View Full Version : [Afghan News] May 5, 2012

05-06-2012, 04:51 PM
Obama Praises Progress In Afghanistan
May 5, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for renewed focus on "nation building" at home after a decade of war in Afghanistan.
In his weekly address before hitting the campaign trail in Ohio and Virginia, Obama recapped his trip earlier in the week to Afghanistan, where he signed a strategic partnership agreement with President Hamid Karzai and marked the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
"Because of their [U.S. military's] bravery and dedication, the tide of war has turned in Afghanistan. We have broken the Taliban's momentum. We've built strong Afghan security forces," Obama said.
"We have devastated Al-Qaeda's leadership. And one year ago, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden," he added. "The goal that I set -- to defeat Al-Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is within reach."
Obama said that another 23,000 U.S. soldiers would leave Afghanistan following the 10,000 that left the country last year.
He said that by the end of 2014 Afghans will be "fully responsible" for the security of their country.
'Nation Building At Home'
Obama praised the strategic agreement with Afghanistan. He said it would help both nations to achieve an enduring partnership.
"Because of the progress we have made, I was able to sign an historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries," Obama said, "a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which the war ends, and a new chapter begins."
In what appears will be a key campaign slogan this summer, Obama called for "nation building here at home" after a decade of costly foreign wars.
Obama first official campaign rallies will be in Ohio and Virginia on May 5. Both are considered battleground states that could be key to his hopes of winning a second term in November.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Americans favor limited U.S. role in Afghanistan
Reuters By Deborah Charles Fri May 4, 2012
WASHINGTON - Most Americans want U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and oppose a significant long-term commitment to support that nation's economy and security, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Friday.
But the poll also indicated that most Americans favor keeping some U.S. forces in Afghanistan to help train that nation's troops, and to continue missions targeting al-Qaeda.
Taken together, the findings suggest "Americans essentially want to be done with Afghanistan," said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.
NATO's roughly 130,000 troops there - of which about 99,000 are from the United States - are scheduled to withdraw by 2014. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the Obama administration would like to remove most U.S. combat troops by the end of next year.
The poll was conducted in the days after President Barack Obama marked the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death with a surprise trip to Afghanistan and the signing of an agreement laying out a long-term U.S. role in Afghanistan.
The agreement is not particularly specific, but it calls for the United States to provide training for Afghan troops and other aid through 2024.
Almost two-thirds of the 776 Americans surveyed in the online poll said they did not want Washington to be committed to supporting Afghan economic and security development that long.
Seventy-seven percent said they wanted all U.S. combat troops - excluding trainers and special forces - to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2012. Nearly the same amount, 73 percent, said they did not want the United States to establish any permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
"But if you start to talk about some specifics like hunting down al-Qaeda or even providing trainers for the Afghan security forces, you have a small majority of people who support those notions," Jackson said.
Six out of ten Americans said they favored having the United States keep forces in Afghanistan to conduct missions targeting al-Qaeda and 57 percent were in favor of having troops in the country to help with training.
"Basically since before the 2008 election there's been an increasing sense of war fatigue with the American population," Jackson said. "They want things to be done with but they don't want them to be done in a way that makes it seem like we've lost or were defeated. They want to end it with a win."
During a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Wednesday, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed the strategic partnership agreement, which was aimed at offering Afghans reassurances that they would not be abandoned when most NATO combat troops leave.
In a televised speech, Obama said there was a "clear path" to fulfilling the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and said the defeat of al-Qaeda was "within reach."
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted from May 2-4. The precision of the online polls is measured using a credibility interval, similar to a margin of error. This poll had a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
(Editing by David Lindsey and Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. doesn't expect Pakistan to reopen Afghan war supply routes soon
Reuters By Missy Ryan Fri May 4, 2012
WASHINGTON - As the Taliban kicks off its spring fighting season in Afghanistan, an agreement with Pakistan that would help NATO supply its troops there could be weeks or months away, forcing military leaders to spend two-and-a-half times as much to ship some supplies through Central Asia.
The Obama administration remains locked in negotiations with Pakistan to reopen the key supply routes into Afghanistan, and officials do not expect talks bogged down over proposed tariffs and U.S. military assistance to reach resolution anytime soon.
The continued closure of ground routes, which Islamabad shut after two dozen of its soldiers were killed by NATO aircraft in November, poses one more challenge to U.S. President Barack Obama's already troubled campaign in Afghanistan.
A deal is almost certainly impossible before May 20-21, when Obama will host NATO leaders in his hometown of Chicago. There, Western leaders will define plans for moving out of Afghanistan and for funding local troops they hope can contain a resilient insurgency when NATO withdraws.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that talks in Islamabad between Pakistani and U.S. officials on supply routes, were continuing this week, but "no decisions are imminent."
"There's value in continuing to have those discussions, but there's no sense those talks are going to turn into decisions" shortly, the official said.
A deal would require agreement on Pakistan's proposal to impose tariffs on NATO supplies, including how tariffs would be formulated, where that money would go, and how the West would ensure those funds were being used appropriately.
Another issue stalling the talks is disagreement over how much the United States should reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism activity by Pakistani forces.
The United States believes it owes Pakistan about $1 billion in arrears for that program, called Coalition Support Funds, while Pakistan contends the figure is much higher, perhaps over three times as much. The Pentagon has approved over $8.8 billion in military reimbursements for Pakistan since 2002.
Once those arrears have been paid, both countries appear to want to set up a new arrangement for providing U.S. financial support for Pakistan's anti-militant activities.
Pakistan's supply routes have been closed since the November 26 cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged already tumultuous ties between the two uneasy allies to their lowest point in years.
Before their closure, the two land supply routes through Pakistan accounted for just under a third of all cargo that the NATO-led force in Afghanistan shipped there. The closure has held up thousands of tons of equipment.
Pakistan has said it will impose tariffs on ports and roads used by NATO, in part to express Pakistani outrage over the border deaths and in part to shore up funding for its fight against militants that target the Pakistani state.
The Pentagon says the route closure has not yet had a real impact on the fight in Afghanistan. "Obviously it gets more challenging as we get closer to 2014," the U.S. official said, when most foreign combat troops will make their way home.
In a report released this week, the Defense Department warned that a prolonged closure of the supply routes could "significantly degrade" withdrawal operations as NATO nations try to establish a modicum of stability in Afghanistan before most of their troops are pulled out at the end of 2014.
While the Taliban has been pushed out of some areas since 2009, when Obama began a troop surge designed to turn around a long-neglected war, the insurgency remains resilient.
The talks come as the Obama administration tries to repair ties with Pakistan also damaged by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas and the U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.
They also come at a sensitive moment in Pakistan, where the parliament has approved recommendations from its national security committee on ties with the United States, including a demand to end drone strikes and an apology for the soldiers' deaths.
"Certainly the domestic situation in Pakistan has a role to play" in the negotiations, the U.S. official said.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)

Besieged Afghan media appeals to Karzai for protection
Reuters By Amie Ferris-Rotman and Mirwais Harooni May 4, 2012
KABUL - Afghanistan's media representatives are appealing to the government to protect the rights of journalists who are facing a growing number of violent threats in what they see as an undeclared campaign against media freedom.
War and an atmosphere of impunity make Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. The Taliban often regard reporters as their enemies and many officials are suspicious of a prying press.
Despite media freedom being protected by the constitution, the relatively large, often Western-backed press corps can face intimidation, abduction or even death for reporting on issues such as corruption and other government failings.
"Day by day, it is getting worse. No one is here to support reporters," Sediq Zalique, head of investigative reporting at national daily "8 a.m.", told Reuters on Friday.
Zalique said he had received several threatening phone calls from unidentified men in what he believes was a response to his articles revealing corruption and drug-running by officials.
Many Afghans view the government as deeply corrupt.
Some media hold back from publishing stories they know will attract the government's ire.
Reporters at Afghan news agency Pajhwok are resorting to self-censorship to avoid the fate of colleagues who have been beaten and detained. Three have been killed over the last decade, its editor-in-chief Danish Karokhil told Reuters, adding that the government had to act to protect the media.
Some government officials acknowledge that authorities are not doing enough.
"The Afghan government simply needs to do more to protect media freedoms," Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Deen Mohammad Mubarez Rashidi told an awards ceremony on Thursday honoring slain radio journalist Sadim Khan Bhadurzoy, who was kidnapped and beheaded in eastern Paktika province in February.
New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last month in its annual report that while Afghanistan has experienced a slowdown in targeted killings, it had made no progress in prosecuting the killers of journalists.
Afghanistan ranks seventh on the CPJ's "Impunity Index", a listing of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.
No one has been arrested in connection with the murder of Bhadurzoy. The Taliban denied involvement, though the Islamist militants have targeted journalists in their southern and eastern strongholds in the past.
Increased insecurity in the face of intensifying violence as most Western combat troops prepare to leave by 2014 has also led to greater impunity surrounding threats against reporters, said Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, executive director of the Afghan media development group Nai.
Khalvatgar even suggested the government could be cracking down on the press in order to send a signal to the Taliban, that it was serious about reconciliation talks and was willing to restrict the meddlesome media to prove it.
"The government is reaching out to the Taliban as peace talks continue. Press freedom is sacrificed along the way," he said.
Nai, which tracks media infringements, says there were 77 recorded cases of brutality and threats against Afghanistan's fledgling media between May 2011 and May 2012.
But President Hamid Karzai defended the state of Afghan media on Thursday, telling reporters: "Freedom of the press is one of the Afghan government's major achievements. We will firmly support it and respect it".
Karzai also said he would look into the case of television reporter Nasto Naderi, who is serving a short jail term for drinking alcohol - banned in Muslim Afghanistan - and was charged with making false accusations against officials.
Amnesty International launched a campaign this week for his release, saying Naderi is at risk of torture or death in detention for his programs which reveal corruption and criminality, often implicating officials.
In February, a government request that female television presenters wear headscarves and avoid heavy make-up angered journalists who said it was proof authorities expected the Taliban to regain a share of power.
(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Robert Birsel)

17 Taliban commanders killed in Afghan southern province
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Security forces have killed 17 Taliban commanders in Helmand province 555 km south of capital Kabul over the past two days, officials said Saturday.
"During series of operations, the security forces in Marja, Nad Ali and Gereshk districts have killed 17 Taliban commanders since Friday," a security official who declined to give his name told Xinhua.
These commanders were planning to target government interests in different parts of the province but the security forces acting upon intelligence reports carried out rapid attacks and foiled their designs.
Meantime, the provincial administration in a statement sent to media identified the killed commanders as Haqyar, Zafran , Sahrafudin, Umari, Sifat, Hedayat, Nasib, Faizullah , Aimal, Amin , Ahsanullah, Raziq, Sadaqat and four more, saying with their eliminations the Taliban outfit has lost its fighting capability.
Taliban militants who announced to kick off spring offensive dubbed as "Al-Farooq from May 3 have confirmed the fighting in Helmand province.
Qari Yusuf Ahmadi who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit in talks with media via telephone from unknown location has rejected the claim, saying the operation Al-Farooq has been going on across Helmand province and several Afghan and foreign troops have been killed, a claim spurned by Helmand provincial officials as baseless.

Afghans condemn Hazara killings in Pakistan
Hundreds stage rally in Kabul demanding end to deadly attacks on minority ethnic group in Balochistan province.
AlJazeera 04 May 2012
Hundreds of Hazara Shia have taken to the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, to protest against what they call the targeted killings of members of their minority group in neighbouring Pakistan.
Protesters, numbering about 400, hoisted placards reading "Death to Terrorism" and "Shame, Shame Pakistan" on Friday as they called on Pakistan to protect members of the ethnic group after dozens of Shia were killed in the southwestern province of Balochistan in the past few months.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Fatima Jahfari, a female protester, asked when the killing of Hazara would stop.
"Until when will being a Hazara be a crime? Until when will we be told that because we are Hazara, we have to be martyred and until when will we be martyred because we are Shia?" she said.
Kazim Waheedi, organiser of the protest, said the killing of Hazaras in Pakistan was on the rise.
"In the past two months ,150 Hazaras have been killed, which shows a huge increase. And the reason of our gathering is against this inhuman action by Pakistan," Waheedi, a medical doctor and activist, said.
The heavily guarded demonstration was blocked by Afghan police officers from reaching the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
Friday's protests come weeks after other similar rallies in major world cities, including protests last month in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, where a tight-knit community of about 500,000 Hazara Shia live.
Violence against Shia in Afghanistan has been fairly rare since the ousting of the Taliban from power in 2001, but more common in Pakistan, where many Afghans have migrated during the decades of war in the Central Asian nation.
A Pakistani embassy official in Kabul dismissed criticism that Hazaras or other Shia were being neglected.
In a sign of growing worries about security, protesters on Friday divided into three groups to avoid possible attacks like a series of blasts in December, 2011, on Shia ceremonies in Kabul and two other areas that killed scores.

Two British Soldiers Killed In Southern Afghanistan
May 4, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Two British soldiers have been killed after a Taliban attack on their base in southern Afghanistan.
The soldiers, part of the Royal Logistics Corp, died in a mortar attack in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of southern Helmand Province.
Their deaths bring the number of British personnel killed in Afghanistan to 412.
Britain has some 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, mainly based in volatile Helmand.
Britain plans to withdraw its combat troops by 2014, when responsibility for security is handed over to Afghan forces.
Based on reporting by AP and AFP

This Week at War: Powerless in Kabul?
Despite the recent partnership agreement, the United States has less power than it thinks over future events in Afghanistan.
Foreign Policy BY ROBERT HADDICK MAY 4, 2012
President Barack Obama's sudden appearance in Afghanistan on May 1, a calculated attempt to display his administration's foreign-policy expertise and showcase his plan for ending U.S. involvement in that country's war, was overshadowed by another drama in Beijing, the U.S. Embassy's fumbling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. The global attention directed on the Chen affair showed that U.S. presidents sometimes have less power than they might presume to dominate the news. Obama and his advisors are similarly assuming that they will have the power to steer Afghanistan toward the slimmed-down objectives that remain for the U.S. campaign there. That assumption may be just as flimsy.
Obama and his advisors believe that a long-term public commitment to Afghanistan, combined with a steady drawdown of U.S. troops, will keep Afghan powerbrokers on their side, convince the Taliban and Pakistan to cooperate, and, perhaps most importantly, show the U.S. public that the troops are on their way home. What remains to be seen is whether Obama and his team will have as much long-term influence over events in the region as they assume they will. There are some reasons to expect that they won't. If that's the case, Afghanistan will remain a burden on the next administration and the U.S. Army for many more years.
While in Afghanistan, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement, which outlines a plan for cooperation through 2024. Although vague and recognizing that future U.S. congresses and policymakers will make their own decisions regarding Afghanistan, the agreement, combined with a commitment of support from NATO at its upcoming summit in Chicago, may influence the calculations of allies and adversaries alike. In addition, U.S. policymakers are haunted by the chaos that descended on Afghanistan after the United States walked away in 1990 in the wake of the mujahedeen triumph over the Soviet army. Obama and his team apparently assume that if they do the opposite, they will also get an opposite, and more favorable, result.
In his speech at Bagram Air Base, Obama attempted to explain how modest, and therefore feasible, his objectives are for a country so famous at spoiling the designs of outsiders. Obama said, "Our goal is not to build a country in America's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and most importantly, many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that." But sustaining this seemingly modest objective within Afghanistan's territory would seem to require a functional Afghan national government over the long term. A strong central government is a somewhat alien concept to Afghan history and U.S. plans based on such an assumption may prove fragile.
The success of the agreement is also entirely dependent on the quality of the relationships between the U.S. and Afghan leaders over the next decade. The recent trend in this regard is not encouraging. Karzai's behavior over the past few years reveals a man whose political survival seems dependent on ever-increasing anti-Americanism. Karzai's replacement, assuming the country can find one not objectionable to its ethnic factions, will very likely face the same internal pressure Karzai feels. The United States has other functioning transactional relationships with leaders from viscerally anti-American societies. But Afghanistan is now a higher visibility case inside the United States. The U.S. public and Congress, which will be asked to finance substantial assistance to an erratic and avowedly anti-American leader, may find their patience wearing thin in the years ahead. If Afghanistan's central government weakens or becomes too difficult to support, the strategic framework agreement's value will have expired.
At that point, the United States will need a backup plan.
Standing up Afghan security forces has proven to be a tremendous challenge for NATO and the U.S. military. The Pentagon's latest semi-annual report on the Afghan army and national police describes both their achievements and ongoing struggles. Although the size of the Afghan army and national police has expanded rapidly (now numbering over 344,000), quality remains uneven and is especially dodgy among the police. Afghan security forces are responsible for leading security operations for half of Afghanistan's population. But armies and police forces require institutional support. Due to corruption and a lack of trained capacity, Afghanistan's government is far from being able to sustain its security forces on its own.
The long-term burden of keeping the Afghan army and police on their feet will fall most heavily on the U.S. Army (the Marine Corps is moving on to the Pacific). The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan reminded policymakers and planners that a successful exit can happen only as fast as friendly indigenous forces are in place to provide security. Because of its poverty, illiteracy, and ethnic divisions, Afghanistan has been an especially tough mission for the Army's trainers and advisers. The murder of at least 78 coalition trainers since 2007 by their Afghan students has undermined public support for the campaign. The strategic partnership agreement is recognition that this work will not be complete by the end of 2014, even if the rest of NATO's combat troops are gone by that time. The U.S. Army's obligation to security-force assistance, not only in Afghanistan but elsewhere in the world, will remain large for many years.
At Bagram, Obama once again invited Pakistan to play a positive role in helping Afghanistan achieve stable sovereignty. His plea will again almost certainly fall on deaf ears in Islamabad. As the Pentagon's report mentioned countless times, the existence of Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and the support by Pakistani intelligence of groups like the Haqqani network mean there is no foreseeable end to Afghanistan's war. The report notes that violence has declined for several years. But we have no way of knowing whether the Taliban are merely waiting in their sanctuaries for NATO's departure in 2014 before reaccelerating their military operations.
As predicted, the U.S. raid a year ago on Osama bin Laden's compound resulted in the collapse of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. After a mistaken cross-border clash in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, little remains; Pakistan has closed the NATO supply lines into Afghanistan while the United States has suspended its aid to the Pakistani military. Talks to repair the relationship failed this week.
Leaders in both the Bush and Obama administrations have been fully aware of Pakistan's support for the Taliban and its preference for a weak Afghanistan. Yet these policymakers have assumed that they could achieve their goals in spite of these facts. The open-ended slog in Afghanistan reveals the flaw in these assumptions.
Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops by 2014 may be a nod to the intractable nature of both Afghan culture and Pakistan's unflinching obstinacy regarding Afghan sovereignty. If Obama is serious about destroying al Qaeda, the Abbottabad raid showed that U.S. military power will continue to be required. Diplomacy and aid, especially to very dubious partners like Pakistan, will be insufficient and often unwarranted.
Obama and his successors would be wise to double-check their assumptions regarding their relationships with Afghanistan's future leaders, the stability of its national government, and the fragility of its security forces. If any of those assumptions collapses, there won't be much left of the new strategic partnership agreement. If the U.S. government still wants to keep al Qaeda dead, it will then need a whole new plan.

Merkel confirms Afghan withdrawal by 2014
DW 04/05/2012
The German chancellor has said international forces in Afghanistan are on course for a planned withdrawal by the end of 2013, after meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Berlin.
The leaders of NATO and Germany said on Friday that they were sticking to the current timeline for a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, irrespective of the outcome of Sunday's presidential election runoff in France.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen appeared in tandem after a meeting in Berlin, primarily to prepare for the next NATO summit in Chicago later this month.
"Germany will suggest that we act in exactly the way that we NATO members have previously agreed," Merkel said after the meeting, when asked whether the current withdrawal timetable would hold.
French poll factor in NATO planning
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, currently the frontrunner ahead of Sunday's French presidential election, has said he wants to withdraw French troops from the ISAF coalition in Afghanistan at the end of this year, 12 months ahead of schedule. France is the fifth-largest contributor to the ISAF mission, with roughly 3,300 troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Rasmussen said that he had always known France to be a "reliable partner to the alliance" during his tenure at the top of NATO.
"At the end of the day, all members of the alliance will hold to the principle that we went in together and we will leave together," Rasmussen said.
Afghan Preisdent Hamid Karzai is expected to visit Berlin in the run-up to the Chicago summit, with May 15 mentioned on Friday as a possible date.
"We are also aware that there are financial expectations of us," Merkel said, adding that Afghanistan could rely on international assistance after the troop pullout.
Missile shield invitation
The two leaders responded to Russian criticism of NATO's planned missile shield in Poland - another project likely to be discussed in Chicago.
Russian Defense Minister Angatoly Serdyukov said on Thursday that Russian concerns about the project still prevailed and that "the situation is practically at a dead end." Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern that the project might in fact be targeting Russia, rather than defending against possible attacks from the Middle East or Asia.
"It is categorically not aimed at Russia," Merkel said of the missile shield.
Rasmussen, meanwhile, said that the shield was not technically capable of threatening Russia "in any way," adding that there was no political intention at all to attack Russia.
"The best way for the Russians to see with their own eyes that our system is not directed against them would be to cooperate actively," Rasmussen said, reiterating prior invitations for the Kremlin to participate in the project.
msh/pfd (dapd, dpa)

Panetta Warns Military Over Afghanistan Misconduct
New York Times By THOM SHANKER May 4, 2012
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned on Friday that the spate of high-profile episodes of misconduct by some troops in Afghanistan not only discredited the entire armed forces, but also damaged America’s chances for battlefield success.
Mr. Panetta said episodes involving a few soldiers who “lack judgment, lack professionalism, lack leadership” could have far-reaching consequences.
“The reality is that our enemies are losing on the battlefield, and they will seek any opportunity to damage us,” Mr. Panetta said. “In particular, they have sought to take advantage of a series of troubling incidents that involved misconduct.”
The military has been stained by disclosures that young soldiers defiled insurgents’ remains in Afghanistan, that Marines urinated on Taliban corpses and that other troops burned Korans in violation of Islamic practice. When added to the massacre of villagers attributed to an Army sergeant, these episodes have cast American soldiers in a harsh light before the Afghan public.
Addressing troops at Fort Benning, Ga., Mr. Panetta said these well-publicized episodes “can impact the mission that we’re engaged in, they can put your fellow service members at risk, they can hurt morale and they can damage our standing in the world.” He added, “And they can cost lives.”
Those concerns were reiterated by the military’s top officer, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Friday in an interview that such misconduct “diminishes the extraordinary work the rest of the force is doing.”
He said the military had an ethos that “holds us to a higher standard,” and he disclosed that, as chairman, he was studying how a decade of nonstop conflict had affected the military as a profession.
General Dempsey dismissed one explanation for the episodes: that the military is exhausted and stretched to the breaking point. Instead, he said the tempo of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — and the style of deployments — had disconnected the traditional chain of command.
Recent lapses in discipline “do not represent a tear in the fabric of the profession,” General Dempsey said. He did acknowledge, though, that “mentoring has suffered a bit.”
For example, the counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan has pushed troops out of large bases — where they would serve under the supervision of senior officers — and distributed them to remote forward outposts under the watch of noncommissioned officers and junior leaders.
This decentralized deployment pattern has placed a “new burden on junior leaders to be even more observant, more aggressive, more responsible” for the performance and behavior of young soldiers under their command in the field, General Dempsey added. “We have to reconnect leader to led, and hold leaders accountable at every level,” he said.
Both General Dempsey and Mr. Panetta stressed that the episodes represented only a tiny fraction of the force. But given the barrage of reports of negative behavior by the ground forces, the top officers of the Army and the Marine Corps also have been meeting with their leadership to urge a renewed focus on discipline and adherence to orders.
Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, wrote a letter to his service’s generals, commanders, officers-in-charge and sergeants major on March 23 to emphasize the importance of taking action to halt episodes that discredit the military and damage the mission.
And Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, also has been speaking to his service’s officers and noncommissioned officers about the urgent requirement for the Army to increase and sustain discipline among younger officers and enlisted personnel.
“I need every one of you, and all of your fellow service members, to always display the strongest character, the greatest discipline and the utmost integrity in everything you do,” Mr. Panetta said at Fort Benning.

Pakistan condemns U.S. drone attack
ISLAMABAD, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan has condemned in the strongest terms the U.S. drone attacks in North Waziristan Saturday morning, which killed at least 10 people, the Foreign Ministry said.
"Pakistan has consistently maintained that these illegal attacks are a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and are in contravention of international law," a Foreign Ministry statement said.
"It is our considered view that the strategic disadvantages of such attacks far outweigh their tactical advantages, and are therefore, totally counterproductive," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.
The Foreign Ministry says that the issue of American drone strikes will be taken up with the U.S. authorities through diplomatic channels both in Islamabad and Washington.
Security officials said the U.S. spy aircraft fired two missiles on a house at the Darai Nashtar area in North Waziristan early Saturday morning. The area is just three kilometers from Afghanistan.
The house was completely destroyed in the strike.
Locals said that four U.S. drones were seen flying over the area before and after the attack, which was the third strike in the same region in nearly two months.
Rescue work was delayed due to fear of further strikes by the U. S. drones, residents said.
Security sources said that suspected militants had been using the house for several months. They said those killed belonged to the local Taliban group. They also said that several foreign militants were also staying in the compound at the time of the strike.
Saturday's U.S. drone strike was 12th this year. Data shows that nearly 93 people have been killed in U.S strikes in 2012.
Pakistan had summoned a U.S. diplomat for lodging a formal protest when a strike killed four people on April 30.
Pakistani parliament last month approved guidelines for relationship with the U.S., calling for immediate halt to American strikes.
The U.S. has so far rejected calls from Pakistan to stop drone strikes and the latest strikes show that Washington is in no mood to change policy on these strikes.
Americans insist that the CIA-run strikes are effective to eliminate al-Qaida and Taliban militants. Pakistanis say that drone strikes are counter productive, kill civilians, increase anti-US sentiments and create problems for the government.

US Air Force seeks 2014 delivery of Afghan planes
Reuters By Andrea Shalal-Esa Sat May 5, 2012
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Air Force on Friday released final, revamped rules for a new competition to supply 20 light attack planes to Afghanistan, after it abruptly cancelled its previous contract with Sierra Nevada Corp and Brazil's Embraer.
The Air Force posted the final amended request for proposals on Friday evening after sending details to the two original offerers -- Sierra Nevada and Hawker Beechcraft -- earlier. FREE GUIDES AND REPORTS FROM DIANOMI ADVERTISEMENT Mining Stocks Mining Stocks 3 Top Mining Stocks Set to Soar Download FREE Report
The final rules appeared little changed from a draft that had drawn criticism from Sierra Nevada.
"While the decision process will be event-driven, the Air Force targets a source selection decision in early calendar year 2013," said Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy. "This would allow first aircraft delivery to Afghanistan in third quarter 2014," about 15 months later than initially planned.
The companies must submit their new proposals by June 4.
The Air Force decided to toss out its earlier contract with Sierra Nevada and revise the rules for the competition after losing bidder Hawker Beechcraft challenged the award in federal court. The case has embarrassed U.S. military officials and sparked questions about U.S. procurement practices in Brazil.
An internal Air Force investigation found that the $355 million contract with privately held Sierra Nevada, which was set aside in February, had been granted without following the proper decision-making process, Reuters reported last month. It found no deliberate misconduct in the case.
The amended rules retain the same requirements for the planes, but include several revisions "designed to streamline proposal preparation and subsequent evaluation," the Air Force said.
Sierra Nevada filed a motion last month to challenge the Air Force's changes, which were then still in draft form, but appear to have been adopted largely unchanged. No comment was immediately available from the company on Friday.
Hawker, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, said it was evaluating the revamped request for proposals and would comment further next week.
The changes call for the companies to submit fixed-price proposals for potential future planes beyond the 20 in the initial order, and remove the requirement for a demonstration flight, a sore point with Sierra Nevada and Embraer.
The rules also put off a "first article test" of the new planes until after the award is granted and dropped a requirement for testing of associated ground training devices.
The Air Force also said it had appointed a new, higher-level source selection team to evaluate the companies' proposals. It said the new team would not have access to any of the previous materials or accounts of talks between the companies and the government team.
The Air Force is continuing a second phase of its internal investigation to assess whether there are systemic problems with its acquisition system, or whether the Afghan plane competition was an isolated case.
The U.S Air Force is handling the largely American-funded purchase of the light attack planes, which will be supplied to Afghanistan's fledging air force. Doubts are mounting about the overall readiness of the Afghan military to take charge of security in the country, which suffered heavy, coordinated insurgent attacks on Sunday.
The case is being closely watched in Brazil, where officials were still smarting from the cancellation of an earlier contract with Lockheed Martin Corp for a reconnaissance plane based on Embraer's ERJ-145 regional jet. (Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gary Hill)

9/11 attack mastermind on trial in Guantanamo tribunal
WASHINGTON, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The alleged mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks and four other suspects appeared in a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay Saturday morning.
The arraignment marks the second time the United States has tried to prosecute the 9/11 suspects. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four codefendants have not been seen in courtroom for about three years. They have been held in a classified section of Guantanamo under tight security.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is accused of obtaining approval and funding from bin Laden for the attacks, overseeing the entire operation and training the hijackers in all aspects of the operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The overall charges allege that the five accused are responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, resulting in the killing of 2,976 people. If convicted, they could get death penalty.
About a dozen of family members of the Sept. 11 attacks victims and nearly 60 media representatives are allowed to the naval station in Guantanamo Bay to watch the proceedings, the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon said the defendants have been provided counsel with specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases in a bid to assist them in their defense.
The Pentagon has arranged several viewing sites based in the United States to show the proceedings to victims' families and members of the media by closed-circuit TV. Some 400 to 600 first responders to the 9/11 terror attack sites will also watch the commission proceedings for the first time at view sites.
The administration announced in November 2009 that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be tried in a court near the World Trade Center.
In December 2010, the Congress adopted restrictions on prosecuting Guantanamo prisoners in civilian courts. The five suspects were referred to the Pentagon in April 2011, for trials in military tribunals. Officials have said the administration still aims to close the Guantanamo prison facility despite the policy about-face.
Obama promised to shut the Guantanamo Bay prison facility within one year since he took office, but has not succeeded in doing so.
The detention camp is the epicenter of controversial detainment and interrogation practices used by the United States in its war against terror, as detainees were held indefinitely without charges and subjected to harsh interrogation methods such as water-boarding.

Afghan Girl Bride's Torturers Jailed For 10 Years
May 5, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The in-laws of an Afghan child bride have been sentenced to 10 years in prison for torture and abuse.
The case of 15-year-old Sahar Gul captivated the nation and set off a storm of international condemnation when it became known in late December 2011 that she was severely tortured by her in-laws for months.
The court sentenced her father-in-law, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law each to 10 years in prison, a spokesman of the Afghan Supreme Court said on May 5.
Gul's husband and brother-in-law also were convicted and will be sentenced when they're captured.
Official say Gul's in-laws kept her in a basement for six months after her arranged marriage and continuously tortured her to force her into prostitution.
Based on reporting by AFP and AP

Web users angry at Iranian bid to expel Afghans
By Arash Ahmadi BBC Monitoring 4 May 2012 BBC News
Iranian and Afghan social media users are united in condemning a move by a senior Iranian provincial official to expel all Afghan refugees as racist and shameful.
Late last month, the deputy governor-general of Iran's northern Mazandaran Province, Hadi Ebrahimi, announced that all Afghans had to leave the province by 2 July, irrespective of their legal status.
"From that date, their residency and identity documents will no longer be valid," said Ebrahimi, according to the official Iranian news agency Irna.
The deputy governor, who is in charge of political and security affairs of the province, went on to warn employers that offering work or help to Afghans would be illegal.
"Any form of service or assistance [to Afghans] would be considered a crime and punishable by the full force of the law."
Mr Ebrahimi, whose province is on the Caspian Sea coast and is a popular tourist destination, reminded the public that the "presence of Afghans in 10 coastal towns" had been banned four years ago.
Moreover, he said that marriage between Iranian women and Afghan men had been deemed illegal in 2006.
"We should prevent this occurring by educating the public about the consequences of these marriages," he added, without elaborating. 'We are all Afghans'
Earlier last month it was reported that Afghans had been banned from attending a popular park in the historic Iranian city of Esfahan to mark the annual "Nature Day", celebrated by Iranians and Afghans alike.
A senior police official was quoted as saying that Afghans had been banned because "in previous years, a number of Afghans had caused insecurity".
"[The ban on Afghans] was put in place to ensure the safety and security of Iranian citizens," said Ahmad Reza Shafi'i of Esfahan police.
Iranian social media users were quick to react. Two Facebook pages appeared, both called "We are all Afghans".
One shows a background photo of three men holding placards saying "I too am an Afghan", and "no to racism".
The other page says it was set up by "Iranians opposed to ethnic discrimination against Afghan immigrants". 'Undignified' behaviour
The moves against Afghan residents led many Iranians to express solidarity and empathy with the refugees. They included Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar winner and director of the internationally-successful film "A Separation".
Farhadi, who is in Paris preparing his next film, is set to travel to Iran next week to show solidarity with the Afghans.
"Such undignified behaviour against immigrants in Iran - a country which itself has one of the highest number of emigrants in other countries - leaves a bitter taste," he was quoted as saying.
"Blaming insecurity and unemployment on immigrants is shirking one's responsibility."
Other film makers and actors have also expressed solidarity with Afghans, including director Daryush Mehrjuyi and Leila Hatami, the female star of "A Separation".
Comments by Iranians on the Balatarin community website were indicative of the mood, with the vast majority condemning the Mazandaran provincial official for his expulsion order.
"Shameful, what can I say," said one.
"Let's hope Mazandaran gets cleansed from all racists," wrote another.
Other users praised Iranian artists for expressing empathy for the immigrant community.
"Thank God for these honourable artists," wrote "azadmard88".
"Well done to all of them," said "teaspoon". 'Fascist' acts
Meanwhile, prominent Kabul-based journalist and blogger Razaq Mamoon took the international community to task for its perceived silence regarding the plight of Afghans in Iran.
"There isn't much to say about the Islamic Republic [of Iran]... and its fascist and racist acts against Afghan refugees," he wrote. "But the silence of governments and international bodies such as the UN once again gives the seal of approval to the fascism of the Islamic Republic."
Another Afghan blogger commented that the behaviour of some Iranians towards Afghans will backfire.
"The dignity of Afghans will not be reduced one iota," wrote Mohammadi. "It is you who will be crushed."
According to the Afghan Ministry of Refugee Affairs, there are some 2.3m Afghan immigrants living in Iran, but only 900,000 of them have legal residency papers.
Most Afghans escaped to Iran after the Soviet invasion of their country and the subsequent civil war and Taliban takeover. They are regularly threatened with forcible expulsion, and their plight has become a source of tension between Iran and Afghanistan. But the long and porous border between the two countries has so far made it impossible for Iran to expel Afghan immigrants.
BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. (