The world’s five recognized nuclear powers are set to talk this week about prospects for establishing the Middle East as a nuclear weapon-free zone, Interfax reported on Monday (see GSN, Feb. 17).
Envoys from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — the five nations acknowledged as nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — are scheduled to convene in Paris for talks on a range of potential confidence-building measures that could pave the way for future nuclear disarmament.
“One of the topics for discussion is what should be done to fully implement the resolutions of the Review Conference for the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
At the 2010 five-year review conference of the NPT accord, treaty signatories committed to holding a regional conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction” (see GSN, June 3).
Ryabkov said the five nuclear powers — who also hold the five permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council — have gathered together before to discuss nuclear weapon issues.
“I cannot say that this whole topic is problem-free,” the Russian diplomat said. “At this meeting we will discuss how to find ways of reconciling the positions on the existing nuances” (Interfax, June 27).
A subsequent report will also detail NATO terrorism and crimes against the civilian population that have included the 2/17 /11 to 6/27/11 bombing of 294 civilian targets, killing and wounding a total of 6,232 according to the Libyan Red Crescent Society statistics. These civilian targets include the Libyan Down’s Syndrome Society, a school that provided speech therapy, handicrafts and sports sessions for disabled children as well as Tripoli’s Nassar University, homes, schools, medical facilities and food storage warehouses, Bombing these sites are all outlawed by the Geneva Conventions and constitute NATO war crimes. An additional massive documentation project by international organizations is expected to be completed by July 30, 2011.
He contribute to Uprooted Palestinians Blog
[It is typical in a "false flag" type of attack to make the criminal act appear to be the work of your enemy. In the ongoing underworld warfare of Dawood Ibrahim and former partner Chota Rajan, it may be safe to say that whatever the circumstantial evidence seems to prove, it is just as likely that the truth is just the exact opposite. If it implicates Rajan in the killing of a reporter who was allegedly investigating Dawood, then the killer may have worked for Ibrahim. Since the police have the testimony of the shooters that they didn't know that their victim was a reporter until they heard it on TV, they may not have known the true source of their pay-off.]
“Dey was believed to be working on articles on wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim” (SEE: Investigative journalist shot dead in Mumbai).
Under tremendous pressure to crack senior crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey’s murder on June 11, the Mumbai police have come up with an underworld shooter from the Chhota Rajan gang as the main culprit. Satish Kaliya and six others are to be booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and their gang leader Chhota Rajan made an absconding accused in the case. The arrest comes a day after another gang leader, Chhota Shakeel, called up a leading newspaper and denied he had anything to do with the killing of Dey. Rajan too had reportedly denied his involvement. The Mumbai police took their time with the case and were reluctant to hand it over to the CBI. Investigations are still under way and the 3,000 emails in Dey’s inbox have to be examined for crucial evidence. Importantly no motive, whether professional or personal, has been ascribed to the killing as yet. From police accounts, the murder was planned meticulously over 20 days. However, it is rather strange that the shooter was, according to the police, unaware of the identity of Dey as a leading crime reporter and he realised it only subsequently while watching television. The investigation covered a wide ambit since Dey was writing on the oil mafia, underworld links with policemen, and other issues. Admittedly, the police had a difficult task but pressure from the press, the court, and the government forced it into speeding up the investigation and zeroing in on the alleged killers unlike in other States where nothing has happened in similar cases.
For the beleaguered Mumbai police, the arrests have come as a respite after some red herrings were thrown in the path of the investigation. Its reputation has been under the scanner for a while and, even during its moment of triumph, the State Home Minister had to suspend a police inspector who was involved in organising a rave party outside Mumbai. Having caught the suspects, the police have an even bigger challenge — unravelling the motive behind this brazen killing. Most crime reporters have excellent contacts with the underworld and a network of informers. Dey did not speak to anyone of a threat to his life or demand protection. It is an unwritten rule that the underworld rarely killed members of the media, though there were two cases in early 1980s in and outside Mumbai in the heyday of Dawood Ibrahim. The police have indicated that the emails could lay bare the reasons for Dey’s tragic death. The investigators cannot rest easy having caught the alleged culprits, though that is a major breakthrough. The reasons for the crime are just as important.
[This is the US forces setting-up the anvil for Pakistan's hammer operation in Kurram, or perhaps N. Waziristan. Is this another sign of cooperation between the two Armies?]
By Carmen Gentile, Special for USA TODAY
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A large-scale operation airlifting hundreds of U.S. and Afghan soldiers into the rugged, insurgent-laced mountains of eastern Afghanistan is being met with fierce resistance by the Taliban and other armed groups, according to U.S. military officials in the region.
U.S. commanders say the aim is to wipe out a persistent insurgency in the northern part of Watahpur District in Kunar province, long a stronghold for armed factions both local and from nearby Pakistan, preparing the way for a takeover by the Afghanistan National Army.
“We’re trying to kill every terrorist in the area,” said Maj. Pat Stitch, brigade operations officer for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Stitch said the hope is that the Afghan army can “hold what we cleared” and patrol a region that has been dominated by insurgents from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The idea is that the ANA should be doing this by themselves,” he said, adding that ideally the Afghan National Police would join the ANA in its effort.
U.S. forces were realigned
The offensive operation is the largest for the 3rd Brigade since its deployment to eastern Afghanistan in April. A brigade spokesman, Maj. David Eastburn, said it was at least “five to seven times larger than any previous operation conducted by the brigade.”
Taming this volatile area of Kunar is not an easy one, a lesson U.S. forces have learned in recent years in this region. American troops have sustained heavy casualties in Watahpur District and the surrounding area.
A small combat outpost in the restive Korengal Valley, just to the west of Watahpur, was overrun in 2009, leaving eight soldiers dead just weeks before it was scheduled to be closed.
Watahpur is bisected by the Pech River Valley, where in recent months several U.S. military bases and smaller combat outposts were handed over to the Afghan army.
Prior to the handover, a full battalion of American soldiers had a permanent presence in the region. Now there remains one U.S. Army company and an attached platoon.
Unlike the battle in southern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan forces have cleared large areas of Taliban militants over the last 12 months, the insurgency in eastern Afghanistan remains a difficult face-to-face fight.
Insurgents have attacked military bases with mortar and rocket fire and planted narrow mountain roads where U.S. troops patrol by foot and armored vehicles with numerous improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
“It’s obvious we’re taking the fight to the enemy,” Stitch said. “We didn’t abandon the area, we just realigned U.S. forces.”
In a demanding battle
So far, the fight has proven particularly difficult. U.S. and Afghan forces were flown into a mountainous terrain as high as 10,000 feet where they are meeting the enemy sometimes at very close range.
Stitch said coalition troops were fortifying fighting positions “with rocks or whatever they can find” and seeking out insurgents in tiny villages that dot the area.
It’s a demanding fight, he said, with soldiers getting little rest and supplies being airdropped into the battlefield. Some firefights have been at “extremely close range,” he said.
The operation in Watahpur is also a fight without a specific timeline. Soldiers are prepared to remain in the battle “until the enemy stops shooting,” Eastburn said.
Since the operation began in earnest June 25, 30 U.S. troops have been injured and three killed.
Pfc. Tyler Sankbeil, 20, was injured when a Chinook helicopter transporting troops made what U.S. military officials call a “hard landing,” or a landing done with greater speed and force than normal. Several others were injured.
Lying on a backboard, his neck in a brace, Sankbeil characterized the helicopter landing as a crash preceded by a series of loud bangs.
“I saw people’s feet flying around and people were getting ejected from their seats,” he said. The U.S. military said the crash was caused by a mechanical failure and not enemy fire.
U.S. military commanders said they have so far killed close to 80 insurgents.
Brigade Intelligence Officer Maj. Chris Rankin said the militants were part of the Taliban and Pakistani insurgent groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, known as the TTP, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Lashkar-e-Taiba, which regularly cross the ill-defined border to wage attacks on American and Afghan troops.
“It’s (Watahpur) an ideal insurgent safe haven,” Rankin said.
By Zahir Ebrahim
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The BBC report of this morning, June 23, 2011, Brigadier Ali Khan: Pakistan’s dissenting army officer, on first glance is very interesting. Finally a patriot military man in the Pakistani praetorian guard.
On second glance however, it isn’t. Heart and mind are two different things. Both are needed. One without the other is either blind, or cruel. Here is why it isn’t interesting on second glance.
The BBC report states, inter alia:
‘Brigadier Ali Khan, the Pakistani officer detained for his alleged links with the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, had been highly critical of the Pakistani army’s high command over its relationship with the US, reports BBC Urdu’s Asif Farooqi. …
[H]e had been exerting strong pressure on the top echelons of Pakistan’s military to stop co-operating with American forces in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents, army officers who served with the brigadier during his 32-year career told the BBC.
“The army is a cult in itself, so it’s intolerant towards any other cult within” – Maj Gen Athar Abbas, Quoted by BBC News 23 June 2011
Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that there was compelling evidence against the brigadier owing to his contacts with the banned group. …
Successive promotion boards rejected Brig Ali while his colleagues and subordinates continued to rise up the promotion ladder, overtaking him. Indeed, to date, Brig Khan is the oldest brigadier in the Pakistani army.
His colleagues thought he would be unable to withstand a career going nowhere and would seek early retirement. But they were soon proved wrong. The brigadier told his colleagues he had more to accomplish in his job.
It soon became clear what he meant by that.
Brig Khan started writing letters to army generals, some of whom were his former colleagues, with suggestions on how to become “self reliant” and “to purge the army of the American influence”.’
The aforementioned reminded me of “Re-Imagining Pakistan’s Defenses – Open Letter to a Pakistani General” November 30, 2007 (PDF http://tinyurl.com/Reimagining-pakistan )
But the following is where it stopped reminding me any further:
‘Brig Ali even wrote to the President Asif Ali Zardari suggesting ways to make Pakistan economically self-reliant by freeing the country of American aid.’
Asking Zardari sahib? ( PDF http://tinyurl.com/happy-happy-zardari )
And the following completely tells me that the excitement of patriotism/nationalism, and finally breaking the yoke of imperialism, on the part of any Pakistani reading this BBC report may be pre-mature:
‘One officer present in the meeting said all had been going well until it was Brig Khan’s turn to speak. In his opinion, the culprits who had hidden Bin Laden and allowed the Americans to get away with breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty were to be found within the army.’
This Brig. Khan can’t tell one puppetshow from another.
While all this is admittedly only the BBC report, and like anything else appearing in any media, must be taken circumspectly, the article clearly re-asserts the existence of boogeyman Ali Baba.
Notice the play: even the most zealous and patriotic Pakistani Brigadier who even dissented with the upper echelon of the Pakistani military (at the risk of his own promotion to Major General) in its cooperation with the United States on the War on Terror, and wanted to limit its scope, also believed in the Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeeda, and other tales.
When a presumably patriotic Brigadier cannot see the difference between red-team/blue team operation, when a sitting Brigadier who by the account of this article should have been Maj. General by now (if not Lt. General), cannot see black-ops imperial projects to fabricate synthetic terror in order to create the hegelian dialectic of “evil doers” vs. the “good guys” in insurgency vs. counter-insurgency game of “imperial mobilization” ( http://tinyurl.com/insurgency-vs-counter ), it is not obvious to me what this fuss is all about.
Perhaps the Pakistani military command who are reading this blog (yeh!), might read ‘The Poor-Man’s Guide to Modernity’ (PDF http://tinyurl.com/guide-modernity-2011 ) and leave this poor but well-intentioned brigadier alone.
Brig. Ali Khan’s heart evidently is in the right place when he speaks of “self reliant” and “to purge the army of the American influence”, even if his analysis requires some rethinking.
And what exactly is the reality behind all this?
I won’t take the BBC’s word on it.
The only reason the BBC has published this article, in my view at least, is that the Mighty Wurlitzer is doing its job ( http://tinyurl.com/mightywurlitzer ).
That job is mass behavior control. Among other propaganda techniques to affect behavior, to spin narratives which on the surface are appealing to some, but still manage to echo empire’s core axioms. This is the bread and butter of dissent in the West. When mainstream news tasked with engineering consent by their owners, occasionally echo that technique to demonstrate their “objectivity”, there is essentially still no difference. In either case, the primary objective of the press is behavior control, especially for matters of immediate pertinence to current affairs and on-going “imperial mobilization” projects. It is not awareness creation of the diabolical techniques of “imperial mobilization” ( http://tinyurl.com/master-social-science ).
Ex post facto narratives are a different beast – many will truthfully narrate that which is already a fait accompli. It is called history!
This BBC report, whatever its veracity, prima facie still underscores the undeniable fact of the mater. And that is, that even when the intention of rebellion might be genuine, even when the thirst for independence from empire’s mayhem might set an indigenous military patriot’s throat on fire in Pakistan, our modernity is a twisted devil. It comes wrapped in multifaceted Hegelian Dialectic.
Without acutely comprehending this modernity, there simply cannot be any freedom for any nation and any people, no matter how fervently riled up they might get. That riling up is simply harvested on one or the other side of the Hegelian Dialectic. You are either a “militant” aiding and abetting “insurgency” if you don’t like hegemony or have been “tickled” into it, or, are part of empire’s Allies douching it with “counter-insurgency” if you don’t like the insurgents or just love to play house negro to the white man. Once caught in such a Hegelian Dialectic where both sides are orchestrated by the same powers, there is no escape from that matrix.
Brigadier Ali Khan appears to be caught in that matrix!
As Americans weary of the mission in Afghanistan, Democrats and Republicans alike are raising serious questions about the nation’s propensity for multiple, open-ended wars. Finally.
By the time the condition passes and a semblance of health is restored, recollection of what occurred during the interval of illness tends to be hazy. What happened? How’d we get here? Most Americans prefer not to dwell on the questions. Feeling much better now! Thanks!
Gripped by such a fever in 1898, Americans evinced an irrepressible impulse to liberate oppressed Cubans. By the time they’d returned to their senses, having acquired various parcels of real estate between Puerto Rico and the Philippines, no one could quite explain what had happened or why.
In 1917, the fever suddenly returned. Amid wild ravings about waging a war to end war, Americans lurched off to France. This time the affliction passed quickly, although the course of treatment proved painful: confinement to the charnel house of the Western Front, followed by bitter medicine administered at Versailles.
The 1960s brought another bout (and yet more disappointment). An overwhelming urge to pay any price, bear any burden landed Americans in Vietnam. The fall of Saigon in 1975 seemed, for a brief interval, to inoculate the body politic against any further recurrence. Yet the salutary effects of this “Vietnam syndrome” proved fleeting. By the time the Cold War ended, Americans were running another temperature, their self-regard reaching impressive new heights.
Then came 9/11, and the fever simply soared off the charts. The messiah nation was really pissed and was going to fix things once and for all.
Nearly 10 years have passed since Washington set out to redeem the greater Middle East. The crusades have not gone especially well. In fact, in the pursuit of its mission, the American messiah has pretty much worn itself out.
Today, the post-9/11 fever finally shows signs of abating, though the sickness has by no means passed. Oddly, it lingers most strongly in the Obama White House, where a keenness to express American ideals by dropping bombs persists.
Yet, despite the urges of some in the Obama administration, after nearly a decade of self-destructive flailing about, American recovery has become a distinct possibility. Here’s some of the evidence:
In Washington, it’s no longer considered a sin to question American omnipotence. Take the case of Robert Gates. The outgoing secretary of Defense certainly restored a modicum of competence and accountability to the Pentagon. But the most enduring Gates legacy is likely to be found in his willingness, however belated, to acknowledge the limits of American power.
No one can charge Gates with being an isolationist or a national security wimp. So when he says anyone proposing another major land war in the Middle East “should have his head examined” — citing the authority of Douglas MacArthur, no less — people take notice. Or more recently there is this. “I’ve got a military that’s exhausted,” Gates remarked. “Let’s just finish the wars we’re in and keep focused on that instead of signing up for other wars of choice.” Someone should etch that into outer walls of the Pentagon’s E-ring.
Half a dozen years ago, “wars of choice” were all the rage in Washington. No more. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Or consider the officer corps. There is no “military mind,” but there are plenty of minds in the military, and some numbers of them are rethinking the role of military power.
Consider, for example, “Mr. Y,” author of “A National Strategic Narrative,” published this spring to considerable acclaim by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The actual authors of this report are two military professionals, one a Navy captain, the other a Marine colonel.
What you won’t find in this document are jingoist chest-thumping and calls for a bigger military budget. If there’s an overarching theme, it’s pragmatism. Rather than the United States imposing its will on the world, the authors want more attention paid to investment at home.
The world is too big and complicated for any one nation to call the shots, they insist. The effort to do so is self-defeating. “As Americans,” Mr. Y writes, “we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions…. We will pursue our national interests and let others pursue theirs.”
And finally, by gum, there is the U.S. Congress. Just when that body appeared to have entered a permanent vegetative state, a flickering of intelligent life has made its reappearance, and Democratsand Republicans alike — albeit for different reasons — are raising serious questions about the nation’s propensity for multiple, open-ended wars.
Some members cite concerns for the Constitution and the abuse of executive power. Others worry about the price tag. With Osama bin Laden out of the picture, still others insist that it’s time to rethink strategic priorities. No doubt partisan calculation or personal ambition figure alongside matters of principle. After all, they are politicians.
Given what polls indicate is a growing public unhappiness over the Afghanistan war, speaking out against the war these days doesn’t exactly require political courage. Still, the possibility of our legislators reasserting a role in deciding whether or not a war actually serves the national interest, rather than simply rubber-stamping appropriations and slinking away, now presents itself. God bless the United States Congress.
Of course, at the first signs of self-restraint, you can always count on the likes of Sen. John McCain or the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal to decry (in McCain’s words) an “isolationist-withdrawal-lack-of-knowledge-of-history attitude.” In such quarters, fever is a permanent condition, and it’s always 104 and rising. Yet it is a measure of how quickly things are changing that McCain himself, once deemed a source of straight talk, now comes across as a mere crank.
In this way, nearly a decade after our most recent descent into madness, does the possibility of recovery finally beckon.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” A longer version of this piece appears at tomdispatch.com.
(Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in Germany on Tuesday that his country was willing to extend Europe a “helping hand from afar” in its debt crisis and could buy the sovereign debt of some euro zone nations if needed. “China has expressed support for Europe at various times. In other words, when Europe is in difficulty we will extend a helping hand from afar,” the Chinese premier told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
“We will according to need definitely purchase certain amounts of sovereign debt,” Wen said.
[The greatest possible act of self-defense for India, as well as for Pakistan, would be for them to forge a peace treaty. The stabilization of everything that the US and NATO has been driving to destabilize is the path to regional security.]
|While there is no evidence that Barack Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, India must now begin a ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban along with a policy to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions.|
The United States President, Barack Obama’s announcement regarding the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan was not India-specific, as compared to Washington’s initiative in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to New Delhi. But it is more lethal, casting a shadow on India’s regional strategies.
Why Mr. Obama took such a decision doesn’t actually need much explaining. Put simply, his sharp political instincts prevailed. He had a pledge to redeem; he sensed the public mood; he heard “bipartisan” opinion in Capitol Hill that the soldiers be brought home; he faces an adverse budgetary environment and he understood that his priority should be to mend the U.S. economy rather than wage wars in foreign lands. The “surge” may have made gains, arguably, but gains are reversible; so, what is the point? Meanwhile, Afghan opinion is turning against foreign occupation and the killing of Osama bin Laden offers a defining moment.
On the diplomatic front, regional allies proved exasperatingly difficult, while European allies got impatient to quit. The regional opinion militates against a long-term U.S. military presence, while the contradictions in intra-regional relationships do not lend easily to reconciliation. The foreign policy priorities need vastly more attention: exports and investment, upheaval in West Asia, China’s rise, etc.
There is no evidence that Mr. Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in the U.S. strategy in India’s immediate neighbourhood. We need to calmly ponder over what the U.S. means when Mr. Obama calls India its “indispensable partner in the 21st century.” In the period ahead, keeping the dialogue process with Pakistan on course; pursuing normalisation of ties with China; consolidating the gains of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s path-breaking visit to Kabul — all these templates of our regional policy assume great importance. Indeed, the raison d’être of a “new thinking” in policymaking cannot but be stressed.
The implications of Mr. Obama’s drawdown decision are far-reaching. The U.S. has accepted the Taliban as being a part of the Afghan nation and concluded that it does not threaten America’s “homeland security.” No segment of the Taliban movement that is willing for reconciliation will be excluded. Mr. Obama expressed optimism about the peace process. He estimated that al-Qaeda is a spent force and any residual “war on terror” will be by way of exercising vigilance that it doesn’t rear its head again. The timeline for the drawdown — 10,000 troops by end-2011, 33,000 by mid-2012 and the bulk of the remaining 70,000 troops at a “steady pace” through 2013-14 — plus the change of command necessitated by David Petraeus’s departure in September as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hardly leaves scope for keeping a high tempo of security operations. Obviously, the Taliban has borne the brunt of the U.S. firepower and has survived.
The stunning geopolitical reality is that the U.S. is barely staving off defeat and is making its way out of the Hindu Kush in an orderly retreat. The Taliban responded to Mr. Obama’s announcement saying, “The solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately. Until this happens, our armed struggle will increase from day to day.” Again, Mr. Obama appears to be optimistic about the Kabul government’s ability to assume the responsibility of security by 2014.
Mr. Obama completely avoided mentioning an almost-forgotten pledge that the former U.S. President George W. Bush made in the halcyon days of the war, that the U.S. would someday consider a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. He, instead, pleaded that this is “a time of rising debt and hard economic times at home” and he needs to concentrate on rebuilding America. The Afghans fear that western aid and projects would dry up. If that happens, Afghanistan will revert to the late 1990s when the Taliban regime first accepted the financial help offered by bin Laden. All hope now hinges on the international conference that Mr. Obama will be hosting in May next year in Chicago.
However, there is no need to press the panic button. A repetition of the civil war scenario of the 1990s appears a remote possibility. The Taliban’s ascendancy in the 1990s was more an outright Pakistani conquest of Afghanistan in which the Pakistani air force, artillery, armoured corps, regular officers and intelligence agencies directly participated. The Taliban was a cohesive movement. Besides, there were regional powers determined to provide assistance to the non-Pashtun groups. In all these respects, the situation is radically different today. Pakistan hadn’t yet known at that time the blowback of terrorism. The very fact that Pakistan learnt about the secret talks between the Taliban and U.S. representatives from news reports speaks volumes of its command and control of the Quetta Shura.
Pakistan cannot be so naïve as not to factor in the fact that a revitalised, triumphalist Taliban just across the Durand Line (which, by the way, has all but disappeared) could ultimately prove a headache for its own security. Pakistani commentators candidly admit that the Afghans deeply resent Pakistan’s interference. There has been an overall political awakening among the Afghan people and a replay of the old Pakistani policies will be challenged. The gravitas of Afghan domestic politics has shifted. Thus, all things taken into consideration, Pakistan will see the wisdom of allowing a kind of intra-Afghan “equilibrium” to develop rather than try to prescribe what is good for that country.
Mr. Karzai has proved to be a remarkably shrewd politician gifted with a high acumen to network and forge alliances. He has emerged as a pan-Afghan leader who maintains working relationships with influential figures cutting across ethnicity and regions — Mohammed Fahim, Karim Khalili, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Rasul Sayyaf, etc. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami, which is a Pashtun-dominated group antithetical to the Taliban, already forms a part of Mr. Karzai’s government. Mr. Karzai has his own bridges leading toward the Taliban camp to which he once belonged, after all. There will always be disgruntled elements, but then there are the traditional Afghan methods of patronage and accommodation. Mr. Karzai takes an active interest in regional affairs. His bonding with Pakistan and Iran shows that his political antennae are already probing for openings in anticipation of the U.S. withdrawal.
In this complex setting, India’s own policy orientations are realistic and near-optimal. The primacy on building warm and cordial ties with the government in Kabul; nurturing people-to-people ties; contributing significantly to reconstruction; non-interference in internal affairs; an aversion to Indian military deployment; a non-prescriptive approach to an Afghan settlement and the insistence on an “Afghan-led” reconciliation process; and, most important, the trust that Mr. Karzai knows the “red lines” — these parameters of policy are eminently sustainable.
However, a couple of points need to be made. India should establish communication lines with the Taliban — assuming, of course, it wants to talk with us. After all, we talked with Mr. Sayyaf, leader of the Ittehad, which Jalaluddin Haqqani served as commander. It is inconceivable that any Afghan could harbour ill will towards India and the Indian people. The rest is all the disposable stuff of how the Afghan has been manipulated by outsiders through the 30 years of civil war — including when he vandalised the Bamiyan statues. But in the kind of Afghanistan Mr. Karzai wants his country to return, it becomes possible for us also to rediscover the Afghan we knew before foreigners came and occupied his country. (Incidentally, this is also the basis of Mr. Karzai’s optimism when he reacted on hearing about Mr. Obama’s drawdown plan: “This soil can only be protected by the sons of Afghanistan. I congratulate the Afghan people for taking the responsibility for their country into their own hands … Today is a very happy day.”)
And, our “dialogue” with the Taliban must go hand in hand with a policy to do all we can by word and deed to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions that for the foreseeable future, Afghanistan’s stabilisation can become a shared concern for the two countries. Much has changed already in the most recent months in the prevailing air. No one talks seriously that the drawback of Mr. Obama’s drawdown plan could be India-Pakistan “rivalry” in Afghanistan. There is actually no scope for zero-sum games, since Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan are legitimate — and are reconcilable with India’s concerns.
Second, Indian diplomacy should utilise the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) process to evolve a new strategic culture of collective security for the region, which it lacks. Mr. Obama’s words should be properly understood, when he said that the U.S. can no more “over-extend … confronting every evil that can be found abroad.” As India and Pakistan move to a new trajectory of growth, a favourable regional environment becomes the imperative need. India can learn a lot from the Chinese “technique” of creating synergy between the SCO track and Beijing’s bilateral track with the Central Asian capitals — and with Moscow — which till a generation ago were weaned on unalloyed anti-China dogmas of the Soviet era. Indian diplomacy can do one better. It can adapt this “technique” to normalisation with Pakistan — and with China.
( The writer is a former diplomat.)
By Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel
The Transitive Administrative Law of 2004 was followed by a new constitution in October 2005, on the back of months of grueling negotiations, intense jockeying and fervent pressure from the U.S., the result of the arduous tasks of satisfying Iraq’s vast socio-ethnic mosaic.
Significance of a constitution
Just why is a constitution perceived with so much significance? A constitution is a set of decrees, principles and ideals that govern a country. It is the blueprint of the governance of the country and the essential building block for all political, democratic and legislative particles that form a part of that country. As the political heartbeat or DNA of the governance of any country, the constitution is the hallmark and distinction of a country. In other words, if any aspect of a constitution is denied or overridden then the basis for the existence of the political and official governing entity in that country is also denied.
For this reason, across the Middle East, from Egypt to Libya, Syria and Turkey, real reform is synonymous with popular demands for fundamental changes to the respective constitutions. For example, the real acceptance of the Kurds in Turkey is not through electoral manifestos or mere political rhetoric, it can only be achieved by changing the legal blueprint of that country.
Clear roadmaps in place
For all its critics, the Iraqi Constitution is comprehensive and provides a roadmap for many of the major aspects that continue to fuel dispute and animosity today. There is a guideline for the extent of federal powers, regional authority, and powers afforded to executive entities, the sharing and development of Iraq’s immense hydrocarbons and, above all else, dealing with the issues of disputed territories.
Article 140 clearly outlines time lines, formulas and responsibility for resolving the status of Kirkuk and other associated disputed territories. This made the basis and the method for resolving the Kirkuk dilemma a clear building block of the new Iraq. It is contained in the constitution of the country, the essential framework of its existence, so there can be no clearer argument for the legality and prominence placed on this issue.
This makes the reasons behind the non-implementation of a legal, valid and key component of the make up of the country all the more pertinent.
Simply Arab factions, particularly the Sunnis and neighboring powers, have put more obstacles than solutions to prevent these articles from being implemented and thwart what they see as a strategic strengthening of Kurdish hands. It is now almost six years since the constitution was voted in, and clearly the appetite for resolving Kirkuk is as lacking as ever.
You may dislike or disagree with articles of the constitution, but this doesn’t make the articles any less legal, clear or enshrined in the make up of the country.
Baghdad foot-dragging over Article 140 was designed to ensure the deadline for its implementation by Dec. 31, 2007 would be missed. Yet the same entities that prevented its implementation, now, ironically, complain that the article is void as the deadline has passed.
While the Kurds have patiently persisted with the status quo, the Kurdistan Regional Government would be unwise to let constitutional articles fester indefinitely and see articles that potentially benefit them to be at a constant source of obstruction by the Arab and Turkmen sections of the population.
Limiting of Kurdish gains has been the same theme for the lack of a national hydrocarbon law in Iraq and the successive postponement of the census.
The fear of approving Kurdish oil contracts and resolving the status of disputed territories is that Baghdad would lose the little sway it has remaining over Kurdistan and Kurdistan could develop economic, foreign relations and politics unilaterally.
However, the breaking of the constitution is akin to cutting an artery to the heart. Iraq currently has a voluntary union, underpinned by constitutional principles. Without these, the legal basis for tying all parts of Iraq is effectively eroded.
Once the deadline for the implementation of Article 140 inevitably passed at the end of 2007, and without much progress, the UN was tasked with the responsibility of diffusing tensions, or in the words of former U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq, Steffan di Mistura, “stopping the ticking time bomb.”
More than three years later, the U.S. and U.N. continue to highlight the dangers that Kirkuk entail to Iraqis future but their commitment has been lacking in breaking the deadlock. The U.N., in particular, was tasked to look at solutions and alternatives to resolving disputed territories. The continued insistence of an international body to bypass a country’s constitution is remarkable. The mechanism for resolving the status of Kirkuk has long been decided. Ultimately, like any true democracy, it’s the people that should decide their fate, not Ankara, Baghdad, the U.N. or the like.
With the Kurdistan government growing increasingly tired and frustrated, top Kurdish leaders have recently warned of the dangers of any bypassing of the constitution.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani recently stated, “If this article is dead, it means the constitution is dead. And if the constitution is dead, it means Iraq is finished.” Such similar sentiments were echoed by Nechirvan Barzani and Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki in recent weeks.
Successive Kurdish warnings must be matched with key time lines and actions. Waiting for Baghdad and regional powers to bolsters their aims and proactively resolve issues that favor them will only end in disappointment. If the constitution is ignored by Baghdad, then the very foundations of the state are in turn ignored.
The Kurds have been persistently pressured by Washington and the U.N., among others, to compromise. While 250,000 Kurds were kicked and beaten without remorse from their historical homes, “compromise” was not a word uttered by Baathist forces. Now those same Kurds, wishing to return home, are been told their legally enshrined demands constitute overreaching and they must compromise.
For the Kurds, this is a historical juncture. This is a chance to correct the wrongs of the past in a democratic and legal manner. If Kurds were unwilling to compromise in 1975 over Kirkuk, then any deal in the “new” Iraq of 2011 not involving its rightful return would represent a huge setback.
Dispute over oil contracts
The issue over Kirkuk has only been matched by the highly contentious disputes over oil sharing and the rights of regional administrations to develop their own oil fields. The Kurdistan Region has signed more than 35 Production Sharing Agreements and Production Sharing Contracts with foreign oil exploration companies in recent years in what they deem as a natural right under the constitution. This has been hotly contested by Baghdad and particularly former Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani who has frequently labeled such deals as illegal.
Only recently has the deadlock been broken, with Baghdad endorsing the oil contracts and authorizing limited exports through Iraqi national pipelines. However, the bottom line remains that Baghdad does not want to see the Kurds drive on unhindered with their own national program. The recent pact by Shahristani with the EU to export gas through the southern corridor to Kurdish surprise is testament to this. Kurdistan was long earmarked as a pivot to the proposed Nabucco pipeline in the north, which would have guaranteed it strategic standing and lucrative returns.
Simmering political tension in Baghdad
The 19 post-electoral demands of the Kurds were explicitly accepted as a condition for their support of the new government. Furthermore, a number of other critical points were agreed between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis that allowed several months of bickering and jockeying to end.
However, the problem in Iraq is that often the agreements are not worth the paper they are printed on. The lack of implementation of the Erbil agreement of last autumn, has led to entrenched camps of Iyad Allawi and Nuri al-Maliki, with relations all but beyond repair. Key points in the agreement including the formation of Higher Strategic Policies Council that was to be headed by Allawi and the naming of key ministries has continued to falter.
Recent heated exchanges between Allawi and Maliki underpin the common mistrust and animosity that continues to blight the new Iraq. Allawi accused Maliki of being “a liar, hypocrite and misleading,” who came to power with “Iranian support,” in retaliation for the “State of Law of Maliki,” aiming to reprimand Allawi for abstaining from parliamentary sessions.
The labored progress in Baghdad and the ongoing sectarian battles that impinge progress is all the more reason for Kurdistan not to wait, to be held back and destabilized by the south, but to continue in the interests of Kurds and Kurdistan unabated.
SYDNEY: Nationalism and hunger for resources are stoking maritime disputes in Indo-Pacific Asia, with China showing “troubling signs of assertiveness at sea”, an Australian think tank warned today.
The Lowy Institute foreign policy group said there had been an “upsurge in confrontation at sea in Asia in recent years”, with clashes increasing in both frequency and intensity and the stakes “certainly” getting higher.
“Nationalism and resource needs, meanwhile, are reinforcing the value of territorial claims in the East and South China seas, making maritime sovereignty disputes harder to manage,” the paper said.
“Chinese forces continue to show troubling signs of assertiveness at sea, though there is debate about the origins or extent of such moves.”
Expanding naval and air power meant Asia was becoming a “danger zone” for close-range encounters between competing powers, “typically in sensitive or contested” areas, Lowy warned in a new strategic study.
“While the chance that such incidents will lead to major military clashes should not be overstated, the drivers – in particular China’s frictions with the United States, Japan and India – are likely to persist and intensify.”
The study, “Major Powers and Maritime Security in Indo-Pacific Asia” was prepared from wide ranging interviews with security workers and experts in China, Japan and the United States.
It found Asia was ill-prepared for maritime conflict, with low levels of trust between nations and formal rules and communication channels “flimsy and little-used”.
China would only agree to confidence-building exercises when it had established trust with the other nation, while western powers including Washington saw them as necessary “precisely when trust is absent”, Lowy said.
An escalation in the number and tempo of confrontations would increase the chances of an armed stand-off, diplomatic crisis or even conflict, playing into a “wider deterioration of security relations among major powers”.
KABUL, Afghanistan – A senior leader of an al-Qaida-linked terror group has been captured in northern Afghanistan dressed up like a woman – the latest in a recent series of cases involving male militants disguised as females, the U.S.-led military coalition said Tuesday.
A joint Afghan and coalition force apprehended a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and two of his associates during a nighttime operation Monday in Kunduz city, NATO said.
It said the militant, who also supported the Taliban network, had planned attacks against the Afghan National Police, various suicide bombings and assaults against other Afghan security forces.
NATO did not release the names of the three suspects caught in Kunduz.
“The leader attempted to disguise himself as a female by wearing a burqa, which is an all-enveloping cloak worn by some Muslim women,” the coalition said in a statement. “In the last two months there have been several instances of targeted males wearing burqas in attempts to disguise themselves in order not to be caught by Afghan-led forces.”
The coalition said there also have been a handful of recent reports of female combatants in burqas.
Kunduz and surrounding provinces are known hide-outs for the Taliban, al-Qaida and fighters from militant factions that include the Haqqani network, Hizb-i-Islami and the IMU, which aims to create an Islamic state across Central Asia. The IMU was formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which neighbours Afghanistan, but later expanded its goal to seeking one across Central Asia.
Aligning itself with al-Qaida, it has been most active in the north where violence has been on the rise.
Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in Kunduz where a remembrance ceremony was being held for a slain Afghan police commander. The blast killed four police officers. This spring, a suicide bomber killed 35 people at an Afghan army recruitment centre and at least 30 others died when another suicide bomber blew himself up at a government office where Afghans were waiting in line for identification cards.
In October, a bomb killed Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar and 19 others in a crowded mosque in neighbouring Takhar province. Omar was killed just days after he warned of escalating threats from Taliban and foreign fighters in the north.
In other incidents across Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed two women and injured a child who were walking in Panjwai district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, said district police chief Mohammad Azeem.
Separately, the coalition said two NATO service members had been killed in the south. One was killed Monday by a roadside bomb and the other died Tuesday in an insurgent attack. No other details were released.
The deaths bring to at least 55 the number of NATO service members killed in June in Afghanistan, including at least 34 Americans.
Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.
[If true, this could possibly put the US and Pakistan on the same page, for once.]
MIRAMSHAH: Second US drone strike on late Monday destroyed a militant training camp in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, killing 13 local Taliban fighters, officials said.
Death toll reached 25 as the first US drone strike killed 12 in South Waziristan earlier today.
According to sources, drone targeted a house on late Monday which is reported to be residence of Adam Khan, a commander of Hakim ullah Mehsud.