Bowe Bergdahl Freed by Taliban, But at What Cost?

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 12:42 p.m. DST, 2 June 2014

"Early-morning dismounted patrol mission" Photo by:  The U.S. Army

AN AMERICAN SOLDIER captured in Afghanistan in 2009 is returning home. 28-year-old Bowe Bergdahl was the last prisoner of war from the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom conflicts.

His homecoming marks the end of an ongoing discussion with Taliban executives, which were largely mediated by Qatari representatives. Since 2011, the United States has actively pursued Bergdahl's release. A recent video provided by Taliban leaders indicated the young man's failing health.

In June of 2009, Bergdahl left his military outpost in Paktika, Afghanistan for reasons still unknown. Outside of the military stronghold, Bergdahl was captured by Taliban affiliates. Those close to the family have described Bergdahl as a sensitive, questioning young man who was struggling with aspects of his service. This, coupled with the possibility of preexisting mental health problems could help to explain his disappearance.

The nation celebrates his arrival, but Bergdahl's release is not without a price. Five Taliban officials are scheduled to be released from Guantanamo Bay detention center and transported to Qatar. Here, the five are required to spend one year, and will be monitored to some extent.

Those safeguards are not enough to prevent their return to extremism, according to some conservative members of Congress, namely Californian Representative Howard McKeon and Oklahoman Senator James Inhofe. The two have become outspoken critics of the White House's secret negotiations.

Among their concerns--Congress was not notified about the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees a month in advance as per federal law, and the move to bring Bergdahl out of harm's way broke a longstanding American policy of not negotiating with terror groups.

In the years since his son's capture, Robert Bergdahl has learned Pashto, the language widely spoken in Afghanistan. Using this new skill set, R. Bergdahl has made efforts to speak with Taliban members to arrange his son's release.

According to officials, B. Bergdahl has spoken relatively no English in the past five years and he is having difficulty communicating in his native tongue. His father will help him in the meantime, as he adjusts to civilian life in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

55 Convicted in Mass Trial in China's Northwest

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:36 p.m. DST, 1 June 2014

"Harmony in Urumqi #2" Photo by: David Vilder

XINJIANG UYGHUR  - In China’s Xinjiang stadium packed with 7,000 observers, 55 people were convicted of terrorism, murder, and separatism. At least one convict was given a death sentence. One man was jailed for 15 years after preaching holy war to his son and another man. Another was given five years in prison for ethnically discriminatory comments he made in chat groups. Three defendants were convicted of using “extremely cruel methods” to kill four people, including a 3-year-old girl on April 20, 2013.

China used mass trials in the Cultural Revolution and again in the 1980s and 90s to combat the rise in crime due to social upheavals related to China’s economic overhaul, but the practice has since faded from use. The AP says, “Such sentencing rallies — designed to humiliate the accused and feed a public thirst for retribution — were formerly common across China, but have in recent years been mostly restricted to Xinjiang and the neighboring restive region of Tibet.”

These convicts are reported to be Uighurs, members of the region’s biggest Muslim minority group. They are Turkic Central Asian people related to Khazaks and Uzbeks. With different accents and slightly European features, they are recognized as distinctly different from China’s Jan majority. Uighurs face discrimination, restrictions on culture and religion, and economic disenfranchisement, and they are increasingly fighting for independence for their northwestern homeland of Xinjiang, an area that borders Afghanistan. The Chinese government claims the unrest amongst the Uighurs is due to extremist groups with ties to Islamic terrorist groups abroad, though experts dispute this.

In the mainly Muslim area of Xinjiang, last week 43 people were killed and 90 wounded, in a vegetable market in Urumqi after two SUVs rammed through shoppers and set off explosives. The Xinjiang regional government said the early morning attack was “a serious violent terrorist incident of a particularly vile nature”. This is the second attack in Urumqi in 3 weeks, after a bomb killed one and wounded 79 in a train station in April.

On Tuesday police in southwestern Xinjiang arrested five people in relation to a bomb plot. The government has detained more than 200 people this month and 23 extremist groups have been broken up. Additionally, the Yili branch of the Xinjiang High Court, announced that 65 people were arrested and detained for offenses including separatism and covering up crimes and rape. In March 2014, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in Yunnana. All of these attacks are blamed on Uighur extremists.

Uighur’s have been increasingly facing harassment by the police after a suicide SUV attack at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Five have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in this “carefully planned terrorism,” police revealed. Knives, iron rods, and a flag with religious slogans were found in the vehicle used in this attack. Dozens were injured, and three of the car’s occupants and two bystanders were killed. If proved to be carried out by Uighurs, this is the first attack outside the Xinjiang region in recent history.

China has declared a year-long campaign against terrorism.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

The Efficacy of Drone Assassinations

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 04:35 a.m. DST, 24 May 2014

"Protest against US wars and drone attacks" Photo by: Fibonacci Blue

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The White House announced this week that it will release classified documents about the planning and justification behind drone attacks that killed four American expatriates in 2011.

Growing pressure from a bipartisan array of Senators and legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were instrumental in the forthcoming publication, which will be made available in the coming weeks.

2011 was a deadly year for American citizens living in the Middle East. In September, Anwar al-Awlaki and his affiliate Samir Khan were killed during a drone strike in Yemen. Both men were proud al-Qaeda operatives, but Khan was not targeted in the unmanned attack. However, his death was seen as a bonus for Washington, who was aware that Khan's role in al-Qaeda included writing and editing for the English-language al-Qaeda magazine Inspire.

Days later, al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a similar fashion when a remotely piloted aircraft took his life, supposedly by accident. Abdulrahman was born in Denver, Colorado and had been living with his father in Yemen until late September. Additionally, a November offensive in Pakistan killed U.S. citizen Jude Kenan Mohammad via aerial fire.

It was all but inevitable that the United States would pursue the elder al-Awlaki, who had a hand in the 9/11 terror plot and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Publicly, he spoke out against the September 11th attacks as a misuse of Islam and participated in interviews with The New York Times under the guise of a moderate Muslim. All the while, al-Awlaki was leading a secret life of hateful blogging, where he encouraged violence against Israeli and American citizens.

However, as heinous as his duplicity, no one expected his teenage son to be targeted and killed by drone attacks weeks after al-Awlaki's elimination. Military coordinators claim the heavy shelling that killed the young al-Awlaki was unintentional, a tactic often employed to excuse drone hostility gone wrong. Despite this feigned contrition, drone operators subsequently killed five students and three teachers in the Khyber-Pakhtunkwah Province of Pakistan in November 2013.

I am not sure which is worse -- a callous disregard of this tragedy or the inept military strategy behind it. Though the actions of the adults targeted and killed by the drones was equally and morally reprehensible; as American citizens they had the right to due process, and if found guilty, imprisonment.

The American military's silence on this matter is consistent with a policy that tacitly condones the use of remote control assassination machines despite the collateral damage of innocent bystanders. This article does not serve as a blanket indictment of U.S. military strategies that serve to protect its citizenry from terrorism, but it does advocate for the need of greater transparency.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Africa's Christians Under Attack

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:05 PM EDT, 30 April 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya - In recent months, across Africa, Christian sects have been under attack from extremist. On Sunday, 29 April 2012, a church in Ngara was bombed leaving one person confirmed dead and 16 others seriously injured.

Although the US embassy warned of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks in the country, specific targets were not identified. The lone attacker is said to have entered God’s House of Miracles International Church with other worshipers, at which point he hurled a grenade toward the front pews before hastily retreating toward the exit.

Police immediately launched an investigation while many of the victims were taken to be treated at the Guru Nanak and Kenyatta National hospitals. Unlike the conflict between radical Islamists and Christians in northern Nigeria, the terrorist’s attacks in Kenya are primarily a reaction to Kenya’s incursion into Somalia in October 2011 when troops were dispatched to fight al-Shabab fighter.

Terrorist attacks like the Sunday church bombings in Kenya and Nigeria seem to be the favored method of expressing dissatisfaction with the government. Prior to the Ngara bombing, there was a grenade attack on a church service in Mtwapa, Mombasa that left one person dead and ten others seriously injured.

From East Africa to West Africa, the incidence of sectarian violence is escalating. Previously, we reported on the rising conflict between Christians and extremist Islamic factions in northern Nigeria’s Kano State. The radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram has in recent months unleashed bloody attacks on Christians and other non-Islamic sects as they seek to impose Sharia law in Nigeria.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, is widely believed to be Boko Haram's base of operations and has the highest number of incidents of violence against Christians, police, and the military. Thus, the Monday 30 April 2012, Kano church attack by Boko Haram, a day after the Nairobi bombing was surprising.

The Nigerian attack was carried out by gunmen on motorcycles who hurled small homemade bombs into a university lecture hall where church services were being conducted. A total of 19 people were injured or killed in Boko Haram attacks on Christians in Maiduguri and Kano on both Sunday and Monday.

According to an official presidential statement, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the murderous terrorist attack on the Bayero University Campus in Kano yesterday and the "brutal killing of innocent worshipers by vicious assailants." However, many Nigerians believe that Goodluck has not been forceful enough in his efforts to eradicate Boko Haram and restore peace in the North.

The Vatican has also condemned the incidents. “The new terrorist attacks in Kenya and Nigeria at Christian celebrations are horrible and despicable acts,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

“We must be close to victims and communities that suffer just as they are peacefully celebrating a faith that wants love and peace for all,” he said. “We must encourage the whole population.... not to give in to the temptation to fall into the vicious circle of homicidal hatred,” he added. (Source: Independent Catholic News)