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Leaked Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Email suggests Gulf Allies’ Support for Islamic State Terrorist Group

The accusation is one among thousands of messages that were stolen from the personal email of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and released on the Wikileaks website

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FILE- Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing, claimed by the Islamic State group, of a Shiite mosque are seen attached to their graves at a cemetery in Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2015. VOA

Foreign policy experts and analysts say they are perplexed by a hacked email in which Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to accuse the Saudi and Qatari governments of providing logistical and financial support to Islamic State extremists.

The accusation is one among thousands of messages that were stolen from the personal email of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and released on the Wikileaks website.

The lengthy message is dated Aug. 17, 2014, and comes from the email address “hrod17@clintonemail.com.” It begins with a note saying “Sources include Western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” and comprises a broad policy discussion of how to deal with Middle East terrorism.

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It says in part, “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” ISIL is an acronym used by the U.S. government for Islamic State.

Clinton’s presidential campaign did not respond to several attempts and requests by VOA to verify the authenticity of the emails released by WikiLeaks.

More specificity

While Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies, or individuals close to their governments, have long been suspected of financing extremist groups in the region, this accusation is more specific than anything uttered publicly by the Obama administration. It also is bewildering to terrorism experts, however, including some in the U.S. intelligence community, who say they never have seen evidence of direct Saudi or Qatari support for IS.

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“I have myself [during my term] never seen intelligence from the United States government that says the Saudi government, the government, is giving any help of any kind, any material assistance, any financial assistance, to a terrorist group,” former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told VOA on Wednesday.

Ford added, “However, there is a lot of information about Saudi private individuals, including charities, and particular business people, as well as others in the Gulf, private citizens, who have provided help.”

He said that he was not convinced the leaked emails were “genuine,” and that he could not “speculate” on the motivation behind the leak.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question during a news conference with then-Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiya at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Sept. 8, 2013. VOA
FILE – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question during a news conference with then-Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiya at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Sept. 8, 2013. VOA

Washington has viewed the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as strong partners in the Gulf area for regional security and counterterrorism efforts, and it has argued that terrorist financing comes from wealthy individuals, rather than governments.

“I think we’ve seen over the past 10 years a huge shift in the Saudis’ approach to terrorist financing. And I really do regard them as our number one partner in the Gulf in our efforts against terrorist financing,” Daniel Glaser, assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing, said last Thursday in a webcast from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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In a statement to VOA on Wednesday, the Saudi Embassy said “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not comment on leaked documents. However, any claims that the Saudi government funds Daesh [IS] are preposterous and simply defy logic.”

The statement used an alternative name for Islamic State terrorist group.

According to the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, issued this June, both the Saudi and Qatari governments are members of a regional financial action task force that combats terrorist financing.

‘Appropriate’ to review

A former senior congressional staff member, though, who wished not to be named, argued that a policy review on the Gulf allies would be “appropriate.”

One of the tools that could be used to accomplish this is that Congress could authorize the president through legislation to designate a country as a “Jurisdiction of Terrorism Financing Concern.” That designation triggers a menu of penalties and provides the president with additional leverage to pressure foreign governments that are failing to shut down terrorist financiers and facilitators.

“The Saudis and Qataris know very well the suspicion of their intentions and their actions exists in the U.S.,” Middle East Institute scholar Daniel Serwer told VOA, adding that Washington has yet to “reach any definitive conclusion” about how to stabilize the situation and reduce the level of violence, given a policy that “has not been stupendously successful” in the Middle East.

While expressing concerns about Wikileaks, the State Department declined to comment on the veracity of the leaked documents.

“What I can tell you is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are members of the counter-ISIL coalition and have been contributing members of that coalition pretty much since its founding,” said spokesman John Kirby in a recent briefing.

Kirby added, “We rely a great deal on their efforts to help us counter terrorism in the region,” particularly the Islamic State militants.

FILE - Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students, faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 2, 2014. VOA
FILE – Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students, faculty and staff at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 2, 2014. VOA

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden once apologized to regional allies after bluntly expressing concerns about their role in the rise of the Islamic State militant group in a speech at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“The Saudis, the Emirates, et cetera,” said Biden, “what were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad, and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied, [they] were al-Nusra, and al-Qaida, and the extremist elements of jihadis who were coming from other parts of the world.”

These policies ended up helping militants linked to al-Qaida and ultimately IS, according to Biden.

Bilateral tension

Glaser’s praise for Saudi Arabia as the number one U.S. partner in combating terrorist financing came at a time of serious strain between Washington and Riyadh over other issues.

The U.S. is reviewing its support for the monarchy after the Saudi bombing of civilians at a funeral in Yemen.

Moreover, the U.S. Congress has voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (VOA)

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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Supports Releasing Russia-linked Advertisements

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Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivers a speech during the visit of a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F, in Paris. voa

Washington, October 12: Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday she “absolutely” supports the public release of all advertisements produced by a Russia-linked organization during the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg said the company is “working on transparency” following the revelation last month that a group with alleged ties to the Russian government ran $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook promoting “divisive” causes like Black Lives Matter.

“Things happened on our platform that shouldn’t have happened,” she said during the interview with Axios’s Mike Allen.

Later Thursday, Facebook Chief Operating Officer is set to meet with Congressional investigators who are looking into what role the advertisements which began running in 2015 and continued through this year may have played in the 2016 presidential election.

The $100,000 worth of ads represent a very small fraction of the total $2.3 billion spent by, and on behalf of, President Donald Trump and losing-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaigns during the election.

Multiple congressional investigations have been launched, seeking to determine what effect alleged Russian meddling may have played in the election.

In addition, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a criminal probe, including whether President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the election season. Trump has denied working with the Russians.

Facebook had previously agreed to disclose the thousands of Facebook ads to congress. Sandberg said Thursday she thinks “it’s important that [the investigators] get the whole picture and explain that to the American people.”

In response to the Russian ad buys, Facebook Chief Operating Officer said that company is hiring 4,000 new employees to oversee ads and content. She said the company is also using “machine learning and automation” to target fake accounts that spread fake news.

She defined fake news as “things that are false hoaxes” and said Facebook is working to stamp out the bad information by teaming up with third-party fact checkers and warning users before they share news deemed fake by Facebook.

She said it is important to be cautious when going after fake news because “a lot of what we allow on Facebook is people expressing themselves” and “when you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people.”

“We don’t check the information posted on Facebook before people post it, and I don’t think people should want us to,” she said.

Hundreds of fake accounts were used to distribute the Russia-linked advertisements, Sandberg said. But had those ads been posted by legitimate users, “we would have let them run,” she said.(VOA)

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Hillary Clinton finds Yoga, Alternate Nostril Breathing helpful for Relaxation

Hillary Clinton has found alternate nostril breathing yoga technique as a mantra for relaxation and peace after her loss in 2016 Presidential elections to Donald Trump.

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Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton VOA

Washington, October 12, 2017 : Hillary Clinton has demonstrated on national television how to perform yoga through alternate nostril breathing exercise. It is quite interesting to see Hillary Clinton has discovered the mantra to deal with stress.

In the aftermath of United States Presidential elections 2016, Hillary finds sitting cross legged on a yoga mat and practicing long inhale and exhale breathing techniques quite helpful. Hilary mentioned that she has been practicing it for quite some time and it has come across as a very helpful way.

The Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton has recommended yoga for everyone to try for relaxation. Yoga is an ancient Indian technique of pre-Vedic Indian tradition that involves physical, mental and spiritual training to relax the mind and body. Promoting the idea of practicing yoga for relaxation seems to be working well for Hillary, who found a new way out to live life and find peace after her loss to Donald Trump in 2016.

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)