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Chiefs of Defence (CHOD) Conference Kabul – Afghanistan
(by AP): The Afghan capital is hosting the regional military chiefs for a conference to discuss cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Daulat Waziri told RFE/RL that the chiefs of army staff of about 11-12 countries were attending the meeting, which he said was called by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Those attending were said to include CENTCOM chief General Joseph Votel, General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

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Path to regional peace and stability passes through Afghanistan: ‘Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’
KABUL: (13 Feb.) Gneral Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) attended the Chiefs of Defence (CHOD) Conference held at Kabul. Commander USCENTCOM, Commander Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and Army Chiefs of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also attended the conference, which decided to continue cooperation for peace and stability in the region.
Speaking at the occasion, General QamarJaved Bajwa reiterated that path to regional peace and stability passes through Afghanistan. The COAS said that regions develop as a whole and not as individual countries. He said that Pakistan has eliminated all terrorist sanctuaries from its soil, however, residual signatures of terrorists who take advantage of presence of 2.7 million Afghan refugees and absence of effective border security coordination, are also being traced and targeted through ongoing operation Rada ul Fasaad. He also assured that Pakistani territory is not allowed to be used against any other country and Pakistan expects the same in reciprocity. He said that collaborative approach and persistence is the answer to all challenges, for which Pakistan is ready to play its part.

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Pentagon: Afghan War Costs Taxpayers $45 Billion Annually
By MATTHEW PENNINGTON | WASHINGTON : Lawmakers, skeptical about the prospects of victory, grilled the Trump administration on the direction of the nation’s longest-running war, now in its 17th year. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing comes after a wave of shocking militant attacks in Kabul that killed more than 200 people. Randall Schriver, the Defense Department’s top Asia official, said the $45 billion total for the year includes $5 billion for Afghan forces and $13 billion for U.S. forces inside Afghanistan. Much of the rest is for logistical support. Some $780 million goes toward economic aid.
The costs now are still significantly lower than during the high point of the war in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2012, when the U.S. had as many as 100,000 soldiers in the country, the price for American taxpayers surpassed $100 billion each year. There are currently around 16,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
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‘Positive indicators’ from Pakistan on militants: Gen. Joseph
WASHINGTON (27 Feb.) : The U.S. military is seeing some “positive indicators” from Pakistan showing it is becoming more responsive to U.S. concerns about militant safehavens in the country but Islamabad has yet to make a strategic shift, a top U.S. general said.
“We are now beginning to see very positive indicators … that they are moving in the right direction,” said U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, citing unspecified Pakistani actions “on the ground.”
“It does not yet equal the decisive action that we would like to see them take in terms of a strategic shift, but they are positive indicators,” Votel told a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives. (Reuters)
16 Security Force Members Killed In ‘Insider’ Attack In Helmand
Afghanistan ( 11 Feb.) Officials said the security force member gunned down his colleagues at a security check post in Greshk district. Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack and said the suspect joined the group after fleeing the check post with his colleagues’ weapons.
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Insurgents kill more than 20 security forces in separate attacks in Afghanistan
KABUL (Feb. 24 ) More than 20 security forces were reported killed Saturday in attacks by Taliban militants in various parts of Afghanistan, including Kabul a sign of the insurgents’ resiliency despite a surge of offensives by U.S. and Afghan forces in recent months. In Kabul, a suicide bomber on foot detonated explosives attached to his body outside an intelligence agency office near the headquarters of NATO-led troops, Afghan officials said.

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Syrian air strikes and artillery fire in East Ghouta: Death toll enclave tops 500
DOUMA | 20 Feb. (AFP) – New air strikes on the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Saturday took the civilian death toll from seven days of devastating bombardment to more than 500 after the United Nations again delayed a vote on a ceasefire. A total of 127 children figure among the 510 dead in the bombing campaign that the regime launched last Sunday on the enclave just outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate end to hostilities in Ghouta so the sick and wounded can be evacuated. “I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population in eastern Ghouta 400,000 people that live in hell on earth,” he said to the U.N. Security Council. “I don’t think we can let things go on happening in this horrendous way. “
‘No signs of life’
Relentless air raids and artillery fired by Syrian government forces have left the residents of the Damascus suburb in a state of panic. Khalid Abulabed, a field doctor in the Damascus suburb, under siege since 2013, described the current situation as “crazy and catastrophic”.
Residents say there are no signs of life in the area – home to nearly 400,000 people – especially with the lack of basic necessities, including food and medicine. “We reached a point where we don’t even leave the house during these raids so that if we’re attacked, we die together,” said Shams.

Israeli F-16 jet shot down by Syria fire, says military
An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has been shot down by Syrian military while targeting what it called Iranian sites responsible for launching a drone into occupied Golan Heights. The Israeli military said that “a combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”. “IDF [Israel Defence Forces] has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the #UAV into Israeli airspace.
Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe,” Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, Israeli military spokesman, said . Israeli media said the jet crashed in northern Israel. “This is a dramatic development,” Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, said. “Israel has carried out dozens of attacks over the past one year but this is for the first time a Syrian military has shot down an Israeli plane,”.
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Russian Plane Crashes Near Moscow, Killing 71 People
(11Feb.) A plane operated by Russia’s Saratov Airlines crashed close to Moscow. According to Reuters, there were 65 passengers and six crew members onboard the plane which went missing from radars less than 10 minutes after taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. Russia’s TASS reported the plane was bound for the Russian city of Orsk in the Orenburg region that borders Kazakhstan. “Debris has been found, there are no survivors,” TASS quoted a source as saying.

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Iran Aseman Airlines Flight 3704 Crashed kills 65
Tehran (18 Feb.) Iran Aseman Airlines Flight 3704 was a scheduled Iranian domestic passenger flight from Tehranto Yasuj operated by Iran Aseman Airlines. On 18 February 2018, the aircraft serving the flight, an ATR 72-200, crashed into Mount Dena in the Zagros Mountains near Semirom, Isfahan Province ‘kills 59 Passenger and 6 crew members onboard’.
Iran officials find wreckage of deadly plane crash . “The plane had hit the top of the mountain before crashing 30 metres further down. Aseman Airlines blamed hazardous weather conditions for the crash, dismissing the possibility that it was the result of a technical failure.
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$30 billion pledged for Iraq reconstruction at Kuwait conference
By Rudaw 2 hours agoERBIL, Kurdistan Region Donors have pledged $30 billion in funds to rebuild Iraq post-ISIS at the Kuwait conference, Kuwait’s Foreign Minister announced. The pledges have come from 76 countries, numerous international funds and global organizations, said Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah. The amount is only about a third of what Iraq was seeking. Officials from Baghdad have estimated that rebuilding the country devastated by the war with ISIS will take between $80 and $100 billion. “We were hoping for more,” Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told AFP. “We are not disappointed, but the amount was less than expected.”
At the Kuwait conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the launch of a program to speed up reconstruction. The UN has appealed for $482 million for the first year of its two-year Recovery and Resilience Programme and $568 million for stabilization efforts in high-risk areas.

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Killing prompts return of Philippines workers from Kuwait
Manila, Philippines (Feb.14,2018) As many as 10,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait are expected to take up the Philippines government’s offer of a free flight home after the body of their compatriot was found stuffed in a freezer. President Duterte’s administration has ordered a ban on the deployment of overseas foreign workers to Kuwait after the deaths of several women, including 29-year-old ‘Joanna Demafelis’. Demafelis’ body was found Feb. 6 in a Kuwait City apartment that had reportedly been abandoned for more than a year. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said her body bore torture marks and there were indications she was strangled.
“I will sell my soul to the devil to look for money so that you can come home and live comfortably here,” Duterte said. The Philippines President said he was ready to take “drastic steps” to protect Filipinos working abroad. “We do not seek special treatment or privileges for our workers, but we do expect respect for their dignity and basic human rights,” The Philippines President Duterte said. As of Wednesday 14 Feb., more than 900 Philippines workers had returned on chartered flights, the country’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration told.
Kuwait has become a popular destination for Philippines overseas foreign workers in recent years. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said 276,000 Filipino workers were in the country in January. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, more than 2.2 million Philippines nationals worked overseas in 2016, 6.4% of whom were in Kuwait.

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China’s newest stealth drone takes to the sky for its maiden flight
(People’s Daily Online) Feb. 12, 2018| China’s top aircraft research center announced the successful test flight of the country’s newest stealth drone, a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that can fly under the radar. According to a We Chat account affiliated with China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), the main contractor and research center for the Chinese program, the stealth drone, dubbed “Tianying,” successfully conducted three test flights, four years after the drone program was first initiated. “Eighty percent of our drone’s technologies are the newest and most advanced, some of which are leading the global [drone] industry,” Ma Hongzhong, chief designer of the Tianying stealth drone, was quoted as saying by the WeChat account. Ma noted that the all advanced technologies used on the drone have gone through countless ground tests, while all design parameters have been thoroughly calculated and double-checked.


Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida:USA
Feb 16, 2018| A 19-year-old male suspect, Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Cruz, a former student at Stoneman Douglas, took an Uber to the school in afternoon. He was armed with an AR-15 rifle, law enforcement officials said, which he used to carry out his rampage. He fled the scene on foot, blending in with the rush of students pouring from the building. The massacre unfolded in less than 10 minutes, according to the timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff’s office. “That should not happen in Parkland. It should not happen anywhere in this country,” Broward County Public Schools superintendent Robert Runcie said. “We have got to find a way for this to stop.”

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U.S. Department of Defense: 21ST CENTURY NUCLEAR DETERREN Review 2018 (NPR)
DOD ANNOUNCES NEW NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW
In light of the realities of the contemporary threat environment, the 2018 NPR presents an assessment of US nuclear policy that is consistent with past US policy by placing priority on the need to deter potential adversaries, assure allies and partners, and hedge against future risks, while also seeking greater cooperation where possible in support of arms control and global non-proliferation efforts.
MISSILE DEFENSE REVIEW
President Trump directed Secretary Mattis to identify ways to strengthen missile defense capabilities, rebalance homeland and theater defense priorities, and provide the necessary policy and strategy framework for our nation’s missile defense systems. This review is ongoing
The strategic environment
The strategic environment has changed with the expanding capability of world actors. The future environment is less predictable and demands our national deterrence strategy accounts for the nature of this uncertainty.
NUCLEAR FORCES
The basis of strategic deterrence includes nuclear weapon-armed long-range aircraft, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarines, along with the vital communications elements the president of the United States uses to command and control these forces.
MISSILE DEFENSE
Missile defense protects the United States, its military forces abroad and its allies and partners from the threat of a ballistic missile attack by destroying such missiles in flight before they reach their intended target.
MODERNIZATION
Rebuilding and modernizing capabilities and infrastructure is essential to the continued effectiveness and resiliency of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

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US wasting billions on nuclear bombs that serve no purpose and are security liability experts
Julian Borger: Washington
A third of the B61 bombs in Europe under joint US and Nato control are thought to be kept at Incirlik base in Turkey, 70 miles from the Syrian border, which has been the subject of serious concerns. The threat to the base posed by Islamic State militants was considered serious enough in March 2016 to evacuate the families of military officers.
During a coup attempt four months later, Turkish authorities locked down the base and cut its electricity. The Turkish commanding officer at Incirlik was arrested for his alleged role in the plot. A report on the future of the B61 bombs by arms control advocacy group the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) , made available to the Guardian, said the 2016 events show “just how quickly assumptions about the safety and security of US nuclear weapons stored abroad can change”.
Since then, US-Turkish relations have soured further, largely over Washington’s support for Kurd forces in Syria. The national security adviser, HR McMaster, and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, have made trips to Turkey this week to try to heal the rift. There have been reports that the bombs have been quietly moved out because of safety concerns, but that has not been confirmed.
The remaining B61 bombs are stored at five other locations in four countries: Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks the weapons. The NTI report said it “should be assumed that they are targets for terrorism and theft”.
The bombs are the remnants of a much larger cold war nuclear arsenal in Europe, and critics have said they serve no military purpose, as the nuclear deterrent against Russia relies largely on the overwhelming US strategic missile arsenal.
Using the B61s in any conflict would involve an agreement between the US and the host country in consultation with other Nato members. “It is hard to envision the circumstances under which a US president would initiate nuclear use for the first time in more than 70 years with a Nato [dual-capable aircraft] flown by non-US pilots delivering a US B61 bomb,” said the NTI report, titled Building a Safe, Secure and Credible Nato Nuclear Posture. Since the cold war, the B61 has played a symbolic role, as reassurance for some Nato members of US commitment to defending Europe. They are also considered potential bargaining chips against Russia’s much greater arsenal of nearly 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons.

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Legendary Indian actress Sridevi dies of cardiac arrest
Sridevi Kapoor, best known by her mononym Sridevi and a major Bollywood star, died Saturday (Feb 24) night in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of cardiac arrest. She was 54. Sridevi and her family were in the UAE for a wedding, and she was reportedly with her husband, producer Boney Kapoor, and daughter Khushi at the time of her death.
She appeared in numerous films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, including Mr. India and Chandni. She took a 15-year hiatus beginning in 1997, but returned in 2012 with the blockbuster English Vinglish. Sridevi was nominated for 10 Filmfare Awards and won five. The government of India awarded her Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honor, in 2013.

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India increases defence budget by 7.81pc amid ‘growing border challenges’
NEW DELHI (Feb. 5, 2018) : India has hiked its defence budget by 7.81 percent to
Rs. 2.95 trillion against last year’s Rs. 2.74 trillion, amid “growing challenge” for the country’s armed forces on the borders with both Pakistan and China. But experts say the defence budget is inadequate to meet major modernization and infrastructure development programmes, maintaining that additional allocation is needed to enhance military preparedness.
In his budget address, Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government will develop two defence industrial production corridors and bring out an industry-friendly military production policy to promote defence manufacturing in India. The defence outlay works out to just about 1.58% of the South Asian country’s projected GDP and 12.10% of the total budget of Rs. 2,442,213 crore for 2018-19, the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China. Though this figure has been steadily declining in percentage terms as the economy expands, military experts contend it should be over 2.5% to ensure the armed forces are capable of tackling the “collusive threat” from Pakistan and China. The defence budget includes a capital outlay of just Rs. 99,563.86 crore for new weapon systems and modernization, which is dwarfed by the revenue expenditure (day-to-day running costs, salaries etc) of Rs. 1,95,947.55 crore. The defence budget does not include Rs. 1,08,853 crore separately allocated for defence pensions.

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India test fires medium-range nuclear capable Agni-II missile
(Feb. 20, 2018) : India test-fired its medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile with a strike range of 2,000 km from Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast, Defence sources said. The trial of the surface-to-surface missile was conducted from a mobile launcher at the Launch Complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at around 8.38 am, the sources said.
The Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) has already been inducted into the services and test was carried out by the Army’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) with logistic support provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), they said. The 20-m-long Agni-II ballistic missile has a launch weight of 17 tonne and can carry a payload of 1,000 kg over a distance of 2,000 kms. Agni-II, a two-stage missile, equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system and guided by a unique command and control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system, he said.
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India successfully conducts night trial of indigenously
Developed nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile
PTI| Feb 21, 2018 | The surface-to-surface missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, as part of a user trial by the Army, defense sources said. The perfect test launch came after successful trial of the Agni-5 missile on January 18, Agni-1 on February 6 and Agni II on 20th Feb. from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast. The state-of-the-art Prithvi-II missile is capable of carrying 500 to 1,000 kg of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines. The sophisticated missile, which has a strike range of 350 km, uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target, they said.
The missile was randomly chosen from the production stock and the entire launch activities were carried out by the specially formed Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Army, and monitored by the scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of training exercise, the sources said. “The missile trajectory was tracked by radars, electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry stations by the DRDO along the coast of Odisha,” they said.

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The shaming of top media houses by Gulf News embarrasses India
By: VANDANA MENON
A screengrab from the video that went viral.
Multiple media houses aired a video claiming that the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi said ‘Jai Siya Ram’ at a function in Abu Dhabi.
New Delhi: A video of an Emirati man saying “Jai Siya Ram” in Abu Dhabi went viral after being shared by major TV channels such as Times Now and Zee News, on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Abu Dhabi. However, it also resulted in massive embarrassment for the media houses.
The video was from a programme conducted by spiritual leader Morari Bapu in September, 2016. While Times Now and Zee News acknowledged the video was old, they claimed that the man in the video, who is actually a UAE-based journalist, was the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The first to crack down on the news channels for circulating a fake video was Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News.
The newspaper’s website published a scathing report, accusing Indian news outlets of spreading “false propaganda” to “gain political mileage in India.”
The Gulf News report pointed out that the Crown Prince was Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day parade in 2017. The report said that Indian media groups were incapable of “responsible journalism” for not being able to correctly identify the Crown Prince saying the video was fake, the report said it was a “clear indication that the mainstream media in India is falling prey to propaganda and fake news”. The report also pointed out the timing of the story being posted, which was just before Modi arrived in UAE.
“The patter of a known fake and out-of-context video being deliberately recirculated multiple times by a selected section of the Indian media is a clear pointer that the objective of the exercise is to spread malicious and false propaganda on a swathe of unsuspecting news consumers,” the report said.
While the UAE Embassy in India did not issue a statement, its official handle on Twitter shared the Gulf News report. While Zee News has deleted the story online, Times Now updated the story to reflect the real speaker in the video, but has not issued a statement of correction.

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