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Sunday, 9 March 2008
George W. Bush really screwed the pooch. it's all bad news unless you smoke pot or the US owes you money.
Topic: War on Terror

Good news, the anti-opium effort in Afghanistan is starting to show signs of progress.

The IHT reports:

"Amid the multiplying frustrations of the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan, the northern province of Balkh has been hailed as a rare and glowing success . . . But largely ignored in the celebration was the fact that many farmers in Balkh simply switched from opium poppies to another illegal crop: cannabis, the herb from which marijuana and hashish are derived . . . Cannabis cultivation increased 40 percent around the country, to about 70,000 hectares this year - from about 50,000 hectares last year, the United Nations said in an August report."

Well, at the very least opium production is taking at hit, right?

Not really, it seems Iraq is moving in to take up the slack.

IHT reports:

"Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan . . . The shift to opium production is taking place in the well-irrigated land west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al Ghammas and Ash Shinafiyah."

The main opium activity is centered around the southern province of Diwaniya where we've been kind of at a loss to rein things in because the Shiites are in control and they're not too likely to be forming "concerned citizens" bridages any time soon. The Badr brigade and the Jaish al-Mahdi are fighting it out down there and we just tend to get in the way. It's still too early to see if growing poppies is going to work out, but if that doesn't work, Iraq always has weapons exports to fall back on.

IHT (again):

"Iraq has long been awash with guns. But after the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in late February, sectarian tensions exploded, and more Iraqis than ever have been buying, carrying and stockpiling weapons, adding an unnerving level of firepower to Baghdad's streets . . . The U.S. military has added to the arsenal also, by shipping in hundreds of thousands of firearms and millions of rounds of ammunition, in an effort to equip the fledging Iraqi security forces so U.S. troops will be able to leave."

In fact, we've added tens of thousands of weapons [about 190,000 to be exact] into the mix which the Pentagon can't account for.

NPR reports:

"Speaking on condition of anonymity . . . U.S. government officials stationed both in Washington and in the Middle East said it is possible that thousands of weapons given by the United States to the Iraqi army and police have slipped into the black market and into the hands of arms smugglers and terrorists operating in neighboring countries like Turkey."

Turkey? Yes, apparently, our weapons are ending up in the hands of the PKK, of all the darndest things. The very same PKK that Turkey launched an all out invasion of Iraq a few weeks ago to root out.

NPR:

"Professor Ihsan Bal, a terrorism expert from the International Strategic Research Center in Ankara, says that 'terrorists are ending up with American weapons.' Like top Turkish government officials, he stopped short of accusing the United States of directly arming the PKK. Instead, he blamed the small-arms proliferation on American negligence and mismanagement. But, Bal added, with American popularity among Turks at an all-time low, 'quite a number of people are ready to believe that America might have directly [given these] weapons to the terrorist organization.'"

I don't believe we're arming the PKK, the negligence and mismanagement charge sounds much more plausible. We're so damn good at it! And who  was in charge when all these weapons went missing?

The WaPo reports that a GAO report says:

"The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment. But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by gen. David H. Patraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq."

Huh, how about that? I feel a presidential medal coming on.

So, with all this oil, drug, and weapon money flowing around Iraq why are we spending any money there at all at this point?

The csmonitor reports a new study by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz says we're in a deep, deep money hole.

"'The cost is going up every month,' says Linda Bilmes, an expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She estimates the short-term, 'running cost' has reached $12.5 billion a month. That's up from $4.4 billion a month in 2003. Add in long-term factors, such as the care of veterans and interest on federal debt incurred as a result of the war, and the cost piles up to $25 billion a month nowadays."

$25 billion!

And that's not to mention the almost 4000 soldiers we've lost and the 40,000 or so wounded. I feel lots of presidential medals coming on!!!

[I know none of this is necessarily new, but you put it all together and it really doesn't take a genius to figure out George W. Bush has really screwed the pooch for us.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:58 PM EDT
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Thursday, 28 February 2008
Free Fouad al-Farhan!
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: War on Terror

 "You cannot expect people to believe in the promise of a better future when they are jailed for peacefully petitioning their government. And you cannot stand up a modern, confident nation when you do not allow people to voice their legitimate criticisms."     

 --- George W. Bush spaking in the UAE, Jan 13 2008 [CNN]

I don't mean to be turning this blog into an anti-Saudi type of thing, but  but they've really been getting on my nerves lately. The latest case to enrage me is the story of the Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan who was arrested by Saudi authorities this past December, according to Saudi top cop Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, because he violated the regulations of the kingdom" (whatever that means). Al-Turki tells CNN "He is being interrogated for local violations. The violation is not a security matter."

On jan 3 State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US government had raised the issue with the Saudis and the US Gov. made it "pretty clear" that "the United States stands for freedom of expression. It's an important element of any thriving society. It's a cornerstone of any democratic society."

McCormick says the message was conveyed in Washington to the Saudis "at a relatively senior level," but apparently the issue didn't rate high enough for Condi to get involved. AFP report that, "[McCormick] said it was it was from someone like an assistant secretary of state or a deputy assistant secretary of state." Why not the janitor or the yard guy for all the good it did?

Gosh, no wonder Faoud is still incommunicato, with friends like these . . . Naturally, who are we to lecture the Saudis about holding people without charges for months, when we've been holding hundreds of prisoners, many of them Saudis, for years at Gitmo. This is where our tarnished reputation kind of gets in the way. Thanks John Yoo and David Addington, nice company you keep.  

So anyway, our good friends the Saudis got themselves one of those dangerous bloggers, the GWOT is almost won! Well worth the zillions in weapons sales W. just poured into the royal family's bank accounts. 

No one seems quite sure why he was arrested but the Independent, who called for president Bush to interceed on his behalf the day he met with King Abdullah -- which, if he did at all, fell on deaf ears -- reports:

"It is unclear what Mr Farhan did that put him firmly on the radar of the Saudi authorities. It could have been the fact that in 2006 he complied with a request to stop blogging but then came back with a vengeance in July last year, with a posting 'Why do we blog? Here's 25 reasons' and ignored subsequent warnings. It may have been the fact he blogged in Arabic rather than English and so was reaching a wider domestic audience."

Al-Qaeda does that too, but they don't seemed to be all that concerened about that, as long as OBL & Co. focus all their rage on us and our allies. In any case, despite all the calls for Faoud to be released the Saudis are remain mum on the subject.  

CNN reports:

"A top Saudi blogger who was jailed late last year remains in prison more than two months later for unspecified, non-security matters — and there are few signs that he will be freed anytime soon. . . The Saudi government has been extremely quiet about the detention of Fouad al-Farhan, a 32-year-old father of two who has become a rallying cry for bloggers. Al-Farhan — known on the Internet as the 'Dean of Saudi Bloggers' — was arrested on December 10 shortly after one of his blog entries was critical of influential Saudi religious, business and media figures. 'He is still being investigated,' Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told CNN this week."

An article in the WaPo in 2006 quoted Farhan, who is a computer programmer who attended Eastern Washington University in Spokane, saying "You can't write whatever you want in the newspaper here; you can't even lift up a poster in protest, on the blog, it's a different world. It was the only way to express myself the way I wanted."

What planet is this guy living on? Probably one of the big reasons Faoud was arrested is because he dared use his real name. The Saudis aren't too good with rounding up bloggers who use pseudoyms. Because there are a lot of Saudi bloggers, my favorite being "Alhamedi Alanezi" (not his real name) the Religious Policeman, who unfortunately isn't blogging anymore, he's writing a book supossedly. And when he was blogging he was in London, a smart move where the thin-skinned royal family is concerned.

You know, the Saudis shouldn't be getting so upset about a few bloggers writing when there are so many more of their fellow countrymen going out to kill Americans, their good friends and customers. Reuters reported, about the same time Fouad got arrested, that:

"Most al Qaeda fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and Libya and many are university-aged students, said a study released on Wednesday by researchers at the U.S. Army's West Point military academy. The study was based on 606 personnel records collected by al Qaeda in Iraq and captured by coalition troops in October. It includes data on fighters who entered Iraq, largely through Syria, between August 2006 and August 2007."

Note that the second highest number of jihadis entering Iraq are from Libya, our other good friend Moammar Kadafi, who is considered to be a statesman these days by the likes of Tony Blair and French president Nicholas Sarkozy.

Sign a petition for the release of Faoud alFarhan at aicongress.org which is addressed to, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister, Adel Al-Jubair, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US,Nicholas Burns, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Ford Fraker, US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. [He'll be a big help!]

I'm sure that'll do a lot of good, but we have to do something, governments just can't go around arresting bloggers and journalists, right? It's that whole Freedom Agenda thing W. is always talking about. 

With friends like these . . .


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:42 PM EST
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Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Our good friends the Saudis:
Topic: War on Terror

It hasn't received too much attention in the US media, but the wacko Wahhabis, the religious nut jobs the Saudi royal family can't seem to survive without, have sentenced a woman to death by beheading for having sex with a demon.

Yes, the imfamous Saudi Religious Police, the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Mutawwa'), are up to their old tricks again. They seem to have something against women, because the when they're not accusing women like Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali of being a witchcraft, they're doing stuff like preventing firemen from saving the lives of young girls because they have the audacity to try and escape a burning building without their headscarves on! Imagine 

The BBC reports that Ali who is illiterate "was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read. Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent."

Human Rights Watch has petitioned King Abdullah to spare her life.

They write:

"Your Highness, the conviction of Fawza Falih for 'witchcraft' is a travesty of justice and reveals severe shortcomings in Saudi Arabia’s justice system. The crime of 'witchcraft' is not defined by law; judges breached safeguards for a fair trial in existing Saudi law; and there were significant procedural flaws throughout the trial which effectively eradicated her ability to defend herself against the ill-defined charges against her.  We remain convinced that Fawza Falih has not committed any crime at all.

The best part of all of this is that when she recanted her confession then they really wanted to put her to death because witches "are not given the opportunity to repent, because witchcraft is not eradicable by penitence."

 It's kind of like saying if we throw her into the water and she floats, she's a witch. If she sinks and drowns, she's not.   

Sure we talk a lot about the Taliban and their efforts to take Afghanistan back to the 14th Century, but not so much about the Saudis, who use their private 747s as time machines. They fly to the 21st century via New York and London to live their playboy lifestyle, drinking all the finest liquor and purchasing high-class call-girls. On Fridays they need to rush home to watch a good beheading in the public square, so they get back into their Wayback machine and go back to Saudi Arabia.   

Another story that didn't get too much play in the media, which also concerns the good works of the Saudis, is the attempted assassination of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives back in January. You might have heard that a Boy Scout saved the good President from a knife wielding jihadi yelling "Allahu Akbar!" but what you probably missed was that the Maldives, a peaceful Indian Ocean archipelico of 350,000 souls, is beset these days by not tourists, but jihadis trained in -- wait for it -- Pakistan, the country that's not, according to our War President, on the front lines of the GWOT (that's Iraq).  

The Economist reports this week that the government of the Maldives is in denial about the jihadi threat from abroad and has blamed, for instance, a bombing in November which injured 12 tourists, the work of homegrown extremists. Their story is that . . . 

"Scholars who studied in Pakistan and the Middle East in the 1980's and 1990's returned imbued with a conservative strain of Wahhabi Islam, and found the Maldives' young population receptive. In the past ten years more and more women have started wearing headscarves or burquas. Young men have tended to boycott government-licensed mosques."  

The authoritarian government of the Maldives has played right into the hands of the extremists by cracking down hard on the Wahhabi-types, which has naturally emboldened them even more.

Our good friends the Saudis ladies and gentlemen; spreading the most extreme from of radical Islam to all corners of the Earth, using the money we pump into our gas tanks everyday to recruit even more young men to come after us.    


Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:58 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008 5:53 PM EST
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Monday, 11 February 2008
Denying AQ a safe haven in Iraq. In our vitral interest?
Topic: War on Terror

In W.'s final SOTU speech he said: "The mission in Iraq has been difficult and trying for our nation. But it is in the vital interest of the United States that we succeed. A free Iraq will deny Al Qaeda a safe haven." 

The NYT reported on Sunday that JCS Adm. Mike Mullen would be making a trip that day to Islamabad to visit with our bastard in Rawalpindi Pervez Musharraf and his apparent Heir Apparent army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Mullen said he was exploring "news ways" to work with Musharraf & Co. to "improve the fight against terrorism." Huh uh, that's what CIA director Mike Hayden said, too; only his new way involved sending US Special Forces into the Waziristans, a proposition which Musharraf forcefully rejected.

According to many press reports US officials are expressing some "frustration" with the ever more tenuous security situation in Pakistan, hence the almost daily visits of a top US officials to Islamabad. DNI Adm. Mike McConell told Congress last week that he was convinced the next AQ attack on the US would have its origins in Pakistan.

He said AQH had, "regenerated its core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks in the homeland." By its use of the safe haven in Pakstan's border areas they have created a "staging area" for attacks into Afghanistan "as well as a location for training new terrorist operatives, for attacks in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States". [Atimes 

But no matter what the Americans seem to say to Musharraf, no matter the amount of arm-twisting -- and probably threats of bodily harm upon his physical person by Dick Cheney -- he doesn't seem to be getting the message.   

A case in point is the new peace treaty he just signed with Baitullah Mehsud last Thursday. Yes, you read correctly, yet another deal with Mehsud. US officials are said to be "frustrated" with this latest development. The Pakistanis deny they've made a deal, but the previous fighting going on between the Pakistani army and Mehsud's forces have stopped.

Isn't this the same guy who made $540,000 off of Musharraf in 2005 to pay-off his buddies in al-Qaeda? Wasn't he the one who made a deal with Musharraf in September of 2006 also? Baitullah is the guy who this past August held 250 Pakistani soldiers hostage, beheading 3 of them, right? When Musharraf declared his state of emergency to fight terrorism by rounding up peace activists and judges, he released 25 militants to Baitullah at the same time -- who are probably as we speak training suicide bombers or something equally messed up.  

ATimes reports: "The ceasefire deal, brokered by Taliban commanders Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Bakhta Jan, is face-saving for both the militants and the security forces and provides them with breathing space; they had reached a stalemate in South Waziristan. . . The Afghan Taliban see the ceasefire as the ideal opportunity to step up their preparations for their annual spring offensive - they rely heavily on the Pakistan border areas for manpower and provisions." 

Well, no kidding!

I can see why Musharraf remains in one piece, no suicide bombers going after him: He's too good to the Pakistani Talibs. Mehsud may be crazy, but he's not stupid. You don't go around blowing up your meal-ticket.

Naturally, it’s a mutually beneficial set-up; Mehsud & Co. keep up the scare in the unadministered territories, keeping US officials up nights, Musharraf turns around and says he's the only one the Americans can trust to deal with them, a line they keep swallowing hook, line and sinker and then he pays-off the Talibs while giving them quarter whenever things get too heavy for them.  A virtuous circle for all concerned, except for the next vicimts of Al-Qaeda's attacks in the West.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:10 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008 6:43 PM EST
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Friday, 8 February 2008
The GWOT gets a little harder -- impossible -- in Afghanistan
Topic: War on Terror

Things in Afghanistan are really, really going from bad to worse these days, which is saying something. Suicide bombers are plying the lobbies of the finest hotels in Kabul and Westerners are sealing themselves away from the people they're supposedly there to help in response, a la the Green Zone in Baghdad. Just as the "fighting season" (the Afghan national pastime) gets under way, senior US officials are piling up the frequent-flyer miles making the rounds of European capitals trying to get our reluctant NATO allies to put their troops where their mouths are -- because God knows we don't have any to spare --  all to no avail, however.  

Yesterday in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sec Def Robert Gates twisted arms in the background for more desperately needed troops but in public he insisted that things were going great. "I don't think there's a crisis, that there's a risk of failure. My view is that it represents, potentially, the opportunity to make further progress further in Afghanistan if we had more forces there," he said. Jedem sagt Deutsche Kanzler Angela Merkel "Nein;" and the same goes for Italy, France and the rest of NATO, except for Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and the Poles.  

None of our good friends are willing to risk what's needed to do what the US thinks is needed to finally put an end to the Taliban. (Funny I thought we'd already done that in 2001, but never mind that now, there's a GWOT to win.) Gates wasn't so upbeat when he told Congress the day before that NATO risked becoming a "two-tiered" organization with "some allies willing to fight and die to protect people's security, and others who are not."  

He's not helping his case much by insulting the ones who actually are fighting by saying they know nothing about fighting counterinsurgencies. The Brits for instance must be especially irked by those comments considering they've had a century of experience in these matters and the US is just now getting around to studying their tactics in Northern Ireland. Talk about chutzpa!   

Along with Gates' charm offensive Condi Rice is doing her part making another one of her famous "surprise" visits into a war zone this time the one in Afghanistan with her British counterpart David Miliband. Naturally, she treated us to another one of her mind boggling mistatements of the fact: "If you look at the Afghanistan of 2001 and the Afghanistan of now there is a remarkable difference for the better," she said. AP [And then the room broke out in peels of hysterical laughter! If only.]

In any case, she Miliband first made their way down to the Taliban's spiritual capital Kandahar before moving on to Kabul to rough up Hamid Karzai a bit over his intransigence over accepting the UK's choice for the UN's special envoy Patty Ashdown. The Brits and US seem to think they need someone in Kabul to bang heads together to get everybody on the same page, but Karzai is balking. Imagine that. The ingratitude!  

Not only is Karzai making waves about Ashdown but he's also been saying some not very friendly things about the way the British have been handling things down in Helmand province. He's especially torked off about the fact they he let himself be talking into sacking Helmond's governor, the incredibly corrupt and brutal tribal leader Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, back in 2005.

He's complained bitterly that since the British came in "the Taliban came," too. Now that he's fact to face with Condi & Co. and their bags of money for his Blackwater USA security detail he's claiming he was misquoted. But it's pretty clear these are not happy times in the GWOT.  

Speaking of the aforementioned Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, he's part of a family of the Alizai tribe who are locked in mortal combat with other tribes for control of the opium trade which is booming along with the power of the Taliban. If the Brits are going to get anywhere fighting the Talibs they're going to have to figure out some way to neutralize the Akhundzadas of Afghanistan at the same time they fight the Taliban, a tall order that no amount of troops is going to help.  

At least, the British are somewhat cognizant of that they're up against, not so much the US military. A case in point is the story of Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, the first Gitmo inmate to die of natural causes on Dec. 30. An Afghan hero of the war against the Russians and a foe of the Taliban he was picked up by US Special Forces in 2003 on the word of Akhundzada who had a beef with his family. Despite the intervention of several high ranking members of the Afghan government on his behalf, including the Afghan minister of energy and a general in the Border Guards, the US steadfastly refused to allow Hekmati to try to prove that he was innocent.

Of course, we all know W.'s kanga-Yoo court system at Gitmo is everything that could be desired as far as due process is concerned, but it does seem in this case the system might have failded slightly. According to the NYT Hekmati accused Akhundzada of turning him in to the Americans.

Although Akhundzada denied having done the deed, he agrees Hekmati wasn't a Talib. The NYT reports that he attributed Hekmati's arrest to "a mistake by American Special Forces. He said they were often fed false information." Gosh, where have we heard that before?

This case sounds similar to Dilawar, the 22 year-old Afghan taxi driver who was arrested, tortured and killed in 2002 at Bagram by his American interrogators. Based on information provided by an Afghan police chief who was taking bounty money from the Special Forces and then buying rockets to shell them, he was held and beaten until he died. [NYT]  

The false imprisonment and death of Hekmati is all the more ironic when one considers an article in this edition of NEWSWEEK about hundreds of Talibs, some of them senior members, being arrested and released for a bribe by the Afghan security forces. One such fighter is Mullah Jumah Khan who was arrested with six of his cohorts in Helmand province in 2006 by the Afghan police.

Within hours of their arrest the police and local tribal leaders had worked out the price for their release, $10,000. The Talibs claim to have a half a million dollars on hand for a bribe fund, just to get their people out of the pokey. Jumah Khan says, "It's funny, we kill each other on the battlefield, but once a mujahedin is arrested, the police become friendly for a price."  

And its not just poor Afghan police who engage in this sort of thing, The elite National Directorate of Security an organization, which according to NEWSWEEK, is "controlled by a powerful and nearly untouchable political clique from Panjshir Valley" runs its own secret court system and uses torture to elicit bribes. Nice bunch -- and surely a reliable source of information about who is and who is not a Talib.  

Judging by the unbelievable level of corruption in Afghanistan and the way the Tailbs appear to move around most of Afghanistan with impunity with the help of their boat-loads of drug money and the help their still getting from the Pakistani ISI -- it's not like they ever want to see a stable rival to the west, after all, no matter who's in control -- I'd say a "surprise" visit here and there and some happy talk about progress being made isn't going to get the job done by any stretch of the imagination.

More than a few thousand troops, the Afghan war needs a total re-think. Unfortunately, not from the bunch that's been mismanaging the whole show from the beginning.  No wonder the Europeans are reluctant to get bloodied in W.'s first blunder.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:55 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008 9:19 PM EST
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Friday, 1 February 2008
The CIA did it.
Topic: War on Terror

In his last State of the Union address W. said:

"A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. . . A free Iraq will be a friend of America, a partner in fighting terror, and a source of stability in a dangerous part of the world. By contrast, a failed Iraq would embolden the extremists . . . and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks on our friends, our allies, and our homeland."

Sounds more like the rapdly failing state of Pakistan to me. Where are attacks against our friends and Heimat more likely to come from than Pakistan? I can't think of a more dangerous place in the world right now than Pakistan's border areas. Oh yeah, and their nukes which they claim aren't loose.  

Musharraf insists we're not operating in Pakistan, but that missile attack yesterday on Abu Laith al-Libi must have been callled in by someone who knew where he was. 

Remember yesterday the Pakistanis were saying no one knew where the missile came from? 

The NYT reports:

"An American missile strike in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas killed a senior commander of Al Qaeda who had been involved in planning attacks on United States and NATO troops in Afghanistan, American officials said Thursday. . . American military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the subject involves covert operations, said the attack early Tuesday against a safe house in Khushali Torikel, a village in North Waziristan, was not carried out by a Pentagon-operated Predator. A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined comment on the missile attack and on the reports of Mr. Libi’s death."

That's a big shocker.

In relatiation, which came pretty swiftly . . .

AP reports:

"A suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint in North Waziristan on Friday, killing five government soldiers about two miles from the scene of a U.S. missile attack that had killed a top al-Qaida commander, officials said."

The US has not problem taking credit for the strike but the Pakistanis are not too eager to give ammunition to those saying we're forcing them to fight our war.

"A Pakistan government official spokeman in Islamabad said he had no information to prove al-Libi was killed in the strike."

Imagine, how the regular Pakistani army grunt must feel about this? We attack from the air and they get clobbered.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:50 PM EST
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Saturday, 24 November 2007
South Asia roundup
Topic: War on Terror

There is so much going on in South Asia these days I just don't know where to start.

The DAWN reports today that Nawaz Sharif will make another attempt ot make it back to Lahore tomorrow, which ought to be interesting. 

With all the shutting down of independent media under Musharraf's maritial law it's difficult to know what exactly is going on, but the DAWN seems to think there was some sort a deal made between Musharraf and Sharif.

Interestingly, ISI chief General Nadeem Taj went along with Musharraf to Saudi Arabia in his own plane.

DAWN reports:

"The ISI chief, who accompanied the president to Saudi Arabia, stayed back in Riyadh after Gen Musharraf’s entourage moved to Jeddah. Gen Nadeem Taj’s prolonged stay in the Saudi capital fuelled speculations that an understanding between the two leaders was on the cards. Sources said the ISI chief was again in Riyadh when Nawaz Sharif flew into the city on Friday. Sources at the Pakistan embassy told Dawn that ‘clearance’ for the ISI chief’s plane had been sought from the embassy."

Meanwhile, another suicide attack struck Rawalpindi today:

BBC reports:

"Twin suicide car bombings have killed at least 30 people and injured many others in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi, officials have said. One of the blasts hit a bus packed with members of the security forces. . . the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says attacks are often suspected to have been carried out by pro-Taleban militants in revenge for military operations in the tribal areas near the Afghan border and in North-West Frontier Province. "

What is not mentioned in this article is that in an on-air interview early this morning Plett revealed that there is speculation that the attacker of the ISI bus might have been known by the riders, implying that these sucide bombers, like the one on September 5, were able to get away with these bombings in the heart of the military's stronghold because they are or were on the payroll.

Remember, the ISI had this little problem of supporting the Talibs all through the 90's. The GWU's National Security Archives  recently got hold of files proving the extensive involvment of the ISI in helping the Talibs.

A "January 1997 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan observed that 'for Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan, adding that worries that the 'Taliban brand of Islam . . .might infect Pakistan,' was 'apparently a problem for another day."

That other day is apparently here. But not to fear, former ISI chief Lt. General Ashfaq Kiyani is here to save the day. When John Negroponte -- himself no stranger to supporting terrorists, I mean, his "special project" in Central America-- went to Pakistan this week where he had one meeting with Musharraf and three with Kiyani. He reportedly told Kiyani at one point, "Use your influence. You can help save Pakistan." [ANI]

Great, this gives me a lot of confidence. Intelbriefs says of Kiyani:

"It was during his tenture that the neo-Taliban staged a comeback in the tribal areas of Pakistan with a big bang and the Pakistan army practically lost control over the Pashtun belt, thus enabling al-Qaeda to establish its sancuaries in the Waziristan region on the Pak-Afghan border."

But, that's not a probelm, we've supported Musharraf up to this point and all he's done is drive the whole Pakistan file into the ditch.

And one more little tid bit:

This week Musahrraf's hand picked supreme court threw out all challanges to his election last month.

The Pakistan Times reports:

 "Ten-member full court of the Supreme Court Monday dismissed six petitions including a contempt petition filed by Justice (Retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed and others challenging the eligibility of General Pervez Musharraf to contest Presidential election for the 2nd term, as withdrawn as well as due to non-prosecution."

"Non Prosecution" is a legal way of saying the lawyers who brought the petitions weren't there to prosecute them. Funny enough, Musharraf had them all arrested so they couldn't show up. But I guess that's an internal matter that he US administration isn't too interested in. Better top focua on those free and fair elections coming up in January -- if ther Takliban doesn't taek over between now and then.

And in Afganistan:

The Senlis Council reports:

"The security situation in Afghanistan has reached crisis proportions. The Taliban's ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt; exclusive research undertaken by Senlis Afghanistan indicates that 54 per cent of Afghanistan’s landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan, and is subject to frequent hostile activity by the insurgency.

The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south and east, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure such as roads and energy supply. The insurgency also exercises a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change." 


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:24 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007 2:24 PM EST
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Thursday, 8 November 2007
W.'s frank discussion with Musharraf. More of the same, frankly.
Topic: War on Terror

Deputy secretary of State, John "give me another job, I don't like this one" Negroponte, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that U.S. aid programs (i.e. weapons sales) to Pakistan were "crucial" to the WOT. "Cutting these programs would send a negative signal to the people of Pakistan," Negroponte said.  

Sitting back and praising Pervez Musharraf, as W. did the other day, as a valued ally in the fight against extremism and radicals -- whilst he shuts down the electronic media, locks away human rights' activists without charges and allows his security forces to beat and tear gas lawyers in the streets  -- sends a signal, too.  

In fact, the "on-again off-again interactions that have characterized our relationship in the past" with Pakistan, as Negroponte put it, which have been pretty much on-again with the autocratic Musharraf since 9/11, transmits the very clear signal that W. & Co. care more about US strategic policy objectives than about spreading democracy.  In describing the difference between his responses to Musharraf's "emergency decree" versus the reaction to the Burmese Junta's crack down on the Monks, W. said yesterday:

"Look, our objective is the same in Burma as in Pakistan, and that is to promote democracy. There is a difference, however. Pakistan has been on the path to democracy. Burma hadn't been on the path to democracy."  

Uh huh.  

[W. says he told Musaharraf "You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time." But isn't W. the president and the commander in chief of of  the military at the same time? He probably shoud have come up with a better argument. WaPo]

When exactly was Pakistan on the path to democracy? When Musharraf got elected while still in uniform and by the current parliament, all of which was blatantly unconstitutional? Was it when he fired Ifktihar Chaudhry when it looked like he was going to rule that Musharraf was ineligible to run in uniform? Is he talking about his knuckle-headed gambit to install a fig leaf on Musharraf's autocratic rule by setting Benezir Bhutto up in partnership? (Boy that really blew up in the administration's face.)  

To me and to many others now well schooled in W.'s fractured double-speak, its pretty clear his "very frank discussion" with Musharraf isn't going to lead to elections anytime soon. And even if Musharraf allows elections to go ahead, now one month later than scheduled, according to him, they'll be something less than free and fair. But will nonetheless be hailed as such by W. & Co, regardless. 

Obviously, W. and the most experienced foreign policy team in the history of the world haven't got a clue about what to do about Pakistan, so they'll just stay with what they know: Back Musharraf to the hilt, throw more money at the problem and hope for the best.  There are various bills floating around Congress to cut off aid to Pakistan's military, but I don't think either W. or Musharraf are very worried about it. All W. will have to do is imply the Democrats are weak on terror and all talk of punishing the regime in Islamabad will crumble.  

The question is how long do we have until Musharraf's rule crumbles? And if W. & Co. actually do have any other general's numbers, as Rep. Gary Ackerman suggested, will they be around to answer the call? It seems the Pakistani army itself is beginning to crumble a bit. Suicide bombings in Rawalpindi, the main garrison town, are now almost a daily occurrence; over a thousand troops have died in the past few years fighting militants of various stripes; hundreds have been captured and held hostage; and many more hundreds have simply handed their weapons over to the Talibs and gone home.

And for all the discussion by the "intelligence community" about how unlikely the chances are of the nightmare scenario of OBL or Mullah Omar getting their hands on a nuke via sympathetic junior military officers, the more worrying scenario is the lack of accounting of the materials that could be turned into a nuke or at the very least a "dirty-bomb." Ron Moreau and Michael Hirsh write in last week's NEWSWEEK that, last year the country's Atomic Energy Agency "began publishing ads in newspapers instructing the public about how to recognize radioactive materials and their symbols. The ads were quickly withdrawn after they incited fears that fissile materials had gone missing."  

The fact is, no one really knows how much of this fissile material the Pakistanis have made and if it's all under wraps. Keeping in the mind that Pakistan leaves North Korea and Iran in the dust when it comes to nuclear proliferation -- thanks to the good works of A.Q. Khan who Musharraf declared a national hero -- OBL & Co. wouldn't necessarily find it too difficult to get their hands on the tools they need to make nukes.  

But, let's all just pull together in hoping our bastard in Islamabad can get his house in order and at some point in the future get around to actually getting his security forces to do something about the extremists and radicals who live and operate in the open and free of any interference by their buddies the ISI in Peshawar and Quetta and recruit and re-arm in the refugee camps of Jalozai and Shamshatu. Of course, beating up bespectacled lawyers, rounding up pacifists and old ladies is so much easier.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:13 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007 3:24 PM EST
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Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Pakistan on the brink?
Topic: War on Terror

Boy W. has really screwed the pooch, hasn't he? He's running the foreign policy of the United States just like he ran his oil companies -- right into the ground. Letting OBL and al-Qaeda escape into Pakistan and then the invading Iraq was bad enough, but his handling -- or lack thereof -- of the Pakistan dossier has really been an all around FUBR. 

The news coming out of Pakistan is pretty bad. It's like watching a car wreck in slow motion. Our good buddy Pervez Musharraf -- Bush is still calling him a "strong fighter against extremists and radicals" -- has suspended the Pakistani constitution, dismantled the supreme court, re-arrested Iftikhar Chaudry and sic'd his police on anyone involved in trying to preserve that country's civil society. Police have been tear gassing and beating lawyers with batons, the images of which he hasn't been able to prevent from getting out to the rest of the world despite his shutting down of the independent media, but all W. has to say is that he hopes Musharraf restores the courts and the constitution at some point in the future. And if Musharraf doesn't? Well, all W.'s got to say about that is, "I hope he takes my advice."

In other words, you brave Pakistani lawyers risking your freedom and lives: you're on your own. The great beacon of democracy is out of service for repairs.  

Recently, Musharraf's heroic battle against extremists and radicals has involved releasing those very same extremists and radicals from jail in order to back some 200 Pakistani soldiers captured by a South Waziristani warlord named Baitullah Mehsud. Musharraf has made a deal with Mehsud to pull back his forces and leave the entire area in Mesud's control. The NYT reports today that Mesud has vowed to expel foreign fighters from the area by Jan. 1, "but he declined to promise not to dispatch fighters to Afghanistan." This sounds very much like the deal Musharraf  made with "tribal leaders" (aka the Taliban) in September of last year which resulted in attacks against US forces in Eastern Afghanistan soaring by over 30%.  

This sort of thing probably explains why a sizable faction of al-Qaeda is perfectly happy to see Musharraf remain alive and well -- and in power. NEWSWEEK reported in July about a rift that had developed within al-Qaeda between the "Egyptians" led by Ayman al-Zuwahiri and the Libyan faction led by Abu Yahya al-Libi, who escaped from the lock-up at Bagram Airbase in 2005. It seems al-Zuwahiri has it in his mind to kill Musharraf, whereas al-Libi, along with OBL, feels that trying to kill Musharraf might risk, as Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau write, "Inviting the Pakistani leader's wrath, prematurely opening up another battlefront before the jihadists have properly consolidated their position."  

The Long War Journal reports, though, that "While there are certainly internal divisions within al Qaeda leadership over their policy on Pakistan and other theaters, the divisions are not as deep as the Newsweek article makes them appear." In a recent tape released by al-Libi he rejects any idea of a split in al-Qaeda over killing Musharraf. The raid of the Red Mosque might have changed his mind, although, I've got to figure the Libyans have probably prevailed in their argument.

Why knock off Musharraf when he's dedicating all his menageries to wiping out all the modernizing and secular elements they hate so much? All they have to do is bide their time and wait until Musharraf has decimated all the forces of sanity and democracy and then they can just roll into Islamabad unhindered.     

Not that any of this has given W. & Co. any second thoughts about keeping the money flowing to prop up our Bastard in Islamabad. $10 billion down the drain since 9/11 and W. has precious little to show for his dogged support for Musharraf. But don't confuse him with the facts: Al-Qaeda is resurgent their safe havens in North and South Waziristan and the Taliban are not only giving an undermanned NATO force in the south of Afghanistan fits, but now they're operating more and more in the North. Today a teenage suicide bomber killed at least 40 people in Baghlan including five members of the parliament. [AP]

And the Talibs are threatening Kandahar. The NYT reported on the 31st that a sizable for of Talibs had moved into the Arghandab area north of Kandahar and were seen dancing on the roof of the house of pro-government district leader Mullah Naqibullah, who died of a heart attack three weeks ago. Sarah Cheyes, an American journalist who left NPR to live and write in Kandahar, says the take over of Naqibullah's house had been "devastating psychologically" for the local residents who had relied on Naqibullah to protect them from the return of the Talibs. 

The rationale for the invading Iraq -- and the continuing cost in blood and treasure -- went from being about WMD, to regime change, to then being all about building a stable Western-style democracy in the heart of the Middle East. For a moment there Condi Rice was even implying the administration would support democracy over stability in countries like Egypt, until that is Hezbollah beat the bajeezes out of Israel in the summer of '06. Condi did say, after all, that: 

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East– and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." [usinfo.gov] 

But it looks like sacrificing the freedom and liberty that God Himself has bestowed on humanity for stability is the now the over-riding policy objective of the Bush administration. So much so, in fact, that W. barely batted an eyelash when Egypt's dictator Honsi Mubarak announced on October 29 that he was going to build a few nuclear reactors; only for peaceful purposes, of course.  [NYT]

And that goes for Pakistan as well. It's all very bleak, but I'm sure it'll all work out. When you got the most experienced foreign policy team the world has ever seen running the show, there's no chance Pakistan is going to implode.  Just look at the great success W.'s Surge in having in Iraq!  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:41 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007 4:04 PM EST
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Friday, 17 August 2007
Tora tora Bora!
Topic: War on Terror

It looks like we're back at Tora Bora again. You all remember Tora Bora, that's where Rummy, OBL and the suvinving Talibs get away in 2002. Rummy was so hell-bent on getting all our military equipment and personnell to the Persian Gulf that he sort of forgot about winning the war he was fighting before starting another one.  

Eurasia Insight reports:

"The offensive at Tora Bora began with air strikes launched on August 14 by U.S.-led coalition aircraft. Radio Free Afghanistan’s corresponent Daud Wafa traveled to the Pacheragam district of Nangarhar Province, south of Jalalabad, to speak with some of those displaced by the fighting. A villager forced from his home in the area, Allah Dad, tells Wafa that the coalition ground and air operations have been incessant.

'Planes are flying over during the night,' Allah Dad says. 'We can see the U.S. troops coming and going during the daylight hours.'"

One wonder how the "coalition" allowed the Talibs back into their caves in TB but, there they are. This time around, though, we're not going to let them escape to Pakistan.

 According to EI:

"Thousands of Pakistani troops were deployed on Pakistan’s side of the border this month to block escape routes for militants trying to flee from Afghanistan."

I'm sure that'll work out. We know how efficient the Pakistanis are when it comes to guarding their border. Naturally, the coalition is taking credit for massive Talib casualties, but there might have been a civilian or two that might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Another resident of the Pacheragam district, Mir Dad, says villagers fear attacks by Taliban as well as being mistakenly targeted by coalition air strikes. 'The operation has been going on at Tora Bora since [August 14],' Mir Dad tells Radio Free Afghanistan. 'The [foreign] troops are coming and going, and the bombing has been severe. Civilians have been killed, too. [Residents] are afraid of both the Taliban and the Americans.'"

Way to win hearts and minds!


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:53 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 9 September 2007 7:22 PM EDT
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