Monday, July 26, 2010


As luck would want it, barely a few days after the ostentatious and pretentious visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan where she -on behalf of BO and the administration of our country, "graciously allocated US$500 million in aid to Pakistan," has been seeking supplementary funding to "pay-off" Taliban fighters to lure them away from the battlefield. Seriously.
In a dramatic turn of events, hot off the presses, we learn today of the intricate situation that links Pakistan to the insurgency in Afghanistan.
This shows the total lack of understanding of the region by this collapsing administration which risks to end up funding the terrorist barbarians who threaten our troops. Now, that's called placing our troops in harm's way.
Such is the irresponsible and reckless behavior that only voters' consciences will have to weigh in come November 2010.
Let's wait for the final confirmation of these news -but the above reports are not encouraging, to say the least.



This article is by Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Andrew W. Lehren.

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

While current and former American officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, they said that the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.

The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaeda havens. Administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard NATO supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan.

This month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in one of the frequent visits by American officials to Islamabad, announced $500 million in assistance and called the United States and Pakistan “partners joined in common cause.”

The reports suggest, however, the Pakistani military has acted as both ally and enemy, as its spy agency runs what American officials have long suspected is a double game — appeasing certain American demands for cooperation while angling to exert influence in Afghanistan through many of the same insurgent networks that the Americans are fighting to eliminate.

Behind the scenes, both Bush and Obama administration officials as well as top American commanders have confronted top Pakistani military officers with accusations of ISI complicity in attacks in Afghanistan, and even presented top Pakistani officials with lists of ISI and military operatives believed to be working with militants.

Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said that Pakistan had been an important ally in the battle against militant groups, and that Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officials had worked alongside the United States to capture or kill Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Still, he said that the “status quo is not acceptable,” and that the havens for militants in Pakistan “pose an intolerable threat” that Pakistan must do more to address.

“The Pakistani government — and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services — must continue their strategic shift against violent extremist groups within their borders,” he said. American military support to Pakistan would continue, he said.

Several Congressional officials said that despite repeated requests over the years for information about Pakistani support for militant groups, they usually receive vague and inconclusive briefings from the Pentagon and C.I.A.

Nonetheless, senior lawmakers say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. “The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Pakistan this month and said he and Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, confronted Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, yet again over the allegations.

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the groups years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said Sunday that the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents.

The man the United States has depended on for cooperation in fighting the militants and who holds most power in Pakistan, the head of the army, Gen. Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, ran the ISI from 2004 to 2007, a period from which many of the reports are drawn. American officials have frequently praised General Kayani for what they say are his efforts to purge the military of officers with ties to militants.

American officials have described Pakistan’s spy service as a rigidly hierarchical organization that has little tolerance for “rogue” activity. But Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s “S Wing” — which runs external operations against the Afghan government and India — broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.

American officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack. But in July 2008, the C.I.A.’s deputy director, Stephen R. Kappes, confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s Embassy in Kabul.

From the current trove, one report shows that Polish intelligence warned of a complex attack against the Indian Embassy a week before that bombing, though the attackers and their methods differed. The ISI was not named in the report warning of the attack. Read the Document »

Another, dated August 2008, identifies a colonel in the ISI plotting with a Taliban official to assassinate President Hamid Karzai. The report says there was no information about how or when this would be carried out. The account could not be verified.

General Linked to Militants

Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul ran the ISI from 1987 to 1989, a time when Pakistani spies and the C.I.A. joined forces to run guns and money to Afghan militias who were battling Soviet troops in Afghanistan. After the fighting stopped, he maintained his contacts with the former mujahedeen, who would eventually transform themselves into the Taliban.

And more than two decades later, it appears that General Gul is still at work. The documents indicate that he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jaluluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.

General Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities.

For example, one intelligence report describes him meeting with a group of militants in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, in January 2009. There, he met with three senior Afghan insurgent commanders and three “older” Arab men, presumably representatives of Al Qaeda, who the report suggests were important “because they had a large security contingent with them.” Read the Document »

The gathering was designed to hatch a plan to avenge the death of “Zamarai,” the nom de guerre of Osama al-Kini, who had been killed days earlier by a C.I.A. drone attack. Mr. Kini had directed Qaeda operations in Pakistan and had spearheaded some of the group’s most devastating attacks.

The plot hatched in Wana that day, according to the report, involved driving a dark blue Mazda truck rigged with explosives from South Waziristan to Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, a route well known to be used by the insurgents to move weapons, suicide bombers and fighters from Pakistan.

In a show of strength, the Taliban leaders approved a plan to send 50 Arab and 50 Waziri fighters to Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, the report said.

General Gul urged the Taliban commanders to focus their operations inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning “a blind eye” to their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was unclear whether the attack was ever executed.

The United States has pushed the United Nations to put General Gul on a list of international terrorists, and top American officials said they believed he was an important link between active-duty Pakistani officers and militant groups.

General Gul, who says he is retired and lives on his pension, dismissed the allegations as “absolute nonsense,” by telephone from his home in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters. “I have had no hand in it.” He added: “American intelligence is pulling cotton wool over your eyes.”

Senior Pakistani officials consistently deny that General Gul still works at the ISI’s behest, though several years ago, after mounting American complaints, Pakistan’s president at the time, Pervez Musharraf, was forced publicly to acknowledge the possibility that former ISI officials were assisting the Afghan insurgency.

Despite his denials, General Gul makes television appearances and keeps close ties to his former employers. When a reporter visited General Gul this spring for an interview at his home, the former spy master canceled the appointment. According to his son, he had to attend meetings at army headquarters.

Suicide Bomber Network

The reports also chronicle efforts by ISI officers to run the networks of suicide bombers that emerged as a sudden, terrible force in Afghanistan in 2006.

The detailed reports indicate that American officials had a relatively clear understanding of how the suicide networks presumably functioned, even if some of the threats did not materialize. It is impossible to know why the attacks never came off — either they were thwarted, the attackers shifted targets, or the reports were deliberately planted as Taliban disinformation.

One report, from Dec. 18, 2006, describes a cyclical process to develop the suicide bombers. First, the suicide attacker is recruited and trained in Pakistan. Then, reconnaissance and operational planning gets under way, including scouting to find a place for “hosting” the suicide bomber near the target before carrying out the attack. The network, it says, receives help from the Afghan police and the Ministry of Interior. Read the Document »

In many cases, the reports are complete with names and ages of bombers, as well as license plate numbers, but the Americans gathering the intelligence struggle to accurately portray many other details, introducing sometimes comical renderings of places and Taliban commanders.

In one case, a report rated by the American military as credible states that a gray Toyota Corolla had been loaded with explosives between the Afghan border and Landik Hotel, in Pakistan, apparently a mangled reference to Landi Kotal, in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The target of the plot, however, is a real hotel in downtown Kabul, the Ariana.

“It is likely that ISI may be involved as supporter of this attack,” reads a comment in the report.

Several of the reports describe current and former ISI operatives, including General Gul, visiting madrassas near the city of Peshawar, a gateway to the tribal areas, to recruit new fodder for suicide bombings.

One report, labeled a “real threat warning” because of its detail and the reliability of its source, described how commanders of Mr. Hekmatyar’s insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, ordered the delivery of a suicide bomber from the Hashimiye madrassa, run by Afghans. Read the Document »

The boy was to be used in an attack on American or NATO vehicles in Kabul during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifices that opened Dec. 31, 2006. According to the report, the boy was taken to the Afghan city of Jalalabad to buy a car for the bombing, and was later brought to Kabul. It was unclear whether the attack took place.

The documents indicate that the these types of activities continued throughout last year. From July to October 2009, nine threat reports detailed movements by Taliban suicide bombers from Pakistan into populated areas of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, Kunduz and Kabul.

Some of the bombers were sent to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential elections, held last August. In other instances, American intelligence learned that the Haqqani network sent bombers at the ISI’s behest to strike Indian officials, development workers and engineers in Afghanistan. Other plots were aimed at the Afghan government.

Sometimes the intelligence documents twin seemingly credible detail with plots that seem fantastical or utterly implausible assertions. For instance, one report describes an ISI plan to use a remote-controlled bomb disguised as a golden Koran to assassinate Afghan government officials. Another report documents an alleged plot by the ISI and Taliban to ship poisoned alcoholic beverages to Afghanistan to kill American troops.

But the reports also charge that the ISI directly helped organize Taliban offensives at key junctures of the war. On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta, the city in southern Pakistan where American and other Western officials have long believed top Taliban leaders have been given refuge by the Pakistani authorities.

At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maruf, a district of Kandahar that lies along the Pakistani border.

The planned offensive would be carried out primarily by Arabs and Pakistanis, the report said, and a Taliban commander, “Akhtar Mansoor,” warned that the men should be prepared for heavy losses. “The foreigners agreed to this operation and have assembled 20 4x4 trucks to carry the fighters into areas in question,” it said.

While the specifics about the foreign fighters and the ISI are difficult to verify, the Taliban did indeed mount an offensive to seize control in Maruf in 2006.

Afghan government officials and Taliban fighters have widely acknowledged that the offensive was led by the Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then the Taliban shadow governor of Kandahar.

Mullah Mansour tried to claw out a base for himself inside Afghanistan, but just as the report quotes him predicting, the Taliban suffered heavy losses and eventually pulled back.

Another report goes on to describe detailed plans for a large-scale assault, timed for September 2007, aimed at the American forward operating base in Managi, in Kunar Province.

“It will be a five-pronged attack consisting of 83-millimeter artillery, rockets, foot soldiers, and multiple suicide bombers,” it says.

It is not clear that the attack ever came off, but its planning foreshadowed another, seminal attack that came months later, in July 2008.

At that time, about 200 Taliban insurgents nearly overran an American base in Wanat, in Nuristan, killing nine American soldiers. For the Americans, it was one of the highest single-day tolls of the war.

Tensions With Pakistan

The flood of reports of Pakistani complicity in the insurgency has at times led to barely disguised tensions between American and Pakistani officers on the ground.

Meetings at border outposts set up to develop common strategies to seal the frontier and disrupt Taliban movements reveal deep distrust among the Americans of their Pakistani counterparts.

On Feb. 7, 2007, American officers met with Pakistani troops on a dry riverbed to discuss the borderlands surrounding Afghanistan’s Khost Province.

According to notes from the meeting, the Pakistanis portrayed their soldiers as conducting around-the-clock patrols. Asked if he expected a violent spring, a man identified in the report as Lt. Col. Bilal, the Pakistani officer in charge, said no. His troops were in firm control.

The Americans were incredulous. Their record noted that there had been a 300 percent increase in militant activity in Khost before the meeting.

“This comment alone shows how disconnected this particular group of leadership is from what is going on in reality,” the notes said.

The Pakistanis told the Americans to contact them if they spotted insurgent activity along the border. “I doubt this would do any good,” the American author of the report wrote, “because PAKMIL/ISI is likely involved with the border crossings.” “PAKMIL” refers to the Pakistani military.

A year earlier, the Americans became so frustrated at the increase in roadside bombs in Afghanistan that they hand-delivered folders with names, locations, aerial photographs and map coordinates to help the Pakistani military hunt down the militants the Americans believed were responsible.

Nothing happened, wrote Col. Barry Shapiro, an American military liaison officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, after an Oct. 13, 2006, meeting.

“Despite the number of reports and information detailing the concerns,” Colonel Shapiro wrote, “we continue to see no change in the cross-border activity and continue to see little to no initiative along the PAK border” by Pakistan troops. The Pakistani Army “will only react when asked to do so by U.S. forces,” he concluded.

Carlotta Gall contributed reporting.


In an amazing yet not unexpected move, BO and his administration have lifted a more than a decade-old ban on military contact with a shady Indonesian special forces elite unite, as you will read below.
However, the interest of this news is the importance of Indonesia to the current American president, whose affinity for the Muslim world and its interests seem to weigh heavily in the choices he makes along the tumultuous and painful path of his presidency.
Indonesia is, demographically, the most important Muslim country in the world, as its predominant religion is Islam and approximately 86% of its population are Muslims, the equivalent of roughly 200 million people.
Thus, it is not a surprise that the Obama administration places such an importance on this country. And, very important to bear in mind.


Published: July 22, 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The United States is lifting a ban of more than a decade on military contact with an elite Indonesian special forces unit implicated in past killings of civilians and other abuses, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Thursday, after meeting here with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.

The decision to lift the ban and to take steps toward training the unit, called Kopassus, was reached after intensive internal debate among the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department over whether it had truly left its brutal history behind.

“These initial steps will take place within the limits of U.S. law and do not signal any lessening of the importance we place on human rights and accountability,” Mr. Gates told reporters at the presidential palace complex here. He called the steps “a measured and gradual program of security cooperation activities” with the special forces group.

The Indonesian government lobbied hard for an end to the ban, and officials dropped hints that the group might explore building ties with the Chinese military if the ban remained.

The Pentagon had long pushed for the 1999 ban to be lifted, but met resistance from the State Department and White House.

For the most part, current criticism of the unit has been limited to human rights organizations. In the past decade, the military lost much of its political influence and power to the national police, whose abuses and corrupt practices have now become the focus of Indonesian society. The anticipated lifting of the ban on Kopassus drew little attention from the public, news media or politicians here.

Kopassus members were convicted of abducting student activists in 1997 and 1998 and for abuses that led to the 2001 death of a Papuan activist. The unit was also implicated in serious human rights abuses in Aceh Province, and in East Timor before that territory gained independence in 2002.

Indonesian rights organizations say that the unit has continued to commit abuses, especially in Papua, a mineral-rich island with a secessionist movement, since Indonesia began democratizing in 1998. They say that Kopassus has also been behind the kidnapping of human rights activists since 1998.

“The governments of Indonesia and the United States must be aware of the political violence involving Kopassus not only during the past military era, but during the current era of democracy,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, a private organization. “So far, not one single person in the military has been held accountable for past violations. Impunity is the weakest point in the democracy of Indonesia.”

Congress bars the United States from training military units that are credibly believed to have engaged in human rights abuses, unless the units take steps to improve. The principal sponsor of that law, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, reacted with dismay to the lifting of the ban on the group.

“Kopassus has a long history of abuses and remains unrepentant, essentially unreformed, and unaccountable,” Mr. Leahy said in a statement. “I deeply regret that before starting down the road of reengagement, our country did not obtain and Kopassus did not accept the necessary reforms we have long sought.” Nonetheless, he said, “a conditional toe in the water is wiser at this stage than diving in.”

But American defense officials say that the unit, believed to number about 5,000, has reformed enough since the fall of President Suharto in Indonesia in 1998 and that the United States engagement could help bring about further change. The unit deploys overseas in peacekeeping operations and remains a major source of leaders for the Indonesian military.

“It is a different unit than its reputation suggests,” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters traveling with Mr. Gates. “Clearly, it had a very dark past, but they have done a lot to change that.”

American defense officials said that the American military would have limited engagement with Kopassus to start, starting with staff-to-staff meetings, and that there would be no immediate military training. They said that the Defense Department was not seeking funds from Congress for the renewed engagement.

Human Rights Watch, which has opposed renewed ties with Kopassus unless significant conditions were met, sharply criticized the decision.

“This is a development that will not just have ramifications in Indonesia,” said Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch in New York. “Every abusive military in the world will sit up and say if the United States is willing to go ahead and engage with Kopassus despite its failure to reform, why shouldn’t the U.S. engage with other abusive militaries?”

Mr. Gates said that for him the question of working with Kopassus came down to the best way to advance human rights.

“My view is that, particularly if people are making an effort to make progress, that recognizing that effort, and working with them further, will produce greater gains in human rights for people than simply standing back and shouting at people,” he said.

In preparation for lifting the ban, Defense Department officials said they had asked the Indonesian government in recent months to remove “less than a dozen” members of Kopassus who had been convicted of previous human rights abuses. Among those who recently left was Lt. Col. Tri Hartomo, who was convicted by an Indonesian military court in 2003 and served time in prison for abuse leading to the death of a Papuan activist, Theys Eluay.

Defense Department officials said that Colonel Hartomo remained a member of the Indonesian military.

Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, who was implicated in a massacre in East Timor while he served in Kopassus, was appointed deputy defense minister in January, and remains there. Defense Department officials said the distinction for them was that General Sjamsoeddin was only implicated, not convicted.

The State Department will be in charge of vetting individual members before they participate in training with the American military.

Defense Department officials said they had received assurances from the Indonesian government that any member of the group who is credibly accused of abuses from now on would be suspended, and that any member convicted of abuse would be removed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


North vows nuclear ‘sacred war’in protest of what it calls ‘largest-ever’ joint exercise by South-U.S.

Note by Eliana Benador:

In an effort to counter North Korea and their very fashionable threats of conducting a “holy war,” the U.S. and South Korea begin a massive show to display their military defense strengths and try to keep the rogue North Korea at bay, in the hopes that it will work.

Article starts below:

South Korea and the United States kicked off a massive, four-day joint military exercise in the waters east of the peninsula yesterday despite North Korea’s threat of a nuclear “sacred war” in retaliation.

Code-named “Invincible Spirit,” the drill began yesterday morning with a 97,000-ton U.S. aircraft carrier setting sail to the East Sea from the southern port of Busan. Along with the nuclear-powered U.S.S. George Washington, 20 ships (including guided-missile destroyers), more than 200 aircraft (including F-22 Raptors) and 8,000 U.S. and South Korean servicemen are participating in the drill. Seoul and Washington have carefully described the drill as a defensive exercise, but also say they want to send a message to Pyongyang after its attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan in March.

A day before the drill began, North Korea reacted in a statement released by the country’s powerful National Defense Commission, headed by leader Kim Jong-il. The North threatened Saturday that it “will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war.”

“The army and people of the DPRK will legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces,” the commission said in the statement released by the North’s KCNA. DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang also vowed to strengthen its nuclear arsenal amidst the stalled six-party nuclear talks to shut down the nuclear weapons program. “The more desperately the U.S. imperialists brandish their nukes and the more zealously their lackeys follow them, the more rapidly the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence will be bolstered up along the orbit of self-defense and the more remote the prospect for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will become,” it said.

China has also opposed the exercise, reacting sensitively to military maneuvers near its territorial waters. After Beijing’s protest, the U.S. and South Korea moved this week’s drill, the first in a series, to the East Sea. Subsequent drills, however, are planned for the Yellow Sea.

While the South and the U.S. are trying to send a message to Pyongyang, Seoul faced disappointment in its diplomacy at the Asean Regional Forum last week. Diplomats from the two Koreas engaged in intense lobbying over a statement at the end of the summit, with the South hoping to get a condemnation of North Korea for the Cheonan’s sinking.

Ultimately, the foreign ministers at the forum “expressed deep concerns” over the sinking and expressed their support for an earlier United Nations Security Council statement on the incident. The ministers, however, fell short of condemning the attack, nor did they directly blame the North.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said the forum’s support for the UN statement should be seen as a victory.

“The ministers said North Korea’s provocations are a threat to the region’s security, and I believe it was a good warning message to the North,” he said. “No one bought the North’s argument [that it was innocent]. They said it was not convincing.”

Yu also said more sanctions are being planned against the North.

By Ser Myo-ja []