Monday, March 12, 2012

345 India & Pakistan take sides in Afghan civil War - no resolution without solution to Kashmir conflict

(1) India & Pakistan take sides in Afghan civil War - no resolution without solution to Kashmir conflict
(2) Russian-US relations: Wooing the West
(3) Retired military officers cash in as well-paid consultants
(4) Many Iraqi refugees in US now in dire straits

(1) India & Pakistan take sides in Afghan civil War - no resolution without solution to Kashmir conflict

From: Eric Walberg <> Date: 11.07.2010 08:58 PM

This is no Nato game but Pakistan's proxy war with its brother in the south

The Taliban's refusal to talk underlines the west's irrelevance in Afghanistan: only the regional players can deliver lasting peace, Thursday 1 July 2010 20.30 BST

Last month I had a private dinner in Kabul with Amrullah Saleh, who at that time was President Hamid Karzai's security chief. Saleh is a tough, burly and intimidating Tajik with a piercing, unblinking stare, who rose to prominence as a mujahideen protege of Ahmed Shah Massood, the legendary Lion of the Panjshir.

Under Massood, Saleh was one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan before 9/11, and he brought these credentials to his job after the US conquest, hunting down and interrogating any Taliban he could find, with little regard for notions of human rights. The Taliban and their backers in Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, regarded him as their fiercest enemy – something he was enormously proud of – and at dinner he spoke at length of his frustration with the ineffectiveness of Karzai's government in taking the fight to the Taliban, and the degree to which the ISI was still managing to aid their pocket insurgents in Waziristan and Baluchistan.

It is a measure of how little the west still understands the conflict in Afghanistan that news of Saleh's sacking last month merited so much less attention than last week's sacking of General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal's departure reflects no important alteration in strategy, but the sacking of Saleh gave notice of a major and ominous change of direction by Karzai. As Bruce Riedel, Obama's Afpak adviser, said when the news broke: "Karzai's decision to sack Saleh and [Hanif] Atmar [the head of the interior ministry] has worried me more than any other development, because it means that Karzai is already planning for a post-American Afghanistan."

Since then the nature of Karzai's plans have become clearer: it has emerged that the head of the ISI, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, has secretly been visiting Karzai; on Monday General Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army, will arrive in Kabul, presumably to confirm whatever deal has been agreed. It seems the Pakistanis are encouraging an accommodation between Karzai and the ISI-sponsored jihadi network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, which would give over much of the Pashtun south to Haqqani but preserve Karzai in power in Kabul. The US has been party to none of this, and administration officials are apparently surprised and alarmed.

The problem remains that we continue to view the situation in Afghanistan through western eyes, as a battle between the US and Nato against al-Qaida and the Taliban – an impression William Hague's speech yesterday underlined. But this has long ceased to be the main issue, and British troops are now caught up in a complex local and regional conflict that has completely changed the nature of the war.

Internally, the war is viewed primarily as a Pashtun rebellion against a Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara-dominated regime, which has only a fig leaf of Pashtun window-dressing in the person of Karzai. For although Karzai is a Pashtun, under his watch Nato installed the Northern Alliance in Kabul and drove out of power Afghanistan's Pashtun majority.

In this way we unwittingly took sides in the Afghan civil war that began in the 1970s – siding with the north against the south, the town against the country, secularism against Islam, and the Tajiks against the Pashtuns. We installed a government and trained up an army that in many ways discriminated against the Pashtun majority, and whose top-down constitution allowed for little federalism or regional representation. No matter how much western liberals may dislike the Taliban, they are in many ways the authentic voice of rural Pashtun conservatism, whose wishes are ignored by the government in Kabul and who are largely excluded from power.

Externally the war has now turned, like Kashmir, into an Indo-Pak proxy war in which Nato is really a bit player. Under Karzai, India has established increasing political and economic influence in Afghanistan, opened four regional consulates and provided reconstruction assistance amounting to about $662m. The Pakistani military establishment, already terrified of India turning into a new economic superpower, has always believed it would be suicide to accept an Indian presence in what they regard as their strategic Afghan backyard, and is completely paranoid about the still small Indian presence, rather as the British used to feel about Russians in Afghanistan in the days of the Great Game.

According to Indian diplomatic sources there are still less than 3,600 Indians in Afghanistan, almost all of them businessmen and contract workers; there are only 10 Indian diplomatic officers as opposed to nearly 150 in the UK embassy. Yet The horror of being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker has led the ISI to risk its internal security and coherence – as well as Pakistan's relationship with its main strategic ally, the US – in order to keep the Taliban in play and its leadership under watch and ISI patronage in Quetta. Indeed the degree to which the ISI has been controlling the Afghan Taliban has only just emerged. A report by Matt Waldman of the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard, based on interviews with 10 former Taliban commanders, documented how the ISI "orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences" the Taliban, and that the ISI are even "represented as participants or observers on the Taliban supreme leadership council, the Quetta Shura".

Karzai's new deal with the Pakistanis, and his obvious intention to try to reach some accommodation with the Haqqani wing of the Taliban through Pakistan's mediation, therefore represents a major strategic victory for the Pakistani military and a serious diplomatic defeat for India – though it remains to be seen if the ISI really can deliver the Taliban, who today were proclaiming their unwillingness to negotiate with Karzai. It also remains to be seen whether the Pakistani military can defend their own country from the jihadi Frankenstein's monster they have created.

This dangerous new situation does offer some opportunities. Until now India, relishing its ever-growing international status, has understandably and angrily resisted any linkage between an Afghan settlement and Indo-Pak peace, which would involve finding a final agreement on Kashmir. Yet the linkage is already there, and there are many clear benefits for India if it is prepared to accept ground realities and negotiate.

The stage is now open for a deal whereby India could agree to minimise its presence in Afghanistan – which it could accept as Pakistan's sphere of influence – in return for Pakistan withdrawing its longstanding sponsorship of the Kashmir jihad, which it could accept as India's domain. To satisfy Nato, an undertaking by Pakistan to drive al-Qaida from the region would also need to be included.

Such a deal would certainly be difficult to sell domestically. There would be strong resistance by the many hawks in both India and Pakistan. Yet such an understanding would be the best and possibly only hope for a regional peace that might allow Afghans, Kashmiris, Pakistanis and Indians some chance of a stable future and to concentrate on the regional issues that really matter – feeding and educating the largest undernourished population in the world.

The truth is that a Nato diplomatic offensive aimed at selling this solution is likely to have a far more positive effect than any amount of counterproductive military surges and drone strikes. For in calming the dangerous paranoia of the Pakistan military lies the only realistic chance of regional peace – and the war is likely to continue until the ISI can be persuaded that its own jihadis are a far bigger threat to Pakistan than that posed by India, its South Asian big brother over its border.

(2) Russian-US relations: Wooing the West

by Eric Walberg    Tuesday, 06 July 2010 04:10

The Russian leader has re-enacted the famous American goodwill tour of his predecessor a half century ago, but faces the same Cold War scheming. Will his attempts to befriend Europe have more success, wonders Eric Walberg

The past two years have witnessed a much more pliable Russia, retreating from the fiery rhetoric of Putin concerning NATO, the war in Afghanistan and America ’s targetting of Iran. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has turned Russian foreign policy around, playing to US. He signed the new START treaty, agreed to transit war materiel to Afghanistan, and supports US-sponsored sanctions against Iran. To crown his charm offensive, he made a photo-op visit to the US last month to meet not only his “reset” friend in the White House, but business leaders such as Apple CEO Steve Jobs in Silicon Valley, much like his predecessor Nikita Khrushchev rubbed shoulders with American farmers a half century ago.

At the same time, Russia is pursuing a less spectacular tack, one which is perhaps more important in the long term, to win over Europe. This process began under ex-president Vladimir Putin and is now gathering momentum. Integration into Europe is the name of the game. The proposed new European security treaty unveiled last year was a serious offer. The new EU-Russia Political and Security Committee, chaired jointly by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, announced that Trans-Dniestr may soon see the withdrawal of Russian troops, there since 1991, to be replaced by a joint European-Russian peacekeeping contingent. The European Parliament last month approved a resolution for visa-free travel with Russia. As the US flounders in Afghanistan, the accommodation with Europe becomes a reality.

So it is important to see the current Russian wooing of America as part of a two-track policy: to get Europe to continue to improve relations, it is necessary to keep the prickly Americans onside. Top on the agenda is ratification of START, now being debated in both US and Russian legislatures. Both Medvedev and United States Barack Obama have staked their careers on getting the treaty ratified. Medvedev’s recent trip was intended to show his unthreatening boyish demeanour, to lavish praise on US high tech, and disarm Cold Warriors in the Senate who threaten to derail the treaty. His allies even include Henry Kissinger who praised the treaty. Medvedev warned if it is not ratified simultaneously, the two countries would revert to some kind of Soviet past, when Russia was “cheated” by US non-ratification.

Russia’s accession to Washington’s demand for new UN sanctions against Iran could be dismissed as a meaningless gesture if it wasn’t for the subsequent cancellation of the S-300 missile contract. Russia signed the contract in 2005, when its relations with the US were at an all-time low after US-supported colour revolutions in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Ukraine. Russia finished assembling the missile systems in 2009 but has now admitted openly that it was cancelling the agreement due to pressure from Washington. The cancellation of the contract was a coup for Washington, and a blow to those who have come to expect Russia to take an independent role in world crises. It is also an expensive move, costing Russia up to $400m in a forfeit penalty, in addition to the $800m value of the sale, and could come back to haunt Medvedev.

It came as a surprise to many. As late as April, Mikhail Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said that Russia was planning to deliver the missiles. Even after the 9 June UN Security Council vote approving the new sanctions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said “Russia is in no way bound by the UN Security Council resolution in relation to supplies of the S-300 air-defense systems to Iran, and work on that contract is underway.” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov supported the deal to the end, saying on 11 June the decision to cancel would require a decree from the president.

Commentators in the Russian media have been highly critical. Defence Ministry adviser Ruslan Pukhov said that Iran, which has been buying $500 million worth of arms from Russia annually, could now turn to China for its future weapons and military equipment needs. Iran has already cancelled plans to purchase Russian civilian aircraft. “ Russia is losing the whole Middle East arms market because it wants to kowtow before America,” commentator Alexei Pushkov said. Viktor Ilyukhin, a communist State Duma deputy and former prosecutor, defended the sale, saying, “Over centuries of its co-existence with other nations, Iran has never initiated a war against any of its neighbours.”

So it was crucial that Medvedev’s trip to Silicon Valley show that his pro-American reset would bear fruit. He chummed around with Obama and met business leaders, calling for US investment in Russia, much like Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev did a half century ago. Little did he know that the FBI had already informed Obama that it was about to bust a supposed Russian spy ring. What should have been a chance for Obama to rejoice at how thoroughly reset the reset button was, with Russian-American smiles on all fronts, became instead an embarrassing fiasco. Ten alleged Russian agents, mall-loving suburbanites one and all, were charged with “deep cover” intelligence gathering two days after Medvedev completed his tour. That it was intended to scuttle Russian-US rapprochement is shown by the fact that, having tracked the “spy ring” for a decade and touting the operation as the biggest in US history, the FBI couldn’t point to one piece of high security information changing hands.

The operation can only be interpreted as a “deep cover” prank, intended to keep the Russians off-balance, despite their compliance with US demands on all fronts. The whole affair, from photo-ops in Silicon Valley to faux intrigue eerily recalls Khrushchev’s two-week US tour in September 1959 and the spy scandal that came in its wake. The Cold War was very much on. The voluble Khrushchev, eager for peace and the chance to emulate the American Dream, visited farmers, night clubs, chatted with Marilyn Monroe on a Hollywood set, charming and disarming his foes.

But when he called for disarmament the stock market lost $1.7 billion in a flash. Detente was not in the interests of either Wall Street or the Pentagon, so it came as no surprise that -- unbeknownst to president Eisenhower -- U2 spy flights over Russia resumed a few months later and one Gary Powers was shot down in May 1960, cancelling any residual goodwill. Eisenhower had been tricked, and furious, he used his farewell speech to try to warn the American people of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power in the military-industrial complex”. But too late.

History is replaying itself in spades. Medvedev wrestles his doubters in Moscow, sacrifices good relations with Iran, lets the Taliban know Russia is still very much its enemy, gives the US its Starwars, much as Khrushchev abandoned China, put Third World revolution on the backburner, and agreed to ban nuclear weapons tests. All in the interests of world peace and improving the lot of the Motherland. Only to be made a laughing stock by a US establishment not willing to give an inch.

When asked in Riga last month about the purpose of stationing 100 US Patriot missiles 80 kms from the Russian border in Poland, NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen said, “I would urge Russia to forget old Cold War rhetoric.” What he really meant, of course, was: “Stop asking questions, accept whatever NATO does and unconditionally support the alliance on key issues such as Iran and Afghanistan,” says Alexei Pushkov, director of the Institute of Contemporary International Problems in Moscow. Putin pointed this out and was condemned as a crypto-Cold Warrior.

Now Medvedev is trying to say it more politely. But his softer approach falls on deaf ears. Or is taken as a sign of weakness. Current Russian foreign policy shows it is eminently possible to find accommodation on all issues. There is no need to dismember or otherwise threaten Russia. However, American hawks need it as an enemy, preferably a weak, isolated one, not a strong member of an independent Europe. This is what scares them and they will continue to scheme to prevent it.

It appears that Obama, like his legendary predecessor, genuinely wants to do good -- while maintaining US hegemony in the world, of course. But he has been tripped up at every step. Will we soon have a replay of Ike’s farewell speech? And will Medvedev too suffer the sad fate of the hapless Nikita in the Kremlin?

(3) Retired military officers cash in as well-paid consultants

From: Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics Earth Sciences) <> Date: 19.11.2009 07:53 PM

By Tom Vanden Brook, Ken Dilanian and Ray Locker, USA TODAY, Nov. 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Six months after Marine Lt. Gen. Gary McKissock retired in 2002, he did what many other ex-military leaders do: He joined the board of directors of a defense contractor, a company doing business with his former service.

McKissock also had a second job. The Marines brought him back as an adviser, at double the rate of pay he made on active duty. Since 2005, the Marines have awarded McKissock contracts worth $1.2 million, in addition to his military pension of about $119,000 a year.

McKissock is one of at least 158 retired admirals and generals the Pentagon has hired to offer advice under an unusual arrangement. Most of the retired officers, one to four stars in rank, have been paid hundreds of dollars an hour by the military even as they worked for companies seeking Defense Department contracts, a USA TODAY investigation found. That's in addition to pensions of $100,000 to $200,000 a year for officers with 30 or more years of service.

MILITARY MENTORS: 158 retired generals consulting for the Pentagon

As "senior mentors," as the military calls them, the retired officers help run war games and offer advice to former colleagues. Some mentors make as much as $330 an hour as part-time government advisers, more than triple what their rate of pay was as high-level, active-duty officers. They earn more — far more, several mentors said in interviews — as consultants and board members to defense companies.

Retired generals have taken jobs with defense contractors for decades, reaping rewards for themselves and their companies through their contacts and insights. But the recent growth in the use of mentors has created a new class of individuals who enjoy even more access than a typical retired officer, and they get paid by the military services while doing so. Most are compensated both by taxpayers and industry, with little to prevent their private employers from using knowledge they obtain as mentors in seeking government work.

Nothing is illegal about the arrangements. In fact, there are no Pentagon-wide rules specific to the various mentor programs, which differ from service to service.

Based on interviews and a review of public records, USA TODAY found:

• Of the 158 retired generals and admirals identified as having worked for the military as senior mentors, 80% had financial ties to defense contractors, including 29 who were full-time executives of defense companies. Those with industry ties have earned salaries, fees or stock options as consultants, board members or full-time employees of defense firms.

• Mentors are paid from about $200 to $340 an hour, plus expenses — many times the rate of pay for active-duty generals, who typically make $170,000 to $216,000 a year, including a housing allowance.

• Mentors are hired as independent contractors and are not subject to government ethics rules that would apply if they were hired as part-time federal employees. They don't have to disclose, either to the military or the public, the identities of their clients. Mentors are not barred from lobbying the same officers they are advising, from advertising their military adviser role on company websites, or from taking commercial advantage of insights gleaned through their government work.

• Mentors operate outside public scrutiny. Although the services have released broad pay rates, most won't say how much individual mentors have been paid, and one, the Missile Defense Agency, declined to release any names. Other services released some names but couldn't say the lists were complete. USA TODAY identified many mentors by scouring military documents and other public records.

• In some cases, mentors also work for weapons-makers who have an interest in the military planning the mentors are assisting. A Marines exercise last year, which explored how to launch operations from ships, employed mentors who also had financial relationships with companies that sell products designed to aid those operations.

"This setup invites abuse," says Janine Wedel, a George Mason University public policy professor and author of a forthcoming book on government contracting. "Everyone in this story is fat and happy. Everyone, of course, except the public, which has virtually no way of knowing what's going on, much less holding these guys to account." Iraqi refugees struggle in US. "If we could go back to Iraq, we would"

(4) Many Iraqi refugees in US now in dire straits
From: "World View" <> Date: Thu, 09 Jul 2009 00:59:16 -0000

Resettlement agencies urge an overhaul of America's 30-year-old refugee policy.

By Patrik Jonsson and Kristen Chick

The Christian Science Monitor
June 18, 2009

Atlanta; and Lynn, Mass. -

It hasn't been smooth sailing for the thousands of Iraqi refugees entering America's resettlement program. Only 11 percent are finding work this year, compared with 80 percent two years ago. Many are frustrated as benefits dwindle, cash runs out, and eviction notices pile up.

With such findings in hand, nonprofit resettlement agencies like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are urging this week an overhaul of America's three-decade-old refugee policy.

Reforms should include more cash assistance from the US government to the refugees, the IRC says. The government should also offer a uniform and more substantial package of benefits, the IRC says.

Refugees "never imagined that they would be struggling to survive here in America," says Alaa Naji, a refugee from Baghdad who now works in Atlanta for the IRC. "They expected more from a country that was involved in the violence that destroyed our land, homes, and loved ones."

Complaints about the handling of refugees have risen as the United States has tried to welcome more Iraqi refugees. Until 2006, only 202 Iraqis had come to the US, partly because of security concerns. In the past three years, 25,659 Iraqi refugees have arrived.

Some argue that US officials have oversold refugees' prospects. "You'll see there's a universal theme to [Iraqis'] complaints, which is that they were told they were going to have a great life, and they're completely shocked when they're given jobs like washing cars," says Ann Corcoran, a Washington County, Md., farmer who runs a critical blog, Refugee Resettlement Watch.

It's often hard for people to reconcile themselves to the reality of life as a refugee, says Kay Bellor, IRC's vice president for US programs. Many refugees are highly educated, and they find it difficult to work in menial jobs and give up their earlier lifestyle, she says.

This spring, as a stopgap measure, the State Department released $5 million in emergency rent stipends to help refugees on the verge of eviction.

Yasmin and Othman left Iraq last fall to start a new life in Lynn, Mass. Like many refugees, they had imagined a new life – a good one – for themselves and their four children. But now they live on state assistance and food stamps.

The family's small, three-bedroom apartment is dingy, despite their attempts to scrub it. On a bookshelf, photographs of the family in their garden in Iraq remind them of better days.

Othman was twice offered a job as a packer at a bread company, IRC officials say, but he rejected it because he wanted to work as a welder. Othman insists that the packer job wouldn't pay enough to support his family, and he wants to work in his field.

"We came here because we had no safety or security because of the US war in Iraq," Yasmin says. "But we didn't think people were allowed to live like this in America.... If we could go back to Iraq, we would."

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