Thursday, February 11, 2010
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY February 12, 2010 ~ US Urged To Focus On Stabilising Democracy, Economy *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - February 12, 2010: The government urged the United States on Thursday to focus its help on stabilising democracy and economic development in Pakistan. President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani chairing a meeting with a US delegation headed by National Security Adviser James Jones at Aiwan-e-Sadr.-APP Photo The government’s point of view on sectors the US assistance should concentrate was conveyed to National Security Adviser James Jones during a meeting with President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. It was a rare meeting of leading government figures with a foreign dignitary, apparently to show that they were on the same page on issues of national importance. According to presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, President Zardari laid stress on democratic stability which he said could be ensured by pursuing a well-structured economic development agenda. The leaders impressed on Jones that the US needed to review its aid strategy and focus on projects of larger impact but smaller physical presence, sources said. The approach would help address the problem of growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan which was being propelled by suspicions about presence of a large number of Americans in the country. It was suggested that US should help Pakistan achieve greater access to markets in Europe and the US and set up ‘reconstruction opportunity zones’ in tribal areas by speeding up legislation on the issue. Also on Pakistan’s wishlist was expediting disbursement of $2 billion in deferred payments of the Coalition Support Fund and pushing the Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum to fulfil their pledges. The US was asked to help Pakistan rebuild infrastructure in militancy-hit tribal areas so that the gains made through military operations could be sustained. Pakistan wants the US to provide about $200 million for building roads, dams and schools and restoring power supply in areas from where Taliban have been eliminated. Jones was quoted as saying that after all that had happened the US would not like to return to days when Taliban ran the affairs in Afghanistan. He stressed that in deference to Afghanistan’s sovereignty the reintegration process should be Afghan-led with other countries providing their assistance in reintegrating those willing to abide by the country’s constitution and live as part of a stable democratic system. President Zardari, however, asked the US to be mindful of the fact that Pakistan had legitimate interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Jones welcomed Pakistan’s decision to accept India’s invitation for talks. He expressed the hope that lowered tensions with India would help the country focus on anti-extremism and counter-insurgency efforts on the western borders.
DTN News: Thailand TODAY February 12, 2010 ~ Bangkok Drops Charges Over North Korea Weapons *Source: DTN News / By Thanaporn Promyamyai (AFP) (NSI News Source Info) BANGKOK, Thailand - February 12, 2010: Thailand said on Thursday it had decided to drop charges against the crew of a plane carrying sanctions-busting weapons from North Korea and ordered the five men deported. One of the plane's crew inside Bangkok criminal court last year The attorney general's office said it was not in the national interest to pursue the case against the Belarussian pilot and four-member Kazakh crew and said they would instead face trial in their home countries. "The trial here will not benefit Thailand so we have decided to drop the charges," Thanapich Mulapruk, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in a statement. "Their countries of origin want to try the men in their home countries." No decision has been taken on what to do with the seized haul, which was found December 11 on a US tip-off after the crew requested to land their Ilyushin-76 plane at Thailand's domestic Don Mueang airport for refuelling. The men, who claimed they were carrying oil drilling equipment bound for Ukraine, were initially charged with possessing illegal weapons and ammunition, smuggling weapons and other banned products and failing to report the cache. The 35-tonne cargo, which included missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, is now being held at an air force base north of Bangkok. "The plane landed to refuel. Those arms were not aimed at attacking Thailand so the trial does not benefit (us)," Thanapich added. The United Nations banned all North Korean arms exports in a tougher resolution passed in June following Pyongyang's latest missile and nuclear tests. The Bangkok case is believed to be the first airborne arms cargo from Pyongyang to have been seized since then. A flight plan obtained by investigators showed the plane was bound for Iran -- which has denied it was the destination -- while US intelligence chief Dennis Blair has said it was headed to the Middle East. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the time that the United States was "very pleased" with the seizure of the weapons and that it "demonstrates the importance of international solidarity behind the sanctions". A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Bangkok said she could not immediately comment on Thursday's developments. Thai prison authorities handed the men over to police for fingerprinting before they were released to immigration officials for deportation, but the men's lawyer, Somsak Saithong, said that would not take place until at least Friday. "They arrived as pilot and crew so it would not be fair to fly them out on a commercial flight. But we wait to see when they will be ready (for deportation) and when their plane will be ready," Somsak said. Kazakhstan and Belarus both petitioned Thailand to ask for their nationals to be released for trial in their home countries. Analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn university, said the decision to release the men was a blow to the United States. "It will be received as another point against Thailand in the American scheme of things," said Thitinan, adding that Thailand did not want to gain enemies by proceeding with the case. "I think the conclusion here was that the North Koreans have sparred with the Americans and there's a UN resolution on this, but why should Thailand be dragged into it?" he said. The five men had been held at the same jail as Russian alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death". He was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 while allegedly agreeing to supply missiles to Colombian rebels. The Thai government is perceived to have worked closely with Washington on that case and is appealing a court decision rejecting a US request for his extradition. Related Articles Thailand To Deport Crew Of N. Korea Weapons Plane RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty - 14 hours ago Il-76 crew arrested in Thailand to be released Gazeta.KZ - 13 hours ago Thailand to deport crews of weapons cargo plane The Nation - 15 hours ago
DTN News: China TODAY February 12, 2010 ~ Trekking 1,000km In China For E-Mail *Source: DTN News / By Damian Grammaticas BBC News, Xinjiang (NSI News Source Info) URUMQI, Xinjiang Region, China - February 12, 2010: It is minus 20C, and China's frigid far west Xinjiang province feels frozen, cut off. On the streets of the capital, Urumqi, people huddle around braziers to keep warm. The call to prayer rings out from the minaret of a mosque. Every few minutes in the middle of Urumqi another security patrol passes. Chinese policemen in smart blue uniforms march in line, brandishing their guns. Business people are having to travel 1,000km just to keep in touch with clients. For us who make a living on the internet, it's a fatal blow ~ Zhu Meng Xinjiang businessman Police vans drive by slowly with their blue and red warning lights flashing, officers in helmets and camouflage gear peering watchfully out. Sometimes it is trucks painted in military colours. At other times, men march past dressed in long green greatcoats and fur hats, clutching wooden clubs. China says it is fighting terrorism and separatism here and must be vigilant. The security is a constant presence. And for months now Xinjiang's people have had their communication with the outside world restricted. Internet blamed China clamped down after Xinjiang suffered serious unrest last summer. The spark was in southern China, where two ethnic Uighurs had been beaten to death by Han Chinese workers after trouble blew up at a factory. A few days later, after the news reached Xinjiang, came reprisals. Uighur mobs rioted, attacking Han Chinese, and Han Chinese retaliated. China says 200, mostly Han Chinese, were killed in Urumqi and the internet and mobile phones were used to foment the chaos. (Image/Photo: Urumqi was flooded with security forces after the violence) So to keep control in Xinjiang, China imposed severe restrictions on the flow of information in and out of this province. For much of the past seven months the internet was cut off. Mobile phone text messages were suspended. Urumqi's biggest internet cafe has 500 computer terminals. It had just been refurbished before the riots with new computers installed. Now it is almost empty. In one corner three people lie snoozing with their heads on the computer keyboards. The machines are turned off. Wang Xi, the cafe's manager, says his takings have fallen by two-thirds. His business is just about surviving, he says, but smaller internet cafes are closing. Even the online computer games that young Chinese love to play were blocked, so a few people sit playing PC games by themselves at a couple of terminals. "I hope they can switch the internet back on soon," says one. "I've been waiting for a long time to get online." Xinhua access More than 20 million people in Xinjiang have been affected by the curbs and most of them had nothing to do with the riots. In Urumqi's wholesale market, traders sit in the snow surrounded by sacks full of dates, nuts and dried fruits. People huddle around charcoal stoves trying to keep warm. Sifting through a sack of almonds are Ma Hui and her husband Zhu Meng. The couple make their living trading the fruit and nuts Xinjiang is famed for, selling them to people in other parts of China. But all their sales are online. So it has been almost impossible for them to keep their business going. At the computer in his office, Zhu Meng shows me how the authorities have recently been opening up access to a few internet sites. First he could see only the state-run news agency Xinhua and a couple of other websites. Last weekend curbs on about 25 more sites were lifted, but that is all. Then he showed me there was no e-mail, no instant messaging, no way of responding to his customers online. "It's okay for the government to control things," Zhu Meng says, "but when they control everything, even the search engines, it has a huge effect. "For us who make a living on the internet, it's a fatal blow." E-mail trek The only way to get around the internet block has been to travel 1,000 km (620 miles) across Xinjiang's deserts to reach a working internet connection outside the region. The couple are losing customers Starting seven months ago, Zhu Meng began making the long journey just to send e-mails to keep his business alive. The road follows the old trading artery, the Silk Road, past snow-capped peaks, across Xinjiang's empty expanses and through a barren moonscape of mountains and snow. Over the past seven months, others too have been following the same route by road, train and plane just to get online. By car, it takes 24 hours from Urumqi to reach the first working internet connection outside Xinjiang. It is just across the border in neighbouring Gansu province, in the dusty frontier town of Liuyuan. There is one main street, a shabby bus station and an internet cafe. When Ma Hui and Zhu Meng made the journey again and logged on last week, the cost of being cut off was clear. They found order after order cancelled. Angry customers who had placed orders but had not received goods were wanting their money back. "We've lost a lot," said Ma Hui, shocked, "but it's not just the money that's important. We've lost the trust of our customers." Out in the deserts here is the very end of China's Great Wall. The muddy brown clay bricks crumble into the dust. Keeping order has long been a Chinese priority. But today, with its curbs on the internet, China's critics say the country again risks walling itself off from the flow of commerce, ideas and progress. China's government says that is not the case. When asked why internet access in Xinjiang is still so limited, China's foreign ministry spokesman insisted: "The internet is open in China, and governed by our laws".
XINJIANG UNREST KEY STORIES ~ More death sentences in Xinjiang ~ Returned China Uighurs 'vanished' ~ Chinese syringe attackers jailed ~ China allows texting in Xinjiang ~ Many 'missing' after China riots
~ Ethnic riots shatter government myth of social harmony ~ Xinjiang violence: Views from China ~ China seeks control through openness ~ Ethnic tensions taboo in China ~ Uighur resentment at Beijing's rule ~ Accounts of violence in Xinjiang ~ Regions and territories: Xinjiang ~ Q&A: China and the Uighurs
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 12, 2010 ~ Taliban Vow Guerrilla Warfare Against NATO Troops *Source: DTN News / By Sardar Ahmad (AFP) (NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan - February 12, 2010: The Taliban vowed on Thursday to fight back with a "hit and run" guerrilla campaign against Western and Afghan forces preparing to storm one of their key strongholds in southern Afghanistan.U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines stop to make camp outside of Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010. Thousands of US Marines and NATO and Afghan soldiers have massed around the town of Marjah, a Taliban bastion in Helmand province, poised to launch one of the biggest operations against the insurgents since the 2001 US-led invasion. The assault, dubbed Operation Mushtarak ("Together" in Dari) and expected to begin within days, aims to drive out the Taliban and replace their harsh rule with Western-backed Afghan government institutions. In a defiant statement on their website, the Taliban vowed to defend the town in the poppy-growing region of the central Helmand River valley, which they have controlled for years in tandem with drug traffickers. "From what we see on the ground this operation is no different to the invading forces' day-to-day activities," Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, was quoted as saying. "The enemy is making a big deal of it. They try to sell it to the media as a big offensive in spite of the fact that Marjah is a small place," he said, adding: "The operation is not as big as they claim." Marjah: heartland of the Taliban Nevertheless he vowed that Taliban gunmen would stand against the offensive, using "hit-and-run" tactics and the improvised explosive devises, or IEDs, that have become a staple of their arsenal. "I can say at this point that we'll be using tactics we deployed in the Nawa and Khanishin operations," he said, referring to two offensives in Helmand last year, the British-led Panther's Claw, and the Marines' Dagger. "It will be mostly hit-and-run and roadside bomb attacks," he said. Taliban-led insurgents have been fighting to topple the Western-backed Kabul government since their regime was overthrown in late 2001. Remnants of the Islamist movement regrouped quickly to launch an insurgency that has become increasingly deadly, last year claiming the lives of a record 520 foreign soldiers, most of them from IED attacks. So far this year more than 60 foreign soldiers -- of the 113,000 deployed in Afghanistan under US and NATO command -- have died in the Afghan theatre, most of them in IED strikes. An AFP photographer with a US Marines unit five kilometres (three miles) northeast of Marjah said insurgents could be seen planting IEDs on roads around a strategic junction and were subjecting the Marines to an almost constant barrage of mortar and rocket fire from nearby residential compounds. Under their rules of engagement, the Marines were not able to retaliate, the AFP photographer said, until all residents had fled the area. Radio communications monitoring picked up Taliban leaders telling their fighters to prevent the Marines building "a base by any means". Related article: Assault to test US strategy Some civilians were caught in the crossfire of skirmishes, including six-year-old Kheraki, who was brought to the Marines' camp by her father before being flown by helicopter to a military base for treatment. The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday there had been a sharp rise in civilian casualties in preparatory operations for the assault. The Taliban spokesman, Ahmadi, claimed earlier this week that the militant group had developed a new IED -- named after fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar -- that is undetectable by mine sweeping systems. The bombs will be used once the operation begins, he said. NATO officials predict victory and say removing the Taliban will pave the way for the Afghan government to re-establish control over the area, which is less that 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. Residents who have not fled are being asked to remain indoors once the operation begins, said the provincial governor's spokesman Daud Ahmadi. "We have repeatedly asked the people of Marjah not to leave the area, as during this operation they will be not harmed -- the target of the operation is opposition," he said, referring to the insurgents. Another 100 families left the area on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said, following the 400 families the provincial department of refugees and repatriation said left earlier in the week. Routine search operations were being conducted by Afghan and Western forces in the north and south of Nad Ali district, where Marjah is located, he said, and some IEDs and weapons had been seized in the operations, and , seized some roadside bombs and weapons, which there was no casualties. Related Articles US and Afghan forces prepare for offensive against Taliban stronghold Dallas Morning News - 1 day ago UK hospitals 'overwhelmed' with Afghan war wounded Press TV - 1 day ago NATO Warns Afghan Civilians Ahead Of Major Military Offensive RTT News - 2 days ago
DTN News: ITT Awarded Task Order To Service U.S. Army Vehicles & Equipment *Source: DTN News / ITT (NSI News Source Info) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - February 11, 2010: The U.S. Army Contracting Command has awarded a task order under the Field and Installation Readiness Support Team (FIRST) contract vehicle to ITT Corporation (NYSE: ITT - News) for maintenance staff services for the U.S. Army Central Command (USARCENT) Special Troops Battalion (STB). Under this task order, ITT will provide support to the USARCENT STB in conducting maintenance, repair and other services for vehicles, generators and environmental control units in the Central Command area of operations. The task order is for a one-year base period and includes options for four additional one-year periods, which if exercised will bring the total value of the project to approximately $6 million. Work will be performed by ITT Systems, a division of ITT Corporation headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a global leader in providing maintenance sustainment and operations support for U.S. military facilities, vehicles, equipment, ranges, networks, and systems. About ITT Corporation ITT Corporation is a high-technology engineering and manufacturing company operating on all seven continents in three vital markets: water and fluids management, global defense and security, and motion and flow control. With a heritage of innovation, ITT partners with its customers to deliver extraordinary solutions that create more livable environments, provide protection and safety and connect our world. Headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., the company generated 2009 revenue of $10.9 billion. www.itt.com. Contact: ITT Corporation B.J. Talley, 719-637-6375 email@example.com Related Headlines ITT gets Army contract worth up to $6M - AP Spaceport Systems gets 5-year Air Force contract - AP ITT Partnership Awarded IDIQ Contract for Spaceport Launch Services - Business Wire ITT Awarded Task Order to Service U.S. Army Vehicles & Equipment - Business Wire ITT Wins Multiple Orders at Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant - Business Wire
DTN News: ITT Partnership Awarded IDIQ Contract For Spaceport Launch Services *Source: DTN News / ITT (NSI News Source Info) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - February 11, 2010: Spaceport Systems International (SSI), a limited partnership between ITT Corporation (NYSE: ITT - News) and California Commercial Spaceport, Inc. has been awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract to provide spaceport launch services for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Test Squadron. The maximum potential value of the five-year contract is $48 million and actual revenue from the contract will be dependent upon the services specifically requested by the customer. The SSI spaceport facility is located in the southern corner of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and is ideally situated to support west coast polar launches of the Minotaur family of space boosters. It is also one of four launch facilities designated as qualified launch sites for the converted Minuteman II launch vehicle. In 1994, ITT and the California Commercial Spaceport, Inc. announced the limited partnership that resulted in the formation of Spaceport Systems International L.P. Since that time, the company has focused its efforts to bring commercial space services to the central coast of California. About ITT Corporation ITT Corporation is a high-technology engineering and manufacturing company operating on all seven continents in three vital markets: water and fluids management, global defense and security, and motion and flow control. With a heritage of innovation, ITT partners with its customers to deliver extraordinary solutions that create more livable environments, provide protection and safety and connect our world. Headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., the company generated 2009 revenue of $10.9 billion.
DTN News: Boeing Teams With Hindustan Aeronautics Limited For P-8I Weapons Bay Doors *Source: DTN News / Boeing (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - February 11, 2010: Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced that it has formally signed a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the India-based manufacturer to provide weapons bay doors for eight P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft that will be delivered to the Indian navy. In January 2008, Boeing proposed the P-8I, a customized export variant of the P-8A, to the Indian Navy. On 4 January 2009, the Ministry of Defence of India signed an agreement with Boeing for the supply of eight P-8I Poseidons at a total cost of US$2.1 billion. These aircraft would replace Indian Navy's aging Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance turboprops. Each aircraft will cost about US$220 million. The deal not only made India the first international customer of the P-8, but also marked Boeing's first military sale to India. Under the terms of the $4.7 million contract, HAL will deliver the first set of doors to Boeing in Seattle by the end of the year. "Although HAL provides other equipment for P-8I through its avionics division in Hyderabad, this is the first P-8I offset package that Boeing has directly executed with India's largest aerospace company," said Vivek Lall, vice president and India country head, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "We welcome HAL's technical expertise and capabilities as well as the opportunity to increase our partnership on P-8I." "HAL's consistent performance in quality, cost and delivery in manufacturing aerostructures and composite assemblies is the key to securing further orders from Boeing, with whom we share a strong relationship," said Soundara Rajan, HAL director, Corporate Planning and Marketing. The P-8I is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing is developing for the U.S. Navy; India is the first international customer for the P-8. Boeing will deliver the first P-8I to India within 48 months of the original contract signing, which took place in January 2009. The P-8I is a true multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) that features greater flexibility and a broader range of capabilities than MPAs currently in service. It can operate effectively over land or water while performing anti-submarine warfare missions; search and rescue; maritime interdiction; and long-range intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. The P-8I will provide India with speed, reliability, persistence and room for growth to satisfy the country's requirements now and well into the future. The aircraft features open system architecture, advanced sensor and display technologies, and a worldwide base of suppliers, parts and support equipment. In addition to its work on the P-8I program, HAL also supplies Boeing with gun bay doors and wire harnesses for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and uplock boxes for the 777 commercial airplane. A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world's largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.
DTN News: Yemen, The New Waziristan *Source: By Pepe Escobar THE ROVING EYE (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - February 11, 2010: Like an ever-profitable horror B-movie franchise, the al-Qaeda myth simply refuses to die. United States intelligence has now focused its lasers on the alleged 300 al-Qaeda jihadis concealed in Yemen's craggy, rural Maarib province - as much as the Pentagon has deployed infinite might to find those maximum 100 prowling the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. A handout released to Reuters on January 4, 2010 by IntelCenter shows members of Somalia's hardline Islamist rebel group al Shabaab, whom IntelCenter described as marching with weapons during a graduation ceremony in Mogadishu January 1, 2010. Al Shabaab said on Friday it was ready to send reinforcements to al Qaeda in Yemen should the U.S. carry out retaliatory strikes, and urged other Muslims to follow suit. Two al-Qaeda militants were killed and one injured in clashes with government forces in Yemen, a Yemeni security official told Reuters on Monday.
But wait. Didn't top US intelligence officials recently swear on their government paychecks that it's all but "certain" that this sinister, multifaceted hydra with sleeper cells all over the planet - "al-Qaeda" - will attack inside the US within the next six months?
What is more likely is that these neo-jihadis will never come from Yemen or the Waziristan tribal areas in Pakistan or the whole AfPak tribal belt for that matter. And they will not be native, pious Sunnis from Saudi Arabia or Egypt either.
They will have at best a vague connection to some Middle Eastern dictatorship/petro-monarchy. They will certainly be young, ultra-globalized and passionately, perversely addicted to a fantasy - the virtual ummah (Muslim community). Their life journey will certainly have evolved as in a triangulation.
Many will have moved from their home country to live in a Western country - or even have been born there; and that's where they will have honed their yearning to join jihad in a third country. Like characters in a novel
Neo-jihadis may eventually - but not necessarily - go to Yemen or the Waziristans only after they have made the conceptual leap from idealizing the ummah on the Internet to actually feeling the irresistible urge to act on the ground. Whenever this happens, they have already broken communication with their families.
This is the pattern followed by virtually every neo-jihadi - from Dhiren Barot (who planned to bomb the New York Stock Exchange) to the shy underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. They are all living exercises in deterritorialization. It's all virtual - especially their idea or vision of Islam itself. It's all very individualistic - no orchestration by a sinister "al-Qaeda" network. And it's all done in English - the lingua franca of global communication - not Arabic.
Welcome to the age of the virtual jihadi nomad. In earlier times, these would have been characters in a Fyodor Dostoevsky or Albert Camus novel. As for the motivations of "al-Qaeda", Olivier Roy, professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and a top global scholar of terrorism, argues that al-Qaeda "does not have a political strategy of establishing an Islamic state". But he insists al-Qaeda's global enemy is the West - not local regimes.
That's not true; al-Qaeda, the historic leadership, treats local regimes as US lackeys, thus they should be toppled. It's not their priority; a hefty case can be made that "al-Qaeda" is nothing but a dissidence (or a "rogue" arm) of Saudi intelligence, considering the very close relationship between Osama bin Laden and wily Prince Turki bin Faisal, the former director general of Saudi intelligence. Members of Yemen's anti-terrorism unit ride Hummer vehicles during a training exercise near the Yemeni capital Sanaa January 16, 2010. Three armed al Qaeda militants were captured in Yemen early Saturday, close to the Saudi Arabian border, a Yemeni security source said. The militants had weapons, explosives and leaflets with them, the source said, asking not to be named.
Unlike Roy's assessment, al-Qaeda's fight has nothing to do with Che Guevara's in the 1960s. Al-Qaeda is certainly not about ideology - but about an idea/flame that seduces, as Roy puts it, "the lonely avenger, the hero, who can redeem a life he is not happy with by achieving fame while escaping a world where he finds no room".
But that could also be a portrait of John Lennon's murderer. American intelligence is unlikely to consider these subtleties. The multi-billionaire machine is still hostage to the outdated notion of "territory". So it's automatic to have the Pentagon dispatch its might to fight "al-Qaeda" in Yemen and in the Waziristans.
They will find nothing but ghosts. Iraq, AfPak and now Yemen have been granted by Washington the same holy trinity of building "development" and "governance", and counter-terrorism, which in practice means governance hijacked by Beltway-conceptualized counter-terrorism. No wonder this recipe was a failure in Afghanistan and will be a failure in Yemen. The Yemeni theater will feature yet another deadly mix of counter-insurgency as applied by the Israelis in Gaza and West Bank and the Americans in AfPak. What happened in the AfPak tribal belt is enlightening.
The power of hardcore locals - the Pakistani Taliban - was greatly enhanced; and "al-Qaeda" jihadis quietly left the building, spawning a mini-global migration. The same will happen in Yemen. All this is tragically farcical. Obama has done a George W Bush in Afghanistan, branding the al-Qaeda ghost to justify Washington's "soft" invasion of Yemen.
The government of US-aligned President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a accuses the Huthis of being linked to both al-Qaeda (Wahhabi radicals who consider Shi'ites as worse than the plague) and Iran (Shi'ites who abhor al-Qaeda). It doesn't matter whether this is utter nonsense. Sooner or later, Washington will inevitably brand the Huthis as "terrorists" - just like every resistance in Iraq was "terrorist", whether they were Sunni or Sadrists.
And the Pentagon runs amok
Tens of thousands of foreign troops are bogged down in Afghanistan because the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked its Article 5 collective defense provision in 2001 to fight "al-Qaeda". Sooner rather than later, NATO will also hit Yemen. As much as oil is power, the good ol' "war on terror" - rebranded or not by the US - is alive and kicking. Iraq, Afghanistan (then AfPak), Yemen, Somalia, these are all cogs in the relentless full spectrum dominance machine, the real deal behind the "war on terror" cover story, intimately linked to Washington's scramble to control and/or monitor as many global sources of oil and gas as possible.
And for a Pentagon already running amok, it is getting deeper and deeper into this key stretch of the "arc of instability", from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, and at the same time instilling the flames of a new Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Blessed are those "al-Qaeda" virtual jihadi nomads.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
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DTN News: India's Offer Of 'Limited' Talks Dismays Pakistan *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - February 11, 2010: India’s offer of a limited dialogue with Pakistan on terrorism has dismayed Islamabad, where officials and analysts believe only full-blown peace talks can foster regional stability. New Delhi’s call for talks between the top foreign ministry civil servants in the two countries was welcomed last week as indicative of a major breakthrough in relations frozen since the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. But India and Pakistan have yet to announce a date for their first direct talks in 15 months, still haggling over the framework of the dialogue. The tension between the nuclear rivals, which have fought three wars since British partition of the sub-continent in 1947, has fanned instability on their border and in Afghanistan. India’s overture was interpreted as a result of pressure from the United States, keen to keep South Asia trouble free while throwing tens of thousands more troops into battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Defeating Al-Qaeda and beating back the Taliban is a US priority, considered impossible without engagement from Pakistan, accused in the West of still supporting Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked militants. Regional security is likely to be a focus of talks between US national security adviser James Jones and Pakistani officials this week in Islamabad. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi chaired a meeting of Pakistani officials that stressed Pakistan’s commitment “to enter into a meaningful and result-oriented Composite Dialogue process with India in the interest of peace, development and stability in South Asia,” his ministry said. But a Pakistani government official told AFP there was disappointment with India’s more limited scope for the talks. “India says terrorism is their main concern and that the talks should focus on this issue,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue. India and Pakistan started peace talks, or Composite Dialogue, on eight main topics, in 2004 that significantly helped to ease tension -- notably over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, the focus of two wars. India broke off the dialogue after blaming the Mumbai carnage on Lashkar-e-Taiba and “official” agencies, agreeing on a return to talks only if Pakistan were to bring the perpetrators to justice and dismantle militant groups. An Indian government source said that while Pakistan had taken the “few small steps” needed for talks to resume, it had not gone far enough to merit a return to a full dialogue. “We have said the talks would include all relevant issues from our side and issues that will contribute to creating an atmosphere of peace and stability between the two countries,” said the Indian government source. “Maybe these talks would lead to the resumption of the Composite Dialogue. Let us not prejudge the issue,” the source added. Analysts believe foreign secretary talks will eventually get off the ground as neither side wants the blame for sabotaging the process and hampering international efforts in Afghanistan. India is now a massive investor in Afghanistan, fanning Pakistani fears over what the military traditionally regards its own playground to offset India’s emerging superpower status by forging ties with the Taliban and other groups. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recent visit to India, where he warned that an Al-Qaeda “syndicate” could trigger a fourth Indo-Pakistan war, was a major factor in the New Delhi talks offer, Pakistani analysts believe. “India was clearly told that if this relationship is not established, Taliban would become a major player in Afghanistan and keep receiving support from Pakistan,” Pakistani security analyst Talat Masood told AFP. Pakistani officials have sought to deflect some US pressure to do more in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban, by claiming that the perceived threat from India limits its military capacity to fight militants. But Pakistani political analyst Hasan Askari cautioned that dialogue only about terrorism would be “a non-starter”. “There will be no result if India talks about terrorism and Pakistan talks about its concerns in Afghanistan. There has to be composite dialogue and terrorism is one of the eight issues,” said Askari.
DTN News: The Jihadist CBRN Threat
*Source: By Scott Stewart STRATFOR (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - February 11, 2010: In an interview aired Feb. 7 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she considers weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of an international terrorist group to be the largest threat faced by the United States today, even bigger than the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. “The biggest nightmare that many of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction,” Clinton said. In referring to the al Qaeda network, Clinton noted that it is “unfortunately a very committed, clever, diabolical group of terrorists who are always looking for weaknesses and openings.” Clinton’s comments came on the heels of a presentation by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In his Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community on Feb. 2, Blair noted that, although counterterrorism actions have dealt a significant blow to al Qaeda’s near-term efforts to develop a sophisticated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attack capability, the U.S. intelligence community judges that the group is still intent on acquiring the capability. Blair also stated the obvious when he said that if al Qaeda were able to develop CBRN weapons and had the operatives to use them it would do so. All this talk about al Qaeda and WMD has caused a number of STRATFOR clients, readers and even friends and family members to ask for our assessment of this very worrisome issue. So, we thought it would be an opportune time to update our readers on the topic. Realities Shaping the Playing Field To begin a discussion of jihadists and WMD, it is first important to briefly re-cap STRATFOR’s assessment of al Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement. It is our assessment that the first layer of the jihadist movement, the al Qaeda core group, has been hit heavily by the efforts of the United States and its allies in the aftermath of 9/11. Due to the military, financial, diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement operations conducted against the core group, it is now a far smaller and more insular organization than it once was and is largely confined geographically to the Afghan-Pakistani border. Having lost much of its operational ability, the al Qaeda core is now involved primarily in the ideological struggle (which it seems to be losing at the present time). The second layer in the jihadist realm consists of regional terrorist or insurgent groups that have adopted the jihadist ideology. Some of these have taken up the al Qaeda banner, such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and we refer to them as al Qaeda franchise groups. Other groups may adopt some or all of al Qaeda’s jihadist ideology and cooperate with the core group, but they will maintain their independence for a variety of reasons. In recent years, these groups have assumed the mantle of leadership for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield. The third (and broadest) component of the jihadist movement is composed of grassroots jihadists. These are individuals or small groups of people located across the globe who are inspired by the al Qaeda core and the franchise groups but who may have little or no actual connection to these groups. By their very nature, the grassroots jihadists are the hardest of these three components to identify and target and, as a result, are able to move with more freedom than members of the al Qaeda core or the regional franchises. As long as the ideology of jihadism exists, and jihadists at any of these three layers embrace the philosophy of attacking the “far enemy,” there will be a threat of attacks by jihadists against the United States. The types of attacks they are capable of conducting, however, depend on their intent and capability. Generally speaking, the capability of the operatives associated with the al Qaeda core is the highest and the capability of grassroots operatives is the lowest. Certainly, many grassroots operatives think big and would love to conduct a large, devastating attack, but their grandiose plans often come to naught for lack of experience and terrorist tradecraft. Although the American public has long anticipated a follow-on attack to 9/11, most of the attacks directed against the United States since 9/11 have failed. In addition to incompetence and poor tradecraft, one of the contributing factors to these failures is the nature of the targets. Many strategic targets are large and well-constructed, and therefore hard to destroy. In other words, just because a strategic target is attacked does not mean the attack has succeeded. Indeed, many such attacks have failed. Even when a plot against a strategic target is successfully executed, it might not produce the desired results and would therefore be considered a failure. For example, the detonation of a massive truck bomb in a parking garage of the World Trade Center in 1993 failed to achieve the jihadists’ aims of toppling the two towers and producing mass casualties, or of causing a major U.S. foreign policy shift. Many strategic targets, such as embassies, are well protected against conventional attacks. Their large standoff distances and physical security measures (like substantial perimeter walls) protect them from vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), while these and other security measures make it difficult to cause significant damage to them using smaller IEDs or small arms. To overcome these obstacles, jihadists have been forced to look at alternate means of attack. Al Qaeda’s use of large, fully fueled passenger aircraft as guided missiles is a great example of this, though it must be noted that once that tactic became known, it ceased to be viable (as United Airlines Flight 93 demonstrated). Today, there is little chance that a flight crew and passengers of an aircraft would allow it to be seized by a small group of hijackers. CBRN Al Qaeda has long plotted ways to overcome security measures and launch strategic strikes with CBRN weapons. In addition to the many public pronouncements the group has made about its desire to obtain and use such weapons, we know al Qaeda has developed crude methods for producing chemical and biological weapons and included such tactics in its encyclopedia of jihad and terrorist training courses. However, as STRATFOR has repeatedly pointed out, chemical and biological weapons are expensive and difficult to use and have proved to be largely ineffective in real-world applications. A comparison of the Aum Shinrikyo chemical and biological attacks in Tokyo with the March 2004 jihadist attacks in Madrid clearly demonstrates that explosives are far cheaper, easier to use and more effective in killing people. The failure by jihadists in Iraq to use chlorine effectively in their attacks also underscores the problem of using improvised chemical weapons. These problems were also apparent to the al Qaeda leadership, which scrapped a plot to use improvised chemical weapons in the New York subway system due to concerns that the weapons would be ineffective. The pressure jihadist groups are under would also make it very difficult for them to develop a chemical or biological weapons facility, even if they possessed the financial and human resources required to launch such a program. Of course, it is not unimaginable for al Qaeda or other jihadists to think outside the box and attack a chemical storage site or tanker car, or use such bulk chemicals to attack another target — much as the 9/11 hijackers used passenger- and fuel-laden aircraft to attack their targets. However, while an attack using deadly bulk chemicals could kill many people, most would be evacuated before they could receive a lethal dose, as past industrial accidents have demonstrated. Therefore, such an attack would be messy but would be more likely to cause mass panic and evacuations than mass casualties. Still, it would be a far more substantial attack than the previous subway plot using improvised chemical weapons. A similar case can be made against the effectiveness of an attack involving a radiological dispersion device (RDD), sometimes called a “dirty bomb.” While RDDs are easy to deploy — so simple that we are surprised one has not already been used within the United States — it is very difficult to immediately administer a lethal dose of radiation to victims. Therefore, the “bomb” part of a dirty bomb would likely kill more people than the device’s “dirty,” or radiological, component. However, use of an RDD would result in mass panic and evacuations and could require a lengthy and expensive decontamination process. Because of this, we refer to RDDs as “weapons of mass disruption” rather than weapons of mass destruction. The bottom line is that a nuclear device is the only element of the CBRN threat that can be relied upon to create mass casualties and guarantee the success of a strategic strike. However, a nuclear device is also by far the hardest of the CBRN weapons to obtain or manufacture and therefore the least likely to be used. Given the pressure that al Qaeda and its regional franchise groups are under in the post-9/11 world, it is simply not possible for them to begin a weapons program intended to design and build a nuclear device. Unlike countries such as North Korea and Iran, jihadists simply do not have the resources or the secure territory on which to build such facilities. Even with money and secure facilities, it is still a long and difficult endeavor to create a nuclear weapons program — as is evident in the efforts of North Korea and Iran. This means that jihadists would be forced to obtain an entire nuclear device from a country that did have a nuclear weapons program, or fissile material such as highly enriched uranium (enriched to 80 percent or higher of the fissile isotope U-235) that they could use to build a crude, gun-type nuclear weapon. Indeed, we know from al Qaeda defectors like Jamal al-Fadl that al Qaeda attempted to obtain fissile material as long ago as 1994. The organization was duped by some of the scammers who were roaming the globe attempting to sell bogus material following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several U.S. government agencies were duped in similar scams. Black-market sales of military-grade radioactive materials spiked following the collapse of the Soviet Union as criminal elements descended on abandoned Russian nuclear facilities in search of a quick buck. In subsequent years the Russian government, in conjunction with various international agencies and the U.S. government, clamped down on the sale of Soviet-era radioactive materials. U.S. aid to Russia in the form of so-called “nonproliferation assistance” — money paid to destroy or adequately secure such nuclear and radiological material — increased dramatically following 9/11. In 2009, the U.S. Congress authorized around $1.2 billion for U.S. programs that provide nonproliferation and threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union. Such programs have resulted in a considerable amount of fissile material being taken off the market and removed from vulnerable storage sites, and have made it far harder to obtain fissile material today than it was in 1990 or even 2000. Another complication to consider is that jihadists are not the only parties who are in the market for nuclear weapons or fissile material. In addition to counterproliferation programs that offer to pay money for fissile materials, countries like Iran and North Korea would likely be quick to purchase such items, and they have the resources to do so, unlike jihadist groups, which are financially strapped. Some commentators have said they believe al Qaeda has had nuclear weapons for years but has been waiting to activate them at the “right time.” Others claim these weapons are pre-positioned inside U.S. cities. STRATFOR’s position is that if al Qaeda had such weapons prior to 9/11, it would have used them instead of conducting the airline attack. Even if the group had succeeded in obtaining a nuclear weapon after 9/11, it would have used it by now rather than simply sitting on it and running the risk of it being seized. There is also the question of state assistance to terrorist groups, but the actions of the jihadist movement since 9/11 have served to steadily turn once quietly supportive (or ambivalent) states against the movement. Saudi Arabia declared war on jihadists in 2003 and countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Indonesia have recently gone on the offensive. Indeed, in his Feb. 2 presentation to the Senate committee, Blair said: “We do not know of any states deliberately providing CBRN assistance to terrorist groups. Although terrorist groups and individuals have sought out scientists with applicable expertise, we have no corroborated reporting that indicates such experts have advanced terrorist CBRN capability.” Blair also noted that, “We and many in the international community are especially concerned about the potential for terrorists to gain access to WMD-related materials or technology.” Clearly, any state that considered providing WMD to jihadists would have to worry about blow-back from countries that would be targeted by that material (such as the United States and Russia). With jihadists having declared war on the governments of countries in which they operate, officials in a position to provide CBRN to those jihadists would also have ample reason to be concerned about the materials being used against their own governments. Efforts to counter the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology will certainly continue for the foreseeable future, especially efforts to ensure that governments with nuclear weapons programs do not provide weapons or fissile material to jihadist groups. While the chance of such a terrorist attack is remote, the devastation one could cause means that it must be carefully guarded against.
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