PENTAGON “EARLYBIRD” NEWS

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 C U R R E N T   N E W S


E A R L Y   B I R D

January 22, 2010

 

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GATES TRIP

    1. Gates Says Taliban Must Take Legitimate Afghan Role
    (NYTimes.com)…Elisabeth Bumiller
    The United States recognizes that the Taliban are now part of the political fabric of Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here on Friday, but they must be prepared to play a legitimate role before they can reconcile with the Afghan government. 
    2. Gates Stresses Common Cause With Pakistan
    (Houston Chronicle)…Anne Gearan, Associated Press
    The United States has no designs on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or “a single inch of Pakistani soil,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Pakistani military officers Friday, adding that fighting terrorists along the Afghan border is in Pakistan’s interest as well as Washington’s. 
    3. Gates Strives To Build Trust With Pakistan Military
    (Reuters.com)…Phil Stewart, Reuters
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to build bridges with the next generation of Pakistan’s military leaders on Friday and end a “trust deficit” that he said has hampered cooperation against Islamist militancy. 
    4. Gates Regrets Past ‘Grave Mistakes’ In Pakistan
    (Yahoo.com)…Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse
    …Speaking at the National Defense University in Islamabad, he said a US ban on military contacts in the 1990s over Pakistan’s nuclear programme undermined a bond between the armed forces and created a “trust deficit” that lingered. He vowed the United States was “prepared to invest whatever time and energy it takes to forge and sustain a genuine, lasting partnership” with Pakistan. 
    5. Robert Gates Brings Praise And Pressure To Pakistan
    (Los Angeles Times)…Julian E. Barnes and Mark Magnier
    The Defense secretary urges the government to keep after militants as he tries to reassure Pakistanis about U.S. intentions in the region and seeks to dispel conspiracy theories. 
    6. Gates Reassures, Courts Islamabad
    (Wall Street Journal)…Yochi J. Dreazen
    …Pakistan’s top military spokesman signaled that no new offensives were forthcoming. Speaking to reporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Pakistan wouldn’t consider pushing into North Waziristan for at least six more months because its overstretched military needed to first consolidate its gains elsewhere in the country. 
    7. Gates Presses Pakistan On Taliban Fight
    (Washington Post)…Craig Whitlock
    …Gates, on his first trip to Pakistan in three years, praised Islamabad for launching a ground offensive in South Waziristan in October and for deploying 140,000 troops along the Afghan border. But he said Pakistan needed to crack down equally against all factions of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups. 
    8. U.S. Offers Pakistan Drones To Urge Cooperation
    (NYTimes.com)…Elisabeth Bumiller
    The United States will provide a dozen unarmed aerial spy drones to Pakistan for the first time as part of an effort to encourage Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting Islamic militants on the Afghanistan border, American defense officials said Thursday. 
    9. No Guarantee Against Repeat Of Mumbai-Like Attacks, Gates Told
    (Dawn (Pakistan))…Baqir Sajjad Syed and Iftikhar A. Khan
    …During his meeting with President Zardari, security situation in the region, drone attacks, payment of CSF arrears, fight against militancy, drug trafficking, the new US screening regime and strengthening of Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies were discussed. 

HAITI

    10. Haiti Effort To Get A Boost From Added Airfields, Seaport Reopening
    (Los Angeles Times)…Scott Kraft and Ken Ellingwood
    U.S. military officials in Haiti said Thursday that the use of three additional airfields and the capital’s seaport would boost of the flow of food, water and medical attention to earthquake victims — at least half a million of whom, according to one count, are scattered in more than 400 camps around Port-au-Prince. 
    11. Throngs Swarm Around Marines Of Mercy
    (USA Today)…Mark D. Faram, Navy Times
    U.S. Marines headed farther into the western villages of Haiti on Thursday to deliver food and water to people who have seen very little as the government announced it would move 400,000 people living in camps to remote areas. 
    13. In Midst Of Suffering, A Surprise: New Life
    (Baltimore Sun)…Robert Little
    In a day filled with still more moans and cries, broken bones and infected wounds from Haitian earthquake victims, the USNS Comfort got a surprise Thursday: a 4-pound, 5ounce preemie named Esther. 
    14. On The Bataan In Haiti, Need Arrives In Waves
    (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)…Corinne Reilly
    …When the Bataan left Norfolk Naval Station for Haiti eight days ago, its doctors and corpsmen knew they’d be treating casualties of the magnitude-7 earthquake of Jan. 12. But they weren’t expecting so many so fast. 
    15. Air Force Expands Help For Haiti
    (WarIsBoring.com)…David Axe
    The Air Force Reserve has expanded its support infrastructure for Haiti-bound planes at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, added staff to its air-traffic management cells in Arizona and Florida and is currently feeding a steady stream of C-5s, C-17s and C-130s into Port-Au-Prince, supported by KC-10 and KC-135 tankers. 

AFGHANISTAN

    16. Facing Afghan Anger, U.S. To Curb Night Raids
    (Philadelphia Inquirer)…Kim Gamel, Associated Press
    NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan plans to tighten the rules on nighttime raids on private homes in search of insurgents, even if it means losing some tactical advantage, to curb rising public anger over those operations. 
    17. Loyalties Of Those Killed In Afghan Raid Remain Unclear
    (New York Times)…Dexter Filkins
    A group of American and Afghan soldiers swooped into a village in a Taliban-heavy district early Thursday, fired their guns and came away. And in a scene repeated often here, one side cried murder and the other side claimed success. 
    18. Plan On Hold For Afghan Militias To Fight Taliban
    (Washington Post)…Greg Jaffe and Rajiv Chandrasekaran
    The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and senior Afghan officials have resisted moving forward with a bold and potentially risky initiative to support local militias in Afghanistan that are willing to defend their villages against insurgents, according to U.S. officials. 
    19. Insurgent Hints At Peace Plan
    (Wall Street Journal)…Yaroslav Trofimov
    One of the three main leaders of the Afghan insurgency, mercurial warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has a long history of switching sides, and once fought against his current Taliban allies. 
    20. Kabul Fights Back In Propaganda War
    (Wall Street Journal)…Yaroslav Trofimov
    The propaganda war between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban has just escalated, as each side offers starkly different accounts of Monday’s insurgent attacks on central Kabul. 
    21. Afghan General Hopes U.S. Forces Will Stay Longer
    (San Diego Union-Tribune)…Jeanette Steele
    Afghan army Brig. Gen. Muhaiuddin Ghori responded to a reporter’s question via an interpreter yesterday at a news conference at Camp Pendleton’s Staff NCO Club. 

DETAINEES

    22. Panel On Guantanamo Backs Indefinite Detention For Some
    (Washington Post)…Peter Finn
    A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials. 
    23. Guantanamo Closure Still A Long Way Off
    (Boston Globe)…Devlin Barrett, Associated Press
    …As one of his very first acts as president, Obama signed an executive order to close the military prison within a year. The one-year mark arrives today, and he will miss it by a wide margin, probably a year or more. He has not offered a new deadline. 
    24. In The Loop
    (Washington Post)…Al Kamen
    Military Judge Susan G. Crawford sent around an e-mail the other day to friends and colleagues saying she intended to leave the Office of Military Commissions — where she decided which detainees go to trial in a military tribunal. 

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

    25. Draft Pentagon Review Calls For ‘Hard Choices’
    (Reuters.com)…Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
    A major review of Pentagon programs focuses on the U.S. military’s commitment to winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reforming how it buys weapons, according to a draft summary obtained by Reuters. 
    26. Pentagon Taps Career Navy Executive To Dissolve NSPS
    (GovExec.com)…Alyssa Rosenberg
    The Pentagon has tapped a Navy career senior executive to wind down the National Security Personnel System and to design a new performance management system for its civilian employees. 
    27. Health Problems Cause Of Most Evacuations
    (Washington Times)…Unattributed
    American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were more likely to be medically evacuated for health problems such as a bad back than for combat injuries, a new study says. 

ARMY

    28. Thriving Military Recruitment Program Blocked
    (New York Times)…Julia Preston
    A highly successful program by the armed forces to recruit skilled immigrants who live in this country temporarily has run into a roadblock, leaving thousands of potential recruits in limbo. 
    29. Army Top Doc: No Clues To Violence In Hasan File
    (USA Today)…Gregg Zoroya
    In the wake of a mass shooting allegedly by a military psychiatrist, the Army’s top doctor acknowledged his service needs to improve how it manages medical officers, including using more candor in reviewing their officers’ performance. 

PAKISTAN

    31. Drone Reportedly Killed Filipino In Pakistan
    (New York Times)…Pir Zubair Shah
    A militant belonging to Abu Sayyaf, the Islamist separatist group fighting the government in the Philippines, was killed in a recent drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to a Pakistani intelligence official and a local television report. 

IRAQ

    32. Barred Politicians Mostly Secular, Iraqi Says
    (New York Times)…Nada Bakri
    The two biggest secular coalitions were hit hardest by this month’s decision to bar about 500 candidates from parliamentary elections in March, a top election official said Thursday, as efforts to resolve what has become a political crisis intensified. 

MIDEAST

    34. Al Qaeda’s Deep Tribal Ties Make Yemen A Terror Hub
    (Wall Street Journal)…Charles Levinson and Margaret Coker
    In nearly a decade of rebuilding its terror network here, al Qaeda has put down deep roots, a move that is now complicating U.S.-backed efforts to battle the group. 
    35. Yemen Tightens Visa Rules To Deter Militants
    (Boston Globe)…Associated Press
    Yemen will stop issuing visas to foreign visitors upon arrival to prevent Islamic militants from sneaking in to train with an Al Qaeda offshoot that has established a stronghold in the country, officials said yesterday. 
    36. Russia To Start Up Reactor This Year
    (Washington Post)…Reuters
    Russia this year will start up the reactor at Iran’s long-delayed Bushehr nuclear power plant, the head of Russia’s state nuclear corporation said Thursday. 

EUROPE

    37. Poland To Deploy U.S. Missiles Near Russia
    (New York Times)…Judy Dempsey
    Three months after the United States announced a reformulated missile-defense plan for Poland, the Polish defense minister has announced that American surface-to-air missiles will be deployed near Russian soil. 

ASIA/PACIFIC

    39. Taiwan Military Plane To Land In US, Testing China
    (Reuters.com)…Ralph Jennings, Reuters
    A Taiwan military plane carrying aid for quake-hit Haiti will be allowed to land in the United States for the first time, a U.S. official said on Friday, a move which could anger the island’s political rival China. 

BUSINESS

    40. Firm To Remove Bible References From Gun Sights
    (New York Times)…Erik Eckholm
    Bowing to Pentagon concerns and an international outcry, a Michigan arms company said Thursday that it would immediately stop embossing references to New Testament Scriptures on rifle sights it sells the military. 

OPINION

    42. The Doomsday Clock Keeps Ticking
    (Los Angeles Times)…Lawrence M. Krauss
    Governments must change nuclear policy, but they won’t find the political will unless the public demands it. 
    43. Doing A Disservice To Women Who Serve
    (Baltimore Sun)…Lawrence J. Korb and Jessica Arons
    They are denied the array of reproductive health care options civilians take for granted. 
    44. Sunnis And Iraq’s Election
    (New York Times)…Editorial
    We had hoped that the March 7 parliamentary elections would prove the growing maturity of Iraq’s fragile democracy and set the country on a stable path as American combat troops get ready for this summer’s planned withdrawal. Instead, the process unfolding is disgracefully unfair and roiling dangerous sectarian tensions. 
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NYTimes.com
January 23, 2010

By Elisabeth Bumiller

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The United States recognizes that the Taliban are now part of the political fabric of Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here on Friday, but they must be prepared to play a legitimate role before they can reconcile with the Afghan government.

That means, Mr. Gates said, that the Taliban must participate in elections, not oppose education and not assassinate local officials. “The question is whether the Taliban at some point in this process is ready to help build a 21st century Afghanistan or whether they still just want to kill people,” Mr. Gates said.

The defense secretary made his remarks in an interview with Pakistani journalists at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson. Mr. Gates was on the second day of a two-day visit to the country.

American officials have given qualified support to a proposed Afghan initiative to give jobs, security and social benefits to Taliban followers who defect. Mr. Gates has said there could be a surge of such followers willing to be integrated into Afghan society, but he has voiced skepticism about whether the Taliban leadership is ready to work peacefully with the Afghan government.





“The question is, what do the Taliban want to make out of Afghanistan?” Mr. Gates told the journalists. “When they tried before, we saw want they wanted to make, and it was a desert, culturally and in every other way.”

Gates Says Taliban Must Take Legitimate Afghan Role

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Houston Chronicle
January 22, 2010

By Anne Gearan, Associated Press

ISLAMABAD — The United States has no designs on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or “a single inch of Pakistani soil,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Pakistani military officers Friday, adding that fighting terrorists along the Afghan border is in Pakistan’s interest as well as Washington’s.

“We have enemies in common along the border, but we also have many other interests in common,” Gates said, and the Pakistani military has choices to make about its resources and focus just as the U.S. armed forces have done.

Addressing the legacy of mistrust and what he called an “organized propaganda campaign” to misrepresent U.S. intentions, Gates used carefully calibrated phrasing to tick off some of the allegations against the United States in wide circulation in Pakistan.

“I fully understand why some of you may be skeptical about the U.S. commitment to Pakistan,” Gates told officers at Pakistan’s National Defense University.

Many in his audience came of professional age in the 1990s, when the United States had cut off military ties to Pakistan and largely ignored the growth of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The United States wants Pakistan to take on Taliban militants who use its territory as a refuge, but Gates’ rhetoric on the subject during two days of talks in the Pakistani capital was notably mild.

He said he was deeply impressed with Pakistan’s military offensive against militants within its borders.

“The leadership will make the decisions” about when or whether they are going to do something. “That’s just fine with me,” Gates said during an interview with Pakistani and U.S. journalists.

Asked whether the U.S. was winning in the long battle against al-Qaida terrorism, Gates said the United States has made progress but hasn’t won yet. He said al-Qaida and what he calls a syndicate of affiliated groups are less capable of large-scale, coordinated attacks than they once were and in many cases their leadership has been killed or captured.

The Obama administration has taken a softer tone with Pakistan in recent months, praising the country’s unprecedented assault on militants inside its borders and dropping public appeals for Pakistan to focus on the militants along its western border.

In his speech to military officers, Gates said the U.S. seeks no military bases in the country and has no desire to control Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

“The United States does not covet a single inch of Pakistani soil,” Gates said.

The Pakistani army launched a major ground offensive against the Pakistani Taliban’s main stronghold near the Afghan border in mid-October, triggering a wave of retaliatory violence across the country that has killed more than 600 people.

Washington believes Pakistani pressure on militants staging cross-border attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan is critical to success in Afghanistan as it sends an additional 30,000 troops to the country this year.

In meetings Thursday with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the country’s army chief and others, Gates called the antiterror operations a success so far, “and he acknowledged to all of them that we realize that has come with a great deal of sacrifice for the military,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said following the sessions.

“We are not trying to prescribe a timeline by which they must do things,” Morrell said.

The Pakistani army said Thursday it cannot expand its offensive against militants for at least six months, after time to consolidate gains made against militants who primarily target Pakistan. Remarks from the Army’s chief spokesman did not rule out the offensive that would more directly benefit the United States.

“We are not talking years,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told reporters traveling with Gates. “Six months to a year” would be needed before Pakistan could consolidate the gains it has made against militants in other parts of the country and then consider going farther, he said.

Gates Stresses Common Cause With Pakistan

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Reuters.com
January 22, 2010

By Phil Stewart, Reuters

ISLAMABAD — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to build bridges with the next generation of Pakistan’s military leaders on Friday and end a “trust deficit” that he said has hampered cooperation against Islamist militancy.

Speaking at Pakistan’s most prestigious military academy, the National Defence University, Gates said distrust between the allies had been compounded by an organized propaganda campaign orchestrated by their common enemy.

Gates said he had been in government when the United States made a “grave mistake” by abandoning Afghanistan and cutting defense ties with Pakistan after U.S.- and Pakistani-backed Afghan guerrillas drove Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989.

“That is largely the reason for a very real, and very understandable, trust deficit – one that has made it more difficult for us to work together to confront the common threat of extremism,” he said.

Gates arrived in Pakistan on Thursday, urging Pakistan to root out Afghan Taliban factions based in its northwestern border enclaves from where they have been orchestrating an intensified insurgency in Afghanistan.

But Gates has been careful not to repeat the usual U.S. call for Pakistan to “do more” in the fight against militants, a demand that has infuriated Pakistan which has lost about 2,000 soldiers fighting militants.

Islamabad has mounted big offensives against Pakistani Taliban factions attacking the state, but has resisted U.S. pressure to go after Afghan Taliban in border enclaves who do not strike in Pakistan but cross the border to fight U.S. troops.

Analysts say Pakistan sees the Afghan Taliban as a tool to counter the growing influence of old rival India in Afghanistan and as a potential ally if U.S. forces withdraw and, as many Pakistanis fear, again leave that country in chaos.

Gates commended the Pakistani military’s success against militants since early last year and also called for it to pressure Afghan factions.

“Only by pressuring these groups on both sides of the border will Afghanistan and Pakistan be able to rid themselves of this scourge,” he said.

But at the same time, Gates stressed that it was up to Pakistan to decide on the timing of its action.

“The Pakistani leadership will make its own decisions about what the best timing for their military operations is, about when they are ready to do something or whether they are going to do it at all,” Gates told reporters earlier on Friday.

Many Pakistanis are deeply skeptical of the U.S. war on militancy, believing it is aimed at suppressing Muslims. Many also believe the United States wants to confiscate its nuclear weapons.

Gate said rebuilding relationships with the new generation of Pakistani officers, who have had little or no interactions with the U.S. military, could not be done in months.

“Further worsening the situation is an organized propaganda campaign by the very groups we seek to destroy,” he said.

“So let me say, definitively, that the United States does not covet a single inch of Pakistani soil; we seek no military bases here; and we have no desire to control Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

Gates Strives To Build Trust With Pakistan Military

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Yahoo.com
January 22, 2010

By Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse

ISLAMABAD–US Defence Secretary Robert Gates took on his critics in Pakistan on Friday, apologising for past “grave” mistakes as he works to bolster ties with Washington’s key ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda.

In his first visit to the country in three years and first under US President Barack Obama, Gates tried to reassure a public and leadership wary of Washington’s plan to tackle militancy and turn around the war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has seen security drastically deteriorate since partnering in Washington’s so-called “war on terror” in 2001, and balks at complaints from US officials that it is not doing enough to tackle militant groups.

US drone strikes targeting Islamist fighters in Pakistan also stir anger in the Muslim nation, while many Pakistanis feel bitterness over US abandonment of the region once the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989.

“I was in government in the early 1990s, when Russia left the region and the United States largely abandoned Afghanistan and cut off defence ties with Pakistan — a grave strategic mistake driven by some well-intentioned but short-sighted US legislative and policy decisions,” said Gates.

Speaking at the National Defense University in Islamabad, he said a US ban on military contacts in the 1990s over Pakistan’s nuclear programme undermined a bond between the armed forces and created a “trust deficit” that lingered.

He vowed the United States was “prepared to invest whatever time and energy it takes to forge and sustain a genuine, lasting partnership” with Pakistan.

Rebuilding relationships with a generation of Pakistani officers who have had little contact with the US military will take years, Gates said.

But Gates appeared to have already rattled Pakistan’s military this trip, with comments Thursday warning that Taliban sanctuaries must be tackled or Pakistan and Afghanistan would suffer “more lethal and more brazen” attacks.

In the editorial in English-language daily The News, Gates wrote that making distinctions between the different extremist groups — as Pakistan is often accused of doing — was “counterproductive”.

While Pakistan has launched multiple assaults on local Taliban strongholds in recent months, Washington is also anxious for Islamabad to target the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants within its borders as well.

Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas rejected Gates’s description and said it was not so “black and white”.

Gates also said he would ask Pakistani leaders about plans to expand its campaign to North Waziristan, a bastion of Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network, known for attacking US and NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But Abbas told reporters no new operations would be launched until the current push into South Waziristan was complete, which would take “between six months to a year to completely stabilise.”

Gates on Thursday held talks with Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and President Asif Ali Zardari.

The former CIA director is also seeking Islamabad’s cooperation on Obama’s new strategy to turn around the war in Afghanistan, which involves sending more troops into Afghanistan but drawing down forces in July 2011.

Officials in Islamabad have expressed concern that any troop surge in Afghanistan will send insurgents over the border into Pakistan, further destabilising an already lawless border region.

“The United States also wants to develop a broader strategic dialogue with Pakistan” on a range of issues, including “the possible role of political solutions to the insurgency in Afghanistan,” Gates told reporters.

Gates Regrets Past ‘Grave Mistakes’ In Pakistan

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Los Angeles Times
January 22, 2010 The Defense secretary urges the government to keep after militants as he tries to reassure Pakistanis about U.S. intentions in the region and seeks to dispel conspiracy theories.

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Wall Street Journal
January 22, 2010
Pg. 15

Gates Reassures, Courts Islamabad

By Yochi J. Dreazen

ISLAMABAD—U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced trip to Pakistan to reassure Islamabad about U.S. aims in the region and pay public tribute to what American officials describe as a renewed Pakistani willingness to use force against the country’s Islamist extremists.

But Pakistan said it was in no rush to heed U.S. calls for a fresh military offensive into the insurgent stronghold of North Waziristan, offering a reminder of the gulf that continues to divide Washington and Islamabad.

Mr. Gates, making his first trip here in more than three years, met with top Pakistani officials including President Asif Ali Zardari and the heads of its military and intelligence services, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

Senior U.S. officials believe Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency funnels aid to the Taliban in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad has long denied.

The U.S. defense chief also gave interviews to a pair of Pakistani television journalists and will address a large audience of Pakistani military personnel on Friday.

The intensive public outreach is designed to allay Pakistani fears about the Obama administration’s long-term commitment to the region and the possibility of the intensifying war in Afghanistan spurring new attacks inside Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters en route to Islamabad, Mr. Gates praised Pakistan for conducting a large-scale offensive in South Waziristan, a longtime militant stronghold bordering Afghanistan, and causing insurgents “to flee their safe havens” there.

The defense chief said he was heartened by reports that Pakistan was considering a similar push later this year into North Waziristan, a haven for militants who cross into Afghanistan to attack U.S. forces there.

“The Pakistanis have accomplished a great deal in the last year or so,” he said. “We are interested in an even closer working relationship with the Pakistanis to go after these common enemies.”

Pakistan’s top military spokesman signaled that no new offensives were forthcoming. Speaking to reporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Pakistan wouldn’t consider pushing into North Waziristan for at least six more months because its overstretched military needed to first consolidate its gains elsewhere in the country.

Gen. Abbas also questioned Mr. Gates’s assertion Wednesday that al Qaeda had formed an operational alliance with the Pakistani Taliban and with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group that carried out last year’s bloody attack in the Indian city of Mumbai and is believed to be planning fresh strikes against Indian targets.

“So far we do not have any kind of proof whether they have any direct linkage,” Gen. Abbas said, adding that the ties between the militant groups were not as “black and white” as Mr. Gates had argued.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the U.S. believed that Pakistan was committed to eventually taking action in North Waziristan but would do so on its own timetable.

Mr. Gates’s visit highlights the narrow path the administration is trying to tread with Pakistan, an important regional power that is receiving growing amounts of American aid but that is also believed to harbor high-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban figures like Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

President Barack Obama warned during the 2008 presidential campaign that he would consider unilateral military action inside Pakistan if Islamabad failed to take stronger steps against militants.

In recent months, however, senior Obama administration officials have avoided direct criticism of Pakistan. The White House has also worked to reassure the Pakistanis that the U.S. wouldn’t precipitously withdraw from the region.

“We are in this for the long haul and intend to be a partner of theirs into the future,” Mr. Gates said Thursday.

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Washington Post
January 22, 2010
Pg. 10

Gates Presses Pakistan On Taliban Fight

By Craig Whitlock

RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made an unannounced trip here Thursday to urge Pakistan to expand its crackdown against the Taliban as well as to counter skepticism about the Obama administration’s new war strategy for Afghanistan.

Soon after the Pentagon chief landed, however, the Pakistani military declared it was not yet prepared to send more troops into the rebellious tribal area of North Waziristan, home to a leading Taliban faction and a suspected hideout for al-Qaeda commanders.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, said it would take at least “six months to a year” to mount an army offensive in North Waziristan. He said the military was preoccupied with counterinsurgency operations launched last year in neighboring South Waziristan and the Swat Valley, two other Taliban strongholds.

“At present, we are not in a position to get overstretched,” Abbas told reporters traveling with Gates.

Gates, on his first trip to Pakistan in three years, praised Islamabad for launching a ground offensive in South Waziristan in October and for deploying 140,000 troops along the Afghan border. But he said Pakistan needed to crack down equally against all factions of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups.

“The reality [is] that you can’t ignore one part of this cancer and pretend that it won’t have some impact closer to home,” Gates said. Pakistan has been reluctant to act against fighters who cross into Afghanistan and India but don’t cause trouble domestically. One faction that has largely avoided the crackdown is the Haqqani network, a North Waziristan-based militia that regularly targets U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Asked why the Pakistani military has not clamped down on the Haqqanis, Abbas noted that the network, led by Pashtun warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani, has an equally large presence in Afghanistan. “Why hasn’t the U.S. been able to detect Haqqani and target him there?” he said.

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NYTimes.com
January 22, 2010

By Elisabeth Bumiller

ISLAMABAD — The United States will provide a dozen unarmed aerial spy drones to Pakistan for the first time as part of an effort to encourage Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting Islamic militants on the Afghanistan border, American defense officials said Thursday. But Pakistani military leaders, rebuffing American pressure, said they planned no new offensives for at least six months.

The Shadow drones, which are smaller than armed Predator drones, will be a significant upgrade in the Pakistanis’ reconnaissance and surveillance ability and will supply video to help cue strikes from the ground or the air.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is in Pakistan on a two-day visit, disclosed plans for the drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, in an interview Thursday with a Pakistani television reporter.

Asked if the United States planned to provide the Pakistani military with drones, something it has long requested, Mr. Gates replied, “There are some tactical U.A.V.’s that we are considering, yes.”

Other Defense Department officials later confirmed that the United States was making such an offer.

Shortly before Mr. Gates’s remarks, the chief spokesman of the Pakistani Army indicated that the army would not begin any assault against militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan for 6 to 12 months, pushing back against calls by the United States to root out militants staging attacks along the Afghan border.

The army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi that Pakistan had to stabilize its gains and contain Taliban militants scattered by offensives already opened last year. “We are not capable of sustaining further military operations,” he said.

The developments underscored the difficulties that President Obama now faces in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even as the Taliban have stepped up attacks on both sides of the border, the Pakistani Army has been reluctant to take on all of its factions in all parts of the country’s tribal areas.

Pakistan, which already has some limited surveillance ability, has long asked for drone technology from the United States, arguing that it should have the same resources to watch and kill militants on its own soil as does the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducts regular drone strikes in Pakistan.

American officials have rejected giving Pakistan armed drones. The Shadow surveillance drone appears to be a compromise aimed at enticing Pakistan further into the war and helping the country’s political leadership explain the drone strikes to a deeply suspicious and anti-American public.

“It will have a very positive political impact,” said Talat Masood, a retired general in Islamabad. “It will reduce the embarrassment of the political leadership.”

American defense officials said that the drones would be for use in Pakistan’s tribal areas and would be restricted to defensive rather than offensive operations. One major concern for the American military is the possibility that Pakistan could use the drones against India, its archrival in the region.

The latest version of the Shadow is used by the United States Army and the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has a wing span of 14 feet, is about 12 feet long, is launched from a trailer by ground units and can fly about 70 miles.

Mr. Gates, who is on his first trip to Pakistan in three years, met Thursday with the Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and with Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the director of the country’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. He attended a dinner in his honor given by the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, and is to deliver a speech on American policy on Friday before a military audience.

American officials said that Mr. Gates had urged the Pakistanis in the meetings to do more against the militants, a constant American theme that the defense secretary also sounded in an opinion article published on Thursday in The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily newspaper.

In the article, Mr. Gates implicitly pressed Pakistan to root out the Afghan Taliban leadership, the Quetta Shura, which has found refuge in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province, outside the tribal areas.

American officials are increasingly frustrated that while the Pakistanis have conducted offensives against the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, they have not so far pursued the Afghan Taliban and an allied militant faction on their border, the Haqqani network, whose fighters pose a threat to American forces.

“Maintaining a distinction between some violent extremist groups and others is counterproductive,” Mr. Gates wrote. “Only by pressuring all of these groups on both sides of the border will Afghanistan and Pakistan be able to rid themselves of this scourge for good.”

American officials say privately that the Pakistanis are reluctant to go after the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network because they see them as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. Under Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, announced last month, the United States is to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan by July 2011.

In the same article in The News International, and in his public comments in Pakistan, Mr. Gates lavishly praised the Pakistani Army for its efforts against the militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, and noted that the army had suffered nearly 2,000 deaths in the last three years.

He also sought to reassure Pakistani citizens that Americans had a long-term interest in their country, not just in a short-term strategic gain across the border in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates said in the article that he regretted past injustices in the American-Pakistan relationship that he himself has been part of since the late 1980s, when he was No. 2 at the C.I.A. At that time, he helped funnel covert Reagan administration aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the Islamic fundamentalists who ousted the Russians from Afghanistan. Some of those fundamentalists are now part of the Taliban and are fighting against the United States.

Mr. Gates said that the United States largely abandoned Afghanistan and cut military ties with Pakistan once the Russians left Kabul, which he called “a grave mistake driven by some well-intentioned but short-sighted U.S. legislative and policy decisions.”

He also repeated an assessment that the militant groups on Pakistan’s border were an inter-connected syndicate, a view that General Abbas rejected as not as “black and white” as Mr. Gates described.

Sabrina Tavernise contributed reporting from Islamabad, Eric Schmitt from Washington, and Christopher Drew from New York.

U.S. Offers Pakistan Drones To Urge Cooperation

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Dawn (Pakistan)
January 22, 2010

By Baqir Sajjad Syed and Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Jan 21 — The government said on Thursday it could not guarantee against repeat of 26/11 like attacks in India and the best safeguard against such strikes was de-linking of peace process from action against terrorism and the Kashmir and water disputes.

“Pakistan is itself facing Mumbai-like attacks almost every other day and when we cannot protect our own citizens, how can we guarantee that there wouldn’t be any more terrorist hits in India,” Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was quoted by a source as having told the visiting US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who called on him.

Pakistan suffered its worst year of terrorist violence last year, with more than 3,000 people killed.

Secretary Gates had in India warned that Pakistan-based militants, who had links with Al Qaeda, were planning strikes in India with the hope that retaliation would lead to a new conflict.

In his bid to raise pressure on Pakistan to act against militant groups targeting India, the secretary had said that New Delhi, unlike the restraint shown after Mumbai incident, was not apt to holding back if attacked again.

Prime Minister Gilani recalled the steps taken against militant groups saying they had been outlawed and their network was disrupted. In an apparent reference to Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who has been accused by India of masterminding the Mumbai attack but has been released on court orders, the prime minister said his government could not prosecute anyone without evidence.

India, which had suspended the Composite Dialogue with Pakistan in the aftermath of Mumbai attack, has been refusing to resume it without ‘credible action against alleged perpetrators’ despite a commitment at Sharm El Sheikh that the peace talks would be de-linked from action against terrorism.

Mr Gilani regretted India’s obstinacy, stating that as long as India held the peace process hostage to progress on terrorism, forward movement in normalisation of ties was unlikely.

“Pakistan is committed to peace in the region and in this context has been making sincere efforts to resume Composite Dialogue with India, but the response from the other side has not been encouraging. Relations between India and Pakistan should not become hostage to the activities of terrorists. For lasting peace in the region, both countries should resolve core issues, including Kashmir and water disputes,” a statement by the prime minister’s office quoted him as having said.

The prime minister presented a roadmap for bridging the trust deficit between Islamabad and New Delhi.

The prime minister’s roadmap sought evenhandedness by US vis-à-vis Pakistan and India, stoppage of unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan’s territory, immediate disbursement of Coalition Support Fund arrears and deletion of Pakistan from the list of countries whose nationals face special screening at US airports.

“Trust deficit could be minimised by improving perceptions and developing people to people contact between the two countries,” he said.

The US defence secretary also met President Asif Ali Zardari, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Joint Chiefs of the Staff Committee Chairman Gen Tariq Majid and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.The security situation in the region and the US plans to commit another troops in Afghanistan came under discussion during the meeting.

During his meeting with President Zardari, security situation in the region, drone attacks, payment of CSF arrears, fight against militancy, drug trafficking, the new US screening regime and strengthening of Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies were discussed.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, spokesperson to the president Farhatullah Babar said Mr Zardari emphasised that the issue of CSF arrears amounting to about $2 billion be resolved at the earliest.

The president said that the economic cost of the war against terror amounting to $35 billion for the last eight years had impacted on Pakistan’s economy adversely and the amount under CSF had actually been spent by Pakistan. It needed to be reimbursed urgently.

“Pakistan has been facing delays in payments of CSF claims,” the president informed the defence secretary, calling for timely reimbursement of arrears.

Reviewing the overall security situation, the president welcomed US affirmation of commitment to Pakistan’s stability and security. “Ties must be based on mutual respect and trust.”

Mr Zardari expressed reservations over the new screening regime for Pakistanis, saying that it had caused resentment and called for a review.

About the drone attacks on Pakistani territory, the president said that it undermined the national consensus against the war on militancy and called for creating a mechanism whereby the drones were used by Pakistan’s security forces rather than by foreign troops.

Mr Zardari said it was critical that national consensus on war against militancy was not allowed to erode and anything that tended to weaken it was avoided.

The president said that when Pakistan’s security forces employed high-tech in the war it had no negative fallout. “If our own security forces possess drones it will be a more helpful high-tech weapon of war than when it is used by foreign forces.” He called for strengthening law-enforcement agencies and provision of equipment for fighting militants.The president emphasised the need for early adoption of legislation in the US on reconstruction opportunity zones (RoZs) in tribal areas.

Referring to the new US Afghan strategy, Mr Zardari said Pakistan had a stake in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and urged US to show more sensitivity to Pakistan’s concerns. US actions should remain on the Afghan side of the border, he added.

President Zardari underlined the need for controlling drugs which, he said, was serving as “a force multiplier” to the benefit of militants.

Mr Gates appreciated Pakistan’s role in the war against extremism and militancy and assured full support in the fight against militancy as well as economic rehabilitation.

No Guarantee Against Repeat Of Mumbai-Like Attacks, Gates Told

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Los Angeles Times
January 22, 2010

By Scott Kraft and Ken Ellingwood

Reporting from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and Mexico City — U.S. military officials in Haiti said Thursday that the use of three additional airfields and the capital’s seaport would boost of the flow of food, water and medical attention to earthquake victims — at least half a million of whom, according to one count, are scattered in more than 400 camps around Port-au-Prince.

Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said the military had begun using two airfields in the neighboring Dominican Republic and one south of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated in the Jan. 12 quake.

The move is aimed at taking some of the burden from the Port-au-Prince airport. Now run by the U.S. military, it is handling 120 to 140 flights a day, but there is a waiting list of 1,400 flights, Fraser said.

Port-au-Prince’s seaport was closed because of heavy quake damage. Fraser said the arrival of a landing craft with “port-opening” capabilities would allow it to reopen on a limited basis. The port should be able to handle as many as 250 containers a day starting today, when a commercial ship is to arrive.

Seaborne shipments are expected to dramatically increase the quantities of goods and equipment for the relief and recovery effort.

As the flow of help increased, doctors scrambled to take care of the thousands of injured Haitians who have overwhelmed clinics and field hospitals.

At the busy downtown General Hospital, Dr. Bob Norris worked in the blazing sun, getting seriously injured patients transported to a landing pad at the presidential palace for transfer to the Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship anchored offshore.

“That’s 40 out the door so far. You guys are rockin’,” Norris told Army 1st Sgt. Brian Knight, 33, whose crew of soldiers loaded military ambulances.

“Got another one coming,” Knight shouted. Four soldiers quick-stepped a stretcher bearing Dorival Danielle Edelyne, 20. Her back was broken when her house collapsed, and she had been at the hospital for a week.

“Right side, right side,” Knight said, as a 10-year-old girl with a pelvic injury was loaded aboard. “OK, hold up there. Give them a second.”

Next was Eliacin Gaston, 24, a bystander who was shot in the head Thursday morning as police officers fired at looters.

“We felt he was salvageable, so we’re moving him right out,” said Norris, 52, head of the emergency room at Stanford University Medical Center, who is working here with the International Medical Corps.

“We’re seeing a lot of people from the outer provinces now, people who have waited until today,” said Gabriella McAdoo, a nurse working with the IMC, the primary relief agency operating at the hospital. “Some also are coming just to make sure they’re OK. Our doors are open to all of them.”

On a winding street near downtown Port-au-Prince, hundreds of Haitians formed thick lines Thursday that stretched for several blocks, hoping to receive cash from family members abroad.

The scene was tense at the C.A.M. money transfer office, where angry customers started shouting as the owner began to close the doors at midafternoon.

“The money is here; we’ve got to get it,” one man shouted.

“They must stay open at least another hour,” shouted another.

Pierre Paul Mondesir, the chief of security, seemed to sympathize.

“Many of them have been here since 9 this morning,” he said. “The situation is hard. They need money, they need food. So of course they come.”

As he spoke, Michael Boereau, 52, who hoped to collect money his brother had wired the day before from New Jersey, shouted, “How can they close like this?” Boereau had been in line for five hours.

He and his family of five lost their house and were living on the street.

“For 10 days, we haven’t gotten any help,” he said. “I have only these clothes on my back. That’s why I need money — for some clothes.”

Eventually the police took the names of about 100 people still waiting outside when the office closed, promising to give them priority when they returned the next day.

Aid groups and foreign governments continued to try to meet the staggering need for food, water and medical care. U.S. troops, which now number 12,000 but are expected to reach 20,000 by the weekend, deployed around the capital and its outskirts to deliver goods and move the most gravely injured to the Navy’s hospital ship.

An estimated 1 million Haitians are believed to have been left homeless by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

The International Organization for Migration said Thursday that 447 “improvised settlements” have popped up in Port-au-Prince, where at least 500,000 people have gathered. Out of 350 of the sites, only three had potable water, the organization said.

News reports said the government planned to move 400,000 homeless people to tent villages that are to be set up on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said the first phase would be to move 100,000 displaced people to camps that can hold 10,000 each.

“Tents will not work in May when the long rainy season begins and later when the hurricane season starts,” said Vincent Houver, the migration organization’s mission chief in Haiti.

“But at this point there is not much choice.”

Haiti Effort To Get A Boost From Added Airfields, Seaport Reopening

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USA Today
January 22, 2010
Pg. 6

Throngs Swarm Around Marines Of Mercy

Officer says troops are excited to ‘do something meaningful’

By Mark D. Faram, Navy Times

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — U.S. Marines headed farther into the western villages of Haiti on Thursday to deliver food and water to people who have seen very little as the government announced it would move 400,000 people living in camps to remote areas.

“The Marines are very excited to be here, to deploy and do something meaningful,” said Lt. Col. Gary Keim, the commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 22. “They were just glad to make people smile.”

About 1.5 million Haitians are homeless after an earthquake Jan. 12. Many are in camps in the capital.

Fritz Longchamp, chief of staff to President Rene Preval, said buses would soon take people to new camps in the eastern suburb of Croix des Bouquets.West of the capital, several hundred Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit have been setting up landing zones for helicopters since the troops’ arrival Tuesday.

Massive CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters landed in pastures with pallets of bottled water.

Staff Sgt. Clausele Barthold, a native Haitian who speaks Creole, was among a squad that headed into a remote area to clear a way for aid trucks from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The area smelled of human waste and decaying vegetables. A cemetery was crowded with above-ground crypts like those in New Orleans.

Buildings along the road were either destroyed or damaged. People stretched sheets and blankets on poles for shelter next to rubble piles that were once their homes.

Cpl. Michael Hardy’s radio crackled: Trucks from CRS were on the way. Hardy set up a spot for food distribution behind a partially intact 15-foot concrete wall outside a home. A crowd gathered, and the Marines moved them into a line, but once the people heard the trucks, they tried to push ahead of one another.

When workers started pulling out 110-pound bags of beans, more people appeared and pushed into the wall toward the Marines.

“If I give the word we’re shutting this down, we need to be ready to get out of here,” Hardy said.

The crowd came close to rioting, and the concrete wall swayed, threatening to topple on the Marines. Barthold warned the crowd in their native language to stop or the trucks would leave.

Hardy told the squad members to move to “Condition Three,” or to put a magazine of bullets into their rifles. A quick reaction force of Marines arrived and moved the crowd back as the trucks revved their engines and started to pull away.

It turned out to be the right move. Once the people saw the trucks moving out, they pulled back. Hardy ordered his men to remove the magazines from their weapons. The crowd dispersed, and the Marines headed to the landing zone for a more orderly distribution of food and water.

“Take your fingers off your triggers,” Hardy said, “It looks less hostile that way.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Miami Herald
January 22, 2010
Pg. 22

Guantanamo’s New Mission Is Lending A Hand To Haiti Earthquake Victims

On the day Guantanamo’s prison camps were meant to close, the remote outpost finds new purpose as it helps in relief efforts for Haiti.

By Carol Rosenberg

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — A dirt lot behind the war court the Bush administration built is now a landing zone. If the Cuban government agrees, U.S. military helicopters could ferry relief supplies straight into Haiti, a 170-mile dash directly over Cuban soil.

Relief flights now land night and day at the base runway, cargo planes and helicopters shuttling between here, Port-au-Prince and a Navy armada helping Haiti from the sea.

Friday was meant to be a bittersweet date — President Barack Obama’s missed one-year deadline to empty the Pentagon prison camps of the last 195 or so war-on-terror captives. In its place, there was an air of elation and purpose that the military at Guantánamo was helping out in an unambiguously good assignment.

`Gratifying’

“You see the look, the smile on a parent’s face if you ease the suffering of an injured child, that’s more exhilarating at the moment than walking the block in a detention camp,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Copeman, the prison camps’ commander. “Not to say that walking the block is not an extremely important mission for the United States. But probably not as gratifying as saving somebody’s life.”

Helping Haiti is the latest assignment for this 45-square-mile outpost better known for the prison-camps controversies and the Hollywood hit, A Few Good Men, set in the Cold War. In that drama, the Cubans were the enemies across the 17.4-mile minefield that divides the two sides. This time, Havana swiftly approved medical evacuation flights straight through Cuban airspace to Miami for U.S. victims evacuated from Haiti.

Now, the Cuban government has provisionally approved U.S. military relief flights straight to Haiti rather than continue to zig-zag around Cuban soil, said Navy Capt. Steve Blaisdell, the base commander. The Federal Aviation Administration, he said, is ironing out the agreement.

“Clearly Haiti has eclipsed everything else in the short term,” said Blaisdell, “ . . . independent of any other things that are swirling around.”

Tent city rises

Meantime, a tent city that could house 12,000 or more migrants is slowly rising in case any Haitians are intercepted off their shore — and can’t be immediately repatriated. The Department of Homeland Security and a troop force from the U.S. Army South in San Antonio would handle an influx.

But, the U.S. Coast Guard says photos of Haitians taking to rafts so far are victims sailing away from the earthquake-stricken capitol for safe haven in rural portions of the country.

To keep it that way, the U.S. has sent the Navy — a floating hospital, the USNS Comfort, and triage and treatment centers aboard the USS Bataan and carrier Carl Vinson, to handle casualties at sea, close to home, and stem an exodus. Here, troop rotations continue. But family visits are canceled to make space for troops and federal agents.

The prisoners, who are forbidden to speak to reporters, learned long ago from news reports that the closure deadline would be missed — and, staff say, more recently saw protesters in orange jumpsuits from London to Washington condemn the United States as the prison camps entered their ninth year, on Jan. 11.

They learned of the earthquake in Haiti the same way and discovered live — on al Jazeera’s English-language network — that Cuba was under a tsunami watch that included the clifftop prison camps on the Caribbean’s edge.

“They asked, `Where’s the manual? What are our instructions?,’ ” said Zaki, a Muslim-American who acts as intermediary between the military and detainees as the prison camps’ cultural advisor.

He predicted that the missed closure date would pass like any other Friday prayer day, because 70 percent of the captives live in communal, POW-style confinement and about half have received notice that they’re cleared to leave — once the United States negotiates their repatriations or new countries to settle them.

Moreover, he said, while some detainees were gleeful when they heard a Nigerian man tried to blow up an American passenger airliner on Christmas Day, they soon realized that failed underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s supposed links to a former detainee likely slowed any release plans underway.

“They constantly watch the news. They know more than I do,” said Petty Officer Bradley Golden, 23, a southern Californian and Navy air traffic control specialist who does Camp 6 guard duty.

Business as usual

For now, the prison camps are on a business-as-usual footing because Congress has so far thwarted the president’s plan for closure with intelligence reporting requirements, blocked funding and a ban on most transfers to U.S. soil.

Civil liberties groups this week marked the missed closure with a series of protests and advertising campaigns.

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Baltimore Sun
January 22, 2010
Pg. 1

In Midst Of Suffering, A Surprise: New Life

Baby girl born 7 weeks early may be first onboard delivery for hospital ship

By Robert Little

PORT-AU-PRINCE — In a day filled with still more moans and cries, broken bones and infected wounds from Haitian earthquake victims, the USNS Comfort got a surprise Thursday: a 4-pound, 5ounce preemie named Esther.

Her arrival — seven weeks early — in the Comfort’s operating room marked a milestone of sorts. It’s believed to be the first onboard delivery since the ship was converted to a floating hospital 22 years ago.

The expectant mother arrived on the ship Wednesday with a piece of paper on her chest that said simply: “open-book pelvic fracture,” someone’s way of explaining that the woman’s pelvis was separated 6 1⁄2 centimeters. She also had a complex fracture of her right leg, and her amniotic sac had apparently ruptured when she was injured more than a week ago.

The woman told the ship’s crew what has become a common tale: A building fell on her during the earthquake, and she had received virtually no medical care since.

“It’s amazing that baby survived,” said Lt. Cmdr. Susan C. Farrar, an OB/GYN physician from Portsmouth, Va., who delivered the child by Caesarean section.

“She’s been in a bed somewhere, with those injuries, since last Tuesday.”

The delivery of Esther — the name her mother left with the nurses before surgery — was scarcely more eventful than any of the other emergency-room procedures and complex surgeries on board Thursday, if only because such things have quickly become commonplace on the Comfort. The decks shuddered throughout the day from the whirl of helicopter rotors delivering ever more patients from Port-au-Prince.

And as is also becoming typical, the crew was forced to scramble and improvise to provide medical care that wasn’t contemplated when the hospital was designed as a combat casualty center.

Doctors and nurses who set up the ship’s pediatrics wards said the ship rushed out of Baltimore last Friday, and crew members had given just passing thought to delivering and treating newborns. The ship had two incubators — now both full — and three warming bins. In its supply cabinets was just one aspirator used to suction a baby’s fecal matter during delivery, a device that is supposed to be disposable but which the crew plans to clean and sterilize if it is used.

Thursday morning, a new crew member arrived on board with supplies he’d been asked to bring, like pacifiers and needle kits for putting intravenous lines in a baby’s umbilical cord.

“We kind of knew that we would get babies. We weren’t expecting preemies,” said Ensign Shannon Walker, a nurse in the ship’s pediatrics ward who works as a neonatal intensive care nurse at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

In fact, Esther was not the only premature baby onboard yesterday.

Crew members also were caring for another baby girl — they call her Angel because they don’t like her official name, Jane Doe — who was born on land Wednesday, also several weeks early. She was flown to the hospital ship in the arms of a flight crewman and arrived in the receiving ward blue and barely responsive, but perked up quickly after getting oxygen and a warm bed. It was unclear to people on the ship precisely who or where the child’s mother is.

“It’s crazy. We got on the ship so fast we didn’t even know what we had,” said Lt. Cmdr. Erika Beard-Irvine, a pediatrician. “But we’re getting babies, and they’re all fine.

“It’s Day 2, and we have two of them. And there’s a pregnant mother here, 37 weeks, so we’re expecting more.”

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Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
January 22, 2010

By Corinne Reilly, The Virginian-Pilot

ABOARD THE BATAAN–The first three patients came in by helicopter Tuesday night. The severely dehydrated baby boy named Wilson would almost certainly bounce back, but the young woman with the cracked pelvis had too many complications. No one knew what to make of the 69-year-old woman who’d lasted a week without water under the ruins of a collapsed church, so they simply called her a miracle.

By the next afternoon there were 19 more – so many that Navy doctors aboard the Norfolk-based Bataan began pulling from their own drawers to make sure all the patients had fresh clothes.

“Half of them in here are wearing something of mine,” said Charlena Beebe, a hospital corpsman from Yorktown. “You do what you have to.”

When the Bataan left Norfolk Naval Station for Haiti eight days ago, its doctors and corpsmen knew they’d be treating casualties of the magnitude-7 earthquake of Jan. 12. But they weren’t expecting so many so fast.

The first patients were brought aboard the day after the Bataan arrived off Haiti’s coast. When the nearby Navy hospital ship Comfort became overwhelmed with victims following Wednesday’s magnitude-5.9 aftershock, the evacuation helicopters were diverted here.

For the first time in recent years, the Bataan sounded its mass-casualty alarm Wednesday afternoon, signaling all medical personnel to rush to the ship’s hospital. A group of about 80 doctors, nurses and corpsmen – sent to boost the Bataan’s own staff – had come aboard less than an hour earlier.

“They had no time to get to know their working environment. Everybody had to scramble,” said Cmdr. Melanie Merrick, the Bataan’s top doctor.

By that night, two patients had undergone surgery and all of them had been stabilized – just in time for the two dozen new casualties who arrived Thursday.

Nine-year-old Robinson Louis-jeune, whose shoulder was hurt when a block of wall crashed down on him, was brought aboard alone. He spent most of the afternoon of his arrival cross-legged on his bed hunched over a coloring book with one arm in a sling.

“I like it here,” he said later, chewing on a Snickers bar and watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon on DVD. “I’m not afraid. It’s good here.”

Among the Bataan’s oldest patients is Ena Zizi, a 69-year-old grandmother of 15 who spent a week buried under the rubble of a collapsed church in Port-au-Prince. A Mexican K-9 search-and-rescue team pulled her from the wreckage Tuesday.

Her son, Josner Joseph, said he and his siblings looked for their mother for five days before giving up. “We decided it was time to cry our tears,” he said in Creole, speaking through a hospital interpreter at his mother’s bedside. “She had no water, so how could she be alive?”

Joseph said his mother told him she passed her days under the rubble by praying. Resting under a green Navy-issue blanket in the Bataan’s patient ward, Zizi smiled at a corpsman checking her vitals. She suffered a broken hip and arrived severely dehydrated, but doctors said she’s expected to recover.

They said she’ll undergo surgery to repair the break and will almost certainly walk again.

“I see her and I think she’s a miracle,” said Marine Sgt. Johnny Felix, a native of Haiti who deployed with the Bataan to work as a hospital interpreter. “I see her and I think, ‘This is why we came here.’ “

Doctors said most of the patients have broken bones and infected wounds. Selma Rumohr, a hospital corpsman assigned to the Bataan, said many seem scared when they arrive.

“At first they just look up at you like they’re thinking, ‘What in the world is going on?’ ” Rumohr said. “But it goes away real fast. They see that you’re trying to help, and they get it.”

In addition to a 14-bed intensive care unit and a 46-bed patient ward, the Bataan keeps a triage area, a full pharmacy and four operating rooms. With the new personnel who just arrived, the ship’s medical crew includes seven surgeons, eight physicians and more than 150 support staff. Merrick, who has been a Navy doctor for 17 years, said that’s enough to continue taking on dozens of patients at a time.

She’s already begun making plans to send her own triage team to land to ensure that the most critical casualties are given priority; a few Haitians have been flown to the Bataan unnecessarily, she said.

The hospital is making up for shortages of some supplies, such as patient gowns, with contributions from the Bataan’s crew. Announcements broadcast over loudspeakers throughout the ship have asked sailors and Marines to donate clothes, shampoo, deodorant and slippers.

One crew member brought down several bags of candy for kids in the ward Wednesday night. “OK, we’ll take it,” a corpsman told him. “But hide it for now. They’ve already had too much sweets tonight.”

On a bed nearby, a nurse sat rocking a severely disfigured 2-year-old boy. In the chaos on the ground he’d been separated from his mother, who was taken for treatment to the Comfort. “Shhh,” the nurse whispered. “You’re OK.”

Doctors who examined the boy couldn’t find any broken bones or wounds. They said they assumed he was born disfigured and that he was flown to the Bataan because the triage team in Haiti mistook his condition for an injury.

Across the room, corpsman Rumohr pulled out a plastic tub filled with children’s books and presented them to 10-year-old Stephanie Silenceux, perhaps the ward’s most social patient.

As she flipped through a colorful pop-up book, Stephanie exclaimed, “Magique!”

“She thinks it’s magic,” Rumohr said.

Stephanie scowled but waited quietly when another corpsman interrupted to ask Rumohr whether he could give ice chips to a patient who was about to have surgery.

Then she stashed the book under her arm, took Rumohr’s hand and motioned toward her bed. “She wants me to sit and read with her,” Rumohr said.

She looked down at the little girl. “OK, let’s go.”

On The Bataan In Haiti, Need Arrives In Waves

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WarIsBoring.com
January 21, 2010

By David Axe

The Air Force Reserve has expanded its support infrastructure for Haiti-bound planes at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, added staff to its air-traffic management cells in Arizona and Florida and is currently feeding a steady stream of C-5s, C-17s and C-130s into Port-Au-Prince, supported by KC-10 and KC-135 tankers. The airport’s single runway and ruined infrastructure limits the inflow of materials, so the Air Force has initiated talks with the Dominican Republic and with Canadian forces trying to open a rural Haitian airstrip.

So far, the Air Force has delivered around 2,000 tons of cargo and 2,000 passengers, while returning around 2,000 evacuees to the U.S.

Air Force Expands Help For Haiti

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Philadelphia Inquirer
January 22, 2010

By Kim Gamel, Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan plans to tighten the rules on nighttime raids on private homes in search of insurgents, even if it means losing some tactical advantage, to curb rising public anger over those operations.

A NATO spokesman, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, said a directive would be issued soon by Gen. Stanley McChrystal setting down the new rules.

Yesterday, as if to lend urgency to the impending move, villagers in Ghazni province protested the deaths – in a nocturnal raid – of four people who they said were innocent civilians but NATO insisted were insurgents.

Villagers said the four were a father, his two sons, and a neighbor, all with no links to the Taliban.

“They had no weapons, no grenades; not even one single bullet was found in their home,” Abdul Samad, the victims’ relative, told Associated Press Television News. “All those killed were innocent people. . . . We are asking government officials to think about us all the time and not only today. If there is any matter of concern, they should discuss it with our elders.”

About 500 demonstrators chanted slogans against the United States and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai as they carried wooden coffins holding the bodies to the provincial capital, also named Ghazni.

Nighttime raids on private homes have emerged as the Afghans’ No. 1 complaint after McChrystal limited the use of air strikes last year. The United States and allied nations have made protecting the population a priority over the use of massive firepower as they seek to undermine support for the Taliban.

“It addresses the issue that’s probably the most socially irritating thing that we do – and that is entering people’s homes at night,” Smith said Wednesday at his office in Kabul. He would not elaborate pending a formal announcement.

The U.S.-led NATO force has become increasingly sensitive to complaints by Afghan civilians in a renewed effort to win support among the public and lure people away from the Taliban.

Night operations also risk offending Afghan sensitivity about men entering homes where women are sleeping.

Rafiullah Khiel, a Finance Ministry employee whose uncle was detained by NATO forces during a night raid last fall, said the distraught women and children in the compound were rounded up and locked in a watchtower for several hours while soldiers searched the dwellings.

Khiel said the soldiers told the family that they had information that the uncle, a pharmacist, was treating Taliban fighters.

“This is just unacceptable to us, to our traditions,” Khiel said, holding back tears as he recounted the ordeal during an interview in a home on the outskirts of Kabul. “These kinds of actions, these wrong decisions, just make people turn against them.”

Smith acknowledged the possible tactical issues in limiting nighttime action, but he said the problem needed to be addressed to win the confidence of civilians and keep them from supporting the Taliban.

Facing Afghan Anger, U.S. To Curb Night Raids

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 4

Loyalties Of Those Killed In Afghan Raid Remain Unclear

By Dexter Filkins

KABUL, Afghanistan — A group of American and Afghan soldiers swooped into a village in a Taliban-heavy district early Thursday, fired their guns and came away. And in a scene repeated often here, one side cried murder and the other side claimed success.

Late in the day, this much was clear: Just after midnight, a team of American and Afghan soldiers carried out an operation to detain a Taliban commander named Qari Faizullah in a village called Baran. The village is in the Qarabagh District of Ghazni Province, where the Taliban insurgency burns hot. Four males, including a boy, were killed in the raid, and another was detained.

But there the clarity ends. In a statement, the American command said four insurgents had been killed in the operation. Mr. Faizullah, the Americans said, was a “high-level Taliban commander” who helped lead attacks against American forces and smuggled fighters and guns.

The boy killed, the Americans said, was 15 and had reached for a gun and shown “hostile intent” when the operation was unfolding. “No innocent Afghan civilians were harmed in this operation,” the statement said.

The police chief of Ghazni Province, Gen. Kial Baz Shirzai, supported the American account. “All those killed were definitely Taliban,” he said. The boy, he said, was in fact 13 — but he, too, was Taliban.

But several residents of Baran said that all the dead were civilians. On Thursday morning, a large group of Afghans came to the provincial capital, Ghazni, to retrieve the bodies, which had been carried there by the soldiers. The villagers shouted anti-American and antigovernment slogans and called on Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to stop the attacks. In addition to those killed, two villagers were wounded in the operation, they said.

“I have known all these people since my childhood, and they are civilians — they have no link to the Taliban or any militant group,” Abdul Manan, a Baran resident, said in a telephone interview. He joined the protest.

His description was matched by another protester, Hajji Shawali. “We are here to tell Mr. Karzai to listen to our problems,” he said. “We are having problems with the Taliban. We are actually trapped by the fighting. We have no sympathy for the Taliban. We are poor people.”

Acknowledging the divergent accounts, Muhib Khapalwak, the local governor of Qarabagh, said that he would try to find out what happened.

Operations like the one in Qarabagh — nighttime raids in which the exact course of events is unclear — occur regularly in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban dominate. American and Afghan soldiers prefer to carry out operations at night, when they have the advantage of surprise and night-vision equipment, and civilians are presumed to be asleep.

But night operations are unpopular among Afghans, even those who harbor no sympathies for the Taliban. American commanders have acknowledged the unhappiness; they have made protecting Afghan civilians their primary goal in the war. The Americans said recently that they would tighten the rules governing operations at night. Under the new rules, American and other NATO forces would be required to explore alternatives to night raids, like cordoning off villages at night and moving in at sunrise.

In another bewildering episode on Thursday, the American command issued a statement saying that a group of Afghan and coalition soldiers had found a number of damaged Korans in an abandoned building in Helmand Province. The statement offered few details, like how many Korans were damaged and what had happened to them.

Earlier this month, eight Afghans were killed and a dozen wounded in Garmsir, a town in Helmand, when Afghan officers fired on a group of rioters demonstrating over rumors that American troops, on a night raid, had desecrated a Koran and defiled local women.

Also Thursday, an Afghan commando who stopped a suicide bomber during an attack on the government this week was decorated in a ceremony in Kabul. The honoree, First Lt. Mentaz, of the Sixth Commando battalion, shot and killed a suicide bomber during the attack on the Central Bank, which killed five people and wounded 38 more. “I am serving my country!” he shouted to his comrades after receiving his medal.

Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Abdul Waheed Wafa from Kabul.

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Washington Post
January 22, 2010
Pg. 8

Plan On Hold For Afghan Militias To Fight Taliban

Security gap; U.S. envoy uneasy about new ways to combat insurgents

By Greg Jaffe and Rajiv Chandrasekaran

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and senior Afghan officials have resisted moving forward with a bold and potentially risky initiative to support local militias in Afghanistan that are willing to defend their villages against insurgents, according to U.S. officials.

Their concerns have slowed the implementation of a key effort to provide security in places where there are relatively few NATO forces or Afghan police and Army units. U.S. military officials had wanted to get the initiative — developed under the leadership of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan — off to a quick start this year.

The plan was to take advantage of the emergence of informal village security forces that were taking up arms against outside insurgents. The hope was that the new program could yield thousands of new security forces relatively fast, bridging the gap until more army and police forces could be trained. But before the initiative can be implemented on a broader scale, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry must approve the release of more money for it.

Eikenberry’s unease about the program as it was structured by the military also reflects a broader difference of opinion at the highest levels of the U.S. military and diplomatic headquarters in Kabul about new approaches to combating the Taliban insurgency. While military commanders are eager to experiment with decentralized grass-roots initiatives that work around the ponderous Afghan bureaucracy in Kabul, civilian officials think it is more important to wait until they have the central government’s support, something they regard as essential to sustaining the programs.

U.S. Embassy and Afghan officials are working to modify the program, called Local Defense Initiatives, to ensure that the Afghan government plays a more central role in how it is run. “We are committed to doing this right, and that means taking the time for the Afghan government and people to decide on whether and how to move ahead,” said Philip Kosnett, the U.S. Embassy’s political-military counselor in Kabul.

The disagreement about how to move forward with the local security program comes at a time when McChrystal and Eikenberry, who served as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, are under intense pressure to show fast results to take advantage of the 30,000 U.S. troops that will arrive in the country this year. By July 2011, President Obama has said, military commanders will begin sending some of those forces home.

Afghan officials and Eikenberry have also expressed concern that unless there is a detailed plan to connect these village security forces to Ministry of Interior oversight, they could fuel the rise of warlords and undermine the already fragile government in Kabul. Another worry is that the local tribal leaders could manipulate U.S. officers who do not understand politics and tribal grievances in a particular area, U.S. officials said.

“Our level of intelligence is so lacking,” said an adviser to the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. “We could be supporting people whose interests are not what we think they are.” Eikenberry has argued that without Afghan government support, the program could be quickly disbanded if one of the village security forces is turned by the Taliban or gets into a dispute with government security forces.

“It’s a two-edged sword,” Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in an interview. “One person’s community defense initiative can be another person’s warlord militia.”

Military officials said it is important to take advantage of the colder winter months when violence drops to begin training village forces. “If you delay until March, you lose a lot,” said a military official in Kabul.

The military is moving forward with the initiative on a smaller scale, using money that the embassy does not control. “No one is frustrated. We just want to get going,” the official said.

The Afghan village program has drawn comparisons to the Sons of Iraq effort, in which Sunni tribal forces consisting of more than 100,000 Iraqis — many of them former insurgents — were paid to police their villages. That effort, which was widely viewed as essential to blunting a runaway insurgency, was started without seeking permission from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who initially voiced strong objections to the program. Although some members of the Sons of Iraq have been absorbed into the army and police forces, Sunni leaders have accused Maliki of reneging on commitments made by U.S. commanders when the program was started and trying to dismantle the program.

The Afghan village security initiative differs significantly from the Sons of Iraq effort, which involved U.S. military personnel training, arming and paying Sunni tribesmen to defend their communities against al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists.

In Afghanistan, the military does not intend to arm or pay members of the local security groups. Afghanistan, military officials note, is already awash in weapons. Compensation will be in the form of money for development projects in areas where the groups operate. Although Afghanistan’s interior minister has expressed a desire to pay recruits, the United States plans to channel development projects to villages that sign up for the security effort. Village militias will also receive radios to call for assistance from nearby U.S. or Afghan forces and receive training from Special Forces troops.

Military officials also said that to prevent warlordism, the groups will be under the authority of a local shura — a council of tribal elders — not a single tribal chief. U.S. military officials, meanwhile, have said that they are committed to a bottom-up approach to security and economic development, which recognizes that many Afghans consider the corrupt central government part of the problem and a threat to local tribal power structures.

“The community level will be decisive — and that support is entirely up for grabs,” Col. Christopher D. Kolenda, an adviser to McChrystal, wrote in the current issue of Joint Force Quarterly.

Staff writers Karen DeYoung in Washington and Keith B. Richburg in Kabul contributed to this report.

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Wall Street Journal
January 22, 2010
Pg. 10

Insurgent Hints At Peace Plan

By Yaroslav Trofimov

KABUL—One of the three main leaders of the Afghan insurgency, mercurial warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has a long history of switching sides, and once fought against his current Taliban allies.

Now, he has held out the possibility of negotiating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and outlined a road map for political reconciliation, opening what could be the most promising avenue for Mr. Karzai’s effort to peacefully resolve the conflict.

It is far from certain that any talks with Mr. Hekmatyar will begin, let alone succeed. But in contrast to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and allied insurgent chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who refuse any talks with Kabul as long as foreign troops remain in the country, Mr. Hekmatyar took a much more conciliatory line in a recent video.

“We have no agreement with the Taliban—not for fighting the war, and not for the peace,” said Mr. Hekmatyar, who commands the loyalty of thousands of insurgents. “The only thing that unites the Taliban and [us] is the war against the foreigners.”

Unlike in previous videos, where Mr. Hekmatyar used a Kalashnikov rifle as a prop and expressed support for al Qaeda, in the latest tape, recorded in late December and provided to The Wall Street Journal by his aides in Pakistan, he assumed a professorial tone, wearing glasses and a black turban as he spoke in a quiet, soft voice.

Mr. Hekmatyar, who is 59 years old and lived in exile in Iran when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, built his movement over the past three years into a formidable force. His men dominate the insurgency in several eastern and central Afghan provinces, according to American intelligence estimates.

At the same time, a legal wing of Hizb-e-Islami, an Islamist party that Mr. Hekmatyar founded in the 1970s, participates in the Afghan parliament, with 19 of 246 seats. One of its leaders is minister of the economy in Mr. Karzai’s new cabinet. Though the legal Hizb-e-Islami denies formal links with Mr. Hekmatyar, many of its senior members are believed to maintain communications with the grizzled warlord, and openly support the idea of bringing him into the government.

Mr. Hekmatyar’s “reported willingness to reconcile with the Afghan government” has already become a key factor working against the militancy because it “causes concern that others may follow,” the U.S.-led international forces’ intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, noted in a recent presentation. In addition to subtracting fighters from the battlefield, such a reconciliation would boost the legitimacy of the Kabul government.

Currently, fighters of the three main groups—Mullah Omar’s Taliban in the south, where the bulk of combat takes place, the Haqqani network in the southeast, and Mr. Hekmatyar’s men in its strongholds—cooperate with each other, at least on the tactical level, American intelligence officials say.

In 2003, Mr. Hekmatyar was designated a terrorist by the U.S. and put on the United Nations blacklist alongside Mullah Omar and Mr. bin Laden.

But, while Mr. Haqqani made a formal oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, recognizing him as his overall leader, Mr. Hekmatyar repeatedly refused to make such a pledge. In the tape, he said he spent “a couple of months” with Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahri in 2002, but insisted he “had no direct or indirect contact with them since then.”

He also said the main reason he is fighting American forces is because the U.S. allied itself with his bitter Afghan enemies after the Taliban’s downfall in 2001.

“It’s just a convenience for Hekmatyar to be with the Taliban,” says Marc Sageman, a terrorism expert who, as a Central Intelligence Agency officer in Pakistan, worked with Afghan insurgent leaders in the late 1980s. “Hekmatyar’s main goal is Hekmatyar. He’ll do anything that will help him out—it all depends on the deal he’s going to get.”

In the tape, Mr. Hekmatyar outlined his political program, calling for elections under a neutral caretaker government once U.S.-led forces withdraw, predicting that Hezb-e-Islami will win 70% of the votes, and saying that he would accept an impartial international peacekeeping force. While the Taliban brand Mr. Karzai a traitor, Mr. Hekmatyar promised to support him should he stop being subservient to his American backers.

“Negotiations with the Afghan government will not be fruitful unless the foreigners give the Afghan government the authority to start negotiations independently—but unfortunately it has not been given this authority yet,” Mr. Hekmatyar said in the videotape.

Similar recent overtures by Mr. Hekmatyar failed to produce any breakthrough. And, while some Afghan and American officials have already explored indirect contacts with Mr. Hekmatyar, the U.S. government refuses to make a meaningful distinction between him and the other insurgent chiefs.

“Each one has a different origin and orientation,” says Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “But all work together and are linked to al Qaeda.”

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Wall Street Journal
January 22, 2010
Pg. 10

Kabul Fights Back In Propaganda War

Afghan Leaders, in Battle for Public Support, Cast Response to Taliban Attack on Kabul as a Victory for Security Forces

By Yaroslav Trofimov

KABUL—The propaganda war between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban has just escalated, as each side offers starkly different accounts of Monday’s insurgent attacks on central Kabul.

Until recently, the Taliban proved far better than the disorganized Afghan government in spreading their message. But this time, Afghan officials—with American support—have mounted a newly sophisticated effort to present their view of events, culminating with an award ceremony Thursday for Afghan soldiers who helped to repel the insurgents.

Afghan leaders say Monday’s attack, in which militants seized buildings and unleashed suicide bombings near the presidential palace, wasn’t a Taliban triumph, but instead showcased the might of the nation’s fledgling security forces.

“What happened was a victory and a show of our strength. The enemy was well-prepared, and they wanted to prolong the siege by a day or two, like in Mumbai,” Afghan Army Chief of Staff Gen. Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, said in an interview.

The Mumbai siege, carried out by 10 militants in November 2008, lasted for several days and left more than 170 people dead, many of them guests of luxury hotels. By contrast, in Kabul, the militants were killed after four hours of fighting, with only two civilians and three members of the security forces dead. The attackers—20 of them, according to the Taliban—failed to take over any government installations, or the nearby Serena hotel, which houses foreign diplomats and journalists.

The Taliban have staged several high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months, attempting to demonstrate that not even the most heavily secured part of the capital is beyond their reach.

The group portrayed Monday’s events as an unqualified triumph. In statements posted on the Voice of Jihad, a slick multilingual Web site run by the Taliban’s high command, the militant group claimed to have killed “dozens of foreigners” at the Serena and 31 government soldiers. “The soldiers of the NATO and the security forces are seen to run about in a confused and chaotic state at the battle ground,” it declared.

Similar propaganda—often left unchallenged by the government and frequently believed by many Afghans—has helped the Taliban create a perception of their inevitable rise, attracting new recruits and collaborators.

This time, two hours after the shooting ended, the leaders of the Afghan army, police and intelligence services presented a united front, appearing at a joint news conference to proclaim victory. President Hamid Karzai swiftly approved the awarding of medals to Afghan commandos who distinguished themselves in Monday’s fighting, including a lieutenant who shot and killed a suicide bomber before he was able to detonate his vest.

U.S.-led coalition officials enthusiastically endorsed this view. “We’re actually quite proud of the role the ANA played,” says Canadian Brig. Gen. Paul Wynnyk, the coalition’s officer in charge of Afghan National Army development. “There are very few cities in the world where it could have been suppressed in four-five hours.”

Gen. Mohammadi, flanked by the Afghan army’s top brass and American generals, handed out medals and citations at a ceremony Thursday attended by hundreds of soldiers at a commando base on the outskirts of Kabul. “When we asked for three volunteers, 10 of you stepped forward. Everybody is praising your quick reaction,” the Afghan chief of staff told the rows of commandos, their shoulder patches inscribed with the Arabic words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great.”

Coalition officials pointed out that only a few American and allied special forces fought alongside the Afghans on Monday. “Several months ago the Afghan security forces did not respond as well as they did on Monday—they have learned from their experience,” said U.S. Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who oversees the coalition’s effort to train and stand up the Afghan army and police. “Their actions without question saved many civilian lives and precluded any further destruction in the city.”

It isn’t clear who emerged the winner of the latest skirmish of narratives. Among the residents of Kabul, views were divided. Haji Akram, a 65-year-old jeweler whose store is a couple of blocks from the scene of Monday’s attacks, praised the ANA. “They fought the terrorists the best way they could. Every one of them deserves more than a medal,” he said. “If they hadn’t arrived on time, God knows how many people would have been killed.”

But Ahmad Jamal, another shopkeeper in the area—with its burned-down shopping mall and other signs of Monday’s violence—disagreed. “With this attack, the Taliban showed how strong they are,” he said. “I am scared.”

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San Diego Union-Tribune
January 22, 2010 National Army officers visiting Marine bases

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Washington Post
January 22, 2010
Pg. 1

Panel On Guantanamo Backs Indefinite Detention For Some

By Peter Finn

A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials.

The task force’s findings represent the first time that the administration has clarified how many detainees it considers too dangerous to release but unprosecutable because officials fear trials could compromise intelligence-gathering and because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion.

Human rights advocates have bemoaned the administration’s failure to fulfill President Obama’s promise last January to close the Guantanamo Bay facility within a year as well as its reliance on indefinite detention, a mechanism devised during George W. Bush’s administration that they deem unconstitutional.

“There is no statutory regime in America that allows us to hold people without charge or trial indefinitely,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

But the efforts of the task force, which this week completed its case-by-case review of the detainees still being held at Guantanamo Bay, allows the Obama administration to claim at least a small measure of progress toward closing the facility.

“We’re still moving forward and in a much more deliberate and less haphazard manner than was the case before,” said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recommendations have not been made public. “All policies encounter reality, and it’s painful, but this one holds up better than most.”

The task force has recommended that Guantanamo Bay detainees be divided into three main groups: about 35 who should be prosecuted in federal or military courts; at least 110 who can be released, either immediately or eventually; and the nearly 50 who must be detained without trial.

Administration officials argue that detaining terrorism suspects under Congress’s authorization of the use of force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is legal and that each detainee has the right to challenge his incarceration in habeas corpus proceedings in federal court.

In a May speech, Obama said detention policies “cannot be unbounded” and promised to reshape standards. “We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified,” he said.

The group of at least 110 detainees cleared for release includes two categories. The task force deemed approximately 80 detainees, including about 30 Yemenis, eligible for immediate repatriation or resettlement in a third country. About 30 other Yemenis were placed in a category of their own, with their release contingent upon dramatically stabilized conditions in their home country, where the government has been battling a branch of al-Qaeda and fighting a civil war.

Obama suspended the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen in the wake of an attempted Christmas Day airliner attack, a plot that officials said originated in Yemen. Effectively, all Yemenis now held at Guantanamo have little prospect of being released anytime soon.

“The task force recommendations are based on all of the known information about each detainee, but there are variables that could change a detainee’s status, such as being ordered released by the courts or a changed security situation in a proposed transfer state,” an administration official said.

Moving a significant number of detainees to the United States remains key to the administration’s now-delayed plan to empty the military facility. The federal government plans to acquire a state prison in Thomson, Ill., to house Guantanamo Bay detainees, but the plan faces major hurdles.

Congress has barred the transfer of the detainees to the United States except for prosecution. And a coalition of Republicans opposed to any transfers and some Democrats critical of detention without trial could derail the possibility of using the Thomson facility for anything other than military commissions, according to congressional staffers.

The task force comprised officials from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. Officials said that the process of assessing the detainees was extremely challenging and occasionally contentious, but that consensus was reached on each case in the end.

Some European officials, who would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed without instituting indefinite detention, are advocating the creation of an internationally funded rehabilitation center for terrorism suspects in Yemen and possibly Afghanistan. They say such a facility would gradually allow the transfer of all detainees from those countries back to their homelands, according to two sources familiar with the plan.

A majority of the detainees slated for prolonged detention are either Yemeni or Afghan, and European officials think the others could eventually be resettled under close supervision.

European officials hope to raise the issue at an international conference in London next week that will address the situations in Yemen and Afghanistan.

“We are running out of options, and the administration needs to seriously consider this,” said Sarah E. Mendelson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of a report on closing Guantanamo Bay. “There is lots of really good expertise on rehabilitation, and the administration needs to invest in it.”

The Bush and Obama administrations considered helping Yemen formulate a rehabilitation program, but the idea foundered amid concerns about the Middle Eastern country’s capacity to implement it, officials said.

Since Obama took office, 44 Guantanamo Bay detainees have been repatriated or resettled in third countries, including 11 in Europe.

The administration anticipates that about 20 detainees can be repatriated by this summer, and it has received firm commitments from countries willing to settle an additional 25 detainees who have been cleared for release, officials said.

Within a few days, sources said, four other detainees are slated to be transferred out.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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Boston Globe
January 22, 2010 Obama needs help from Congress to shutter prison

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Washington Post
January 22, 2010
Pg. 18

In The Loop

By Al Kamen

BYOB? NSFW? LOL!

Military Judge Susan G. Crawford sent around an e-mail the other day to friends and colleagues saying she intended to leave the Office of Military Commissions — where she decided which detainees go to trial in a military tribunal. We didn’t report that because she slapped a secret classification on her e-mail: “FOUO,” meaning “For Official Use Only.”

Crawford, best known for declaring that the treatment of a Guantanamo detainee met the legal definition of torture, also sent out an e-mail inviting folks to her farewell, going-away luncheon. We forgot to put the info in our calendar — must have misplaced it — so we called around for guidance on time, place, attire. No one could divulge. Seems Crawford had stamped the party invite “FOUO.”

The Gitmo beat

Speaking of detainees, we’re hearing that Marine Col. William K. Lietzau, deputy legal adviser on the National Security Council, is the pick to succeed Phillip Carter, the recently departed assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.

Lietzau was the first chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay under President George W. Bush and a key architect of the military commissions that were struck down by the Supreme Court.

Word of Lietzau’s appointment is raising a few eyebrows amongst the civil libertarians. On the other hand, he’s said to be close to Marine Gen. James Jones, who runs the NSC.

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Reuters.com
January 21, 2010 Draft Pentagon Review Calls For ‘Hard Choices’

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GovExec.com
January 21, 2010

By Alyssa Rosenberg

The Pentagon has tapped a Navy career senior executive to wind down the National Security Personnel System and to design a new performance management system for its civilian employees.

“He’s coming in to a very tough job,” John Palguta, vice president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said of John H. James, the Navy official chosen to lead the National Security Personnel System Transition Office. “There’s going to be lots of issues to be ironed out.”

Maj. April Cunningham, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said James would oversee the staff formerly responsible for running NSPS, and he was currently assessing the need for additional personnel. On Wednesday, James met some union leaders who represent Defense workers on labor-management partnership, Cunningham said, adding he will work with them during the dismantling of NSPS.

Not only must James figure out how to shift NSPS employees back into their previous pay systems — some of which were personnel demonstration projects that have since been disbanded – he also must ensure they do not lose pay. For employees returning to the General Schedule system who received NSPS raises that lifted their pay above Step 10 of the grade they were assigned to previously, James must figure out how to retain their salaries without simply bumping them up a grade.

James also has been assigned to manage a number of flexibilities that Congress gave Defense in the legislation repealing NSPS. He will be responsible for designing a new departmentwide performance management system for civilian employees and for establishing and administering a bonus program, the DoD Workforce Incentive Fund.

Palguta said even though the Office of Personnel Management has discussed publicly designing a new governmentwide pay and performance management system, having Defense begin work on its initiative could serve as a useful experiment.

“This is a role they’re used to playing. The greatest number of personnel demonstration projects have come in Defense,” he said. “They’re used to being a laboratory; they were under NSPS, and they may well be again.”

James is currently the executive director for logistics, maintenance and industrial operations at the Naval Sea Systems Command. He began his career with the Navy in 1981, and became a senior executive in 2000, winning a Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2006.

While much of James’ career has focused on engineering and maintenance of submarines, he also has done substantial work on diversity issues in the Navy. He chairs the Navy African-American Senior Executive Service Advisory Committee, and leads efforts of the combined Naval Sea Systems Command-Office of Naval Research to improve research partnerships with colleges and universities, including those that historically serve minority populations. He also has worked on the Navy’s outreach efforts to college and high school students.

Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said James has a good reputation among union members as someone who is sensitive to the needs and concerns of the workforce. Biggs said James’ appointment was a signal of a new approach by Defense.

“Management is to be applauded for doing this,” Biggs said. “It shows the workforce that this is going to be done properly, it’s going to be done seriously; it is not someone from the past who put this personnel system in place.”

A spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees said the union had received little information on how the office would run, but it was eager to see “NSPS die as soon as it can.”

Pentagon Taps Career Navy Executive To Dissolve NSPS

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Washington Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 9

Health Problems Cause Of Most Evacuations

 

LONDON — American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were more likely to be medically evacuated for health problems such as a bad back than for combat injuries, a new study says.

Researchers also found psychiatric disorders rose during the period studied – 2004 to 2007 – despite an increased focus on treating mental health problems.

The research was published Friday in the British medical journal, Lancet.

Steven Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and colleagues analyzed data from about 34,000 American military staff medically evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq during those years, or about 6 percent of the service personnel.

In previous wars, including World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, combat injuries also were not the top cause of soldier hospitalizations; illnesses such as respiratory and infectious diseases were.

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 12

Thriving Military Recruitment Program Blocked

By Julia Preston

A highly successful program by the armed forces to recruit skilled immigrants who live in this country temporarily has run into a roadblock, leaving thousands of potential recruits in limbo.

The Army stopped accepting applications for the program last week, officials said Thursday, because the Pentagon had not completed a review required to keep the recruitment going.

The program, which started as a pilot in February, allowed recruiters to enlist immigrants, most of them in the Army, with special language or medical skills who are in this country on temporary visas. Successful recruits are offered the chance to become United States citizens within a few months.

More than 1,000 immigrants have been enlisted through the program, and hundreds more, at least, are in the final stages of approval, Army officials said. More than 14,000 immigrants have contacted Army recruiters to see if they qualified for the program and have passed a first level of vetting, the officials said.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the program had “generated interest” but still had to be evaluated “along many performance dimensions.” After the pilot phase formally ends next month, the Defense Department will “review the results to determine if the program warrants further consideration,” said the spokeswoman, Eileen M. Lainez.

Although the program has started small, senior commanders have praised it as an exceptional success. Recruiting officials said it had attracted a large number of unusually qualified candidates, including doctors, dentists and native speakers of Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Korean and other languages from strategic regions where United States forces are operating.

“We don’t see this normally; the quality for this population is off the charts,” said Lt. Col. Pete Badoian, a strategic planner at the Army Accessions Command, the recruiting branch of the Army.

Set up to run through the end of 2009, and to accept 1,000 recruits, with 890 coming from the Army, the program was extended after the Army filled its slots. The Pentagon extended the program through February by adding 120 new positions, but the Army filled those by Jan. 14, according to a notice posted on the Web site for the program, known in the military by the acronym Mavni (Military Accessions Vital to National Interest).

Other than the salaries of staff members who ran the program, the Pentagon spent no money on it, recruiting officials said.

The immigrants who have joined the Army through the program scored, on average, about 20 points higher (on a scale of 100) than other recruits on basic armed forces entry tests, and they had three to five years more education, Colonel Badoian said. One-third of the recruits have a master’s degree or higher.

Naomi Verdugo, a senior recruiting official in the Army’s office for manpower and reserve affairs, said the immigrants recruited for their language skills had also shown “extraordinarily high” proficiency in their languages. “We send people to language school, but it is tough to get a non-native speaker to the level of these folks,” she said.

The program is open to immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least two years with temporary visas related to their jobs, or as refugees. Most temporary immigrants have already demonstrated to immigration authorities that they have technology, science or medical skills. The program is not open to illegal immigrants.

Under the program, recruits with language skills must agree to enlist for at least four years of active duty, while medical professionals must agree to at least three years.

Field officers took notice of the program soon after it started. In Congressional testimony in June, Admiral Eric T. Olson, the senior commander for Special Operations, said it had “already demonstrated a great success,” based on the skills of the interpreters who had signed up.

Officials familiar with the immigrant program said that in order to obtain visas, temporary immigrants must pass several criminal and terrorism background checks. An additional security questionnaire has been part of the enlistment process, the officials said.

The prospect of speedy naturalization is a powerful draw for many temporary immigrants, who might otherwise have to wait a decade or more to become United States citizens. So far, 129 recruits have been sworn in as American citizens, Colonel Badoian said, including one dentist whose naturalization was completed in 30 days. Last year Congress gave immigration authorities $5 million for military naturalizations.

News of the program spread among immigrants mainly by word of mouth.

“Because we are now getting the naturalizations and having guys finish their training and move out as U.S. citizens, the word is getting out and the program is gaining momentum,” Colonel Badoian said.

Recruiting officials said they were waiting for senior readiness officials in the office of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to approve an extension of the program. They said the Pentagon’s review might have been slowed by the top-to-bottom examination of security procedures after the shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Tex., in which an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, has been charged.

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USA Today
January 22, 2010
Pg. 2

Army Top Doc: No Clues To Violence In Hasan File

Says Fort Hood tragedy couldn’t be prevented

By Gregg Zoroya, USA Today

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — In the wake of a mass shooting allegedly by a military psychiatrist, the Army’s top doctor acknowledged his service needs to improve how it manages medical officers, including using more candor in reviewing their officers’ performance.

But Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, told USA TODAY there’s no evidence his staff “could have predicted” that Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas, “could have become a mass murderer.”

In the 12 years that Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was trained and promoted to major, he may not have been “an ideal clinician, not an ideal professional soldier,” Schoomaker said. But, Schoomaker said, there were no clues of potential violence.”I don’t see anywhere in there (a recently released Pentagon review of the shootings) and no one has ever intimated that we should have been able to see from what we saw that this man would have become the alleged mass murderer that he is or is accused of being,” Schoomaker said in an interview at his Falls Church office this week.

Hasan is accused of opening fire Nov. 5 at a soldier readiness center at Fort Hood, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian, and wounding 43. He faces murder charges in a military court.

The psychiatrist had previously been ranked outstanding in officer performance, despite a shoddy record of medical performance and inappropriate discussion of his Muslim faith at work, according to government documents quoted by the Associated Press.

Medical supervisors were not made aware that Hasan was e-mailing a radical Islamic cleric in Yemen, something uncovered by U.S. terrorism investigators in the months prior to the shooting.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week released the findings of an independent review of the shooting conducted by former Army secretary Togo West and retired admiral Vern Clark. It recommends reviewing officer standards used by medical supervisors in Hasan’s case.

“Some signs were clearly missed (in Hasan’s case); other ignored,” the review concludes, urging that officers who supervised Hasan be held accountable. Gates directed Army Secretary John McHugh to act on the recommendations.

On Thursday, McHugh appointed Gen. Carter Ham, who worked on the independent review, to investigate its conclusions and recommend any disciplinary actions necessary.

Schoomaker’s remarks came during a wide-ranging interview about military medicine. He said that because of pending murder charges against Hasan and an ongoing Army review, he could not discuss Hasan’s case in detail and could not address whether Hasan should have been promoted.

The controversy surrounding his staff’s handling of Hasan has hurt the medical department’s image as it tries to hire 519 more mental health specialists to deal with the growing demands of combat stress, Schoomaker said.

Morale has slumped, he said, particularly among Army behavioral health workers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where Hasan did his residency and fellowship from 2003 to 2009.

“I mean the same system that delivered this alleged shooter has trained and career-developed professionally as officers, as well as clinicians, thousands of dedicated and really highly proficient practitioners,” Schoomaker said.

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Christian Science Monitor (csmonitor.com)
January 21, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Islamabad Thursday pledging to improve US-Pakistan relations including building on Adm. Mike Mullen’s efforts to mend fences with his military counterpart.

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 8

Drone Reportedly Killed Filipino In Pakistan

By Pir Zubair Shah

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A militant belonging to Abu Sayyaf, the Islamist separatist group fighting the government in the Philippines, was killed in a recent drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to a Pakistani intelligence official and a local television report.

The drone struck a compound on Jan. 14 in the Shaktu area of South Waziristan, along the Afghan border, in an attack that appeared to be aimed at the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud.

If proved true, the presence of the Filipino, Abdul Basit Usman, provides another indication that Pakistan’s tribal areas have become a collecting point for militants from around the globe who use the areas as a refuge to link up with Al Qaeda. It also shows the close ties of Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

A drone strike a few days earlier killed another militant, this one of Palestinian origin, who was on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list.

Mr. Basit, a Filipino citizen and bomb-making expert, has links to the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah as well as Abu Sayyaf, according to the State Department. It says he is responsible for bombings in the southern Philippines in 2006 and 2007 that killed 15 people, and has a $1 million reward out for his capture.

Abu Sayyaf is believed to have received support from Al Qaeda since the early 1990s. The United States sends $1.6 billion annually in military and economic aid to the Philippine government, much of it aimed at countering the shadowy separatist group, which remains active on the southern island of Basilan.

While traveling in South Asia this week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the Pakistani government to take on all extremist groups using the country as a sanctuary, without distinction, arguing that multiple groups had metastasized into a “syndicate.”

The presence of foreign militants like Mr. Basit underscored the point, as did the suicide bombing last month at a C.I.A. base in southeast Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban were the first to claim responsibility for the attack. The group released a video, recorded before the attack, of the Jordanian suicide bomber seated alongside the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Mehsud.

Since then, the United States has stepped up strikes by the C.I.A.-operated drones, with 12 attacks reported since Dec. 30.

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 8

Barred Politicians Mostly Secular, Iraqi Says

By Nada Bakri

BAGHDAD — The two biggest secular coalitions were hit hardest by this month’s decision to bar about 500 candidates from parliamentary elections in March, a top election official said Thursday, as efforts to resolve what has become a political crisis intensified.

The decision infuriated Sunnis and deepened their fears of being excluded from the political process. Critics have warned that the disqualifications, made on the grounds that the candidates promoted the Baath Party of former President Saddam Hussein, could damage the credibility of the March 7 vote, which is crucial to American plans to withdraw.

The government panel that made the decision, the Accountability and Justice Commission, contends it was merely applying the law. Opponents have called its move an attempt to settle scores, and said it focused on secular opponents of Iraq’s religious Shiite parties, backed by Iran.

The head of the independent electoral commission responsible for organizing the vote, Faraj al-Haidari, said that the list of those disqualified that was compiled by the Accountability and Justice Commission had candidates from all religious backgrounds and political affiliations. Secular candidates represented the largest number of disqualifications, according to the list published in local newspapers, divided almost evenly between Sunnis and Shiites, Mr. Haidari said.

“You could say it’s 50-50,” he said.

The commission barred 72 candidates from Iraqiya, the coalition led by Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi; and Saleh al-Mutlaq, a leading Sunni lawmaker who was himself barred, Mr. Haidari said. It also disqualified 67 from another predominantly secular coalition, Iraq Unity, led by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, said Jinan Mubarak, a candidate from the group.

In an early effort to resolve the crisis, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. suggested that the list of the disqualified be set aside until after the elections, so that only those on the list who won would have to be examined for Baathist ties, according to Iraqi officials. Many politicians said that they supported this solution, but others questioned its legality and criticized Washington for interference in Iraq’s affairs. Electoral officials have questioned the feasibility of such an idea.

“This is the best possible solution,” said Shaker Kattab, a spokesman for Mr. Hashimi. If charges of promoting the Baath Party were proved, he added, then candidates would give up their seats to someone from the same coalition who did not win.

Mr. Hashimi has contested the legality of the commission, which is headed by Ali Faisal al-Lami, who until last August was in an American-run prison in Iraq on suspicions that he was involved in bombings that singled out Americans in Iraq, and Ahmed Chalabi, once one of Washington’s top allies here, who is now believed to have close ties with Iran.

The commission took over the responsibilities of a de-Baathification committee in 2008, but its members were never approved by Parliament.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said Thursday that a high-level committee would be set up to look into the legality of the commission and that a letter was sent to senior judges to determine whether the disqualifications would stand. “I myself am not satisfied with the banning decision,” Mr. Talabani told a news conference.

On Thursday, hundreds of people in the predominantly Shiite cities of Basra and Najaf, in southern Iraq, demonstrated in support of the decision. They held banners denouncing the former Hussein government and burned pictures of some of the barred candidates.

“The Baathists can’t return to Iraq,” Jabar Amen, the head of the Basra Provincial Council, said during the protest. “There is no place for them among us. There is no place for criminals.”

Riyadh Mohammed contributed reporting.

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Washington Post
January 22, 2010
Pg. 8

Biden Heads Up Effort To Warn Iraqi Leaders About Disqualification Of Candidates

By Leila Fadel

Baghdad — Alarmed that the disqualification of hundreds of candidates from upcoming parliamentary elections threatens to derail Iraq’s fledgling democracy, the Obama administration is dispatching Vice President Biden in hopes of defusing the looming political crisis.

The expected visit showcases U.S. concerns that the decision to bar 511 candidates — the most prominent of whom are Sunni Arabs — could stoke sectarian violence and undermine elections as the U.S. military prepares to significantly reduce its presence here. The removal of candidates purportedly adhering to the ideals of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party could reverse efforts to bring disenfranchised Sunni communities into the fold and inflame old divisions, wiping out the security gains of the U.S. surge.

If the Americans “fail in guaranteeing democracy, they should leave right away from Iraq, because their presence means nothing,” said Saleh al-Mutlak, a prominent Sunni lawmaker now barred from running. “If they can’t protect democracy, then what are they here for?”

U.S. officials are in a precarious position as they try to soften the effort to ban supposed Baathists. They are stuck between the government they created and bolstered — a coalition of mostly sect- and ethnic-based coalitions dominated by Shiite Arabs — and politicians who have been branded as loyalists to the dictator deposed during the U.S.-led invasion.

“The United States is very sensitive about the Sunni situation,” said Ezzat Shahbandar, a secular Shiite lawmaker allied with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition. “This is the hot area, and armed groups could use any political reason to fight again.”

On Thursday, President Jalal Talabani said he welcomed the expected visit by Biden but warned that the Iraqi government would not succumb to U.S. pressure.

Biden’s expected visit follows a round of calls to top Iraqi officials, including Talabani and Maliki, suggesting that they postpone the vetting of candidates for Baathist connections until after the elections, Iraqi officials said.

U.S. officials have said rooting out Baathists from public office should be done in a transparent way, and they have raised concerns about the scope and timing of the disqualification effort in meetings with Iraqi officials.

Obama administration officials said that they knew the disqualifications were coming but that they were taken aback by the length of a list they initially were led to believe would contain no more than 15 candidates. After Biden’s talks in the past week with Maliki, Talabani and others, the administration is convinced that Iraqi political leaders realize the seriousness of the situation and are “constructively engaged in looking for a way forward,” said one senior administration official in Washington.

The problem, he said, is that “no one wants to be perceived as defending the rights of Baathists” and no Iraqi decision-maker wants to be the first to publicly declare that the ruling must be reversed.

The administration is less concerned with how the problem is resolved than the speed with which a solution is found. If ballots are not printed within the next week to 10 days, the March date for the elections will be difficult to keep, the official said.

Correspondent Ernesto Londoño and special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad and staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.

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Wall Street Journal
January 22, 2010
Pg. 1

Al Qaeda’s Deep Tribal Ties Make Yemen A Terror Hub

By Charles Levinson and Margaret Coker

SAN’A, Yemen—In nearly a decade of rebuilding its terror network here, al Qaeda has put down deep roots, a move that is now complicating U.S.-backed efforts to battle the group.

Unlike other chapters of the global terror network, Yemen’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a largely homegrown movement, with carefully cultivated ties to the local population. That sets it apart from other affiliates of al Qaeda, and could make it much more difficult to dislodge.

The group’s strategy: apply lessons learned from mistakes by affiliates in other Mideast havens, particularly Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

In both those places, al Qaeda’s footprint weakened significantly as local support for the group turned sharply against it. To avoid a similar fate in Yemen, the group has worked hard to curry favor with local tribes—so much so that it is now largely interwoven in the country’s tribal fabric.

“They’ve worked hard to put deep, and what they hope are lasting, roots that will make it very difficult for them to be rooted out of Yemen,” says Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University. “They’ve done a good job of looking at the mistakes that other versions of al Qaeda have made elsewhere.”

Since late last year, Yemen has emerged as one of the biggest and most dangerous hubs for al Qaeda operations. U.S. officials have tied al Qaeda militants based here to two attacks against U.S. targets, including the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing allegedly by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who told U.S. Officials that he received his training from al Qaeda operatives in the Arab country. The push into Yemen, say U.S. officials, shows the group’s increased ability to wage jihad against the U.S. and its allies, a main al Qaeda goal.

In recent months, a top al Qaeda leader publicized moving his foreign family here, while another married into a local tribe. The group is providing social and financial assistance in some of the country’s poorest areas, according to tribesmen, local residents and a former al Qaeda member. Its leaders have also tempered its message of global jihad to fit local grievances—including the lack of economic benefits from Yemen’s oil revenues—to recruit new members.

In exchange, some tribal leaders are welcoming al Qaeda members, allowing their sons to sign up, and providing protection from government troops. That has made al Qaeda militants almost indistinguishable from many of the rugged tribesmen and sympathizers they now mix with.

“As long as Qaeda respects the tribes, some tribes will welcome them,” says Sheikh Abdulqawi Sherif, the head of the pro-government Bani Dhabian tribe, whose land borders Mareb and Shebwa provinces, two areas where al Qaeda cells are based.

Gen. Yahya Saleh, nephew of Yemen’s president and the head of one of the country’s counterterrorism forces, acknowledges the alliances some tribes have with al Qaeda.

Still, he says, “the tribes in Yemen are practical. They know there will be a heavy price to pay for harboring al Qaeda, and more and more, [the tribes] will not be willing to pay that price.”

Complicating the issue is a power struggle between the government and the patchwork of tribes across the country. Yemen’s tribes remain one of the strongest social pillars in the fragile nation.

Government support from the tribes splintered after the December 2007 death of a longtime mediator between San’a and the tribal areas—Abdul lah al-Ahmar, a senior tribal sheik with decades of experience in Yemeni politics.

Western officials and members of Yemeni tribes credit Mr. Ahmar with brokering grievances between the largely rural tribal leaders and the central government.

Recently, heavy-handed tactics by security forces targeting alleged al Qaeda cells have helped push some tribal sheiks into alliances with al Qaeda, says Mr. Sherif and another tribal politician, Abdulrahman al Jifri, who hails from Shebwa province, an al Qaeda stronghold.

Some tribal leaders, they say, see government attacks against al Qaeda within their territory as attacks on the tribe itself.

Al Qaeda’s tactic of courting the tribes already appears to be reaping big benefits, as the U.S. grapples with how best to help Yemen’s government fight the group. Anwar Awlaki, the U.S.-born preacher who U.S. officials say is an al Qaeda operative connected to both the Christmas Day bombing and last year’s Army base shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, is holed up in Yemen’s remote southern mountains, in the Shebwa province. According to Yemeni officials, he is being protected there by his local tribesmen.

The Yemeni government says it’s negotiating with tribal leaders from Mr. Awlaki’s powerful clan for his surrender, and has promised to send the military in if those talks fail. But so far, there’s been little indication the group will give him up.

In an interview with a local paper last weekend, Nasser Awlaki, the preacher’s father and a prominent politician here, denied his son has anything to do with al Qaeda. But he said tribal fighters protecting his son may include the terrorist group’s members. The father declined several requests by The Wall Street Journal for an interview.

“He now probably has some al Qaeda members protecting him because they are from the same tribe,” he told the Yemen Post.

Like Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen-based affiliate is known, boasts a large local membership base. Yemen’s national security agency director, Gen. Mohammed al Anisi, says that the leaders and foot soldiers are approximately 90% Yemeni, with only 10% foreign fighters rounding out the ranks.

The numerical strength of Yemen’s dedicated al Qaeda fighters is only approximately 100, Gen. Anisi says. But those who sympathize with them are much more numerous. That includes thousands of young men living in the tribal regions without education or jobs.

Al Qaeda’s links with Yemen have always been strong. Osama bin Laden’s father was born here. Mr. bin Laden recruited heavily in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the 1980s during his campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Yemenis returned after that campaign to a hero’s welcome. A decade ago, Yemeni-based al Qaeda leaders orchestrated the November 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden.

But at that time, the local Yemeni leadership lacked depth and was poorly organized around just two powerful chieftains. In 2002, the U.S. killed al Qaeda’s top man here, Abu Ali al-Harithi, in a drone attack.

A year later, the Yemeni government arrested his deputy. Yemen’s branch fell into decline, just as other affiliates across the Middle East started to flourish.

By 2004, hundreds of al Qaeda sympathizers had flocked to the Sunni tribal areas in Iraq to join forces with a loose network of Sunni insurgents and jihadis fighting U.S. troops and the Shiite-dominated government. The Iraq-based branch and its leaders were mostly foreigners, who put a priority on spectacularly bloody operations.

The group tortured and executed local men who refused to fight with them. They assassinated top tribal leaders working with the U.S.-backed government. Iraq’s Sunni tribes eventually rebelled, driving al Qaeda leadership out of many of its safe havens.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004, al Qaeda orchestrated two separate large-scale bombings aimed at civilian residential compounds. The attacks left dozens of Arabs and fellow Muslims dead, triggering a public backlash against the group, which earlier had gained some support for its operations targeting Westerners in foreign lands.

Saudi security forces took advantage of the mood swing and hunted down dozens of militant cells. In Yemen, meanwhile, al Qaeda has so far limited its strikes to targeted attacks on Yemeni security officials and Western targets.

“Unlike everywhere else al Qaeda has been active, here there is no al Qaeda violence against the society itself,” says Mohammed Ghazwan, a former state security officer in the eastern province of Hadramut, where al Qaeda is believed to be active.

Many of the fighters who lost their safe havens in Iraq and Saudi fled to Yemen, according to U.S. and Arab intelligence officials. The migration coincided with a local prison break in 2006. In February of that year, 23 prisoners, including at least 12 senior al Qaeda leaders, broke out of a San’a prison.

The escapees dispersed themselves throughout the tribal areas of southern and eastern Yemen. Nasser al-Wuhayshi and Qassim al-Reimi, both Yemenis, took on the Yemen-based group’s leadership. In 2007, they were joined by Said al-Shihri, a Saudi who had been released from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay in December 2007.

In January 2009, Yemen’s reconstituted organization merged with the remnants of al Qaeda’s Saudi organization to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A few months later, U.S. and Arab security officials started seeing a new migration of al Qaeda operatives, this time traveling to Yemen from Pakistan and Afghanistan, where U.S.-backed military operations were squeezing the group’s movements.

The influx wasn’t enough to dilute the Yemeni flavor of the group. Global and local al Qaeda leaders continued to appeal to Yemen’s tribal sensibilities to provide safe haven for the militants.

In an audio tape released on Feb. 22, 2009, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mr. bin Laden’s No. 2, asked the Yemeni tribes to harbor al Qaeda operatives, just as tribes in Pakistan and Afghanistan had done: “I call on the noble and defiant tribes of the Yemen and tell them: ‘Don’t be less than your brothers in the defiant Pashtun and Baluch tribes,’ ” Mr. Zawahiri said in the recording, according to a translation provided by the NEFA Foundation, a think tank that focuses on terrorist organizations.

In August 2009, al Qaeda’s online newsletter in Yemen, Sada al-Malahim, ran a congratulatory notice marking the marriage of one of al Qaeda’s leaders, Mohammed al-Umda, to a local tribeswoman. Mr. Umda is Yemeni, but not from the tribal areas where al Qaeda now operates.

Another recent issue announced that one of the group’s top three leaders, Mr. Shihri, the former Guantanamo Bay inmate, had recently relocated his family to Yemen from Saudi Arabia.

The group has also focused as much on local complaints as they have railed against perceived Western and foreign threats to Yemen. In the same August edition of its publication, the Yemen group ran an article on the unjust way the government distributes oil revenues pumped from wells located in the southern tribal lands of Mareb and Shebwa, two places known as al Qaeda strongholds.

The article urged tribes to take control of the wealth coming from their own land. “The inhabitants of [the southern areas] are paying for their own oppression,” the article said.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also started providing some basic services to locals in the country’s rugged hinterlands, long neglected by the government, according to residents of the areas.

It’s unclear how organized and widespread the social-welfare efforts are. But similar efforts have been important to the success of other Islamic militant groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

Nasser al-Bahry, a former bodyguard of Mr. bin Laden and a native of Shebwa, says al Qaeda has dug wells for the community, paid for medical treatments for locals, and is even paying monthly allowances to poor widows in the community.

News Yemen, an independent Yemeni news Web site , reported in November that Shebwa tribesman, frustrated by the central government’s inability to provide teachers for their schools, turned to al Qaeda.

It wasn’t possible to verify the report, but it underscores a growing perception among Yemenis that al Qaeda is stepping in where the cash-strapped central government has been absent. “Here in Yemen, al Qaeda is made up of the sons of the tribes,” says Mr. Bahry, who gave up his own militancy in 2000. “So, [al Qaeda members] take care of the tribes.”

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Boston Globe
January 22, 2010

By Associated Press

SANA, Yemen – Yemen will stop issuing visas to foreign visitors upon arrival to prevent Islamic militants from sneaking in to train with an Al Qaeda offshoot that has established a stronghold in the country, officials said yesterday.

Visitors requiring visas will instead have to apply for them at Yemeni embassies abroad before traveling in an effort to better screen out potential militants.

“These measures aim to end infiltration of Al Qaeda elements who used to abuse these conveniences in place,’’ said Tarek al-Shami, a spokesman for Yemen’s ruling party.

Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen has become a pressing concern for US security after the failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner Dec. 25. FBI investigators say the Nigerian suspect told them he received explosives and training from the group in Yemen.

The new visa rules were issued a day after Britain suspended direct flights to Yemen’s capital, Sana, in response to the growing threat from Al Qaeda-affiliated militants based in the country.

It also follows a US Senate report quoting American law enforcement officials as saying they believe that as many as three dozen Americans who converted to Islam in prison have traveled to Yemen, possibly to train with Al Qaeda.

A counterterrorism official said travelers from North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and Persian Gulf nations will now be subject to the new order.

Travelers from other countries either do not need visas or were already required to apply for the documents at Yemeni embassies.

Yemen Tightens Visa Rules To Deter Militants

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Washington Post
January 22, 2010
Pg. 8

Iran

Russia To Start Up Reactor This Year

 

Russia this year will start up the reactor at Iran’s long-delayed Bushehr nuclear power plant, the head of Russia’s state nuclear corporation said Thursday.

Russia agreed to build Iran the 1,000-megawatt power plant at Bushehr 15 years ago, but delays have dogged the $1 billion project, and diplomats say Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran.

“2010 is the year of Bushehr,” Sergei Kiriyenko said in Moscow.

The United States and major European Union countries suspect Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb under cover of its civilian nuclear program, an assertion Tehran vehemently denies.

–Reuters

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 9

Poland To Deploy U.S. Missiles Near Russia

By Judy Dempsey

BERLIN — Three months after the United States announced a reformulated missile-defense plan for Poland, the Polish defense minister has announced that American surface-to-air missiles will be deployed near Russian soil.

The minister, Bogdan Klich, said Wednesday that an undisclosed number of missiles would be deployed in the vicinity of Morag, in northern Poland, just 35 miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. He said the missiles could arrive as soon as late March or early April.

He said the decision to base the missiles near Morag, and not Warsaw, had no political or strategic significance. “The only reason was the good infrastructure,” Mr. Klich said.

The United States had promised the missiles to Poland in October, after President Obama had scrapped a missile-defense system proposed by President George W. Bush.

Morag is already home to a Polish military base. Mr. Klich said it could easily be adapted to the needs of the new missile battery and the American soldiers who would be based in Poland once the missiles were sent there.

While the placement of the missiles so close to Russia could be seen as provocative, Russia denied a report that it planned to increase the arsenal of its Baltic Fleet in response to Poland’s announcement.

“No changes are planned in the combat components of the Baltic Fleet in connection with the deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles close to the border with Russia,” the Defense Ministry said Thursday in a statement carried by news agencies.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti had earlier quoted an official in the Baltic Fleet as saying that Russia would increase the fleet’s weaponry in response to the Polish announcement.

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London Times
January 22, 2010

By Tom Coghlan, Defence Correspondent

The RAF is under pressure to cut its multibillion-pound orders for fast jets in favour of cheaper propeller aircraft as part of a review of defence spending. The suggestion, from General Sir David Richards, has ignited a debate that pitches the head of the Army against his opposite numbers in the other two Services.

General Richards, Chief of the General Staff, believes that the Super Tucano offers a cost-effective alternative to fast jets such as the Cold War-era Eurofighter Typhoon in counter-insurgency operations such as those in Afghanistan. Resembling something from the Second World War, a Super Tucano costs about £5 million, a fraction of the £60 million estimated cost of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter ordered for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers or the £67 million of a Typhoon.

A strategic defence review expected after the general election is likely to recommend that each Service’s budget is cut by about 20 per cent.

General Richards has argued that state-on-state confrontations will be largely replaced by counter-insurgency operations in the future, making huge savings possible if the Government is prepared to sacrifice ships and tanks for lighter and cheaper but technically advanced matériel.

Air analysts argue that the Tucano offers a cost-effective platform to which high-tech equipment and munitions can be attached. It is being considered by the US Navy after impressive performance in Colombia, where it is used against FARC rebels.

Paul Beaver, former editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly and a former army helicopter pilot, said: “What David Richards is saying is that the airframe does not need to be superb — you just need to put high-tech sensors and the defensive aids on there. In Afghanistan, there is a reasonably small threat level for aircraft. It is not a replacement for Apache helicopters but it is a complementary capability.” Richard North, a defence analyst and another advocate of the aircraft, said: “The right kit for the sort of wars we are fighting today is a lot cheaper than the high-end kit.”

The Brazilian two-seater Tucano can fly from airstrips and loiter for six and a half hours over the battlefield without refuelling, although it cannot refuel in mid-air. It can carry 1.5 tonnes and uses only £500 of fuel an hour. The Eurofighter Typhoon costs nearly £85,000 an hour to fly. The trainer version is in service with the RAF.

Andrew Brookes, aerospace analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said: “I think that General Richards has been led astray by people who think that because it is cheap and cheerful it is the answer to the maiden’s prayer. In a Joint Strike Fighter you have a stealthy, magnificent intelligence-gathering platform. No one will see it coming and it could go to downtown Tehran, Pyongyang or maybe even Moscow tomorrow. You can say you would get a lot of Tucanos cheaply but the money for Typhoon and JSF has already been spent and they can be used for the whole spectrum of operations.”

One defence source told The Times: “We neither need, nor can afford the ‘deep persistent operating capability’ associated with attacking stealthily the most heavily defended airspace on Earth. Something like Tucano does the job for irregular warfare [of the future] and is effective and cost-efficient.”

An RAF spokesman said: “We are always seeking the most effective ways of conducting surveillance. The preferred option is currently to use fast jets and unmanned air vehicles because of their ability to stay airborne longer [through air-to-air refuelling] and their greater versatility in providing close air support to troops.”

RAF Urged To Cut ‘Cold War’ New Jets For Cheap Propeller Aircraft

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Reuters.com
January 22, 2010

By Ralph Jennings, Reuters

TAIPEI — A Taiwan military plane carrying aid for quake-hit Haiti will be allowed to land in the United States for the first time, a U.S. official said on Friday, a move which could anger the island’s political rival China.

The aircraft will refuel in the U.S. on its way to Haiti, said Chris Kavanagh, spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy on the island.

“This is a humanitarian mission. We want to help them get relief to Haiti as soon as possible, so we said OK,” Kavanagh said.

The move comes at a time of increased friction between China and the United States, at odds over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, exchange rates, trade quarrels, climate change policy and Google Inc.’s dispute with Beijing over hacking and censorship.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island.

Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary, and vehemently opposes military contact between Taipei and Washington.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself if attacked.

U.S. and Taiwan officials declined to give details of the cargo aircraft’s mission, but local media said the plane was an air force C-130 turboprop plane.

Haiti, one of Taiwan’s only 23 diplomatic allies compared to China’s more than 170, has received $5 million in Taiwan government aid for relief after the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed as many as 200,000 people.

In another move that could upset China, Taiwan said U.S. officials would let island President Ma Ying-jeou stop in the United States next week on a trip to Latin America. China has made no comment so far.

Taiwan Military Plane To Land In US, Testing China

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 12

Firm To Remove Bible References From Gun Sights

By Erik Eckholm

Bowing to Pentagon concerns and an international outcry, a Michigan arms company said Thursday that it would immediately stop embossing references to New Testament Scriptures on rifle sights it sells the military.

The company, Trijicon Inc., has multimillion-dollar contracts with the Pentagon for advanced telescopic sights that are widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trijicon also said it would provide the Pentagon with 100 free kits to use for removing the lettering on existing weapons.

For years, the company acknowledged, it has put small scriptural references near the model numbers on some products, a practice started by its founder, who was a Christian.

The references, like JN8:12 and 2COR4:6, referring to passages in the Gospel of John and in Second Corinthians, had not been widely noticed or debated until an ABC News report this week. Scopes with biblical references were also sold to the Australian, New Zealand and British militaries.

Neither the company nor the Pentagon released estimates of how many current military weapons carried Trijicon gun sights.

The Marine Corps has a $660 million contract with Trijicon for more than 200,000 of the high-tech rifle sights, said Capt. Geraldine Carey, a Marine spokeswoman. The Army said it had bought just under 200,000 of the sights.

A Trijicon spokesman said the company started adding the biblical references to products well before it received its first military contract, in 1995, and had done so until now.

As word of the practice spread, it was condemned by civil liberties groups and some religious groups in the United States and abroad.

Michael L. Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said that several of the group’s members, including active-duty military personnel, had contacted him in recent weeks to complain about the subtle religious references on their weapons and that he had alerted ABC.

“The Constitution won today,” Mr. Weinstein said of the company’s decision.

After the television news report, Pentagon spokesmen called the inscriptions inappropriate and said they were looking into the matter.

Some religious groups were more strident in their condemnations.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington said the biblical references violated the nation’s values and would stoke the fires of extremists who accuse the United States of carrying out a religious crusade in Asia and the Middle East.

In a letter early Thursday to President Obama, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said the gun sights “clearly violate a government rule prohibiting proselytizing” and called the practice “only the latest in a long line of violations of the boundaries between religion and government within the military.”

In Afghanistan, the Al Jazeera news service reported that sights with the Christian references had been distributed to some Afghan soldiers and that this would provide the Taliban with a propaganda coup.

In its statement on Thursday, Trijicon said it would immediately “stop putting references to Scripture on all products manufactured for the U.S. military” and would provide kits for removing lettering on existing weapons. The company said it would follow the same policy for purchases by other national militaries.

“Our decision to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate,” said the statement by Stephen Bindon, the company’s president.

The Army said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that it “was unaware of these coded biblical references until several days ago.” The statement added, “It is not the policy of the Army or the Department of Defense to put religious references of any kind on its equipment.”

The Marine Corps also issued a statement saying that it did not know about the biblical references, adding, “We are making every effort to remove these markings from all of our scopes and will ensure that all future procurement of these scopes will not have these types of markings.”

Trijicon specializes in advanced telescopic rifle sights that provide enhanced vision in low light, and it sells products to hunters and law enforcement agencies as well as to the military.

The company makes no secret of its Christian roots; the statement of corporate values on its Web site says: “We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.”

Among the passages referred to on gun sights was John 8:12, which, in the New Standard Revised edition of the Bible quotes Jesus as saying: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Another, Second Corinthians 4:6, reads: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

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Newport News Daily Press
January 22, 2010

By Peter Frost

A new round of construction problems on U.S. Navy vessels built by Northrop Grumman Corp. have spawned yet another investigation into the nation’s largest Navy shipbuilder.

Northrop, already under fire for widespread yet unrelated welding problems that surfaced two years ago at its Newport News shipyard, now faces quality issues at its Gulf Coast yards in Avondale, La., and Pascagoula, Miss., the Navy said Thursday.

All Gulf Coast vessels built by the company over the last several years are under investigation for a host of problems, including improper welds and defective engines and lube-oil systems, the Navy said.

In response, the Navy has been forced to sideline two San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships after finding engine and lube-oil system problems that require immediate repairs, and inspectors are re-examining every critical pipe weld aboard every Gulf Coast ship built during the last several years.

The sweeping weld investigation was triggered last summer, after Navy engineers found that 10 percent to 15 percent of welds on a handful of ships didn’t meet Navy specifications, raising questions about how long those welds would hold, said Jay Stefany, the Navy’s program manager for San Antonio class ships.

While Northrop and the Navy found that none of the weld issues present immediate risk to any of the ships, Stefany said the insufficient welds may weaken over the course of the ship’s life and must be repaired.

The probe includes at least eight San Antonio-class amphibious ships, several Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and the amphibious assault ship Makin Island.

Thousands of welds on each ship will be reinspected, and the Navy expects several hundred to require repair.

“It’s not going to be a hard fix, just a quantity fix,” Stefany said. “Some are hard to get to, so it will take a little time.”

In an ensuing investigation, inspectors found that the faulty welds were so widespread that Northrop and the Navy decertified all Gulf Coast pipe welders and pipe inspectors from doing work on Navy vessels until they were retrained and retested. Neither Northrop nor the Navy could say how many workers were involved.

“From the time the issues with pipe (welds) were discovered, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding proactively has worked with the Navy to perform a root cause analysis and initiate corrective actions,” said Margaret Mitchell-Jones, a company spokeswoman.

“These efforts are consistent with the company’s intense focus on improving the quality in the Gulf Coast through implementation of a broad set of operating process changes,” Mitchell-Jones said.

Northrop’s response mirrors the action it took in 2008 in Newport News, when all welders and pipe fitters were required to be retrained and recertified after weld problems were discovered on submarines and aircraft carriers.

Senior Northrop officials are “personally engaged and focused on working with teams to assess and correct” the issues, Mitchell-Jones said.

The latest welding issue renews questions about how three layers of Northrop and Navy inspectors managed to miss so many errors while approving work that later investigations proved to be inadequate.

Welders are required to visually inspect and sign off on the welds they complete. A company inspector is charged with ensuring the welds meet specifications contained in construction documents. Finally, a Navy inspector is supposed to give final approval to critical welds before the ship is complete.

In this case, the problems weren’t found until sections of lube-oil piping broke on the amphibious ship USS San Antonio during the vessel’s first deployment in 2008 — more than two years after its commissioning.

Navy officials initially determined that, due to a design flaw, the ship’s piping wasn’t secured properly, causing pipes to break free from their supports and break. Engineers altered the design of all future ships of the class to include more pipe supports. During the process of fixing the San Antonio’s problems, however, the Navy found that each of the pipes broke at the welds, prompting a spot check on similar welds on four other ships under construction at the Gulf Coast shipyards.

The investigation revealed that more than a tenth of pipe welds on each of those ships were not thick enough to meet specifications, a development resulting in the expanded probe that includes all Northrop ships built in Avondale and Pascagoula.

Since the Navy determined that none of the weld issues posed safety concerns, inspections and repairs will take place over the next several months on each of the ships, some of which are at sea. Others are pierside or under construction.

Meanwhile, engine problems on the San Antonio class amphibious ships could have immediate implications for the fleet.

The San Antonio and the newly commissioned New York are each laid up in Norfolk while Navy and Northrop engineers try to determine what’s causing excessive wear to the ships’ engine bearings.

Bearings that hold in place two of the New York’s four engines are under repair for damage caused by a contaminant in their lubrication.

The New York also has a bent crankshaft that’s disabled another of its engines, which are manufactured by Fairbanks-Morse Engine in Wisconsin. Similar problems have surfaced in four of the five ships in the class, leading the Navy to hold an engine design review at Northrop’s Gulf Coast yards next week, Stefany said.

Until a full assessment and review is complete, Stefany said it’s impossible to determine if the engine problems are a result of poor design, installation or operation and maintenance.

Northrop will bear the cost associated with the repairs on the New York, which is still under manufacturer’s warranty. Whether the company or the Navy will pay for repairs on the remaining ships has yet to be determined.

Navy Reports Widespread Problems On Northrop’s Gulf Coast-Built Ships

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Los Angeles Times
January 22, 2010 Governments must change nuclear policy, but they won’t find the political will unless the public demands it.

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Baltimore Sun
January 22, 2010
Pg. 19

Doing A Disservice To Women Who Serve

They are denied the array of reproductive health care options civilians take for granted

By Lawrence J. Korb and Jessica Arons

Today, on its 37th anniversary, Roe v. Wade is still an unfulfilled promise for the women in our military. Women soldiers serving their country overseas and in the United States face impediments to accessing reproductive health care that most civilians take for granted. While military personnel must give up some rights enjoyed by civilians, there is no compelling reason for the current policies and practices that circumscribe their reproductive rights.

In November, Major Gen. Anthony Cuculo III, the commander of U.S. forces in Northern Iraq, put in place a policy that made pregnancy or impregnation an offense subject to a court-martial or jail time, citing military readiness as his justification. Fortunately, the policy was rescinded the next month after widespread criticism, but it points to a larger problem of an institution that is still too reluctant and slow to adapt to the needs of female soldiers.

General Cuculo is not the first military leader to attempt to curtail the reproductive rights of military women, but he needs to be the last. Such rules are not only ethically and constitutionally suspect, but they also completely ignore the circumstances in which women serve. Moreover, such rules are actually counterproductive to military effectiveness.

Because of the influence of the antiabortion lobby, the morning-after pill — which can prevent pregnancy after sex but does not cause abortion — is not routinely stocked at our bases overseas. This is especially critical since military personnel rarely, if ever, have access to local pharmacies in war zones, assuming the medicine is even available there.

In addition, because of congressional actions dating back to 1979, federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions for military personnel in cases where the mother’s life is not at risk. And regardless of the funding source, abortions cannot be performed in military hospitals at home or abroad, except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the woman.

This means a servicewoman must pay for an abortion out of pocket in an off-base facility, which presents challenges of affordability, distance and obtaining leave if stationed in the United States, as well as burdens of safety and legality in many countries overseas. These practical obstacles are compounded by a lack of privacy and a reasonable fear of retaliation by disapproving supervisors and peers.

These policies continue in the context of the well-documented prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the military. In fiscal year 2008, there were approximately 3,000 reported cases of sexual abuse against women, and 15 percent of the women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced sexual trauma during their deployment. These numbers represent only a fraction of the actual instances, since women know that filing a report can negatively affect their career.

A ban on pregnancy in the military would only exacerbate what is already a no-win situation. Subjected to sexual harassment and assault and limited in their ability to prevent pregnancy, female troops would face added pressure to have an abortion but be given no real options for obtaining one, increasing the cases of illegal, unsafe, and/or self-induced abortion that put their health and lives at risk. Moreover, regardless of whether a pregnancy resulted from consensual or coerced sex, a pregnancy ban is much easier and more likely to be enforced against women than men, despite the latest rule’s attempt at gender neutrality.

Current policy already requires a pregnant woman to be removed from a war zone within two weeks of discovery of the pregnancy. Add the specter of imprisonment or court-martial, and a woman who chose to carry to term would face punishment despite the many ways she could continue to serve the military, while a woman who tried to end the pregnancy covertly could cause herself permanent physical and psychological damage. Given that women compose 15 percent of the military, such a policy flatly undermines military readiness.

Providing full reproductive health services, including but not limited to abortion and contraception, on our military bases would at least ensure that our soldiers have every opportunity to prevent unintended pregnancy, access to a safe and timely abortion when needed, and appropriate medical and counseling services to ensure soldiers are mentally and physically fit to serve. The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, reintroduced last week in the U.S. Senate by Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, and Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, would help by guaranteeing access to emergency contraception on all military bases.

General Cucolo said the “message to my female soldiers is ‘they are absolutely invaluable.’” With help from Congress, he and the military may be able to find a better way to show servicewomen how valued they are.

Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.Jessica Arons is director of the center’s Women’s Health and Rights Program.

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New York Times
January 22, 2010
Pg. 30

Sunnis And Iraq’s Election

 

We had hoped that the March 7 parliamentary elections would prove the growing maturity of Iraq’s fragile democracy and set the country on a stable path as American combat troops get ready for this summer’s planned withdrawal. Instead, the process unfolding is disgracefully unfair and roiling dangerous sectarian tensions.

Iraq’s Accountability and Justice Commission unleashed an electoral hand grenade this month when it disqualified some 500 (out of 6,500) candidates — many of them prominent Sunni Muslims — because of alleged ties to the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. Among those ordered off the ballot: Defense Minister Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, one of Iraq’s most influential Sunni politicians. The decision was ratified last week by Iraq’s electoral commission.

Sunnis are understandably furious. After boycotting or battling the Shiite-dominated governments for much of the last seven years, Sunni leaders have been struggling to find a constructive new role.

The worst of Mr. Hussein’s henchmen should be held accountable for past repression. But there is little doubt that many if not most of the disqualifications are politically motivated and intended to disenfranchise Sunnis. Although Mr. Mutlaq openly solicits support from Mr. Hussein’s admirers, he was permitted to run for Parliament in 2005. And Mr. Obeidi has performed competently — and loyally — as defense minister.

The accountability commission is the successor to the destructive de-Baathification commission that sought to keep anyone with ties to Mr. Hussein out of government. Its chief, Ali Faisal al-Lami, is hardly an impartial judge. He is a candidate on the slate led by the Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, a relentlessly ambitious force in Iraqi politics who lured the Bush administration into the 2003 invasion and wants to be prime minister.

Both the accountability and the election commissions are part of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, and he issued a statement supporting their decisions. But American officials say Mr. Chalabi is the main manipulator. Mr. Chalabi’s absurd charge that the United States wants to return the Baath Party to power is typical of his divisive and destructive brand of politics.

There are other reasons to fault the process. Many Iraqis rightly question the legality of both commissions and their procedures, including a disturbing lack of transparency about who was disqualified and why. The ability to ban candidates is a serious authority that must be exercised openly, judiciously and rarely.

The Obama administration needs to keep pressing Iraqis to find a compromise that would allow the fullest list of candidates, including Mr. Mutlaq and Mr. Obeidi, to run. It still has leverage over Baghdad — including billions in aid and the ability to fulfill or deny the Iraqi government’s desire to purchase sophisticated weapons like F-16s. It must use that leverage. Iraqis have learned to play hardball politics. That is far better than fighting in the streets. But it should mean besting adversaries at the ballot box — not denying them the chance to run. If Sunnis are arbitrarily excluded, the entire election will be compromised. Even worse, the Sunnis may conclude, once again, that there is no role for them in Iraqi politics. That would be a disaster.

Author Details
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He is a disabled veteran and has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades. Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues. Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than “several” countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology. Gordon’s Latest Posts
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