Posts filed under ‘Pakistan’

AFPAK: Pakistan’s Army Chief Stepping Down

Kayani Leaving Nov. 29

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s Army chief, has announced he is retiring next month, leaving politicians, analysts and journalists wondering who will replace him in the crucial job he has held for six years.

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani addresses the troops near Hyderabad. (Photo courtesy Inter Services Public Affairs)

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani addresses the troops near Hyderabad.
(Photo courtesy Inter Services Public Relations)

According to Dawn, one of Pakistan’s major newspapers, a brief announcement from the Inter Services Public Relations office on Sunday (October 6) stated that the 61-year-old general will step down when his tenure as Army chief ends on November 29.

The announcement ends speculation that Kayani, who already had his command extended for a second term, might seek to stay on longer or m,move to a new position in which he would have oversight of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, according to the New York Times.

For quite sometime, my current responsibilities and likely future plans have been debated in the media with all sorts of rumours and speculations doing the rounds. The subject of being entrusted with new duties has also come up in several reports. I am grateful to the political leadership and the nation for reposing their trust in me and Pakistan Army at this important juncture of our national history. However, I share the general opinion that institutions and traditions are stronger than individuals and must take precedence,” Kayani said in the announcement.

“It is noteworthy that the announcement came from the COAS [Chief of Army Staff] himself and not the government,” Dawn noted, adding that there had also been speculation the government was keeping vacant the post of ambassador to the United States because it wanted Kayani to fill the post, but his aides said Kayani “will not accept any office.”

Kayani’s decision to step aside was no small thing in a country that has seen four military coups in its 66-year history. In fact, Britain’s Financial Times noted, earlier this year Pakistan saw for the first time in its history a peaceful transition from one elected government to another. The current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was ousted by a previous Army chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in 1999.

Before replacing Musharraf as Army chief in 2007, Kayani headed the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Pakistan’s military spy agency, which has been criticized for allegedly supporting Taliban militants in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But Kayani led a successful military operation against the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and less decisive campaigns in other parts of the tribal belt along the Northwest Frontier with Afghanistan.

Map: CIA World Factbook

Map: CIA World Factbook

October 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Nairobi Mall Attack

At Least 68 Dead

Scores of people were killed and more than a hundred were wounded over the weekend (September 21-22) when armed Islamist militants attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya (CIA World Factbook)

Kenya
(CIA World Factbook)

Police and Kenyan soldiers were still trying to secure the entire four-storey building and locate all hostages early today (Monday) after a night-time assault freed an undetermined number of hostages held by the gunmen, according to the New York Times.

Two groups of gunmen armed with assault weapons and hand grenades attacking the building from two sides Saturday shooting down customers and mall workers. At least 68 people have been reported killed.

Video from Nairobi showed complete chaos as the gunmen shot down men, women and children during the two-day rampage.

The al Qaeda-linked Somali group al Shabaab took credit for the bloody attack saying it was revenge for Kenya’s incursion into Somalia to punish the radical militant group which has launched several attacks on Kenya, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Last year Kenyan authorities said they had disrupted a major plot to attack public areas in Nairobi. Authortities also said they broke up another plot in 2007 to attack Western tourists. Tourism is the second biggest industry in Kenya and a big part of the economy of East Africa.

Nairobi Westgate Mall (2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall
(2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

The scope of the assault on the Westgate Mall — and its “eerie similarities” to the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India by militant gunmen  show that al-Shabaab “has taken its ability to strike outside Somalia to a new level,” according to CNN.

September 23, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

4GWAR Blog News: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for the 4GWAR blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 210,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a (very) small country in Europe!

Last year 4GWAR was thrilled to receive more than 134,000 visits. This year’s visits totaled 209,970.

Most of those views came from the United States (84,926). In descending order, the top 10 foreign viewing countries were. 1. Britain (8,645); 2. Canada (7,008); 3. India (4,568); 4. Germany (4,082); 5. Australia (3,292); 6. France (3,271); 7. Brazil (2,288); 8. Poland (2,192); 9. Russia (1,984); 10. Pakistan, (1,795).

Indonesia was close behind at 1,769 views. The African country with the biggest viewership was South Africa with 840. Three of the five most viewed 4GWAR posts were about Africa.

Thanks to all who visited 4GWAR in 2012, we hope to see more of you in 2013!

January 2, 2013 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

AF/PAK: Eight Polio Vaccine Health Workers Slain in Pakistan

Madness

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the crippling disease polio is still a public health threat.

Pakistan (Map courtesy CIA World Factbook)

Pakistan (Map courtesy CIA World Factbook)

But the United Nations has been running a successful program to immunize those most at risk – children under the age of five living in unsanitary conditions.

So far this year, 56 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan, compared to the 190 reported last year, according to the United Nations.

The program has been suspended, however, after eight volunteer polio campaign workers have been shot and killed by gunmen in the last two days. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Karachi and Charsadda, but some Islamic extremists believe the immunization program is just a cover for Western espionage, the Associated Press reports. Another health worker was seriously wounded by gunmen outside Peshawar.

Wednesday (Dec. 19) was the final day of a three-day nationwide anti-polio drive. An estimated 5.2 million polio vaccine drops were to be administered during the campaign, according to the BBC.

Opposition to immunization efforts have grown in parts of Pakistan — especially after it was learned learned that a fake hepatitis vaccination program was the cover used by U.S. efforts to locate al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011. Pakistan’s Taliban, in a phomne call to the AP, denied any responsibility for the attacks.

Nigeria and Afghanistan are the other two countries where polio is endemic.

December 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Sept. 14, 2012)

9/11 Around the World

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund

Originally, we were going to go with another photo — also taken on a U.S. naval vessel — but the news this week got us thinking it wasn’t the right thing to do in this turbulent time.

Instead we feature this photo of a 9/11 memorial service on the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York on station with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group in the Gulf of Aden. The photo is part of a Defense Department slide show of 9/11 commemorative ceremonies around the world from  Hawaii to Kyrgyzstan and San Diego to Italy. Here’s another one, showing ceremonies in Puerto Rico, Colorado, Maryland and Afghanistan.

Four Americans were killed this week in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Meanwhile, violent demonstrations are spreading across the Muslim world protesting a bizarre film — produced privately in the U.S. — maligning Islam and the prophet Muhammad. At first it appeared the killings in Libya were part of the wave of anti-American protests sparked by outrage over the film The Innocence of Muslims. Now investigators in Libya and the U.S. suspect it was a terrorist attack that either had nothing to do with the demonstrations or took advantage of the chaos.

The attacks have spurred a political dogfight — in the midst of a U.S. presidential election campaign — about whether it was more important to defend the First Amendment right to free speech or to try convincing an already suspicious and turbulent Arab street that despite a spurious internet video, the United States is no enemy of Islam.

4GWAR thought it was important to take a moment to remember the attacks 11 years ago in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania that killed thousands and touched off what became known as the Global War on Terror.

But we also want to contemplate all the deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, London, Madrid, Mumbai and Texas that have occurred since September 11, 2001. Each suicide bombing and missile strike creates new victims and new enemies. Unfortunately, there are also people around the world willing to take personal or political advantage of each new outrage.

There is still a large cultural knowledge gap between Islamic countries and the West. Until leaders and ordinary people on both sides stop demonizing the foreign and the alien, the body count will continue to rise.

September 14, 2012 at 11:28 am Leave a comment

AF-PAK: Pakistan to End Border Blockade into Afghanistan

U.S. “Apologizes”

Back in January we quoted news reports coming out of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, that it was getting ready to reopen key border crossings used to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Fuel tankers lined up in Pakistan. (State Dept. website)

Those reports were premature, but it looks like Islamabad’s honor has been assuaged and the crossings – closed since NATO troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a friendly fire incident last year – will be reopening soon after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement expressing regret for the November 2011 incident. The July 3 statement recounted a telephone conversation Clinton had with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

“I am pleased that Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that the ground supply lines into Afghanistan are opening,” Clinton statement said.

Without access to supplies transported by truck from cargo ships in Pakistani seaports, much needed fuel and food had to be flown in – across Russian airspace – or trucked much farther from Central Asian countries north of Afghanistan, at an additional cost of $100 million a month.

Clinton said Pakistan would allow the transport of non-lethal supplies (no weapons or ammunition) and a State Department official said the $250 per container fee Pakistan had previously been charging to use the so-called Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) would not rise. Back in January, reports indicated that in additional to a formal apology, Pakistan wanted to raise the rates on each truckload of military supplies to as much as $5,000.

The attack plunged already stormy U.S.-Pakistan relations to an all-time low following a series of incidents including the secret U.S. commando raid into Pakistan to kill al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

The Pakistani soldiers were killed in the confusion after NATO troops on the Afghan side of the border were fired upon from Pakistan and an air raid was called in to drive off the attackers. U.S. and NATO commanders said Pakistani officials told them they had no troops in the area, so NATO helicopters fired on what turned out to be a Pakistani border post – killing two dozen soldiers and injuring many more. Pakistani Army officials denied the NATO version of the incident, claiming the attack was deliberate.

President Obama and other U.S. officials expressed regret but declined to go any further, angering Islamabad, which barred U.S. use of a Pakistani airbase to launch unmanned aircraft attacks on militants and closed the border checkpoints.

Clinton did not use the word apologize in her press statement but her expression of regret apparently satisfied Pakistani officials.

“As the statement makes clear, there were mistakes made on both sides that led to the tragic loss of life, and we are both sorry for those,” Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters yesterday (July 3), adding: “Without parsing the statement, I think the intent here is that we are both sorry for the losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists.”

Relations between the two countries are still far from friendly. The U.S. wants Pakistan to suppress militants associated with the Taliban and al Qaeda in their country – particularly the Haqqani network – who attack Afghanistan; and Pakistan wants the U.S. to cease drone-fired missile strikes in their territory, which they say often kill innocent bystanders, increasing outrage by Pakistanis against Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan (Map courtesy CIA World Factbook)

The United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which includes U.S. and NATO troops, said it welcomed Pakistan’s decision to reopen the GLOC. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, who has been meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, called the move “a demonstration of Pakistan’s desire to help secure a brighter future for both Afghanistan and the region at large.”

July 4, 2012 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

COUNTERRORISM: Pros and Cons of Drone Strikes

Consequences

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – popularly known as drones – to attack and kill al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban insurgents is being questioned again not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan but around the world.

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper. (Air Force photo)

According to polling done by the Pew Research Center, America’s image has slipped with many people around the world because of U.S. Foreign policy – particularly counter terrorism actions like drone strikes. The 21-nation survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project from March 17-April 20 .

In 17 of 20 countries (the U.S. was the 21st) Pew researchers found more than half of those polled disapprove of U.S. drone strikes in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In the U.S., however, 62 percent approve of the unmanned aircraft attacks whether Republican (74 percent), independent (60 percent) or Democrat (58 percent).

Recent drone strikes have stirred up animosity in parts of the Muslim world. Pakistan, in particular, has chafed at what it sees as violations of its sovereignty as well as a tactic that causes civilian casualties.

But U.S. officials say the drones can strike at America’s enemies without putting service members in harm’s way. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was unapologetic in India last week about the U.S. need to defend itself, the Associated Press reported.

A June 4 drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the Afghan border killed a senior leader of al Qaeda – Abu Yahya al-Libi. Following Osama bin Laden’s death last year, U.S. officials said they believed Libi became al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader behind Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri. It was reported that 14 people may have been killed in the attack on Libi.

Meanwhile, 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written to President Obama calling for legal justification of certain drone strikes and warning that “they can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”

In their June 12 letter, the lawmakers – 24 Democrats and two Republicans led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) — said they are concerned about so-called “signature strikes” where the Central Intelligence Agency and Joint Special Operations Command have reportedly been authorized to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence signatures – patterns of behavior that indicate the presence of an important operative or plot against U.S. Interests. An April Washington Post report on the new drone strike authorization was cited in the letter to Obama.

The issue of drones came up today at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) annual conference. Speakers at the Washington think tank’s gathering in Washington discussed U.S. security policy in a changing world.

In response to an audience question, Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter said that a world in which “you can target individuals rather than having to invade countries is probably better … but only if there are very careful rules and institutions around it.”

Anyone can make a drone, she noted, adding: “We do not want a world in which we are saying ‘It’s fine. We can decide who a drone can take out.’ We will suffer enormously” for setting that precedent. Instead, Slaughter, who was the Obama administration’s State Department director of policy planning for two years, said the White House should recognize the need for international rules on the lethal use of drones “even if they restrain us.”

June 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: March 23, 2012

21st Century Meets 12th Century

Defense Dept. photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, U.S. Army

It looks like a U.S. Army armored vehicle has blundered onto the set of an Arabian Nights movie but this is actually a real village square in Afghanistan’s Paktika province near the Pakistani border. If you click on the photo to enlarge the image you can spot a tiny satellite or sat phone dish just to the left of the left-hand tower.

U.S. soldiers use their MRAP (mine protected ambush protected) vehicle to cordon off the square of a small village near Combat Outpost Yosef Khel.  The soldiers helped Afghan forces conduct traffic check points near the village.

March 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm 1 comment

AF-PAK: Pakistan’s Border Blockade May End Soon

Open Sesame?

Pakistan may be getting ready to reopen key border crossings into Afghanistan, ending a blockade imposed after a NATO air attack mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, according to Reuters.

Trucks waiting to get into Afghanistan might be on the move again. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt Russell Gilchrest)

The news service quoted an unidentified “a senior security official” Jan. 19 that two border checkpoints – closed since late November – would be reopened sometime in the future. The official also said that while trucks carrying crucial supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan would be allowed to pass, Pakistan intends to charge a tax or tariff on the incoming cargo – in part to show its continuing displeasure with U.S. and coalition forces’ activities in the troubled border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But U.S. officials say that Islamabad had not contacted Washington about that reported plan. “We have not, as of this moment, had any official communication from the Government of Pakistan on this subject,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Jan. 19.

At least one Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, is reporting that Prime Minister Yosuf Raza Gilani says Pakistan’s parliament will decide when and if to reopen the border to NATO supply trucks.

Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan had been deteriorating since the unannounced U.S. commando raid that killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden last May. That embarrassed the Pakistani military and its intelligence service which had claimed bin Laden was not in the country. Then on Nov. 26, more that two dozen Pakistani troops were killed or wounded in a NATO cross-border airstrike on two outposts.

CIA World Factbook

NATO-led coalition forces said the attack was a mistake due to communication and coordination blunders after NATO troops came under fire from the Pakistani side of the border. But Pakistani public officials– already angered by U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistani territory – claimed the attack was deliberate. The U.S. has expressed regret about the incident but has not apologized.

The border shutdown has forced the U.S. and its NATO allies to transport food, fuel and other supplies via other routes at great cost. The Associated Press, citing a Pentagon report, says it now costs about $104 million a month to move the needed cargo via alternate routes – $87 million more per month than it cost before the Pakistanis closed the border. The alternate routes come down from the north after passing through Russia and Central Asia.

The blockade also backed up hundreds of fuel tankers and other trucks, making them vulnerable to attack by insurgents and terrorists.

January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm 2 comments

AF/PAK: From Bad to Worse (Updated)

Big Mistake, Big Mess

U.S.-Pakistani relations – not in the best of shape for over a year – are going from bad to worse since a NATO airstrike near the Khyber Pass and the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers over the weekend.

Furious Pakistani officials are boycotting an international conference in Bonn, Germany next week to discuss the future of post-war Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO pull out their troops in 2014. U.S. officials say Pakistani participation is crucial in any attempts to secure peace in the region.

CIA World Factbook

One of the things causing outrage in Pakistan and major headaches for coalition forces fighting al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan is a claim by a top Pakistani general leaders that the attack was deliberate. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff denies that.

At best, Pakistani government officials say, the U.S. was negligent in not communicating with them before and during the attack. However, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that NATO officials contacted the Pakistani military about the planned attack and got the go-ahead from officials who did not know their troops were in the area.

Now the Pakistanis say the U.S. and/or NATO gave them the wrong location of the planned air strikes and went ahead without Pakistani clearance. The AP story is here.

Pakistani officials closed major overland routes into Afghanistan, halting much-needed fuel, food and other supplies that is moved by truck from Pakistan. The trucks, which are stacking up on the Pakistani border are vulnerable to attack, which has happened in the past when Pakistan closed cross-border points. There is also concern that Pakistan, which has lost thousands of troops and police in battles with its own insurgents, might end its counter insurgency efforts out of frustration that it’s sacrifices in the war of terror are under appreciated by the allies, according to Reuters.

According to news reports, a joint NATO-Afghan force operating along the border came under heavy rocket fire apparently emanating from Pakistan. The ground troops called for air support and jets and helicopter gunships fired rockets, which struck two Pakistani Army outposts – killing 24 soldiers.

The U.N.’s International Security Assistance Force – under which U.S. And NATO forces are fighting in Afghanistan – is conducting an investigation into the incident, as is the U.S..

U.S. and NATO officials have called the incident a tragic mistake but the White House has not apologized pending the investigation’s outcome. Meanwhile, politicians in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, grow angrier every day. They’re still steamed over being left out of the loop when U.S. Commandos killed al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden in secret raid into Pakistan last May. Pakistan’s military commander has told his troops they can return fire if attacked again. And there have been anti-American demonstrations across Pakistan, some even calling for retaliatory military attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

But relations between the U.S. and Pakistan – a major player in the Afghan war – have been rocky for over a year. A CIA contractor killed two Pakistani civilians in what may – or may not have been a kidnap-robbery attempt. And U.S. military officials have accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agency of supporting Taliban attacks against U.S. troops.

December 2, 2011 at 12:44 am Leave a comment

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