it would be implemented.

A spokesman for NATO's Resolute Support train and assist mission also confirmed a proposal for an Afghan territorial army was on the table.

But another American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told AFP the idea was still in "the brainstorming phase."

The Afghan government and its foreign backers have been cultivating militias to bolster the 330,000-strong Afghan National Security and Defense Forces as they battle to get the upper hand in the grinding conflict.

In Afghanistan, militias - private armies and government-backed armed groups - have a long and chequered history in the war-torn country and many Afghans are wary of them.

Civilian casualties were at record highs in the first six months of 2017, a UN report showed, with forces loyal to the Afghan government accounting for nearly 20 percent of the deaths and injuries.

Since NATO ended its combat mission in 2014 the Taliban has been gaining ground and ISIS is expanding its footprint.

As of February only about 60 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts were reported to be under government control, according to the US watchdog agency SIGAR.

Earlier this year Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered a near doubling of the country's elite fighting force from 17,000 as part of a four-year roadmap that also aims to strengthen Afghanistan's air force.

While US President Donald Trump's commitment to increase American troop numbers and leave them there indefinitely has been welcomed by Afghan authorities, they know it will take time to improve the fighting abilities of their security forces.

With parliamentary and presidential elections planned in the next two years they want a security quick fix.

But critics fear that rather than support Afghanistan's beleaguered security forces, the militia could aggravate factionalism and push Afghanistan deeper into conflict.

"It's a tool that the US military and successive Afghan governments have reached for and it looks like a solution to their problems but actually the real solution would be to have a functioning ANA [Afghan National Army] and ANP [Afghan National Police]," Kate Clark, a senior analyst at Afghanistan Analysts Network, told AFP.

"It's a dangerous thing to play with, arming your civilians."



Bahraini cleric: Saudi Regime no care about popular movements

The House of Saud does not have the slightest care about popular movements and protests and is moving toward its vicious goals both in the region and inside the country, Jaafar al-Alawi said.

Referring to rising calls from Saudi activists and opposition figures for more protests in the kingdom, he said the “September 15" movement showed only a small fraction of people’s wrath against the regime’s ongoing crackdown and brutality against its own nation.

The mass arrests of a number of Saudi princes and opposition figures before and after September 15 took place on trumped-up charges, he added, saying that more similar protests are expected in the future.

The social networking scene in the Arab kingdom witnessed increasing calls to gather on September 15 to express popular opposition to Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and power politics, and to urge the authorities to address a range of social issues, including women’s rights and the status of political prisoners in the country.

According to a statement on a Twitter page set up for the movement called “Hirak September 15,” the action “represents every citizen who is gravely concerned about his homeland and thinks its sovereignty is under the control of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and that his dignity has been trampled on by Trump.”

In a reference to the ruling royal family, the statement adds that the movement “represents everyone worried about the country’s resources and thinks they are squandered in the pockets of a small class of people.”



<div>Iraq VP won't tolerate creation of second Israel</div>

The leaders of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan must “call off the (September 25) referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds”, said Vice President Nuri al-Maliki.

“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Maliki, a former prime minister, said at a meeting with US ambassador Douglas Silliman, in a statement released by the vice president’s office.

He warned that an independence vote would have “dangerous consequences for the security, sovereignty and unity of Iraq”, and called for dialogue between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government in the northern city of Arbil.

It is worth noting that an Israeli flag was flown alongside Kurdish flags at a rally in Arbil on Friday in support of the referendum.



Sabra, Shatila massacre still sign of Tel Aviv regime’s cruelty

The massacre took place after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when Christian Phalangist militias entered the Beirut camp under Israeli military watch to wreak retribution for the alleged assassination of their leader Bachir Gemayel.

Between September 16 and 18, Palestinian refugees were killed in droves. At the time, the number of dead was estimated at 700, but eyewitness British reporter Robert Fisk says the number was closer to 1,700, while the PLO has previously said nearly 3,500 Palestinians were killed.

Israeli soldiers in control of the perimeter of the camps did not stop the slaughter, firing flares overhead at night to aid the Phalangist gunmen.

An Israeli investigation found then defense minister Ariel Sharon, who Ashrawi said "left a legacy of bloodshed and destruction,” guilty of failing to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians. He was demoted but later became Israeli prime minister.

"This remains a tragic chapter in Palestinian history, and thirty-five years later, the Sabra and Shatila massacre still represents Israel's cruelty and inhumanity towards the Palestinian people as a whole. This massacre, as well as other massacres against the Palestinian people, goes unpunished,” Ashrawi said, Ma’an news agency reported.

Ashrawi said in her statement that the massacre "should remind the entire international community that the plight of the more than six million Palestinian refugees has not been resolved,” and that Israel and the US "must do justice to the Palestinian refugees and implement international law and UN resolutions.”



Bahraini forces assaults on Ashura manifestations

The repressive Bahraini regime launched campaign today on Sunday targeting religious manifestations of Muharram mourning ceremonies commemorated annually by Shiite Muslims who constitute a majority in the Persian Gulf monarchy.

Security forces removed banners and flags that have Muharram religious slogans in the Sitra and Nuwaidrat areas.

Since 2011, Bahraini authorities have been following a strict security approach against the Shiite Muslims in the country. Multiple incidents of assault and vandalism by the ministry's forces have taken place against Ashura manifestations.

At the end of 2014, Al-Wefaq Society, which was proscribed by the authorities, recorded in a detailed report such incidents of assault. In total, Al Wefaq recorded 76 violations linked to restrictions on religious freedoms were committed during Muharram mourning ceremonies that year.

The first ten days of Muharram, the month of the Islamic Hijri calendar, mark the martyrdom of the third Shiite Imam and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad SAW, Imam Hussein AS, in 680 AD in a battle with the tyrant of the time. The tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura, marks the day when Imam Hussein was martyred with 72 of his loyal companions.

The historic event's message of resistance and rising up against tyranny has been key to the evolution of a culture which rejects abjection at any rate.

The tyrannical Bahraini regime is scared that the masses revitalize their uprising during the mourning ceremonies and has therefore tightened security to prevent processions.

Meanwhile, Bahraini security forces intensified their presence in the house surrounding of the spiritual leader of Shiite majority, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been under house arrest since May 23, 2017.

The authorities revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Qassim in June 2016 and put him on trial for exercising the Shiite Islam's obligatory Khums (alms) collection and distribution.

Protest rallies in Bahrain have continued on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising started in the kingdom in 2011. The protesters are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured in a harsh crackdown which is backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


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