Top US commander: Burning Quran endangers troops

September 7, 2010


Afghans burn an effigy of Dove World Outreach Center’s pastor Terry Jones during a demonstration against the United States in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 6, 2010. Hundreds of Afghans railed against the U.S. and called for President Barack Obama’s death at a rally in the capital Monday to denounce the American church’s plans to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

KABUL, Afghanistan – The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warned Tuesday that an American church’s threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book the Quran could endanger U.S. troops in the country and Americans worldwide.

“Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” Gen. David Petraeus said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

His comments followed a protest Monday by hundreds of Afghans over the plans by Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center – an evangelical Christian church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy – to burn copies of the Quran on church grounds to mark the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States that provoked the Afghan war.

Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and insist that it be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is deeply offensive.

In 2005, 15 people died and scores were wounded in riots in Afghanistan sparked by a story in Newsweek magazine alleging that interrogators at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay placed copies of the Quran in washrooms and had flushed one down the toilet to get inmates to talk. Newsweek later retracted the story.

At Monday’s protest, several hundred Afghans rallied outside a Kabul mosque, burning American flags and an effigy of Dove World’s pastor and chanting “death to America.” Members of the crowd briefly pelted a passing U.S. military convoy with stones, but were ordered to stop by rally organizers.

Two days earlier, thousands of Indonesian Muslims had rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and in five other cities to protest the church’s plans.

Petraeus warned images of burning Qurans could be used to incite anti-American sentiments similar to the pictures of prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Graib (ah-booh GRABE) prison.

“I am very concerned by the potential repercussions of the possible (Quran) burning. Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday,” Petraeus said in his message. “Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also issued a statement condemning the church’s plans, saying Washington was “deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups.”

Dove World Outreach Center, which made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that said “Islam is of the Devil,” has been denied a permit to set a bonfire but has vowed to proceed with the burning.

A surge in troop deployments has brought the number of U.S. forces battling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan to about 100,000 and Petraeus is asking for 2,000 more soldiers to join the 140,000-strong international force here, NATO officials said Monday. It was unclear how many would be Americans.

Coalition officials said nearly half will be trainers for the rapidly expanding Afghan security forces and will include troops trained to neutralize roadside bombs that have been responsible for about 60 percent of the 2,000 allied deaths in the nearly 9-year war.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to talk about the issue with media, said the NATO-led command had been asking for the troops even before Gen. David Petraeus assumed command here in July.

Petraeus recently renewed that request with the NATO command in Brussels. The alliance has had trouble raising more troops for the war effort, with at least 450 training slots still unfilled after more than a year.

With casualties rising, the war has become deeply unpopular in many of NATO’s 28 member countries, suggesting the additional forces will have to come from the United States. In Europe, polls show the majority of voters consider it an unnecessary drain on finances at a time of sharp cuts in public spending and other austerity measures.

7 US troops, politician killed in Afghan unrest

August 30, 2010

KABUL (AFP) – Seven US soldiers and an election candidate have been killed in a wave of weekend attacks in Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, as President Hamid Karzai called for a rethink of Washington’s war strategy.

Two soldiers were killed Sunday in separate attacks, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

Five troops were killed in other militant violence in the south and east of the country, the areas hardest hit by the Taliban-led insurgency now reaching the end of its ninth and most deadly year.

A US military spokesman said all seven soldiers were US nationals.

Karzai told the visiting Norbert Lammert, president of the German parliament, that the counter-insurgency strategy must be rethought, according to a statement from Karzai’s office.

“Speaking about Afghanistan and regional security (Karzai) said that the strategy of the war on terrorism must be reassessed,” the statement said.

“The experience over the past years showed that fighting (Taliban) in Afghan villages has been ineffective and is not achieving anything but killing civilians.”

International troops have suffered escalating casualties as they step up the fight against a Taliban insurgency which has become increasingly deadly since the militants were ousted from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

The number of foreign soldiers killed in the war so far this year has now reached 472, compared with 521 who died during all of 2009, according to an AFP tally based on a count by the independent website.

Civilian casualties have also risen, but insurgents were responsible for over three quarters of the 1,271 deaths and 1,997 people wounded in the first six months of this year, according to a UN report this month.

About 141,000 US and NATO troops are deployed in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency and protect Karzai’s US-backed government.

The country is due to hold its second post-Taliban parliamentary elections on September 18 amid fears that insurgent attacks might disrupt the vote.

Candidate Abdul Manan, running for a seat in the western province of Herat, was shot dead Saturday in an attack blamed on the militants.

The Taliban are accused of being responsible for the deaths of two other candidates since the launch of the election campaign in early July.

Police Sunday also found the bodies of five members of the campaign team of female candidate Fawzya Galani, days after 10 of them were abducted.

The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Herat province on Wednesday.

“We have found five of the abducted members of Ms. Galani’s campaign team. They were dumped on the side of a mountain,” said Nisar Ahmad Popal, the chief of Adrskan district, where the bodies were found.

“We don’t know where the other five are,” he said.

Police in the northern province of Faryab meanwhile said four women working for a local group treating drug addicts were snatched by gunmen on Saturday. Provincial police chief Khalilullah Andarabi blamed the abduction on “armed opposition groups”, a term used for the Taliban and other militants.

ISAF said eight civilians were also killed in a wave of attacks on Saturday including a suicide bombing.

NATO troops backed by Afghan security forces killed up to 15 insurgents in a battle in the eastern province of Paktia late on Saturday, ISAF said.

Separately, police on Sunday shot dead two suicide bombers as they headed towards the office of the governor of Farah province in the southwest.

The violence follows an attempt by a Taliban suicide bomber squad on Saturday to storm two US-run military bases in the eastern province of Khost. The US-led military said 30 rebels, 13 of them wearing suicide vests, staged the failed attacks on the bases, in which all were killed during gunbattles.

Violence has picked up in recent months as the Taliban insurgency has gathered pace in the face of a troop “surge” by international forces.

Hillary Widens Pak-US “Historic Distrust”

July 26, 2010

General Mirza Aslam Beg
Former Chief of Army Staff

Diplomats are very careful in choosing their words, when dealing with other countries. They are polite, articulate, courteous and convey even very tough messages with a touch of grace. But the Secretary of United States, Hillary Clinton, on her recent visit to Pakistan, appeared much jilted, emotionally disturbed, and displaying a strange logic, she hit-out to “decrease the Historic Distrust”. She said:

  • One: “Should an attack on United States be traced to Pakistan, it would have a very devastating impact.” This means, another demonstration of “shock and awe” over Pakistan, as on Afghanistan in 2001, but with a difference, that India would also join them, as they are also having jitters after the Mumbai attack.
  • Two: “I believe, Mullah Omar and Osama are here in Pakistan and you know they are here. Don’t double cross. Help us to get them.” For over nine years, the Americans and their allies have been trying to get them and having failed, now expect the Pakistan Army to ‘produce the rabbits from the hat’, failing which Pakistan has to remain prepared to face the wrath of the sole super-power of the world.
  • Three: “Pak-China nuclear deal is a matter of great concern. We can trace the export of nuclear information and material from Pakistan, through all kinds of channels, to many different countries. We are fulfilling our commitment, but it is not a one way street.” Whereas, both China and Pakistan have explained umpteen times, that China-Pakistan nuclear deal is fully covered by the IAEA guarantees and should not be a matter of concern for any one. But this is the case of the ‘lion and the lamb’ where the water flows from down upwards and therefore Pakistan is to be prepared to face the onslaught of the ‘global-anti-nuclear-proliferation-regime of USA, Israel and India,’ ready to take out Pakistan’s nuclear assets and capabilities.
  • Four: “Pakistan is double-crossing us in dealing with the terrorists. They are shielding the Haqqani group in particular, who are causing all the trouble for us in Afghanistan. It is time for Pakistan, now, to make sure, that we are on the same page on Afghanistan” and “There is a gulf between how the Pakistanis define the good and bad Taliban and what Washington calls reconcilable and irreconcilable Taliban.”

As if, this was not enough, Pakistan and Afghanistan delegates were huddled together at Islamabad to sign the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, while Hillary stood behind like a headmistress with a rod in hand, to ensure compliance. The entire process was completed in such a hurry, that the Pakistani delegate didn’t have the time to discuss the matter with the parliament, or at least with the members of the Cabinet. And our Prime Minister, who should not have been there, in any case, stood, hand folded and cheered, at the signing of the agreement, with a cynical smile on his face.

Hillary Clinton scored another point, by forcing the government of Pakistan, to restore the privilege of our Ambassador in Washington, to issue, one year, multiple visit visas to the Americans visiting Pakistan. This privilege was abused in the past by the American citizens visiting Pakistan working for Blackwater and other such shady organizations. It means that the old ‘cloak and dagger’ game is on, once again.

It is not only Hillary, but also, Admiral Mike Mullen, who tried to further decrease the “historic-gap”, by revealing from New Delhi, that: “Mumbai carnage had demonstrated how a small group of extremists could have a ‘strategic impact. I’ve worried a great deal about a repeat attack of something like that and am making sure this doesn’t happen again. But there is an implication that there is zero-sum game here, that if we increase our interactions with Pakistan we are somehow diminishing India. I can’t even imagine why any one would think that India is being diminished. Our goal is to have full transparency with India on what’s going on in Afghanistan. The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem in this respect.”

Hillary Clinton’s next stop was Kabul, where she met the ‘seventy countries group, trying to find the resources to rebuild Afghanistan. Strangely enough, Hillary was totally mellowed down and in a reconciliatory mood. She remarked: “The July 2011, date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve. The transition period is too important to push off indefinitely. This date is the start of the new phase, not the end of our involvement.” This statement of the American Secretary of State, read in conjunction with Karzai’s proposal, is in fact a tacit acceptance of the first two demands of Mullah Omar, as the pre-conditions for talks. The demands are:

  • One: A definite time of withdrawal from Afghanistan which has now been given as July 2011, and seventy countries attending the conference are a witness to it.
  • Two: Release the fifty Taliban leaders in the custody of the occupation forces and the black list be removed immediately.

This indicates a big shift in the American stance, to enter into dialogue with the Taliban. The melt-down has started, setting a very fast pace of development, which will overtake the ‘American resolve to maintain their involvement till the year 2014.” Raising an Afghan Army of 170,000 and a police force of 30,000, as a bulwark against the Taliban, is not workable. The reality has been accepted, that, without the participation of the Taliban, who have won the war and also are in majority, no stable government can be formed in Afghanistan.

What role Pakistan can play, to ease-out the exit process of the occupation forces and facilitate the establishment of a stable government, is the moot question. There is a big trust deficit between the Afghan Taliban and the government of Pakistan, Pakistan Army and the ISI. And there is no magic solution to bridge this gap and no visible effort either on part of Pakistan, to achieve this purpose. On the other hand, Karzai appears to be playing a more sensible game. He has succeeded in gaining the acceptance of the first two demands of the Taliban. And through this process he may well succeed on a cease-fire, followed by a Loe-Jirga, to decide the future of Afghanistan. As of now, he appears to be a safe bet, while Pakistan has more than enough at hand to respond to Hillary Clinton’s charge-sheet.

In her attempt to decrease the “Historic Distrust”, Hillary’s utterances can be taken as a befitting gift to Pakistan, “the most allied ally, the strategic partner and the non-NATO ally of all times.” Yet, we would say: “As far as criticism is concerned, we don’t resent that, unless it is absolutely biased,” (John Vorster). Hillary’s criticism and allegations are outrightly biased, lacking substance and reality.

Pentagon tightens media rules for US military

July 6, 2010

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tightened rules on media relations for the US military, only days after the top general in Afghanistan was sacked over disparaging comments he and aides made in an interview.

An official said the memo was not “intended to muzzle the press or the department.”

In a three-page memo sent Friday to senior military and civilian Pentagon staff, Gates said he was “concerned that the department has grown lax in how we engage with the media, often in contravention of established rules and procedures.”

In a copy of the memo obtained by AFP, the former Central Intelligence Agency director said “leaking of classified information is against the law, cannot be tolerated, and will, when proven, lead to the prosecution of those found to be engaged in such activity.”

Titled “Interaction with the media,” the memo instructs Pentagon officials to notify the Defense Department’s assistant secretary for public affairs “prior to interviews or any other means of media and public engagement with possible national or international implications.”

Gates’s message comes just days after US General Stanley McChrystal was swiftly relieved of his command in Kabul after he and his aides showed disdain for administration officials — including President Barack Obama — in a Rolling Stone magazine profile.

The episode set off an impassioned online debate about military-media relations and prompted predictions of a chilling effect for news coverage of the war and the Pentagon.

It has also caused Pentagon leaders to take a close look at how the military handles the media, as the department had increasingly empowered commands in Kabul and Baghdad to speak directly to reporters and release information about operations.

The new assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Douglas Wilson, told AFP that the Gates memo “is not linked to the Rolling Stone episode” and “is not intended to muzzle the press or the department.”

“It reflects Secretary Gates’s concerns, which he has expressed for many weeks publicly and privately, regarding the department’s engagement with the press and the need to make sure that all those who engage with the press on domestic and international issues do so with full situational awareness, and are fully informed about what it is they’re saying.”

“Does it mean that a soldier on the field is going to be prohibited from speaking to an embedded reporter? Absolutely not. That is not the intent,” Wilson added.

Afghan, NATO troops kill 63 Taliban

July 5, 2010

Daily Times

KABUL: Afghan authorities said on Sunday that they killed more than 60 Taliban in raids against them and their drug-trafficking backers in a restive part of southern Afghanistan. More than 16 tonnes of drugs – mostly opium – were also seized in Bahramcha district of Helmand province, centre of a Taliban-led insurgency and Afghanistan’s biggest poppy-growing region, the interior ministry said. “Sixty-three terrorists were killed,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to Taliban-linked insurgents. “The operation was successfully completed today (Sunday),” the statement said. Two factories for converting opium into heroin were destroyed and “a large number” of weapons and ammunition were also seized in the raids, which began on Friday by Afghan counter narcotics commandos supported by NATO troops, it added. The commandos also freed 10 villagers captured by the Taliban for allegedly working with the government while arresting 10 Taliban and drugs traffickers, the statement said.d. War-ravaged Afghanistan is the world’s largest heroin producer, with annual exports worth $3 billion dollars helping fuel the Taliban insurgency. afp

Eric Holder in Kabul to discuss corruption

July 1, 2010


KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in the Afghan capital to talk with officials about improving the justice system and fighting corruption Wednesday, a day after Afghanistan’s top prosecutor defended himself against allegations that he’s being pressured not to pursue cases against powerful figures.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. holds a press conference Wednesday, June 30, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mr. Holder was in the Afghan capital to talk with officials about improving the justice system and fighting corruption. (AP Photo/Ahmad Massoud)

Corruption and an ineffectual court system have undermined public trust in President Hamid Karzai’s government. The Obama administration and other donor nations, who need Karzai to be perceived as a credible partner, are pushing him to clean up bribery, graft and corruption.

“Fighting corruption and supporting the rule of law in Afghanistan are top priorities for this administration, and we will continue to assist the Afghan government in creating and sustaining the effective criminal justice system to which the Afghan people are entitled,” Holder said in a statement issued by the U.S. Justice Department in Washignton.

Karzai, who has set up an anti-corruption commission, insists that he does not condone or tolerate corruption. In a recent speech, he invited people to come forward with evidence of corruption even if it implicated his relatives, friends or government officials.

On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s top prosecutor rejected allegations that he’s being asked not to agressively pursue corruption cases against people with political connections. Mohammad Ishaq Aloko also accused U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry of overstepping his diplomatic authority by suggesting that he step down as attorney general if he wasn’t going to charge an Afghan banker in a corruption case.

“It is against all diplomatic ethics that the U.S. ambassador is telling me: ‘If you don’t put this person in prison, you must resign,'” Aloko told reporters, recounting a conversation he had with Eikenberry two weeks ago. “I am the attorney general of an independent country.”

Caitlin Hayden, a spokesman for Eikenberry, did not comment on the conversation, saying the ambassador’s discussions with Afghan officials were private.

“The U.S. Embassy has a regular dialogue and a strong partnership with the attorney general and his office, including robust mentoring and training programs,” the embassy spokeswoman said.

The attorney general held a news conference on Tuesday to rebut a story published Monday in The Washington Post, which alleged that top officials in the Karzai government were blocking corruption probes of political allies. The newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying that among other things, Afghan prosecutors and investigators had been instructed to disregard evidence against executives of a major financial firm suspected of helping Afghan powerbrokers move millions of dollars out of the country.

“They are saying that I am under the pressure, but I’m not,” Aloko said.

The attorney general said his conversation with Eikenberry involved allegations that Mohammad Rafi Azimi, deputy chairman of Afghan United Bank, was linked to the case against the former head of the Ministry of Hajj and Mosque, Sediq Chakari.

Chakari, who has maintained his innocence, has been tied to the disappearance of travel funds for last year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The attorney general’s office has asked Interpol to arrest Chakari who is believed to be in Britain.

American World Order: The Beginning Of The End

June 30, 2010

Engr. Mansoor A Malik

The American Euphoria after the surrender of the Japanese on the US Naval Ship in the Pacific soon after the capitulation of the Germans was at its peak in the late 1940s’.The largesse of the American people and their government to re-build Europe and Asia as an aftermath of the Second World War was breathtaking and never again would the world at large ever witness such large heartedness and love for humanity. The US became the unchallenged leader of the Free World with the Dullesian (Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles) aid package flowing all over the world with or without their asking. This was America’s finest hour. Under these favorable conditions the Europeans pushed America for the creation of Israel in Palestine to appease the Zionists and putting the USA on the spot in Vietnam and Korea in the Pacific.

The Death of Jumbo

Pakistan ventured to the USA under these circumstances to re-invigorate itself and get out of the log jam of the Partition of India. This first trip to the USA of our first Prime Minister, Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, soon after Pakistan came into being, however, turned out to be a fiasco. The US administration wanted our Armed Forces involved in the Korean War (1950-1953) after getting the relevant support from the Turkish Armed Forces for this war. Liaqat Ali Khan disappointed them as he referred this decision to the newly established first Democratic Parliament of Pakistan. President Eisenhower rushed his Vice-President Mr. Richard Nixon to India as an affront to Pakistan’s political leadership. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India refused to entertain him and no hand shaking took place, even for the cameras, as India sought out its leadership role in the Non-Aligned Movement. For face saving, Mr. Nixon flew into Pakistan for a golden hand shake with its leaders and the rest is history. Pakistan was turned into the most allied ally of the USA.

The Nuclear strikes by USAF in Japan at the closing stages of the Second World War was not only a show of strength to the Soviet Union but also heralded the United States as a champion of the Western World in the global political perspective in the times to come. From the world isolation of USA in the 1920s’ and 1930s’, it thrusted itself, un-prepared, on the World Scene and stretched itself in Asia, Africa and Latin America apart from consolidating its Trans-Atlantic relationship with its distant European cousins. This half cooked policy backfired in Korea in 1950s’ and had a tragic ending in Vietnam as far as Asia was concerned in 1970s’. In the European theatre, France and Germany started to take an independent posture and the onus fell on UK to deliver Europe to its WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) cousins in Washington. Mr. Macmillan may have been an outstanding Prime Minister of UK in his time but he was no match for Addenauer and Willy Brandt of Germany and the good old fox of France, General Charles de Gaulle. These stalwarts were instrumental in pushing the dream of One Europe to be realized thru the European Union in our lifetime. This has made possible for Europe to be counted now at the global level regardless of the Spoilers role of the UK.

The whiz kids in Washington at the turn of this century, the new millennium, wanted to re-fix their Asian Imbroglio as a counter weight to the growing influence of the European Union and China. In the Middle-East, Israel, its proxy, had to be pepped up and left to it to control the region with least opposition. Therefore, after the neutralization of Egypt, Iraq had to be dealt with and Syria isolated from this new political gamble in the making. The de-stabilization of Iraq could not be intelligently simulated in the War Gaming Simulators of the USA with the result that the Asymmetrical Forces were un-leashed around Israel increasing the paranoia of this tinny witty state in the Palestinian lands. Then it was our turn in South- West Asia. Instead of sending a few American commandos to pick up handful of miscreants in Afghanistan and produce them at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a fair trial, the sovereignty of that country along with that of Pakistan was abused by first firing more than fifty Tomahawk Cruise Missiles by US Navy from our waters in Baluchistan to the Afghan camps at Khost across our border and then came the Daisy Cutters and B-52 Bombers to level off whatever was left of Afghanistan. My generation would now be left with only nostalgic memories of Nirvana about the annual Jashne-Kabul festivities that we attended in out teens in Kabul that was in the 1960s’.

The Israeli spread over from East of the Suez Canal was checked in its stride by the emerging Iranian reality and therefore, a new strategic dimension had to be added to the Middle-Eastern leg. This was achieved thru a two pronged approach by the USA. The first one involved the US-Israeli collusion in the exploitation of Economic Zones in Central Asia and the second, more intriguing one involving US-NATO-Israel-India was un-leashed in Afghanistan. This poor country which was already a melting pot of Central Asian Peoples’ became a hot bed of intrigues and counter intrigues due to varied approaches of these four entities, with each having their own axe to grind. The Afghan Resistance grew due to this lack of coherence and self centered policies of all these powerful players. The major contribution of this military campaign fell on the shoulders of USA, whereas, the political benefits were envisaged to be reaped by India as the regional power. The Indo-Israeli nexus was again playing its cards close to its chest and putting the donkey’s work on the shoulders of USA similar the one in the Iraqi campaign. If the Iraq War would cost the American tax payers one and a half trillion US dollar by the time all American soldiers go home from this theatre, it would cost half that much in the Afghan campaign. What is the Cost-Benefit Ratio of both these campaigns to the average American?

The economics of it can take its own toll, but the signs of the long term political and diplomatic ramifications to the USA as a global player, has already become visible. Israel is now openly defying the Two State Solution Policy of the USA for Palestine and the body language of America’s interlocutor in the Middle-East, Mr. John Mitchell says it all. In Afghanistan, the poorest country in Asia, the existing US policy has miserably failed. While Iraq had its historical reputation of getting its rivers turned red out of martyr’s blood after every few centuries including this one, the Afghans being ferociously independent, have never allowed the Czars of Russia, the British Empire and the Soviet Union an easy passage to their rugged country. They have stood their grounds while empires of the past have perished around them. How will America fare differently? Only time will tell.

In brief, Mansoor Malik has been Director General with over 33 year of experience in planning, establishing and managing national level, strategic, high-tech organizations. Director General, Marketing & Industrial Relations Organization (MIRO). Commandant, College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur, Pakistan.

Senior Engineering Manager, PAF Project where he was responsible for the smooth induction of F-16 Aircraft Weapons System in the PAF and making them fully operational.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers