Robert Blake: We call upon the Central Asia to end the relationship with Iran

Robert Blake: We call upon the Central Asia to end the relationship with Iran

Nargis Hamrabaeva

U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, who is in Dushanbe as part of participation in the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-V), the evening of March 27 answered questions from journalists.

The demarche of the U.S. delegation during Ahmadinejad speech

We were disappointed by the statement of Iranian President Ahmadinejad at the conference RECCA-V in Dushanbe, which was aimed at regional integration. He used this opportunity to criticize the United States, to make unsubstantiated claims that call into question our policy. So we decided to leave the hall during his speech.

U.S. will not abandon the "Manas"?

We are grateful to President of Kyrgyzstan Atambaev for what he has agreed to extend the contract on the use of "Manas" by the U.S. Army until mid-2014.Kyrgyzstan continues to support the Transit Center "Manas" to send the goods to coalition forces in Afghanistan. We intend to continue negotiations with the government Atambayev, and hope that they will be productive.

U.S. is not going to open military bases in other countries in the region.

The fate of the U.S. Munitions

United States began withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Part of the units will pass through the Northern Distribution Network through the territory of Central Asia.

Yes, some states in the region have expressed interest in purchasing American gear and equipment. All of our military attaches in the region, which is responsible for coordination and cooperation, discuss the matter with his colleagues.

However, we have limitations, not all material and equipment may be transferred to interested countries. We are ready to discuss this issue under the laws of the United States.

Future negotiations on Iran                             

President Obama recently met in Seoul with the leaders of China and Russia and discussed with them, as well as other partners in the context of security threats from Iran’s nuclear program. We and our partners have agreed that negotiations in the 5 +1 "(" six "of international mediators, which includes Russia, China, USA, France, Britain and Germany, since 2003 together with the IAEA that Iran is seeking the suspension of work uranium enrichment, which can pose a threat to the nuclear non-proliferation. negotiations were interrupted in 2009 when the Board of Governors of the IAEA condemned Iran for building a second plant to enrich uranium and called on Tehran to confirm that "no decisions were made on the construction of other nuclear facilities that do not declared agency. "The U.S. and other Western countries accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful nuclear energy program. Tehran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is really aimed solely at using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes – Ed.) should soon begin. EU countries are making great efforts to resume negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and we intend to determine the exact date of their conduct.

We also have time for a diplomatic solution, but this time coming to an end.

U.S. calls on countries in the region to support sanctions against Iran in Washington and refuse to trade and other relations with this country, in order to put pressure on Tehran to show solidarity with the international community over concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Cooperation in the fight against drugs

We must work together to counter the drug threat coming from Afghanistan, because drugs fuel the financial terrorists, including the Taliban. We are working productively with many countries in Central Asia through various projects in order to stop drug trafficking. One of the most successful examples – Cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan. We would also like to work with Russia in this direction in Central Asia.

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Revolution @State—State Dept. Takes Control of Western Media

Revolution @State:

The Spread of Ediplomacy

Executive summary

The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of
ediplomacy. Ediplomacy now employs over 150 full-time personnel
working in 25 different ediplomacy nodes at Headquarters. More than
900 people use it at US missions abroad.
Ediplomacy is now used across eight different program areas at State:
Knowledge Management, Public Diplomacy and Internet Freedom
dominate in terms of staffing and resources. However, it is also being
used for Information Management, Consular, Disaster Response,
harnessing External Resources and Policy Planning.
In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In
Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global
media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid
circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of
diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms.
In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding
solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for
centuries.
The slow pace of adaptation to ediplomacy by many foreign ministries
suggests there is a degree of uncertainty over what ediplomacy is all
about, what it can do and how pervasive its influence is going to be.
This report – the result of a four-month research project in Washington
DC – should help provide those answers.  (Read HERE)

Majority of Americans against war in Afghanistan: Survey

Majority of Americans against war in Afghanistan: Survey

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WASHINGTON: Support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply in the US following a series of violent incidents in the war-torn country, according to a new poll.
More than two-thirds of those polled, 69 per cent, are against war in Afghanistan, as against 53 per cent four months ago, according to the nationwide poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News.
The increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going.
"The poll found that 68 per cent thought the fighting was going "somewhat badly" or "very badly," compared with 42 per cent who had those impressions in November," The New York Times said.
The Times/CBS News poll was consistent with other surveys this month that showed a drop in support for the war, it said, adding that in The Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 per cent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan had not been worth the fighting, while 57 per cent in a Pew Research Centre poll said that the US should bring home American troops as soon as possible.
In a Gallup/USA Today poll, 50 per cent of respondents said the United States should speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to The New York Times/CBS News poll, negative impressions of the war have grown among Republicans as well as Democrats.

Imperial Overreach and the Failures of An All-Volunteer Army

Afghan killings point to the limits of an all-volunteer army

By Jules Witcover

Baltimore Sun

The American soldier accused of massacring 17 people in a solo rampage on a remote southern Afghanistanvillage faces multiple charges of murder and attempted murder. Whisked out of the country by the Army, he is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

With the Afghan government clamoring for justice, nothing less seems appropriate, pending the thorough Army investigation into the horrible episode in which nine of the fatalities are said to have been children and others women. At least six other villagers were wounded.

The defendant, 38-year-old Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, was serving his fourth combat tour in the Middle East. He walked out of his small outpost in Kandahar province on March 11 and, after the attack, returned and turned himself in.

According to his lawyer, John Henry Browne, Mr. Bales says he doesn’t remember some of the things that occurred in the attack. He has said he suffered a concussion earlier in Iraq, when a vehicle in which he was riding rolled over, but that he never sought or received medical treatment at the time.

That observation, and the lawyer’s subsequent comment that "there’s definitely brain injury," suggests a possible line of exculpation other than a defense of innocence in the case. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that American counterinsurgency forces stay out of such Afghan villages.

U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen, commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, told Congress the other day an investigation will be held into Sergeant Bales’ military unit and the headquarters supervising it. At the same time, court and personal records on Mr. Bales in Washington State, where his home military base is located near Tacoma, have surfaced indicating incidents of past scuffles with police.

None of this, however, goes to a more pertinent question that cannot acquit the accused soldier of personal responsibility but that needs better answers from the U.S. government: Why was this soldier, or any member of the American armed forces for that matter, sent into a fourth deployment in a hot combat zone, with the general recognition of the psychological as well as physical pressures involved?

One obvious answer is that individuals who join the all-volunteer military have to expect they will be assigned as military circumstances dictate. Another is that with the U.S. militarystretched thin in two wars, for more than a decade in Afghanistan and nearly as long in Iraq, multiple combat deployments have been inevitable.

The latter point reinforces the reality that the burden of two wars, one of them a war of choice in Iraq, continues to fall on a very narrow segment of the American population — the men and women in uniform and their families left back home. Many of them have had to endure multiple separations, with multiple personal, financial and psychological complications, over a longer time than ever before in American history.

The Civil War lasted nearly four years, and actual U.S. combat inWorld War I lasted less than two years, in World War II less than four years, in Korea three years and in Vietnam about nine — all of shorter duration than the current engagement in Afghanistan. In World War II especially, Americans enlisted or were drafted for "the duration," and those sent to Europe and the Pacific seldom got home before it was over.

The obvious if not easily achieved solution is to get out of the war in Iraq — a pledge Barack Obama made as a presidential nominee in 2008 — and to wrap up the war in Afghanistan. As president, he claims to have ended the U.S. combat role in the former and to be working toward the latter.

Meantime, the unintended consequences of continued American foreign-policy involvement not only impede that objective but also exact a heavier price on those in uniform and their kin who are obliged to pursue it.

At a minimum, the Pentagon should be addressing this inequitable matter of multiple deployments to combat zones. And Congress needs to prod the Obama administration to put a limit on how much is demanded of the limited number of military men and women whose lives are being repeatedly disrupted, while the rest of us go about our normal business.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email isjuleswitcover@comcast.net.

Turkmen Dictator Setting-Up Make Believe Two-Party System

Turkmenistan set to end 1-party rule

ASHGABAT – The Associated Press

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Reuters photo

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Reuters photo

Turkmenistan’s government says it plans to create two new political parties, bringing an end to the authoritarian nation’s current one-party system.

TDH state news agency cited Deputy Prime Minister Sapardurdy Toyliyev as saying Monday that work is in progress on drawing up the founding charters of agrarian and entrepreneur parties.

While those parties will nominally end the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan’s monopoly in the former Soviet nation’s parliament, absolute power will continue to be wielded by President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.

The state’s involvement in the parties’ formation also quashes any prospect of their genuine autonomy.
Opposition to the government has been ruthlessly stamped out since independence in 1991.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2013.

Fake Friendships, Dictators and Dollars

Friends and Dictators

Cozying up to Central Asia’s Most Brutal Regimes

Tara McKelvey

title

An Afghan guard stands watch at the Friendship Bridge, the only border crossing between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The bridge is a key link in the northern supply route to U.S. troops in Central Asia. / Mark O’Donald, U.S. Navy

The Turkish Airlines flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan was scheduled to leave at 9:25 on an October night, and dozens of people, nearly all of whom were holding Uzbek passports, stood at the gate. Gripping the handles of bulging plastic bags filled with candy and gifts, they stared at an electronic board announcing a Moscow-bound flight that had been unexpectedly assigned the same gate.

“LAST CALL” for Moscow, the board flashed in Turkish and English at 30-second intervals. As time passed, the announcement began to seem less urgent. Finally, the last passenger got on the Moscow airplane, and officials began ushering the Uzbek travelers through.

For weeks leading up to the trip, I’d had restless nights full of frightening dreams. For Uzbeks, however, real life can be as haunting as any nightmare.

President Islam Karimov runs the country, a sprawling parcel of the former Soviet empire, like a fiefdom. In 2002, two religious dissidents were boiled to death, according to a State Department report. In May 2005, Uzbek troops shot and killed hundreds of protestors in the eastern city of Andijan. A witness named Juravoi Abdulaev showed a Radio Free Europe reporter, Gafurjan Yuldashev, one of the resulting mass graves. After Yuldashev filed a story about the mass graves, Abdulaev was stabbed to death. A human rights investigator told me that sources he interviewed following the Andijan massacre were later tracked down by authorities, imprisoned, and tortured.

Some Uzbeks, such as Abdulaev and those interviewed by the human rights investigator, have been brave enough to speak openly about their experiences, and they paid a price. Others prefer to speak with journalists discretely. As I stood at the gate, I held my passport and a notebook filled with the names of both kinds: dissidents who had been outspoken about human rights abuses, along with others who were willing to talk as long as they could remain anonymous. The list included activists, economists, a former government official who had resigned in protest after the Andijan massacre, one woman whose relative, a political leader, had been assassinated, and four journalists.

The Turkish official at the gate held up my passport. He had dirty blond hair and glasses, and a yellow cord dangling around his neck. He put the passport down and looked at me. “I hope you have another visa,” he said. “This one isn’t any good.” He pointed to a smudged date in my passport and asked me to stand to the side. Businessmen and mothers clutching small children filed past me, showing him their passports as I waited.

What would happen if officials in Uzbekistan knew I was a journalist—what would happen to my sources?

Abruptly he turned toward me. “Do you have a letter of invitation?” he asked.

I thought about what would happen if he and his colleagues in Uzbekistan knew I was a journalist entering their country on a tourist visa, about what would happen to the people on my list. “No,” I lied.

He stepped over to me. “If you get on that plane and go to Tashkent,” he said, waving his hand toward the jet, “they will deport you. They will send you back on this plane.”

I might have argued, but I lost my nerve that night. I would have been fine, but what about the names in my notebook?
Things were supposed to be getting better in Central Asia, and Americans, in part, were supposed to be responsible.

Since late 2008 the United States has been developing the Northern Distribution Network, a transportation grid running through Uzbekistan, neighboring Kyrgyzstan, and other nations. The military uses the route to transport food and supplies to troops in Afghanistan. In the process the U.S. military has been buying bottled water, plastic forks, and other items made in factories along the way, spending more than $62 million in fiscal year 2010.

The northern supply route is vital to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan because the southern one, which runs through Pakistan, is frequently bombed and closed down. Central Asia offers a more stable alternative. Roughly 60 percent of goods transported to the troops in Afghanistan come via the northern route, and military officials say that share will increase over the next two years.

U.S. officials have argued that investments in the transportation grid will improve the lives of people in Central Asia. Officials have even suggested that the new partnerships with Central Asian leaders could help improve their records on human rights. “Closer cooperation” might force “progress on human rights” and allow “the regime to loosen its vise on civil society,” Richard B. Norland, the ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in a January 2010 diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

But Americans have long struggled with competing impulses when dealing with autocratic leaders in strategically important regions, trying to balance the desire to promote democracy and human rights with the need to maintain security and access to bases.

In Central Asia, at least, the military imperatives seem to have won out. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an International Women of Courage award to an Uzbek human rights activist in 2009, the Uzbek foreign minister made what Norland called an “implicit threat” to suspend deliveries along the supply route if Americans continued to raise the issue of human rights. Afterward Norland told his colleagues in Washington to curb their complaints.

Since then Americans have had much less to say about human rights in Central Asia, while investing even more heavily in the region. U.S. investment in Central Asian business, as part of the commitment to the supply route, jumped from $2.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to $90.6 million in fiscal year 2011, according to Navy Rear Admiral Ron MacLaren, who directs the Defense Logistics Agency’s Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office, which helps to secure supplies for troops in Afghanistan.

Despite the promise of “heretofore unimagined economic advances” for the people of Central Asia, as scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies put it in a December 2009 report, little of the investment has gone to local business people.

“Who benefits? Of course, it’s corrupted elites,” says Baktybek Beshimov, a former member of parliament in Kyrgyzstan. He acknowledges that some of the capital has gone to local businesses but argues that “a huge amount of this money goes to corrupt leaders” and that the funding “leads to the escalation of corruption in Central Asian countries.”

These countries’ leaders have been cracking down harder on human rights and democracy advocates, while Americans have done little to stop them. “In a time of crisis, the American administration can be blind to human rights abuses,” Beshimov says, “and instead they are thinking more about the military or security priorities.”

When it comes to official abuses, Beshimov speaks from experience. As a parliamentarian in the late 2000s, he investigated human rights violations, including the torture of dissidents. Eventually he was placed under state surveillance, and then, he says, “They decided just to kill me.” On March 3, 2009, Beshimov was driving in a chauffeured official vehicle on his way to the capital city of Bishkek. Traffic police stopped the car, claimed the chauffeur was speeding, and asked him to sign papers acknowledging that he had. The police then stopped the car two more times on the same road. Beshimov was annoyed—and suspicious.

Since building a supply route through Central Asia, Americans have had much less to say about human rights there.

As they approached a tunnel on a mountain road, Beshimov saw one of his assistants flagging them down from the side of the road. They pulled over, and the assistant told him that two trucks were idling on the other side of the tunnel. One of the drivers planned to block off the road, his assistant explained, while the other would force Beshimov’s car into a ravine. The chauffeur’s admission that he had been speeding would ensure that blame for the incident fell to him—just another out-of-control driver. Beshimov took another route.

The setup was familiar. “Staged car accidents,” Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller called them in a March 2009 diplomatic cable. In the cable, she described speculation about the “political assassination” of Presidential Chief of Staff Medet Sadyrkulov, an opposition leader who had been killed in a car crash under mysterious circumstances less than two weeks after the police stopped Beshimov.

Now a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT, Beshimov wishes Americans showed more caution in their partnerships with Central Asian leaders. The problem isn’t only that U.S. officials are enabling violent strongmen. As Beshimov explains, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is consolidating power over Central Asia, and the supply route is playing into his hands. “Economically, it’s very beneficial for Russia,” Beshimov says. “It also offers them the chance to use the Network as blackmail against the U.S. during times of crisis in the relationship.”

Indeed, American officials sometimes seem naïve, or willfully blind, in their dealings with Central Asian leaders. Military officers say they hope that corrupt leaders are not siphoning off funds from U.S. contracts, but they also admit that they cannot be sure. “There’s no guarantee that there isn’t something happening behind closed doors,” Admiral MacLaren told me, “until something breaks, and then we take appropriate action.”

MacLaren and other officials rely on the media to uncover graft and corruption in the contracting process. Yet journalists have faced obstacles in reporting on the government, and there are few independent media outlets in Uzbekistan. Researchers from organizations such as Human Rights Watch have been forced to leave the country.

The Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow in 2006, had a finely tuned sense of the role that Westerners played in human rights debates in her country. Russian authorities, she argued, paid attention when Westerners spoke openly about human rights abuses and were more likely to release imprisoned human rights activists. But when Westerners said little, the authorities treated activists more harshly.

A similar situation seems to be unfolding in Uzbekistan. From 2006 to 2008, the pressure was on: the European Union sanctioned Uzbekistan for refusing to allow an international inquiry into the Andijan massacre, and American officials were systematically raising the subject of human rights. At least 24 prisoners were released in those years, according to Human Rights Watch’s Steve Swerdlow. Since work on the supply route began, just six have been freed. In 2009, after diplomats softened their statements about human rights, Uzbekistan’s independent bar associations were abolished and replaced by the state-controlled Chamber of Lawyers. Human rights lawyers had their licenses taken away, Swerdlow explains. He was kicked out of the country on Christmas Eve, 2010. An official letter said his organization was violating Uzbek law, though which law was not specified.

The economic consequences of the new U.S. policy in Central Asia are significant, though it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a proper accounting of the supply route contracts, the profit that is being generated, or the impact that these investments are having on the people of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. It is clear, however, that the human rights situation has not improved as American officials intended. By now it seems to have taken a turn for the worse.

New Phase In Afghan War, More Soldiers Killed by Afghan Army, Eleven Suicide Vests Found At Defense Ministry

Bomb plot foiled: Cache of suicide vests found in Afghan defense ministry

By NBC News’ Cheryll Simpson and msnbc.com staff

KABUL, Afghanistan — A number of Afghan national army soldiers have been arrested inside the country’s defense ministry over a foiled suicide bomb plot, officials told NBC News.

The soldiers were held on Monday afternoon along with 11 suicide bomb vests in a guard box in the building in the capital, Kabul, army officials said on Tuesday.


Afghan news web site Khaama also reported the arrests, saying the incident raises fresh concerns over infiltration of militants among the country’s Afghan security forces.

There were no further details immediately available.

Tim Marshall, foreign editor of UK channel Sky News, said that the incident was serious, and showed that the Taliban are determined to chase NATO out of the country.

“The fact that these arrests took place within the walls of the defense ministry illustrates the level of insurgent penetration within the Afghanistan establishment and just tells you — gives a signal of — what is likely to happen when NATO leaves,” he said.

The arrests came on the same day that at least three NATO service members were shot dead by Afghan security forces in two separate attacks.

A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, while another was shot in eastern Afghanistan by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police.

The attacks brought to 16 the number of NATO-led forces killed so far this year in what appeared to be attacks by members of Afghan forces.

Meanwhile, support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among both Republicans and Democrats, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published Tuesday.

The survey found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.

Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, it said.

It added that the increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going. The poll found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who had those impressions in November.

The poll was conducted by telephone from March 21 to 25 with 986 adults nationwide.

Akbar Shinwari, NBC News in Kabul, and msnbc.com staff also contributed to this report.