Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category
Rod Nordland, The New York Times, April 18, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — First, American officials were talking about July 2011 as the date to begin the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then, the Americans and their NATO allies began to talk about transition, gradually handing over control of the war to the Afghans until finally pulling out in 2014. Now, however, the talk is all about what happens after 2014.
Afghanistan and the United States are in the midst of negotiating what they are calling a Strategic Partnership Declaration for beyond 2014.
Critics, including many of Afghanistan’s neighbors, call it the Permanent Bases Agreement — or, in a more cynical vein, Great Game 3.0, drawing a comparison with the ill-fated British and Russian rivalry in the region during the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is without doubt a delicate process, and one that comes at a critical time. Afghan officials have expressed concern that the negotiations could scuttle peace talks with the Taliban, now in their early stages, because the insurgents have insisted that foreign forces must leave the country before they will deal. That they are already talking is an indication they are willing to compromise on the timing of a withdrawal — but it is hard to imagine Taliban acceptance of a lasting American presence here.
Formal talks on a long-term agreement began last month under Marc Grossman, the official who has replaced Richard C. Holbrooke, the diplomat who died in December, as the Obama administration’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a delegation visited Kabul under the direction of Frank Ruggiero, a State Department official who ran the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team until last year.
The reaction regionally was immediate. The Iranian interior minister made a rushed visit to Kabul, followed shortly by the national security advisers of India and Russia.
The Russians, though generally supportive of NATO’s role in Afghanistan, were alarmed at the prospect of a long-term Western presence.
“The Russian side supports the development of Afghanistan by its own forces in all areas — security, economic, political — only by its own forces, especially after 2014,” said Stepan Anikeev, a political adviser at the Russian Embassy here. “How is transition possible with these bases?”
Clinton advocates protracted draw-down in Afghanistan – “We need to underscore that we are transitioning, not leaving”
NATO initially planned to start the handover at the end of last year. But this was hampered by slow progress in building up Afghan forces and by an increase in insurgent violence, which hit its worst levels since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.
NATO has stressed the overall transition will be gradual and will depend on security conditions.
Matt Spetalnick, Reuters, April 14, 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned NATO allies on Thursday against a rush to the exit in the war in Afghanistan as they begin transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces.
Clinton urged NATO members to avoid “political expediency” as the security transition gets underway and also renewed a U.S. call for coalition members to finance a $1 billion “trust fund” to support the Afghan military in coming years.
“We need to worry less about how fast we can leave and more about how we can help the Afghan people build on the gains of the past 15 months,” she said in prepared remarks to a conference of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin.
With Americans increasingly weary of the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, Clinton reaffirmed the United States would start drawing down its forces there in July.
President Barack Obama has also backed NATO’s goal, agreed at a summit in November, to begin the handover to Afghan forces this year with the aim of completing the transition by the end of 2014.
But Clinton urged alliance members to take care as they gradually reduce their forces that they not jeopardize recent gains on the ground or show signs of weakness to Taliban insurgents.
She warned allies to expect a “violent spring fighting season” as the Taliban seek to reassert themselves.
“We have to steel ourselves and our publics for the possibility that the Taliban will resort to the most destructive and sensational attacks we have seen. We have to send a clear message that we remain united,” Clinton said.
Her comments underscored the increasing unpopularity of the Afghan war in the United States and Europe.
Adam Entous And Matthew Rosenberg, The Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2011
Pakistan has privately demanded the Central Intelligence Agency suspend drone strikes against militants on its territory, one of the U.S.’s most effective weapons against al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, officials said.
Pakistan has also asked the U.S. to reduce the number of U.S. intelligence and Special Operations personnel in the country, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
The U.S. strategy in the war in Afghanistan hinges on going after militants taking refuge in Pakistan. The breakdown in intelligence cooperation has cast a pall over U.S.-Pakistani relations, with some officials in both countries saying intelligence ties are at their lowest point since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks spurred the alliance.
Beyond the Afghan battlefield, officials believe that without a robust counterterrorism relationship with Pakistan, al Qaeda and other groups can operate with far greater impunity when planning attacks on the U.S. and Europe. The vast majority of attacks against the West in the last decade originated in Pakistan.
Relations have been under heightened strain since Pakistan’s arrest in January of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was jailed after killing two armed Pakistani men in Lahore on Jan. 27. Mr. Davis was released last month, but the case fueled Pakistani resentment over the presence of U.S. operatives in their country.
Pakistani officials complained that Mr. Davis and potentially dozens of other CIA operatives were working without Islamabad’s full knowledge.
Drone strikes are opposed by an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis, and are widely seen as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
+View full text of “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010”+
Stop preaching on rights: China to US
Indianexpress.com, April 11, 2011
China has asked “preacher” US to stop interfering in its internal affairs “under the pretext” of raising human rights issues, close on the heels of an annual State Department report slamming it for trying to limit freedom of speech and “arbitrarily” detaining activists.
“China and the US have disagreements on human rights issues, about which we are willing to engage in dialogue based on equality and mutual respect,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, reacting to the State Department’s report. “But we are firmly against interfering in our internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues,” Hong said.
With continuing economic growth, constantly improving democracy and law system, all ethnic groups in China enjoy extensive rights, Hong said. He urged US to reflect more on its own human rights issues rather than acting as a “preacher of human rights”.
China savages ‘poor’ US rights record
AFP, April 11, 2011
US society is plagued by violent crime, poverty, race and gender discrimination and a host of other ills, Beijing said in a scathing rebuttal of a US report criticising China’s human rights record.
The report released late Sunday by China’s government also lamented the bloodshed of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports of waterboarding and other harsh treatment of US enemy combatants, and said the American political system was in thrall to moneyed interests.
“The United States has turned a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation and seldom mentions it,” said the report, which is issued each year to rebut an annual US State Department report on human rights around the world.
HASHIM SHUKOOR, McClatchy Newspapers, April 5, 2011
A night raid by NATO-led forces killed six civilians in the relatively peaceful northern Afghan province of Sar-e-Pul, local officials said Tuesday, but a statement from the U.S.-led coalition said the dead were Taliban insurgents armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
The disagreement adds to the debate surrounding night raids, which have become a centerpiece of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan as coalition forces seek to kill or capture Taliban supporters. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked the International Security Assistance Force, the official name for the coalition, to halt the raids, one of which last month resulted in the death of a Karzai cousin in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
“[It’s] actually a consistent US policy of supporting ruthless and brutal dictators as long as they’re doing the bidding of the United States” – Jeremy Scahill
From RT News
Violence in the Arab world continued to escalate, as thousands of protesters in Yemen took to the streets demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist & author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” explained there is a solid contradiction between how the US is addressing Libya and how it is looking at Yemen.
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Jyoti Thottam, TIME, April 1, 2011
From the fourth floor of an office building in Gurgaon, a northern Indian city of tangled highways, yammering call centers and wandering livestock, Sanjay Gupta plays a bit part in the Great Game. His company, C&C Constructions, first ventured into Afghanistan in 2002. It started with a road from Kandahar to Spin Boldak, and then another one from Kandahar to Kabul. Over the past eight years, C&C has built more than 700 km of roads — worth about $250 million — and has subcontracted with USAID, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. “It’s good to see a country getting built,” Gupta says. “We also feel we contributed.”
C&C’s grandest project is the $125 million, bronze-domed Afghan parliament building. Funded by the Indian government and scheduled to be finished at the end of 2011, it will be the most prominent symbol of Indian efforts to help Afghanistan. But it may also be, at least for the time being, one of the last sizable manifestations of India’s $1.3 billion aid program. After a series of attacks targeting India’s presence in Afghanistan — including bombings of the Indian embassy in 2008 and 2009 — India is scaling back. Pakistan resents India’s presence in its backyard, and Indian companies like C&C fear they can no longer guarantee the safety of their workers. “There are elements who don’t want the Indian presence there,” says Gupta. “Maybe it’s time to wind up.”
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