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Daesh, Al-Qaeda Are Dangerous Threats for Afghanistan: Miller

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(Last Updated On: May 21, 2019)

The top commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan General Austin Scott Miller on Tuesday said that Daesh and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups are threats to Afghanistan, the region, and the world.

Without giving any detail about the number of Daesh and Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan, Gen. Miller said both organizations have capabilities and Al-Qaeda fighters are seen in different parts of the war-torn country.

Speaking with the reporters in Kabul, Miller said that the U.S. is working with Afghan security forces to focus on the future.

He described Daesh as a very dangerous organization for Afghanistan, adding that Afghan and American forces need to pay close attention to what Daesh is doing and apply pressure on them.

Miller was asked if ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is hiding out in Afghanistan, he said: “I don’t know that Baghdadi is present in Afghanistan”.

In addition, the top U.S. general said that he has participated in direct talks between the U.S. and Taliban negotiators in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

“I participated in parts of the Doha discussions and my primary focus was looking for ways to reduce violence as we have been asked by the people of Afghanistan,” Miller said, “Intra-Afghan dialogue is going to be very important to the peace process.”

The remarks come after a top Russian security official claimed that ISIS terrorist group’s offshoot in Afghanistan has amassed at least 5,000 fighters close to CIS border in North of Afghanistan.

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Taliban attack security outposts in Sar-e-Pul and Paktia, killing Five

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2020)

The Taliban militants attacked outposts of the Afghan security forces in Sar-e-Pul province, killing at least four soldiers and wounding nearly 20 others.

Sources told Ariana News that the insurgents stormed, attempted to overrun the outposts on the main highway at the center of the province. 

According to the sources, at least 20 Taliban fighters were killed or wounded in the counterattack.

The Afghan forces have pushed back the attack. Abdu Horaira, a Taliban commander, was among the deaths, and the group’s designated district governor was also wounded in the clashes, sources noted.

Meanwhile, the Taliban late on Wednesday night attacked security checkpoints in Paktia province as well, the Afghan army confirmed. 

Aimal Momand, a spokesperson for 203 Thunder Corps told Ariana News that the group carried out attacks in Gardiz city, and Samkani, Ibrahim Khel, and Zurmat districts and resistance the Afghan forces.

In the counterattack at least 9 militants were killed and 11 more wounded, Momand said.

Momand confirmed that an Afghan soldier was killed and five more were injured in clashes with the militants.

The Taliban yet comment about the incidents.

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Australia media reveals new war crimes as country braces for report

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2020)

This week, Australian media reported on new war crimes allegedly committed by Australia’s Special Air Services (SAS) troops in Afghanistan, including the mass murder of unarmed civilians and planting weapons on the bodies of civilians to cover up unlawful killings.

This comes just weeks before the expected release of a report by the Australian military on findings following a four-year investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country’s participation in the US-led war in Afghanistan.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) carried out its own investigation and this week reported that SAS troops had killed as many as 10 unarmed Afghan civilians during a December 2012 operation in Kandahar province.

ABC reported that the raid involved both SAS troops and Afghan special forces while searching for Taliban insurgents.

One local farmer, Abdul Qadus, told ABC there “there were three Taliban in nomad houses.”

“They resisted and were killed. But then [the SAS] killed other people, civilians,” said Qadus.

He also told ABC that his brother Adbul Salim had also been shot dead.

“At the time he was carrying a load of onions; he was taking them to the city,” said Qadus.

“There were some other people with him as well… I saw them being shot and killed.”

“Another one was my cousin, who was sitting and packing onions when they shot and killed him,” Qadus added.

Another villager identified only by his first name Rahmatullah said that the Australians came after him. “They were shooting people intentionally,” he said. “They were mass shooting.”

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) has spent the past four years investigating rumors and allegations of war crimes committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan and investigators are looking into more than 55 separate incidents of alleged breaches of the rules of war between 2005 and 2016.

According to ABC, more than 330 people have so far given evidence to the inquiry.

The IGADF report is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

In a separate report this week, ABC stated that members of the SAS 3 Squadron allegedly planted the same AK-47 rifle on the bodies of two different Afghan civilians killed in May 2012.

ABC started the rifle was easily identifiable because it had teal-colored tape wrapped around its stock.

Three Afghans were killed in the raid but SAS claimed they were all insurgents. However, Australian sources and the families of the victims say that while one of the dead men was a Taliban fighter, the other two were civilians.

In March, ABC reported former SAS operative Braden Chapman as having said he witnessed soldiers in SAS patrols commit executions in cold blood.

Chapman first deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, but spoke to ABC about the horrors he witnessed.

“When you’re back at the unit, people would make jokes about the size of the rug that they’ve swept everything under, and that one day it’ll all come out and people are going to be thrown in jail for murder or anything else that they’ve done,” Chapman told ABC.

These new reports come only two weeks after Australian Special Operations Commander Major-General Adam Findlay admitted that SAS soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Findlay blamed “poor moral leadership up the chain of command” for the crimes and hailed the “moral courage” of SAS members who blew the whistle on their fellow soldiers’ unlawful acts.

Findlay said that a “small number of commissioned officers had allowed a culture where abhorrent conduct was permitted,” and that “a handful of experienced soldiers including patrol commanders and deputy patrol commanders… had enabled this culture to exist.”

The commander added that “war crimes may have been covered up.”

Three years ago, hundreds of pages of secret defense force documents were leaked to ABC – documents that gave an unprecedented insight into the clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan.

Some of the cases detailed in the documents are being investigated.

The documents, many marked AUSTEO — Australian Eyes Only — suggest a growing unease at the highest levels of defense about the culture of Australia’s special forces, ABC reported.

One document from 2014 refers to ingrained “problems” within special forces, an “organizational culture” including a “warrior culture” and a willingness by officers to turn a blind eye to poor behavior.

Another document refers to a “desensitization” and “drift in values” among elite Special Air Service soldiers serving in Afghanistan, while others allude to deep divisions between the two elite units which primarily comprise the special forces – the SAS based in Perth and 2 Commando Regiment based in Sydney, ABC reported.

A large proportion of the documents reports on at least 10 incidents between 2009-2013 in which special forces troops shot dead insurgents, but also unarmed men and children.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to comment on any of the recent revelations, saying he does not want to involve himself in the independent investigation.

However, his government is reportedly prosecuting whistleblower David McBride, a former military lawyer who allegedly leaked classified material to ABC documenting at least 10 potential war crimes.

Police have now referred allegations against an ABC journalist relating to the Afghan Files to prosecutors, the public broadcaster says.

ABC managing director David Anderson said this month it was a “disappointing and disturbing development” and the broadcaster was fully backing its reporter, Dan Oakes, who wrote a series of stories around the Afghan Files.

“The allegations concern Dan’s reporting on the series of stories published by the ABC in 2017 known as the Afghan Files. They were also what prompted the AFP’s extraordinary raid on the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters last year,” he said.

“This is a disappointing and disturbing development. The Afghan Files is factual and important reporting which exposed allegations about Australian soldiers committing war crimes in Afghanistan. Its accuracy has never been challenged.”

“The ABC fully backs Dan and we will continue to support him however we can. Doing accurate journalism that is clearly in the public interest should not be an offence,” Anderson said.

Oakes meanwhile tweeted earlier this month that whether or not he was eventually charged, “the most important thing is that those who broke our laws and the laws of armed conflict are held to account. Our nation should be better.”

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Twitter hacking spree sets off alarm bells

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2020)

The extraordinary hacking spree that hit Twitter on Wednesday, leading it to briefly muzzle some of its most widely followed accounts, is drawing questions about the platform’s security and resilience in the run-up to the US presidential election.

Twitter said late Wednesday hackers obtained control of employee credentials to hijack accounts including those of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, former president Barack Obama, reality television star Kim Kardashian, and tech billionaire and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

In a series of tweets, the company said: “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”

The hackers then “used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf.”

The company statements confirmed the fears of security experts that the service itself – rather than users – had been compromised.

Twitter’s role as a critical communications platform for political candidates and public officials, including President Donald Trump, has led to fears that hackers could wreak havoc with the November 3 presidential election or otherwise compromise national security.

Adam Conner, vice president for technology policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, said on Twitter: “This is bad on July 15 but would be infinitely worse on November 3rd.”

Posing as celebrities and the wealthy, the hackers asked followers to send the digital currency bitcoin to a series of addresses.

By evening, 400 bitcoin transfers were made worth a combined US$120,000. Half of the victims had funds in US bitcoin exchanges, a quarter in Europe and a quarter in Asia, according to forensics company Elliptic.

Those transfers left history that could help investigators identify the perpetrators of the hack. The financial damage may be limited because multiple exchanges blocked other payments after their own Twitter accounts were targeted.

The damage to Twitter’s reputation may be more serious. Most troubling to some was how long the company took to stop the bad tweets.

“Twitter’s response to this hack was astonishing. It’s the middle of the day in San Francisco, and it takes them five hours to get a handle on the incident,” said Dan Guido, CEO of security company Trail of Bits.

An even worse scenario was that the bitcoin fraud was a distraction for more serious hacking, such as harvesting the direct messages of the account holders.

Twitter said it was not yet certain what the hackers may have done beyond sending the bitcoin messages.

“We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it,” the company said.

Mass compromises of Twitter accounts via theft of employee credentials or problems with third-party applications that many users employ have occurred before.

Wednesday’s hack was the worst to date. Several users with two-factor authentication – a security procedure that helps prevent break-in attempts – said they were powerless to stop it.

“If the hackers do have access to the backend of Twitter, or direct database access, there is nothing potentially stopping them from pilfering data in addition to using this tweet-scam as a distraction,” said Michael Borohovski, director of software engineering at security company Synopsys.

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