Karzai a powerless president, says Mulla Salam

[SEE: Which Mullah Abdul Salaam Does Pakistan Have In Custody?]

Karzai a powerless president, says Mulla Salam

Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban commander whose defection to the government three years ago was hailed as a major development in Taliban-dominated Helmand province has now regretted his decision and termed Hamid Karzai as a powerless president.

Mulla Abdul Salam, who was made district administrator of his native Musa Qala district as a reward for abandoning the Taliban, also accused the British forces deployed in Helmand of having come to Afghanistan to avenge their past defeats at the hands of the Afghan people.

In an interview with the private Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), Mulla Salam alleged that the British troops in Musa Qala and elsewhere in Helmand don’t fight the Taliban. He claimed the British forces refused to help the Afghan police fighting Taliban in the Shah Karez area since Monday morning and were instead asking the cops to vacate the place.

He said 14 Taliban fighters had been killed in the fighting while two policemen were killed and six others sustained injuries. Mulla Salam, who has survived a number of Taliban attempts on his life since his defection, demanded withdrawal of British soldiers from Musa Qala as he felt the situation would improve if they left the area.

“We are still slaves. Foreign advisers are sitting in the offices. I am a Muslim, a brave Afghan and Mujahid and cannot tolerate to be enslaved by others,” he stressed. He disclosed that no Afghan minister can visit Helmand without the permission of British military commanders.

Mulla Salam complained that he and Afghan policemen were besieged by the British forces in his office for several hours on Monday following a clash between the cops and the Britons. “It seems as if the British troops have captured this area.

They haven’t served our people and have yet to build schools or mosques in Musa Qala,” he said. However, Mulla Salam refrained from criticizing other foreign forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. He also refused to describe Afghanistan as an occupied country.

However, he alleged that foreigners had created rifts in every Afghan home. “I joined the government to help restore peace in Afghanistan but now I have realized that the foreigners don’t want peace in our homeland,” he asserted.

Asked as to why he defected to the government, Mulla Salam said he was deceived by the foreigners. “They deceived me. I thought they would really be fighting against Taliban who are the slaves of Pakistan and the British. However, Britons do not fight against Taliban in Musa Qala and they have started another game,” he argued.

The former Taliban commander also didn’t have kind words for President Karzai and his government. “Actually, the president has no power. He cannot do anything,” he contended. “Afghanistan is an Islamic country but there is no Shariah system here. Look at our chief justice; he doesn’t fulfil the requirements of Shariah,” Mulla Salam maintained.

Praised as a moderate Taliban with whom the US-led coalition forces and the Afghan government could do business, Mulla Salam now seems to be drifting apart from his new allies. He has developed differences with the British military authorities in Helmand and is a marked man for the Taliban.

The Taliban haven’t forgiven him for joining hands with their enemies against them and have tried several times to eliminate him. Mulla Salam’s example shows that the experiment by the Afghan government and the US-led Nato forces to lure Taliban commanders and fighters to their side and reintegrate them is unlikely to work.

Pakistan and the Afghanistan Endgame

Pakistan and the Afghanistan Endgame

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Written by Ahmed Rashid
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Wary neighbors: Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) with Pakistan’s Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, seeking accommodation. Photo credit: European Press Photo Agency.

India and Pakistan vie for influence in Kabul

After the failure of high level talks between India and Pakistan over their long running disputes, both countries are now locked in an escalating proxy war in Afghanistan.

If no solution is found to reconcile Pakistani and Indian interests in Afghanistan, the coming months might see stepped up terrorist attacks against Indians in Kabul and the return of militants infiltrating Indian Kashmir from Pakistan.

The fact that in recent weeks a large number of Taliban operatives have been captured in Pakistan signals an intensified struggle over the fate of Afghanistan rather than a winding down of the conflict.

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai seeking negotiations with the Taliban, some of whom Pakistan distrusts, along with India increasingly concerned about the Pakistan-backed Taliban coming to power in Kabul, the conflict is reaching a new stage of intensity. Even as an intensive US and NATO military offensive against the Taliban is underway in southern Afghanistan, neighboring states are already considering the Americans as good as gone and preparing for an end game scenario with old rivalries renewed.

While Pakistan charges India with undermining Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, India fears that Pakistan is preparing the ground for pro-Pakistan elements from the Taliban to negotiate with Kabul, in an attempt to force India out of Afghanistan after US forces start a slow withdrawal in July 2011. Meanwhile, a year after Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out Mumbai attack they are yet to be brought to justice.

Against this backdrop, Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries met in New Delhi at the end of February but failed to make any progress. Just a day later a suicide squad in Kabul hit two hotels, killing 16 people including 7 Indian civilians and two Indian army majors. Three days later the Afghan government accused Lashkar-e-Taiba of being responsible for the Kabul attack.

In a series of briefings to the Pakistani and foreign media, Pakistani generals have portrayed India as seriously threatening Pakistan, using its embassy and consulates in Afghanistan to harbor, train and fund Baloch separatists who are waging an insurgency in Balochistan province, trying to undermine Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan and even for backing elements of the Pakistani Taliban. Tensions heightened after four Pakistani workers were gunned down in Kandahar in early March by unknown assailants. The Pakistani media has accused the Indian consulate in Kandahar of organizing the attack.

Pro-military commentators have risen to the occasion demanding that as Pakistan now faces a two-front situation, India should be pushed out of Afghanistan by the Taliban or as a pre-condition which the US must accept, if and when peace talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government are held.

India was seriously rattled when the US and NATO agreed at the January 28 London conference on Afghanistan to begin “re-integrating” Taliban fighters and field commanders and lavishly funding a peace package for them. President Karzai went much further by demanding ‘reconciliation’ with the mainstream Taliban led by Mullah Mohammed Omar. India was aghast at the unanimity of the international community which is tiring of the war in Afghanistan, as India has vociferously opposed any dialogue with the Taliban.

India sees the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda working closely with anti-Indian groups based in Pakistani Punjab, such as Lashkar, who have begun to re-infiltrate into Indian Kashmir to restart the guerrilla war which has been dormant since 2004. Even US officials say that Punjabi militants are increasingly fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Although Karzai has declared that “Afghanistan does not want proxy war between India and Pakistan,” India’s real concern is that Pakistan appears determined to position itself center stage of any dialogue between the Taliban and Kabul. Pakistan’s Interservice Intelligence Bureau recently arrested key Afghan Taliban leaders who have been engaged in talks with representatives of the Karzai administration without Pakistan’s ISI being involved.

Senior US officials in Washington say the initial arrest of the powerful second in command Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi in early February was accidental – after the CIA discovered the location of a meeting of Taliban commanders where Barader was found. The ISI arrested him and then decided to bring in all his supporters, resulting in more arrests. Kabul’s request that Barader be extradited was refused. Despite repeated requests, US officials have been given only limited access to question Barader and even less access to question other arrested Taliban.

However, despite his significant sanctuary in Pakistan, Barader was at odds with the ISI talking independently to Karzai’s representatives without taking the ISI into confidence and instead enlisting the help of Saudi Arabia. Over the past 12 months Saudi Arabia has been intermittently involved in helping the two sides hold informal talks that so far have not led to real negotiations, although they have the potential to do so. The Saudis, although close allies of Pakistan, had also appeared willing to keep the ISI out of the dialogue.

The Obama administration is still far from accepting the idea of negotiating with the Taliban leadership and US officials were annoyed with Karzai after the London conference for raising the issue, but the ISI and the military are now forcing the pace to have a three way dialogue between Kabul, Islamabad and the Taliban, while also pushing the US administration to accept such a dialogue and agree to a major role for the ISI.

India has now embarked on a diplomatic offensive to counter Pakistan’s growing role, sending National Security Adviser Shivsankar Menon to Kabul in early March and the Foreign Minister S M Krishna to Iran in coming weeks. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s hastily arranged trip to Afghanistan this week underlined Tehran’s keen interest in the Afghanistan endgame. India has asked Karzai about his secret negotiations with the Taliban and how India can play a role. At the same time India appears to be wanting to rebuild the alliance with Iran, Russia and the Central Asian Republics that opposed the Taliban in the 1990s and supported the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance.

Missing as yet from this complicated maneuvering is the US administration, which will have to decide soon on supporting Kabul-Taliban talks if it is not to see its military and economic development offensives in Afghanistan undermined by growing regional rivalries. Also missing from the equation is Pakistan’s civilian government, which has been bypassed in the foreign policy decision making by the military and the ISI. It is well known that the much weakened President Asif Zardari would like to improve relations with India and Afghanistan and encourage trade and investment, rather than foment a new set of regional tensions.

However a too overt Pakistani role is likely to be rejected by Karzai, by Afghanistan’s non-Pashtuns and civil society and even by many Taliban who are tired of fighting and would like to end their dependence on Pakistan.

Any sign of excessive Pakistani influence in Afghanistan would immediately prompt a reaction from India, Iran, China and the Arab Gulf states, which could include backing anti-Pakistan proxies in Afghanistan and making it even more difficult for Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability.

Ahmed Rashid is a Pakistani journalist and author, most recently of “Descent into Chaos: The US and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.” Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online, the flagship publication of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization

Could America Become a Presidential Military Dictatorship?

Could America Become a Presidential Military Dictatorship?

I voted for John McCain for president, (did I have a choice?),but I’m wondering whether the senior senator from Arizona has taken leave of his constitutional senses.

TwinsTen days ago and McCain and his might-have-been 2008 vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct), introduced a bill entitled the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.”

A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the United States based on suspected activityRead the bill here and then read below.

The bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning.

Amazing Legislation

But the bill makes no distinction between “U.S. persons,” (defined as green card holders or U.S. citizens) and non-U.S. persons. Any of them (of us) could be arrested by the military!

We_The_PeopleThe McCain-Lieberman bill would require all of these “belligerents” to be coded as “high-value detainee[s]” to be held in military custody and interrogated for their intelligence value by a “High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team” established by the president.

1bodyarmor2aaAny suspected unprivileged enemy belligerents considered a “high-value detainee” shall not be provided with a Miranda warning.

More Power to the President

The bill directs the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a “high-value detainee” if he/she: (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) has potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or (5)such other matters as the President considers appropriate.

In other words, President Obama, or any president afterwards, could order the military to arrest Americans within the United States as he sees fit!

Militarizing America

During the past 20 years there has been an increasing “militarization” of police departments across the United States. Armed with military gear and weapons, civil police SWAT teams have multiplied at a furious pace. Tactics once reserved for rare, volatile situations such as hostage takings, bank robberies and terrorist incidents increasingly have been used for routine police work, especially in the long lost “war on drugs.”

In October 2006, in a little publicized maneuver, President George W. Bush has signed a law which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) at the time, actually encourages the President to declare federal martial law. It revised the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limited the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States.

SAFE_STATE2

The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with thePosse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. But Public Law 109-364 that Bush signed allows the President to declare a “public emergency,” station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”

Before he left office Bush also signed a law that allowed the establishment within the U.S. military of a special command located in and operating within the United States.

Unprecedented Power

A decision to dispatch U.S. troops to make arrests in the U.S. has few precedents in American history, outside the Civil War. That’s because both the Constitution and the laws cited above restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

WtfWith these existing Bush-provided presidential legal powers, plus the radical powers suggested in the McCain-Lieberman bill, the president of the United States could well become a military dictator — and who would stop him? The military?

Talk about a “police state”!
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Pat act The PATRIOT Act Report

In this special 44 page report I wrote (and have revised for the third time,), you learn all about the PATRIOT Act and its far-reaching invasion of your rights — and what you can do to defend yourself.

Is Holbrooke’s “bulldozer” style working?

Is Holbrooke’s “bulldozer” style working?

Dubbed the “bulldozer” for his tough guy tactics in Balkan negotiations, U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has been making waves in South Asia recently.

holbrookeU.S. embassies in New Delhi and Kabul have been scrambling over the past week to deal with local fallout from statements made by Washington’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Statements that often go by unnoticed in Washington are parsed word for word in a region where there are deeply-held suspicions over U.S. intentions.

One such example is Holbrooke’s comments at a forum at Harvard last week where he was asked about re-integration efforts with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Holbrooke made clear — as he has many times before — that the United States was not in talks with the Taliban but offered up that almost every family of the southern Pashtun tribes had someone involved with the Taliban.

“There are plenty of indirect contacts between Pashtun on both sides – almost every Pashtun family in the south has family or friends who are involved with the Taliban – it’s in the fabric of society,”  said Holbrooke in remarks released by his office.

Almost immediately, that comment went viral in Afghanistan and was seen by many as a slight to President Hamid Karzai, himself a Pashtun.

The issue came up at a news conference this week between Karzai and visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who told a reporter that while he had a lot of respect for Holbrooke “that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he says, including that.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul put out a statement from Holbrooke almost immediately afterwards, saying he was merely reflecting Karzai’s own comments this year when he said “those Taliban who were not part of terrorist networks or al Qaeda are sons of the Afghan soil.”

“I was not suggesting that all Pashtuns are part of the Taliban or all Taliban are Pashtuns,” said Holbrooke.

Holbrooke has a testy relationship with Karzai and had several heated exchanges with him last summer after a fraud-laced election. Those tensions have eased in recent months, but diplomats say the two are not the best of friends.

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi has also tried to dampen an outcry that flared after Holbrooke told a news conference in Washington last week he did not believe recent attacks on guesthouses in Kabul were aimed at Indians.

“I don’t accept the fact that this was an attack on an Indian facility like the embassy. There were foreigners, non-Indian foreigners hurt,” Holbrooke said in the news conference at the State Department.

The statement caused a ruckus on the blogosphere and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi issued a “clarification” of Holbrooke’s remarks on its website.

“I regret any misunderstanding caused by my comments,” Holbrooke said. “I did not say Indians were not the target, but that initially it looked like the target was not an official Indian facility.”

Obama has called Holbrooke “one of the most talented diplomats of his generation,” but some are questioning whether his tough style works in South Asia.

“I think quiet diplomacy is the order of the day. This is not a Bosnia-type thing,” said a senior former diplomat, who declined to be named as his comments were critical of Holbrooke.

“Karzai just really does not like him. I hear the Pakistanis don’t like him either. They have acute sensitivities about being bullied by Americans,” added the diplomat.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley defended Holbrooke.  “He remains the right person for the job,” said Crowley. “It’s a far-reaching and very complex challenge and Richard is managing it very skillfully.”

Photo credit: REUTERS/Nikola Solic (Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke talking by phone at a meeting of foreign ministers in Trieste)

Turkey PM warns might deport up to 100,000 Armenians

Turkey PM warns might deport up to 100,000 Armenians

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s prime minister has warned that he might deport up to 100,000 Armenians living in Turkey without citizenship after resolutions passed by U.S. and Swedish lawmakers defining World War One-era killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Earlier this month, Turkey withdrew its ambassadors to Washington and Stockholm after a U.S. congressional committee and the Swedish parliament passed the non-binding resolutions.

It also warned that the resolutions could affect progress in fragile reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia.

Asked during an interview with the BBC Turkish service in London on Tuesday what he thought about the resolutions, Erdogan said:

“There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000. If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don’t have to keep them in my country.”

The majority of Armenians in Turkey live and work in Istanbul. Many came after an earthquake in their homeland in 1988 and work illegally and send remittances home.

BLAMES DIASPORA

Erdogan accused the Armenian diaspora of being behind the resolutions in foreign parliaments, and called on Armenia and other foreign governments to avoid being swayed by their lobbying.

“Armenia has an important decision to make. It should free itself from its attachment to the diaspora. Any country which cares for Armenia, namely the U.S., France and Russia, should primarily help Armenia to free itself from the influence of the diaspora.”

Erdogan’s comments threaten to strain Turkish-Armenian ties, which are traumatised by the deportation and killing of Armenians during the chaotic end of the Ottoman empire nearly a century ago.

The issue of the Armenian massacres is deeply sensitive in Turkey, which accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but vehemently denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide — a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.

Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia agreed last year to establish diplomatic ties and open their border if their parliaments approved peace accords, but the votes have not taken place and the governments have accused each other of trying to rewrite the texts.

© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

Pakistan’s Delusional “Holy Warriors”–CIA’s Deepest Asset

Who is behind Zaid Hamid’s crush India brigade?

– by Kamran Shafi

The crazy Right and rump Pakistan

I was to regale you with other stories to do with our security establishment’s tortured and seemingly futile hunt for the very elusive holy grail of strategic depth in Afghanistan (I ask you) this week, but the ever-increasing assault on our poor country and its innocent people by unlettered and brainwashed and murderous yahoos leads me elsewhere.

Who saw clips of the unintentional video shot by a shocked bystander who burst into uncontrolled moans as he filmed the Yahoo blow himself up and tens of others with him, limbs and blood and gore flying in all directions?

Well, I did, and while one has almost been inured to such scenes, the live images were shocking in the extreme and outraged me more and more every time they were repeated. Not for long though, because soon the scenes began to be censored, the more gory parts cut out of the film. Bad move by whoever for the people at large must be shown the extent of the bestiality and the brutishness of the yahoos who are lionised by some politicians for their own narrow political ends.

Lahore has been attacked twice inside of a week, the attacks killing scores of people and injuring and maiming many more. The intelligence agencies failed all ends up yet again, and as per usual, specially the premier agency aka the Mother of All Agencies which seems to have its finger in every matter — from disappearing people to formulating the country’s foreign policy to destabilising the government whenever it is perceived to be stepping ‘out of line’ — except in running the yahoos to the ground and nipping their evil in the bud.

You might well ask what I mean by the title of this piece. Simple: the Crazy Right are the successors of the Crush India Brigade of the late 1960s and early 1970s which gave us the Bangladesh tragedy (which of course had other reasons too); rump Pakistan is the country we are left with after the breakup of Pakistan as a result of the exertions of the crazy Right. They might well succeed yet again.

Here is the present high priest of the crazy Right, one Zaid (Zaman) Hamid, reportedly speaking on something called ‘Ummah Radio’: “Pakistan is in the headlines again! Oh people! Know that it is a combined action of RAW and Mossad to dismantle the divinely placed concrete foundations of the house of the pure, the feared fort of Islam. We are a nation which is like a glittering star of guidance for the crescent of the whole Muslim world, the pioneer of the creation of the green united states of Islam in the world that is drowning in the sea of ignorance.

“Oh Muslims! Always hold on to truth, and the truth is that it is yet again a Zionist-controlled western media’s conspiracy. Let’s rise up against the enemies of Islam; let’s nuke the … Hindus and Jews, the nefarious dark forces of this planet. Insha’allah, the time for shahadat is near. My sons and daughters, get ready for the big day, the promised day when Allah will make the Muslims victorious and Jews will run here and there to find shelter. Even the trees will talk and will say: ‘these sons of apes and swines are hiding behind my trunk’.

“Rise up and get ready for the mass suicide. Great nations die for a noble cause. What is more nobler than wiping the enemies of Islam from the face of this earth? Remember, Islam is a peaceful religion. Allah commands us to take care of each other. All are equal in the eyes of Allah. Slay them with your daggers. …Islam will rule the world….”. The transmission is interrupted. Announcer: “We are trying to re-establish the connection with our great leader, meanwhile we will ask Qari Bakir to recite ‘Surah Tauba’.”

If this doesn’t make your blood run cold and infuriate you all at once, dear reader, I don’t know what will. Can you and I ask why this person is allowed to go on with his increasingly violent rants aimed at the huge numbers of unemployed, half-educated youths who have nothing to do in a country that is essentially a security state and which, instead of creating job opportunities for these vulnerable targets for the spreaders of poison, spends most of its money on toys and more toys for the boys, and more and more luxurious perks for its generals?

Surely spreading hate against other religions is against the law? Surely calling for mass suicide is against the law? Surely advocating nuking the hell out of another country is a crime against humanity itself? Why, then, is this man not prosecuted?

Why does the federal government not get the Federal Bureau of Revenue to investigate the sources of this person’s income, which must be huge judging from the campaigns he mounts, to see who exactly keeps him in big money? Why does the judiciary, which seems to be hell-bent on just pursuing the federal government’s leaders, not take suo motu notice of this man’s dangerous spoutings?

We must recall immediately too that some days ago this person was hosted in Peshawar byGovernor Owais Ghani and sent amidst official protocol to speak at Islamia College University where he was not allowed to speak by the Pakhtun Students Union and the Amn Tehrik and was sent scurrying back to the comfort of the governor’s bosom.

Why, pray, is the federal government’s representative in Peshawar trying to smooth the way for this purveyor of hatred? Why is he mollycoddling this man who is attempting to lead the country’s disaffected young astray?

Our country is at great risk, my friends, for no one seems to have learnt any lessons at all. I fear it will face even more grief in the coming days while our politicians leap off the cliff like lemmings.

kshafi1@yahoo.co.uk

Source: Dawn