Tales from the Trail

FBI gives Osama bin Laden shave and a haircut

UPDATE: After the aged Osama bin Laden photos were posted on U.S. government websites, a Spanish politician said his photograph was used to compose one of the images and he was considering taking legal action. Read about the latest twist here.

Everyone gets older, even the most wanted terrorism suspect.

BINLADEN/So more than 8 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI has used digital forensic techniques to figure out what al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might look like now.

In one new picture, bin Laden has a closely-cropped beard and short, stylish grey hair — a far cry from the photo that has been on the most wanted terrorism website of a man with a long, bushy, dark beard.

Another depiction is of bin Laden with a white headdress, long salt-and-pepper beard and a face with more hollows and sunken eyes.

“Using sophisticated digital enhancement techniques, forensic artists at the FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Virginia have ‘age progressed’ old photos of 18 terrorist suspects listed on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice website,” a joint statement from the two agencies said.

The First Draft: White House takes a lonely road to openness on Crasher-gate

President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, feels the White House doesn’t need Congress to help it maintain openness on the Crasher-gate scandal. That’s why it’s chosen to eschew the limelight of a Capitol Hill hearing today. USA/

“We think we’ve really answered the questions fully,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America, while making the TV rounds to defend a White House decision not to send its social secretary to explain how a Virginia couple got into last week’s state dinner without an invitation.

“Having a full review up on the (White House) Web site, where everyone in the country — anyone who goes on our Web site — can read it, is the definition of transparency.”

Reasoning with the Taliban

AFGHANISTAN/OBAMAIn the past few weeks, as President Barack Obama closes in on a decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan, a couple of alluring ideas have resurfaced in Washington.

The first is that talks with the Taliban, or with members of the fundamentalist Islamist movement, might be worth pursuing more agressively, to advance the day that U.S. troops could begin to leave.

The second is the suggestion the Taliban in Afghanistan might be willing to sever its ties to al Qaeda, or that growing Taliban influence there may not directly threaten the United States.

Plan B for Afghanistan: cut and run?

In Monday’s blog, I looked at McChrystal’s recommendation for a significantly stepped up effort to stabilize Afghanistan, and a major shift in strategy to win over the Afghan people.

But many people, including influential actors within the administration and several readers who left comments on Monday, are advocating a different approach: pull out, and leave Afghans to their own devices. This blog looks at Plan B.

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“The Russians were in Afghanistan for 10 years. The Americans have been here for seven, and we will send them home in just three more years”.

Congress thanks Sept. 11 air travelers who may have saved them

OBAMA/Congress paused on Wednesday to thank the air travelers who possibly saved their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 by fighting back against the al Qaeda hijackers who had taken over their plane.

In a brief ceremony, congressional leaders unveiled a plaque inscribed with the names of those aboard United Airlines Flight 93, who forced the hijackers to crash the plane in a Pennsylvania field before reaching its target, presumed to be the Capitol or the White House.

Hijackers diverted the San-Francisco bound plane and pointed it toward Washington that morning as part of a coordinated attack that also crashed three jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Obama official takes shots at Bush’s words

President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser on Thursday offered a pointed critique of several of former President George W. Bush’s catch phrases on terrorism.

USA/Veteran spy John Brennan, once in line to head the Central Intelligence Agency under Obama and apparently no great fan of the Bush White House, gave a lengthy speech outlining Obama’s strategy for fighting terrorism which attempts to go beyond, using military might to include economic and social policies.

Brennan criticized Bush’s moniker “global war on terror” as playing into the “warped narrative that al Qaeda propagates.” He added that it “plays into the misleading and dangerous notion that the U.S. is somehow in conflict with the rest of the world.”

The First Draft: A bumpy Mideast landing

OBAMA/SAUDI ARABIAWithin minutes of President Barack Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia today, a recording by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was played on Al Jazeera television. U.S. television networks showed Air Force One landing in Riyadh and the first images of Obama greeting Saudi King Abdullah, the audio recording from bin Laden took aim. The militant leader accused the Obama administration of “planting seeds for hatred and revenge.”

It was a rough beginning to what could be a challenging visit to the Middle East and Europe by Obama. He spends tonight at the Saudi monarch’s farm, then flies to Cairo tomorrow for a much-previewed address to the Muslim world. He then travels to Germany and finally to France to commemorate D-Day, returning to Washington on Saturday.

There’s a full cast of characters testifying today on Capitol Hill. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke appears before the House Budget Committee on challenges facing the economy. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu talks to a panel of the House Appropriations Committee. And executives from GM and Chrysler testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on protecting auto dealers and consumers after the closure of hundreds of car dealerships at both companies.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Israel and India -- the first the United States' closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest -- emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.

The idea has been fashionable among foreign policy analysts for a while, as I have discussed in previous posts here and here. The aim would be to capitalise on Shi'ite Iran's traditional hostility to the hardline brand of Sunni Islam espoused by the Taliban and al Qaeda to seek its help in neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time India would be encouraged to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir to end a cause of tension that has underpinned the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan and left both countries vying for influence in Afghanistan.

Publisher apologizes for ‘Obama bin Laden’ gaffe

WASHINGTON – White House hopeful Barack Obama often says his “funny name” is one of the things that makes his status as the Democratic frontruobama4.jpgnner so unexpected.
    But at a luncheon with U.S. newspaper publishers and editors on Monday, a publisher made an embarrassing gaffe when asking the Illinois senator a question about the Taliban and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — but accidentally said “Obama” instead of “Osama.”
    “I think that was Osama bin Laden,” Obama corrected him.
    Realizing he had made an error, the publisher, Dean Singleton, chairman of the board of the Associated Press and founder of the NewsMedia Group newspaper company, apologized.
    “If I did that, I’m so sorry,” Singleton said.
    Obama made light of the mistake, drawing a mixture of laughter and some relief in the audience, which had been taken aback by the gaffe.
    “No, no, this is part of the exercise I’ve been going through for the last 15 months,” Obama said. “Which is why it’s pretty impressive that I’m still standing here.”

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Cohn (Obama addresses members of the Alliance for American Manufacturing)