Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Partnership Reaffirmed:Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Visits Washington

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan,accompanied by his colleague Chief Executive Dr.Abdullah Abdullah,has spent the last three days in the Washington area,solidifying a continued US commitment to his country following the cessation of combat operations by US troops at the end of 2014.Monday,he met with Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at the presidential retreat,Camp David,in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.On Tuesday,Mr.Ghani met with President Barack Obama,who extended the mission of the 9800 US troops currently serving in Afghanistan through the end of 2015 at Mr.Ghani's request.Wednesday,President Ghani addressed a joint session of Congress and was repeatedly given standing ovations by the American legislators.*
At a joint press conference with Mr.Ghani,President Obama said we agreed to keep in place our close security cooperation.As part of the NATO mission,we will continue to train,advise and assist the Afghan Security Forces,and will continue to conduct targeted counter-terror operations.We will maintain the 9800 troop level through the end of this year.The final drawdown to an embassy-centered presence of 1,000 troops will be decided on later this year.We will continue to support the national unity government of Afghanistan and support the development of the country.*
For his part,President Ghani said your national security team has gone out of its way for the most intensive discussion.The TAA mission is a vital part of our collective interest.We look at partnership with the US as foundational-not just for Afghan security,but for regional security.The departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap that was predicted.The extremists do not speak for Islam;we do.We are speaking truth to terror.The threats that exist,the changing ecology of terror,these are destructive,nihilistic movements.Our commitment to peace is clear;we will not have peace with those who use our territory as a launching ground for global terrorism.*
It's been 90 days since two Americans were killed in Afghanistan,President Obama added.Afghans are fighting with courage and tenacity,and it gets better month by month.We want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure the Afghan Security Forces succeed,so we won't have to go back for a terrorism emergency.Our troops are not on the front lines,and force protection is a priority.It is my judgement and General Campbell's that our remaining is well worth it.*
The 2315 Americans who died in Afghanistan must not have died in vain,President Ghani continued.Their exposure,their number of casualties is way down.Afghanistan is the front lines.Because of American engagement in Afghanistan,the US mainland has not been attacked since 9-11.Our expectations for this visit were our cooperation would be enhanced,and a clear vision for our continued cooperation.The 4.1 billion dollar support for Afghanistan is a significant issue.Most importantly is the flexibility that has been shown in our security cooperation.*
We expect to be working with the Afghan government,for the Afghan people,for a long time,President Obama insisted.There's going to be intelligence and counter-terror cooperation,logistical and training support.The good news is,the Afghan Security Forces have stood up.They're better equipped than the Taliban or Haqqani Network.They're proving that,when they fight,they can be successful.*
Speaking before Congress on Wednesday,President Ghani noted that there is a another,darker cloud that is making its way to our country.The promise of the Arab Spring was followed by the Daesh (ISIL) terror.It is critical that the West understand the threat to the countries of Central Asia.Extremism is becoming a self-financing system.Today Afghanistan's people have rejected extremist violence.We are willing to speak truth to terror.That hatred must be challenged from within the religion of Islam.Silence is not acceptable;but silence is not what the world will hear from us.Islam must reengage with the world openly and without paranoid fear of encirclement,Mr.Ghani told the joint session of Congress at the Capitol.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WisdomTree Europe Getting Some Nods

We're heading towards an earnings trough,said David Kudla,Founder and Chief Investment Officer of MainStay Capital Management.The market will suffer from:
1.A Fed rate hike coming;
2.The strong dollar;
3.43 months without a 10% correction.
I still think we're in a long-term secular bull market.We're still positive on the US.We just think with the opportunities overseas and alternatives,you should look for negatively correlated investments because of the volatility we're going to see in the US.
We like the WisdomTree Hedged Europe Equity Fund.It's focused on mega caps that will benefit from a weak euro.Europe is embarking on QE,which inflates market value;while the US is embarking on tightening monetary policy.*
CNBC's floor reporter Bob Pisani also noted how popular this WisdomTree etf has been lately as it is hedged against a declining euro.*
Speaking at a press conference today,Fed chair Janet Yellen said a rate increase could be warranted at any FOMC meeting after April.We can't rule out June.*
WisdomTree Hedged Europe Equity Fund (HEDJ)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Defeating ISIL:Strategic Leadership and the Coalition

ISIL is really operating as a criminal gang and death cult,sending naieve and gullible recruits to die by the hundreds,General John R. Allen,US Marine Corps Retired,Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL,told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 25 February.ISIL has lost one half of its Iraq-based leadership.We actually do have pretty good intelligence in this matter.
The number of ISIL recruits is up because we're tracking them better,and because of the Caliphate's appeal.Defeating ISIL is when they are not an existential threat to Iraq or other states in the region.We want them to have no operational capability,break them up into small organisations that can't mass to be operationally significant.
I have met with many of the sheikhs,and I've been very pleased with their willingness to accept the leadership of Prime Minister Abadi and the Defence Minister.We're training and equipping 12 Iraqi brigades,three of them Kurdish.There will be a clearing force and a holding force,plus immediate humanitarian assistance.It's very important that the effort have an Arab face and a Muslim voice.
The Syrian recruitment numbers (for training to fight ISIL in Syria) are much higher than we thought.We have an old friendship with Turkey,and think there has been much progress toward providing protection for the moderate Syrian forces.The real issue is,how do we protect our allies?
ISIL is an evil that we haven't seen in a very long time.As long as we're at the front of it,we can prevent another 9-11.The interpretation that they apply has permitted them to do the things they have done to certain groups such as Christians and Yazidis.The infusion of a large conventional,maneuverable force would change the nature of the conversation.The US brings to bear:
1.The capacity of our strategic leadership of the 62 countries and five Arab air forces in first strike.
2.Technical,intelligence support,special operations strke capabilities,training and the aggregation of these.
3.The capacity for Arab partners to be the defeat mechanism for Daesh,the Arabic word for ISIL.
There have been about 2500 air strikes since the campaign began on 8 August 2014.The combination of US and coalition airpower,together with the training and equipping of regional forces will enable us to achieve our strategic goals.
We are not cooperating with Iran.We are not accommodating Iran.
The President's proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force has limitations about offensive maneuver forces.We may find that locations or allies may need to be defended.Each of those circumstances would have to be judged independently.There's a prohibition in the AUMF against the use of large,enduring ground forces such as those we used in Iraq and Afghanistan."Enduring" might be only two weeks-or it might be two years.It's all about matching the contingency,explained General Allen,who was the Afghan War commander from 2011-13.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

China Building Large Airfield in the Spratly Islands-part of a big effort

Beijing's land reclamation programme on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands indicates that China is constructing an airfield,the state-run magazine China News Weekly said.The airfield will be a forward base for the PLA Navy and Air Force,the publication disclosed.Taiwan,the Philippines and Malaysia already have airstrips in the Spratlys,and Taiwan is building a seaport capable of handling warships.Many Southeast Asian nations have long been claiming sovereignty over the South China Sea area,which is believed to have deposits of oil and natural gas,as well as fishing opportunities,and have been working on development projects here and there.
China's swift and extensive development on several Spratly reefs recently,however,and even with a degree of standardisation evident,is ringing alarm bells in the Asia-Pacific region.China has been working on Gaven,Cuarteron,Eldad and Mischief Reefs.As well,a large facility is being developed on Johnson South Reef,and there is a big new facility on a 75,000 square meter reclamation project on Hughes Reef.China also built a helipad on Gaven Reef.
IHS Jane detects a standardised pattern in China's construction projects:a main square building with what are either anti-aircraft towers or radomes at each corner.Perhaps China's next step will be to set up air defence identification zones over and around these new facilities,requiring aircraft to identify themselves and file flight plans before proceeding through its perceived airspace.That's what China did over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in November 2013,causing an international uproar.The islands are also claimed by Japan.US Air Force B-52 bombers subsequently challenged China's assertion of sovereignty over them by flying through the zone without first seeking Beijing's permission.

Boeing B-52 H - Red Flag 09-5 Nellis AFB