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The Russia News

August 8, 2022 1:34 pm

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1. Russia

“russia france” – Google News: Armenian attack kills 12 civilians in Ganja, Azerbaijan – Anadolu Agency

Armenian attack kills 12 civilians in Ganja, Azerbaijan  Anadolu Agency

“russia france” – Google News

1. Russia

“Nato Russia” – Google News: Atlantic Council: “End the Russian veto on Georgian accession” –

Atlantic Council: “End the Russian veto on Georgian accession”

“Nato Russia” – Google News

1. Russia

Voice of America – English: Concern US Downplaying Al-Qaida Threat in Afghanistan

There are growing concerns the United States is vastly underestimating al-Qaida’s strength and influence in Afghanistan, even as the White House continues to talk about ever more ambitious deadlines for bringing home U.S. troops still stationed in the country.

Specifically, international terrorism officials, as well as Afghan officials, point to a widening gap between U.S. assessments of a significantly diminished al-Qaida and their own, which see a terror group that is strengthening its grip despite absorbing numerous blows.

“Senior figures remain in Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of armed operatives,” Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of the United Nations monitoring team for Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, said Friday during a webinar on the future of Afghanistan.

“[Al-Qaida leader] Ayman al-Zawahiri remains close to the Taliban,” he said, adding, “The Taliban regularly consulted with al-Qaida during the negotiations with the United States and they offered informal guarantees that would honor their historic ties with al-Qaida.”

The warning of a retrenched al-Qaida is not entirely new.

A U.N. report issued this past July warned the group “is covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces,” adding it likely commands 400 to 600 fighters.

U.N. member states have further warned of additional armed support from al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), an affiliate that is thought to have another 150 to 200 fighters in Afghanistan’s Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Afghan officials have, likewise, cast doubt on reports that the threat from the terror group has faded.

Instead, they argue their intelligence shows the Taliban have used ongoing peace talks with the United States to strengthen their ties to al-Qaida and others.

“The Taliban try to use these groups and organizations more than before in fighting inside Afghanistan,” Zia Seraj, the acting head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan spy agency, said in May.

US threat assessment

While international and Afghan counterterror officials see a growing threat, a number of key U.S. officials continue to portray al-Qaida in Afghanistan as a fading power.

During a virtual talk at the Washington-based Atlantic Council in September, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there are “fewer than 200 al-Qaida left in Afghanistan.”

Days later, National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller went even further in written testimony submitted to lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee.

“Al-Qaida’s presence in Afghanistan has been reduced to a few dozen fighters who are primarily focused on their survival,” Miller asserted, adding the terror group is “probably incapable of conducting attacks outside the country under sustained CT [counterterrorism] pressure.”

One international counterterrorism official, though, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called such optimistic pronouncements “hugely problematic.” Others warn the U.S. is making a mistake by failing to account for substantial support from a vast majority of the 10,000 foreign fighters currently in Afghanistan.

Still other officials and experts fear the U.S. assessments of a “few dozen” al-Qaida fighters are not intended to be accurate, but rather to align with repeated calls by U.S. President Donald Trump to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

“It’s just not credible to say that there are only a few dozen al-Qaida guys running around Afghanistan,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“That’s clearly undercounting for your own policy desires,” he said, cautioning that the U.S. has long been guilty of sharing overly optimistic assessments of al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

“There are so many pronouncements made by the military on al-Qaida’s strength in Afghanistan that were wrong over the years,” he said, noting earlier U.S. estimates of as few as 50 operatives. “They just go from one inaccurate assessment to another.”

‘Relationship with al-Qaida’

But Joscelyn added even the U.N. estimates of 400 to 600 al-Qaida operatives might be too low.

“The Pakistani Taliban is known to have a very tight relationship with al-Qaida,” Joscelyn said. “How many of the Pakistani Taliban guys…are dual-hatted, they’re also al-Qaida guys? Nobody can tell you, but we know that some of them are.”

Even within U.S. military and intelligence circles, there is some skepticism that al-Qaida is barely hanging on – thanks in part to ongoing support from the Taliban despite pledges to counter the threat.

“They have taken steps. But this is unfinished business from my point of view,” U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been spearheading peace talks with the Taliban, told the U.S. Institute for Peace last month. “They need to take more.”

Still, Khalilzad insisted al-Qaida fighters “are a very small number.”

“They are mostly focused on survival because we are hunting for them,” he said.

Mirwais Rahmani of VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this story.

Download video:

Voice of America – English

1. Russia

Voice of America – English: Women’s March Planned in Cities Across US Amid Pandemic

The Women’s March returns to cities across the United States on Saturday, with organizers hoping thousands will turn out despite the pandemic.

Organizers of the march in Washington are focusing on a range of left-leaning political issues, including urging Americans to vote President Donald Trump out of office and protesting the Supreme Court nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett, following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

According to a permit issued by the National Park Service, organizers expect between 6,000 and 10,000 people to gather on Freedom Plaza for a midday rally, followed by a march to the Supreme Court.

Also Saturday, a counterprotest organized by a conservative women’s group will take place at the Supreme Court. The Independent Women’s Forum plans an “I’m With Her” rally in support of Barrett’s confirmation.

The Women’s March organizers said they are encouraging mask wearing and social distancing because of the pandemic. They also say they are discouraging attendance from people who live in coronavirus hot spots and are asking people around the country to join in local marches instead of traveling long distances.

Hundreds of similar rallies and events are expected to take place Saturday throughout the country, with some set to take place virtually or be held via car caravan because of the pandemic. One march is set to begin at Cornell University, where Ginsburg attended college.

The march comes as Senate Republicans plan to begin voting next week on the confirmation of Barrett, who, if confirmed, would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority. Democrats have expressed concern that Barrett could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling upholding a woman’s right to an abortion.

The first women’s march was held in 2017 when millions of people rallied to protest the inauguration of Trump. Subsequent marches have since focused on electing more women to local, state and national offices.

Voice of America – English

1. Russia

Voice of America – English: Campaign Ads Blitz Television and Social Media

Presidential campaign ads on TV and social media target voters with different messages designed for different media platforms. VOA’s Steve Redisch explains the messaging campaign.

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Voice of America – English

1. Russia

Voice of America – English: Losing Ground to Biden, Trump Courts Seniors

On Friday, President Donald Trump campaigned in Florida — a state with one of the highest populations of elderly voters — promising that he would protect American seniors from the coronavirus pandemic. Trump handily won senior citizens’ votes in 2016, but the latest polls show that Democratic nominee Joe Biden is leading by a significant margin among Americans 65 and older. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has the story.

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Voice of America – English

1. Russia

Voice of America – English: Trump Changes Course, Approves Relief for 6 California Fires

President Donald Trump’s administration abruptly reversed course and approved California’s application for disaster relief funds to clean up damage from six recent deadly and destructive blazes that have scorched the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.

“Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request. Grateful for his quick response,” Newsom said in a brief statement.

Neither he nor the White House immediately gave details on why the administration shifted positions only hours after it initially denied the state’s request for a declaration that officials said could provide the state with hundreds of millions of dollars.

White House spokesperson Judd Deere previously said California’s request “was not supported by the relevant data” needed for approval and that Trump agreed with a recommendation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator to reject the declaration.

“The Governor and (GOP) Leader (Kevin) McCarthy spoke and presented a convincing case and additional on-the-ground perspective for reconsideration leading the president to approve the declaration,” Deere said in a statement after Trump’s change of heart.

30-page request

The state had planned to appeal the denial and believed it had a strong case, Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson with the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said before the reversal.

Newsom had asked for the major disaster declaration on Sept. 28 to cover fires in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, San Bernardino, San Diego and Siskiyou counties.

The 30-page request described the disasters and pointed out that damage assessments were incomplete because the fires were still raging and access was difficult.

Federal major disaster declarations allow for cost-sharing for damage, cleanup and rebuilding between the state and federal governments. They also activate relief programs led by FEMA.

The dispute surfaced as a representative of one fire-stricken area warned that time was running out to clean up debris before rain and snow arrived, bringing the threat of mudslides and toxins being washed into a river watershed.

Denials of relief are rare, and Newsom, a Democrat, has previously praised the Republican administration for approving aid related to the fires and the coronavirus pandemic. The White House said Trump quickly approved wildfire relief that was supported by damage estimates.

‘They may have made a mistake’

Among the fires listed in the now-approved aid application is the Creek Fire, which erupted in the Sierra Nevada on Sept. 4 and is 60% contained after burning 850 homes and more than 1,391 square kilometers in Fresno and Madera counties.

Republican state Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno said before the reversal that he had consulted with area congressional offices.

“I have gotten encouraging response that FEMA is beginning to understand that they may have made a mistake here,” he said.

Patterson said, however, there was no time to waste on bureaucratic finger-pointing and lauded the state Office of Emergency Services for pushing ahead with funding from a California disaster law in which the state will pay 75% and counties pay 25%.

“Obviously, the problem is our clock is ticking and time is running out, and we’re going to see rain pretty soon, snow pretty soon,” he told an online briefing. “If we don’t get into those areas quickly, we’re going to miss this window and we’re going to end up seeing mudslides where this toxic debris goes into the San Joaquin River watershed.”

No major new fires were reported statewide early Friday, but warnings of dangerously hot, dry and gusty conditions that can fan fires were expected to remain in effect until the evening. Nearly 9,000 firefighters remain on the lines of 21 fires.

Near San Francisco’s international airport, crews were battling a smoky grass fire burning on a highly visible hill with an iconic sign welcoming people to “South San Francisco.” The city of nearly 70,000 people said on social media that authorities were on the scene and evacuation instructions would follow if needed.

Disastrous season

It has been a disastrous wildfire season in California, with more than 8,500 blazes burning more than 16,000 square kilometers since the start of the year. Thirty-one people have died, and some 9,200 buildings have been destroyed.

Thousands of Northern California residents remained without electricity Friday after a utility cut off service to prevent the latest round of powerful winds from damaging equipment and sparking wildfires amid a fall heat wave.

All electricity was expected to be restored by late Friday, PG&E said.

The utility better targeted outages this time after it was criticized in 2019 for cutting power to about 800,000 customers and leaving about 2 million people in the dark for days.

Most of this year’s fires have occurred since mid-August, when an unusual siege of thousands of lightning strikes ignited huge blazes.

The causes of two fires that broke out in September remain under investigation. PG&E equipment is being examined in connection with the Zogg Fire in Northern California, and Southern California Edison equipment is under scrutiny in the Bobcat Fire near Los Angeles.

Voice of America – English

1. Russia

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Rejects Putin’s Proposal On Nuclear Disarmament Treaty As ‘Non-Starter’

The United States says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to extend the New START nuclear disarmament treaty without freezing nuclear warheads is a “non-starter.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

1. Russia

News: Woman who killed pregnant victim and cut baby from womb to be executed


1. Russia

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Missile Strike On Residential Area Of Azerbaijani City Kills Six In Latest Fighting Over Nagorno-Karabakh

A missile strike in the early hours of October 17 hit a residential area in Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, killing six people and demolishing at least one building while people inside were sleeping.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty