Over 30 training camps in Afghanistan fuelling Balochistan unrest: IG FC

Over 30 training camps in Afghanistan fuelling Balochistan unrest: IG FC

Paramilitary soldiers patrolling the streets of Quetta, in Balochistan province.—File Photo

 

QUETTA: The chief of the paramilitary troops in Balochistan has claimed that billions of rupees were being spent to spread a state of unrest in the insurgency-hit province, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to media representatives at the FC headquarters here on Saturday, Inspector General Frontier Corps Balochistan Major General Obaidullah Khan Khattak said on Saturday that over 30 militant training camps had been set up across the border in Afghanistan to launch terrorist and anti-state activities in Balochistan.

Maj Gen Khattak also claimed that around 121 insurgent training facilities were operating in different parts of the province.

Teachers, doctors and many civilians have fallen prey to target killings, said Khattak adding that over 100,000 people had migrated from the province due to its law and order situation.

About 550 incidents of terrorism have taken place in the province so far this year, out of which several groups have claimed responsibilities of 258 such incidents, he informed the media.

The future of the country is in Balochistan, said Khattak, alleging that foreign powers had their eyes set on the province for the same reason. Moreover, a well-planned conspiracy had been hatched for a propaganda campaign against the FC and intelligence agencies, he added.

The Frontier Corps had recently come under much criticism over its alleged role in forced disappearances and human rights violations in Balochistan. The Supreme Court is also hearing a case on the province’s law and order situation.

The IG FC’s comments come after a hearing on Friday in which a bench of apex court judges, headed by the chief justice, assailed the FC and described the recent killing of three people whose whereabouts were being sought by the court as a chilling reminder to it.

“We are aware that lives of law enforcement personnel were also being lost, however that does not empower anyone to take the law into their own hands,” one of the judges had remarked during the hearing.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area, has been the centre of a violent insurgency by nationalist activists and militant groups.

The Pakistani prime minister on Saturday called for new legislation for the recovery of  ‘missing persons’ in the province. PM Gilani is also expected to start a tour of Quetta, the provincial capital, from Sunday.

Earlier on Tuesday, another high-level meeting attended by the prime minister, army chief Kayani, ISI head DG-ISI Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, and Balochistan Chief Minister Raisani had decided to initiate dialogue with the Baloch leadership and discontented nationalist parties in the province.

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How the Arab League Has Become a Tool of Western Imperialism

How the Arab League Has Become a Tool of Western Imperialism

by Finian Cunningham

Global Research

It’s an intrigue befitting the machinations of classical colonialism in past centuries, such as the Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Middle Eastern Levant territories, or the betrayal of the Arabs after World War I, or the theft of Mesopotamia’s oil by British capitalists.

Only this time, it is Arabs who are helping the neocolonial powers to deceive and subjugate other Arabs. Enter the Arab League.

Over the past year, the 22-member organization has emerged as a useful deceptive cover for Western powers as they seek to redraw the political contours of the Arab World, and beyond, for their own strategic interests.

The momentous popular upheavals that began in early 2011 across the Arab World have in many ways been co-opted or manipulated by Western imperialist powers to minimize democratic gains and to refashion the political map to their continuing advantage. A feat of achievement considering that these same powers have for decades supported the repressive regimes that have inflicted so much misery and suffering.

The leitmotif for Western intervention is “responsibility to protect” (R2P) – the notion that these powers are motivated by concern for human rights and the protection of civilian lives. But given that the United States, Britain, France and other NATO states have been conducting criminal wars of aggression over the past decade in mainly Muslim lands, with a death toll exceeding one million and casualties amounting to many more millions, these powers found themselves with a huge credibility problem when it came to contriving a pretext to intervene in the Arab upheavals.

What better than to shroud the Western agenda for intervention in Arab affairs with an appearance of Arab support? The League of Arab States has fulfilled this role. Since its inception in 1945, it has only ever suspended two member states. The first of these was Libya in March 2011; the second is Syria, suspended eight months later in November.

Ostensibly, the Arab League has been motivated to take such measures because it purportedly shares the concern of Washington, London, Paris, for the safety of civilians being violently repressed by their rulers. Without the League’s sanction, the intervention of Western powers would ring decidedly hollow and smack of old-fashioned colonialism. This is in fact what it is, but the addition of Arab voices to the Western sanctimonious chorus lends a crucial veneer of international solidarity.

The arrangement works like this: foment violence and instability within the country of choice, arm dissident groups, and direct these same groups with covert special forces; when government forces move to quell the insurrection, then accuse them of violating human rights. The Arab League then suspends the country, marking it out for international pariah status, which in turn provides a pretext for Western powers to mount military strikes, committing atrocities in the name of “responsibility to protect”, and engineering regime change in the interests of the Western powers. It’s neocolonialism in Arab lands – with the help of other Arab states.

Libya can be seen as a dress rehearsal for this routine, which is now being played out feverishly with Syria. Recall that it was the spurning of Libya in March by other League members that immediately presaged the seven-month NATO aerial bombardment of that country, resulting in possibly thousands of civilian deaths, a crime that is not yet fully realized because of a corporate-controlled media blackout, but a despicable crime nevertheless with bloodied Arab hands involved.

It appears that the Arab League is now taking on an even more pronounced role as the routine finesses. Clearly in Syria what is happening is an insurrection that is being fomented and armed by foreign governments, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking a lead role in arming the so-called Free Syrian Army against the state forces of President Bashar Al Assad.

And it was the Arab League that brought the motion last week at the UN Security Council aimed at shackling the Assad government and setting it up for Libya-style NATO military intervention. The veto by Russia and China has for the moment derailed that plan. No doubt, Russia and China have learnt the lesson of Libya where a similar Security Council sanction was used by Western powers to launch a blitzkrieg on that country – in the name of the specious R2P.

The insidious role of the Arab League as the West’s hound-dog can be gleaned from the comment by British Foreign Secretary William Hague following the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN.

Hague said: “Russia and China faced a simple choice today: would they support the people of Syria and the Arab League, or not? They decided not to, and instead sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their national interests.”

This is British spin on facts and truth at its best. Firstly, Russia and China decided to side with the “Syrian regime” because – despite biased Western media coverage – the government of Assad appears to retain the support of the Syrian people, and therefore it retains sovereign legitimacy. And the “brutal repression” that the solemn Hague speaks of relates to violence that Western and foreign Arab states have assiduously fomented in Syria, as they did in Libya.

Secondly, the position of Russia and China concurs with that of the Arab League’s own observer mission to Syria. The mission actually reported that much of the violence was being conbducted by an “armed entity” and “armed opposition groups” involved in the killing of civilians – flatly contradicting the Western corporate media’s portrayal of unilateral state brutality. Indeed, the observer mission was subsequently cancelled by the League’s secretariat because the mission was exposing this Western disinformation [1]. So, far from not supporting the Arab League, as Britain’s William Hague contends, Russia and China have acted more consistently with the League’s observer mission. It is the executive of the League that has not supported their own people on the ground with regard to accurately reporting the situation in Syria.

Thirdly, note the way the British Foreign Secretary emphasizes that Russia and China “did not support the Arab League” in its move to have Syria sanctioned. Those few words blow the cover of the Arab League’s real purpose.

For it is the Arab League that is serving as a stamp of moral and political legitimacy for Western military aggression in Syria in the same way as Libya before. Washington, London and other Western powers are disguising their neocolonial strategy under an Arab cover of humanitarian concern and Arab League states are obliging for their own selfish interests.

The bigger picture here is the Western ploy of manipulating restive Arab populations to engineer regime change where the incumbent government is considered inconvenient to Western strategic interests. Syria is a major prize in that its support for Palestinian rights against Western-backed Israeli aggression is but one of many inconveniences. Its backing for the Hezbollah resistance against American imperialism in the Middle East is another. Of most immediate concern to Washington and allies is beyond Syria itself – its long-time alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US and its allies are convulsed by the desire for regime change in Tehran. Taking out Assad’s Syria is a long-held Western roadmap on the way to taking out Iran. Syria’s present fate of being in Western crosshairs was probably sealed when it rebuffed Washington’s overtures for a deal against Iran back in February 2010 [2].

But the US and Western military roadmap goes beyond re-carving the Middle East. As Michel Chossudovsky cogently explains in his new book, Towards a World War III Scenario, Washington’s military roadmap is aimed at global dominance in which hegemony over the vast energy-producing Middle East and Central Asian regions is crucial to marginalizing the heavyweight rivals of Russia and China. The alliance between the latter two and both Syria and Iran only gives these current targets added impetus for Western regime change.

Getting back to the treacherous role of the Arab League in serving the Western powers’ agenda, it is surely a bitter irony that one of the founding tenets of the League is to “defend the independence and sovereignty” of its members. Syria, which was one of the original seven founders of the League in 1945, is being stabbed in the back by its fellow members precisely to have its independence and sovereignty attacked. And it is the rump of Persian Gulf Arab states within the organization that has emerged as the most treacherous. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the other Gulf Cooperation Council states of Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, have been most vocal in lending Arab denunciations of Libya and Syria and creating the pretext for Western aggression.

However, deploying these Arab dupes is where Western pretensions of supporting democracy and human rights become unstuck. The Persian Gulf monarchs have been the most repressive towards any popular stirrings for democracy within their own countries. Described variously as kingdoms, shaikdoms, emirates, or sultanates, these states are invariably ruled with iron rods by family dynasties that control their people as little more than serfs. It is surely ridiculous when the absolute despotic rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular exhort the Syrian government to enact greater political reforms when these same countries do not brook any dissent and where it is a crime punishable by law to publicly criticize the royal rulers.

Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has cracked down murderously against peaceful protesters within its own borders. And it was Saudi Arabia – where women are flogged for driving cars unchaperoned and where public executions by beheading are carried every year – that led the invasion force of Gulf Cooperation Council states into Bahrain last Spring to ruthlessly crush peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. In Bahrain, Saudi-led Gulf forces continue with Washington and London’s support to murder women and children in the streets and in their homes [3].

The pay-off for these Arab despots is that they continue to enjoy Western patronage and support in suppressing their own people. Additionally, the Sunni monarchs share the Western agenda to destroy the Syrian-Iranian alliance, which garners much greater regional popular respect and influence than any of the Persian Gulf tyrants.

The illegitimacy of Western powers meddling in Syrian affairs and elsewhere and the risible alliance with repressive Arab states in pushing this agenda is only obscured because of the corporate-controlled media’s deliberate blindness towards the deception. An honest appraisal of the protagonists – the Western criminal governments and their Arab tyrants – is, to put it bluntly, a sick joke.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent

cunninghamfinian@gmail.com

NOTES

[1] Syria: Arab League Suspends Observer Mission for Revealing Media Disinformation

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29060

[2] Syria: A Clenched US Fist Behind the Hand of Friendship

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17664

[3] ‘Responsibility to Kill’ (R2K): Washington Gives Green Light to Toxic Terror in Bahrain

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29064

Turkmenistan Has Only Supplied 30 Bcm Gas Promised To China Since 2009, Instead of 30bcm/Year

China’s imports of Turkmen gas since 2009 totals 30 Bcm: CNPC

Singapore (Platts)

China has so far received 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan since deliveries started in December 2009, state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. said Monday.
Of this, 10.7 Bcm came from CNPC’s Bagtyyarlyk field on the right bank of the Amu Darya river in Turkmenistan, while the rest came from other Turkmen fields, CNPC said.

Development of the Amu Darya area, where CNPC has a production sharing contract with the Turkmen government, was going on and it will provide 13 Bcm/year of gas to the pipeline network by 2014, CNPC added.

Both CNPC and state-owned Turkmengaz signed a sales and purchase agreement in July 2007 for 30 Bcm/year of Turkmen gas. In 2008, the two companies agreed to boost the volume to 40 Bcm/year by 2015.
CNPC’s listed subsidiary PetroChina said it imported 15.5 Bcm of gas from Turkmenistan in 2011, more than triple the volume in 2010. It is targeting to import 24.1 Bcm this year.

The gas is delivered via the Central Asia-China pipeline network which cuts through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before reaching the Chinese border at Xinjiang province. From there the pipeline links to the 8,653 km (5,377 miles) Second West-East pipeline, which transports the gas to various parts of eastern China.

China’s increasing reliance on Central Asian gas is partly why gas sales negotiations with Russia have made little progress since a memorandum of understanding was inked in 2006. Under the MOU, they agreed to construct two pipelines to transport a total of 68 Bcm/year of Russian gas via the western Altai route and the rest from East Siberia via an eastern route from 2015.

Price has remained the key sticking point for CNPC, which fears it will lose significant amounts of money by importing Russian gas, which could be more expensive than Turkmen gas.

The latest round of the Russia-China energy dialogue took place in Beijing on Friday, with CNPC and Russian gas company Gazprom pledging broader cooperation, although no breakthrough on price was reached. Moreover Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich had told Russian media on Thursday that he did not expect Moscow and Beijing to reach an agreement on a price for Russian gas supplies during President Vladimir Putin’s June visit to Beijing this week for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit. The Russian delegation will include representatives from Gazprom.

–Song Yen Ling, yen_ling_song@platts.comyen_ling_song@platts.com

–Edited by E Shailaja Nair, shailaja_nair@platts.com shailaja_nair@platts.com shailaja_nair@platts.com

Chinese aide arrested for spying for US intelligence agency

Chinese aide arrested for spying for US intelligence agency

An aide to a vice minister at China`s State Security Ministry was arrested early this year on suspicion of spying for its U.S. counterpart, the CIA. This is considered the biggest espionage scandal between China and the U.S. in more than 20 years.
In 1985, Yu Qiangsheng, a senior Chinese security official who defected to the U.S., blew the cover of Larry Wu-tai Chin, a mole extraordinaire who spied for China while working at the CIA for 41 years.

○ `Pretty woman trap`

According to the New York Times and other foreign media Sunday, Chinese authorities arrested the aide between January and March this year. Hong Kong media said the official, 38, was an aide to Vice State Security Minister Qiu Jin, who was also suspended over the incident.

Reuters quoted a source as saying the aide had been recruited by the CIA and provided “political, economic and strategic intelligence.” The report added that the aide received hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars and spoke English.

Other foreign media speculate that the official “fell into a pretty woman trap” set up by the CIA. After he and a woman were photographed having secret liaisons, she blackmailed him into giving state secrets to the CIA.

A senior official at China’s Defense Ministry who fled to the U.S. in 2000 is also said to have fallen into a similar trap. Some say the aide was recruited by the CIA while studying in the U.S. American and Hong Kong media highlighted that the latest espionage case involved the core of Chinese intelligence.

Qiu is a leading member of the Communist Youth League of China, which is led by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Hu was rumored to be exasperated after being briefed on the spy case.

Others speculate that the case is related to the dismissal of Bo Xilai, the head of the Chinese Communist Party`s chapter in Chongqing, because the aide’s arrest was made around the time when Chinese authorities began an investigation into Bo.

When the Chongqing police chief sought political asylum at a U.S. consulate in Chengdu, Qiu was in charge of escorting him to Beijing. Qiu’s aide had the closest access to key information at the time of the tense situation. Speculation also has it that Chinese agents arrested the aide whom they had been watching close to prevent intelligence leaks.

○ U.S. and China keep mum

Though the espionage scandal erupted months ago, both Washington and Beijing refused comment on the matter. China’s state-run media was silent about the case until Sunday. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was visiting Europe, refused to answer questions from reporters.

The reactions by Washington and Beijing are interpreted as a joint position of trying to avoid further conflict in the wake of a series of incidents that drove bilateral relations to the verge of crisis.

The February incident and the escape of a blind Chinese dissident involved the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and Chinese public security authorities. Experts say a full-blown scandal involving the intelligence agencies of the two countries will likely be too difficult for both sides to handle diplomatically.

An ‘Undeclared Cold War’ in Central Asia?

An ‘Undeclared Cold War’ in Central Asia?

by Azad Garibov, SAM

For the last several months, we have been witnessing a serious escalation of tensions between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that has brought the two neigbouring Central Asian countries’ already strained relations close to a complete collapse. The reason for the current dispute is the Tajik government’s plans to build the Rogun dam on the Vakhsh River. Although the initial construction began in 1982, the break-up of the Soviet Union did not allow the country to complete the project. In 2007, Russia partnered with Tajikistan to complete the dam, but the two parties soon fell out. The Tajik government announced in early 2010 that it would try to raise by itself the $1.4 billion needed to finish the dam and the construction was re-launched. The 334-meter-high dam of Rogun, if it is ever completed, will be one of the world’s tallest dams and allow Tajikistan to produce about 13 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. However, Vakhsh is the major tributary to the Amudarya River – a vital water source for downstream Uzbekistan, and therefore Tashkent seems highly concerned about the possible negative impacts of the project on Uzbekistan. 

Dushanbe: Rogun dam is the guarantee of economic development

Trying to recover from the devastating impact of the civil war of the 1990s, the Tajik government wants to utilize its natural resources to facilitate the development of the extremely poor country. Tajikistan’s primary resource is its enormous potential for hydropower production, which is planned to be used for transforming the country into a prosperous state. The Rogun dam project holds a notable position in this plan. Tajik officials have long been promoting the project as a shortcut to energy independence and economic growth, saying that it will enable the country to not only become self-satisfactory in electricity supply but also export it to neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus, the Rogun dam project became the cornerstone of the Tajik government’s ambitious economic development program. 

Tashkent: Rogun dam is a serious economic and environmental threat

From Uzbekistan’s point of view, the picture is quite different and they have their own legitimate reasons for opposing the project. Uzbekistan claims that the dam will decrease the flow of water in the Amudarya River, which is the main feeding source for irrigation canals in Uzbekistan. The majority of the Uzbek population lives in rural areas and is employed in the agricultural sector, particularly in cotton production. Any decrease in the water level in the river will inflict immense damage to Uzbekistan’s agriculture, where the water shortage is already felt even without a dam upstream on the Vakhsh.

The gigantic dam project carries with it environmental risks as well. Water shortage could completely dry out the Aral Sea, which has already lost 90% of its original size due to the low level of water reaching the sea. Its location in the seismically-active region is another serious concern, and the dam is claimed to be vulnerable to earthquakes that could destroy it and consequently cause massive flooding in the downstream areas of Uzbekistan.

Finally, being able to regulate the flow of water in Amudarya, Tajikistan could be used as a means of political pressure and make water supply to Uzbekistan dependent on Dushanbe’s good will. Dushanbe could also use water as a trade commodity and relate the supply of water to Tashkent’s delivery of gas. Therefore, at a more fundamental level, Uzbekistan fears that an ability to control the flow of the Amudarya River will provide Tajikistan important geopolitical leverage in a region where the Uzbekistan has long sought to be a leader.

Uzbekistan is determined to block the project

Tashkent has undertaken a number of measures in order to block the construction of the dam. Uzbekistan has resorted to diplomatic and economic pressure on Tajikistan, and has successfully persuaded possible foreign investors, notably Russia and China, from participating in the project. Since the end of 2011, Uzbekistan has imposed a transport blockade on Tajikistan, which is connected with outside world mainly through the transport network passing through Uzbek territory. Starting from April 1, 2012, Uzbekistan also shut down the gas supply to Tajikistan. This threatens to stop the operation of an aluminum plant at Kurgan-Tyube, near the border with Uzbekistan, which is one of the few competitive enterprises of Tajikistan and responsible for 70% of the country’s industrial export. Another significant plant for the country, Tajiksement, can also be forced to shut down its production because of the lack of the gas. Bearing in mind that the closure of these big plants will result in the closure of the dozens of other relatively smaller enterprises which are connected to those, this would be a serious blow to the economy of Tajikistan. 

Politicization of the dispute as a crucial impediment to compromise and reconciliation

Another very important factor standing in the way of a possible compromise is the significant political capital that the leaders and the governments in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have invested in promoting and opposing the project. In Tajikistan President Rahmon has repeatedly claimed on TV that Tajikistan will complete the project at “any expense.” He referred to the construction of the dam as a “battlefield for national pride and honor.” 

Uzbekistan’s leadership has also mobilized state-owned media to present the Rogun project as an imminent threat to the country’s agriculture and environment. A number of popular demonstrations against the dam project have been staged throughout the country. The media depicted Karimov as a leader who is determined to deter the “Rogun thereat” to the well-being of his nation. As a result, the Uzbek government’s success or failure in preventing the realization of the project will have an important impact on the public perception of Karimov’s strength as a leader. 

Looking forward: need for depoliticization

Now, both sides are waiting for the results of the independent assessment started by the World Bank about the potential social and environmental impacts of the dam on the region. The study will be completed in the end of 2012. An optimistic expectation is that the assessment will serve as the basis for negotiations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan over the future of the project. 

However, due to the heavy politicization of the dispute, now disagreement between the two countries is not about only the technical characteristics of the dam or its potential social and environmental disruptions. The debate over the Rogun dam has long acquired an important symbolic character for both countries and has turned into issues of “national pride” and “national interest,” which are much less amenable to negotiation and compromise. Both regimes have made an issue of proving their passion about the well-being of their nations, and they invested so much political capital in promoting and. opposing the project that it would be very difficult for any of them to compromise for possible reconciliation. Therefore, any serious attempt to convince the leaders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to negotiate and reconcile their positions regarding the dam project should begin with depoliticizing the debate over the Rogun dam project.

*Azad Garibov is a foreign policy analyst at Center for Strategic Studies (SAM).

The USA’s failed Afghan campaign

The USA’s failed Afghan campaign

The Nation Newspaper Pakistan

The disastrous Afghan campaign has been a resounding failure for the USA and its coterie of submissive allies. Its failure has been epitomised by not only the gradual whittling down of the Afghan campaign’s strategic aims and objectives, but also by an unseemly desire to egress from the region.

The failures of this sorry Afghan campaign are multifaceted.

Geopolitical failure: By occupying the central position (Afghanistan) in the region, the US had intended to contain China, sit at the underbelly of the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and by implication Russia’s, and deny them all an approach to the Middle East and the warm waters of the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean. By its withdrawal that is starting in mid-2013, these grand objectives will remain unattained and go even further beyond reach. The US has also failed to install India as its regional plenipotentiary in Afghanistan! The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), will thus get vital breathing time and space to organise and exert itself as a viable and competing pole to the US, reducing its footprint and effectiveness in the region with far-reaching geopolitical implications.

Geostrategic failure: This has been by far the most pronounced failure of all. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have not been sufficiently decimated or neutralised to make them ineffective militant entities at the regional and international levels. Sure OBL has “ostensibly” been neutralised, but that yet begs incontrovertible solid proof! Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have not been successfully engaged in any sort of a political dialogue either to neutralise them. The terrorist threat though decimated is still a very potent reality and the US/Nato/Isaf combine will leave it as such as they abandon the region – once again! The Haqqani Network (HN) and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will never allow a US backed political dispensation to settle down and rule Afghanistan from Kabul and will keep the region on the boil. The much hyped about ANSF is not likely to put up much of a show against the battle hardened militants either. Pakistan’s and Iran’s nuclear programmes will also slip out of immediate and proactive US oversight. The whole region remains destabilised.

Geo-economic failure: With its departure from Afghanistan, the US dominance and oversight of the fossil and mineral riches of the South Central Asian Region (SCAR) and the Greater Middle East Region (GMER) in particular of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the CARs, Iran et al will diminish. The US will not be able to exercise the desired control on the mining, refinement, trade and pricing of all these fossil/mineral resources. The Western multinationals will not be able to exploit these riches, as they probably would have had the US shown more staying power and resolve in the region. The New Silk Road Project (NSRP) that would connect Europe-SCAR-India may yet be inordinately delayed if not abandoned totally.

Diplomatic failure: The US has failed to deal with a “red-hot” Pakistan. It should have co-opted both Pakistan and Iran, the only two regional players with unmatchable influences inside Afghanistan, in order to achieve its strategic objectives. Instead it managed to antagonise both. Thus, the US has been unable to find willing regional allies to help it win the war. It has classically failed to co-opt Pakistan’s experienced and highly professional military or use its great geographical location to its (the US) advantage. Neither has it been able to “befriend and engage” or “divide and eliminate” the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It has failed to bring this disastrous military faux pas to an early and acceptable closure. As of now only a “peripheral India” is its best bet in the region!

Military failure: The counterproductive and cruel drone campaign had just too much “collateral damage” for the Pakistanis to accept. The US, however, still remains adamant, unmoved and unrepentant. The “massacre at Salala” and its arrogant treatment by the US alienated its most important and vital partner in Pakistan – the military. The lack of an apology ensured a breakdown in the military-military relations, severely circumscribing the overall US-Pak relations. The nadir was reached when Pakistan blocked all Nato supply routes. Thus, the US managed to not only get its supplies blocked, but also lost the Shamsi Airbase and, most importantly, lost an erstwhile willing ally – Pakistan and its military!

Intelligence failure: The US has claimed the death of OBL, but has not given any solid verifiable proof as a la Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Why not? Even if we assume that OBL has been eliminated does this mean the elimination of al-Qaeda as a threat per se? What about al-Zawahiri and Mullah Umar? If the US “knows” that they are in Pakistan, then why does it not carry out another couple of Abbottabads’ to get them? Or why don’t they give the information to the Pakistanis and challenge them to go get them. Or embarrass the ISI into action by giving out their locations? Most of the earlier intelligence successes against al-Qaeda were achieved through superb collaborative work between the CIA and the ISI. A lot more could have been achieved, but for misplaced US arrogance, haughtiness and self-righteousness. Salala, Raymond Davis and Dr Shakil Afridi will haunt the US-Pak relations for ages.

The US seems to have been ill served by its diplomats, soldiers and spies, as it has failed to meet most of its geopolitical, strategic and economic objectives in this Afghan campaign. It has been a resoundingly disastrous expedition. The militancy is still alive and the region still destabilised. Yet, the US/Nato/Isaf combine feel obliged to declare victory and go home. They are leaving behind an unfinished agenda, a task unaccomplished.

Pakistan is likely to unblock the Nato supply routes soon and make their egress smooth and easy. The US and its allies are readying themselves for the long, ignominious trudge back home.

Yet, another empire is about to bite the dust in Afghanistan!

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand.

Email: im_k@hotmail.com

45% of New Veterans Claim Either Mental or Physical (War-Related) Disabilities

Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press

 

Robert Ray / Associated Press

Veterans from all wars are hurting, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused them even more medical complaints than from Vietnam and the Gulf War.

 

America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials said. What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It’s unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors. Many factors are driving the dramatic increase in claims – the weak economy, more troops surviving wounds, and more awareness of problems such as concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Government officials and some veterans’ advocates say that veterans who might have been able to work with certain disabilities may be more inclined to seek benefits now because they lost jobs or can’t find any. Aggressive outreach and advocacy efforts also have brought more veterans into the system, which must evaluate each claim to see if it is war-related. Payments range from $127 a month for a 10 percent disability to $2,769 for a full one.

As the nation commemorates the more than 6,400 troops who died in post-9/11 wars, the problems of those who survived also draw attention. These new veterans are seeking a level of help the government did not anticipate, and for which there is no special fund set aside to pay.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is mired in backlogged claims, but “our mission is to take care of whatever the population is,” said Allison Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits. “We want them to have what their entitlement is.”

The 21 percent who filed claims in previous wars is Hickey’s estimate of an average for Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The VA has details only on the current disability claims being paid to veterans of each war.

The AP spent three months reviewing records and talking with doctors, government officials and former troops to take stock of the new veterans. They are different in many ways from those who fought before them.

More are from the Reserves and National Guard – 28 percent of those filing disability claims – rather than career military. Reserves and National Guard made up a greater percentage of troops in these wars than they did in previous ones. About 31 percent of Guard/Reserve new veterans have filed claims compared to 56 percent of career military ones.

More of the new veterans are women, accounting for 12 percent of those who have sought care through the VA. Women also served in greater numbers in these wars than in the past. Some female veterans are claiming PTSD due to military sexual trauma – a new challenge from a disability rating standpoint, Hickey said.

The new veterans have different types of injuries than previous veterans did. That’s partly because improvised bombs have been the main weapon and because body armor and improved battlefield care allowed many of them to survive wounds that in past wars proved fatal.

“They’re being kept alive at unprecedented rates,” said Dr. David Cifu, the VA’s medical rehabilitation chief. More than 95 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived.

Larry Bailey II is an example. After tripping a rooftop bomb in Afghanistan last June, the 26-year-old Marine remembers flying into the air, then fellow troops attending to him.

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