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Default [Afghan News] June 27, 2012 - 07-05-2012, 05:03 AM

Top US, NATO Commander Visits Pakistan Amid Tensions
VOA News June 27, 2012
The head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is visiting Pakistan Wednesday to urge Pakistani officials to crack down on militants who launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
U.S. General John Allen is holding talks with Pakistani army chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani.
The United States has repeatedly called on Pakistan to go after the Haqqani network.
The al-Qaida-linked militant group is based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region and has carried out numerous attacks in Afghanistan.
Last week, at least 20 people were killed in a militant siege of a lakeside hotel outside the Afghan capital, Kabul.
General Allen said the attack bore the signature of the Haqqani network. He said the group continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and violate Afghan sovereignty from, in his words, "the safety of Pakistan."
Pakistan's military says the NATO commander and Pakistani army chief are discussing the implementation of "recently evolved" border coordination measures.
General Allen's visit to Pakistan comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Pakistan over the still-closed NATO supply routes into Afghanistan.
Islamabad shut down the supply lines after last November's coalition airstrikes that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops along the border.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Mixed Messages on Afghan Diplomat Summoned Over Pakistan Attack Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Afghanistan's Ambassador to Pakistan Umer Daudzai contradicted the government's statement on Pakistan summoning an Afghan diplomat to its foreign office over the insurgent attack on Pakistani soldiers.
Late Tuesday evening, Daudzai said on TOLOnews' current affairs show FaraKhabar that his deputy had met with officials from Pakistan's foreign office, at their behest.
Earlier, however, Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Faramarz Tamana told TOLOnews no Afghan diplomat had been summoned over the events.
Tamana dismissed the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statement released Monday which said it had called the Afghan Deputy Ambassador to its office and "strongly protested" against Afghan-based militants crossing into Pakistan.
"Many times we have repeated that the Afghans have been victims of terrorism in the region. Everyone knows that the insurgents' havens are outside Afghanistan and Afghans have suffered from this," Tamana said. Pakistan's foreign office said in the statement that six Pakistani soldiers based in the northern Dir region were killed in an attack by "100 militants from across the border". The number of soldiers killed has since increased to 13, with some reports saying seven of them were beheaded.
Despite the Pakistani Taliban claiming responsibility for the attack, Pakistan has stressed that the militants crossed the border from Afghanistan.
New Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said he would raise the matter when he meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai soon.
Meanwhile, the top US and Isaf commander in Afghanistan General John Allen will visit Pakistan this week amid renewed pressure by Washington to eliminate "terrorist sanctuaries" from the country's tribal belt.
Allen is expected to meet Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani with a focus on reviewing the progress made in recently implemented "border coordination" procedures to stop the movement of insurgents across the border.

Taliban Attacks Kill 10 Afghan Police Officers
June 27, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Afghan officials say roadside bombs and a Taliban ambush have killed at least 10 Afghan police.
Officials said four police were killed June 26 in the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in Helmand Province when a roadside bomb they were trying to defuse exploded.
In the western province of Herat, officials said four police officers were killed when their patrol was ambushed on June 26.
The Taliban claimed has responsibility for a roadside blast in the northern province of Kunduz that killed two policemen on June 27.
Afghan security forces have increasingly been targeted by militants as they prepare to take over full responsibility for security from NATO-led foreign troops by the end of 2014.
Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa

Taliban-linked militancy claims 44 lives in Afghanistan
KABUL, June 27 (Xinhua) -- The Taliban-linked insurgency and Afghan security forces' retaliations have left 44 people dead including 37 militants and seven police, officials said Wednesday.
In the latest wave of Taliban-linked militancy against government interests, seven policemen were killed and three others sustained injuries as roadside bombs struck police vans in the peaceful northern and the restive southern region on Wednesday, according to officials.
The first violent incident took place in Kunduz province, 250 km north of Afghan capital Kabul, when a mine planted by insurgents targeted a police vehicle killing three police on the spot in the rush hours Wednesday morning.
"It was a remote-controlled bomb that struck a police van when a convoy of police was passing Hazrat Sultan area in the provincial capital Kunduz city this morning as a result three personnel of Civil Order Police were martyred and three others sustained injuries," provincial police chief Samiullah Qatra told Xinhua.
He put the attack on Taliban militants. But the outfit fighting the government has yet to make comment.
About two hours later, two more blasts, also in the shape of roadside bomb went off in the Taliban hotbed of the southern Helmand province, killing four police, a local official confirmed.
"The first blast in the shape of roadside bombing took place in Musa Qala district bazaar at around 10:30 a.m. local time, fortunately caused no loss of life, but unfortunately the second blast which happened in a span of few minutes in Landi Nawi village of Musa Qala claimed the lives of four policemen," Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for provincial governor, told Xinhua.
Ahmadi also blamed the enemies of peace, a term used against Taliban militants for organizing the attacks. However, the outfit has yet to make comment.
In addition, the Interior Ministry in a statement released on Wednesday morning claimed killing 37 anti-government militants since Tuesday morning.
According to the statement, the Afghan police and army backed by NATO-led coalition forces had killed 37 Taliban insurgents during a series of operations in different provinces over the past 24 hours.
"The joint forces carried out 12 cleanup operations in Kabul, Laghman, Parwan, Kunduz, Sari Pul, Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan and Farah provinces over the past 24 hours during which 37 armed Taliban insurgents have been killed, three others detained and 14 others were injured," the ministry detailed in the statement.

Afghan army uncovers 109 IEDs within week: official
KABUL, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Afghan army uncovered and defused 109 Taliban homemade bombs or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) within the past seven days cross the war-torn country, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said Wednesday.
"The personnel of Afghan National Army (ANA) have found and defused 109 roadside bombs and IEDs over the past seven days ending on Wednesday," Azimi told reporters in a weekly press briefing here.
The Taliban insurgent group, which has been waging more than a decade-long insurgency, stepped up their attacks on Afghan and some 130,000 NATO-led troops since a spring offensive was launched on May 3 this year.
"A total of 25 IED explosions have been registered by army personnel over the same period of time, leaving military and civilian casualties," Azimi added, without disclosing the number of the fatalities by the blasts.
Taliban has launched massive IED attacks against Afghan and foreign security force in recent years but the lethal weapon also inflicted casualties on civilians. Eight civilians were killed when a vehicle touched off an IED in eastern Logar province on Wednesday June 20.
"The Taliban has lost the ability to fight with security forces and in retaliation they launch IED attacks against security forces, " the spokesman said, adding that some 95 percent of army fatalities have been caused by roadside bombs and IEDs in recent months.
Earlier in the day seven policemen were killed and three others wounded in three separate IED attacks in northern Kunduz and southern Helmand province.
He made the comments when the Afghan forces and NATO troops have completed transition in the first two of five tranches of provinces and districts across the country where about half of the Afghan population now lives.
Afghanistan is due to take over the leadership of its own security duties from U.S. and NATO forces by the end of 2014.
Under the U.S. President Barack Obama's withdrawal plan, 10,000 U.S. troops already pulled out from Afghanistan last year and another 23,000 will return home by September this year.
In another development, five local residents and a Taliban fighter were killed following a clash in Andar district in the eastern province of Ghazni earlier Wednesday.
"A group of Taliban insurgents raided a compound in Baton area of Andar district and during the small arm fire with the local residents five locals and a Taliban insurgent were killed," a provincial government spokesman Sabbawon told Xinhua.
Taliban closed down several schools in Andar nearly a month ago, triggering an uprising during which locals kicked out Taliban from 80 villages in the restive district south of provincial capital Ghazni city 125 km south of capital Kabul.

The crisis and politics of ethnicity in Afghanistan
The troubled central Asian country needs to develop a political system based on a pan-Afghan vision.
Aljazeera By Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan intelligence chief, is an opposition leader 26 Jun 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - The fall of the Taliban presented opportunities for the country's elite - of any region or ethnicity - to contribute to the foundations of a nation-state and heal the country's political fragmentation.
Afghanistan today has some institutions that can claim to be national, but a pan-Afghan, national politics is still missing. The ethnic divide is increasing, ethnopolitics is on the rise, and both the literature of hate and demagogic politicians are gaining traction. Politicians, intellectuals and opinion leaders talk of ethnic politics openly when addressing audiences made up of their kin, but resort to vague rhetoric while on the national stage.
The fragmented state of the more than 35 million Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan is a key factor in this crisis. Perceiving them as a formidable ethnic group, the Pakistani establishment has savvily played a role in keeping them divided. Pashtuns in Pakistan can broadly be categorised as the integrated, the Islamists, and the nationalists.
Many Pashtuns hailing from the Khatak, Niazi, Yusufzai, and Tarin tribes are integrated in Pakistan. For them, the sense of belonging to a nation is far stronger than their ethnic affiliation. Based on merit and loyalty to the system, they have enjoyed prestigious positions in Pakistan - president, army chief of staff, and various ministerial positions. As of yet, however, no Pashtun has become prime minister.
The Islamist Pashtuns of Pakistan have largely been a tool in the hands of the country's military and intelligence agencies to use against the ethno-nationalists in the regions of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Two predominantly Pashtun Islamist parties, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, have been used to manipulate politics among the Pashtuns in Pakistan and to implement the Pakistani agenda in Afghanistan.
The ethno-nationalist Pashtuns of Pakistan have advocated for the rights of their ethnic group within the country. Led by Wali Khan’s family in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Mahmood Khan Achakzai in Balochistan, these two parties maintain good ties with Afghanistan and India as a strategic fallback when pushed into the margins by the Pakistani establishment.
However, they could be co-opted as they ascend to power. Their biggest gain so far has been the change of the name of the North-West Frontier Province to Khyber Pukhtunkha (which means "Pashtun quarter"). Yet their influence among the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is patchy at best. FATA represents a miserable case of a large ethnic group fallen into the traps of a colonial-minded Pakistani establishment. By playing with the ego of the tribes and calling them "free" and "autonomous", the people of FATA have in reality been deprived of the basic rights and progress other societies have enjoyed. The divided Pashtuns of Pakistan are unable to gain what they deserve in accordance to their population size. The Punjabi-dominated establishment has deflected their attention to focus on Afghanistan, a place where Pashtuns are perceived to be victimised.
Afghanistan has never been able to provide truly strategic support to the Pashtuns of Pakistan. But on a psychological level, Afghanistan remains the cradle of Pashtun pride, which hearkens back to the glory of Kandahar, the seat of an empire ruled by unified Pashtun tribes.
Though a significant ethnic group, Pashtuns lack a government of their own. Their language is under threat from English, Urdu, Punjbai and Farsi. Education in Pashto in Pakistan brings no reward. Ethnic politics in Afghanistan has put it in competition with Farsi, and yet the language lacks a deep source of intellectual support in or outside the region. The language of strategic communication largely remains English for Pakistanis and Farsi for Afghans.
The many Pashtuns in Karachi are in conflict with the Mohajir Qaumi Movement over land and job opportunities. The Pashtuns of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa are in dispute with the Punjab region over water, resources, higher education, political participation, language and other issues. And Pashtuns in Afghanistan are challenged by the rise of non-Pashtun groups. The struggles of other ethnic groups for political power in Afghanistan - such as the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras - challenges the dominant umbrella role the Pashtuns have played in the past.
The reactions
Afghans favour a pluralistic state ensuring fair access to justice, resources, and political participation. Pluralism today is challenged by the second rise of the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's accommodating stance towards them. The Taliban's repression and brutality alienates many Afghans. The question is what, apart from ethnic politics and a sense of kinship, causes Karzai to try to compromise with them.
Many northern leaders of Afghanistan have been killed by the Taliban, and certain parts of southern and eastern Afghanistan have seen school closings, the killings of tribal chiefs, and lawlessness.
The fear of the Taliban's return is another reason for the rise of ethnic politics. Pan-Afghan parties don’t exist. Afghans of all ethnic groups have stood together for a common cause but they have failed to share a common platform. The fragmentation of the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan along ethnic lines in the 1960s-1980s - in spite of support and pressure from the Soviet Union - is a prime example.
With the rise of the Uzbek political party, Junbish Milli Islami, under General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Islamic party Jamiat-e Islami - led by the late Burhanuddin Rabbani - lost its Uzbek base and many Jamiat-e commanders of Pashtun origin didn't want to fight the Taliban. That said, Ahmad Shah Massoud did manage to create a pan-Afghan resistance alliance against them in 1998 when it became clear the Taliban lacked a vision beyond war and intimidation.
Now with Massoud and Rabbani gone, there are no northern leaders with the required standing to exert influence in the south. Similarly, there are no leaders of Pashtun origin to regain the trust of the north. Patronage politics should not count as genuine political intrusion and influence.
When General Dostum supported President Karzai in the 2009 elections, he was branded a national figure by both the president and his slain brother Ahmad Wali Karzai. Yet when the same General Dostum - an ethnic Uzbek - switched sides, he was labelled a separatist leader and national traitor. This rhetoric reduces nationalism to a Pashtun-centric system and further alienates others from the system.
The Islamist Shia parties of Afghanistan are comprised almost wholly of Hazara people. Although these parties do not mention Shia or Hazara in their logos or names, they recognise that their appeal is limited, and do not try to influence other parts of the country.
Afghanistan's northern neighbours lack the resources, infrastructure, political will and strength to provoke ethnic divides in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan, kept at bay from religious fanatics and providing them access to an alternative trade and sea route, is desirable to them, no matter who rules in Kabul.
Iran is pursuing a policy of its own, shaped by its national security interests. For Iran, having good relations with Kabul is important, yet a central part of Iran's strategy also includes support for non-state actors that can help shape the political landscape and provide a counterweight.
Iran's strategy of watching Americans bleed in Afghanistan and the wider region is contributing to the failure of the NATO mission as a whole. Language, ethnicity, trade, sectarian politics and cultural ties are all tools used by Iran for the promotion of its interest, not for the common good of people in the region.
All of Afghanistan's neighbours are guilty to some extent of provoking ethnic divides in the country, but Pakistan especially so. Although its strategy has failed to benefit Pakistan or strengthen its position vis-a-vis its regional rivals, there are no signs that Pakistan will abandon this strategy either.
Pakistan believes that the policy of reconciliation will pay off to some extent for what it has invested in the Taliban. They are also observing the ethnic divide in Afghanistan and will obviously try to exploit it for their benefit.
Ethnicity will continue to play a dominant role in the politics of Afghanistan. The restoration of national consensus over the democratic process and the political system is key to the country's stability. Solidifying a national identity is very important to avoid tensions between ethnic groups. The politics of co-option and patronage will not help Afghanistan reduce its security expenditures or increase its development. There needs to be a visible measure of accountability and a fair distribution of national resources. Reconciliation should not be based on narrow ethnic politics or fear but on a pan-Afghan vision.
Otherwise, the subsidies that NATO countries are giving to the Afghan National Security Forces will mean keeping afloat a state that is at war with itself and unable to focus on the enemy. And this won't be sustainable, either.
Amrullah Saleh served as head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security between 2004 and 2010, and is now leading the Afghan pro-democracy movement, Basej-i Milli.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Isaf Data Proves Karzai's Warning of Increase in Insurgent Attacks
The Wall St Journal Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan rose in April and May, the US-led coalition reported, indicating a Taliban comeback after months of declining activity.
Insurgents launched nearly 3,000 attacks around the country in May, up 21% from May 2011, the International Security Assistance Force said Monday. The coalition statistics, which tally everything from rockets and suicide bombings to small-arms fire and roadside bombs, also showed a modest year-on-year rise in insurgent attacks in April, with just under 2,000 violent incidents.
This violence reversed 11 consecutive months during which insurgent attacks dropped from the previous year's levels, a metric that coalition commanders have frequently highlighted as evidence that the Taliban had lost the initiative in the war.
The recent jump in attacks, by contrast, shows that the Taliban remain far from defeated ahead of the planned withdrawal of international troops in 2014. This year's Taliban's spring offensive has included high-profile attacks, including the storming last week of a popular lakeside resort outside Kabul.
"Every day, 20 to 25 of our youths sacrifice their lives for this homeland and are martyred," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a special parliamentary address last week, noting the recent surge in attacks on Afghan forces.
In Washington, defense officials noted that despite the large increase in the month of May, the overall level of enemy attacks remains lower for the year. "Compared to last year, enemy-initiated attacks are still down by 6%," said a defense official.
Isaf attributed the rise in the number of attacks to an earlier-than-normal start to the annual fighting season.
Insurgent groups depend in part on revenue from the opium trade, and the fighting season usually begins in earnest only after the poppy harvest is complete. The number of attacks tends to dip at the beginning of the harvest followed by a few weeks of fewer incidents, according to ISAF.
But a poppy blight cut short this year's production, and the reduced poppy harvest led to the increase in violence in May compared with the year before, defense officials said. "This year's harvest started later and finished earlier in the most poppy-prevalent areas of Afghanistan compared to last year," an Isaf release said.
The report also indicated that attacks rose in areas where opium isn't heavily cultivated.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, denied any connection between insurgent strategy and the opium harvest. "We had been reserving all our military strength to the spring offensive," he said. According to Mr. Mujahid, insurgents had varied their tactics depending on the region of the country.
"In the south...we focus more on land mines. In the east, we do confrontations and ambushes. In the central provinces, we use mass martyrdom-seeking attacks," he said, referring to coordinated assaults with suicide attackers.
Earlier this year, Taliban representatives had vowed to step up activities during the upcoming fighting season.
The latest coalition report was largely "spin," said military analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, because it failed to take into account the full Taliban resurgence. The report, he said, focused on direct attacks on U.S. and allied forces, while overlooking what he called the more important Taliban efforts to dominate the population through low-level violence and intimidation.
"What they assume is that you measure things largely in terms of the enemy's willingness to directly attack Isaf and the better ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces]," Mr. Cordesman said. "What they don't count is that the strategy has shifted to intimidating the local population [and] riding out the withdrawal of Nato forces."

Can U.S. troops beat deadline to dislodge Taliban in Khost?
USA TODAY By Carmen Gentile, Special for USA TODAY 26/06/2012
MUCHAI KALAY, Khost Province, Afghanistan - The U.S. patrol had just passed through a small, hilltop village where curious children gathered to watch when the mortars began to fall.
Large clouds of dust rose up and rocks and dirt rattled the reinforced steel of their armored vehicles, stopped by a dry riverbed. Frenzied chatter on the radio asked whether any men were hit or anyone could pinpoint militants on the ridge.
"When one landed behind us, then in front of is, I said, 'Oh (expletive), they're zeroing in on us,' " Pfc. Melvin Coates said.
U.S. and Afghan forces are moving into eastern Afghanistan to dislodge what are among the country's strongest Taliban havens. They are encountering an enemy that has been entrenched for months as an initial surge of U.S. troops focused on securing the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.
Whether coalition forces can remove the Taliban and other terror networks from this region in time is the question. They may have only this summer to do it, given President Obama's order that U.S. troop withdrawals begin in the fall.
"I think it's problematic," said Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Dressler said the coalition lacks enough forces to launch a major sustained offensive in the east, where the Haqqani network has launched major attacks into Kabul and enjoys sanctuary in nearby Pakistan.
"Unless you are going to get after this threat in the east, the overall objectives of the mission is seriously in doubt," he said.
Regular rogue attacks
Attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces are commonplace in this mountainous region of northern Khost province, coveted territory for Afghanistan's militant groups including the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and Haqqani network, said Mohammed Rasham, commander of the local unit of the Afghan Uniformed Police.
For them, the province is a staging ground for reclaiming Kabul, as the Taliban did in the mid-1990s during its sweep to power.
"The bad guys look for opportunities like that one," Rasham said, noting that his men and their U.S counterparts come under fire about twice a week while patrolling villages. Typically the soldiers are attacked from far away, making it difficult to pinpoint the assailants' position. Militants have the advantage of relative anonymity.
"It's easy for them to hide among the locals," commander Rasham said.
Even behind the fortified walls of their combat outposts, troops aren't safe from attack. Nearby Combat Outpost Sabari, home to troops from the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division, has been hit by mortars more than 70 times this year. In the past few days, a series of mortars landed within the walls, hitting a guard tower — though no one was injured in the attack.
U.S. forces here are working with Afghan security forces to prepare them to take over security and improve relations with Afghan locals in hope of winning their trust and dissuading them from supporting the Taliban and other militant groups.
The militants in northern Khost, though, appear to hold strong sway over some of the locals, using intimidation tactics to keep Afghans from growing too close U.S. and Afghan forces.
"They (residents) don't really like us being in the area," said Sgt. 1st Class Sergio Silva, while leading a group of U.S. and Afghan soldiers through the village of Qasim Kalay. "They talk to us, but they're not as friendly as they could be."
Pervasive threats
Among the tactics employed by militants is what the locals call "night letters," written messages posted in mosques and shops that threaten them with death if they cooperate with the U.S. and Afghan troops.
"The Taliban come here at night and visit the mosque, but they always leave before morning," farmer Saleh Den said.
Others insist the Taliban is a stranger to their tiny collection of mud-brick homes.
"The Taliban does not come around here," said Azath Khan in the village of Qasim Kalay. "But we really don't go outside a lot at night, so we don't see who might be coming here."
In villages near Sabari, few men were around when coalition forces arrived. U.S. troops came to add the names of adult males into a national registry through the use of mobile devices that scan and record distinct characteristics of the eyes.
Though there were more than a hundred children and women in the village, there were only around a dozen adult men.
"There is the perception that every time U.S. forces show up we're there to take somebody," Capt. David Stroud said. "We need to change that."
Adding to the challenge are fewer forces than the troops here would like. Stroud says his company did not get all the men he wanted until late December. "We're stretched pretty thin," he said. "It's manageable, but it's a medium to high stress level every day."
U.S. forces throughout Khost are hopeful that locals here will eventually come to trust Afghan soldiers ahead of the transfer of all security responsibilities to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
"They (Afghan forces) are becoming pretty independent. They set up their own patrols and go out," said Lt. Dan Riggs, based at nearby Combat Outpost Bak. "I say to them, 'This is going to be your responsibility one day, so you lead the way.' "
Contributing: Jim Michaels in Washington

India Seeks Afghanistan Investments, Ambassador Rao Says
Bloomberg By Gopal Ratnam and Meera Louis June 26, 2012
India seeks to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan as the international coalition fighting the Taliban withdraws combat forces through 2014, India’s ambassador to the U.S. said yesterday.
“Our intention is to invest and endure, and that’s the approach we are taking,” Ambassador Nirupama Rao said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast yesterday in Washington. “We already have committed about $2 billion of investment in Afghanistan and we are prepared to do more.”
India is hosting an investment summit on Afghanistan in New Delhi tomorrow that will draw government bodies and companies from around the world, including 12 companies from the U.S., Rao said. It’s part of a global effort to help develop Afghanistan’s economy and improve its economic and military security, she said.
The U.S. also is encouraging a greater role for India in Afghanistan. At a meeting last week between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, the two countries agreed to hold three-way talks with Afghanistan.
India has become a vital element of long-term U.S. commercial and global strategy, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calling the South Asian nation a “linchpin” in the Pentagon’s strategy of rebalancing its forces toward the Asia- Pacific region. Iran Oil
President Barack Obama’s administration on June 12 exempted India from financial sanctions for continuing to import oil from Iran.
The waiver was granted because “we have been reducing our oil imports from Iran over the last two to three years and the percentages have gone down,” Rao said. India’s sources of oil imports have diversified to include Saudi Arabia, Iraq, other Persian Gulf states, and Venezuela, she said. “As you see this diminishing of imports from Iran, the total numbers have visibly indicated we are sourcing less from Iran.”
The U.S. is assisting India in diversifying its energy sources and tapping shale-gas reserves, said Rao who became India’s ambassador to the U.S. in September. She was previously her nation’s foreign secretary after serving at Indian missions in countries including Russia, China and Sri Lanka. Investment Grade
India is part of a group of nations with emerging-market economies that include Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, or BRICS. India is facing slowing growth, a record trade deficit and a budget gap that has exceeded targets.
It may become the first of the BRICS nations to lose its investment-grade credit rating, Standard & Poor’s said this month, citing slowing growth and political roadblocks to economic policy making.
“I wouldn’t say that the engine is stalling,” Rao said. “It will pick up speed again. The government is very aware of the various factors that have contributed to a certain deceleration in the growth rate of the gross domestic product and of the economy.”
India’s GDP rose 5.3 percent in the three months ended March from a year earlier, compared with 6.1 percent in the previous quarter, according to the Central Statistical Office.
“There have been some supply-side bottlenecks within the country,” she said. “There’s been some inflationary trends and the fact that in Europe things are not looking that good has affected our trade, our exports.” she said.
“The fundamentals of the Indian economy are very, very strong,” she said.
With U.S. presidential campaign under way, India is eager to see that the U.S. remain open to attracting talent from around the world, Rao said.
“We would not like to see any rising trends in protectionism, because this is a country whose strength and vitality is built on immigration,” she said.
Indian companies have invested about $27 billion in the U.S. in the last few years, she said. Indian companies also have a presence in about 43 states in the U.S., creating about 203,000 direct and indirect jobs, Rao said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at; Meera Louis in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

UN Calls On Insurgents to End Attacks on Afghan Civilians
VOA News June 26, 2012
The United Nations is calling on insurgents to end attacks on civilians in Afghanistan.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Tuesday that 214 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded last week in 48 separate incidents. UNAMA said "anti-government elements" were responsible for 98 percent of the casualties.
On Friday, heavily-armed militants laid siege to a hotel outside Kabul - killing at least 20 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, while the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, blamed the militant Haqqani network.
UNAMA says anti-government elements continue to target civilians, in "a clear violation of international humanitarian law."
The U.N. Security Council discussed the plight of civilians in armed conflicts on Monday - with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting the growing use of explosives in populated areas and the need to engage with "non-state armed groups" to ensure they understand the consequences of violating international law.
The U.N. says the council will debate the secretary-general's quarterly report on Afghanistan during a session on Wednesday, with the U.N. chief reiterating the need for all parties to the Afghan war to do more to protect civilians.
UNAMA recently welcomed NATO's decision to restrict the use of airstrikes in Afghan residential areas, following the June 6 coalition strike that Afghan officials say killed 18 civilians in Khost province.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident, saying any airstrike that kills civilians or damages their property is neither justified nor acceptable.
The U.N. has also expressed concerns about children increasingly becoming casualties of the Afghan war - with five children being killed or wounded per day.

Parliamentarians Form Special Group to Support Karzai's Corruption Stance Tuesday, 26 June 2012
A number of Afghan parliamentarians have formed a new interest group to support the fight against corruption.
Under the banner "Trust Parliamentary Group", the parliamentarians are seeking to put more pressure on the government to follow up the anti-corruption statements.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a speech to a special session of Parliament last Thursday that "corruption has reached its peak" in Afghanistan and vowed to do more to fight it.
Group members said its aim is partly to raise awareness among the people, media, and political parties of the problems related to corruption, saying that corruption has become part of the system with high ranking officials and political figures engaging in it as a sort of "economic mafia".
Group leader and Afghan MP Mohammad Noor Akbari said that the group wants President Karzai to put on trial any high-ranking government officials who are partaking in corrupt activities.
"President Karzai talked seriously about fighting against corruption, so now we want him to act seriously, starting from high levels of government," he said.
Those is positions of judicial power and anyone suspected of abusing their position of power for personal gain should be dismissed and investigated, he added.
Group member and Ghazni MP Abdul Qayyum Sajjadi said: "In the past decade, there were many slogans but less action. This is a new chance for the president to follow through with his speech. Besides, we encourage him that when we seriously fight corruption, the international community will help Afghanistan more in different sectors."
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