Regional Scenario: Central Asian ‘Muslim’ states fear Pakistan

Regional Scenario: Central Asian ‘Muslim’ states fear Pakistan

– by Shiraz Paracha

Central Asia’s richest and largest state Kazakhstan is following a strict visa policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the same time offering further relaxations in visa regulations to nationals from Western and several non-Western countries.

Pakistan has an image problem in the former Soviet republics. The current floods and the continuing violence has further exacerbated Pakistan’s image. To the people of Central Asia and other countries in the region Pakistan is a trouble spot.

It is an irony that the six “Muslim” Central Asian states prefer to keep a distance from Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan played a crucial role in their independence.

Following the split of the Soviet Union, Pakistani military generals thought that they would control poor and backward Central Asia. The plan was to bring the six Central Asian states under the Pakistan’s sphere of influence. Time has proved how wrong the Pakistani generals were. In the early 1990s, Pakistan took Central Asia for granted. Islamabad looked down at Central Asian countries. Now it is the other way round. Many Central Asians pity Pakistan. Almost every day, they watch television and realize that Pakistan is home to millions of hungry, poor and helpless people. Central Asians fear that troubles from Pakistan can come into their societies.

Pakistan has cultural and historical links with Central Asia and friendly relations with China. Being a gateway to the Middle East, Africa and East Asia, Pakistan offers excellent economic and trade opportunities to members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Pakistan can be an effective on forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO).

However, despite its ideal geopolitical location and the huge trade and economic opportunities it can offer to Eurasian countries, Pakistan has failed to establish warm relations and build bridges of understanding with the CIS, particularly the six Central Asian sates.

Pakistan has missed several opportunities due to misadventures of the Pakistani generals. Pakistan does not have an effective and successful foreign policy because its military is obsessed with security and the military sets foreign policy priorities. Pakistan’s foreign policy is not formulated by professionals, visionary politicians or intellectuals.

Semiliterate generals and foreign office clerks, who are proficient in English language, control the country’s foreign policy.

It is unfortunate that instead of using innovative and creative ways to develop friendly relationship with the CIS countries, Pakistani missions in the region have been busy in India bashing. Pakistan embassies in the CIS organize Kashmir days and waste money on useless anti-India propaganda not realizing that India had been a Soviet ally and she still enjoys warmer relations with all the 12 CIS member-states, which were part of the Soviet Union.

Many CIS residents resent Pakistan’s role in the 1980s Afghan War against the former Soviet Union and its support for the Taliban regime. Pakistan is perceived as a hub of religious extremism. People in almost all of the former Soviet states lost loved ones during the Afghan War. The common perception is that Pakistan was instrumental in the US proxy war against the Soviet Union.

Later, Pakistan’s support for the Taliban regime created a fear that Pakistan was trying to spread the Taliban brand of Islam to secular societies of the ex-Soviet Union. Such fears led to a negative image of Pakistan among many in the CIS region. The public in countries such as Kazakhstan, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia would like to see their countries modern and secular. Some in the CIS countries may disagree with Western policies and Western values but most want to learn from the West in economic and social development sectors.

Violence and other forms of criminal activity, including drugs and human trafficking, are also associated with Pakistan. The country is seen as an unstable and dangerous place that is home to terrorism and extremism. Businesses and government circles in the CIS, especially Kazakhstan and Russia, the two most important countries in the region, have little understanding of Pakistan and its people.

Unfortunately, Pakistani missions in the region seem to have failed to do the necessary ‘image PR’. Staff of Pakistani diplomatic missions in the CIS region is usually lazy and unhappy. Many Pakistani diplomats prefer to work in Western countries. A posting in the CIS region amounts to a demotion.

Most Pakistani diplomats do not communicate in local languages and some do not respect native cultures. Some members of Pakistani diplomatic missions in the CIS region allegedly promote personal business interests. Some are involved in activities that are contrary to their work.

Last year, I attended a cultural event hosted by the Indian Embassy in Kazakhstan where the Indian Ambassador gave his speech in three languages—Kazak, Russian and English. He impressed his audience. Indian cultural centres are very active in building bridges with the CIS countries.

Turkey is the most active Muslim country in Central Asia. It has invested heavily in infrastructure development, especially in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Another focus of Turkish investment is education sector. Several Turkish universities have opened in the region, while hundreds of Turkish shops, cafes and businesses have been established in Central Asia following the split of the Soviet Union. Growing Turkish influence is vivid in several areas of Central Asian daily life.

Israeli companies are also very active in Central Asia and in other countries of the region. Soon I will write a separate article on Israeli interests in the CIS. Even Iran, too, has cultural centres in important countries of the CIS.

Military generals, policy-makers and some in the Pakistani media still believe that they defeated the Soviet Union and the six Central Asian states owe their independence to Pakistan. It is a dangerous and flawed view that is not based on reality. Pakistan must stop looking down at the CIS countries, particularly at the Central Asian states.

Pakistanis need to understand that in the Post Cold War world, Pakistan has emerged as a state that is epicenter of violence and religious hatred. The public in Central Asia as well as in Russia fear Pakistan. If Pakistan wants to build strong long-term relations with the CIS countries, it must put its own house in order first.  It needs plans to focus on building a softer image of Pakistan in the CIS.

Simultaneously a campaign should be launched within Pakistan about the huge economic potential and strategic importance of the CIS.

Pakistan can also learn from the positive legacy of the USSR to overcome domestic problems. Unlike developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, most of the CIS states have well-developed health and education systems and solid infrastructures such as roads, rail networks and communication lines. The region is also very rich in natural and human resources.

Pakistan can buy cheaper electricity from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is possible to lay power transmission lines between Pakistan and Tajikistan via China. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan can supply Pakistan with cheap oil and gas products. Pakistan will hugely benefit, if it could provide India with a corridor to import energy from Central Asia. Such measures will bring peace and prosperity.

President Asif Ali Zardari is paying attention to build mutually beneficial relations with Central Asia and China but he has limitations. The military will not allow President Zardari bring long-term changes that might reduce military’s hegemony over foreign affairs.

The military will resist tooth and nail if a civilian government in Pakistan ever tried to provide India with a corridor for importing energy from Central Asia, such a move, though, will be in the best interest of Pakistan and its people. But the interest of Pakistan and the interests of Pakistani military are two different ends of a pole. One can only hope that the military mindset will change.

The relationship between Pakistan and the CIS can be mutually beneficial at other levels as well. Unlike the West most former Soviet states have secular, classless and tolerant societies. Many of these countries also enjoy cultural and social harmony in terms of common language and social bonds among communities. Pakistan can learn positive lessons from the Soviet experience. At the same time, Pakistan, too, has a lot to offer.

If rule of law has been a major strength of Western societies, belief in Eastern and Muslim value systems has saved the Pakistani society from breakdowns. Most former Soviet states no longer have the Soviet time rule of law nor do they have a value system they can draw on to protect their societies. The Soviet value system is fading and there seems to be a value system vacuum in many of the CIS countries, which are now faced with social disorder and chaos.

Pakistan has a wonderful social system based on love, loyalty and respect. Family, community and friendship bonds are central to the social system. Former Soviet society lacks such values and bonds. Promotion of such positive values through media can help create a good name for Pakistan in the CIS.

Art and literature have been very important in Soviet society. Messages through artistic forms can work well in the former Soviet Union. Love, warmth, faithfulness and the sprit of sacrifice in human relations are central themes of Pakistani literature. Pakistani television dramas, novels, poetry and other forms of literature that highlight the importance of family and human connections could have a great effect on public opinion in the CIS. Such a campaign could certainly help improve the image of Pakistan in the Commonwealth.

If Pakistan adopts a long-term public relations strategy of image building, it would bear fruits in other fields as well. But it MUST be based on transparency and honesty.

(Shiraz Paracha is an international journalist and political analyst.
His email address is: shiraz_paracha@hotmail.com

Tajiks Stopped From Traveling To Iran, Pakistan For Religious Courses

Tajiks Stopped From Traveling To Iran, Pakistan For Religious Courses

Many thousands of Tajiks study at religious schools abroad, including at least 4,000 in madrasahs such as this one in Pakistan.Many thousands of Tajiks study at religious schools abroad, including at least 4,000 in madrasahs such as this one in Pakistan.

September 08, 2010
By Farangis Najibullah
Dozens of Tajik students, professors, and scholars were taken off a Tehran-bound plane at Dushanbe’s airport as they were traveling to Iran on various religious education programs, officials in Dushanbe have said.

Officials removed the group from the plane on September 4, but did not publicly comment on the issue until today.

Education Ministry officials said the authorities had acted because they did not have enough information about the aim of the trip to Iran.

Rajabali Sangov, head of the ministry’s department of international relations, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that the ministry received a vague letter from the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe informing them that 71 Tajik students and professors, among others, were traveling to Iran to undergo short-term educational courses.

He said the letter came only the day before the group was planning to get on a flight to Tehran. Sangov said the ministry found out that none of the group had official permission from the relevant authorities to leave their studies or jobs to go abroad.

“If they were indeed going with educational programs, why didn’t they inform the Education Ministry about their plans?” Sangov asked.

“After all, the ministry is in charge of educational matters and projects in Tajikistan. Besides, most of them are students and teachers and they were going away at the beginning of the academic year,” he added.

“They should have informed education officials that they were going to be absent for some time. They were to spend one month in Iran, and we don’t know what exactly they would study there.”

‘Bring Them Home’

It’s not the first time Tajik officials have stopped students from traveling abroad to study at foreign religious schools.

Late last month, the ministry canceled its earlier decision to send 10 Tajik students to Pakistani madrasahs, citing “technical” reasons and a “lack of clarity” in their learning programs.

The moves came days after President Emomali Rahmon urged parents to remove their children from foreign madrasahs.

President Emomali Rahmon urged Tajiks to bring their children home to study.

During a trip to southern Khatlon province shortly before the new academic year started, Rahmon said foreign madrasah graduates could pose security threats to the country.

“We have opened our own religious university, and we prepare our mullahs right here,” Rahmon said, and implored parents to bring any of their children studying abroad home, “otherwise the majority of them would turn into extremists and terrorists in five, 10 years time.”

“They don’t only study religion there,” the president said. “They will come back and create problems for the nation and government.”

Religious Renaissance

People in the predominantly Muslim country have attained considerable religious freedom since the collapse of communism nearly two decades ago.

Tens of thousands of mosques have been built, thousands of Muslims have been given an opportunity to perform the hajj pilgrimage each year, and major celebrations in the Islamic calendar have been approved by the government as public holidays.

At least 20 official Islamic madrasahs and an Islamic university operate in the country. In addition, hundreds more students attend religious schools in countries like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

However, Rahmon’s secular government has come under criticism in recent years for restricting Islamic practices.

Security and law enforcement agencies have conducted raids on mosques and private houses to prevent mullahs from running unsanctioned religious classes. Officials have outlawed the Islamic head scarf, or hijab, in schools and public offices.

And this week, Tajikistan’s Council of Islamic Ulema, a pro-government independent religious body, urged imams not to call children and students for prayers in mosques.

The council insists its only aim is not to harm school attendance, as some prayers take place during school hours. Yet the call has outraged some imams, who say the authorities are unhappy with the steadily increasing number of children turning up for mosque prayers.

Importing Extremism?

The authorities have repeatedly highlighted the threat of extremism and terrorism posed by graduates of foreign religious schools, notably by those who attend unofficial madrasahs.

Authorities say officially 2,000 Tajiks are studying at foreign madrasahs through educational grants and quotas, and intergovernmental agreements.

But regional media estimate that several thousand more students have been sent privately to foreign religious schools. An estimated 4,000 Tajiks reportedly study in Pakistani madrasahs alone.

Tajikistan’s embassy in Islamabad has repeatedly expressed its concern that some of the students have ended up in underground schools run by extremist groups.

Tajikistan has banned a number of religious groups, including the Salafi movement, which the government claims is being run by foreign madrasah graduates with radical ideas.

Many such graduates, however, insist the authorities’ fears are baseless.

Dushanbe resident Said Muhammad Ghozi says he studied in a madrasah in Pakistan along with his four brothers in the 1990s. Now his sons and several of his nephews study at the same religious school.

“We didn’t study anything remotely radical there,” Ghozi said. “Our educational program solely focused on Islam and also on computer studies.”

Many others in Tajikistan, however, share the government’s concerns.

Abdullo Rahnamo, a Dushanbe-based analyst of religious and social issues, says that unfortunately, there have been real security threats posed by graduates of foreign schools, particularly those who attend underground schools, and promote the ideas of different religious sects upon their return.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service contributed to this report

Imaginary “Islamist” Group Takes Credit For Tajik Suicide Blast

Islamist group claims Tajikistan suicide blast: website

Wed, Sep 08, 2010
AFP
HANBE – A previously unknown Islamist group claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a deadly suicide car bombing in Tajikistan last month that killed two police officers.

A shadowy group calling itself Jamaat Ansarullah said it had carried out the bombing in the northern city of Khujand as revenge for attacks against Muslims, in a letter posted on the kavkazcenter.com website.

“The operation was conducted in response to the killing and humiliation of our brothers and ordinary Muslims which have taken place outside of this God damned place,” the letter said.

“As a result of the operation, according to our preliminary data, at least 50 apostates have been killed or wounded.”

Kavkazcenter.com, a pro-militant website which often acts as a mouthpiece for statements by Islamist groups in the region, said it received the claim of responsibility in an unsolicited email.

It was not possible to immediately verify the claim.

Late last month a pair of suicide bombers rammed an explosives-packed car into a police station in Tajikistan’s second city of Khujand, killing two and wounding at least 25.

That blast came after Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon sacked his long-time security boss following a humiliating prison break in which a group of 25 Al-Qaeda-linked militants escaped and killed six guards.

Police in Tajikistan, the poorest country to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago, had blamed both attacks on militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

A bombing at a nightclub on the outskirts of the capital Dushanbe this week has further heightened tensions and led to speculation that violence from neighbouring Afghanistan could be spilling across the border.

Tajikistan, where a civil war between Islamist forces and backers of Rakhmon’s secular government killed tens of thousands following the collapse of the Soviet Union, shares a porous 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Afghanistan.

CIA in Honduras: the Practice of Selective Terror

[This is a complete revival of Reagan’s deadly foreign policy strategy of using terrorists and calling them “freedom fighters.”  Sometimes the CIA/Special Forces death squads are called terrorists whenever agency strategists need to invent a new enemy, while they are called “freedom fighters” or “contras,” whenever we need local cover for an invasion.  This is the same strategy now being used in south and central Asia, by both Obama and Putin.]

CIA in Honduras: the Practice of Selective Terror

CIA in Honduras: the Practice of Selective TerrorNil NIKANDROV (Russia)

President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya was displaced slightly over a year ago in a coup staged by the local oligarchy and the US intelligence community. The coup came as a punishment for Zelaya’s alignment with H. Chavez and other populist Latin American leaders. Since the time, the news flow from Honduras abounds with stories of political assassinations, the victims being activists of trade unions, peasant and student organizations, and the National Popular Resistance Front opposing the pro-US regime of Porfirio Lobo. Ten journalists who expressed support for the ousted Honduran president have been killed this year alone.

The most recent case of the type was the murder of Israel Zelaya, 56, who was kidnapped by an armed group which easily crossed by car numerous police checkpoints set up as a part of the security-tightening campaign. The journalist was taken to a secluded location, tortured, and shot two times in the head and once – in the chest.

Dozens of similar incidents show that a program of ”political cleansing” is underway in Honduras. Killers selectively target potential leaders capable of galvanizing protesters. Peasant leader Maria Teresa Flores, 50, was the coordinator of the Council of Peasant Organizations of Honduras and a proponent of an agrarian reform including the abolition of latifundias and the establishment of rural cooperatives. She was kidnapped, and a week later her bullet-ridden body with numerous traces of machete strikes and one hand cut off was found by the roadside in the Comayagua department.

Only a fraction of the cases of political assassinations in Honduras become widely known. The operations are carried out in secrecy by specially trained and lavishly paid death squads staffed by police agents, bandits, and professional killers of Honduran origin or brought in from Columbia. These days, mass graves of opponents of the current regime are discovered in Honduras increasingly often. It is an established pattern that political murders become widespread wherever the US “helps restore democracy”. Berta Oliva, president of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras, told the media a few days ago about the discovery of another mass grave with the bodies of over 100 people reported missing in June-August, that is, after the coup that propelled P. Lobo to power.

Leader of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) Carlos H. Reyes charges that the decisions to kill opposition leaders are made at the top level of the Honduran administration with direct involvement of key US Embassy officers. It is no overstatement considering that preemptive terror implemented by the state is a practice openly endorsed by Washington. Invoking cases of assassinations of foes of the US in Asia and Africa, The New York Times maintained on August 15 that the geography and scale of the CIA secret wars “against terrorists” expanded under B. Obama compared to what the agency was allowed to do under G. Bush. The article contained no mentioning of the assassinations in Latin America, but it is an open secret that CIA operations targeting the regimes unfriendly to the US in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador are at full swing. Serious efforts are being made to strengthen the subversive terrorist networks in the above countries where agents are receiving intense on-site training.

Fighting against the Central American insurgencies and guerrilla groups in the 1960ies – 1980ies, the Pentagon and the US intelligence community developed efficient approaches of the “struggle against terror”. Priority used to be given to decapitating the groups and neutralizing their support bases. In that epoch, peasants and Indians were routinely intimidated, forced to flee or even killed en masse in the regions of heightened guerrilla activity. The methods were later borrowed by the Columbian army and applied under the guidance of US advisers in the country’s internal conflict to undermine the potentials of FARC and ELN. So far there are no guerrilla groups in Honduras, and the Honduran administration noiselessly relies on the omnipresent death squads – which act under the US Embassy staff’s supervision – to bleed the opposition.

The bloated US mission in Tegucigalpa functions as a de facto parallel Honduran government, largely overshadowing the official one. US ambassador Hugo Llorens appointed under G. Bush is artistically playing the role of an honest diplomat totally uninvolved in the coup that led to the ouster of the legitimate president of Honduras. Llorens can count on Lobo’s understanding as the new Honduran president is highly receptive to Washington’s initiatives and readily distances himself from the Latin American populist regimes. And, of course, Lobo rejects the ALBA integration project and H. Chavez’s “XXI century socialism” and – for Washington’s peace of mind – even shies away from discount energy deals with Venezuela, the resulting damage suffered by the Honduran economy notwithstanding.

US military diplomats – Defense Attaché Colonel Robert W. Swisher, Special Tactics Group commander Colonel Kenneth F. Rodriguez, Palmerola Airbase liaison officer Steve Argenthal, and others – are known to contribute a lot to the governance in Honduras. Several dozens of US military intelligence officers are spying on the Honduran National Popular Resistance Front jointly with other US intelligence community staff operating under the cover of the US Embassy, the Peace Corps, DEA, etc. The CIA station in Honduras headed by US Embassy political counselor Silvia Eiriz is at the helm of the activity.

There are obvious reasons behind Washington’s involvement in the Honduran crisis. Toppling Zelaya stopped the drift of Honduras towards a strategic alliance with the Latin American populist regimes, but the intensifying resistance mounted by the supporters of the ousted president is likely to confront Lobo’s administration with serious problems. Zelaya’s Patriotic Alternative and the threat of nation-wide strikes highlight the ineptitude of the current Honduran government.

For Washington, the return of Zelaya would mean a new headache. Secretary General of the Organization of American States Jose Miguel Insulza hopes to see Zelaya reinstated to prevent the emergence of a precedent allowing rightists to throw a legitimate president out of his own country. Zelaya is doing what he can to stage a comeback: he submits appeals to Honduran media nearly on a daily basis calling for unity of protesters and disproving the allegations leveled at him by the US media.

At the moment the official and the shadow administrations of Honduras are bombarding Zelaya with charges. Allegedly, he misappropriated millions of dollars handed out to Honduras by Venezuela as economic aid. There is no clarity what happened to his personal presidential Lexus and to portions of the budget of his administration. Zelaya is aware that in the case of his return to Honduras he will have to defend himself in court.

The surge of terror in Honduras is also a factor Zelaya has to reckon with. He is the number one target for the death squads, and threats are relayed to him via various channels that going back home would be a major risk.

At present Zelaya has the guest status in the Dominican Republic. For Washington, the optimal scenario would be Zelaya’s consent to stay where he is – at the fancy La Romana resort frequented by millionaires and pop idols. Zelaya does not give in, though, keeps in touch with the populist leaders, and ignores Washington’s displeasure. With Chavez’s help, Zelaya became the Petrocaribe coordinator responsible for safeguarding independence and democracy. Holding the post makes it easier for him to travel around the region and to promote the National Popular Resistance Front.

CIA agents in the Dominican Republic are watching Zelaya day and night, sending reports with details of his meetings, phone calls, and e-mails to Langley. The US Embassy’s political section – A. Margulis, T. Fitzgibbons, and A. Norman – put collecting information about Zelaya and about his contacts with Chavez high on their agenda. Zelaya is surrounded by CIA agents and sophisticated surveillance systems, and the Dominican police readily shares information with the US. Chief of Dominican police Gen. R.G. Gusman is regarded by the CIA as a partner and enjoys the agency’s sponsorship. In a couple of decades, journalists will probably unearth facts about the CIA personal donations to Gen. Gusman. Some findings are already in the media: the police will get $3m to fight drug trafficking and other types of crime plus $250,000 to buy computers and various equipment.

The CIA would readily dispense with even greater sums of money to make sure Zelaya is debarred from Honduras. The US double standards in countering terrorism are common knowledge, and for Washington wars and provocations are acceptable instruments in political games. Most likely Zelaya has already got a Black Spot from the CIA and a team of cleaners is waiting for the moment…

Task Force 373 – The One Death Squad We Admit To

Afghanistan war logs: Task Force 373 – special forces hunting top Taliban

Previously hidden details of US-led unit sent to kill top insurgent targets are revealed for the first time

US soldiers pursue militants in Helmand provinceUS soldiers pursue militants in Helmand province. The shadowy Task Force 373 meanwhile focuses its efforts on more than 2,000 senior Taliban figures on a target list. Photograph: Adrees Latif/ReutersThe Nato coalition in Afghanistan has been using an undisclosed “black” unit of special forces, Task Force 373, to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than 2,000 senior figures from theTaliban and al-Qaida are held on a “kill or capture” list, known as Jpel, the joint prioritised effects list.

In many cases, the unit has set out to seize a target for internment, but in others it has simply killed them without attempting to capture. The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights, Professor Philip Alston, went to Afghanistan in May 2008 to investigate rumours of extrajudicial killings. He warned that international forces were neither transparent nor accountable and that Afghans who attempted to find out who had killed their loved ones “often come away empty-handed, frustrated and bitter”.

Now, for the first time, the leaked war logs reveal details of deadly missions by TF 373 and other units hunting down Jpel targets that were previously hidden behind a screen of misinformation. They raise fundamental questions about the legality of the killings and of the long-term imprisonment without trial, and also pragmatically about the impact of a tactic which is inherently likely to kill, injure and alienate the innocent bystanders whose support the coalition craves.

On the night of Monday 11 June 2007, the leaked logs reveal, the taskforce set out with Afghan special forces to capture or kill a Taliban commander named Qarl Ur-Rahman in a valley near Jalalabad. As they approached the target in the darkness, somebody shone a torch on them. A firefight developed, and the taskforce called in an AC-130 gunship, which strafed the area with cannon fire: “The original mission was aborted and TF 373 broke contact and returned to base. Follow-up Report: 7 x ANP KIA, 4 x WIA.” In plain language: they discovered that the people they had been shooting in the dark were Afghan police officers, seven of whom were now dead and four wounded.

The coalition put out a press release which referred to the firefight and the air support and then failed entirely to record that they had just killed or wounded 11 police officers. But, evidently fearing that the truth might leak, it added: “There was nothing during the firefight to indicate the opposing force was friendly. The individuals who fired on coalition forces were not in uniform.” The involvement of TF 373 was not mentioned, and the story didn’t get out.

However, the incident immediately rebounded into the fragile links which other elements of the coalition had been trying to build with local communities. An internal report shows that the next day Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Phillips, commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, took senior officers to meet the provincial governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, who accepted that this was “an unfortunate incident that occurred among friends”. They agreed to pay compensation to the bereaved families, and Phillips “reiterated our support to prevent these types of events from occurring again”.

Yet, later that week, on Sunday 17 June, as Sherzai hosted a “shura” council at which he attempted to reassure tribal leaders about the safety of coalition operations, TF 373 launched another mission, hundreds of miles south in Paktika province. The target was a notorious Libyan fighter, Abu Laith al-Libi. The unit was armed with a new weapon, known as Himars – High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – a pod of six missiles on the back of a small truck.

The plan was to launch five rockets at targets in the village of Nangar Khel where TF 373 believed Libi was hiding and then to send in ground troops. The result was that they failed to find Libi but killed six Taliban fighters and then, when they approached the rubble of a madrasa, they found “initial assessment of 7 x NC KIA” which translates as seven non-combatants killed in action. All of them were children. One of them was still alive in the rubble: “The Med TM immediately cleared debris from the mouth and performed CPR.” After 20 minutes, the child died.

Children

The coalition made a press statement which owned up to the death of the children and claimed that troops “had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications there were children inside the building”. That claim is consistent with the leaked log. A press release also claimed that Taliban fighters, who undoubtedly were in the compound, had used the children as a shield.

The log refers to an unnamed “elder” who is said to have “stated that the children were held against their will” but, against that, there is no suggestion that there were any Taliban in the madrasa where the children died.

The rest of the press release was certainly misleading. It suggested that coalition forces had attacked the compound because of “nefarious activity” there, when the reality was that they had gone there to kill or capture Libi.

It made no mention at all of Libi, nor of the failure of the mission (although that was revealed later by NBC News in the United States). Crucially, it failed to record that TF 373 had fired five rockets, destroying the madrasa and other buildings and killing seven children, before anybody had fired on them – that this looked like a mission to kill and not to capture. Indeed, this was clearly deliberately suppressed.

The internal report was marked not only “secret” but also “Noforn”, ie not to be shared with the foreign elements of the coalition. And the source of this anxiety is explicit: “The knowledge that TF 373 conducted a HIMARS strike must be protected.” And it was. This crucial fact remained secret, as did TF 373’s involvement.

Again, the lethal attack caused political problems. The provincial governor arranged compensation and held a shura with local leaders when, according to an internal US report, “he pressed the Talking Points given to him and added a few of his own that followed in line with our current story”. Libi remained targeted for death and was killed in Pakistan seven months later by a missile from an unmanned CIA Predator.

In spite of this tension between political and military operations, TF 373 continued to engage in highly destructive attacks. Four months later, on 4 October, they confronted Taliban fighters in a village called Laswanday, only 6 miles from the village where they had killed the seven children. The Taliban appear to have retreated by the time TF 373 called in air support to drop 500lb bombs on the house from which the fighters had been firing.

The final outcome, listed tersely at the end of the leaked log: 12 US wounded, two teenage girls and a 10-year-old boy wounded, one girl killed, one woman killed, four civilian men killed, one donkey killed, one dog killed, several chickens killed, no enemy killed, no enemy wounded, no enemy detained.

The coalition put out a statement claiming falsely to have killed several militants and making no mention of any dead civilians; and later added that “several non-combatants were found dead and several others wounded” without giving any numbers or details.

This time, the political teams tried a far less conciliatory approach with local people. In spite of discovering that the dead civilians came from one family, one of whom had been found with his hands tied behind his back, suggesting that the Taliban were unwelcome intruders in their home, senior officials travelled to the stricken village where they “stressed that the fault of the deaths of the innocent lies on the villagers who did not resist the insurgents and their anti-government activities … [and] chastised a villager who condemned the compound shooting”. Nevertheless, an internal report concluded that there was “little or no protest” over the incident.

Concealment

The concealment of TF 373’s role is a constant theme. There was global publicity in October 2009 when US helicopters were involved in two separate crashes in one day, but even then it was concealed that the four soldiers who died in one of the incidents were from TF 373.

The pursuit of these “high value targets” is evidently embedded deep in coalition tactics. The Jpel list assigns an individual serial number to each of those targeted for kill or capture and by October 2009 this had reached 2,058.

The process of choosing targets reaches high into the military command. According to their published US Field Manual on Counter Insurgency, No FM3-24, it is policy to choose targets “to engage as potential counter-insurgency supporters, targets to isolate from the population and targets to eliminate”.

A joint targeting working group meets each week to consider Target Nomination Packets and has direct input from the Combined Forces Command and its divisional HQ, as well as from lawyers, operational command and intelligence units including the CIA.

Among those who are listed as being located and killed by TF 373 areShah Agha, described as an intelligence officer for an IED cell, who was killed with four other men on 1 June 2009; Amir Jan Mutaki, described as a Taliban sub-commander who had organised ambushes on coalition forces, who was shot dead from the air in a TF 373 mission on 24 June 2009; and a target codenamed Ballentine, who was killed on 16 November 2009 during an attack in the village of Lewani, in which a local woman also died.

The logs include references to the tracing and killing of other targets on the Jpel list, which do not identify TF 373 as the unit responsible. It is possible that some of the other taskforce names and numbers which show up in this context are cover names for 373, or for British special forces, 500 of whom are based in southern Afghanistan and are reported to have been involved in kill/capture missions, including the shooting in July 2008 of Mullah Bismullah.

Some of these “non 373” operations involve the use of unmanned drones to fire missiles to kill the target: one codenamed Beethoven, on 20 October 2008; one named Janan on 6 November 2008; and an unnamed Jpel target who was hit with a hellfire missile near Khan Neshin on 21 August 2009 while travelling in a car with other passengers (the log records “no squirters [bodies moving about] recorded”).

Other Jpel targets were traced and then bombed from the air. One,codenamed Newcastle, was located with four other men on 26 November 2007. The house they were in was then hit with 500lb bombs. “No identifiable features recovered,” the log records.

Two other Jpel targets, identified only by serial numbers, were killed on 16 February 2009 when two F-15 bombers dropped four 500lb bombs on a Jpel target: “There are various and conflicting reports from multiple sources alleging civilian casualties … A large number of local nationals were on site during the investigation displaying a hostile attitude so the investigation team did not continue sorting through the site.”

One of the leaked logs contains a summary of a conference call on 8 March 2008 when the then head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh, tells senior American officers that three named Taliban commanders in Kapisa province are “not reconcilable and must be taken out”. The senior coalition officer “noted that there would be a meeting with the Kapisa NDS to determine how to approach this issue.”

It is not clear whether “taken out” meant “killed” and the logs do not record any of their deaths. But one of them, Qari Baryal, who was ranked seventh in the Jpel list, had already been targeted for killing two months earlier.

On 12 January 2008, after tracking his movements for 24 hours, the coalition established that he was holding a large meeting with other men in a compound in Pashkari and sent planes which dropped six 500lb bombs and followed up with five strafing runs to shoot those fleeing the scene.

The report records that some 70 people ran to the compound and started digging into the rubble, on which there were “pools of blood”, but subsequent reports suggest that Baryal survived and continued to plan rocket attacks and suicide bombings.

Numerous logs show Jpel targets being captured and transferred to a special prison, known as Btif, the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility. There is no indication of prisoners being charged or tried, and previous press reports have suggested that men have been detained there for years without any legal process in communal cages inside vast old air hangars. As each target is captured, he is assigned a serial number. By December 2009, this showed that a total of 4,288 prisoners, some aged as young as 16, had been held at Btif, with 757 still in custody.

Who are TF373?

The leaked war logs show that Task Force 373 uses at least three bases in Afghanistan, in Kabul, Kandahar and Khost. Although it works alongside special forces from Afghanistan and other coalition nations, it appears to be drawing its own troops from the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and to travel on missions in Chinook and Cobra helicopters flown by 160th special operations aviation regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.

Parisienne Penshioners March Against Planned Cuts

PARIS – Agence France-Presse
French Labour minister Eric Woerth is pictured prior to an interview during the French television channel TF1 evening news on Tuesday. Between 2.5 million and three million strikers turned out on Tuesday to march in rallies across France. AFP photo
French Labour minister Eric Woerth is pictured prior to an interview during the French television channel TF1 evening news on Tuesday. Between 2.5 million and three million strikers turned out on Tuesday to march in rallies across France. AFP photo

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday prepared his response to a national day of protest that saw more than a million workers march in the streets against his plan to raise the retirement age.

Sarkozy says he is open to tweaking his proposed legislation, currently before parliament, but has vowed to stand firm on the bill’s key element – the raising of the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, his biggest reform priority as he eyes re-election in 2012.

As he prepared for a cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon at which he was due to give a response to Tuesday’s protests, labor unions were also planning to meet to decide their next move.

Unions have vowed further action if he does not bend and the political opposition raised the pressure on him on Wednesday.

“The government must start again from scratch with this reform, which is both unjust and ineffective,” the leader of the main opposition Socialists, Martine Aubry, told France 2 television.

She added that “the president of the republic must listen” to the protestors, whose numbers were estimated at 1.12 million nationwide by the interior ministry and at more than 2.5 million by labor leaders.

This topped a similar protest on June 24, when police said 800,000 marched and the unions two million.

Tumultuous session

As the protests rumbled on Tuesday, the bill was presented to a stormy session in parliament, greeted with angry exchanges between the opposition and Sarkozy’s right-wing support.

Aubry on Wednesday called on them to “halt the parliamentary debate” while counter-proposals by unions and the opposition are heard.

Bernard Thibault, the head of the CGT union, told television station TF1 on Tuesday that the demonstration would force the government to rethink.

“Millimeter by millimeter, things are moving,” he said.

Some critics of the reform however were pessimistic about the chances of forcing Sarkozy to back down. The leader of the FO union Jean-Claude Mailly told France Info radio on Wednesday he had “not many illusions.”

The government says the reform can save 70 billion euros ($90 billion) by 2030 at a time when France’s public deficit, at around eight percent of GDP, is well above the eurozone target of three percent.

At 62, the minimum retirement age would still be well under the average of around 64 in the OECD group of wealthy democracies, despite France having one of the world’s longest life expectancies.

But French workers also pay high social charges on their salaries, and on an hour-by-hour basis are among the world’s most productive.

Sarkozy has been weakened by a summer of scandal and his personal approval rating – around 34 percent according to several polls – is at an all-time low, two years before the 2012 presidential election.

tajik kingpin

[SEE: Russia detains fugitive Tajik businessman]

In the remand Khujand beaten suspect

In the remand Khujand beaten suspect

September 29, 2008
Akmal Mirzoyev

Voice of Freedom, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

In the remand prison in Khujand (northern Tajikistan) took place the next beating of a suspect – Tolib Juraev was brutally beaten by jail.According to his wife, before she was on a date with her husband and gave him 100 Somoni (about $ 30) and supposedly this circumstance gave rise to severe beatings.

Meanwhile, a well-known that the employees themselves SIZO secret from each other, but very willing to take money from the prisoners, bringing them food, cigarettes, clothing, bedding and even alcohol and drugs. And the sin of the prisoner is not that big, given the severe conditions of detention in such institutions in Tajikistan.

Tolib Juraev have a sibling Nizomu Djuraeva, more recently, a very wealthy and influential man Sughd region of Tajikistan. Down below was the director general Dzhuraev Isfarin chemical plant “Kimie” while the owner and head of several commercial enterprises. Along with this he was deputy chairs Sogd regional Majlis (local parliament).

Earlier this year, prosecutors field he was charged with stealing 400 thousand TJS, as well as creating a criminal group who performed a number of years for criminal acts. This caused a considerable stir the public opinion of the country and, as usual, divided.Some argued that the easy money and power had turned his head N. Dzhurayev and he’s really a criminal; some have argued that someone jealous of his wealth and influence, and “sewed” it to yourself to take someone else’s property. It is obvious that the truth lies somewhere in between, because stealing is not always alone, and, perhaps, thread investigation will lead to his accomplices.Therefore, usually in such situations turns out that one does who has more rights. Or money.

In June this year for the next session of the Regional People’s Deputies Sugd with Nizom Dzhuraeva were removed elected position and, accordingly, he lost his parliamentary immunity. The consequences of such an act are clear – for them was to follow the arrest and detention, investigation, lengthy confinement in a detention facility, which can cost a minimum, health, and for many people – and life itself. To live up to the court, and most importantly, to prove there innocence or at least to punish only for their own, and not someone else’s crime, not far from all.

N. Juraev did not wait for developments on the script of law enforcement agencies and promptly and completely disappeared without a trace from the investigation. Procurator of the case were numerous arrests. From prosecutors to obtain reliable information could not be, but popular rumor claims that arrested nearly 20 people, whose number fell, and the brother of ex-deputy Tolib Juraev.

At present, this case is considered in Sughd Assize Court and the defendants held about 35 defendants. Ill-treatment of prisoners demonstrated in this case. Counsel Tolib Dzhurayev known lawyer who has legal practice not only in Tajikistan, but also outside it, Solidzhon Juraev, seeing the deplorable state of his client, called an ambulance and secured the withdrawal of forensic examination.

How to tell family Tolib Juraeva, materials of the beating is currently sent to the prosecutor Sughd.