Sunday, February 07, 2010

DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 8, 2010 ~ Big Offensive Builds Up In Afghanistan, Thousands Flee

DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 8, 2010 ~ Big Offensive Builds Up In Afghanistan, Thousands Flee *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - February 8, 2010: A new and possibly decisive chapter of the Afghan war is unfolding. The US is preparing a major attack on the Taliban, the militants are being squeezed in their Pakistani sanctuaries, and the Afghan government is trying to draw them into peace talks.An Afghan police man walks by wreckage of a police vehicle which was hit by a remote control bomb in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. A bomb detonated by remote control struck an Afghan patrol, killing three policemen, according to a local policeman, Mohammad Razaq. Taliban militants are also massing and preparing for the big fight, villagers fleeing the area said on Sunday. Around 2,000 people have fled their homes in a troubled southern district of Afghanistan ahead of the offensive intended to clear Taliban militants, officials said Sunday.An Afghan policeman searches a passenger of a mini bus, who arrived from Marjah at a check post in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. Telegraphing the Marjah offensive has raised concerns that the Taliban might plant more bombs known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs to inflict casualties on the attackers. Thousands of Nato and Afghan troops led by newly-deployed US marines are expected to carry out the operation in the Marjah area of Helmand province, described by military officials as the last bastion of Taliban control. If the assault goes ahead —possibly within days — it will be the biggest against the insurgents since the war started in 2001. A British soldier listens to Brigadier James Cowan during his visit to Military Operating Base Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan February 7, 2010. British soldiers and Afghan troops practiced their battle plans ahead of a major NATO offensive to seize central Helmand from Taliban. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of war-weary Afghan families have packed their belongings and left the district, taking refuge in safer areas such as the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. The Marjah plain, in the central Helmand River valley, is home to about 80,000 people. It is the source of much of the world's opium poppy crop and has long been under the Taliban's control, whose insurgency is funded by drug money. The militants are waging a bloody insurgency focused on Helmand and the neighbouring Kandahar province. Fighting them are about 113,000 international military personnel under US and Nato command. The commander of foreign forces, Gen Stanley McChrystal, said the offensive, called Operation Mushtarak ('Together'), aimed to clear out the insurgents so local authorities can retake control.

DTN News: Taiwan To Seek More Arms Despite Improved China Ties

DTN News: Taiwan To Seek More Arms Despite Improved China Ties *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) TAIPEI, Taiwan - February 8, 2010: Taiwan's defence minister has vowed to seek more weaponry from the United States, which he said would give the island greater confidence in pushing for rapprochement talks with China. Taiwan's defence minister has vowed to seek more weaponry from the United States. The remarks come as Beijing and Washington are locked in an escalating row over a massive US arms sale to Taiwan, which Beijing insists is part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. China has responded furiously with a raft of reprisals, saying it would suspend military and security contacts with Washington and impose sanctions on US firms involved in the 6.4 billion-US-dollar arms package. But Taiwan's Defence Minister Kao Hua-chu defended the arms sale Saturday, saying the arms package would help stabilise the Taiwan Strait. "The United States has kept providing Taiwan with defensive weapons according to the Taiwan Relations Act, enabling Taiwan to be more confident in pressing for reconciliation with the Chinese mainland," he said, according to the Military News Agency. "In the future, Taiwan will continue purchasing more weaponry from the United States... so as to build a smaller and leaner deterrent force." Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allow in more Chinese tourists. Still, Beijing has not renounced its use of force against Taiwan, which has governed itself since the end of a civil war in 1949. Speaking at the opening of a security conference in Munich Friday, China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said US arms sales to Taiwan violated standards in international relations and would provoke a reaction from Beijing. Taiwan's Premier Wu Den-yih dismissed Yang's allegations, saying Beijing's continued missile buildup along the mainland coastline facing the island had prompted Taiwan to seek more self-defensive weaponry. "It's just like two people trying for reconciliation. If one of them sticks a gun in his waist, it would be weird, don't you think so," Wu said in an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix satellite television Saturday. "The people of Taiwan would feel better if China can withdraw its missiles hundreds of kilometres away (from where they have been deployed)," he said. Taiwan's latest package of US weaponry includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and communication equipment for its fleet of F-16 fighter jets, but not the submarines and fighter aircraft it had requested.

DTN News: The Careful Choreography Of China-US Ties

DTN News: The Careful Choreography Of China-US Ties *Two goodwill ambassadors are on their way from Washington to Beijing. *Source: DTN News / BBC By Kim Ghattas (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - February 8, 2010: With their big eyes and cuddly looks, pandas Tai Shan and Mei Lan add a somewhat lighter note to an increasingly tense relationship between Washington and China now mired by arms sales, cyber attacks, threats and warnings and talk of currency rates.Black and white diplomacy: Two US-born giant pandas are heading to China to take part in a programme for endangered species. The White House confirmed on Thursday that the expected meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama would take place later this month at the White House. Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan independence, had suddenly warned just days earlier that such a meeting would seriously undermine Sino-US ties, even though President Obama had already reportedly made it clear that he expected to meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in the future. The meeting was postponed in 2009 because the White House did not want to undermine Mr Obama's Beijing visit and his meeting with China's President Hu Jintao. Positive co-operation Meanwhile, munching on apples and pears, the US-born giant pandas Tai Shan and Mei Lan returned home to participate in a breeding programme for the endangered species. Their return is an example of the positive co-operation that does take place between the Chinese and American governments. The pair were supposed to return home two years ago under an agreement between the two countries. They were delayed because zoo-goers in the US had grown so fond of the pandas and because the pair were not ready yet to participate in the programme. (Image: Barack Obama will welcome the Dalai Lama in the White House in February) "Tai Shan and Mei Lan not only represent the crystallisation of American and Chinese co-operation to preserve pandas but also the friendship of the Chinese and American people," said Xie Feng, deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Washington. It's a rare nicety by a Chinese official amidst an escalating war of words between that seemed to have started in December at the climate talks in Copenhagen. While President Obama seemed to get a lot of the blame for failing to turn around the situation, many participant said that China took such a tough position that it torpedoed the talks. I don't think that either country can afford to simply walk away from the other Robert GibbsWhite House spokesman Then came cyber attacks against Google, which the internet giant blamed on Beijing. They were followed by a surprisingly tough speech by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on internet freedom, during which she said that countries or individuals which conduct cyber attacks should face condemnation and consequences. China warned that the Obama administration's support for Google was endangering relations. Last week, the Obama administration announced plans to sell Taiwan approximately $6.4bn of arms. This was the third instalment of a package of arm sales started under President George W Bush. China, which claims Taiwan as its own, suspended military ties with the United States and also threatened to retaliate against the individual firms selling the arms. And brewing slowly is what could be a tense exchange over China's currency, which Washington and other Chinese trading partners say is kept undervalued to increase the country's trade surplus. Staying sanguine But despite all the tension, no-one in Washington is fretting yet. China's reactions so far have been mostly part of its usual repertoire of diplomatic outbursts - expected knee-jerk reactions to key issues that are sensitive to China and against which it must protest. (Image: Neither China nor the US has made any moves to surprise the other - yet) But Washington's behaviour too has so far remained within the realm of what China knows it should expect. While all US presidents since George HW Bush have met with the Dalai Lama - as a signal of Washington's commitment to human rights - the US does not intend to recognise Tibet's independence. And Washington may have sold arms to the renegade island of Taiwan in the past, but it still follows a one-China policy. In other words, there is no threat to China's strategic interests, which is why US officials know they can remain sanguine about China's behaviour. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the two countries could work together and still disagree on issues both in public and in private. "I don't think that either country can afford to simply walk away from the other. That's not what we would do, and I don't think that's what anybody expects them to do either." Growing impatient Still, China experts in Washington are starting to wonder why Beijing has felt the need to ratchet up the pressure all of a sudden over all the issues at once. One view is that China feels buoyed by the US's financial meltdown, while simultaneously wanting to flex its muscles to project power internally. The Chinese leadership also believes that the Obama administration needs China's co-operation more than ever before on issues like climate change, North Korea and Iran and thinks therefore that it can afford to play tough. Experts are watching carefully for any sign indicating that the ground is shifting. The clearest sign of all would be if China moved away from simply trying to water down or delay sanctions on Iran to actively blocking or vetoing a UN resolution. That would signal that while Washington has continued to respect China's red lines on Tibet and Taiwan, China has not reciprocated, failing to see how central the Iran issue is for Washington and its allies in the Middle East. Related Articles Obama firm on Dalai Lama meeting 02 Feb 10 Asia-Pacific China warns Obama over Dalai Lama 02 Feb 10 Asia-Pacific US-China relations hit a bad patch 02 Feb 10 Americas US defends weapons sale to Taiwan 30 Jan 10 Americas China hits back at US-Taiwan sale 30 Jan 10 Asia-Pacific China denies Google cyber attacks 24 Jan 10 Americas The US-China power balance 17 Nov 09 Asia-Pacific

DTN News: India’s HAL Supplies Parts For US Fighter Jet

DTN News: India’s HAL Supplies Parts For US Fighter Jet *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - February 7, 2010: The public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has begun supplying fuselage parts for the formidable Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jet in what is seen as global recognition for the Indian aeronautical industry. HAL has already sent five sets of the Super Hornet's gun bay doors (GBDs) to Boeing and 13 more are under manufacture as part of an initial contract, according to a report in the coming issue of India Strategic defence magazine. The report quotes HAL chairman and managing director Ashok Nayak as saying that the company, which had plans to invest Rs.280 billion ($6 billion) to modernize its factories in the coming years, was looking for bigger business in the worldwide military and civil aviation market as leading aircraft manufacturers increase their share of the Indian market due to the country's requirement of modern, fuel-efficient military and civil aircraft. HAL has supplied parts for the British Jaguar aircraft that the Indian Air Force acquired in the 1970s, including the over-wing pylon for the French Matra missiles that it carries. It has supplied aircraft doors to both Boeing and EADS Airbus in the past, but this is the first time that parts for a US fighter jet are being sourced from India. Vivek Lall, vice president and country head for Boeing Defense, Space and Security (Boeing DSS) in New Delhi, told India Strategic that the current order to HAL was not tied to India buying the F-18 Super Hornet but was part of a Boeing initiative to source $1 one billion worth of parts and services from HAL. As part of this, Boeing is also sourcing wire harnesses for the F-18 from HAL. A second order for GBDs is in the offing, Lal confirmed adding: "I believe HAL and Boeing share a great working together partnership for many years now that will continue to grow very significantly in support of the national industrial policy of the country." While the value of the contract was not available, discussions with HAL were continuing on gradually increasing the orders. The GBD covers the Super Hornet's six-barrel 20mm, externally powered M61A2 Gatling gun system that can fire 4,000-6,000 rounds per minute. Made by US military systems giant General Dynamics, the gun, however, carries only about 600 rounds. The gun can be used in a dogfight if it erupts, although the aircraft is loaded with long-range precision strike weapons and missiles as the emphasis now is on beyond visual range (BVR) engagement. So far, Boeing has been sourcing GBDs from the Czech Republic's AERO Vodochody, which has already supplied more than 300. Nayak pointed out that last year, HAL had also supplied the rear fuselage for the Gulfstream 150 business jet as part of its globalization strategy and increase its annual turnover three times from around Rs.47 billion at present. Gulfstream is also owned by General Dynamics, which had developed the F-16 fighter but later sold it to Lockheed Martin. Related Articles Boeing, US Navy Deliver Proposal to Equip Brazil's Air Force With Super Hornets Boeing to Develop Distributed Targeting (DT) system for US Navy's Super Hornets Boeing, Danish Aerotech Sign MOU for Super Hornet Support Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet Raytheon moves ahead with retrofitting Navy fighter jets with AESA airborne radar

DTN News: Russian President Approves New Military Doctrine

DTN News: Russian President Approves New Military Doctrine *Source: DTN News / RIA Novosti (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - February 7, 2010: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has approved the country's new military doctrine which allows preventive nuclear strikes against potential aggressors. "The president informed the members of Russia's Security Council on Friday that he has approved two documents - the military doctrine and the Fundamentals of the state policy on nuclear deterrence until 2020," said presidential press secretary Natalia Timakova. According to Russian officials, the adjustment of the country's military doctrine was prompted by real threats and challenges faced by Russia. Russia's nuclear triad comprises land-based ballistic missile systems, nuclear-powered submarines equipped with sea-based ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers carrying nuclear bombs and nuclear-capable cruise missiles. Under the new doctrine, Russia will continue developing and modernizing its nuclear triad, increasing its capability to overcome missile defenses of a potential enemy. The new military doctrine also aims to transform the Armed Forces into a more effective and mobile military force. Their structures will be "optimized" through the use of combined arms units performing similar tasks. The previous document was adopted in 2000. It outlined the role of the Russian military in ensuring the defense of the country and, if necessary, preparing for and waging war, although it stressed that the Russian military doctrine is strictly defensive. Russia's military expenditure has of late been steadily growing, and the country reportedly plans to increase the current defense budget of $40 billion by 50% in the next three years. Related News Baltic Fleet vs. Patriots? Russia`s Military Doctrine: Nukes as Most Weighty Argument in Strategic Deterrence Russia moves to ease concerns over new military doctrine Who should fear Russia’s new military doctrine? Russia's military doctrine to be presented to president by yearend Russia's new military doctrine allows pre-emptive nuclear strikes

DTN News: The Russians Are Buying

DTN News: The Russians Are Buying *Despite the Crisis, Russians Still Show Huge Interest in Buying Property Abroad
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media By Svetlana Kononova, Special to Russia Profile (NSI News Source Info) - February 7, 2010: Since the early 1990s, buying property abroad has been a popular way for wealthy Russians to invest money and build bridges to a safe and comfortable life in Western countries.
This trend has long been associated with members of high-society such as oligarchs, high-ranking officials and celebrities.
However, since the real-estate prices have fallen during the economic crisis, a new segment of middle-class customers has emerged.
“When the crisis had just begun, many Russians were scared by the unpredictable course of events, and they delayed their purchases. But things have changed since January of 2009. Demand for property abroad has risen since then,” said Marina Alekseeva, the general director at the Just Real Consult agency.
“This trend is especially distinctive for West European countries with steady economies, which were least affected by the crisis, such as Germany, France and Italy,” she added.
George Shishkovsky, the managing director at the estate agency, which specializes in UK real estate, agreed: “I would say customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics started buying more that they used to before the crunch - not only prime-class properties, but average two-bedroom flats, which cost about ₤1 million in London.
It shows that the middle-classes are trying to invest their money in the traditional property market,” he said.Shishkovsky claims that Russians are interested in the best areas of London. They prefer to invest money in the more modern, spacious buildings in the city center, preferably with car parking and security.
Since the number of such properties is limited, they will also consider more traditional residential properties, such as townhouses and flats in Victorian houses.
A novel trend is a growing number of buyers who wish to renovate flats or houses to their own taste. While Russian customers used to choose key-ready real property in the UK, nowadays more and more of them are prepared to rebuild and redecorate their new homes using the services of local design bureaus.
It is difficult to say how much exactly Russians spend on buying real estate abroad. Buyers try to keep their purchases confidential; some of them carry out transactions through corporate bodies they own, rather than in person, and others use complicated payment schemes involving foreign banks. However, a figure of around $10 billion spent on overseas properties in 2009 seems realistic, according to experts. Agencies say that Russians account for up to 30 percent of elite overseas properties. In the middle-priced and low-priced segments of the West European real estate market, buyers from Russia and the former Soviet republics are less notable, in comparison to those from the United States, India and the Middle East.
The choice of countries and properties available for sale ranges from cheap German flats (€25,000 to €70,000) to luxurious Mediterranean villas and European castles worth many millions. “We have noticed that the market has polarized during the crunch,” Alekseeva said. “For example, there are two kinds of properties in Germany that are most in demand: the cheap flats in Berlin, Stuttgart and other big cities, where property prices tend to grow, and the elite villas in Bavaria and the Baden Baden area surrounded by the beautiful countryside, lakes and mountains, which cost from €1 million to €2.5 million.”
Julia Titova, the head of the international department at the Moscow-based Best Nedvizhimost estate agency, marks the same trend. “There are two basic groups of customers,” she said. “The first group is interested in apartments costing €50,000 to €200,000 or in houses with prices from €150,000. But the second group has totally different preferences. These rich people are looking for unique properties with a long history, impressive architecture and the perfect location. They do not care how many millions these building might cost.”
Interestingly, most buyers do not buy overseas properties with the intention of living abroad permanently. According to Titova, many people are simply looking for a second home. They may send their families off to a sea-side house somewhere in Italy or Spain, or buy flats for grown-up children studying in West European universities, but the buyers themselves tend to live and work in Russia and only visit their second homes from time to time.
Then there are those looking for retirement homes. It may be difficult to believe given the poverty that afflicts most of Russia’s pensioners, but there are some people in the country who are wealthy enough to buy a second home abroad and enjoy their old age.
Moreover, some clients of real estate agencies consider big West European cities as places to run their own property business. “The crisis forced many businessmen to reconsider their assets,” Alekseeva pointed out, “some of them who never invested money in property abroad started doing that for economic reasons.” Statistics from Just Real Consult show increasing demand on commercial and investment property, such as hotels, boardinghouses and flats for rent. For example, in Rome and Milan buying to let can earn an annual profit up to seven percent; in big German cities – up to nine percent.
Apart from the profit margins, investing money in foreign real estate is attractive to many Russians because it can make it easier to obtain permanent residence in Western European countries. Although foreigners who own real estate do not receive permanent residence automatically, investors are welcome everywhere.
However, while interest in buying property abroad is on the up, some segments of the market show the opposite trend. The new, fast developing markets such the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Bulgaria and Egypt have been the worst hit by the economic crisis, with a huge decline in the number of sales made to Russians. That might be explained by a shift in attitude: now is a time for sensible investments and minimal financial risks. This comment first appeared on

DTN News: Singapore Airshow Welcomed 112,000 Visitors

DTN News: Singapore Airshow Welcomed 112,000 Visitors *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) SINGAPORE - February 7, 2010: After a series of highs, the week—long Singapore Airshow has come to a close. Wrapping up, organisers said over 112,000 visitors had walked through its doors. Over 41,000 trade visitors from 122 countries and regions came to the show, while about 71,000 people showed up on the last two days, when the show was opened to the public.A Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jet performs a manoeuvre during the Singapore Airshow February 6, 2010.
The Singapore Airshow 2010 is a 6-day event, took place from 2 to 7 February 2010. The first 4 days are exclusively for trade attendees while the final 2 weekend days are open to public.

DTN News: Boeing Says 747-8 Freighter to Make First Flight On Monday, Feb. 8.

DTN News: Boeing Says 747-8 Freighter to Make First Flight On Monday, Feb. 8. *Source: DTN News By Roger Smith (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - February 7, 2010: Boeing completed taxi tests on the first 747-8 Freighter yesterday Feb. 6. With Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein at the controls, the airplane reached a top speed of approximately 90 knots (103.5 mph, 166.6 kph). “The airplane performed well,” said Mo Yahyavi, 747 program vice president and general (image: courtesy Boeing) manager, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Based on early indications, the airplane is ready to fly.” This was the last functional test planned before first flight. First flight of the 747-8 Freighter is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8.
At 250 feet long, the plane is the largest Boeing has ever built and about 18 feet longer than the existing 747-400 jumbo jet. The company conducted taxi tests on the freighter Saturday at Paine Field in Everett, north of Seattle. "Based on early indications, the airplane is ready to fly," said Mo Yahyavi, the 747 program's vice president and general manager. Boeing also is developing a passenger version of the plane. It lists 76 orders for the freighter and 32 for the 747-8 passenger jet, with the vast majority from international customers. The company says the jets will be much quieter, more fuel efficient and have lower emissions than current 747-400 models. Boeing launched the freighter program on Nov. 14, 2005, with firm orders for 10 planes from Cargolux of Luxembourg and eight from Nippon Cargo Airlines of Japan. The jet has a list price of more than $301 million, though airlines commonly negotiate discounts. After completing the test program, the first freighter will be refitted and delivered to Cargolux. Boeing's European rival Airbus had planned a freighter version of the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet.
However, that program was put on hold in 2005 after FedEx Corp. and UPS Inc. canceled their
orders, leaving Airbus with an empty order book for the cargo plane. The freighter version is to enter service late this year. The first delivery was to have been in late 2009 and the first passenger version in late 2010, but Boeing pushed back the dates due to design changes, limited engineering resources and an eight-week strike that shut down factories. The 747-8 freighter and passenger jets are much smaller than their A380 counterparts, which Boeing has touted as an advantage. It says the planes will cost less to operate than A380s and will be able to serve more markets.
The 747-8 passenger version will carry up to 467 people in three classes, with a range of just under 7,000 miles. Boeing says assembly of that plane is to begin around mid-2010, with the first delivery in the fourth quarter of 2011. Last Dec 4., Korean Air ordered for five 747-8 Intercontinental jetliners. Korean Air is the first Asian airline to order the passenger version of the new, fuel-efficient 747-8. The airplanes have a total average list price value of $1.5 billion. Korean Air already has arrangements to operate seven 747-8 Freighters.

DTN News: Afghanistan Pakistan Strategy — Talking About Talks

DTN News: Afghanistan Pakistan Strategy — Talking About Talks *Source: The New (Pakistan) By Khalid Khokhar (NSI News Source Info) KARACHI, Pakistan - February 7, 2010: In the wake of growing realisation that Taliban cannot be defeated by military means alone, the world’s attention has shifted dramatically towards a potential “exit strategy” in Afghanistan. Although, President Barack Obama talked of an ‘uncompromising core of the Taliban’, which must be defeated, but facing dwindling public support for a war now into its ninth year, the US and its allies proposed a multi-dimensional solution that can reverse the present course of war.
Based on the hypothesis of Taliban being relegated to a local threat, diplomatic observers in Washington say that negotiations may be the only way to a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. As a part of this scheme, the US has commenced wooing those Taliban leaders who are ready to renounce violence to be included in the governance of Afghanistan.
The recently-concluded London Conference on Afghanistan, the 60-nation delegation declared support for the Afghan national process of reconciliation and reintegration in a way that is “Afghan-driven”. The London talks aimed to galvanise support for Afghan development and provide funds to buy off Taliban foot soldiers to back up an extra 30,000 US troops being sent to Afghanistan to destroy hardcore element.
Western countries are hoping a final military and civilian push will let them negotiate a settlement from a position of strength and start bringing some troops home by 2011. President Karzai and the UN representative in Afghanistan have called for the removal of the names of five top Taliban leaders from the US and the UN blacklists as a step towards beginning negotiations. However, Taliban have called for the withdrawal of foreign troops before any peace talks can start. They are also distrustful of western attempts to split the Taliban by buying off foot soldiers.
The international community at the London Conference has endorsed Pakistan’s policy of opening a corridor of dialogue with moderate Taliban to integrate them into mainstream. It is needless to say that unless the local population is on board with the government, it would be very difficult to achieve peace and stability in the war-torn country.
Therefore, deft handling of prevailing disorder requires sincere and intimate support of local populace in order to segregate “good guys” from bad ones besides flushing out the hard-core Taliban from the area. In the past, a number of attempts have been forwarded to achieve a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives so as to bring peace to Afghanistan. The most significant amongst these, were the one hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2008, followed by high level parleys in Dubai.
The hosting of “Istanbul summit” in Turkey prior to London Conference on Afghanistan, was also aimed to help brother countries in achieving the objective of durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. During the London conference, nations agreed that Afghan National Army (ANA) should aim to take the lead role in providing security in a number of provinces by late 2010 or early 2011, opening the road for reduction in foreign troops.
It was also agreed that Afghanistan needed the support of its neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to secure peace. The United States and its allies want to leave it up to the Afghans to seek reconciliation.
A fund of $140 million had been pledged to help reintegrate Taliban foot soldiers into mainstream of Afghan society.Serious efforts have begun to identify reconcilable elements in Afghan Taliban ranks following an international endorsement at the London Conference of President Karzai’s reintegration plan.
The United States, which wants the integration plan to be operationalised by middle of the year, requires the support of Pakistan. Although both Islamabad and Washington agree in principle of reintegrating the Taliban, the two differ on “who should lead the process.”
While Washington wants the Afghan government to take a strong political lead with ISAF and commanders in the field acting in a supporting role, Islamabad believes that Pakistan is better placed to head the initiative.
It would be a cause of worry for Pakistan if Afghanistan’s projected army developed the potential to take on Pakistan. Pakistan has raised concern over a similar offer by India to train Afghan army, and the issue could become another point of conflict between the two South Asian neighbours. An environment hostile to Pakistan could strain its battle against militancy and extremism.
Islamabad has strong reservations about India. Pakistan complains that India is using its influence in Afghanistan to stir trouble in Balochistan and had also provided weapons and financial assistance to the militants in Fata.
Islamabad also sees India’s strong presence in Afghanistan as a threat to its own security, fearing that New Delhi is trying to bring pressure on Pakistan from both its eastern and western borders. In a report sent to the White House in September, Gen Stanley McChrystal, who commands US and Nato force in Afghanistan, warned, “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter measures”. Britain wants to persuade regional players to cooperate rather than compete over Afghanistan. Among those best placed to mediate is Pakistan.
The prevailing US strategy in Afghanistan is to build a central government, commit it to the improvement of the lives of its people and then protect the population until that government’s own forces are able, with US training, to take over. It focuses on the very real need to increase Afghan security forces - the Afghan National Army to 240,000 and the Afghan National Police to 160,000 for a total security force of 400,000.
The prospects of the emerging scenario are for a reduced and limited US role in Afghanistan in the future alongside a larger policing role for Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan is essential for peace in Pakistan and the region. As Pakistan is handling its on-going military operations in Waziristan and adjoining tribal areas, it is likely that Pakistan will come out stronger from the current imbroglio. Pakistan has cleared Swat of terrorists and is fighting them in South Waziristan.
Pakistan is the most affected country due to perpetual instability and violence in Afghanistan, hence acting in its own interest; it joined hands with the international community to combat terrorism. The success of military operations in the tribal regions have caused substantial decline in cross-border attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan. There is a need for realisation of Pakistan’s key regional position and its contribution in the war. Pakistan has deployed more than 140,000 troops in fighting militants in the northwest along the Afghan border.
During last seven months, Pakistani military has launched 209 major and 510 minor operations in 10 regions, raising the death toll to 2,273 Army officers and soldiers in the fighting so far. Pakistan is trying to consolidate its gains lest it should fall back to the terrorists. “We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it,” said, the Chief of the Army Staff Gen Kayani while analyzing the emerging situation.
Pakistan is prepared to train a 140,000-strong Afghan National Army force able to take over security responsibilities.Pakistan wants strategic partnership among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Pakistan made strenuous efforts by brokering Peshawar and Islamabad accords to establish a broad-based government in Kabul. In the post-Taliban era, the broad objectives of the international coalition in Afghanistan are to eliminate the terrorist networks of al-Qaeda and to reconstruct the failed state.
The US military strategy so far has succeeded in dismantling the physical infrastructure and draining the financial network of the terrorists considerably, but the al-Qaeda leadership is still intact. The daunting task of rebuilding process is far from over. The current security problem in Afghanistan is likely to continue unless Afghan national security apparatus including police and army is not developed, which may take eight or ten years.
And the task of training ANA be given to Pakistan because it bore the major brunt of Afghans’ armed resistance against the Soviet occupation in terms of huge economic, social and political losses as a result of granting refuge to more than three and a half million Afghans, arms and drug trafficking, money-laundering, widespread acts of subversion etc.
Although no easy solutions are available to the Pak-Afghan problems and it will certainly be a long way for a durable mutual trust to build, some immediate measures like preserving Afghanistan’s integrity, balancing the structure of central government and denying the regional and extra-regional states to meddle with Afghan domestic affairs, can come handy to boost the bilateral relations.