Down the NATO Supply Route

Posted by FS On Tuesday, 31 July 2012 0 comments

What was previously believed to be a tactical maneuver to renegotiate terms of engagement vis-à-vis the US, reached a supposedly anticlimactic bedrock, when Clinton finally uttered the magic word ‘sorry’...
What was previously believed to be a tactical maneuver to renegotiate terms of engagement vis-à-vis the US, reached a supposedly anticlimactic bedrock, when Clinton finally uttered the magic word ‘sorry’ and Pakistan went back to where it was prior to the Salala Attack. No new terms of engagement, added bonuses, Rs 5000 transit fee per truck or additional aid was negotiated and the PM provided customary lip service saying, ‘all we wanted was an apology; Pakistan is a responsible member of the international community.’
Opposition leader Nisar accused Foreign Minister Khar of brokering a ‘secret deal’ with the US and by passing parliamentary recommendations on the issue. Difa-e-Pakistan Council organized a ‘long march’ to Islamabad protesting the supply resumption and has now made arrangements for sit-ins along the supply route itself.
The question is not about whether the routes should have been reinstated or not. It was only a matter of time before this happened and analyses involving intentions and concealed agendas of America are irrelevant. As a matter of fact, Pakistan cannot afford to face international isolation for much longer, it needs the CSF quota US froze because of the route closure and it needs to make inroads to Afghanistan where India is busy consolidating a long-term economic and political settlement.
The US has just finished drafting an MOU with Pakistan, to be agreed and signed upon shortly. New terms of engagement, have come to light that need to be scrutinized, taking into consideration, the current security and political situation of Pakistan.
Currently under discussion is the agreement that no weapons are to be supplied via this border to NATO soldiers, the entire list of prohibited US cargo includes:  small arms and light weapons of all types, anti-tank weapons of all types, mortars of all types, tanks and armored vehicles, combat aircraft and helicopter, chemical and biological weapons and hazardous waste material including depleted uranium ammunition etc. Pakistan has the right to stop transit of any goods that fall in this category. However, military equipment for the Afghan National Army will be allowed.
This can lay rest to Hafiz Saeed’s fears, as he recently claimed that Pakistan was being used to supply weapons to ‘heathens’ who were killing Muslims. This can also allay fears that trucks carrying NATO’s weapons get ambushed and looted along the way and these weapons make their way to militants. The stipulation is an attempt to placate the Afghan Taliban who earlier declared a war on trucks transporting weaponry to NATO troops; however it doesn’t appear to be enough.
The first attack since resumption took place on Tuesday this week, when gunmen attacked a convoy, killing a driver in Jamrud. Two routes have been reserved for NATO supplies and the one passing through Torkhum has temporarily been suspended, ‘for security reasons’.  Local administration has informed that intelligence gathered suggests that attacks on NATO vehicles have been planned for this week in the region.
Earlier truck drivers launched concerns regarding security threats and requested the government to take proper steps to guarantee safety along the route. The incident this week has just serves to confirm their worst fears. The onus of providing security, according to the MOU, lies with Pakistan, who has allocated duties to the FC and local police, whereby they will escort trucks from Torkham and Chamman to Afghanistan.
However no taxes or duties have been levied on NATO vehicles, 300 of which are expected to pass from Pakistan to Afghanistan every day, though commercial carriers will have to pay fees. Pakistan will not provide NATO with storage facilities or warehouses and commercial carriers will have to assume responsibility for any damages to the goods.
The Foreign Office has assured that the MOU is completely in line with parliamentary directives. And after finalizing a few small details, will come into effect. Another MOU with US will be signed in September for carpeting roads used in supplying goods to Afghanistan, all the way from Port Bin Qasim. This MOU will entail a transfer of millions of dollars for rebuilding roads and highways NATO vehicles have been using for over a decade now. The injection of funds for rebuilding these roads will set in multiplier effects for the economy and improve infrastructure running the length of the country.
The MOU and the supply resumption stay in effect till 2015, with the possibility of an extension for a year, after a bilateral agreement. This deal may not have the bonbons parliamentary discussions suggested, but is pragmatic in its executability and projects long-term benefits for Pakistan. The fact that weaponry won’t be transported to NATO troops, should be used to placate the masses, elements like DPC have inflamed with their rhetoric. The next step for the parliament should be to discuss the MOU before it is signed and reach an agreement vis-à-vis the supply resumption. The stakes are higher than ever as 2014 draws near, and instead of using sensitive issues like this one, for political gain, the parliament needs to work on reaching a consensus and explaining pros, cons and repercussions to the masses in a manner bereft of rhetorical fly trappers.
By Sarah Eleazar

The distress of Afghan refugees in Pakistan

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Millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan fear attempts to force them from homes in which some have lived for more than 30 years. They say they have dealt with discrimination and...

Millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan fear attempts to force them from homes in which some have lived for more than 30 years. They say they have dealt with discrimination and harassment at the hand of Pakistani authorities, who no longer “find them useful”, and are anxious for them to face mass deportations before official residency permits expire at the end of this year.
Mass arrests and deportations already took place three years ago. Now individual arrests and deportations, as well as daily humiliations – seen through stop and searches, verbal and physical abuse, and requests for bribes – continue unabated, in what can only appear to be efforts to “encourage” continued repatriation – a policy that is in line with broader US-led aims of winning “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan through “reconstruction” efforts.
Many Afghans in Pakistan cannot return to Afghanistan and are in fact an integral part of Pakistan. However, once revered as the heroic “mujahid“, Afghans in Pakistan are now constructed as the destructive “talib” – a complete 180-degree turn from the 1970s-90s, when Afghan migration was actively encouraged by Pakistan, the US and other international actors to defeat the Soviet “menace”. Having a sizeable Afghan population in Pakistan, including militarised resistance groups, was strategically beneficial. One former engineer and mujahideen fighter from Kunar province, now a daily wage labourer, told me how Pakistani-sponsored announcements on local Afghan radio promised “free land in Pakistan for Afghans to settle on”, and that “at that point, it was a big deal to be an Afghan refugee. We had recognition – we had the attention of the world on us”.
Now the situation is starkly different. “[Why is] there is no legitimacy to our status? [Is it] because the war [in Afghanistan] is directed by the US?” the former fighter wondered. “Now these people say that our land is free so we should return [to Afghanistan] …but we have been here for over 30 years!” As state relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have deteriorated, so too has the status of Afghans in Pakistan.
Mass arrests and deportations
Surprisingly, little is reported about the shift of Afghan experiences in Pakistan. All too often commentators assume the hospitality that the Pakistani state engendered throughout the 1970s-90s has continued, albeit grudgingly because of the protracted burden on Pakistani state resources. However, the reality is more startling.
In 2009 and 2010 mass arrests and deportations took place, amid discussions of renewing identity cards. That experience has left many Afghans worried this could happen again in the coming months. One Afghan community elder in Karachi who works in the transport industry told me how “many of us were arrested in 2009. I went to a prison to try to bail people out and there were 210 people there, including women. They [the police] would look at our cards and say we had no right to be here. They would either be satisfied with a bribe or, for those of us that could not pay, we were arrested.”
In another discussion with a man who has been living and working in Pakistan since 1982 with his family, he said: “There was a time last year [2010] when people were constantly being arrested, one elder had to go and get 150 people released who were arrested at one time. At another point, 40 people were taken! The police said, ‘Pay us Rs 10,000, Rs 20,000 [approximately $100-$200] and you can go’. Who had this money?” For those who were deported to Afghanistan, many had no option but to return to Pakistan because of violence, lost land, and poor opportunities in Afghanistan. “I was deported,” a trader living in Peshawar said, “but I had to come back. My brother and family are still here. It is difficult here, but it was worse for me there.”
Legally speaking, Pakistan has become more stringent against Afghans. Only registered Afghans with a valid computerised Afghan Citizen Proof of Registration Card (PoR) are considered legal persons in Pakistan, of which there are 1.7 million, according to the UNHCR. The remaining 450,000 to 2.2 million, by a 
 estimate, are unregistered and considered illegal immigrants. Even the PoR card, which was introduced in 2006-2007 and designed to last until December 31, 2009 before it was 
to renew to 2012, will in fact not be renewed, according toPakistani officials.
While education campaigns and government initiatives have stopped police from conducting mass arrests, discrimination and harassment continues. The “Global War on Terror” has itself transformed Pakistani cities into fortress towns, which affects all people living in Pakistan. For Afghans, it’s much worse. At security checkpoints, now a permanent feature of the Pakistani landscape, identity cards are a must.
Perversely, this means that the PoR card, initially designed to ease “refugee management”, has combined with increasing hostility towards Afghans to facilitate targeted humiliation. For those Afghans without a PoR card, usually the poorest of the poor, life is even tougher. In an interview with one such family, Abdul Qader, the main breadwinner, says he only moves within his neighbourhood for fear of being arrested. Often, even buying food is difficult. “Sometimes we eat the potato skins from local waste,” he told me, sitting in his informally constructed house. For him and his family, return to Afghanistan is not an option, and now remaining in Pakistan is also problematic.
“The police say things like ‘this is your tax’. It is a problem for us; without a card it [is] even more of an issue. We are fed up. If you have no card they hassle you. If you have a card they hassle you. If you need to go anywhere they hassle you. They harass you on your [daily] routes,” said Abdul Qader.
Deteriorating Afghan-Pakistani state relations 
One cannot help but suspect this targeted harassment is a side-effect of deteriorating Afghan-Pakistani state relations and an effective way of humiliating and disciplining the remaining Afghans in Pakistan – or even a tactic to “encourage” repatriation. Whatever the case may be, Afghans in Pakistan sure don’t feel welcome anymore.
Pakistan… has a huge number of internally displaced persons, is facing crippling issues of power shortages, and continues to be engaged in a cancerous alliance with the US in the ill-informed war in Afghanistan.”

These experiences should not continue – nor should they remain ignored, silenced and forgotten by history. For Afghans who wish to return to Afghanistan, as many do, this national right and choice must be supported. However, the reality of a continued Afghan presence in Pakistan and of emerging transnational realities in the region cannot be ignored. The majority of Afghans who continue to live in Pakistan are an integral part of the fabric of the state. Many Afghans teach, research, are artists, run successful businesses, trade and work as labourers (which has shaped urban growth in the country).
Through solidarities of friendships and hospitality between Afghans and Pakistanis, the Afghan position in Pakistan has, on the whole, been without inter-community conflict. Many live in shared neighbourhoods, trade, work, marry and study together. One Afghan father in Peshawar notes how when his 15-year-old son was arrested by the police when playing cricket, simply by virtue of being Afghan, it was his son’s friends, Afghan and Pakistani, who pooled money together to bail him out: “They all put together whatever they had and got him out of the police station. I did not even know until they told me afterwards”.
These realities, and the importance of Afghans in Pakistan, must be acknowledged in practice and law. Afghan rights in Pakistan must be protected and improved.
Pakistan itself faces numerous challenges. It has a huge number of internally displaced persons, is facing crippling issues of power shortages and continues to be engaged in a cancerous alliance with the US in the ill-informed war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also shouldered the weight of the refugee crisis, while the developed world has only ever tightened its own borders and immigration policies.
Yet this is no justification for the current attitude towards Afghans in Pakistan. The discrimination and humiliation that has played out on the bodies of Afghans to suit changing foreign policies and state-level rivalry between Afghanistan and Pakistan must end. And as discussions regarding the fate of Afghans in Pakistan continue, a repeat of 2009 must not be allowed to occur. This reality must now translate to Pakistani state practice and law.
Note: Names have been changed to protect individual identities.
By Sanaa Alimia

Why democrats accuse Romney

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Where is the Kingston Trio when needed?  For those who may not recall or were not born then, the group were singing sensations of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s,...

Where is the Kingston Trio when needed?  For those who may not recall or were not born then, the group were singing sensations of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, so much so that the Trio achieved cult status.  And their 1959 hit, “They’re rioting in Africa” was eerily prescient of today in terms of describing the many perils plaguing mankind.
All the lines in that ballad underscored that peril. The most penetrating were “Man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud…. (and) Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away.”  The song ended on the happy note of “what nature doesn’t do to us, will be done by our fellow man.”
Striding the world in seven league boots, that tune is playing out today from Afghanistan to Zaire.  The Levantis filled with turmoil.  Elections in Libya, misread by the media as a victory for democracy, have merely set the stage for political turmoil and not for establishing a functioning government.  Egypt is in political free fall, torn over the military’s refusal to the accept the ascent of a Muslim Brotherhood dominated government while its economy continues to deteriorate dashing the expectations of a public who believed that democracy would really improve their lives.
Syriais immersed in a civil war with no exit strategy in sight either for the Assad regime or the rebels who, while better organized and coordinated in terms of military action than many outsiders believed, have no obvious political leadership or structure for a replacement government if the insurgency succeeds in overthrowing Bashar al Assad.  Violence is already spilling over with tens of thousands of refugees streaming into Lebanon.  And the consequences this revolution will have almost irrespective of how it ends are likely to be profound for Syria’s neighbors—Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Israel as well as for the fault lines between Shia and Sunni.
Meanwhile,Iraqis moving from America’s supplicant to a quasi-ally of Iran.  With NATO forces drawing down, Afghanistanis entering a very vulnerable period.  Relations between America and Pakistan oscillate between friend and foe.  And for those who have missed it, the South China risks becoming a ticking time bomb as the regional powers jockey over territorial claims and control of maritime resources.  Events in North Korea leading to the relief of the senior most military commander are not calming either.
In Europe, the Euro crisis is far from over.  A half a dozen governments have changed as a result.  And more could follow. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s autocratic president, is not user friendly as far as many European states are concerned particularly with threatening rhetoric emanating from Moscow.
The most dangerous threat could rest in whether or notIsraelconcludes thatIran’s nuclear ambitions pose an existential danger that can only be countered by military force and an attack to destroy permanently those capabilities.  The shadow war being waged by both states exacerbates the risks of escalation.  The murder of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, almost certainly the work of Iranian intelligence or its surrogate Hezbollah, heightened tensions between Tel Aviv andTehranalthough retaliation byIsraelmay not be immediately forthcoming.
Unfortunately, the scene is no better inAmerica.  The economy is struggling at best.  Come year’s end, the fiscal axes fall.  If that happens, the sluggish recovery could descend into recession or worse.
America’s government is broken and paralyzed by the presidential and Congressional campaigns if such a dual condition is possible. The presidential sweepstakes have disintegrated into character assassination by both parties. The Republican campaign accuses the president of being a “socialist” and “not American,” although the last slur was withdrawn.
Democrats accuse Mitt Romney of breaking the law in declaring that he left his firm Bain Capital in 1999 to run the Olympics when the records show he still was chairman and sole shareholder and that the governor’s offshore bank accounts were put in place to avoid paying taxes.  Heaven forefend that both candidates run on the issues and on specific and serious programs of what they will or will not do instead of taking inflexible stands such as cutting or raising taxes and spending.
The automatic reaction of most Americans is to demand better leadership and better leaders.  Unfortunately, aside from convincing the party loyalists and the extreme wings, neither candidate has dented the armored bubble preventing good leadership from taking root.  A rare exception was Senator John McCain’s denouncing of several House Republicans for slandering one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trusted aides as part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to influence the government.  But let’s not hold our breaths for another Washington or Lincoln (or McCain) to emerge soon.
We have the means, the motivation and the reality of having to deal seriously with these issues.  Sadly, the last refrain of theKingstontrio hit rings true.  What nature doesn’t do to us, we will do to ourselves.
Harlan Ullman is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business and Senior Advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council.  
By Harlan Ullman
July 30, 2012

Syria: Obama’s latest war crime

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One wonders what Syrians are thinking as “rebels” vowing to “free Syria” take the country down the same road to destruction as “rebels” in Libya. Libya, under Gaddafi a well...

One wonders what Syrians are thinking as “rebels” vowing to “free Syria” take the country down the same road to destruction as “rebels” in Libya. Libya, under Gaddafi a well run country whose oil revenues were shared with the Libyan people instead of monopolized by a princely class as in Saudi Arabia, now has no government and is in disarray with contending factions vying for power.
Just as no one knew who the Libyan “rebels” were, with elements of al Qaeda reportedly among them, no one knows who the Syrian “rebels” are, or indeed if they are even rebels ( Some “rebels” appear to be bandit groups who seize the opportunity to loot and to rape and set themselves up as the governments of villages and towns. Others appear to be al Qaeda. (
The fact that the “rebels” are armed is an indication of interference from outside. There have been reports that Washington has ordered its Saudi and Bahrain puppet governments to supply the “rebels” with military weaponry. Some suspect that the explosion that killed the Syrian Defense Minister and the head of the government’s crisis operations was not the work of a suicide bomber but the work of a US drone or missile reminiscent of Washington’s failed attempts to murder Saddam Hussein. Regardless, Washington regarded the terror attack as a success, declaring that it showed the rebels were gaining “real momentum” and called on the Syrian government to respond to the attack by resigning. (
The following is from a leaked intelligence document describing a previous Western terrorist intervention in Syria just in case any reader is so naive as to think that “our government would never do that.”
“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, …a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. …[to] be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, …
Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals. …Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus …
Further: a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS [MI6] should use … capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.” (Joint US-UK leaked Intelligence Document, London and Washington, 1957) (
Obama has not said why his government is so desperate to overthrow the Syrian government. The current president was an eye doctor in London who was brought back to Syria to replace his father, who had passed away, as president of the country. Washington is reticent about its real motives, which it masks with high-sounding humanitarian rhetoric, but Washington’s motives are transparent.
One motive is to get rid of the Russian naval base in Syria, thus depriving Russia of its only Mediterranean base.
A second motive is to eliminate Syria as a source of arms and support to Hizbullah in order that Israel can succeed in its attempts to occupy southern Lebanon and acquire its water resources. Hizbullah’s fighters have twice defeated the Israeli military’s attempts to invade and to occupy southern Lebanon.
A third motive is to destroy the unity of Syria with sectarian conflict, as Washington destroyed Libya and Iraq, and leave Syria to waring factions to dismember the country, thus removing another obstacle to Washington’s hegemony.
Syria, a secular Arab state, like Iraq was, is ruled by a political party composed of Alawis, more or less Shia Muslims. The Alawis comprise about 12% of the Syrian population and are regarded as heretics by the Sunni Muslims who comprise about 74% of the Syrian population. Thus the orchestrated “uprising” appeals to many Sunnis who see the opportunity to take over. (In Iraq it was a Sunni minority that ruled a Shia majority, and in Syria it is the opposite.)
The divisions among Arabs make Arabs vulnerable to Western interference and rule. The Sunni-Shia split makes it impossible for an Arab country to unite against an invader or for one Arab country to come to the aid of another. In 1990 the Shia Syrian government lined up with the US against the Sunni Iraq government in the First Iraq War. Neither Lawrence of Arabia, Nasser, nor Gaddafi succeeded in creating an Arab consciousness.
Washington’s cover for its violent overthrow of other governments is always moralistic verbiage. First the target is demonized, and then Washington’s naked aggression is described as “bringing freedom and democracy,” “overthrowing a brutal dictator,” “protecting women’s rights.” Any assortment of cant words and phrases seems to work.
Hillary Clinton has been especially strident in advocating the overthrow of the Syrian government. The silly woman even issued threats to Russia and China for daring to block Washington’s attempt to use a UN resolution as cover for invading Syria. Washington misrepresents the Syrian government’s resistance to being overthrown as a government conducting terror against its own people. But Washington had no condemnation for the terror attack, whether its own or that of a suicide bomber, that killed high-level Syrian government officials. Washington’s double standard prompted the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to accuse Washington of having “a sinister position.”
Indeed, Washington does. But what is surprising about Washington’s sinister position after Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan? Undoubtedly, after Syria is overthrown, Washington will move on to Iran. Russia itself is already being surrounded by US missile bases, and the Russian government has a disloyal and traitorous political opposition financed by American money. China is confronting a rapid buildup of US air, naval, and troop bases in the Pacific. How long before China’s government has a disloyal opposition financed by Washington?
The hegemon is on the march, but what Syrian Sunnis see is a chance to overthrow the Alawite Shia. The Syrian Sunnis will ally with Washington despite the fact that Washington overthrew the Iraqi Sunnis. Few Arabs, it seems, mind being puppets of a foreign regime that hands out billions of dollars.
Washington loosely refers to Syrian President Assad as a “dictator” or “brutal dictator,” but obviously if Assad is a dictator he is not very effective in that role. Normally, dictators don’t permit an opposition to rise, much less arm itself. It would be more accurate to say that the ruling party is authoritarian, but the ruling party has introduced elements of democracy with the new constitution.
As Iraq has proved, Arab governments have to be authoritarian if their Sunni and Shia populations are not to be constantly engaged in civil war. Both Bush and Obama claim that Washington brought “freedom and democracy” to Iraq. However, the ongoing violence in Iraq is as intense or more intense than under the American occupation. Here are the reports for the last three days:
July 23: “A wave of bomb attacks and shootings in Baghdad and north of the capital has killed at least 107 people. At least 216 were wounded.”
July 24: “A second day of intensified attacks left at least 145 Iraqis killed and 379 more wounded.”
July 25: “Attacks continue across Iraq: 17 killed, 60 wounded.”
This is what Washington did for Iraq. Far from bringing “freedom and democracy,” Washington brought endless mayhem and death. And this is precisely what Washington is in the process of bringing to Syria.

Syria, Russia and Iran

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By Konstantin Garibov  Voice of Russia  July 27, 2012 Russia will maintain its logistics naval station in the Syrian port of Tartus. Commenting on the issue earlier this week, Commander-in-Chief...

By Konstantin Garibov 
Voice of Russia  July 27, 2012
Russia will maintain its logistics naval station in the Syrian port of Tartus. Commenting on the issue earlier this week, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov accentuated the importance of the Tartus base in providing logistics services to the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.
He said that there were ten Russian warships and ten support ships in the Mediterranean now, as part of planned maneuvers announced last year.
On July 10, a combined squad of Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets entered the Mediterranean on a three-month-long training mission to practice anti-piracy and rescue efforts. Some of the ships will call at Tartus.
Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said in an interview that as long as Russia positioned itself as a naval power, it must have ports, mooring sites or, preferably, naval bases abroad. Russia pulled out of Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and also out of Aden. Tartus is the only site where Russian ships can dock for refueling and repairs and allow their crews to rest a little, he said.
“Strictly speaking, the Tartus station is not a naval base. We only have a floating repair dock there. The port is not equipped to be a base, but potential changes are possible. If we maintain our presence there, modernization will be needed.”
Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecast Center, echoes that with tension mounting around Syria and military intervention not altogether unlikely, the Russian base in Tartus acquires vital geopolitical significance.
“If Russia loses that base, it will have nowhere in the Mediterranean to fuel or repair its ships. The moment Russia loses the Tartus base, it will also lose Syria. Consequently, and I deem it quite possible, military actions against Iran may begin. That scenario will create very complicated problems for Russian troops stationed in the Caucasus. Therefore, and it should be admitted frankly, when we talk about Syria, we talk about Iran and the Russian troops in the Caucasus.”
Russia has never made a secret of its intention to keep its logistics base in Tartus.
Built by the former Soviet Union in 1971, the Tartus station was conceived as a supply and maintenance center for the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean. It has two floating docks, a repair workshop, storage and other facilities, and several small barracks. Its personnel currently numbers 50 servicemen. After the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the 5th Mediterranean Squadron was dissolved, but the base remained. Today, it’s Russia’s only naval station in the region.

India test-fires BrahMos cruise missile

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India test-fired BrahMos cruise missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore, on Sunday. While the scientists associated with the programme described the test...

India test-fired BrahMos cruise missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore, on Sunday. While the scientists associated with the programme described the test as successful, sources said the test failed to meet all mission parameters.
The missile, jointly developed by India and Russia, was launched from the launching complex-III of the ITR at about 10.35 am in full operational configuration. “After take off, the missile went vertically and fell down into the sea before reaching its pre-coordinated target. The test was not a cent percent success,” a source told TOI.
The ITR authorities, however, claimed that the launch was perfect and the missile met all mission objectives. “The test was conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and it was an experimental trial. It was successful in an experimental point of view,” said ITR director MVKV Prasad.
Sources said the test was part of the development trials of the missile, which has already been inducted into the Army and the Navy. The objective of the mission was to evaluate some of the newer sub-systems produced by the Indian industry. The two-stage missile, the first one being solid and the second one ramjet liquid propellant, has already been inducted into the Army and Navy and the Air-Force version is in the final stage of trial, he said.
BrahMos is a two-stage missile. It is nine metres tall and weighs 3.9 tonnes with the canister. It can reach a speed of 3 Mach and has a range of 290 km. It can be launched from ships, silos and road and rail mobile launchers. It can carry a conventional warhead weighing 300 kg. A scientist associated with the mission said the supersonic BrahMos is a unique missile in the world, unmatched for its speed (Mach 3), precision and power. It is also unique in that it has no known counter.

Hi-tech Taliban militants

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Once seen as uneducated thugs, the Taliban are producing dangerous new fighters who use the latest digital technology to plan and publicise attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, analysts say....

Once seen as uneducated thugs, the Taliban are producing dangerous new fighters who use the latest digital technology to plan and publicise attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, analysts say.
The militants recently released a video of a June 1 attack on a US military base in the eastern province of Khost, on the border with Pakistan, showcasing far more developed techniques to plan the assault than previously thought.
The footage shows the fighters, in military uniforms, being briefed by their commander using a model and satellite images of the target, Forward Operating Base Salerno.
“First we do this operation for God’s sake, second may God accept this (attack) as revenge for the burning of the Koran in Bagram,” the commander tells the fighters.
“We will do our best to avoid civilian casualties,” he says after he explains to his men how they should enter the camp.
A huge truck bomb is seen destroying the entrance to the facility, before an assault force enters the base to carry out the second phase of the attack — wearing US military uniforms, according to the US-based company IntelCenter.
The blast and fighting that followed were filmed from at least three angles, showing the militants’ multiple observation points — and their desire to produce a slick video afterwards for propaganda purposes.
Analysts say such organised and complex attacks generate more publicity, require fewer fighters and give the insurgents the appearance of being stronger than they may actually be.
“Maybe in some cases they only want the media impact. On other occasions, we say to ourselves that it looks really serious. These videos show that they have real skills and technical knowledge,” a Western official told AFP.
The film of the Khost attack was first obtained by Al-Jazeera but later posted on the Taliban’s Voice of Jihad website.
“Far from showing a Taliban force weakened and on the ropes, the video is a clear reminder that the Taliban maintains the ability to prepare and execute large-scale attacks,” wrote IntelCenter, which monitors jihadist websites.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, almost all electronic products were outlawed as un-Islamic. Photographs of living things were illegal, and ownership of a video player could lead to a public lashing.
But now technology plays an essential role in the militants’ reshaped strategy, with carefully-planned surprise attacks in places that previously were spared heavy assaults, said analyst Waheed Wafa.
“Five years ago, for instance, the Taliban would attack in hundreds, mostly in remote towns. But now, 10 fighters can do an even better job in sophisticated attacks in big cities,” he said.
“The Taliban also want to show that they are very clean, organised and high-tech, and that comes whenever a party in conflict feels that it has a chance to come back to power.”
Afghan writer and analyst Waheed Mujda, a former official in the Taliban regime, added: “It is a new generation of Taliban, they are very high-tech and that is because they face a high-tech army as their enemy.
“They use GPS, they use Google Maps, they use cameras and almost every digital age technology. They can inflict more casualties on their enemy if their attacks are well planned.”
NATO’s US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan interior ministry dismissed the video as a propaganda stunt.
It is “simply an attempt by the insurgents to sensationalise this action,” ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Guenter Katz told AFP.
“What this video really shows is the insurgents’ selfish efforts to recruit and propagandise more young men to needlessly die for a failed cause.”
An ISAF spokesman said one US soldier and an Afghan civilian working on the base were killed in the attack, more than 10 American soldiers were seriously wounded and about 115 were slightly hurt.
Two buildings were damaged, including the dining room, and 14 insurgents were killed.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi dismissed the video as propaganda and said it would not demoralise ordinary Afghans.
But he told AFP: “It also raises questions where they got all that training and how they obtained about 10 tonnes of explosives.”

Beirut • As fierce fighting continued across Syria on Sunday, the country’s foreign minister, on a visit to Iran, blamed Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for the escalation of violence...
Beirut • As fierce fighting continued across Syria on Sunday, the country’s foreign minister, on a visit to Iran, blamed Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for the escalation of violence and vowed that his government would rout the rebels fighting the army in Aleppo.
“Their plots will fail,” said the minister, Walid al-Moallem. But, he added, that would not stop the “campaign on the international stage against Syria.”
Al-Moallem made his remarks as the Syrian government continued to pound neighborhoods in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which has become the latest front in the bloody conflict. In recent days, as opposition fighters have moved to gain control of Aleppo’s neighborhoods, the government has sent armored columns, troops and helicopters to meet them — preparing, residents fear, to move into the city.
More than a dozen people were killed in the fighting, according to antigovernment groups.
On Sunday, activists reported more clashes, including in the Salaheddiin District, but said there had been no mass assault by the army, many of whose troops remained stationed on the city’s outskirts, witnesses said.
Instead, activists said they had noted a change in tactics, saying that the government was using helicopters and artillery to attack several neighborhoods, rather than the tanks that had been deployed in an assault on Salaheddiin and other areas on Saturday.
As Syria’s international isolation has grown, Western nations have accused Iran of continuing to provide President Bashar Assad’s government with weapons and other support. Russia, which has said it has suspended weapons sales to Syria, remains Assad’s staunchest defender, blocking international efforts to remove him from power.
On the other side, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have led an effort to arm Assad’s opponents. Turkey is said to have allowed weapons to move over its border, and U.S. intelligence officials have helped select the recipients, according to U.S. officials.
Al-Moallem played down the domestic opposition to his government, saying that despite the “plot” by those countries — led, he said, by Israel — Syria did not need foreign help to defend itself.
At the same time, the leader of an opposition group suggested Sunday that the rebels would need heavier weapons.

Afghanistan: Combat and Compatibility

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A billion dollar question that intrigues the minds, of strategists the world over is about the future course that Afghanistan could follow as the occupation forces are on their way...

A billion dollar question that intrigues the minds, of strategists the world over is about the future course that Afghanistan could follow as the occupation forces are on their way out. The prospects of NATO withdrawal, as envisaged in the recent ‘Chicago Declaration’, raise dilemmas about restoration of durable peace and stability in Afghanistan in the context of interplay of various Afghan forces, and the prevalent regional and global security environment.
Historic evidence has it that neither Taliban, nor Northern Alliance alone could sustain their rule over Afghanistan while ensuring peace and stability. “On post-American-Afghanistan” in ‘The New Yorker’, Dexter Filkins quotes an Afghan governor: “Mark my words, the moment the Americans leave, the civil war will begin. This country will be divided into 25 or 30 fiefdoms, each with its own government.”
International Donors Conference in Japan has pledged aid of $ 16 billion spread over four years. Moreover, the US and its allies are also likely to commit about $ 4 billion a year to fund and support an estimated 352,000 Afghan army and police force, over the next 10 years. However, because of the US and Europe’s fragile economic situation, Afghanistan might be lucky if it could receive just enough to keep going.
As regards national reconciliation, President Karzai has asked German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, on the sidelines of the donors’ conference in Tokyo, for help in getting the Taliban back to the negotiating table. Westerwelle assured Karzai that Berlin was prepared to support the peace process. Westerwelle frequently underscores that a political solution is the only way out of the current quagmire. Germany had played a similar role in 2010 and 2011.
Over the last few years, Afghanistan has signed Strategic agreements with different states, especially with the US and India; Afghanistan has also signed similar agreements with Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Australia. This is a quest for strengthening strategic and political hedge. Objective of the Afghan-US arrangement is to pass a strong message to Afghanistan’s neighbours that ‘if you mess with Afghanistan you will be messing with the US’. Designation of Afghanistan as a non-NATO ally further reinforces this message. The Indo-Afghan strategic agreement has less to do with building the ANA and general development than to pressurize Pakistan.
Theoretically, ANSF is all set to take operational control from foreign forces by 2014. By the end of 2014, Afghanistan will have a 350,000 strong security force. These soldiers are “better than we thought”, says General John Allen, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan. However, worth of Afghan security forces is articulated by Anthony H. Cordesman, Burke Chair in Strategy, and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on July 24, during his statement before the ‘House Armed Services Subcommittee.’ He said:  “In fact, the effectiveness of Afghan forces during and after Transition may well have little to do with the metrics that focus on their strength or abstract estimates of their combat capability and ability to operate without outside support…Measuring the ANSF’s ability to fight is not nearly as important as measuring its will to fight – and its will to fight for the central government and not some powerbroker or warlord”.
Three countries are poised to play the critical role in shaping the future happenings in Afghanistan. These are: the US, Pakistan and Iran. Iran and Pakistan have close cultural, religious, economic and historical links with Afghanistan. The competition for influence in Afghanistan between Pakistan and Iran after the fall of the Najibullah regime prolonged the Afghan civil war. Apparently, both Iran and Pakistan have drawn pertinent lessons. Pakistan is struggling to maintain a balance amongst various ethnic groups in Afghanistan. At the inauguration of the Pakistan embassy on July 19, the guest list had all the main leaders of the political opposition.
United States continues to maintain a dual policy towards Haqqanis. On one hand CIA, has been undertaking secret talks with the organization in the past, on the other hand, the House of Representatives of United States has passed a bill presented by Senator Richard Burr on July 16, 2012. The bill is a step towards mounting pressure on President Obama to declare Haqqani network as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’. On their part, the Haqqanis and Taliban of Afghanistan consider US and NATO as the invading forces. In the opinion of these two groups, they are fighting for their freedom from these occupiers, in line with the UN Charter.
Pakistan has been emphasizing the US for a political solution of Afghan issue, as it has failed to resolve the problem through military means. Pakistan indeed, played a great role in bringing Haqqanis and US and Taliban and US closer to each other for the political dialogue. The Afghan governance structures established at the Bonn Conference, in December 2001, have not been effective. Afghan central government fails to meet the basic needs of its citizens because most government officials are not responsible to the constituents they serve, but to the system of patronage that keeps them in power. Most Afghans do not directly elect their provincial governors. These officials are appointed by the presidency and serve at the president’s pleasure. As a result, they have a stake in perpetuating the endemic corruption.
This year’s pullout of 23,000 American troops from Afghanistan is at the halfway mark, General John Allen said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. Allen also said that while Afghan security forces were increasingly taking the lead, more work needs to be done to shore up their confidence in planning and executing operations. At the end of the year troop strength in Afghanistan would be 68,000—the number when President Obama announced the surge in December 2010.
A former US counterinsurgency adviser to American forces in Afghanistan has been quoted as saying, “It appears we’re just trying to get out and avoid catastrophe.” Dexter Filkins further commented: “…when the last Americans are due to stop fighting, the Taliban will not be defeated. A Western-style democracy will not be in place. The economy will not be self-sustaining…And it’s a good bet, even al Qaeda, which brought the United States into Afghanistan in the first place, will be carrying on.”

Sherry: Drones only serve to recruit more militants

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ASPEN: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States is calling for an end to CIA drone strikes ahead of an intelligence summit in Washington between the two countries expected next week....

ASPEN: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States is calling for an end to CIA drone strikes ahead of an intelligence summit in Washington between the two countries expected next week.
In a frank debate on Friday with White House war adviser Douglas Lute, Ambassador Sherry Rehman said the drone attacks succeeded in damaging al Qaeda but are now only serving to recruit new militants. The two were speaking to an audience at the Aspen Security Forum.
”I am not saying drones have not assisted in the war against terror, but they have diminishing rate of returns,” Sherry said, speaking by video teleconference from Washington.
”We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that,” she added.    Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul Islam, is expected to reiterate the demand in his first meeting with CIA Director David Petraeus, at CIA headquarters in Virginia, next week.
Lute would not comment on the drone program, but US officials have said privately that the program will continue because Pakistan has proved incapable or unwilling to target militants the US considers dangerous.
A long-sought US apology to Pakistan over a deadly border incident cleared the way to restart counterterrorism talks, in which Pakistani officials say the US also will be asked to feed intelligence gathered by the pilot less aircraft to Pakistani jets and ground forces so they can target militants.
While neither side expects much progress, officials from both countries see the return to dialogue as a chance to repair a relationship dented by a series of incidents that damaged trust on both sides.
US officials remain angry over what they say is Pakistan’s support of Taliban groups, including the militant Haqqani network, who shelter in Pakistan’s tribal areas and attack troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
Sherry Rehman defended Pakistan’s arrest of Dr. Shakil Afridi, who has been sentenced to more than three decades in prison for aiding the CIA in tracking down bin Laden by conducting a vaccine program in the military town where the terrorist mastermind turned out to be hiding.
US lawmakers have threatened to halt millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan if Afridi is not released, in recognition of his contribution to helping track down bin Laden. Afridi is appealing his sentence.
”He had no clue he was looking for Osama bin Laden,” Sherry countered. ”He was contracting with a foreign intelligence agency.”
She added that Afridi’s actions put thousands of children at risk because some vaccine programs had to be ended after Pakistani aid workers were targeted by the Taliban.
She also dismissed as ”outrageous” a claim by some lawmakers that Pakistan is harboring al Qaeda or other militants who intend to harm the US.
She said Pakistan’s army was working hard to combat the militants, including reporting 52 times to Nato in recent months when militants were spotted crossing into Afghan territory.
”Pakistan is maxed out on the international border with Afghanistan,” she said of Pakistani efforts.
”Sovereignty has privileges but also comes with responsibilities,” countered Lute who called for Pakistan to step up its efforts and to cease ”hedging its bets” by supporting the Afghan Taliban.
The two did agree, however, that Pakistan could help broker an eventual peace deal with the Taliban.

5 Creepy Things London Did To Prepare For The Olympics

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(Max Danvers)  On July 27, the London Olympic Games begin, and for 17 long days everyone on Earth will pretend to be interested in track. And for some reason, LOCOG (the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games), normally responsible for ensuring that all the events start on time and all poles are properly vaulted, have instead seized their chance to change laws, build urban fortresses, revoke civil rights and swamp the streets with enough high-tech weaponry for an Iron Man sequel. It’s all in the name of anti-terrorism and public safety, of course, but the London 2012 Olympics will be the most sinister sporting event ever held outside of Battle Royale, thanks to stuff like …
#5. Surface-to-Air Missiles … on Apartment Buildings
At some point during the planning stages of this sporting event, someone in the fetid bowels of LOCOG headquarters stood up and said, “So, we’ve got the sod laid and ensured that we have enough seating and bathrooms. Now, how many rocket launchers do we think we need?”

New events this year include Government Helicopter Shoot and Molotov Toss.
That’s right: To protect the London Olympics, they’re installing high-grade surface-to-air missiles … on top of residential buildings.

Because nothing says “this city is safe” like missiles looming over you at all times.
While other Olympics contented themselves with Tasers and stern, disapproving looks, LOCOG security hurtled screaming past the event horizon of sanity and started transforming apartment buildings into launch pads. Ostensibly, the missiles are intended for use against low-flying aircraft, such as suicide-bombing planes or those goddamn pigeons from Mary Poppins. But the residents of the Fred Wigg Tower, and several other soon-to-be-weaponized apartment buildings, probably take little solace in the fact that they’ll be hosting Starstreak missiles 10 feet above their living rooms. Because even if the best case scenario plays out and missile flames don’t burn their houses down, they’ll still have to deal with collateral damage from an intercepted target. The remains of any stricken aircraft will have no place to fall but directly on top of residential London, gently dusting the inhabitants with a fine layer of fucked. That’s all assuming, of course, that it actually works. The newest Starstreaks have zero combat efficacy data, rely heavily on operator skill and might be foiled by bad weather.
But what are the odds of bad weather happening in a place like London?
#4. The Biggest Military Buildup in London Since World War II
During WWII, there were warships docked on the river Thames, right in the center of London. It was a sobering sight, having those war machines looming over a major metropolis. But those were dark days, requiring drastic measures: There was also an operating Royal Air Force base in the capital back then, and all air traffic control was taken out of civilian hands and given to the Ministry of Defense. That’s exactly the sort of thing we’d expect to happen during the largest, most destructive war in human history. That’s not exactly the sort of thing we’d expect from, say, the security team at a Ping-Pong match.

Poor British soldiers. Now all the other armies are gonna laugh at them.
But apparently the London 2012 Olympics features some seriously, awesomely dangerous new sports, because all of those things are coming back for the first time since the Blitz. During the games, 13,500 troops will be deployed in London just for the run time of the Olympics — that’s 4,000 more than they had on the ground in Afghanistan in 2011. And these aren’t the across-the-pond versions of the National Guard or anything — Britain’s most badass commandos, the Royal Marines, will be checking tickets at the shot put and waving around those little parking attendant glow sticks. Also, fresh from its last deployment in Libya, the HMS Ocean will be docked in the Thames.

“Yes, it does have batteries of missiles. But they almost never fire off for no reason.”
That’s the largest ship in the Royal Navy. Not to mention all the fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships and pilotless drones clouding the skies. On land, sea and air, it will be what the British government calls “maximum” military presence.
For the Olympics.
It’s often said that the Olympic Games are a platform for a country to show what it’s proudest of off to the world. If that’s true, then apparently London is that creepy kid from middle school who invites you over to his house to look at his knife collection.
“… and these are my Royal Marines. They’re here to shoot anyone who cheats at the 100-meter breaststroke.”
#3. Empty Roads for the Rich
It’s an unfortunate happening, no doubt chock-full of enough wacky shenanigans to staff a Rob Schneider movie, but sometimes athletes have missed their events at past Olympics. But not this year: London has designated special lanes in the city not just for athletes, but for Olympics officials, people working for sponsoring companies and, hey, what the hell, anyone else rich enough to buy their way in.
“How can we take an institution beloved for dissolving barriers between people and make it the exact opposite of that?”

Not allowed behind London’s velvet off-ramps, however, are ambulances carrying such trivial things as blood for donations and elderly people in need of dialysis. True, ambulances carrying people in need of emergency medical care will be able to turn on their sirens and use the special lanes if they absolutely have to, but unless you’re firmly heading toward the light, you’ll just have to sit in the unmanageable Olympics traffic with the rest of London.
Do try not to cough on any of the McDonald’s or Coca-Cola employees as they zip past you, laughing and sipping champagne while bombing around their 39 miles of VIP roadways.

#2. Big Brother Is Watching You (You, Specifically)

In Great Britain, everyone is a film star. That's because, while Brits are only around 1 percent of the global population, they're being watched by 20 percent of the global CCTV cameras. That's more camera surveillance than even communist China. But it's not enough to just have one camera for every 14 people at the London Olympics. So LOCOG is not just installing more surveillance equipment, they're also making it smarter.
There'd better be the disembodied brain of a wounded cop controlling that thing.
The city of London is being wired up with a new range of scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking capabilities, new police control centers and checkpoints. All of which will now be under a central control, and yes, that is exactly as sinister as it sounds. This means the cameras are capable of tracking beyond one location -- no more frantically checking every screen, trying to pick up somebody who's walked out of frame. Because the computer does that for you. It can now track individual human beings from camera to camera and plot their progress, location and habits on a live, constantly updating map of Your Business.
"That's expired salsa. Twenty quid says she poops within the next half hour."
And don't think you can get away in a lucky fog or sudden drizzle. CCTV isn't nearly as effective on days when it rains (which you'll remember from our hilarious accidental missile explosion joke earlier is every single day in London), so new thermal imaging technology is being introduced to the CCTV cameras. And not just to watch for suspicious terrorist behavior, like excessive hand wringing and sinister mustache twirling -- they'll also be used to prosecute people selling counterfeit Olympics goods.
That's right: They're arming Big Brother with Predator vision just to stop people from hawking unauthorized Wenlock shirts.

"Hi kids, I'm Wenlock! YOUR WORLD WILL END IN FIRE."
Because there's such an insane demand for merchandise of that adorable angry amorphous robot with the all-seeing eye. Kids just can't get enough of him; he's like Dora the Explorer ... if she were furious, a robot and always watching you.

#1. Berlin Wall 2: Wall Harder

The organizers of the London 2012 Olympics have surrounded the stadium with a wall, which is, yeah, probably not entirely in the spirit of nations crossing borders to come together as one world community. But it's just a stupid wall, right?
Except that it's 11 miles long.
Oh, also it's electrified; touch it and you will get a 5,000-volt shock.
And it's a uniform six meters in height across its entire length, more than two meters taller than that puny one in Berlin.
Some sections have the equivalent of a slutty see-through shirt, something the Russians were always too cheap to buy.
And it's going to be patrolled by those 7,500 Royal Marines, unmanned drones, 55 dog teams, 900 day/night surveillance cameras and 1,000 armed U.S. diplomatic and FBI agents on special assignment.
Which probably doesn't seem like that big of a deal to you, until you remember that these Olympics are not being held in an empty field 200 miles from society. They're right smack in the middle of one of the largest, most populated cities on Earth. Which means that the giant, imposing, electrified and locked down Barrier of Death that comprises one of the most militarized borders in history, rivaling even the DMZ and the infamous Berlin Wall ...

... runs right through your quaint little jogging path.