Taliban Official Spokesman Marks Next Loya Jirga Participants With Death

Afghan Taliban says will target national assembly

KABUL

(Reuters) – The Afghan Taliban will hunt down and punish anyone who takes part in next month’s national assembly, where the possibility of long-term U.S. military bases in Afghanistan will be discussed, the group warned in a statement on Wednesday.

The unusually specific threat, in an English-language message from spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said participants will be pursued “all over the country and will face severe repercussions.”

It called on Taliban supporters “to target every security guard, person with intention, participant and every caller of this convention.”

The four-day gathering, known in Afghanistan as a ‘Loya Jirga’, will be held in the capital Kabul in late November, where it will bring together more than 2,000 politicians, tribal elders, community leaders, businessmen and civil society representatives from across the country.

The assembly will be a consultative process, and its decisions are not legally binding on the government.

Earlier this month, Taliban vowed to fight until all foreign forces have left Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers have agreed that all foreign combat troops would return home by the end of 2014, but the West has promised continued support beyond then in the form of funds and training for Afghan security forces.

Despite the presence of tens of thousands of Western soldiers in Afghanistan, the United Nations and other groups say violence is at its worst since U.S.-led Afghan forces toppled the Taliban from power in late 2001.

NATO-led forces say they have seen a decline over recent months in attacks launched by insurgents against their troops.

Safia Sediqi, a spokeswoman for the grand assembly, said she was unaware of the threat.

“I have not read the statement yet and it’s early to comment about it,” she said.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Yoko Nishikawa)

Taliban boasts it is being trained by Pakistan

By Duncan Gardham, The Daily Telegraph
Pakistani security officials inspect the site of a bomb blast in the district of Lower Dir on October 25, 2011. A roadside bomb targeted an anti-Taliban militia member in northwest Pakistan, ripping through his vehicle and killing four people, police said. The blast badly damaged the militiaman's car in a remote village in the district of Lower Dir, where Pakistan launched a major operation designed to dislodge a Taliban insurgency in 2009. AFP PHOTO / IHSAN ULLAH (Photo credit should read IHSAN ULLAH/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani security officials inspect the site of a bomb blast in the district of Lower Dir on October 25, 2011. A roadside bomb targeted an anti-Taliban militia member in northwest Pakistan, ripping through his vehicle and killing four people, police said. The blast badly damaged the militiaman’s car in a remote village in the district of Lower Dir, where Pakistan launched a major operation designed to dislodge a Taliban insurgency in 2009. AFP PHOTO / IHSAN ULLAH (Photo credit should read IHSAN ULLAH/AFP/Getty Images)

Photograph by: IHSAN ULLAH, AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan is still running training camps to support and arm the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan despite official denials, insurgents have claimed.

Middle-ranking Taliban commanders have boasted that they have received “practical guidance” and training in bomb-making by officers from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

One commander, Mullah Azizullah, told a BBC documentary: “They are all the ISI’s men. They are the ones who run the training. First they train us about bombs, then they give us practical guidance. Their generals are everywhere. They are present during the training.”

In an interview at a safe house in Kabul in June, he added: “The Taliban movement was created with the help of the ISI. It is like when a tree grows – one has to plant it and water it.”

The claims come amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and the US following an attack by insurgents on the American embassy in Kabul last month, by a group that Adml Mike Mullen, the then chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, claimed was directed by the ISI.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, visited Pakistan last week and urged the head of the ISI and the military to take action against militants operating on their soil, including the group behind the embassy attack, the Haqqani network.

Suspicions remain that Pakistan sees Afghanistan as a “strategic buffer” and is continuing to support insurgents so that it is ready for the withdrawal of British and US troops in three years’ time. Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president, told The Daily Telegraph last month that Pakistan had to “really think what will be the environment and fend for itself against all the exterior pressures, all the exterior manoeuvrings and political manoeuvrings against Pakistan”.

A middle-ranking commander called Mullah Qaseem told the makers of Secret Pakistan, to be shown on BBC Two tonight: “For a fighter there are two important things – supplies and a place to hide. Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly they provide us with weapons.”

Lt Col Tony Shaffer, who served with US Defence Intelligence between 1995 and 2006, said the ISI tipped of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, during a bloody battle with Pakistani troops in Wana in 2004, allowing him to escape.

Col Richard Kemp, who worked at the Cabinet Office as head of intelligence on international terrorism between 2001 and 2006, said the ISI bore some responsibility for not preventing the July 7 attacks.

“The ISI of course must take responsibility for the fact that some of these camps were still up and running, including perhaps the camp that was responsible for training the 7/7 attackers,” Col Kemp said.

Pakistan continues to deny the reports with Gen Athar Abbas, director-general of Inter Services Public Relations, the military organisation within the country’s defence forces, telling the BBC: “To say that these militant groups were being supported by the state with the organised camps in these areas.  Oh, I think nothing could be further from the truth.”

© Copyright (c) The Daily Telegraph

The Bi-Partisan Push-Me/Pull-You Strategy In Georgia

[SEE:  EU Pushes Georgia to Let Russia Join WTO]

Boehner Says Russia’s Trade Status Depends on Georgia Border

Bloomberg

By James Rowley

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) — House Speaker John Boehner is threatening to block legislation to normalize U.S. trade with Russia, as part of its World Trade Organization admission, until it respects the “territorial integrity” of neighboring Georgia.

As he urged President Barack Obama to stop “downplaying Russia’s disregard” for democracy and human rights, Boehner said he found “alarming” reports that the U.S. won’t pressure Russia to return to recognizing borders that existed before its 2008 war with Georgia. Russian troops occupy land inside Georgia in violation of an August 2008 cease-fire agreement.

“The administration should resolve this stalemate in a manner that respects the territorial integrity of Georgia,” Boehner said in a speech yesterday to the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “Then — and only then — will movement on the WTO question be worth considering.”

Russia’s admission to the WTO will require Congress to approve “permanent, normal trade relations,” the Ohio Republican said. Besides Georgia, there are “significant, outstanding commercial issues which must be addressed” before Congress acts to normalize trade relations, Boehner said.

The U.S. has helped Russia seek admission to the WTO. Russia has won support from the European Union. It hasn’t reached agreement with Georgia over bilateral issues, including the Black Sea nation’s demands for control of customs checkpoints in two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

‘Impossible’ Demands

In Moscow, a senior Russian official called “impossible” Georgia’s demands that Russia drop diplomatic recognition of the two breakaway territories as a condition for membership in WTO, according to DPA, which cited an Interfax news agency dispatch. As a member of the 153-nation WTO, Georgia must agree to Russia’s admission.

Arkady Dvorkovich, an assistant to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, was quoted by DPA as saying “we will never accept” Georgia’s demands.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement yesterday that “the Obama administration remains unwavering in its commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity” and has “made clear, both in private channels and in public statements, that the United States will not support Russia’s WTO accession until Russia and Georgia reach agreement on their outstanding trade-related issues.”

Democratic Response

Representative Howard Berman of California, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, questioned Boehner’s tactic.

If Congress doesn’t act to normalize U.S. trade relations with Russia, “it is our companies that get hurt” because they wouldn’t “have access to Russian markets,” Berman said.

Even without action by Congress, he said, “Russia has all the benefits of WTO” even if Congress doesn’t approve normalizing its trade with the U.S.

He also disputed Boehner’s assertion that the Obama administration was “leaning on Georgia to acquiesce” on border issues. “We’ve said Russia has to settle this dispute with Georgia and it cannot count on us to deliver Georgia,” Berman said.

As the U.S. tries to “reset” its relationship with Russia, the Obama administration shouldn’t shy away from pointing out Russia’s violations of democratic and human rights, Boehner said.

More ‘Teeth’

The House stands ready to give “teeth” to a more forceful U.S. assertion of a human rights agenda with Russia, he said.

“Instead of downplaying Russia’s disregard for democratic values and human rights, we should call them on it — publicly, forcefully, frequently,” Boehner said.

Berman said, “Human rights cannot, and I don’t believe it has, dropped off our agenda.”

Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, returned earlier this month from a trip to Russia to press authorities to improve their record and meet with civic groups that have come under pressure from the government.

Russia’s willingness to impose sanctions against Iran following the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. will be a test of its respect for international law, Boehner said. Obama said on Oct. 13 that the accused plotters had “direct links” to Iran’s government.

The U.S. “should do more to compel the Kremlin to curtail its relationship with Iran, particularly related to its nuclear program and missile technology,” Boehner said.

More Sanctions

Lawmakers and former officials have called for tighter sanctions against Iran, saying existing strictures haven’t been effective at barring its pursuit of a nuclear program.

The Obama administration began a diplomatic push to have other countries condemn Iran. So far, it hasn’t pursued sanctions or action at the United Nations because of resistance from Russia and China.

“We do believe we’ve had progress together in tightening sanctions on Iran and this continues to be a subject in our ongoing dialogue” with Russia, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at the agency’s daily press briefing yesterday.

Russia has vowed to block any resolution that could be used to justify or hasten regime change after a UN resolution in March authorized NATO-led military action in Libya. Russia abstained on that vote.

In 2009, Russia blocked U.S. attempts to enforce new sanctions against Iran after evidence suggested it might have enough enriched uranium to make a bomb.

–With assistance from Nicole Gaouette and Viola Gienger in Washington. Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

Hillary Pulling Zardari Puppet Strings

[Hillary has no problem getting the answers she wants from Zardari, but Kayani dances to a different tune.  Whatever may come out of this “tri-logue,” it is the Pak Army which will have to enforce any “truce” reached by the talking heads.  We are watching a very elaborate road show being staged to seduce the leaders of AfPak and Central Asia into making it possible for Western corporations to bring the “Silk Road” Pipeline scheme into existence.  The big obstacle is in convincing the other players that the survival of the American Empire is not in question…that the American Empire’s treasury will have something in it for them after 2014.]

Accord with US on Taliban ‘tri-logue’

[Hillary shares her “dead Qaddafi” joke with Zardari]

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, third from left, meets with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zidari, right, alongside US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, left, and US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, second from left, in Islamabad on Oct. 21, 2011. – AP Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan agree on a framework for holding direct talks with the militants and are now working to operationalise the plan, says the US State Department.

At a briefing for the press corps that accompanied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week, two State Department officials explained what the secretary meant when she said in her recent interviews that the US and Pakistan had agreement on 90-95 per cent of issues they confronted.

They said the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan had already an understanding on holding a “tri-logue” with the Taliban militants.

They also agree that this has to be Afghan-led and has to be at the pace and scope that the Afghans decide on.

“That Pakistan has to play its part in this; it has to encourage reconciliation. And that as efforts are made at reconciliation, if the US can play a helpful role, that we would be available to do that,” said one official.

After agreeing on this framework, the US and Pakistan were now working on the need to operationalise it. “What does it mean? And particularly in the context of the awful, horrific experience that the Afghans had with the death of President Rabbani … we’re all working off the script that is going to protect against that kind of thing happening again,” the official said.

Operational details like where to hold the dialogue, who to talk to and in what form and formats and for how long were now being worked out, the official added.

“We needed to start with ensuring we were all on the same page in terms of the framework.” The two officials explained that in their meetings with the US delegation, which included the CIA and military chiefs, Pakistani leaders kept referring to the resolution passed by the all-parties conference on the proposed talks with the militants.

“What does the all-parties conference mean to them? It means that every party in Pakistan got together and agreed that reconciliation, if it can be done right and if it is Afghan-led and if it meets the red lines, is in Pakistan’s interests,” said the State Department official.

“And so as they seek to work with Afghanistan and with us on this, what we heard in general, was that they need to keep the Pakistani body politic together on this agenda. And they think that they have a framework for doing that with this agreement of the all-parties council,” the official added.

The two officials disagreed with a suggestion that the Pakistanis were refusing to take military action against the militants because they had failed to produce results.

“The conversation that we had was very much on the lines that we have to squeeze them,” said one State Department official.
“But we also have to have a track for talking for those who are willing to come in off the battlefield within the parameters that the Afghans have set.

“So I don’t think there’s any disagreement between us, that we have to fight and squeeze even as we talk.”

Another senior State Department official said that Pakistan also recognised that there were militant safe havens inside its territory and the two sides needed to work together to deal with them.

In an interview to The Washington Post, Gen. Scaparrotti noted that until last year he enjoyed excellent cooperation with the Pakistani military and toured the battlefield with his counterparts from Pakistan along both sides of the porous border.

After the US raid on the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, “this relationship is not what it was, say, a year ago,” he said. “My intent is to start rebuilding this on a mil-to-mil basis, at least.”

A week before Secretary Clinton’s visit to Islamabad, Gen. Scaparrotti met top Pakistani military officials and pressed for re-establishing “routine daily communication” and discussions of how to deal with insurgents.

“If we work together, we can have a joint effect on [the insurgents], and we need to do so,” he said.

Meanwhile, former State Department official Vali Nasr, who was a senior adviser to the late US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrook, noted that the Obama administration clearly wanted to re-engage Pakistan.

“Every one of our assumptions about our timetable of getting out of Afghanistan, our success on the ground with military operation has been predicated on the kind of at least minimal cooperation we have had with Pakistan over the past two years,” he told the US National Public Radio.

“If that cooperation ceases to exist and our relations get any worse than they are currently, it’s very difficult to see how the United States can meet its deadlines in order to be able to withdraw from Afghanistan.”

Backing down: US no longer urging full-scale Waziristan blitz

Backing down: US no longer urging full-scale Waziristan blitz

Senior diplomat says Islamabad agreed to tackle Haqqanis. PHOTO: APP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: During US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad, Pakistan made a commitment to Washington that it would tackle the Haqqani network, a senior American diplomat told The Express Tribune.

However, what is significant is that the US is no longer pushing Pakistan to initiate a full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan which is allegedly being used by the Haqqani network as a launching pad to target US-led international forces in Afghanistan.

“We are not asking Pakistan to invade North Waziristan. What we want is for this Haqqani threat to be eliminated, either through the use of force, or by other means,” the diplomat disclosed, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

If Pakistan were able to convince the Haqqanis to come to the negotiating table, that would be a “very positive start”, he said. He did not, however, say exactly what commitment Pakistan had made with the US regarding the Haqqanis. “We leave it to Pakistan,” he added.

Despite Islamabad’s commitment, he cautioned that a lot of work is yet to be done in order to judge whether or not Clinton’s recent trip was successful.

“I won’t say the worst is over, but what I do believe, is that the best is yet to come,” he said.

For years, Pakistan has been resisting US pressure to go after the Haqqanis in North Waziristan. Its reluctance is attributed to the military establishment’s decade-old contacts with the network and the belief that the group has a critical role in the Afghan endgame.

But in recent months, the Haqqani network has become a major thorn in the relationship between Pakistan and the US.

The US stepped up pressure on Islamabad to dismantle “terrorist sanctuaries” from North Waziristan.

But during Clinton’s visit, the two sides covered significant ground to narrow down their differences, not only on the Haqqani network, but also on the Afghan reconciliation process.

Regarding Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process, he said Pakistan needs to be honest about its links with the Afghan Taliban.

“We want a commitment from Pakistan to play a constructive role in the Afghan reconciliation process,” said the official when asked what specific role the US wants Pakistan to play. His remarks underline concerns in US ranks that Pakistan is yet to be forthcoming on the Afghan endgame.

“We simply want Pakistan to be honest with us about whether or not they can bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table,” he pointed out.

Pakistan, during the discussion, did agree to facilitate the US to help it reach out to the Afghan Taliban but insisted it would not become a guarantor of the process.

When approached, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua refused to confirm reports about Islamabad’s commitment with Washington in terms of the Haqqani network.

“I can only say that Secretary Clinton’s visit was very constructive. Both sides put across their point of view on key issues in an open and candid fashion,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune

Revulsion, resistance and angry words from Tripoli University

 Revulsion, resistance and angry words from Tripoli University

 

Franklin Lamb

Tripoli University

 

The people I had hoped most to be able to find upon returning to Libya were eight students from Fatah University (now renamed Tripoli University) who became my friends during three months in Libya this summer.  They had all been strongly opposed to what NATO was doing to their country (NATO bombs destroyed some classrooms at the University during final exams in late May) and I was very keen to sit with them again if possible since the August 23rd fall of Tripoli when most of them scattered given the uncertainties of what would happen and we lost contact.

 Thanks to Ahmad who was waiting for me we re-united quickly. Some excerpts and impressions from yesterday’s all night gathering with Ahmad, Amal, Hind, Suha, Mohammad and Rana:

 “I know Sanad al-Ureibi”, Ahmad said disgustedly about the 22 year old who is claiming he fired two bullets at close range into Muammar Gadhafi on October 22nd.  

 Amal, Ahmad’s fiancée interrupted him: “We are very angry but not really surprised by what Sanad did.  He’s a stupid guy and I am sure someone whispered in his ear that he would become famous and rich if he did NATO’s dirty job by killing Colonel Gadhafi.  NATO did more than 1000 bombing attacks “to protect Libyan civilians” but killed thousands of us instead.  For sure NATO and their puppets want  as many of our leader’s dead as possible in order to avoid years of a court trial that would expose NATO’s many crimes and those of certain western leaders.”

 Ahmad:  “Sanad told my cousin the day after he assassinated Colonel Gadhafi that he is promised protection and that the TNC will not arrest him despite their, for western ears only,  announcement of a planned “investigation” of how Muammar and Mutassim died. Everyone in Libya knows that the investigation of the assassination of  the rebel military commander Abdel Fattah Younes last July has gone nowhere because the Islamist faction who committed the Younes murder is close to Jalil.”

 Ahmad continued, “Like some of his friends, Sanad did fight for a while with the rebels and he sometimes changed units because it was fun and now he plans to form a gang to protect rich Libyans and foreigners as they continue to arrive here to help, as they claim, to rebuild our destroyed country and make democracy. Now we all so exhausted from all the needless killing I am not sure what kind of democracy we will have or even want.  American democracy?  It’s very great? Sometimes it seems you have more problems than we do.  At least we have free education, free medical care, and homes and are not living on the streets without jobs.

Mohammad joined in:   “One Israeli-American Company has offered Sanad and other young men who refuse to give up their guns a job recruiting former fighters for proper training as Libyan police.  There are some Blackwater (XE) people here are also trying to do business with NATO agents for private police forces around Libya. Anyone who thinks NATO is going to leave us in peace is mistaken.  More of them arrive every day.”

Hind, who has not wavered since last summer in her opposition to what she calls “NATO’s team” also voiced strong offense and condemnation of certain pro-rebel Sheiks who have declared that Gadhafi was not a Muslim.  “Everyone knows he was a devout Muslim.  His last Will stated, “I do swear that there is no other God but Allah and that Mohammad is God’s Prophet, peace be upon him. I pledge that I will die as Muslim.”  

 Hind added, “Please tell me who are these TNC Sheiks to say who is are and who is not a Muslim. In Islam it’s between each of us and Allah and nobody else’s business.  If these Sheiks were better Muslims they would have opposed what has been done to his body and that of his son and friend in Sirte and Misrata. It is haram. I am very angry and disgusted.”

Suha complained about “the views of NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil toward women and that with the already announced repeal of the marriage law, Libyan women have lost the right to keep the family home if they divorce. It is a disaster for Libyan women. Under Gadhafi leadership women in Libya had more rights than in any other country in the Middle East.”

Ahmad explained: “   I am ashamed of what some Muslims are doing.  Our religion does not allow for this mutilation and the freak show the TNC put on in that refrigerator.  I was in Misrata with friends to pay our respects and was surprised how many others were doing the same as our group and for the same reasons.  When the bodies were first exhibited curious people came and some said bad insults.  But by the next day the atmosphere has completely changed. People came to honor Colonel Gadhafi for his courage in dying for what he believed was best for Libya and that was to keep Libya free from colonialism. I don’t believe the media is accurately reporting this. Our leader died a hero like Omar Muktar in my opinion and history will prove this someday.”

Again, his fiancée Amal interrupted Ahmad,   “As Colonel Gadhafi revealed in his Will, NATO made him several offers if he would abandon his country to them. Foolish and criminal NATO established our leader forever as a great resister to colonialism and a patriot for Libya, for all of Africa and for the Middle East. I believe that Colonel Gadhafi died a far more honorable death than the leaders of NATO will. He has more dignity in death than Hilary Clinton and her absence of dignity shown by her stupid comments about his death.”

Amal then said, “I became ill when I left him.  His skin was almost black and his body was rotting quickly with fluids leaking on the floor. They must give him immediately to his family and ask Allah to forgive themselves for their haram. One of the guards told me Colonel Gadhafi was sodomized with a rifle by NTC fighters. He showed the video on his mobile but I would not look. ”

Suha spoke: “We also visited the Mahari Hotel in Sirte where we saw more than 50 bodies of Gadaffi supporters.  Some had their hands behind them bound by plastic handcuffs and were executed at close range. Others had been taken from hospital beds and murdered. This crime is just one more example of the lies of the NTC and NATO.  NATO forces commanded and controlled their rebels and knew what they have been doing.  NATO is responsible for destroying much of our country and for what will surely happen in the coming days.”

I first met Ahmad what now seems like a couple of years ago, but in actuality it was only last June. We sat at an outdoor cafe on Green Square (now renamed Martyrs’ Square) and talked about NATO’s obvious plans for Libya.  Since August 23rd and the precipitous collapse of the loyalist resistance in Tripoli, which Ahmad had been organizing some of the neighborhoods to participate in, he has been on the lam as friends got word to him that NTC death squads were on his trail even staking out the Radisson Hotel lobby where he used to meet with journalists and western friends. Ahmad blames the lack of a real defense of Tripoli, that took us all by surprise, as “our incompetence and some high ranking traitors” for the non-implementation of plans to defend Tripoli from NATO’s rebels.

His first words after we hugged were:  “Now the real resistance will begin! The Libyan people are now even surer than they were during this summer that the NTC sold our country to the NATO colonial countries.   As NATO continues to hunt down Saif al Islam, many around our country are making Saif the new leader of the resistance to colonialism in Libya and in Africa. I personally pledge my support for him and pray that Allah will protect him. Watch what the Gadhafi tribe and my Waffala tribe do together in the coming weeks—but also starting today. Maybe NATO can be said in some ways to have won round one.  But let’s see what happens in the many rounds to come.”

Franklin Lamb is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com