24 Jan 15. NATO Secretary General statement on the situation in Ukraine
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has sharply escalated, with indications of a large-scale offensive by Russian-backed separatists at multiple locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as well as against the city of Mariupol. This is in utter disregard of the ceasefire. The shelling of residential areas in the city of Mariupol from separatist-controlled territory has cost the lives of at least 20 civilians, and injured many more. For several months we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as a substantial increase in Russian heavy equipment such as tanks, artillery and advanced air defence systems. Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are supporting these offensive operations with command and control systems, air defence systems with advanced surface-to-air missiles, unmanned aerial systems, advanced multiple rocket launcher systems, and electronic warfare systems.
I strongly urge Russia to stop its military, political and financial support for the separatists, stop destabilising Ukraine and respect its international commitments.
23 Jan 15. U.S. counterterrorism operations with Yemen suspended, officials say. Yemen rebels attack presidential compound. The Obama administration has been forced to suspend counterterrorism operations with Yemen in the aftermath of the collapse of its government, according to U.S. officials, a move that abruptly eases pressure on al-Qaeda’s most dangerous franchise. Armed drones operated by the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command remain deployed for now over southern Yemen, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based. But U.S. officials said that the Yemeni security services that provided much of the intelligence that sustained that U.S. air campaign are now controlled by Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who have seized control of much of the capital. Even before the disintegration of the government, officials say, the growing chaos in Yemen had resulted in a steady erosion in intelligence-gathering efforts against AQAP and a defacto suspension in raids by Yemeni units trained, equipped and often flown to targeted al-Qaeda compounds by U.S. forces. “The agencies we worked with are really under the thumb of the Houthis. Our ability to work with them is not there,” said a senior U.S. official closely involved in monitoring the situation. In a measure of U.S. concern over the crisis, officials also signaled for the first time a willingness to open talks with Houthi leaders, despite their suspected ties to Iran and antipathy toward the United States. The developments have unraveled a campaign that President Obama described last year as a model for how the United States should fight terrorist groups, and avoid being drawn more directly into overseas conflicts. The turmoil in Yemen has exposed the risks of that strategy, with U.S. officials now voicing concern that the suspension in operations in Yemen could enable AQAP — which has launched a series of plots against the United States and claimed credit for the attacks in Paris this month — to regroup. “The chaos has aided al-Qaeda,” said the senior U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “There’s no question in our mind that al-Qaeda has gotten a breather.” U.S. officials said that joint operations had been deteriorating since last fall, when Houthi militias began a series of advances toward the capital of Sanaa, but that cooperation was only severed in recent days amid a Houthi assault that culminated with the resignation of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a staunch U.S. ally. (Source: Washington Post)
23 Jan 15. The fourth and final training site for Iraqi forces started operations in Irbil, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said. About 100 Kurdish peshmerga forces started training at the Irbil site today, he told reporters at a regula