Monday, September 3, 2012
.....WELCOME TO ISLAMIST REGIME.....
“I prefer Assad to the jihadists”Louaï, 40, is a film editor. I support Bashar al-Assad because I am against the opposition. The only chance this country has of getting out of this crisis is if the opposition stops using violence and takes a seat at the negotiation table without any preconditions [the Syrian National Council, an opposition organisation, has said they will only enter negotiations if Assad quits power]. I am not opposed to a transfer of power, but it can’t happen without Assad. He is the only one capable of finding a solution. Those who are fighting the regime did not take up arms to fight for democracy, they are simply trying to take over power. The Free Syrian Army is made up of jihadist Salafists, many of whom have come from abroad to wreak havoc in our country. “I worry when I look at what is going on in countries that have recently had revolutions” Personally, when I look at what is going on in countries where revolutions have spurred regime change, like in Tunisia where Salafists are now trying to impose their law through violence, I find the prospect of an opposition victory in Syria is worrisome. Jaramana, where I live [about 10 kilometers or six miles outside the capital Damascus], was the calmest city in Syria until three days ago, when a car bomb exploded near a funeral convoy. Here, different communities – Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, Druze – have always lived in complete harmony. I am Shiitte, and my wife is Christian. Our peaceful coexistence, however, is now under threat. I doubt that the jihadists will adhere to democratic values and from attacking Syrians with different beliefs if they succeed in overthrowing the government.
“Assad has undertaken democratic reforms”Nourane, 30, lives in Damascus. We must not forget that Assad was responsible for launching democratic reforms. He abolished the state of emergency [in a bid to appease opposition factions, the government adopted a series of reforms in April 2011 that brought an end to the state of emergency, abolished the Supreme State Security Court and implemented a new constitution based on political pluralism (February 26, 2012)]. I voted democratically for his reelection [Assad was reelected president in May, 2007 with 97.62 percent of the vote. The election was widely believed to be fraudulent] and for the new constitution. Should the opposition really have the right to remove an elected president? We cannot blame Assad for all of Syria’s problems. Mistakes are often made by local officials, as the president cannot be everywhere at once. Remember that the crisis started in March, 2011 in Deraa. Government forces had opened fire on protesters who were advocating the release of several teenagers that had been arrested for spray painting slogans of the Egyptian Revolution. That is what originally set things off. But we forget that the president dismissed and sanctioned the governor of Derra, Faisal Kalthoum, who was responsible for imprisoning the teenagers and opening fire on protesters. The president even made an effort to address the issue by meeting with Derra’s clan chiefs. We are all against corruption and bureaucracy, and in favour of greater liberties in Syria. But we do not want these people, who are massacring the Syrian people in the name of freedom. The president has already tried to put in place exactly these kind of reforms [faced with mounting tensions, Assad announced in February of last year plans to reduce taxes, create 67,000 government jobs, and his intention to fire hundreds of civil servants accused of corruption].
The Express Tribune
http://www.boston.comPakistani police say they are investigating whether a Muslim cleric who allegedly tried to frame a Christian girl for blasphemy should be charged with insulting Islam himself. Police officer Munir Jafferi says officials registered the blasphemy case against Khalid Chisti on Monday. Police arrested Chisti on Saturday after a member of the cleric’s mosque accused him of stashing pages of a Quran in a Christian girl’s bag to make it seem like she burned the Islamic holy book. He has denied the allegation. Jafferi says Chisti could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted of desecrating the Quran. The Christian girl’s lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, says his client will remain in prison until at least Friday after her bail hearing was delayed for the second time Monday.
Journalist Shaukat Paracha reports on an explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which an American vehicle was targeted.
DAWN.COMThe US government has agreed to finance construction of Peshawar-Torkham Highway, which serves as main supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan. According to an official statement issued here on Sunday, the US government will provide Rs5.60 billion for construction of the 45-kilometre road. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar has directed the quarters concerned to start work on this vital project immediately. The project, to be started this year, will be completed within 18 months. The statement said that Frontier Works Organisation, a subsidiary of army, would construct the road as National Highway Authority (NHA) would work as executing agency. To ensure timely completion of the project, Fata Secretariat would play a lead role. Work on the highway will be started on war footing as staff has been hired for the purpose. The statement said that principal agreement with United States Assistance for International Development (USAID) had been reached and an accord with the donor agency would be signed in the second week of September. After the agreement, work would be starred on the much delayed project immediately. The USAID is already helping Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in Expansion and Refurbishing of Ring Road Project and provided Rs2 billion for the scheme that according to officials would be completed soon. Construction of Peshawar-Torkham Highway is perhaps the first major development project to be financed by the US government following melting of ice after Salala attack for which Islamabad was demanding an apology from Washington for killing its 24 officers and soldiers. The government said that transportation of supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan was damaging road network, asking the US to rehabilitate those major highways. Officials said that roughly 10,000 small and heavy vehicles were passing through Peshawar-Torkham Highway daily. The construction of highway that passes through Khyber Agency and also serves as a trade route for Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics has been under consideration since 2001. Work on the project could not be started because of financial constraints. An official said that NHA had already completed PC-1 and conducted environmental impact assessment survey of the project. He said that the government had allocated Rs120 million for land acquisition. Initially it was planned to construct an alternate dual carriageway between Peshawar and Torkham that was to pass through Malagori and Loi Shalman. Asian Development Bank had made commitment to bear 60 per cent of the total cost of the project and Pakistan government pledged 40 per cent share. Pre-feasibility study of the proposed carriageway was carried out in 2007-08 while detailed survey was dropped. Sources in NHA that carried out pre-feasibility survey said that estimated length of the carriageway was 90 kilometres through Malagori and Shalman, while distance of existing Peshawar-Torkham Highway was about 50 kilometres.
Two Americans were killed in a suicide car bomb attack targeting a US consulate vehicle in Peshawar on Monday, the provincial information minister said. "The blast killed two Americans. This is a dangerous move from the terrorists -- they want to terrorise the foreigners," Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP, adding that two Americans were also wounded in the blast.
Frontier postAfghan commanders have refused more than a dozen times within the past two months to act on U.S. intelligence regarding high-level insurgents, arguing that night-time operations to target the men would result in civilian casualties, Afghan officials say.The defiance highlights the shift underway in Afghanistan as Afghan commanders make use of their newfound power to veto operations proposed by their NATO counterparts.For much of the past decade, NATO commanders have dictated most aspects of the allied war strategy, with Afghan military officers playing a far more marginal role. But with the signing of an agreement last month, Afghans have now inherited responsibility for so-called night raids - a crucial feature of the war effort.To Afghan leaders, the decisions made by their commanders reflect growing Afghan autonomy from Western forces as NATO draws down, and prove that Afghan forces are willing to exercise more caution than foreign troops when civilian lives are at stake, The Washington Post reported."In the last two months, 14 to 16 [night] operations have been rejected by the Afghans," said Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the top Afghan army officer. "The U.S. has said, 'This operation better be conducted. It's a high-value target.' Then my people said, 'It's a high-value target. I agree with you. But there are so many civilian children and women [in the area].' "Many of the rejected night operations are later conducted once civilians are no longer in the vicinity of the targets, Karimi said.U.S. officials point to progress they have made in their own efforts to reduce civilian casualties, and say that while the Afghans occasionally choose not to act on American intelligence, night operations are nonetheless frequently conducted. Americans continue to provide logistical support and backup, U.S. officials say, using their aircraft to deposit Afghan soldiers at the targets."The Afghans are the ones who give final say on whether or not the mission gets conducted. That's how the process works now," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. "The operational tempo hasn't been affected by this. I don't think there's been a night when they haven't conducted a good number of operations."But the resistance to American guidance on night operations represents the clearest indication to date that Afghan military commanders are heeding a directive from President Hamid Karzai last month. Just a day after signing a 10-year bilateral agreement with the United States, Karzai said Afghan soldiers should discard questionable information provided by the U.S. military. "If you have any doubt about an American intelligence report, do not conduct any operation based on it," he told officials at the Interior Ministry.The Afghan president grew even more disenchanted over the last week, when separate NATO airstrikes killed 18 civilians in Logar, Kapisa, Badghis and Helmand provinces, according to Afghan officials. The president and his advisers said the attacks raise questions about the newly minted partnership agreement."Karzai signed the strategic pact with the United States to avoid such incidents and if Afghans do not feel safe, the strategic partnership loses its meaning," said a presidential statement.In the past, such complaints would have been unlikely to affect military operations. But the transition to greater Afghan control of security has left Karzai and his military in a stronger position to stymie the American strategy.The transition will continue in the coming months. This summer, a number of districts and provinces will be formally entrusted to Afghan security forces, the third round of regional transitions. In September, Afghans will assume responsibility for the U.S. military prison at Bagram, with about 3,000 detainees.In the past, Western officials questioned whether Karzai's opposition to night raids and other U.S.-led operations was politically driven - aimed at proving to his people that he was capable of resisting American demands.Now, with more transitional milestones looming, Afghan political and military leaders say their growing responsibility has made the issue of civilian casualties even more delicate."Most of the people will say, 'I don't blame the foreigners if they kill us, but why do you kill me?' " Karimi said. "We have to be concerned. We have to have people on our side."Each time civilians are killed in either a NATO or Afghan operation, Karzai or one of his advisers calls the Defense Ministry for an explanation. Karimi said the president's involvement in military affairs centers largely on reducing civilian casualties rather than on dictating troop levels or strategy.NATO officials say they have greatly reduced the number of civilians killed in operations in recent years. The United Nations last year attributed 400 civilian deaths to NATO and Afghan forces, a slight decrease from 2010."We have significantly improved attention to detail when it comes to targeting," a U.S. official said.Human rights organizations say they fear that the methods and institutions developed by NATO to both track and prevent civilian casualties will not be replicated by the Afghan security forces."Right now, Afghan forces don't have systems in place to prevent and respond to civilian casualties they may cause. International forces evolved their thinking over a decade, realizing they needed a civilian casualty tracking team and policies to investigate civilian harm caused by their own forces," said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. "Without those systems in place, verbal commitments from the Afghan government to not harm civilians are likely to fall flat as Afghan forces take over."
http://www.radioaustralia.net.auAfghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has condemned the Australian military over a raid in which two Afghan men were killed. Australian soldiers had been searching for the rogue Afghan sergeant who shot dead three Australian soldiers last week, and during their mission they captured a suspected insurgent leader who is thought to have helped the killer to escape. The Australian Defence Department says the two men who died during that operation were also suspected insurgents, but villagers have told the media they were civilians. The bodies of the five soldiers who died last week in the deadliest day for Australian forces since Vietnam are returning home. They were farewelled by their comrades in a ceremony at Tarin Kowt. Capturing Sergeant Hek Matullah, the Afghan soldier suspected of shooting Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate, remains a high priority. Sergeant Hek Matullah escaped from the patrol base straight after the killings and he's suspected to have been aided by the Taliban. After an extensive search Australian troops aided by Afghan forces have detained a suspected insurgent they say helped with the escape. But the raid has come at a cost. Two Afghan men were killed by Australian troops. The ADF says all the proper rules of engagement were followed but Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai is furious. Local reports say those killed were a 70 year old Imam and his son. It's also been reported that the Australian troops detained a number of locals, including a woman, during the operation. President Karzai says the Australian forces acted unilaterally and he wants a full inquiry into the situation. The latest incidents have highlighted the problems "green on blue" killings are causing for western forces in Afghanistan. At least 45 Western soldiers have died at the hands of Afghan allies this year. Now ISAF has suspended the training of new recruits to the Afghan local police. NATO spokesman Colonel Thomas Collins: THOMAS COLLINS: As you know we've had a problem here with some security challenges. Eventually there will be a tightening of the vetting procedures across the force and we've already begun working with the Afghan government on how we can make the vetting process better. MICHAEL EDWARDS: Complaints about Afghan local police range from corruption within its ranks to allegations its members rape and kill innocent civilians. Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan says it's a program with a range of serious problems. HEATHER BARR: First is with the vetting, which is the issue that's come up today and has finally caused a reaction. There are also serious problems with the command and control structures for the Afghan local police as well as in terms of accountability mechanisms for what's in place when something goes wrong. MICHAEL EDWARDS: ISAF has high hopes that the Afghan local police will be an effective force against the Taliban at a local level after 2014. But Heather Barr is sceptical that it can be turned into an efficient and reliable counterbalance to the insurgents. HEATHER BARR: It's really difficult to repair a program at this stage and especially with this 2014 deadline looming. So it's certainly big news that the US has seen that there are issues and is working to resolve them. But it's frustrating indeed that it took so long and that there are so many abuses and lives that have been lost in the process. MICHAEL EDWARDS: ISAF says it could take a couple of months before training of Afghan local police recruits resumes. It says training of other Afghan security forces - including the army - continues.