Posts Tagged ‘ US Military ’

US Suspends Pakistan Military Aid as Diplomatic Relations Worsen

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

The Pakistan military declared it did not need US military aid as the White House confirmed that it would withhold some $800m (£498m) in assistance to the country’s armed forces.

The row will worsen the already poisonous relationship between the two “allies”, which since the unilateral US raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May has lurched towards breakdown.

Pakistan recently expelled US military trainers from the country, limited the ability of US diplomats and other officials to get visas, and restricted CIA operations on its territory. “The Pakistani relationship is difficult but it must be made to work over time. But until we get through these difficulties we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give them,” William Daley, the White House chief-of-staff, told ABC News on Sunday.

At stake is Pakistani co-operation against al-Qaida, the Taliban and other extremist groups, which the increasingly bitter relationship is putting at risk. Much of al-Qaida’s remaining leadership is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, while Pakistani territory is used as a safe haven by Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network, fighting across the border in Afghanistan.

The new US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, said over the weekend that he believed Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was in Pakistan’s tribal area and “he’s one of those we would like to see the Pakistanis target”. Pakistan responded by asking for the US to share the intelligence on Zawahiri’s whereabouts.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is meanwhile fighting its home-grown extremists in the tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, where a new offensive was launched earlier this month. Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistan military, said that the military had received no formal notification of any aid being cut. He also pointed out that the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, had already declared that cash reimbursements to the military, known as coalition support funds, should go instead to the civilian government, where there was more need.

“We have conducted our [anti-extremist] military operations without external support or assistance,” said Abbas. “Reports coming out of the US are aimed at undermining the authority of our military organisations.”

Critical stories about Pakistan are leaked on an almost daily basis to the American press, riling Pakistani public and official opinion against Washington. Many in Pakistan believe there is a concerted American effort to weaken Pakistan and its armed forces, which are some of the largest in the world.

For Washington, Pakistan’s refusal to launch an offensive against the Haqqani network and suspicions that Bin Laden benefited from some kind of official support to live in Pakistan has corroded ties.

There are also questions hanging over future civilian aid, which is meant to provide $1.5bn a year in economic help.

Cyril Almeida, a columnist with Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, said the country was in danger of becoming internationally isolated, while US policy towards Pakistan was muddled.

“The US can’t decide they if they want to stay in this relationship or cut Pakistan off,” he said. “These leaks and pressure tactics just confirm to the army generals the view that America is no friend of Pakistan and it wishes Pakistan harm.”

Since 2001, the US has provided $21bn in civilian and military assistance, including $4.5bn in the 2010-2011 financial year, as aid was increased under the Obama administration. Two proposed bills in Congress over the last week, which were voted down, would have cut off aid to Pakistan altogether.

Pakistan’s economy is spiralling downwards, with electricity shortages shutting down industry, and rising food and fuel prices causing protests on the streets. Karachi, the country’s economic powerhouse, is often shut down by ethnic gang violence, which has claimed more than 100 lives in the current spate of bloodshed.

New U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Delivers Flood Relief

By Gunnery Sgt Bryce Piper for The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution Sysem

 U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron P. Munter distributed flood relief supplies today at a World Food Program distribution point at Hassan Khan Jamali, Pakistan.

As the newly-appointed ambassador, Munter participated in the operation to see and participate in the Pakistan and U.S. military flood relief efforts conducted in Sindh province.

“It is an honor to have the chance to work with the Pakistani military and the American military together, who are working to help the Pakistani people,” said Munter. “This is a place that I think all of us will remember as a symbol and as a reality of our cooperation, what we can do when we work together, when we face problems together. And I’m very, very grateful to the Pakistanis and Americans who’ve done all this work.”

Munter arrived at the Pakistan military’s Pano Aqil Cantonment in the afternoon and then flew to the Hassan Khan Jamali relief site where he and a team of Pakistani and U.S. military members unloaded approximately four tons of food aid from two helicopters. Pakistanis waiting at the site collected the humanitarian supplies for distribution in the surrounding area.

This was the ambassador’s first trip to flood-affected areas of Sindh since arriving in Pakistan Oct. 27.

In addition to delivering food aid, Munter and his wife Marilyn Wyatt had an opportunity to meet with local flood victims. The couple flew to Hassan Khan Jamali aboard a U.S. CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 26th and 15th MEUs have been conducting humanitarian relief efforts from Pano Aqil Cantonment since Sept. 3, 2010.

The Marines there have delivered more than 3.7 million pounds (over 1.6 kilograms) of food and other supplies to more than 150 locations throughout Sindh Province, flying more than 450 heavy-lift helicopter sorties.

Since Aug. 5, 2010, U.S. military aircraft and personnel, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistan military, have provided humanitarian airlift for the delivery of more than 20 million pounds (over 9 million kilograms) of relief supplies and the transport of more than 27,000 displaced persons throughout Pakistan.

In addition to humanitarian airlift, the U.S. Government is providing more than $398 million to assist Pakistan with relief and recovery efforts, while USAID and other U.S. civilian agencies continue to provide assistance to flood victims.

U.S. efforts are part of a multi-national humanitarian assistance and support effort lead by the Pakistani government to bring aid to flood victims.

What is Wikileaks?

By Jonathan Fildes for The BBC News

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks is once again at the centre of attention as it makes public more than 90,000 secret records of incidents and intelligence reports from the US military about the war in Afghanistan. It is the latest in a long list of “leaks” published by the secretive site, which has established a reputation for publishing sensitive material from governments and other high-profile organizations. 

In April 2010, for example, it posted a video on its website that shows a US Apache helicopter killing at least 12 people – including two Reuters journalists – during an attack in Baghdad in 2007. A US military analyst is currently awaiting trial, on charges of leaking the material along with other sensitive military and diplomatic material.

In October 2009, it posted a list of names and addresses of people it claimed belonged to the British National Party (BNP). The BNP said the list was a “malicious forgery”.

And during the 2008 US elections, it published screenshots of the e-mail inbox, pictures and address book of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Other controversial documents hosted on the site include a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta, a document that detailed restrictions placed on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  It provoked controversy when it first appeared on the net in December 2006 and still splits opinion. For some it is lauded as the future of investigative journalism. For others it is a risk.

In mid-March 2010 the site’s director, Julian Assange, published a document purportedly from the US intelligence services, claiming that Wikileaks represented a “threat to the US Army”.  The US government later confirmed to the BBC that the documents were genuine. To keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world”  “The unauthorised publication of Army and DoD sensitive documents on Wikileaks provides foreign intelligence services access to information that they may use to harm Army and DoD interests,” a spokesperson told BBC News.

The site now claims to host more than one million documents. Anyone can submit to Wikileaks anonymously, but a team of reviewers – volunteers from the mainstream press, journalists and Wikileaks staff – decides what is published.  “We use advanced cryptographic techniques and legal techniques to protect sources,” Mr Assange told the BBC in February. 

The site says that it accepts “classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance” but does not take “rumour, opinion or other kinds of first hand reporting or material that is already publicly available”. “We specialise in allowing whistle-blowers and journalists who have been censored to get material out to the public,” said Mr Assange.

It is operated by an organisation known as the Sunshine Press and claims to be “funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public”.  Since it appeared on the net, it has faced various legal challenges to take it offline.

In 2008, for example, the Swiss Bank Julius Baer won a court ruling to block the site after Wikileaks posted “several hundred” documents about its offshore activities. However, various “mirrors” of the site – hosted on different servers around the world – continued to operate. The order was eventually overturned Wikileaks claims to have fought off more than “100 legal attacks” in its life, in part because of what is described as its “bulletproof hosting” The site is primarily hosted by Swedish ISP PeRiQuito (PRQ), which became famous for hosting file-sharing website The Pirate Bay.

“If it is legal in Sweden, we will host it, and will keep it up regardless of any pressure to take it down,” the ISP’s site says.  The site also hosts documents in other jurisdictions, including Belgium. Its experience of different laws around the world meant that it was drafted to help Icelandic MPs draw up plans for its Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI). The plan calls on the country’s government to adopt laws protecting journalists and their sources.

“To keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions,” Mr Assange said at the time.

“We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts that we do.”  Despite its notoriety, the site has faced financial problems. In February, it suspended operations as it could not afford its own running costs.  Donations from individuals and organisations saved the site.

Mr Assange told the BBC that the site had recently gone through “enormous growth” and had received an “extraordinary amount of material”.  “It exceeds our ability to get it out to [the] public at the moment,” he said in February.

As a result, he said, the site was changing and hoped to set up a number of “independent chapters around the world” as well as to act as a middle-man between sources and newspapers.   “We take care of the source and act as a neutral intermediary and then we also take care of the publication of the material whilst the journalist that has been communicated with takes care of the verification.”

“It provides a natural… connection between a journalist and a source with us in the middle performing the function that we perform best.” The latest documents – released in partnership with the New York Times, the Guardian and the German news magazine Der Spiegel – appear to be the first high-profile example of this new tactic.

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