Showing posts with label PAKISTAN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PAKISTAN. Show all posts

Friday, May 15

MEDIORIENTE: SE SEMINI PIOGGIA, RACCOGLI TEMPESTA.

La minaccia dei sauditi di creare un proprio programma nucleare è il pericolo che l’Amministrazione americana ha cercato di scongiurare. 

Ma dopo una lunga stagione di appeasement con Teheran, che ha esaurito la fiducia degli alleati del Golfo e messo in crisi la “relazione speciale” tra Washington e Gerusalemme, è probabile che la corsa all’uranio non si fermerà sia che l’accordo sia siglato e l’Iran continui ad arricchire il suo uranio, con qualche restrizione a termine, sia che le trattative saltino e l’Iran continui l’arricchimento senza restrizioni. 

L’unica alternativa sarebbe lo scontro con Teheran, ma questo è l’altro pericolo che l’Amministrazione americana ha cercato di scongiurare in ogni modo.

Per il presidente americano Barack Obama, stringere un accordo con l’Iran è da sempre un modo per rendere il mondo un posto più sicuro e per evitare la proliferazione nucleare. 

Ma ora che il "deal" sta per essere siglato alla fine di giugno, se i negoziati vanno come previsto, e che l’occidente si prepara a riconoscere il diritto dell’Iran di arricchire l’uranio a scopi civili, le monarchie del Golfo radunate a Camp David per chiedere spiegazioni (e armi) al presidente pretendono sull’atomo lo stesso trattamento riservato al regime degli ayatollah

Per ogni grammo di uranio che gli iraniani sono autorizzati ad arricchire, dicono, noi ne arricchiremo altrettanto; qualunque capacità nucleare avrà Teheran, l’avremo anche noi

Ieri e mercoledì Obama ha ospitato l’atteso summit con i paesi del Golfo (Arabia Saudita, Emirati arabi uniti, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrein e Qatar), quello con cui Obama sperava di far mandar giù alle riluttanti monarchie sunnite l’accordo nucleare con l’Iran, e che per tutta risposta i re sunniti, primo fra tutti re Salman dell’Arabia Saudita, hanno deciso di disertare, mandando dei delegati. 

Molte richieste dei paesi del Golfo (armi sofisticate, uno scudo antimissile, un trattato di mutua difesa sul modello di quello stipulato con Giappone e Corea del sud) sono state bocciate già prima dell’inizio del vertice, e così, mentre i monarchi del Golfo iniziano a pensare che non si possono fidare di Washington (soprattutto perché Washington non si fida di loro), e mentre Obama accoglieva i sauditi confondendo il nome di uno dei delegati, vice principe della corona, il New York Times racconta che la diplomazia dell’Arabia ha già iniziato in mezzo mondo la campagna per una nuova corsa all’uranio.

“Non possiamo starcene seduti mentre l’Iran può mantenere gran parte della sua capacità (nucleare) e proseguire nella sua ricerca”, ha detto uno dei membri della delegazione saudita al New York Times. L’ex capo dell’Intelligence saudita, il principe Turki bin Faisal, pochi giorni fa a una conferenza ha espresso il messaggio in maniera ancora più chiara: “Quello che avranno gli iraniani, l’avremo anche noi”. 

L’Arabia Saudita non è nuova a questo genere di minacce. E’ dall’inizio del negoziato con l’Iran che paesi del Golfo dicono che in caso di accordo si aprirà la strada alla proliferazione, e il principe Bin Faisal ha già parlato molte volte di compensare l’Iran con un programma nucleare saudita, per esempio nel 2014. Ma fino a oggi le minacce di Riad erano più che altro materiale di scambio negoziale. Oggi, con il deal quasi fatto, sembrano più serie. 

L’Arabia Saudita non ha un programma nucleare attivo, e ha bisogno di aiuto esterno per iniziare ad arricchire l’uranio. Il candidato principale per fornirlo è il Pakistan, i sauditi finanziarono indirettamente il programma nucleare pachistano, e gli analisti ritengono che Islamabad potrebbe dare ai sauditi non solo la tecnologia, ma direttamente l’arma atomica

Fin dal 2011, inoltre, i cables diplomatici trafugati da Wikileaks mostravano l’esistenza di discussioni intense tra l’Arabia e il Pakistan su trasferimenti di tecnologia atomica e accordi di sicurezza legati all’atomo

Un programma nucleare richiede decenni per essere completato, e l’Arabia Saudita non diventerebbe una potenza nucleare nel giro di breve. Ma i funzionari arabi che hanno parlato con il Times hanno detto che i paesi del Golfo stanno già discutendo la possibilità di un programma nucleare congiunto, che potrebbe ridurre i tempi.

Thursday, May 30

LA POLITICA ESTERA DI BARACK OBAMA

Quando Barack Obama ha tenuto, la settimana scorsa, il suo grande discorso sulla Sicurezza Nazionale, i droni, Guantanamo e la “perpetual war” contro il terrore, molti giornali liberal tirarono un sospiro di sollievo. Il New York Times ha scritto che finalmente il presidente aveva detto “in modo inequivocabile” che “lo stato di guerra permanente iniziato 12 anni fa non è sostenibile per la democrazia e deve finire in un futuro non troppo distante”.

In ritardo, ma l’ha fatto: “Obama ha detto al mondo che gli Stati Uniti devono tornare a uno stato in cui il controterrorismo è gestito, come accadeva prima del 2001, con il Law Enforcement e le Agenzie d’Intelligence”. Il riferimento allo stato pre11 settembre non è rassicurante, visto che proprio il fallimento dell’Intelligence è stato determinante per quell’attacco che ha cambiato la guerra al terrorismo (per sempre, verrebbe da dire), ma quel che più conta è che la strategia americana è già da tempo priva di ideologia interventista liberale, ma è dominata dalla caccia ai leader di al Qaida, ovunque essi siano, con licenza di uccidere. 

In quello stesso editoriale del New York Times si diceva che Obama vuole far rientrare anche l’utilizzo dei droni dentro a una cornice legale ora del tutto assente, ma che il presidente non aveva affatto detto che avrebbe ridotto il loro utilizzo. E infatti ieri è arrivata la notizia di uno strike con gli aerei senza pilota nel North Waziristan, Pakistan, almeno sei le vittime, tra cui il numero due dei talebani. 


Se la notizia sarà confermata, l’obiettivo dell’attacco (riuscito) è Wali-ur Rehman, che ha organizzato decine di attacchi contro le truppe pachistane, contro i civili e soprattutto contro le truppe della Nato: sarebbe stato lui a ordire il famoso attacco contro la CIA nella base di Khost – raccontato anche nel film “Zero Dark Thirty”.


Obama non vuole rinunciare ai droni, perché questa strategia per quanto impopolare presso i liberal inorriditi porta dei risultati. Obama non può rinunciare ai droni, perché non ha altra arma contro il terrorismo: la guerra permanente al terrore è già finita da un po’, nell’ambito delle idee: resta la gestione efficiente di un problema. Si parla della pace, si fa la guerra: "obamismo puro".

Monday, March 8

PAKISTAN: FLOP DELLA CIA SUL CATTURATO AL QAEDISTA. ALTRO "SCHERZETTO DEI SERVIZI PAKISTANI".

Le autorità del Pakistan hanno negato oggi di aver arrestato Adam Gadahn, un cittadino americano considerato il portavoce di al Qaida e ricercato negli Usa per alto tradimento. Lo riferisce Dawn News Tv. Il presunto arresto di Gadahn, che ha 31 anni, era stato considerato ieri dal quotidiano Washington Post come "il risultato di maggior rilievo dall'inizio della collaborazione, sempre più intensa, tra i Servizi segreti pachistani e gli Stati Uniti nella lotta contro al Qaida". 
Un responsabile della sicurezza che ha chiesto l'anonimato, ha dichiarato oggi che sull'identità dell'arrestato "vi sono state confusioni". In precedenza, fonti pakistane avevano indicato che il portavoce di al Qaida, su cui pende una taglia di un milione di dollari, era stato catturato vicino a Karachi. "All'inizio - ha spiegato l'ufficiale - avevamo avuto l'impressione che si trattasse proprio di Gadahn, ma allo stato La persona che abbiamo arrestato, ha concluso, "sembra pure avere legami con al Qaida", ma "non sappiamo ancora se si tratta di un pesce grosso".

Wednesday, March 3

PAKISTAN: police submitted on Tuesday charges of plotting terrorism against five young Americans detained last year, a lawyer said.

The students, in their 20s and from the US state of Virginia, were detained in December in the town of Sargodha, 190 km (120 miles) southeast of Islamabad, and accused of contacting militants over the Internet and plotting attacks. They have not been formally charged, but police on Tuesday submitted a charge sheet in an anti-terrorist court in Sargodha, said defence lawyer Hassan Dastagir. “The court received the challan (charge sheet) which carries charges of criminal conspiracy, having the intention to go to Pakistan's neighbouring countries to topple the government and involvement in fund raising for terrorist acts,” he told Reuters.

The court is expected to formally charge the five at the next hearing on March 10, he said. The case has raised alarm over the danger posed by militants using the Internet to evade tighter international security measures and plan attacks. The five, who earlier told the court they only wanted to provide fellow Muslims in Afghanistan with medical and financial help, face life imprisonment if convicted, Dastagir said. Police have said the men - two of them of Pakistani origin, one of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean origin - wanted to go to Afghanistan to join the Taliban to fight Afghan and Western forces.

Police have said emails showed they contacted Pakistani militants who had planned to use them for attacks in Pakistan, a front-line state in the US-led war against militancy. The five have accused the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Pakistani police of torturing them and trying to frame them. Pakistani authorities deny the accusations of mistreatment. Pakistan is fighting al Qaeda-linked militants and is under pressure from the United States to help stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan by cracking down on militants' cross-border attacks on US-led troops.

Friday, February 26

Pakistan: A Reality Check on the Quetta Shura Arrests


SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
A billboard advertising a reward for the capture of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar (R) and American-born al Qaeda operative Adam Gadhan
Summary
Reports have come out in recent days that more than half of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership has been arrested. However, most of these reports have come from unverifiable sources in the Pakistani government, making these claims dubious. Islamabad has every reason to want to appear supportive of the United States’ goals in Afghanistan while simultaneously positioning itself for control over the country when U.S. forces withdraw.
Analysis
Seven of the 15 members of the so-called Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban’s shadowy apex leadership council based in the Pashtun corridor of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, have been arrested according to a Feb. 24 report in the Christian Science Monitor, a U.S. newspaper, citing unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. According to this report, in addition to the previously reported arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Maulavi Abdul Kabir and Mullah Muhammad Younis, Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement’s military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada and Mullah Abdul Raouf were also arrested.
Only about half of these arrests have thus far been confirmed in any way. But more importantly, the composition of the Quetta Shura is itself a closely guarded secret. Only Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has the sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the Afghan Taliban to even have a good grasp of the council’s members, so reports from unnamed officials are extremely difficult to verify. No one has a master list of the Afghan Taliban leadership with which to check off individuals.
Even if all these men have indeed been arrested, it is difficult to say whether the Quetta Shura has really been reduced significantly, or — in many cases — if the individuals arrested are actually those they are thought to be. Almost all reports on the details of the arrests cite Pakistani security officials, and there is no way to independently verify them. Islamabad has incentive to show that it is cooperating with the United States, while at the same time reshaping the Afghan Taliban leadership landscape to suit its own long-term purposes.
This most recent leak comes as Pakistan has publicized a string of intelligence coups ranging from the arrest of shadow Taliban governors from northern Afghanistan, to the death of the leader of Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ), Qari Zafar and a supporting role in the Iranian arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jundallah. Many aspects of these reports cannot be verified at this time, and given the lack of corroboration and Pakistan’s interests in manipulating perceptions, there is much to suggest that at least some element of Islamabad is feeding the media for its own purposes.
There is little doubt that there are at least partial truths to this series of reports, and that there have been some significant achievements. Baradar, for example, absolutely appears to be in Pakistani custody and may soon be transferred to a detention facility at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.
But there are a number of moving parts in the attempts to negotiate with the Taliban — or degrade its capabilities. Pakistan is playing a complex game, and one important question is the extent to which Pakistan is indeed cooperating and coordinating with the United States in a meaningful way, rather than simply making temporary or symbolic gestures. The Pakistanis are deeply skeptical of U.S. support in the long run, and they already are thinking about managing Afghanistan when the United States begins to draw down there in coming years.
However, there is an entire chapter of history to be written before that happens, and Pakistan has every intention of being at the center of any negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, including the talks, the reconciliation process and the implementation of a settlement. A spate of arrests like those of the Quetta Shura members — regardless of whether they actually have been taken out of commission — may indicate that some sort of power play is taking place. But such a development cannot be confirmed presently, and Islamabad has no shortage of reasons to manipulate perceptions.

Iranian authorities have announced the arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Balochi dissident group Jundallah. Analyst Kamran Bokhari explores theories about the circumstances of his arrest, which might have occurred in Pakistan.

Thursday, February 25

Pakistan has agreed to hand over Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

Another Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Kabir, is also believed to have been detained by Pakistani security forces in recent weeks, but Islamabad has yet to officially confirm his detention. — Photo by AP

Three senior Taliban officials were captured in Pakistan this month, including Mullah Baradar - the highest profile Taliban leader to be held.
“The government of Pakistan has accepted Afghanistan's proposal for extraditing Mullah Baradar and other Taliban who are in its custody and showed readiness to hand over those prisoners ... on the basis of an agreement between the two countries,” a statement from President Hamid Karzai's office said.
Baradar, second only to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, was captured in Karachi in what US media reports said was a joint raid by US and Pakistani intelligence agents, dealing a major blow to the movement.


Bashary said Baradar was one of 42 people, including other Taliban figures, Kabul wants returned from neighbouring Pakistan, which is under strong US pressure to crack down on militants in both countries.
Another Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Kabir, is also believed to have been detained by Pakistani security forces in recent weeks, but Islamabad has yet to officially confirm his detention.

The prisoners “are accused of criminal acts”, it said.
The Taliban, who have made a steady comeback since being ousted by US-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, are under pressure in Afghanistan.
Nato is pushing ahead with one of its largest assaults in Afghanistan since the start of the war, aimed at driving the Taliban from their last big stronghold in the country's most violent province to make way for Afghan authorities to take over.

Saturday, February 20

Pakistan’s Civil Service

If Pakistan’s deteriorating civil service is not urgently repaired, public disillusionment and resentment could be used by the military to justify another spell of authoritarian rule.

Reforming Pakistan’s Civil Service,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the structure and functioning of Pakistan’s civil bureaucracy. It identifies critical flaws as well as measures to make it more accountable and able to provide essential public services. Military rule has left behind a demoralised and inefficient bureaucracy that was used to ensure regime survival. Low salaries, insecure tenure, obsolete accountability mechanisms and political interference have spawned widespread corruption and impunity. If the flaws of an unreformed bureaucracy are not urgently addressed, the government risks losing public support.

“Public perception is that the country’s 2.4 million civil servants are widely unresponsive and corrupt, while bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome and exploitative”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Bureaucratic dysfunction and low capacity undermine governance, providing opportunities to the military to subvert the democratic transition and to extremists to destabilise the state”.

The civil service’s falling standards impact mostly Pakistan’s poor, widening social and economic divisions between the privileged and underprivileged. With citizens increasingly affected by conflict and militancy, the government’s ability to ensure law and order, as well as to provide services such as education and health care, will be as vital to containing the spread of radicalism countrywide as the use of force against militant groups.

Accountability of officials must be effective, impartial and transparent. Incentives for corruption could be reduced significantly with higher salaries and benefits, and better conditions of employment. The civilian government should also focus on transforming the civil service into an effective, more flexible and responsive institution. Reform should therefore include drastic changes to a rigid and over-centralised structure that has been unable to address local fiscal needs and underdevelopment, by delegating important administrative and financial functions to lower tiers.

Bureaucratic rules, procedures and structures should be modernised. Training programs need to be geared towards not just producing a class of capable civil servants, but to restoring a spirit of public service. The international community too can help to improve governance by supporting civil service reform, expanding training programs and providing technological support and expertise to modernise methods of administration.

“The future of the current democratic transition will not only depend on political reconciliation between the ruling party and its opposition, and constitutional amendments to restore parliamentary rule”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “It will also depend on restoring links between the citizens and the state”.

*Read the full Crisis Group briefing on our websitehttp://www.crisisgroup.org

Sunday, February 14

Bravò! US Marines ABV M1A1 ABRHAM: destroy them!



L’Abv, metà bulldozer metà tank, pesa circa 70 tonnellate, può raggiungere le 45 miglia orarie, costa oltre due milioni e mezzo di euro. A bordo tre uomini, una mitragliatrice e dispositivi per neutralizzare mine o le micidiali IED, le bombe artigianali costruite spesso con i fertilizzanti. Le lame anteriori spostano masse di terra provocando la deflagrazione anticipata delle cariche. Oppure l’equipaggio può sparare dei cavi esplosivi sui campi minati, quindi vengono attivati a distanza per far scoppiare gli ordigni. Due Abv, procedendo appaiati, sono in grado di creare un corridoio di sicurezza per altri mezzi e truppe. Il “Mostro” è stato voluto fortemente dai Marines che avevano bisogno di un ariete adatto alle nuove esigenze operative. E l’Abv è entrato in azione per la prima volta in dicembre nella regione di Helmand.Guido Olimpio


English Description:

For the ABV role, the turret of the M1A1 Abrams MBT has been removed and replaced by a new all-welded steel structure to which has been added the latest explosive reactive armour (ERA) package.This provides a higher level of protection against anti-tank weapons fitted with a High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead fitted to weapons such as the RPG-7 (Rocket Propelled Grenade).The commander is seated in the new superstructure and provided with a cupola armed with a .50 (12.7 mm) M2 HB machine gun. A bank of standard electrically operated grenade launchers are fitted one either side of the superstructure to cover the frontal arc.To enable it to carry out its counter mobility role, a variety of specialised equipment supplied by Pearson Engineering of the UK can be fitted.The HLA, whilst providing an increased approach angle to the ABV, allows the rapid fitting and removal of the full suite of ABV front end equipment and sub-systems.For clearing minefields, the FWMP can be swiftly installed at the front of the vehicle which can be rapidly replaced by the CDB that, in addition to clearing battlefield obstacles, can also be used to prepare firing positions.Another alternative installation at the front of the vehicle is the Pearson Engineering ROBS or an SMP.Mounted on the rear of the ABV turret structure is the Linear Demolition Charge System containing two launchers with an updated firing system. Each of these launchers is fitted with a MK 2 solid propellant rocket attached to a M58 linear charge

Wednesday, February 10

PAKISTAN: Hakimullah dead, say US channels, newspapers

The US media — including prominent outlets like CNN, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal — also quoted Taliban sources as saying that Hakimullah had died of the wounds he suffered in a Jan 14 drone attack in North Waziristan.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief was moved to the Orakzai agency for treatment where he died and was buried more than a week ago.

But the media reports also noted contradiction in reports about where he died. They quoted some sources as saying that Hakimullah died in Multan while on his way to a treatment centre in Karachi.

Word of his death contradicts a statement by a Taliban spokesman last week that Hakimullah was alive and in hiding.

The attack that targeted the Taliban leader came a few days after Hakimullah appeared in a video released by the Pakistani Taliban. In it, he sits next to Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the man thought to be the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officers and consultants and a Jordanian army captain at a base in eastern Afghanistan on Dec 30.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack, saying it was carried out to avenge the death of Hakimullah’s predecessor Baitullah Mehsud who was killed in a US drone strike last year.

The attack that initially injured Hakimullah also killed 12 militants in Pasalkot which sits between North and South Waziristan.

See: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/03-taliban-confirm-hakeemullahs-death-ss-01

Tuesday, December 22

PAKISTAN: Terrorists distributing training CDs in city

KARACHI: As the militants continue being tracked down by the city’s security forces, the militants are coming up with innovative ideas to swell its ranks and bring aspiring militants to its fold.

The militants, who were earlier making good use of CDs and DVDs as a means of spreading propaganda, terrorising people and glorifying their victories in the battlefield, have now turned to the same media for training hopeful militants. The CDs provide information regarding physical fitness requirement of a militant, using modern weaponry and developing bombs out of raw material.

These CDs not only focus on providing theoretical guidance, but also display militants in action as they operate different weapons and produce bombs.

Some shots from the battlefield are also included in these CDs, which give the watchers an idea on how they should attack the enemy and then escape from the battlefield.

The training CD, which contains a 54-minute long video, also shows a man developing a suicide jacket and explaining what material to use to make it functional.

Some of the shots included in the CD have been taken from the battlefield of Helmand and some from the attacks on Pakistani security forces.

According to sources, the CDs were developed in the country’s tribal areas and then distributed by the militants “through proper channels”.

According to media experts, these militants are cleverer than expected.

The otherwise anti-media militants properly know how to use modern technology for their cause.

Al-Qaeda and Taliban elements were earlier known for glorifying their on-field achievements and beheading of the “Jasoos”.

This is the first time that such CDs have come on the surface.

Faizullah Jan, a media expert who has been following the activities of the militants, said the tactics of the militants change with time and they know how and what they should do and when.

“Now that they have been under fire from all sides, the militants are looking for inventive techniques for their survival,” he added. However, officials of the Crime Investigation Department have denied existence of any such CDs - at least in Karachi.

US forces mounted secret Pakistan raids in hunt for al-Qaida

Demonstrators in Quetta protest against US threats to extend drone strikes into the Balochistan region, which US military chiefs fear is becoming a Taliban ‘hub'. Photograph: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images
American special forces have conducted multiple clandestine raids into Pakistan's tribal areas as part of a secret war in the border region where Washington is pressing to expand its drone assassination programme.
A former Nato officer said the incursions, only one of which has been previously reported, occurred between 2003 and 2008, involved helicopter-borne elite soldiers stealing across the border at night, and were never declared to the Pakistani government.
"The Pakistanis were kept entirely in the dark about it. It was one of those things we wouldn't confirm officially with them," said the source, who had detailed knowledge of the operations.
Such operations are a matter of sensitivity in Pakistan. While public opinion has grudgingly tolerated CIA-led drone strikes in the tribal areas, any hint of American "boots on the ground" is greeted with virulent condemnation. (
After the only publicly acknowledged special forces raid in September 2008, Pakistan's foreign office condemned it as "a grave provocation" while the military threatened retaliatory action.
The military source said that was the fourth raid of previous years. Two of the others targeted Taliban and al-Qaida "high-value targets" near the border, while the third was to rescue a crashed Predator drone. He said that one of the capture raids succeeded, the other failed and the US sent elite soldiers to the downed Predator because they did not trust Pakistani forces. "People were afraid they would take the parts and reverse- engineer its components," he said.
The secretive nature of the raids underscores the suspicious nature of the relationship between the two allies as they argue about Washington's latest demands.
Disrupting the Taliban safe haven inside Pakistan is the unspoken part of Barack Obama's "surge" announced this month. Although 30,000 troops will be deployed to Afghanistan by next summer, the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership is believed to be sheltering on the Pakistani side of the 1,600-mile border.
In recent weeks Washington has sent a stream of senior officials to Islamabad seeking Pakistani action on at least two fronts: attacks on Sirajuddin Haqqani, a warlord with strong al-Qaida ties based in North Waziristan, and an expansion of the CIA-led drone strikes into the western province of Balochistan.
"This is crunch time," said a senior Pakistani official. "The tone of the Obama administration is growing more ominous. The message is 'you do it, or we will'."
In a recent New York Times article titled Take the war to Pakistan, Seth Jones, a senior civilian adviser to America's special forces commander in Afghanistan, said the Afghan war was "run and organised out of Balochistan" by the Quetta shura, a 15-man war council led by the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. "Virtually all significant meetings of the Taliban take place in that province, and many of the group's senior leaders and military commanders are based there," he said.
The US demands have drawn an angry reaction from Pakistan's military. A senior official with the ISI, Pakistan's premier spy agency, said it was hunting the Taliban in Balochistan, citing 60 joint operations between the CIA and ISI in the province over the past year. "They are going in for kills, they are apprehending people. CIA and ISI operatives depend on each other for their lives in these operations," he said. The official, who spoke anonymously but with official sanction, said Pakistan's military were overstretched. "We can't fight everywhere at once," he said. Since October the army has been at war in South Waziristan, stronghold of the "Pakistani Taliban" whose suicide bombers have killed more than 500 people in cities over the past two months.
US generals say the army is playing a "double game", turning a blind eye to "Afghan Taliban" sheltering in Balochistan because it considers them strategic assets as part of a wider gambit to check Indian influence in Afghanistan.
The ISI official denied such links and accused the US of "scapegoating" Pakistan for its own failures. "During the past year there has been zilch actionable intelligence about the Quetta shura or Haqqani," he said. "If they are so sure Mullah Omar is in Quetta or Karachi, why don't they tell us where he is?"
The CIA declined to comment. "We don't as a rule comment on the agency's relationship with foreign partners or on reports of our operational activities," it said.
The aggressive American approach to Balochistan contrasts with the low-key British tone, despite the fact Balochistan lies across the border from Helmand, where 9,000 British troops are fighting the Taliban.
A British official said the government was reluctant to publicly criticise Pakistan for fear of endangering the relationship between MI6 and ISI in tracking suspected extremists moving between Britain and Pakistan. "That's our priority. It's a matter of national security," he said.
But SAS soldiers have been active in the province. The former Nato officer said SAS units were active in Balochistan in 2002, 2003 and possibly beyond, attacking drug traffickers. "It was of strategic concern to the UK at the time," he said. Until now the US has heeded Pakistani objections to drone strikes in Balochistan. But that could change, if troop casualties mount, a former senior US official warned. "We could get tired and say 'you know what, we are sending in Predators to take out Mullah Omar and his gang in Quetta'. And then we'll see what happens." (guardian.co.uk, Monday 21 December 2009 21.18 GMT)

Saturday, December 12

AFGHANISTAN: Blackwater Loses a Job for the C.I.A

By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has terminated a contract with the security company formerly called Blackwater Worldwide that allowed the company to load bombs on C.I.A. drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday.

The contract gave employees with the company an operational role in one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most significant covert programs, which has killed dozens of militants with Predator and Reaper drones. The company’s involvement highlighted the extent to which the C.I.A. had outsourced critical jobs to private companies since the 9/11 attacks.

The contract with the company, now called Xe Services, was canceled this year by Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, according to a C.I.A. spokesman. In August, The New York Times first revealed the existence of the contract, which was run by a division of the company called Blackwater Select, which handles classified contracts.

George Little, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that Mr. Panetta had ordered that the agency’s employees take over the jobs from Xe employees at the remote drone bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that Mr. Panetta had also ordered a review of all contracts with the company.

“At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any C.I.A. operations other than in a security or support role,” Mr. Little said.

The disclosure about the terminated contract comes a day after The Times reported that Blackwater employees had joined C.I.A. operatives in secret “snatch and grab” operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater’s role in the raids grew out of contracts that the company had with the spy agency to provide security for the C.I.A. in Kabul and Baghdad.

The company had a dual role in the drone program, said current and former employees and intelligence officials. Contractors on the secret bases assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto drones, and they also provided security at the C.I.A. bases.

The C.I.A. did not allow contractors to select targets for the drone attacks or pull the trigger on the strikes. That work was done at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley, Va.

But Blackwater’s direct role in the drone operations sometimes led to disputes between the contractors and C.I.A. employees, as the spy agency sometimes accused Blackwater employees of poor weapon assembly if the missile or bomb missed a target. In one instance last year, a 500-pound bomb dropped off a Predator before the drone had launched its payload, leading to a frenzied search along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A company employee said the bomb was eventually found not far from the intended target.

F.B.I. Questions 5 Americans Detained in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — F.B.I. investigators on Friday were questioning five Muslim American men suspected of pursuing jihadist training in Pakistan, but it remained unclear whether the men would be deported to the United States.

“It all depends on the investigations, and things will be clear in a day or two,” said Rashid Mazari, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Officials say the young men, from the suburbs of Washington, were en route to North Waziristan for training with the Taliban and Al Qaeda to fight American troops in Afghanistan. The police arrested them on Wednesday in Sargodha, a major city in Punjab Province that has become a growing center of militancy.

The F.B.I. said in a statement on Thursday that it wanted the men, who are in their late teens to mid-20s, returned to the United States. The five have not been charged under Pakistani law, and it is not clear what they would be charged with in the United States, American officials said.

The minister of law in Punjab, Rana Sanaullah, said Friday that the Pakistani authorities wanted to complete their investigation into the links between Pakistani extremist groups and the Americans before granting extradition. On Friday, Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, said in a news conference that the men would not be sent to the United States until they were cleared of committing any crimes in Pakistan.

“We will take action according to our law,” he said, according to Reuters. Once investigators or the courts finish their inquiries, “only then will we deport them.”

The young men told investigators they had planned to meet near the border between Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, with a person who would then take them to their destination in the tribal areas where the Taliban and Al Qaeda were based, Mr. Sanaullah said.

He added that it was important for the Pakistanis to understand which militant groups the young men were in touch with before letting them return to the United States. A United States consular officer was scheduled to see the men on Friday, an American Embassy spokesman said, and they would be asked if they wanted a lawyer to represent them.

American investigators started questioning the five men early Friday, with each called separately into a room at the Sargodha police headquarters, a local police official said.

On Friday, the Pakistani police also released photographs taken of the men at the police station. According to the police, three are of Pakistani origin, one is of Ethiopian descent and another is of Eritrean background.

The Pakistani police said all five were American citizens, but the American Embassy official said one of the five did not hold a United States passport.

The police said Khalid Farooq, the father of Umer, one of the young men, had been arrested and was being questioned Friday on the grounds that he knew that the young men were wanted by the F.B.I. but had not reported their whereabouts to Pakistani authorities.

Mr. Farooq and his wife, who run a computer business in northern Virginia, were in Sargodha when the young men turned up there after landing in Karachi on Nov. 20, the police said. Mr. Farooq immigrated to the United States 20 years ago and is an American citizen, the American Embassy said.

Jane Perlez and Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Waqar Gillani from Lahore, Pakistan.

Pakistan, ucciso leader di Al Qaeda

Incursione di un drone senza pilota nel Sud Waziristan. «Colpito un alto dirigente della rete terroristica»

WASHINGTON – La guerra segreta di Obama continua. Un raid condotto da un velivolo senza pilota avrebbe ucciso "un alto dirigente di Al Qaeda" in Pakistan. Per le autorità locali nel blitz sono stati uccisi quattro militanti arabi mentre fonti americane hanno sostenuto invece che il bersaglio era molto più importante, anche se non si tratterebbe né di Osama né del suo braccio destro Ayman Al Zawahiri. È possibile che nelle prossime ore si scopra l'identità del terrorista.

LA STRATEGIA - Altro aspetto importante. L’incursione è stata lanciata per la prima volta nel Sud Waziristan, una regione di confine dove talebani e qaedisti hanno i loro rifugi. Il drone – aggiungono fonti Usa – ha colpito con un paio di missili un edificio nella località di Tanga. La nuova strategia varata dal Pentagono e incoraggiata dalla Casa Bianca prevede un incremento dei raid dei velivoli senza pilota sul territorio pachistano. Non solo per numero, ma anche con un raggio d’azione più ampio. In questo modo gli Usa ritengono di poter esercitare una forte pressione sui militanti raggiungendoli nei loro nascondigli. I pachistani hanno mantenuto, a riguardo, un atteggiamento ambiguo. A livello ufficiale sono contrari alle azioni dei Predator perché ritengono provocano tensioni tra la popolazione, a volte coinvolta nei bombardamenti. Ma, al tempo stesso, ci sono indicazioni su una probabile collaborazione tra gli 007 locali e quelli americani. È invece certo l’aiuto che la Cia ha ricevuto da parte dei contractors della “Blackwater”, società di sicurezza privata oggi ribattezzata “Xe”. Il “New York Times” ha rivelato che gli uomini della compagnia sono stati coinvolti, in passato, in azioni clandestine al fianco degli agenti Cia. In particolare i contractors hanno partecipato ad operazione contro i qaedisti in Iraq.
Guido Olimpio

Monday, December 7

Bomber attacks court in Pakistan

At least seven people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack outside a court in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, officials say.

The bomber blew himself up at the gate to the court building after police stopped him, officials said.

Three of those killed were policemen. Dozens of other people were injured.

Peshawar, near the Afghan border, has been targeted repeatedly since Pakistan sent its troops to fight the Taliban in the tribal region of South Waziristan.

Hundreds of people have been killed in attacks across the country since the operation began in the autumn.

On 28 October, at least 100 people died when a huge car bomb ripped through Peshawar's busy Peepal Mandi market.

Ball bearings

Monday's blast took place outside the district and sessions court in Peshawar, Sahibzada Anees, the head of Peshawar administration, told reporters.

He said a man had got out of an autorickshaw and tried to enter the court premises but was stopped by a policeman at the entry gate, after which he blew himself up.

Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour said five people had been killed.

"He tried to enter the building but could not do so

because of our security arrangements," he said,

The courts are located on a busy road that links the old city with the cantonment area.

A bomb disposal squad official also told the media it appeared to be a suicide attack.

He said the bomber used about 7kg of explosives and about 2kg of ball bearings.

The dead and injured have been taken to nearby Lady Reading hospital.

One doctor at the hospital said nearly 50 injured people had been brought for treatment.

"Five bodies were brought to hospital and there were 49 injured. Two of them succumbed to their injuries in the hospital," the doctor, Zafar Iqbal, told the AFP news agency.

Friday, December 4

PAKISTAN: Dozens dead in Pakistan mosque attack

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Four militants armed with guns and grenades stormed a mosque in Rawalpindi frequented by active and retired military personnel, killing dozens of people Friday -- most of them children, the military said.
The attack is the latest to shake Pakistan since the launch of military offensives this year in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, where insurgents have a strong presence. The military targeted militants after a string of deadly bomb attacks across the country.
Reports of the death toll Friday varied. Local media reported 45, Rawalpindi Police Chief Aslam Tareen put it at 40, while Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said it was 36. The military said 75 people were wounded.
Among the dead were 17 children, according to the military's Web site. Also killed were an army general and eight other military officials, six of them of senior rank. The remaining fatalities were adults.
"As soon as the mosque's security staff checked me, there was a blast and then a finger hit me, then there was another," Ishtiaq, a driver for a military officer, told GEO TV.
Ishtiaq, who uses only one name, was attending midday prayers.
Rawalpindi is near Islamabad, and the mosque is near national army headquarters. It is located inside a walled residential compound where many military families have homes.


A witness told GEO TV there were up to 300 worshippers at the mosque at the time of the attack.
The militants hurled grenades before opening fire, the police chief told CNN. He said all the militants died, but he doesn't know how.
"These are not militants," Abbas said. "These are terrorists who killed innocent worshippers."
Retired Gen. Muhammad Yousaf was killed in the attack, said Col. Baseer Haider, a military spokesman. He said Yousaf was a former vice chief of army staff who was second in command during the administration of President Pervez Musharraf.
Abbas said two of the attackers were suicide bombers who blew themselves up inside the Parade Lane mosque; the other two were shot and killed by security forces outside the mosque.
Several explosions were heard inside the mosque around 1:30 p.m. (3:30 a.m. ET), followed by gunfire, Abbas said. The militants entered the compound by climbing over a wall, Tareen said.
This is the first attack in Rawalpindi since a suicide bomber targeted a bank on November 2.
On October 10, militants stormed army headquarters in Rawalpindi, taking several people hostage before security forces killed them.
CNN's Reza Sayah contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 25

Pakistani military kills 29 militants

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani troops killed at least 29 militants in clashes and air strikes in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, military officials told CNN.
The strikes all occurred within the last 24 hours, Pakistan military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told CNN on Sunday.
Other military officials said troops killed 11 militants, including a commander, when they fought off an attack on a military base in the Loesam region, which is in the Bajaur agency in northern Pakistan. Two soldiers were killed in the fighting.
In a ground offensive in the southern portion of Orakzai agency, troops killed 13 militants, officials said. One soldier was also killed in that clash.
Air strikes in the northern portion of Orakzai agency destroyed several militant hideouts, officials said. They did not say whether anyone was killed.
Orakzai is also in northern Pakistan. The northern districts have been the site of increased militant activity because militants fled to the area to escape the army's offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, Abbas said.
Five militants in South Waziristan were also killed in the last 24 hours as part of the offensive there, which has entered a sixth week, the Pakistan army reported. Hundreds of militants have been killed during the offensive.