Taliban Number 2 arrest ‘ISI-CIA plot’ – Times of India

A report in the Times of India (18 March, p 10) has added a new twist to the recent arrest of Mullah Baradar, claimed to be second in the Taliban leadership, in Karachi. Originating from the Afghan capital Kabul, the report said that Baradar’s capture by Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, operating with the American CIA, was in fact aimed at foiling the Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s hopes of direct peace talks with the Taliban, bypassing Pakistan.

The Times of India quoted an unnamed adviser to President Karzai saying that the Kabul government was holding secret talks with Mullah Baradar when he was captured in Pakistan’s southern city, Karachi. The president was infuriated at the sudden arrest and felt that it raised questions about whether the United States was really willing to back negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan adviser claimed that Baradar had given ‘a green light’ to participation in a three-day peace jirga (tribal assembly) President Karzai was planning to hold next month.

The report clearly implied that Baradar’s arrest came as part of an attempt to sabotage Kabul’s overtures to the insurgents. Numerous attempts in the past have failed for one reason or another. But if they had made progress this time, then the justification for the American military surge and intensified operations in Helmand and neighboring provinces in southern Afghanistan would have been weakened.

The US military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal has announced that the next big target of the foreign forces will be the Taliban spiritual center Kandahar after the current military operations in the Marjah area in Helmand province.

The Bush Legacy – Washington Post

From The Washington Post Tomorrow’s Titles Today

Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Deepak Tripathi (Potomac, $24.95)
March
A former BBC correspondent (he opened the network’s Kabul office in the early 1990s), Tripathi has a sound grounding in the politics and myriad cultures that make up the Middle East, not to mention a stellar reputation as a fair-minded journalist. This book, though, is not for the conservative, Bush-ie camp (the title may have given that away already). It takes a thoughtful look at the legacy of two increasingly unpopular wars, focusing especially on the human toll. His thesis, which is arguable — and many will argue — is that the cost in terms of human lives lost and the enmity the aggression has sowed in the region will reverberate for generations to come, and perhaps could have been avoided if different choices were made. Whatever your leanings on this subject, one of Tripathi’s statements that seems irrefutable is that these wars will forever be linked with the name of our 43rd president, George W. Bush. For better or worse.

By Christopher Schoppa  |  March 17

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S. – Report from South Asia

I have now spent a week in India. This is enough for a visitor to begin to gain a new perspective on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and its impact. Attacks  in all three countries in recent days are widely discussed in both print and broadcast media, when in more normal times the rowdy behavior by parliamentarians over the issue of women’s representation in the Indian Parliament would have eclipsed all others.

Last weekend’s suicide attacks in the Afghan city of Kandahar, which killed around 35 people and injured about 60, receive prominent coverage in the Times of India and many other newspapers.  The bombers targeted a local prison and a police station in the city. The Afghan authorities expressed satisfaction that no prisoner escaped. But the casualty figures paint a more distressing picture and their impact is much more. The Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali, said two of the explosions occurred close to his home, but it was not damaged. Ahmed Wali is a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council.

Bombs in the southern Pakistani city of Lahore, less than 20 miles from the Indian border, caused death and destruction, as well as in Peshawar in North-West Frontier Province. And in an apparent plea to the Taliban, the Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, asked them not to target Punjab as his provincial government ‘would not take dictation from outsiders’. The Chief Minister is the brother of Pakistan’s main opposition leader and former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

The Punjab chief minister said that extremism and terrorism were the consequences of wrong policies of a dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, for which the country was paying a heavy price. Further, in a pointed reference to the United States, Sharif accused Pakistan’s ex-military ruler of enacting a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule. Coming from a mainstream political figure, these remarks represent the views of considerable sections of society in Pakistan.

As American pilotless aircraft continue to attack targets Washington claims to be Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts, and Pakistani forces under US pressure launch more raids in the north-western tribal belt, these political developments mirror the turmoil in military conflict between the foreign forces and the opposition. The Taliban say the latest suicide bombings in Kandahar are a warning to the NATO forces, whose commander Gen. McChrystal has recently said that his next big target after Marjah in Helmand Province would be Kandahar, Taliban’s spiritual center. In this sense, the carnage in Kandahar over the weekend is a sign of things to come. On the other hand, there are those in Pakistan accusing India of being behind the Lahore attack; and Indians accusing Pakistani intelligence of helping groups that are planning attacks in India cities.

The warning from Washington that Lashker-e-Taiba in Pakistan has hundreds of targets in India and worldwide on its list is a fillip to India’s counterinsurgency hawks.

This Afghan government is not worth fighting for – Doha Debate

As the huge US and allied military surge goes on and the Afghan conflict enters a new, more dangerous phase, here is an extended debate on Afghanistan sponsored by the Qatar Foundation and held in January 2010 under the title of The Doha Debates. The proposition - This house believes that this Afghan government is not worth fighting for. The moderator is Tim Sebastian.

Afghanistan, Iraq election violence, Fallujah, Taliban arrest

New bomb attacks have killed or wounded scores of people on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier and in Iraq, where the number of American combat troops is to be reduced by half by August 2010 and a total withdrawal is envisaged by the end of 2011 under the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement.

The BBC said a suicide bomb attack in the Hangu district of north-west Pakistan killed at least 12 people and injured 25 others, according to initial reports. Al-Jazeera Television News in English put the number of dead at least 10, with scores wounded. The target was a convoy of vehicles travelling from Tall in the Hangu district to the town of Parachinar. Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province has witnessed numerous bombings by insurgents over the past year. Last week, a suicide attack on a police station in the Karak area killed three people. Parachinar has a history of violence against Shi’a people in recent years. The road was closed to all traffic in 2008 and 2009 because of Taliban attacks.

Iran’s Press TV, meanwhile, reports that another Afghan Taliban leader has been detained today as part of a recent crackdown on the group’s leadership hiding in the country. Quoting unnamed Pakistani and American intelligence officials, the reports said Agha Jan Mohtasim was arrested in the southern city of Karachi, where Mullah Baradar was captured last month. Mohtasim served as finance minister for the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan before its overthrow in the US-led invasion in 2001.

In Iraq’s parliamentary elections, early polling by members of security forces was marred by violence. At least 14 people were killed in Baghdad on the first day of voting on March 4. Suicide bombers attacked two polling stations in different areas of the city, killing at least 7 people and wounding many others. Earlier yesterday, a mortar attack on a crowded market also killed 7 and wounded at least 10 people.

Today, Press TV reports that unidentified militants attacked a polling station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. According to police, gunmen attacked the polling station in al-Mithaq neighborhood in eastern Mosul. They also threw a hand grenade, leaving one of the guards wounded. The rest of Iraq votes on Sunday.

The BBC’s diplomatic editor John Simpson is one of several correspondents to report from the Iraqi town of Fallujah on the long-terms effects of the intense fighting between American forces and Sunni insurgents – including a disturbing number of cases of birth defects.

Fallujah is less than 40 miles from Baghdad, but it can still be dangerous to get to. As a result, there has been no authoritative medical investigation, certainly by any Western team, into the allegations that the weapons used by the Americans are still causing serious problems. Simpson says the Iraqi government line is that there are only one or two extra cases of birth defects per year in Fallujah, compared with the national average. In Fallujah General Hospital, Simpson heard about two or three new cases every day. Most of the children brought there exhibit cardiac problems and limb and eye diformities.

Here are real-life images of the consequences of high-tech war that the BBC and other major news organizations in the western world will never show, citing reasons of taste. So the responsibility falls upon others, like independent producers of this film by Journoyman Pictures.

Baquba bombings

New suicide attacks in the central Iraqi city of Baquba have killed at least 31 people and injured dozens more today, days before the March 7 parliamentary elections. It is important to keep track of such violent events to save us from the belief that security in Iraq has vastly improved and life is rapidly returning to normal. In truth, violence by all sides is part of daily life in Iraq. The number of violent incidents may be fewer. The total casualty figures may be lower compared to the peak of the Iraqi civil war. However, as I have said in earlier postings quoting available information, bomb attacks in Iraq these days are bigger and more lethal. Casualties in each of these attacks are, in general, higher. It is by no means normalcy.

In the latest attacks, two car bombs exploded within minutes of each other near government buildings in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, 40 miles north of Baghdad. A third bomb devastated the city’s main hospital, where victims of the first attacks were being treated. Baquba is situated just outside the Sunni Triangle, a densely-populated region northwest of Baghdad, inhabited mostly by Sunni Arabs. Their power has consistently been eroded since the 2003 US-led invasion and overthrow of the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein.  

Al Jazeera says that these bombings follow a warning by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, that he would disrupt the coming elections by military means. The rise of Shi’a power, next to Iran, concerns the United States.

US General Motors recalls, blames Toyota!

American car manufacturer General Motors, resurrected by a government bailout after going broke, is recalling 1.3 million cars in North America because of a power steering problem, which has been linked to more than a dozen crashes. Four models were affected – the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Pursuit and Pontiac 4.

The company said the fault meant that at low speeds “greater steering effort may be required”, but that the cars could still be “safely controlled”.

General Motors was quick to blame the fault on a supplier partially owned by the Japanese car giant Toyota. GM’s vice-chairman Bob Lutz told the BBC at the Geneva Motor show: “This is a case where, yes, we would blame a partially Toyota-owned supplier.” Lutz said the supplier had not met “all requirements for reliability and durability”.

“So we will have to see who takes financial responsibility,” he said. “But this is a risk you sometimes take when you buy a complete system from a supplier.”   

Astonishing!

Here is a US firm that almost died because it made poor quality, very inefficient and expensive cars for decades and was then resurrected by the federal government. Within months, GM is claiming to be the champion of quality and blaming Toyota. Is it an act of revenge or part of America’s economic war against Japan?

We should bear in mind that the new government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, wants to loosen its alliance with Washington. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama advocates a policy of detachment from America and its foreign conflicts, while repairing relations with neighboring countries. In January, for example, Japan ended its naval refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that had supported the US-led war in Afghanistan since 2001.