World View: Al-Qaeda Rubs Hands with Glee' at Snowden Disclosures

This morning's key headlines from

  • Ethnicity to play a big part in Afghanistan election runoff
  • Al-Qaeda 'rubs hands with glee' at Snowden disclosures
  • South Korea's prime minister resigns over ferry disaster

Ethnicity to play a big part in Afghanistan election runoff

U.S. ally Abdullah Abdullah got 44.9% of the vote in the first round of the eight-candidate presidential race earlier this month. In second place was Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat, with 31.5%. Since no candidate got 50% of the vote, a runoff election is scheduled for June 7.

Ethnic identity is becoming a major factor in the election. Afghanistan's last generational crisis war was the extremely bloody civil war fought between 1991 and 1996. The war was fought mainly between the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. Today's Taliban terrorists are radicalized Pashtuns.

Abdullah is half Pashtun and half Tajik, but he's regarded as Tajik around the country because he fought alongside the Tajiks during the civil war. So it's perhaps not surprising that Abdullah got 80% of the vote in parts of northern Afghanistan, while getting only 3% in purely Pashtun areas in the south and east. In the election earlier this month, the Pashtun vote was split among several Pashtun candidates, but if you add together all the votes for Pashtun candidates, then it exceeds Abdullah's vote.

Non-Pashtuns have rarely been elected president, and have done poorly when they were. For example, the conservative King Habibullah was lampooned as the "son of a water carrier" and was only in power for less than a year at the end of the 1920s before he was executed.

If Abdullah does win, then he'll have to try to unify the country by befriending the Pashtuns, which won't be easy given that he was with people who were torturing, raping, decapitating and slaughtering Pashtuns just 20 years ago. Deutsche-Welle and Bloomberg

Al-Qaeda 'rubs hands with glee' at Snowden disclosures

We have no way of knowing whether the massive intelligence leaks by Edward Snowden have made our missile defenses helpless against a missile attack by China, since neither the U.S. nor the Chinese government are talking about things like.

However, there is one American enemy that is not afraid to talk about it and brag about how it's helping them prepare secret jihadist terror attacks against America and other targets: Al-Qaeda. According to John Sawers, head of Britain's secret service MI6:

"The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, and they've put our operations at risk... It's clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee. Al-Qaeda is lapping it up."

A recent issue of the English language Inspire, in the midst of explaining how to encrypt communications to prevent Western governments from learning about terror attacks before they occur, was quite gleeful in its description of the Snowden leaks:

"Obama lied in regard of the NSA program. He asserted it did not spy on its citizens. But every dog has its day, and NSA's day came when the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the No Secret Agency's dark secrets. The people called for the government to observe the American principles but it did not listen. It abandoned all its privacy policies. This rogue country did not stop at spying on its citizens, it killed them too. Several of its citizens have been targeted in their extra judicial killing program."

Al-Qaeda began using encryption tools in 2007 for its online activities, and by 2009 was distributing a tool called "Asrar Al-Mujahideen" ("Mujahideen Secrets"), based on military grade security technology, to be used for communications by "anyone who wants to wage jihad with us, and we will guide him to a suitable means to kill the collaborators and the archons of unbelief – even in his bedroom or workplace."

Although the "Mujahideen Secrets" provides totally secure communications when properly used, jihadists and murderers are like other people in that sometimes they're too lazy to do things right, and many of the continued to use insecure communications channels like gmail.

However, since the Snowden disclosures, al-Qaeda has changed all its communications protocols, even refusing to accept messages that haven't been properly secured.

For example, a recent article is directed at those wishing to carry out lone wolf jihad attacks. It provides instructions for use of encryption software in communicating with al-Qaeda's "military committee," and promises help in planning and executing the attack, and takes responsibility for providing media coverage. Memri

South Korea's prime minister resigns over ferry disaster

The sinking of a ferry off the coast of South Korea on April 16, with 476 passengers, mostly students and teachers, has taken its first political casualty. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won announced his offer of resignation in the fact of furious protests for parents and family members accusing him of mishandling the situation, and not responding quickly enough to save passengers. According to Chung:

"I wanted to resign earlier but handling the situation was the first priority and I thought that it was a responsible act to help before leaving. But I've decided to resign now, not to be any burden on the administration."

Chung has a close relationship with President Park Geun-hye, and recently took trips to China and Pakistan to improve political and economic ties. With North Korea's government seemingly always in chaos, it will be important for South Korea's relationship with China to remain stable. BBC and Korea Times (4/14)

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