Tokyo Radiation Hot Spots

Our Nationwide Soil Testing Project has begun!

As our first work of our Nationwide Soil Testing Project, we tested soil samples from 150 areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area. This project is the first unified investigation on the diffusion of radioactive particles in the metropolitan area including Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Ibaraki prefectures, whereas the national and local governments are separately performing their investigations.

Local participants of this project collected soil samples from their preferred locations, and sent them to the same laboratory to test radioactive particles (Iodine-131, Cesium-134, and Cesium-137.) As a result, we discovered that the radioactive fallout in the metropolitan area was quite significant. Some of the extremely high numbers show that there are severely contaminated “hotspots” within the city.

We would be continuing our soil testing project on a nationwide level, to then bring actual ideas and actions to prevent the various effects of radiation.

Nationwide Soil Testing Project(PDF)
Nationwide Soil Testing Project Map(PDF)

Blow for ATS as SIMI, Indian Mujahideen terrorists refuse narco analysis

Blow for ATS as SIMI, Indian Mujahideen terrorists refuse narco analysis

Source: Bhaskar News

Narcohypnosis Using Sodium Amytal

Bhopal: Members of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Muhajideen (IM), who were nabbed from Jabalpur and Bhopal in June by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), have refused to undergo narco analysis test.

During a hearing in the court of CJM Ramgopal Singh on Friday, the arrested terrorists said they fear that the test could result in serious side effects, so they will not go for it.

Following the denial, the court rejected an application of the ATS, which had appealed the court to allow it conduct narco analysis test on all the arrested extremists, including SIMI head Abu Faisal, Ejajuddin, Ikrar Sheikh and Guddu, to yield important information.

According to a Supreme Court ruling dated May 5, 2010, narco analysis could only be done with the consent of the accused.

The Madhya Pradesh ATS had arrested eight SIMI and IM operatives from various parts of Jabalpur and Bhopal.

Out of the eight arrested alleged terrorists, four were nabbed from Jabalpur and the rest from Bhopal.

According sources in the ATS, the arrested militants used to circulate jihadi literature and video CDs among children in the age group of 15 to 18 years.

The police have also recovered huge quantity of CDs , pen drives and jihadi literature from the arrested men. Apart from that, they also used ‘jihadi’ blogs to influence the young minds.

Sources said that during investigations, the arrested terrorists have revealed that they had recruited several young men from Indore, Ujjain and Bhopal into their army to fulfill their nefarious aims. They targeted young men coming to mosques in various cities of the state.

Full of beliefs and empty of religion’

Full of beliefs and empty of religion’

South Asian News Agency (SANA)

S Iftikhar Murshed

Shahid Zafar and Mumtaz Hussain Qadri have much in common. They were members of security outfits, both committed murder in broad daylight and both were promptly arrested. That’s where the similarities end. Shahid Zafar, of the Rangers, shot dead 19-year-old Sarfraz Shah on June 8 and was sentenced to death ten weeks later by an anti-terrorism court. His six accomplices, five of whom also belonged to the Rangers, were awarded life sentences.

There were no extenuating circumstances because the horrific event had been filmed by a television cameraman who happened to be around. The swift justice was therefore accidental. The judgment was nevertheless lauded in editorials and television talk shows as a landmark in the legal history of the country. The recurrent theme was that the mighty military and paramilitary forces had been finally been corralled within the ambit of the law. Though this was a faulty assumption, there was jubilation that justice had at last been done. Had Sarfraz Shah been framed for blasphemy, it is unlikely that his assassin would have been so promptly sentenced.

There were also celebrations, but for a different reason, after Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad on Jan 4 by Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of the police’s elite force and a part of Taseer’s security detail. Far from expressing even the slightest remorse or regret, Qadri boasted that he had acted in defence of Islam because Taseer had dared to oppose Ziaul Haq’s blasphemy laws. Despite this confession, the murderer has yet to be convicted though more than seven months have passed since the assassination.

Qadri was lionised after his horrendous crime as a ghazi (holy warrior) in massive demonstrations organised by the so-called religious parties. He was festooned with seasonal flowers and acclaimed a hero. The deadly virus of distorted religious tenets was not confined to the streets and also infected parliament. Some of its members objected to prayers for the slain governor, but assiduously avoided expressing similar reservations when fateha was offered for Osama bin Laden during mass rallies in some of the major cities of the country. It was precisely against such sickening displays of false religiosity that Khalil Gibran lamented in the early 1930s: “Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.”

The spontaneous outbursts of public support for criminals and terrorists who strive to impose their convoluted interpretations of Islamic doctrine on society demonstrate the extent to which the country has been radicalised. This has happened with the tacit will and consent of the political leadership, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Punjab. The reason is that the extremist groups are predominant in the southern part of the province and politicians vie with each other for their support. At the end of July an investigative columnist revealed that 86 million rupees had been earmarked in Punjab budget for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa as the banned Lashkar-e-Tayba now calls itself.

Similarly, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has confirmed persistent media reports that the PML-N government had been providing financial assistance to the terrorist kingpin Malik Ishaq since 2008. Ishaq, a founding member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (an offshoot of the Sipah-e-Sahaba which has been renamed Sunnat wal Jamaat), was released after 14 years of imprisonment last month. He was acquitted in 45 of the 100-plus terrorism-related cases against him and was granted bail for the remaining charges. Rana Sanaullah justified the monetary help on the ground that the disbursements had not been made to Ishaq but to his family, and that this was in compliance with court orders. Strangely, no such assistance was provided during the Musharraf era and neither has any court injunction to this effect surfaced.

The influence of the extremist parties in southern Punjab is also recognised by the PPP and, like the PML-N, it has pandered to these outfits for political gain. Khaled Ahmed, director of the Lahore-based South Asia Free Media Association, recalls that Sipah-e-Sahaba leader Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi openly bragged in March last year that all politicians who had won seats in the 2008 elections from south Punjab had requested his organisation for help. He also disclosed that Sipah-e-Sahaba’s support for the PPP candidate from the Haroonabad constituency had been announced in the presence of Governor Salmaan Taseer.

It is this power wielded by banned religious and sectarian organisations in south Punjab that has to be kept in mind as the election gimmick set in motion by the PPP for the creation of a Seraiki province gathers steam. In the unlikely event that the proposal is endorsed by a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, Senate and the Provincial Assemblies, as required under Article 239 of the Constitution, then the first time in Pakistan’s history a province controlled almost entirely by jihadi groups will have emerged.

Experts such as Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training, reckon that the population of south Punjab is about 27 million and the influence of religious seminaries, or madressahs, is strong in all the 13 districts which include Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Bhakker, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Khanewal, Layyah, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur and Vehari. These seminaries have spawned armed jihadis and have provided fighters to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Southern Punjab, Khalid Aziz believes “is emerging as an insurgency hub.”

Yet in October 2009, Rana Sanaullah denied on television that there were any terrorist groups in southern Punjab. This was contradicted by the PPP’s Jamshed Dasti who said that the area was saturated with violent Deobandis and south Punjab provided a fertile recruiting ground for the TTP.

In the past it was the feudal landlords, supported by federal deputy commissioners and the police, who controlled the area. This has changed over the last two decades with the ascendancy of the jihadi groups. Two vectors of power have now emerged in south Punjab. Khaled Ahmed writes: “The mutual tolerance of the two is actually hinged on the feudal landlord’s decision not to mess with the armed jihadis.”

The rise of these extremist outfits would not have been possible without massive external funding. The WikiLeaks revelations show that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been providing an astounding $100 million every year to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith madressahs in south Punjab “ostensibly with the support of these governments.” Dr Shireen Mazari, former director general at the Institute of Strategic Studies, claimed that in Dera Ghazi Khan alone there were 11,535 students from JUI-linked Deobandi madressahs and these institutions “receive foreign funding…almost solely from Kuwait.”

The damage done by these petrodollar-rich midget states of the Gulf region outweighs whatever financial assistance they may be providing to Islamabad. They have to be firmly told that the funding of seminaries that propagate violent extremism has to stop. The “fraternal” sentiments they profess for Pakistan is akin to Cain’s relationship with Abel.

But others cannot be blamed for our own shortcomings. Pervez Musharraf mollycoddled the jihadi groups to leverage support from the West, as much as the present leadership has gone the extra mile to appease them for political advantage. Many of those who dared to oppose the obscurantist worldview of the madressahs, such as Salmaan Taseer, have been killed, whereas others, for instance the highly respected theologian Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, have fled the country.

Several years ago the American poet and liberal activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti paraphrased Khalil Gibran’s famous poem when he wrote: “Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silent and whose bigots rule the airwaves.” There can scarcely be a more accurate portrayal of contemporary Pakistan.

The writer publishes the Criterion quarterly. Email: iftimurshed@gmail. com

Courtesy News

America’s jihadi miscalculations

America’s jihadi miscalculations

America and the Imperialism of Ignorance: US Foreign Policy Since 1945
Author: Andrew Alexander
Publisher: Biteback
Price: £20

According to the book, at the heart of the US foreign policy problem has been America’s deep-seated ignorance about the cultures of the countries it wants to change, writes ASHOK TANDON

Afghanistan have only served as a recruiting sergeant for jihadis, according to the book, America And the Imperialism Of Ignorance: US Foreign Policy Since 1945, by Andrew Alexander, a veteran journalists and political commentator at London’s The Daily Mail.

According to the ardent Thatcherite, Washington assumed that peace and order would prevail in Iraq once Saddam Hussein was ousted. It was an epic miscalculation.

In Afghanistan, Alexander believes, Americans still act on the assumption that installing democratic procedures is a solution for the country’s woes. But there is no logic in this. The US should have learned that it is dangerous to provoke the power of nationalism. It should have realised that when this force runs alongside religious fervour, the risk of conflicts spinning out of control is even greater. But again, efforts to understand the underlying grievances and motivation of an enemy and to “appease” them are seen as weaknesses and rejected as un-American, says the author.

“Since 2001, we (Britain) have been dragged into the front line of a war on terror which has served only as a recruiting sergeant for jihadists from all parts of Islam” Alexander says, adding: “The American folk hero is the swaggering gunman. Let loose in the wider world, he is a threat to peace. It is our duty to warn him off this course, not trail along in his wake.”

The author writes that at the heart of the US foreign policy problem was — and is — America’s deep-seated ignorance about the cultures of the countries it wants to change. The average American takes little interest in the outside world. On the eve of invading Iraq, for example, George W Bush had to be briefed that its people were deeply divided. The words ‘Shia’ and ‘Sunni’ were new to him. Though Americans don’t really understand the outside world, they think it’s Washington’s role to police it. Imbued with an overweening sense of destiny, Americans believe that they should impose their own type of administration and economy elsewhere. When that doctrine is forwarded by bombing, the spectacle of people killed so that they could be ‘saved’ would be laughable, if not tragic.

Yet, when such an intervention produces hostility to Uncle Sam, Americans are baffled by this apparent lack of gratitude. They find it hard to believe they are not welcome as friends and liberators, bringing enlightenment to ‘dark’ places. This is another manifestation, Alexander argues, of their inability to see themselves as others perceive them.

A particular blind spot is nationalism and patriotism, which Americans value highly in themselves, but fail to acknowledge that it’s just as powerful a sentiment for others. They would fight to the last man for their own flag and freedom, but don’t understand when others do the same. Washington reacts high-handedly when its pride is challenged, but it never seems to grasp that other countries have just as much pride, which is never more evident than when they are resisting an invader.

The US’s failure in Vietnam and the loss of 58,000 American lives there did not stop the more recent forays into Iraq and Afghanistan, where the same mistakes have, in large part, been repeated. Indeed, there are echoes of the gross oversimplifications of the Cold War in the modern attitude of the US to the ‘war on terror’. By now it should have understood that it is dangerous to provoke the power of nationalism. It should have realised that when this force runs alongside religious fervour, the risk of conflicts spinning out of control is even greater.

A popularly elected leader in a nation occupied by American forces will naturally set out to prove that he is not a tool of the ‘invaders’. In its drive to impose democracy, America shows no sympathy for traditional values in the Arab world, where family loyalties and the power of tribal elders count more than one man, one vote (and no vote at all for women).

Read the book to understand why Americans commit the same mistake time and again.

The reviewer is veteran journalist and former media adviser to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Dawn Decries Sham Operation In Kurram

[SEE:  The sham operation in Kurram]

Kurram operation

THOUGH the army announced on Thursday that operation Koh-i-Sufaid in central Kurram Agency had been wrapped up, it is clear that the mission in the area is far from accomplished. And while the army chief was in Kurram when it was announced that the central part of the agency had been cleared of militants, many questions about the operation and what it achieved (or rather failed to achieve) remain. In a statement the ISPR announced that “clearance of central Kurram will ensure opening of [the] Thall-Parachinar road”. However, it is unclear how this will happen when action against militants has been taken in only a selected area and nothing concrete has been done to open the vital link road and ensure the security of those who use it. If people remain trapped, what has been achieved?

The Thall-Parachinar road is the key link connecting Kurram Agency to the rest of Pakistan. However, it has been blocked by the Taliban-backed local tribal extremists for nearly four years, as a result of which people have to take a treacherous detour through Afghanistan. The blockade has left the people of Kurram marooned, left to their fate by the state and unable to freely travel. Those who do attempt to use the road are targeted by militants. Considering such a situation it was thought that the prime objective of the army would have been to secure the road. But this was apparently not the case. Observers say that, instead, the army`s aim was to flush out militants hiding in central Kurram who had escaped from other conflict zones and to cut off a route to North Waziristan.

Though it has been said the military did not want to get involved in the region`s `sectarian` strife — Kurram`s Shia and Sunni tribes have been at loggerheads — and hence avoided a larger operation, this explanation is not satisfactory. Ensuring people`s safety and their freedom of movement and ending a blockade enforced by militants is really a law and order issue. Though peace between the tribes must be facilitated, leaving them to handle security issues, most importantly the security of the Thall-Parachinar road, is a policy that has failed to bear fruit. There have been many peace agreements in the past, but it is fair to say that unless the state resolves to maintain security no peace accord can succeed in the long term. Providing security is the duty of the state and it cannot be outsourced to non-state actors. It is hoped the state has a plan to secure the key road. Militants cannot be given a free rein any longer and allowed to terrorise the people of Kurram.

“The U.S. broke the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act”–(economic coercion)

Lukashenka’s dictatorship started nuclear blackmailing of U.S.

Lukashenka’s dictatorship started nuclear blackmailing of U.S.

In response to the U.S. sanctions Belarus freezes joint projects on highly-enriched nuclear fuel exchange.

“Imposing new economic sanctions by the U.S. goes against the spirit of cooperation and teamwork. In these conditions, Belarus has decided to freeze the projects to exchange highly enriched nuclear fuel developed together with the U.S. as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative. The MBA project at the Belarusian State University will be suspended, too,” said Andrei Savinykh, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, told Interfax-Zapad.

“As before Belarus will continue to guarantee physical security of nuclear fuel, in full accordance with its international non-proliferation commitments. We also do not exclude taking retaliatory measures,” he added.

In his view, if the United States stops using economic coercion against Belarus and restores the normal relations, the cooperation on these projects will be resumed.

He noted that Belarus finds the U.S. economic restrictions against it as ungrounded and unjustified. “These are politically charged decisions which contradict the international commitments of the United States,” he said.

As noted by Savinykh, the action of the U.S. is a blatant violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that banned the U.S. from using economic duress against Belarus.

“The U.S. broke the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act that binds all the states “to refrain from all kinds of economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by another participating State of the rights inherent in its sovereignty”, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry said.

The Belarus’ representative has also added that the actions of the U.S. contradict the UN General Assembly Resolution 62/183 that sets forth that “no state can either exert or encourage unilateral economic, political or any other measures aimed at subordinating another state which exercises its sovereign rights”.

Following the brutal violations of human rights in Belarus, the U.S. Treasury imposed a number of economic sanctions against Belarus major enterprises: the Belshina tire factory, the Grodno Azot fertilizer manufacturer, the Grodno Khimvolokno fiber manufacturer, and the Naftan oil refinery. Previously, the U.S. sanctions were applied to 5 Belarusian enterprises: Lakokraska, Polotsk Steklovolokno, Beltechexport, BelOMO, Belorusneft.

These sanctions ban U.S. citizens from any commercial deals with these enterprises, and any assets of the companies under sanctions in the U.S. are freezed.

Taliban Claim Drone Shot-Down In East

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Taliban claim they have shot down US drone


Taliban militants in Afghanistan have claimed that an unmanned US reconnaissance drone has been shot down by their gunmen in eastern city of Jalalabad.

Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman said, their militants gunned the aircraft late Saturday.

Meanwhile, local residents said, they saw the drone catching fire mid-air and crashing into a civilian house.

This comes as earlier this week, another US drone crashed due to technical problems in eastern Ghazni Province, NATO said in a statement.

The Taliban spokesman had claimed that the militants shot down the unmanned plane.

The Taliban militants in Afghanistan also claim, they have shot down several aircraft and NATO choppers in different parts of Afghanistan over the past few months.

The militants have proven resilient despite the presence of around 150,000 US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Taliban have steadily stepped up their attacks on the US-led forces using all the possible ways including use Improvised Explosive Device attacks, inflicting heavy casualties and damage on NATO-led coalition forces and Afghan security forces including civilians.

Recently, Taliban militants shot down a Chinook CH-47 Helicopter belonging to NATO-led coalition forces which killed at least 38 on board including 7 Afghan commandos.


The Bad News Is–Taliban Think They Are Winning

Taliban, If Strong, Won’t Reconcile

It is the fighting season in Afghanistan. The Taliban are successfully operating across of Afghanistan. No prominent efforts are in place to reverse or even slow down their momentum. In the beginning of this year the NATO authorities pronounced the summer in Afghanistan to be extremely tough. Tough in a sense that, there would be some major clashes between security keeping forces and the Taliban in southern region of Afghanistan where insurgents have some significant influences. However, the people can not observe any major push against the growing operations of Taliban. The high National and international security officials altered their statements about Taliban operation from time to time.

We can not deny the fact that the Taliban are stronger than previous years, whether it is southern provinces or elsewhere in country. Dutch withdrawal and announcements of US, UK and other countries to start their forces’ drawdown from Afghanistan in the near future have actually strengthened the moral of Taliban. They think they are winning.

This thought can be deemed one major cause for Taliban denial and red signal to the reconciliation offers of Afghan government. It is very vital to weaken the Taliban, if government and its allies want them to come to the negotiations table.

The Taliban have not requested that their names should be removed from the UN blacklist. However, names of several Taliban leaders have been removed and the names of others are being reviewed for removal on the request of President Karzai administration.

Inclusion of Taliban’s name in the black list did not impact their mission and operation in the same way removal of their names seems to have to significant impact. Nor Taliban were upset when their names went to blacklist neither they welcome the efforts of Afghan government for deletion of their names.

By killing more civilians, awarding death punishment to one woman and cutting the nose and ears of the other, killing high profile people and threatening / targeting the tribal leaders, the Taliban have shown that they are the same people as they were a decade ago. There is need for intensification of counterinsurgency war even if you want to reconcile with Taliban.

Delusional Pakistan Thinks It Can Have Both Saudi Money and Iranian Gas Pipelines

[Pakistan needs fuel to function, tribal development comes in a distant third or fourth.  It will be a cold day in Islamabad before any new Saudi money is given.]

Pakistan looks to Saudi Arabia, UAE for assistance in tribal areas

Government relies on foreign funding to help IDPs return to the tribal areas. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

PESHAWAR: After facing delays and threats of cuts in assistance from the United States, Pakistan has decided to add Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the list of allies from whom it will seek funding for development projects in the tribal areas as well as money to help with the repatriation of internally displaced persons.

At a background briefing, a high-ranking military official said that the government has spent about Rs45 billion to help people affected by the campaign against the militants in various part the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

“Of this amount, Rs10 billion was provided by Saudi Arabia alone,” said the official. “The money required to assist refugees returning to Kurram by August 25 is also part of this funding.”

Relations between Riyadh and Islamabad have been on a downturn since 2008, partly due to the Zardari administration’s efforts at rapprochement with Tehran, the principle Gulf rival to Saudi Arabia.

However, the new partnership on refugees is seen as a sign of a patch up between the two countries.

The official claimed that all active military operations in Fata have been completed, which is why the government has begun focusing on development and reconstruction, and seeking foreign assistance.

“We have been promised $100 million (Rs8.6 billion) by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for this purpose, and we expect to receive the money over the next few days,” he said. On August 12, President Asif Ali Zardari enacted several changes to the way Fata is governed to give the citizens of the area more rights and curb some of the most regressive elements of the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a colonial era piece of legislation that is based on ancient tribal customs.

The changes, according to the official, were part of the government’s effort to develop the tribal regions and improve their governance.

“The newly-appointed political agents and the Fata Secretariat have been told to focus on the development of the tribal areas, prior to anything else,” he said. “This money will be very handy in helping them produce results.”

Despite hundreds of thousands of people returning to their homes since 2010, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are still 896,000 internally displaced people in Pakistan.

Many of the IDPs from Mohmand, Bajaur and South Waziristan had earlier refused to return to their villages from camps in other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. They said that their homes were destroyed and demanded compensation from the government before they would return. Many also feared that the security situation in their areas had not really improved.

The government now provides rations, tents, bedding as well as cash to every family that chooses to return, in addition to providing them transportation.

Published in The Express Tribune

Tayyab Agha “Reconciliation Talks” Scamming US Govt., or the Govt. Scamming Us?

Reconciliation talks: US duped by fake interlocutor in talks, says Taliban

By Naveed Hussain

Taliban spokesperson rubbished the claims of outside help for their ‘jihad’. It’s a purely indigenous struggle, and that they are not getting any help from any country. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

KARACHI: The Taliban have raised doubts about the identity of a key interlocutor that US government officials say they have engaged with in countries as far afield as Qatar and Germany earlier this year.

A spokesman for the Taliban Zabiullah Mujahid said that the Americans may have been duped by an impostor – just as its Nato allies were earlier taken in by a fake Taliban leader. Mujahid said he was convinced that a man posing as Tayyab Agha, a confidante of reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, had duped the Americans and had possibly swindled them.

“Tayyab Agha is as close to us as ever. But he has never met with US officials,” Mujahid told The Express Tribune in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. “Somebody might have swindled the US officials by impersonating Tayyab Agha,” he added.

In recent months Washington has disclosed that senior State Department and Central Intelligence Agency officials have had secret ‘exploratory conversations’ with Tayyab Agha in Qatar and Germany. Though the talks broke down following the disclosure of Taliban negotiator’s identity, it wasn’t known whether or not Agha was still as close to the Taliban as before 2001.

(Read: Afghan endgame – Peace Council still looking for Taliban ‘address’)

Mujahid said that last year a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta had milked thousands of dollars from Nato and Afghan officials after engaging them in talks as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, the second-in-command in the Quetta Shura of Taliban and civil aviation minister in the Taliban regime.

He also rubbished a claim by Afghan lawmaker Homa Sultani that she had met Mullah Omar and that he had mandated her to negotiate with US and Afghan officials on their behalf. “We were simply surprised by her claim. I don’t know at whose instigation she made that claim,” Mujahid said.

The Taliban field commander in the northeastern province of Kunar, Maulvi Abdur Rahim also rejected the reports of talks with the Taliban as a “conspiracy to divide their movement”.

Talks on exchange of prisoners

The Taliban spokesperson, however, did admit that his group had been in talks with ‘foreign officials’ for the past 18 months. “But these talks should not be misconstrued as an effort to find a negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue,” Mujahid said. “The agenda of these interactions was mainly the exchange of prisoners,” he added.

Mujahid said that the Taliban would not sit across the table with US or Afghan officials as long as US-led Nato troops were in Afghanistan. “Our jihad against ‘occupation’ forces will continue till foreign forces pull out of our land,” he added.

The United States is seeking, though not officially, at least five ‘permanent’ military bases for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. These facilities will be in places, such as Herat, along the Iranian border; Mazar-e-Sharif, along the border with Central Asian States; and Kandahar and Jalalabad, along the border with Pakistan.

‘Taliban are updating their weaponry’

Earlier this month Taliban shot down a CH-47 Chinook helicopterduring action in the Afghan province of  Wardak, killing 31 US soldiers – most of them elite Navy SEALs – and seven Afghan troops. Some US analysts believed that the chopper was brought down not with RPG (Rocket-propelled grenade) but with I-RAM (Improvised rocket-assisted mortar), commonly known as ‘flying IEDs’.

The ‘flying IEDs’ were first used by the insurgents against US troops during the Iraq insurgency. And US military officials suspected that they were provided to the insurgents by Iran. The analysts believe that Iran has also provided the ‘flying IEDs’ to the Taliban to use against their arch foe – the United States.

But Zabiullah Mujahid rejected this allegation. “We continue to update our weaponry. We continue to experiment with our arms. The Chinook helicopter was shot down with the help of a modified version of RPG,” he claimed. “Our modified version of RPG can trigger a fire on its target.”

Asked about the contribution of the Haqqani network which the US believes is based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region, the Taliban spokesperson said, “(Jalaluddin) Haqqani is a mujahid (holy warrior). And his role in the Afghan jihad is second to none.”

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking in the US National Defence University alleged earlier this week that Pakistan has links with extremist groups, including the Haqqani network. Ties with the Haqqani network are cited for Pakistan’s reluctance to launch a military operation in North Waziristan Agency.

But the Taliban spokesperson rubbished the claims of outside help for their ‘jihad’. “These are baseless rumours. Ours is a purely indigenous struggle. We are not getting any help from any country,” he claimed.


Published in The Express Tribune

Scuttlebutt Claims US/Afghan Govt. About to Sign Long-Term Lease

Deal to keep US forces in Kabul

Ben Farmer Kabul

AMERICA and Afghanistan are close to signing a strategic pact that would allow thousands of US troops to remain in the country until at least 2024.

The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also US special forces and air power to remain.

The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan’s neighbours including (publicly) Iran and (privately) Pakistan.

It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of President Hamid Karzai’s peace council.

A withdrawal of US troops has already begun following an agreement to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014.

But Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline. Many analysts also believe the US would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China.

Both Afghan and US officials said they hoped to sign the pact before the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in December. President Barack Obama and Mr Karzai agreed two weeks ago to escalate negotiations and their national security advisers will meet in Washington next month.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Mr Karzai’s security adviser, said ”remarkable progress” had been made, while US officials have said they would be disappointed if a deal could not be reached by December. Dr Spanta said a longer-term presence was crucial not only to build Afghan forces, but also to fight terrorism.

”If [the Americans] provide us with weapons and equipment, they need facilities to bring that equipment,” he said. ”If they train our police and soldiers, then those trainers will not be 10 or 20, they will be thousands.”

Afghan forces would still need support from US fighter aircraft and helicopters, he predicted. In the past, Washington officials have estimated a total of 25,000 troops may be needed.

■A New Zealand special forces soldier was among at least nine people killed in a Taliban attack on Britain’s cultural centre in Kabul.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed that a member of the Special Air Service was killed in Friday’s attack. It is the third death of a New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan in the past two years, but the first SAS death in action.