As Tripoli’s Palestinian Refugees awakened the morning of 11/17/1l, like the rest of us here, they saw in the western sky over the Mediterranean a vast swatch of black stratocumulus clouds of acrid smoke from last night’s NATO bombing.
This latest attack, in the Ain Zara and Tajoura districts in the eastern suburbs of Tripoli killed 3 more civilians increasing the more than 1,100 total civilian deaths by NATO, according to Libyan Ministry of Health statistics. This latest attack is believed to have employed four US MK-83, 1000 lb. guided bombs and four US hell fire missiles.
Two weeks ago, on 6/23/11 the Abdullah Muhammad Ash-Shihab Palestinian refugee family of four which included Abdullah, his wife Karime and his six-month-old twins Khalid and Juanah were among civilians killed in a NATO bombing attack. The family had lived in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, Syria but came here seeking Libya’s well known security and quiet life.
Tripoli’s humid air is still pungent with the smell of cordite. Many Palestinians, like the increasingly defiant population of Western Libya, view the bombing and killing of yet more civilians as NATO’s answer to “Baba” (father) Qaddafi’s resistance broadcast Friday night on state-run Libyan TV, just three hours after the decisions made by the 30 member Contact Group at Istanbul were announced.
The Istanbul assembly, claiming authority from UNSC resolutions 1979 and 1973, to “protect the civilian population” granted additional diplomatic recognition and funds to the anti-Qaddafi National Transition Council (NTC). Five months ago, when the events of February 17, 2011 erupted in Benghazi near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Sidra, this country’s nearly 75,000 Palestinian refugees who are dispersed all over the country, were as shocked as most Libyans and foreigners here. Virtually every Palestinian interviewed for this report mentioned that they saw no advance signs that the normal domestic tranquility would be suddenly shattered.
Some of the thousands of Palestinians who came here from Lebanon to escape the civil war, the post Sabra-Shatila Massacre reign of terror with which they were targeted from the US and Israel supported Amin Gemayel government, and it’s the Deuxieme Bureau (Lebanese Army Intelligence Force), asked the Beirut new Lebanese-Palestinian Coordination Commission to urgently intervene with the Lebanese government to let them depart Libya aboard ships and return to Lebanon.They received no assistance or even a reply.
When the violence continued and then started to spread rapidly,Palestinians from Lebanese camps appealed to president Michel Suleiman and the Palestine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya (there is no Lebanese Embassy in Libya because of the August 31,1978 “disappearance” of the Lebanese Shia leader, Imam Musa Sadr) to help them leave this country. Nearly one million others quickly departed, including thousands of foreign workers, among them 20,000 of the 30,000 Chinese based here who have been busy in Libya in all manner of commercial ventures.
This, to the growing consternation of some of the NATO countries and certainly the French who withdrew from NATO in 1966 on the initiative of President Charles De Gaulle, only to have President Nickolas Sarkozy return France with full membership in the military alliance. France is angry because they blame Qaddafi first and China second for their loss of most of their commercial relations in Africa even among their former colonies. President Sarkozy has made plain that France intends to benefit with oil contracts once NATO succeeds and a new more friendly government is installed.
The published Palestinian refugee appeal read:
“We the Palestinians living in Libya, some for more than 35 years have come from Lebanon to flee (civil) war and resided among our brothers in Libya where we got married and worked. However, after the 17 February insurrection and the worsening security situation, we are trying to leave the country via its ports but were not allowed because of inadequate travel documents. We are now stranded and sell our belongings to eat; we do not have work or shelter and do not know what to do or where to go.”
Not even a reply to this request has been received five month later. This silence comes as no surprise given Lebanon’s deeply ingrained hostility toward its remaining 270.000 Palestinians, roughly half of whom remain trapped in 12 squalid camps, and not one of whom is granted even the basic internationally mandated right to work or to own a home.
Umm Mohammed, a 70-year-old woman, who is from the Maghazi area in central Gaza Strip spent days sitting in front of her tent near the border crossing at Salloum at the Libyan-Egyptian border, hoping to return to Gaza after she fled fighting between security battalions loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels in the Albayda’a area. She commented, ‘‘I do not know how to express displacement and disaster I and my family have experienced for the past sixty years”.
Rami Diab, a 67-year-old Palestinian refugee who was born in the Zionist occupied city of Ashkelon, also hopes to return to the Gaza Strip to save his family from war raging in Libya. “I left my family home in Benghazi and headed to the crossing of Salloum to try to take refuge in the Gaza Strip. But we did not have permission to enter Egypt.”
Entry Denied to Egypt
Approximately 3000 Palestinians have tried to cross into Egypt since Monday 7 March, 2011, but the Egyptian military had received instructions to not let Palestinians refugees in. Many Palestinians who had travelled to the border returned home, to the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Tobruk and adjacent areas. On Tuesday March 8, 2011, 15 Palestinians were still in Salloum demanding to cross, while hundreds of other Palestinians refusing to go back to their homes, had chosen to wait in the homes of Libyan host families in a village near the crossing. It has been reported that Palestinians without national identity cards or valid residency in Egypt were not allowed to cross, whereas even Asian laborers without papers managed to get into the country.
The Palestinian Authority has tried to coordinate the evacuation of the Palestinian community in Libya and indeed Israel offered to allow 300 into the occupied territories as a “humanitarian gesture”. The first flow of Palestinian refugees that was evacuated followed unverified NTC reports of pro-Gaddafi’s forces detaining a group of 43 Palestinian students in Misurata after they reportedly refused to join the pro-regime forces. By the end of February 2011, a total of 104 Palestinian students had left Libya.
Mohammad Hammad, director of cultural affairs at the Palestinian consulate in Alexandria, arrived at the Salloum crossing on the Egypt-Libya border in early March to provide assistance to fleeing Palestinians. Currently, more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees live in Egypt, most of whom were expelled following Israel’s 1967 invasion and occupation of the Gaza Strip.
According to Mr. Hammad, most Palestinians arriving in Egypt were sent back to Libya by the authorities.According to Egyptian officials, Egyptian law requires Palestinians who enter Egypt to have a visa from the host country’s embassy first. For this reason, the Palestinian Authority ambassador in Cairo tried to obtain this permission from the Egyptian government in order to allow them to go to the Gaza Strip via Egypt. Hammad reported that the Palestinian consulate in Cairo was providing refugees with essential supplies. The situation is critical, he said, with “families living outdoors without anything. Many of them do not even have money and turned to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for emergency help.
UNHCR does not usually deal with Palestinians in the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) area of operations, which is mainly the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, but following the February 17 eruption, it did provide some Palestinians with help during February-April. This is a welcomed exception to UNHCR practice and it recognizes that all of Libya’s Palestinians are refugees and hence UNHCR has the humanitarian obligation to protect them, especially since Egypt and Libya are not included in the UNRWA area of operations.
The current chain of misfortunes started for the refugees pictured with the U.N. blockade of Libya in 1992. This was followed by Libya’s attempt to expand employment opportunities for its own nationals. This was accompanied by a widening gulf of distrust between the Libyan government and the PLO, especially after the signing of the Oslo accords.
In September 1995, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi announced that all Palestinians in Libya, estimated at 30,000, would be expelled. It was a partial bluff which he meant to be a blow to the newly formed Palestinian Authority. His message to the Yasser Arafat was, “If you do not have sovereignty, do not claim to be in control. If you cannot provide shelter for your citizens, do not pretend to be their governor.”
As the expulsions began, Palestinians were put on ships without a destination. Lebanon and Syria accepted a fraction that had lived there previously. Egypt allowed Palestinian expellees with valid travel documents to pass through its land, but none were allowed to stay for more than 24 hours. Thirty-six Palestinians were stranded for several weeks at the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, waiting for permission from the Israeli authorities to enter Gaza. However, the majority of those expelled had no place to go. The next month, in October 1995, Qaddafi redefined the order to allow the luckless Palestinians to return to Libya until their “government” finds a better place for them.
There have been some fears expressed by Hamas and others that the Qaddafi regime may take revenge on Libya’s Palestinian community because of rumors than some Palestinians are involved with the Muslim Brotherhood in Benghazi and even with some of the Salafist groups comprising part of the National Transition Council. In addition, anti-Qaddafi protests and graffiti and burning of Qaddafi poster in Gaza fueled these fears by Hamas and the refugee community here.
However, this observer has been repeatedly assured by Libyan officials in Tripoli that Palestinians in Libya are welcomed, will retain all their civil rights (please refer to Part II) and will in no way be discriminated against or pressured due to some Palestinians presumably favoring the NTC. (on this subject and the current legal and social status of Palestinian refugees in Libya please refer to Part II)
Sufi Mohammad, father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of a Taliban insurgency that paralysed the northwestern valley from late 2007 until a military offensive in the spring of 2009, was arrested two years ago. PHOTO: EXPRESS
PESHAWAR: A court on Monday charged a radical Islamic cleric, who once brokered a Taliban peace deal in the Swat valley, with treason and murder, lawyers said.
Sufi Mohammad, father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of a Taliban insurgency that paralysed the northwestern valley from late 2007 until a military offensive in the spring of 2009, was arrested two years ago.
He is now set to go on trial in an anti-terrorism court in Swat, held behind closed doors in a maximum security prison in Peshawar over security fears.
“Today, the court framed murder and treason charges on Sufi Mohammad and his 23 followers,” defence lawyer Majeed Adil Majeed told AFP.
“He and his followers broke the law by attacking a police station, killing 11 people, including nine paramilitary and two policemen, and attacked government buildings, which is treason” Majeed said.
Mohammad has refused to defend himself in court as he does not recognise them and Majeed took on his counsel on orders from the judge.
Arshad Abdullah, law minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, confirmed the indictment.
Fazlullah, who has a Rs50 million price on his head, was the architect of an uprising that marked the only time that a district under government control has effectively slipped into hands of the Taliban.
At the time, he led thousands of supporters, a mixture of hardcore ideologues and disenfranchised young men, in a brutal campaign beheading opponents, burning schools and fighting against government troops.
Security officials say Fazlullah fled into eastern Afghanistan after the army crushed the Taliban uprising in Swat in 2009.
Under a deal brokered by Mohammad, the government agreed to allow the implementation of Islamic law in Swat once violence had stopped but Taliban militants led by Fazllulah refused to lay down arms and undermined the deal.
Troops quelled the uprising in late April 2009 after the Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres of Islamabad.
DUSHANBE, July 18, 2011, Asia-Plus — Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi has ruled out the renewed stationing of Russian border guards along Tajikistan’s common border with Afghanistan.
Hamrokhon Zarifi told reporters today that Tajikistan and Russia are expected to sign an agreement on border cooperation during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Tajikistan scheduled for September this year.
Tajik minister stressed that the agreement did not mean that Russian border guards would return to the Tajik-Afghan border.
“This agreement stipulates border cooperation between the two countries and stay of a small group of Russian border-guard advisers in Tajikistan,” the minister said.
On the further deployment of Russian military base 201 in Tajikistan and the issue of leasing the Ayni airfield to the Russian Federation, Zarifi noted that negotiations on those subjects have been conducted since 2008 “constructively and without emotions.”
“Today there is no necessity for free deployment of foreign military bases on Tajik territory,” the minister stressed.
Commenting on rumors about deployment of the United States military base in Tajikistan, Zarifi noted that Tajikistan has never conducted negotiation with the United Sates on that issue and “such a dialogue is not expected in the foreseeable future.”
“As far as the construction of the live-fire training building at the National Training Center at Qaratogh is concerned, the construction of the center is carried out under financial support of the United States, the center itself is property of Tajikistan,” the minister said.
DUSHANBE, April 30, 2011, Asia-Plus — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Drug Control Agency (DCA) under the President of Tajikistan began a new era of collaboration by signing a Memorandum of Cooperation between the two counter narcotics law enforcement agencies.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, the document was inked by DCA Director Rustam Nazarov and DEA Regional Director Mark S. Destito on April 29. The two agencies have worked together cooperatively to combat the flow of drugs into Tajikistan and to other regional and international markets since 2007.
The Memorandum of Cooperation will strengthen cooperation between the U.S. DEA and the DCA. This new accord is aimed at combating organized criminal groups that have national, regional, and international connections, illicit drug and precursor chemical trafficking, and drug smuggling across international borders. The agreement will improve the exchange of information related to combating illegal drug and precursor trafficking and will allow greater assistance in investigative activities. The Memorandum will increase participation in meetings and conferences intended to foster an exchange of information, and provides for mutual participation in personnel training and law enforcement skills development.
The United States Government is committed to supporting Tajik law enforcement agencies combating illegal drug and precursor chemical trafficking into and across Tajikistan. Since 1992, the American people, through the United States Embassy in Dushanbe, have provided approximately $900 million in programs that support Tajikistan’s democratic institutions, health care, education, and economic growth.
The Coalition of the Willing had come to Libya to spare civilians from Gaddafi’s murderous madness. Four months later, the Libyan crowds have deserted “Liberated Benghazi” and are staging gigantic anti-NATO demonstrations. Confronted with an unexpected political reality, the Atlantic armada has been left without a strategy. The Italians have started to pull out while the French are seeking an exit.
1.7 million people
- The Libyan Government was counting on the presence of 1 million people on 1 July 2011, in Tripoli, to protest against NATO. To the surprise of the authorities as much as for NATO, 1.7 million turned out.
111 days after the beginning of the intervention in Libya, no military solution is in sight and there is a consensus among experts that time is on the Libyan government’s side, barring a fluke or the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi.
On July 7th, the Italian cabinet halved their country’s involvement in the war effort and withdrew its helicopter-carrier. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared he had always been against the conflict, but was compelled by Parliament to participate.
On July 10th, French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet referred to a political solution that would involve Gaddafi’s removal to “another room of his palace with another title.” Considering there is no palace left, the first condition is purely rhetorical; as for the second, nobody can make heads or tails of it and it was probably a pathetic way out.
The political and social structures in Libya stem from the authoctonous culture and are beyond the compehension of many Westerners. They are composed of a one-chamber system of participative democracy – which is particularly effective at the local level – in conjunction with a tribal forum, which is devoid of any legislative power but serves to integrate clan solidarities into political life. To this structure must be added “Leader” figure who exerts no legal power, only moral authority. No one is compelled to obey him, but the majority of the people do, just as they would spontaneously obey a senior member of their own family. On the whole, the political system runs smoothly and people display no fear of the police, except on occasions such as a coup attempt or the Abou Salim prison riot, both of which were violently repressed.
Such clarifications ought to shed light on the preposterous character of the war objectives set forth by the Coalition of the Willing.
Officially, the intervention of the Coalition was carried out in compliance with a Security Council decision to protect civilian victims from a massive crackdown. However, at present, the Libyan people are convinced that such a crackdown never took place and that the Libyan air force never attacked any residential area either in Benghazi or in Tripoli. That portion of the population who believed at first the information relayed through international television networks now thinks very differently. In the meantime, people have had the chance to obtain direct testimonies from family and friends scattered throughout the country and have reached the conclusion that it was all a disinformation campaign.
On this and other issues, world opinion is divided between those who believe the US version and those who do not. As far as I am concerned, I currently reside in a Tripoli neighborhood reputed for its hostility towards Gaddafi, which allegedly revolted against him and was bombarded by the national air force at the beginning of the conflict. I am in a position to attest that there is absolutely no evidence of such events … except for a charred vehicle. The only signs of any bombings concern government buildings which were destroyed by NATO missiles at a later stage.
Be that as it may, the principal NATO leaders have openly evoked another aim of this war, which certain members of the Coalition appear reluctant to endorse: Col. Gaddafi’s resignation, a euphemism for “regime change“. This has opened the door to a realm of confusion. On one hand, such a requirement has no legal foundation under the relevant UN resolutions nor is it in any way linked to the declared objective of protecting civilian populations. On the other hand, Col. Gaddafi’s resignation is neither here nor there since he does not exercise an institutional function, but only a moral authority derived from the social, and not political, structures. Finally, by what right are NATO members standing in the way of a democratic process and pretend to decide for the Libyan people that one of its leaders must be removed?
This confusion in fact reveals that the war is driven by unavowed motives which are not shared by all the members of the Coalition of the Willing.
The principle of simultaneously attacking Libya and Syria was rubberstamped by the US Government in the week that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001. It was publicly announced for the first time by John Bolton, then Under-Secretary of State, in his 6 May 2002 speech entitled “Beyond the Axis of Evil“. It was also subsequently confirmed by General Wesley Clark during a famous television interview on 2 March 2007, during which the former NATO chief presented the list of countries slated for successive US attacks over the coming years.
Within the framework of their strategy for “Remodeling the Greater Middle East“, the Straussians  had planned to start by attacking Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, then to extend the remodeling process to the Levant and North Africa by attacking Libya, Syria and Lebanon and, in the third stage, to take on Somalia and Sudan with a view to remodeling East Africa.
The attack against Iran having been deferred for obvious military considerations, they fast-forwarded to the second stage irrespective of the events in Benghazi, whether real or imaginary. The Coalition of the Willing is bogged down in an adventure that it did not want and which escapes its control.
The US strategy, put on track by France and the United Kingdom – again partners like in the good old days of the Suez expedition –, rests on a particularly acute analysis of the Libyan tribal system. Knowing that the members of certain tribes – particularly the Warfalla – had been barred from occupying high-ranking positions ever since the aborted coup of 1993, NATO was to fuel their frustrations, arm and use them as a lever to overthrow the regime and put in place a pro-western government. According to Silvio Berlusconi, during a meeting of allied members held on 19 March, Messrs. Sarkozy and Cameron allegedly stated that “the war would come to an end when, as was anticipated, the Tripoli population would rise up against the current regime“.
This strategy reached its zenith on 27 April when 61 tribal chiefs launched an appeal in favor of the National Transitional Council. It should be noted that already then it was no longer of question of massacres actually attributed to the “regime“, both in Beghazi and Tripoli, but of its intention to perpetrate them. The cosigners of the appeal thanked France and the European Union for having prevented a carnage foretold, not for having halted one in the making.
Since the appeal, in a continuous and uninterrupted manner, the tribes in the opposition have rallied around the government of Tripoli and their respective chiefs have vowed allegiance to Muammar Gaddafi in public. In reality, this process had already started much earlier and was showcased on 8 March when all the tribal chiefs went to pay tribute to the Libyan leader at the Hotel Rixos, in the midst of western journalists transformed into human shields and dumbfounded by this new provocation.
This situation can easily be explained : Gaddafi’s internal opposition had no motive for overthrowing the regime before the Benghazi incidents. The 27 April appeal was based on information that the authors now realize was tainted. As a result, each of them has joined the government in the struggle against foreign aggression. According to the Islamic culture, those rebels who demonstrated their sincerity were automatically pardoned and incorporated in the national forces.
For the purposes of this analysis, it makes no difference whether the repressive methods attributed to the Gaddafi regime is a historical fact or a fabrication of western propaganda. What matters is to know what is the stance of the Libyans as a soverign people at present.
At this point, a reminder about the balance of political power is called for. The National Transitional Council (NTC) has been incapable of constituting a social base. Its provisional capital Benghazi used to be a city of 800 000 inhabitants. In February, hundreds of thousands turned out to celebrate its creation. Today, the “city liberated by the rebels” and “protected by NATO” is virtually a lifeless agglomeration with barely 15 000 inhabitants left, most of whom are people who don’t have the means to leave. The Benghazis did not flee the fighting; they fled from the new regime.
On the contrary, the “Gaddafi regime” was capable of mobilizing 1.7 million people for a rally in Tripoli on 1 July and has recently pledged to get involved in the organization of regional demonstrations every Friday. Last week, more than 400 000 rallied in Sabha (in the South) and a similar crowd was expected to gather in Az Yawiyah (in the West). It should be noted that these demonstrations are staged against NATO which has so far killed more than one thousand of their compatriots, destroyed the country’s non-oil infrastructures and stopped all supplies through a naval blockade. They center around the support for Gaddafi as an anti-colonialist leader, but don’t necessarily signify a retroactive approval of all his policies.
In the final analysis, the Libyan people have pronounced themselves. For them, NATO did not come to protect them but to conquer their country. It is Gaddafi who protects them against Western aggression.
Under the circumstances, NATO is devoid of a strategy. Not even a “Plan B”. Nothing. NTC defections are so massive that, according to most experts, the number of “rebel forces” has dropped to between 800 and 1 000 combatants, armed to the teeth by NATO, but incapable of playing a significant role in the absence of popular support. It is very likely that there are more NATO Special Forces commandos on the ground than the number of Libyan combatants they are supposed to oversee.
The Italian retreat and the declarations of the French Defense Minister are not surprising. In spite of its military fire power without precedent in History, the NATO armada has lost this war. Not on the military level of course, but because it forgot that “war is the continuation of politics by other means” and that it was off the mark politically. The shrieks from Washington, which readily reprimanded the French minister who refuses to lose face, will not make the slightest difference.
By Benoit Faucon
(Adds details on Iran, Nigeria and overall exports revenue.)
LONDON -(MarketWatch)- Venezuela’s crude oil proven reserves surpassed those of Saudi Arabia in 2010, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its annual statistical bulletin.
Venezuela’s proven crude oil reserves reached 296.5 billion barrels in 2010, up 40.4% on the year and higher than Saudi Arabia’s 264.5 billion barrels, OPEC said.
In the long run, the boost in reserves, which comes along with increases from Iran and Iraq, may empower members of the group who favor a defense of high prices. However, there are doubts over whether all of Venezuela’s heavy oil discoveries are actually economically viable.
The data broadly confirm Venezuela’s statements that it had reached this level of reserves in January. OPEC normally relies on its members’ assessments for statistical data.
Iraq’s and Iran’s proven reserves were also respectively upgraded by 24.4% to 143.1 billion barrels, and by 10.3% to 151.2 billion barrels, roughly in line with the countries’ earlier disclosures.
Venezuela, Iran and Iraq were part of a group that refused to endorse a Saudi-led push to hike output at an acrimonious OPEC meeting on June 8.
Analysts have questioned how economic Venezuelan reserves additions could be, as most come from the heavy and extra-heavy oil in the Orinoco Belt, which is difficult and expensive to extract.
Venezuela’s statistics have long been a controversial topic in oil circles, though disagreements on the matter have recently eased. The International Energy Agency last month said it revised the method used to calculate the country’s oil-production figures, bringing the agency’s estimates closer to those of Caracas.
The set of statistics may also vindicate Iran’s claims that sanctions aren’t crippling the development of its oil and gas industry. For instance, crude oil exports from the Islamic Republic to Europe in 2010 rose 34.5% to 764,000 barrels a day on average.
Last year, the European Union implemented stringent sanctions on Iran which, without banning crude purchases, complicate them by putting restrictions on insurance, financial services and energy sectors.
The numbers also underscore the recovery of the Nigerian oil industry with 17 more rigs active in the West African nation and 437 additional producing wells, following a sucessful amnesty for militants in 2009.
Overall, the numbers show OPEC members strongly benefited from higher oil prices in 2010, with the total value of their petroleum exports up 27.2% at $745.1 billion and their overall gross domestic product rising 11.2% to $2,325 billion.
Press Trust Of India
Washington with Islamabad and Washington framing out new rules of engagement, a media report said.
The token of renewed cooperation: The Pakistanis have approved 87 visas for CIA officers working in the country, according to US and Pakistani officials.
“That will bring the agency back toward normal operations in Pakistan, after what both sides say was a low point after the January arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis,” the Washington Post said.
The daily said joint-counter terrorism has resumed.
“Under new rules of the road, the CIA — in theory, at least — will share with the Pakistanis more information about what its operatives are doing in the country. Sources say, for example, that joint CIA-ISI counter-terrorism operations have resumed.”
A tricky issue is the fate of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who was arrested by the ISI in May for allegedly helping the CIA try to identify DNA of Osama bin Laden’s family by running a private vaccination campaign in Abbottabad before the May 2 raid on bin Laden’s compound.
“US officials are said to have pressed for Afridi’s release. The Pakistani countered that, because Afridi is a Pashtun who works in Khyber Agency in the tribal areas, certain tribal customs for compensation of victims must first be satisfied,” the daily said.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Distinguished Deputy Commander of the Border Guard Service of Tajikistan, Commander of the Border Guard District of Shurobod, Ambassador of the United States of America to Tajikistan, officers and men of the border guard service, distinguished members of the media, ladies and gentlemen,
I bring you greetings from Washington.
Ladies and gentlemen, for most people in the world, the border is the line between two countries. For a narcotics trafficker, it is an opportunity to move his product. As you know better than I, narcotics traffickers do their business in this district. Some of your friends and fellow soldiers have paid the ultimate price. They gave their lives to protect their communities.
Today, we honor them and we honor you. Today we visit the new post in Shurobod. We, the Government of Tajikistan and the Government of the United States, owe you a professional facility.
This is the seventh border post that we have constructed together with the border guard service. We work together to create a more secure border. And a secure border protects the people of Tajikistan, it protects the people of Afghanistan, and it protects the people of America.
Men and women of the border guard service, I salute you. You honor us with your presence, and I wish you great success from your new post for years to come.
Congratulations and thank you.
DUSHANBE, July 18 (RIA Novosti)
Dushanbe reiterated on Monday that Russia should pay rent for its military base in Tajikistan, a request that has been rejected by Moscow.
“Russia is our important strategic partner,” Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi told journalists in the Tajik capital, but “our land cannot be free; it has its price, and no one can use it without paying.”
Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, asked Russia several years ago to pay rent for its military base created in 2005, and the Ayni airport that Russia plans to start operating in line with an agreement signed in 2008.
“Currently, the two sides’ positions do not allow for the preparation of agreements on Russia’s military base and the Ayni airport,” the minister said.
He added, however, that talks between Dushanbe and Moscow on the issue would continue.
“Negotiations are taking place in a constructive spirit, without a rush and unnecessary emotions,” Zarifi said.
A total of 7,000 Russian troops are serving at three Russian military units in Dushanbe, the southwestern city of Qurgonteppa some 100 km from Dushanbe, and Kulob, about 200 km to the southwest of the capital. Russian troops in Tajikistan constitute the country’s largest ground force deployed abroad.
An agreement between Moscow and Dushanbe on the use of the Ayni airport just outside the capital has not come into force as Moscow has refused to pay the requested rent, which Tajikistan have put at $300 million a year, according to Tajik government sources quoted by the press.
Moscow and Dushanbe are currently in talks on the joint use of the airport.
Media reports said that Tajikistan has also been in talks with Washington on a possible lease of the airport, which the United States view as a possible hub for supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Tajik authorities have denied the allegations, saying that talks on the airport are only being held with Russia.
By J. Berkshire Miller
International attention might have been focused on developments in Afghanistan recently, but it’s not the only country in Central Asia that is faced with a threat from radical Islamic groups.
The International Crisis Group recently released a comprehensive report on Tajikistan’s vulnerability to insurgency threats and Islamic radical groups in Central Asia. Tajikistan is often overlooked by foreign policymakers in light of the risks and opportunities associated with its neighbours. But despite this, Tajikistan’s geostrategic position in Central Asia warrants greater international attention.
The picturesque mountainous country is landlocked in an uncertain neighbourhood straddling Afghanistan to the south and China to the east. Add to this the less evaluated, but more complex, relations with Kyrgyzstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the west, and Tajikistan’s regional importance becomes abundantly clear.
Following the end of tsarist Russia in the early 20th century, the new Soviet rulers aimed to appease restive areas in Central Asia by granting greater autonomy through the creation of socialist republics. In reality, these republics were independent only in name. In an attempt to ingrain collective harmony in the region and root out local resistance groups, Moscow redrew historical boundaries. The result was fractured new republics with ethnic groups and tribes cut off from each other.
Uzbekistan was created as a republic in 1924, and within its borders was an autonomous region of Tajiks based in Dushanbe (the current capital of Tajikistan). Tajikistan wasn’t created for another five years – but its break from Uzbekistan wasn’t complete, or without its complications. The eastern part of Uzbekistan, including Samarkand and Bukhara, remains heavily populated with Tajiks. This concentration of Tajiks in eastern Uzbekistan has stirred up national sentiments in both countries for decades, which have manifested itself into state conflict on a number of occasions.
Fast forward to the present day, and Tajikistan’s security situation remains unstable. President Emomali Rahmon has ruled Tajikistan since 1992, and has been privately described as a corrupt kleptocrat by US officials. Rahmon, however, is a savvy politician who is keenly aware of his nation’s strategic importance in light of the mission in Afghanistan. He has ruthlessly cracked down on Islamist militant groups within Tajik borders and heralds his government as a modern Islamic state. The fact that human rights and press freedom continue to toil in the same category as the world’s most despotic regimes is hardly a secret in international diplomatic circles, but – as with Uzbekistan – security seems to be the trump card, at least for now.
Tajikistan continues to face a unique blend of militant violence due to its geography and still disputed boundaries with its neighbours. The government in Dushanbe blames intermittent spikes in violence and terrorism on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is largely based out of Tajikistan and northern areas of Afghanistan. The IMU has a stated goal to create an Islamist caliphate in Central Asia extending from Ashgabat to Bishkek. The IMU, which was founded in 1991, has fought and trained with al-Qaeda, notably along the notorious border region separating Afghanistan from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan.
Despite their nuanced differences with regard to doctrine and endgame, the IMU continues to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. In October 2010, Tajik forces discovered an IMU training camp in the Rasht Valley and arrested foreign militants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chechnya. But this wasn’t before a prolific jailbreak two months earlier in which 25 militants escaped from a maximum security prison. The incident was deeply embarrassing for Rahmon’s government, and induced both derisive and concerned reactions from the international community.
The ICG report accurately notes that Rahmon has been largely successful in pushing the IMU beyond Tajikistan’s borders and into Afghanistan, but warns that a resurgence of the group could arise at any time. The report claims that ‘conflict is moving closer to the 1,400 kilometre Afghan-Tajik border’ and that Tajikistan has ‘almost no capacity to tackle a dedicated insurgent force.’ Compounding these concerns is the planned drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, which will likely result in Washington focusing its reduced counterterrorism resources on the restive southern region bordering Pakistan.
While the IMU and insurgents based in the Rasht valley attract most of the attention, the ICG report cautions that Tajikistan is also at risk of a new ‘homegrown’ emergence of jihadi militants. Rahmon’s ability to continue selling his country as a secular and modern society appears to be falling on deaf ears as the younger generation of Tajiks are increasingly removed from the viscous civil war that pitted the current government against Islamists from 1992-97. The continued repression and corruption of so-called ‘secular’ regimes in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan hasn’t helped in dampening a regional Islamist movement either.
Tajikistan is particularly vulnerable to narco-terrorism as a transit point for Afghan-origin opium to China and Russia. The ICG notes that ‘billions of dollars of drugs pass through Tajikistan’ on an annual basis. While the central government is suspected of pocketing much of the drug profits – which is an enormous corruption problem in itself – there’s a large share that continues to nourish militant groups with connections to the Afghan Taliban.
What can Tajikistan do to change course and immunize itself against future conflict and a potential return to civil war? First, it needs to take concrete steps to address the issue of corruption in Dushanbe, especially with regard to the narcotics trade. But while the ICG report notes this recommendation, it needs to be more fulsome and expansive. It isn’t sufficient to limit anti-corruption reform to drugs and security. In this respect, the international community, led by the United States and supported by Russia and China, should tighten the screws on Rahmon by diversifying its aid to Tajikistan to greater incorporate sectors such as education and the rule of law.
Second, while it’s essential to work with the United States, Russia and China, it’s perhaps of even greater importance for Tajikistan to increase its engagement with its neighbours in Central Asia – Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – in order to work towards a regional solution to what is evidently a regional problem.
Finally, the government should take advantage of the IMU’s recent – and perhaps temporary – movement outside of the country to open a dialogue aimed at mending relations with militants associated with IMU, as well as emerging Tajik nationalists.
Image credit: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Tajikistan to the UN
With the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and more Saudi oil sales to Asia, U.S. sway over Saudi Arabia has declined as their policies diverge, said Theodore Karasik, an analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. The popular uprisings in the Middle East this year tested their partnership by pitting U.S. support for democracy against Saudi Arabia’s desire for a status quo.
“Now, when push comes to shove, Saudi Arabia will pursue its own policies regardless of what the U.S and others think,” Karasik said in a telephone interview from Dubai.
Saudi Arabia backed former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak right to the end of his rule in February and sent troops to protect the Al Khalifa rulers in Bahrain. The U.S., which last year approved a $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, called for a transition in Egypt and dialogue in Bahrain.
President Barack Obama’s government on June 16 put Bahrain on its list of human rights violators along with countries such as North Korea and Iran. The same day, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, a son of Bahrain’s King Hamad, signed a marriage contract with the daughter of Saudi King Abdullah.
“Saudi Arabia wasn’t happy with the way the Obama administration dealt with Hosni Mubarak,” Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi political science professor, said in phone interview. “They also disagreed over Bahrain.”
Oil for Security
Since King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud met U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in 1945, the U.S. and the Al Saud monarchy were practical partners. Oil for security underpinned the relationship, even if they disagreed on such issues as the Arab-Israel conflict.
Since the latest unrest started, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has used its financial wealth to back allies. The kingdom provided Egypt with $900 million of grants and loans under an accord last month and gave Jordan $400 million in financial aid. In Yemen, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council has called for a transition of power.
The two countries “will cooperate on things where we have a common interest,” said Gregory Gause, a political science professor at the University of Vermont. “Right now, that includes containment of Iran, some solution in Yemen, counter- terrorism. At times the Saudis will take positions in the oil realm that we will like, at times they won’t.”
Saudi Arabia this year announced spending plans totaling about 500 billion-riyals ($130 billion) as the kingdom seeks to prevent regional unrest from sparking dissent at home. With the spending, Saudi Arabia will need an $85-a-barrel oil price to balance its budget this year, Nomura Holdings Inc. said in a report e-mailed on July 2.
Saudi Arabia has many of its “own objectives for their military that fit their national security needs, not ours,” said Paul Sullivan, a political scientist specializing in Middle East security atGeorgetown University. “The entrance into Bahrain is an example of this.”
In Egypt, hundreds of protesters are continuing a sit-in in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez that started on July 8 to demand the government accelerate political and economic changes.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on July 11 that her government is working to help “begin the slow, hard work of building sustainable democracies rooted in guaranteed human rights, accountable institutions, and the rule of law.”
A day before Mubarak ceded power to the military, Saudi Arabia denounced the “flagrant interference of some countries” in the internal affairs of Egypt, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Since then, the officials in Riyadh have said little publicly about Egypt or Syria, where the government this month said the U.S. was trying to incite rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. Clinton said on July 11 that Assad had lost his legitimacy to rule amid a crackdown on dissenters.
The changing relationship with the U.S. is also a reflection of how Saudi Arabia has increasingly turned toward Asia to tap new oil markets and for business expansion.
About 65 percent of the kingdom’s 2009 daily exports of 6.27 million barrels went to Asia and the Pacific, while North America received 17 percent, OPEC said in its 2009 statistical bulletin. In 2008, Asia received 58 percent of Saudi exports, while North America got 22 percent.
Saudi Arabia’s independence from U.S. foreign policy “is not just from the Arab Spring, but also from the fact that oil demand has shifted from the U.S. to China more and more each year,” said Sullivan at Georgetown University.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC)’s Chief Executive Officer Mohamed al-Mady said in May that the world’s largest petrochemical maker, plans further expansions in China. King Abdullah, 86, picked China as the first destination on his maiden foreign tour in January 2006, months after becoming king.
The Saudi government said on July 11 after a discussion on the “continuing crises” that it is “keen on the security, stability, unity and independence of Arab countries.” The Saudi government “doesn’t want to see further instability in the Middle East,” said Karasik in Dubai.
Nawaf Obaid, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies in Riyadh, wrote in an editorial for the Washington Post in May that a “tectonic shift has occurred in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.”
He argued that Saudi Arabia will chart its own policy after U.S. “missteps in the region” since Sept. 11 and its “ill- conceived response to the Arab protest movement.”
Saudi Arabia’s perception of the U.S. hardened with invasion of neighboring Iraq in 2003. Saudi Arabia started to pursue a more independent regional policy, al-Dakhil said.
When demonstrations erupted by mainly Shiite protesters in Bahrain in February, Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf were concerned that Shiite Muslim-led Iran was stoking the unrest. Saudi Arabia sent more than 1,000 troops to Bahrain to protect a red line against Iranian influence.
“The Americans handed Iraq to the Iranians,” al-Dakhil said in a telephone interview from Riyadh. “The Saudis weren’t willing to let this happen again in Bahrain.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org
On June 1, the Taliban raided the Taliban crossed the border from Afghanistan and raided the Shaltalu area of the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. This video shows the execution of more than a dozen Pakistani policemen who were captured during the fighting. The Taliban leader gives a speech prior to executing the Pakistani men:”These are the enemies of Islam who originated from Pakistan. They are the Pakistani police, soldiers and their supporters who recently lined up six kids in Swat and shot them execution style. These Pakistanis are now our captive and we will avenge the death of the children by doing the same to them.”
* Interior minister says seizure of weapons proves involvement of foreign hand
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik, on Sunday, hinting at the involvement of foreign hands in fomenting unrest in Karachi, said Israeli-made weapons were being used by miscreants in the mega city.
Talking to media men at Benazir Bhutto Shaheed International Airport, he said, “Over 200 persons have been arrested and Israeli-made weapons, including AK-45 rifles, have been recovered from them.”
He added, “It proves that foreign hands are behind unrest in Karachi.” The minister said that investigation was being conducted to ascertain who were supporting these people and supplying them weapons.
He said media would be provided an opportunity to question these people so that they could ask why they were killing innocent people.
Referring to the assassination of People’s Unity of PIA President Amir Shah in Karachi, he said inquiry was underway and there were certain clues in this regard, and added the killers and perpetrators would soon be brought to justice. To a question, he said there were target killings in Karachi but every murder was not an incident of target killing. “Investigations into most of the cases have pointed out that 66 per cent people were killed in Karachi due to personal enmity,” he opined. He said media should be cautious and careful while reporting an incident of killing. app
[Yesterday Obama pissed-off the Chinese leadership by ignoring their requests and hosting the Dalai Lama (SEE: China condemns Obama-Dalai Lama meeting). Today we have renewed terror attacks by Uighur terrorists.]
BEIJING — At least four people died when a mob attacked a police station in western China’s restive Xinjiang, taking hostages and setting it on fire, state media said on Monday, though an exile group said the incident started when police fired on protesters.
Two hostages, a paramilitary policeman and a guard died in the violence, as well as several of the attackers, state television reported. Six hostages were freed.
The situation has now been bought “under control,” it said, and a team from the state anti-terrorism office was on its way to the scene. The attack took place in the city of Hotan.
The Xinjiang government was not immediately available for comment.
Dilxat Raxit of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress said residents in Hotan had told his group that police opened fire on a peaceful protest, leading to fighting between the two sides.
“The people cannot stand the government’s repression any longer,” he said by telephone. Reuters was not able to independently verify his account.
Beijing often blames what it calls violent separatist groups in Xinjiang for attacks on police or other government targets, saying they work with al Qaeda or Central Asian militants to bring about an independent state called East Turkestan.
Last August, seven Chinese military police were killed when a member of the Uighur minority rammed them with an explosives-laden vehicle in the Xinjiang border region.
Many Uighurs — a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people native to the region — chafe under rule from Beijing and restrictions on their language, culture and religion.
They now make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population after decades of immigration by the majority Han from other parts of China.
In July 2009, Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi was rocked by violence between majority Han Chinese and minority Uighurs that killed nearly 200 people.
Since then, China has executed nine people it blamed for instigating the riots, detained and prosecuted hundreds of others and ramped up spending on security, according to state media and overseas rights groups.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – We talked with Webster Griffin Tarpley, author, journalist and lecturer from Washington who considers the Egyptian revolution and other colored revolutions as US-sponsored events to weaken Saudi Arabia. He reveals startling information about the CIA and al-Qaeda and summarizes the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy of the US in the Middle East. Following is a transcript of the interview.
Q: I’d like to start by talking about the regional and broader aspects of this. When a reporter asked the MP who made the allegations about Riyadh of what the goals of the Saudi regime were, that MP said Riyadh’s intention is to weaken ties with countries like Iran and Turkey and to strengthen the so-called Persian Gulf block, which consists of countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
What do you think about those kinds of claims and the goals that it is suspected that Riyadh is following by recruiting these terrorists, as is being alleged?
Webster Griffin Tarpley: Well, I think we have to start from the premise that the Saudi royal family is very afraid and they’ve been afraid of course for decades, but more recently they’re very afraid because they’ve seen the Mubarak government brought down by a US-sponsored colored revolution run by Samantha Powell and Michael McDowell here from the National Security Council in the White House and they’re horrified by that.
So you could say that Saudi Arabia is in play and that’s the big strategic factor at the present time. At the beginning of June we had a very interesting op-ed here in the Washington Post by Prince Turki al-Faisal saying that if the US blocks the creation of a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly in September there would be disastrous consequences for US Saudi relations.
And I take it that you look at Prince Bandar — his trip to Pakistan and China — Saudi Arabia is trying to find security solutions, which do not involve the US because they can see that the US is fomenting the troubles in Yemen; that the US has fomented the troubles in Bahrain — both of those are means to destabilize the kingdom.
But if we look a little bit beyond this, if Bandar is a realist, Bandar once said he’d go to the right of Bin Laden, he’d go to the left of Gaddafi; he would kiss Saddam Hussein to survive. If President Ahmadinejad is a realist, isn’t there some way to put an end to the eternal squabbling between Iran and Saudi Arabia from which only the US, the British and the Israelis benefit?
I’m afraid we have to hold onto the fact that the CIA runs al-Qaeda; they created it. That does no change — Saudi Arabia does not own it. And in particular al-Qaeda in Iraq is a CIA creation. We should also remember that Wikileaks is also a CIA limited hangout operation; it’s very convenient for them to publish these things by Hilary Clinton — who knows if they’re genuine, who knows why they came out at the present time.
But isn’t there room for some kind of a shift in the alliance pattern in the region given the fact that the Saudis are so unhappy with their subjugation to the US?
Q: I’m going to quote Leon Panetta, he said the reason American troops are in Iraq is because, in his words, “on 9/11 the US got attacked and our first responsibility (he says) is to protect those that are defending our country.” Now, what does he mean by that and who are these forces defending America from?
Webster Griffin Tarpley: This statement of course has been widely mocked and ridiculed because it goes back to the big lie propaganda of Bush Cheney and the Neo-cons and I believe he’s had to take that back. The reality right now is despite whatever Saudi Arabia wants, the American people want the troops out; we are sick of war in this country and Obama is giving the Americans more war.
We’ve now got six wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and you can even count a cyber war and that gets up to seven in addition to these color revolutions — I don’t see these authentic in any way shape or form — a lot of people in Egypt are coming to the conclusion that they thought they had a revolution and they have one big nothing.
In Bahrain…interesting to see that one…The Khalifa family in Bahrain had issued an ultimatum to the US saying we will not let you use this naval base for your fifth fleet in order to attack Iran. So this was another reason to make Bahrain into a bone of contention between the Saudis and the Iranians.
The entire approach of the Obama administration when they came in was an attempt to create a Sunni Arab block, with the Israelis taking part, against a rejection front of Iranian- Syria-Hezbollah block and to try to dominate the Middle East by playing one block against the other.
At the end of his time in office Mubarak began to see that the only beneficiary between the conflict between Egypt and Iran was indeed the US, the British and the Israelis and I think that awareness has started to spread.
The price of gold surged on Monday above $1,600 per ounce for the first time in history, as investors bought the safe-haven metal amid deepening debt worries in the eurozone and the United States.
Gold jumped as high as $1,600.10 an ounce in early morning trading on the London Bullion Market, as the precious metal extended its recent record-breaking surge which began on Friday.
“Gold hit another milestone … at $1,600 as investors lose confidence in the ability of politicians to get to grip with the debt problems weighing down on sentiment,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.
“More advances look likely while this lack of confidence prevails as investors plough capital into the asset.”
The precious metal is regarded by most investors as a safe-haven in times of global economic turmoil.
This week, eurozone countries will seek to settle their debt crisis at an emergency summit to try and stop Greece toppling into default and dragging bigger euro economies into deeper trouble.
EU president Herman Van Rompuy has said the summit in Brussels on July 21 would focus on both the financial stability of the eurozone and future financing of the Greek program.
Meanwhile, U.S. politicians are wrangling over a deficit reduction plan which would allow President Barack Obama to avert a potentially catastrophic debt default in return for $1.5 trillion in spending cuts.
“Gold took out $1,600 early this morning,” added Spread Co analyst Ian O’Sullivan.
“Investors are now adding real fears of a U.S. default to go along with their European sovereign worries.”
Markets slid last week as the eurozone debt crisis, which has already sunk Greece, Ireland and Portugal, showed signs of spreading to Italy and Spain.
Before the weekend, the European Union announced late on Friday that only eight of 91 European banks had failed so-called “stress tests” which were designed to assess their ability to withstand a worst-case economic scenario.
A ninth bank, Germany’s Helaba, said it had failed according to the EBA’s standards but passed on its own calculation.
Former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil and Abdul Salam Zaeef, who served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan during Taliban rule, were among those who were delisted last year. It didn’t help the peace process in Afghanistan as the Taliban refused to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government.
Ten among the 14 former Taliban officials removed by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee from the blacklist on Saturday were so unknown that Peter Wittig, the Germany ambassador to the UN who is heading the Security Council in July, didn’t even feel the need to provide their names to the media. He only read out four names because they once held somewhat significant positions in the Taliban regime.
These four are Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, who served as the deputy minister of higher education in the Taliban regime, the former deputy mines minister Said Rahman Haqqani, another deputy minister Faqir Mohammad and Habibullah Fouzi, who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Taliban rule.
All four are members of the High Council for Peace, the 70-member jirga led by former Afghan president Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani set up to promote the peace process with the armed opposition including the Taliban. It has failed to make any progress as Taliban have refused to deal with it.
The Taliban weren’t impressed by the decision of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to remove the names of certain former Taliban officials from the blacklist in the past and they won’t change their position regarding the peace process following the delisting of another 14 former Taliban figures. They have made it clear that the former Taliban were no longer part of their movement and weren’t authorized to represent them at any forum.
The UN sanctions imposed on the Taliban figures listed in the blacklist haven’t hurt the Taliban movement. The sanctions include ban on air travel, freezing of bank accounts and arms embargo. None of these sanctions were relevant to the Taliban way of working as they don’t keep their money in banks and have no need to undertake air travel. The arms embargo is also meaningless for the Taliban, who seem to face no shortage of weapons.
The delisting of the 14 former Taliban members also didn’t come up to the expectations of President Hamid Karzai’s government, which wanted the names of 50 Taliban figures to be removed from the blacklist. These 50 reportedly included certain important Taliban leaders and commanders fighting the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. President Karzai even wanted the names of Taliban movement founder Mulla Mohammad Omar and former mujahideen leader Gulbaddin Hekmatyar removed from the blacklist, but the US is adamant that they were ‘terrorists’ and irreconcilable and, therefore, couldn’t be forgiven.
Russia was said to be opposed to the delisting of Taliban leaders from the blacklist. Its opposition seems to be a factor in delaying decision on delisting the remaining 123 Taliban still on the UN blacklist.
Unless the ranking Taliban are delisted, there cannot be any hope that the Taliban movement led by Mulla Omar would be tempted to hold serious peace dialogue with the US and the Afghan government. Removing the names of former Taliban figures from the blacklist is meaningless as they have already reconciled with the Afghan government and have dissociated from the mainstream Taliban movement headed by Mulla Omar.
Taliban claim responsibility for attack less than a week after assassination of president’s brother.
Gunmen strapped with explosives killed a close adviser to Afghan president Hamid Karzai and a member of parliament on Sunday in another insurgent strike against the Afghan leader’s inner circle.
Jan Mohammad Khan was an adviser to Karzai on tribal issues and was close to the president, a fellow Pashtun.
His killing, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for, came less than a week after the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother and one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan.
Two men wearing suicide bomb vests and armed with guns attacked Khan’s home in the western Kabul district of Karti Char, said Defence Ministry official General Zahir Wardak. Khan, who was governor of the Pashtun-dominated Uruzgan province in the south from 2002 until March 2006, was shot along with Uruzgan lawmaker Mohammed Ashim Watanwal, the official said.
Police killed one of the attackers before he could detonate his explosives, while the other was still barricaded inside the home, said the head of the Kabul police investigation unit, Mohammed Zahir. A member of the police’s anti-terrorism unit was also killed, he added. The surviving gunman was alone in the house, Zahir said.
The assassination came as international military forces handed over security for Bamiyan province to Afghan security forces, part of a transition process in which seven areas are to be handed over to Karzai’s government this month. It also came one day before GeneralDavid Petraeus, the top Nato commander in Afghanistan, hands over responsibility for the military campaign in Afghanistan to his replacement, Lieutenant General John Allen.
It was unclear how influential Khan was with Karzai, but he was thought to wield considerable influence in Uruzgan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the insurgent group.
Mujahid said the Taliban killed Khan because he was assisting coalition forces in carrying out night raids against Afghans. The controversial raids carried out by Nato forces have been highly effective in capturing or killing Taliban fighters and mid-level commanders. Karzai has complained the raids anger many Afghans who are mistakenly targeted.
“He was cooperating and helping the American forces,” Mujahid said in an emailed statement.
The Taliban had also claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s killing of Karzai’s half brother, who was shot dead by a close associate. Wali Karzai’s death left the president without an influential ally to balance the interests of the southern region’s tribal and political leaders, drug runners, insurgents and militias.
Sunday’s violence marred the handover of control of a peaceful province in the centre of the country to Afghan police, another step in a transition that will allow foreign troops to withdraw in full by the end of 2014.
Bamiyan province is one of seven areas going to Afghan security control this month in a first round of the transition. Another, Panjshir province in the east, began being transferred earlier this month. Both places have seen little to no fighting since the overthrow of the Taliban nearly 10 years ago and barely had any coalition troop presence.
The transition to Afghan control will allow international military forces to slowly start withdrawing from Afghanistan until all combat troops are gone in just over three years.
Bamiyan only had a small foreign troop contingent from New Zealand. Bamiyan and Panjshir are the only two provinces that will be handed over in their entirety during this month’s transition phase.
Other areas to be handed over are the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west, Mazer-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east. Afghan forces will also take control of all of Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district.
In other violence on Sunday, Afghan and Nato troops fought an overnight gunbattle with Taliban insurgents and called in an air strike on the building where the fighters were holed up. At least 13 Taliban were killed.
Also on Sunday, Nato said three of its service members died. One was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan and two were killed by a similar device in the south. It did not release their nationalities or any further details. The deaths bring the total number of coalition forces killed this month to 34.