The last American troops left Iraq In December 2011, their mission accomplished. Yet the sound of the car bomb remains a frequent visitor to the streets of Baghdad. So what sort of legacy did the allied forces leave behind and how did things go so badly wrong?
This special report examines the unfolding chaos in Iraq and how the US is in danger of being pulled back into the conflict. Drawing on interviews with policy makers and military leaders, Michael Kirk’s film traces the events of the last decade in this deeply troubled land. What has become apparent since the 2003 invasion is that there was no coherent plan for the future of the country after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The elections of 2005 led to the establishment of a democratically elected government, but sectarian divisions within the country remained as Sunni and Shiite
groups battled for supremacy – indeed, 2006 saw Iraq teetering on the brink of civil war. Matters came to a head this year as ISIS militants seized control of huge swathes of territory, their declared aim being to establish an Islamic caliphate stretching across parts of Iraq and Syria. Government forces seem powerless to resist their advance, which threatens to redraw the political map of the Middle East. As the country continues to fragment, the film asks what the future holds for this former cradle of civilisation.
As Ukraine slides deeper into chaos, the sound of war drums gets ever louder. On Saturday President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament’s authority to send the Russian army, not just into Crimea but also into Ukraine itself.
This threat was issued only days after “unidentified” armed men seized control of the Crimea peninsula. These were later unsurprisingly identified as troops from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in Crimea. The new pro-Russian president of Crimea equally unsurprisingly immediately called on Moscow to intervene. At the same time, pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisted flags above government buildings in two eastern cities.
Western leaders shook their heads and said that Russia must not intervene. Moscow held up its hands, indignantly protesting that it would not do so. But the facts seem to indicate otherwise. For the whole of last week Russian troops were staging what were described as “routine manoeuvres” on the borders of Ukraine.
Putin secured without difficulty the unanimous approval of the Russian senate for the use of armed force on the territory of his neighbour, citing the need to protect Russian citizens. He asked that Russian forces be used “until the normalisation of the political situation in the country”: a very reasonable sounding request, a velvet glove that barely conceals the iron fist within, for he gave exactly the same reason for invading Georgia in 2008.
This threat to what was supposed to be an independent country of 46 million people on the edges of central Europe creates the biggest direct confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War. There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in different capitals aimed at “calming the situation”. The government in Kiev protested. The EU protested. Obama protested.
Britain summoned the Russian ambassador to voice its “concern”. Soon after the UK’s Foreign Minister William Hague flew to Kiev, presumably to express his sympathy to the provisional government there. EU ministers were due to hold emergency talks. Czech President Milos Zeman recalled the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Washington has warned that Russia’s actions would have “consequences”. But nobody is saying what these would be. In reply Putin calmly asserted his right to deploy troops in Ukraine “to defend the interests of Russian people”. Western politicians have hundreds of arguments, but Putin has hundreds of thousands of troops, tanks and guns. And whereas the forces of NATO are rather far away, his own forces are conveniently massing right on the Ukrainian border, and some are already on the ground in Crimea as Russia has a permanent naval base there.
The tension between the two sides increases by the hour. In a televised address, Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov urged people to remain calm. (Everyone is urging exactly the same thing). He asked Ukrainians to bridge divisions in the country and said they must not fall for provocations. But in the same breath said he had put the army on full alert, which is hardly a very calming message.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was standing next to Mr Turchynov, said he was “convinced” Russia would not intervene militarily “as this would be the beginning of war and the end of all relations.”
Fear and misery in Ukraine
The situation in Ukraine is dramatic. The euphoria of the first few days after the fall of Yanukovych has dissipated and is being replaced with an anxious and tense mood.
International community scrambles to Russian moves in Crimea
President Barack Obama said the United States stands with the international community in affirming that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” and defended the country’s citizens’ right to “determine their own future,” at a press conference Friday.
A senior U.S. official said Obama and European leaders would consider skipping the G8 summit in Sochi, Russia, if the country intervenes militarily in Ukraine. He also said a possible response could include avoiding deeper trade and commerce ties Moscow is seeking. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called for sanctions against “Russian individuals and entities who use force or interfere in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.”
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama welcomed Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to the White House Friday, defying China, which said the meeting would “seriously impair” ties between the two countries.
The encounter took place in the Map Room on the ground floor of the president’s residence and not the Oval Office, which Obama usually uses to meet foreign leaders and visiting dignitaries.
“The president is currently meeting w/His Holiness the @DalaiLama in his capacity as an internationally respected religious & cultural leader,” the US National Security Council said on Twitter.
…. Obama now faces the second time in his presidency when war was an option. The first was Libya. The tyrant is now dead, and what followed is not pretty. And Libya was easy compared to Syria. Now, the president must intervene to maintain his credibility. But there is no political support in the United States for intervention. He must take military action, but not one that would cause the United States to appear brutish. He must depose al Assad, but not replace him with his opponents. He never thought al Assad would be so reckless. Despite whether al Assad actually was, the consensus is that he was. That’s the hand the president has to play, so it’s hard to see how he avoids military action and retains credibility. It is also hard to see how he takes military action without a political revolt against him if it goes wrong, which it usually does.
FULL TEXT: President Obama’s address to the nation after Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
At least 27 people are dead, 20 of them children, after a masked gunman terrorized the school where his mother was a teacher
BY: NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
“They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, kids of their own,” President Obama said during an emotional press conference about the deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
Full text of President Obama’s speech:
This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation, and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.
We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would — as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.
The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
So our hearts are broken today — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.
The president came to office on a surge of hope but a faltering economy thwarted many of his ambitions. So his fight for regeneration and equality goes on. He must have four more years
By: Jesse Jackson
How much has the extraordinary wave of hope that swept the world four years ago, when President Obama was inaugurated, been borne out by his first term in office?
Why do I think it is so vital that he wins again this week, for America and for the world?
Let’s remember President Obama inherited a very deep hole, a hole most Americans did not imagine existed. When he came in, we had lost four million jobs in four years – 800,000 jobs evaporated in January 2009 alone. Since that time, we have created five and a half million new jobs. That’s more than 30 straight months of job growth in tough economic times. In addition, he had to confront banks that, through their greed, had forced record-breaking home foreclosures. The global economy – from the US to Europe and around the world – was at the point of total collapse. The banks were bailed out.
The automotive industry had collapsed. Now, because of the Obama administration‘s policies to rescue the auto industry, we’re the number one auto-producing nation again. Autoworkers are once more working three shifts and producing high yields. The auto industry is back, though Romney said: “Let them go bankrupt.”
Furthermore, when President Obama came into office, we were caught in a war of choice – an immoral, bad choice – in Iraq. President Bush and Tony Blair dealt us a severe blow. The whole world was telling them not to wage war – I was speaking in London at Hyde Park on the day of the big protest. We told them there was no basis for going into Iraq. Since then, we have lost British and American lives, resources and honour, and they have not been humble enough to apologise. That war cost us trillions of dollars, which took us from a budget surplus to a budget deficit.
U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks
By HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran. …
Why aren’t ministers and defense officials standing up right now, when it is still possible, and saying: We will not be a party to this megalomaniacal vision, to this messianic-catastrophic worldview?
By David Grossman
Here’s a possible scenario: Israel attacks Iran despite the strenuous opposition of President Barack Obama, who is practically pleading that Israel leave the work to the United States. Why? Because Benjamin Netanyahu has a historical mind-set and a historical outlook under which, basically, Israel is “the eternal nation” and the United States, with all due respect, is just the Assyria or the Babylonia, the Greece or the Rome, of our age. Meaning: We are everlasting, we are an eternal people, and they, despite all their strength and power, are merely temporary and ephemeral.
The Punjab-based jihadists, and especially the SSP that spawned virtually all anti-India terrorists, is where the Pakistani strategic depth, India-centric jingoism and the religion-tethered state ideology converge
At a panel discussion during the Aspen Security Forum last week, the Pakistani envoy to the United States, Ms Sherry Rehman traded barbs with two key figures of the US administration on Pak-Afghan policy. President Barack Obama’s special adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, General (Retd) Douglas Lute, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, General (Retd) Karl Eikenberry, and the current Afghan ambassador to the US, Eklil Hakimi participated in the session moderated by Steve Kroft, the host of CBS News’ 60 Minutes. The Pakistani embassy in Washington, DC circulated the programme video just as what the media called the “zingers” let loose by the Pakistani ambassador made headlines in the US and Pakistani press.
NATO has already rejected some claims made by the Pakistani ambassador such as her assertion that Pakistan shared information on cross-border infiltration with NATO/ISAF some 52 times. She also said that Pakistan helped the US apprehend 250 top-tier al Qaeda leaders before closing her remarks with a message for Generals Lute and Eikenberry, saying, “We don’t welcome or sanctuary foreign fighters on our soil…There is no question now of hedging bets…This is a new Pakistan. Catch up, gentlemen!”
The Pakistani ambassador did not care to explain what had those 250 al Qaeda leaders been doing in Pakistan in the first place. Not one, not two, not ten, but 250 of them, and of course, the mama hornet, no less, all caught in Pakistan. She lamented about the US having walked away from the region after the demise of the Soviet Union, leaving Pakistan to clean up the mess. It is not conceivable that the whole al Qaeda brass had been lounging in Pakistan without the knowledge and/or support of its omnipresent intelligence agencies and the latter’s Punjabi jihadist protégés. While the world appreciates the Pakistani effort in handing over the terrorists, it certainly does not see it as a favour to the US and the global community.
After all, the US may have walked away from Afghanistan but it sure as heck did not ask Pakistan to babysit this whole regiment of terrorist ringleaders. Ms Rehman’s views showed little concern about the US sensitivities on many issues, including Osama bin Laden’s days in Pakistan. As she was busy defending Dr Shakil Afridi’s arrest under the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation as a “constitutional” move, elsewhere at the meeting, the chief of the US Special Operations Command, General Bill McRaven was fielding questions about the Navy SEALs raid to squat the mama hornet, within a mile of Pakistan’s premier military academy. Pakistan and the US’s perceptions could not be further apart.
WASHINGTON: The Obama administration expressed renewed frustration with Pakistan on Tuesday, urging its reluctant counterterrorism ally to break remaining links between its security services and the Haqqani network and stem the flow of bomb-making material into Afghanistan.
A State Department report credited Pakistan’s government with taking action against al-Qaida last year, even though the United States acted unilaterally in the commando operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It called Islamabad’s attempts weaker when it came to snuffing out groups such as the Haqqani network and Laskhar e-Taiba. …
WASHINGTON : (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday urged the State Department to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist group, pressing the Obama administration to get tougher on an issue that already has strained ties with Islamabad.
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama told his staff in late 2011 that Pakistan could ‘disintegrate’ and set off a scramble for its weapons, claims a new book by David E. Sanger, chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.
Excerpts from the book, published earlier this month, were highlighted by the US media but it assumed an added importance when US officials started asking Pakistani diplomats, visiting officials, lawmakers and even journalists to read the book.
This forced senior Pakistani diplomats to have a second look at the book and some of them also asked Washington-based Pakistani journalists to read the book and share their views with them.
The book identifies Pakistan as President Obama’s “biggest single national security concern” and it quotes Mr Obama telling his senior aides that he had “the least power to prevent” a possible disintegration of this nuclear-armed country. And he also could not control the scramble for Pakistani nukes that this disintegration would cause.
(CNN) — The United States offers millions for information leading to the capture of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
A Somali militant group has purportedly countered with an offer of camels for U.S. officials.
Al-Shabaab has placed a bounty of 10 camels for President Barack Obama and two camels for information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
An audio statement posted on jihadist websites purportedly from Al-Shabaab jeered news that the United States is offering millions of dollars for information on seven key members of al-Shabaab through its Rewards for Justice program.
President Barack Obama has ordered a sharp increase in drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan in recent months, anticipating the CIA may soon need to halt such operations in Pakistan’s territory, two U.S. officials said.
His decision reflects mounting U.S. frustration with Pakistan over a growing list of disputes — mirrored by Pakistani grievances with the U.S. — that have soured relations and weakened security cooperation. The U.S. is withholding at least $3 billion in reimbursements for counterinsurgency operations and security-related funding, according to congressional aides and Pakistani officials.
“We are reaching the limits of our patience, and for that reason it’s extremely important that Pakistan take action” to crack down on armed groups based there that attack American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday in Kabul. ….
Supply Lines Cast Shadow at NATO Meeting on Afghan War
By HELENE COOPER and MATTHEW ROSENBERG
CHICAGO — President Obama was struggling to balance the United States’ relationship with two crucial but difficult allies on Sunday, after a deal to reopen supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan fell apart just as Mr. Obama began talks on ending the NATO alliance’s combat role in the Afghan war.
As a two-day NATO summit meeting opened in Chicago, Mr. Obama remained at loggerheads with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, refusing even to meet with him without an agreement on the supply routes, which officials in both countries acknowledged would not be coming soon.
Mr. Zardari, who flew to Chicago with hopes of lifting his stature with a meeting with Mr. Obama, was preparing to leave empty-handed as the two countries continued to feel the repercussions of a fatal American airstrike last November, for which Mr. Obama has offered condolences but no apology. Mr. Zardari did, however, meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to discuss the supply routes.
Pakistan closed the routes into Afghanistan after the strike, heightening tensions with Pakistani officials who say that the United States has repeatedly infringed on their sovereignty with drone strikes and other activities.
“This whole breakdown in the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has come down to a fixation of this apology issue,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser on Pakistan. The combination of no apology and no meeting, Mr. Nasr said, “will send a powerfully humiliating message back to Pakistan.” …
A second senior U.S. official is saying the Obama administration has definitively decided not to apologize to Pakistan for the recent accidental killings of Pakistani troops by U.S.-led forces — following months of top-level discussions about making such a high-stakes foreign policy decision.
The second official told Fox News on Friday morning many factors played into the decision, including that Pakistan appears to have “moved on” from its initial anger.
The official also asked: “When are they going to apologize to us” for a series of grievances, most notably that high-level terrorists such as Usama bin Laden gained safe harbor inside Pakistan in recent years.
House panel cuts foreign aid, UN and military aid to Pakistan
By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A House panel on Wednesday moved to cut the foreign aid budget by some 9 percent, targeting economic aid and contributions to the United Nations and the World Bank.
Despite the cuts, the legislation won bipartisan backing from the Appropriations foreign aid panel, though it’s sure to draw a White House veto threat because it’s in line with a broader GOP spending plan that breaks faith with last summer’s budget and debt pact with President Barack Obama.
The panel maintains aid to Israel and Egypt at the administration’s requests but denies $800 million that was requested for a special fund for training and equipping Pakistan’s military in counterinsurgency tactics. The move appears to reflect wariness on the part of lawmakers toward the government of Pakistan, which failed to find Osama bin Laden for years until the U.S. military killed him a year ago.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., accused Pakistan of “harboring a fugitive” and likened the U.S.-Pakistan relationship to a “bad marriage.”
Given the animosity toward Pakistan, the $800 million request for counterinsurgency efforts was an easy target, though the measure would permit transfers from other accounts to make up for some or all of the shortfall. …
The Parliamentary Committee on National Security has taken more than two months to get cracking. Now it is faced with the prospect of being left in the lurch by the PMLN that is backpedaling on certain proposals. Thus the PPP government finds it difficult to own the proposals recommended by the military, which imply, at the very least, a reopening of the NATO supply line without absolute US guarantees of an end to the drone strikes. Meanwhile, President Obama has hissed a word of advice to Prime Minister Gillani: ‘protect your sovereignty by all means but don’t undermine US national security interests’.
I wrote this comment on the SWJ site and I just thought it would be interesting to see what people here think of the American “strategy” (or lack of one) in Afghanistan.
The killings today, while tragic and awful, are themselves indicative of nothing new beyond one soldier going nuts…could and does happen in most wars and more likely when a war has stretched on for a while and more likely with soldier and locals being different people (not necessarily different nationalities..pakistani soldiers in Bangladesh or even some Indian soldiers in Kashmir could feel equally surrounded by aliens). It will have a huge propaganda effect though. Anyway, my comment is more about the US strategy: what is it? what should it be? What would it be if you were president?
Extremists shape American politics to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor.
Americans seem confident in the mythical notion that the United States is a free nation dedicated to reproducing the principles of equality, justice and democracy. What has been ignored in this delusional view is the growing rise of an expanded national security state since 2001 and an attack on individual rights that suggests that the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes like China and Iran “than anyone may like to admit.” I want to address this seemingly untenable notion that the United States has become a breeding ground for authoritarianism by focusing on four fundamentalisms: market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, educational fundamentalism and military fundamentalism. This is far from a exhaustive list, but it does raise serious questions about how the claim to democracy in the United States has been severely damaged, if not made impossible.
On February 8, representatives of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International testified before the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations at the US Congress against grave human rights abuses committed by Pakistan’s security forces in the restive province of Balochistan. Since then, Islamabadhas used as many as 10 different channels to strongly protest against what it calls America’s “blatant interference” in its “internal affairs”.The issue has flared up further following the introduction of a House Concurrent Resolution by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher seeking the right of self-determination for the native Balochs. Pakistan has summoned the acting US ambassador to Islamabad twice in a single week at the foreign office, passed a parliamentary resolution and protested through its ambassadors in Washington DC and at the UN. Wasim Sajjad, a former Pakistan Senate chairman, while referring to HRW, has called for “immediately taking action against those NGOs or persons who are accepting dollars from the US and are pursuing their agenda on the lands of Pakistan and destabilising Balochistan.”
Although the congressional hearing and subsequent resolutions were not sponsored by the Obama administration, American diplomats still face the wrath of Pakistani officials due to utter ignorance of the American poli-tical system. Anti-Americanism is not unfamiliar in Pakistan, but bashing the Obama administration for a ‘crime’ it has not committed simply means there is something fishy in Islamabad’s cupboard. Continue reading Pakistan’s festering wound – TOI→
As the Islamist nightmare envelops Pakistan, the Obama administration ponders what the United States should do. But the bitter reality is that the United States is already doing too much in Pakistan. It is the American shadow everywhere, the Pakistani feeling of being smothered by the U.S. embrace, that gives the Islamists their principal rallying cry.
Evidence is everywhere of what the Economist calls “a rising tide of anti-American passion.” The leading spokesman of traditional Muslim theology, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), opposes the “war on terror” because “it is an American war” and blames a U.S. plot for the recent assassination of the moderate Punjab governor, Salman Taseer.
The endless procession of U.S. leaders paying goodwill visits to Islamabad, most recently Vice President Joe Biden, evokes sneers and ridicule in the Urdu-language press, accompanied by cartoons showing Pakistanis scratching fleas crawling over their bodies. The late special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, liked free-swinging encounters with Pakistani journalists that left a trail of bitterness expressed in the Urdu media, but this did not deter Holbrooke and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from return visits.
To calm the situation down, the United States should start by phasing out drone attacks in the Pashtun border areas with their massive civilian casualties and should end the $1 billion plus in annual subsidies to the armed forces that make them look like American puppets. At the same time, less visible education and development aid provided by the Kerry-Lugar bill should be continued, together with the International Monetary Fund credits that keep the Pakistani state afloat, and access to U.S. markets for Pakistani textile exports should be increased.
Instead of publicly prodding the Punjabi-dominated armed forces to step up their offensive against Pashtun tribal militants in the Afghan border areas, the United States should recognize that Islamabad is afraid of stirring up Pashtun ethnic sentiment there that could break up the fragile multi ethnic Pakistani federation.
The Pashtuns of the former–Northwest Frontier Province (now called Kyber Pakhtunkhwa) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have an ancient history of resisting Punjabi incursions, but the Army did not come into direct conflict with the Pashtuns following the creation of Pakistan until July 2002, when, at the behest of the United States, it sent a division into FATA to attack al-Qaeda and Taliban forces at key transit points on the Afghan border. Heavy casualties resulted, displacing some fifty thousand people. This was a historic break with the autonomy agreements negotiated by the British with FATA tribes and honored until then by Pakistan. As the “war on terror” has proceeded, the FATA Pashtuns have been politicized and radicalized as never before.
The underlying reason that Pakistan’s U.S. links are so unpopular and make such a tempting target for the Islamists is that America is perceived as anti-Muslim.
The Islamists focus not only on Muslim casualties in next door Afghanistan, but above all on U.S. support for Israel and on the American military presence throughout the Arabian Sea , the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf in areas near Pakistan.
Why does the United States keep pouring aid into Pakistan despite its active support for the Taliban in Afghanistan at the expense of U.S.-NATO forces and its inability or unwillingness to help the United States root out al-Qaeda from its mountain sanctuaries?
American officials point to its arsenal of seventy to ninety nuclear weapons, arguing that a tight U.S. embrace of the Pakistani military and intelligence elite is necessary to make sure that another nuclear-proliferation racket does not emerge like the one organized by nuclear czar A. Q. Khan.
This is an understandable concern because many of the same generals who colluded with Khan are still in high places. But the larger danger to the United States is that the nuclear arsenal will fall into the hands of the Islamist sympathizers inside the nuclear establishment, or that the Islamists will completely take over the armed forces, branding current military leaders as U.S. stooges.
WASHINGTON: A resolution moved by a group of US Congressmen calling for right to self-determination for the Baloch people hasdriven Pakistan to hysteria, with its leaders from the Prime Minister down questioning Washington’s commitment to the country’s sovereignty.
Following a Congressional hearing last week on the human rights situation in Balochistan, the Obama administration had assured Islamabad that it is committed to the country’s unity and integrity, but suspicion runs deep in Pakistan that Washington is intent on fingering the country on account of its covert support for terrorists.
Some hardline American analysts have suggested that the Washington help the Baloch break away from the federation so that American and Nato forces can have unfettered access to landlocked Afghanistan, given how Pakistan has been holding the US to ransom.
While the hearing itself had caused much disquiet in Islamabad and pushed an angry Pakistan into lodging formal protests, the latest resolution has driven its establishment to hysteria and distraction. Pakistan’s prime minister Yousef Raza Gilani condemned the resolution as a move to undermine the country’s sovereignty, and the Pakistani foreign office and the embassy in Washington took exception to it, saying it was against the “very fundamentals of US-Pakistan relations.”
Politics behind the resolution: Introduced by California Republican Dana Rohrabacher and co-sponsored by two other Republican Congressmen Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa), the House Concurrent Resolution says that the Baluchi nation has a “historic right to self-determination.”
Stating that Baluchistan is currently divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan with no sovereign rights of its own, the resolution explains that “in Pakistan especially, the Baluchi people are subjected to violence and extrajudicial killing,” and therefore, the Baluchi people “have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country; and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status.”
“The Baluchi, like other nations of people, have an innate right to self-determination,” Congressman Rohrabacher said in a statement. “The political and ethnic discrimination they suffer is tragic and made more so because America is financing and selling arms to their oppressors in Islamabad.”
The statement explained that historically Baluchistan was an independently governed entity known as the Baluch Khanate of Kalat which came to an end after invasions from both British and Persian armies. An attempt to regain independence in 1947 was crushed by an invasion by Pakistan.
“Today the Baluchistan province of Pakistan is rich in natural resources but has been subjugated and exploited by Punjabi and Pashtun elites in Islamabad, leaving Baluchistan the country’s poorest province,” it said.
President Obama just sent his budget plan to Congress. It would ensure that the top 1% pays their fair share.
As President Obama said in his State of the Union:
“Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes… In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions…
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”
Sign our petition to stand behind President Obama’s budget to end special tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
– President Barack Obama had fired his commander General Stanley McChrystal in the middle of a war for his irresponsible comments. And yet the heavens did not fall and McChrystal went home without a whimper
“Judicial activism of this second type (where judges feel they know better than parliament what the law should be) is likely to involve judges in political and religious controversies…this type of judicial activism may lead judges to seek publicity” — Justice Dorab Patel.
Just when one thought that the honourable Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan may have extricated itself from at least some political matters thrown in its lap, it has admitted yet another petition where politics, national security and fundamental rights overlap, and not necessarily in a manner that bids well for any of these.
On February 7, 2012 the SC admitted for regular hearing a petition wherein the petitioner Fazal Karim Butt, Advocate, has prayed that the court stop the executive authority from sacking the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Shuja Ahmed Pasha.
ONE year after the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian military is closing down civil society organizations and trying to manipulate the constitution-writing process to serve its narrow interests. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where the military has also held sway for more than half the country’s existence – for much of that time, with America’s blessing – a new civil-military crisis is brewing.
For the United States, the parallels are clear and painful. Egypt and Pakistan are populous Muslim-majority nations in conflict-ridden regions, and both have long been allies and recipients of extensive military and economic aid.
Historically, American aid tapers off in Pakistan whenever civilians come to power. And in Egypt, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both resisted pressure from Congress to cut aid to Mr. Mubarak despite his repression of peaceful dissidents.
It is no wonder that both Egyptians and Pakistanis express more anger than appreciation toward the United States. They have seen Washington turn a blind eye to human-rights abuses and antidemocratic practices because of a desire to pursue regional objectives – Israeli security in the case of Egypt, and fighting Al Qaeda in the case of Pakistan.
The question now is whether the United States will, a year after the Egyptian revolution, stand by and allow the Pakistani model of military dominance and a hobbled civilian government to be replicated on the Nile.
Pakistan and Egypt each have powerful intelligence and internal security agencies that have acquired extra-legal powers they will not relinquish easily. Pakistan’s history of fomenting insurgencies in neighboring countries has caused serious problems for the United States. And Egypt’s internal security forces have been accused of involvement in domestic terrorist attacks and sectarian violence. (However, Washington has long seen Egypt’s military as a stabilizing force that keeps the peace with Israel.)
The danger is that in the future, without accountability to elected civilian authorities, the Egyptian military and security services will seek to increase their power by manipulating Islamic extremist organizations in volatile and strategically sensitive areas like the Sinai Peninsula.
Despite the security forces’ constant meddling in politics, Pakistan at least has a Constitution that establishes civilian supremacy over the military. Alarmingly, Egypt’s army is seeking even greater influence than what Pakistan’s top brass now enjoys: an explicit political role, and freedom from civilian oversight enshrined in law.
BRUSSELS — In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home.
Mr. Panetta cast the decision as an orderly step in a withdrawal process long planned by the United States and its allies, but his comments were the first time that the United States had put a date on stepping back from its central role in the war. The defense secretary’s words reflected the Obama administration’s eagerness to bring to a close the second of two grinding ground wars it inherited from the Bush administration.
Promising the end of the American combat mission in Afghanistan next year would also give Mr. Obama a certain applause line in his re-election stump speech this year. ….