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President Obama is expected to "announce" his "new" Afghanistan strategy Friday - the traditional Washington day for burying things. But there aren't likely to be many surprises. The Administration has been dribbling details out to the news media, and what has been foreshadowed includes: more troops, more civilians, narrower goals; a renewed concession, perhaps, that there is no military solution.
By Dave Lindorff
The actions of Obama's Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in permitting the payment of $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives (Summers, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually pressed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, to secretly remove a bar to the payment of such bonuses from the bailout bill) and storm of public outrage that has followed public disclosure of those payments, provides President Obama, whose administration is stumbling badly on many fronts, to turn things around and avoid political disaster.
He should promptly demand Geithner's and Summers' resignations, and should also fire the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy (as 80% owner of AIG, the US has the power to do that anytime). It would also be a good idea at the same time to fire the CEOs of all the leading banks that are at this point surviving on government bailouts.
Pakistan's embattled government announced key concessions to opposition demands Saturday, on the eve of a mass protest in Islamabad that had raised fears of bloody clashes in the streets.
The move to defuse tensions came as the army was put on standby, to be deployed in case of serious civil unrest, and the capital Islamabad was sealed ahead of the planned arrival of the protesters from across the country on Monday. The opposition is campaigning for an independent judiciary.
Obama Afghan Plan Focuses on Pakistan Aid and Appeal to Militants
By Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker | NYTimes
The emerging outlines of President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan include proposals to shift more American efforts toward problems in neighboring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to administration officials.
The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are “reconcilable” and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said.
Britain and the US are trying to broker a compromise between Pakistan's two major political parties as confrontation threatens to push the country towards collapse.
For the past two days British and American officials have been involved in intense mediation between President Asif Ali Zardari's government and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. London and Washington are concerned that Pakistan, a key ally, is engulfed in political infighting rather than tackling extremists.
Political sources in Pakistan said Sharif looks unlikely to back down as a "long march" protest against Islamabad kicked off yesterday, drawing a heavy-handed response from the government.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – At least eight people were killed Sunday in two suspected US missile strikes in northwest Pakistan near to the border with Afghanistan, security officials said.
"Two missiles fired by a suspected US drone hit a compound in Sararogha, in tribal South Waziristan region, killing at least eight suspected militants," a security official told AFP.
The region is a known haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists.
"It was a Taliban sanctuary, which was destroyed in the attack," another security official said.
"Some foreigners were possibly among those killed in the attack," he said.
The compound, which had underground bunkers, was in the area controlled by militant commander Baitullah Mehsud's tribe, he said.
US congressman Ron Paul says US military interventions around the world show that American politicians are in pursuit of a "world empire".
US statesmen from both sides of the aisle "are all interventionists, they all believe in the world empire," said the outspoken Republican congressman in an interview with Russia Today.
Paul made the remarks when asked about President Barack Obama's decision to assign 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan contingents.
The Texas congressman called Obama's decision an "outrage", saying the US has suffered "the most because we're paying for our foreign intervention overseas."
"But foreign policies don't change; it doesn't change with Democrats or Republicans," Paul said.
Within a few years, some members of Congress, and leaders of some progressive groups with huge email lists, will look back with regret as they recall their failure to clearly and openly oppose the pivotal escalation of the Afghan war.
Hours after President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, the New York Times printed the news that he plans to gradually withdraw "American combat forces" from Iraq during the next 18 months. The newspaper reported that the advantages of the pullout will include "relieving the strain on the armed forces and freeing up resources for Afghanistan."
Afghanistan's Complex Nature of Fighting
By Tom Santoni | Central Florida Veterans For Peace
Note: Mr. Santoni’s views expressed in this article do not represent an official statement of position on behalf Veterans For Peace in regards to the Impeachment of President Barack H. Obama …yet.
How many Obama-ordered civilian deaths in foreign lands will you tolerate before speaking out and taking action? Three Pakistani children are three too many for me.
In a blatant and unmistakable act of war against a sovereign nation, Barack Obama, four days into his administration on Friday, January 23, 2009, as commander in chief of US armed forces, ordered the US military to launch Hellfire missile strikes on homes in northwest Pakistan, killing dozens of civilians including at least three children. The military was aiming to bomb al Qaeda and Taliban “suspects,” but there was some unfortunate “collateral damage”. Oops.
In the Wall Street Journal of January 24, the loathsome McCarthyite neocon David Horowitz gazed approvingly on the inauguration of Barack Obama. To Horowitz it meant the removal of an obstacle to war. Thus he wrote:
By Dave Lindorff
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.
The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.
Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.
New York : After targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in their 'safe havens' on the Pak-Afghan border, US forces have now also started hitting Pakistani Taliban.
US President Barack Obama has broadened the list of radical groups to be targeted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the group led by Baitullah Mehsud is one of them, 'The New York Times' reported.
The strikes are another sign that Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his Presidential campaign.
The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft.
The US was secretly flying unmanned drones from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan as early as 2006, according to an image of the base from Google Earth.
The image — that is no longer on the site but which was obtained by The News, Pakistan's English language daily newspaper — shows what appear to be three Predator drones outside a hangar at the end of the runway. The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose co-ordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.
An investigation by The Times yesterday revealed that the CIA was secretly using Shamsi to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants around Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.
Secrecy and Denial as Pakistan Lets CIA Use Airbase to Strike Militants
By Tom Coghlan, Zahid Hussain, and Jeremy Page | Times On Line | Click through for online video | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
The CIA is secretly using an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, a Times investigation has found.
Zardari: We Underestimated Taliban Threat - 100 Nukes
'Pashtunistan' holds key to Obama mission
By Jason Burke, Yama Omid, Paul Harris, Saeed Shah, Gethin Chamberlain | Guardian UK
The mountainous borderlands where Afghanistan meets Pakistan have been described as a Grand Central Station for Islamic terrorists, a place where militants come and go and the Taliban trains its fighters. Now Barack Obama has made solving the 'Af-Pak' question a top priority. But could the battle to tame the Pashtun heartland become his Vietnam?
"The situation there grows more perilous every day," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff, told journalists earlier this month. Holbrooke reaches for the ultimate comparison: "It's tougher than Iraq."...For Bashir, a Kabul taxi driver, the Americans would leave. "The Soviets couldn't stay in our country. How can the Americans stay?" he asked.
From the Los Angeles Times
Feinstein comment on U.S. drones likely to embarrass Pakistan
The Predator planes that launch missile strikes against militants are based in Pakistan, the senator says. That suggests a much deeper relationship with the U.S. than Islamabad would like to admit.
By Greg Miller
Reporting from Washington — A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.
Bill Moyers Journal, January 30, 2009
Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young, author of the forthcoming "Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-century History" and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planes and helped found the military reform movement.
Watch the Discussion
Does it kill the person it's intended to kill? Not often. And when it does, it usually kills a bunch of other people around. And that, of course, raises the problem that the Predator and the missiles become a recruiting tool for the opposition and — beyond a shadow of a doubt — recruit more opposition than we get rid of by killing the one person at the table that we wanted to kill.
Read the Transcript, some cuts from:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden is a famously garrulous guy. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he would talk endlessly about what went wrong in Iraq or how to engage Iran, offering tutorials on the modern histories of those countries, and winding around to a seven-point plans about what needs to happen next.
So it was pretty noticeable on Sunday, when Bob Schieffer of CBS asked Mr. Biden a seemingly straightforward question about whether the United States would notify Pakistan before sending forces on cross-border raids to capture or kill al Qaeda or insurgents from the country’s ungovernable tribal areas, that Mr. Biden shut up.
US Vice President Joe Biden emphasizes that Pentagon would not hesitate to launch strikes inside Pakistani territories near the Afghan border.
"I can say that the President of the United States said during his campaign and in the debates that if there is an actionable target, of a high-level al-Qaeda personnel, that he would not hesitate to use action to deal with that," Pakistani media quoted him on Monday.
The remarks come after 22 people were killed in two separate US missile strikes in the Waziristan region, on Friday.
US commanders said they had consulted President Barack Obama before launching recent drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
"Four days after assuming the presidency, he (Obama) was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks," Guardian said Sunday.
It was early in October 2001, and I had been invited to New York City on behalf of The History Channel for a show in which I was to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. I was pitted against a seasoned American diplomat who had made his reputation negotiating peace accords in difficult corners of the world. I felt a little out of place, since my area of expertise was arms control and disarmament, and specifically how arms control was being implemented in Iraq. I had written a few scholarly articles about Afghan-Soviet relations, with a focus on the ethnic and tribal aspects of Afghan politics, and in the mid-1980s I had been an analyst with the Marine Corps component of the rapid deployment force, following very closely the Soviet war against the Afghan mujahedeen, so I wasn’t totally out of my element.
"With the advent of the new US administration, it is Pakistan's sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach toward dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism," a ministry statement said....The Pakistani parliament has adopted a unanimous resolution stating that US and Nato attacks would be considered an affront to the country's sovereignty."
Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, has called on Barack Obama, his US counterpart, to end American missile attacks in South Asian nation's tribal border regions with Afghanistan.
Zardari's comments were reported in the local media on Saturday, a day after the first US attacks in Pakistan since Obama's inauguration.
Six more bodies were recovered from the rubble of an Al-Qaeda den hit by a suspected US missile, pushing the death toll in two separate strikes to 21, security officials said Saturday.
"Six bodies of local tribesmen were found in the rubble of the house which was destroyed in a US missile strike on Friday just outside the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan district," the official said.
On Friday officials said eight people including five foreigners -- Pakistani officials use the term "foreigners" to describe Al-Qaeda militants -- died in the missile strike at the house of a pro-Taliban tribesman near Mir Ali.
Hours later another suspected US drone fired two missiles into a house in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing seven people.
Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 10 in Pakistan
From Reza Sayah | CNN
Ten people were killed Friday evening in a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's tribal region, said a local political official and two military sources.
The suspected strike would be the first since President Obama took office Tuesday.
The attack happened about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, said Nasim Dawar, the local official.
North Waziristan is one of seven districts in Pakistan's ungoverned tribal region along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and other militants have set up a haven.
The region has seen a spike in the number of aerial attacks by unmanned drones on what are believed to be Taliban targets.
A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non: a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.
Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations have agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to American soldiers in Afghanistan, lessening Washington's dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday.
Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan has taken on added urgency this year as the United States prepares to double troop numbers there to 60,000 to battle a resurgent Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.
By Dave Lindorff
Before the odor of burned gunpowder has left the air of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, the US is lecturing India not to go off half-cocked and attack Pakistan, simply because all of the attackers in the terrorist assaults in that city arrived by boat, apparently from neighboring Pakistan. US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are calling on India to engage in a “transparent” and “thorough” investigation into the attacks to establish who was responsible.
How different this is from the American government’s response to the 9-11 attacks in the US!