Thursday, July 30, 2009

Four leaders urge world community to fight against drug threat

DUSHANBE, July 30 (Itar-Tass) - In their joint statement on Thursday, the Russian, Afghan, Pakistani and Tajik leaders urged the world community to take additional measures in fight against the drug threat from Afghanistan.

The document emphasized concern in connection with “the growth of an illegal drug trafficking as one of the main sources of financing the terrorist activity”. “The parties urge the international community to take additional measures in cooperation with the Afghan government for a resolute fight against the drug threat,” the statement said.

Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan welcomed Tajikistan’s bid to take part in joint work whose main directions were fixed by the foreign ministers of these states at the end of June. “The parties welcome readiness expressed by the Republic of Tajikistan to take part in work on the main directions fixed in the statements of foreign ministers” of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia, it said.

The document said that at a meeting held in the atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding the four leaders had discussed the main directions of four-way cooperation.

The four leaders acknowledged “particular importance of expanding and strengthening mutually advantageous economic cooperation” of their states and marked “a need to consistently implement agreements” reached at the previous meeting in Yekaterinburg.

They welcomed the statement of foreign ministers of their countries made in Trieste on June 26. They also marked the importance of commissioning the Sangtudin hydroelectric power station to solve energy problems of the region.

The presidents “put much emphasis on the development and strengthening of trade and economic relations between the four states and support activity at the national and international level aimed at contributing to the social and economic restoration and development of the region,” the document said.

It also marked “a need of four-party economic cooperation, including as concerns work on ways and means to contribute to regional trade, to increase the flow of foreign investments and implement projects in the sphere of hydraulic power industry, laying of power transmission lines and development of transport infrastructure, as well as the importance of measures for setting up a favourable investment climate in their states, encouraging direct contacts between the business communities” of the four countries.

The presidents stressed “the expedience of an active involvement of Afghanistan in processes of economic cooperation in the region in the interests of restoring the economy and normalizing the situation in the country on the whole”.

Besides, they expressed “interest in participation in economic cooperation under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” and urged “the World Bank and other international financial institutions to boost assistance in the implementation of regional economic projects, including studying the possibility of rendering such aid in the CASA-1000 project”.

Presidents Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan expressed gratitude to Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon for a warm welcome and emphasized the importance of their meeting.

Afghanistan's bravest woman speaks out

Five assassination attempts have failed to silence "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" as she vows to continue to defend Afghans from oppression - whether from the Taliban or occupying forces. Malalai Joya became Afghanistan's youngest Member of Parliament when she was elected aged just 27 to the 249-seat National Assembly in September 2005. She has been suspended since 2007 on charges of insulting the parliament.
Joya is in the UK to promote her new book, Raising My Voice, but also to deliver a message to Britain: "We do not accept foreign occupation - three times a British government have occupied my country faced with the opposition of my people."
"Foreign governments are wasting their money and their blood in Afghanistan by supporting Karzai. After this election, the result will be the same donkey, only with a new saddle."
During the Soviet invasion, Malalai was four years old when her family fled Afghanistan in 1982 to the refugee camps of Iran and then Pakistan.
She finished her education in Pakistan and began teaching literacy courses to other women at age 19.
Joya returned to Afghanistan in 1998 during the Taliban's reign. She established an orphanage and health clinic, was soon a vocal opponent of the Taliban and was named a director of the non-governmental group, Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities.

China delivers first warship to Pak Navy

China on Thursday delivered the first of four state-of-the-art frigates commissioned by nuclear-armed Pakistan from top ally Beijing, a naval spokesman said.
“The first F-22P Frigate constructed for the Pakistan navy at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai was delivered to Pakistan on Thursday,” said Lieutenant Commander Shakeel Ahmed.
In keeping with contracts signed between China and Pakistan in 2005, the frigates will be equipped with anti-submarine helicopters, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and other defence systems.
“The F-22P frigates will not only enhance the war fighting potential of the Pakistan navy but will also strengthen the indigenous ship-building capability of the country,” said Ahmed.
The announcement came two days after Pakistan hit out at India, branding its rival’s first nuclear-powered submarine “detrimental” to regional peace and vowing to take “appropriate steps” to maintain a “strategic balance”.
Relations between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have plummeted since gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai last November, attacks that New Delhi blamed on banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
India on Sunday launched the first of five planned submarines by naming the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies), powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor that can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots).
China is Pakistan’s strongest ally and Islamabad relies heavily on Beijing for its defence needs.
Many Chinese companies operate in Pakistan and China is involved in the construction of a deep-sea port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

U.S. shifting drones' focus to Taliban

Kabul, Afghanistan — U.S. military leaders have concluded that their war effort in Afghanistan has been too focused on hunting Al Qaeda, and have begun to shift Predator drone aircraft to the fight against the Taliban and other militants in order to prevent the country from slipping deeper into anarchy.

The move, described by government and Defense Department officials, represents a major change in the military's use of one of its most precious intelligence assets. It also illustrates the hard choices that must be made because the drones are in short supply.

Senior government officials say that defeating Al Qaeda remains the overriding U.S. objective. However, they have determined that the best way to do that is by strengthening and stabilizing Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, rather than endlessly looking for important Al Qaeda figures.

But a shortage of drone aircraft could limit the effectiveness of the thousands of additional troops being sent as part of the Obama administration's new focus on Afghanistan, officials say. A preliminary review has concluded that the command in Afghanistan requires up to four times as many Predators as it currently has.

To try to meet the demand, the military has shifted about eight Predator drones assigned to special operations forces in Afghanistan to conventional forces. It is refocusing them on major insurgent strongholds rather than on scouring remote mountain ranges for suspected terrorists.

In addition, the U.S. military's Central Command is planning to send about a dozen more drones to Afghanistan, representing about a 25% increase. Among them are aircraft being reassigned from Iraq, despite resistance from the U.S. command there.

The sweeping redeployment means that insurgent groups that have carried out ambushes and roadside bombings will for the first time be tracked by dozens of drones capable of remaining over a target for hours undetected, identifying key individuals, and firing missiles within a matter of seconds.

A focus on hunting Al Qaeda reflected priorities set early in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. A move away from that strategy could invite protest from U.S. politicians and experts who believe that it could allow the organization to rebuild strength.

Osama bin Laden and the most senior Al Qaeda leadership planned the Sept. 11 attacks from Afghanistan, which was ruled by the Taliban until a U.S.-led invasion ousted it. The Al Qaeda leadership is believed to have reestablished itself across the border in Pakistan. U.S. military and intelligence services are also using drones to attack Al Qaeda figures and their Taliban allies there.

U.S. military officials believe mid-level Al Qaeda figures remain in Afghanistan, where special operations forces have been directed to hunt them down. The military also has long hoped it could learn clues to Bin Laden's whereabouts by spying on his former associates.

Despite the shift, the special operations forces retain a substantial amount of Predators. But officials say they are working to ensure that unconventional missions are more closely aligned with the new counterinsurgency strategy of the overall force.

But top military officials have concluded that they need to keep Afghanistan from sliding further into chaos in order to keep Al Qaeda from rebuilding there. Doing so will require a campaign to build confidence in the government and make the population feel more secure.

"We have been overly counter-terrorism-focused and not counter-insurgency-focused," said one U.S. official.

Senior government officials said Bin Laden remained a prime target but that they needed to focus on fighting the Taliban.

"We might still be too focused on Bin Laden," the official said. "We should probably reassess our priorities."

Although military officials emphasize that the drones will be used primarily as spy planes, the aircraft are armed. Predators carry two Hellfire missiles. Reaper drones, which are also being sent, are armed with Hellfires and precision-guided bombs.

Airborne attacks carry their own set of risks for the war effort. Afghan officials have repeatedly complained about civilian deaths resulting from airstrikes, and the Taliban seeks to make maximum use of such incidents' propaganda value.

A new directive from the top commander in Afghanistan is forcing the military to be more careful about airstrikes. But with up to 20 more drones dedicated to the task, the military may have more chances to attack key Taliban leaders.

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, made it clear in a recent interview that protecting the Afghan population, not hunting suspected terrorists, was his priority.

"I don't think there is enough focus on counter-insurgency. I am not in a position to criticize counter-terrorism," he said. "But at this point in the war, in Afghanistan, it is most important to focus on almost classic counter-insurgency."

Under McChrystal's order, the command has been doing an extensive review of how it uses its reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft. Rather than spread the drones throughout the country so that all regional commands get the use of the planes for a little while each day, McChrystal wants to use the predators in a more concentrated fashion.

Top commanders are ending the practice of blindly trolling for information with the Predators. McChrystal said the best way to use intelligence aircraft is to watch a single target for days, even weeks.

The preliminary review found that the command in Afghanistan could use as many as 40 to 45 combat air patrols of Predators -- as many as 180 individual drones. That total is more than the military has in its inventory.

The shift of assets from Iraq is sensitive. Military officials said that U.S. generals in Iraq resisted, arguing that intelligence assets will be needed even after the U.S. drawdown speeds up next year.

But the Obama administration's primary military effort is now clearly Afghanistan. And a senior Defense official said Central Command, which has operational control over both wars, made its moves to shift Predator drones in consultation with McChrystal and the commander in Iraq, Army Gen. Ray Odierno.

In addition to the drones, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of Central Command, has ordered combat engineer units, road-clearance teams, helicopters and other equipment to move from Iraq to Afghanistan.

The military also plans to increase the number of U2 flights.

The advanced camera on the U2 is useful in spotting locations where roadside bombs have been placed, but only if the planes fly over the same area every 24 hours.

In addition, all of the Air Force's unmanned Global Hawks are going to be shifted to Afghanistan, officials said.

US unsure of Swat offensive success, says Holbrooke

WASHINGTON: It is still unclear if Pakistan’s offensive in Swat has killed off the Taliban or simply scattered them, US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke said on Wednesday.

“We don’t know exactly to what extent the Pakistani army dispersed or destroyed the enemy,” the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. “The test of this operation is, of course, when the refugees return. Can they go home? Are they safe? And we’re just going to have to wait and see,” he told a State Department press conference.

He said that Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul, and his military counterpart, General Stanley McChrystal, have consulted “fairly regularly” with Pakistani officials. They want to keep in touch with Pakistan’s government and army so “this time around, as the [NATO] offensive picks up steam, the Pakistanis are ready for it, so the Pakistanis know where the military operations are happening - and they can prepare for any spillover effects,” he added. Likewise, the US officials wanted to be fully apprised of Pakistani army offensives, he said.

Holbrooke said Afghanistan needed to expand the size and capabilities of its own security forces. Meanwhile, after a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Phuket, Thailand, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Pakistan’s efforts in the war against the Taliban. agencies


WASHINGTON - With mugs of beer and a few minutes of conversation, President Barack Obama tried to pull himself and the nation beyond an uproar over race, sitting on his big back lawn with the black professor and the white policeman whose dispute had ignited a week of fierce debate.

Under the canopy of a magnolia tree Thursday evening, a shirt-sleeved Obama joined the other players in a story that had knocked the White House off message: Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley. Vice President Joe Biden was also with them on a Rose Garden patio.

The men were seen chatting with each other, each with a mug of beer. The media were stationed far away, out of earshot.

Swatis seek return of elected representatives

MINGORA: A large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who returned to their areas now want their elected representatives back in their home constituencies to share electorate’s sufferings.

No MPA, MNA or any district or tehsil nazim has yet returned and this could be detrimental to the success of the military operation “Rah-e-Raast”. People interviewed by The News in various parts of Mingora said army was not supposed to remain in Swat forever but gradually it had to hand over the area to police and civil administration and the pubic representatives must come to Swat to boost the morale of the locals.

They said it had officially been accepted that the Swat valley was not totally cleared of miscreants and there were some pockets of militants. “The beheading of a police official in Sanghota, located some three kilometre from Mingora, on Tuesday triggered fear among locals who had come back to Swat hoping that their hometown has been purged of militants,” an owner of a CNG station said, wishing anonymity.

Muhammad Qasim Khan, 28, a resident of Kanju, said such incidents might continue in Swat, but he hastened to add that the elected representatives should be here to share the miseries of the electorate.

Rasool Khan said, “Army has done its job and now it is the duty of the public representatives, Khans and influential persons to come back to their homes and play their role in sustaining the process of peace. You know the Army men are not locals...they cannot identify the Taliban who have camouflaged by mixing with the non-combatant civilians. Now it’s the responsibility of the MNAs, MPAs, district, tehsil and union council nazims and public figures to help Army flush out remaining militants by identifying them,” he said.

Nevertheless, Swat DPO Sajid Khan Mohmand said that scores of militants had already been rounded up on the tip-offs by locals. “Cooperation of the locals after the military operation is encouraging,” he acclaimed.

Some security personnel deputed on road leading to Khwazakhela from Mingora said that no doubt the Army inflicted colossal loss on the militants’ network but they could not be totally eliminated and they might re-launch attack on civilians as well as security personnel. “It’s very easy to fight an overt enemy but very difficult to fight mice (militants). They hit you and hole up in their hideouts,” said another soldier.

Inter Services Public Relations representative in Swat, Major Nasir, said there was no chance of re-grouping of militants. “We’ve broken their back. They do exist but not in an organised network. Presently, they’ve fled to Dardial (a remote area in Swat abutting Lower Dir) where they’ve regularly been monitored by Army as well as tribal lashkar. They’ve not the potential to re-unite their scattered force,” he asserts.

It would be a hard decision for the public representatives to come back to Swat in the near future because they have suffered not only heavy financial loss but also lost their relatives in the Taliban insurgency. The militants brutally killed two nephews and a brother of MPA Waqar Khan besides gunning down the brother of NWFP Minister for Forests Wajid Ali Khan.

Xinjiang refutes Kadeer's '10,000 missing' claim


The claim by Rebiya Kadeer that more than 10,000 Uygurs disappeared in the wake of the July 5 riots, believed to have been arrested or killed, is groundless, a spokeswoman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region told the Global Times yesterday in reaction to the World Uygur Congress (WUC) leader's speech during her visit to Japan.

Kadeer, accused by the Chinese government of being a separatist and masterminding the riots that left about 200 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, told a Tokyo press conference yesterday during the second day of her visit to Japan that nearly 10,000 people “disappeared in one night” following the riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

“If they are dead, where are their bodies? If they are detained, where are they?” she said.

Hou Hanmin, spokeswoman of the regional government, said the claim was so groundless that it was “not even worth a counter reaction.”

“If there were more than 10,000 missing, how many more of them would have taken part in the riot?” Hou asked.

According to an AP report shortly after the riot, “police showed up to disperse a crowd of between 1,000 and 3,000 demonstrators,” which is close to the estimates of reports by other media organizations, both Chinese and foreign.

Urumqi police yesterday announced that they had arrested 253 more suspects allegedly closely connected to the riots, following the initial arrests of 1,434 suspects by July 7, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Police said most of the latest arrests were made from tip-offs provided by local residents, including one report in which a family of five burned to death after rioters locked the door of their store selling grain and edible oil and set it on fire.

“I felt uneasy for at least two nights. Once I closed my eyes, I would picture the scene of the raging fire shrouding the store,” a Uygur man who did not give his name told the police July 7. “I would never find peace if I didn't inform the police of it.”

Some of the suspects arrested earlier have been released after police found they did not commit serious crimes, Hou told the Global Times.
In response to a Global Times' inquiry as to how Kadeer set the number of disappeared at 10,000, Dilshat Rashit, spokesman for the US-based WUC, said the organization has been following the situation in Xinjiang via foreign reports.

“When Uygur women were interviewed by foreign media, they said more than 1,000 Uygurs were killed and nearly 10,000 were arrested,” he said. “As far as we know, the arrest of Uygurs is continuing, so there are definitely more than 10,000 arrested.”

Howevr, he didn't explain how those “Uygur women interviewed by foreign media” put the total number of those arrested.

He suggested that the United States, which “has always been concerned with China's religious and human rights issues,” take tougher measures against China, including economic sanctions.

Earlier in July, Mu-Card Deiss, a member of the WUC, circulated online a video clip of a “Uygur girl” being beaten to death.

“It was actually a piece edited from footage of a CNN video showing a girl killed in Iraq on April 7, 2007,” Xinhua pointed out.

Kadeer's remarks also backfired among Uygur residents in China. Rustan, manager of a Muslim restaurant at the Beijing Language and Culture University said, “When I was young, I just thought she was a very rich woman, and I admired her a lot. But I never expected that she would attack China with ridiculous remarks while staying overseas.”

He said he doesn't understand why Kadeer does all these “evil things” to China.

“We're all Chinese, and I don't want to follow what she's talking about,” he said.

Tuson Nizam, a Uygur from Kuqa County, Xinjiang, who now sells jade in Beijing, expressed his indignation at the riots, saying the Uygurs who participated in the riots are nothing but “lazy bones.”

“I treat all Han and Uygur people equally well, so they will treat me well in return,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Japan's ambassador in Beijing, expressing its “dissatisfaction” with Japan's treatment of Kadeer, believed to be a “criminal” by China.

Kadeer's visits to Australia and Japan have put those countries' ties with China to the test.

Yang Bojiang, a researcher at the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said: “Kadeer's ‘separatist activities' would have an impact on the overall situation of China's relationship with the US, Japan and European countries.”

Liang Chen, An Baijie and Zhou Min countributed to this story

PM Gilani allocates Rs1.2bn for IDPs

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani allocated Rs1.25 billion for internally displaced people on Wednesday and asked the agencies concerned to make a comprehensive plan for the next phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

He was presiding over a meeting of the Strategic Policy Committee on IDPs at the Prime Minister’s House.

He said that since 50 per cent of the displaced families had already returned to their homes, it was imperative that they were provided with full security, basic amenities and administrative support.

The prime minister also asked the ministry of finance to release Rs180 million for the cash-for-food programme for 6000 displaced families of Waziristan.

The prime minister said that arrangements should be made for early return of displaced people of Bajaur and Mohmand agencies where the situation had become normal.

Commending the hard work done by the provincial government and Special Support Group, the prime minister said he hoped that after the successful military operation, the process of safe return of the displaced people would be completed soon.

He said more than 80 per cent of the people were using their own transport to go back to their homes and the rest were using transport arranged by the government.

The prime minister said the successes achieved by the military operation had been welcomed not only by the local people, but also by the entire nation, political parties and the international community.

“We acknowledge the sacrifices made by the Pakistan Army in re-establishing the writ of the state in the conflict zone by eliminating extremist elements,” the prime minister said.

The meeting was informed that around Rs5 billion had been distributed among affected families and all essential services had been restored in Shangla, Dir, Swat and Buner.