Friday, 2 December 2011

During NATO attack Pakistan defends lack of action

Confusion and a communication breakdown prevented Pakistan's airforce from scrambling to defend troops on the ground during the deadly NATO bombing last weekend of two border outposts, the military said Friday, responding to rare domestic criticism of the powerful institution.
The Pakistani military, which eats up most of the country's budget and is accountable to no one, has said the attack that killed 24 troops was an "act of deliberate aggression" that went on for close two hours.
It has also said that Pakistani commanders contacted and pleaded with coalition commanders to stop firing.
NATO and U.S. officials have disputed that account, which has triggered uncomfortable questions in this South Asian country over why Pakistan's own fighter jets and helicopters stationed close to the border did not take off to defend the ground troops during the attack.
The military has said troops did fire back at the NATO choppers when they attacked.
A Pakistani military statement on Friday said the response could have been more "effective" if the airforce had been called in, but this was not possible because of a "breakdown of communication" and confusion at "various levels" within the organization.
The incident has pushed already strained ties between Washington and Islamabad over the future of Afghanistan close to rupture. Islamabad has closed its eastern border to NATO supplies traveling into landlocked Afghanistan and said it is reviewing its cooperation with Washington.
U.S. officials expressed their condolences over the loss of life and denied the Pakistan army was deliberately targeted.
But they have not apologized, saying it would not be appropriate before an investigation into the incident has been completed. In the past, NATO and the US has complained that militants along the border are helped or tolerated by Pakistani soldiers.
U.S. officials have said a joint U.S-Afghan patrol came under fire from the Pakistani side of the border and called in airstrikes. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal quoted American officials as saying that Pakistani officers had given the go-ahead for the raid, unaware they had troops in the area.
Pakistan's military also faced criticism after the May 2 unilateral American helicopter-borne raid that killed Osama bin Laden, with questions — yet unanswered — over how the aircraft were able to fly deep into Pakistani territory without the knowledge of the airforce.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

US Two senators call for tough line with Pakistan

The comments by Sens. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, show how strained Pakistan’s relationship with the US, and Congress specifically, has become in recent months.

Lawmakers approve billions of dollars in military and civilian aid for Pakistan with the expectation that its government will help target al-Qaida operatives and push Afghan militants toward peace talks
”There’s a lot of diplomacy that has to occur and it has to be tough diplomacy in the sense that they need to understand that our support for them financially is dependent upon their cooperation with us,” said Kyl, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican.

Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said Pakistan’s latest move is further evidence that the US must end its military involvement in the region and bring troops home.

”As difficult as it is to fight our way thru this diplomatic morass between the incompetence and maybe corruption of Afghanistan and the complicity in parts of Pakistan, our soldiers are caught right in the middle of this at a time they are trying to bring peace to the region,” Durbin said.

Nato says it is investigating its likely involvement in Saturday’s attack, which killed 24 Pakistani troops along the Afghan border. Afghan officials say their soldiers called for help after being fired upon from the direction of Pakistani border posts.

Outraged by the attacks and claiming they were unprovoked, Islamabad swiftly closed its border to trucks delivering supplies to coalition troops in Afghanistan and demanded the US vacate within 15 days a base used by American drones.

The blockade is guaranteed to frustrate Congress, already incensed that Pakistan never tipped off the US to Osama bin Laden’s hideout within its borders.

While calling for tougher diplomacy with Pakistan, Kyl said he would stop short of cutting off US aid entirely to Pakistan. He said that severing ties in the past has only led to an increased influence of Islamic extremists among Pakistan’s military ranks.

”It’s very important to maintain the relationship for the long haul,” he said, without offering more specifics on how that might be done.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Egypt’s military appoints former PM to lead 'national salvation' government

Egypt's ruling military council has appointed former prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri to lead a national salvation government, and said elections would go ahead on November 28 as planned.That development comes few days after former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his government stepped down.
Ganzouri was Egypt's prime minister between 1996 and 1999 under President Hosni Mubarak and enjoyed huge popularity and prestige.
He met Thursday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi,the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, according to the state-run MENA news agency. Ganzouri would remain prime minister until at least January 10, when results of the parliamentary elections set to start next week are finalized.
State newspaper Al-Ahram said on its website that Kamal Ganzouri accepted a request from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to form a new government on Thursday.
On Friday, the United States and European Union called for a quick transfer of power to a civilian government in Egypt.EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said that the European Union condemns "excessive violence" against protesters and we expect an independent investigation into the events in Cairo after killing of over 40 protesters by Egyptian security forces and police.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Egyptians demonstrators in Cairo's Tharir Square rejected Ganzouri's appointment. They claim he is part of the Mubarak regime.protesters are chanting, "Leave, leave!" in what promises to be a massive demonstration to force Egypt's ruling military council to yield power.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Egypt Military apologises for protest deaths

Egypt's ruling military has apologised for the deaths of about 38 protesters in clashes with police, as protests continue in Cairo and other cities.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) said it regretted "the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt's loyal sons".
The violence, which began on Saturday, is the worst since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.
Scaf also said elections would start as scheduled on Monday. There had been speculation that they might be delayed.
In an announcement on Thursday, council member Maj Gen Mukhtar al-Mouallah said the parliamentary elections would be held on schedule. A presidential poll is to take place by June next year.
He said those responsible for deaths and injuries would be held to account, and that protesters arrested since Saturday would be released immediately.
Compensation would be paid to the families of the dead, Gen Mouallah added.
Continue reading the main story
At the scene
For some days, doctors and protesters have claimed that a new type of tear gas, or nerve agent, is being used against demonstrators.
One theory is that security forces have been using CR gas, or CN gas, much stronger than the usual CS gas, commonly known as tear gas. CR gas is banned in the US because it can cause cancer.
So far no evidence has been produced to back up that claim.
On Tahrir Square, protesters regularly assail you with used cans of tear gas, complaining they are made in the United States.
None of the cans we saw had evidence they were the more poisonous CR or CN gas.
What is certainly true is that tear gas is being used in much greater quantities than earlier this year, over a prolonged period of time, within the relatively narrow confines of one street on the edge of the square.
In a city prone at the best of times to be rapidly swept by rumours, that seems to be the only firm fact that can be definitively established in this story at the moment.
Late on Wednesday, two members of the council appeared on state TV to offer "condolences to the entire Egyptian people".
One of them, Maj Gen Muhammad al-Assar, extended "the regret and apology of the entire armed forces on the tragedy that occurred".
He added: "Our hearts bled for what happened. We hope that this crisis will end and, God willing, it will not be repeated again."
The generals urged Egyptians not to compare them to the former regime of Mr Mubarak, insisting they were not seeking to cling to power.
The generals' tone was completely different from the fairly confrontational address by the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, public opinion is divided on the forthcoming parliamentary elections, writes the BBC's Jeremy Bowen.
Some Egyptians want them to go ahead unhindered, while others believe the military must be swept from power first.
The main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, is not supporting the protests and expects to do well in the elections.
Witnesses said that two groups were chanting against other in Tahrir Square on Thursday - one saying "Muslim Brotherhood, we don't want you in the square" and the other responding with a call for unity.
Street battles continued late into Wednesday night. They were heaviest around the fortified interior ministry off Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Friday, 28 October 2011

LIVE Music Festival Sets For Olympics 2012

The Scissor Sisters and Senegalese singer Baaba Maal are among the stars who will take part in a live music festival in London in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics.
River of Music will feature acts from five continents on six stages at different sites along the River Thames.
US jazz great Wynton Marsalis and vocal group Naturally 7 will also take part in live Music festival.
Live Music Festival will be held on 21 and 22 July, the weekend before the Games begin. More names are to be announced.
Tickets will be free and details of the ticketing arrangements will be announced in May.

“This is a project of incredible scale. It is a chance for artists to share and collaborate, to get beyond the playlist and enjoy a bit of Olympics 2012 magic.”
Music in live music festival from Europe will be heard at stages in Trafalgar Square and Somerset House, the Americas will be at the Tower of London, Asia in Battersea Park, Africa in Jubilee Gardens and Oceania in the Greenwich Old Royal Naval College. The Scissor Sisters and Senegalese singer Baaba Maal are among the stars who will take part in a music festival in London in the build-up to the Olympics 2012.
River of Music will feature acts from five continents on six stages at different sites along the River Thames.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ( Comprehensive Overview)

The previously released "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trailer remains one of the most memorable bits of movie marketing this year, teasing the arrival of the feel-bad movie of the holiday season. But if you thought that trailer was cool, just wait — you haven't seen anything yet.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original title in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – "Men Who Hate Women") is an award-winning crime novel and locked room mystery by Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. It is the first book in his "Millennium series".
At his death in November 2004, Larsson left three unpublished novels that made up the trilogy. It became a posthumous best-seller in several European countries as well as in the United States.[1] Larsson witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15. He never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth – like the young heroine of his books, herself a rape victim, which inspired the theme of sexual violence against women in his books.

Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced publisher of the Swedish political magazine Millennium, lost a libel case involving allegations about billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström and is sentenced to three months in prison. Blomkvist steps down from the magazine's board of directors. At the same time, he is offered a freelance assignment by Henrik Vanger, the former CEO of Vanger Enterprises, which he accepts — unaware that Vanger commissioned an investigation into Blomkvist's personal and professional history carried out by private investigator Lisbeth Salander.
The old man draws Blomkvist in by promising not only financial reward for the assignment, but also solid evidence against Wennerström. Blomkvist agrees to spend a year writing the Vanger family history as a cover for the solving the case of the disappearance of Vanger's niece Harriet some 40 years earlier. Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered by a member of the Vanger family. Blomkvist moves to the Vanger estate and becomes acquainted with the extended family, most of whom resent his presence.
Meanwhile, Salander meets her new legal guardian, Nils Bjurman. Nils uses his position to extort sexual favors from her in return for access to the money from her own financial accounts. After two sexual assaults, Salander attacks Bjurman; she tattoos him and blackmails him with the release of a video of him raping her in return for full control of her bank accounts.
Blomkvist discovers Salander and realises that she has hacked into his computer. He persuades her to assist him with research. Together, they discover entries in Harriet's diary that list the names of missing women from across Sweden; this leads them to suspect that they are on the trail of a serial killer, who has been at large for decades. They discover that Harriet's brother Martin, now CEO of Vanger Industries, is the serial killer. Salander saves Blomkvist's life when Martin attempts to kill him, and Martin is killed in a car accident while escaping Salander's pursuit.
Blomkvist realizes that Martin did not know what had happened to Harriet and therefore, Harriet must still be alive. He tracks her down as a rich farmer and businesswoman in Australia and persuades her to return to Sweden. Blomkvist agrees with Harriet and Henrik not to publish any evidence he has found on the Vanger family and to keep the family's secrets to himself. In exchange the family makes large annual donations to charities which support victims of domestic violence.
Vanger's evidence regarding Wennerström proves to be insubstantial. However Salander breaks into Wennerström's computer and discovers that his crimes go far beyond what Blomkvist documented. Using her evidence, Blomkvist prints an exposé and book which destroys Wennerström, who is later found dead under suspicious circumstances. The exposé catapults Blomkvist and Millennium to national prominence. Meanwhile Salander - using her phenomenal skill with computer hacking and several false identities with which she approaches various Swiss banks - succeeds in stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars from Wennerström's secret bank account and hiding it in various secret bank accounts of her own.

A brand new "Dragon Tattoo" trailer has arrived online, clocking in at an astonishing three minutes and 46 seconds. This time around, the in-your-face quick cuts are played down in favor of a much more cohesive look at the movie's plot and a clearer picture of the two leads, disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, who is different in "every way," according to her boss Dragan Armonsky.

"He's clean in my opinion," Salander assesses of Blomkvist when delivering the results of her investigation into the financial reporter. "He's honest. He's had a long standing sexual relationship with the co-editor of [Millennium] magazine. Sometimes he pleasures her. Not often enough, in my opinion."

Salander's description of her future partner gives way to the revelation of Blomkvist's quest in the movie: to solve a decades old murder mystery for a retired industrialist way past his prime.

"I need your help," begs Henrik Vangar, who's seeking to put an end to the mystery of who killed his beloved niece Harriet. "You come stay on [Hedeby] island, a way of avoiding all those people you might want to avoid right now. You'll be investigating thieves, misers, bullies. The most detestable collection of people you will ever meet… my family."

Sunday, 11 September 2011

US Foreign Policy and 9/11 incident

10 years after those fateful September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America which claimed just under 3,000 lives and which traumatized and horrified Americans and outraged the civilized world. Ten years on, the US Congressional Research Service estimates that the subsequent Afghanistan and Iraq wars have cost the US$1.3 trillion.
A cost-of-war project at Brown University estimates, "conservatively", that 137,000 persons have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and that the wars there have created more than 7.8 million refugees in these states. Brown University actually feels that the actual cost-of-the-war projects, including interest payments and veterans' care, is actually closer to US$4 trillion. Defence spending has climbed from US$304 billion in 2011 to US$616 million in 2008, and the US budget went from a surplus of US$128 billion to a deficit of US$458 billion. Also, US debt held by foreign governments has moved from approximately 13 per cent of GDP at the end of the Cold War to nearly 30 per cent at the end of the Bush era.
Foreign debt
US trade deficit with China moved from US$83 billion in 2001 to US$273 billion last year, and total US indebtedness to China jumped from US$78 billion in 2011 to US$1.1 trillion in 2011. Foreign debt, as a percentage of GDP, increased from 32.4 per cent in 2001 to 53.5 per cent in 2009. Much, indeed, has changed since September 11, 2001. But scholars dispute whether 9/11 was decisive in terms of foreign-policy action, or that it was a historical turning point.
Richard Haas, president of the highly influential Council on Foreign Relations in Washington and former director of policy planning under Bush, wrote in Project Syndicate last week that, "September 11, 2001 was a terrible tragedy by any measure, but it was not a historical turning point. It did not herald a new era of international relations in which terrorists with a global agenda prevailed. On the contrary, 9/11 has not been replicated."
In an issue devoted to analysis of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs, Professor of History Melvyn Leffler says, "There was and there remains a natural tendency to say that the (9/11) attacks changed everything. But a decade on, such conclusions seem unjustified. September 11 did alter the focus and foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. But the administration's new approach was less transformative than contemporaries thought. Much of it was consistent with long-term trends in US foreign policy and much has been continued by President Barack Obama."
George W. Bush, however, did squander a great deal of the goodwill and solidarity which the international community and people of goodwill lavished on America in the aftermath of those horrific and barbaric attacks on innocent civilians and defenceless people. I remember the leading French paper Le Monde declaring the day after the attacks: 'We Are All Americans'. Bush bucked that wave of support and sentiment by his vulgar unilateralism, his doctrine of pre-emption and his arrogant contempt for liberal internationalism. It was precisely what not to do.
But the doctrine of pre-emption, or preventive war, called the Bush Doctrine, was nothing new in US foreign policy. What was new was its elevation as central strategy, coupled with the Bush administration's disregard for multilateralism and soft-power strategies. But as Leffler points out in his Foreign Affairs article, when President Franklin Roosevelt justified his resort to preventive action against German ships in the Atlantic prior to America's entry into World War I, he said famously, "When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him."
But there were other cases in US history when preventive strike, or anticipatory self-defence, was flatly rejected. In 1953, US President Dwight Eisenhower was presented with a plan to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union in those early days of the Cold War: "All of us have heard of this term preventive war since the earliest days of Hitler," Eisenhower said. "I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time ... I don't believe there is such a thing and frankly I won't even listen to anyone that came in and talked about such a thing."
Two months after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, General Leslie Groves, overseer of the Manhattan Project, expressed views about controlling nuclear proliferation that were similar to the Bush Doctrine. "If we were truly realistic, instead of idealistic, as we appear to be, we would not permit any foreign power with which we are not firmly allied and in which we do not have absolute confidence to make or possess atomic weapons. If such a country started to make atomic weapons, we would destroy its capacity to make them before it has progressed far enough to threaten." President Harry Truman rejected the proposal out of hand.
And in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis, some of President John F. Kennedy's key advisers discovered that the Soviet Union's nuclear forces were far weaker and more vulnerable than had been previously thought and proposed a pre-emptive strike. It was rejected.
America has always placed its security above everything else. But what George W. Bush and the neoconservatives underplayed was the importance of collaborating with other nations in the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism. He neglected what that brilliant Harvard professor, Joseph Nye, has called "soft power", and, more recently, "smart power" (See his 2011 book, The Future of Power).
The Obama administration, happily, has rejected unilateralism and has overturned the hypernationalism and muscular foreign policy which characterised the Bush era. (Not that he is diffident about using force). Barack Obama put it well in his inauguration address: "Our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."
These things are anathema to the Republicans and the Tea Party. But it is precisely their kind of fetish for hard military power and aggression which have fuelled so much hate and resentment toward America in the Middle East.
A history of American support for corrupt authoritarian regimes and disregard for human rights when those inconveniences stood in the way of American interests has alienated many from America and fanned the flames of Islamic extremism and terrorism.
But make no mistake about it: America was right to set its face against terrorism and radical Islam's anti-democratic and repressive face. It was a just mission to destroy al-Qaida, not just for America's sake, but for the sake of democracy and the international community. It is good that there has been no repeat of the 9/11 attacks in the US.
For all our criticisms of the Bush administration, we must agree with Loffler that its record included "important accomplishments", for "they kept the pressure on al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations and may well have prevented other attacks on US soil and citizens."
Time to reflect
Leffler hits the nail on the head when he concludes his Foreign Affairsessay by saying: "Ten years after 9/11, it is time for Americans to reflect more deeply about their history and their values. Americans can affirm their core values, yet recognise the hubris that inheres in them. They can identify the wanton brutality of others, yet acknowledge that they themselves are the source of rage in many parts of the Arab world. Americans can recognise that there is evil in the world ... and they can admit ... that force has a vital role to pay in the affairs of mankind. But they can also recognise that the exercise of power can grievously injure those whom they wish to help and can undercut the very goals they seek to achieve."
Al-Qaida's ideology has been rendered largely redundant in significant sections of the Arab world not because of aggressive foreign-policy action. Barack Obama might not be impressive in domestic action, but in foreign policy he has been a blessing to America. There can be no complete celebration in America today which does not acknowledge his role in changing the Ugly American image abroad. Obama's progressive foreign policy - which has not been unmindful of the important role of military force, mind you - has rebuilt respect for America's ideals, or at least has staved off strident criticism.
The fact that America did nothing to help its former dictators in Egypt and Tunisia and that, rhetorically, it has backed the Arab street's campaign for democracy, freedom and civil liberties has worked in America's favour and should - at least for now - neutralise Islamic extremism.
Enemies near and far
It would be in al-Qaida's interest if America were seen as backing its client states and their dictatorships against the people's revolt. But America is seen, even if rhetorically, as standing with those protesting for freedom and human rights. Al-Qaida has always talked about the 'far enemy' - the United States - while it has criticised the 'near enemy', those right-wing states not following Shari'a law. Now the far enemy is standing afar from its traditional clients, allowing them to fall.
In a well-argued essay in the summer 2011 issue of the journalWashington Quarterly ('The Battle for Reform With Al-Qaeda'), Juan Zarate and David Gordon note: "The Arab Spring represents a significant opportunity for US counterterrorism efforts. This is a strategic moment for the United States because for the first time Washington's values, long-term interests and counterterrorism goals against al-Qaida neatly align with events in the region.
"The Arab spring represents what US policymakers have argued and hoped for in countering al-Qaida's ideology - organic movements for democracy, individual rights and liberties in the heart of its Sunni Arab constituency." This strategic window was, of course, helped by the killing of bin Laden.