Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ISNA Condemns Attacks on Fort Hood Soldiers and Expresses Condolences to the Victims and Their Families
(Washington, DC – November 05, 2009) The Islamic Society of North America condemns in the strongest terms the attack on soldiers at Fort Hood, resulting in the murder of at least a dozen soldiers and the wounding of many others. We express our deepest condolences to the victims and their families.
Although many details of the shooting are unknown at this time, it appears that the attack was led by a career soldier, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. The soldier who led this attack was either mentally unstable, or was motivated by a perverted ideology for which there can be no justification.
ISNA is proud of the many Muslim men and women who serve loyally in the United States military. We are grateful for the sacrifices made by all US soldiers, who represent the religious, racial and ethnic diversity of America, to defend the Constitution and our national security. ISNA, a faith endorser of US Muslim military chaplains, is proud of the service they provide, offering comfort and support to people of all faiths and beliefs. Just today, ISNA's chaplain endorser, Dr. Louay Safi, conducted a workshop at the US army base in Fort Bliss, Texas.
ISNA will be holding a press conference with national Muslim leaders to address this incident tomorrow morning. Time and location will be announced later tonight.
For more information, please contact
- Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, Vice President of ISNA at 571.437.4734 or 571.437.9566
- Louay Safi, ISNA's Director of Communications and Leadership Development and Chaplain Endorser at 317.679.6350
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
"Experts with the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association say that though these studies do show some benefits to moderate drinking, the health risks from alcohol consumption far outweigh the potential rewards.
Drinking any alcohol at all is known to increase your risk for contracting a number of types of cancer, said Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society. These include cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon/rectum and breast."
Taliban vow to defeat army in Pakistan offensive
"A Taliban spokesman vowed the Islamist militants would fight to 'our last drop of blood" to defend their stronghold of South Waziristan, predicting the army would fail in its latest attempt to gain control over it.' "
" 'We know how to fight this war and defeat the enemy with the minimum loss of our men,' Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told The Associated Press from an undisclosed location. 'This is a war imposed on us, and we will defend our land until our last man and our last drop of blood. This is a war bound to end in the defeat of the Pakistan army.' "
"A resident in Wana — the main town in South Waziristan and in the heart of Taliban-held territory — said the insurgents had left the town and were stationed on the borders of the region, determined to block any army advance. 'All the Taliban who used to be around here have gone to take their position to protect the Mehsud boundary," Azamatullah Wazir said by telephone Sunday. 'The army will face difficulty to get in there.' "
" 'Militants are offering very tough resistance to any movement of troops,' Ehsan Mahsud, a resident of Makeen, a town in the region, told The AP in the town of Mir Ali, close to the battle zone. He and a friend arrived there early Sunday after traveling through the night."
The cowardly tactics of the not-so-great-Pakistani Army : "Mahsud said the army appeared to be mostly relying on airstrikes and artillery against militants occupying high ground. He said the insurgents were firing heavy machine guns at helicopter gunships, forcing the air force to use higher-flying jets."
Thursday, October 15, 2009
By Jonathan S. Landay and Hal Bernton, McClatchy Newspapers Jonathan - Wed. Oct 14,2009
WASHINGTON -- A recent U.S. intelligence assessment has raised the estimated number of full-time Taliban -led insurgents fighting in Afghanistan to at least 25,000, underscoring how the crisis has worsened even as the U.S. and its allies have beefed up their military forces, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the assessment is classified, said the estimate represented an increase of at least 5,000 fighters, or 25 percent, over what an estimate found last year.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry assured Afghans that America would continue to fight until "extremists and insurgents" were defeated in the war-torn nation.
The new intelligence estimate suggests that such a fight would be difficult. Not included in the 25,000 tally are the part-time fighters -- those Afghans who plant bombs or support the insurgents in other ways in return for money -- and also the criminal gangs who sometimes make common cause with the Taliban or other Pakistan -based groups.
The assessment attributed the growth in the Taliban and their major allies, such as the Haqqani Network and Hezb-e-Islami, to a number of factors, including a growing sense among many Afghans that the insurgents are gaining ground over U.S.-led NATO troops and Afghan security forces.
"The rise can be attributed to, among other things, a sense that the central government in Kabul isn't delivering (on services), increased local support for insurgent groups, and the perception that the Taliban and others are gaining a firmer foothold and expanding their capabilities," the U.S. official said.
"They (the insurgents) don't need to win a popularity contest," said Michael O'Hanlon , a military analyst at the center-left Brookings Institution in Washington . "They are actually doing a good job in creating a complex psychological brew. The first part is building on frustration with the government. The second part is increasing their own appeal or at least taking the edge off of the hatred that people had felt for them before. But on top of that they are selectively using intimidation to stoke a climate of fear. And on top of that they have momentum."
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Taliban wealthier than al-Qaeda: US Treasury
Tuesday, 13 Oct, 2009
WASHINGTON: The Taliban are in much stronger financial shape than al-Qaeda and rely on a wide range of criminal activities to pay for attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, a senior Treasury Department official said on Monday.
David Cohen, the department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, said the extremist group extorts money from poppy farmers and heroin traffickers involved in Afghanistan’s booming drug trade. The Taliban also demand protection payments from legitimate Afghan businesses, he said during a speech at a conference on money laundering enforcement.
President Barack Obama and his top advisers are discussing whether many more troops may be needed in the 8-year-old Afghanistan conflict. A critical part of the deliberations is whether the fight should be a more narrow one against al-Qaeda or a broader battle against the Taliban-led insurgency.
According to Cohen, al-Qaeda is a cash-strapped organisation that is losing its influence.
That condition is the product, he said, of a long-running effort by the United States and its allies to cut off the terror group’s sources of funding by targeting its deep-pocketed donors and interfering with its ability to move money.
In the first half of 2009, he said, al-Qaeda’s leaders made four public appeals for money to bolster recruitment and training.
‘We assess that al-Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years, and that, as a result, its influence is waning,’ Cohen said at the conference, sponsored by the American Bankers Association and the American Bar Association.
But Cohen cautioned that situation could reverse quickly because multiple donors ‘who are ready, willing and able to contribute to al-Qaeda’ still exists.
The Taliban, meanwhile, appear to be heading in the other direction despite an international effort to shut down the movement’s cash supply. Drugs are a major money-maker for the group.
Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has said the Taliban get most of their cash from private benefactors in the Persian Gulf.
Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said in his 66-page assessment of the war that the diversity of the Taliban’s streams of cash makes it difficult to blunt their ability to operate.
Cohen said portions of the Taliban’s illicit proceeds make their way out of the country and into the global financial system. But he did not specify how much or detail the money’s suspected entry points.
Shootout kills two al-Qaeda members, one Saudi soldier
RIYADH: A shootout Tuesday between Saudi security forces and al-Qaeda militants — some of whom were disguised as women and wearing explosives belts — left two of the militants and a soldier dead, the Interior Ministry said.
Another soldier was lightly injured in the clash at a checkpoint in the south of the country, near the border with Yemen, said ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki.
The shootout was the first known confrontation between authorities and al-Qaeda since a suicide bomber injured Assistant Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in the western seaport of Jeddah on August 27.
The attacker was a member of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In Tuesday's attack, security forces at the checkpoint stopped a car carrying three men, two of whom were disguised as women, al-Turki said in a statement.
When a female inspector approached the car to check the identities of those dressed as women, the three opened fire.
He said two of the militants were wearing explosives vests and hiding hand grenades in their clothes.
More grenades as well as machine-guns and materials used in making explosives were found in the car.
One of the assailants was captured.
The statement said no other details will be released now because the investigation is ongoing.
It was not clear whether the militants were part of al-Qaeda's operations in Yemen.
Saudi officials have expressed concern that al-Qaeda could use Yemen as a sanctuary to launch cross-border attacks after the network's Saudi and Yemeni branches merged in January.
The Interior Ministry has spearheaded the kingdom's aggressive campaign against al-Qaeda, killing or capturing most of its leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.
Al-Qaeda launched its campaign of attacks, primarily targeting foreigners and oil infrastructure, in a bid to bring down the Saudi ruling family, which it considers repressive, corrupt and in support of the United States' policies in the Middle East.
Pakistan: airstrikes killed 9 militants
Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud - Wed Oct 14, 2009
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – Pakistani jets pounded militant hide-outs along the Afghan border and killed at least nine guerrillas, intelligence officials said Wednesday, part of a stepped-up campaign of airstrikes before an expected government offensive in South Waziristan.
Government officials have been threatening an operation in the lawless border area for months, but a string of recent suicide bombings blamed on the Taliban appeared to have strengthened their resolve to engage in what will likely be a long and bloody confrontation.
Military jets have been hitting suspected Taliban strongholds in the region for weeks. The airstrikes have grown more frequent in recent days in what appears to be an effort to soften up the militants ahead of a ground assault.
The military launched a new wave of air attacks across the militant heartland late Tuesday and early Wednesday, hitting at least five different areas, two intelligence officials said. One attack on a hide-out in Makeen killed three insurgents, and another in Barwand killed six, they said. Meanwhile, forces in an army camp in Razmak shelled militant positions in the surrounding mountains, they said.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
May, 2008 : "Iraqi police found the bullet-riddled Quran with graffiti inside the cover on a firing range near a police station in Radwaniyah, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, U.S. military spokesman Col. Bill Buckner said.
American commanders launched an inquiry that led to disciplinary action against the unidentified soldier, who has been removed from Iraq, Buckner said.
Members of the local U.S.-allied group said the Quran was found with 14 bullet holes in a field after U.S. troops withdrew from a base in the area. "
By Todd Pitman, Associated Press Writer – Fri Oct 9, 2009.
KABUL – Taliban fighters claimed Friday their flag was flying victoriously over an eastern Afghan village U.S. forces abandoned after suffering casualties in one of the war's deadliest battles for American troops.
The withdrawal this week from mountainous Kamdesh, an isolated hamlet near the Pakistan border, was planned well before the intense Oct. 3 attack left a pair of outposts in ruins and eight American troops dead.
The NATO-led coalition said the move was part of a new strategy outlined months ago by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to shut down remote difficult-to-defend outposts and redirect forces toward larger population areas to protect more civilians.
The strategy has an inadvertent consequence, however: Every inch of ground the U.S. cedes, emboldened Taliban militants are likely to take and trumpet as a victory over another superpower.
The Afghan war entered its ninth year this week with President Barack Obama's administration pondering how to counter an insurgency growing more powerful by the day.
By Associated Press Writer Asif Shahzad, Oct. 10, 2009
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – Militants held several security officers hostage inside an intelligence wing of the army headquarters Saturday after they and others attacked the complex in an audacious assault on Pakistan's most powerful institution.
The attack, which left at least 10 people dead, was the third major militant strike in Pakistan in a week and came as the government was planning an imminent offensive against Islamist militants in their strongholds in the rugged mountains along the border with Afghanistan.
It showed that the militants retain the ability to strike at the very heart of Pakistan's security apparatus despite recent military operations against their forces and the killing of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a CIA drone attack in August.
An army statement said more than two assailants were holding several officers hostage in the "security office building" inside the heavily fortified complex close to the capital. The army uses that term to refer to the headquarters of either the military intelligence or the country's premier spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence.
The whereabouts of military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha were not known. Separate army statements said Kayani attended meetings at the headquarters and at the president's office in nearby Islamabad during the day.
The attack began shortly before noon when the gunmen, dressed in camouflage military uniforms and wielding assault rifles and grenades, drove in a white van up to the army compound and opened fire, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas and a witness said.
"There was fierce firing, and then there was a blast," said Khan Bahadur, a shuttle van driver who was standing outside the gate of the compound. "Soldiers were running here and there," he said. "The firing continued for about a half-hour. There was smoke everywhere. Then there was a break, and then firing again."
After a 45-minute gunfight, four of the attackers were killed, said Abbas, who told the private Geo news television channel the assault over and the situation "under full control."
But more than an hour later, gunshots rang out from the compound, and Abbas confirmed that gunmen had eluded security forces and slipped into the headquarters compound in Rawalpindi. The city is filled with security checkpoints and police roadblocks.
"We are trying to finish it (the siege) at the earliest, clear the area of terrorists and restore complete control," Abbas told Dunya TV.
Abbas said six troops were killed and five wounded, one critically. Those killed included a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel, according to a military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Posted: 07 Oct 2009 01:08 AM PDT
The jihad movement around the world has witnessed a surprising growth during the past few years. After 9-11 America had succeeded in pulling together an international coalition in order to fight the mujahedeen. It invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, put pressure on governments around the world to throw anyone with association with Jihad behind bars and to stop the flow of money into Jihad movements. All over the world the mujahedeen have suffered an international effort under the leadership of America to bring an end to Jihad. But Eight years later the mujahedeen are wining on every front and are expanding into new ones. It appeared difficult back then to imagine that the world would be the way it is today just 8 years after 9-11.
That is because Rasulullah(saaws) said: “A group of my ummah will continue fighting in the path of Allah and they will not be harmed by those who are against them.”
The American people gave G.W. Bush unanimous backing to fight against the mujahedeen and gave him a blank check to spend as much as needed to fulfill that objective. The result? He failed, and he failed miserably. So if America failed to defeat the mujahedeen when it gave its president unlimited support, how can it win with Obama who is on a short leash? If America failed to win when it was at its pinnacle of economic strength, how can it win today with a recession – if not a depression- at hand?
The simple answer is: America cannot and will not win. The tables have turned and there is no rolling back of the worldwide Jihad movement. The ideas of Jihad are proliferating around the world, the mujahedeen movements are gaining strength and the battlefields are expanding with the mujahedeen introducing new fronts.
In Afghanistan the rural areas are mostly under the control of the Taliban and there is a steady improvement in the growth and strength of the mujahedeen. In Iraq even though the US claims an improvement in the security situation but one needs to ask the question at what cost is that achieved? The amount of money America is spending on Iraq with a recession at hand is unattainable.
The Jihad of this era started in Palestine, followed by Afghanistan, then Chechnya, then Iraq, then Somalia, then the Maghreb, and the new front might very well turn out to be Yemen.
And when this new front of Jihad starts in Yemen it might become the single most important front of Jihad in the world.
Why? First, the Arabian Peninsula has always been a land of mujahedeen even though there has been no fighting occurring on its soil. In Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Iraq the participation of mujahedeen from the Arabian Peninsula represented the largest block of foreign mujahedeen. When Jihad starts in the Arabian Peninsula, Jihad would be coming back to its home.
Second, he Arabian Peninsula is home to Makkah and Madinah. To free the Holy places from the rule of apostasy and tyranny is to free the heart of Islam.
Third, the rulers in the Arabian Peninsula are playing a central role in the fight against Islam especially the al Saud family. The al Saud of today are the Abdullah bin Ubay of yesterday. They have perfected the art of hypocrisy. They fight Islam in the name of Islam. They wear cloaks of sheep on hearts of wolfs. There cannot be Islamic rule and a return to khilafah without removing them from existence and this is the responsibility of the mujahedeen of the Arabian Peninsula.
America and its allies in the area are plotting against the mujahedeen, nevertheless their growth increases by the day. May Allah grant the true believers victory and grant them steadfastness on His path.
Their intention is to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will complete His light even thought the disbelievers may detest it. (al Saff 61)
Article By AP Religion Writer Eric Gorski, Ap Religion Writer – Thu Oct 8, 2009
The global Muslim population stands at 1.57 billion, meaning that nearly 1 in 4 people in the world practice Islam, according to a report Wednesday billed as the most comprehensive of its kind.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report provides a precise number for a population whose size has long has been subject to guesswork, with estimates ranging anywhere from 1 billion to 1.8 billion.
The project, three years in the making, also presents a portrait of the Muslim world that might surprise some. For instance, Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon, China has more Muslims than Syria, Russia has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined, and Ethiopia has nearly as many Muslims as Afghanistan.
"This whole idea that Muslims are Arabs and Arabs are Muslims is really just obliterated by this report," said Amaney Jamal, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University who reviewed an advance copy.
Pew officials call the report the most thorough on the size and distribution of adherents of the world's second largest religion behind Christianity, which has an estimated 2.1 billion to 2.2 billion followers.
Associated Press Writer Rahim Faiez, Oct. 08, 2009
KABUL – A suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy in the bustling center of the Afghan capital Thursday, killing 17 people in the second major attack in the city in less than a month. The Afghan Foreign Ministry hinted at Pakistani involvement — a charge Pakistan denied.
The blast occurred a day after the war entered its ninth year and as President Barack Obama was deliberating a request by the top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal for up to 40,000 more troops. Opponents of a troop increase want to shift focus to missile strikes and special operations against al-Qaida-linked groups in Pakistan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack — the second against the Indian Embassy in the past two years — and specified that the Indians were the target.
In New Delhi, India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the driver of the sport utility vehicle "came up to the outer perimeter wall of the embassy in a car loaded with explosives." Three Indian paramilitary guards were wounded by shrapnel, Rao said.
Rao did not say who the Indians believed was responsible for the attack, which occurred about 8:30 a.m. along a commercial street that is also home to the Interior Ministry.
However, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said the Thursday attack "was planned and implemented from outside of Afghan borders" by the same groups responsible for the July 2008 suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy that killed more than 60 people.
The ministry statement made no mention of Pakistan. However, the Afghan government blamed Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence for the 2008 bombing at the Indian Embassy as well as involvement in a string of attacks in the country.
U.S. officials suspected the 2008 embassy bombing and other high profile attacks were carried out by followers of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a longtime Afghan militant leader whose forces are battling U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan from sanctuaries in the border area of Pakistan. At U.S. urging, the Pakistani military says it's planning an offensive against extremists in the border area.
In Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, condemned Thursday's bombing.
"Whenever terrorist activity occurs it should strengthen our resolve to eradicate and eliminate this menace," he said. Basit called allegations of a Pakistani role in the Kabul bombing "preposterous."
The Taliban did not say why it targeted the Indian Embassy. India and Pakistan, archrivals since the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent, are competing for influence in Afghanistan among rival ethnic groups. India maintains close ties with the Tajik community, and Pakistan with the Pashtuns, who form the majority of the Taliban.
Thursday's blast was the deadliest attack in Kabul since Sept. 17, when a suicide bomber killed 16 people, including six Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians, on a road in the center of the capital.
The Interior Ministry said 15 civilians and two Afghan police officers were killed in Thursday's blast. At least 76 people were wounded, the ministry said. President Hamid Karzai, the U.S. Embassy and the United Nations mission all condemned the attack.
Whodunit? Sneak attack on U.S. dollar
Eamon Javers Eamon Javers – Oct. 08th, 2009
It’s the biggest mystery in global finance right now: Who conducted a sneak attack on the U.S. dollar this week?
It began with a thinly sourced but highly explosive report Monday in a British newspaper: Arab oil sheiks are conspiring with the Russians and Chinese to quit using the dollar to set the value of oil trades — a direct threat to the global supremacy of the greenback.
Is it true? Everyone from the head of the Saudi central bank to U.S. officials scrambled to undercut the story, but no matter.
With the U.S. economy on the ropes and America by far the world’s biggest debtor, investors aren’t feeling as secure about the dollar as they used to. And the notion of second-tier economies ganging up on Uncle Sam didn’t sound so far-fetched.
For American officials, the possibility of the dollar losing its long-term dominance in global commerce is a nightmare scenario because it would likely mean sharply higher interest rates at home and a declining ability to finance the U.S. debt. No one believes it could really happen right now, but stories like the British report this week make it seem incrementally more likely.
So the piece by Robert Fisk of the Independent shocked currency traders around the world and almost instantly sent the value of the U.S. dollar spiraling downward and the price of gold skyrocketing to an all-time high, as a hedge against a weakened dollar.
The website drudgereport.com quickly amplified the impact of the story with a headline atop the site: ARAB STATES LAUNCH SECRET MOVES WITH CHINA, RUSSIA, FRANCE TO STOP USING DOLLAR FOR OIL TRADING ...
“You read that story, and you do two things: You sell the hell out of dollars and you buy gold,” said Les Alperstein, president of the financial research firm Washington Analysis. “The story has a lot of credibility, with some caveats.”
So who wanted dollars diving and gold rising? In other words, who is Fisk’s source, and why did he or she want to tank the dollar? It’s the global currency version of the old Washington parlor game of speculating on the real identity of Deep Throat.
No one knows.
But one thing is for certain: With the price of gold jumping to $1,048.20 per ounce, traders who moved early enough stood to make millions.
So in government circles in Washington, speculation immediately centered on gold traders: With the skyrocketing price of gold, they’d be the biggest beneficiaries of the article.
Fisk’s story itself isn’t much help in solving the mystery — it is sourced vaguely to “Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong,” and it included one blind quote, attributed to “a prominent Hong Kong broker.” That doesn’t narrow down the pool very much.
The story doesn’t name any officials who had allegedly participated in the secret meetings involving the Arab states. It didn’t say where the meetings occurred or when. Other than saying the plan is to stop using the dollar by 2018, there was precious little detail to the account.
Around the world, traders turned to Wikipedia to find out more about Fisk himself. There, they learned that Fisk is a legendary British foreign correspondent who has been based in Beirut for more than 30 years and has won a slew of journalism awards. They also learned that he is one of only a few journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden (three times) and that he has expressed doubts that the United States has told the full story about the Sept. 11 attacks.
An analyst’s report from the Royal Bank of Scotland concluded, “Fisk is a veteran of the Middle East. ... he is also increasingly associated with more radical theories thus weakening the credibility of the story.”
Beyond the specifics of the story, the geopolitical implications of the report sent shudders from Riyadh to London to Washington: Has the long-dominant American economy been so humbled by the economic crisis that these nations would mount a frontal attack on the dollar, the underpinning of the world’s biggest economy?
That question is on the minds of global investors, who are keeping a skittish eye on the weakening dollar. And over the past several months there has been a steady drumbeat of Chinese, Russian and other officials who have talked openly about finding a replacement for the dollar as the global economy’s default currency. Any effort to do that would be fraught with difficulty. But however unlikely, the possibility represents a threat to the American economy, which has come to depend on the significant advantages it reaps from minting the currency most used around the world.
In another era, the dollar could shrug off such a vaguely sourced, thinly detailed story.
But not anymore.
The dollar is weak and vulnerable to rumor-mongering because many traders believe it will only get weaker. “The fundamental reason why this occurred is that after 9.8 percent unemployment on Friday, nobody can say with certainty that the recovery is sustainable,” said one analyst familiar with the situation.
“In years past, when the U.S. economic dominance was more pronounced and emerging markets were marginal players in the global economy,” noted an analyst’s report from HSBC, “the debate on pricing commodities in currencies other than the [U.S. dollar] typically came down to the lack of practicality. ... Today, emerging markets are clearly wielding much more influence in the global economy, and they want more, as will be borne out in this week’s IMF meetings.”
And that means U.S. officials whose job it is to defend the dollar may have their work cut out for them in the months to come.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan was not in "the interest of Muslims."claimed responsibility Tuesday for the deadly suicide bombing at the U.N. food agency's heavily fortified compound in Islamabad, saying international relief work in
The attack, which killed five workers for the World Food Program on Monday, pushed the U.N. to temporarily close its offices in the country. It also exposed the vulnerability of international relief agencies helping millions of Pakistanis ahead of an anticipated military offensive against the Taliban in their stronghold.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the Taliban carried out the bombing to avenge the Aug. 5 slaying of their leader,, in a U.S. drone attack and that the country "should expect a few more" attacks.
Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq confirmed his group was behind the bombing and lashed out at foreign aid workers.
"We proudly claim responsibility for the suicide attack at the U.N. office in Islamabad. We will send more bombers for such attacks," he told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. "The U.N. and other foreign (aid groups) are not working in the interest of Muslims. We are watching their activities. They are infidels."
He said the Taliban would not attack Muslim relief groups, but that future targets would also include Pakistani security officials, government offices and American installations.
World Food Program spokesman Amjad Jamal defended the agency's work as "totally humanitarian."
"We provide food. Our food is for the vulnerable groups, the poor groups who cannot afford one meal a day," he said.
Pakistani religious scholar Mufti Muneebur Rehman disputed the Taliban claim that international aid work was against Islam.
"Helping somebody in need is one of the best traits of Islam," he said. "A good Muslim would be the first to help any non-Muslim in trouble."
The suicide bomber was dressed as a security officer and was allowed to enter the World Food Program offices — apparently bypassing the normal security procedures — after asking guards outside if he could use the bathroom.
The U.N. announced it was temporarily closing its offices, but said its Pakistani partner organizations would continue distributing food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance. The world body said it would reassess the situation over the next several days.
Malik, who was visiting those injured in the bombing at a hospital, said the government had taken several of the guards outside the U.N. offices into custody for questioning as part of the investigation into the security lapse.
The United Nations had already considered itself a likely target in Pakistan. Its offices are surrounded by blast walls, while staffers are driven in bulletproof cars and not allowed to bring their families with them on assignment.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said those killed in the bombing Monday were serving a "noble cause."
"They will be remembered for their commendable services by the people of Pakistan," Gilani wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon, according to state-run media. "Such cowardly terrorist acts will never weaken our resolve to fight against this scourge."
The attack came a day after the new Pakistani Taliban leader met reporters close to the Afghan border, vowing more attacks in response to U.S. missile strikes. Ending speculation he had been killed, Hakimullah Mehsud denied government claims the militants were in disarray and said his fighters would repel any army offensive on their stronghold in South Waziristan.
Monday, October 5, 2009
KABUL – Bombs killed two NATO troopers, including one American, following the deadliest attack against U.S. forces inin more than a year, military officials said Monday.
A NATO statement said a U.S. soldier died of wounds suffered in a bombing Sunday in southern Afghanistan.
The statement said a second service member died of wounds in a roadside bombing Monday, also in the south, but the victim's nationality was not released.
At least 16 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan so far this month — matching the American death toll for all of October in 2008.
The latest deaths followed a fierce weekend assault on a pair of remote outposts in the northeastern province of Nuristan in which eight U.S. service members were killed and about 20 Afghan security troopers were captured. It was the deadliest attack against U.S. forces in Afghanistan in more than a year.
Afghan officials reported the situation in Nuristan was generally calm Monday after two days of fighting in the remote area near the border with Pakistan. The assault began at dawn Saturday in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan province and raged throughout the day. Sporadic clashes were reported Sunday.
The al-Qaida-linked militant based in sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border.claimed responsibility for the attack. NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay said the assailants included a mix of "tribal militias," Taliban and fighters loyal to , an
The top U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, plans to shift U.S. troops away from remote outposts that are difficult to defend and move them into more heavily populated areas as part of his new strategy to focus on protecting Afghan civilians.
McChrystal has said more resources are needed to fight the Taliban and has asked for up to 40,000 more troops.
Some of President Barack Obama's advisers oppose a major increase and have suggested the U.S. focus on going after al-Qaida figures across the border in Pakistan.
KABUL – Hundreds of insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistan border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and capturing more than 20 Afghan security troops in the deadliest assault against U.S. forces in more than a year, military officials said Sunday.
The fierce gunbattle, which erupted at dawn Saturday in the Kamdesh district of mountainous Nuristan province and raged throughout the day, is likely to fuel the debate in Washington over the direction of the troubled eight-year war.
It was the heaviest U.S. loss of life in a single battle since July 2008, when nine American soldiers were killed in a raid on an outpost in Wanat in the same province.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in, plans to shift U.S. troops away from remote outposts that are difficult to defend and move them into more heavily populated areas as part of his new strategy to focus on protecting Afghan civilians.
U.S. troops used artillery, helicopter gunships and airstrikes Saturday to repel the attackers, inflicting "heavy enemy casualties," according to a NATO statement. Fighting persisted in the area Sunday, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
The al-Qaida-linked militant based in sanctuaries in the tribal areas of near the Afghan border.claimed responsibility for the attack. NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay said the assailants included a mix of "tribal militias," Taliban and fighters loyal to Sirajudin Haqqani, an
Afghan authorities said the hostile force included fighters who had been driven out of the Swat Valley of neighboring Pakistan after a Pakistani military offensive there last spring.
"This was a complex attack in a difficult area," U.S. Col. Randy George, the area commander, said in a statement. "Both the U.S. and Afghan soldiers fought bravely together."
Details of the attack remained unclear Sunday and there were conflicting reports of Afghan losses due to poor communications in the area, located just 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Pakistani border and about 150 miles (230 kilometers) from Kabul.
A NATO statement said the attacks were launched from a mosque and a nearby village on opposite sides of a hill, which included the two outposts — one mostly American position on the summit and another mostly Afghan police garrison on a lower slope.
NATO said eight Americans and two Afghan security troopers were killed.
An Afghan military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security issues, said three Afghan soldiers and one policeman had been killed in two days of fighting. He also said at least seven Afghan army soldiers were missing and feared captured.
In addition, provincial police chief Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh said 15 Afghan policemen had been captured, including the local police chief and his deputy. Jangulbagh estimated that about 300 militants took part in the attack.
"Kamdesh is one of the most dangerous areas of Nuristan province," he said, noting that the area is across the border from parts of Pakistan where-linked militants operate.
Jangulbagh said that after Pakistani forces drove militants from most of the Swat Valley five months ago, militants "received orders to come to Nuristan and destabilize the situation."
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said militants overran both outposts, but U.S. spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said U.S. troops were holding the outposts Sunday. She also said a roadside bomb killed a U.S. service member southwest of Kabul on Saturday, bringing the U.S. death toll for the month to 15.
The fighting occurred in a region where towering mountains and dense pine forests have long served as a staging area for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters who move freely across the Pakistani frontier.
Suicide bomber kills 5 at UN office in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD – Adisguised as a security officer struck the lobby of the U.N. food agency's Pakistan headquarters Monday, killing five people a day after the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban vowed fresh assaults, authorities and witnesses said.
The blast raises questions as to how the bomber managed to evade tight security at the heavily fortified World Food Program compound in the capital, Islamabad. It could also hamper the work of WFP and other aid agencies assisting displaced by army offensives against al-Qaida and the in their strongholds close to the Afghan border.
Hours after the attack, which the world body said it was closing its offices in Pakistan temporarily.
"This is a heinous crime committed against those who have been working tirelessly to assist the poor and vulnerable on the front lines of hunger and other human suffering in Pakistan," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva. He said the U.N. would continue, however, providing humanitarian assistance to the Pakistani people.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing. Militants have carried out scores of suicide attacks in Pakistan over the last 2 1/2 years, several of them targeting foreigners and their interests. Under U.S. pressure, Pakistani security forces have recently had some success combatting the extremists.
The blast Monday shattered windows in the lobby of the compound in an upscale residential area of Islamabad and left victims lying on the ground in pools of blood, witnesses said. The office is close to a home belonging to President Asif Ali Zardari.
"There was a huge bang, and something hit me. I fell on the floor bleeding," said Adam Motiwala, an information officer at the U.N. agency who was hospitalized with injuries to his head, leg and ribs.
Medical officials at two hospitals said five people had been killed in the attack, including an Iraqi working for the agency. Two of those killed were Pakistani women. Several others were injured, two of them critically, the WFP said in a statement.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the attacker was wearing the uniform of a paramilitary police officer and asked a guard if he could go inside the building to use the bathroom. He was carrying around 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of explosives.
Police official Bin Yamin said the attacker, who was in his 20s, detonated his explosives in the lobby. It was unclear how he made that far. Typically, visitors to U.N. buildings in Islamabad are screened and patted down for weapons and explosives in secure chambers some distance from the entrance to the building.
U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson condemned the targeting of aid workers as an attack against Pakistani society.
"Such cruel acts expose the true nature of the terrorists' agenda," she said.
The bombing was the first such attack in Islamabad since June, when two police where killed. Another blast in June on a luxury hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed two U.N. staffers and injured others.
Malik said the bombing Monday proved the militants were growing desperate in response to recent government offensives against the groups.
"These terrorists, they are injured snakes," he said.
On Sunday, Hakimullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, met with reporters in the country's tribal areas for the first time since winning control of the militants. His appearance, flanked by other Taliban commanders in a show of unity, ended speculation that he was killed in a leadership battle within the sparked by the August slaying of his predecessor, , in a missile strike.
"We all are sitting before you which proves all the news about myself ... was totally baseless and false," he said.
Mehsud spoke to a small group of reporters as he sat on a blanket on the ground in the shade of a tree, flanked by guards carrying heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
He spoke on condition his comments not be published until the reporters left the area Monday out of concern their use of satellite phones to file the story could lead Pakistani forces to him.
Mehsud vowed to strike back at Pakistan and the U.S. for the increasing number of drone attacks in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Oct. 3rd, 2009
KABUL – Three American troops were killed by attacks in eastern Afghanistan, the military said Saturday, adding to the toll as the Obama administration debates its strategy in the troubled eight-year war.
Two of the Americans were killed Friday in a firefight with militants in Wardak, an eastern province bordering Kabul. The third service member died Friday of wounds from a bomb attack in Wardak the day before. The newly reported deaths came the same day as a suicide attack on a U.S. convoy in the south killed two Americans.
U.S. and NATO deaths dropped in September over the previous two months — possibly due to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan or because no major offensives were launched. But since President Barack Obama's decision to send 21,000 more troops to curb the growing Taliban-led insurgency, international and civilian tolls have risen steadily.
In far western Afghanistan, a Taliban attack Saturday on a NATO supply convoy killed a civilian contractor escorting the trucks, said Raouf Ahmadi, a regional police spokesman.
U.S. forces mounted major operations in July and August in southern Afghanistan to try to dislodge the Taliban from longtime strongholds and improve security ahead of the Aug. 20 presidential election, the outcome of which remains in doubt because of allegations of massive fraud by supporters of President Hamid Karzai.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
KABUL – An airstrike on a compound in southwestern Afghanistan killed at least six civilians, a local tribal leader said Thursday, after the U.S. military reported that ground forces were coming under fire from inside the residence and called in aircraft.
Civilian deaths have been a source of friction between President Hamid Karzai and U.S. military commanders and have infuriated many ordinary Afghans, who claim international soldiers use heavy-handed tactics.
In Helmand province, local tribal leader Ghulam Mohammad Khan said a farmer, his wife and four children were among nine dead in the airstrike Wednesday evening. He said three guests at the compound also died, but he did not know their identities.
U.S. officials said they were investigating the reports of civilian deaths in the Helmand airstrike and met Thursday with local leaders.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made protecting innocent Afghans a priority since taking command this summer and has ordered troops to limit airstrikes.
In Logar province, in eastern Afghanistan, a spokesman for the governor said villagers claimed a U.S. operation overnight killed an innocent shopkeeper and complained that American forces had wrongly detained three civilians. Din Mohammad Darwesh, the spokesman, said villagers were refusing to bury the shopkeeper's body, in order to prove his innocence, and demanding the release of the three men.
Also Thursday, a U.S. military helicopter made an emergency landing after coming under rocket-propelled grenade fire in Nangahar province of eastern Afghanistan, U.S. spokeswoman Capt. Regina Willis said.
There were no serious injuries, she said.
The incidents occurred as President Barack Obama is considering whether to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to confront a growing Taliban-led insurgency.
Top military commanders and congressional Republicans are pushing for a troop increase, but there are division within the Obama administration on whether to escalate the U.S. presence.
White House officials say it may take weeks more before the president decides whether to overhaul the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan or send more troops.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
by Gerald Posner
One is branded a druglord; the other a corrupt tycoon—critics say President Karzai's brothers undermine Afghanistan. Both respond exclusively for the first time.
“My friend, I am ready to take a polygraph. I am innocent. If anyone can find any money from my family hidden in any bank in the world, I am telling you that they can keep it.” Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is excited, his voice rising as he talks. He is tired of six years of news reports casting him as the Afghan Pablo Escobar.
“Our character is being assassinated before the entire world,” says Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s older brother, and the subject of widespread reports questioning a purported fortune through favoritism and tainted deals. “I am sick and tired of people thinking that I have accomplished what I have only because I am the president’s brother.”
“I am the most wanted person by al Qaeda and the Taliban. That is because I have brought the tribes together. I have done so much work for the Americans, so much of it secret, it is incredible how much I have helped the Americans. And I am repaid with these press reports?”
Ahmed and Mahmoud are cited by Afghanistan watchers as serious political liabilities to the country’s fragile democracy and to Hamid Karzai’s claim that his government is making progress against the systemic corruption that is part of the nation’s DNA.
Neither has ever been charged with any crime. The duo recently came out swinging, providing The Daily Beast exclusive and feisty interviews regarding what Ahmed calls “the slanders, lies, and vicious attacks” swirling around them.
First, some background. Afghan and American officials have privately accused Ahmed, who heads the powerful provincial council in Kandahar, of being a heroin kingpin in the nation that supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium supply. They cite a few examples. In 2004, Afghan security forces stumbled on a cache of heroin hidden in tractor-trailer outside Kandahar. The local commander, Habibullah Jan, said Ahmed called him and demanded the drugs be released. Jan was ambushed and shot to death in 2007, with government officials blaming the Taliban. In 2006, a DEA informant, Hajji Aman Kheri, gave a tip about a truck near Kandahar carrying 110 pounds of pure heroin, allegedly under the watchful eye of one of Ahmed’s bodyguards. And last month, the German magazine Stern reported that British troops seized several tons of raw opium on one of Ahmed’s farms.
Ahmed spent a half hour debunking the details of the various charges. Jan was a well-known political opponent of his brother, he says, and went on to become an opposition member of parliament. So why would he have told a political foe to release seized drugs? “Anyone who understands our politics would know this is impossible it would be so stupid.”
As for the 2006 heroin seizure, “I am guilty by association. Can I be responsible for everyone who used to work for me?” And as for reports that British troops seized opium on his farm, he gets agitated. “Look, my friend, what land? What happened to the opium? The driver? What happened to those people who were taking the drugs somewhere? Every major foreign intelligence and drug agency is operating in Afghanistan. If I am a drug dealer why have they not produced a shred of real evidence, not just get somebody to print false rumors?”
Evidently Hamid Karzai heard the rumors often enough that he wanted to know if they were true. In 2006, he summoned to the presidential palace both the American ambassador, Ronald Neumann, and the embassy’s CIA station chief. Also present were the British ambassador and his MI6 spymaster.
Julia Zappei, Associated Press Writer – Tue Sep 29, 5:18 am ET
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A Muslim woman sentenced to caning for drinking beer wants to get the punishment over with now that it has been confirmed by an Islamic appeals court judge, her father said Tuesday.
If the punishment is carried out, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, would become the first Muslim woman to be caned in Malaysia, where about 60 percent of the 28 million people are Muslims.
The case has ignited a debate in this moderate Muslim-majority country whether conservative Islamists, who advocate harsh punishments, are gaining influence over the justice system and whether Islamic laws should intrude into people's private lives.
According to local media reports Monday, chief Judge Abdul Hamid Abdul Rahman of Pahang state's Shariah courts decided to uphold the sentence passed by the state high court on Kartika after a one-month review of the case. No date was immediately set for the caning.
Kartika's father, Shukarno Abdul Muttlib, 60, told The Associated Press that while the family had yet to be informed of the judge's latest decision, his daughter "accepts the punishment" and would like it to be carried out sooner rather than later.
"We obey the law," he said, adding that "it's a challenge ... (but) it's the way of my life."
Pahang court and religious department officials declined to talk about the case Tuesday. Others could not immediately be reached.
Kartika, a former model and nurse, was sentenced in July to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 5,000 ringgit ($1,400) for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort in violation of Islamic laws. Islam prohibits Muslims from drinking alcohol.
Kartika, who pleaded guilty, refused to appeal her sentence and was on the verge of being caned on Aug. 24. But the punishment was halted at the last minute following an uproar in the media and among rights activists.
Instead, the government asked the Shariah High Court Appeals Panel in Kuantan, the capital of Pahang, to review the verdict. Judge Abdul Hamid, who headed the panel, ruled that the sentence was correct and should go forward.
The caning would be done with a thin stick on the back and would be largely symbolic rather than aimed at causing pain, unlike the caning of rapists and drug smugglers with a thick rattan stick on bare buttocks that causes the skin to break and leave scars.
Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop said the prisons department has trained personnel who can carry out the caning in accordance with Islamic rules.
The date and time for the whipping will have to be decided by the court first, he said.
Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Shariah laws apply to Muslims in all personal matters. Non-Muslims — Chinese, Indians, Sikhs and other minorities — are covered by civil laws, and are free to drink.
Only three states in Malaysia — Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan — impose caning for drinking alcohol. In the other 10 states it is punishable by a fine.
2 US soldiers killed in Philippines blast
By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer Jim Gomez, Associated Press Writer – Sept-29th, 2009
MANILA, Philippines – Two U.S. Navy construction troops and a Philippines marine were killed Tuesday in a roadside blast in the southern Philippines that officials said was likely an attack by suspected al-Qaida-linked militants.
It was believed to be just the second time U.S. soldiers have been killed in the southern Philippines in violence blamed on the Abu Sayyaf group since American counterterrorism troops were deployed to the region in 2002, and the first fatalities in seven years.
One Philippine marine also was killed and two others were wounded in the blast on Jolo island, a poor, predominantly Muslim region where the Americans have been providing combat training and weapons to Filipino troops battling the Abu Sayyaf.
Philippine officials described the blast as being caused by a land mine, a description normally used for military-grade weapons. The U.S. Embassy said it was an improvised explosive device.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said a Philippine military convoy joined by U.S. troops was on its way to Kagay village in Jolo's Indanan township where troops were building two school buildings and digging artesian wells when the land mine exploded.
One U.S. soldier died at the scene, while another who was critically wounded in the blast died a short time later, Brawner told The Associated Press.
They were from the Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees, which gather skilled craftsmen like electricians and carpenters into special military units.
"They were not in combat," Brawner said. "These U.S. soldiers were there in the area to supervise the developmental projects in Indanan."
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said the deaths happened when the soldiers' vehicle struck an improvised explosive device at about 8:45 a.m. (0045 GMT) during a resupply mission for the school construction project.
The troops were not identified pending notification of next of kin.
The Philippine government offered its condolences to the families of the slain soldiers and praised them for helping undertake civic projects and secure peace on Jolo, about 590 miles (950 kilometers) south of Manila, the capital.
Brawner said no suspects were immediately identified, but suspicion immediately fell on the well-armed Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for numerous bombings, beheadings and kidnappings of Filipinos and foreigners in the south in recent years.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, a military commander overseeing counterterrorism campaigns in the south, told The Associated Press that Abu Sayyaf had likely planted the explosive in Indanan, where the militants have jungle strongholds.
The U.S. Seabees were immediately pulled back from the school project in Indanan after the attack, Dolorfino said.
He said U.S troops have long been targets for militants in the south, and Tuesday's blast would not likely cause any change in Washington's resolve to keep troops there.
Two weeks ago, a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant or sympathizer hurled a grenade near U.S. troops unloading supplies at Jolo's pier. The Americans were not hurt, he said.
Abu Sayyaf attempts to sabotage U.S. projects indicated the militants were wary of losing community support, he said.
"They know that once education sets in, the villagers will be well-informed and hard to fool and to recruit," Dolorfino said.
Abu Sayyaf is believed to have about 400 fighters, to have received funds from al-Qaida and is suspected of sheltering militants from the larger Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.
An estimated 600 U.S. troops are currently stationed in the Philippines, mostly in the southern front lines of the Philippine military's operations against the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah.
In October 2002, a U.S. Green Beret was killed along with two Filipinos when a bomb loaded with nails exploded outside a cafe in Zamboanga city.
Change of Tactics Needed in Afghanistan War, Chief of NATO Says
Viola Gienger Viola Gienger – Tue Sep 29, 12:01 am ET
Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said nations waging the war in Afghanistan must change their tactics and promote successes or risk losing public support there and at home.
“Reaching our goal in Afghanistan is not guaranteed,” Rasmussen told an audience at the Atlantic Council policy group in Washington yesterday. More troops will be needed at least to train the Afghan National Security Forces, Rasmussen said, while cautioning that a revised strategy must be agreed upon before decisions are made about the additional resources.
“We cannot continue to do exactly what we’re doing now,” Rasmussen said, calling for more focus on civilian reconstruction to accompany the military campaign. “Things are going to have to change.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization leads the 41-nation military campaign in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime shielded al-Qaeda before being ousted by the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The U.S. has 65,000 troops in the country, with the remainder of the 103,000-strong foreign force contributed by NATO members and other allies.
President Barack Obama is reviewing whether to continue with a strategy in Afghanistan that focuses on protecting and supporting the population against al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. Rasmussen, 56, a former prime minister of Denmark, met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday and is scheduled to meet today with Obama at the White House.
The top commander in the war, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, recently submitted an assessment of the security situation in the country that recommends even more emphasis on protecting the population to make room for the countryâ€™s development. He concluded he would need more forces to carry out the strategy than the 68,000 the U.S. expects to have in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Leaders of the nations fighting in Afghanistan must speak out more about the successes achieved in the eight years of the war to win back public support, Rasmussen said.
He cited 7 million Afghan students in school, one-third of them girls, and that millions of citizens were able to vote in the nationâ€™s presidential election last month in the face of threats from the Taliban.
The election results remain in dispute because of fraud allegations. Rasmussen said he agreed that the NATO-led alliance needs a “credible and legitimate government in Afghanistan.”
Some administration officials and members of Congress, who question whether the U.S. should step up its involvement as McChrystal recommends, cite the risk that the fraud allegations could erode the strength of the Afghan government.
“We should let the Afghans decide whether they consider the elections to be credible or not,” Rasmussen said.
The NATO leader also said Afghan women now can walk freely in the streets, hold jobs and serve in parliament, and that al- Qaeda has no haven and no training camps in Afghanistan. â€œThese are huge achievements in just eight years,â€
The mission in Afghanistan is broader than just attacking al-Qaeda, said Rasmussen, who was making his first speech in the U.S. since taking over as the allianceâ€™s top official on Aug. 1.
Should the Taliban take over the country again, they would harbor terrorists as they did before, neighboring Pakistan would be destabilized and militant attacks would spread throughout the region and beyond, he said.
Afghanistan demonstrates how NATO’s territorial defenses now and in the future begin far beyond the borders of the alliance members, Rasmussen said.
“NATO will stay for as long as it takes to succeed,” he said. “But that cannot mean forever.”
Rasmussen has said he opposes a timetable for withdrawing international forces from Afghanistan for fear the Taliban will use it to persuade Afghans that the U.S. and its allies are planning a “run for the exits.”
He pledged yesterday to push U.S. allies to provide necessary resources for increased training of Afghan forces.
He cautioned the U.S. against criticizing European partners in NATO for not sending more troops or restricting the mission of their forces in a way that limits their ability to fight. All 28 NATO member nations are part of the mission and more than 20 countries have lost soldiers there.
“Talking down the European and Canadian contributions as some here in the United States have done can become a self- fulfilling prophecy,” Rasmussen said.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Saturday, 26 Sep, 2009
BANNU: At least five people were killed and 50 wounded in a suicide attack at a police station in Bannu, police and witnesses said, DawnNews reports.
The bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck in front of the police station on the outskirts of Bannu, destroying the building and several nearby houses.
‘I myself have seen five dead bodies,’ Mohammad Zahid, a witness at the scene, told Reuters.
Mohammad Fareed, a deputy superintendent, said 24 policemen and 17 civilians, including women and children, were wounded.
Bannu is gateway to North Waziristan, a volatile tribal region on the Afghan border and a major sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fighting both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Twelve Afghan militants were killed in a missile strike by a US drone aircraft near the house of an Afghan Taliban commander allied to Al-Qaeda in North Waziristan late on Thursday night.
Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a similar missile strike in neighbouring South Waziristan tribal region last month.
Pakistani forces have also made significant gains against the militants after they launched an offensive in northwestern Swat valley in late April, which helped allay international fears about the stability of the nuclear-armed US ally after militants made advances towards the capital, Islamabad.
Militant attacks have tapered off after Mehsud’s death but security officials say militants loyal to Al-Qaeda still pose a serious threat.
Thirty-three people were killed in a car-bomb suicide attack near the garrison town of Kohat this month.Source
Saturday, 26 Sep, 2009
CAIRO, Egypt: Osama bin Laden demanded European countries pull their troops out of Afghanistan and warned in a new audiotape of ‘retaliation’ against them for their alliance with the United States in the war.
The al-Qaeda leader denounced NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan that have killed civilians and said in the new message released Friday that European countries would be held accountable alongside the Americans unless they withdraw from the country.
‘A wise person would not waste his sons and money for a gang of criminals in Washington ... In summary, we are not asking too much or an invalid demand, but it would be fair that you lift your oppression and withdraw your troops,’ bin Laden said, addressing the Europeans.
The audiotape, just under five minutes long, was posted Friday on Islamic militant Web sites. It comes after a series of al-Qaeda videos this week that directly addressed Germany, and threatened attacks over Berlin's military mission in Afghanistan. Those videos featured a little-known German-Algerian militant and have raised concerns among German authorities ahead of parliamentary elections.
Bin Laden's tape came as a voice-over on a video that had English and German subtitles translating his speech, along with a still photo of bin Laden in front of a map of Europe.
The al-Qaeda leader predicted that American forces would soon pull out of Afghanistan, abandoning their NATO allies, and warned that al-Qaeda would then retaliate against the Europeans. It was not clear whether his threat was aimed at European troops in Afghanistan or against European countries themselves.
‘It won't be long before the war's dust in Afghanistan clears out, and you will not find a trace of an American (soldier) ... and it will be only us and you left,’ he said, addressing Europeans.
‘How do think you will fare after America pulls out – Allah permitting – allowing us to retaliate from the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed?’ he said.
The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified, though the voice resembled that on previous recordings confirmed to be by bin Laden. The video carried the logo of al-Qaeda's media arm, Al-Sahab.
‘It is a shameful thing for a person to be in a coalition whose supreme commander has no regard for human blood and intentionally bombs villagers from the air,’ said bin Laden, referring to a recent German-ordered US airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan that killed dozens and have pushed Berlin's Afghan mission to the forefront of Germany's parliamentary election campaign.
The German Commander of NATO forces in Kunduz has said he ordered the bombing because he thought there were no civilians nearby and feared the hijacked trucks would be used to carry out suicide bombings.
Al-Qaeda has released three messages over the past week addressed to Germany that included threats linked to the country's presence in Afghanistan and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Bin Laden did not mention Germany by name, but he did refer to the airstrike in Kunduz, and officials in Berlin said they were analyzing the al-Qaeda leader's message.
‘We are taking this video seriously. It is another step in the propaganda of al Qaeda,’ Interior Ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said. ‘We don't let the terrorists and their announcements put us in a state of agitation.’Bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. –AP