We All Fostered “Warlordism” In Afghanistan

Who fostered ‘warlordism’ in Afghanistan?

By M K Bhadrakumar

The Russian journalist Dmitry Babich’s reminiscences of the chronicles of wasted time of the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s invariably leap out of a morality play. He always has a Russian message for the West. He is consistent in lamenting that the United States and NATO should have consulted Moscow about how to handle the Afghan war so that the Russian mistakes were not repeated. Arguably, he has a point there — although it is far too late for lamentations now. But in his latest blog, Babich certainly goes overboard. This is when he discusses ‘warlordism’ in Afghanistan and blames the West for introducing this phenomenon in the Hindu Kush. I beg to differ. To my mind, the blame should be apportioned equitably.

I have heard from none other than Ahmed Shah Massoud himself how the Soviets struck a profound deal with him after the Red Army’s disastrous defeat at his hands in 1982-83. This conversation took place soon after I was given an extended ‘conducted tour’ of Panjshir Valley — first Indian to set foot there in very many years — and was briefed about the great ambush of the crack units of the Soviet army by the Mujahideen. At that time, the war having just got over, I could still see dozens of tanks and artillery pieces and heavy armour littered all over the valley — a great setting of breathtaking scenery with all that heavy iron and steel sitting and rusting for miles as eternal monument to human folly by the side of the Panjshir river which snaked its way shyly through the deep gorges guarded by towering mountains on both aides. You had to bend back all the way to catch a glimpse of the sky.

The Soviet officers just abandoned their weaponry and fled or were taken prisoner. Massoud drew the Soviet columns deep into the gorges and then cut them to pieces from the mountain tops where his guerillas were hiding. Later, when I was taken around to see Salaang tunnel, the Mujahidden commander who was escorting me explained part of the terms of the Soviets’ deal with Massoud — that he would allow the vital artery to be kept open provided the Soviets kept their part of the bargain. Babich is right that later it was Massoud who destroyed Kabul in the 1992-96 period. But Massoud enjoyed Russian support for a decade already prior to that. Sometimes I wonder how the percentage worked: to what extent Massoud allowed himself to be pampered by the French while trading with the Soviets at the same time.

Again, who raised Rashid Dostum, a lowly car mechanic in Mazar-i-Sharif, to the rank of an army general? I don’t think the West had anything to do with that. Babich is again right that it was Dostum’s back stabbing that brought down Najibullah’s regime. But how did that happen? Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov was partly right that when the Red Army pulled out in 1989, Najib was given some stocks of food and fuel reserve to last out in the event of a siege of Kabul. But what about money? I was in charge of the Indian embassy in Kabul for a while at that time and I am aware how Najib’s equations with Dostum gradually began deteriorating. Najib ran out of money to pay the monthly wages for Dostum’s Uzbeki militia who were a notoriously brutal lot (whom the Soviet commanders used to ‘pacify’ Pashtun provinces in the south and east).

But still, I don”t think Dostum would have defected to Massoud just like that. Dostum understood that the Soviet/Russian agencies were in touch with Massoud and covertly working on a transition to a post-Najibullah era in Afghanistan. And Dostum being Dostum, he wanted to be with the winning side. He linked up with Massoud despite the visceral dislike the two of them had toward each other, primarily because he got to estimate that with tacit Russian backing, Massoud was likely to beat Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the race for Kabul.

The problem is that a great deal of what happened during those dramatic months in 1991-92 is still to be told and the one person who narrated a great deal to me subsequently (having been Massoud’s ace negotiator with the Russians and with Dostum in those tumultous months leading to the Mujahideen takeover), Dr. Abdurrahman, is no more with us. He was murdered in broad daylight in Kabul in 2002 while serving in Hamid Karzai’s cabinet as the civil aviation minister, by people who obviously feared that he knew far too much. By the way, Abdurrahman and I were good friends and when he last visited me in Ankara sometime in mid-2001 — he had come to attend the funeral of Dostum’s mother — he told me he already had a premonition that he would be killed soon. He had fallen out with the Panjshiris by that time. (Abdurrahman was a Nooristani himself). Indeed, 6 months later, he was murdered. I wrote an obituary on him.

Put simply, no one today wants to talk about all that happened. Babich’s narrative is hopelessly selective. Almost all foreign powers that dabbled in Afghanistan — including my country — have fostered ‘warlords’ some time or the other, as they found it expedient to do so in the ‘great game’. Shame on them all! Look at where all that skulduggery of realpolitik left the poor Afghan people!

 

 

The Neoconservative Moment–Trimming the “Dead-Beats” from the National Payroll

[We are witnesses to the moment when Ronald Reagan’s “revolution” comes to fruition–the gutting of Social Security programs on the pretense of balancing the federal budget.  When Reagan’s “conservatives” foisted their great scam upon the American people, they planned to overload the budget until it broke, as their corporate friends exported America’s industrial base to the Third World, all while cutting the taxes on the corporate elite, thus drying-up corporate tax revenue.   They planned to destroy the budget, while escalating the military threat and the defense budget, in order to force changes in America’s budgetary priorities.  They understood that patriotic Americans would never stand for axing the Pentagon budget in the midst of a “generational war,” which they planned to carry-on for decades, if need be, in order to secure the American Empire.  This would only leave social aid programs to cut, exactly what we are witnessing now in the halls of treason in Washington.

Our government functions on the principle of waging war upon elements of itself, until that war justifies a much greater war.  This is the basis for the entire “war on terror” ruse being played-out first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan and Pakistan, use America’s “Islamists” to attack US soldiers and their allies, until the sham fight provides the justification for the escalation that will one day become known as “World War III.”]

Obama seeks broad deal on entitlements, tax code in debt talks

President Obama meets with Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders Thursday in a bid to come to an agreement on reducing the federal deficit and raising the nation's debt ceiling.President Obama meets with Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders Thursday in a bid to come to an agreement on reducing the federal deficit and raising the nation’s debt ceiling.(Mandel Ngan/AF{P/Getty Images)
By Lisa MascaroJuly 7, 2011, 9:13 a.m.

As congressional leaders meet at the White House for debt talks Thursday, President Obama will seek broad changes to Social Security, Medicare and a commitment to overhaul the nation’s tax code in a bold push for a $4-trillion package of deficit reductions, sources said.

Such a large proposal would be greater than the spending cuts GOP leaders have demanded in exchange for their votes to raise the nation’s debt limit, and comes just weeks before a looming deadline. A debt ceiling vote is needed by Aug. 2 to avert what experts say would be a catastrophic upheaval of the financial system if the nation defaults.

Obama’s decision to tackle big-ticket items in a broader deal is politically difficult for all sides and will certainly draw resistance from rank-and-file lawmakers, especially those seeking reelection in 2012.

The two sides have been at a standoff for weeks and Obama deepened his involvement this week by pressing congressional leaders to “do something big.”

In talks with House Speaker John Boehner, the White House has presented various options. Among those were reforms to all three major entitlement programs–Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is the health program for low-income and disabled Americans and seniors.

Among options being considered for Social Security and Medicare, some would hold down benefit increases for current recipients and increase costs for future beneficiaries.

Also discussed by the White House was a “commitment” to reforming the nation’s individual and corporate tax code by closing loopholes and using the revenue saved to lower rates, according to a congressional aide.

Such a tax code overhaul had been underway on a separate track from debt negotiations, but Obama is now bringing it into the debate.

Taxes have been a major logjam in discussions as the GOP has resisted new revenue from closing tax loopholes — even those for corporate jets or wealthy Americans. Republicans indicated this week they now would be willing to discuss those options in the debt debate as long as any revenue went only for tax breaks elsewhere rather than deficit reduction.

Allowing the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy to expire in 2012 has also been floated as an option, another congressional aide said.

On Thursday, the Senate advanced a nonbinding resolution that would require those earning $1 million or more to “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.”

Boehner’s office said new taxes are not an option and the speaker never suggested allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire. “There are no tax increases on the table,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Democrats have refused to entertain entitlement cuts, and pushed back Thursday morning against the scope of the president’s proposals.

“Congressional Democrats are not going to support something that seeks to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security beneficiaries,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said on CNN.

Achieving political support for a $4-trillion package of spending cuts and new revenue is a difficult task — as shown by President Obama’s fiscal commission. That panel crafted a politically painful package of spending cuts and taxes, but failed to achieve the super majority of votes needed.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

America’s secret romance with Islamism

America’s secret romance with Islamism

PRAVEEN SWAMI

In this June 4, 2009 photo, U.S. President Barack Obama waves at the audience after delivering a speech at the Cairo University in Egypt. Speaking at the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture, and quoting from the Quran, the President called for a
AP  
In this June 4, 2009 photo, U.S. President Barack Obama waves at the audience after delivering a speech at the Cairo University in Egypt. Speaking at the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture, and quoting from the Quran, the President called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Kamalshah, son of Pahlawanshah, son of Said Ahmad Faqir, a resident of Laqlick, stormed into the shari’a court of the remote Afghan district of Kunnar in February 1886, demanding justice.

His wife Qalandar Bibi, Kamalshah told the qadi, or religious judge, had eloped with another villager and was pregnant with his son. But, it turned out, that wasn’t the problem he wanted dealt with.

“This woman has jewels belonging to me,” he declared, “two necklaces, one bracelet, one hundred and ninety pins and one pair of golden earrings — the price of which amounts to sixty rupees.”

“I want my things,” Kamalshah complained, “but she refuses to give them up.”

Eight years before Kamalshah appeared before the qadi of Kunnar, journalist Howard Hensman, embedded with British forces during the Afghan war of 1879, offered a somewhat different account of the culture of Afghan men.

The Afghan woman, he claimed — though he never met one — was “shut up and kept from mischief within the four walls of her master’s harem.”

The men were “particularly jealous of their women”; insults to their honour were certain to be “confronted by some buck Afghan with a knife in his hand and an oath in his mouth.”

Kamalshah’s subversion of our stereotypes of the Afghans offers a prism through which we may reflect upon the intellectual foundations of an extraordinary project that will be key to United States foreign policy in the first decades of this century: its effort to undo the seismic ruptures opened up by 9/11 by seeking a rapprochement with the global Islamist movement.

Envoys from Ennahda, the Tunisian Islamist party, met with key lawmakers and State Department officials in Washington DC in May. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also said she would welcome dialogue with those of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, long reviled as irredeemable fascists, “who wish to talk with us.” In Afghanistan, President Barack Obama’s administration is locked in a secret dialogue with the Taliban.

America’s secret romance with the Islamists has a disturbing history — and its renewal ought be a real source of concern for those concerned with democracy.

America’s Islamist project

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s appointment book for 1953 bears the record of a meeting with “the Honourable Saeed Ramadhan.” Mr. Ramadan, as his name is commonly spelt today, had travelled to the U.S. as part of a delegation of three dozen religious scholars and political activists, who its government hoped to cultivate to promote its anti-communist agenda in newly independent Arab states.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analysts, declassified documents show, described Mr. Ramadan as a “Phalangist” and a “fascist.” In the Cold War, these weren’t necessarily disqualifications.

“By the end of the decade,” journalist and historian Ian Johnson has recorded, “the CIA was overtly backing Ramadan. While it’s too simple to call him a U.S. agent, in the 1950s and 1960s the United States supported him as he took over a mosque in Munich, kicking out local Muslims to build what would become one of the Brotherhood’s most important centres.”

British geostrategic doctrine likely had something to do with the making of this alliance. Francis Tucker, the last General Officer-Commanding of the British Indian Eastern Command, believed that the creation “of a new Muslim power supported by the science of Britain” would “place Islam between Russian Communism and Hindustan.”

From Dennis Kux’s book, Disenchanted Allies, we learn that John Foster Dulles — Eisenhower’s Secretary of State and a key architect of the United States’ wars against democracy in Iran, Guatemala and Indo-China — believed that the Gurkhas were Pakistani Muslims, and wanted men he believed were racially-superior fighters to be on the anti-communist side.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan, the U.S. would use those connections, funnelling arms and logistical support through Pakistan to the jihadists it is now locked in war with. President Ronald Reagan famouslydescribed the Afghan jihadists as “freedom fighters”: he and others on the American religious right saw in them, not without reason, ideological soulmates.

Less well known are the U.S.’ efforts to rebuild bridges with Islamist groups after the horrific events of 9/11. During President George W. Bush’s second term in office, the U.S. reached out to Muslim Brotherhood-linked organisations in Europe. In 2006, for example, the State Department organised a conference in Brussels, bringing together western Islamists.

The objective was to play on the fissures within the Islamist movement: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, was bitterly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, and its cadre were engaged in pitched battles with al-Qaeda-linked organisations in Palestine, Egypt and Iraq.

Mr. Obama was mocked when, in 2009, he began reaching out to what was called the “moderate” Taliban: David Rothkopf, writing in Foreign Policy, imagined the CIA being tasked with seeking men who “advocate stoning unfaithful women to death with only small rocks and pebbles,” and “offer Bin Laden refuge in his home only during inclement weather.”

Now, though, Mr. Obama’s Islamist efforts at Islamist outreach form the stuff of America’s new consensus: there is, more than one commentator has said, no other way.

Part of the reason for this is tactical. The U.S. allied with reactionary regimes throughout West Asia — as it did in South America — in an effort to beat back nationalism. Egyptian rulers from Anwar Sadat onwards flirted with the Muslim Brotherhood, in an effort to legitimise their power — all the while cracking down ferociously on democratic opponents. In Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq pursued a similar trajectory.

Now, as popular dissent evicts American-allied despot after American-allied despot, the U.S. finds it has no credible secular-democratic partners to engage with.

There is also, however, an ideological foundation for America’s new policies: the notion that Islamists, unlike secular democrats, are in some way authentic, organic representatives of their peoples and cultures. The idea is tied profoundly to the role of religion in America’s own civic life. In his 2009 speech to what is often called “the Muslim world,” Mr. Obama repeatedly invoked the common traditions of religion to legitimise his defence of democratic rights — not the secular traditions of the Enlightenment, from which they emerged.

Back in 1978, scholar Edward Said pointed to the pervasive influence essentialist ideas about faith and identity had on western thought. The notion of that Islam explained the workings of societies as diverse as Algeria and Indonesia suffused not just scholarship, but also popular culture: Charles Deveraux’s novella Venus in India, first published three years after Kamalshah approached the qadi of Kunnar, is replete with images culled from Hensman.

Intellectuals belonging to quite different traditions projected on Islamic societies their own fantasies. Deborah Baker’s superb biography of Maryam Jameelah, an enormously influential American-born writer, shows she saw in the reactionary ideas of Islamist ideologues Sayyed Qutb and Abul Ala Maududi a means of resistance against modernist materialism. French philosopher Michel Foucault’s uncritical support for Iranian Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson have shown, rested on similar propositions.

Even now, the ideas survive: historian William Dalrymple, no reactionary, described the Taliban as being “in many ways the authentic voice of rural Pashtun conservatism.”

Claims like these have in fact at best problematic empirical foundations. In a nuanced 2010 essay, scholar Thomas Ruttig noted that three decades of conflict brought about dramatic changes in the structures of Pashtun society. Education, generational change and urbanisation also brought transformations — as did ideology. Even though Taliban leaders were rooted in tribal societies, Dr. Ruttig noted, “their self-identification, the balance between being Pashtun and being Muslim has changed, as in the case with many Afghans.”

Little of this nuance, though, informs reportage or scholarly writing: a few minutes with an internet search engine will demonstrate that the word “fierce” and its variants preface references to ethnic Pashtuns with mind-numbing frequency. The word, needless to say, almost never presages discussions of European nations where killing has taken place on an industrial scale.

Islamism is thus almost never understood as just one of several competing modernist movements — its influence a consequence not of its organic character, but of the geopolitical patronage.

Even though Islamists have moderated their positions in recent years, their politics remain disturbing. The Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Youssef al-Qaradawi, for example, says he appreciates music and supports the right of women to work — but also describes the Holocaust as divine punishment of Jews. He remains committed to “the spread of Islam until it conquers the entire world and includes both the East and West which marks the beginning of the return of the Islamic Caliphate.”

In the decades to come, it is possible that the rigours of democratic politics will compel figures like al-Qaradawi to temper their positions: to engage in the kind of alliance-based politics that has allowed the American religious right to work within the democratic system.

The U.S. patronage of the Islamist cause, however, will legitimise and strengthen it — not allow the regeneration of genuine, competitive democracy. Its current course threatens to compound the tragic consequences America’s anti-communist crusade had for the lives of millions across the world.

Baloch genocide continues: Pakistan kills six Baloch disappeared activists in two days

 Baloch genocide continues: Pakistan kills six Baloch disappeared activists in two days

Occupied Balochistan: The ongoing kill and dump of Baloch enforced-disappeared activists continue by the state of Pakistan. In past two days six brutally tortured and bullet riddled bodies of Baloch youth have been found among which four bodies, including a former activist of Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad), were found from desolate places of Kech, Khuzdar and Gwadar on Wednesday whereas two brutally tortured bodies were discovered from Dega Bugti on Tuesday.

Balochistan Levies officials found the body of Hanif Baloch from Chakli area of Tehsil Pasni, situated on Coastal Highway. “The victim was shot in head and chest besides his body bore deep wounds of torture in custody,” hospital sources confirmed. Hanif Baloch, a former President of BSO-Azad, Pasni zone, was whisked away from Industrial town Hub some two days ago and his family has accused government functionaries of killing him during illegal detention.

Meanwhile, two bullet-riddled bodies were recovered from desolated area in Juzak in Kech District. The bodies were taken to the District Headquarters Hospital Turbat where they were identified as Azam Baloch S/O Haji Mehrab, a resident of Tump, and Raheem s/o Mohammad Yousf resident of Gogord area of Mand. According to family sources both the youth were off-loaded from a passenger bus by Pakistani security forces at Karwaat zero point when they were going to Karachi from Mand to Karachi. The youth have remained under illegal custody of Pakistani security agencies until their brutally tortured and riddled with bullets bodies were found on 06/07/2011 in Juzak area of Kech district of Balochistan.

Separately, police have found another body from Khanak area of Khuzdar district, about 300-kilometer off Quetta. The identity of the body was determined through a slip found from dead body in which he was identified as Qadir Ahmed, a resident of Awaran. The body bore bullet wounds and marks of torture. It was handed over to his relatives for burial.

Moreover, on Tuesday (05/07/2011) bodies of two Bugti Baloch were found in Dera Bugti. The victims had been identified as Jamal Khan Bugti and Jallab Khan Bugti who has previously been abducted by Pakistani security forces. The relatives said that looking at the sign and scars on their bodies it could be easily determined that they had suffered inhuman torture and humiliation during the custody.

Vice chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Qadeer Baloch, told BBC Urdu that over 170 bodies of disappeared Baloch have been found in Balochistan and more than 13,000 Baloch political activists are still being illegally held by Pakistani security forces. Qadeer Baloch’s own son, Jalil Reki, has been missing since February 2009.

A complete shutter down strike was observed in Gwadar, Turbat, Pasni, Ormara and Jiwani to protest against the killing and dumping the Baloch political activists. “Those people who had nothing to do with politics are also being killed. Now our parents do not let us to travel to Quetta or any other city as people are randomly being picked up and killed,” Amjid Ali, resident of Turbat told Daily Balochistanexpress. Kech is a cultural capital of Balochistan and now it had become graveyard of martyred Balochs, he said. “Makuran used to be a peaceful region but now days mourning and strikes had become a permanent feature here.” Baloch National Front (BNF) has announced three days of shutter down strike in Pasni to register its protest against the killings of Baloch youth by the state functionaries.

Staged Killings, “False Positives” and Columbia’s Paramilitaries

The paramilitaries and the army’s 17th Brigade

The prosecution told how were the relations between the army’s 17th Brigade and paramilitaries in the Urabá. General (r) Rito Alejo del Rio was key, said former heads paramilitaries.

Urabá former chief claimed that paramilitaries committed crimes in complicity with the military of the Brigade 17. File Photo Week 

– Wear guides ‘paras’ was a recurrent practice of the 17th Brigade in Urabá 
– Confirmed links Brigade AUC slaughter of 17 in San Jose de Apartado
– General Rito Alejo del Río extended investigation for paramilitary

“General Rito Alejo was my friend. I admired him very much. He was a man who hated the guerrillas. We met him several times to coordinate operations, “said Emilio Raul Hasbun alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ , former chief of the paramilitary Front Block Arlex Hurtado Banana in a free version in which recounted how the military that helped in shaping paramilitary groups in Urabá. This testimony was among the evidence presented by the prosecution before the magistrates of Justice and Peace for judicial review against Hebert Veloza alias ‘HH’ , former chief paramilitary Banana Bloc , which documented the links Urabá between paramilitaries and the military. As explained by the prosecution, the massacres, killings and displacements that the paramilitaries committed between 1996 and 2004 in the Urabá Cordoba, Antioquia and Chocó were major complications with the 17th Brigade of the Army, as well as the members of the police and security agencies specialized Das, Sijin and Dijin.”Paramilitaries are four ways to support coordinated with the military: to clear areas, delaying the entry of armed forces in certain areas, clear pathways for movement accompany the troops and operations. Of the 22 killings he has confessed to the Banana Bloc, we can say that in 50% of them were related to military involvement, “said Attorney in the Courts of Cundinamarca. In a free version on October 29, 2007, alias HH said that when he arrived at Urabá in 1995 with law enforcement contacts were made ​​by Carlos Mauricio Garcia aka ‘Double Zero’ , a exlancero Army who joined the Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá, Accu, and then spent to command the Bloque Metro in Medellín and in the east and northeast of Antioquia. After the paramilitary incursion Urabá and groups were organized to commit crimes in the region, the contacts were made ​​by Emilio Raul Hasbun alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ and Freddy Rendón Herrera, aka ‘The German’ . The municipalities of Turbo, Apartado, Chigorodó and Mutatá of the banana in the Uraba were Banana Bloc of interference by alias ‘HH’ as head of Front Turbo, and alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ as head of the Front Arlex Hurtado. Alias ​​’The German’ was present in Vigia del Fuerte and Murindó in Urabá, the Elmer Cardenas. In a joint free version on June 3, 2010, alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ and ‘German’ told how We will coordinate with the police. “With ‘Double Zero’ began to joint operations in the Atrato. Hasbun and his deputy, Carlos Vasquez alias’ Brush ‘, coordinated everything with the army and police the area, “said alias’ The German.” Alias ​​’Pedro Bonito’ reckoned ratified by the head of the Bloque Elmer Cárdenas. “In these contacts also took Carlos Cardona alias ‘Maicol’. And not only was general with all staff but intelligence brigades. Had contact with them. There were opportunities when appointed new generals and colonels to the area was not necessary to go to contact them, they were already referenced, “he said alias ‘Pedro Bonito’. “General Rito” The confidence with which the former head of the paramilitary Front Arlex Hurtado refers to the general (r) Rito Alejo del Río s and explained that alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ considered him his friend. “Several coordinations were made ​​with my general. Some of these meetings were held within the brigade, which was the general’s house, “he told the former head paramilitary. Del Rio was commander of the 17th Brigade, based in Carepa, between 1995 and 1997. Currently facing trial for the murder of peasant Marino López Mena, which occurred on February 27, 1997 in Chocó. Alias ​​’The German’ recalled the meeting held with the general. “We were in the general’s house to give us a free hand to take the Río Sucio December 20, 1996.He gave us the support and gave orders to the colonels intelligence battalions. Then we went to square Quibdó Hasbún to the police. On January 9, 1997 the guerrillas wanted to take Rio Sucio and police station. Then, we coordinate with Gen. Rito Alejo Operation guidelines for carrying out the guerrillas and the industry, “said former chief Elmer Cárdenas paramilitary. She told free version alias ‘The German’ Operation Genesis was an operation devised by Army to fight the FARC’s Front 57 in the pipes Salaquí, Cacarica and Truandó in Chocó. For the raid, said exjeparamilitar, the Army had the support of 12 paramilitaries and after intense bombardment of suspected guerrilla locations, affected at least 4,000 people in a black population moved out of the area. The operation was performed 24 to February 27, 1997. About the same time, paramilitaries then plotted a raid called Operation Cacarica free version and was told by Zuniga Jhon Jairo Renteria alias ‘Bitumen’. “This operation was conducted in Choco and Elmer Cardenas was when he died (assuming the block name alias ‘The German’). In coordination with General Rito Alejo del Rio, and took 200 to 250 men of the Brown House and the Banana Bloc. That was on December 16, 1997 and the idea was to reach the area where there was a guerrilla. That day they questioned a 12 year old boy, then killed five men identified as guerrillas and took 400 cattle, “said alias ‘Bitumen’. In free versions, alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ recalled other raids which were supported law enforcement. “In April 1996 we made ​​a raid on a village or township called New East. We entered three or four in the morning and stayed until the afternoon. This was coordinated with Army troops Voltígeros Battalions and Francisco de Paula Vélez, assigned to the 17th Brigade, “said the former head of the paramilitary Front Arlex Hurtado.Another of the ‘operational’ were documented Murindó raid in Chocó, the May 22, 1998. That day the paramilitaries rounded up 120 men from the Block House and Banana Brown for a 14-day battle in which alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ stepped from a helicopter to prevent the spread of the troops. Since 2001, paramilitaries Urabá also raided the joint Tolová Heroes, the paramilitary wing of Diego Fernando Murillo, alias Don Berna ‘. In free version, Moses Enrique Hernández alias ‘Pito’ said that in April 2001 at least 150 paramilitary incursion San Jose de Apartado. “It was with Heroes Tolová patrol, Block Banana and Brown House,” said alias ‘Pito’. As documented by the Prosecutor, José Adrián Cano aka ‘Treacle’, then patrol the Banana Bloc, was guide to the military. “Alias ​​’Treacle’ was provided by the guide block for the Army. It was he who led an army patrol in Nueva Antioquia venture, where supposedly there was a guerrilla camp, “said the prosecutor. Another of the leaders of the Brigade 17 was Casarrubia Elkin Posada alias ‘The Cure’, an ex-guerrilla who joined the ELN the Accu of the Castaño brothers. “Vélez Battalion paramilitary needed 10 to guide them to a raid on the village road and the village of Arenera Currulao (in Turbo, Antioquia). We arrived at four in the afternoon and the fighting lasted until midnight. Since we had attacked, we have air support, a ghost plane ‘rafagueó’ all the mountains where the guerrillas were, “he told ‘The Cure’ free version. The ‘false positives’ The prosecution, the proximity of military and paramilitary was such that shared communication networks, repeaters and the troops. In the alliance, also killed innocent peasants, the military dressed in clothes and handed them over to the 17th Brigade for the Army show results in their supposed fight against the paramilitaries. This offense is punishable by law as extrajudicial executions, more popularly known as ‘false positives’. This was the case of two youths who were approached by alias ‘Machine’, a recruiter Banana Bloc. The paramilitaries were offered work in San Pedro de Uraba and the farmers agreed. Along the way, they said they did the self-defense and made ​​them wear military uniforms and carrying rifles. Then killed them and left their bodies in El Limon, municipality of Turbo, where they were handed to the Battalion Vélez. “This was a case of ‘positive’ for a colonel who wanted to show that fighting the paramilitaries,” said alias ‘HH’ in a free version. On coordination and meetings with the general (r) Rito Alejo del Río, alias ‘Pedro Bonito’ he said at another hearing that he did in public. “I do not hide for such relationships. I was proud to belong to the organization. It was a necessity for the lack of operation of the state. We were well regarded, I considered myself a hero, so I’m not hiding to enter the battalion, “said the former head paramilitary.The judicial review hearing against alias ‘HH’ will continue until mid July 2011 in the Courts of Cundinamarca.

Michael Semple Outlines Next Afghan Civil War

[SEE: What exactly were Mervyn Patterson and Michael Semple doing in Helmand?]

Afghanistan: fault lines in the sand

Michael Semple

The Taliban are just one faction in a long civil war which, thanks to international intervention, seems sure to intensify. Michael Semple, a Harvard academic who worked for the UN on the ground, exposes a decade of mistakes.

One of the best lessons I ever had in Afghan politics was a conversation overheard on a bus. Two decades ago, in the chaos following the collapse of the communist regime, I had to travel from the mountains of Hazarajat in central Afghanistan back to the capital, Kabul. To do this, I had to cross the fault lines of ethnicity, language and religion and the front lines between the armed factions.

Siahkhak, straddling government and opposition territory, was the last post controlled by Hezb-e-Wahdat, the main Shia party in Afghanistan, which draws its support from the ethnic Hazara minority. The local commander arranged a meeting with his Sunni-Pashtun counterpart in Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction of Hezb-e-Islami, and handed me over for escort to the town of Maidan Shahr. The two parties had recently formed an opposition alliance in the power struggle that followed the fall of the communist government. As we raced through the lush apple orchards of the Maidan valley, my escorts were preoccupied with avoiding the other local Pashtun faction, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf’s Ittehad-e-Islami, which had sided with another alliance that was in control of central Kabul. I struggled to keep up with the ethno-political geography.

In Maidan Shahr, I was able to pick up a bus and continue unescorted to the front lines of west Kabul. The old man seated in front of me on the bus asked his companion: “Why has Hekmatyar taken these infernal Hazaras into his lap? They are more murderous than the Soviets.” The companion reassured him: “Do not worry, brother, I am sure it is a stratagem. It will not last.” The journey reminded me that the conflict in the early 1990s was a civil war – and a complex one at that. Almost 20 years later, many of the fault lines remain.

In early June this year, I talked to a Hazara friend about the prospects for the latest political alliance. The most prominent figures from the days of the resistance struggle against the Taliban were again poised to position themselves as the main constitutional opposition. As ever, we speculated on who would join and who would sit on the fence.

While we talked, my friend received several phone calls from Bamiyan, the largest town in the region of Hazarajat. Pashtun Taliban had thrown up checkpoints on an alternative route between Hazarajat and Kabul, which I had used on occasion in the 1990s. Now gunmen were checking the identity of travellers, ostensibly looking for those linked to the government. They had just stopped the car of the chairman of Bamiyan Provincial Council, Jawad Zahhak, a Hazara, and my friend and I feared that his prospects were bleak. His decapitated body was found dumped a few days later.

The Taliban are careful to market their military campaign as anything but a civil war. A wild commander in the south of the country recently remarked how thankful he was for the presence of US troops. His reasoning was that, as long as the Americans were there, the Taliban could focus on fighting them and win support for resisting the infidel. If the Americans and British left, the Taliban would be obliged to restart their war against the Northern Alliance, which had formed in opposition to their rule in the late 1990s. This would involve Muslims killing Muslims and both sides would become munafiq, religious hypocrites. It was only partly a joke.

The Taliban like to portray themselves as a religious national liberation movement. Their government up to 2001 was called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Officials today claim to work for the same entity, even though it has no capital and little firm hold on any territory, and the same title still appears on the letterhead used by Taliban commanders. The idea of the Islamic Emirate allows fighters to claim legitimacy. Taliban supporters imagine it as the embodiment of Islamic virtue and justice, a stark contrast to the perception of the Kabul regime.

Dozens of recently composed Pashto-language ballads in praise of the Taliban tell of hillsides white with the bones of previous conquerors and assert the historical inevitability of their lashkar (militia) triumphing over the infidel occupiers. There is no doubt that many Taliban fighters believe they are doing God’s work: “I am tired of this world, I desire martyrdom,” they say. But the movement is engaged in a power struggle with fellow Afghans, seeking to define the identity of the Afghan state and redress perceived power imbalances within it. I suspect the clichés of historical inevitability in the ballads have little resonance in the north of the country. Even when targeting foreigners, the propaganda is in effect mobilising for the civil war.

As a political officer for the UN, I was part of the team charged with implementing the Bonn Agreement, a plan for Afghanistan that was drawn up following the west’s invasion in 2001. As Taliban power crumbled, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN secretary general’s special representative, shepherded leaders of the main armed alliance and an array of émigré politicians towards agreeing a framework for government.

In the early stages of the process, there seemed to be viable hope that this international intervention might offer Afghans an opportunity to escape from their civil war. But fundamental mistakes were made. First, the organisers felt compelled to sign over control of the army, police and intelligence services to the Northern Alliance, to ensure its support for the agreement; now, backed by the US, it had just occupied Kabul in breach of a promise to stay out. Second, the Taliban were left out of the process altogether.

At that moment, the Taliban stood defeated militarily, but the people they had mobilised – networks of traditional Pashtun clerics – had played an important role in the conflict since the coup in 1978 and were likely to do so in future. Nothing in the Bonn Process gave them a stake in the new system.

I recall, the day after the agreement was signed, asking an old arbab, one of the low-level brokers of Afghan politics, what he thought. He said it was the happiest day of his life, just as if one of his children had got married. I asked him what he thought. He told me how, that morning, he had witnessed an armed man whipping street traders on the pretext of keeping order. The arbab and the armed man had both concluded that the Bonn Agreement was an international endorsement of the victory of one side in the Afghan civil war.

The mistakes were made worse. The coalition troops deployed to Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban immersed themselves in a new preoccupation: the “war on terror”. Meanwhile, a motley assortment of Afghan commanders were recognised as local administrators and police chiefs. In the Pashtun areas, they started taking revenge on the Taliban by denouncing them as terrorists to the newly arrived American forces. There were multiple cases during 2002 where senior Taliban figures attempted to pledge loyalty to the new order, but were hunted down. The US sent to Guantanamo Bay many people who could have been far more useful if they had been given a chance to participate.

Perhaps most unforgivably, Hamid Karzai, appointed as chairman of the interim administration, neglected to conclude a proper surrender agreement with the Taliban. Arrogance had become carelessness. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar sent a delegation to Karzai at the gates of Kandahar, the Taliban’s last remaining stronghold, with authority to hand over the city and agree terms. They parted with little more than vague assurances. No one engaged in the politics necessary to bring the Taliban into the new order. Barely noticed, the former commanders and officials who had evaded arrest slipped across the border to Pakistan.

In 2002, Karzai announced that he was moving decisively against the criminal commanders in the administration. When I checked the list of people sacked in the province for which I was responsible, they turned out to be the more effective and amenable officials. It was a warning of the approach that Karzai would take to the electoral process.

The presidential election of 2004, postponed twice, eventually passed without major controversy. By the time of the parliamentary election the following year, however, the process was visibly worse. I witnessed the aftermath of voting in the Pashtun province of Paktika, which had been shambolic. Fraudulent votes outnumbered genuine ballots and the final outcome was more to do with someone picking deserving winners than counting ballots. Yet there was no appetite for a rerun, in either the Karzai government or the UN. The problem reached a climax in the much-publicised elections of 2009 and 2010, when there was widespread rigging, including cheating on behalf of the president.

The tragedy is that the elections offered perhaps the best opportunity for moving beyond civil war. Because Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtun people, comprise roughly 40 per cent of the population, it is not enough for those seeking a majority to mobilise a single ethnic group; they have to build an alliance. But politics has failed to deliver such pluralism and, consequently, the withdrawal of US troops risks opening the way for a return to outright civil war.

Aside from the military disasters, the international community has other lessons to learn. We should have pre-empted a new round of fighting by dealing with the Taliban politically at the start of the Bonn Process. We needed to be more effective in our support of the mechanics of the electoral process. We needed a more serious strategy to cope with the vagaries of the Afghan government.

Now, as concerned Afghan friends call me for advice, I try to reassure them that there will be some level of ongoing international engagement even after the US soldiers leave. But they sound unconvinced. They are preparing to survive a further, intensified round of civil war that, if we had been cleverer at the start, we might have prevented.

Michael Semple was a political officer for the UN mission from 2001-2002 and deputy to the EU’s special representative for Afghanistan from 2004-2008. He is currently a fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School

Packing Pistols in Afghan Parliament

[Some of the 25% of legislators that Karzai wants replaced are packing guns into parlliament.  What are the odds that we will see a shoot-out in the Afghan halls of government in the coming days?   (SEE:  Fraud Ruling Throws Afghan Parliament Into Disarray).]

MPs carry guns into parliament

by Abasin Zaheer

KABUL (PAN): Some parliamentarians are carrying guns to sessions after the special election court disqualified 62 lawmakers in the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga.

The special election tribunal was created to probe into allegations of fraud during last year’s parliamentary elections. The court found fraud in many provinces and suggested that 62 lawmakers should vacate their seats.

Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi confirmed some lawmakers were armed at Parliament.

Without going into detail, Ibrahimi said the house administrative department and security officials were trying to prevent MPs from illegally carrying arms into Parliament.

A lawmaker from northern Badakhshan province, Amanullah Paiman, also confirmed Ibrahimi’s statement. He suggested such lawmakers should be dealt with according to the law.

“We also have weapons, but we don’t bring them into the house. We only wear waistcoats while sitting in the house,” he said.

Other lawmakers also confirmed that some of their colleagues who might be disqualified in the wake of the court’s verdict carried weapons into parliament.

ma/kg

Government in Afghanistan Nears Collapse

Government in Afghanistan Nears Collapse

Maybe Afghanistan’s politics is so dysfunctional and broken by war that it’s too much to expect any of it to make sense. But it seems to me that then United Nations is on the wrong side of the current fight to the death between President Karzai and Afghanistan’s parliament.

In case you haven’t been following the news: last year’s parliamentary election was so chaotic and flawed that it resulted in the near-total disenfranchisement of Afghanistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority, which makes up a healthy 40 percent of the population. Many Pashtuns either didn’t vote, because of sympathy or support for the Taliban and dislike of the Afghan government, or couldn’t vote, because of Taliban threats and violence. As a result, in some provinces in the south and east where Pashtuns dominate, not a single Pashtun was elected to parliament. For Karzai, that was a disaster, especially since he’s trying to reach out to his Pashtun base as part of his search for a deal with the Taliban and its allies. Earlier this year, a special court appointed by Karzai ruled that sixty-two members of parliament, mostly non-Pashtuns, were elected fraudulently, a step toward installing Pashtun members in their place. Not surprisingly, Karzai’s opponents in parliament, especially Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who oppose Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban, cried foul, challenged the constitutionality of the court, and demanded the impeachment of Karzai.

If the war in Afghanistan ever made any sense at all, this stuff makes it clear that it’s close to hopeless. It also underscores the urgent importance of US efforts to find a political settlement that brings both Pashtuns and the Taliban into a deal and which mollifies the non-Pashtun groups that make up the old Northern Alliance, and who are rearming in the north to fight the Taliban if and when a deal begins to emerge.

Yesterday, the two sides actually came to blows in parliament! The government has all but ceased functioning, a constitutional crisis looms, and there are worries about armed factions relaunching the civil war that plagued the country in the early 1990s. It’s that bad. Members of parliament have started carrying guns.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN representative in Afghanistan, is meeting both sides in search of a political accord. But he’s also sided with the anti-Karzai forces. “A court is supposed to find criminals, not to change the outcome of the election,” he said. But that’s wrong. A court is precisely supposed to rule on the propriety of elections, although Karzai’s opponents challenge the validity of this particular court. Meanwhile, at stake is not neat legalities but the very fabric of Afghan politics and society: Will the Pashtuns, and eventually the Taliban, be integrated into Afghan politics, or not?

Needless to say, the more the Pashtuns are excluded and marginalized, the more they will turn to the waiting Taliban. Especially as US forces start to leave.

The parliament not only wants to impeach Karzai, but they’ve voted to fire Afghanistan’s attorney general and as many as six supreme court justices. And the sixty-two MPs whose election has been challenged by the court have refused to leave, making it the attorney general’s decision to enforce the court ruling and oust the MP’s, by force—thus arresting more than one-fourth of the Afghan parliament.

Stupid and messy, yes. (At least Karzai doesn’t have to deal with cult-like, tax-obsessed Republicans!) There’s lots at stake, including Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan and India, which back opposite sides in the incipient civil war.

The Glaring Inconsistencies in Al Qaeda Coverage by Asia Times and Saleem Shahzad

The Glaring Inconsistencies in Al Qaeda Coverage by Asia Times and Saleem Shahzad

July 1, 2011

By 

There was no indication of whether the earlier account of Sheikh Essa’s arrest in Faisalabad was wrong. If it was right, how did Sheikh Essa reach Syria in 2009? Unfortunate and absolutely horrid and condemnable as Saleem Shahzad’s death was, it would be a mistake to take his stories on face value. Despite his apparently deep contacts with the militants (partly due to his former association with Jamaat-e-Islami), the glaring contradictions in his reports and the sweeping judgements contained therein do not reflect well on the credibility of either him or Asia Times online. It may sound harsh but given that he was the only Pakistani journalist with access to chracters like Ilyas Kashmiri and some in Pakistani and international media are inclined to take everything he reported on al Qaeda on its face value without the usual due diligence, it becomes necessary to point toward what are some serious gaps or inaccuracies in Saleem Shahzad’s Asia Times stories.

Is it always like it seems?

I was reading an article by that brave journalist late Syed Saleem Shahzad in Asia Times ( http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/FG20Df05.html ) dated July 24, 2004 in which he wrote:

“Jundullah is a purely militant outfit whose objective is to target Pakistan’s pro-US rulers and US and British interests in the country. Members receive training in Afghanistan and South Waziristan, and it is now actively recruiting. The organization produces propaganda literature, including documentary films, and has a studio named Ummat. It does similar work for al-Qaeda’s media wing, which is called the al-Sahab Foundation.

These media outlets incite the sentiments of Muslim youths by producing films showing Western – particularly Israeli and US – “atrocities” against Muslim communities. This is the basic tool through which a new generation of jihadis is being raised.

Jundullah was allegedly headed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qaeda operational commander of the September 11 terrorist attack in the US. He was arrested in Pakistan early last year.”

I also read the following report ( http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/abc_news_exclus.html ) by ABC News of April 3, 2007 which claimed that Jundallah was secretly supported by the United States:

“A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran. It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or “finding” as well as congressional oversight. Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.

Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan. The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians. “He used to fight with the Taliban. He’s part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist,” said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.

“Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera,” Debat said. Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan. Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack.

They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan. The Iranian TV broadcast is interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot. A CIA spokesperson said “the account of alleged CIA action is false” and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group.

Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February. A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context. Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.”

I also recalled having posted this story by Seymour Hersh in New Yorker of July 7, 2008: (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh )

“ One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.

The C.I.A. and Special Operations communities also have long-standing ties to two other dissident groups in Iran: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K., and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK.

The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States.”

My Take:

While Saleem Shahzad worked hard to get to the facts often by travelling extensively in the FATA and Afghanistan and cultivating contacts, he was apparently unaware of the clandestine connections of some of the “al Qaeda” linked groups with the CIA as reported by credible US sources such as the ABC News, Seymour Hersh, and Vali Nasr.. all citing top US intelligence sources. A complete analysis is not possible without taking into consideration the other or US side of the story.

Saleem Shahzad broke the story of Al-Qaeda’s responsibility of Benazir’s murder. Saleem Shahzad in a report (http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Security/?id=1.0.1710322437 ) released by the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) within hours of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination stated that “a spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.” The report also claimed:

” It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October. Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto.”

Musharraf government blamed Baitullah Mehsud but Al Qaeda’s involvment was denied the next day by Moulvi Omar.

Given the hugely controversial role of Pervez Musharraf’s government, blatant destruction of evidence, and the details of obstruction of the investigations as later documented by the U.N. commission, the above claim in the AKI story done by Saleem Shahzad was suspect at best and competely misleading and false at worst.

A former top Indian official B. Raman (who served as an additional secretary) had questioned the authencity of this claim noting that it came from a “Pakistani journalist of unestablished credibility” in an analysis published by South Asia Analysis Group, a think-tank. ABC News had noted that the claim was posted by an obscure Italian website (AKI) “.

I had questioned the credibility of the above report not only in my blog but also in my TV appearances. It was also not clear how Saleem Shahzad was able to pinpoint the decision makers and executioneers within hours of the assassination. Was Saleem Shahzad misled by his sources in the intelligence community? Was he fed information, that was wrong, as sometime happens? We may never know. But the report released through “the obsure Italian website” did give an opportunity to Musharraf and United States to condemn the assassination and point towards al-Qaeda. Benazir Bhutto in her life had suspected Pakistani intelligence agencies and their sponsored groups. Some of her closest and well-informed associates did not believe this story and told me it was the work of elements within the government.

This was not the only instance where late Saleem Shahzad reported a speculation or an incorrect account with absolute confidence.

On May 29, 2009, Saleem published a story titled “Al-Qaeda strikes back in Lahore” in Asia Times online. The report http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KE29Df01.html said:

” After assuming office in January, President Barack Obama picked up on the Bush administration’s warning to the Pakistani envoy, and soon after a top al-Qaeda ideologue, Egyptian scholar Sheikh Essa al-Misri, was arrested. Abu Amro Abdul Hakeem alias Sheikh Essa, in his 70s, had never been particularly popular with the al-Qaeda leadership, but given of his background he was respected in jihadi circles. He was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1960s and close to slain Abdul Qadir Audah, a Muslim Brotherhood general who was executed by Gamal Abdul Nasser’s regime in Egypt in 1960.

Sheikh Essa, who had recovered from a form of paralysis, had settled in the North Waziristan tribal area in a very secure environment. However, while traveling to a meeting in Faisalabad in Punjab he was captured by security agents. This arrest caused considerable anger in militant circles, especially in the Arab camps. ”

The above report implied that Abu Amro Abdul Hakeem alias Sheikh Essa was arrested in Pakistan sometime in January or early 2009.

On November 10, 2010, Saleem Shahzad published another story (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LK19Df04.html ) titled, “Al-Qaeda ideologue held in Syria”, which contradicted what was reported in May 29, 2009 Asia Times report. The November 10th report said:

“The al-Qaeda ideologue responsible for formulating strategy in the South Asia war theater, and who also instigating a rebellion against the Pakistani armed forces among Pakistani tribesmen and jihadi militants in the cities, has been languishing in a Syrian prison for the past several months. Seventy-year-old Egyptian Abu “Amr” Abd al-Hakim Hassan, popularly known as Sheikh Essa, was arrested in Syria in 2009 and, according to high-profile intelligence sources, is in a poor state of health.”

Despite the clear contradiction between the two stories, there was no indication, let alone clarification or apology, of whether the earlier account of Sheikh Essa’s arrest in Faisalabad was wrong. If it was right, how did Sheikh Essa reach Syria in 2009?

US warns Palestinians on statehood bid

US warns Palestinians on statehood bid

A Fatah supporter waves a national flag in front of a billboard bearing pictures of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) and his successor, current president Mahmud Abbas

A Fatah supporter waves a national flag in front of a billboard bearing pictures of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) and his successor, current president Mahmud Abbas

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday warned the Palestinians against seeking UN recognition of a future state not first defined in talks with Israel, as a top Palestinian official met here with US diplomats.

“We don’t see a contradiction between the efforts being exerted to revive the peace process and our bid to go to the UN,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told reporters after his talks at the US State Department.

Erakat met with US President Barack Obama’s acting Middle East envoy David Hale and senior US diplomat Dennis Ross, according to department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who renewed US objections to the Palestinian plan.

“Our goal is to get these parties back to the table, and our position on the idea of a UN action in September remains that it’s not a good idea, that it’s not helpful,” she told reporters.

Her comments came as a senior US official announced that envoys from the diplomatic “Quartet” for Middle East peace — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States — were to meet in Washington on July 11.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will participate in the meeting. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had previously indicated the talks may take place.

“The main focus of that diplomacy remains to encourage the Palestinians to come to the table within the framework that the president has set,” said Nuland.

Amid the diplomatic tussling, the US House of Representatives churned towards voting by week’s end on a symbolic resolution warning the Palestinians they risk US aid cuts if they pursue their plans at the United Nations.

The House was expected to overwhelmingly back the measure authored by Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer just one week after the Senate passed a similar resolution.

The Palestinians “must understand that the solution to this conflict will only come through direct negotiations with the Israelis and not by circumventing the peace process through international parliamentary gimmickry,” said Cantor.

“We all know that those negotiations will be difficult; they will be painful, and they will require courage and sacrifice on both sides. But the hard way is also the right way — and if there is to be any hope of peace, both sides must return to the table without preconditions,” said Hoyer.

The resolution also urges Obama to consider suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority pending a view of a unity deal between president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the radical Islamist movement Hamas.

“Any Palestinian unity government must publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with Israel,” it says.

Peace talks ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks as long as Israel builds on land they want for a future state.

They are planning to seek recognition of their state within the 1967 lines that preceded the Six-Day War when the UN General Assembly meets in September, despite the opposition of both Israel and the United States.

France has indicated that it might recognize an independent Palestinian state if peace talks are not back on track by September.

Germany, like the United States, is opposed to any unilateral steps and accepts the Israeli position that any progress must be made through negotiations.

Collaboration Between Pak Army, US Army and TTP Pakistani Taliban

The following maps are given to provide an understanding of the new rear base, which has been set-up in Afghanistan, across the fading Durand Line from Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies and Swat District.  From this safety zone, the Pakistani Taliban under the command of Faqir Muhammad and Fazlullah can launch attacks into Pakistan, sending rockets, as well as hundreds of Pakistani Taliban fighters into Upper Dir.  It is becoming apparent that the Pakistani Taliban are still infesting both sides of the border, since they are launching similar attacks into Afghanistan near Asadabad, from Pakistan.  By taking up positions on both sides of the border they can launch provocations against either government, as well as cause retaliatory fire from either side into their neighbor’s territory. 

This situation has been made possible by coordinated efforts by both the Pak Army and NATO forces, whereas the US side abandoned all bases and forward outposts in the Nurestan area  after the devastating defeat at the Battle of Wanat, allowing the Pakistan Taliban to acquire a new free-fire zone within Afghanistan, from which to harass Pakistani forces.  Cooperation among the TTP, the Pak Army and the US Army has created this situation and given all sides the excuse to keep the fight going, in order to expand it into a three-sided conflagration, which can only be resolved with overwhelming US air power and Special Forces mobilization.

Hang on, Pakistan and Afghanistan; It’s going to be a very rough ride.

 

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upper dir 

Afghan Taliban attack Upper Dir villages

* Official says 600 terrorists attacked border villages of Nusrat Dara and Kharo, fighting soldiers and pro-government tribal militia
ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: Up to 600 terrorists from Afghanistan attacked two Pakistani villages on Wednesday, officials said, the latest in a campaign of large-scale raids on civilians and security forces.
Terrorists stormed the border villages of Nusrat Dara and Kharo in Upper Dir region, fighting soldiers and pro-government tribal militia.
“According to reports from the two villages, between 550-600 terrorists launched the attack at around 5 in the morning and the fighting continued for several hours,” police official Abdul Sattar told Reuters.
Another official said four pro-government tribesmen who fought along with troops were wounded in the attack. Paramilitary troops and police were sent to the villages in Upper Dir district to help armed tribesmen there who were trying to fend off the insurgents, local police official Gul Fazal Khan said. The terrorists torched two schools and a mosque in the village of Nusrat Dara, and destroyed a school in the adjoining village of Saro Kili, said Ghulam Muhammad, a top government official in Upper Dir. They used rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns along with assault rifles. Security forces killed three terrorists and captured three others during the fighting, he said. Two members of a militia fighting the terrorists were killed and two others wounded, he added.
Information from the area is difficult to verify independently because it is remote and dangerous.
Separately, Pakistan-based terrorists attacked troops in another tribal region of North Waziristan on Wednesday. Intelligence officials said troops backed by helicopter gunships killed three terrorists and wounded five in the firefight. Five soldiers were also wounded.
Pakistan says more than 55 soldiers have been killed in several attacks from across the border over the past month. The raids have raised tension between the neighbours as they battle protracted insurgencies by Taliban and al Qaeda-linked terrorists.
Pakistani Taliban fighters who fled to Afghanistan in the face of army offensives have joined allies in Afghanistan to regroup and threaten Pakistan’s border regions again, analysts say.
Pakistan blames Afghanistan for giving refuge to terrorists on its side of the border, leaving its troops vulnerable to counter-attack when it chases them out of the tribal areas and into Afghanistan.
Kabul in turn has blamed Pakistan for killing dozens of civilians in weeks of cross-border shelling.

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Pakistani Taliban attack kills 38 Afghans

ASADABAD: Up to 33 police and five civilians were killed in fighting after Taliban crossed over from Pakistan and attacked a remote region in eastern Afghanistan, an official said on Wednesday. Nuristan provincial governor Jamaluddin Badr said about 40 rebels also died in the two days of clashes that followed weeks of tit-for-tat allegations of cross-border attacks that have fanned diplomatic tensions. But, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry contradicted the toll, saying 12 policemen had died and another five were wounded. Dozens of rebels who began crossing the border from Pakistan on Tuesday triggered the fight, Badr told AFP, attacking police posts in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan. “The report we have now from the area is that 33 border police and five civilians, two of them women, have been killed,” he said. He said most of the dead rebels were Pakistan Taliban. The Interior Ministry said that “dozens” of rebels were killed in a clearance operation that lasted several hours, 12 of them Pakistanis. “The situation in the border areas of Kamdesh district has returned to normal,” it said. The escalating conflict in the rugged border zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan has forced more than 200 Afghan families to flee so far.

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Kurram: the forsaken FATA–November 04, 2010

Kurram: the forsaken FATA 

—Dr Mohammad Taqi

The flat out refusal of the Kurramis, who have lost over 1,200 souls since April 2007, to cede their territory and pride to the jihadists and their masters has thrown a wrench in the latter’s immediate plans. Having failed to dupe the citizenry, the establishment has elected to bring them to their knees by force

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited a tribal agency last week but he did not tender an apology to some local families, whose dear ones — including children — were killed by the Pakistan Army gunship helicopters this past September. Not that one was holding one’s breath for the general’s regrets but it would have presented some semblance of fairness given the Pakistan Army’s demands for apology and furore over the NATO choppers killing its troops in the same region during the same month. Well, life is not fair as it is, especially for the people of Kurram — the third largest Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).

The crime of these civilians, killed by their own army, was that they had been resisting the influx of foreign terrorists into their territory. Despite the claims put forth by the military about the NATO incursion, it is clear now that the latter had attacked the members of the Haqqani terrorist network who were using the village of Mata Sangar in Kurram to attack the ISAF posts in neighbouring Khost, Afghanistan. Reportedly, the de facto leader of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, was in the region at the time of the NATO attack.

What has also become increasingly clear is that the Pakistani establishment is trying its level best to relocate its Haqqani network assets to the Kurram Agency in anticipation of an operation that it would have to start — under pressure from the US — in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) sooner rather than later. This is precisely what the establishment had intended to do when it said that the NWA operation would be conducted in its own timeframe. The Taliban onslaught on the Shalozan area of Kurram, northeast of Mata Sangar, in September 2010 was part of this tactical rearrangement. When the local population reversed the Taliban gains in the battle for the village Khaiwas, the army’s gunships swooped down on them to protect its jihadist partners.

This is not the first time that the security establishment has attempted to use the Kurram Agency to provide transit or sanctuary to its Afghan Taliban allies. It did so during the so-called jihad of the 1980s and 1990s when the geo-strategic tip of the region called the Parrot’s Beak served as a bridgehead for operations against the neighbouring Afghan garrisons, especially Khost. In the fall of 2001, the Pakistan Army moved into Kurram and the Tirah Valley straddling the Khyber and Kurram agencies, ostensibly to block al Qaeda’s escape from the Tora Bora region. The Tirah deployment actually served as a diversion, as al Qaeda and key Afghan Taliban were moved through Kurram and in some instances helped to settle there.

The use of diversions and decoys has also become a de facto state policy when it comes to Kurram. The crisis in the region has been described as a sectarian issue since April 2007. However, the fact of the matter is that the Wahabi extremists, sponsored by the state’s intelligence apparatus, were used to prepare the ground for a larger Taliban-al Qaeda presence in the area. A local mosque in Parachinar served then as the staging ground for rolling out the Taliban rule in the Kurram Agency like similar operations in other tribal agencies. At the time, the Nasrullah Mansur network — an affiliate of the Afghan Taliban — along with the Pakistani Taliban was part of the alliance that had taken over the mosque. The resistance by the Kurram people was extraordinary and the jihadists were dislodged, albeit at great cost to the life, property and peace of the region. A son of Nasrullah Mansur, Saif-ur-Rahman was reportedly killed in a later round of fighting in December 2007.

From that point on, the Kurram tribesmen have come under increasing pressure from the establishment and its Taliban assets to allow the use of their territory for waging war against Afghanistan. The Parachinar-Thall road was effectively closed to the people from upper Kurram through jihadist attacks right under the establishment’s nose. The blockade became so intense that the people had to either use an unreliable and highly expensive small aircraft service operated by the Peshawar Flying Club to reach Peshawar or look for alternative routes.

A land route to Kabul was later opened through the efforts of some Peshawar based tribal and political elders. For about two years, this 230 mile-long arduous journey has literally been upper Kurram’s lifeline and its only land route to reach the rest of Pakistan via Peshawar. Given the fact that the Kurram Agency, with its over half a million population and a 3,380 square kilometre area, is the third largest tribal agency, this route has helped avert a massive humanitarian disaster by allowing food, medicine and supplies to reach the locals. The state did not stand just idle; it actively assisted in the blockade of its own citizens.

The establishment’s strategy over the last month has been to impose the Haqqani network as the ‘mediators’ over the Kurram Agency to help resolve the ‘sectarian’ conflict there. They had coerced and co-opted three leaders from Kurram, Aun Ali, Zamin Hussain and the MNA Sajid Turi, to meet Ibrahim and Khalil Haqqani, sons of the network’s ailing chief Jalaluddin. The three Pakistani men, however, did not have the waak — a customary power of attorney or designation — to conduct a jirga or negotiation or seek nanawatai (sanctuary) on behalf of the Kurram people and therefore were not able to guarantee that Kurram would not resist the new Taliban-Haqqani network incursion there.

The flat out refusal of the Kurramis, who have lost over 1,200 souls since April 2007, to cede their territory and pride to the jihadists and their masters has thrown a wrench in the latter’s immediate plans. Having failed to dupe the citizenry, the establishment has elected to bring them to their knees by force. It announced last week that it is closing down the Parachinar-Gardez-Kabul route, trapping the people of Kurram in a pincer of twin blockades. Announcing the embargo, Colonel Tausif Akhtar of the Pakistani security forces claimed that they are closing down five border entry points to clamp down on sectarian violence. The people of Kurram, however, see this as the state opening the floodgates of oppression on them. But as long as the rest of Pakistan and the world at large do not take notice of the establishment’s tactics in Kurram, this forgotten part of FATA will be completely forsaken.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com

The sham operation in Kurram

[The following is an outstanding analysis of the new “Soap Opera” in Kurram Agency.  To suit its nefarious goals, the Pak Army must maintain its “Gaza Strip” in Parichinar as the killing fields needed for it to wage its sectarian warfare in the tribal region.  Kayani and friends are revealing themselves as the monsters that they truly are.] 

The sham operation in Kurram 

—Dr Mohammad Taqi

A side benefit of the chaos created in the Kurram Agency is that it would be a lot easier to hide the jihadists in the midst of the internally displaced people, making the thugs a difficult target for precision drone attacks

On July 4, 2011, the Pakistan Army announced that it has launched an operation in the Central Kurram Agency with the primary objective of clearing the ‘miscreants’ and opening of the Peshawar-Thall-Parachinar Road (why Tal has become Thall in the English press beats me). The geographical scope of the operation is rather circumscribed, if the army communiqués are to be believed, and its focus, ostensibly, would be on the Zaimusht, Masozai and Alizai areas. But speaking to the Kurramis from Lower, Central and Upper Kurram, one gets a different sense.

At least one General has reportedly been heard saying during the recent operational meetings leading up to the military action that he intends to teach the Turis (in Upper Kurram) a lesson that they would never forget. The Corps Commander’s communication delivered to the tribal elders of the Upper Kurram literally ordered them to acquiesce in and sign on to the operation. But quite significantly, many other leaders among the Turis, Bangash and Syeds of Upper Kurram have vehemently opposed the military action as well as their own elders who seem to have caved in under duress.

The Turis and Bangash tribesmen are of the opinion that on the Thall-Parachinar Road, the only extortionists bigger than the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are the officers of the army — and they specifically name two colonels — who have made life miserable for the people of Parachinar. These security officials levy protection money even on the supply of daily provisions and medicine to Upper Kurram, resulting in jacked-up prices and in many instances unavailability of life-saving drugs, resulting in deaths that otherwise could be preventable.

The more ominous and geo-strategically important aspects of the current army operation are twofold and are interconnected. We have noted in these pages several times that the Pakistan Army has no problem securing Central and parts of Lower Kurram for its jihadist asset, i.e. the Haqqani terrorist network, who have essentially had a free reign in this region for almost a decade using the Sateen, Shasho and Pir Qayyum camps. The army has also helped the Haqqani and Hekmatyar groups set up humungous compounds on the Durand Line such as the Spina Shaga complex.

The problem the security establishment has faced is to secure a thoroughfare between Central Kurram and the assorted jihadist bridgeheads along the Kurram-Afghanistan border, including but not limited to the Parrot’s Beak region. The key hindrance to such movement is the resistance by the Turi and Bangash tribesmen, which neither the security establishment nor its jihadist proxies have been able to neutralise, coerce or buy off. Projecting the Haqqani network and Hekmatyar’s operatives into Afghanistan from Tari Mangal, Mata Sangar, Makhrani, Wacha Darra and Spina Shaga and other bases on the border is a pivotal component of the Pakistani strategy to keep the US bogged down in Afghanistan and for the post-US withdrawal phase. But with the recent wave of drone attacks on the hideouts of these groups, their vulnerability to the US/ISAF — buoyed by the OBL raid — has also become evident and hence the need for secure routes to retract the jihadists back when needed.

Several attacks on the Turi and Bangash, including by Pakistan Army helicopter gunships last year killing several Pakistanis, have not dented the resolve of the locals to fight back against the jihadists. I had noted in these pages then: “The Taliban onslaught on the Shalozan area of Kurram, northeast of Mata Sangar, in September 2010 was part of this tactical rearrangement [to relocate the Haqqanis to Kurram]. When the local population reversed the Taliban gains in the battle for the village Khaiwas, the army’s gunships swooped down on them to protect its jihadist partners” (‘Kurram: the forsaken FATA’, Daily Times, November 4, 2010).

The option that the army wants to exercise now is to disarm the Upper Kurram’s tribesmen, especially the Turis. The security establishment has told them that they will have to surrender their “qawmi wasla” (an arms cache that belongs to a tribe as a whole). To disarm and thus defang the tribesmen, who have held their own against the disproportionately stronger and state-sponsored enemy for almost half a decade, is essentially pronouncing their death sentence.

Without their weapons, the Turis and Bangash will be at the whim of an army that had literally abandoned Muhammad Afzal Khan Lala and Pir Samiullah in Swat and the Adeyzai lashkar (outside Peshawar). Afzal Khan Lala lost several loyalists and family members and Pir Samiullah was murdered, his body buried but later exhumed and mutilated by the Taliban, while the army stood by and did nothing. My co-columnist and researcher, Ms Farhat Taj has highlighted the plight of the Adeyzai lashkar several times in these pages, including the fact that it was left high and dry by the security establishment against an overwhelming Taliban force. And lest we forget, it was this same army that made Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Afrasiab Khattak of the Awami National Party (ANP) negotiate with Mullah Fazlullah’s Taliban, with suicide bombers standing guard on each men and blocking the door along with muzzles of automatic rifles pointed into their faces.

A side benefit of the chaos created in the Kurram Agency is that it would be a lot easier to hide the jihadists in the midst of the internally displaced people (IDPs), making the thugs a difficult target for precision drone attacks. Also, the establishment’s focus has been to ‘reorient’ the TTP completely towards Afghanistan. The breaking away from the TTP of the crook from Uchat village, Fazl-e-Saeed Zaimusht (who now interestingly writes Haqqani after his name) is the first step in the establishment’s attempt to regain full control over all its jihadist proxies.

The offensive in Central Kurram is not intended for securing the road; it will be broadened to include the Upper Kurram in due course, in an attempt to bring the Turis and Bangash to their knees. After their arms have been confiscated, it could be a turkey shoot for the jihadists and Darfur for the Kurramis. It is doubtful though that the common Turi or Bangash tribesman is about to listen to some elder who is beholden to the establishment, and surrender the only protection that they have had. The Pakistan Army’s track record of protecting jihadists and shoving the anti-Taliban forces off the deep end speaks for itself.

Pakistan’s security establishment can perpetuate on the US and the world a fraud like the hashtag de-radicalisation on Twitter and buzzwords like de-programming suicide bombers by trotting out the so-called intelligentsia whose understanding of the Pashtun issues is woefully flawed. But it is unlikely that Kurramis are about to fall for this sham of an operation that paves the way for their genocide.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/mazdaki

 

Turkmenistan Rejects Another Israeli Ambassador, Both of Them ‘Mossad Spies’

“Soon after Lieberman assumed his ministerial post, he decided to open an embassy in Ashgabat, the capital of the Muslim former Soviet republic. According to ministry officials, this was a “personal project” of the minister’s, as he considered it important to have diplomatic representation in a city only 20 kilometers from the Iranian border.

Turkmenistan rejects Israeli ambassador, says he is ‘Mossad spy’

Turkmen Foreign Ministry says Israel’s designated ambassador Haim Koren’s past employment as instructor at the National Security College is proof of his involvement in espionage.

By Barak Ravid

Turkmenistan has rejected Israel’s designated ambassador for the second time, claiming that the proposed envoy is a Mossad operative.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry recently informed Israel that it will not accept the credentials of Haim Koren, who was appointed in August 2010, because his resume indicates that he spent three years as an instructor at the National Security College in Glilot. A Foreign Ministry source in Jerusalem said the Turkmen government saw that as proof that he was a Mossad spy, rather than a diplomat.

Lieberman - Michal Fattal - 07.07.2011 Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman arriving for a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the Knesset yesterday.
Photo by: Michal Fattal

The Foreign Ministry tried repeatedly to explain that the college was an educational institution and not an intelligence body, but could not convince the Turkmen officials.

“We want you to send us an ambassador who will deal with bilateral relations, not a spy to collect intelligence on Iran,” a senior Turkmen official reportedly told Israeli officials.

This follows Turkmenistan’s refusal in late 2009 to accept Israel’s first candidate, Reuven Daniel, who had served in the Mossad in the past. After Turkmenistan refused to accept him, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made Daniel ambassador to Ukraine as a consolation prize.

Expelled from Russia

The Foreign Ministry’s assessment at the time was that Turkmenistan refused Daniel because in 1996, when he headed the first Mossad office in Moscow, he was expelled from Russia after he was caught accepting classified satellite photos from Russian officers.

Koren’s rejection deeply embarrassed Foreign Ministry officials, since this is the first time a foreign country has ever rejected Israel’s proposed ambassador twice. They also regarded it as strange, since Koren was a professional appointment, not a political one.

Soon after Lieberman assumed his ministerial post, he decided to open an embassy in Ashgabat, the capital of the Muslim former Soviet republic. According to ministry officials, this was a “personal project” of the minister’s, as he considered it important to have diplomatic representation in a city only 20 kilometers from the Iranian border. Lieberman saw this not only as a diplomatic achievement, but as a way to convey a warning to Tehran.

For 10 months after Koren was named, the Turkmen government refused to accept his credentials, but did not give any reason for their foot-dragging. Only a few weeks ago did they finally explain the rejection.

According to Foreign Ministry sources, Lieberman has lost patience with Turkmenistan’s conduct and considered canceling the opening of the embassy altogether. But the head of the ministry’s Euro-Asian Department, Pinhas Avivi, who is handling the contacts with Turkmenistan officials, convinced him not to abandon the plan.

Last week, therefore, a new internal tender was published for the ambassadorial post.

Exclusive: Treasury secretly weighs options to avert default

Exclusive: Treasury secretly weighs options to avert default

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pauses while speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago, June 30, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress

WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 6, 2011 11:40pm EDT

(Reuters) – A small team of Treasury officials is discussing options to stave off default if Congress fails to raise the country’s borrowing limit by an August 2 deadline, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Senior officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have repeatedly said there are no contingency plans if lawmakers do not give the U.S. government the authority to borrow more money.

But behind the scenes, top Treasury officials have been exploring ways to prevent a financial meltdown that would be triggered if the government were unable to pay its bills on time, sources told Reuters.

Treasury has studied the following issues:

– Whether the administration can delay payments to try to manage cash flows after August 2

– If the U.S. Constitution allows President Barack Obama to ignore Congress and the government to continue to issue debt

– Whether a 1985 finding by a government watchdog gives the government legal authority to prioritize payments.

The Treasury team has also spoken to the Federal Reserve about how the central bank — specifically the New York Federal Reserve Bank — would operate as Treasury’s broker in the markets if a deal to raise the United States’ $14.3 trillion borrowing cap is not reached on time.

The U.S. government currently borrows about $125 billion each month. The Obama administration wants Congress to raise the limit by more than $2 trillion to meet the country’s borrowing needs through the 2012 presidential election.

The contingency discussions, which have remained a closely guarded secret throughout weeks of negotiations with Congress over the debt ceiling, are being led by Mary Miller, Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets, who is effectively custodian of the country’s public debt.

Miller’s team has debated whether Obama could ignore Congress and order continued borrowing — by relying on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — if it fails to raise the borrowing cap.

The fourth section of the 14th Amendment states the United States’ public debt “shall not be questioned.” Some argue the clause means the government cannot renege on its debts.

Obama dismissed talk of invoking the amendment on Wednesday. “I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue,” he said. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We’ve always paid them in the past.”

HINT OF PLAN B COULD HURT TALKS

The White House declined to comment on the discussions at Treasury, but administration officials sought to tamp down talk of relying on the 14th Amendment.

There has been growing speculation in Washington in recent days that the administration could use the amendment to ignore the congressionally imposed limit on the amount of money the United States can borrow.

“Despite suggestions to the contrary, the 14th Amendment is not a failsafe that would allow the government to avoid defaulting on its obligations,” said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.

Miller’s team has discussed the Government Accountability Office’s 1985 assessment that Treasury has the authority to prioritize payments in the event of a default — an option Treasury officials have been wary of.

The administration’s nightmare scenario is that investors panic at the prospect of a default, triggering a crisis that eclipses the 2008 financial meltdown. That could plunge the U.S. economyinto another recession, something that could doom Obama’s re-election prospects in 2012.

Some conservative Republicans have argued the Treasury can prioritize payments and manage a default. The administration wants to keep lawmakers focused on the August 2 deadline, and even a hint of a “Plan B” could lessen the urgency to strike a deal by then.

“As we have said repeatedly over the past six months, there is no alternative to raising the debt limit,” Treasury spokeswoman Colleen Murray said when asked to comment on the Treasury discussions.

“The only way to prevent a default crisis and protect America’s credit-worthiness is to enact a timely debt limit increase, which we remain confident Congress will do.”

TREASURY OFFICIALS MUM

Obama meets leaders from both parties at the White House on Thursday as he seeks to get an agreement to cut trillions from the U.S. deficit, which Republicans have demanded in exchange for their support to raise the debt limit.

The fear of any loss of momentum in the debt and deficit talks is so great that even in their private conversations with former colleagues and investors, administration officials are refusing to admit to contingency discussions.

“There has to be contingency planning,” said one former Obama administration official. “But they won’t even tell me that.”

That view was echoed by numerous former officials from the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

“You have to have a backup plan. If you are relying on Congress to avoid the possibility of an Armageddon, you can’t just bet on that,” said Keith Hennessey, who headed the White House National Economic Council during President George W. Bush’s administration.

In August, the Treasury will take in roughly $172 billion, but is obligated to make $306 billion in payments — meaning it cannot pay about 45 percent of its bills without borrowing more money, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

That would force the administration to make some difficult choices, even though officials believe emergency measures will buy little time and cannot stave off an economic catastrophe.

OPTIONS “PRETTY UGLY”

If Treasury were to decide to delay some payments, one option could be to postpone a disbursement of more than $49 billion to Social Security recipients that is due on August 3.

It would be a politically explosive step but one that could allow the government to temporarily pay bondholders to try to avoid foreign investors dumping U.S. Treasuries and the dollar.

The administration has warned that any missed payments, including those to retirees, veterans and contractors, would be default by another name, and the Treasury team still has concerns that any contingency plan would prove unworkable.

Steve McMillin, a former deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under Bush, said Treasury has options but most of them are “pretty ugly.”

If Treasury were to decide to delay payments, it would need to re-program government computers that generate automatic payments as they fall due — a massive and difficult undertaking. Treasury makes about 3 million payments each day.

From their second floor offices in Treasury, Miller and Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard Gregg, are the lieutenants Geithner is relying on if the administration’s first option of negotiating a deal with Republicans falls apart.

“She’s dealing with this day in and day out,” said a former Treasury official.

The former official said Treasury aides were “speaking with Congress on a daily basis,” giving them the latest updates on receipts and when default could occur.

The source said White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and other officials regularly ask Miller for information.

“Every day they talk about the debt ceiling. The night before, they get the most recent numbers,” the source said.

Michael Barr, a former Treasury official who worked closely with Miller, said he spoke with Miller and Gregg a month ago.

“They were exploring if there were any legal and practical alternatives. It was not obvious to them that the president has the legal authority to pick and choose who gets paid,” he said.

Barr added: “It is not obvious that even if they had legal authority, that as a practical matter you can do it.”

As recently as June 21, Miller told a group of sovereign debt holders in London that there is no Plan B and assured them that the debt limit would be raised before August 2.

Publicly, Treasury has maintained there is no contingency plan. “Our plan is for Congress to pass the debt limit,” Geithner said late in May. “Our fall-back plan is for Congress to pass the debt limit, and our fall-back plan to the fall-back plan is for Congress to pass the debt limit.”

(By Richard CowanRachelle Younglai, Tim Reid, and Caren Bohan)

(Editing by Ross Colvin and Jackie Frank)

US commits ‘cultural terrorism’ by sponsoring gay pride event in Pakistan

US commits ‘cultural terrorism’ by sponsoring gay pride event in Pakistan

American sponsored gay-pride events come as an affront to the Pakistani culture.
Title: American sponsored gay-pride events come as an affront to the Pakistani culture.

Just when it seemed relations between the US and Pakistan couldn’t get worse, a new wrinkle has developed, this time over US sponsorship of a gay pride event in Islamabad.

Conservative religious groups in Pakistan have sharply criticized the US Embassy in Islamabad for sponsoring the country’s first ever gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride celebration on June 26. They described the event as “cultural terrorism” and the second most dangerous attack on the country by the US after the drone and missile strikes that have that have killed civilians in addition to their intended insurgent targets. Officials at the US Embassy there said in a statement that the event, co-sponsored by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies “… demonstrated continued US Embassy support for human rights, including LGBT rights, in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.”

Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Richard Hoagland reaffirmed US commitment to a proclamation signed by President Barack Obama May 31 that, “we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I want to be clear: the US Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way.”

There has been no comment on the event by Pakistan government officials but the flap may fuel public resentment of US dealings in the country. The two governments already are at odds over fallout from the secret US attack in Abbottabad in which Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden was killed May 2, and civilian deaths from unmanned Predator drone aircraft and missile attacks in remote areas where Al Qaeda and other insurgents are hiding.

Whether the criticisms over the gay rights celebration will gain traction with the Pakistan public remains to be seen. Already it has generated debate on Internet blogs. Islamist groups held rallies in major cities Monday at which US sponsorship of the event was denounced.

Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic party, issued a biting statement on behalf of various conservative religious groups.

It said homosexuals “…don’t deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the US administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan,” according to an Associated Press translation. “Such people are the curse of society and social garbage.”

“We condemn the American conspiracy to encourage bisexualism in our country,” said Mohammad Hussain Mehnati, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami during one of the rallies.

“They have destroyed us physically, imposed the so-called war on terrorism on us and now they have unleashed cultural terrorism on us,” he said. “This meeting shows cruel America has unleashed a storm of immoral values on our great Islamic values, which we’ll resist at all costs,” Mr. Mehnati said.

Pakistan’s constitution does not deal with homosexuality directly but does say that Islam is the official state religion, and all laws, rules, regulations and other such legislation must be compatible with Islam. Homosexuality is illegal under Sharia laws introduced in the country in 1990, punishable by public flogging or imprisonment.

Nonetheless, the country seems to be softening some of its official treatment homosexuals. Earlier this year Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled to allow a third gender category on national identity cards.

“Previously, we were having two categories, male and female, for registration,” Brigadier Ehsan ul-Haq, who manages the national database in Karachi, said at the time. “This (homosexual) community agitated for a separate identity of their own. They went to the Supreme Court, the court agreed and we will implement it.”

Pakistan does not, however, recognize marriage or civil unions by homosexuals and homosexually is socially and religiously ostracized in most areas of the country.

The Obama administration’s projection of its philosophy on homosexuality in Pakistan comes at a time when the US itself is wrestling with questions of rights for homosexuals. States are debating whether to recognize same sex marriages and the military is divided on whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces.

Seven states and one district currently allow same marriages. Other states recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and some states offer civil unions of same sex couples that afford some of the legal benefits and protections of marriage.

Twenty states outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation while twelve others prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are punishable by federal law.

 

By Nathaniel Sheppard

Central Asian Battlefield 2027

Central Asian Battlefield 2027

Should revolution sweep Central Asia in a “Silk Road Awakening” next decade, its republics, rich in resources but impoverished in terms of infrastructure and institutions, could find themselves at the mercy of neighboring greater powers descending upon the region like four “hungry hippos.”

This is the premise explored by a team of Georgetown University students participating in a grand strategy competition with the geopolitical analysis community Wikistrat. Their worst case scenario? Continental Asia as a ticking time bomb.

Neighboring powers have been vying for influence in Central Asia since the demise of Soviet power there, inspiring some analysts to forecast a “New Great Game” in reminiscence of the Anglo-Russian power struggle during the nineteenth century.

As both the British and the Russians found out, Central Asia is a tar pit filled with confusing micro-nationalities, borders arbitrarily drawn without regard for ethnic divides and a geography that is bound to frustrate any attempt at military intervention. But it’s also rich in natural resources and could propel whichever country dominates it to the status of global power. China, Iran, Russia and Turkey each have a strong motive for building leverage in the region should an opportunity to do so present itself.

Such an opportunity could be a wave of popular uprisings come 2027. The Georgetown students warn that the situation could be very similar to that in Libya today where the fall of a strongman heralds chaos and disorder. “Few political leaders emerged among the republics,” Georgetown’s David Rosenblum predicts, “and those who did found the attempt to make the different ethnic, linguistic and religious groups happy nearly impossible.”

Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Tajiks, Pamiris, Kara-kalpaks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uigurs and Uzbeks created plenty of personal interest problems. Unifying these groups also proved difficult due to the sparse population density typifying much of the vast region.

Of the gravest concern for the region would be a sudden and significant drop in oil and gas production.

China, Iran, Russia and Turkey were quick to observe that state owned companies responsible for pumping gas or oil and guarding energy infrastructure do not function nearly as well when that state is failing. The responses from Ankara, Beijing, Moscow and Tehran were swift now that their national interests were threatened by Central Asia’s collapse.

China could see unrest spreading into Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia where ethnic minorities have long been ambivalent about Communist rule. Moreover, China’s high dependence on imported oil and gas could ignite a crisis and spark riots if the energy flow from Central Asia were suddenly interrupted. Thus China dispatches peacekeepers and UAVs to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to protect the natural gas pipeline that traverses these countries. “A number of geologists were also spotted throughout Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, prospecting for rare earth elements.”

In Tehran, the immediate concern would be the risk of an Azeri uprising proclaiming allegiance to Azerbaijan. Having just weaponized its nuclear potential, Iran would still be heavily outgunned by Israel. “With abundant supplies of oil and a population thrilled to be free of burdensome economic sanctions, Tehran had only two objectives in Central Asia,” according to Harry Bethke.

Stop the protest movements from spreading as it threatened the Islamic Republic’s territorial integrity and acquire the infrastructure needed to become an official global power—a space launch site.

Ayatollahs in space? It would put Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a spot even harder to reach than the holy bunkers at Qom. Iranian advisors would soon be on the ground in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Turkey, still not a member of the European Union, would finally take matters into its own hands and seek to unify the Turkic people from the Golden Horn to Urumqi, China. “Leading a revitalized Grand Turkestan would certainly put Turkey on the map,” the Georgetown students observe. “But acquiring nuclear weapons wouldn’t hurt either.”

While leading the charge to link Grand Turkestan to its rightful place, Turkey would begin acquiring the necessary material to begin a nuclear weapons program. Fortunately, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan had plenty of uranium and mines already constructed.

As for Russia, the situation playing out in its backyard could not represent more of a disaster. With terrorists and weapons flowing freely from Central Asia to its troubled North Caucasus and nearby greater powers encroaching upon its traditional zone of influence, Moscow would suddenly experience the all too familiar feeling of other countries knocking on its doorstep. As Maria Vassilieva observes,

Russia now faced the EU and NATO to its west, China on its southeast, the possibility of a Turkish led amalgamation, Iran, or China on its south and the United States and Canada moving in close over the top with the melting ice caps.

Having properly cited their moral obligations and cultural ties with the Central Asian people, the four interested powers would be “somewhat surprised to see others there with them.”

Unlike the original Great Game, the competition for influence and control would not rely on troops physically acquiring territory alone, notes Alfredo Montufar-Helu Jimenez. “Select energy infrastructure and weapons materiel will be the main prize that China, Iran, Russia and Turkey all covet.” Controlling them could still demand military action however.

It’s possible for coalitions to emerge among the four powers with China and Russia developing a partnership to keep the upstarts, Iran and Turkey, from making any moves of strategic significance in Central Asia.

Russia and China would have largely similar interests in protecting energy infrastructure and eliminating the protest movements and air of revolution to keep things quiet in their respective provinces. Furthermore, their energy interests and energy infrastructure do not overlap. They have access to uranium and other minerals and have access to space stations to launch satellites and other weapons.

Iran and Turkey could upset these assets but an alliance between them is unlikely, allowing the others to “divide and conquer.”

The United States would have little reason to interfere. It has only to sit back and let the four competitors sort things out among themselves unless one threatens to emerge as a clear winner. In the meantime, the Americans would be busy leading an international effort of safeguarding Soviet era weapons of mass destructions that could easily fall in the hands of some terrorist organization amid the chaos.

West Behind Uzbek Idea To Create Islamist “Caliphate” In Fergana Valley

Zhyldyzkan Dzholdosheva: Idea to create the caliphate in Fergana valley is cause of June tragedy

Bishkek – 24.kg news agency , by Aizada KUTUEVA

“One of causes of June tragedy in the southern Kyrgyzstan was the idea to create the caliphate in Fergana valley,” the member of Ata-Zhurt faction Zhyldyzkan Dzholdosheva stated at the press conference today.

She said that this idea is hovering in the air for a long time. “Uzbeks leaders, extremist forces sponsored by the West are interested in that.” She believes that if the south of the country will be lost then Kyrgyzstan stops exists as a sovereign state.