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Category — America

New US strategy to ensure ‘terrorists never retake Afghanistan’

by Anwar Iqbal in Dawn, June 7th, 2017
WASHINGTON: US state and defence secretaries have said that the new Afghan strategy that the Trump administration is working on would ensure that terrorists do not use Afghanistan as a safe haven again.

A transcript released by the Pentagon in Washington quotes the two leaders as confirming media reports that the Trump administration was finalising a new US strategy for Afghanistan, which would seek to eradicate terrorism and ensure the continuation of the present setup in Kabul.

“Our commitment to Afghanistan is to ensure that it never becomes a safe haven for terrorists to launch attacks against the civilised world or against any other part of the world or any of their neighbours,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when asked what assurances would the new policy offer to Kabul.

He said that since the new policy was still under review, it would be premature to say what conclusion it draws but indicated that the new strategy would include military plans to stabilise Afghanistan.

“This is really a question of what is the end state and how do we reach that end state, and that’s part of the policy review that is still under development,” he said. “But … we are committed to ensuring Afghanistan does not become that platform from which terrorist activities can be launched.”

Defence Secretary James Mattis said that in Afghanistan the United States was fighting an enemy that “knows that they cannot win at the ballot box, and … that’s why they use bombs.”

The United States, he said, would stand by the Afghan people who “have had a long, hard fight” and while the new strategy was still under review, “the bottom line is we’re not going to surrender civilisation to people who cannot win at the ballot box.”

The two senior members of the Trump administration made these comments at a press availability on Monday on the sidelines of an international conference in Sydney, Australia. The Pentagon’s transcript also included comments Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne who said that Australia would continue to support US war efforts in Afghanistan and would send 30 additional troops to join the US-led military coalition in that country.

“That (terrorism) is not something we are ever prepared to see take hold in Afghanistan again.,” said Mr. Payne while explaining why Australia was participating in the US-led war in Afghanistan. “It must never be allowed to be a platform for terrorism as it was in the past, and we will continue to make that contribution,” he added.

When a journalist reminded Secretary Tillerson that the main thrust of his question – “what was … the wisdom of adding more US troops and resources to a war that has been stalemate for years” – he said: “I would reserve my answer until the policy review is completed. It needs to be thought of in that context.”

As the United States weighs options in Afghanistan, Pakistan hopes that any use of military force would be tied to a push for a political solution to the conflict. Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, underlined this, and Islamabad’s other concerns, in an interview to The Washington Times newspaper, published on Monday.

“How does the United States want to deal with their huge investment in Afghanistan, both militarily and economically? We are waiting for it,” said Mr Chaudhary.

Reports in the US media suggest that the Trump administration wants to send up to 10,000 additional American and Nato troops to Afghanistan, hoping that the increase would enable the Afghan security forces to defeat a stubborn enemy, which has entangled the United States in its longest foreign war.

President Donald Trump was expe­cted to finalize this new strategy during his visits to the Middle East and Europe and announce it after returning to Washington. He returned on May 27 but officials at the White House say that they are still working on various proposals.

“We think that the United States also wants to stabilise Afghanistan,” said Ambassador Chaudhary when asked what he thought would be the thrust of the new US strategy. “Why? Because you have invested hugely in blood and in treasure for the last 15 to 16 years [there].”

A “modest surge” of American forces now, said Mr Chaudhry, might pressure the Taliban to embrace peace talks with the US-backed government in Kabul that have stalled for years. “Once [the Taliban] are weakened, they will come to the table,” the ambassador predicted, but he said the Afghan government should lead the peace process.

Also, on Monday, US National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster telephoned President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and “underscored America’s steadfast support for the National Unity Government,” the White House said.

He recognised that because terrorists were seeking to divide the Afghan people, “it is more important than ever … to remain united and be strong in our resolve to achieve the security and peace that the people of Afghanistan deserve.”

President Trump also called Mr. Ghani after Wednesday’s massive bomb attack that killed 90 people and assured him of continued US support to Afghanistan.

June 7, 2017   No Comments

Congressman urges Trump to consider resuming airstrikes in Pakistan

Report in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2017.
News Desk: A US congressman has said President Donald Trump should consider resuming US airstrikes on terrorist groups that shelter in Pakistan to attack targets in neighbouring Afghanistan, Sputnik International reported on Friday.

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger told guests at the Woodrow Wilson Centre think-tank on Thursday that that it was natural for a new president to pause and take stock of relations with US partners, but he urged the Trump administration to “get back to some real tough love” when dealing with Pakistan.

“We need to frankly look at the consequences and consider doing it — of opening up strikes again,” he added.
Trump administration to reduce military aid to Pakistan

The Obama administration carried out dozens of drone strikes in tribal zones of northwest Pakistan, but only conducted three airstrikes in the country in 2016.

Kinzinger also urged the Trump administration to begin pressing the Pakistani government to increase anti-terrorism efforts.

“We have to come back to carrots and sticks,” Kinzinger remarked.

“Ultimately we have to make it clear that we are going to cross the border if necessary because they [the Pakistani government] are not doing enough.”

Kinzinger named al Qaeda, the Taliban and Haqqani Network as the primary terrorist groups that operated out of Pakistan.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1420116/congressman-urges-trump-consider-resuming-airstrikes-pakistan/

May 28, 2017   No Comments

Drone strikes unlikely to hurt Taliban in long term: The Daily Times, Jan 19

ISLAMABAD: A US drone strike that nearly killed the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief may encourage the CIA to keep up its campaign to eliminate high-profile Taliban by remote control.

But the strikes may only have limited success and generate more anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, which the US sees as a front-line state in its war on terror.

Taliban officials said TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud was wounded slightly last week after being targeted in a drone attack. Washington says its drone strikes are key to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Coming just days after Hakeemullah appeared in a farewell video with the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan, the apparent revenge attack was a reminder that drone attacks are highly capable of eliminating top Taliban leaders.

Analysts say the high-tech aircraft – designed to throw Al Qaeda and Taliban operations into disarray – are unlikely to break resilient militant groups in the long term and may only generate more anti-American anger in Pakistan.

“Ultimately this is not really an effective weapon. The intent is, that if you can kill off or decapitate a significant extent of the leadership, then you can cause a rift within the movement,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for Middle East and South Asia at STRATFOR.

Drone attacks in the Tribal Areas have been intensified since the double agent suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a US base in Afghanistan on December 30, the second deadliest attack in the agency’s history.

Holding up: Even if sustained over a long period, drone strikes can only produce limited results – perhaps holding up suicide bombings for a few weeks – since Taliban leaders are unlikely to be killed in quick succession, analysts say.

The problem for the US and its allies is the over-reliance on drone attacks to fight the Taliban, and the lack of ground intelligence.

CIA’s recruitment of agents is tedious and risky since it requires winning over people in a region of tightly knit family and tribal ties. Anyone tempted by cash risks execution if caught by the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and intelligence is often sketchy.

That is why the CIA must rely on Pakistani intelligence to provide targets to the virtual pilots who use computers halfway across the world to fly the $4.5 million unmanned aircrafts into battle.

That coordination may have put the Al Qaeda and Taliban on the defensive in the Tribal Areas.

But Pakistan is unlikely to hand over the intelligence Washington wants most of all – whereabouts of leaders of the Afghan Taliban groups who attack US forces in Afghanistan.

Those coordinates will be hard to come by because those groups are some of Pakistan’s most strategic regional assets.

Pakistani officials complain in public that drone strikes violate the country’s sovereignty and have said that intensified strikes could hurt relations between the long-standing allies.

US officials privately say the attacks are carried out under an agreement with Islamabad that allows Pakistani leaders to decry the attacks in public. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\19\story_19-1-2010_pg7_15

January 19, 2010   No Comments

Bill asks Zardari to certify Pakistan’s sovereignty, every year: The News, Jan 13

By Tariq Butt
ISLAMABAD: To counterbalance the Kerry-Lugar Act, a bill moved in the Senate the other day makes it mandatory for the president of Pakistan to certify to parliament every January that Pakistan’s sovereignty and honour have not been compromised in any manner whatsoever.

The Pakistan Sovereignty Bill 2010, sponsored by opposition leader in the Senate Wasim Sajjad, says notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any law and treaty, and undertakings or conditionalities agreed with any foreign country, the president of Pakistan shall certify every January each year on behalf of the Pakistani government to each house of parliament that no compromise had been made on security or effectiveness of the nuclear programme of Pakistan; that no understanding has been reached with any foreign country for interference in the change of command or promotions in the Pakistani armed forces or in the structure or role of security forces of Pakistan; and that no conditionalities have been accepted from any source to weaken the defence of Pakistan against foreign aggressions.

“There are many forces, both inside and outside Pakistan, which are weakening the defence of Pakistan and endangering the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan,” the statement of objects and reasons of the bill said.It said a vulnerable economic situation was being used to force Pakistan into steps that were not in the national interest, and it, therefore, was necessary to enact this law.

Wasim Sajjad believed during a chat with this correspondent that no parliamentary party would oppose or object to the bill because it dealt with an important non-controversial issue, which was of concern to every citizen of Pakistan. He hoped the ruling coalition parties would also not be against this bill because there were no two opinions on protecting the sovereignty of Pakistan.

He said the Kerry-Lugar Act raised many concerns and caused serious worries in almost all civil and military circles. He said to deal with these misgivings and qualms, it was necessary to provide a legal statute wherein the president of Pakistan was bound to give to parliament an annual certification.

Wasim Sajjad said this was something new in Pakistan, but such requirements were in place in many countries, especially the United States where the Congress was informed about all measures and policies decided by the US administration.

It appears the Pakistan Sovereignty Act was drafted keeping in view the harsh provisions of the Kerry-Lugar Act, which were interpreted in Pakistan as something meant to hit the country hard.

Almost all matters on which the Pakistan Sovereignty Bill seeks presidential certification were covered directly or indirectly in the Kerry-Lugar Act and it was claimed the sovereignty and honour of Pakistan had been compromised in it; Pakistan’s nuclear programme has been endangered; US interference has been allowed in the change of command and promotions in the Pakistan armed forces and the structure and role of security forces of Pakistan and several conditionalities have been attached, which impinged hard on the defence of Pakistan. www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=218421

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Pak army facing threat from Punjabi, al-Qaida and Taliban militants

By Declan Walsh in The Guardian
Islamabad: Pakistan’s army made a stark admission today of the scale of the threat it faces from a nexus of Punjabi, al-Qaida and Taliban militants whose attacks are increasingly coordinated, include soldiers in their ranks and span the country.
The unusually frank assessment, made after the audacious assault on the military’s headquarters this weekend, came as a Taliban suicide bomber struck an army convoy as it passed through a crowded marketplace in a small mountain town near the Swat valley, killing 41 people and wounding 45.
It was the fourth militant atrocity to hit Pakistan in eight days of bloodshed that have killed more than 120 people. One television channel reported that the bomber in Shangla district in North West Frontier province was a 13-year-old boy.
Meanwhile a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the 22-hour gun battle and siege at the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, which ended on Sunday morning when commandos freed 39 hostages. Eleven soldiers, three civilians and nine militants died.
“This was our first small effort and a present to the Pakistani and American governments,” a Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, told the Associated Press.
Addressing journalists a few hundred metres from the scene of the gunfight, an army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, described how the 10 attackers came from two different sets of backgrounds. Five of them came from Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and wealthy province, he said, while the other five were from South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold at the southern end of the tribal belt, along the Afghan border.
Abbas said the attackers were led by a Punjabi militant named Aqeel, also known as Dr Usman, but the operation was ordained by a Taliban commander based in South Waziristan. Citing an intercepted telephone call, Abbas said commander Wali-ur-Rehman urged followers to “pray” for the attacks after the assault began on Saturday morning.
Abbas said the militants intended to take senior army officers hostage and use them to negotiate the release of more than 100 militants. Other demands included an end to military cooperation with the US and for the former president, General Pervez Musharraf, to be put on trial.
Aqeel, the only surviving attacker, was being treated for serious injuries, Abbas said. He confirmed that the militant was a former army medical corps soldier from Kahuta, a town in the army’s Punjabi recruitment heartland that is home to a major nuclear weapons facility.
Aqeel deserted the army in 2004, he said, and joined Jaish-e-Muhammad, a notorious militant group that in recent years has spawned splinter groups which have become allied to al-Qaida.
The militant attacks come as 28,000 army soldiers prepare to launch an assault on South Waziristan, where an estimated 10,000 fighters are holed up. Yesterday army jets hit Taliban targets in the area for the second day running, in preparation for an offensive the interior minister, Rehman Malik, said was “imminent”.
The army’s admission of ever stronger links between the Taliban, al-Qaida and Punjab-based militant groups was rare public confirmation of a trend analysts have observed for years. “We’ve seen this troika nexus in many major terrorist attacks – on the Marriott in Islamabad, on the navy headquarters in Lahore, and on the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency],” said Amir Rana, a terrorism analyst.
In some instances, Rana said, al-Qaida provided the financing, the Taliban logistics and training support, and Punjabi militants executed the operation.
The growing importance of the Punjabi factor in local and international militancy has placed the army under pressure to extend its crackdown beyond the tribal belt. At the weekend a spokesman for the North West Frontier province government said that even if a South Waziristan offensive succeeded, militants could still get help from Punjab.
Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman from last November’s Mumbai massacre, comes from a small village in southern Punjab. Jaish-e-Muhammad operates a giant madrasa on the edge of Bahawalpur, a dusty city in southern Punjab notorious for its hardline madrasas.
The army rejected suggestions that a military operation would solve the problem. “Yes there are terrorists in southern Punjab, and these groups have links to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” said Abbas. “But it’s a very different environment. It’s well developed, it has a communications infrastructure and a huge security force presence. It’s very different from what was Swat, and what [we see] in South Waziristan.”
In Lahore, a court freed Hafiz Saeed, a prominent extremist cleric whom India accuses of playing a major part in the Mumbai attacks. A prosecutor said the extremist charity he heads, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, had not been officially banned.
The turmoil spooked investors on Pakistan’s main stock market, which tumbled 1.3 per cent. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/12/pakistan-army-taliban-militancy-threat

October 13, 2009   No Comments

Recent attacks in or linked to Pakistan: The Washington Post

A look at some recent major attacks in Pakistan or blamed on Pakistan-based militants:
– Oct. 12, 2009: A suicide car bomb explodes near an army vehicle in a market in the northwest Shangla district, killing 41, including six security officers, and wounding 45.
– Oct. 10, 2009: A raid on army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi kills nine militants and 14 others.
– Oct. 9, 2009: A suicide car bomb in the northwestern city of Peshawar kills 53 people.
– Oct. 5, 2009: A bomber dressed as a security official kills five staffers at the U.N. food agency’s headquarters in the capital, Islamabad.
– Sept. 18, 2009: A suicide car bomb destroys a two-story hotel near the northwestern town of Kohat, killing 30 people in what might have been a sectarian attack by Sunni militants against Shiite Muslims.
– May 27, 2009: A suicide car bomber targets buildings housing police and intelligence offices in the eastern city of Lahore, killing about 30 and wounding at least 250.
– March 27, 2009: A suicide bomber demolishes a packed mosque near the northwestern town of Jamrud, killing about 50 people and injuring scores more.
– March 3, 2009: Gunmen attack the Sri Lankan national cricket team in Lahore, wounding several players and killing six policemen and a driver.
– Nov. 26-28, 2008: Ten attackers, allegedly from Pakistan, kill 166 people in a three-day assault on luxury hotels, a Jewish center and other sites in Mumbai, India.
– Sept. 20, 2008: A suicide truck bomb kills at least 54 and wounds more than 250 as it devastates the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
– Aug. 21, 2008: Suicide bombers blow themselves up at two gates of a weapons factory in the town of Wah, killing at least 67 people and wounding at least 100. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101201332_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

Pakistan bombs region once declared Taliban-free: The Washington Post

By HABIB KHAN, The Associated Press
KHAR:– Pakistani fighter jets bombed suspected militant hide-outs Monday in a tribal region where the military had previously declared victory over the Taliban, killing 13 alleged extremists a day after the end of a deadly siege of the army’s headquarters.
A series of attacks over the past week shows that the Taliban have rebounded and appear determined to shake the nation’s resolve as the military plans for an offensive in South Waziristan, the insurgents’ main stronghold along the Afghan border that has never been fully under the government’s control.
Monday’s airstrikes were in Bajur, a separate segment of the lawless northwestern tribal belt where Pakistan waged an intense six-month offensive that wound down in February. Resurgent violence in Bajur could distract the military as it tries to focus on South Waziristan.
“This was a heavy spell of bombing,” said local government official Tahir Khan, who put the death toll at 13. Nine other alleged militants were wounded, he said.
Also in Bajur on Monday, a remote-controlled bomb went off in front of the political administration office in the main city of Khar, wounding a passer-by. In addition, militants were suspected of abducting 10 tribal elders after they attended a meeting aimed at forming a citizens’ militia to protect against the Taliban, said Faramosh Khan, another local official.
The 22-hour weekend standoff at Pakistan’s “Pentagon” in the city of Rawalpindi followed warnings from police as early as July that militants from western border areas were joining those in the central Punjab province in plans for a bold attack on army headquarters.
A team of 10 gunmen in fatigues launched the frontal assault on the very core of the nuclear-armed country’s most powerful institution. The violence killed 20, including three hostages and nine militants, while 42 hostages were freed, the military said.
The suspected ringleader in the raid, known as Aqeel, also was believed to have orchestrated an ambush on Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team in Lahore this year. Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the militant’s nickname, “Dr. Usman,” derived from the time he spent as a guard at an army nursing school before he joined the insurgents.
The U.S. has long pushed Islamabad to take more action against Taliban and al-Qaida militants, who are also blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and the army carried out a successful campaign against the militants in the northwestern Swat Valley in the spring.
But the army had been unwilling to go all-out in the lawless tribal areas along the border that serve as the Taliban’s main refuge. Three offensives into South Waziristan since 2001 ended in failure, and the government signed peace deals with the militants.
In the wake of the seige in Rawalpindi, the government said it would not be deterred. The military launched two airstrikes Sunday evening on suspected militant targets in South Waziristan, killing at least five insurgents and ending a five-day lull in attacks there, intelligence officials said.
“We are going to attack the terrorists, the miscreants over there who are disturbing the state and damaging the peace,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said. “Wherever they will be, we will follow them. We will pursue them. We will take them to task.”
Officials have warned that Taliban fighters close to the border, Punjabi militants spread out across the country and foreign al-Qaida operatives were increasingly joining forces, dramatically increasing the dangers to Pakistan.
The weekend strike on army headquarters was a stunning finale to a week of attacks that highlighted the militants’ ability to strike a range of targets.
On Monday of last week, a suicide bomber dressed as a paramilitary police officer blew himself up inside a heavily guarded U.N. aid agency in the heart of the capital, Islamabad. On Friday, a suspected militant detonated an explosives-laden car in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 53 people. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/11/AR2009101100162_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

Security of Pakistan nuclear weapons questioned: The Washington Post

By Chris Brummitt & Pamela Hess
ISLAMABAD — An audacious weekend assault by Islamic militants on Pakistan’s army headquarters is again raising fears of an insurgent attack on the country’s nuclear weapons installation. Pakistan has sought to protect its nuclear weapons from attack by the Taliban or other militants by storing the warheads, detonators and missiles separately in facilities patrolled by elite troops.
Analysts are divided on how secure these weapons are. Some say the weapons are less secure than they were five years ago, and Saturday’s attack would show a “worrisome” overconfidence by the Pakistanis.
While complex security is in place, much depends on the Pakistani army and how vulnerable it is to infiltration by extremists, said a Western government official with access to intelligence on Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Analysts say a more realistic scenario would involve militant sympathizers getting work as scientists at the facilities and passing information to extremists.
“It’s not thought likely that the Taliban are suddenly going to storm in and gain control of the nuclear facilities,” said Gareth Price, head of the Asia program at London think tank Chatham House. “There are enough command-and-control mechanisms in place to prevent that.”
A U.S. counterproliferation official in Washington said strong safeguards are in place and there is no reason to believe the nuclear arsenal is in imminent jeopardy of seizure by militants.
The official, who commented on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter publicly, said there is a major difference between attacking a nuclear site and actually seizing and using the nuclear material stored inside.
Security at Pakistan’s isolated nuclear installations is believed to be significantly higher than at the army headquarters, which was relatively relaxed by the standards of other nations. Thousands of people and vehicles enter the headquarters compound in Rawalpindi daily, and the 10 attackers, while able to take dozens of hostages Saturday and kill 14 people before a commando raid ended the siege, never penetrated to the heart of the complex.
Pakistan is estimated to have between 70 and 90 warheads, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists.
Shaun Gregory, an expert on Pakistani security at the University of Bradford in Britain, said militants have struck near an air base in Sargodha, where nuclear missiles are believed to be stored, and the Wah cantonment, where missiles that could carry nuclear weapons are believed to be assembled. He added that the attacks did not appear to have targeted nuclear weapons.
Pakistan uses armed forces personnel to guard nuclear weapons facilities, and it physically separates warhead cores from their detonation components, Gregory wrote in the July issue of The Sentinel, the monthly journal of the Combating Terrorism Center.
The components are stored in protected underground sites. The warheads themselves are electronically locked to ensure that they cannot be detonated even if they fall in terrorists’ hands, Gregory said.
The Pakistan military carefully screens and monitors the officers vested with protecting the warheads, drawing them almost exclusively from Punjabi officers who are considered to have fewer links to religious extremists or with the Pashtun area of Pakistan, where the Taliban garners much of its support.
No action or decision involving a nuclear weapon can be undertaken by fewer than two persons. But Gregory acknowledged the possibility of collusion between cleared officers and extremists.
The personnel assigned to sensitive nuclear posts go through regular background checks conducted by Pakistan’s intelligence services, according to a 2007 article in the journal Arms Control, co-written by Naeem Salik, a former top official at Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which oversees the nuclear arsenal.
“It is being acknowledged by the world powers that the system has no loopholes,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said Monday. “The system is foolproof, as good and bad as their own systems.”
The U.S. and the British governments agree there is little risk of a weapon falling into militants’ hands.
In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there is no evidence “that has been shown publicly or privately of any threat to the Pakistani nuclear facilities, said.
Gregory said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he did not share Miliband’s assertion, adding that “there is plenty of evidence of threat.”
Individuals in the Pakistan military have colluded with al-Qaida in providing safe houses for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and individuals in Pakistan’s civil nuclear sector have met with al-Qaida figures, including Osama bin Laden himself, Gregory said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton dismissed any suggestion militants could overthrow the government and gain control of the nuclear arsenal. “We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military’s control over nuclear weapons,” she said.
Kristensen said that while U.S. officials have said they have helped Pakistan increase security at its nuclear facilities, “they have not been allowed to go to those sites, so it’s something they’ve had to do remotely.”
Saturday’s attack “somehow seems to show that the Pakistani military is perhaps a little overly confident” about some of its most important military facilities, he said.
“If a relatively small group of people is able to penetrate into their ‘Pentagon,’ then it might show something about the overconfidence of the Pakistanis, and that is worrisome – it’s surprising that they were able to go in there relatively simply,” Kristensen said.
He noted that the military headquarters is different from a nuclear facility. “One cannot compare insurgents going into an office building to them going into a nuclear facility for the nation’s crown jewels,” he added.
While stringent security checks on personnel are meant to prevent militant sympathizers from working at the facilities, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment has seen serious leaks of nuclear knowledge and materials by insiders.
Top government scientist A.Q. Khan operated a global black market nuclear network for more than a decade until he was uncloaked by U.S. intelligence. And the CIA has confirmed a meeting between Khan associates and bin Laden before 9/11.
Israel has not taken a formal position on the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. However, in a parliamentary briefing last year, Defense Minister Ehud Barak mentioned such a scenario as a nightmare for the world, according to security officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.
“Pakistan’s weapons are less secure today than they were five years ago, and it seems they’re even less secure than under the Musharraf government,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political studies and conflict management at Bar Ilan University in Israel, referring to the previous administration of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Steinberg said Israelis are becoming less confident of the U.S. ability to control events and put plans into action that would protect Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101202343_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

German guns sold on Pak black market: The Nation, Oct 12

HUNDREDS of pistols from German army stocks have turned up for sale on the black market in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a Sunday report by North German Broadcasting (NDR).
Among them were weapons from a delivery of 10,000 pistols given by the German Defence Ministry to the Afghan government, which was supposed to supply the Afghan police and army, reported German news agency DPA.
Neither the German government nor a US-led security unit responsible for the delivery in Afghanistan had chased up their whereabouts.
Both the German Green party and the Police Union demanded an investigation into the affair, which had put hundreds of the weapons in the hands of arms dealers in the region, the report said.
The Defence Ministry said it had given the 10,000 Walther P1 pistols from an old stock of decommissioned weapons in January 2006 to the Afghan Interior Ministry ‘to equip the security forces that are being developed’.
The Afghan ministry had then handed out the weapons to the police and army. The German ministry knew nothing of their further whereabouts.
The US-led unit responsible for monitoring such deliveries could piece together the whereabouts of fewer than half the weapons, the report said.
According NDR, arms dealers in Afghanistan and Pakistan said the weapons were seen as prize assets that could be sold for as much as 678 euros. One German army weapon, nearly 50 years old but virtually unused, had been offered in Kabul for 1,085 euros.
Among others, active and former Afghan police and soldiers bought the illegal guns.
The Greens’ defence spokesman Winfried Nachtwei accused the German govt of a ‘grossly negligent approach’ to the issue of the weapons.

October 12, 2009   No Comments

Breaking India-Pak impasse: op-ed in The News, Oct 12

by Talat Masood
Relations between India and Pakistan received a serious setback after the tragic terrorist attack on Mumbai and have practically remained frozen ever since. Clearly, the incident had a traumatic effect on Indian public and the government reacted by suspending the composite dialogue and a cold war environment has prevailed ever since. The Indian government has taken a strong position that unless Pakistan punishes the perpetrators of the crime and in particular takes action against Hafiz Saeed the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa they will not resume dialogue. Islamabad takes the line that it is fully cooperating and is determined to bring to justice the real perpetrators of the crime. Seven terrorists have been arrested and the next trial date is due in the second week of October 2009.

Furthermore, on the basis of our own investigations cases have been registered against twenty others who are currently absconding but efforts are being made to track them down. As regards Hafiz Saeed Islamabad is working on the leads provided but so far the evidence collected is insufficient to take the case to court. To display its good faith the government took serious notice of Hafiz Saeed’s speech of Sept 16, 2009 in which he was inciting people to wage jihad and soliciting charity for the cause, by arresting him under the Anti-Terrorism Act. On court orders he was subsequently released on bail, but is being kept under surveillance.

New Delhi’s prime focus on Hafiz Saeed is deliberate and with a strong political motive. They want to use it for purposes of symbolism and to keep Pakistan on the defensive. It is not that Indian leadership does not realise Pakistan’s predicament in dealing with Hafiz Saeed. Firstly, there is a history of LeT that at one time enjoyed the support of the military and intelligence services for the role that it was playing as a resistance movement in Jammu and Kashmir. It is only as a consequence of 9/11 that the policies changed at the official level but there is still a strong sentiment in favour of the Kashmiri jihadi’s in Azad Kashmir and Punjab. The PPP government is handling the problem politically as well as through law enforcement mechanisms but it has its own limitations.

As the army is overstretched due to its deep engagement on the western front and the government is fragile and politically weak it finds it hard to take on these militants entities upfront at this time.

Domestic politics is dictating New Delhi to take a tough stand against Pakistan. Elections are due in Mahrashrata and in some other states before the end of the year. And Congress does not want to convey an impression of being weak and “yielding”. The media has played no less a role in shaping this policy towards Pakistan. In the past it was mostly the politicians who competed in acting tough and belligerent towards each other. Now it is the media that has gone hyper- nationalist in India with nearly a hundred channels, including the regional ones competing to outdo each other in drumming paranoia against the nuclear neighbour. Regrettably a similar phenomenon is occurring in Pakistan. Any move towards reconciliation is viewed as a concession and subject of severe criticism. Commercial interests of media in India today is an overriding factor influencing and shaping Indo-Pakistan relations.

A more detailed scrutiny will show that long-term economic interests of India are not well served by the current state of tension and uncertainty that surrounds the relationship. The Indian Chamber of Commerce is supposedly unhappy with the overall drop in foreign investment since the Mumbai incident. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also alluded that India has to maintain a consistent 8 to 9 percent GDP growth to overcome poverty and for that peace between neighbours is a prime prerequisite. By not agreeing to commence serious negotiations, New Delhi risks running into a cul-de-sac. The situation in Afghanistan is also being adversely affected by the Indo-Pakistan rivalry, creating instability in the region and accentuating the threat to US and NATO forces. New Delhi may derive sadistic pleasure by being adamant but serves no strategic objective apart from strengthening the hands of the militants.

Pakistan too must show its genuine sincerity by making measurable progress in pursuing the cases against the perpetrators of the Mumbai crime. The snail pace movement of the court cases is giving an impression that Pakistan’s establishment is foot dragging and not willing to move against jihadi elements. The delay in case of Hafiz Saeed may well be due to valid reasons of insufficient evidence but the way Islamabad is projecting its case it provides an opportunity for India to keep Pakistan on the defensive. The best course for Pakistan is to clearly demonstrate to the world that it is determined to dismantle and disarm the jihadi entities in its own national interest. The blowback from these organisations on the society is already severe and it is incompatible in the 21st century in a totally transformed global environment to allow such entities to co-exist with the state. This decision has to come from within Pakistan’s power structure and not as an act of compliance to either the controversial “Enhanced Partnership Act” or as a result of Indian pressure. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=202739

October 12, 2009   No Comments