Monday, August 30, 2010

View on the News-26-08-2010

Americans are conflicted on Islam

A new poll showed Tuesday, revealing a sharp drop in support for the Muslim faith since 2005 even though less people see it as a violent religion. A slim majority (51 percent) objected to the building of an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York. But 62 percent of the 1,003 people surveyed last week by the respected Pew Research Center agreed that Muslims should have the same rights as other groups to build houses of worship in local communities. In July 2005, 41 percent of those questioned in a similar poll had a favorable opinion of Islam. That number plummeted to just 30 percent in Tuesday's survey. However, the percentage that were unfavorable to Islam rose only slightly from 36 percent to 38 percent, and almost a third of those questioned said they didn't know how they felt about the Muslim faith. Last year, 38 percent of those polled said they thought Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence. That number had slipped to 35 percent in the latest poll. But fewer people, 42 percent rather than 45 percent, believed the inverse was true and almost a quarter were now undecided on Islam's propensity to drive violent behavior. The results, as in the past, were partisan. By a ratio of more than two-to-one, Republicans had an unfavorable opinion of Islam, whereas 41 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of the faith.

In report, CIA worried about U.S. terror exports

The United States has long been an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret CIA analysis released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks. And if that phenomenon were to become a widely held perception, the analysis said, it could damage relations with foreign allies and dampen their willingness to cooperate in "extrajudicial" activities, such as the rendition and interrogation of terrorism suspects. That is the conclusion of the three-page classified paper produced in February by the CIA's Red Cell, a think tank set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet to provide "out-of-the-box" analyses on "a full range of analytic issues." CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf played down the significance of the paper: "These sorts of analytic products - clearly identified as coming from the Agency's 'Red Cell' - are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view."

Mullen: Despite Attacks, No Delay in Iraq Withdrawal

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in Chicago Wednesday the United States will not change its plans to draw down troops from Iraq. That's despite a string of attacks that swept the country this Wednesday morning. Admiral Michael Mullen spoke to a group of Chicago-area business leaders just hours after a series of car bombs and improvised explosive devices killed dozens of people across Iraq. He said, ”This is a - an effort on the part of Al Qaeda, in particular, in Iraq, to re-ignite the sectarian violence. “Just Tuesday the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq dropped below 50,000 for the first time since the initial invasion in 2003.

U.S. Weighs Expanded Strikes in Yemen

U.S. officials believe al Qaeda in Yemen is now collaborating more closely with allies in Pakistan and Somalia to plot attacks against the U.S., spurring the prospect that the administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen.Such a move would give the Central Intelligence Agency a far larger role in what has until now been mainly a secret U.S. military campaign against militant targets in Yemen and across the Horn of Africa. It would likely be modeled after the CIA's covert drone campaign in Pakistan. The U.S. military's Special Operation Forces and the CIA have been positioning surveillance equipment, drones and personnel in Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia to step up targeting of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, and Somalia's al Shabaab, U.S. counterterrorism officials believe the two groups are working more closely together than ever. "The trajectory is pointing in that direction," a U.S. counterterrorism official said of a growing nexus between the Islamist groups. He said the close proximity between Yemen and Somalia "allows for exchanges, training." But he said the extent to which AQAP and al Shabaab are working together is "hard to measure in an absolute way." Authorizing covert CIA operations would further consolidate control of future strikes in the hands of the White House, which has enthusiastically embraced the agency's covert drone program in Pakistan's tribal areas.

U.S. to spend $100 million on Afghan bases

The Pentagon says it plans to spend $100 million on air base expansions in Afghanistan with construction efforts continuing into at least 2011. Despite growing disaffection with the war and President Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops in July 2011, many of the projected installations have extended completion deadlines, The Washington Post reported Sunday. All three of the bases are for the sole use of U.S. forces. The House and Senate Appropriations committees have approved requests for an additional $1.3 billion for multiyear construction of military facilities in Afghanistan, the Post reported. The vote has yet to go before the full Senate. The United States has already set aside $5.3 billion to build facilities for the Afghan army and national police, with most of the "enduring facilities ... scheduled for construction over the next three to four years," a Pentagon release said. Troop withdrawal in 2011 does not mean the end of combat operations, as the three new projected bases indicate, the Post reported. The broader expansion of U.S. air facilities all over Afghanistan will be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance using helicopters, manned and unmanned aircraft.

US: Pakistan will keep up counterinsurgency fight

This week the Pakistani English newspaper reported that a senior US military official in Pakistan says he is confident that Islamabad will continue in its fight against insurgents despite devastating floods that have left 8 million people in need of assistance. Army Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata, the No. 2 U.S. military official in Pakistan, told reporters he is not sure whether the timing or scope of counterinsurgency operations will be affected by the flood. He referred those questions to the Pakistani government.But when pressed, he said he was still confident that Pakistan would maintain a ''dedicated, committed struggle against violent extremism.''

August 26 2010

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