Archive for March, 2010

Progress, For a Price, in Pakistan

By Doyle McManus for The Los Angeles Times

In 2001, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, President George W. Bush gave Pakistan’s then-leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a choice: He was either with us or against us. Musharraf chose to become an ally, but the question ever since has been whether that shotgun marriage can mature into a healthy adult relationship. At times, the prospect has seemed far from reach.

The world’s second-most-populous Muslim country is caught in a brutal internal struggle between extremism and moderation. Most of its people tell pollsters they don’t like the United States and wish we’d go away. The tribesmen of its western frontier shelter Osama bin Laden and the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban. And the United States can’t forget how, in the 1980s, Pakistan built nuclear weapons — and then later exported nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran.

But in recent months, there has been progress in the relationship. Military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has increased significantly. Pakistan has allowed the CIA to increase its missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities have arrested several Taliban leaders and allowed U.S. intelligence officers to question them. And now Pakistan is offering to increase its own military operations in North Waziristan, the presumed lair of Bin Laden. All that cooperation came at a price, of course: a flood of U.S. military and economic aid.

And last week, the Pakistanis came to Washington to press for more. The academic criticism of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is that it is “transactional” — nothing more than a series of bargains between buyers and sellers who don’t trust each other much. That’s still mostly true. Pakistan’s delegation arrived with a 56-page shopping list covering everything from military equipment to education and cultural exchanges. And one Pakistani official, asked during the visit whether his government was truly willing to act against the havens that allow the Taliban to maintain bases in Pakistan, replied frankly: “Yes — but at a price.”

After a series of meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pakistan’s ebullient foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, declared: “I think we are going to move from a relationship to a partnership.” But he used the future tense. In the meantime, there are things to work out. Pakistan is clearly worried about what happens when the United States begins pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 2011.

Although Obama administration officials have tried to reassure Pakistan that Washington’s commitment to the region is for the long haul, uncertainty remains. “Our fear is . . . that we get into a fight with these guys [the Taliban], and you walk away, and we’re still there,” a Pakistani official said. Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, spent part of his time in Washington visiting Congress with PowerPoint slides to show that Pakistan has committed more troops to its fight against insurgents than the United States has on the ground in Afghanistan, and that it has suffered almost 30,000 killed and wounded in the process.

According to U.S. officials, Kayani made a strong case that Pakistan can do more if it gets more modern military equipment from the United States, especially helicopters to ferry troops into the rugged badlands where Al Qaeda and the Taliban hide. The United States has helped Pakistan acquire some helicopters, but not as many and not as quickly as the Pakistanis would like. U.S. officials said they would try to speed the delivery of more. In the past, U.S. officials complained that Pakistan used much of its U.S. military aid to bolster its eastern front with India instead of its fight with internal insurgents; but since Pakistan’s 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley, that criticism has been stilled.

The delegation also added a new item to Islamabad’s wish list: a nuclear agreement under which the United States would help Pakistan develop its civilian nuclear energy industry — to mirror a similar U.S. agreement with India, Pakistan’s longtime enemy. The United States told the Pakistanis that would have to wait. The memory of having to clamp sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program is still too fresh. But it was a sign of improving relations that the idea wasn’t rejected completely.

 In 2001, the United States sought a new relationship with Pakistan mostly because it was next to Afghanistan — and thus a country we would need for moving military supplies and basing drones. But that thinking has slowly evolved. In the long run, with its population of 170 million people — not to mention its cache of nuclear weapons — Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan.

“We’re engaging with Pakistan because we’re afraid of it,” says Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University. “It’s the scariest country in the region. Because of Afghanistan, it’s been treated as if it were a subsidiary issue. But Pakistan should be the primary issue.” The Americans are working hard to convince the Pakistanis that they are interested in Pakistan’s stability for its own sake, not just because it’s next door to Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are working hard to convince the Americans that they are committed to defeating the extremists in their midst. It’s not a strategic relationship yet. If it’s a partnership, it’s still a wary one. But that’s progress.

Pakistan-Born Cabdriver In Chicago Accused of Helping Al-Qaeda

By Carrie Johnson for The Washington Post

A Chicago taxi driver born in Pakistan was arrested Friday on two charges of providing material support to terrorists — allegedly attempting to funnel money to al-Qaeda and discussing an attack on a U.S. stadium.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, does not pose an imminent danger to Americans, prosecutors said. But they said Khan, 56, had claimed he knew Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistan-based extremist leader with close ties to al-Qaeda.

Kashmiri faces criminal charges in the United States for allegedly conspiring with another Chicagoan, David C. Headley, to kill employees of a Danish newspaper that published derogatory cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

The court papers in Khan’s case describe a March 11 phone call in which he appeared to discuss attacking an unnamed U.S. stadium in August with bombs that go “boom, boom, boom, boom.”

Authorities sent an undercover agent to meet with Khan and give him $1,000 to send to Kashmiri, the court papers said. Khan, 56, of the North Side, was then charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism in a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed Friday following his arrest, the release said. The investigation is continuing.

India Becomes Only Country In the World To Possess Maneuverable Supersonic Missiles

By DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR  for ArabNews.com

 

NEW DELHI: India successfully tested Sunday a “maneuverable” version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which it has jointly developed with Russia, news reports said.

The vertical-launch version of the 290-kilometer range BrahMos was tested from a warship in the Bay of Bengal off India’s eastern coast, the PTI news agency reported. “The vertical-launch version of missile was launched at 11:30 (0600 GMT) hours today from Indian Navy ship INS Ranvir and it manoeuvred successfully hitting the target ship. It was a perfect hit and a perfect mission,” BrahMos aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai was quoted as saying. “

After today’s test, India has become the first and only country in the world to have a maneuverable supersonic cruise missile in its inventory,” Pillai said.

Named after India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva rivers, the BrahMos can carry a 200-kilogram conventional warhead. Variants of the missile fitted with inclined launchers are already in service with the Indian Navy, NDTV news channel quoted defense sources as saying. Sunday’s firing was part of pre-induction tests for the vertical launcher variant, the sources said. The BrahMos has also been inducted into the India Army and preparations are on to develop air-launched and the submarine- launched versions, the sources said.

Obama Pledges To Work With ‘Peace-Loving’ Pakistanis On Occasion of 70th Pakistan Day 3/23

By Lalit K Jha for The Press Trust of India  

Greeting people of Pakistan on the occasion of its National Day, US President Barack Obama today pledged to remain a partner of all Pakistanis who “seek to build a future of peace and prosperity”.

Sending his best wishes to the people of Pakistan and all those of Pakistani descent in America and around the world observing Pakistan National Day, Obama said: “Seventy years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and those of the independence generation declared their dreams of self-determination and democracy.

“Today, the people of Pakistan are carrying on the great work of Quaid-e Azam,” Obama said in his message issued on the occasion of Pakistan National Day, being marked on March 23.

“Here in the United States, our country is enriched by the many Pakistani Americans who excel as doctors, small business owners, students, members of our armed forces and in many other fields. On this National Day, we give thanks for the contributions of these fellow Americans, and the United States pledges to remain a partner of all Pakistanis who seek to build a future of peace and prosperity.”

“In these efforts, the American people are proud to join in the education, health and economic partnerships that can improve the daily lives of Pakistanis and their families,” he said.

A Recap of The Whole Health Care Reform Legislation Process

By Anonymous at Digg.com

Democrats: “We need health care reform”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Give us a majority and we’ll do it better”
Democrats: “Done, you have majority of both houses”

12 years later, health care is irrefutably worse in every respect for every single person in the United States

Democrats: “We need health care reform”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Americans are tired of partisan politics!”
Democrats: “OK, let’s compromise”
Republicans: “OK, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done. Time to end debate”
Republicans: “Too liberal, we need more debate, we will filibuster to prevent you from voting”
Democrats: “OK, we’ll vote–sorry guys, debate is ended. It’s time to vote on the bill”
Republicans: “Too liberal, we vote no”
Democrats: “OK, it passed anyway–sorry guys.”

One month later

Republicans: “Wait–wait, OK, we have less of a minority now so we can filibuster forever.”
Democrats: “Sorry, the bill already passed, we need it to pass the House now”
Republicans: “But we have enough to filibuster”
Democrats: “Sorry, the bill already passed, we need it to pass the House now”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You haven’t listened to our ideas! You’ve shut us out of this whole process!”
Democrats: “Sorry, show us your proposal”
Republicans: “Smaller government”
Democrats: “That’s not very specific”
Republicans: “OK, here’s our detailed proposal–It’s our common-sense ideas we spent 12 years not enacting”
Democrats: “OK, we’ll add a bunch more of your ideas”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You included all these back-room deals”
Democrats: “OK, we’ll get rid of the back-room deals”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You’re using obscure procedural tricks to eliminate the back-room deals!”
Democrats: “No, we’re using reconciliation, which both parties have used dozens of times for much larger bills”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You’re pressuring Congressmen to vote for your bill! Scandal!”
Democrats: “It’s called ‘whipping’, it’s been done since 1789″
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Can’t you see the American people don’t want this?”
Democrats: “This bill is mildly unpopular, doing nothing (your proposal) is extraordinarily unpopular”
Republicans: “We need to start over! We need to start over!”
Democrats: “We should really consider voting–“
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Start over! Clean slate! Common-sense! America!”

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

Greek Debt Crisis Affects Europe, World Economy

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