[Afghan News] June 8, 2012 - 06-09-2012, 03:14 PM
Associated Press By Heidi Vogt and Deb Riechmann June 8, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. stepped up pressure Thursday on Pakistan as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "We are reaching the limits of our patience" with a nominal ally that continues to provide a safe haven to al-Qaida-linked militants.
It was the latest sign that the U.S. now is getting tougher with Pakistan after years of muting criticism and looking the other way on the premise that an uneasy friendship was better than making the nuclear-armed country an outright enemy. As U.S. forces draw down in neighboring Afghanistan, the U.S. appears to be pushing Pakistan harder than ever before to squeeze insurgents who find sanctuary within its borders.
Panetta, in the Afghan capital, told reporters he was visiting Kabul to take stock of progress in the war and discuss plans for the troop drawdown. But he used a news conference to strike across the border instead, saying the Pakistani government needs to do more -- and soon -- to root out the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani terrorist network.
Panetta repeatedly emphasized U.S. frustration with attackers crossing the border from Pakistan.
It is essential that Pakistan stop "allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces," he said alongside Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
"We have made that very clear time and time again, and we will continue to do that, but as I said, we are reaching the limits of our patience," Panetta said.
The U.S. clearly wants Pakistan to take on the Haqqanis before the bulk of U.S. troops have left the region by the end of 2014. After that, the Afghans would have more trouble contending with the militants, who carry out large-scale attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.
"There may be an increasing realization within the U.S. government that we have a few more years to really go after this problem and time is running out," said Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
Panetta's remarks capped a week of some of the boldest language and actions by the administration against its stated ally.
Just a day before, he stood in the capital of Pakistan's archrival, India, and said drone strikes against terrorism suspects would continue, dismissing Pakistan's claims of sovereignty by noting that U.S. sovereignty was jeopardized by terrorists, as well.
A senior U.S. official acknowledged Thursday that the recent increase in drone strikes on insurgents in Pakistan -- targeting mostly al-Qaida but also other militants -- is partly a result of frustration with Islamabad. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.
And earlier this week, NATO sealed agreements to ship tons of supplies out of Afghanistan through northern and western countries, bypassing Pakistan, which has kept its borders closed to NATO trucks in response to the killing of 24 Pakistani troops by NATO forces.
Perhaps most pointedly, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was not invited until the last minute to the NATO summit that President Barack Obama hosted in Chicago last month, and did not get the private meeting with the U.S. leader that he wanted.
Obama also publicly thanked central Asian nations and Russia for recent help in war supply. He did not mention Pakistan's years of help doing the same thing before the gates were closed last fall.
The U.S. has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid to support both its government and the fight against Islamist militants. The Pakistani military has battled insurgents who attack Pakistani targets but has largely avoided taking on insurgents like the Haqqanis, whose sights are set across the border.
The Haqqanis, who also have ties to the Taliban, have emerged as perhaps the biggest threat to stability in Afghanistan. They have been blamed for several attacks on Americans, including last year's assault with rocket-propelled grenades against the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.
Panetta said the U.S. continues to see Haqqani fighters moving from Pakistan into Afghanistan to attack American forces -- most recently June 1, when they detonated a truck bomb and then tried to storm Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province, he said.
UN voices concern over Afghan civilian casualties
AFP By Staff Writers June 7, 2012
Kabul - The United Nation mission in Afghanistan on Thursday voiced concern over a wave of violence including an air strike by NATO, resulting in dozens of civilians casualties.
Up to 18 people, including women and children were killed on Wednesday when a NATO air strike hit a house in Logar province south of Kabul.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has repeatedly expressed concern that aerial operations have resulted in more civilian deaths and injuries than any other tactic used by pro-government forces since the present armed conflict began, it said in a statement.
"The incident in Logar on 6 June reinforces this trend," it added.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai who is in Beijing for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional grouping led by Russia and China, also condemned the casualties as "unacceptable". He is cutting short his trip to return home.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) however said "multiple insurgents" were killed in the air strike, which was ordered after troops were attacked "with small-arms fire and a grenade".
An ISAF spokesman later told AFP, after allegations of civilian deaths surfaced, that they were "assessing and gathering facts to try to determine what happened".
Civilian casualties caused by NATO have roiled relations between Afghanistan and the United States, which leads NATO forces in the fight against the Taliban.
Also on Wednesday dozens of civilians were killed and injured in a series of bomb and suicide attacks, claimed by the Taliban insurgent who have been waging a bloody insurgency since their ouster from power in late 2001.
In one of the deadliest incident a twin suicide bombing ripped through a crowded makeshift bazaar in southern Kandahar province killing 23 civilians and wounding as many as 50 others.
"These attacks produced the deadliest single day for civilian deaths in 2012. They also represent the worst day in civilian deaths since the Ashura (Muslim holy day) attack of December 2011 in Kabul," the UNAMA statement said.
For the past five years the number of civilians killed in the war has risen steadily, reaching a record of 3,021 in 2011, with the vast majority caused by insurgents, according to the United Nations.
China Pledges ‘Selfless Help’ to Afghanistan
VOA News June 8, 2012
China's president pledged “selfless help” to Afghanistan on Friday, as the leaders of the two countries agreed to upgrade their trade, aid, investment and security relations.
At a meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, President Hu Jintao told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that China would continue to provide help to Afghanistan as it enters “a critical transition period.”
“At present Afghanistan has entered into a critical transition period. China is a trustworthy neighbor and friend of Afghanistan. Both now and in the future, China will continue to stay firmly committed to our policy of developing friendly relations with Afghanistan and will continue to provide sincere and selfless help to the Afghanistan side.”
China is positioning itself for a bigger role in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of most U.S. and other international troops at the end of 2014.
The two leaders signed a strategic partnership agreement, under which China said it would encourage Chinese investment, help build infrastructure, grant scholarships to Afghan students and provide $24 million in aid this year. And, President Karzai thanked President Hu for his hospitality.
“Thank you Mr. President, as always for your tremendously warm and friendly hospitality.”
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two sides rejected terrorism, extremism, separatism and organized crime.
Chinese Engineers Arrive in Afghanistan to Plan Railway
TOLOnews.com Thursday, 07 June 2012
Engineers from the China Railway Company arrived in Afghanistan to start researching the technical aspects of the railway which will run from the Aynak copper mine south of Kabul to Afghanistan's shared border with Uzbekistan.
Part of the obligation of the Chinese MCC Company, awarded the tender in 2008 to extract the copper from Aynak, is to construct a railway, Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani said Thursday.
"This project is part of the obligations of MCC, and technical studies will be governed by the China Railway Company, which is a well known railway company," Sharani said.
The estimated cost for construction of the 900km railway - to be the longest in Afghanistan - is around $4 billion, which will be paid for by Chinese MCC.
The line is expected to run from Aynak, 40 km south of the capital Kabul, pass through Kabul province and Nangarhar province to Pakistan's border province Torkhan, and then run north to Afghanistan's Hairantan province until the border of Uzbekistan.
The Chinese embassy in Kabul confirmed the arrival of the Chinese railway engineers to Afghanistan.
"Yes, a group of Chinese engineers have come to Afghanistan to perform technical studies of this project. We can say what the final route will be at the end of the study. Our engineers are working in close coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Public Works," China's Ambassador to Afghanistan Xu Feihong said.
Feihong also confirmed that Chinese engineers will train Afghan engineers in the field of construction of railway networks.
China, Afghanistan declaration rejects "three forces"
BEIJING, June 8 (Xinhua) -- China and Afghanistan expressed "strong rejection" of the "three forces" of terrorism, extremism, separatism and organized crime in a joint declaration released here on Friday after talks between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.
The two sides agree to intensify exchanges and cooperation in security by way of jointly combating such transnational threats as terrorism, illegal immigration, illegal arms and drug trafficking, and enhancing intelligence exchanges and border management, said the declaration.
The two sides will also strengthen cooperation in prevention of infectious diseases, disaster prevention and reduction, and other non-traditional security areas, it said.
The Chinese side firmly supports Afghanistan's efforts in combating terrorism and drug trafficking and safeguarding national stability, the declaration added, calling on the international community to support this cause.
The Afghan side reiterated its continued and firm support for China in combating the "three forces" of terrorism, extremism and separatism. It will take tangible measures to enhance the security of Chinese institutions and people in Afghanistan, according to the declaration.
At the invitation of President Hu, President Karzai participated in a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit and visited China from June 5 to 8.
Mohaqiq Accuses Government of Assassination Attempt
TOLOnews.com Thursday, 07 June 2012
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq has accused government men of being involved in an assassination attempt on his life on Wednesday night while he was at his office.
Mohaqiq, a member of the opposition group National Front and the head of the National Unity Party, said that a group of armed men attacked the National Unity office in Bamyan province while he was talking to reporters.
Mohaqiq accused the government for planning the attack on his life, saying it feared the plans of the National Front.
"The government fears the National Front's plans so it wants to launch a mental war against adherents of to the National Front," he said.
He said there was a clash between his security guards and the attackers for some thirty minutes, but he did not mention any casualties.
"We have right to speak on the shortcomings and defects of the government," Mohaqiq said. "We have our own programme but we should not be answered with accusations and armed attacks."
National Front spokesman Faizullah Zaki said: "[Former parliamentary member] Najibullah Kabuli himself has said that the National Front must be set on fire, the National Front must be killed, attack the homes of National Front members. Kabuli himself has used such words, so Kabuli is a device of the extremist circles and these circles were involved in the Bamyan attack."
U.S. Effort Stokes Friction in Afghan War
Wall Street Journal By JULIAN E. BARNES And DION NISSENBAUM June 7, 2012
KABUL - U.S. tensions with Afghanistan and Pakistan over American action against militants flared on Thursday as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta assailed Islamabad for its lack of cooperation and the Afghan president denounced an airstrike that United Nations officials said killed civilians.
Mr. Panetta, on a brief visit to the Afghan capital, said the U.S. was "reaching the limits of our patience" with Pakistan for not doing enough to crack down on the Haqqani network, the Taliban-affiliated group based in Pakistan that has been blamed for staging attacks on American targets in Afghanistan.
"It is extremely important that Pakistan take steps to preventterrorists from using their country as a safety net in order to conduct attacks on our forces," Mr. Panetta said during a news conference with Afghanistan's defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Pakistan's government has said it doesn't have the resources for a full offensive against the Haqqanis. Islamabad has also been critical of the U.S.'s use of drones to target terrorists on Pakistani soil, which Islamabad says violate sovereignty and endanger civilians.
After the U.S. reported that a drone strike in Pakistan this week killed al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, Mr. Panetta has been defending the drone campaign and warning of further attacks.
In a talk with members of the U.S. military ahead of the meeting with Afghanistan's Mr. Wardak, Mr. Panettas said the U.S. would defend itself against the Haqqani network and "take the battle to them."
Mr. Panetta has declined to say explicitly that the U.S. would step up drone attacks against the network in Pakistan.
Also Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized the U.S.-led coalition for an airstrike that United Nations and Afghan officials said killed 18 people, most of them women and children, early Wednesday in Logar province south of Kabul.
Coalition "operations that inflict human and material losses to civilians can in no way be justifiable, acceptable and tolerable," Mr. Karzai said in a statement from China. Mr. Karzai cut short a visit to a regional summit there so he could return home to deal with the fallout from the airstrike, according to the statement.
Mr. Karzai has repeatedly criticized airstrikes that kill civilians. On Thursday, Afghan officials blamed U.S. forces for ordering the Logar airstrike, which targeted a suspected meeting of Taliban commanders.
The coalition says it sent investigators to Logar to investigate reports of civilian deaths and is taking the allegations seriously. Mr. Panetta made no public mention of the incident during his Kabul visit.
Afghan and U.S. officials said the joint Afghan-U.S. forces team encountered small-arms fire as it approached the house. The joint force called on civilians to come out, but Taliban fighters warned the Afghans that they would be shot by the Americans if they did, according to a Western official investigating the incident.
Three American and two Afghan soldiers were wounded before the U.S. force ordered the airstrike, according to Afghan officials.
A U.N. official said the airstrike killed at least 16 civilians—two men, five women, and nine children, including a 10-month-old.
It remained unclear if the other two men reported killed in the strike were militants, the official said.
Wednesday marked the most deadly day yet of 2012 for civilians in Afghanistan, the U.N. said. Along with the deaths in Logar, more than 22 others were killed by a pair of suicide bombers in Kandahar province.
Western officials took note that Mr. Karzai's Thursday statement condemning the U.S.-led coalition remained silent on the Kandahar attack by insurgents.
The U.N. mission in Afghanistan condemned both attacks in the same statement on Thursday, and called on the U.S.-led coalition and Taliban fighters to protect Afghan civilians.
Mr. Panetta said the latest spike in violence hadn't led the U.S. to consider altering its plans to withdraw 23,000 surge forces over the summer. He said U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, told him he has the forces to deal with the violence as he winds down the surge.
Mr. Wardak, the Afghan defense minister, called on U.S. troop levels to be dependent on the level of violence in the country, and said the current plan could be adjusted if needed.
"I would like to reiterate what you have said, that there is enough flexibilityto review the security situation periodically and not to become detached from the realities of the ground," Mr. Wardak said. —Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.
Write to Julian E. Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dion Nissenbaum at email@example.com
Secretary Panetta, Afghanistan needs a peace settlement, not more war
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan, where US policy has been mostly military. Washington continues to view Afghanistan through the lens of war when it most needs peace – a negotiated settlement with insurgents and neighboring states like India and Pakistan.
Christian Science Monitor By David Cortright June 7, 2012
Notre Dame, Ind.If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, to paraphrase psychologist Abraham Maslow. United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan today, where America’s policy toolkit has been mostly military. More than 90 percent of expenditures related to Afghanistan are channeled through the Pentagon, and so Washington looks mostly for military solutions to the problems there.Why do policymakers in the United States continue to view Afghanistan through the lens of war when what the country needs most is a focus on peace?
At the recent NATO summit in Chicago, the US military allies confirmed that they will withdraw most of their troops by 2014, but the US plans to maintain a residual military force to train and support Afghan security forces as they battle the insurgency. This will “Afghanize” the war, lowering US casualties and costs but maintaining military operations to kill and arrest insurgents.
The problem is that counterinsurgency policies have not been able to defeat the Taliban over the past decade, and it is doubtful that they will be more successful with fewer troops in the years ahead. Armed conflict is likely to continue with no end in sight, and could lead to renewed civil war. If this were to occur, civilian suffering would increase, and gains in social development and women’s rights would almost certainly be lost.
Most modern wars end through negotiated peace agreements not military victory. If a peace accord could be reached in Afghanistan this would bring security and stability to the country and reduce the appeal of armed militancy in the region. Research shows that peace processes are most successful when they are comprehensive and inclusive, with strong international backing. The chances of success also improve when agreements are monitored and policed by third party peacekeeping forces.
The Afghan government and NATO leaders have endorsed the goal of a negotiated peace with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, but attempts to begin the peace process have faced major obstacles and setbacks. Convincing the parties involved to reach a political settlement will require a major push and much greater focus from the United States and its international partners, including Pakistan.
Recent reports by the International Crisis Group and the RAND Corporation recommend the creation of a high-level UN-led mediation team to work with the Afghan parties and neighboring states to facilitate a comprehensive multifaceted peace process. The negotiations should seek an agreement between insurgents and the Afghan government and a diplomatic compact among neighboring states.
This will require cooperation especially from Pakistan, where the Haqqani network and other insurgent groups receive sanctuary and support, and also from India. Mr. Panetta is right to encourage greater Indian engagement in Afghanistan, but this should be done in partnership with Pakistan and other neighboring states.
Engaging insurgent groups would attempt to create more inclusive and accountable governance within Afghanistan. Involving surrounding states would be aimed at seeking pledges of noninterference and support for stabilization.
Admittedly the challenges in negotiating a peace settlement in Afghanistan are huge. The Taliban and other insurgent groups initially favored peace talks, but recently walked away from the process, demanding that US officials fulfill earlier promises to release an initial group of former insurgents from Guantánamo.
But many of the obstacles to a negotiated peace agreement could be reduced if the US were to apply to peace even a portion of the resources it now devotes to war. For that, America’s political leaders will need to put aside overused military means and pick up the tools of diplomacy and peacemaking.
David Cortright is the director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
Afghan official: Taliban, criminals escape from jail in northern Afghanistan
Associated Press Friday, June 8, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan officials say more than a dozen prisoners, including criminals and members of the Taliban, have escaped from a jail in northern Afghanistan.
Abdul Jabar Haqbeen, the governor of Sar-e-Pul province, says a bomb was detonated on the outside of one of the prison walls on Thursday night, and the prisoners escaped through the rubble.
He says guards opened fire, killing three prisoners. Many were recaptured but authorities are still looking for 14 prisoners who managed to escape.
A member of the provincial council, Abdul Ghani, says inmates made the bomb inside the compound and blew up a prison tower. He says he fears the jail break will mean deteriorating security in the province.
German minister under fire for Afghanistan carpet flight
A German government minister has come under fire after a carpet he bought during an official visit to Afghanistan was flown home at the state's expense without paying customs duty.
Telegraph.co.uk 08 Jun 2012
Dirk Niebel's Development ministry has admitted that the carpet, reportedly measuring 97sq feet and weighing 66 pounds, was transported free of charge by the German foreign intelligence service.
The ministry said the transportation on May 20 from Kabul to Berlin on the jet of the chief of the secret service was done as "a personal favour".
Niebel, who is a member of the pro-business Free Democrats, a junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, had left the carpet bought for his personal use in March for about 1,100 euros (£888) at the German embassy in Kabul because he could not transport it on his scheduled flight home.
A driver picked up the carpet when it finally arrived at a Berlin airport, Spiegel Online said.
And, as a result of a "misunderstanding", the customs procedures were not immediately seen to, the ministry said adding that only this week had the paperwork been sought covering the tax on the carpet.
But the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) has called for an explanation, with Thomas Oppermann, chief SPD whip, saying the minister must explain "how he plans to overcome the damage that has arisen".
Niebel stressed the procedure to pay the custom duty was now in hand. "I regret that the claim for payment of duty was only done with a delay," he said to Spiegel Online.
"Obviously I always comply with all my legal duties in my professional and private business," he added.
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