Special Forces Needs Race Cars–Enter NASCAR

[Admiral McRaven is intent on turning the Special Forces into a bunch of superheroes, equipped with the latest Mission Impossible gadgetry, to supplement their UAV networks and A-Team plans to create a bunch of roving bands of warrior-priests or knights-paladin, a force of do-gooders sent forth to right the wrongs of the world.  This deal with NASCAR will equip them with souped-up hot rods and fire retardant clothing for their superhero outfits, as well as the mechanical training sometimes needed to service their fleet of comic book supercars.  Eventually, this “new Army” mentality is supposed to infect the entire Army, so that they will all consider themselves to be hyper-patriotic American avengers.]

NASCAR, U.S. Army Special Ops announce strategic partnership

By Kenny Bruce

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR and the military have always enjoyed a close relationship, but it will be closer than ever with a collaborative effort that was announced Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue, Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland and NASCAR President Mike Helton made the announcement of a strategic alliance between the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and NASCAR.

The alliance, while broad-based, will target specific needs of the military such as engine performance, fuel and power supplies, vehicle blast modeling, simulation, seat design, aerodynamics and suspension for its vehicles, as well as flame resistant clothing and driver training.

“What we have learned in our community, and I see it in this industry is, is you put a bunch of smart guys together in the same room, they’re gong to come up with solutions and techniques to achieve those solutions that we never would have thought of,” Lt. Gen Mulholland said.

“Literally, this is our first step. What we realized is we need to make this collaboration happen. The next step is to figure out what the processes are. … We’ve already had some of that.”

Gov. Perdue called the Memorandum of Agreement – made possible by the N.C. Department of Commerce, the N.C. Military Foundation, the N.C. Motorsports Advisory Council and USASOC Mobility – a “historic partnership” that “will have worldwide implications.

“It improves safety and performance of military vehicles for our troops and creates jobs and investment opportunities in North Carolina,” she said.

Lance DeSpain, executive director of the N.C. Military Foundation, said today’s soldiers face specific challenges in the field that require “new and innovative solutions.”

Working with the motorsports community, he said, would not only provide new ideas, but would likely cut down the amount of time those ideas can become a reality.

“Our motorsports community are the best in the world at solving similar challenges and they do it every day,” he said. “And they do it quickly. Today, when our special operators ask for vehicle modifications, the new product or technology response time can take as long as six years. In the racing world, we’ve come to learn six days is often the amount of time you get to get to the finish line.”

Karzai Met With Taliban Supporter Cleric On Saturday, After Friday’s Rebuff from Pakistani Govt.

[Karzai is attempting an end-run around the Pak. Govt., as he tries to set-up Taliban meet, after Zardari said they couldn’t help with the connection.  Karzai may or may not be doing America’s will in this matter–time will tell.]


ISLAMABAD, (AP) —

A Pakistani cleric with ties to Afghanistan’s Taliban says he has met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who asked for his help in getting the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Maulana Samiul Haq said he told Karzai Saturday in Pakistan that he would help so long as it was clear what was wanted from the Taliban.

Haq runs a large seminary where many of the insurgent leaders once studied and reportedly still provides recruits for the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan.

Karzai’s meeting suggests he is pressing ahead with moves to contact the Taliban inside Pakistan.

On Friday, he asked Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders for help, but the meeting did not apparently make much progress.

Even If Pakistan Really Can’t Produce Mullah Omar, It Can Produce Mullah Baradar

Afghanistan, Pakistan poles apart following trilateral summit over Karzai’s Taliban demand fiasco

Islamabad, Sat, 18 Feb 2012ANI

Islamabad, Feb 18 (ANI): Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s blunt demand to Pakistan for bringing Taliban leaders to the negotiating table has shocked the political and military leadership in Islamabad, keeping both countries poles apart in terms of reconciliation with the Taliban even after two days of high-level talks.

 

“Deliver Mullah Omar? If that is the expectation, then there’s no reality check then. Then they’re not only unrealistic, but preposterous,” these were the words of Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar over Karzai’s demands.

 

Khar’s words on Friday summed up how a trip hailed by Karzai as the most important in the past decade concluded without any solution, The Express Tribune reports.

 

Pakistan was quick to play down the hype of its role, saying that, even though it is in favour of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, it has never spelt out its strategy.

 

A wide range of issues including counter-terrorism and other regional matters were discussed between President Asif Ali Zardari, President Hamid Karzai and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the trilateral summit.

 

Zardari brushed aside allegations that Pakistan’s security establishment was supporting the Taliban in attacks against coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan.

 

“I deny this notion that any of our armed forces are directly or indirectly involved,” Zardari added. (ANI)

Taliban Responsible for Martyring 36 Shia in Parachinar, Pakistan

Taliban Responsible for Martyring 36 Shia in Parachinar, Pakistan – Updated

 

The toll in the Parachinar blast occurred on Friday increased to thirty-six when six critically injured victims succumbed to their injuries on Saturday, Geo News reported.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – The toll in the Parachinar blast occurred on Friday increased to thirty-six when six critically injured victims succumbed to their injuries on Saturday, Geo News reported.

According to sources, two injured persons martyred today in Lady Reading Hospital while four others in different hospitals that pushed the toll to 36.

The funeral of the victims who martyred on Friday in a suicide attack here will be offered today in their ancestral areas, Geo News reported. Business hubs and markets of the area were closed in mourning.

Thirty people were martyred and around 54 others injured in a suicide attack and subsequent firing by security forces on those who protested the incident at a busy market outside a mosque in Parachinar city, the headquarters of Kurram Agency on Friday.

Wahhabi Militant commander Fazal Saeed Haqqani, who had recently quit the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mahsud and formed his own faction, the TTP Islahi, claimed responsibility for the Parachinar attack.

————-

A Wahhabi suicide bomber targeted the Shia traders’ dominated market in the Parachinar area of Kurram Agency on Friday martyred at least 28 Shia Muslims and wounding more than 47 others in the bloody suicide blast in the Kurram Agency headquarter Parachinar.

According to reports from Kurram Agency, The bomb exploded at Main Market of Parachinar has badly damaged the shops in the market as a result of the blast targeted the Shia Muslims of the tribal area.

“It was a suicide attack. Many killed and injured,” a senior Pakistani security official confirmed.

The Shia elders of the kurram agency claimed that the suicide bomber was coming from the Farooqia Mosuqe (Masjid-e-Zarar) a bastion of Wahabi Taliban terrorists situated at main market targeted the Shia Muslims of Parachinar claims 8 lives.

The Shia dominated Parachinar is the main town in Kurram Agency, part of Pakistan’s tribal belt on the northwestern border with Afghanistan that was suffering the bloody sectarian violence from the Saudi-backed Taliban and Wahbais against the Shia Muslims from last three decades.

Security forces cordoned off the area after the blast. Rescue teams reached at the scene soon after the blast and shifted bodies and injured people to hospital. Emergency has been imposed in district headquarter hospital.

Threats to US: Pentagon officials drop three surprises

Threats to US: Pentagon officials drop three surprises

As the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and America’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey fielded budget questions on Capitol Hill Thursday, the Pentagon’s key intelligence officials were warning of ‘current and future worldwide threats’ to US national security in another less-attended hearing. Here are three top surprises that they acknowledged to lawmakers.

– Anna Mulrine, Staff writer


From left, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess take their seats on Capitol Hill in Washingtonlast month prior to testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File)

1. ‘Radical’ elements in US forces

Senior US military and intelligence officials are warning of their growing concern that rogue “radical” elements are operating – or preparing to operate – “within the ranks” of the intelligence community and armed forces.

“The potential for trusted US government and contractor insiders using their authorized access to personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks or information systems in order to cause great harm is becoming an increasingly serious threat to our national security,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Trusted insiders now have unprecedented access to US government information and resources in secure work environments,” he added.

He warned of those who have become “self-radicalized,” as well as “lone wolves,” particularly “within our ranks.”

As a result, the DIA and other Pentagon offices are developing an “insider threat” document, designed to identify perils from within. Burgess pointed to the “recent massive WikiLeaksdisclosure,” which, he charged, “compromises our national security and also endangers lives.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listens to a question while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington last month. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File)

2. Doubts about Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Despite the hype surrounding Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology, the country’s leaders are “not likely” to develop weapons unless attacked, the panel said.

The same goes for plans to close the vital Strait of Hormuz waterway, according to General Burgess. Though Iran can close the strait (“at least temporarily”), launch missiles, and even tap terrorist surrogates worldwide “if attacked,” military-intelligence officials assess that it is “unlikely to initiate or unintentionally provoke a conflict.”

What’s more, senior intelligence officials expressed some doubt that Iranian officials are actively interested in developing a nuclear weapon.

Said James Clapper, director of national intelligence (DNI): “There are certain things that they have not yet done and have not done for some time.”

On this point, the panel was robustly challenged by some lawmakers. “I’m very convinced that they’re going down the road to developing a nuclear weapon,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina.

Still, the Pentagon officials stuck to their analysis. Though Iran has enough highly enriched uranium to build a weapon “if political leaders chose to do so,” Burgess explained, he said that the prospect of stepped-up sanctions is frightening to Iranian officials. “I don’t think they want a nuclear weapon at any price.”

Intelligence officials have raised questions about the the ability of the Afghan National Army, shown here at a weapons exhibition in Kabul, to operate independent of NATO. (Omar Sobhani/REUTERS/File)

3. Too pessimistic about Afghanistan?

US intelligence officials openly acknowledge that they upset some US military officials with overly “pessimistic” assessments of the war.

Mr. Clapper told lawmakers that some senior military officials “took issue” with the DNI’s national intelligence estimate, which they “generally felt” was not positive enough. The commanders felt “generally it was pessimistic about the situation in Afghanistan … and the prospects for 2014,” when most US forces are slated to leave the country.

For example, the assessment pointed to “persistent qualitative challenges” within the Afghan security forces that “continue to impede their development into an independent, self-sustaining security apparatus.” What’s more, it pointed out that the Afghan National Army’s reliance on NATO“for many critical combat enabling functions underscores its inability to operate independently.”

In what might be considered a hallmark of faint praise, the intelligence assessment pointed out that, “nevertheless, Afghanistan’s population generally favors the Army over the police” – a force seen by many Afghans as corrupt.

In defending his seemingly dour assessments, Clapper shared with lawmakers his recollections of being an intelligence analyst in 1966 for Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of US forces inVietnam war. The experience, he said, caused him to lose his “operational innocence.”

He also recalled serving as chief of intelligence during Operation Desert Storm. Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf “protested long and loud” about the accuracy of intelligence that “didn’t comport with his view.”

Intelligence officials tend to wrestle with “glass half empty” scenarios, Clapper said. “I don’t find it a bad thing.”

Russia Offers To Finance and Build Iran-Pakistan “Peace Pipeline”

Pak-Iran gas pipeline: Russia wants contract without bidding

Also offers to finance the cost of pipeline construction.

ISLAMABAD: Amid pressure from the United States to shelve the much-needed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, Russia has asked Pakistan to award a $1.2 billion pipeline-laying contract to its energy giant Gazprom without going into bidding process.

“If Pakistan accepts the demand of Russia and awards the contract to Gazprom, the largest explorer of natural gas in the world, Moscow will also provide financing for the project,” an official told The Express Tribune.

Moscow floated the proposal during a four-day trip of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Russia earlier this month.

“However, Pakistan has not shown any willingness to grant the contract without inviting bids from competing parties, which will violate its Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules,” the official said.

An official of the petroleum ministry told The Express Tribune that Russia expressed interest in the Iran pipeline project, but he did not confirm whether Moscow sought the contract for Gazprom without bidding. Petroleum secretary could not be reached for comment.

Sources said the US opposition to Iranian gas supply to Pakistan also came up for discussion during Khar’s visit. The US has imposed sanctions on Iran due to suspicions over its nuclear programme while Tehran insists that its programme is peaceful and meant for energy supply.

Though Russian authorities expressed worry over the US pressure, they supported Iran and Pakistan in pushing ahead with the project, sources said.

Pakistan has already formally invited the Russian giant Gazprom to participate in two multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline projects – Iran-Pakistan and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipelines.

In a meeting of the Pak-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission held on September 22, 2010 in Russia, Pakistan invited Gazprom to lay the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Earlier during deliberations in August 2010 in Russia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari also discussed the option of involving Gazprom in the pipeline project.

Gazprom has also expressed interest in building energy storages in Pakistan.

At present, Pakistan is facing mounting pressure from the US to shelve the Iran pipeline project. Besides, there are financing problems as well. Country’s largest explorer Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) and National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) have already refused to finance the project.

OGDC management fears that its foreign shareholders will withdraw investment from the company if it entered the Iranian project while NBP is worried that its foreign branches may come under US sanctions and may be closed.

Pakistan and Iran have already signed a sovereign-guarantee agreement on the project. They have also inked a gas sale and purchase agreement for import of 750 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) with a provision to increase the volume to 1 billion cubic feet per day.

Under the guarantee agreement, Pakistan is bound to start first flow of gas in 2014 and will have to pay a penalty equal to the cost of 750 mmcfd of gas which amounts to $8 million per day if it fails to receive gas by the stipulated time.

The government has awarded consultancy services contract to German firm ILF Engineering Services at a cost of $55 million which is working in collaboration with the National Engineering Services of Pakistan (Nespak).

Published in The Express Tribune

Total Disinformation Piece–Another Smokescreen from Pakistan’s Controlled Press

[Keeping with the official ISI policy of relying on Pakistani forgetfulness and recycling reported arrests of its most notorious terrorists, the following reported arrest of ISI Faisalabad office “mastermind” relies upon two recycled terrorists, Abdur Rehman and Qari Usman.  Rehman was reportedly killed in a shoot-out with Indian forces in Kashmir, on October 3, 2011.  The report below claims that Qari Usman was arrested after the March 8, 2011 blast, but he was later photographed at another arrest for chaining 68 boys to the floor of his madrassa in Karachi on December 14, 2011.  This totally fabricated cover story intended to whitewash ISI mistakes is much like the repeated deaths of Ilyas Kashmiri (who will no doubt return from the dead again, whenever it is convenient to do so).]  

‘Mastermind’ of suicide attack at ISI Faisalabad office arrested

Published: February 18, 2012

Vehicle lies mangled at the site of the blast last year. PHOTO: FILE

FAISALABAD: Faisalabad police claimed to have arrested the alleged mastermind of the suicide attack at Inter Services Intelligence’s (ISI) Faisalabad office on March 8, 2011, in which at least 34 people were killed while another 90, including an ISI official, were injured.

Abdur Rehman alias Kaka was arrested on a tip-off from Jameel Town, in the vicinity of Ghulam Muhammad Abad police station, by a special police team headed by DSP Gulberg Ashiq Jatt.

The accused was presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) No. 1, where Judge Ishtiaq Ahmad granted the police six days’ physical remand for interrogation.

Rehman was arrested in light of the information provided by another accused, Qari Usman during interrogation, who had been arrested in an injured condition from the site of the blast.

The suspect planted a bomb in a car which exploded at a CNG station situated adjacent to an ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) office in Faisalabad, killing 25 people on the spot, while another nine later succumbed to their injuries.

Many of those injured were trapped under debris for hours or hit by shrapnel, after the blast reduced the building to rubble. Most casualties were recovered from the site of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) building and gas station which also suffered heavy damage.

Additionally, 35 vehicles were destroyed in the blast that created a 10-foot deep crater at the site.

The then City Police Officer (CPO) Faisalabad Dr Usman Anwar stated that about 150 kilograms of explosive material was used in a silver-coloured Mehran by the attackers, the target being the ISI building.

A six-member team of the Counter Terrorism Wing (CTW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had collected samples of the explosive material from the crime scene and sent them to Islamabad for analysis. The cause of the blast was a remote device and it created a crater around four feet deep and 10 to 12 feet wide.

Published in The Express Tribune

Congressman Rohrabacher’s Balochistan Hearing/Political Stunt–(reposted after disappearing)

[Rohrabacher also recently played host to Northern Alliance leaders at an alternative conference in Berlin, while the legitimate Afghan conference was being held by Obama representatives in Bonn.  Prominent among the guests at the alternative confab was former Afghan intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, who also has advocated “poisoning the grass” in Pakistan, which produced the Taliban, as well as outright conflict with the Pak Army.]

“Stick it to the Pakistanis”

“I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan,” witness Dr. C. Christine Fair said. – Photo by Malik Siraj Akbar/Dawn.com“I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan,” witness Dr. C. Christine Fair said. – Photo by Malik Siraj Akbar/Dawn.com

In the days before last week’s Congressional hearing on Balochistan, Dr C. Christine Fair, an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, was extremely critical of the proceedings, going so far as to call the hearing a “political stunt” and one of her fellow witnesses a “nut” in a series of Twitterexchanges.

At the time, Fair did not elaborate on what drove her to so publicly rebuke the hearing. It is only now that she is ready to set the record straight in defence of her statements amid what she calls “considerable harassment from some vocal members of the Baloch diaspora.”

The “stunt” heard round the world

According to Fair, her “political stunt” comment was prompted by a call from a sub-committee staff member. Fair had contacted him to solicit guidance for her upcoming testimony. In the course of their conversation, the staffer explained “we want to stick it to the Pakistanis.” The staffer further elaborated that the Pakistanis had been “killing our troops for ten years in Afghanistan.”

In Fair’s words, while she understood and even shared this person’s views on Pakistan’s relations with the United States over the past decade, this comment about the hearing made her “feel really uncomfortable about being roped into something that I would call a stunt. So, I wanted to make my position publicly known.”

Looking back on the comment, Fair is unapologetic: “Prior to accepting the request to serve as a witness, I was told this was a hearing about human rights violations and other issues needed to understand the various crises in Balochistan. But, based upon that brief phone conversation, I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan.”

Fair’s comments did not go unnoticed. Elements of the Baloch diaspora, who Fair called “a bunch of extremists,” took extreme exception to the comments, especially onTwitter. In her words, they then “subjected me to an array of bullying and obnoxious assaults, many of which also tagged Congressman (Dana) Rohrabacher (R – CA).”

This avalanche of tweets protesting Fair’s participation in the hearing ultimately brought the matter to Rohrabacher’s office. On the Monday prior to the hearing, the staff member who had been coordinating with Fair reached out to her again to convey his displeasure: “He called to take a piece out of my hide. I requested that he explain to the Congressperson why I called the hearing a stunt, namely this staffer’s explanation that they wanted to stick it to the Pakistanis.” However, in her assessment, the staffer “did not have the testicular fortitude to explain the comment to Rohrabacher.”

A “nut” by any other name

Fair’s characterisation of Ralph Peters, a fellow witness, as a “nut” also rankled many proponents of Baloch interests, including at least one staff member affiliated with the hearing. According to Fair, during the aforementioned phone call, the angered Congressional staff member explained that he was taken aback that Fair dismissed Peters as a nut. He added that he had never previously experienced one witness attacking another before the hearing.

In recounting that exchange, Fair remains vivacious in her defence. She points out that she actually called Peters “a certified, flipping nut because only a nut would advocate the dismembering of a sovereign state based upon the views of one community in a province.” She then explains the reasoning for her steadfast opposition to Peters: “If this Congressional subcommittee remotely intended to try to use the hearing to put pressure on Pakistan for its human rights record in Balochistan, they should not have included someone who calls for the halving of their country.”

Biting the hand that invites you

Fair acknowledges that her comments were the impetus for the uncomfortable exchange with Rohrabacher at the hearing’s conclusion. Rohrabacher, who looked her straight in the eye and explained “this was not a stunt,” appeared perturbed by her pre-hearing comments. He therefore, used the hearing as the forum to issue his rebuttal.

While Fair admits that she “might not be invited back to give testimony again,” she does not regret her actions. From her perspective, she needed to signal her concerns because “this was a hearing designed by a collection of guys – and possibly a woman or two – who share a strategic image of how the Afghanistan and Pakistan postures should interrelate. While they reflect the general frustration in Congress with Pakistan taking US money and supporting terrorism, their views about dismembering Pakistan do not reflect the larger sentiment in Congress on Pakistan. Their statements struck me as incredibly provocative, did nothing to advance human rights in Balochistan, and made a US-Pakistan rapprochement much more difficult.”

Fair also notes that Congressmen Rohrabacher and Louie Gohmert (R – TX) bear significant responsibility for undermining the hearing before it was ever held. She points to the Congressmen’s pre-hearing OpEd, which suggested the United States should openly support an independent Balochistan, as setting the wrong tone for a hearing purportedly on human rights.

Eddie Walsh is a senior foreign correspondent who covers Africa and Asia-Pacific. He also is a non-resident fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS. Follow him on Twitter here.

Elections in Turkmenistan – a play for the West

16/02/2012

Elections in Turkmenistan – a play for the West

 

Emma Ustinov

The EU is already more than a year trying to reach an agreement on the purchase of Turkmen gas, turning a blind eye to the human rights situation in Turkmenistan, for which he was subjected to sharp criticism from human rights organizations. However, few human rights activists who are listening …

In Turkmenistan, an alternative presidential elections were held. Gone with the predictable result: the candidate, whose victory was never in doubt, is the current president , Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov . This second “alternative” choices in the country. The first President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov twice “won” in uncontested presidential elections, and then became president for life.

In 2007 Berdimuhamedov opposed to five candidates. However, then they had to pay for it.According to human rights defenders, one of the candidates shortly after the election, was arrested and sentenced to long term, the other three were dismissed from their posts, and only one was able to “safely” to finish his career by going to retire.

At this time, apparently, “rivals” Berdymukhamedov will avoid the fate of successors, because, apparently, their participation in the action was approved and even encouraged.

According to the Central Election Commission of Turkmenistan, released on the eve of the election results of past president, Berdymukhamedov won 97.14 percent of the vote.

If in this case we can speak of progress, it should be noted that in the current presidential campaign, took part in not one but eight candidates. However, the feature of the election is that both the process of elections and the candidates – just decoration, built for performance, the audience which is the West.

But the surprising thing is that Western countries are quite happy, because the policy of the West of double standards often rests on the question of the availability of energy resources in some individual countries. In fact, the victory of the incumbent president of the country and benefit from both Moscow and Washington and Brussels, and Beijing. But only the West while trying on the one hand, to remain committed to Western values, but on the other, not to harm their energy security.

That election, to put it mildly, did not meet European standards, proved quite a few illustrative facts. First, it is very short – just over two months – amount of time allotted for the campaign.

Second, during the campaign meetings and meetings of the presidential candidates (all of them civil servants, among them – two ministers – Energy and Industry and Water Resources of the country) were in favor of Berdymukhamedov.

In addition, the news agency “Interfax-Kazakhstan” dated February 9, Turkmenistan has “unilaterally closed the border with Kazakhstan in connection with the presidential election.”This is clearly a step taken as part of measures to ensure holding of elections, as planned.

In addition, a very eloquent facts, such as the ongoing ban on registration of public associations, the lack of progress on the issue of political prisoners. It is important that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) refused to send observers to the elections, limiting the evaluation mission.

This is not surprising. In January, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch World Report released in 2012. It is noted that under the current President of Turkmenistan remains one of the most repressive countries in the world. The document says that the country remains closed to independent monitoring, there are sharp limits on freedom of media and religion, human rights are constantly under threat of sanctions from the authorities. The UN Committee against Torture expressed concern about allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment, as well as on cases of enforced disappearances of citizens.

Rated press freedom organization “Reporters without Borders” in Turkmenistan in 2010 was 176 out of 178.

However, the issue of human rights is displaced into the background of economic preferences: Turkmenistan holds the 4th place in the world reserves of natural gas to China and signed a number of large transactions.

The EU is already more than a year trying to reach an agreement on the purchase of Turkmen gas, turning a blind eye to the human rights situation in Turkmenistan, for which he was subjected to sharp criticism from human rights organizations.

However, few listens to human rights defenders. In fact, Turkmenistan and the West have entered a sort of unspoken agreement: Ashkhabad is trying to portray that in which the West is trying to believe.

For example, Berdimuhamedov said recently about the initiative, designed to make the political system of Turkmenistan more transparent. At the moment, on a legal basis in the country has only one political party, ironically, called the “Democratic”.

Adopted in mid-January, the law on political parties seem to be laying the foundation for the formation of multi-party political system in the country. “Citizens of Turkmenistan are accorded equal rights and equal opportunities are created for the creation of political parties and free participation in their activities,” – says one of the provisions of the law, published in the Official Gazette “Neutral Turkmenistan”.

However, all these changes are designed, primarily, to the West, and the second – on the people of Turkmenistan. The fact that all Central Asian leaders can not help worrying example of the “Arab spring” and to reduce the level of discontent, which is certainly present, Berdimuhamedov is ready to show some changes, while not risking anything special, and to assess the reasons for the growing discontent.

And the fact that there is discontent, recently were able to see everything.

Despite the desire of the authorities of Turkmenistan to hide information on strikes on a number of oil and gas companies in connection with the nonpayment of wages and rally against the demolition of housing in Ashgabat, found out about the world’s media.

The last straw was that after the explosion of ammunition depot in Abadan city residents, despite threats by the police and the Ministry of Security, sent photos and video footage showing the true extent of the damage to foreign media.

This led to a sensational statement made at the meeting on the day of the tragedy in Abadan, where the country’s president “invited” to the elections the opposition.

“We are ready to dialogue with the group calling itself the” opposition”. If any of their representatives wish to take part in the upcoming presidential election, he can safely travel to Turkmenistan. I guarantee that, for them, as for the citizens of our country, will be created equal conditions and opportunities for participation in the elections, “- these words of the Turkmen president delivered the news agencies.

However, the realization of the intentions of President until the light in question. However, in the case of Berdimuhamedov has a willingness to think about the opposition – well worth it.

For now everything will remain as is. Country with the fourth-largest gas reserves in the world, will use a “gas trump card” that will determine not only the foreign policy of the republic for years to come, but also internally, with the connivance of the corresponding West. The president and his government will continue to promise the gas is almost all interested parties, skillfully using this tactic for the loyalty of players worldwide.

And Europe is pleased to continue to wait for the Turkmen gas by closing their eyes to all that loves to scream when it comes to other, less energy-rich countries.

Source :: New Eastern Review

Turkmen Dictator Orders Destruction of All Buildings, Including Homes, Along Border With Uzbekistan

“We did not vote for him!”

Chronicles Turkmenistan

Residents of border villages Dashoguz vlayata do not want the country for another five years of human rights, leaving them without a roof over your head. Because of the authorities at home more than 250 families have been destroyed.

Abnormal cold, established in early February in northern Turkmenistan, further complicated the lives of the residents of border villages, whose houses in the summer of 2011 during meropriiyaty held on the demarcation of the Turkmen-Uzbek border guards have been demolished.

Knowing that for the remaining months before the cold weather they can not build a house, family, suddenly deprived of shelter, began to occupy the premises for a long time abandoned nurseries and vacant field mills.Some fled to live with relatives. Another portion of these people spend cold days in makeshift hastily constructed from the materials of their demolished homes.

-We do not give any time to think, no means for transporting things – remember those days Amanmyrat R., a resident of the village Karabay farmers association named H. Muradova Gerogly district. – It happened instantly. The soldiers, border guards under the command of officers for half an hour taken out on the street all the property, and an army bulldozer made in Japan before our eyes turned all the houses and buildings in ruins.

Treaty on the Delimitation of the Turkmen-Uzbek state border was signed in September 2000, as a direct response to paragraphs of the treaty began much later, after coming to power in 2007, the current president G. Berdymukhammedov.

Under the pretext of combating terrorism, drug trafficking and other possible threats from neighboring states Turkmen authorities decided to demolish all residential and nonresidential buildings, located near the boundary. According to our data, in the summer of 2011 in the villages of Lahr, Karabay, Beshyyllyk, Aylak and other district Gerogly (former Ottoman) has been destroyed over 250 homes. Only in one village Karabay 106 families homeless. Approximately the same number of houses demolished in the border zone district named after Niyazov, Gubadag Kunya Urgench and districts.

In the villages of farmers associations “Gubadag”, “Amyderya” Gubadag district have been cases where family centers were torn down twice and even three times.

– The first time the house was destroyed, we were told that it is located 500 meters from the barbed wire – angrily says Bayrambay S. from Gubadaga. – We have built one house at a specified location to us. But then the guards came back and said that up to a maximum of 1000 meters should not be a single structure. Again, a broken home. Now for the third time we built the house stands at a distance of 1650 meters from the border and we have already warned that it will take down again, because it is closer to 2000 meters from the thorns.

In Gerogly, Niyazov and Gubadage, in some border farms Kunya Urgench district and elsewhere in the demolition of homes has caused a wave of mass discontent. More people resented the fact that part of the state was not rendered any assistance to families left homeless before winter. The only thing that made the authorities, so it is highlighted areas on the salt flats, where nothing grows.

In the early days of mass demolition of homes in the border villages of Dashoguz, according to village elders Aylak, people were so angry and unhappy, that were ready to go to mass protests. However, the degree of social tensions have been contained familiar to Turkmenistan punitive-repressive methods. Border villages have been inundated with agents and informants who identified the likely leaders and activists among the discontented, and reported them “to be.” It is known that at least three of the number of homeless villagers Beshyyllyk taken to the DHS and the Department of etrap within a few hours had a psychological impact on them, intimidated potential trouble, and even criminal prosecution for incitement to rebellion.

– Now the people calmed down a bit – says Amanmuradov R. – But in every soul has remained the hatred and contempt for the current president. Turkmens do not forgive the person who deprived them of their homes. We do not want this man for five years ruled the country.

MOSCOW’S AFGHAN DRUGS GAMBIT

[SEE: Russia Blocks American Anti-drug Initiative In ViennaWashington’s New Foxy Plan To Sneak Into the Central Asian Hen House]

MOSCOW’S AFGHAN DRUGS GAMBIT

By Richard Weitz
11/30/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst

One reason why the Russian and Central Asian governments have become increasingly supportive of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is their concern regarding the export of Afghan narcotics into and through their countries. These governments have become increasingly worried that NATO’s ongoing withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan will result in their having to confront the problem of narco-trafficking largely by themselves. Mutual concerns about Afghanistan are helping to drive Moscow and Washington to cooperate despite their persistent differences over other issues, but major disagreements over the U.S. role in Central Asia continue.

BACKGROUND: Russia and NATO continue to disagree over how best to deal with the problem of Afghanistan narcotics. Afghanistan has long been the world’s leading producer of opium, used to make heroin. An estimated one-quarter of its production flows northward through the former Soviet states, supplying as many as 3 million Russian addicts and, according to Russian statistics, killing 30,000 Russians each year. Russia is the world’s largest per capita consumer of heroin. The widespread use of dirty needles among Russians has promoted a national HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Central Asia has become a major trafficking route for Afghan narcotics exports because of its strategic location, weak border controls, and ineffective law enforcement. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that ninety percent of the world’s opium is harvested in Afghanistan. Twenty-five percent of that opium is trafficked through the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan en route to large drug markets in Europe, the Russian Federation, and China. This route is referred to as the “Northern Route,” and is a fairly recent phenomenon. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, drug traffickers in Afghanistan realized that they could exploit the weak security capacity of the newly independent governments of Central Asia, which lack the financial resources or experience necessary to police their borders adequately.

Afghanistan’s border with three Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, spans 2,600 kilometers, along remote and geographically challenging terrain, which is virtually impossible for the countries to regulate. Afghan drug traffickers use Central Asia as one of their main transit routes. Most trafficking begins in Tajikistan or southern Kyrgyzstan and makes its way through Kazakhstan to Russia, though some Afghan opium is also trafficked through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In total, the UNODC estimates that about 1,725 metric tons of opium, whether in the form of pure opium or heroin, is trafficked through Central Asia each year.

Russians doubt the effectiveness of interdiction given the large flow of Afghan drugs and the enormous financial resources available to the traffickers to bribe customs officials and otherwise overcome natural and manmade obstacles. They instead stress the need to destroy the crops and the drug laboratories. Russian experts argue that even if one could seal the Afghan-Tajikistan border, the same drugs would simply flow along another trafficking route. Instead, the Russian government wants NATO to undertake a more active and direct campaign to destroy the poppy fields as well as the laboratories. The Russian government maintains that NATO could never defeat the Taliban as long as the movement can finance its operations through the millions of dollars it earns through participation in the Afghan narcotics trade.

NATO governments have made clear their reluctance to meet Russian demands to eradicate the opium crops through aerial spraying of poppy crops or other actions against individual Afghan farmers. They fear that such direct action against large numbers of Afghans would prove a public relations disaster, alienating citizens from the coalition and facilitating Taliban recruitment. Farmers, whose crops suffer damage, whether from herbicides or other causes, would blame NATO for their losses, while Taliban propaganda would misconstrue NATO spraying as polluting the environment. Following a formal change in U.S. policy announced in June 2009, NATO forces have instead focused their efforts on destroying large warehouses storing illicit drugs as well as interdicting the flow of narcotics out of Afghanistan and the drug money that the Taliban use to finance its operations.

IMPLICATIONS: The Russian government has been promoting a “Rainbow-2” Plan to deal with the Afghan narcotics issue. Its key elements include having the UN Security Council declare Afghan narcotics a threat to international peace and security, imposing sanctions on Afghan landlords who allow opium poppy plantations on their land, providing Afghanistan with large-scale aid that would create millions of legitimate jobs, including opium poppy eradication in the UN mandate for NATO, using aerial spraying of herbicides to eradicate Afghan opium production, sharing more narcotics intelligence among UN members, and offering more multinational training for Afghan counternarcotics officers. NATO governments have reviewed the plan but have yet to act on it as an integrated package due to disagreements over several key points.

Russian officials have proposed several new initiatives outside their Rainbow 2 plan designed to strengthen Russian-American cooperation against Afghan narcotics. First, they want to create an integrated command that would include representatives from the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

They anticipate that the new arrangement would address the problems that had impeded the work of what appeared last fall to be a promising new Russian-U.S. initiative. In October 2010, their drug enforcement personnel conducted a joint counternarcotic raid that destroyed drug-producing laboratories in Afghanistan. From December 2010 to February 2011, four additional Russian-U.S. counternarcotics raids took place against Afghan narcotics laboratories.

The Russians argue that the time needed to plan and secure military support for these joint operations sometimes took months. By the time they had surmounted all the bureaucratic hurdles in Russia, the U.S., within NATO, and in Afghanistan, the intelligence had grown stale. The new joint command could presumably make it easier to break through these bureaucratic obstacles by accelerating the staff work and clearance procedures.

Second, the Russian government has advocated using more high technology to increase situational awareness of Afghan narcotics conditions. Specifically, they want to create a “Digital Poppy Road Map” in which multiple users would collect and submit data about narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan. The interactive map would identify poppy fields, narcotics laboratories, transportation hubs, and trafficking routes. The data would also make clear where eradication was succeeding and where further efforts were needed. The publicly accessible map, which could be a smartphone application, would use surveillance data gathered by American drones and possibly a Russian-American satellite dedicated to the task. Using digital technologies, he argued, would keep the costs of the process down to about US$ 150 million annually.

In addition to their differences over NATO’s refraining from attacking the Afghan crops directly, a remaining difference between Moscow and Washington is Russian opposition to the new U.S. State Department initiative to establish a network of U.S.-supported counternarcotics centers in Central Asia. This Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative seeks to establish counternarcotics task forces in all five Central Asian countries. These units would collaborate with the similar task forces that already exist in Afghanistan and Russia. The State Department would pay for the centers’ equipment and the training of their personnel. The seven groups would share sensitive information about drug production, interdiction operations, and law enforcement efforts against traffickers in Afghanistan. They would also help improve coordination on cross-border or multinational operations. The resulting counternarcotics network would link both the main narcotics source country, Afghanistan, with the key transit countries in Eurasia.

The Russian government has framed its opposition to this program within the context of its general lack of enthusiasm regarding interdiction. They want the U.S. to concentrate its resources in fighting opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan itself. At least some Russians oppose the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative for geopolitical reasons: they aim to minimize the U.S. presence in Central Asia, a region that Russian “old thinkers” consider as falling within Moscow’s sphere of influence. They want the U.S. to focus its counternarcotics efforts exclusively inside Afghanistan rather than take the lead in constructing region-wide networks independent of Russia.

AUTHOR’S BIO: Dr. Richard Weitz is a Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute.

Russia Blocks American Anti-drug Initiative In Vienna

[SEE: Washington’s New Foxy Plan To Sneak Into the Central Asian Hen House]

Anti-drug initiative blocked in Vienna

Russia has managed to freeze the discussion of the American project
In Vienna yesterday ended Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact – the largest international forum on combating drug trafficking from Afghanistan, which Moscow considers a major threat to the security of the Russian Federation. As found “b” in the U.S. The conference gathered to present their new initiative to address this issue, which would allow Washington to gain access to sensitive data of the Central Asian countries. Moscow is convinced that the main objective of this initiative – strengthening the military and political presence in a region that Moscow regards as its area of special interests. As a result, Russia has managed to persuade the Allies Organization (CSTO Collective Security Treaty) did not participate in it.

 

The conference in Vienna – the third in a row in the so-called Paris of the process, started in 2003 and united the country most affected by the transit of drugs from Afghanistan. The second summit was held in 2006 in Russia, whose power is called the Afghan drug threat by one of the main challenges to the security of the Russian Federation. According to official data, from the Afghan drug die every year more than 30 thousand citizens of the Russian Federation. However, yesterday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in fact, acknowledged that the goals for all these years could not be reached. “Opium production in Afghanistan increased from 3.6 tons in 2010 to 5.8 tons in 2011,” – he stated. From the speech of the Minister indicated that the responsibility lies, including NATO countries, and especially the United States that are not struggling with the planting of opiates in Afghanistan and do not wish to establish anti-drug cooperation with the CSTO.

Meanwhile, as found “b” at a conference in Vienna, the United States were about to present its new project to combat the Afghan drug traffic, which should involve all Central Asian countries-members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Some details of the project entitled “Central Asian anti-drug initiative” (CACI) opened in October at the UN General Assembly, U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, William Brownfield (before his appointment, he was U.S. ambassador to Colombia and Venezuela, so it knows about Drugs are not hearsay). The initiative will cover five countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. They plan to create a special unit to combat drug trafficking, and the process should take place on the money and led by the United States. In the margins of the conference in Vienna, the United States intended to provide the initiative and even take a statement in support signed by representatives of eight countries – the five republics of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Russia and the United States. The concept of the project participants sent in advance.

However, even at the stage of preparation for the summit, it became clear that Russia would not support the American initiative. The essence of the Russian claims to the American initiative, “Y” made it clear several interlocutors in the state bodies of Russia. All the matter proposed by the Americans riot.As planned by the United States, they must have very wide powers, and most importantly, full access to prompt and confidential information supplied to law enforcement agencies and intelligence services of the Central Asian countries. Moscow feared that this would give the U.S. an opportunity to gather sensitive information and then use these data to blackmail the government in the region. The U.S. itself all the accusations of political motives of its proposal categorically rejected (see interview with William Brownfield).

“Why create something new, if these countries are already in the organization’s structure, why would the Americans simply do not join them, if they really want to fight drug trafficking? Why do they insist on a bilateral dialogue with the Central Asian republics, pointedly ignoring Russia’s interests in the region The answer to these questions we have received, hence the question of the true background of the U.S. proposals “- said the” b “is one of the Russian negotiators in Vienna. “This new tool penetration into Central Asia, a way to strengthen the military-political influence of the United States in the region,” – said categorically, “b” another member of the delegation of the Russian Federation.

One criticism of the U.S. proposals are not confined to Russia. On the eve of the Vienna conference, representatives of the Russian Federation conducted a sensitization campaign with partners, describing the risks that might be for them in case the U.S. proposal. These arguments have had an effect even before the meeting in Vienna, many potential participants in the American initiative was given to understand that to participate in it are not going to. Sources of “b” in the Russian delegation did not rule out that this is why U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has refused to participate in this event by sending in his place his deputy, William Burns.

Nevertheless, the U.S. made a desperate attempt to convince the partners are in Vienna. According to “Kommersant”, U.S. officials were caught from Central Asia in the corridors, inviting them to a special meeting rooms, and then treated for a long time in the format of “one on one.” However, wishing to subscribe to the declaration of the result is still not found.

True, Washington has no intention of giving up. According to “Kommersant” William Brownfield, U.S. hopes to achieve the acceptance of his application in March.

Elena Chernenko, Vienna