Article first published as Is Germany’s Security Protected in Afghanistan? on Blogcritics.
Imperial countries can rewrite war rules according to their wishes. Whatever they do to protect their imperial interests is justified, no matter how irrational they may be. Germany’s Foreign Minister says his country’s security is defended at Kunduz, Afghanistan, thousands of kilometres away from the German land.
A nation’s defence forces are generally stationed at strategic places of that country. Airports, Seaports, Capital cities, Commercial centres, naval bases, air bases, army bases and borders are some of such strategic places where troops will be stationed for defence purposes. Remaining troops will be stationed at barracks to be used at war times or for internal security purposes. They may be used to rescue civilians when natural calamities occur.
Strangely, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle outlined a different strategy for the defence of Germany. Speaking to German troops at the Kunduz base in Afghanistan when he arrived there along with Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said that Germany was in Afghanistan to protect its own security. He said, “That is why this mission is right” BBC News reported quoting Associated Press.
Mr Westerwelle might have chosen some other context if he wants to boost the morale of his troops. Saying that Germany’s security is protected at Kunduz base located in another country is quite misleading, irrational and simply meaningless.
Japan revealed its intentions to make substantial changes to its defence policies on the pretext of China’s increasing military might and North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Japan has maritime border with China. Japan’s new national defence policy has acquired importance in the wake of recent rise of tensions between China and Japan when a Chinese trawler hit a Japanese petrol boars near disputed chain coral islands on which both countries have ownership claims.
China has been strengthening its military utilising its trade surplus and foreign currency reserves due to which its neighbours such as India with which it has border disputes, Japan with which it has disputes on ownership over coral islands in South China Sea, and Taiwan on which it has ownership claim have rising concerns. The US is also worried with China’s military build-up as it feels China is threatening the US’ interests in South Asia and East Asia regions. The secretary of state for the US Ms Hillary Clinton expressed openly her concerns that China was ascertaining its domination in the region.
Recently, the US conducted military drill with South Korea in Yellow Sea after North Korea fired artillery shells on a disputed South Korea’s island near maritime border. Though, the US said the military drills were part of regular exercises, its main aim was to issue veiled warning to Chinese military, which has been ascertaining its position in the region. The US accused China for not reigning in North Korea’s behaviour during recent tensions in Korean peninsula. It has 50,000 troops stationed in a Japanese island Okinawa and 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Article first published as French President Woos India Against the United States on Blogcritics.
France President Nikolas Sarkozy is now on India tour along with his wife Carla Bruni for four days from November 4 to November 7. The US president Barack Obama began his India visit with India’s business hub Mumbai. Sarkozy chose India’s technology hub to start his India tour. He brought 50 member business community and top cabinet officials including Economy minister Christine Lagarde along with him. Sarkozy seems to have come on a top mission along with signing some business contracts.
Strategic and Business Goals
During his speeches on November 4 and his interview to Times of India newspaper, Sarkozy outlined his top political and trade related priorities on global arena of his India tour. Very important offers extended to and requirements sought from India are as follows:
Supporting France’s G20 agenda to reform global monetary system during its G20 presidency in 2011
Improvements in global governance
Help maintain greater stability in commodity prices
In return, to the help in achieving the above-mentioned France’s goals, Sarkozy offered following package.
Helping Rupee to become one of the major currencies in the world
Support India’s long standing demand of securing permanent seat in UN Security Council
Some business contracts will be concluded during Sarkozy’s visit. Major one is a memorandum of understanding signed between a French nuclear group Areva and India’s Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to supply at least two water-pressurised reactors worth 7 billion euros ($9.4 billion or Rs 43,240 Cr). France is competing with the US company Boeing to supply 126 fighter jets. France’s defence electronics group Thales is hoping to gain a contract to modernise 51 mirage 2000 planes.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the joint raids conducted by US and Russia forces. Drug laboratories have been raided in the joint operation. Hamid has said he had no prior information on the raids, which he called a violation of Afghan sovereignty.
Russian has been critical of coalition forces for doing nothing to tackle drug trade in Afghanistan. BBC reported on October 31 that 2.5 million Russians are addicted to drugs, mainly coming from Afghanistan. Russian involvement in raids is a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, since the end of Russian occupation 21 years back.
A Russian government official expressed surprise with AFP news agency, saying the interior ministry of the Afghan government has participated in the operation. On October 29, the head of Russia’s drug control agency said its agents had taken part in an operation on October 28 to destroy a major hub of drug production near Jalalabad about 5km from the Pakistani border. He said 932kg of heroin and 156kg of opium was destroyed along with a large amount of technical equipment.
BBC | 18 October 2010 | 17:19 GMT
Iran has for the first time taken part in high-level discussions on Afghanistan after the US said it had "no problem" with its participation. An Iranian representative joined the international "contact group" – which brings together the Afghan government, dozens of countries, NATO, the EU and UN – for the talks in Rome. It comes amid a renewed push to end the bloody nine-year Afghan conflict.
One senior US diplomat said Iran had "a role to play" in tackling the problems. "We recognise that Iran, with its long, almost completely open border with Afghanistan and with a huge drug problem… has a role to play in the peaceful settlement of this situation in Afghanistan," Richard Holbrooke – the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan – told a news conference. "So for the United States there is no problem with their presence."
He said discussions would not be affected by the "bilateral issues" of Iran’s nuclear programme, which Iran says is for purely civilian purposes but the US insists is a cover for creating atomic weapons. Iran sent its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Ghanazadeh, reported Associated Press.
NBC | 10/11/2010 | 11:10:37 AM ET
NATO is to investigate whether a grenade thrown by American military forces — rather than a Taliban bomb — killed a British aid worker during a rescue attempt in Afghanistan last week, an alliance spokesman said Monday. Linda Norgrove, 36, died Friday in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province during the raid and NATO initially said her captors had detonated a bomb as the soldiers tried to free her.
However, British Prime Minister David Cameron said General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, had contacted his office to say a review of events had revealed evidence indicating that Norgrove may not have died at the hands of her captors.
"That evidence, and subsequent interviews with the personnel involved, suggests that Linda could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault," Cameron told a news conference at his Downing Street office. However, this is not certain, and a full U.S.-UK investigation will now be launched," he said.
‘Deeply distressing development’
Cameron said he had informed Norgrove’s family of the "deeply distressing development" and defended the decision to attempt the risky rescue mission. "I want to assure Mr and Mrs Norgrove that I will do everything I possibly can to establish the full facts and give them certainty about how their daughter died." Cameron said he took full responsibility for authorizing the operation. He said intelligence at the time suggested Norgrove was about to be passed "up the terrorist chain of command", placing her in an even more dangerous situation, meaning it had been urgent to act. "Ultimately the responsibility for Linda’s death lies with those who took her hostage."
BBC News | 6 October 2010 | 09:13 GMT
Gunmen in Pakistan have torched at least 10 oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO vehicles in Afghanistan in the latest such attack in recent days. A driver died in the ambush near the southwestern city of Quetta. The number of attacks on tankers has soared in the last week since one of the main routes into Afghanistan was shut by the Pakistani authorities.
The Torkham crossing was closed after three Pakistani soldiers died in a NATO air strike near the Afghan border. Islamabad has not yet said when the Khyber Pass crossing will reopen. In Wednesday morning’s attack, up to 14 gunmen in two pick-up trucks opened fire on the tankers as they were parked by the roadside on the outskirts of Quetta, said police.
BBC Urdu’s Ayub Tareen rushed to the scene after the ambush and was lucky to escape with scratches when one of the blazing fuel tankers exploded. The Lorries were thought to have been en route to a smaller border crossing into Afghanistan that still remains open.
The Pakistani Taliban reportedly said they carried out the ambush – the fourth attack on a NATO supply convoy in six days. Spokesperson Azam Tariq told the news agency AFP: "We will further intensify attacks with the intensification of US drone strikes on us." Unmanned aircraft have recently been targeting militants near the Afghan border on an almost daily basis.
Quetta’s chief of police operations, Hamid Shakeel said, "Gunmen came in two vehicles at daybreak and started firing. This created a stampede and people started running. "Then one of the vehicles went [inside the compound] and they sprinkled petrol on trucks and set them on fire." Mr Shakeel said that security for the trucks was the responsibility of local police while the vehicles were moving. But when they are parked at terminals, protection is the job of private contractors, he added.
BBC News | 8 September 2010 | 22:15 GMT
Taliban leader Mullah Omar says his fighters are winning the war in Afghanistan and that the NATO led campaign has been "a complete failure". In a rare statement, the elusive leader called on US President Barack Obama to withdraw his troops "unconditionally and as soon as possible". NATO has boosted its presence in Afghanistan to 150,000 soldiers in a bid to finally defeat militants. However, the US has set July 2011 to begin withdrawal, if conditions allow. Critics of the move say it has emboldened the Taliban.
Mullah Omar’s statement, which marked the end of the Muslim festival of Ramadan, was posted on jihadist websites and relayed by the Site Intelligence Group. "The victory of our Islamic nation over the invading infidels is now imminent and the driving force behind this is the belief in the help of Allah and unity among ourselves," he said. "In the time to come, we will try to establish an Islamic, independent, perfect and strong system." He claimed that those behind the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan which overthrew the Taliban "admit themselves that all their strategies are nothing but a complete failure". He also commanded his fighters to observe the Taliban’s code of conduct and avoid harming civilians.
BBC News | 28 August 2010 | 08:29 GMT
Taliban insurgents have attacked two coalition bases in eastern Afghanistan, NATO forces say. Coalition forces repelled attacks, killing 18 militants and capturing others, the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said. There were no coalition casualties in the fighting, in Khost province, south-east of Kabul, Isaf said. The Taliban said about 30 fighters, including suicide bombers, were involved in the two separate assaults. The attacks on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and nearby Camp Chapman began at about 0400 (2330 GMT). In a statement, Isaf said "insurgent forces attacked the installations with indirect and small arms fire".
According to Isaf, its troops called in helicopters to assist in repelling the attacks and that 13 militants, four of whom were wearing suicide bomber vests, were killed in the fighting. The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, in Kabul, says that elaborate attacks on forward operating bases are not unusual and that Taliban insurgents are increasingly using this more sophisticated guerrilla-style attack. Camp Chapman was the scene of a major attack in December, when a suicide bomber entered the base and killed seven CIA employees. That was the most deadly attack on US intelligence officials since the US embassy in Beirut was bombed in 1983.
ABC News | AFP | 22/08/2010 | 5:17pm IST
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says in an interview published today that he believes the Pentagon could be behind a rape accusation against him that was later dropped by Swedish prosecutors. The Aftonbladet newspaper has quoted Mr Assange as saying that he does not know who is “hiding behind” the claims, which comes amid a stand-off with Washington over the website’s publication of secret Afghan war documents. But he says that he has been warned previously that groups such as the Pentagon “could use dirty tricks” to destroy the whistleblower site – adding that he has been warned against sexual scandals in particular.
Swedish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Assange on Saturday (local time) over an allegation of rape but abruptly cancelled it hours later, saying that he was now “not suspected of rape” and was no longer wanted for questioning. The prosecution service said that an investigation into a separate molestation charge remained open. The 39-year-old Australian, the WikiLeaks website and his aides have strongly denied all the claims. Continue reading
Thai authorities have used their emergency powers to block domestic access to the WikiLeaks whistleblower website on security grounds.The order came from the government unit set up to oversee the response to political unrest that rocked the nation’s capital earlier this year, a spokeswoman for the Information and Communication Technology Ministry said. “Access to this website has been temporarily suspended under the 2005 emergency decree,” she said.
Thailand has removed tens of thousands of web pages from the Internet in recent years, mainly for insulting the monarchy – a serious crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail. A special cyber crime agency has also been set up to stamp out online criticism of the royal family.Emergency rule, enshrined in Thai law since 2005, was imposed across many parts of Thailand during two months of anti-government protests in Bangkok from mid-March that left 91 people dead, ending with a bloody army crackdown. Authorities have used the decree, which remains in place in seven of Thailand’s 76 provinces including Bangkok, to arrest hundreds of suspects and silence anti-government media. Continue reading
Alternet.org | FAIR.org | 11/08/2010
For the last few years, the war in Afghanistan seemed to be an afterthought in the U.S. media. That all changed in a hurry with the publication of tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents by the website WikiLeaks. Those files were shared with several newspapers, each of which published extensive reports offering their interpretations of the documents. Suddenly, the chaos and violence of the Afghanistan War was back on the front pages and leading the network newscasts. For some in the media, though, the attention was unwarranted. These documents were not the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers, we heard everywhere–as if that were the standard for revelations worth paying attention to. The Washington Post boasted headlines like “WikiLeaks Disclosures Unlikely to Change Course of Afghanistan War” and “WikiLeaks Documents Cause Little Concern over Public Perception of War.” A few days later, USA Today reported that indeed the public was concerned–support for the Afghanistan war “plummeted,” according to their new poll.
What people learned from the WikiLeaks documents depended on what they were reading. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that the files are “a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents.”The New York Times, like many other U.S. outlets, downplayed the stories of civilian killings, a decision the paper’s executive editor defended by saying those incidents “had been previously reported in the Times.” Even some liberal columnists were sounding a similar note, filling out the media’s “We already knew this” chorus. Some even thought the WikiLeaks documents were proof that civilian killings were a small problem. A Washington Post editorial argued that the 195 deaths mentioned in the WikiLeaks files “do not constitute a shocking total for a four-year period.” This message was seconded by CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who explained that 195 deaths are nothing compared to the 2,000 deaths attributed to the Taliban. Logan actually suggested that the media should pay more attention to that fact. Continue reading
After the revelations in Wikileaks, the taboo-breaking ideas of several experts are suddenly under the microscope as Washington looks for an exit strategy that will work. The publication of secret Pentagon documents by Wikileaks has shaken political Washington and public confidence in the US administration’s Afghanistan policy to their very foundations. Just a few weeks ago, the political elite was united behind the president and supported his policy of a limited escalation of the war to be accompanied by efforts to step up civil reconstruction. The goal was to push back the Taliban both politically and militarily and to negotiate a political settlement with moderate Islamists. But after the revelations in Wikileaks, the debate has taken a new turn.
An alliance against the Taliban
Steve Coll was a South Asia correspondent for many years and is now the head of the New America think tank. Coll is one of those experts who is calling for a change of course on Afghanistan. He argues that Washington should be aiming at establishing alliances with regional strongmen in the North and West of the country against the Taliban in the South and East. He does not place much hope in negotiations with the Taliban regardless of how moderate they claim to be. According to Coll, these alliances must ensure that neither the Taliban nor other factions can seize power in Kabul. Against this background the US would be able to withdraw step by step. If needed it could intervene at any time. Coll says the prerequisite for such a step would be an agreement amongst the political elite in Afghanistan that they will stand up to the Taliban together. Coll’s critics in the Obama Administration point out that the government in Kabul would once again become a hostage of the powerful regional warlords. They point out that President Najibullah tried this strategy in the early 1990s – and failed.
Partition of Afghanistan?
As far as Robert Blackwill is concerned, Coll does not go far enough. The security expert, who served both George W. Bush and his father, is pushing a much more radical idea for the future of Afghanistan: partition. The US and her allies should maintain military control of the North and West. The South, where the Pashtuns form the ethnic majority, should be left to the Taliban. Blackwill maintains that this solution is the most realistic option now on the Continue reading
Dutch troops have left Afghanistan after four years, handing over control to an American-led group of soldiers. Just under 2,000 Dutch soldiers had been deployed in central Uruzgan province since 2006. But now, after a political row in the Netherlands, the army has been forced to pull out of the country. A statement from the International Security Force said, “Dutch forces have served with distinction on Uruzgan, and we honour their sacrifice and that of their Afghan counterparts during the Netherlands’ tenure in the province.” NATO had asked the Netherlands to extend their work in Uruzgan province, where opium production is rife, and the Taliban remain active.
The row over the Dutch presence in Afghanistan led to the collapse of the coalition government in February. The mission has cost the Dutch state some 1.4 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars). 24 Dutch solders have died during the Afghan mission.
Praise for the withdrawing force
The Dutch were widely admired for their comprehensive approach to defence, development and diplomacy. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised them as “the benchmark for others.” US President Barack Obama said they were “one Continue reading