Another Pentagon Excuse Why the US Military Cannot Win In Afghanistan

[This “breaking news” about Pakistan is not news at all.  Our government has always known about the military/militant nexus in Pakistan, because the CIA hired the ISI to create the Taliban and a dozen other “Islamist” groups.  The CIA continues to maintain links with all of its former client groups, just as the ISI does.  How else can you explain the ease it experienced in rehiring “al-Qaeda” to overthrow Gaddafi?  Instead of scapegoating the ISI for keeping in touch with their former and current clients, the ignorant American spy-masters should persuade its ISI friends to use those connections to help us get out of the Afghan jam.  Pakistan could put US negotiators in touch with Mullah Omar or Mullah Brother (Baradar), if it so desired, but NOT if the hypocritical West insists on prosecuting Pakistan for this losing war.  Pakistan must take bold steps to hold-up a mirror to the other side, in order to expose the hypocrisy and to force the West into telling the truth about its real plans for Afghanistan–the reason that a losing war must be prolonged, at all costs.  We are there to take control and to dominate the region, taking over the regional decision-making processes is the real mission in Afghanistan.]

WASHINGTON: The US today said it has “long standing concerns” over ISI’s links with the Taliban and wants Pakistan to “cut-off” those ties, hours after a Nato report blew the lid off the intelligence agency’s “manipulation” of Afghan Taliban’s senior leadership.

Pentagon spokesperson Navy Capt John Kirby told reporters during an off-camera briefing that the facts laid bare by the damning report were “not a new notion” and these concerns have been raised earlier as well.

“This is not a new notion, we made those concerns clear and the Secretary has been very clear about the ongoing problem of safe havens inside Pakistan for these groups,” Kirby said referring to a new Nato report on Taliban which says that the ISI continues to help the extremist group, which wants to come back to power in Afghanistan.

“We have made it clear already that Pakistan needs to act against safe heavens. We would like ties between some elements of ISI and Taliban to be cut-off,” he said.

Kirk said the US had “longstanding concerns” about the ties between the elements of the ISI and the Taliban but did not give details on what elements of the ISI he was referring to.

Without going into the specific of the classified report, Kirby said the US does has information that the Taliban is becoming splintered and is not a monolithic organisation. 

For instance, he said, a couple of weeks ago about 50 Taliban came in and asked to be reintegrated.

The reason they gave was that they can’t sleep at one place for more than a day and that they do not want to kill their own Afghan countrymen, he said.

So the US pressure on the Taliban is yielding results, Kirby said.

Rohrabacher: Obama Administration Favors Taliban Over Allies

Rohrabacher: Obama Administration Favors Taliban Over Allies

Reports Indicate U.S. Close to Deal to Release Taliban Prisoners from GITMO

Washington, D.C. – In response to weekend reports that the United States is close to a deal for the release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo prison, Rep. Rohrabacher issued the following statement:

“The Taliban is a terrorist organization responsible for the death and maiming of hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan, and were in league with al-Qaida when 3,000 people were murdered in the U.S. on 9/11,” said Rohrabacher. “While President Obama refuses to talk to America’s natural allies in Afghanistan, the Northern Front, he is in the processes of making one-sided concessions to the Taliban that will put some of its worst killers back in action.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Rohrabacher led a bipartisan congressional delegation meeting with National Front leaders in Berlin to discuss alternatives to Obama’s and Karazi’s idea of including the Taliban in an Afghanistan coalition government. The Obama Administration and the State Department furiously opposed this dialogue between Members of Congress and Afghan leaders who believe in a more democratic, federal government system in Afghanistan. The Taliban itself even issued a statement on January 17th threatening those who took part in the conference for the mere fact of discussing parliamentary forms of government.

“President Obama is negotiating with the Taliban from a position of provocative weakness, accepting their preconditions to release some of the Taliban’s top terrorist plotters to resume their work without anything in return,” Rohrabacher continued. “As Obama is busy making unilateral concessions to America’s enemies in Afghanistan, the Taliban responded on January 25th by releasing a press statement that said, ‘The democratic system is a kufr system of government, be it presidential or parliamentary, centralized or federal, because this system comes from humans… democracy has been a cause of wars and crisis.’

“The Taliban reject any form of political freedom and refuses any compromise of their Islamist beliefs. The Taliban show no signs of being ready for serious peace talks. They are, however, ready to accept US concessions that will rebuild and strengthen their leadership for the ongoing war, which we should NOT do.”

Rep. Rohrabacher is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Peace with Criminals, War with People!

Peace with Criminals, War with People!

Statement of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) on “Consultative Peace Jirga”

By inviting criminals like the Taliban, the leaders of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s party and other “Jehadi leaders” to be part of a “Consultative Peace Jirga,” Mr. Karzai is committing yet another treason against the Afghan people. Like any puppet, anti-people ruler, he initially compromised with all the murderers associated with April 27th 1978 (former Russian puppets) and April 28 1992 (the Northern Alliance warlords) and installed them in key posts of his government. He then went to the extent of assigning the two most notorious warlords Karim Khalili and Qasim Fahim as his vice presidents. Now, he calls the Taliban and Hekmatyar party terrorists “Afghan sons” and tries to either share power with them, or offer them the opportunity of asylum and amnesty to their leaders in any country of their choice. He is also offering jobs to their gunmen so he can prolong his mafia-style rule with ease of mind.

Our people will not forget these crimes of Taliban

A known terrorist from Hekmatyar’s Islamic Party called Farooq Wardak has been awarded the responsibility of running the Jirga. Additionally, the delegates from Hekmatyar’s blood-thirsty party in Kabul were received like showbiz celebrities with local Afghan media being offered in their service. The infamous criminals Mullah Wakil Ahmad Motawakal, Mullah Zaef, Humayun Jarir, Abdul Hadi Arghandewal, Sabaoon, Mullah Rocketi and many other such terrorists of the Taliban and Islamic Party have had their reputations sugarcoated in the past few years. All these things not only illuminate the true nature and goal of this Jirga, but also constitute an insult to our people who have sought their liberation in the prosecution and punishment of Khaliqi, Parchami, Jehadi and Taliban criminals, but instead still feel the heavy load of these brutal enemies on their wounded bodies.

Without receiving a green light from their US masters, the puppet government of Afghanistan could never raise a hue and cry about this “Consultative Peace Jirga.” It could also not consider making peace with the Taliban and Islamic Party assassins while they are apparently still on the “Black List” of the US government. This in itself proves that the US doesn’t just want a puppet government, but also a stable and efficient government to easily change Afghanistan into a strong military base in Asia, extend its grip on the oil and gas of the Central Asian Republics and maintain its supremacy in competition with rivals such as China and other regional powers. For the US and allies, the deeply criminal, treacherous, anti-democracy and anti-independence essence of this puppet regime has no significance at all. Apart from a handful of sold-off intellectuals of Afghanistan, this reality is crystal clear to even our children that the claim of the US about bringing “democracy” and “women’s liberation” to Afghanistan was the biggest lie of the century. In fact, it was even more striking than the claims of the US about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and more comic than its pretence of having an opposition to fundamentalist bands and governments.

At the height of a piercing outcry over a “Peace Jirga,” the Taliban intensified their inhuman brutalities by killing school children, teachers, men, and women of Kabul and other cities, but Karzai and his spokesmen expressed with detestable indifference that, “Inshallah, with national unity soon we will emerge from these problems”! If their own sister, mother or daughter were raped, killed publicly or torn to pieces by suicide bombings, would they still call these killings “problems” they have with Taliban, their “disaffected brothers”? But considering the power-lust and impunity of the ruling mafia, they may still not call the Taliban criminals, and their acts as crimes, because despite having some differences, in the final stage they regard themselves from the same ranks and deem it necessary to become united in order to run the state machinery in front of people’s wrath. Both the Taliban and the ruling mafia know well that the day US/NATO occupation forces leave Afghanistan; all the tribes of Afghanistan will consider unity amongst themselves to topple their bloody rule.

While the US is trying to unite its lackeys through the “Peace Jirga” and other means, it is afraid of unity and integration among Afghan people. Therefore, through its puppet government and Northern Alliance agents, the US is trying hard to sow disruption and animosity among the different tribes of Afghanistan. For example, in Behsood and Daimirdad they inflamed fighting between Hazaras and Nomads and similarly in Northern Afghanistan among Tajiks, Pushtoons and Uzbeks so they can continue the occupation of a divided and disarrayed nation.

The so-called intellectuals of Afghanistan who directly or indirectly hope that the Taliban will end the US occupation, are carving a dark mark of history on their forehead. They are like those who rely on the US and the bloodthirsty Iranian regime to emancipate them from the yoke of the Taliban. If such people are not foolish, then they are spineless because they neither remember the marks of the Taliban flogging our mothers, sisters and fathers nor the beheading of our children and poor women (in the name of rooting out “spies”), or the spraying of acid on innocent school-girls. If they believe that by relying on tribal issues, corruption, and looting of the puppet regime they can find an argument for their support of the brutal Taliban, then by what trick can they ignore the ISI-born nature and medieval mentality of the Taliban? Can they point out any example anywhere in the world of such an anti-democratic and anti-women group dominated by drug lords and dependent on the intelligence agency of a foreign country that dares to struggle for independence and liberation? The intellectual supporters of the Taliban are possibly agents of the US CIA and other agencies who by upholding the Taliban and calling them a “resistance movement” want to pave the way for their joint domination with President Karzai and the “National Front” mafia.

In the past, through the meddling of Zalmay Khalilzad and Hamid Karzai as representatives of UNOCAL, the US dealt with the Taliban and pumped tens of millions of dollars into their pockets. Today if the Taliban once again comes to power, the US will easily “work” with them and prefer their bloody and suffocating rule of Afghanistan to an independent, pro-democracy and pro-women’s rights government, because the US counts on them as the most loyal group to safeguard its interests in the region. The Taliban also will not forget that the US was their creator, trainer and mentor through Pakistan’s ISI god-fathers.

The current conflict between the US, Taliban, and Northern Alliance is in fact a family matter between them which will be solved sooner or later. When that happens, the ranks of friends and enemies of our people will become clear and the illusion spread by pro-Taliban, pro-April 27 and April 28 treacherous intellectuals will be countered. Under such conditions, it is the duty of pro-independence, pro-democracy and pro-women’s rights intellectuals to increase their organized efforts for a coordinated uprising of our people against all traitors to Afghanistan.

Let the puppet mafia government of Karzai bring together all its agents in the “Peace Jirga” and similar ridiculous shows and by organizing luxury meetings, dance over the dead bodies of our innocent people, but the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), alongside the aggrieved Afghan people thinks that such deceitful games mean throwing salt on the wounds of our people caught in the US/NATO bombings, insecurity, poverty, unemployment and desperation all over Afghanistan.

Shame to the “Peace Jirga” of criminals with criminals!
Neither USA, Nor Taliban and the National Front murderers!
An independent and democratic Afghanistan!

NATO Partnership for Peace Program, Helping Ourselves To Tajikistan

NATO-sponsored project to help secure dangerous munitions in Tajikistan

Fifteen years after the end of a civil war, Tajikistan is left with thousands of tonnes of munitions insecurely stored in makeshift storage sites across the country. Aside from the many known munitions caches, several more lie undiscovered, posing a major security threat to the Tajik people. A Partnership Trust Fund project, officially launched on 31 January, will soon help Tajikistan to counter this threat.

Big security risks

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan endured a civil war from 1992 to 1997. At its end, numerous caches of munitions and weapons were left unguarded and forgotten. Abandoned and decaying in unsafe conditions, many of these stocks have become more and more unstable over time.

“The storage locations are often dilapidated without enough room, where munitions that should not be together lay side by side,” says Alexander Griffiths from the NGO Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), an organization experienced in demining and munitions-control operations around the world, including in Tajikistan. “Most storage sites are just warehouses, poorly maintained and insecure,” he points out.

Caches present a variety of temptations for criminal elements seeking munitions: aircraft bombs, mortars, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.

Another danger stems from the fact that some of the munitions’ components deteriorate as they age, becoming very unstable. With Tajikistan’s dry summer temperatures, during which temperatures can reach up to 50ºC, the risk of a fire that could cause the munitions to detonate is a very real possibility.

Tracking down unidentified caches

Efforts by other international bodies such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations Development Programme have focused on demining and securing known stocks of munitions. The problem of hidden stocks still needs to be tackled. “What we have seen up to now is approximately 30 000 tonnes, but we believe that there is significantly more,” says Griffiths.

NATO agreed to develop a Partnership Trust Fund project with Tajikistan to help find unidentified caches and either secure or destroy them. With an estimated cost of more than €575 000, the project was launched with the signing of formal agreements at NATO Headquarters on 31 January 2012. The Ambassador of Tajikistan to Belgium, Rustamjon Soliev, called today’s signing of the formal agreements“the first step in Allied cooperation.”

NATO hopes that by securing these unidentified stocks, the project will help prevent illegal cross-border trade in munitions. The task is even more critical because of Tajikistan’s southern border with Afghanistan, where full control for security is due to transition to Afghan national security forces by end 2014.

The project’s scope

Overseen by the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA), Tajik military engineers and soldiers will be recruited, trained and deployed as part of a weapons and ammunition disposal (WAD) team once sufficient funding has been secured.

Over a 12-month period, the team will work with government agencies and local communities to locate and dispose of dangerous munitions stocks, coordinating with three other WAD groups managed by FSD already operating in Tajikistan under different frameworks. Weapons and ammunition that are still serviceable will be secured and transferred to proper storage facilities.

The team, which will be trained by the FSD, will also conduct a survey of ammunition storage locations on the southern border with Afghanistan and recommend ways to improve safety and security. “These types of projects are not only saving people but saving the environment,” pointed out Antonios Chatzidakis, General Manager of NAMSA.

United Kingdom and Japan team up

Partnership Trust Fund projects are designed to allow nations to pool resources to help partner countries with demilitarization and defence reform projects. The United Kingdom and Japan are the two main contributors for this particular project.

Leading the project, the United Kingdom has contributed £100 000. “The UK is delighted to be the lead nation of the first NATO Trust Fund in Tajikistan,” says British Ambassador to NATO, Mariot Leslie. “By securing and destroying surplus munitions, the UK, the other contributing nations and NATO are making a significant contribution to the safety of the region.”

Japan has contributed an initial €100 000, which included funding the project’s feasibility study presented to NATO nations in March 2011. “Tajikistan is only one piece of the cooperation between Japan and NATO concerning regional security,” says Kurato Shiraishi, First Secretary at the Japanese Embassy to Belgium. “The security of the region and of the international community is our interest and concern.”Japan has previously helped fund regional security and Trust Fund projects in other countries, including in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The signing of the memorandum of understanding on 31 January will make it easier to attract further voluntary contributions from other nations for this important project.

America and the Taliban

America and the Taliban

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

Well well well! The undisputable fact is that ‘His Master’s Voice’ has, yet again — punching other nations in their excruciatingly vulnerable guts in a last-ditch attempt to salvage American pride — surfaced from the realms of supposed ‘secrecy’ to headline news around the world. And everyone, it seems, is supposed to stand up and shout ‘Hip Hip Hooray!’.

Come on Mr Barack Obama! Surely, in this particular instance, you can’t realistically expect to calmly wash your hands of the explosive situation you have artificially created in Afghanistan, give the country back to the murderous thugs known as the ‘Taliban’, walk away leaving yet another civil war in your wake and expect to be greeted with cheers?

The rabid predator, disguised as Uncle Sam, has been deeply involved in ‘secret’ negotiations with the Taliban for most probably, two or three years, as has Saudi Arabia, which has its own colonising axe to grind and has, reportedly, supported the Taliban from the very first day of their unholy inception. The news that the Taliban are currently in the final stages of opening an office in Qatar has let the cat, well and truly out of its ridiculously transparent bag. However, what has come as a complete surprise, a shocking one by any measure, is that this ‘peace’ office and ensuing negotiations, has the full support of the US, the UN and, here’s the nasty — Amnesty International — a body that yelled ‘human rights abuse’ until it was blue in its face when the Taliban ran riot in Afghanistan from 1996-2001. So what the hell — for hell it surely will be, for the innocents caught up in the inevitable civil war to come, if and when the Taliban are allowed to set so much as a toe-nail in the Afghan parliament — is going on?

Aside from the astronomical financial costs, it is public knowledge that America has paid for its ‘Afghan adventure’ with the deaths of at least 1,800 American service personnel since it ‘invaded’ the country in 2001. But this amounts to zilch — no offence intended to the families of the dead — in comparison to the literally thousands of innocent Afghans killed during ‘insurgent’ action, or by American and allied forces who have developed a penchant for annihilating wedding parties, along with the death and displacement of thousands more due to war-related issues; including starvation, lack of medical assistance, disease and exposure. And just when this wrongly-maligned country is, at long last, beginning to breath with a modicum of hope, the Americans decide to hand the remnants of their indigestible mess right back to those they used as an excuse for inviting themselves in the first place!

Shuttle diplomacy — as jetting around the globe at taxpayers expense is known (when a Skype conference would serve the purpose equally well) with participants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, America, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, possibly Turkey and a few other interested parties — is currently in full swing. Unfortunately though, as politicians, bureaucrats and generals play their complicated game of one-upmanship on the global stage, those who will be most affected by the outcome — the Afghan people — are left to wring their hands in fear at the spectre of a civil war that they neither want nor have the blood left to pay for. All these people desire is peace, but are unlikely to get little of it.

Published in The Express Tribune

ISI Behind the Taliban: Secret Nato Report

LONDON: The Pakistani security services are secretly helping Afghanistan’s Taliban, who assume their victory is inevitable once Western troops leave, a secret Nato document says, according to reports Wednesday.

The leaked “State of the Taliban” report — seen by the BBC and The Times newspaper — was compiled from information gleaned from insurgent detainees and was given to Nato commanders in Afghanistan last month, the media reports said.

It claims that Pakistan and its ISI intelligence agency are aware of the locations of senior Taliban leaders.

The BBC said the report was based on material from 27,000 interrogations of more than 4,000 captured Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives, plus other foreign fighters and civilians.

“Pakistan’s manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly,” the report was quoted as saying.

“ISI officers tout the need for continued jihad and expulsion of foreign invaders from Afghanistan.”

The Times quoted the report as saying the Taliban’s “strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact”, despite setbacks in 2011.

“Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban,” it said.

“Once (Nato force) ISAF is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable.”

Kabul, which accuses Islamabad of supporting the 10-year Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, put relations on ice after the September murder of its peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, which one Afghan minister blamed on Pakistani spies.

The US Department of Defense said it could not comment on the report but set out its fears about Pakistan and its influence in Afghanistan.

“We have not seen the report, and therefore cannot offer comment on it specifically,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told AFP.  [Such bullshit.  Since the Pentagon owns NATO, then the Pentagon has seen this report.]

“We have long been concerned about ties between elements of the ISI and some extremist networks.”

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “has also been clear that he believes that the safe havens in Pakistan remain a serious problem and need to be addressed by Pakistani authorities.”

In its conclusion, the report said there had been unprecedented interest in joining the Taliban cause in 2011 — even from members of the Afghan government.

“Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption,” it was reported as saying.

The Times, in an editorial, said Pakistan was “actively hindering reconciliation” between the Taliban and Kabul.

“Islamabad appears to be engaged in a systematic effort to destabilise the Kabul government of (President) Hamid Karzai prior to the withdrawal of Western forces, and to assist those attacking and killing those forces.

“The ISI emerges from this document looking considerably more villainous, even, than the Taliban itself.

“The picture that is painted is very much one of a force that both expects, and is widely expected, to have a big stake in controlling the Afghanistan of the future.” (AFP)

West, Russia meet in Syria showdown at UN

West, Russia meet in Syria showdown at UN

PM and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al Thani, addresses a UN Security Council meeting in New York. (AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT)

PM and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al Thani, addresses a UN Security Council meeting in New York. (AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT)

UNITED NATIONS: Western powers on Tuesday ramped up the diplomatic pressure on Russia to accept a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad halt a deadly crackdown and resign.

The showdown at the United Nations came as fighting escalated between Syrian government forces and rebels and a senior US official predicted that Assad would be toppled.

Opening the Security Council session, Qatar’s prime minister, speaking on behalf of the Arab League, said the UN had to stop Assad’s “killing machine.”

“The important question to be asked at this stage is, what is the solution for a people who are being slaughtered?” asked Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani.

“Our efforts and initiatives, however, have been all useless because the Syrian government failed to make any sincere effort to cooperate with us and the only solution available to it was to kill its own people,” he said.

“Bloodshed continued and the killing machine is still at work,” he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was leading the charge for UN action, backed by allies British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

The proposed UN resolution, crafted by the Western powers and the Arab League, seeks to stop a Syrian crackdown that the United Nations says has killed more than 5,400 people in the past 10 months.

Under the resolution sponsored by Arab League member Morocco, Assad would be ordered immediately to halt violence and hand power to his deputy.

But while there is no threat of use of force in the resolution, Russia says it amounts to regime change.

“I don’t think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, arguing that while Assad was not an ally of Moscow, it was not up to other nations to interfere.

The text of the resolution, seen by AFP, calls for the formation of a unity government leading to “transparent and free elections,” while stressing there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria, as there was in Libya during the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said on Tuesday that the resolution would be a “path towards civil war” in the increasingly divided country.

In Washington, US intelligence chief James Clapper said the fall of the Assad regime was inevitable.

“I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria,” Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told senators.

“I personally believe it’s a question of time but that’s the issue, it could be a long time.”

The opposition Syrian National Council deplored the international community’s lack of “swift action” to protect civilians “by all necessary means,” in a statement on Facebook.

The SNC, the most representative group opposed to Assad, reaffirmed the “people’s determination to fight for their freedom and dignity,” stressing they “will not give up their revolution, whatever the sacrifices.”

The head of the now-defunct Arab League observer mission to Syria, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said there had been a marked upsurge in violence in the past week.

On Monday alone, almost 100 people, including 55 civilians, were killed during a regime assault on the flashpoint city of Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Tuesday, at least 22 people were killed, all but one of them civilians, the Observatory said.

The rebel Free Syrian Army said half of the country was now effectively a no-go zone for the security forces.

“Fifty percent of Syrian territory is no longer under the control of the regime,” its Turkey-based commander Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad told AFP.

He said the morale of government troops was extremely low. “That’s why they are bombing indiscriminately, killing men, women and children,” he said.

However, Syria’s foreign ministry expressed outrage over “the aggressive American and Western statements against Syria (that) are escalating in a scandalous manner,” and blamed violence on “armed terrorist groups.”

A report from the state news agency SANA said Assad had visited wounded servicemen and praised their “unique will, bravery.”

CIA director David Petraeus told senators in Washington that Assad now faced challenges in Damascus and Aleppo, two cities that had been seen as insulated from the unrest.

“I think it has shown indeed how substantial the opposition to the regime is and how it is in fact growing and how increasing areas are becoming beyond the reach of the regime security forces,” Petraeus said.

Amid the escalating violence, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for unity at the Security Council.

The Council must be “united this time, speak and act in a coherent manner, reflecting the wishes of the international community and reflecting the urgent wishes and aspirations of the Syrian people, who have been yearning for freedom,” Ban said during a visit to Jordan.

– AFP/de