Saturday, August 17, 2013
Add a former Republican president's daughter to the list of supporters for a Hillary Clinton presidential run. In an upcoming interview with People Magazine, George W. Bush's daughter Barbara said she'd like to see the "unbelievably accomplished" Clinton enter the 2016 presidential race, CNN reported Thursday. According to the Hill, Bush's interview with People will appear in the Aug. 26 issue. When asked if she would vote for Clinton, Bush wasn't as certain, saying that she didn't know "who'd she be running against." Speculation surrounding a possible Clinton 2016 run has been abound this summer. During a Monday chat with BuzzFeed Brews, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was asked if he knew what his wife Huma Abedin's role would be in a Clinton campaign. Weiner replied "I do," but backtracked from the comment the following day, calling it "a joke." Bush is not the only one who appears to be hopeful of a Clinton run. HuffPost Pollster's latest compilation of 14 available polls on the 2016 National Democratic Primary finds Clinton earning 61.3 percent support.
The presidency held a press conference Saturday afternoon to address their stance concerning the current situation since Wednesday’s dispersal of the two pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-ins. Mostafa Hegazy, a political strategist and former professor at the University of South California, who was appointed by interim President Adly Mansour as the presidency’s political adviser held the press conference. Hegazy started the conference with an introduction in English directed at foreign media, then allowed a translator to translate it into Arabic, and vice versa. Hegazy said the people “expressed their view against religious fascism and [those] who wanted to strip away Egyptians from their ‘Egyptian-ism’.” He continued saying that the presidential office is clear regarding their respect of “freedom of protest and expression”. The spokesman was asked questions regarding international media in response to which he listed a series of events that international media failed to cover such as the burning of churches as well as the attack of police stations. A reporter asked Hegazy regarding “the international diplomatic position” of the presidency regarding Qatar and other states to which he answered: “every situation will be dealt with according to its time” and “Egypt has proper analysis of the international stance currently, who stand with terrorism and who doesn’t.” Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood leaders captured and their trials Hegazy stated that trials will begin “as soon as all leaders with arrest warrants are captured.” A French journalist asked Hegazy that he heard about a mass grave within Rabaa Al-Adaweya however after visiting he did not find the grave, with Hegazy answering: “other media outlets have seen it.” Regarding the Brotherhood’s political presence Hegazy said that if “anyone from [the] Muslim brotherhood or non-Muslim Brotherhood, would like to join Egyptian movement towards democracy peacefully they’ll be more than welcome.” He affirmed that the current situation cannot be justified as a political disagreement: “this is terrorism…and we give the people who went out on the 30th a promise, we will combat terrorism, we are at war with terrorism at the moment and Egypt will defend its sovereignty.” He ended by saying: “Egyptian people have had their say on June 30th refusing religious fascism, the brotherhood should join the peoples wish.” He stressed on the importance of a legal frame for the state to be present through a “constitution for all Egyptians by all Egyptians”
After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like “prisoners of war” before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob. In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism.Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 per cent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt’s military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi’s reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide. One of the world’s oldest Christian communities has generally kept a low-profile, but has become more politically active since Mubarak was ousted and Christians sought to ensure fair treatment in the aftermath. Many Morsi supporters say Christians played a disproportionately large role in the days of mass rallies, with millions demanding that he step down ahead of the coup. Despite the violence, Egypt’s Coptic Christian church renewed its commitment to the new political order Friday, saying in a statement that it stood by the army and the police in their fight against “the armed violent groups and black terrorism.” While the Christians of Egypt have endured attacks by extremists, they have drawn closer to moderate Muslims in some places, in a rare show of solidarity. Hundreds from both communities thronged two monasteries in the province of Bani Suef south of Cairo to thwart what they had expected to be imminent attacks on Saturday, local activist Girgis Waheeb said. Activists reported similar examples elsewhere in regions south of Cairo, but not enough to provide effective protection of churches and monasteries. Waheeb, other activists and victims of the latest wave of attacks blame the police as much as hard-line Islamists for what happened. The attacks, they said, coincided with assaults on police stations in provinces like Bani Suef and Minya, leaving most police pinned down to defend their stations or reinforcing others rather than rushing to the rescue of Christians under attack. Another Christian activist, Ezzat Ibrahim of Minya, a province also south of Cairo where Christians make up around 35 per cent of the population, said police have melted away from seven of the region’s nine districts, leaving the extremists to act with near impunity. Two Christians have been killed since Wednesday, including a taxi driver who strayed into a protest by Morsi supporters in Alexandria and another man who was shot to death by Islamists in the southern province of Sohag, according to security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information. The attacks served as a reminder that Islamists, while on the defensive in Cairo, maintain influence and the ability to stage violence in provincial strongholds with a large minority of Christians. Gamaa Islamiya, the hard-line Islamist group that wields considerable influence in provinces south of Cairo, denied any link to the attacks. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has led the defiant protest against Morsi’s ouster, has condemned the attacks, spokesman Mourad Ali said. Sister Manal is the principal of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef. She was having breakfast with two visiting nuns when news broke of the clearance of the two sit-in camps by police which killed hundreds. In an ordeal that lasted about six hours, she, sisters Abeer and Demiana and a handful of school employees saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaeda. By the time the Islamists ordered them out, fire was raging at every corner of the 115-year-old main building and two recent additions. Money saved for a new school was gone, said Manal, and every computer, projector, desk and chair was hauled away. Frantic SOS calls to the police, including senior officers with children at the school, produced promises of quick response but no one came.The Islamists gave her just enough time to grab some clothes. In an hourlong telephone interview with The Associated Press, Manal, 47, recounted her ordeal while trapped at the school with others as the fire raged in the ground floor and a battle between police and Islamists went on out on the street. At times she was overwhelmed by the toxic fumes from the fire in the library or the whiffs of tears gas used by the police outside. Sister Manal recalled being told a week earlier by the policeman father of one pupil that her school was targeted by hard-line Islamists convinced that it was giving an inappropriate education to Muslim children. She paid no attention, comfortable in the belief that a school that had an equal number of Muslim and Christian pupils could not be targeted by Muslim extremists. She was wrong. The school has a high-profile location. It is across the road from the main railway station and adjacent to a busy bus terminal that in recent weeks attracted a large number of Islamists headed to Cairo to join the larger of two sit-in camps by Morsi’s supporters. The area of the school is also in one of Bani Suef’s main bastions of Islamists from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis. “We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us,” she said. “At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us,” she said. A Muslim woman who once taught at the school spotted Manal and the two other nuns as they walked past her home, attracting a crowd of curious onlookers. “I remembered her, her name is Saadiyah. She offered to take us in and said she can protect us since her son-in-law was a policeman. We accepted her offer,” she said. Two Christian women employed by the school, siblings Wardah and Bedour, had to fight their way out of the mob, while groped, hit and insulted by the extremists. “I looked at that and it was very nasty,” said Manal. The incident at the Franciscan school was repeated at Minya where a Catholic school was razed to the ground by an arson attack and a Christian orphanage was also torched. “I am terrified and unable to focus,” said Boulos Fahmy, the pastor of a Catholic church a short distance away from Manal’s school. “I am expecting an attack on my church any time now,” he said Saturday. Bishoy Alfons Naguib, a 33-year-old businessman from Minya, has a similarly harrowing story. His home supplies store on a main commercial street in the provincial capital, also called Minya, was torched this week and the flames consumed everything inside. “A neighbour called me and said the store was on fire. When I arrived, three extremists with knifes approached me menacingly when they realized I was the owner,” recounted Naguib. His father and brother pleaded with the men to spare him. Luckily, he said, someone shouted that a Christian boy was filming the proceedings using his cellphone, so the crowd rushed toward the boy shouting “Nusrani, Nusrani,” the Quranic word for Christians which has become a derogatory way of referring to them in today’s Egypt. Naguib ran up a nearby building where he has an apartment and locked himself in. After waiting there for a while, he left the apartment, ran up to the roof and jumped to the next door building, then exited at a safe distance from the crowd. “On our Mustafa Fahmy street, the Islamists had earlier painted a red X on Muslim stores and a black X on Christian stores,” he said. “You can be sure that the ones with a red X are intact.” In Fayoum, an oasis province southwest of Cairo, Islamists looted and torched five churches, according to Bishop Ibram, the local head of the Coptic Orthodox church, by far the largest of Egypt’s Christian denominations. He said he had instructed Christians and clerics alike not to try to resist the mobs of Islamists, fearing any loss of life. “The looters were so diligent that they came back to one of the five churches they had ransacked to see if they can get more,” he told the AP. “They were loading our chairs and benches on trucks and when they had no space for more, they destroyed them.”
http://www.egyptindependent.com/Egypt's prime minister has proposed disbanding the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohamed Morsy, the government said on Saturday, raising the stakes in a bloody struggle between the state and Islamists for control of the country. Live television showed a gunman firing at soldiers and police from the minaret of a central Cairo mosque, with security forces shooting back at the building where Morsy followers had taken shelter. Reuters witnesses said Morsy supporters also exchanged gunfire with security forces inside the mosque. The Interior Ministry said 173 people died in clashes across Egypt on Friday, bringing the death toll from three days of carnage to almost 800. Among those killed was a son of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, shot dead during a protest in Cairo's huge Ramses Square where about 95 people died in an afternoon of gunfire and mayhem on Friday. Egyptian authorities said they had rounded up more than 1,000 Islamists and surrounded Ramses Square following Friday's "Day of Rage" called by the Brotherhood to denounce a lethal crackdown on its followers on Wednesday. Witnesses said tear gas was fired into the mosque prayer room to try to flush everyone out and gunshots were heard. With anger rising on all sides, and no sign of a compromise in sight, Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy proposed the legal dissolution of the Brotherhood - a move that would force the group underground and could lead to a broad crackdown. "It is being studied currently," said government spokesman Sherif Shawky. The Brotherhood was officially dissolved by Egypt's military rulers in 1954, but registered itself as a non-governmental organization in March in a response to a court case brought by opponents of the group who were contesting its legality. Founded in 1928, the movement also has a legally registered political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, which was set up in 2011 after the uprising that led to the downfall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. "Reconciliation is there for those who hands are not sullied with blood," Shawky added. The Brotherhood won all five elections that followed the toppling of Mubarak, and Morsy governed the country for a year until he was undermined by mammoth rallies called by critics who denounced his rule as incompetent and partisan. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says he removed Morsy from office on July 3 to protect the country from possible civil war. MASS ARRESTS The Interior Ministry said that 1,004 Muslim Brotherhood "elements" had been arrested in the last 24 hours, accusing members of Morsy's movement of committing acts of terrorism. Amongst those detained on Saturday was Mohamed Al-Zawahiri, the brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, security sources said. The ministry also said that since Wednesday, 57 policemen were killed and 563 wounded in the violence. Almost 600 people died on Wednesday when police cleared out two Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo. Despite the growing bloodshed, the Islamist group has urged its supporters to take to the streets everyday for the coming week. "Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon," said the Brotherhood, which has accused the military of plotting the downfall of Morsy to regain the levers of power. Many Western allies have denounced the killings, including the United States, but Saudi Arabia threw its weight behind the army-backed government on Friday, accusing its old foe the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to destabilize Egypt. Worryingly for the army, violence was reported across Egypt on Friday, suggesting it will struggle to impose control on the vast, largely desert state. The government said 12 churches had been attacked and burned on Friday, blaming the Islamists for the destruction.
Bollywood actress Veena Malik allows Finnish artist Vesa Kivinen to paint landscapes directly on to her skin
Bollywood actress Veena Malik has collaborated with the Finnish artist Vesa Kivinen to produce a stunning series of portraits. The Indian-born star of Bollywood hit First Time volunteered her body as a canvas, allowing Kivinen to paint richly coloured landscape images directly on to her skin.
By DECLAN WALSH A weary familiarity hangs over the latest clashes between India and Pakistan, whose armies have traded artillery and accusations in recent days, jeopardizing new efforts to normalize relations between the two countries. Still, though the escalation and excoriation may fit an old pattern, analysts believe something important has changed this time. The military exchanges have been more serious, and they point to a new brittleness in the rivalry: one that is being exacerbated by the impending American troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, analysts say. It started in the disputed territory of Kashmir, with the deadliest episode of the past decade. On Aug. 6, the Indian Army accused Pakistan of orchestrating a cross-border ambush in which five Indian soldiers were killed. Pakistan angrily rejected that claim, then accused India of killing two civilians during a bout of tit-for-tat cross-border shellfire. Politicians issued heated warnings, the Parliaments in both countries passed condemnatory resolutions, and speculation grew that a meeting between the leaders of the two countries, set to take place at a United Nations summit meeting in New York next month, would be canceled. The military exchanges continued on Friday. Each side claimed the other had fired first. In some ways, this is nothing new. The two nuclear-armed countries have fought over the mountainous territory of Kashmir — which both claim in its entirety — since Pakistan was carved from British India in 1947. Border flare-ups have occurred many times before, and once tempers have calmed, diplomats on both sides resume the sputtering effort to normalize relations. But the latest violence comes after an unrivaled stretch of eased tensions over Kashmir, mostly thanks to a 2003 cease-fire that has suited both sides. Pakistan’s military has been preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan and, more recently, the threat from Taliban insurgents in the northwest. India, meanwhile, learned the limits of armed confrontation after the last major standoff, in 2002, and has concentrated on building its economy. But hard-liners in both countries remain firmly entrenched. And few doubt that the departure of American combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 will change the strategic calculus of circling hawks. Some Indians fear that, as the Americans leave Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military will use the moment to draw international attention back onto Kashmir, either by bargaining with the United States or by diverting jihadi fighters to the territory, as it did for much of the 1990s. “The Pakistanis will put up a price to assist with the transition in Afghanistan in 2014,” said Srinath Raghavan, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “Part of that price might be to mount pressure on India over Kashmir.” Pakistani officials, worried about the possibility of a wider Afghan conflict spilling over their borders, retort that they cannot afford new hostilities with India. As for Islamist collusion, they say Pakistan is already under threat from Taliban fighters, who recently mounted a major jailbreak in the northwest of the country. Moreover, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made a point of pledging to improve relations with India before he took office in June. He has a history of making overtures of peace to New Delhi, dating back to his last stint in power in the 1990s. He is under pressure from the business lobby in his native Punjab Province, which borders India, to bolster trade levels that, according to some estimates, could increase to $11 billion from $2 billion a year. The question is whether Pakistan’s generals will permit Mr. Sharif to deliver on his promises. The security establishments of both countries have become “a mirror image of each other,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general who has participated in back-channel peace efforts. “Neither wants peace. Whenever any movement takes place, they create bottlenecks and problems.” One ominous possibility, experts say, is that as American troops withdraw from Afghanistan next year, India and Pakistan will conduct their rivalry through proxy groups, a worry that was heightened by a suicide attack on an Indian consulate in eastern Afghanistan on Aug. 3. “I think that Afghanistan will be a major theater for them,” said Stephen P. Cohen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. For now, the most visible point of contention is in Kashmir. A top Indian general told reporters on Friday that India had killed 28 “terrorists” in the disputed territory since June 24, an unusually high number of casualties. As usual, it was difficult to confirm that assertion. Both armies tightly limit access to the disputed border, known as the Line of Control. And it can be harder still to circle the logic behind the bloodshed. After decades of strife, the cross-border exchanges of fire appear to have emotional rather than strategic value. Neither side realistically expects to gain ground, or to force the other to the negotiating table. One problem is that governments on both sides are relatively weak right now. Mr. Sharif is struggling to calibrate his relationship with the powerful Pakistani military, while in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Indian National Congress Party faces an election next year. Another is that Pakistan has refused to bend to Indian demands to rein in Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of the jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the country’s most prominent anti-India preacher. In February, Mr. Saeed, who lives in open sight in Lahore despite a $10 million United States bounty for information leading to his capture, warned that “just as America had to run away, then India, you will leave Kashmir.” This week, he led prayers outside Qaddafi Stadium, one of Pakistan’s largest cricket grounds. For the United States, increased hostility between Pakistan and India spells trouble, whether conducted in Kashmir or Afghanistan. American officials helped de-escalate the last major border showdown, in 2002, when one million Indian soldiers massed on the Pakistani border. That confrontation, and one three years earlier in which President Bill Clinton intervened, brought global concern about the possibility of a nuclear exchange. While no one is saying such a disaster is imminent, the episodes are present reminders of the risks involved in any tension between India and Pakistan. America’s other problem is its fragmented approach to the region. Even as the United States continues to pursue stronger economic ties with India, it depends on Pakistan to cooperate in Afghanistan and to crack down on militants sheltering in the northwestern tribal belt. Many analysts say that American attempts to walk that policy tightrope have often come across as incoherent. Mr. Cohen, the author, said he feared the Pakistan-India conflict could stretch on for decades longer. One hope, he said, is that the troop reduction in Afghanistan in 2014 will give Washington a chance to formulate a more holistic regional approach. “It’s like a kid who falls into a pile of manure and says, ‘Hey, there’s a pony around here somewhere,’ ” he said. But, Mr. Cohen added, that is unlikely to happen. “I’m not confident we’re going to do that,” he said. “It’s going to be a case of cut and run.”
The armies of India and Pakistan exchanged fire again on Saturday on the line-of-control (LoC) in Kashmir for the eighth straight day, officials said. The ceasefire violations took place along the LoC in Mendhar and Hamirpur of frontier Poonch district, around 185 km southwest of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. "Cease fire violations in Mendhar and Hamirpur battalion area started at 21:45 (local time) on Friday. The intermittent firing continues till the last reports came in," said S N Acharaya, Indian army spokesman in Jammu. "Small arms are being used and we are also retaliating." India's official broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) Saturday said two civilians were wounded in village Dera Dibsi of Mendhar sector when a mortar fired by Pakistani army exploded in village. LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts. Both India and Pakistan blame each other for resorting to unprovoked firing that has triggered skirmishes and resulted in civilian or troop casualties on either side. Last week five Indian troops were killed and another wounded in a deadly ambush near Sarla in Poonch. India accused Pakistani troops of entering into its territory and carrying out the attack, a charge Pakistan has denied. Following the incident a surge in ceasefire violations on LoC was recorded, after Indian Defense Minister A K Antony told media Indian armed forces have freedom to respond to the developing situation on the LoC appropriately. Officials said an exchange of fire was also reported along LoC in Kargil and Drass sectors of Ladakh division of the region. The killings and skirmishes on LoC have come at a time when New Delhi and Islamabad were trying to normalize ties and resume talks. Efforts have also been made for a meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly during the last week of September. The confrontation on LoC between the two armies however has heightened tension between New Delhi and Islamabad and overshadowed the resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue process. New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 agreed to observe a ceasefire along the international border and LoC in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the ceasefire remains in effect. The latest incidents of firing have put a question mark on the 2003 agreement of the two nuclear neighbors. Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.
Matthew HohAfter a decade of fighting it is easy to forget that America is still at war. But, in Afghanistan, combat operations are scheduled to continue for another year and a half. Even after the official 'end' to the war in December 2014, a number of American soldiers may remain in Afghanistan. Recent reports suggest that an agreement to keep American troops in Afghanistan may be imminent. U.S. soldiers have fought hard and bravely for nearly twelve years. However, now it is time for President Obama to bring them home -- all of them. Consider the troubling events that have occurred in 2013 alone. "Insider" attacks against American forces persist, while the insurgency continues to mount suicide attacks in Afghanistan's cities. The United Nations recently reported that civilian casualties are up 38 percent compared to the same time period last year, and the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office found insurgent attacks to be up 47 percent from last year. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has stopped releasing its own data on the war, after the Associated Press found the Pentagon to be manipulating data to falsely claim progress. It is clear that the American military strategy, embraced in 2009 by President Obama to force the Taliban to the negotiation table, has failed. Thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted. It is time to rethink the wisdom of maintaining an American footprint. Some stubbornly insist that U.S. soldiers must remain in Afghanistan to help promote stability. In fact, the reverse is true: the presence of foreign soldiers is actually furthering instability. The Karzai government is the weakest it has been politically since its inception, the insurgency is broader and stronger than at any point since 2001, and warlords once again control fiefdoms. The presence of U.S. troops continues to provoke resentment among the population and helps the Taliban recruit people to its cause. Furthermore, the new government that will take over Afghanistan in 2014 will lose legitimacy if it is seen as playing host to an ongoing American occupation. It is crucial to establish a popularly supported government in Afghanistan and the U.S. military must recognize that its presence is detracting from, not promoting, that goal. Another justification for keeping troops in Afghanistan is the training of the Afghan army. Building a modern army in an impoverished, politically fractured country is no easy task. The U.S. has attempted to create an American-style army that is not well suited to confront either the insurgency in Afghanistan, or -- more importantly -- the underlying political problems that foster the insurgency. Moreover, ethnic and cultural divisions, high rates of desertion, and a deep mistrust of its American partners hinder the Afghan army. It is unlikely that several more years of training by Americans, as well intentioned as they are, will do anything to change these conditions. The problems do not end at Afghanistan's borders. In fact, the biggest obstacles to stability may be the constant friction between the U.S. and Afghanistan's neighbors, Pakistan and Iran. Both countries, under other circumstances, would have an interest in a peaceful, well-governed Afghanistan. However, as long as America maintains a presence on their borders, Pakistan and Iran will focus on undermining the U.S. -- by promoting instability in Afghanistan. Whether by sponsoring terrorist attacks or turning a blind eye to drug trade across the border, Pakistan and Iran are able and willing to undermine any security gains made by U.S. and Afghan forces. The best hope for resolving this deadly stalemate is to take the United States out of the equation. It is time to admit our continued military role in Afghanistan is counter-productive and there is little reason to keep American men and women caught in the crossfire. The U.S. government has made a number of costly mistakes in executing what has become the longest war in our history. President Obama can avoid making one final mistake. He should announce the U.S. has accomplished all it can hope to do militarily in Afghanistan and that no troops will remain there after December 31, 2014. After almost twelve years of US war and occupation we owe it to the people of Afghanistan, and to the thousands of Americans still serving in harm's way, to get this one right.
By Michael Brough The writer, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was a combat adviser in Iraq in 2011. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the position of the U.S. government.
Two days before the U.S. military mission in Iraq formally ended in 2011, I left with the last convoy of Americans from Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, south of Baghdad. Safely crossing the border into Kuwait meant that we had accomplished our most important mission: getting out of the country alive, without any strategic blunders. If the U.S. troops in Afghanistan also can attain this goal, which will not be easy, they will have achieved the best we can hope for in that country. Now, as in the last days of Iraq, U.S. hopes are muted. Previous aspirations for democracy and freedom have shrunk, and most of us will be happy if the United States can extricate itself quietly without further damage or embarrassment. The cornerstone of the plan to exit Iraq was the training of Iraqi police and military forces, enabling them to create a safe environment during and after our departure. It’s the centerpiece of operations in Afghanistan, as well. As the months march toward the end of the major U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the stresses on units will grow. Life becomes increasingly austere at the end: creature comforts vanish, food quality worsens, mail stops. Tactically, the focus alters. Yesterday’s top priorities — defeating the enemy, building up the indigenous forces — become less important than leaving with each soldier safe. It becomes clearer by the day that, barring some deus ex machina, the U.S. endeavor will make no strategically significant gains, though the potential for significant losses increases by the week. As troop densities diminish, soldiers take on new tasks, each of which constitutes a distraction from combat missions. Accounting for the detritus accumulated through a decade of war is not simple, nor is packing up and preparing for departure. As a result of these tasks, gradually decreasing combat power and the desire to avoid rankling local civilians, soldiers will confine their patrols to areas close to the base and directly linked to U.S. force protection. Challenges will increase toward the end, as surveillance equipment, interpreters and weapons systems disappear. U.S. units will need to transfer security responsibilities to Afghans as we did to Iraqis and they will need to pray those forces hold their ground. If the situation in Afghanistan mirrors ours in 2011 Iraq, U.S. troops will find themselves in a quickly changing relationship with their host nation. For years, the Iraqi security forces were the recipients of U.S. largesse, which both outfitted them with needed equipment and supplies and obligated them to support the U.S. mission. The situation changes as the flow of materiel slows. At some point, U.S. forces in Afghanistan will have no more to give their counterparts, and it will be time for the Afghan national security forces to work through their own systems for repair parts, construction materials and medicine. The Afghans, like the Iraqis, will do without some vital provisions. And they will no longer be compelled by their reliance on us to cooperate. Goodwill and trust became the keys to our survival in Iraq, and they will be central again in the withdrawal from Afghanistan. We met regularly with the Iraqi generals in charge of the province’s police and army capabilities, and their subordinate elements worked with our patrols daily. At the same time, our Iraqi partners began to distance themselves from us. Some had long-standing familial or ideological ties with our enemies. Even our friends no doubt saw that closeness with us — which previously had been the ticket to significant benefits — might become a liability after our departure. Therefore, we did not wholly trust the Iraqi security forces. We well understood that the last moments at Kalsu would be the most dangerous, so when our Iraqi partners inquired about our departure plans, we temporized. Our small deceptions hid the details from our friends. One example: We challenged the Iraqi forces to a soccer tournament at Kalsu, and even bought soccer uniforms and a trophy from an Iraqi vendor. By the tournament date, of course, we were in Kuwait. This sort of paradoxical arrangement will color the last months in Afghanistan. U.S. units will increasingly rely for their safety on their Afghan counterparts but will not completely trust them. In Iraq, our course of cautious reliance proved successful. As we left Iraq in 2011, we worried about the Iraqis’ dependability. Were they proficient enough to prevent attacks? Were they committed enough to want to? The recent spate of green-on-blue violence in Afghanistan complicates an already complex relationship between Afghan national security forces and Americans. The challenge for U.S. forces will be to navigate between trust and distrust of Afghans so their transition, like ours more than a year ago, will be uneventful. The best outcome for the U.S. departure from Afghanistan? A safe exodus and a slow news day. Read more from Opinions: Marc A. Thiessen: ‘Core al-Qaeda’ is not defeated The Post’s View: Wishful thinking in the war on terror Zalmay Khalilzad: Afghanistan deal faces many hurdles Michael O’Hanlon: U.S. troops should not abandon Afghanistan Timothy Kudo: I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong?
It is almost 10pm and the wireless set keeps buzzing with terror alerts as the officer, who has just come to a chowki in Peshawar’s suburbs after attending a meeting, has alerted the force. A militant commander has openly challenged police to foil a massive attack as people are out on the streets to celebrate independence of the country. The fact that such an attack can be made anywhere and hit anyone would now keep the police awake for the entire night. As the officer is busy issuing orders, an SHO enters with a young girl and hand-cuffed boy, who have some family dispute. While he is busy solving their issue, more bad news comes in. Another post on the suburbs of Peshawar is facing attack from heavily armed militants, who reportedly outnumber the law enforcers deployed at that post. The case of the family dispute is pushed automatically to one side when more serious terror threat comes in. Police obviously are over-burdened with policing as well as fighting militancy. The job pattern of police has been changed over a decade or so. Along with nabbing criminals, they are now fighting militancy but from their attitude to security checks every thing is still old fashioned. The fact that the police job is tougher than any other duty is evident from the fact that more than 1,000 policemen have been killed in the ongoing war against terrorism. Police are the first line of defence against terrorists in the settled areas. However, the new chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spares no opportunity to scold police and one of his ministers also blatantly calls the force ‘coward’. While many policemen find these remarks demoralising, a recent media statement of Inspector General of Police Ihsan Ghani comparing the fight against militancy to that of a batsman (police) and a bowler (militants) also did nothing much to boost the morale of the force. In fact, the effect was quite the opposite.“Officers are laying down their lives and all that he (IGP) can think of is a cricket match,” says one critic. It is learnt that 106 attacks have been carried out against police since January to July this year. Moreover, out of these attacks 56 have taken place till May 31 and 32 attacks have targeted police since the formation of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government in the province. “We have held so many funerals and lost so many officials that we need consolation and not reprimand,” says a policeman. Demoralising statements from the top and the targeted killing of police have affected the officers, who worry for their own safety as well as that of the people in the province. “In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government is following a policy of appeasing Taliban. There has been no attack on anyone but only police except a few extortion-related blasts since it came to power,” says a critic, who compares the present situation in the province to the killing of those police officers, who took part in the Karachi operation, ordered by the then interior minister Naseerullah Babar. All those police officers, who took part in the operation, were killed after the PPP government was removed and only those, who fled the country, survived. The previous government, which often used to condemn attacks on police, was also targeted but the incumbent set-up till now is quite careful in condemning such attacks. Those, who are sitting in fortified buildings and issuing demoralising statements, should come out of the mental and physical siege to realise the situation faced by police. Interviews with policemen of different ranks reveal that a lot can be done to boost morale of the force. A policeman, deployed in the conflict-hit region, is unhappy as his salary is lesser as compared to that of Punjab Police. He says that his uniform and bullet-proof jacket are of inferior quality. Often without any proper safety-measures, the policeman risks his life during search for explosive-laden vehicles. A policeman having a gun with 30-rounds is often faced with a situation where he has to fight a herd of militants carrying rocket launchers and modern sophisticated guns. “Police are tired and hurt in this fight and need a pat on the back not taunts and poking,” says a police officer, who himself has narrowly escaped in many encounters with militants. “The fight against terrorism is an undeclared ‘Third World War’ and we are fighting it,” opines a police officer, who suggests that what police need is more special training, intelligence gathering and communication equipment to fight terrorism since the nature of police’s job has changed. Most of the policemen are not living a normal life. Now they have hardly any time for their families or rest. “My children hardly spend time with their father and I myself am scared all the time for his safety,” says wife of a young police officer. Some people, who may mistake police defensive strategy and lack of specific intelligence and modern weapons for their cowardice, forget that police are not meant for fighting terrorism. Like the previous government, which overcame the problem of police desertions in militancy-affected Swat by enhancing package for the killed officials and doubling their salaries, the least the present government can do is to back police in the fight against terrorism.
Islamabad police has been unnecessarily criticized for its handling of the incident in which an armed man, accompanied by his wife and two children, held Islamabad hostage for five hours. Sikandar choked life on Jinnah Avenue armed with two automatic weapons, and his demeanour suggested any attempt to take him out at once might harm his family. His shifting demands, where at one time he wanted to impose Shariah in Pakistan and at another referred to himself as a man on a mission to kill some high profile personality in the capital, compelled the police to show restraint. He was thought to be drunk and had even demanded the government should step down. Through what seemed like a war of nerves, the administration wanted to capture the man alive as advised by the interior minister, once he was exhausted. Then, Zamurad Khan, a PPP stalwart, who ostensibly could not tolerate the humiliation Sikandar was subjecting the country to, decided to intervene even at the risk of putting his life in harm’s way. After the prolonged standoff and the police’s negotiations failed to end the drama, Zamurad Khan used the ploy of meeting Sikandar’s children to attempt to overpower Sikandar, but failed. Sikandar was then shot in the chest and leg by police commandos. It was both a daring and a risky step taken by Zamurad. That the man held Islamabad hostage for five hours is not as big an issue as the media and commentators have made out. Standard operating procedure in such situations is to try and wear down the protagonist and thereby avoid unnecessary loss of life. The more important question is how Sikandar with two automatic weapons could enter the highly guarded areas of Islamabad through all the check posts that dot the roads. It goes without saying that he was helped to pass over these hurdles because he was accompanied by his wife and children, as the check posts usually let cars containing families go easily. Such consideration for women and children stemming from our cultural norms needs to be reassessed when the country is passing through dire times. Another security lapse occurred when Zamurad was allowed to approach the man. If the police had a plan, why did it allow someone, even with the best of intentions, to take such a big risk? What if in the process Zamurad or the woman and children had been killed? Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered an inquiry into why Zamurad was allowed to intervene. This strange encounter is a reminder that a lot of spadework is still pending to secure the country.
Daily TimesInterior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had a tough time facing the media, as he remained unable to give satisfactory answers regarding security concerns at a press conference on the issue of the Islamabad gunman drama. The minister accepted his responsibility for restricting the police to open fire on the gunman and endangering lives of senior police officers by saying “they are meant for dangers”. About maligning Pakistan’s security image abroad, he could respond vaguely and held the live coverage by the national media responsible. Chaudhry Nisar said although the intention of PPP leader Zamurd Khan was fair, he should not have interfered in the security operation. He said all police officers, including senior officials, would be suspended for allowing Zamurd to breach security. When asked why an FIR was not being registered against Zamurd for his interference in the security operation, the interior minister said this would not be an appropriate step. Nisar also accepted the responsibility for prolonging the operation for so long. However, he held the media responsible in this regards. “I don’t want to become ‘Sultan Rahi’; otherwise it was hardly a 30-minute operation. I ordered [the authorities] to approach the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and stop the live coverage for 15 to 30 minutes for conducting the operation; however, this was not ensured,” he remarked. When Daily Times asked why at the cost of national repute and the repute of law enforcement agencies the police were not allowed to take action, he remained unable to give any satisfactory response. “I had analysed that there was no threat from this man; therefore. I ordered [the police] to catch him alive, because I did not want [the police] to attack him before his children and wife.” Chaudhry Nisar said they have learnt many lessons from the incident and “we have identified our weaknesses, like inability to conduct any police operation in the dark, unavailability of infrared guns and stun guns and stun bullets, and the procedure to isolate the crime scene”. The minister said there were two main demands of the gunman; first to get his son freed from Abu Dhabi’s prison, and second to allow him to go to UAE embassy along with his weapons. The minister said the first demand was unmanageable, however, to the surprise of many media persons present there, he said there was no problem in accepting his second demand. To another query about PPP leader Zamurd Khan, he said Zamurd tried to show his bravery, but he could not overpower the gunman. He said the PPP leader could have been hit, but fortunately the bullet got struck in the gun chamber. He said the condition of the gunman, Sikandar Hayat, was critical, but he was now stable. “He remained on a ventilator for nine hours, and at 12:30pm on Friday, he started breathing on his own.” The minister said that Sikandar was an addict, and according to his wife, he got off drugs in March this year. Nisar said he had given three orders when he received information about the incident. “First, there should be no fire if he has not held anyone hostage, second, there should be no violence in front of the children, and third, he should be arrested alive.”
One armed man, Sikandar, broke the myth of the special security arrangement in Islamabad. The man, whether insane or a terrorist, not only crossed the many layers of security check posts but reached the heart of the metropolis in a car with a machine gun, Kalashnikov and a sack full of ammunition. For full five hours the drama was seen on television throughout the world. Many are asking the question: what if there were a dozen armed men playing the same drama in various parts of the city? Sikandar was not hiding inside a building and threatening to blow a school full of children or a hospital full of patients if he was attacked or tried to be arrested. He had with him his wife and two children whom he used as human shield and even that not very effectively. He often strayed away from them and gave enough space to the sharpshooters, if there had been any, to shoot him in the legs without hurting his family.. Sharpshooters are a necessary part of any city police who, as a last resort, shoots anyone who holds a building or any place and holding people hostage. One of the many questions teasing the mind is how could the PPP man break the police circle and go near Sikandar at all. Another question: why was there not enough police force to drive away the people crowding the place since any shooting by the armed man could have ended the lives of the onlookers. The interior minister explanation that he had ordered that no one should be hurt and the police refrained from taking action because of this particular order does not seem believable. Sikandar was yards away from his children and wife when Zamrud Khan made a dash at him. At such a distance, any man who had done some target shooting could have shot the culprit in the legs without endangering the wife and children. Such a drama would not have been allowed in the capital of any country and there would have been preparations and arrangements to meet such eventualities even if that state was not involved in a full blown war against terrorism. Men such as Sikandar cannot do real harm but they can make the security staff look inept and stupid which Sikandar did. It made the Islamabad Police the laughing stock of the world and encouraged the terrorists when they saw the ineffectiveness of the law enforcing agencies there. It, however, gave a wake up call to the government, especially, the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan. If he is not ready to roll some heads in the police department after the incident; whatever, he says in press conferences will be hardly credible. The interior minister must have devised a very good system to fight terrorism but with the present unprofessional attitude of the police force, it is not going to work: even a good system needs good men and women to run it. Chaudhry Nisar can be given the benefit of doubt that he as yet does not know the individuals commanding the police force but this cannot go on forever; he has to show some performance. He has to bring the law enforcing agencies throughout the country in shape and if the Islamabad police force, under his very nose, cannot be geared up to face the challenges, how can the nation expect him to make improvements in the provinces where the police is not even under his direct control. Sikandar has taught a valuable lesson. He in his own way has told the whole country how unwilling, inept the whole Islamabad police department was and how it was not ready to face the security problems which were expected to increase if the PML-N government started a serious operation against the terrorists. If Islamabad Police is so inept who bad things can be in the police departments in the provinces. Sikandar challenged the writ of the state and all Islamabad police could do was follow him and tap dance around him wherever he stopped. Here is the crux of the matter: a) Islamabad police is not well-trained to carryout ordinary daily duties; b) it has no leadership within the department; c) it is not trained to deal with lone gunman gone berserk; d) it definitely has no training to carryout operation in a synchronised manner in the face of terrorism; e) it does not have sharpshooters to single out the culprits and take advantage of the chances to shoot them without harming ordinary citizens; f) in-charges at different levels in the departments are apparently hesitant to target could-be terrorists for fear of retaliation. The remedy is simple: high-ups who have gone up the ladder without showing unusual performance should be, at least, taken off field positions. Educational qualifications and past records of all high and low police officials should be checked and anyone found wanting should be fired. The training at the police academy needs to be improved with special emphasis on dealing with terrorists. All officials should be given refresher courses to make them aware of the modern techniques. Modern weapons and gear should be provided to all policemen. It should be done all over the country not just Islamabad as without doing that we cannot fight the war against terrorism.
The Express TribuneAwami National Party leader Najma Haneef was shot dead in the Hayatabad area of Peshawar on Friday evening. According to police reports, the ANP candidate was shot in the head by unknown assailants inside her house in Phase I of the locality. Police officials said they were informed half an hour after the incident since she was alone in the house. The attackers managed to escape the scene. ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan condemned the killing and appealed to the provincial government to catch the perpetrators. Soon after the incident, police launched a search operation in the area and arrested some suspects while her body was sent for a postmortem. Her husband, ANP Tehsil Nazim Haneef Jadoon was earlier killed in a suicide attack in Swabi on the second day of Eidul Fitr in 2011. At the time, he was accompanied by their two sons, a guard and a worker.