Thursday, March 26, 2009

China expresses "resolute opposition" to U.S. military report

China on Thursday expressed its opposition to a new report by the U.S. Defense Department on China's military strength.

"We have lodged solemn representations to the U.S. side," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press conference when asked to comment on this annual report.

The report continued disseminating the "Chinese military threat" theory, severely distorted the facts and interfered in China's internal affairs, Qin said.

"China unswervingly sticks to a path of peaceful development and pursues a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature," he said, noting that China is devoted to safeguarding world peace and stability.

"We urged the U.S side to respect this basic fact," he noted.

He said the United States should abandon the Cold War mentality and prejudice, stop issuing such reports on China's military, and stop its groundless censure against China, in an effort to avoid further damage for the relations between the two countries and the two militaries, Qin said.

Turning a blind eye to China's long-held peaceful defense policy and ever increasing military openness, the Pentagon on Wednesday released its annual report on the Chinese military to repeat its complaint about "limited transparency" and question the "purposes and objectives" of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Iran, India may join US war in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: A key US senator said on Thursday that the United States and Iran might begin their cooperation for stabilising Afghanistan after a meeting between officials of the two countries in The Hague next week.

‘We also need to reach out to Afghanistan’s other neighbours, including India, China, and Iran,’ Senator John Kerry told the confirmation hearing for the new US ambassador to Afghanistan.

The former Democratic presidential candidate, who now heads the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that in 2001 and 2002, Iran helped to stabilise Afghanistan. ‘And the Obama administration is right to explore how our interests might coincide again on this issue, beginning at the Hague Conference next week,’ he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Hasan Qashqavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Tehran that Iran would join the United States at two international conferences on Afghanistan, including the one at The Hague which begins on March 31.

‘The level of participation is yet to be determined,’ he added. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially invited Iran to the Hague conference.

The US move is seen in Tehran as a moral victory for the Iranian government, which was castigated by the Bush administration as part of an ‘Axis of Evil’.

Although the US still plays a leading role in the campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme, the US decision to involve it in its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan enhances the stature of the Iranian government.

Both the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are expected to attend. Other attendees will include foreign ministers from countries in the region, countries that are part of the International Security Assistance Force and other countries and organisations that are contributing to reconstruction in Afghanistan.

At the confirmation hearing, Senator Kerry outlined some of the salient features of a new US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is expected to be announced on Friday.

The new strategy also seeks to triple US economic assistance to Pakistan and a greater engagement with the Afghans.

‘I will soon be re-introducing with Senator Lugar the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, which seeks to triple non-military aid to the people of Pakistan,’ Senator Kerry said.

The proposed legislation will also hold Pakistan’s ‘security forces more accountable for assistance provided in their fight against the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda,’ he added.

Senator Richard Lugar, a ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which authorises US foreign aid, also has pledged to support the bill.

‘We can all agree that today Afghanistan, along with its neighbour Pakistan, represents the central front in our global campaign against terrorism,’ Senator Kerry told the confirmation hearing.

Referring to the new strategy, Senator Kerry stressed the need for a regional approach for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. ‘Our strategy must also reflect the interconnectedness of the region’s challenges,’ he said.

‘This requires redoubling our efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government and support its activities against militants in the tribal belt.’ That’s why, he said, he was seeking to triple US assistance to Pakistan.

Senator Kerry noted that President Barak Obama has pledged to recommit to Afghanistan, beginning with the deployment of 17,000 additional US troops and a significant effort to increase the size and capacity of Afghan security forces. He said while he supported this move, he also believed that ‘troops alone will not bring victory.’

Moscow ready to help Iran, USA to establish dialogue

MOSCOW, March 26 (Itar-Tass) - Russia comes out in favour of a direct dialogue between Iran and the USA, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said on Thursday.“We welcome Washington’s bid to extend a hand to those who will unclench the fist,” the diplomat stressed. “Confrontation between the USA and Iran is a destabilizing factor in the region. We are ready to assist in that possible dialogue,” Nesterenko added.

Canada's Afghan focus to change as Obama plans new strategy

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Canada's area of responsibility in the Taliban heartland will be cut by nearly half this summer as part of U.S. President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy, to be unveiled Friday.But Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan is to retain control of some of Kandahar's most violent areas — Kandahar City and the farming districts to the west of the provincial capital where three-quarters of Kandaharis live. Canada's army also will remain NATO's point of contact with the provincial governor."Canada will be more focused on major population centres in and around Kandahar city, which is exactly where we want to have an impact with our priorities," David Mulroney, the Privy Council Office deputy minister who heads the government's Afghanistan Task Force, told an all-party committee of MPs Thursday.
With Obama's long-awaited review of Afghanistan about to be released, senior Canadian officials were welcoming the increased U.S. military presence, especially in southern Afghanistan.Obama already has said he would boost U.S. troop levels by 17,000, but his plan also is expected to stress the need for a more integrated diplomatic-military approach; to focus on Afghanistan's volatile neighbours such as Pakistan; and to emphasize the need to strengthen Afghan security forces."The most important factor is increasing the Afghan military presence," said Mulroney, who added the growing strength of the Afghan National Army was proved last summer after the Taliban reclaimed parts of the Arghandab northwest of Kandahar City, because they led the mission which drove the insurgents out.About one-third of the 17,000 additional U.S. troops ordered to Afghanistan are to be based in Kandahar.American marines are headed to the deserts west of there, while a smaller number of U.S. army troops are to provide combat help to U.S. units already deployed south of Kandahar in areas near the Pakistan border.At the moment, the U.S. contributes 38,000 of the 71,000 western troops in Afghanistan.Mulroney deflected concerns by opposition members of the Commons foreign affairs committee that the increased U.S. presence would dwarf Canada's contributions in southern Afghanistan. He said Canada welcomes the extra U.S. help. "They will be able to be present in some parts of Kandahar where we have not been present."Other countries that are beefing up their forces in the south of the country include Britain, which is already the second largest contributor of NATO soldiers here with 8,300 troops, and Australia.Canada's combat forces are slated to leave Afghanistan sometime in 2011. It is widely expected that they will be replaced by a smaller force that may include helicopters, police and army trainers, a provincial reconstruction team and, Canada's fighter pilot community hopes, CF-18 Hornet attack aircraft.A highly manoeuvrable U.S. army Stryker brigade that was to have been sent to Iraq, is to spearhead a new phase, in what is expected to be an increasingly bloody conflict.It likely will operate near the thinly populated mountain infiltration route from Pakistan, east of Kandahar, that traditionally has been used by insurgents.While these American troops will not be under Canadian command, their presence could greatly benefit Canada's 2,800 troops. Canadian officers have long believed that four out of every five insurgents that their forces have faced have come from safe havens within Pakistan.The map for Kandahar is being carefully redrawn so that Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance of Edmonton will retain command of Kandahar's most populous areas although within a few months, the bulk of the combat forces deployed in the province and across the entire south will be American.Essentially, with one small exception, Canada will continue to be responsible for areas it has heavily patrolled since March 2006 and the Americans will go to places in Kandahar where the Canadians have yet to venture. A U.S. army infantry battalion that has been based in western Kandahar since last summer is to remain under Canadian command.In addition to a series of calls to U.S. lawmakers Thursday, Obama telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to brief him on the review.
Canadian officials have had their own briefing and are optimistic that the integrated civil-military approach, as well as the regional focus that extends to Pakistan, will pay dividends.Mulroney said Canada was working to revive the "Dubai process" that brought together border officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan."That was suspended last year when Afghanistan suspended its direct relations with Pakistan. We're working away at getting that back on track," said Mulroney.Obama's nominee for the U.S. ambassadorship to Afghanistan, Lt.-Gen. Karl Eikenberry, told the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee that "we don't have an unlimited amount of time" and that it was crucial for NATO and its allies to "implement a more effective strategy."
There are signs of expanding U.S. influence in Afghanistan.The most obvious evidence is the large swath of real estate being claimed by American forces at the already overcrowded Kandahar Airfield, which resembles a gigantic construction site.One of many buildings about to go up is a $65-million facility to house sniffer dogs that go out with the infantry to hunt for bombs and other explosives buried by insurgents. There are also new landing pads for more than 100 transport and attack helicopters from the 82nd Aviation Combat Brigade from North Carolina.Every few minutes, giant transports, laden with military gear for the incoming U.S. forces, arrive at the Kandahar Airfield, which is the logistical hub for the war in the south.

World Bank offers 500 mln dlrs to Pakistan

WASHINGTON– The World Bank said Thursday it approved a 500 million dollar, interest-free credit to support Pakistan's program on economic stability.
"Pakistan has experienced severe external and internal shocks in the past year and is confronting a very difficult macroeconomic situation," the Washington-based World Bank said in a statement.
"The rise in international oil and food prices sharply inflated the country's import bill and the subsequent slowdown in the global economy dampened external demand for Pakistan's exports."
It noted that "political turmoil and uncertainties affected investor confidence," leading to capital outflows.
The Poverty Reduction and Economic Support credit is designed to support measures that promote macroeconomic stability, the Bank said. It also seeks to improve Pakistan's competitiveness by bolstering the financial sector and cutting barriers to business.
"The government of Pakistan has taken important policy steps to stabilize the economy," said Yusupha Crookes, World Bank director for Pakistan.
"These polices have succeeded in reducing external imbalances, rebuilding foreign exchange reserves, narrowing fiscal overruns, and lowering inflation.
"However, the sharp deterioration of the global economy poses significant risks to exports, remittances, and external financing. This underlines the importance of Pakistan regaining economic stability and protecting its poorest citizens during the process."
Japan will host a donors meeting for Pakistan on April 17 that is set to be attended by the country's President Asif Ali Zardali and US envoy Richard Holbrooke.
The World Bank will co-chair the meeting.
Japan has sought to contribute to US-led efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as US President Barack Obama's administration has reviewed its policies and appointed Holbrooke as regional envoy.

Bomb explodes near police station in Charsadda

PESHAWAR: A bomb was thrown into a police station in Charsadda on Thursday, wounding three people, police said.The blast took place in Shabqadar town in Charsadda district of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).‘Two people riding on a motorbike hurled the explosive material into the police station, which went off with a big bang,’ Karamat Shah, who is in charge of the police station, told AFP.Two police officials and a civilian were injured, he said, adding that their condition was ‘stable.’

Obama phones Zardari

ISLAMABAD- :US President Barack Obama on Thursday called President Asif Ali Zardari and discussed bilateral relations, situation in the region as well as other matters of mutual interest.

During the telephonic conversation, President Obama and President Zardari discussed the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum initiative, aimed at promoting and strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

The two leaders also discussed the matters relating to fight against militancy, with particular reference to peace in the region.

It may be pertinent to mention here that the new US Administration under President Barack Obama is working on a new strategy to deal with terrorism and extremism, with focus on a stable, economically strong and democratic Pakistan.

The pivotal role of Pakistan in the new US strategy for the region can be gauged from the fact that President Obama soon after taking over the US Administration appointed Richard Holbrooke as Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Richard Holbrooke in his recent visit to Pakistan had meetings with Pakistani leaders including the President, the Prime Minister as well as the leaders of various political parties.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who launched the initiative of ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ (FODP) in New York in September 2008, will chair the Friends’ Ministerial meeting being held in Tokyo on April 17.

Currently, the forum consists of twenty five countries and multilateral institutions including US, UK, China, EU, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Republic of Korea, Spain, the Netherlands, Nordic countries, UN, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank.

A Donors Conference is also being held in Tokyo on April 17, which will be co-hosted by Japan and the World Bank.

West turns blind eye to friend it dare not offend

Shortly before noon on September 12, 2001, a visitor stopped by the palace, looking for Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, the Crown Prince. The man who now sits on the throne of Saudi Arabia was kneeling in shock and prayer.

He had prayed there all night and had received news from Washington, but could still not believe that the hijackers who crashed their planes into New York and Washington were his countrymen.

That experience is credited widely as part of the impetus behind King Abdullah’s attempts to reform his reactionary kingdom. But Saudi Arabia remains as he did that night – in deep denial. However, it is also a rich and powerful country on which the West depends heavily for oil, and those who do business with it have learnt better than to risk puncturing its self-deluding bubble.

Terrorism remains its most sensitive point. Since September 11 Saudi Arabia has declared itself at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, cracking down on home-grown militants, inviting Western journalists to film its antiterrorist forces in training and launching a much vaunted project to rehabilitate violent Islamists. It also sought to remake its international image as a factory of extremism with the sponsorship of an interfaith conference in New York.

But Saudi billions fund the promotion of extreme forms of Islam around the world. Saudi is the home of Wahhabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that it has pioneered and the faith espoused by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda followers.

An estimated $90 billion (£62 billion) of Saudi money has gone to build mosques and madrassas, distribute religious literature and fund Islam across the world, with a portion of it, according to terrorism experts, directly or indirectly funding the violent expression of those beliefs.

Jonathan Evans, the director-general of M15, told the Government last year that the Saudi Government’s multimillion-dollar donations to British universities had led to a “dangerous increase in the spread of extremism in leading university campuses”.

Official slights like these are rare. Saudi Arabia, in the words of a former diplomat there, “gets away with things other countries could not” because of the West’s dependence on it – for oil, for arms contracts, for intelligence, for military bases and for being a firm friend in an often unfriendly neighbourhood.

Madonna expected in Malawi soon for second adoption

Madonna has filed papers in advance of adopting a second child from the impoverished African republic of Malawi, officials confirmed today.Reports suggest that the 50-year-old singer will travel to the region over the weekend, with a possible court hearing as soon as Monday.Madonna's spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, declined to comment, but officials in both the US and Malawi have said that an adoption attempt was under way. An official at the Malawian welfare department told AP that adoption documents had been filed by the singer.The southern African nation is one of the world's most impoverished. Ravaged by Aids, its population have a life expectancy of just 44 years. It has an infant mortality rate of close to 90 per 1,000 live births, according to 2009 estimates. Madonna has established ties with the country over the past few years, setting up the Raising Malawi charity.But Madonna could be courting controversy by returning to the country to adopt, as her earlier adoption of a boy from Malawi raised questions over whether rules had been broken due to the country's then policy of not allowing foreign adoptions. Madonna and then-husband Guy Ritchie took David Banda to their London home in 2006 while the child was 13 months old.
At the time the singer said it was her wish to "open up our home and help one child escape an extreme life of hardship, poverty and in many cases death."
She added that it was not a decision that she had taken lightly.
But some children's charities and human rights groups aired concern over the "quickie" adoption. It was suggested that the singer had used her celebrity to bypass normal procedures.The controversy deepened after the child's father, Yohane Banda, said that he would not have agreed to the adoption if he had known it meant that he would be giving up his son "for good". The adoption was finalised in 2008.In an interview publicised last week with the Malawian newspaper the Nation, Madonna said she was considering adopting from the country again.But she added that she would do so only with "the support of the Malawian people and government."

Pakistan hopes for U.S. re-think on missiles

PESHAWAR, - Pakistan wants the United States to reconsider its use of pilotless drones to attack militants on its territory, a government spokesman said on Thursday, hours after 11 people were killed in two strikes.President Barack Obama is expected to announce the result of a review of Afghan and Pakistani policy on Friday. Obama has said the United States is not winning in Afghanistan, more than seven years after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban.According to a New York Times report last week, the United States was considering expanding its covert war in Pakistan. A Pakistani spokesman said the government hoped Washington would re-think the missile strikes.
"As we have been saying, these attacks are counterproductive and we hope that as a result of the policy review in Washington, we would have some positive outcome," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told a briefing.Early on Thursday missiles believed to have been fired by a U.S. drone killed four people in the North Waziristan region, according to Pakistani intelligence officials in the area. Hours later, a strike killed seven in neighboring South Waziristan.The United States, frustrated by an intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan getting support from the Pakistani side of the border, began launching more drone attacks last year.U.S. officials say success in Afghanistan is impossible without tackling militant enclaves in northwest Pakistan.Al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan accused Pakistan's government of helping the U.S. launch the strikes."The government ... opens up its airfield in the tribal areas to American spy planes and provide information to bomb, destroy and kill," Mustapha Abu al-Yazid said in a video posted on Islamist websites on Thursday.
Since last year, more than 30 U.S. strikes have killed about 300 people, including mid-level al Qaeda members, according to reports from Pakistani officials, residents and militants.Pakistan's government and the army complain that civilian casualties the strikes often cause fuel support for militants.Intelligence officials said four villagers were killed in the missile attack in North Waziristan. A military official said explosives being carried in a truck caused the blast.Intelligence officials said four Arab militants were among the dead in a Wednesday strike in South Waziristan, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.In another development, a suicide bomber killed nine people at a restaurant frequented by militants opposed to Mehsud in South Waziristan's Jandola town, officials said.
The missile attacks coincided with the U.S. State Department posting $5-million rewards for information leading to the arrest or location of Mehsud and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the Haqqani militant faction, whose network is based in North Waziristan and the neighboring Afghan province of Khost.Sirajuddin's father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is a veteran Afghan mujahideen leader who forged a friendship with Osama bin Laden in the 1980s when they fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials and the CIA accuse Mehsud of being behind the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.Haqqani had claimed an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in April last year, according to the State Department.The Haqqani group was also believed to have been behind a suicide bomb that killed scores of people outside the Indian embassy in Kabul in July. The New York Times reported at the time that U.S. intelligence had evidence the attackers were in contact with Pakistani agents.On Thursday, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials believed Pakistani agents were supporting the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.Basit dismissed the reports as "nothing but sensational journalism.""This ... misses the essential fact that there is robust cooperation and engagement between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the U.S. and other countries ... in counter-terrorism," he said.The Journal said U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials were drawing up a list of targets for drone strikes and Pakistani officials wanted militants behind attacks inside Pakistan added to the list.

Afghanistan aid program flawed

WASHINGTON — The multibillion-dollar U.S. aid program in Afghanistan is disjointed, bureaucratic and overly dependent on private Western contractors, according to a report to be released today with implications for President Obama's Central Asia strategy.
The report by Oxfam, the international humanitarian organization, follows two separate studies last week by the Center for American Progress, a think tank with scholars close to the Obama administration, which called for a sweeping overhaul in the way civilian aid is delivered in Afghanistan.

Obama will announce a plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday, according to the Associated Press. The plan places increased emphasis on civilian missions such as training police and helping farmers find alternatives to heroin-producing poppy plants, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke said in Brussels last week.

The reports suggest that to succeed, Obama must secure fundamental changes in the weakened U.S. civilian aid bureaucracy, particularly the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). That agency is responsible for $6.9 billion of the total $31 billion in U.S. spending on military and civilian aid to Afghanistan since 2002, according to the Congressional Research Service.

U.S. aid workers are "bound by structures and strategies that often constrain their ability to work effectively on the ground," says the Oxfam report, which was based on 40 interviews by Matt Waldman, a Kabul-based policy analyst.

Other problems, the report says, include "a flawed contracting system, the pressures to measure results of the wrong kind ... an unclear strategy, and excessive restrictions that distance U.S. practitioners from the Afghans they're hoping to support."

At issue is whether Obama can get the changes he needs quickly enough. Scholars and activists have been calling for years for congressional action to overhaul U.S. foreign assistance, to no avail.

One Center for American Progress report argues for the creation of a Cabinet-level development agency to coordinate all non-military assistance, and it says American civilian aid experts need more flexibility in how they spend money. Both changes would require congressional approval.

Oxfam's criticism of USAID's reliance on private contractors echoes that by the agency's own inspector general, who said in a series of audits that contractors have often failed to show results.

Staff cuts over the past two decades have hurt USAID's ability to manage contracts, according to a recent report by the American Academy of Diplomacy. Although recent budget increases call for new hires, training foreign service development experts can take years. That makes it hard for USAID to scale back on contractors any time soon.

Even so, the United States can quickly improve civilian aid in Afghanistan, said Reuben Brigety, co-author of one of the Center for American Progress reports, called "Swords and Ploughshares."

For example, he said, most of the money goes to less secure areas along the border with Pakistan, where insurgent attacks have crippled the aid efforts. The U.S. should steer additional funds to the more secure northern and western parts of Afghanistan, where the programs have the best chance to succeed, he said.

The U.S. also needs to put an Afghan face on its efforts, said Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"More has to be done by the Afghans," he said.

Afghan intel chief: Pakistan spies support Taliban

KABUL – Afghanistan's intelligence chief accused Pakistan's spy agency of helping Taliban militants carry out attacks in his country, highlighting one of the biggest challenges facing the Obama administration as it prepared Thursday to launch a new strategy for the Afghan conflict.
Many Taliban militants fled to Pakistan's border area from Afghanistan following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, finding a sanctuary that allowed them to mount cross-border attacks that have destabilized Afghanistan and jeopardized international efforts to rebuild the country.
U.S. defense officials say President Barack Obama is set to approve sending 4,000 additional U.S. military trainers to assist the Afghan armed forces. The U.S. was also expected to add hundreds of civilian advisers. The latest additions would follow Obama's decision to add 17,000 troops to the flagging war this year.
Obama called the leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday to brief them on the revamped strategy, their offices said. But many believe that even with a stepped-up U.S. effort, chances for success are slim unless Pakistan effectively cracks down on Taliban and al-Qaida militants operating from its territory.
The U.S. and Afghanistan have repeatedly called on Pakistan to sever all links with the Taliban, which came to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s with significant support from Pakistan's military intelligence agency — known as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. Pakistan's government insists it no longer supports the militant group, but the country's civilian leaders have limited control over the agency.
Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told parliament Wednesday that the spy agency provides support to the Taliban leadership council in the Pakistani city of Quetta headed by the group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said the council sends militants into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and international forces.
The New York Times reported that Pakistani spy operatives provide money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders, with evidence of the ties coming from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The report cited American, Pakistani and other security officials who spoke anonymously because they were discussing confidential intelligence information.
A senior officer in the Pakistani spy agency denied the allegations Thursday, saying "How is it possible we are cooperating with them and sustaining casualties at the same time?"
He said 52 officers from the agency and more than 1,000 soldiers were killed in the war against terrorism that began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
"There is a difference between the perception and the reality," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with the agency's policy.
A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad said Pakistani assistance to the Taliban has declined since 2001, "but there continue to be old compulsions and there continue to be old acquaintances" that harm the country's relationship with the West. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media.
Saleh, the Afghan spy chief, criticized Pakistani officials for denying that Taliban leaders are based in the country. He said the Pakistanis view militants on their border as "a kind of weapon" that can be used in both Afghanistan and India.
"The Pakistani government is making excuses by saying these areas are out of their control," said Saleh.
Afghanistan has accused Pakistan's spy service or militants based in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas of being behind several major attacks in Kabul, including the bombing of the Indian Embassy last July, an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai in April and an assault on the luxury Serena Hotel in January 2008.
By focusing the blame on militants in Pakistan, Saleh reinforced recent remarks by Obama, who has warned that militants using Pakistani territory to launch attacks should not be allowed free reign.
Many of the additional troops that Obama has pledged to send to Afghanistan will be deployed in the south near the border with Pakistan — the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, where militants attacked a police checkpoint Thursday, killing nine policemen, the Interior Ministry said.
Another officer was killed and two were wounded in a search operation the police launched after the attack, said the deputy provincial police chief Kamal Uddin.
Taliban militants also attacked a police convoy in central Ghazni province Thursday, wounding six policemen, regional police spokesman Iqbal Gul Sapan said. Four militants were killed in the clash in Nani village near the provincial capital, he said.
The Interior Ministry said the police were transporting a militant prisoner at the time, adding that two civilians were wounded in the attack.

Afghan Strikes by Taliban Get Pakistan Help, U.S. Aides Say

WASHINGTON — The Taliban’s widening campaign in southern Afghanistan is made possible in part by direct support from operatives in Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, despite Pakistani government promises to sever ties to militant groups fighting in Afghanistan, according to American government officials.

The support consists of money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders who are gearing up to confront the international force in Afghanistan that will soon include some 17,000 American reinforcements.

Support for the Taliban, as well as other militant groups, is coordinated by operatives inside the shadowy S Wing of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the officials said. There is even evidence that ISI operatives meet regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections.

Details of the ISI’s continuing ties to militant groups were described by a half-dozen American, Pakistani and other security officials during recent interviews in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. All requested anonymity because they were discussing classified and sensitive intelligence information.

The American officials said proof of the ties between the Taliban and Pakistani spies came from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The Pakistani officials interviewed said that they had firsthand knowledge of the connections, though they denied that the ties were strengthening the insurgency.

American officials have complained for more than a year about the ISI’s support to groups like the Taliban. But the new details reveal that the spy agency is aiding a broader array of militant networks with more diverse types of support than was previously known — even months after Pakistani officials said that the days of the ISI’s playing a “double game” had ended.

Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders publicly deny any government ties to militant groups, and American officials say it is unlikely that top officials in Islamabad are directly coordinating the clandestine efforts. American officials have also said that midlevel ISI operatives occasionally cultivate relationships that are not approved by their bosses.

In a sign of just how resigned Western officials are to the ties, the British government has sent several dispatches to Islamabad in recent months asking that the ISI use its strategy meetings with the Taliban to persuade its commanders to scale back violence in Afghanistan before the August presidential election there, according to one official.

But the inability, or unwillingness, of the embattled civilian government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, to break the ties that bind the ISI to the militants illustrates the complexities of a region of shifting alliances. Obama administration officials admit that they are struggling to understand these allegiances as they try to forge a strategy to quell violence in Afghanistan, which has intensified because of a resurgent Taliban. Fighting this insurgency is difficult enough, officials said, without having to worry about an allied spy service’s supporting the enemy.

But the Pakistanis offered a more nuanced portrait. They said the contacts were less threatening than the American officials depicted and were part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw and leave what they fear could be a power vacuum to be filled by India, Pakistan’s archenemy. A senior Pakistani military officer said, “In intelligence, you have to be in contact with your enemy or you are running blind.”

The ISI helped create and nurture the Taliban movement in the 1990s to bring stability to a nation that had been devastated by years of civil war between rival warlords, and one Pakistani official explained that Islamabad needed to use groups like the Taliban as “proxy forces to preserve our interests.”

A spokesman at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to comment for this article.

Over the past year, a parade of senior American diplomats, military officers and intelligence officials has flown to Islamabad to urge Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders to cut off support for militant groups, and Washington has threatened to put conditions on more than $1 billion in annual military aid to Pakistan. On Saturday, the director of the C.I.A., Leon E. Panetta, met with top Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

Little is publicly known about the ISI’s S Wing, which officials say directs intelligence operations outside of Pakistan. American officials said that the S Wing provided direct support to three major groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan: the Taliban based in Quetta, Pakistan, commanded by Mullah Muhammad Omar; the militant network run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and a different group run by the guerrilla leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, recently told senators that the Pakistanis “draw distinctions” among different militant groups.

“There are some they believe have to be hit and that we should cooperate on hitting, and there are others they think don’t constitute as much of a threat to them and that they think are best left alone,” Mr. Blair said.

The Haqqani network, which focuses its attacks on Afghanistan, is considered a strategic asset to Pakistan, according to American and Pakistani officials, in contrast to the militant network run by Baitullah Mehsud, which has the goal of overthrowing Pakistan’s government.

Top American officials speak bluntly about how the situation has changed little since last summer, when evidence showed that ISI operatives helped plan the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, an attack that killed 54 people.

“They have been very attached to many of these extremist organizations, and it’s my belief that in the long run, they have got to completely cut ties with those in order to really move in the right direction,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS.

The Taliban has been able to finance a military campaign inside Afghanistan largely through proceeds from the illegal drug trade and wealthy individuals from the Persian Gulf. But American officials said that when fighters needed fuel or ammunition to sustain their attacks against American troops, they would often turn to the ISI.

When the groups needed to replenish their ranks, it would be operatives from the S Wing who often slipped into radical madrasas across Pakistan to drum up recruits, the officials said.

The ISI support for militants extends beyond those operating in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. American officials said the spy agency had also shared intelligence with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group suspected in the deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, and provided protection for it.

Mr. Zardari took steps last summer to purge the ISI’s top ranks after the United States confronted Pakistan with evidence about the Indian Embassy bombing. Mr. Zardari pledged that the ISI would be “handled,” and that anyone working with militants would be dismissed.

Yet with the future of Mr. Zardari’s government uncertain in the current political turmoil and with Obama officials seeing few immediate alternatives, American officials and outside experts said that Pakistan’s military establishment appears to see little advantage in responding to the demands of civilian officials in Islamabad or Washington.

As a result, when the Haqqani fighters need to stay a step ahead of American forces stalking them on the ground and in the air, they rely on moles within the spy agency to tip them off to allied missions planned against them, American military officials said.

Nawaz Sharif, a reliable partner?

It will be disastrous for Obama administration if ,Washington thinks that Pakistani opposition leader, Nawaz Shrif can be a reliable partner of Washington in fighting Taliban. Nawaz Sharif is not only a corrupt politician he has sympathies with Osama bin laden, Alquida and Taliban. According to a former ISI official , Nawaz Sharif met OSAMA BIN LADEN and received funds from him, he met OSAMA three times and desperately asked for financial assistance. Bin Laden, who had offered him money to topple the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government of BENAZIR BHUTTO in 1990. Al Qaeda head wanted the “secular” PPP government overthrown to ensure that Pakistan continued supporting the Afghan “jihad” and LADEN was against a woman ruling Pakistan. . Nawaz met Osama thrice in Saudi Arabia ,this meeting was arranged by former ISI official Khalid Khawaja . Nawaz sharif was hoping for a grant of Rs 500 million. Although Bin Laden gave a smaller amount, Khawaja said that he arranged for Sharif to meet the Saudi royal family, which pledged political support for him and kept its word until he was dislodged by President Pervez Musharraf in 1999 . Nawaz has been an ardent supporter of Taliban. I am afraid that his coming to power at this critical juncture will be bad news for Pakistan, because Pak is already facing Taliban mutiny. Sharif is on record stating he would prefer Pakistan to be run like the Taleban ran Afghanistan, and we all know how well that turned out. Sharif's reckless embrace of religious extremism led him to try and impose Sharia (Islamic law) on Pakistan in 1998 and declare himself "Amirul Momineen" (Leader of the Faithful/Believers). Sharif has a long history of aligning with extremist religious groups, jihadists, and the Taliban. Sharif's desire for power is even greater than his respect for innocent life. Convicted for hijacking, he put the lives of 198 people on a plane in jeopardy by refusing to allow it to land. Also, Sharif funneled terrorist gunmen into disputed areas of Kashmir in 1997, risking not only the lives of innocent civilians there, but open war with its larger neighbor, India.  Beyond the blood on Sharif's hands, his corruption and that of his brother are on a vast scale. At the time of his removal from office, Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shabaz had looted approximately $60 million from people of Pakistan, via their personally owned companies. Pakistan, a developing nation, struggling to bring economic growth, education, and basic services to tens of millions of poverty stricken citizens, cannot afford the greed and avarice of Nawaz Sharif. The March 25, 2009 piece in the NY Times, Nawaz Sharif is portrayed as someone the U.S. and Pakistan can possible reconsider as a leader that can guide Pakistan through a challenging period. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. In the 03-25-09 NY Times article, two important questions are asked: Can Mr. Sharif, 59, a populist politician close to Islamic parties, be a reliable partner? Or will he use his popular support to blunt the military's already fitful campaign against the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO. History has shown where Nawaz Sharif stands on these issues, he stands for religious extremism, alliances with terrorists, and the undermining of secular rule in Pakistan, to the detriment of its citizenry and the country's neighbors near and far. With the Taliban and Al-Queda taking active refuge in Pakistan, engaging in recruitment there, and basing attacks in Pakistan and across the border into Afghanistan, Nawaz Sharif is the last person that can be relied upon to control or eliminate these destabilizing and dangerous groups. Sharif's support for these extremists goes beyond admiration and rhetoric, he as personally assisted them in their quest for power, At the end of the 1990's, under the leadership of Sharif, the economy of Pakistan suffered immensely. In regards to Afghanistan, Sharif's support of the Taliban within Afghanistan, and allowing them to draw operate and draw support from area's within Pakistan itself, thus adding their destabilizing influence to an already fragile political environment. Sharif's lust of power, and his willingness to damage Pakistan's future, area toxic mix for the people of Pakistan, and for it's neighbors. There is a  long tale of Nawaz’ corruption ranging from Yellow Cab scheme, to Motorway project and from Raiwind palace to LDA plots. As a protege of Zia ul Haq, the dictator who controlled Pakistan in the 1980's, Sharif's anti-democratic tendencies were already in bloom. Sharif's own power base in Punjab was built by bribery and favoritism along with pandering to religious extremists .  The greatest outrage, in retrospect, is Sharif's alliance with Osama Bin Laden. In Sharif's battle against Benazair Bhutto, Bin Laden's funds helped orchestrate the removal of Bhutto from power. Bin Laden knew he needed to secure at least neutrality if not outright support from Pakistan in his goal to turn Afghanistan into his own personal terrorist training camp. Sharif was Bin Laden's man for this mission, at once corrupt enough to take the money, and oblivious enough to not grasp the horror he helped unleash on the world. By the time Sharif was forced from power, it was too late. Bin Laden's network had struck. He used Lawyers movement for his political gain, Nawaz Sharif’s reason for supporting Iftikhar Chaudhry was to get back at Musharraf, a glorified version of kindergarten revenge. Nothing more. Mr. Sharif’s purpose is to grab the federal government. He believes his right to rule Pakistan was snatched away from him in 1999 and he wants it back.  Lawyers’ movement was hijacked for dirty political tricks by Nawaz and other opportunist politicians in Pakistan. The lawyers’ movement managed to get quite a bit of the attention of the educated class and the media, because of its high claims of standing by principles and reinstating an independent judiciary and people from all walks of life supported that while politicians like NAWAZ,IMRAN,QAZI were just creating chaos. Whether it is Zardari or Sharif, both are incompetent . Both are products of dynasty politics, and neither of them deserves any share in the running of anything…be it the party, or the country. The only thing they can do for the country is to leave it alone, but that is too much to ask. So those who think that Mr. Sharif is a ray of hope … think again. He offers nothing different. He is a part of the same dirty system that brought us here in the first place. President Obama will make an even greater mistake (than George Bush’s Iraq adventure) if he sides with NAWAZ SHARIF.