The Sunday Times claims US president has ‘dramatically’ stepped up covert war against extremists inside Pakistan
LAHORE: The death of three American soldiers in a suicide bombing at the opening of a girls’ school in Lower Dir last week has re-ignited the fears of many Pakistanis that Washington is set on invading their country.
While Barack Obama has banned the Bush-era term “war on terror” and dithered about sending extra troops to Afghanistan, a British newspaper claims that the US president has “dramatically stepped up” the covert war against extremists in Pakistan. US drone strikes are now averaging three a week, triple the number last year. Over the last month, drones have pounded North Waziristan in apparent retaliation for the death of seven CIA officers in Afghanistan in a suicide bombing carried out by a Jordanian bomber working with the TTP. Last week, the US launched its first multiple drone attack, according to Pakistani security officials. Eighteen missiles were fired from eight unmanned aircraft in Dattakhel village, killing 16 people. “The discovery of the dead US soldiers revealed that America’s shadowy war in Pakistan not only involves drones but also small cadres of special operations soldiers,” says the British newspaper.
Sources said there were about 200 US soldiers inside Pakistan. “I’m not sure you could just call it training,” said an official. “They are hardly behind the wire if they are on trips to schools in Dir.” The three US soldiers – who, according to the Sunday Times, have been described variously as special operations forces and civil affairs troops – were killed when their convoy was bombed as it travelled to the re-opening of the school. It had been rebuilt with US aid after being bombed by the Taliban last year. daily times monitor
LONDON: The United States was dealt a blow by the financial crisis but remains the world’s main power and can maintain its influence if it works with allies to achieve its goals, a study said Tuesday.
A report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank in London said that despite taking an economic hit, the downturn has highlighted how other states look to Washington for their lead.
“The vivid message of the financial crisis… was that America continued to be of vital importance to other countries, including its putative rivals as pre-eminent powers,” the IISS said in its 2009 strategic survey.
This is confirmed by the interest generated by US President Barack Obama’s attempts to engage with countries such as Iran and Russia and extend a hand to Muslims in the Middle East, following his election in November 2008.
“Virtually all (countries), from their different perspectives, wanted Washington to be less ineffectual in its international relations than it had been in the previous years,” the report said.
However, the IISS warns that Washington will increasingly have to rely on other countries to help achieve its aims — something Obama is already doing.
America’s economic clout has been reduced following the worst global economic downturn since the 1930s, but the IISS said the crisis also confirmed its status as a world leader.
“America’s banking system may have been paralysed and all but bankrupt, but the crash showed the enormous resources that the United States could bring to bear to deal with the situation,” the think tank said.
Meanwhile, the IISS warned against any assumption about the inexorable advance of China as a rival, saying the crisis exposed how dependent Beijing is on exports and how closely its economy is linked to the United States.
China holds about 700 billion dollars of US Treasury debt — ensuring it has a significant stake in maintaining the value of US investments and the dollar.
While Beijing maintains “substantial” military, political and economic ambitions, the report notes that it is US rather than China-led partnerships that continue to dominate in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It remains the case that for most international issues, the United States has greater opportunities to gather coalitions around its point of view than does China,” it said.
And the IISS argues these coalitions — so called “mini-lateralism” — will be vital in the future.
Obama has acknowledged the limits on the United States’ ability to impose its will on other countries and achieve its foreign policy goals by itself, both practically and in terms of support at home.
Currently, he is “seeking to build coalitions of the relevant (coutries) to advance shared interests”, on issues such as climate change as well as specific regional concerns, the report said.
“Domestically, Obama may have campaigned on the theme ‘yes we can’; internationally he may increasingly have to argue: ‘no we can’t',” it said.
“That’s why in the next year or two, the greatest demand on US talents and power will be to persuade more to become like minded and adopt greater burdens.”
LONDON – US President Barack Obama said he was troubled by Syria’s behaviour but hoped for progress in ties with former foe Damascus, in an interview to be screened Sunday.
Obama was asked by Britain’s Sky News television if he would accept an invitation to go to Damascus for face-to-face talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We’ve started to see some diplomatic contacts between the United States and Syria,” Obama said, in an interview recorded during Saturday’s visit to Ghana.
“There are aspects of Syrian behaviour that trouble us and we think that there is a way that Syria can be much more constructive on a whole host of these issues.
“But, as you know, I’m a believer in engagement and my hope is that we can continue to see progress on that front.”
Assad said earlier this month that he would be willing to meet Obama in Syria to discuss Middle East issues.
“We would like to welcome him in Syria, definitely. I am very clear about this,” he told Sky News.
The Obama administration said last month it would send an ambassador back to Syria after a four-year absence, as Washington tries to engage with a former foe in a bid to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks.
The previous administration of president George W. Bush had put relations with Syria on hold in 2005, following the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Obama has moved to re-engage Damascus, a key regional player, as the United States seeks to breathe new life into the faltering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Washington first imposed economic sanctions on Syria in 2004 over charges it was sponsoring terrorism. The sanctions have been extended several times since.