Rahul Gandhi: Frightening Views From India

Defeat terrorism in 15 minutes: Rahul

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday had a surprise suggestion of empowering villagers to fight terrorism.

“I am confident that this country can take on terrorism. Defeating it is no problem. If we empower those people in villages, we can sit back, relax and we will destroy terrorism in 15 minutes,” Gandhi told a press conference here.

USA to ally with Baluchistan, India, Iran and Militant Moslems?

USA to ally with Baluchistan, India, Iran and Militant Moslems?

Reportedly, the Obama regime wants:

1. Iran to control the Middle East.

2. India to control South Asia, including Afghanistan.

3. Militant Moslems to be used against China and Russia.

4. the USA to control Baluchistan, which is currently a part of Pakistan.

A map from an American Armed Forces military journal.

On 24 April 2009, Talha Mujaddidi wrote: The Destabilization of Pakistan: Finding Clarity in the Baluchistan Conundrum

Among the points made:

1. Baluchistan has a port at Gwadar that was built by China.

2. Baluchistan has huge quantities of natural gas, and unexplored oil reserves.

3. Baluchistan’s population accounts for only 5% of the total population of Pakistan.


4. British intelligence is allegedly providing covert support to Baluchistan separatists.

There are reports of CIA and Mossad support to Baloch rebels in Iran and Southern Afghanistan.

5. The main group responsible for violence in Baluchistan is the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), operating out of Afghanistan…

The BLA enjoys support from Indian RAW in terms of finances, logistics, and weapons.

6. Iran has huge reserves of gas and it would like India to gain access to these reserves since India is its ally.

7. The US believes that the balkanization of Pakistan and the setting up of an independent Baluchistan will dismantle the hope of a resurgent Pakistan in the near future, paving the way for a dominant Iran taking control of the Middle East while India will be able to take control of South Asia including Afghanistan.

8. Brzezinski believes that Iran not the Arab world is the natural ally of US in the Middle East.

9. The current US government is using the foreign policy ideals of Brzezinski, which calls for using Islamic militants and Iran against China and Russia.

Georgia accuses Russia of backing attempted coup

Tanks approach the Mukhrovani army base where soldiers have staged a mutiny, some 6 miles east of Tbilisi, Georgia on Tuesday. The Georgian government accused Russia of financing a coup, something Moscow has denied.
David Mdzinarishvili

[A false flag event, or an attempt to avoid a repeat of the last US/Georgia war games?]

Georgia accuses Russia of backing attempted coup

Officials in Tbilisi say a revolt at an Army base was part of an attempt to disrupt the government and had support from Russia.

Georgian officials have described a revolt that broke out at an Army base near the capital of Tbilisi Tuesday as part of a military coup that has Russian backing.

According to the Georgian Defense Ministry, the commanders of the Mukhrovani Army base have been dismissed and the soldiers confined to barracks. But the situation is yet to be brought under control as only one arrest has been made.

The revolt comes a day before NATO military exercises were scheduled to begin in Georgia. Around 1,000 soldiers from 19 member states and partners are to practice “crisis response” at the Vaziani Army base, which lies east of Tbilisi, 44 miles from Russian troop positions in South Ossetia. Russia has complained that the NATO exercises are “provocative” in the wake of the brief war between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia in August 2008. Russia has stationed about 10,000 troops in the breakaway provinces.

According to the Associated Press, several hundred Army personnel and some civilians are involved in Tuesday’s revolt.

A tank battalion mutinied Tuesday at a Georgian military base near the capital and several hundred army personnel were refusing to follow orders, Defense Minister David Sikharulidze said….

Sikharulidze said he had been blocked from entering the military base in Mukhrovani, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Tbilisi, the capital.

Among the mutineers were civilians who had no relation to the battalion, he said.

The Georgian government claims that the mutiny was aimed at disrupting the NATO exercises and overthrowing the government, reports Civil Georgia, an online news service run by the UN Association of Georgia.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said earlier that “a full-scale” military mutiny was planned in the Georgian army by some former military officials, who were “in coordination with Russia.”

“As it seems this mutiny was coordinated with Russia and aimed at minimum thwarting NATO military exercises and maximum organizing full-scale military mutiny in the country,” Shota Utiashvili, head of the information and analytical department of the Interior Ministry, said on May 5.

The government accused a former special forces commander of masterminding the alleged coup attempt, reports the BBC.

The interior ministry told the BBC that the plotters wanted to destabilise Georgia and assassinate President Saakashvili.

Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said one of the suspected coup leaders – former special forces commander Georgy Gvaladze – was arrested. But an alleged co-plotter – former chief of special forces Koba Otanadze – was still at large.

The spokesman said the government had been aware of the plot for two months. The rebellion appeared to be “co-ordinated with Russia”, the interior ministry said.

According to The Times of London, news of the suspected coup plot and the tank battalion mutiny come at a time when Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili is facing stiff opposition and sustained calls for his resignation.

The uprising was linked to discontent over the political situation in Georgia, [an Interior Ministry spokesman] added. Opposition parties began street demonstrations on April 9 to force Mr Saakashvili [to resign] but support for the protest has been dwindling.

President Saakashvili is seen as authoritarian and incapable of managing the threat posed by Russia, reports the London-based daily The Guardian. Opposition politicians accuse Saakashvili of presiding over an increasingly authoritarian and repressive regime. Several senior figures in Saakashvili’s government have defected to the opposition, accusing him of starting an unwinnable war that enabled Russia to strengthen its grip on the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, the Russian government has rejected Georgia’s allegations that it was behind the alleged coup plot, and NATO declined to comment.

Bloomberg reports that the situation between Georgia and Russia has been tense, with Georgia objecting to Russian troop presence in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Russia acknowledged as sovereign nations after the war last August.

Russia has deployed more than 10,000 soldiers in two breakaway Georgian regions, thousands more than previously announced, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.

“We have serious grounds to believe that Russia has more than 10,000 troops in the two regions, not 3,700 in each as they have claimed,” Zurab Kachkachishvili, head of the ministry’s political department, told reporters in Tbilisi today….

“Even a single soldier on our territory amounts to an occupation,” Kachkachishvili said. “The fact that thousands are there is a clear provocation.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Georgia remains the focal point in tensions between Russia, NATO, and the United States.

Last week, [Russian President Dimitri] Medvedev signed an agreement allowing Russia to put its own border guards in South Ossetia and Abkhazia….

The U.S. State Department responded quickly that the Russian move in the quasi-annexed Georgian regions was a violation of Georgian territorial integrity that caused “serious concern.”

But Mr. Medvedev seemed to be getting just what he wanted: a whipsaw situation of heightened tensions in which he could scare some European NATO allies that regard the Georgian government as threateningly unstable; and the future use of those tensions to bring pressure on Mr. Obama as the opportunity arises.

At the same time last week, Mr. Medvedev described as “provocative” NATO exercises scheduled to begin in Georgia on Wednesday (Russia turned down an invitation to participate in them); they involve no heavy equipment or arms and concentrate on things like disaster response and search and rescue.



PARIS May 04, 2009
The worldly French and British who are taught history and read books are looking with wry amusement and some pity on the Americans who are now gripped by a renewed bout of Taliban terror.
About ten days ago, a bunch of lightly-armed Pashtun tribesmen rode down from the Malakand region on motorbikes and pickup trucks and briefly swaggered around Buner, only 100 km from Pakistan’s capitol, Islamabad.
Hysteria erupted in Washington.  `The Taliban are coming. The Taliban are coming!’
Hillary Clinton, still struggling through foreign affairs 101, warned the scruffy Taliban tribesmen were a global threat.  Pakistan’s generals dutifully followed Washington’s orders by attacking the tribal miscreants in Buner who failed to obey the American Raj.  Over a hundred people were killed, almost all innocent civilians, and thousands of refuges fled the government bombing and gunfire.
It would have been helpful had the anguished Mrs. Clinton read page 30 of my book, `War at the Top of the World:’
`In the first quarter of the 20th century…two colorful figures emerged from the barren mountains of the Northwest Frontier. First, a fiery holy man with a wonderful name, the Fakir of Ipi.  The old fakir rallied the Pashtun tribes against the infidel and came within a turban’s length of taking Peshawar from the British, who spent a decade chasing the elusive fakir through the mountains of Waziristan.’
`Then, a fearsome figure, the `Mad Mullah’ (as the British press branded him), who rode down from the Malakand Pass at the head of 20,000 savage horsemen, determined to put the impious city of Peshawar (the main British Imperial base) to the sword.’
Like Mrs. Clinton, the good Christian ladies of the British Peshawar garrison had a very big scare.  Cries were raised that the Mad Mullah and his wicked Muslims were going to lay fire sword on Peshawar and carry off its Christian ladies upon whose white bodies would be inflicted unspeakable Islamic abominations.
Plus ca change…..   A century later, western imperial forces are again chasing unruly Pashtun tribesmen on the wild Northwest Frontier. Today, they’re called `terrorists’ by western media and politicians.   In the 1980’s they and their fathers were hailed as `freedom fighters’ battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Pashtun (aka Pathan)  frontier tribes  – collectively mislabeled  `Taliban’ by western media -  are up in arms again because they are being bombed by US Predator drones, and attacked by the Pakistani Army, which the US rents for $1.5 billion annually(the official figure; actually, it’s a lot more), to support its widening war in Afghanistan.  Pashtun civilian casualties – `collateral damage’ in Pentagonspeak – are rising fast.
The primary cause of the growing rebellion in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) is the US war in Afghanistan, which is rapidly spreading into Pakistan.   Most Pakistanis see the Afghan Taliban and their own rebellious Pashtun as heroes fighting western domination, and scorn their own isolated leaders in Islamabad as working for the Yankee dollar.
Equally, the Pashtun tribes of NWFP were guaranteed total autonomy in 1947; Pakistan’s army was formally excluded from the Pashtun tribal region.  Washington has pressured Islamabad into violating this basic provision of Pakistan’s constitution by sending troops and warplanes into the independent tribal region.
Even the British Imperial Raj’s most junior officer knew it was foolhardy to provoke warlike Pashtun. But Washington has done just this.   Still, the Pashtun `Taliban’ have no influence outside their Northwest Frontier and are not about to take over the rest of Pakistan.
But Washington’s ham-handed tactics in Afghanistan and Pakistan are creating a bigger storm: a national revolution in Pakistan against the western-backed feudal oligarchy that has ruled it since 1947.
Pakistan is among the world’s poorest nations. Half its people are illiterate.  Most subsist on $1.13 daily. The feudal landowning elite, only .5% of the population, holds over 90% of national wealth.  Corruption engulfs everything.  Democracy is a sham; the legal system a cruel joke.
Islamic law, however draconian, offers the only justice that cannot be bought.  Growing resistance movements in Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan call for national leadership that represents Pakistan’s rather than western interests.   Pakistanis are humiliated by being forced by the US and Britain to wage war against their own people under the pretext of `fighting Islamic terrorism.’
The big question in western capitals is: `are Pakistan’s nuclear weapons safe?’  Yes. For now.  They are heavily guarded by crack army units and ISI, the military intelligence service, and will remain so unless the army splits in a power struggle.  Pakistan’s nukes cannot be armed without special security codes.
Even so, there is growing speculation in Pakistan and here in Europe that the US, possibly in league with India and or Israel, may attempt to seize or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
My esteemed colleague and regional expert, Arnaud de Borchgrave, warns Pakistan could become another Iran.  I’m not so sure.  Islamic parties have never commanded much support in Pakistan.  There is no powerful clergy in Sunni Pakistan, as there was in Shia Iran.  Pakistan has a long way to go before becoming an Islamic republic on the Iranian model.  But Pakistan is certainly headed into very dangerous waters.
As for the US-led crusade in Afghanistan and Northwest Frontier, we should recall the words of Victorian poet of the British Raj, Rudyard Kipling:  `Asia is not going to be civilized after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old.’

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2009

The medium is the message

The medium is the message

By Huma Yusuf

The people of the tribal and settled areas comprise a captive radio audience. –File Photo

The demands of 24/7 television programming have transformed the figure of the maulvi from village simpleton to demagogue by providing a virtual pulpit that beams into the homes of millions.

In recent months, sharp minds have pointed out the impact of round-the-clock sermonising and politicians and broadcasters have conceded that media created the modern mullah. If we acknowledge the power television has as a mass medium, why do we continue to underestimate the role that illegal FM radio stations are playing in the Frontier province and Fata, especially in the context of militancy?

In the past few days, the US government has made alarmist statements about ongoing military operations and the fragility of the Pakistan government. Shoot-from-the-hip comments make it easy for Pakistanis to discredit the American understanding of ground realities. But an announcement in mid-April that American military and intelligence personnel are working to jam illegal radio stations in the tribal and settled areas indicates that they’re attuned to local dynamics. After all, winning the information war is a prerequisite to winning the war against terror.

Since 2005, illegal radio broadcasts and ‘FM mullahs’ — such as Maulana Fazlullah, Mangal Bagh and Mufti Munir Shakir — who rule the airwaves have been fuelling the spread of militancy. At last count, there were 150 illegal radio stations in Swat alone and over 50 across the tribal areas.

FM mullahs use the airwaves to sermonise, prescribe appropriate behaviour, incite villagers to engage in holy war, redefine the role of women in society, and intimidate populations by reciting the names of tribal leaders and security officials marked for death. Logistics such as the distribution of arms and mobilisation of militants are also coordinated on air. In Upper Dir, a female madressah was transmitting sermons explaining how women could contribute to ‘jihad’.

Since 2006, the government has made sporadic attempts to clamp down on illegal stations, often by raiding them or bombing them with mortar shells. Not surprisingly, the broadcasters always seem to bounce back: not only do FM mullahs recognise the importance of investing in the medium, but, in 2007, Fata-based technicians claimed they were manufacturing broadcasting equipment for less than Rs15,000.

Owing to their resilience, the US announcement about jamming illegal stations is a welcome intervention. If the Pakistan government has any intention of quelling militancy, they should do what it takes to purge the airwaves of inflammatory, extremist rhetoric. That means getting FM mullahs off the air, and then taking the extra step of enabling viable alternatives.

The fact is, the people of the tribal and settled areas comprise a captive radio audience. Many communities shun television as un-Islamic and it doesn’t help that cable infrastructure has yet to extend into the northern areas. In terms of radio, too, the residents of Fata have few options. They can either tune into Radio Pakistan or Radio Azadi, the Afghan service of Radio Free Europe: the former has spotty transmission and is viewed with suspicion for promoting the national viewpoint with little sensitivity for local issues. Meanwhile, the latter’s broadcasts focus on Afghan concerns. For news, listeners have to rely on the BBC or VOA, neither of which is able to fulfill the hunger for hyper-local information.

In this scenario, the illegal programming of firebrand clerics seems like an attractive option. The broadcasts are in local dialects and primarily air at convenient times with regard for a village’s routines. More importantly, illegal broadcasts refer to familiar locations and personalities, explicitly mention local issues such as land disputes or a shortage of resources and launch outreach initiatives that seamlessly transition from on-air to on-the-ground. The programming thus seems immediate and relevant.

Recognising the need for local programming to counter FM mullahs, the Fata Secretariat has licensed a handful of community radio stations. These, however, come saddled with programming restrictions that make the stations largely redundant. Official broadcasts are expected to remain apolitical, emphasise entertainment programming, and borrow heavily from Radio Pakistan. Indeed, some stations are mandated to broadcast Urdu-language segments from the state-owned broadcaster. How can such a bland, disconnected mish-mash of programming compete with the drama of an FM mullah?

There is an urgent need in Fata and the settled areas to fund and facilitate local radio programming that is secular, informative and culturally sensitive. The airtime that FM mullahs expend on hate speech and sermonising, official community radio stations should utilise for hyper-local news reports generated by residents of the tribal areas for their communities. Instead of mobilising the youth to wage jihad, community radio stations can help communities become civically engaged.

In the wake of the devastating 2005 earthquake, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) showed surprising agility by licensing 10 non-commercial emergency FM stations for a three-month period. The decision was taken in light of the fact that 81 per cent of quake-affected homes had a radio set, while only 52 per cent had access to televisions.

Radio programming then played a vital role in ensuring the effective delivery of relief goods and services. Reports aired on the emergency stations often led to the supply of food and blankets and the restoration of phone lines and electricity. In far-flung villages, instances of corruption were reported in the dispensation of compensation money to victims. People called in to FM radio shows using cellphones to complain about discrepant amounts being issued by government representatives. As charges were documented on the air, the corruption largely ceased.

Learning from the success of community radio stations in that time of urgency and need, Pemra needs to step up to the new challenge posed by spreading militancy. It is essential that US efforts to jam illegal stations be supported. The government should also have the vision to license community radio stations in Fata and the Frontier province so that an information vacuum, which would frustrate residents of vulnerable communities, does not follow the cessation of illegal broadcasts. With a little regard for the power of radio programming, our government can still ensure that extremist rhetoric becomes nothing more than white noise.


Peshawar suicide attack on military convoy kills five

Peshawar suicide attack on military convoy kills five

blast_bara_ap608The suicide attacker rammed his car into the military vehicle. Four civilians were killed and nine people wounded. — AP

PESHAWAR: At least five people have been killed in a suicide attack on a Frontier Corps convoy in Peshawar.

Twenty-five people including nine security men have also been wounded in the attack that occurred near Bara Qadim police checkpost on the border between Peshawar and the Khyber Agency.

According to police, the suicide attacker rammed his car into a vehicle of the security convoy near a police checkpost. The checkpost and two vehicles were destroyed in the blast.

Nine of the injured are security men, four from the Frontier Corps, three from the Frontier Constabulary and two are policemen.

The injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital.

Police say about 200 kilograms of explosives was used in the blast that created a huge crater.

Troops, militants locked in intense Mingora gunbattle

[Is it just me, or does this read like a highly choreographic series of events?  The people are notified ahead of time when they are scheduled to flee the "combat zone," the "Taliban stormed the Rahimabad police station in Mingora," only after the police had left.  This is deadly play-acting, for the benefit of the Americans.]

Troops, militants locked in intense Mingora gunbattle

Frightened residents fled parts of Mingora after an evacuation order igniting fears of an imminent new offensive. — AP

MINGORA: An intense gunbattle was ongoing between security forces and militants in Swat’s Mingora city, DawnNews reported.

Residents told DawnNews that Taliban militants had consolidated their positions in Mingora city from where they were targeting security forces.

Heavy shelling was witnessed in Swat’s Qambar area as militants engaged the security forces.

A statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Tuesday that militants in Swat had blown up a police station and fired at check posts of security forces at Shangla Top, Shamzoi bridge, Bariam bridge and grid station Mingora.

Militants also looted a store of the World Food Programme in Swat and took away 217 bags of wheat and 400 cans of edible oil, the statement said.

Frightened residents fled suburban areas in Mingora on Tuesday, where the Taliban concentrated a two-year insurgency, after the army issued an evacuation order that ignited fears of an imminent new offensive, witnesses said.

The military ordered four neighbourhoods on the edge of Mingora to evacuate and announced a break in an indefinite curfew for the displaced to flee to a special camp as bullets rattled through parts of Mingora.

Local residents said ‘large numbers’ were leaving in panic, weighed down with whatever belongings they could carry on foot, waiting at bus stations or driving away in private cars, although the military withdrew the order.

‘We have now suspended this order and people are directed not to vacate their homes because the government has no immediate plan to launch an operation in these areas,’ said local military spokesman Major Nasir Khan.

A government official said five people died overnight in crossfire between militants and security forces in Swat.

Earlier on Tuesday the District Coordination Officer (DCO) of Swat asked Mingora residents to vacate the city as Taliban told the 46 besieged security men in the city to lay down their arms.

Curfew in Swat was relaxed from 01:30 p.m. till 07:00 p.m., the DCO said on Tuesday, adding that residents of Mingora city should immediately start leaving.

On Monday, the Taliban took control of the city of Mingora and reportedly laid siege to a place housing 46 security personnel.

‘This is a clear violation of the Swat peace agreement,’ an official who requested anonymity said. He said militants were patrolling the streets and holding positions at key points and on important buildings.

According to sources, militants on Monday attacked the headquarters of security forces located in the circuit house and a police station in Mingora, but attacks were repulsed.

Subsequently on Monday, the local administration imposed a curfew for an indefinite period after the attacks.

Earlier, the curfew was in force from 07:00 p.m. to 06:00 a.m. Clashes between security forces and militants were reported from Shamozai, Matta and Bahrain.

However, no casualty was reported till late night. Police have confined their activities to police stations.

A group of armed Taliban stormed the Rahimabad police station in Mingora on Monday night and blew it up. Local people said policemen had vacated the station just before the attack.

Security forces have also established check posts and started searching vehicles in the area. Shops and markets in the main Mingora bazaar remained closed for the second day because of fear and tension.

According to a handout issued by the NWFP information department, the Taliban continued their activities despite the peace accord they had signed with the government.

Over the past 16 days, five people were killed and 21 kidnapped by the militants. Three incidents of blasts and several cases of car-snatching, looting and firing, erecting road blockades and armed patrolling by militants had been reported from different parts of the district, the handout said.

Militants blew up a government high school for boys in Tindodag area of Swat on Monday. It was the second government school blown up after the February 16 peace accord. On Sunday, a government high school for boys had been blown up in Nengolai.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the attack on a convoy in Swat on Monday in which one soldier was killed and three others suffered injuries.

He said the attack was a reaction to what he called movement of military forces to positions in violation of the February 16 peace deal. He said the Taliban would carry out such attacks if security forces continued their activities in the valley.

Has a Stake Been Driven through Neo-Conservative Foreign Policy?

Has a Stake Been Driven through Neo-Conservative Foreign Policy?

by Ivan ElandImage

Neo-conservatives used the Republican Party as a vehicle to promote and employ their policies of muscular nation-building overseas. But like the parasite that eventually kills its host, the Republican Party’s virtual collapse, in large part because of the failed nation-building adventure in Iraq, has left neo-conservatives discredited and facing policy extinction. Unfortunately, neo-conservatism will probably live on by changing hosts.

Throughout American history, the structure of the political systems has ensured that only two major parties would be viable at any one time. They haven’t always been the Democrats and Republicans. They have always been the Democrats and one other party. First, it was the Federalists, then the Whigs, and finally, from just prior to the Civil War to the present, the Republicans.

The Republicans started out as a regional party of the Northeast. The only reason they ever took power away from the Democrats, the only true national party at the time of the Civil War, was because the Democratic Party split into northern and southern wings over the slavery issue. Thus, the Civil War was essentially caused by the fracture of the Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election with only 39.8 percent of the national popular vote, beating two Democrats and one minor party candidate. Southern states, fearing a Republican’s potential policies on slavery, didn’t even wait until Lincoln’s inauguration before they began to secede from the union.

Ironically, today, the Republican Party, which once had hopes of becoming the majority party in the country, has followed George W. Bush over a cliff and has once again been reduced to largely a regional party of the old South and a few other conservative states. As long as Democrats in more libertarian mountain states stand up for gun rights, most states in that entire region are ripe for permanent status in the Democratic column. The most telling moment in the 2008 election was when Arizona, the Republican nominee’s home state, was too close to call. It would have gone Democratic had a native son not been running.

If the Republican Party doesn’t now move to extinction like its Federalist and Whig predecessors, it is likely to remain only a regional party for a long while. It’s intolerant conservative social views scare most other Americans. More important, the one issue on which many Republican conservatives differed from President Bush—immigration—could be the death knell of the party. When the party alienated Hispanics (including even some Cubans, who were previously one of the most loyal Republican constituencies), the fastest growing minority in the United States, with nativist diatribes on immigration, other minorities, such as Asians and Native Americans realized that they could be victimized too. In the 1990s, Republican Governor Pete Wilson made California overwhelmingly Democratic with his immigration policies. The same has just happened at the national level. After the immigration debate in the late Bush years, it will be hard for the Republican Party to ever woo back Hispanics.

Does the long-term demise (and maybe extinction) of the GOP leave the neo-conservatives up the creek without a paddle? Not necessarily.

The neo-conservatives started out as liberals and socialists in the Democratic Party. They were never really that conservative on economic policy, only belligerent in foreign and defense policies. And in those two latter policy areas, the Democratic Party is still dominated by their close cousins, the liberal Wilsonian interventionists. Although the liberal Wilsonians—such as Hillary Clinton, Richard Holbrooke, and Madeleine Albright—are less unilateralist than the neo-conservatives and are much more in love with international organizations, they share the neo-conservatives’ passion for armed social work and nation-building. Besides, when you’re deep in the wilderness and your horse is dying, you can’t be too concerned with pimples on your new steed. The neo-conservatives will probably eventually realize that the Republican Party is dying, and will seamlessly re-infest the Democratic mother ship to preserve themselves. And again, they will probably severely debilitate their host.

Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books, The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.

Two children among 11 killed in Khyber checkpoint attack

Two children among 11 killed in Khyber checkpoint attack

Submitted 2 hrs 54 mins ago

Two children among 11 killed in Khyber checkpoint attack

The death toll in a suicide attack on a vehicle of Frontier Corps in Bara Qadeem area here on Tuesday has reached to 11 including two children and four security men. At least 42 persons have wounded in the attack. AIG Bomb Disposal Squad Shafqat Malik has said that 85 kilogramme RDX was used in the suicide attack. The vehicle parked near a check post was carrying two children of an officer to drop at school. The suicide bomber rammed an explosives laden car with the FC vehicle carrying two children to drop at their school, OneWorld correspondent reported. The dead bodies and injured were transferred to Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar. The dead bodies of two children and their parents were later sent to Karigar Garhi area in Khyber Agency. CCPO Peshawar Siffat Ghayyur talking to OneWorld said the suicide attack can be reaction of the security operation in Khyber Agency and adjoining areas.

Taliban commander rejects death reports

[Does this remind you of the 5 hijackers of 9/11, who later turned up alive?]

Taliban commander rejects death reports

PESHAWAR: The chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Buner, Maulana Khalil-ur-Rahman, on Monday denied media reports about his death in the military action in the troubled district and urged media persons to verify their news.

Maulana Khalil phoned The News from Buner and said he was leading his militants against security forces. He complained that media reports about his death had saddened his relatives, friends and associates.

“Personally, I was not aware of such reports that appeared on television channels declaring me dead. Their worries deepened when none of them could contact me for two days as my cell phone was powered off,” the Taliban commander said, adding that his family members, relatives and friends were crying on phone when they finally contacted him.

The young Taliban commander said he was personally present in Buner to lead his fighters against security forces. He said they were not earlier offering any resistance to the troops as part of their war strategy, but now, he claimed, he had ordered his fighters to offer unbending resistance so that the troops could not enter the militants-controlled areas of Buner.

He also denied the loss of his fighters in the ongoing military operation and said only two of his men had suffered injuries. “I can assure you that not a single militant has so far been killed in the operation. We are still in control of Buner district and troops have not yet entered areas under our control,” the Taliban commander claimed.

He vowed to continue his fight till the enforcement of “true Shariah” in the Malakand region. The ISPR had claimed through a press release on Sunday that Commander Khalil had been killed in the military operation in Buner. On Monday, the authorities claimed that another Taliban commander, Afsar Hameed, had been killed in Buner.

44 killed in attack on wedding in Turkey

[Possible link to recent anti-"al Qaida"/Erdogan/Kurd crackdown.]

44 killed in attack on wedding in Turkey

Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others. Two girls survived after the bodies of slain friends fell on top of them.

Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said Tuesday security forces had detained eight suspected gunmen following the attack in the village of Bilge, near the city of Mardin, the previous evening.

The attack appeared to be the result of a blood feud and not a terrorist attack, Atalay said. Blood feuds are common among families in the region where tribal ties and rivalries sometimes eclipse the power of the state.

Private NTV television, citing deputy Gov. Ferhat Özen, said the motive for the attack could be a feud between rival groups of pro-government village guards who fight alongside

Turkish troops against Kurdish terrorists in the region. If that is the case, the government would come under renewed pressure to rein in the militiamen, some of whom have been linked to drug smuggling and other crimes.

Atalay had earlier said the attack had left 45 dead, but later corrected the toll to 44 dead. He said the dead included six children.

Mehmet Beşir Ayanoğlu, the mayor of Mardin, told Channel 24 that he spoke to two survivors, both girls, who said at least two masked men stormed a house where the wedding took place.

“They raided the house, we were in two rooms, they opened fire on everyone, they were wearing masks,” Ayanoğlu quoted the girls as saying. The girls said they lay underneath the bodies of friends until the attack was over.

The attack occurred during the wedding of the daughter of Cemil Çelebi, a former village official who was among the wounded. The bride, Sevgi Çelebi, the groom, Habib Arı, his mother and sister were all killed, as was the Islamic cleric who was presiding over the marriage. The Anatolia news agency said the attack lasted for 15 minutes.

Ahmet Can, a relative who took the body of his nephew to a hospital, said the site of the attack was horrifying.

“You could not believe your eyes, it is unbelievable,” he told Turkey’s Channel 24.

Earlier reports said the assailants hurled hand grenades but local official Aytaç Akgül said they had attacked with automatic weapons only.

The attack killed an entire family, including the parents and their six children, aged between 3 and 12. Names of the casualties in the attack are Abdullah Çelebi, Şükriye Çelebi, Emine Çelebi, Hüseyin Çelebi, Zekiye Çelebi, Abdulvahap Çelebi, Cemil Çelebi, Hacı Abdulkadir Çelebi, Hacı Mehmet Çelebi, Kenan Çelebi, Sevgi Çelebi, Mithat Arı, Habib Arı, Ali Çelebi, Cemil Çelebi, Abide Akgül, Orhan Akgül, Çelsef Akgül, Halime Çelebi, Hacı Kazım Bozan, Şükrü Çelebi, Rahşan Arı, Çerin Çelebi, Şükran Çelebi, Mehmet Çelebi, Murat Çelebi, Savaş Çelebi, Halil Çelebi, Salih Çelebi, Arife Çelebi, Yıldız Çelebi, Kafiye Arı, Muhittin Çelebi, Maruf Akgül, Semiha Çelebi, Şeyhmus Çelebi, Fasih Çelebi, Seyri Çelebi, Neriman Çelebi, Sevim Çelebi, Yasemin Çelebi, Hacı Haluk Çelebi and two unidentified people.

One survivor, a 19-year-old woman, said the assailants ordered people to huddle in one room and opened fire, NTV said. Another report said the attack occurred when people were praying at the house. Some guards responded to the attack but the assailants fled, NTV said.

Ambulances took at least 17 bodies to the morgue of a hospital in Mardin, said Aytaç Akgül, a local official. Hundreds of relatives of the victims gathered there, wailing in distress. Several people offered to donate blood.

State television said soldiers surrounded the village and cut all roads leading to it. It said there was no power in the village and it could not be reached by telephone. Journalists were barred from traveling to Bilge.

For years, Turkey has struggled over how to trim the 70,000-strong village guard force without releasing masses of trained fighters onto the streets of the southeast, where unemployment in some areas reaches 50 percent. The system is one of the few lucrative sources of employment in the region.

Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


Masked assailants attacked a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey with automatic weapons, killing 44 people, including the bride and groom, and wounding six others.


05 May 2009, Tuesday


Georgia says coup underway at military base

[SEE: Exercise Cooperative Longbow - Cooperative Lancer 09]

Georgia says coup underway at military base

By Matt RobinsonPosted 2009/05/05 at 5:10 am EDT

TBILISI, May 5, 2009 (Reuters) — Georgia said on Tuesday a Russian-planned coup plot had been uncovered within the military of the former Soviet republic and a rebellion was under way at a military base near the capital.

The Interior Ministry said those involved in the plot had received money from Russia which has criticized NATO military exercises in Georgia due to begin on Wednesday.

“The main aim of this uprising was to disrupt the NATO military exercises,” Defense Minister David Sikharulidze told Reuters. “We are in negotiations with the soldiers at the Mukhrovani base and I hope this uprising will end soon.”

Sikharulidze said the commanders of the military base 19 km (12 miles) from the capital Tbilisi had been dismissed and the soldiers confined to barracks.

The Interior Ministry said one person had been arrested.

“They (the plotters) were receiving money from Russia,” ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told a news conference. “It seems it was coordinated with Russia.”

Last August Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war when Moscow crushed a Georgian assault on pro-Russia South Ossetia.

That slammed the brakes on Georgia’s bid for membership of NATO which the Kremlin fiercely opposes as an encroachment on its ex-Soviet backyard.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been the target of weeks of opposition protests in Tbilisi over his record on democracy and the war with Russia.

ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unnamed Russian security source as rejecting suggestions Moscow was behind the Georgian coup. “This is a nightmare and an agony for the Saakashvili regime,” he said. “One cannot describe this in a different way.”


NATO declined to comment on the news out of Georgia.

NATO’s military exercises this week are a gesture of solidarity condemned by Russia as “muscle-flexing.”

Around 1,000 soldiers from over a dozen NATO member states and partners will practice “crisis response” at a Georgian army base east of Tbilisi, around 70 km (44 miles) from the nearest Russian troop positions in breakaway South Ossetia.

The month-long exercises at a former Russian air force base in Vaziani are seen as a signal from the 28-member alliance that, despite doubts over the promise of eventual membership, Georgia has not been forgotten.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the decision to go ahead with the exercises was wrong and dangerous.

“I want to specifically stress that responsibility for possible negative consequences of these decisions will fully rest on the shoulders of those who made them and carry them out,” he said on Friday.

NATO and Russia last week resumed formal contacts suspended over the war when the West accused Moscow of a “disproportionate” response to Georgia’s assault on separatists in South Ossetia.

But the exercises, coupled with the expulsion last week of two Russian diplomats from NATO over a spying scandal and a Russian decision to take control of South Ossetia’s borders, had put the relationship under renewed pressure.

The next round of talks between Russia and Georgia on South Ossetia, shepherded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union and United Nations, is due to be held in Geneva in May 18-19.

(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi and Oleg Shchedrov in Moscow, editing by Robert Woodward)

NATO/Georgia War Games

Exercise Cooperative Longbow -
Cooperative Lancer 09

Partnership- For- Peace Exercise In Georgia

MONS, BELGIUM – NATO will conduct exercises Cooperative Longbow 09 – Cooperative Lancer 09 during the period 6 May to 1 June 2009 in Georgia.  Planning for these exercises began in spring 2008 with the aim of improving interoperability between NATO and partner countries, within the framework of Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programmes.

Twenty nations will participate: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

Cooperative Longbow 09 is a command post exercise that focuses on training and exercising NATO staff skills and procedures, improving interoperability between NATO and partner nations for crisis response operations at the multinational brigade level. The exercise will be conducted in Tbilisi, Georgia, with approximately 650 personnel from NATO and partner countries being deployed to the Vaziani training area, twenty kilometres east of Tbilisi. The scenario is based on a fictitious United Nations mandated, NATO-led crisis response operation. Lieutenant General Cayetano Mirò Valls, Commander Allied Land Component Command Madrid, will command the exercise.

Cooperative Longbow 09 will be followed by a field training exercise, Cooperative Lancer 09, which is designed to provide basic training on peace support operations at the battalion level, and will take place at Vaziani barracks from 18 may to 01 June 2009. Cooperative Lancer will involve approximately 450 troops.

These exercises are part of the NATO Partnership-for-Peace programme, allowing partner countries to build up an individual relationship with NATO. Cooperation with the partner countries is an integral part of the alliance’s security policy and plays an important role in its day-to-day work. Through its pursuit of cooperation and different forms of partnership with non-member countries, NATO contributes to promote security and stability for the benefit of all.

Georgia Says Mutiny Underway

Georgia Says Mutiny Underway

05 May 2009

Georgia’s Defense Minister says a “rebellion” is under way at a Georgian military base outside Tbilisi.

Officials said a coup was uncovered Tuesday at the Mukhrovani military base.  They said the main aim of the uprising was to disrupt NATO military exercises in the country.

Officials say the uprising is backed by Russia.

Last month Moscow urged NATO to postpone military exercises in Georgia, but NATO refused to delay the military drills set to begin May 6.

NATO said the exercises were planned last year.  The drills will be aimed at improving coordination between NATO members and their partner countries and will involve 1,300 troops from 19 countries

Russia sees neighboring Georgia as part of its sphere of influence and sent troops into the country after Georgians tried to retake the breakaway South Ossetia region last year.

What the Pakistani people would tell Obama

Pakistan displaced

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images
A girl runs through a Peshawar camp for Pakistanis displaced by fighting in the surrounding areas between the army and Taliban militants.

Displaced in Pakistan

A Pakistani man and child wait at the UNICEF immunization center at a camp in Peshawar for people displaced by fighting between the army and Taliban. “Most Pakistanis spend all their time worrying about making ends meet,” one woman interviewed elsewhere said.

(Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images)
By Mark Magnier
May 5, 2009

Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan — Many Pakistanis welcomed the election of President Obama as an opportunity for some fresh thinking about their troubled region.

But the honeymoon hasn’t lasted long. As Obama prepares to meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week in Washington, Pakistanis from different walks of life say they’d give the U.S. leader an earful if they, rather than their president, had a seat at the White House table.One of their biggest complaints: the deadly drones, the hugely unpopular unmanned aircraft that are involved in spying and firing on suspected “high value” militants on Pakistani soil.

“These drones are very bad,” said Ashraf Bhatti, an apparel merchant,drinking tea in his shop with several friends in the Anjuman bazaar in Lahore. “What would America think if someone started shooting rockets and killing people in their land?”

Though the CIA has apparently gotten better at hitting its targets without killing as many innocent civilians, the anger and resentment remain so great, some here argue, that America loses far more in goodwill than it gains in assassinated militants.

“It just hits everyday people like us,” said Mohammed Yasin, a retired shopkeeper, wearing a white beard and traditional shalwar kameez outfit.

Some Pakistanis said they would be less distrustful of U.S. motives and objectives if Washington put a quick end to its “Af-Pak” terminology, strategy and mind-set.

The American approach is meant to combine policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan in a single cohesive plan. But people here say that although the region may look like one big mess from afar, there’s a world of difference between themselves and their neighbors to the west.

Pakistan, they say, is a proper nation with a functioning government, respected universities, a long-standing legal tradition and a vibrant arts tradition. Afghanistan is a land without much in the way of law, government or other conventional definitions of a nation, some contend.

“The majority of Pakistanis really don’t want to be put in the same category,” said Abid Sulehri, head of Islamabad’s Sustainable Development Policy Institute. “It’s very bad if they continue to use that term.”

At the same time, many here remain deeply critical of their own government, which is seen as slow, corrupt and woefully negligent in bringing basic education, electricity, roads and jobs to its people.

Zardari, moreover, is not terribly popular. The former businessman faced corruption allegations for years before he was elected, which occurred on a wave of sympathy for his assassinated wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

“Whatever he’s going to do there, he will do it for himself, not the country,” said Nasrem, 50, a seamstress who declined to give her family name. “Most Pakistanis spend all their time worrying about making ends meet. No one likes him.”

But that doesn’t stop many from blaming the West for pouring so much money into the Pakistani military and, inadvertently, the pockets of top officials without better oversight and more spending on programs for ordinary people.

“Since Pakistan was created, whenever America needs something it makes promises but never delivers,” said Anjun Mushtaq, 39, a fruit seller in Islamabad’s Faruqi Market. “It’s always the poor people who get left out.”

This dovetails with a common view at street level — justified or not — that the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way if the military were to take over again because it prefers a government that carries out its “suggestions” faster.

Democracy is messy, particularly here, Pakistanis acknowledge, as the country emerges from years of strong-arm rule under Gen. Pervez Musharraf. But some say the fact that the public has begun to turn against the Taliban shows the dividends that accrue when people have a bigger stake in their own more representative government.

“The U.S. should say in advance, ‘The moment there’s a military takeover, we’re not going to deal with [or financially support] dictators,’ ” said Fasi Zaka, a radio talk-show host, academic and political columnist. “There’s been a view that the U.S. is willing to sacrifice Pakistan’s democracy to preserve its own.”


The U.S. Plan for Pakistan

The U.S. Plan for Pakistan

David Ignatius

Where do you draw the line between helpful American assistance to Pakistan in fighting the Taliban insurgency and counter-productive American meddling? Obama administration officials are weighing that balance as they prepare for a crucial visit to Washington this week by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

The administration is finalizing an ambitious package of aid measures, ranging from urgent financial assistance to counter-insurgency training for Pakistani troops at a U.S. base in Kuwait.

To relieve political pressure on Zardari, the administration has even discussed the possibility of joint U.S.-Pakistani oversight of the CIA’s secret program of Predator strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas. But administration officials appear to have decided against any changes in the current approach, in which the Pakistani government privately okays the attacks but publicly criticizes them. Explained one official familiar with the program: “‘Jointness’ has been tried and it hasn’t worked. These operations are designed to save American lives, and who wants to gamble at that table?”

As Washington frets about Zardari’s political weakness, and debates a greater role for the opposition, his allies are pushing back–warning that American attempts to meddle in their country’s internal politics may backfire.

“The more Americans get in the weeds of Pakistani politics, the less they will accomplish,” warned a senior Pakistani official who supports Zardari. He described the growing U.S. pressure against Zardari as an example of “the Diem phenomenon,” a reference to the U.S.-supported coup in 1963 against its former darling, South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem. That coup began a series of ultimately disastrous American attempts to steer Saigon politics and suppress the communist insurgency.

Zardari became Pakistan’s president last year, with strong U.S. support, after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. Since then, despite Zardari’s pro-American policies, U.S. enthusiasm for him has waned, to the point that administration officials have urged a greater role for his political rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“There’s too much discussion of who can fix the problem, rather than what should be done,” complained the pro-Zardari senior Pakistani official.

The sensitivity in the Zardari camp to U.S. criticism illustrates a broader phenomenon in Pakistani politics. Politicians of every stripe are wary of offending Pakistani national pride by appearing too close to Washington–even when they know they need U.S. help. A cartoon on one anti-American website in Pakistan last week showed Zardari talking with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, another former American favorite who now gets low marks. The Afghan is telling his Pakistani counterpart: “The Americans used and ditched me. Now it’s your turn to get screwed!”

To show that it’s serious about supporting Pakistan, the administration is preparing a series of initiatives for this week’s trilateral summit with Karzai and Zardari. According to knowledgeable sources, the list includes:
–quick delivery of $953 million in promised U.S. aid for Pakistan that has been delayed in the pipeline.
–a new Pakistani counter-terrorism strategy, drafted by Zardari’s government and the Pakistani military after consultation with counter-insurgency experts on the staff of Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus.
–training for two battalions of Pakistani soldiers a month at a U.S. base in Kuwait that was used to ready American forces for combat in Iraq.
–an expanding Pakistani offensive against the Taliban, including a joint U.S.-Pakistani effort to suppress Taliban radio stations that have been operating in the tribal areas.
–a new agreement on third-country trade that transits Pakistan to Afghanistan. This “transit-trade” agreement would open the way for more shipments to and from India.
–a new framework for sharing information between the Pakistani and Afghan militaries and intelligence services.
–additional joint border posts for monitoring the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.

“We have a plan. We have the will. We are negotiating on getting the means,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador here and one of the architects of the Islamabad-Washington alliance.

Haqqani argued that if Washington really wants the Pakistani army to move troops from the Indian border to the tribal areas, as U.S. officials often say, then it should get the Indians to reduce their military forces.

“It’s time for Obama to put in a call to the Indians telling them, ‘If you move some of your troops, they’ll move theirs,” Haqqani said. According to sources, Pakistani chief of staff Ashfaq Kiyani made just that promise in a recent meeting with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Suicide bomber kills 5 in northwest Pakistan

Suicide bomber kills 5 in northwest Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A suicide car bomber killed five people near northwestern Pakistan’s main city Tuesday, and authorities urged residents to flee a Taliban stronghold where a much-criticized peace deal appears to be unraveling.

Violence is building in Pakistan just as President Asif Ali Zardari prepares for talks in Washington this week expected to center on the Obama administration’s demands for tough action against militants threatening both nuclear-armed Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

Police said Tuesday’s bomber rammed a vehicle carrying troops near Peshawar, the capital of the embattled province where the military last week launched an operation to reverse a Taliban advance toward the capital.

The blast killed one paramilitary soldier and four civilians, senior police official Ghafoor Khan Afridi said. Another 21 people, including 10 troops and police and two children, were injured, Afridi said.

Initial reports that four troops had died were incorrect, he said.

Pakistani militants have threatened a campaign of suicide blasts in retaliation for U.S. missile strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban strongholds into Pakistan’s northwest and for a string of military operations by government forces.

Pakistani troops last week fought their way into Buner, a district just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the capital, to reverse a Taliban takeover that triggered particular alarm in the West.

The army says it has killed more than 100 militants as it attempts to drive the militants back into the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley.

The fighting has put a severe strain on a controversial peace pact centered on Swat under which the government is introducing Islamic law in the surrounding region.

On Tuesday, the top administrator in Swat said authorities were lifting a curfew so that people could leave Swat’s main town of Mingora.

Khushal Khan said Taliban militants were roaming the area and laying mines. He wouldn’t say whether an army offensive — which would spell the end of the peace pact — was imminent.

“If the security forces engage them (militants), then there will be additional threat to the lives of the public,” Khan told The Associated Press.

He said a camp for those displaced had been set up in the nearby town of Dargai.

Swat residents urged to evacuate

Pakistani Taleban member

The Taleban have not yet heeded calls to disarm

A senior Pakistani official has urged residents to evacuate the troubled Swat valley in the north-west.

Head of local administration Khushal Khan said the authorities were lifting a curfew so that people could leave areas near the main town of Mingora.

Earlier this year, Taleban militants operating in the Swat region agreed a peace deal with the government.

But the deal has been under intense pressure recently with the Taleban expanding operations into nearby areas.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says the latest developments are an indication that the authorities are getting ready to launch an operation against the militants in Swat.

The militants fought the army in the region from August 2007 until this year’s deal.

Under the deal the Taleban were expected to disarm.

The Taleban say they will not lay down their arms until Islamic Sharia law is fully implemented in Swat.

The Taleban have banned the playing of music in cars and are also using mosques to invite local youth to join them.

They have also started regular patrols in the district.

Unravelling the American mind

Unravelling the American mind

Anjum Niaz

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

I’m no math machismo. Arguably my take on the American foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan is number-centric. I have algebraic proof from ‘Dr Math’ that positive times a negative is a minus. The Obama administration has latched on to this formula but has tweaked for its own ends. They mix positive with negative comments about our leaders with an end goal. They’ve made an important discovery like Archimedes, who jumped out naked from his bathtub yelling ‘Eureka’ when he discovered his famous principle. The American quartet led by President Obama, Admiral Mike Mullen, General Petraeus and ambassador Holbrooke may seem hopelessly out of tune to us. The cacophony coming out from their concert may sound jarring but don’t get fooled! The four have perhaps perfected the alchemy that to them spells success.

Success in this context simply means US total control over the nuclear assets of Pakistan. But to get to them, the Americans must know where the arsenal is stored. Their latest nightmare is the militants “snatching a weapon in transport” or “inserting sympathisers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities.”

Whoever can unravel the American mind need not possess uncanny knowledge. Alas, Asif Ali Zardari will not festoon the man/woman who cracks the code with a hilal or sitara award that is grandly announced at the Darbar Hall in the Presidency. Those awards are only reserved for the Americans: Vice-President Joe Biden and Richard Boucher, to name just a few. Awards and prizes aside, can we earnestly hope for some spark of brilliance blazing our sphere currently inhabited by medieval minds like Sufi Mohammad and his ragtag army of Taliban? Can the clever at the Foreign Office or the Pakistan Army (7th largest in the world) or the money-guzzler government think-tanks or our punditocracy enlighten the citizenry of the American mind games?

Time is of the essence and we need quick answers. The schizy statements coming out of Washington from the powerful quartet can cause an outbreak of an epidemic akin to swine flu. The number three in the power game, General David Petraeus has stated, “We have two weeks to save Pakistan from the Taliban.” The commander of US Central Command told people privately “that the next two weeks are a test of the Zardari government’s survivability,” adding that “the Pakistani army, led by Gen Ashfaq Kayani, is ‘superior’ to the civilian government.” So, here’s an example of one negative (Zardari) and one positive (Kayani.) The result, any way you look at it is zero for us, but not for Gen Petraeus.

Don’t forget Petraeus is a commander who, unlike the civilians, maps out a well-considered strategy, a tactical roadmap, if you please, before opening his mouth. But our ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, who has taken up additional duties of being the official spokesman for the American government, has watered down Obama and Petraeus’s remarks. Question: is it the job of our ambassador to call up the Americans and seek clarification each time they make a negative comment on Pakistan? It undermines the dignity of his ambassadorial office, but that’s another matter. An English language daily (not this one) quotes diplomatic observers in Washington saying that Pakistan ambassador’s “favourite sport is rubbishing the Pakistani media.” In today’s world of back-slapping folksiness, Haqqani is said to be buddies with Holbrooke while Gen Kayani is said to be chums with Admiral Mullen. With friends like Holbrooke and Mullen, you don’t need enemies!

Ever heard the adage ‘too much praise is a dangerous thing’? Well, I just made it up. But seriously, don’t you agree that the Time magazine saying that Gen Kayani enjoys more ‘influence’ than Barack Obama is a bit over the top? In its 100 list of “Leaders and Revolutionaries” Kayani is placed at No 19 while President Obama figures one place behind at No 20. And guess who’s written the army chief’s biographical sketch? Our friend Mike Mullen, the all-powerful US Joint Chief of Staff. “I don’t remember all the details of my first meeting with General Ashfaq Kayani. But I do remember thinking; here is a man with a plan, a leader who knows where he wants to go,” writes Mullen. “He seemed to understand the nature of the extremist threat inside Pakistan, recognised that his army wasn’t ready to meet that threat and had already started working up solutions.” Mullen testifies that Kayani has empowered the Frontier Corps (read the pugnacious General Tariq Khan, currently spearheading the Buner operation) to fight the Taliban. Mullen’s bottom line: “(Kayani) hasn’t let the army meddle in politics.”

With such high-blown rhetoric, and that too from US military’s top gun, no wonder Time magazine has rated our general above the American president!

But I still stand by my adage: too much praise is a dangerous thing. Lionising just one man in an army of millions should raise concern among the thinking and talking heads in Pakistan. Apart from sending the wrong signals to the majority of Pakistanis who openly loathe America and disown the war on terror, the rank and file in our army, navy and air force don’t trust the US, to put it mildly. The common perception is that some among them are anti-American and would rather see the Taliban take over than have US as our suzerain.

The Kayani positive is further reinforced by the most powerful man in the world, President Barack Obama. But his cringing denunciation of President Zardari is a big negative. As if the question was planted in the press conference on his 100 days in office, Obama came prepared. His snarky comment was a headliner in Pakistan. The only man not pushed about it is Prime Minister Gilani. “It was just a personal comment by President Obama,” said the PM ludicrously. Our president, prime minister and the cabinet approaching a century need a crash course in intelligence and diplomacy. The first lesson they’ll learn is: American dynamos don’t flimflam when making policy statements. There’s no such thing as ‘personal’ in their blunt-speak.

President Obama’s encomium for the Pakistan army reinforces my theory that to the Americans praising the army and rubbishing Zardari is not necessarily a minus for Pakistan. I suspect the reason Gen Kayani has pulled out of attending the tri-lateral summit in Washington scheduled for tomorrow is the overarching praise from the quartet that perhaps causes our army chief a blush and compromises his position. They’d want to know from him where we keep our nukes.

Did you read about ambassador Holbrooke’s hurriedly called interview to the Pakistani press arranged by Haqqani? When questioned if the Zardari government will deliver, Holbrooke valorised: “Of course, the government in Islamabad is capable of running the country. They are democratically elected, a fine group of people.” This is the same mirthless man, given to uttering vitriol against Pakistan. Today Holbrooke has a new whipping boy. He blames the Pakistani media for sensationalising Obama’s assault on Zardari. “This is journalistic garbage. This is journalistic gobbledygook. It’s a story being hyped by journalists.” Continuing with his rant Holbrooke added: “Journalists can write anything they want. You have a free press. That is part of a strong democracy, but it is not true.” This is perhaps the best example of a positive i.e. praise for Zardari and a negative, i.e. brickbats for the Pakistani media. Logically it should equal a negative, but according to the American formula it equals a positive.

I rest my case, but, not before leaving you with a thought. Foreign Policy magazine quotes a former US intelligence official as telling the media that “this sets the stage for a nod to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, if it becomes necessary.” Were it to happen “the US administration will have to deal with a Congress that just loves elections, but has never learned that though the Pakistanis are pretty good at elections, they are pretty sorry at running a democracy.”

Remember positive times negative equals positive for the Americans. Sorry ‘Dr Math’!

Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu

US seeks Pakistan nuclear pledge

[The United States would never think of asking the immoral Israeli regime or the government of India to promise to keep their nukes safe from their own fundamentalist terrorist extremists, but somehow, this is justified in Pakistan's case.]

US seeks Pakistan nuclear pledge

more about “BBC NEWS | Americas | US seeks Pakist…“, posted with vodpod

General Jones: ‘We have received assurances from the military that this is something they have under control’

The US’ national security adviser has told the BBC that Washington needs guarantees from Pakistan that its nuclear arsenal is safe from militants.

General James Jones said Pakistan’s army had repeatedly told him the stockpile was “under control”, but “this is very much an ongoing topic”.

The Pakistani government is fighting to stop Taleban militants expanding their power in the north-west of the country.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is due to meet Barack Obama this week.

Taleban threat

In an interview with the BBC’s North America editor, Justin Webb, Gen Jones said that “things are moving in a more positive direction” in Pakistan, but that more assurances were needed about the safety of the country’s nuclear weapons.

“If Pakistan doesn’t continue in the direction that it presently is and we’re not successful there then, obviously, the nuclear question comes into view,”

“We have received many assurances from the military that this is something they have under control but this is very much an ongoing topic,” he added.

“The world would like to know that on this question, that there’s absolute security and transparency.”

Justin Webb
The White House [is] looking, it seems to me, for something a little more certain than previous airy assurances from the Pakistanis
Justin Webb

The safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has become more of a concern to the US government since Taleban fighters began expanding their influence in northern Pakistan beyond the Swat valley, which they already largely control.

The Pakistani military has been engaged in an offensive to remove Taleban insurgents from the Lower Dir and Buner regions, parts of which are just 100km (60 miles) from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taleban would be “the very very worst case scenario,” said Gen Jones.

“We’re going to do anything we can within the construct of our bilateral relations and multilateral relations to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

On the subject of Iran, Gen Jones warned that the US would not “wait forever” for Iran to respond positively to President Obama’s attempt to improve US relations with the country.

“We’re interested in getting this new relationship established, to the extent that there is going to be one, but it takes two – and we’re still waiting for the appropriate response from the Iranians,” he said.