Afghan attack, and arms supply

At about the same time a huge terrorist bomb went off in Kabul a top US general has confirmed that Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban.

Newshub: Kabul in mourning after fatal bomb blast

Kabul is mourning the victims of a truck bomb that killed at least 80 people and wounded hundreds amid growing public anger at the government’s failure to prevent yet another deadly attack in the heart of the Afghan capital.

Wednesday’s blast, at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, ripped through a traffic-clogged street packed with people on their way to school or work during the morning rush hour, causing hundreds of casualties in an instant and sending a tower of black smoke into the sky.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made a televised address late on Wednesday, calling for national unity in the face of the attack, which his National Directorate for Security blamed on the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, but he faces an increasingly angry public.

“For God’s sake, what is happening to this country?” said Ghulam Sakhi, a shoemaker whose shop is close to the site of the blast.

“People leave home to fetch a loaf of bread for their children and later that evening, their dead body is sent back to the family.”

There has been no claim of responsibility but Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security blamed the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate directly integrated into the militant movement, and said it had been helped by Pakistan’s intelligence service.

The Taliban have denied involvement.

Regardless of whether the Taliban were responsible the murkiness of the perpetual civil war in Afghanistan was highlighted by this from the Washington Post: Russia is sending weapons to Taliban, top U.S. general confirms

The general in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan appeared to confirm Monday that Russia is sending weapons to the Taliban, an intervention that will probably further complicate the 15-year-old war here and the Kremlin’s relations with the United States.

When asked by reporters, Gen. John Nicholson did not dispute claims that the Taliban is receiving weapons and other supplies from the Russians.

“We continue to get reports of this assistance,” Nicholson said, speaking to reporters alongside Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “We support anyone who wants to help us advance the reconciliation process, but anyone who arms belligerents who perpetuate attacks like the one we saw two days ago in Mazar-e Sharif is not the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.”

A senior U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence on the issue, said the Russians have increased their supply of equipment and small arms to the Taliban over the past 18 months.

“Any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law unless they were coming to the government of Afghanistan,” Mattis said, speaking during his first visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary. He added that it would have to be dealt with as such.

In the past, Nicholson has criticized Russia’s contact with the Taliban, saying that it has given “legitimacy” to a group that has undermined the elected government in Kabul.

New American: Kabul Bomb Blast Could Be Used to Justify Increase in U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

A powerful bomb hidden inside a sewage tanker truck exploded during the morning rush hour in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on May 31, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds more, and damaging nearby embassy buildings.

Some have speculated that this bomb attack might influence U.S. policy on increasing troop strength in Afghanistan.

A few days agoGovernment considering sending more troops to Afghanistan at request of US

A decision on whether to send more Kiwi troops to Afghanistan at the request of the United States will be made in a matter of weeks.

Prime Minister Bill English confirmed at his weekly media briefing on Monday that the US on behalf of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) has asked that New Zealand send an additional two personnel – taking the total team to 12 in the region.

A 20% increase in NZ troops! Only two more, not many, but one has to wonder if Afghanistan can ever be fixed. Peace is unlikely to to be able to be imposed by outside countries.

Does Andrew Little finally get it?

Has Andrew Little had a common sense epiphany and now realises that being seen as a perpetual pissy fit leader isn’t very attractive to voters?

Little had to go all the way to Canada to find someone he would listen to, telling him he needs to present something positive to voters.

Duh.

Andrea Vance wrote at One News: Little should take a leaf out of Trudeau’s buff book to pull voters

Andrew Little’s taken himself off to Canada to lick his wounds.

But it’s not too late, Little. A year ago, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party confounded expectations to win the federal election… and the hearts of millions of women around the world.

I doubt that Little is in the same league regarding hearts of women.

Here’s what Little can learn from Canada’s JFK.

Sunny – not sulky – ways

That advice in itself would be a great start.

Trudeau didn’t go negative. He had poise even in the face of ridiculous attacks on his hair – and Stephen Harper’s attack ads.

“You can appeal to the better angels of our nature and you can win while doing it,” Trudeau said.

His campaign focused on a “positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life”. He warmly embraced refugees, as opponents fear-mongered.

This “tone-at-the-top” was emulated by the party as a whole – from candidates through to volunteer door-knockers. Post-election polling showed Trudeau was the main attraction for 20 per cent of Liberal voters.

Little has heard this same message from Trudeau himself and has come back enthusing about it.

If he had listened outside his bubble in New Zealand he could have heard this same advice here, but at least he has finally taken it on board.

I hope Little can turn his image around, I really do. We desperately need a decent opposition, one that isn’t relentlessly negative and sullen and sulky. So if Little gets positive it will be a great start.

But will a sunny positive Little trickle down the Labour ranks? That could be a major challenge for Little.

Labour MPs seem to have become locked into a mostly negative campaign for the last eight years. Some of the sullens are leaving, like Phil Goff (probable) and Clayton Cosgrove. Will they be replaced by sunnies?

Another challenge will be the Labour troops, the door knockers who have had the stuffing knocked out of them over and over.

And an even bigger challenge may be the Labour activists, the online warriors who keep tearing their hair out in frustration and keep tearing to shreds anyone deemed to be an opponent or an enemy of Labour.

Little himself did this recently when he blasted ex-Labour party members as right wingers and banned his MPs from going to the same meetings as them.

The bashing of anyone deemed an enemy of Labour is on show at The Standard frequently, where it oozes bitterness and intolerance.

Burning off potential Labour voters is a stupid strategy, and that has been happening from the top down.

It seems that Little has finally got it, that sulky sullen negative leaders don’t attract support. Now he has been told the obvious in Canada perhaps we will see a sunnier more positive Leader of the Opposition.

Whether that can trickle down the party will be another matter, the Labour troops can’t all be sent to Canada to have common sense epiphanies.

Majority support anti-ISIS troop deployment

The Government is backed by majority sentiment with the deployment of a small number of troops in Iraq, according to a Herald-Digipoll survey.

On the decision to deploy troops in Iraq:

  • Agree 57%
  • Disagree 34%

(the poll wording was not given)

More men (two thirds) agreed than women (47%).

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken in the lead-up to Anzac Day when there were arrests in Australia of a group suspected of planning terror attacks for Anzac Day. There was also coverage in New Zealand of Kiwi jihadist Mark Taylor’s YouTube clip urging Islamic State sympathisers here to target Anzac Day celebrations.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said those were possible factors in the poll. He believed it showed people were increasingly realising New Zealand was not isolated from the threat posed by Isis.

The deployment was opposed by Labour and Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said he believed New Zealanders were more evenly split than the poll suggested.

How would Shearer believe he knows better than the poll?

The Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 eligible voters was taken from April 17-26 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 per cent.

Source: Kiwis back NZ troops’ Iraq role

Cabinet expected to fix Middle East

Is another military excursion in the Middle East morass another exercise in futility? How much risk is it to us?

NZ Herald reported yesterday Cabinet expected to give Isis fight green light tomorrow.

Cabinet is expected to approve sending soldiers to help Iraqi forces fight the Islamic State group when it meets tomorrow.

A deployment would conclude months of increasingly bellicose rhetoric since the general election as John Key ramped up talk of New Zealand’s need to intervene.

Ok, New Zealand isn’t quite going to fix the Middle East. It would be a token deployment so we are seen to be contributing to a wider campaign against ISIS. That has risks alongside being seen to support the good fight.

Western meddling has mended little in the Middle east over the decades and centuries. It could often be just stiring up a hornet’s nest a bit more.

Politically this loks like it’s virtually been a done deal for months. Troops have been reported as being prepared for some time .’just in case’.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister visited last week to officially ask for help, but that will have involved lengthy preparation.

John Key has sounded like he’ll go down this path for months, But a lack of Parliamentary support could be awkward. National + ACT don’t have a majority. Peter Dunne is opposed. Labour should be on side with a move like this, but they express doubts.

Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff said it seemed Mr Key had privately decided months ago to deploy troops to fight Isis.

He said New Zealand’s Western allies, rather than the Iraqi government, were driving the push to send Kiwi troops to the Middle East.

“My problem, and the Labour Party’s problem, is the avenue Key has chosen is likely to be the least effective way of dealing with the problem.”

He said that was because the Iraqi army was corrupt, had a “pathetic” leadership and was itself a cause of sectarian tensions and subsequent grievances Isis used to win support.

That highlights a major problem. It’s hard to fix countries and regions that are fundamentally rotten.

Mr Goff said Isis needed to be contained and isolated, starved of funds, weapons and personnel, and its victims given help.

How do you do that without troop deployments? The battle against ISIS has to be eventually won on the ground if it is to succeed.

Allegiances within countries like Iraq and Syria are fractured and unreliable.

It seems that the Middle East’s latest big problem is too serious to ignore but too complicated and entrenched to fix.

But it looks like New Zealand will be seen to be a part of the probably futile attampts to fix things.

This year is one hundred years since another major military exercise in futility, Gallipoli.

That killed and wounded thousands of New Zealanders (total casualties 7991).

I guess a hundred troops this time round is small change.

If what happens in the Middle East stays in the Middle East.

UPDATE: Key on Morning Report:

..says highly likely troop deployment will be ANZAC mission.

…says there’ll be no parliamentary vote on the Iraq troop deployment.