‘Asia on maritime crash course’

‘Asia on maritime crash course’

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”.


NATO Claims Capture of IMU Leader In Kunduz

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 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.
Photo Credit: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

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.

© Copyright (c) Shaw Media Inc.

Drone Attack Upon Hakeemullah’s Facility?

[If true, this could possibly put the US and Pakistan on the same page, for once.]

Second drone strike on Monday kills 13 in South Waziristan

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. – File Photo by Reuters

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.

250 families flee anti-terrorist operation in Kurram

250 families flee anti-terrorist operation in Kurram

PESHAWAR: Around 250 families have moved out of central Kurram Agency after the start of an operation by the security forces against militants. According to a private TV channel, a camp has been set up at New Durrani village with a capacity to accommodate 1,500 families. Sources said arrangements had been made at the camp for the provision of necessary ration to the IDPs. People have been asked to get themselves registered at the camp to get the required facilities.

US Military Expanding Reach Into Uganda and Burundi

US taps $45m in gear for terror fight in Somalia

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military equipment, including four small drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help battle the escalating al Qaeda threat in Somalia.

The latest aid, laid out in documents obtained by The Associated Press, comes as attacks intensify in Somalia against the al Qaeda-linked group al Shabab, including an airstrike late Thursday that hit a militant convoy, killing a number of foreign fighters, according to officials there.

No nation immediately took responsibility for the latest airstrike, though US aircrafts have attacked militants in Somalia before.

US officials, including incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, have warned that the threat from al Shabab is growing, and the group is developing stronger ties with the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Panetta told lawmakers earlier this month that as the core al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan undergoes leadership changes, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the US needs to make sure that the group does not relocate to Somalia.

The Pentagon plan is aimed at helping to build the counter terrorism capabilities of Uganda and Burundi, two African Union nations that have sent about 9,000 peacekeeping forces to Somalia.

The military aid includes four small, shoulder-launched Raven drones, body armor, night-vision gear, communications and heavy construction equipment, generators and surveillance systems. Training is also provided with the equipment.

In addition, the Pentagon will send $4.4 million in communications and engineering equipment to Uganda. Somalia has not had a fully functioning government in two decades. The government had controlled just a small slice of the capital Mogadishu, but officials have said that the peacekeeping offensive is enabling them to wrest swaths of territory in the city and in southern Somalia from the insurgents.

The aid is part of a $145.4 million package that Pentagon officials approved and sent to Capitol Hill last week as part of a notification process before the equipment can be delivered. Up to $350 million in military aid can be distributed this year to support counter terrorism operations in other countries.

The Pentagon routinely releases the military aid in three or four installments each year, and the first package approved earlier this year was for about $43 million.

So far, none of the assistance this year has gone to Yemen — which has been a top counter terrorism priority for the US. Last year, the Pentagon allocated $155 million for aid to Yemen, and military leaders had proposed as much as $200 million for this year.

But US officials have become increasingly alarmed about the violent anti-government protests and unrest rocking the country.

Protesters are demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s powerful sons and other members of his inner circle leave the country, even as Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for injuries he suffered in an attack on his palace earlier this month.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that aid to Yemen has been interrupted by the chaos there, and once that ebbs the US will consider what next steps to take.

But US officials consider AQAP in Yemen one of the most serious and immediate threats, fueled in part by radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been linked to a number of attacks in the US, including the Christmas Day 2009 attempted airliner bombing.

The Pentagon aid package also includes funding for a number of other North African countries, including several where there is a continuing threat from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Pakistan Must Prove Its Love for the Empire


The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan said Monday that Pakistan must prove it wants an end to the war by preventing militants from hiding out on its soil and enabling those who launch attacks on the Afghan side of the border.

An Afghan man prepares coal to make a fire for cooking, outside of a local restaurant, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, June. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Ahmad Nazar)

An Afghan man looks out of a local guest house, near a building which was destroyed during the civil war of 1990s in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, June. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

Marc Grossman, U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in Kabul that discussions among Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States being held this week in the Afghan capital are important to coordinate efforts to find a political resolution to the nearly decade-long war.

He said they also are an opportunity to clearly convey to Pakistani officials that part of their responsibility for bringing peace is to stop supporting insurgent safe havens and those who attack Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan.

“We’ve been pretty clear that going forward here, we want the government of Pakistan to participate positively in the reconciliation process,” Grossman said at a news conference. “Pakistan now has important choices to make.”

Grossman and representatives from more than 40 nations are attending a meeting of the International Contact Group. The group’s 11th meeting comes after President Barack Obama announced last week he was ordering 10,000 U.S. troops home by year’s end; as many as 23,000 more are to leave by September 2012. That would leave 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The 33,000 total to be withdrawn is the number Obama sent as reinforcements in December 2009 as part of an effort to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and hasten an eventual political settlement of the conflict. The U.S. and its allies plan a full combat withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Michael Steiner, German representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said at the news conference that the international community’s engagement will not end in 2014, when Afghan security forces are to have the lead responsibility for security across the nation, a process he said is on track.

“I think we have a strategy which is working despite the difficulties we have,” Steiner said. “I am not painting here any illusions. We will have problems ahead. But I think we have a realistic strategy.”

Separately, the U.N. World Food Program announced Monday it will cut food assistance to more than 3 million Afghans in about half the country’s 34 provinces because of a shortage of money from donor nations.

The U.N. agency said it had planned to help feed more than 7 million people in Afghanistan this year, but a shortage of donor funds means only 3.8 million people will be helped through meals provided at schools and training and work programs. It said it needed an additional $220 million to continue its work in Afghanistan at the level originally planned.

The program will focus food assistance on helping the most needy Afghans, especially women and children, said Bradley Guerrant, the agency’s deputy country director.

“We are working hard to raise the funds needed to restart these activities as soon as we can,” he said.

Also, two roadside bomb blasts killed seven civilians Monday in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said. A vehicle struck one of the bombs in Qarabagh district, killing four civilians, including two children, the ministry said. Another vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Ghazni city, killing three civilians.

Pakistani Taliban Commander Gunned-Down Near Miran shah

Pakistani Taliban commander slain

(Novum / AP) – DERA ISMAIL KHAN – Armed men in a car with tinted windows in northwestern Pakistan a Taliban commander slain. That is what the Pakistani intelligence sources said Monday.

The victim, Shakirullah Shakir, was slain near the town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan tribal region. Shakir was commander and spokesman of the Fidayeen-e-Islam, part of the Taliban engaged in suicide bombings.

The responsibility for the liquidation unclaimed.

All for One and One for All?–Time Will Tell

Iran carves out an AfPak hub 

By M K Bhadrakumar

The participation of the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the international conference on terrorism held in Tehran over the weekend becomes a major diplomatic and political victory for Iran at the present juncture of regional politics. Both Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai were received by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

One main focus of the conference was to highlight that the United States has been using international terrorism as the pretext to intervene in Afghanistan and in the Middle East and to interfere in their internal affairs. Khamenei’s message to the conference, in a nutshell, highlighted the “calculations of satanic world powers, which use terrorism in their policies and planning to achieve their illegitimate goals”.

Khamenei alleged that the US finances and arms terrorist groups in the region and, most interestingly, he singled out for reference the “crimes” by the Blackwater (Xe Services) group of “assisting terrorist groups” in Pakistan as “part of this shameful and unforgettable list of American acts of terrorism”.

Expressing solidarity with the growing criticism by Islamabad and Kabul against the excesses of the US’s military operations in AfPak, Khamenei added, “The deadly attacks by the American drones against defenseless families in villages [of Pakistan] and in the most deprived areas of Afghanistan have repeatedly turned weddings into mourning ceremonies.” Khamenei said in a scathing attack on the US’s regional policies:

With such behavior, it is a shame [for the US] to claim to be leading the fight against terrorism … From the standpoint of the leaders of the hegemonic powers [read US], everything that threatens their illegitimate interests is viewed as terrorism. All struggles intended to defend a cause against the occupiers and interventionist forces are regarded by them as terrorism.

Zardari highlighted at the conference that Pakistan had suffered immensely during the decade of the US-led war in Afghanistan. He said over 5,000 Pakistani security personnel had lost their lives and the estimated damage in financial terms amounts to US$37 billion for the Pakistani economy. Zardari stressed the importance of the “vital need for a collective campaign” by the regional states in the “war on terror”.

Overlapping security interests 
Karzai, on the other hand, said, “I believe that the campaign against terrorism is not possible through merely military means.” He called for unity, a firm stand and “collective cooperation” by Muslim states in the fight against terrorism.

On the eve of the conference, Zardari and Karzai held a tripartite meeting with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, which, again, “urged close cooperation among regional countries” over the issues of “peace and security in the Middle East”. The Iranian president’s office said, “[Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan] pledged to expand their cooperation in political, security, economic and cultural areas as well as fighting terrorism and foreign interventions.”

From the Iranian perspective, a main objective was to forge common thinking with Pakistan and Afghanistan that the continuance of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan adversely impacts on all three countries’ national interests and on regional security and stability. This comes out clearly in the meetings Khamenei had with Zardari and Karzai.

Khamenei sought an “all-out expansion of ties” between Iran and Pakistan and cautioned Zardari that “Washington is trying to sow seeds of dissension in Pakistan to meet its illegitimate goals”. He expressed his appreciation that the Pakistani people were well aware of the US’s “ominous intention” and are resisting the US’s “hegemonic plots”.

Khamenei’s reference went beyond the earlier allegation by Ahmadinejad that Tehran had “specific evidence” of a US conspiracy to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Khamenei seemed to imply that the US plans to destabilize the Pakistan’ state in order to weaken it and to break its resolve to resist US dominance, as well as to hamper its capacity to play an effective role in the region.

Clearly, the tensions that have accrued in the US-Pakistan relationship in the recent period provide the backdrop for this exchange. This is the first time that such a reference has been made at Khamenei’s level. Zardari’s delegation included Interior Minister Rehman Malik, which suggests the Pakistani expectation of Iran sharing details of its perception regarding the security implications of the US’s regional policies.

Malik indeed had a separate meeting with Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, who was previously Iran’s defense minister and belongs to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Iranian account of the meeting suggested that it was mainly concerned with the activities of the terrorist group Jundallah, which operates out of Pakistan in Iran’s eastern border province of Sistan-Balochistan.

“We discussed ways to collaborate on the fight against extremists and terrorists who use Pakistani soil for actions against Iran’s interests,” Mohammad-Najjar said. Significantly, Tehran is making a distinction between Jundallah and the Pakistani state, whereas there have been earlier allegations of Pakistani complicity. Whether Malik (who was a former head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency) also met with Iran’s powerful Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi remains unclear.

At his meeting with Karzai, Khamenei frontally attacked the US plans to set up military bases in Afghanistan. “The Americans are after permanent bases in Afghanistan, which is a dangerous issue because as long as US troops are in Afghanistan, there would be no real security. The Afghan people are suffering from the US military presence in their country and this presence is a great pain for them and the entire region”, he said.

The meeting with Karzai took place two days after US President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop drawdown in Afghanistan. Khamenei told Karzai that a rapid pullout of US troops was in the interests of Afghanistan and the region. He was confident that Afghanistan was capable of “controlling its affairs and determining its fate”.

Having said that, all indications are that in the Iranian assessment, the US may be compelled to abandon its earlier plans to set up military bases in Afghanistan due to a combination of circumstances – the Taliban’s uncompromising opposition, the US’s economic crisis and overall war weariness and the urgency to concentrate on the Middle East and Africa.

Meanwhile, Tehran keeps urging Karzai not to give in to the US plans. What worries Iran most is that the planned US military bases include Herat and Shindad in western Afghanistan on the border with Iran.

Broad convergence 
The big question is how tangible will be an Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan regional axis over the Afghan problem. The short answer is that the axis is both a matter of appearance as well as of some substance and how the proportion works out will depend on the acuteness of the situation in Afghanistan and the regional milieu.

At this point in time, the varying degrees of antipathy felt toward the US on the part of Pakistan and Afghanistan on the one hand and Iran’s inveterate standoff with the US on the other give impetus to the three neighboring countries drawing closer.

Both Zardari and Karzai undertook the visit to Tehran with the full awareness that it signified an act of “strategic defiance” of the US – and more important, they knew that Washington would get the message as well. That is to say, the “Iran connection” gets them some room to maneuver vis-a-vis the US.

But then, there are also specific interests for Kabul and Islamabad to forge an understanding with Iran. Karzai would like to secure all the political support that Iran can provide that enables him to press ahead with the reconciliation with the Taliban.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-i-Islami, which is represented in Karzai’s government, lived in exile in Iran for five years. Iran also wields influence over a variety of non-Pashtun forces that happen to harbor misgivings about Karzai’s peace plans of reconciling the Taliban.

In a worst-case scenario, Iran could prove to be a “spoiler”, while Karzai’s negotiating strength substantially increases via-a-vis the US (and Pakistan) in political terms if Iran is seen as his partner.

Iran’s support for the peace process as next-door neighbor is an imperative need for Karzai to reach a durable Afghan settlement. The bottom line is that reciprocally Tehran would expect Karzai to keep in mind at all times the red line regarding Iran’s legitimate interests in Afghanistan and acts accordingly.

Karzai has managed to maintain good equations with Tehran all through despite US interference. From this angle, Khamenei’s strong demarche with Karzai regarding US military bases in Afghanistan could prove to be a clincher.

In the past, Iran’s and Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan often proved to be at loggerheads. But a qualitative change has taken place. For Pakistan, gnawed by apprehensions of the US’s intentions toward it, Iran as a friendly neighbor becomes a critically important asset today.

Especially so, as Iranian inputs regarding the US’s covert activities inside Pakistan will be of invaluable use and solidarity with Iran helps mitigate the US pressure. For Tehran, too, it is important that Pakistan does its utmost to ensure that Jundallah activities from its soil are curtailed and the possibility of third countries exploiting Jundallah as a means to destabilize Iran is excluded.

Equally, Pakistan is a major Sunni country and Iran’s interest lies in ensuring that it does not become part of the Saudi-led alliance against Iran in the Middle East. Iran can flaunt its friendship with Pakistan to expose the Saudi campaign to whip up the phobia of a Shi’ite-Sunni schism in the Middle East today by way of branding Tehran as the leader of the Shi’ite camp and rallying the Sunni Arab opinion.

The Taliban used to be a divisive issue in the Iran-Pakistan relationship. But this is no longer the case, as the cutting edge of the Afghan situation today for both countries lies in regard to the US’s military presence. Both Iran and Pakistan agree that a long-term US presence in Afghanistan should be somehow scuttled. Also, the Taliban have transformed, which is what the direct contacts between them and the US (without Islamabad’s knowledge) suggest.

Above all, Iran’s comfort level is much higher today regarding a fair deal in an Afghan settlement for the Afghan groups with which Iran has enjoyed historical and cultural links. The old-style Pashtun dominance of Afghanistan is a non-starter as there has been a sort of “political awakening” among the Afghan people.

Iran also would factor in that the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the ensuing downstream consequences have greatly reduced the capacity of the Pakistani state to dictate an Afghan settlement unilaterally. Karzai is the best bet under the present circumstances for both Iran and Pakistan as the leader of an “Afghan-led” peace process. All these elements have contributed to the broad convergence of interests between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

How this convergence plays out in the coming weeks and months will have a significant bearing on the course of events in Afghanistan and it will no doubt impact the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Iran will have the maximum interest in forging a regional axis out of this broad convergence of interests and concerns and making it a real driving force that shapes events to come rather than acts as a mere catalyst. But it takes two – or in this case three – to tango.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Kurram TTP Splitting Over UnIslamic “Islamists” Terrorism

[It seems as though the "jihadis" are turning against the terrorists in Kurram, according to Pak Army plans, even though the US considers them all to be terrorists.  This is the main point of contention.  According to TheNews, Saeed is a Haqqani.]

Fazal Saeed leaves TTP

TTP has claimed a series of high-profile attacks in the nearly two months since US troops killed Osama bin Laden. — Photo by Reuters

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani Taliban warlord who claims to control hundreds of foot soldiers said Monday he had broken with the militia and would form his own anti-American group along the Afghan border.

Fazal Saeed described himself as the leader of Pakistan’s umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) faction in the tribal district of Kurram, but said he had run out of patience with the network for killing civilians.

TTP has claimed a series of high-profile attacks in the nearly two months since US troops killed Osama bin Laden.

Hinting at a possible a split in Pakistan’s deadliest militant outfit, blamed for more than 4,500 deaths in attacks since July 2007, Saeed said he had decided to form a new organisation — Tehreek-i-Taliban Islami.

“I repeatedly told the leadership council of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that they should stop suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets,” Saeed told AFP by telephone.

“Islam does not allow killings of innocent civilians in suicide attacks,” he said, likening what TTP does in Pakistan to “what US troops are doing in Afghanistan” and vowing to continue the fight alone against the Americans.

“I have therefore decided to quit TTP,” Saeed said, claiming to have defected along with “hundreds of supporters.” A 10-member consultative council will meet within days to formulate the group’s programme, he told AFP.

Saeed said he was TTP leader in Kurram, one of seven districts in Pakistan’s tribal belt known as havens of Taliban and al Qaeda linked groups fighting US and Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan.

He denied that his defection had anything to do with the government, or Pakistani intelligence and security agencies.

“I have no links with them,” Saeed said, adding that he considered America as “our main enemy” and describing attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan as “justified.”

He said his goal was to enforce sharia law and Islamic rule in Afghanistan and Pakistan, claiming that he had supporters all over Pakistan.

Kurram is unique in that its upper part has a Shia Muslim majority while its lower reaches are dominated by Sunni Muslims. There have been outbreaks of sectarian violence between the two communities.

Shia travellers to Peshawar and adjoining cities have often been attacked by groups of Sunni militants backed by the Taliban.

Washington’s Brezhnev Doctrine

Washington’s Military Brezhnev Doctrine in Iraq—And Elsewhere

The much-touted final U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq looks more bogus by the day. For the past two months, Pentagon leaders from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on down have been sending a flotilla of trial balloons aloft about the “need” to keep U.S. troops in that country beyond the end of 2011. Even in the unlikely event that Washington does not successfully bludgeon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into approving a long-term “residual” U.S. military presence in his country, there will be a de facto U.S. colonial army there for the indefinite future.

Any notion that the United States government intends to allow Iraqis to run their own affairs is belied by the facts on the ground. The U.S. built a gargantuan palatial embassy in Baghdad—a complex that is nearly as large as Vatican City—staffed by more than 1,000 diplomats and direct support personnel. Both the facility and the personnel levels are much larger than the U.S. embassies in such major powers as China, Japan, Germany, and the UK. All that for a country of some 25 million people. Such an oversized presence suggests that the U.S. ambassador plans to play the role of imperial viceroy, not a mere diplomatic representative to a sovereign country.

And now the Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. embassy will hire and maintain a private security detail of some 5,100 armed personnel to protect the bloated diplomatic staff and perform other duties. Lest anyone harbor the illusion that these individuals will be ordinary bodyguards, it is clear that they will be far more than that. In testimony before the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, conceded that in addition to guarding diplomats and embassy buildings, the security force will “operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.” The cost to American taxpayers? At least $3 billion a year.

The scenario now emerging is that the United States will keep a residual force of 5,000 to 15,000 troops in Iraq, augmented by a private mercenary army of more than 5,000 largely ex-military personnel, indefinitely.

It is an all-too-familiar pattern. When it comes to maintaining a sizable military presence in foreign countries, U.S. officials try to implement a version of the infamous Brezhnev Doctrine. That approach, epitomized by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in the 1960s, was that once a country became a member of the communist camp, it could never leave. Once a large U.S. force takes up residence in another country, U.S. political and military leaders never want to see that situation come to an end. We still have bases and troops in South Korea nearly 60 years after the end of the Korean War and in Germany and Japan some 66 years after World War II. The only occasions when U.S. forces seem to leave is when they are driven out (as in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia) or odd factors intervene (as with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines that combined with a vote of the Philippine Senate to terminate the U.S. bases at Clark Field and Subic Bay).

Iraq threatens to become the latest arena for the application of Washington’s military Brezhnev Doctrine. But it’s not likely to be the last. Already the usual suspects are beating the drums tomaintain a large U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for years or decades to come. U.S. leaders routinely deny that the United States is an empire, but Washington’s conduct certainly creates the impression that it is an empire of bases and client states. The behavior in Iraq does nothing to dispel that image.

Pakistan Demands That Tribal Leaders Police Their Areas, US Merely Wants Them Dead

[This short report outlines the whole problem and the main point of contention between US and Pakistani generals--plans for Pakistan's tribesmen.  Pakistan is creating a legally binding arrangement with the tribes, where they police their own areas against the penetration of criminal foreigners, "anti-state or anti-social elements," as well as to protect "roads, government installations and officials."  The tribal system will be advanced throughout the region, as the representatives of government in the now lawless region.  America's problem with this is that it is the exact opposite of their preferred solution, the total militarization of the zone.  To that end, US assets are continually deployed against these pro-government tribal leaders, in an effort to turn them against the government and to expand the insurgency.


One would think that the US Army would be proud to support this operation, since it is Pakistan's application of its own "Anbar solution" to its tribal problems.  In Anbar, Iraq, the US military bought peace with the Sunni militants by buying them off and empowering them as the local law in their areas of operations.  This solution cannot be allowed for Pakistan, since US planners have always planned to expand the war there.]

Islamabad, Jun 24 (PTI) The Pakistani Army will withdraw from trouble-torn Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), close to the Afghan border when its tribal people are able to take up their responsibilities to combat terrorism, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has promised.
Addressing separate meetings of Ahmadzai Wazir and Mehsud tribes in Wana and Chegmalai areas of South Waziristan, Kayani said the army had played an important role in eradicating militancy and restoring peace in the region.
“The army will leave the area when tribesmen are capable of fulfilling their responsibilities,” Kayani was quoted as saying by Dawn.com.
Pakistan has deployed over 100,000 regular and paramilitary troops in FATA to flush out the Taliban from the area.
The army chief also blamed foreign elements for the situation in FATA, the report said.
Under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, tribal people have certain responsibilities, including protection of roads, government installations and officials and keep their areas clear of anti-state and anti-social elements, it noted.
The US has been pressuring Pakistan to crackdown on terrorists taking shelter in North Waziristan. Pakistan army had undertaken military operations to flush out terrorists from South Waziristan. However, Pakistan has been resisting similar operations in North Waziristan, saying it will not come under foreign pressure and decide when to carry out any military operation North Waziristan.

Half-Baked Turki

[Saudi Arabia is cutting-out for itself imaginary special rights to deny to the world's Shia the same rights that the Arab Spring movement is demanding for the Arab Sunnis.  This old Turkey has been stirring-up hatred and false ideas in the world for a very long time, especially when he ran the Saudi secret service during Reagan's heyday.  If the human race has any say left in the decisions that the "elitists" are making for the world, then this sort of anti-Shia nonsense will be neutralized by thinking human beings.  Turki should go back to the farm and play checkers with Bandar, instead of toying with the rights of humanity.]

UK cooks Saudi-hatched anti-Iran ploy

The Saudi Arabian regime has once again resorted to its old masters, the UK and US, in its desperate bid vis-à-vis a powerful Iran, according to media reports.

In the latest of a series of anti-Iran plots hatched by the Saudi royal family, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has revealed that his country was working on a ploy to usurp the place of the Islamic Republic at the international oil markets, the daily The Wall Street Journal reported.

Prince Turki, who is a leading member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, has unveiled the plot in a speech to a private gathering of US and UK troops at Royal Air Forces (RAF) Molesworth airbase outside London, said the report.

The prince, a former Saudi ambassador to the UK and US, said “Saudi Arabia is preparing to employ all of its economic, diplomatic and security assets to confront Tehran’s regional ambitions”, added the report.

“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government,” said the onetime head of the Saudi intelligence agency.

Iran’s “meddling and destabilizing efforts in countries with Shiite majorities, such as Iraq and Bahrain, as well as those countries with significant Shiite communities…must come to an end,” Turki al-Faisal claimed in his statement to the troops in the UK.

“Saudi Arabia will oppose any and all of Iran’s actions in other countries because it is Saudi Arabia’s position that Iran has no right to meddle in other nations’ internal affairs”, he said.

The prince’s allegations came after Saudi king Abdullah sent the country’s National Guard into Bahrain and Yemen over the past 18 months to help his allies in Manama and Sana’a in suppressing pro-democracy movements, which were born in the tiny Persian Gulf islands in response to decades of brutal monarchists’ rule.

The democratic movements were created following the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, where long-time dictators who enjoyed Saudis’ and certain western countries’ support were toppled by people’s revolutions and their call for freedom.

Saudis accuse Iran of interfering in its neighbors’ internal affairs, while they, themselves, are killing defenceless people in Bahrain, and Yemen as an occupying power like what their old masters are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Saudi Arabian regime, Britain, and the US are also jointly conspiring in secret to hammer out a strategy to destabilize world’s oil markets to their own interests.

After failing to force members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase crude output at the organization’s recent meeting in Vienna, the Saudi Arabian regime has hinted that it could use its vast energy resources as a strategic weapon.

“To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity-nearly 4 million barrels [per] day-that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production,” the prince said.

12 killed in police station attack in NW Pakistan

[Dera Ismail Khan is the home base of the anti-TTP Taliban, followers of Abdullah Mehsud.  They were formerly led by martyred anti-Baitullah leader Qari Zainullah Mehsud.  It is highly significant that terror attacks are occurring in the home towns of several pro-government lashkar leaders at the same time that the 'Army is focusing on them as their last line of defense.]

12 killed in police station attack in NW Pakistan


The still image taken from a TV channel shows policemen taking part in an operation against militants near a police station in Dera Ismail Khan, northwest Pakistan, June 25, 2011. At least 12 policemen were killed and a dozen others injured in an attack Saturday afternoon at a police station here, reported local Urdu TV channel Dunya. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

ISLAMABAD, June 25 (Xinhua) — At least 12 policemen were killed and a dozen others injured in an attack Saturday afternoon at a police station in northwest Pakistan, reported local Urdu TV channel Dunya.

All the police held hostage by the attackers inside the police station were rescued after nearly five hours of crossfire between the security forces and the attackers, said the report.

According to the local media reports, five out of an estimated 10 to 12 attackers were also killed in the crossfire while the remaining militants managed to run away.

Three of the attackers were killed by police while the other two blew themselves up. The three attackers killed include one woman and two of them were of foreign nationality.

The security forces have taken control of the police station and a search operation is underway.

The attack took place at about 4:30 p.m. local time Saturday afternoon at a police station in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan in northwest Pakistan. Kulachi is a small town, some 30 kilometers east of the militancy-plagued South Waziristan.

Eyewitnesses said that handgrenade blasts and firing were heard shortly after two men and one woman with veil over her face entered the police station.

At initial stage at least six police were reportedly killed in the shootout.

Over 100 security personnel stationed nearby were called in after the attack was reported. However, the security forces reaching the site were unable to enter the police station as some 20-plus policemen were feared held hostage by the attackers inside the building.

Three blasts were heard when the security forces backed by armored vehicles tried to storm into the police station.

Several police vehicles were reportedly destroyed in the fight. Two policemen held hostage by the attackers were rescued during the crossfire.

It is not known how the remaining attackers have managed to flee the police station which was entirely surrounded by the security forces. Some local media reports said the number of attackers involved in the incident is much less than reported.

No group has claimed the responsibility for the attack yet.

there is a real risk of big war in the Middle East

Please, not again

Without boldness from Barack Obama there is a real risk of war in the Middle East

Dec 29th 2010

NO WAR, no peace, is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbours in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.

One much-discussed way in which war might arise stems from the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost, and Israel’s apparent desire to stop Iran at any cost. But fear of Iran’s nuclear programme is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a “decisive” second round.

Such a war would bear little resemblance to the previous clashes between Israel and its neighbours. For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.

In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border—any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.

From peace process to war process

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

Easy enough to say. The question is whether peacemaking can succeed. After striving for almost two years to shepherd Israeli and Palestinian leaders into direct talks, only for this effort to collapse over the issue of settlements, Mr Obama is in danger of concluding like many presidents before him that Arab-Israeli diplomacy is a Sisyphean distraction. But giving up would be a tragic mistake, as bad for America and Israel as for the Palestinians. The instant the peace process ends, the war process begins, and wars in this energy-rich corner of the world usually suck in America, one way or another. Israel will suffer too if Mr Obama fails, because the Palestinians have shown time and again that they will not fall silent while their rights are denied. The longer Israel keeps them stateless under military occupation, the lonelier it becomes—and the more it undermines its own identity as a liberal democracy.

Don’t mediate. Legislate

Instead of giving up, Mr Obama needs to change his angle of attack. America has clung too long to the dogma that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the way forward. James Baker, a former secretary of state, once said that America could not want peace more than the local parties did. This is no longer true. The recent history proves that the extremists on each side are too strong for timid local leaders to make the necessary compromises alone. It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.

The outlines of such an agreement have been clear since Bill Clinton set out his “parameters” after the failure of the Camp David summit a decade ago. The border between Israel and a new Palestine would follow the pre-1967 line, with adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger border-hugging Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and land-swaps to compensate the Palestinians for those adjustments. But there is also much difficult detail to be filled in: how to make Jerusalem into a shared capital, settle the fate of the refugees and ensure that the West Bank will not become, as Gaza did, an advance base for war against Israel after Israeli forces withdraw.

Mr Clinton unveiled his blueprint at the end of a negotiation that had failed. Mr Obama should set out his own map and make this a new starting point. He should gather international support for it, either through the United Nations or by means of an international conference of the kind the first President Bush held in Madrid in 1991. But instead of leaving the parties to talk on their own after the conference ends, as Mr Bush did after Madrid, America must ride herd, providing reassurance and exerting pressure on both sides as required.

The pressure part of this equation is crucial. In his first round of peacemaking, Mr Obama picked a fight with Israel over settlements and then backed down, thereby making America look weak in a region where too many people already believe that its power is waning (see article). This is a misperception the president needs to correct. For all its economic worries at home and military woes in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is far from weak in the Levant, where both Israel and the nascent Palestine in the West Bank continue to depend on it in countless vital ways.

The Palestinians have flirted lately with the idea of bypassing America and taking their cause directly to the UN. Going to the UN is well and good. But the fact remains that without the sort of tough love that America alone can bestow, Israel will probably never be able to overcome its settler movement and make the deal that could win it acceptance in the Arab world. Mr Obama has shown in battles as different as health reform and the New START nuclear treaty with Russia that he has the quality of persistence. He should persist in Palestine, too.


[The odds are very high that this scenario is probably correct, that the next great war is erupting in the Middle East, one that will stretch all the way to Pakistan.  Now all that is left is to find a justification to expand it northwards now, instead of waiting.  Israel is dying and the Zionist freaks who run it understand that.  Losing faith in the idea of "Israel" is the only real existential threat to the Zionist state.  The Sinai is a vital component of that shitty little egotistical imaginary state.  Summer is getting very hot.]



How safe is Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt’s Sinai?

What is happening in Egypt’s Sinai:

In June 2011, unknown gunmen attacked a police checkpoint. (2 Egyptian policemen killed in Sinai )

The police now need army escorts. (23 June 2011, The Economist,The Bedouin of Sinai: Free but dangerous)

In June 2011, two Egyptian soldiers were shot dead by masked gunmen in a main street of el-Arish, the chief city of the region.

Hospitals are crowded with the victims of violence.

Bedouin tribesmen recently cut the road to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Women have been disappearing.

Traders carry guns.

Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharaf, recently visited el-Arish.

Hours after he left, a bomb blew up a pipeline that supplies gas to Jordan.

“They may yet attack South Sinai’s oil installations and tourist resorts.” 

(23 June 2011, The Economist, The Bedouin of Sinai: Free but dangerous)

The governor blames Islamic extremists for some of the trouble.

Israel grabbed the Sinai in 1967, but handed it back in 1982. Israel would like the Sinai to be part Israel.

How long before Israel grabs the Sinai from Egypt?

According to The Economist, there could be a big Middle East war during 2011.

“Unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive (Middle East) war for many years.” (The United States, Israel and the Arabs.)

Step 1 – topple Mubarak

Step 2 – create turmoil in the Sinai

Step 3 – invade


If Israel is to invade the Sinai it needs an excuse.

“A Coptic church in the Egyptian town of Rafah bordering the Gaza Strip was in flames on Saturday (5 January 2011), with witnesses reporting a blast…

“Witnesses said they saw flames coming out of the Mar Girgis church in Rafah after hearing an explosion. Armed men on motorbikes were spotted near the church, one of them said.”(Church in flames in Egypt’s Sinai: witnesses)

According to http://twelfthbough.blogspot.com/ (sabotage adds new dimension):

Egyptian state TV reported ‘dangerous explosions continuing from one spot to another’ in the main source of gas supplying pipeline in El Arish.

The attackers used explosives to blow up the 240km- long pipeline in the town of Lihfen in northern Sinai near the Gaza Strip and the army shut down the gas supplies to Israel and Jordan, Egyptian officials said.

“It’s big terrorist operation,” the state-tv quoted an official as saying, who blamed the attack on “foreign elements.”

The attack on the pipeline came after Israel, which receives 40 per cent of its gas demand from Egypt, expressed concern that the supplies could be threatened if a new regime takes over in Cairo…

The SITE intelligence group, which monitors Al-Qaeda and other Islamist websites, said some groups had been urging Islamic militants to attack the pipeline to Israel while the security situation in Egypt is in flux.

Egypt is a modest gas exporter, using pipelines to export gas to Israel and also to Jordan and other regional states.

SITE intelligence being, of course, Rita Katz, the notorious Zionist disinfo peddler of ZERO CREDIBILITY…

Problems in the Sinai, problems that raise concerns in Israel about Israel’s security, and which can be blamed on Islamic terrorists, would be very helpful to JUSTIFY some sort of military intervention.

We assume that is one of Israel’s goals – to occupy the Sinai.

Turns out, the Israeli section was not hit. 

Subsequent reports said the attack struck a part of the pipeline carrying gas to Jordan.

The Israeli section was not hit, but gas flow was interrupted to prevent damage.

In his Cairo speech, Obama said: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

The new beginning would seem to involve the USA destroying the last remaining parts of the Moslem world that are prosperous and at peace.

A community under siege in tribal Pakistan

[It is understandable that Parachinar is referred to as Pakistan's "Gaza Strip."  It is also understandable that Pakistan would set-up the final confrontation with the West here, considering that it was here that the mission began under Zia's "Islamisation" program some thirty years ago (SEE:  SHIA-SUNNI JIHAD IN KURRAM: IRAN BLAMED).  The American "Taliban" under Mehsud vs the real Taliban under Haqqani will come to a head, with the accompanying Pakistani airstrikes on Mehsud's forces and American Predator strikes upon Haqqani's forces, with the innocent Shia, backed by Iran caught in the middle.  Sure sounds like a formula for a great conflagration on Pakistani soil (SEE: The Real War –vs-- The Illusions ).] 

A community under siege in tribal Pakistan

As US prepares troop withdrawal, Taliban’s strong hold on border regions reveals Pakistan’s vulnerability.
At least 30,000 families have been displaced due to violence in Kurram, the UN says [EPA]

Parachinar, in Pakistan’s tribal north west, remains under siege. The only road connecting this district bordering Afghanistan to the rest of Pakistan has been blocked by Taliban fighters since 2007.

The blockade was briefly lifted in March, or so the Pakistani government proudly announced. The road was open again and travellers would be protected, they said. Owais, a 25-year-old recent graduate of engineering, was one of the few who took the risk and decided to visit his family.

On March 25, his Toyota HiAce and two other vans were stopped on the Thal-Parachinar road by Taliban fighters. Owais and 44 others were kidnapped.

The Taliban freed the women and children, but killed seven – some claim ten – of the abducted passengers. A further 30 men remained in captivity for close to three months.

After protracted negotiations between tribal elders, the Pakistani government, and varying Taliban factions, 22 of the captives were set free on June 21.  Owais was one of the lucky ones.

“They have been handed to the government forces of the Frontier Corps and are on their way home,” a friend of Owais told Al Jazeera.

Reports suggest the Taliban were paid a ransom of at least 30 million rupees, roughly $350,000. Eight men remain in captivity. And the road, though no longer described as “blocked”, still remains highly insecure.

In his speech this week announcing the military transition in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama once again emphasised Pakistan’s crucial role in combating extremism.

“Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” he said. “No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will … work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.”

The siege on Parachinar is prime evidence to caution the “mission accomplished” rhetoric already employed by US policy makers. It speaks to the Taliban’s tight hold on the crucial border region, the absence of Pakistani government forces, and the challenges that lie ahead in reaching any meaningful conclusion to the “war against terror”.

“The whole Kurram region has turned into a detention centre for the people,” says local journalist Zulfiqar Ali, referring to the tribal agency of which Parachinar is the administrative capital. Pakistan’s tribal areas are divided into seven agencies, with Kurram bordering Afghanistan’s Khost province.

On the road to Parachinar, passenger vehicles are frequently attacked and food convoys are torched. Since 2007, hundreds of people have been killed in Kurram due to the violence, while the United Nations says at least 30,000 families have been forced to abandon their homes and move to camps for Internally Displaced People.

But escaping the region has become a difficult task. For residents to make it to Peshawar, the nearest Pakistani city, they have to first go into Afghanistan. That route has often been closed due to military operations by the Pakistani army. And even if they make it through, they face tremendous risks in Afghanistan – because the same fighters are active across the border.

“People cannot even travel there to bury their dead,” a local human rights activist told Al Jazeera in condition of anonymity, due to the risks involved in discussing the matter.
From sectarianism to militancy

The only road connecting Parachinar to the rest of the country has been blocked since 2007

The recent troubles in Kurram began as sectarian violence but analysts and local sources say the situation was hijacked by Taliban fighters who use the tribal areas to launch attacks against NATO in Afghanistan.

“Local sectarian groups do not have enough resources to block the road,” says Ali. “It is purely a militant issue now.”

The Shia are a slight majority in Kurram Agency, an area of about 500,000 residents. During the Afghan Jihad, when the tribal regions were used by the CIA as the training grounds for anti-Soviet fighters, the region saw an insurgence of Sunni hardliners.

“There have been sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia in Kurram for decades,” says Reza Jan, Pakistan Team Lead at the American Enterprise Institute. “But in the past, Sunni-Shia clashes were usually minor. Clashes, when they did occur, were resolved fairly quickly by local leaders and authorities.”

After the fall of the Taliban government in Kabul, and Pakistan’s crackdown on radical elements in Punjab, the tribal areas became the hub of both Pakistani and Afghan insurgents. But many among the armed groups consider Kurram’s Shia tribes – who refused to shelter fighters – as apostates. And Kurram’s Shia paid a heavy price as a result.

“The Tareek-e-Taliban’s current leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is known to be fervently anti-Shia,” says Reza Jan. “Before he led the TTP, he was the TTP commander for Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber agencies where he made a name for himself through his brutality towards Kurram’s Shia.”

For the past three years, locals have desperately looked for help, mainly from Islamabad – but also from Kabul. In 2008, they accepted a peace deal with the Taliban. The exact components of the deal are seen differently by analysts, but the purpose was clear: they wanted an end to the violence and a lifting of the blockade on the road.

“The Mari agreement in 2008 gave the government full authority to use force against any militants blocking the road,” says Ali. “Why has the government not been able to deliver?”

Failure of the state

With Pakistan’s security apparatus always focused on India, the insurgency in the tribal areas did not recieve sufficient attention in its early years.

As sectarian violence began to be dominated by the Sunni Taliban, the Pakistani government relied on the Frontier Corps, a federally-controlled paramilitary force. But the Frontier Corps was ill-equipped in counter-insurgency and failed to stem the Taliban’s rapid growth.

In 2009, two Pakistani generals told the Associated Press that, of $6.6 billion in US military aid provided during the previous six years for counter-terrorism measures, only $500 million had been used for that purpose. The rest of the funds were used towards Pakistan’s “defence against India”.

Since April 2010, the Pakistani army has reportedly paid more attention to the problem and launched operations in central and lower Kurram agency. But the army’s repeated reliance on peace deals with the insurgents suggests they have failed in rooting out the problem.

“It does not mean the state is not trying,” says Irfan Ashraf, a journalism lecturer at neighbouring Peshawar University. “The fact of the matter is that [the] state is too weak to resolve the issue. And it is not accepting its weakness.”

More people have been displaced by these recent operations. And the route via Afghanistan has also now closed, limiting the flow of food, medicine and other supplies.

“If a sack of flour costs 2000 rupees in Islamabad, it cost us 6000 in Parachinar,” one local, recently relocated to Islamabad, said.

The presence of the army in the region has also limited media access, pushing the issue out of the public discussion.

AL JAZEERA: Japan races to cool stricken reacto…, posted with vodpod

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reports from
Pakistan’s tribal areas

“Anything that is security related is a ‘no go area’ for media and the rest,” says Ashraf. “The media looks up to the security forces, and the official line of the security forces is that it is quiet there.”

When the government announced the reopening of the road in March, it was on the back of a peace deal. Signed in 2008 at the height of the sectarian violence, the deal was being implemented three years later, when local dynamics had changed. Sectarianism was the smaller problem for locals. By then, the Taliban were dominating the area.

The deal itself is not problematic, but the peace deal’s reported mediators, the Haqqani “independent militia”, appears to have become one of the main sources of the abuses now.

“The Haqqanis – with backing from the state – were able to broker a deal between Shia and Sunni. They, in return, would be given transit rights through Kurram,” says Reza Jan.

“The Haqqanis essentially fashioned themselves as the guarantors of the deal.”

Not only has the deal brought more problems for the locals as the Haqqani fighters move around more easily, it has also brought US drone aircraft. The population, once caught in constant sectarian violence, now finds itself again under siege – by the Taliban and the Pakistani army on the ground – and US drones amid the skies.

Follow Mujib Mashal on Twitter: @mujibmashal

What can stop the national security state?

Based on the new Federal Bureau of Investigation manual on “Domestic Investigations and Operations,” 14,000 FBI agents can now spy on and infiltrate political groups without even pretending to have a basis. They can set up surveillance squads on people and go through their trash without even pretending to have a basis. They can run people’s names through databases without even having to record what they have done.

These new policies are all meant to give FBI agents free rein on the “assessment” category of cases, which are opened on individuals and organizations for whom they have no firm evidence to suspect criminal or terrorist activity. According to the New York Times, the FBI opens thousands of such “assessment” cases every month. The new rules make it easier for agents to surreptitiously attend meetings of such organizations. They allow agents to search the trash of individuals so as to find materials that can then be used to pressure them into becoming informants.

The FBI has called such new policies more “fine-tuning than major changes,” and asserts that they do not require Congressional approval.

There is no evidence that the judiciary has any intention of curbing the ever-expanding “national security state.” Quite the contrary. Just a few days after the FBI rules were announced, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that evidence found in unconstitutional police searches is admissible in court as long as the police were following precedent. The ruling guts the “exclusionary rule” protection that has long been used to protect defendants and essentially encourages police departments to rewrite their search policies as broadly as they want. Joining the conservatives in the decision were Justices Elena Kagan and Sonio Sotomayor, Obama’s so-called “liberal” appointees.

The Obama administration has often taken the lead in the onslaught on civil liberties. It has defended and continued Bush’s policy of warrantless wiretapping. It has prosecuted more vigorously than perhaps any prior administration whistle-blowers who have attempted to unveil unconstitutional programs.

Congress is no better. While a few representatives raised objections, in late May the Republican House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic White House worked together to extend the Patriot Act for another four years.

Police and security agencies are employing countless policies and programs—as well as off-the-books practices—that trample upon civil liberties and the well-advertised right to free speech. The Fourth Amendment in particular, which protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, has been shredded from all directions. We see it in the National Security Letter provisions, which give the FBI authority to demand personal customer records from internet providers, banks and credit companies (without court approval or oversight). We see it in the stop-and-frisk policy employed by the New York Police Department, among others, used to harass and search Black and Latino young men in particular.

Some critics of the all-sided attack on civil liberties portray it as a legacy of the Bush administration. Others see it as an overreaction to the September 11 attacks. In reality, the problem is much deeper.

The natural tendency of the modern capitalist state—organized to protect the economic domination of the few—is to continuously restrict, monitor, and record the activity and speech of the many. They aim to obstruct and isolate potential critics, while intimidating and incarcerating entire communities which they consider to be surplus populations.

How can this be stopped? The FBI’s infamous Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), aimed at weakening and destroying revolutionary and progressive social movements, was formally brought into the light by Congress in the Church Committee. But this was not because of enlightened representatives. Rather it reflected the fact that the defeat in Vietnam, and the corresponding radicalization of millions, had threatened the legitimacy of the system as a whole.

Congress went so far as to draft legislation that would have made political surveillance illegal, but pulled back when the new FBI Director Clarence Kelley promised the agency would reform itself.

We can see that elements of COINTELPRO have been rebuilt bit by bit, as the people’s movemens of the 1960s and 1970s have receded. The capitalist class, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, has used the opportunity to again target dissent—as was strikingly shown in the FBI raids on anti-war activists last year. The Coalition to Stop FBI Repression www.StopFBI.net has formed to take up their fight. History has shown that attacks on civil liberties begin, and new police tactics are employed, to target specific groups, but then are expanded to ever-larger sections of the population. This is a fight for all us; we need a movement to stop, and ultimately replace, the capitalists’ “national security state.”

The new FBI powers

The new FBI powers

John Whitehead
Guest Columnist
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.

Listen closely and what you will hear, beneath the babble of political chatter and other mindless political noises distracting you from what’s really going on, are the dying squeals of the Fourth Amendment. It dies a little more with every no-knock raid that is carried out by a SWAT team, every phone call eavesdropped on by FBI agents, and every piece of legislation passed that further undermines the right of every American to be free from governmental intrusions into their private affairs.

Whereas the relationship between the American people and their government was once defined by a social contract (the U.S. Constitution) that was predicated on a mutual respect for the rule of law and a clear understanding that government exists to serve the people and not the other way around, that is no longer the case. Having ceded to the government all manner of control over our lives, renouncing our claims to such things as privacy in exchange for the phantom promise of security, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being trapped in a prison of our own making.

It is a phenomenon that Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument: “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” Unfortunately, in the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we have become the nails to the government’s hammer. After all, having equipped government agents with an arsenal of tools, weapons and powers with which to vanquish the so-called forces of terror, it was inevitable that that same arsenal would eventually be turned on us.

Iran reveals motive behind 9/11 attacks

Iran reveals motive behind 9/11 attacks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the International Conference on Global Fight against Terrorism in the capital Tehran June 25, 2011.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the US of using the September 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and to divert the American public opinion from its domestic issues.

“Some believe that the motive behind the September 11 attacks was to ensure the safety of Israel, foment insecurity in regional countries, divert the US public opinion from the chaotic economic situation in the country and fill the pockets of uncivilized belligerent capitalists,” President Ahmadinejad said in an address to a two-day anti-terrorism conference on Saturday, IRIB website reported.

“Two years after the incident that provided an excuse for the invasion of two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), led to the killing, injuring and displacing of millions… the US government, under pressure from the public opinion, tasked a group to investigate the reason behind the attacks. But the real truth has been kept from the Americans and the world,” he added.

President Ahmadinejad went on to say that part of the truth might be revealed if a true investigation to the 9/11 attacks is allowed by the United States.

The Iranian chief executive pointed out that fighting terrorism requires a common global understanding. He noted that terrorism has turned to a concern for all nations, adding that the security of all nations is being threatened by terrorism.

President Ahmadinejad emphasized that terrorism emanates from a deviant thought and a desire to dominate others. He also described poverty, discrimination and humiliation of human beings as the root causes of terrorism.

He said that big powers resorted to terrorism “to create divisions, break unity among nations, impede their progress and dominate over their resources and fates.”

He also underlined that Western countries seek to take the fates of other nations in their hands and impose their puppets on them.

The Iranian chief executive called on the international community to devise practical solutions to curb terrorism and urged the abolishment of “faulty, discriminatory mechanism” on fighting terrorism.

He also said that the Islamic Republic is ready to cooperate with others in fight against terrorism.

The International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism opened in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday.

Senior officials from at least 60 countries and representatives from several international organizations, including the UN, have attended the two-day meeting.

Iran is among the victims of terrorism as more than 17,000 Iranians, including senior officials, have lost their lives in various terror attacks since the victory of the Islamic Revolution some thirty years ago.


Toofan vs Nabi In Kurram Today

Pakistan army raid kills 7 militants

Pakistan’s military fighter jets have bombed suspected militants’ hideouts near the Afghan border, killing seven and injuring eight others.

Pakistan’s security forces backed by warplanes attacked militants’ hideouts in Kurram tribal region of northwestern Pakistan early Saturday, a Press TV correspondent reported.

At least four hiding places were destroyed in the air attack, the report added.

Pakistan’s army has waged multiple offensives in various parts of the tribal belt to force out the Taliban militants.

Meanwhile, armed clashes between two rival militant groups in Upper Orakzai area of Saifud Darra on the same day left 15 dead and eight others injured.

The militants belonged to groups of Hafiz Saeed alias Mullah Toofan, the chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Kurram, and Maulvi Nabi, a militant leader who had been removed from the Taliban movement.

The gunfire is still underway with both sides using heavy weaponry.

Pakistan launched a major operation in Orakzai in March last year after militants fled a sweeping offensive in the nearby tribal district of South Waziristan.



Pak Jets Bomb Terrorist Positions In Kurram

Forces kill 10 ‘terrorists’ in Kurram

PARACHINAR: A government administrator says Pakistani fighter jets have bombed suspected terrorists hideouts in a northwestern region near the Afghan border, killing at least 10 alleged terrorists.

Javed Khan says the airstrikes on Friday hit two areas of the Kurram Agency based on intelligence reports about the presence of terrorists. Pakistan Army has waged multiple offensives in various parts of the lawless tribal belt in order to force out al Qaida and Pakistani Taliban fighters. The US also launches missile strikes against suspected terrorists hiding along the border. Information from the tribal regions is difficult to verify independently, however, because access is restricted.

Suspected US drones had fired missiles into Kurram on Monday killing at least 12 terrorists, nine of them from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Pakistani officials said it was only the fourth time that US drones had hit Kurram.

Fifteen killed as rival militant groups clash in Orakzai

[This is being reported as one Pakistani Taliban faction (TTP) against another.  It reads like one group continuing attacks upon Shia (no doubt still Hakeemullah's gang), and the other trying to block attempts to trash the recent Kurram treaty.]

Fifteen killed as rival militant groups clash in Orakzai

Pakistan’s army declared a victory in Orakzai last year but violence has continued. — File photo

PARACHINAR: At least 15 militants were killed in a shootout between the supporters of two Pakistani Taliban commanders near the Afghan border, a government official said.

The official, Mir Alam, said several insurgents were also wounded during Saturday’s gunbattle in the Orakzai tribal region. He said it was unclear what sparked the shootout.

However, such clashes are common in Orakzai where an unspecified number of insurgents and their commanders have been hiding after fleeing a military operation in nearby regions in recent years.

Pakistan’s army declared a victory in Orakzai last year but violence has continued.

Three Presidents Unite In Joint Anti-Terrorism Committment

“All sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference.”

Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan to ‘jointly combat terrorism’


Seated around a table from left to right, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and President Asif Ali Zardari, attend a round of talks at the Iranian presidency office in Tehran, June 24, 2011. — Photo by AP

TEHRAN: The presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agreed on Saturday to join forces in combating terrorism, in a joint statement issued after three-way talks in Tehran.

“All sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference, which is in blatant opposition to the spirit of Islam, the peaceful cultural traditions of the region and its peoples’ interests,” the statement said.

“All sides agreed to continue meeting at foreign, interior, security and economy ministers’ level to prepare a roadmap for the next summit due to be held in Islamabad before the end of 2011,” added the statement carried by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Iran and Pakistan also “supported the ongoing national reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Iranian and Pakistani counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Asif Ali Zardari held three-way talks on Friday ahead of a six-nation counter-terrorism conference on Saturday.

The three leaders discussed “ways of battling terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking,” IRNA said on Friday.

A statement posted on the Iranian presidency website said on Friday that the trio “expressed concern over a rising lack of security, extremism and terrorism, and insisted on the need for cooperation to combat these phenomena.”

The Instability of the Eastern Border

The Instability of the Eastern Border



Yochi Dreazen makes the case for focusing on Eastern Afghanistan:

But the real story is not in the south; it’s in the east. Senior officers increasingly believe that the conflict will be decided in the valleys and mountain ranges of eastern Afghanistan, a violent region that abuts some of Pakistan’s most unruly provinces. The Taliban and its allies—especially the Pakistan-based Haqqani network—are waging a campaign of roadside bombings, artillery attacks, and ambushes there; the American death toll has risen sharply. Al-Qaida and the Haqqani network have been unwilling to negotiate with the American or Afghan governments, leading top U.S. commanders to conclude that the war can’t be won without defeating the armed group. “The east is the place that needs to be the next focus of the war, and maybe the last focus of the war,” said Jeffrey Dressler, an expert on the region at the Institute for the Study of War. “It hasn’t gotten remotely enough attention in the past.” While Washington obsesses over southern Afghanistan, it is missing the point.

Bully for all of them, but this is a good four-plus years overdue. From the start of the campaign in the south—especially after General McChrystal said the whole push into Helmand was just a sideshow—longtime Afghanistan watchers have been scratching their heads at the decision to go there. But the story here is deeper than Dreazen and Dressler say: the east has suffered under years of stagnation at the hands of US strategists. That the in-crowd is suddenly realizing they screwed up by obsessing on the backwaters of southern Afghanistan is not a comfort, it is an outrage.

In his analysis (pdf) of the war in the East, Gilles Dorronsoro said something I agree with 100%: “.despite a lack of U.S. interest in these regions, their strategic importance is infinitely greater than that of Helmand or even Kandahar. The importance of the Eastern Triangle is due to its location between the capital and the Pakistani insurgent sanctuaries, and its importance in facilitating the passage of insurgents from Pakistan.”

That is absolutely true, and it didn’t suddenly become true in 2011. It was true in 2007. As has become depressingly typical of what passes for analysis of this war, the insiders are realizing years too late what is really important—a realization made all the more infuriating in light of the condescension and accusations of ignorance to what experts in Afghanistan were saying that accompanied their decision to ignore the east and surge into the south.

That’s not to say a surge into Loya Paktia would have done a thing: as our experience in the south has shown, it would have killed a bunch of people but fundamentally left everything else unresolved. To wit:

The way progress is measured in Afghanistan is very problematic. Look beyond the cliched statements about how many girls are going to school or women are now engaged in the public sphere – good news to an uninformed audience – and you can see a drop off in the number of school and university students, particularly outside the capital, and suspension of significant development projects in all parts of the country.

The escalation in the war not only caused casualties on both sides, but it also resulted in the further militarisation of communities, either through the government’s initiative of arming local militias or via criminal gangs and anti-government forces. This is undoubtedly affecting provision of very basic services such as health, education, agricultural and various socioeconomic development programs…

Today I spoke with Ahmad, a friend from Kunar province. He told me: “The greatest concern for people in this region is the increase in rocket attacks from the Pakistani border side, which continues to take the lives of ordinary villagers over the past months. This is more scary to me than thinking of US military drawdown. We are worried about a direct invasion by Pakistani forces, even as the world is watching.”

There are fundamental problems with the war that just aren’t being dealt with. In the section above you can see how the surge has resulted in a net loss in the social and political factors that will determine long-term success. The highlighted phrases are yet more evidence that the biggest problem facing Afghanistan is most likely not the Taliban, but the continuing escalation of state-on-state combat along the eastern border—the easternborder, mind you, and not the southern border.

Given the current American genius plan to build a 400,000-man Afghan Army, and especially given how many Afghan soldiers say they joined to fight not the Taliban but Pakistan, we should be worrying not whether the Taliban might make a move, but if a fully-transitioned Afghanistan might soon be at war with Pakistan. This is a concern that, again, was around in 2006 when the cross-border fighting had advanced to the stage where Pakistan wanted to fence and mine the Durand Line—the eastern border, mind you, not the southern one.

So let us sit back and contemplate that now, in 2011, as violence spikes once again in eastern Afghanistan, that it is only now that inside-the-Pentagon analysts and their journalists are waking up to the fact that the east is a big mess. And then after we’ve contemplated just how badly they’ve gotten the major questions of this war wrong, why we should trust a single thing they can muster up going forward. And then try not to drink yourself to sleep tonight.

Pres. Zardari and Karzai Arrive In Tehran In Spite of Washington’s Threats

Zardari in Tehran for tri-lateral talks


Plot to assassinate President Asif Ali Zardari uncovered. PHOTO: AFP

TEHRAN: The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived in Tehran on Friday for a three-way summit with their Iranian counterpart and to attend an anti-terrorism conference, IRNA news agency reported.

The summit to be attended by Presidents Asif Ali Zardari, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes as the United States announced that it will draw down by 33,000 its contingent of 99,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012.

Several hundred French soldiers have also been recalled from the country recently.

Britain and Germany, which have the largest presence in Afghanistan after the US, have also declared their intention to reduce their contingent by the end of the year.

Iran has always been hostile to the presence of NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, saying they strengthened terrorist groups such as Taliban and Al-Qaeda more than it weakened them.

Tehran itself suffers from the activities of the armed Sunni Muslim group Jundallah around its border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jundallah is on the United States’ list of outlawed terrorist groups.

After the three-way summit, Zardari and Karzai will attend on Saturday an anti-terrorism conference alongside Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Iranian media reported.

Other nations will also attend the conference as observers.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court, which has issued two arrest warrants on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur region, where a bloody conflict has raged for eight years.

Iran, which is on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, regularly accuses Israel and the US of plotting terrorist attacks against its territory.

Brigadier held for links with CIA-backed militants

Brigadier held for links with CIA-backed militants

ISLAMABAD – A brigadier of Pakistan Army appointed at General Headquarters was arrested apparently on the charges of having links with a banned militant outfit.
Brigadier Ali Khan, who was appointed at the Regulation Directorate in GHQ back in May 2009, came under the surveillance radar of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) earlier this year, according to sources.
Reportedly, after almost six months of surveillance, the ISI and MI in a joint operation, picked up the brigadier from outside his residence on May 6. The intelligence authorities reportedly ran a check on him after some ‘suspicious’ people were found frequently visiting his home. The call records of Khan’s cell phone confirmed the suspicions of intelligence agencies. Sources said Brigadier Ali Khan was linked to the section of militants that had direct ties with the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and the military intelligence agencies arrested him to probe this connection. The ISPR only confirmed Ali Khan’s arrest but refused to provide further details. Confirming the arrest, ISPR Director General Major General Athar Abbass said the news was not made public earlier due to pending investigations against the brigadier. Abbas said the brigadier was linked to Hizbul Tahrir, a militant organisation banned by former president Pervez Musharraf in 2003. He said the investigations were at early stages and it was premature to comment any further. He denied any racket of senior military officers having links with militants.
Earlier, talking to a private television channel, Abbas had said Hizbul Tahrir was linked to England, which, according to sources, was a hint at the possible nexus between militants, CIA and officers like Ali Khan. The ISPR DG said no other arrests were made.
The brigadier was reportedly going to retire from his duties at Pakistan Army next month. It is also being probed how a brigadier having linkages with militants got appointed Regulation Directorate, an important military branch that primarily deals with recruitments and human resource issues. Hizbul Tahrir is the same organisation that sends hand-outs and parcels to almost all the journalists of mainstream national media instigating the journalist community to declare ‘Jihad’ against the foreign powers, Pakistani government and Pakistan Army.

Agencies add: “We follow zero tolerance policy of such activities within the military. Therefore prompt action was taken on detection,” Abbas said.
A military official, who declined to be identified, ruled out the possibility of the brigadier’s involvement in any plot. “He just had contacts with the banned group. But he was not involved in any type of conspiracy,” Khan is from a family of soldiers – his father was a junior officer while he has two sons and one son-in law in the Army. His wife Anjum rejected the allegations against him as ‘rubbish’. “Every general knows Brigadier Ali Khan. Even (army chief) General (Ashfaq) Kayani knows him,” she said. “We can never think of betraying the Army or our country. “He was an intellectual, an honest, patriotic and ideological person. It’s a fashion here that whosoever offers prayers and practises religion is dubbed as Taliban and militant,” she said.
A military source told BBC that Gen Kayani had asked for a briefing about the brigadier and after being satisfied about the weight of the ‘evidence’, ordered the arrest himself.
This is not the first time allegations have been made about links between elements in Pakistan’s military and banned organisations, including militant groups. At least two army officers were court-martialled last year for links with the banned Hizbul Tahrir.
Some fear extremist groups like Hizb-ul-Tahrir may have been making inroads into the Army. “What we see is that it is trying to infiltrate the military and wanting to bring some sort of a change through the military and that could be dangerous,” retired general and defence analyst Talat Masood said.
The allegations against the brigadier could show gaps as far as discipline was concerned, he said, but added that it was a positive sign that the Army had found out and taken action. “I think the Army is trying do a clean-up,” he said. “They have realised that otherwise the institution will be undermined.”

Russian Peacemaking In Karabakh to Facilitate Western Pipeline Plans?

Mark Grigorian

Russian service Bi-bi-si

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev (left) and President of Armenia Serzh SargsyanThe leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are waiting for a decisive step to resolve Karabakh conflict

Meeting of Presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia in Kazan on Friday may be historic, if the leaders of the warring parties signed a document on basic principles of Karabakh conflict settlement.

Kazan talks offer a rare opportunity to initiate a resolution of the conflict that continues more than a decade and claimed the lives of more than 25 thousand people. In the course of armed conflict around one million people were displaced from their homes.

The document, which on Friday put on the table in front of the Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan and Dmitry Medvedev, was the result of four years of negotiations and discussions within the OSCE Minsk Group to mediate in resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

This is one of the few examples of successful cooperation between Russia, the United States and France, who lead the Minsk Group.However, the final decision depends on the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Azerbaijan insists that Nagorno-Karabakh, now controlled by Armenians, as part of its internationally recognized territory. Armenia claims that Nagorno Karabakh will not come back under the control of Baku.

If even in Kazan to sign a document on basic principles for a settlement, it will not end the conflict. On the road to peace in the region have yet to overcome many obstacles.

Diplomatic pressure

The international community does not hide its interest in resolving the Karabakh conflict. Policies of different countries are confident that this will help take some of the tensions in the Caucasus.

Madrid principles of Karabakh conflict resolution include

  • Return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
  • An interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh, which provides guarantees of security and self-government.
  • Corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
  • The future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding will of its people.
  • The right of all displaced persons and refugees to return to their former homes.
  • International guarantees of security, including peacekeeping operation.

If in the process of settlement progress will be fixed, then Turkey may open its border with Armenia closed in solidarity with Azerbaijan, which will greatly facilitate the closer involvement of the South Caucasus countries into the orbit of European politics.

So the pressure on the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia before the meeting in Kazan is growing.

Before the summit, U.S. President Barack Obama called the presidents of two countries – Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan – an appeal to endorse the basic principles of conflict resolution.

A special statement on the need to sign the document by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

“The document, which will be discussed in Kazan [...], is the real basis for moving forward and continuing training for a comprehensive peace agreement”, – assured the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Optimistic and OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.

“We are very rarely witnessed moments when our hopes for a final peaceful solution to as high as now,” – he said ahead of talks in Kazan.

Pakistan, India assess U.S. withdrawal plans

Pakistan, India assess U.S. withdrawal plans

For neighbor Pakistan, the unexpectedly larger and faster planned troop pullout from Afghanistan is welcome, but for India, which has been cultivating ties with Kabul, any increased instability bodes ill.

TalksIndian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, far right, holds talks on peace and security issues with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, far left, during a meeting at The Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. (Aamir Qureshi, AFP/Getty Images / June 23, 2011)
By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles TimesJune 24, 2011

Reporting from New Delhi—
In Pakistan, the news was generally applauded. The South Asian nation has bridled at U.S. regional influence, CIAdrones in its airspace and what it saw as the American intrusion on its sovereignty in May in the raid that killedOsama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad.

It shows that America is committed to withdrawing, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general and now a military analyst. “That’s welcome in Pakistan. A gradual withdrawal will be helpful for the region.”

A reduced U.S. footprint in the region might allow Islamabadto expand its influence in Afghanistan. It also probably would reduce U.S. pressure on Pakistan to sever links between its security forces and homegrown militant groups, some of whom are viewed by Pakistanis as freedom fighters useful in countering neighbor and longtime rival India.

Many in India, on the other hand, expressed concern that the relatively sharp U.S. withdrawal would raise uncertainty in the region, increasing the risk that militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan would spill across India’s borders.

India is confident its relations with Afghanistan are solid, and the countries share a distrust of Pakistan’s motives and its bid for enhanced influence in war-torn Afghanistan.

Pakistan will want to ensure that India doesn’t align with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, a political rival to tribal groups allied with Islamabad, analysts said. It is also wary of India forming links with groups in southern Afghanistan that might ally with and embolden neighboring Baluch tribesmen seeking independence for Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

However, India’s ability to counter Pakistani ambitions or otherwise exert its muscle in Afghanistan as U.S. troop numbers decline is severely limited by geography: Pakistan borders Afghanistan; India does not.

Pakistan controls the main road and port access to landlocked Afghanistan, limiting Indian trade links. And Pakistan can block energy pipeline routes to India from Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations.

“There is a limit on what India can do to influence Pakistani-Afghan relations,” said Dipankar Banerjee, a former major general in the Indian army and director of New Delhi’s Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. “And India has to accept those limitations.”

India and Pakistan share an interest in a gradual, measured U.S. withdrawal that gives the region time to adjust and fill the vacuum in an orderly fashion, analysts said. A full-on civil war in Afghanistan would hurt everyone. Nor would Afghans fleeing any such meltdown be as welcome in Pakistan as they were during the 1980s fight against the Soviets, given Pakistan’s economic troubles and domestic terrorism problems.

India and Pakistan also share an interest in limiting the rise of the Afghan Taliban, albeit for different reasons. India is wary of increased Islamic extremism in the neighborhood that could spark another attack like the terrorist assault on the city of Mumbai in 2008, for which it holds Pakistan at least partly responsible. And Pakistan is concerned that a revitalized Afghan Taliban could embolden its homegrown Taliban movement, further complicating its security issues.


Anshul Rana in The Times’ New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.