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NATO Expands Afghan War Into Pakistan

September 30, 2010 1 comment

On October 7 the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization military allies will begin the tenth year of their war in Afghanistan, over 3,000 miles from NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

The following month midterm elections will be held in the U.S. and NATO will hold a two-day summit in Portugal. The American administration is eager to achieve, or appear to have achieved, a foreign policy triumph in an effort to retain Democratic Party control of the Congress and NATO something to show for the longest and largest military mission in its 61 years of existence.

President Barack Obama has tripled the amount of American combat troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 and along with forces from other NATO member states and partner nations there are now over 150,000 foreign troops in the nation, the most ever stationed in the war-wracked country. 120,000 of those soldiers are now under the command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the most ever serving in a North Atlantic Alliance-led military operation. NATO Kosovo Force at its peak had 50,000 troops, but they entered the Serbian province after an almost three-month air war had ended.

The 120,000 NATO forces currently in theater – from 50 nations already with more pegged to provide troops – are at the center of the world’s longest-lasting and increasingly deadly hot war. NATO’s first ground war, its first combat operations in Asia.

Last year was the most lethal for the U.S and NATO in what is now a nine-year conflict and this year has already proven even more costly in terms of combat deaths. And there are three more months to go.

Washington and Brussels could decide to save face and end the fighting through some combination of an internal political settlement and a true international peacekeeping arrangement – rather than the subversion of the International Security Assistance Force that was established by a United Nations mandate in December of 2001 but which is now the Pentagon’s and NATO’s vehicle for waging war in Afghanistan. And in neighboring Pakistan.

But the military metaphysic prevalent in Washington over the past 65 years will allow for nothing other than what is seen as victory, with a “Who lost Afghanistan?” legacy tarnishing the president who fails to secure it and the party to which he belongs being branded half-hearted and defeatist.

As for NATO, the Strategic Concept to be adopted in November is predicated upon the bloc’s expansion into a 21st century global expeditionary force for which Afghanistan is the test case. A NATO that loses Afghanistan, that loses in Afghanistan, will be viewed more critically by the populations of its European member states that have sacrificed their sons and daughters at the altar of NATO’s international ambitions. In the words of then-Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer six years ago: “What is NATO doing in Afghanistan? Defending values at the Hindu Kush in the present day international climate. We have to fight terrorism wherever it emerges. If we don’t do it at the Hindu Kush, it will end up at our doorstep. In other words, this perception gap [of the North Atlantic military alliance operating in South Asia] in the long run must be closed and must be healed – that is, for NATO’s future, of the utmost importance.” [1]

Not satisfied with the Vietnam that Afghanistan has become, NATO has now launched its Cambodian incursion. One with implications several orders of magnitude greater than with the prototype, though, into a nation of almost 170 million people, a nation wielding nuclear weapons. Pakistan.

As the U.S. delivered its 20th deadly drone missile attack of the month inside Pakistan on the 27th, five times the amount launched in August and the most in any month since they were started in 2004, NATO conducted a series of attacks with helicopter gunships in Northwest Pakistan. Claiming the “right of self-defense” and in “hot pursuit” of insurgents that had reportedly attacked a NATO camp, Combat Outpost Narizah, in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the Pakistani border, this past weekend NATO attack helicopters conducted two forays into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where U.S. drone strikes have killed a record number of people this month.

Estimates of those killed, dutifully referred to in the Western press as insurgents, militants or terrorists, were 30, then 50, afterward 60, 70 and later “82 or higher.” [2]

The amount, like the identify, of the dead will never be definitively known.

Press reports stated the targets were members of the Haqqani network, founded by veteran Afghan Mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who when he led attacks from Pakistani soil against Afghan targets slightly over a generation ago was an American hero, one of Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters.” Two years ago the New York Times wrote: “In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was cultivated as a ‘unilateral’ asset of the CIA and received tens of thousands of dollars in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, according to an account in ‘The Bin Ladens,’ a recent book by Steve Coll. At that time, Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Coll wrote.” [3]

As to the regret that the otherwise praiseworthy Haqqani has of late allied himself with the Taliban, one voiced by among other people the late Charlie Wilson who once celebrated Haqqani as “goodness personified,” in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press last year Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told his American audience that the Taliban “was part of your past and our past, and the ISI and the CIA created them together. And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that….” [4]

On September 27 two NATO helicopters attacked the Kurram agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, killing six people and wounding eight. A local Pakistani government official described all the victims as civilians. According to Dawn News, “Nato has also shelled the area before.” [5] Three attacks in three days and as many as 100 deaths.

On the same day a U.S. drone-launched missile strike killed four people in the North Waziristan agency. “The identities of the four people killed in the attack were not known….” [6]

The above events occurred against the backdrop of the revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars that “a 3,000-strong secret army of Afghan paramilitary forces run by the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted cross-border raids into Pakistan.” [7]

After mounting in intensity for two years and consisting in part – helicopter gunship attacks and special forces assassination team raids – of covert operations, the U.S. and NATO war in Northwest Pakistan is now fully underway and can no longer be denied.

The Pentagon – the helicopters used in the attacks on September 25 and 26 were American Apaches and Kiowas – defended the strikes over the weekend as falling within its rules of engagement and Defense Department spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the U.S. had adhered to “appropriate protocol” and “Our forces have the right of self-defense.” [8]

A spokesmen for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force initially denied that Alliance forces had launched any attacks inside Pakistani territory, although Afghan police officials had confirmed that they did. On September 27, however, the International Security Assistance Force verified that NATO forces had conducted the deadly strikes. As the third attack by NATO helicopters occurred on the same day, “Coalition officials said the cross-border attacks fell within its rules of engagement because the insurgents had attacked them from across the border.” [9]

A NATO official informed the press that “ISAF forces must and will retain the authority, within their mandate, to defend themselves in carrying out their mission.” [10]

Mehmood Shah, former top security official of the Pakistani government in the region where the helicopter gunship and drone strikes have killed over 200 people so far this month, said of the recent NATO attacks: “This should be considered a watershed event. They [Nato] must be warned: the next time you do this, it can lead to war. Our units should be deployed to fire upon them. This border has sanctity. Nato must realise they have a mandate to operate in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” [11]

On September 27 Interior Minister Rehman Malik denounced the NATO raids as a violation of Pakistani territorial integrity and national sovereignty and told the nation’s Senate that the Afghan ambassador to Islamabad would be summoned to explain the attacks. Malik and the Pakistani government as a whole know that the Hamid Karzai administration in Kabul has no control over what the U.S. and NATO do in its own country, much less in Pakistan. The interior minister’s comment were solely for internal consumption, for placating Pakistani popular outrage, but as Pakistan itself has become a NATO partner and U.S. surrogate [12] its officials, like those of Afghanistan, will not be notified of any future attacks.

Nevertheless domestic exigencies compelled Malik to denounce the strikes inside his country and assert “I take the drone attacks in Pakistani territory as an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan.” A senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz “asked the government to inform the parliament about any accord it had reached with the US under which drone attacks were being carried out.” [13]

At the same time Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit went further and lodged what was described as a strong protest to NATO Headquarters in Brussels over the weekend’s air strikes, issuing a statement that said in part: “These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” as its mandate “terminates/finishes” at the Afghan border.

“There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable.” [14]

By the evening of September 27, after the Pakistani complaints were registered, NATO’s ISAF attempted to conduct damage control and reverted to the military bloc’s original position: That it has not launched attacks inside Pakistan at all. On that very day it had dispatched two more helicopter gunships for the third raid in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

NATO will continue to launch lethal attacks inside Pakistan against whichever targets it sees fit and will proffer neither warnings nor apologies. The U.S. will continue to escalate attacks with Hellfire missiles against whomever it chooses, however inaccurate, anecdotal and self-interested the reports upon which they are based prove to be.

The death toll in Pakistan this month is well over 200 and for this year to date over 2,000. The justification for this carnage offered by the U.S. and NATO is that it is intended to extend the policy of Barack Obama to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” insurgent networks in Afghanistan into Pakistan, supposedly the sooner to end the war.

Forty years ago Obama’s predecessor Richard Nixon began his speech announcing the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia with these words: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. Ten days ago, in my report to the nation on Vietnam, I announced the decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I said then that I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam. And at that time I warned that if I concluded that increased enemy activity in any of these areas endangered the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation.” [15]

He claimed that “enemy sanctuaries” in Cambodia “endanger the lives of Americans who are in Vietnam,” and “if this enemy effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast enemy staging area and a springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier: a refuge where enemy troops could return from combat without fear of retaliation.”

The course he ordered was to “go to the heart of the trouble. And that means cleaning out major North Vietnamese and Vietcong occupied territories, these sanctuaries which serve as bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.”

The practical application of the policy was that “attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border.”

In language that has been heard again lately in Washington and Brussels – with nothing but the place names changed – Nixon claimed: “We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam….”

Washington indeed expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia, with what disastrous effects the world is fully aware, and soon thereafter departed Southeast Asia in defeat, leaving vast stretches of Vietnam and Cambodia in ruins.

Afghanistan and Pakistan will not fare any better.

Why is Karzai hiding Bramdagh Bugti who holds an Indian passport?

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Why is Karzai hiding Bramdagh Bugti who holds an Indian passport?

President Karzai who was called for a dressing down to Islamabad made the usual noises in Pakistan, and gave a less than satisfatory response on Bramdagh Bugti who resides in Kabul under an Indian passport. Mr. Bramdagh Bugti is a known terrorist who speaks up against Pakistan every opportunity he gets.

Bramdagh Bugti, grandson of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti runs the banned Baloch Republican Party (BRA) in Balochistan.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday sought to dispel fears in Pakistan about Afghan territory being used by India to stir trouble in the restive province of Balochistan. In Pakistan with a high-level delegation to discuss ways to root out terrorism from the region ahead of the planned pull out of international forces from Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari maintained the two countries had a common cause in regional peace.

Asked how Afghanistan could accept Pakistani hospitality for years and yet allow India to destabilise Pakistan from Afghan soil, Mr. Karzai said: “I will speak with a clear voice and a clear conscience. Afghanistan will be committing a great wrong to itself if we allow our territory to be used by any other country against Pakistan. This is not in the interest of Afghanistan. Please trust us on that. We will not allow that.”

As for the specific charge of Afghanistan providing refuge to leading Baloch insurgency leader Bramdagh Bugti — who is said to have an Indian passport — Mr. Karzai said if Pakistan thought he was a criminal and provided evidence, Kabul would act on it. Various news sources including “The Hindu”.

The five banned groups in Balochistan are Balochistan Republican Army, Baloch Liberation Front, Balochistan Liberation United Front, Baloch Defaee Tanzeem and Lashkar-e-Balochistan. As for the Indian hand in the strife in Balochistan and insurgents making their way into the province from Afghanistan, Mr. Malik said: “We have not only raised it with the two governments, we have lodged our protest with them.” Further, he said Bramdagh Bugti — grandson of slain Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Akbar Bugti who heads the Balochistan Republican Party and is regarded as the fiercest face of the insurgency — was in Afghanistan. Pakistan has time and again flagged his Indian passport as evidence of New Delhi’s support for the insurgency in Balochistan.

Balochis believe that Nawab Bugti was murdered by the then federal government and a major grouse is that no enquiry was ordered into his assassination. He is the father of Bramdagh Bugti whose Indian passport has become a sore point in relations between India and Pakistan. The matter had come up for discussion at the Foreign Minister level engagement last month as Pakistan remains convinced about India’s role in the ongoing strife in the province.

Balochistan, Bugti, fourth anniversary, Black Day, Pakistan

No operation in Balochistan: PM

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Gilani says size of federal cabinet will be reduced before next year

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday categorically stated that the federal government had no intention to launch a Swat-like military operation in Balochistan.

“There is no such plan to launch a Swat or Malakand-like operation. That is wrong. It is for the provincial government in Balochistan to take decisions about their province,” Gilani told a group of newspaper editors and media persons at the Prime Minister’s House. The PM said that Interior Minister Senator Rehman Malik, who had also already contradicted the statement, told him that he did not talk about starting any military operation in Balochistan. Gilani said that the federal government was very sensitive about Balochistan, adding the approval of a special Balochistan package was reflective of the government’s positive approach. “We have also invited the nationalist leaders for talks,” the PM said.

Gilani, when asked if he intended to reshuffle his cabinet, responded that according to the constitution after the 18th Amendment, he had to reduce the size of his cabinet before next year. As far as the reshuffle in the cabinet was concerned, he said the matter could be taken up during the meeting of the Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Central Executive Committee (CEC). He said that the government was fully focusing on rehabilitation of the flood affectees and a large amount of donations had been received so far. Gilani said that the international community had pledged $1 billion out of which the federal government had received $300 million. agencies

Iran and Pakistan sign gas export agreement

Iran and Pakistan formally signed yesterday an export deal which commits the Islamic republic to supplying its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.

The contract is the latest step in completing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan within the next four years.

“This is a happy day,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji told reporters at the contract signing ceremony in Tehran. “After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement… to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” he added.

He said that from today, Iran will start building the next 300-kilometre leg of the pipeline from the southeastern city of Iranshahr to the Pakistani border, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran has already constructed 907km of the pipeline between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, which will carry natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field. Pakistan’s Deputy Energy Minister Kamran Lashari, who was present at the signing ceremony, said Islamabad will conduct a one-year feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline.

It will then “take three years for constructing the 700km pipeline” from the Iranian border to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, he added. The pipeline was originally planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter pulled out of the project last year. Pakistan plans to use the gas for its power sector.

Pakistan starts Domestic Production of Fighter Avionics

Pakistan starts Domestic Production of Fighter Avionics

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan said it has commenced domestic production of avionics for the Sino-Pak JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft.

The announcement came May 28 at a ceremony attended by Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra, just outside Islamabad.

To date, the majority of avionics produced in Pakistan have been manufactured under license from foreign companies, most notably Selex Galileo radars for the Air Force’s Mirage III and F-7P Fishbed fighters. However, this looks set to change.

During the May 28 ceremony, the PAC’s chairman, Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, outlined the JF-17 avionics, in which he stated, “four indigenously designed and developed avionics systems were also being produced,” and that the “production scope would be progressively broadened to include the production of a complete JF-17 avionics suite at the complex.”

Officials at PAC could not provide any details on the announcement, and Air Force officials declined to answer any queries.

It is believed, however, that at least two of the domestically designed and produced systems include a head-up display and a weapons and mission management computer.

Past indigenous avionics projects have included a radar homing system in the 1960s for the F-104 fighter jet; an IRST pod and modifications to the GEC 956 HUD (Head Up Display); and the HUDWAC (HUD Weapon Aiming Computer) for the F-7P in the 1990s.

Efforts to sustain avionics design in Pakistan have not succeeded.

Retired Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail said he believes the reason is because it has “not been a viable proposition so far.”

However, large-scale indigenous production of the JF-17 and potential export sales mean such a move is now more economically viable, he said.

Tufai said the Air Force has the potential to succeed because it has “a very large pool of highly qualified avionics engineers at the bachelor’s, master’s and even doctorate level, both serving and retired.”

If that potential does result in a focused effort, “the next decade may well see Pakistan establish itself as one of the leading Asia-Pacific producers of avionics hardware and software,” he said. Pakistan Begins Domestic Fighter Avionics Production, By USMAN ANSARI, Published: 4 Jun 2010 18:01

Maoists winning the battle to control India

Friday’s train crash in India has been blamed on “sabotage” by Maoist rebels. It was the latest in a series of rebel attacks after the government launched an offensive against them. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas asks whether the rebels are gaining the upper hand.

It is not surprising that Maoist rebels are being blamed for the derailment of an express train in India’s West Bengal state, in which 71 passengers were killed.

The police claim they have found posters signed by a local Maoist militia claiming responsibility for removing part of the track, which led to the train skidding off and colliding with a freight train coming in the opposite direction.

West Midnapore district, where the incident happened, is the hotbed of Maoist rebellion in West Bengal, one of the states where the rebels have a presence.

Tribespeople dominate the district, especially the forested Junglemahal region bordering Jharkhand state.

They feel ignored and deprived by the Communist government which has been ruling the state since 1977. Most live in abject poverty. The only visible signs of “development” I spotted during a trip to the area some years ago were cheap liquor shops.

Strong support

Fed up with the state of affairs, Junglemahal’s tribespeople even agitated for a separate state.

When neighbouring Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state, their alienation grew and they were quick to welcome the Maoists, who wield most influence in areas which are poor and dominated by tribespeople.

The security forces are on the backfoot after a spree of rebel attacks
The Lalgarh area in Junglemahal is the rebels’ most formidable stronghold.
In February, they stormed a police camp in Lalgarh, killing 24 policemen.
Rebels love to describe Lalgarh as a “liberated zone” where the state has withered away – schools and medical centres have closed down because teachers and doctors are afraid to attend, and policemen are confined to the police stations fearing reprisals.

Friday’s incident in West Midnapore demonstrates how the rebels are taking the battle to their enemies ever since the federal government launched an offensive in what is known as India’s “red corridor” earlier this year.

This comprises 223 of India’s 636 districts in 20 states which the government says are “Maoist affected”, up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago.
Ninety of these affected districts, the government says, are experiencing “consistent violence.”

The rebels have been carrying out attacks with impunity in recent months – two major attacks Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state left more than 100 people dead, including 75 paramilitary troops.
But there are also theories that in this case the Maoist script went slightly awry.

Maoists frequently tamper with railway lines and often these lead to minor derailments; a number of such attempts have been caught well in time. There have been hijackings but no major attacks on civilian transport with such a death toll.

In the past year, Maoists have carried out 32 attacks on railways, mainly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh – but no major casualties have been reported.

Support for the Maoist cause across India generally will be dented by such an attack, just as it was after the assault on troops in Dantewada.

Following the twin Dantewada attacks, the government said it was reviewing its strategy for fighting the rebels, who have refused to respond to repeated government offers for talks.

Analysts say that the strategy of “clearing, holding and developing” rebel-affected areas evidently inspired by the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not working.

‘Visible retreat’

One reason, they say, is that the surge of security forces and resources on the ground are not sufficient enough to take on the rebels who are spread over a vast swathe of remote mineral-rich forest lands.

Maoists call Lalgarh a “liberated zone”

The government is now in a “visible retreat” after a spree of rebel attacks, says security analyst Ajai Sahni.
He believes that a lack of adequate forces, training and intelligence is leading to these “disasters”.

“Unless local capacities for intelligence and operations are enormously augmented, this [offensive] can go nowhere, and lot of lives are going to be lost for no useful purpose,” Mr Sahni says.

But the under-equipped local police and intelligence-gathering networks remain Indian security’ s weakest link, and there no visible efforts to bolster them.

The government appears to be confused over how the rebels should be tackled – there are differences in the ruling Congress party itself on whether the state should strike hard against it’s own people.

Recently federal home minister P Chidambaram requested wider powers to deal with the rebels, saying that he had been given a “limited mandate.”
He said the chief ministers of some of the worst affected states have asked for air power to be used against the rebels – a measure that the government has refused to sanction.

Analysts believe that many states are not doing enough to take on the rebels, leading to a “centralisation” of the problem.

The train ‘”sabotage” was one of the biggest attacks launched by the rebels
“The principal responsibility for dealing with the Maoists remain that of the states; the first responders, the local police stations, have to be strengthened and equipped to deal with the task on their own.”

Till that happens, the rebels will be seen to have an upper hand in what promises to be long drawn out and bloody conflict, the like of which India has never seen.

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India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Iran on Friday signed a “sovereign guarantee” agreement paving the way for the completion of a 7.5-billion-dollar gas pipeline project within the next four years.

The 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline will be between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, near the border with Pakistan, and will carry natural gas from Iran’s South Pars field.

Pakistan petroleum minister Syed Naveed Qamar told reporters after a signing ceremony in Islamabad that originally the pipeline was planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter withdrew from the project last year.
“I am extremely pleased that after 17 long years this project is finally starting. It would help us generate energy for our industrial growth,” Qamar said of the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) between the two countries.
Qamar added that “Iran had assured us that they would complete the project between two-and-half to three years, ahead of schedule.”

The imported natural gas — whose volume is estimated at nearly 20 percent of Pakistan?s current gas production — will be dedicated to the power sector.

Electricity generation through gas would result in “significant” annual savings when compared with other fuels, a petroleum ministry statement said.

Supply is contracted for a period of 25 years, the statement said, renewable for another five years.
“While all other CPs (Conditions Precedent) of the GSPA are completed, the project is now ready to enter into its implementation phase,” the ministry statement said.

“As per current project implementation schedule, the first gas flow is targeted by end 2014.
“The capital cost for the Pakistan section is estimated at 1.65 billion dollars.”