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Monday, November 29, 2010

Who are the Taliban?

November 28, 2010
The Taliban are active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan

Recent years have seen the re-emergence of the hardline Islamic Taliban movement as a fighting force in Afghanistan and a major threat to its government.

They are also threatening to destabilise Pakistan, where they control areas in the north-west and are blamed for a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks.

The Taliban emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

A predominantly Pashtun movement, the Taliban came to prominence in Afghanistan in the autumn of 1994.

It is commonly believed that they first appeared in religious seminaries - mostly paid for by money from Saudi Arabia - which preached a hard line form of Sunni Islam.

The Taliban's promise - in Pashtun areas straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan - was to restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, once in power.

In both countries they introduced or supported Islamic punishments - such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers and amputations of those found guilty of theft.

Men were required to grow beards and women had to wear the all-covering burka.

The Taliban showed a similar disdain for television, music and cinema and disapproved of girls aged 10 and over from going to school.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied that it is the architect of the Taliban enterprise.

But there is little doubt that many Afghans who initially joined the movement were educated in madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan.

Pakistan was also one of only three countries, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recognised the Taliban when they were in power in Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001.

It was also the last country to break diplomatic ties with the Taliban.

But Pakistan has since adopted a harder line against Taliban militants carrying out attacks on its soil.

The attention of the world was drawn to the Taliban in Afghanistan following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in September 2001.

The Taliban in Afghanistan were accused of providing a sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda movement who were blamed for the attacks.

Soon after 9/11 the Taliban were driven from power in Afghanistan by a US-led coalition, although their leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was not captured - and neither was Osama Bin Laden.

Foreign forces have poured into Afghanistan in an effort to crush the insurgency
In recent years the Taliban have re-emerged in Afghanistan and grown far stronger in Pakistan, where observers say there is loose co-ordination between different Taliban factions and militant groups.

The main Pakistani faction is led by Hakimullah Mehsud, whose Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is blamed for dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks.

Observers warn against over-stating the existence of one unified insurgency against the Pakistani state, however.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are still believed to be led by Mullah Omar, a village clergyman who lost his right eye fighting the occupying forces of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Afghans, weary of the mujahideen's excesses and infighting after the Soviets were driven out, generally welcomed the Taliban when they first appeared on the scene.

Their early popularity was largely due to their success in stamping out corruption, curbing lawlessness and making the roads and the areas under their control safe for commerce to flourish.

US onslaught

From south-western Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly extended their influence.

They captured the province of Herat, bordering Iran, in September 1995.

Exactly one year later, they captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, after overthrowing the regime of President Burhanuddin Rabbani and his defence minister, Ahmed Shah Masood.

By 1998, they were in control of almost 90% of Afghanistan.

They were accused of various human rights and cultural abuses. One notorious example was in 2001, when the Taliban went ahead with the destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddha statues in central Afghanistan, despite international outrage.

On October 7, 2001, a US-led military coalition invaded Afghanistan and by the first week of December the Taliban regime had collapsed.

Mullah Omar and his comrades have evaded capture despite one of the largest manhunts in the world

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Veteran's Farewell

November 27, 2010

Today a friend of mine lost his grandfather and now another of our veterans is at peace.
I wish to pay tribute to this man who served our country willingly and with pride. I wish to show my reverence for all those brave American Patriots that sacrificed all......for the glory of God and all mankind.

"Tribute to Courage", By Rich Thislte

"HMCS Sackville", By John Horton
The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the most harrowing and important struggles of the Second World War. It was a struggle to sustain the vital lifeline of supplies from Canada's east coast to Britain and the European Front so that the fight for freedom and democracy could continue. In the end, we were victorious, but a terrible price was paid for victory. More than 4,600 men and women lost their lives at sea.

RCAF B-24 Liberator long range bomber, by Lars Larsen

"We Flew With The Heroic Few", by Rich Thistle
"What General Weygand has called The battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.... upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must soon be turned upon us.... If the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'this was their finest hour'. "
-Winston Churchill, June 1940

"D-Day, the Assault", by Orville Fisher
The largest sea-borne invasion in history, the D-Day landings involved more than 156,000 troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and the forces of the Free French. Nearly 7,000 vessels of all types would be involved, of which more than 4,000 were landing craft. The operation would be supported by approximately 12,000 aircraft, a task which included flying sorties, dropping of bombs, and the transportation of parachute troops.

The objective of the invasion, the creation of a lodgement in Western Europe, was long held and thought essential to the defeat of Germany. Since 1942, plans had been drawn and re-drawn, eventually emerging as "Operation Neptune", the assault phase, and "Operation Overlord", the invasion itself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SEVERE Storm Approaching Utah

November 23rd, 2010

National Weather Service issuing a blizzard warning for much of the state. A strong cold front is expected to arrive in Northern Utah by 2-4pm, in the Wasatch Front between 3p-6p, and then through the rest of the state. Expect the wind gusts to blow between 30 and 50mph as the front arrives. Bitter cold air should move in quickly, with temperatures in the teens tonight. Single digits possible tomorrow morning. More snow is possible along the Wasatch Front tomorrow morning as well. Highs tomorrow could stay below 20. Lows Thanksgiving could drop below zero if skies clear. -Grant Weyman, Live 5 Weather HD 11.23.10

Major storm rolling into Utah
November 23rd, 2010 @ 4:41pm
By Richard Piatt

SALT LAKE CITY -- A storm that brought a blizzard to the Northwest Monday now is rolling into Utah. A blizzard warning is in effect for most of the state.

Snow is reported in Tremonton, Snowville and North Ogden. Interstate 84 is closed at the Idaho border and likely will remain closed all night. Interstate 15 is closed in both directions at Tremonton. Two semi trucks jackknifed and are blocking both lanes of northbound I-15 three miles north of the State Route 30/Riverside/Logan interchange.

The combination of snow and strong winds comes during the peak of holiday travel, creating such a buzz that most schools and businesses in Utah closed early. Rarely has a storm been so talked about, even before it arrives.

Road conditions are a concern for the Utah Department of Transportation as thousands of people hit the freeways and streets. Many people were allowed to leave work or school early to avoid driving in the storm. Several evening events have been canceled as well, because the goal is to keep as many people off the roads as possible.

They're keeping an eye on the approaching storm at UDOT's Traffic Operation Center. Seven hundred cameras monitor changing conditions. Crews use weather updates, phone calls, and radio traffic to update traffic and road information and pass it along to commuters as quickly as possible.

Glenn Blackwelder, the operation center engineer said, "We're keeping an eye, it's just trying to monitor all the information and then pushing that information out to the public."

UDOT trucks are loaded with salt and were ready to go hours before a snowflake hit the roadways. There are 500 snowplow-salt trucks statewide, and it's likely they'll all be out Tuesday night. But because of the cold and the potential for lots of blowing snow, it still might be hard for them to keep up.

Ryan Ellsworth, UDOT's roadway operations manager said, "It's going to be a challenge keeping the roads clean. We're going to go around, filling up, getting back on the road as soon as possible. But it's going to be hard to keep the roads clean, for sure."

In conditions like these, it's a good idea to be prepared even if your commute is normally 20 minutes or so.

UDOT spokesman Nile Easton said, "You're going to want to make sure you bring some water. You may be stuck out there two to three times longer than you're use to. So, dress appropriately."

Residents are encouraged to stay off the roads Tuesday night if possible.