Posts Tagged ‘America’

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Afghan Crunch Time: Obama Must Decide Whether To Talk To The Taliban

April 27, 2010

Ahmed Rashid

Before President Hamid Karzai arrives in Washington next month, President Obama has to make clear key decisions on the course of war and peacemaking in Afghanistan.

Neighboring countries and most Afghans believe that the endgame has begun for a post-U.S. Afghanistan. There are just 14 months for the U.S. military surge to show results while Washington simultaneously prepares to begin its July 2011 troop withdrawal and handover to the Afghan government. Already, efforts to jockey for future control of Afghanistan have been seen among Pakistan, India, Iran and even Russia. Several NATO countries eager to withdraw forces are frustrated. It is clear in the region that someone will have to mediate with the Taliban, but in the absence of U.S. leadership, a tug of war is taking place over who will do it, when, how and where.

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Serious Security Risk In India: Warnings For Foreign Tourists

April 22, 2010

United States, Britain, Canada and Australia warned their citizens of serious security risk and terror threat in India. The current situation raises serious concerns over Indian hosting of Commonwealth Games 2010 and the Cricket World Cup.

New Delhi – Australia and Britain on Thursday warned tourists of the increased risk of militant attacks in New Delhi, joining Canada and the US, which have urged foreigners to avoid parts of the Indian capital.

The new alerts updated long-standing general advice for Western visitors to India that they should exercise caution and underlined security risks in the city as it gears up to host the Commonwealth Games in October.

The US said on Wednesday it had information of a “specific” threat to half-a-dozen of the city’s shopping areas and markets which it described as “especially attractive targets”. It advised Americans traveling or residing in India to maintain “a high level of vigilance” and watch out for unattended packages.

The Canadian government said on its website that an attack could be carried out “in the following days or weeks in market areas” of Delhi frequented by foreigners, specifically in the Chandni Chowk area in Old Delhi.

Following this new advice, the Australian High Commission in New Delhi said on Thursday it “strongly” advised Australians “to minimise their presence in market areas of New Delhi”.

India is home to a wide range of separatists and insurgents. A growing Maoist insurgency, so far concentrated in remote rural areas of northern and eastern India, also threatens to spread to urban areas, with the eastern city of Kolkata seen as particularly at risk.

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US Military Base Under Taliban Control

April 20, 2010

Elizabeth A. Kennedy

KABUL — Taliban fighters swarmed over a mountaintop base abandoned last week by the U.S. military following some of the toughest fighting of the Afghan war, according to footage aired Monday by a major satellite television station.

The video by Al-Jazeera is a morale booster for Taliban fighters, though the U.S. insists the decision to withdraw from the base in the Korengal Valley was sound and the area has no strategic value.

The footage showed armed men walking through the former U.S. base, which was strewn with litter and empty bottles, and sitting atop sandbagged gun positions overlooking the steep hillsides and craggy landscape. Fighters said they recovered fuel and ammunition. But a U.S. spokesman said ammunition had been evacuated and the fuel handed over to local residents.

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Can Afghanistan President Karzai and Obama still work together?

April 18, 2010

Ben Arnoldy

Angry words lately between Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and the administration of Barack Obama have raised questions about whether they can work together to stabilize the war torn country.

The relationship between Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and President Barack Obama has come to resemble a loveless marriage succumbing to the strain of keeping up public appearances.

An imminent split seems unlikely. The US remains Afghanistan’s chief international backer and the Obama administration’s ambitious plan to transform the war-torn country needs Mr. Karzai if it’s going to succeed.

But the angry words tossed between Kabul and Washington lately have amply demonstrated the strain between a US administration that says it is committed to political reform in Afghanistan and an Afghan leader empowered by an election widely thought to have been marred by fraud.

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Why Pakistan’s Military Is Holding Back in North Waziristan

April 17, 2010

Rania Abouzeid

It took just a few months for the Pakistani military to clear the Swat Valley’s lush, mountainous tribal terrain of its Taliban usurpers last summer, using some 30,000 troops to dislodge the guerrillas from the once-bustling tourist haven, 80 miles northwest of the capital Islamabad. Now, however, almost a year after winning the war, the same number of troops are still in place in order to hold Swat, rebuild it and prevent a Taliban resurgence — and that may keep Islamabad from going after the extremists in other parts of Pakistan’s unruly frontier with Afghanistan.

The U.S. has often appealed to Pakistan to do just that, specifically against elements in North Waziristan. More than 200 miles south of Swat, the tribal territory is a base for militants targeting U.S. troops just across the border in Afghanistan; it is also believed to be a refuge for senior al-Qaeda leaders. Yet the Pakistani military has refused to go into North Waziristan because it says its forces are already stretched thin (the bulk of the country’s troops are stationed along the eastern border with India, the nation Islamabad still considers its primary foe).

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Taliban Defiant Following Marjah Operation

April 16, 2010

Hewad

KABUL – Recent operations by foreign and Afghan government forces in Helmand province had little impact on Taliban capabilities ahead of the summer fighting season, an insurgent commander has claimed.

Despite February’s assault by 15,000 troops on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, its ranks are unhurt, uncowed and poised to retaliate, Abu Hamza, who claims to command 300 rebel fighters operating in southern Afghanistan, told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in a telephone interview.

“We will inflict heavy casualties on the foreigners this year,” Abu Hamza, who is well known in the region, said. “We have not been defeated in Helmand … The foreigners are now surrounded in Marjah. We have only withdrawn tactically from some areas.”

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Reconciliation Strategies In Kabul

April 16, 2010

There is a window of opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. It has to be grabbed. For the first time in a decade the U.S. and the U.K. are acting in concert with Pakistan to proffer real solutions for Kabul. The former allies, turned protagonists, turned friends are once again on the same side–this time working for peace.

Mr. Karzai is once again calling his favorite friends for a big powwow which he calls a “Jirga” or tribal council. It is to be held in Kabul in two weeks. Pakistan is working with the UK and the US to ensure that this Loya Jirga represents all the Pakhtuns so that it becomes a vehicle for peace in West Asia. Islamabad has offered to hold a joint Loya jirga between the Afghan and Pakistani Pakhtuns. The last time Mr. Karzai hijacked the societal consensus for ending the war through the traditional means of a consultative assembly. Mr. Karzai used the grass-roots method to rubber stamp his own brand of government. Obviously the corruption, lack of peace, and loss on the ground has proven that a repeat of the previous methodology will not work.

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