BBC NEWS | 2010/01/04 | 08:00:28 GMT
Four US soldiers have been killed in a roadside explosion in southern Afghanistan, Nato-led forces said. The soldiers died after an improvised explosive device went off on Sunday, a statement by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said. Also, on Sunday, a British soldier was killed in a separate blast in Helmand province, officials said. Violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest level since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001. News agency AFP quoted an unnamed Afghan police official as saying that the attack took place in Panjwayi district in Kandahar province. “We claim responsibility for this attack,” the agency quoted Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi as saying. He called from an unknown location and gave the same location of the strike as the police official, the agency reported.
The deaths are the first US fatalities attributed to hostile action in Afghanistan this year. US President Barack Obama announced last month he would send 30,000 new US troops to Afghanistan, with a view to defeating the Taliban. NATO countries have followed by pledging another 7,000 troops so far. In response, the Taliban said they would step up their fight in Afghanistan. A Taliban commander told the BBC that if more US troops came, more would die. More than 900 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
The Guardian | Saturday 12 December, 2009
Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public. The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power. “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”. Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He continued: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against it [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end I had to take the decision.”
He explained it was “the notion of him as a threat to the region” because Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people. “This was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind. The threat to the region. Also the fact of how that region was going to change and how in the end it was going to evolve as a region and whilst he was there, I thought and actually still think, it would have Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/15 | 08:28:39 GMT
The defence secretary is due to outline how he plans to pay for extra equipment for British operations in Afghanistan by making cuts elsewhere. An RAF base could be shut and thousands of defence jobs lost in Whitehall and also within the armed forces. Bob Ainsworth is expected to tell MPs more than 20 Chinook helicopters are being ordered over the next 10 years. It comes as a report accuses the MoD of driving up projects’ overall budgets through short-term cost-cutting. The BBC understands parts of RAF Kinloss, in Moray, could be mothballed as part of the spending cuts.
The government is expected to announce it is buying the Chinooks from Boeing after months of criticism over the number of helicopters in operation in Helmand, in Afghanistan. An extra C17 transport plane could also be on the cards. But the money will have to come out of the Ministry of Defence’s existing budget, which is already overspent. Mr. Ainsworth is likely to announce cuts to the existing Harrier and Tornado fighter jet fleet, and a cutback of Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft. The final decision will end months of tough negotiations over the 2010 spending round. But there is more pain ahead in defence, with a public spending squeeze still to come. Continue reading
Associated Press | Kirkuk (Iraq) | December 11, 2009
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that plans are on track to reduce American forces in Iraq next year and warned that neighboring Iran risks sanctions soon if it fails to cooperate on its controversial nuclear program. At a town hall meeting with about 300 soldiers and airmen at the Kirkuk airbase, Gates was asked whether political turmoil might threaten plans to send more American Troops home after Iraq’s March elections. He said all indications are that Iraqi leaders were tired of war and wanted a unified country. The secretary also said significant international sanctions would be levied if Iran continues with its current nuclear program, and added that all options, including military action, must stay on the table. “I think that you are going to see some significant additional sanctions imposed by the international community,” Gates said. He cautioned that “any military action would only buy some time, maybe two or three years.”
Gates said Iran’s provocations were bringing together the international community, including Russia and China, which have long been reluctant to punish Tehran but are now showing more willingness to confront the regime over its nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for civilian energy purposes. The secretary also told troops that Afghanistan will be a “tough fight” but that the security situation would Continue reading
NYT | December 3, 2009
President Obama’s timetable for American forces in Afghanistan rattled nerves in that country and in Pakistan on Wednesday, as American diplomats worked to convince the two countries at the center of the president’s war strategy that the United States would not cut and run. In Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the only minister who commented on the speech, said the announcement that American troops could begin leaving in 18 months served as a kind of shock therapy, but caused anxiety. “Can we do it?” he asked. “That is the main question. This is not done in a moment. It is a process.”
In Pakistan, Mr. Obama’s declaration fed longstanding fears that America would abruptly withdraw, leaving Pakistan to fend for itself. Many in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital argued that the short timetable diminished any incentive for Pakistan to cut ties to Taliban militants who were its allies in the past, and whom Pakistan might want to use to shape a friendly government in Afghanistan after the American withdrawal. “The most serious issue, as far as we see it, is the exit date,” said a senior Pakistani security official who spoke anonymously because he was not allowed to speak publicly. “It will have serious implications.” Though American officials went out of their way to brief senior leaders of both countries before Mr. Obama’s speech, many of the people whose support will be crucial to carrying out the strategy — lower-ranking politicians and military or intelligence officials — did not receive briefings. Continue reading
NBC, msnbc.com and news services | 11:14 a.m. ET | Dec. 2, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan – The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that the Afghan government and its international partners should use the coming 18 months to convince the Taliban they can’t win and offer militants a way to quit the insurgency “with dignity.” Gen. Stanley McChrystal made the call after President Barack Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to the unpopular war. If conditions are right, Obama said American troops could begin leaving Afghanistan in 18 months. The Afghan government welcomed Obama’s announcement but cautioned against setting a deadline for handing over security to Afghan forces and starting to withdraw. In a statement, the Taliban said Obama’s plan was “no solution for the problems of Afghanistan” and would give the insurgents an opportunity “to increase their attacks and shake the American economy which is already facing crisis.” A Taliban spokesman told NBC News that the move would give the militants “more targets. Obama announced his strategy after months of delay, but he didn’t pay attention to the American people who are suffering a major financial crisis,” he added. “Instead, he only listened to the generals at the Pentagon and big businessmen. It also gives us the opportunity to beat the United States financially because more troops mean spending more money.”
‘You are weak’
Reaction among Afghans and U.S. soldiers was mixed, with many wondering whether the Afghan government can meet the challenges of fighting both corruption and the insurgents and whether the surge means more Afghan civilians will die. “I am asking America ‘What did you do for the last eight years against your enemies? You have killed Afghans and Continue reading
NYT | Washington | December 1, 2009 |
President Obama issued orders to send about 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan as he prepared to address the nation Tuesday night to explain what may be one of the most defining decisions of his presidency. Mr. Obama conveyed his decision to military leaders late Sunday afternoon during a meeting in the Oval Office and then spent Monday phoning foreign counterparts, including the leaders of Britain, France and Russia. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, declined to say how many additional troops would be deployed, but senior administration officials previously have said that about 30,000 will go in coming months, bringing the total American force to about 100,000.
On top of previous reinforcements already sent this year, the troop buildup will nearly triple the American military presence in Afghanistan that Mr. Obama inherited when he took office and represents a high-stakes gamble by a new commander in chief that he can turn around an eight-year-old war that his own generals’ fear is getting away from the United States. The speech he plans to deliver at the United States Military Academy at West Point at 8 p.m. will be the first test of his ability to rally an American public that according to polls has grown sour on the war, as well as his fellow Democrats in Congress who have expressed deep skepticism about a deeper involvement in Afghanistan.
Mr. Gibbs told reporters at the White House that Mr. Obama would discuss in the speech how he intended to pay for the plan — a major concern of his Democratic base — and would make clear that he had a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war. Continue reading
NYT | 25/11/2009
President Obama said Tuesday that he was determined to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, and his aides signaled to allies that he would send as many as 25,000 to 30,000 additional American troops there even as they cautioned that the final number remained in flux. The White House said Mr. Obama had completed his consultations with his war council on Monday night and would formally announce his decision in a national address in the next week, probably on Tuesday. At a news conference in the East Room with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Mr. Obama suggested that his approach would break from the policies he had inherited from the Bush administration and said that the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.
“After eight years — some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done — it is my intention to finish the job,” he said. He said that he would outline his Afghanistan strategy after Thanksgiving, adding, “I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we’re doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.” Though he and his advisers have drawn up benchmarks to measure progress and put pressure on the Afghan government to do its part, Mr. Obama offered no details in his public remarks on Tuesday. He was also silent on precisely what would constitute finishing the job in Afghanistan or how soon he envisioned being able to begin extricating the United States from the war there. Continue reading
NYT | msnbc | Nov.26 | 11:53 p.m. ET
Far from the heartland of the Taliban insurgency in the south, this once peaceful Northern Province was one place American and Afghan officials thought they did not have to worry about. Afghan officials cut the police force here by a third two years ago and again earlier this year. Security was left to a few thousand German peacekeepers. Only one Afghan logistics battalion was stationed here. But over the last two years, the Taliban have steadily staged resurgence in Kunduz, where they now threaten a vital NATO supply line and employ more sophisticated tactics. In November, residents listened to air raids by NATO forces for five consecutive nights, the first heavy fighting since the Taliban were overthrown eight years ago.
The turnabout vividly demonstrates how security has broken down even in unexpected parts of Afghanistan. It also points to the hard choices facing American, NATO and Afghan officials even if President Obama decides to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, as he is expected to announce next week. Even under the most generous deployments now under consideration, relatively few additional troops are expected in the north; most will be directed to the heartland of the Taliban resistance in the south and east.
Failure to remain vigilant
Afghan and international officials say security never had to deteriorate so badly here. The Taliban were a scattered and defeated force in northern Afghanistan, long home to the strongest anti-Taliban resistance, the Northern Alliance. But the government, and American military trainers, failed to remain vigilant to signs of Taliban Continue reading
BBC NEWS 2009/11/26 14:23:27 GMT
Tony Blair’s view on regime change in Iraq “tightened” after a private meeting with President Bush in 2002, the UK’s former US ambassador has said. Sir Christopher Meyer said no officials were at the Bush family ranch talks – but the next day Mr. Blair mentioned regime change for the first time. He also said officials had been left “scrambling” for evidence of WMD while US prepared its troops for an invasion. He was giving evidence to the inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Its remit is to look into UK involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009, with the first few weeks focusing on policy in the build-up to the 2003 US-led invasion. On the third day of public hearings, Sir Christopher attacked the UK-backed process of weapons inspections in the run-up to the war, saying officials had been forced to scramble for a “smoking gun” while US troops gathered. But most attention focused on when he believed the decision to go to war had become inevitable. Sir Christopher said the UK believed it was “pointless” to resist US plans for regime change in Iraq a full year before the invasion and speculated that the path to war was set at a meeting between the two leaders at President Bush’s Texas ranch in April 2002. Continue reading
ABC News | Wed Nov 25, 2009 | 11:16am AEDT
A long-awaited public inquiry has heard the British Government tried to distance itself from Washington’s talk of overthrowing Saddam Hussein as early as February 2001, two years before the Iraq invasion. Britain’s biggest investigation into the Iraq war has begun hearing evidence in London. The invasion is considered the most controversial foreign and military policy decision in 50 years. One of the first witnesses was Sir Peter Ricketts, a top intelligence official in the years before and during the invasion. He said that in 2001 it was assumed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was not British policy, despite growing talk in the US about regime change in Iraq.
US priorities after September 11 remained Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. But Sir Peter said it became clear by the end of 2001 that the ‘war on terror’ had moved into a second phase involving Iraq, even though there had been no evidence of a link between Baghdad and the terror attack. Sir William Patey, who was the chief of the Middle East department of the UK’s foreign office, also said he and his colleagues in London and Washington had discussed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as early as February 2001. “I made a note that on February 22, 2001 … [that] our policy should be to keep a long way from the regime change end of the spectrum,” Sir William told the inquiry. “We were aware of these drum beats from Washington.” Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/11/17 | 00:20:54 GMT
Iran has played down a report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog that found questions remained unanswered about a nuclear facility near the city of Qom. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran must explain the history and purpose of the recently declared site. But chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh said the report was “repetitive” and Tehran had handed over all information on the facility. Iran denies claims by some Western nations it is developing nuclear arms. A UN team was allowed access to inspect the Qom site last month. In its report, the IAEA said the delayed declaration of the plant raised concerns about other possible secret sites.
Mr. Soltaniyeh told al-Alam TV: “Iran has provided all information about the new facility and the material inside it. “We will later proceed with installing the required equipment. The facility will go online in 2011. He said he was “comfortable” with the report, as it confirmed Iran was “fully co-operating” and that the activities at Qom were “in accordance with the IAEA instructions and limitations.” “Inspectors scoured the facility for two complete days. Everything was compatible with the non-proliferation treaty,” he said. Iran revealed the existence of the Fordo enrichment facility, which is being built about 30km (20 miles) north of Qom, in September. The IAEA report said this did “not contribute to the building of confidence” and “gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities not declared to the agency.” Continue reading
abc news | Sep 21 2009
This is a crucial time. With NATO chief reporting need of more troops to win the ‘Afghan war’ and support for the war back at home plummeting to lowest levels, something that can convince the US people to agree for deployment of more soldiers to Afghanistan. Luckily CIA & FBI are able to foil a terror plot planned for NYC by arresting three suspects. They even arrested an Imam, an informer, who actually helped foiling the alleged plot doubting whether full details are revealed to the agencies. Mysteriously details of plot not yet known and yet it is confirmed that the plot is foiled!?! -nvs
After overnight arrests this weekend in the alleged New York terror plot, FBI agents believe an active terror cell directed by al Qaeda was preparing an attack on New York City, and authorities say they have yet to identify everyone involved. Officials say they do not have specifics on the potential targets of the alleged plot, and with so much still unknown, security in New York has been heightened. Continue reading
Associated Press | ANNE GEARAN | AP National Security Writer
WASHINGTON – The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan has reported to President Barack Obama that without more troops the U.S. risks failure in a war it’s been waging since September 2001. “Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in a five-page Commander’s Summary. His 66-page report, sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Aug. 30, is now under review by Obama. “Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating,” McChrystal said of the war’s progress. Geoff Morrell, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for communications issues, said in a statement the assessment “is a classified, pre-decisional document, intended to provide President Obama and his national security team with the basis for a very important discussion about where we are now in Afghanistan and how best to get to where we want to be.” While asserting that more troops are needed, McChrystal also pointed out an “urgent need” to significantly revise strategy. The U.S. needs to interact better with the Afghan people, McChrystal said, and better organize its efforts with NATO allies. “We run the risk of Continue reading
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at then-President George W. Bush last year said Tuesday that he was beaten and tortured while he was detained. Muntadhar al-Zaidi speaks to reporters shortly after his release from an Iraqi jail. Muntadhar al-Zaidi told reporters after he was released that he was beaten with cables and pipes and tortured with electricity immediately after guards removed him from a news conference for hurling both shoes at Bush. He said he was taken into another room and beaten even as the press conference continued. “At the time that (Iraqi) Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on television that he could not sleep without being reassured on my fate … I was being tortured in the worst ways, beaten with electric cables and iron bars,” he was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
However he remained defiant about the incident that landed him in prison. “I got my chance and I didn’t miss it,” he told reporters. “I am not a hero and I admit that,” he added. “I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.” Al-Zaidi, who was serving a one-year sentence after the jail-throwing incident on December 14, was given a “conditional discharge.” Under Iraqi law, a “conditional discharge” allows for the Continue reading