Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Afghan’

Pepe Escobar classic Fifty questions on 9/11

September 11, 2010 3 comments

It’s September 11 all over again – eight years on. The George W Bush administration is out. The “global war on terror” is still on, renamed “overseas contingency operations” by the Barack Obama administration. Obama’s “new strategy” – a war escalation – is in play in AfPak. Osama bin Laden may be dead or not. “Al-Qaeda” remains a catch-all ghost entity. September 11 – the neo-cons’ “new Pearl Harbor” – remains the darkest jigsaw puzzle of the young 21st century.

It’s useless to expect US corporate media and the ruling elites’ political operatives to call for a true, in-depth investigation into the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Whitewash has been the norm. But even establishment highlight Dr Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, a former national security advisor, has

admitted to the US Senate that the post-9/11 “war on terror” is a “mythical historical narrative”.

The following questions, some multi-part – and most totally ignored by the 9/11 Commission – are just the tip of the immense 9/11 iceberg. A hat tip goes to the indefatigable work of 911truth.org; whatreallyhappened.com; architects and engineers for 9/11 truth; the Italian documentary Zero: an investigation into 9/11; and Asia Times Online readers’ e-mails.

None of these questions has been convincingly answered – according to the official narrative. It’s up to US civil society to keep up the pressure. Eight years after the fact, one fundamental conclusion is imperative. The official narrative edifice of 9/11 is simply not acceptable.

Fifty questions

1) How come dead or not dead Osama bin Laden has not been formally indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as responsible for 9/11? Is it because the US government – as acknowledged by the FBI itself – has not produced a single conclusive piece of evidence?

2) How could all the alleged 19 razor-blade box cutter-equipped Muslim perpetrators have been identified in less than 72 hours – without even a crime scene investigation?

3) How come none of the 19′s names appeared on the passenger lists released the same day by both United Airlines and American Airlines?

4) How come eight names on the “original” FBI list happened to be found alive and living in different countries?

5) Why would pious jihadi Mohammed Atta leave a how-to-fly video manual, a uniform and his last will inside his bag knowing he was on a suicide mission?

6) Why did Mohammed Atta study flight simulation at Opa Locka, a hub of no less than six US Navy training bases?

7) How could Mohammed Atta’s passport have been magically found buried among the Word Trade Center (WTC)’s debris when not a single flight recorder was found?

8) Who is in the possession of the “disappeared” eight indestructible black boxes on those four flights?

9) Considering multiple international red alerts about a possible terrorist attack inside the US – including former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s infamous August 6, 2001, memo – how come four hijacked planes deviating from their computerized flight paths and disappearing from radar are allowed to fly around US airspace for more than an hour and a half – not to mention disabling all the elaborate Pentagon’s defense systems in the process?

10) Why the secretary of the US Air Force James Roche did not try to intercept both planes hitting the WTC (only seven minutes away from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey) as well as the Pentagon (only 10 minutes away from McGuire)? Roche had no less than 75 minutes to respond to the plane hitting the Pentagon.

11) Why did George W Bush continue to recite “My Pet Goat” in his Florida school and was not instantly absconded by the secret service?

12) How could Bush have seen the first plane crashing on WTC live – as he admitted? Did he have previous knowledge – or is he psychic?

13) Bush said that he and Andrew Card initially thought the first hit on the WTC was an accident with a small plane. How is that possible when the FAA as well as NORAD already knew this was about a hijacked plane?

14) What are the odds of transponders in four different planes be turned off almost simultaneously, in the same geographical area, very close to the nation’s seat of power in Washington, and no one scrambles to contact the Pentagon or the media?

15) Could defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld explain why initial media reports said that there were no fighter jets available at Andrews Air Force Base and then change the reports that there were, but not on high alert?

16) Why was the DC Air National Guard in Washington AWOL on 9/11?

17) Why did combat jet fighters of the 305th Air Wing, McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey not intercept the second hijacked plane hitting the WTC, when they could have done it within seven minutes?

18) Why did none of the combat jet fighters of the 459th Aircraft Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base intercept the plane that hit the Pentagon, only 16 kilometers away? And since we’re at it, why the Pentagon did not release the full video of the hit?

19) A number of very experienced airline pilots – including US ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a former fighter jet pilot – revealed that, well, only crack pilots could have performed such complex maneuvers on the hijacked jets, while others insisted they could only have been accomplished by remote control. Is it remotely believable that the hijackers were up to the task?

20) How come a substantial number of witnesses did swear seeing and hearing multiple explosions in both towers of the WTC?

21) How come a substantial number of reputed architects and engineers are adamant that the official narrative simply does not explain the largest structural collapse in recorded history (the Twin Towers) as well as the collapse of WTC building 7, which was not even hit by a jet?

22) According to Frank de Martini, WTC’s construction manager, “We designed the building to resist the impact of one or more jetliners.” The second plane nearly missed tower 1; most of the fuel burned in an explosion outside the tower. Yet this tower collapsed first, long before tower 2 that was “perforated” by the first hit. Jet fuel burned up fast – and by far did not reach the 2000-degree heat necessary to hurt the six tubular steel columns in the center of the tower – designed specifically to keep the towers from collapsing even if hit by a Boeing 707. A Boeing 707 used to carry more fuel than the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 that actually hit the towers.

23) Why did Mayor Rudolph Giuliani instantly authorized the shipment of WTC rubble to China and India for recycling?

24) Why was metallic debris found no less than 13 kilometers from the crash site of the plane that went down in Pennsylvania? Was the plane in fact shot down – under vice president Dick Cheney’s orders?

25) The Pipelineistan question. What did US ambassador Wendy Chamberlain talk about over the phone on October 10, 2001, with the oil minister of Pakistan? Was it to tell him that the 1990s-planned Unocal gas pipeline project, TAP (Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/ Pakistan), abandoned because of Taliban demands on transit fees, was now back in business? (Two months later, an agreement to build the pipeline was signed between the leaders of the three countries).

26) What is former Unocal lobbyist and former Bush pet Afghan Zalmay Khalilzad up to in Afghanistan?

27) How come former Pakistani foreign minister Niaz Niak said in mid-July 2001 that the US had already decided to strike against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban by October? The topic was discussed secretly at the July Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, according to Pakistani diplomats.

28) How come US ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine told FBI agent John O’Neill in July 2001 to stop investigating al-Qaeda’s financial operations – with O’Neill instantly moved to a security job at the WTC, where he died on 9/11?

29) Considering the very intimate relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the ISI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is Bin Laden alive, dead or still a valuable asset of the ISI, the CIA or both?

30) Was Bin Laden admitted at the American hospital in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on July 4, 2001, after flying from Quetta, Pakistan, and staying for treatment until July 11?

31) Did the Bin Laden group build the caves of Tora Bora in close cooperation with the CIA during the 1980s’ anti-Soviet jihad?

32) How come General Tommy Franks knew for sure that Bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora in late November 2001?

33) Why did president Bill Clinton abort a hit on Bin Laden in October 1999? Why did then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf abort a covert ops in the same date? And why did Musharraf do the same thing again in August 2001?

34) Why did George W Bush dissolve the Bin Laden Task Force nine months before 9/11?

35) How come the (fake) Bin Laden home video – in which he “confesses” to being the perpetrator of 9/11 – released by the US on December 13, 2001, was found only two weeks after it was produced (on November 9); was it really found in Jalalabad (considering Northern Alliance and US troops had not even arrived there at the time); by whom; and how come the Pentagon was forced to release a new translation after the first (botched) one?

36) Why was ISI chief Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmad abruptly “retired” on October 8, 2001, the day the US started bombing Afghanistan?

37) What was Ahmad up to in Washington exactly on the week of 9/11 (he arrived on September 4)? On the morning of 9/11, Ahmad was having breakfast on Capitol Hill with Bob Graham and Porter Goss, both later part of the 9/11 Commission, which simply refused to investigate two of its members. Ahmad had breakfast with Richard Armitage of the State Department on September 12 and 13 (when Pakistan negotiated its “cooperation” with the “war on terror”) and met all the CIA and Pentagon top brass. On September 13, Musharraf announced he would send Ahmad to Afghanistan to demand to the Taliban the extradition of Bin Laden.

38) Who inside the ISI transferred US$100,000 to Mohammed Atta in the summer of 2001 – under orders of Ahmad himself, as Indian intelligence insists? Was it really ISI asset Omar Sheikh, Bin Laden’s information technology specialist who later organized the slaying of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi? So was the ISI directly linked to 9/11?

39) Did the FBI investigate the two shady characters who met Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi in Harry’s Bar at the Helmsley Hotel in New York City on September 8, 2001?

40) What did director of Asian affairs at the State Department Christina Rocca and the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef discuss in their meeting in Islamabad in August 2001?

41) Did Washington know in advance that an “al-Qaeda” connection would kill Afghan nationalist commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, aka “The Lion of the Panjshir”, only two days before 9/11? Massoud was fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda – helped by Russia and Iran. According to the Northern Alliance, Massoud was killed by an ISI-Taliban-al Qaeda axis. If still alive, he would never have allowed the US to rig a loya jirga (grand council) in Afghanistan and install a puppet, former CIA asset Hamid Karzai, as leader of the country.

42) Why did it take no less than four months before the name of Ramzi Binalshibh surfaced in the 9/11 context, considering the Yemeni was a roommate of Mohammed Atta in his apartment cell in Hamburg?

43) Is pathetic shoe-bomber Richard Reid an ISI asset?

44) Did then-Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence tell the CIA in 2001 that 25 terrorist pilots had been training for suicide missions?

45) When did the head of German intelligence, August Hanning, tell the CIA that terrorists were “planning to hijack commercial aircraft?”

46) When did Egyptian President Mubarak tell the CIA about an attack on the US with an “airplane stuffed with explosives?”

47) When did Israel’s Mossad director Efraim Halevy tell the CIA about a possible attack on the US by “200 terrorists?”

48) Were the Taliban aware of the warning by a Bush administration official as early as February 2001 – “Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs?”

49) Has Northrop-Grumman used Global Hawk technology – which allows to remotely control unmanned planes – in the war in Afghanistan since October 2001? Did it install Global Hawk in a commercial plane? Is Global Hawk available at all for commercial planes?

50) Would Cheney stand up and volunteer the detailed timeline of what he was really up to during the whole day on 9/11? Fifty questions on 9/11  By Pepe Escobar. Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

Advertisements

US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

As expected General Petraeus has canceled the plans to attack Qandahar. The attack doesn’t make any sense while Mr. Hamid Karzai is trying to build relationships with the Afghan National Resistence (aka Taliban).

He has decided a full-scale military encirclement and invasion – as American troops had done in Iraq’s Fallujah – was not an appropriate model to tackle the Taliban in the southern capital.

Gen Petraeus’s decision to revise the entire strategy comes just weeks after he arrived in Afghanistan following the abrupt dismissal of Gen Stanley McChrystal for insubordination.

Gen McChrystal had planned a summer conquest of the Taliban in Kandahar to reinvigorate the battle against the Taliban.

But the operation has been repeatedly delayed by concerns that it would not adequately restore the confidence of city residents in the security forces.

Gen Petraeus is reported to believe that the operation must be a broad-ranging counter-insurgency campaign, involving more troops working with local militias.

The plan he inherited was criticised for placing too much emphasis on targeted assassinations of key insurgent leaders and not enough on winning over local residents.

Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said yesterday that the US-led strategy in southern Afghanistan was undergoing sweeping changes.

“Kandahar is not a military operation like Fallujah,” Mr Holbrooke said. “We have Gen David Petraeus looking at the plan, scrubbing it down, looking at it again.”

President Hamid Karzai has bolstered Gen Petraeus’s efforts by agreeing to a US proposal to pay defectors from the Taliban to form local defence militias.

Mr Holbrooke, who oversees the civilian component of the American campaign in Afghanistan, has been described by Gen Petraeus as his “wing man” in the effort to reverse Taliban gains.

He said that the changes of strategy in the area also included a decision not to destroy poppy crops this year, an action that had in the past “driven” farmers into alliance with the Taliban.

He also said that the Afghan police force in Marjah – which now numbers 60 – could not yet replace thousands of US Marines. Efforts to stabilise Helmand’s Marjah have been bogged down by stronger resistance.

Gen Petraeus recruited prominent military experts who assisted him in the surge of forces that brought stability to Iraq.

Stephen Biddle, a military strategist at the US Council for Foreign Relations, coauthored as suggestion that the US would be successful in Afghanistan if it could set up a strong local government in places like Kandahar.

Defections from the Taliban are crucial to the goal of ending the war within four years but Mr Holbrooke said only insurgent groups that had split with al-Qaeda, and willing to work within the framework of the Afghan constitution would be approached.

More effort was being put into recruiting local allies on a district by district basis.

“The reintegration policy is the key to a successful counter-insurgency campaign,” he said. “As for reconciliation, it’s out there somewhere. We’ve talked about it. The US will support Afghan-led reconciliation and by that we mean we need to know what’s going on. Not much is going on now, and nothing is going on with the United States.”

Mr Holbrooke said Pakistan had dramatically increased its co-operation with the US in the battle against the Taliban but he criticised Islamabad’s continuing support for the Haqqani network of insurgents.

“Without Pakistan’s participation, this (Afghan) war could go on indefinitely,” he said. “There’s much more co-operation at every level

“But I don’t want to mislead you, it is not yet where we hope it will be. What we talk about is the Haqqani network. Let’s be very specific. It’s a real problem.” Guardian by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Published: 9:00PM BST 23 Jul 2010

Drone Strikes Continue To Fuel Anti-US Sentiment In Pakistan

Drone Strikes Continue To Fuel Anti-US Sentiment In Pakistan

Jason Ditz

US Claims Massive ‘Militant’ Deaths and Almost No Civilian Casualties

The CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, something which has become an enormous issue over the past year and a half, have been an enormous source of controversy, both legal and practical.

The US, for its part, maintains that the drone strikes have caused no more than 30 civilian casualties, while killing over 500 militants. The claims seem common among US officials, in keeping with the narrative of precision drone strikes.

But they are tough to swallow for children killed and maimed in the almost constant bombardment. And for villagers the claims that friends and relatives are “suspected militants” are tough to reconcile with reality, as are the claims of US precision.

They also don’t jibe with figures from Pakistan’s own intelligence agencies, which estimate that the US actually killed 700 civilians in 2009 alone, while killing only a handful of confirmed militants. The number of civilians wounded in all these attacks is unknown, but significant.

It is unsurprising, then, that the strikes continue to inflame anti-US sentiment across Pakistan, and US claims that the victims are almost universally “militants” is likely only making matters worse, in the face of enormous evidence to the contrary.

Categories: Article Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

U.S. Forces Leave Afghan ‘Valley of Death’

April 15, 2010 Leave a comment

U.S. Forces Leave Afghan ‘Valley of Death’

KORENGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan—For five years, U.S. troops fought their way up and down the cedar-studded slopes of the Korengal Valley. The ferocity of the fighting inspired a video-game scenario, thrust the remote valley into the media glare, and famously forced a U.S. soldier to fight in his underwear. In all, 42 U.S. troops have been killed here.

On Wednesday, the fight for Korengal officially ended when the final U.S. soldiers were airlifted from a ridge above this collection of stone buildings, sandbagged bunkers and jury-rigged plumbing built on the grounds of a former lumber mill. The Americans pulled out because they determined that instead of bringing a measure of stability to Korengal, they had largely proven “an irritant to the people,” said the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

“We’re not living in their homes, but we’re living in their valley,” Gen. McChrystal said on a visit to Korengal last week as the withdrawal was getting under way. “There was probably much more fighting here than there would have been” if U.S. troops had never come.

U.S. soldiers responded to Taliban fire outside their bunker in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, May 11, 2009. This photo, made available by World Press Photo in Amsterdam, won second prize in the People in the News Singles category of the 2010 World Press Photo contest by American photographer David Guttenfelder for the Associated Press.

Asked about moving out of the valley after losing so many men here, Gen. McChrystal said: “I care deeply about everyone who’s been hurt here. But I can’t do anything about that. I can do something about people hurt in the future.”

American officials say the exit from Korengal represents neither a victory nor a loss—just changing priorities. The focus since President Barack Obama’s Afghan strategy review has switched to seizing key population centers back from the Taliban and restoring the Afghan government’s battered authority and credibility. That thinking underpinned the coalition offensive in the southern town of Marjah in February and the plans now being drawn up for a massive surge of forces into Kandahar province, the Taliban’s birthplace and spiritual heartland.

The flipside of the counterinsurgency strategy is the withdrawal of troops from sparsely populated areas where an American presence is deemed unnecessary to defeat the Taliban and potentially harmful in creating a violent environment. Many of the soldiers are in the remote valleys of eastern Afghanistan, forested slivers where outsiders—even those from elsewhere in Afghanistan—have never been welcome and the government’s writ never really existed.

“If you don’t understand the dynamics, you have no chance of getting it right,” Gen. McChrystal said.

U.S. forces have already pulled out of much of Nuristan province to the north, where last year eight American soldiers were killed when two of their bases were stormed by insurgents. More withdrawals are planned. Reporters were allowed to visit soldiers in Korengal on the condition they didn’t report on the withdrawal until the military said the valley was clear.

Regional Violence

“We’ve got to come out of these valleys,” said Lt. Col. Brian Pearl, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. “This is going to free up a full company”—roughly 120 men—”and that’s going to give us a lot more flexibility to focus on places where there are more people.”

Korengal, with its 4,500 people who speak their own dialect of Pashto and practice a particularly ascetic form of Islam, definitely didn’t fit into the new counterinsurgency plan. Even when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they never established their authority over the valley.

Its topography—a six-mile long, two-mile wide gorge lined by steep, forested slopes with rocky outcroppings—and a toxic mix of angry locals, Taliban, and foreign insurgents coming over the border from Pakistan prompted Time magazine to call it the “Valley of Death.” Vanity Fair dedicated nearly 14,000 words spread over two stories to Korengal, noting in a January 2008 story that nearly a fifth of all combat in Afghanistan at the time took place in the valley.

The valley also produced one of the most iconic images of the war: a May 2009 Associated Press photograph of a U.S. soldier fighting off an attack on his base clad in flip flops, a red T-shirt and pink boxer shorts emblazoned with little “I love NY” logos.

One of the observation posts in the valley, Firebase Phoenix, later renamed Firebase Vimoto, was even featured in a scenario in the best-selling video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”

“I’ve never had to tell war stories because everyone’s heard of this place,” said Pfc. Chris Huggins, 22 years old, of Baker Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. The Gloucester, Virginia-native spent his last few weeks in the valley at Vimoto, a tiny collection of stone buildings crowned by a wooden, sandbagged observation post. The base comes under fire almost daily.

Still, “I was always telling people back home it wasn’t as bad as they thought here,” Pfc. Huggins said.

It wasn’t good, either. One of the Americans’ first forays into the valley was an effort by U.S. Navy Seals to capture a local Taliban leader in July 2005. The initial four-man team that dropped into the valley was quickly attacked, and then a Chinook helicopter packed with men sent to save them was shot down by Taliban forces. In total, 19 U.S. service members were killed.

Nearly a year later, in April 2006, U.S. forces moved back in to stay. They set up the Korengal Outpost in the valley’s north end on the site of the defunct saw mill, whose owner, Haji Matin, is now one of the valley’s main insurgent leaders. Over the next two years, U.S. forces established two more large observation posts and two small fire bases in Korengal.

But they never made it to the southern, Taliban-infested end of the valley, and fighting was a daily occurrence. By last year, officers as high ranking as Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were questioning why the U.S. was tying down a whole company here.

The valley never became one of those places in Afghanistan where the coalition could measure progress in schools and clinics and irrigation projects built. Whatever they built, the Taliban destroyed. There is no local Afghan government here to work with.

“Everybody hates them in the valley,” Haji Nizamuddin, a tribal elder in Korengal, said of the Americans. U.S. forces “shoot at people, they raid our houses and kill our women and children.” Mr. Nizamuddin stressed that he wasn’t pro-Taliban. He, like many people in the valley, simply wanted to be left alone, he said.

“If the foreigners leave the Taliban will stop harassing my people,” he said during a telephone interview from the provincial capital, Asad Abad. “We have our tribes and our tribes can protect us against the insurgents when the Americans leave.”

The U.S. withdrawal involved 84 runs by helicopters down the twisting, narrow gorges that lead into the valley and back out. It was kept secret to avoid tipping off the Taliban; commanders feared that if the insurgents found out the timing of the withdrawal, they would try to mass fighters and launch one last coordinated attack on the exposed and retreating soldiers.

Instead, the Taliban appeared to have missed its chance to do a final “complex” operation, Baker Company’s commander, Capt. Mark Moretti, told Gen. McChrystal during a briefing last week at the Korengal Outpost. Communications intercepts by U.S. intelligence showed the Taliban’s chief figure in the valley, Abdul Rahim, was recently across the border in Pakistan with $18,000 and trying to raise a force of 200 fighters even as the Americans pulled out.

No officer here, including Gen. McChrystal, believes Korengal will become a haven from which Taliban fighters can launch attacks beyond the valley. There remains a coalition base at the valley’s northern end to keep fighters from coming into the more populous Pech River Valley, which runs perpendicular to Korengal. And teams of soldiers can always be airdropped back into Korengal on specific missions, officers said.

Militants Attacks Indian Camp In Afghanistan

April 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Militants Attacks Indian Camp In Afghanistan

KABUL: Militants launched a pre-dawn attack on an Indian road construction camp in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, burning vehicles and equipment and sending the crew fleeing, authorities said.

No deaths or injuries were reported in the attack in Khost province’s Domanda district, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Suspected Taliban, who are active in the mountainous eastern region bordering Pakistan, descended on the camp around 2 a.m.

Such raids seek to discourage foreign involvement in Afghanistan and destabilize the central government, which is struggling to bring development to the impoverished countryside and extend its mandate outside the capital, Kabul.

It wasn’t clear whether the camp was targeted due to Indian involvement, although militants have launched a number of bloody attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan over recent years.

In July 2008, 58 people were killed in a suicide car bombing on the Indian embassy in Kabul, while at least six Indians were killed in an attack on a Kabul guesthouse in February. Taliban insurgents have claimed responsibility for the attacks, although New Delhi has claimed arch-rival Pakistan may have provided support in the embassy attack.

Elsewhere, two members of a nomadic tribe were killed by a roadside bomb Friday in the southern province of Kandahar, the ministry said. No details were given.

Following a rancorous week, US and Afghan officials have recommitted to their relationship, with President Barack Obama saying in an interview published Friday that Karzai remains “a critical partner” in the fight against terrorism.

That followed Karzai’s recent stern assertions of Afghan sovereignty and accusations that the United Nations and the international community interfered in last year’s fraud-tarnished presidential election in Afghanistan.

The White House called the comments disturbing and had suggested it might cancel Karzai’s planned visit to the White House in May if they continued. However, National Security Adviser James Jones told reporters Friday that the sides had ”gotten through this period.”

Jones said that Obama wrote and had delivered a thank-you note to Karzai for hosting him on short notice during the US president’s trip to Afghanistan on March 28. The note did not mention the recent controversies.

Also Saturday, Nato said it still had no information on what caused the crash of a U.S. Air Force Osprey in which three service members and a civilian contractor were killed. It was the first crash of the costly tilt-rotor aircraft in a combat zone, the US military said.

Numerous other service members were reported injured when the aircraft went down late Thursday seven miles (11 kilometers) from Qalat, the capital of Zabul province about 200 miles (300 kilometers) southwest of Kabul.

A Taliban spokesman said militants shot down the aircraft, but the insurgents often make exaggerated claims. – AP

India Out Of The Loop On Af-Pak

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

India Out Of The Loop On Af-Pak

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN

WASHINGTON: The atmospherics are good but the ground realities are unfavourable. India is struggling to stay relevant and advance its geo-political equities with the United States at a time Washington is buffeted by domestic pressures and international crises that are undercutting its resolve to put ties with New Delhi on a higher plane.

Good intentions, broad agenda, and packed schedules notwithstanding, Indian diplomatic foray into Washington this week was notable for gripes and grievances than any significant advancement towards the stated goal of achieving a strategic relationship with the US, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao had a series of meetings on Tuesday, including a drop-in by secretary of state Hillary Clinton at a state department meeting with her counterpart William Burns, but in the end there was no meeting of minds on the most fundamental security issue of the times.

India and US disagree on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That much became clear towards the end of the foreign secretary’s visit although elaboration on this issue was foiled by the cancellation of Rao’s wrap-up press meet (Indian Embassy said she was unwell).

At a time when Washington is searching for an exit strategy from the Af-Pak region, a statement released at the end of her visit (in lieu of the cancelled press conference) tersely noted that “she (Rao) reiterated India’s long-held position that it was important for the international community to stay the present course in Afghanistan for as long as it is necessary.” The international community on the other hand wants to get the hell out of Afghanistan — yesterday.

There were other unresolved issues. Rao’s engagement was also partly torpedoed by the withdrawal by the government of the nuclear liability bill in Parliament hours after her arrival here. As a result, there was little progress on tying up loose ends of the civilian nuclear deal including an agreement on reprocessing although there were brave words about the deal being on track and on schedule.

Most notably, on the issue of high-tech cooperation, the Indian side was still pleading for removal of some its organizations from the so-called Entities List, seven years after the establishment of the group. “The Indian side requested the US department of commerce to review US export controls applicable to India and update them to bring them in keeping with the changed political realities that contextualize India-US strategic partnership today,” the concluding statement said.

To say India has become a mere sideshow in Washington would be overstating it (besides meeting Clinton, Rao also called on the NSA Jim Jones and two key lawmakers on a day Washington was awash with the health care issue and the US-Israel spat). There were important advances in bilateral matters, including setting the stage for external affairs minister S M Krishna’s visit to Washington shortly leading in turn to President Obama’s visit to New Delhi later this year.

But on the Af-Pak issue, India is clearly out of the loop. Pakistan is again the new game in town. Even as the Indian foreign secretary made the rounds of a capital in political and legislative ferment (over the health care bill), diplomatic corridors were abuzz with Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s own outreach to the Taliban through his brothers and Pakistan’s effort to impose itself on that engagement.

Rao meanwhile was telling think-tankers that Taliban remained untouchables for New Delhi. India’s gripe about US arms to Pakistan also went largely unaddressed. In fact, even as Rao was complaining about the potential use by Pakistan of US-supplied weapons against India, Washington had delivered from its base in Jordan a squadron of 14 AH-1 Cobra advanced helicopter gunships to Pakistan.

Times of India

Categories: Afghan War, Afghanistan, Article, Asia-Pacific Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Raise your price

Ahmed Quraishi

Pakistan has agreed to hand over Afghan Taliban’s number 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to Afghanistan. How about asking for the dismantling of the Afghan-based terror infrastructure targeting Pakistani Balochistan? Though Afghanistan’s role as a base for anti-Pakistan operations over the past seven years seems to be gradually shrinking, it is not completely over yet. The rollback in that role is directly linked to what the US wants. Its recent change of heart regarding Pakistan’s role and legitimate regional security interests are the result of the Pakistani military standing its ground, not any genuine change of heart in US policymaking circles. This is why you did not see any US official jumping in excitement at the idea of the Pakistani military training the Afghan National Army.

So the change in the US position may be tactical, forced by Pakistani straight talk. Examples abound, including how the CIA dragged its feet before it finally began targeting anti-Pakistan terror groups and leaders in the border area. There might have also been some visible decrease in the level of logistical support that the so-called Pakistani Taliban received from the Afghan soil (and not all of it from the proceeds of Afghan Taliban’s drug trade, as Afghan and American officials have been trying to convince their Pakistani counterparts). Pakistani officials are yet to certify this decrease publicly. Granted that Admiral Mike Mullen is someone who genuinely tries to understand Pakistani concerns. And he has been doing his bit with apparent sincerity in the past few months. But there are still some tensions below the surface. A Time magazine story over the weekend tried to delink US connection to the Jundullah terrorist group and throw the entire responsibility at Pakistan, targeting Iranian paranoia by suggesting a Pakistani intelligence support for Jundullah ‘as a tool for strategic depth.’ Enough of the demonization of Pakistan that the US media unfortunately spearheaded over the past three years, apparently through some kind of semi-official patronage. If US officials can bluntly accuse their Pakistani counterparts of sponsoring ‘anti-American articles’ in newspapers, whatever that means, surely Islamabad can pose the same question, especially when Pakistan’s case is stronger.

The same goes for the admirable US nudge to India to resume peace talks with Pakistan. Had things not gone wrong in Afghanistan for the grand US project, Washington was all set to introduce India as the new regional policeman in Afghanistan following the eventual pullback of NATO and US militaries from that country. Pakistan was being pushed to accept this as fait accompli and Mr Zardari’s pro-US government was more than willing to play along. Again, a Pakistani public opinion that is not ready for such a major one-sided Pakistani concession probably threw a spanner in the works.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir must be commended along with his team for stating the Pakistani bottom line. Forget the US statements on the need for peace between Pakistan and India. The fact is that the US played the two countries against one another in Afghanistan in the past eight years. If Pakistan accepts, a photo-op would work just fine for Washington as it does for New Delhi. We’d be asking too much if we think anyone in New Delhi or Washington is really itching to help Pakistan resolve its grievances with India. It’s just that the regional dynamic is helping us at this point in time.

So let’s make the most out of it while we retain the initiative. Instead of the theatrics, we must ask for something substantial this time. No more prolonged people-to-people exchanges. There is no problem between our peoples. And please, no more equating Pakistan’s responsibility for peace with India’s responsibility. The onus is on India. It is the bigger country. It can change the entire mood in the region by taking small steps to alleviate Pakistani insecurities. It can do so by taking steps in the water dispute, in improving how it treats Pakistani visitors, and by reducing tensions with the Kashmiri people on the ground.

Bottom line: Enough of selling ourselves cheap over the past eight years. Pakistan should secure its interests and accept nothing less.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: aq@ahmedquraishi.com