Archive for May 2009

Asylum airlines – your one-way flight to deportation

May 25, 2009

I am sitting on a plane with murderers, robbers and people who have committed various kinds of sex crimes. The atmosphere is not particularly threatening – but this might be because muscular security guards outnumber passengers. At the moment, they’re all sitting peacefully together, a great relief when you’re 30,000 feet up and not comfortable with the thought of a fight breaking out. We are heading to the Balkans: first to Pristina in Kosovo and then on to Tirana in Albania. The flight is a charter organised and paid for by the UK Border Agency, a branch of the Home Office, and it is taking 30 Kosovans and Albanians home. They are not going voluntarily; they are being forcibly deported. Deporting foreign prisoners convicted of serious crimes after they have served their sentences has been an important part of government policy since 2006 when Charles Clarke, then home secretary, was sacked after it was revealed that hundreds of foreign prisoners, some convicted of very serious crimes, had been released… and no one knew where they were. Mr Clarke’s successors have been eager to ensure they do not suffer the same fate, which may be one reason why Britain deported a record number – 5,400 foreign prisoners in total – last year. Since August 2008, anyone who is not a citizen of an EU nation, and who is given a custodial sentence in Britain of 12 months or more, is automatically considered for deportation. These chartered planes fly at least once a week and have several destinations, including Jamaica, Azerbaijan (which is used for Afghans), Pakistan and various nations in Africa and the Far East. But convicted criminals aren’t the only passengers. The Border Agency also deports immigrants whose claims to settle in Britain have been rejected – failed asylum seekers and illegal entrants of all kinds – but who refuse to return home voluntarily. The flights cost at least £250,000 a time, an indication of the priority they are given within the Government, but surprisingly few people know about them. I am the first journalist, or indeed member of the public, to be allowed on one. My flight leaves Stansted at 9.30am on the dot. Before the detainees board, one of the security guards suggests I might want to move away from the aisle to a seat by the window. There have been a couple of cases where the prisoners have lashed out and those sitting in the aisle seats injured. And there is a mentally disturbed prisoner on this flight and he has threatened to cause trouble… I swiftly move to a window seat. A coach arrives on the tarmac. One by one, those slated for deportation are marched up the steps on to the plane. Each is accompanied by three security guards, and all of the passengers board peacefully. They don’t look like criminals; instead, they look extremely young, thin and pathetic. Their crimes, however, include murder, rape and robbery. One frail individual has been convicted of managing a brothel. On his arrest, he had claimed asylum, and when his claim was rejected he said he would be tortured if he was returned to Albania. That claim was also rejected. And so here he is. He’s not happy to be going back to Albania, but doesn’t try fighting the security officers. I ask one of the guards if there is usually trouble between Albanians and Kosovans. “Not really,” he replies. “We can chat to them, particularly the Albanians, about Norman Wisdom – he’s an incredible hero there. Don’t ask me why but when England played football in Albania, Norman Wisdom got a bigger reception than David Beckham. It’s a lot harder to lash out at someone if you have had a chat with them first. That’s why we try to establish a rapport.” It’s a strategy that seems to work. On this flight, the guards aren’t even using handcuffs. “The Government started using charter flights in 2001,” explains David Wood, strategic director for the UK Border Agency, who sits beside me for most of the flight. “It was a response to the fact that some of those being deported realised that if they made a big enough fuss at the airport – if they took off their clothes, for instance, or started biting and spitting – they could delay the process. We found that pilots would then refuse to take the person on the grounds that other passengers would object. So although we still use scheduled flights, we use special flights for individuals who are difficult to remove and might cause trouble.” There are more than 60 such flights a year. Some 12,000 foreign prisoners and would-be immigrants have been transported back to their countries on charter flights over the past seven years. “You will have noticed,” Mr Wood continues, “that, as a proportion of the total of immigrants whose claims to stay in the UK are rejected, 12,000 is not a huge number.” I had indeed noticed that fact: there is a backlog of more than 250,000 asylum cases alone, and every year there are tens of thousands of people who arrive here who, were the law strictly enforced, would have to be deported. “But the effect of the charter flights is actually much greater than the numbers themselves might suggest,” he continues. “It sends out a very clear signal that Britain is determined to enforce its immigration policy. And that has an important impact on deterring people who do not comply with our rules or who are not entitled to be here from attempting to stay, because they see that we will succeed in removing them.” The statistics seem to back up his point. The number of Albanians claiming asylum, for instance, is now around one tenth of what it was in 2001: 1,065 Albanians claimed asylum in Britain in 2001; 155 did in 2008. The numbers being deported – or deciding to return voluntarily – has also steadily risen from 530 in 2001 to nearly 1,000 in 2008. Deportation does not necessarily stop those who are deported from finding their way back to Britain. Illir Venhari, who has served as a translator on flights to Kosovo and Albania for more than five years, says it is not uncommon for him to discover he has met one of the deportees on a charter flight before. “Some are determined to return to Britain,” explains Mr Venhari. “Once they have been taken back to Kosovo or Albania, straight away they start working out how to come back. They travel across continental Europe by lorry, then hide in it when it crosses on a ferry to Britain. I met one guy who did this five times.” “We do get the occasional individual who we pick up and deport a second time,” agrees Mr Wood, “but there have only been a handful of individuals who have been deported more than once. It is rarer now as our borders have been significantly strengthened.” So what attracts people to Britain? “As far as Albanians are concerned, it is because they are treated better here than in most of Europe, where they are thought to be Romany [gipsies] and there is a lot of prejudice against them,” explains Mr Venhari. “Also, Kosovo and Albania are very poor and very corrupt. You can earn a lot more in Britain and you will not have it taken from you by corrupt officials.” “The English language is also a great asset,” adds Mr Wood. “The chance of learning it here attracts a lot of people, some of whom will go back to their own countries, because once they can speak English they have a much better chance of earning a living in their homelands.” We arrive at Pristina airport, Kosovo and a group of scrawny deportees are escorted off. One by one, they are processed by Kosovo’s immigration authorities, who check their papers. Those who don’t have passports have been issued with a “letter of identification” by the UK government. “It’s based on the best information we have about who they are,” says Mr Wood. “I don’t claim it’s always 100 per cent accurate. We had one guy who had 54 aliases. We went through every one of his phoney names and it was impossible to be certain which was his real one – if any. But we take fingerprints so we can identify him if he tries to enter the UK again.” Our next stop is Tirana in Albania. Just before we start our descent, there’s a disturbance. Prisoners should be given £46 on release from a British jail and one of the passengers is complaining that he has not received the money. His claim is checked and discovered to be accurate: there had been an oversight. The security guards take pity on him and have a whip-round. They give him £30. It delights him so much that he seems almost pleased to be back in Albania. After landing at Tirana, the same process takes place, the only difference being that the Albanian authorities appear much less bothered about the paperwork. The deportees simply get off the plane and walk away. “Some will be back, I guarantee you,” whispers Mr Venhari. He may be right. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the deportation flights are a sign that the Government is finally trying to enforce its laws on immigration – something that, for at least its first four years in power, Labour seemed extremely reluctant to do. Charter flights are, of course, not going to be enough to stop people from desperate countries trying to settle in Britain in the hope of a better life. But they do get rid of a lot of illegal immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes. And for that, if nothing else, those flights are surely worth it.

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Saudi Kosovo proposal fails at OIC

May 25, 2009

24 May 2009 | 10:54 -> 15:49 | Source: B92, FoNet
 
BELGRADE — A draft resolution tabled by Saudi Arabia, calling for recognition of Kosovo, has been rejected at the OIC meeting in Damascus, Syria.

The draft was presented during the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) ministerial gathering.

But Serbian FM Vuk Jeremić stated today that Syria, Egypt, Azerbaijan and some other member states submitted amendments to the resolution, so that the text does not call for Kosovo Albanian unilateral declaration of independence to be recognized, nor does it mention Kosovo’s “statehood”.

Jeremić pointed out that this is considered “yet another important diplomatic victory for Serbia”. Belgrade views the independence proclamation to be illegal.

Earlier today, reports said that the minister stated he hoped that diplomatic means would prevent the adoption of a resolution that would urge Islamic countries to “immediately recognize Kosovo”.

Jeremić specified that the conference started with Saudi Arabia’s “aggressive address which asked the 57 OIC members to immediately recognize Kosovo in the name of support to their Muslim brothers”.

“We expected as much, and for this reason we were very active diplomatically,” continued Jeremić. The minister said on Saturday evening that he had spent the previous 48 hours “constantly on the phone with those OIC countries that support Serbia’s position”.

According to him, Belgrade looked to water down the resolution with amendments in such a way as to remove any call to recognize Kosovo from the document.

Saudi Arabia, a very strong and one of the most influential Islamic countries was on the one side, he said, while on the other are Iran, Syria, Algeria and Egypt.

“It’s hard to predict the outcome of the vote, but we hope for the best,” stressed Jeremić, and explained that as Serbia is not a member, the country’s delegation did not travel to Damascus for the OIC gathering.

However, Jeremić explained, Serbia wishes to become observer in this organization – another item that the conference will look at and decide on.

“But for now, from Belgrade, from afar and via our friends, we are doing everything we can to block the Saudi resolution,” the minister concluded.

NIGERIA: Violence creates “human security” crisis in Delta

May 14, 2009

Violence and criminality undermine Niger Delta residents’ access to food, health and economic safety, according to the International Crisis Group.

“The violence takes a severe toll on human security,” said Nnamdi Obasi, senior analyst with ICG’s West Africa bureau. “In some areas human development indicators have worsened since 2007.”

2008 was the Delta’s most dangerous year on record with 1,000 people dying and 300 hostages taken in first nine months, according to a December 2008 government report on the Niger Delta. Criminal gangs stepped up their attacks on the oil industry by one-third in 2008, the report said.

The ICG’s Obasi said though no recent comprehensive studies have been done on living conditions in the region, residents in several states say the humanitarian situation “has deteriorated” since the 2006 UN Development Programme (UNDP) report on humanitarian indicators.

 

The ICG’s Obasi said though no recent comprehensive studies have been done on living conditions in the region, residents in several states say the humanitarian situation “has deteriorated” since the 2006 UN Development Programme (UNDP) report on humanitarian indicators.

“The violence is undermining attainment of human development goals under the government’s regional development master plan and the Millennium Development Goals,” Obasi said. 

The most recent UNDP figures indicate poverty has declined more sharply in the Delta than in the rest of Nigeria.

Though the region sits on a dense network of freshwater distributaries, no inhabitants are guaranteed regular access to drinking water, aid groups say. And while the Delta produces one-fifth of the USA’s energy needs, parts of the region, such as most of Bayelsa state, are not linked to the national electricity grid.

Thousands of Delta residents were displaced in 2008 according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an “unknown number” of them by the local authorities trying to combat local militia groups.

 
Life in the Delta is very hard,” Delta youth leader John Sekibo told IRIN. “No jobs, no social amenities and there is absolutely no security. Living conditions are unimaginable. We produce all the wealth for this country and yet we have nothing, absolutely nothing. Living in the Delta is like living in hell.”

Access

The Nigerian Red Cross’s Chika Onah told IRIN insecurity and a maze of creeks hamper the National Red Cross Society from reaching people in need.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent started supporting the Nigerian Red Cross in Cross Rivers state in 2008, and has now added Rivers state, the heart of much of the violence and recent kidnappings.

Nine states make up the Niger Delta region, including Absa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers.

 

 

 
Government efforts

 

In 2008 the government created a committee to develop ways to reduce violence and boost development in the Delta; the committee issued its report in December.

Recommendations included appointing a mediator to facilitate discussions between the government and militants; granting amnesty to some militant leaders whose actions were politically driven; launching a disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation campaign; and channeling 25 percent of the country’s oil revenue to the Delta up from the current 13 percent.

But President Umaru Yar’Adua in February announced the government would create a new committee to study the recommendations.

“The government is not doing enough,” ICG’s Obasi said. “The Niger Delta falls within a whole range of activities in which the government has not been able to act as decisively or as quickly as people expect.”

Nigeria’s Information Minister Dora Akunyili told IRIN: “The government is still reviewing the report of the technical committee on the Niger Delta. The [new] committee will distill the report and come out with a workable document for implementation….the government will soon announce details of the disarmament programme.” But she said the government will not put a mediator in place and said nothing of financial targets.

The government lost $23.7 billion to attacks, oil theft and sabotage in the first nine months of 2008, according to the committee report.

Information minister Akunyili said: “The priority for government now is to speed up the development of the Niger Delta…we are very optimistic that we can bring the violence in the region under control in the foreseeable future.”

 

 

 

Source: IRIN

World Defence Update

May 9, 2009

Australia’s 20-year defence White Paper covers most of the bases The Australian government published its defence White Paper on 2 May, outlining military procurement plans over the next 20 years worth more than AUD70 billion (USD52.1 billion). Major purchases include the procurement of 100 Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, 12 submarines and eight ‘Future Frigates’ Oil

 

Russian submarine sale to Vietnam

 

An expected deal between Vietnam and Russia over the former’s procurement of six ‘Kilo’-class submarines – announced on 27 April by Russia’s state news agency – is likely to be founded on debt, oil and a Moscow commitment to help modernise Vietnam’s shipbuilding industries, Jane’s understands. Carl Thayer, a specialist in the Vietnamese military and a professor of politics at the University of New South Wales’ Australian Defence Force Academy, added that the deal – reportedly worth USD1.8 billion – had been under negotiation for many years

 

 

Canada seeks to revive submarine patrol capability

 

The Canadian Navy’s only operational submarine, HMCS Corner Brook, will enter an extended docking work period (EDWP) in 2011, Canada’s Department of National Defense (DND) has confirmed. A DND spokesman told Jane’s on 20 April: “In addition to normal maintenance requirements, Corner Brook’s maintenance periods include some deep maintenance and inspection activities to support extended operations beyond the normal EDWP cycle

 

Submerged gliders support Persian Gulf MCM effort

 

Long-endurance unmanned underwater gliders have been operationally deployed by the US Navy (USN) into the Persian Gulf for the first time, providing over-the-horizon rapid environmental assessment (REA) to support mine hunting operations undertaken as part of Exercise ‘Arabian Gauntlet 09’ in April. Deployed from the Avenger-class mine countermeasure vessel USS Gladiator for a nine-day period, the two Slocum Glider craft were remote piloted by the US Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) from the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi using Iridium satellite links

 

Navantia seeks to resolve Scorpene dispute with DCNS

 

Navantia began talks with DCNS in early May to try and avert legal action from its French partner, which has accused the Spanish shipbuilder of copying elements of their joint Scorpene submarine project for its own S-80A design for the Spanish Navy. The state-owned Spanish shipbuilder said on 6 May it is confident of “resolving these problems”, after acknowledging the legal proceedings started by DCNS in October 2008

 

 

ASMAR launches Icelandic Coast Guard OPV

 

The first Icelandic Coast Guard multipurpose offshore patrol vessel (OPV), Thor , was launched at the ASMAR shipyard in Talcahuano, Chile, on 29 April, the company announced. Built to a Rolls-Royce Ulstein UT 512L design it measures 93.6 m long and displaces about 4,000 tons

 

US companies will ‘duel to the death’ for contracts

 

The United States defence contract bidding arena is no longer a “gentleman’s club” and contractors will find themselves “duelling to the death” for the remains of a shrinking US defence budget, a leading aerospace and defence industry consultant has warned. Speaking to Jane’s on 1 May, Tom Captain, vice chairman and global and US aerospace and defence (A&D) leader at consultancy firm Deloitte LLP, stated that a contracting US defence procurement budget (including funding for research, technology and development) and the US’ ‘best-value’ ethos, combined with an expected reduction in US programmes, would lead to much stiffer competition among contractors than previously seen

 

Seychelles contributes to anti-piracy efforts

 

The Seychelles has become the first East African nation to actively participate in the co-operative effort to deter piracy off Somalia’s coast after another 11 suspected pirates were arrested on 6 May. The suspected pirates were detained following a co-operative effort by the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) and the Seychelles Police, local media reported

 

Russia announces construction of naval pilot training facility

 

Russia will begin construction of a naval pilot training facility in 2010 amid uncertainty regarding its use of the Nitka centre in Ukraine. According to state news reports, the navy said the centre was necessary to guarantee the consistent training of pilots based on board the Admiral Kuznetsov : Russia’s sole aircraft carrier

 

Australia launches landing craft project

 

The Australian government has given initial approval to procure a number of amphibious landing craft to complement the two Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious ships that are currently being built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) by BAE Systems Australia. Announcing the first pass approval on 7 May, defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon said in a statement that the Department of Defence (DoD) will seek offers from Navantia – the Spanish shipbuilder that designed the LHDs – to construct and deliver its LCM-1E amphibious landing craft

 

 

Chinese SY400 GRWS awaits launch customer

 

China’s National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corporation has completed development of the SY400 guided rocket weapon system (GRWS) and is now offering it for sale on the export market. While some Chinese multiple rocket launchers are based on Russian designs, recent systems have clearly been developed in China without foreign assistance

 

 

Russia plans new chassis for S-400 Triumf

 

Russia’s S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is to be mounted on new wheeled vehicles developed by the BAZ (Bryanskiy Avtomobilniy Zavod) in Bryansk. This conforms to the Russian policy that all modernised or new air-defence systems should be based on vehicles of Russian manufacture

 

 

Source: Jane’s Defence Journal

Two Weeks Left in Pakistan

May 7, 2009

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=31742

 
By  Robert Maginnis             

 

Last week, General David Petraeus (commander of America’s Central Command, which covers all U.S. forces in the Middle East and south Asia), reportedly said Pakistan may be just two weeks from falling to Islamic extremists. There’s not much the U.S. can do to prevent that fall, and the implications for Pakistan, Central Asia, and the entire world could be catastrophic.

Petraeus’ statement is based on current operations — the stuff reported in the press — and secret signal and human intelligence which expose the enemy’s true plans. Those secrets coupled with a disastrous set of circumstances apparently convinced Petraeus the Taliban intends to quickly consume Pakistan.

The Telegraph, a British paper, reports Petraeus said that “the Pakistanis have run out of excuses” for failing to take on the Taliban. He is reported to have urged action to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks before the U.S. decides its next course of action.

Petraeus’ pessimism is understandable. Pakistan’s government has shown weakness when dealing with the Taliban, a radical Islamist enemy allied with al-Queda. Pakistan naively surrendered land for Taliban promises of peace that were quickly broken. Now, the insurgents are methodically transforming Pakistan into an Islamic camp. The extremists are closing on the capital and promise to continue their march until all Pakistan falls.

Pakistan’s military has been slow to counter the Taliban’s advance. Rather, it keeps most forces along the border with India. Besides, the army has performed poorly against the Taliban in part because it lacks counterinsurgency skills and equipment but also because it lacks the will to fight its own citizens.

Petraeus is also aware that Pakistan has reached a tipping point because of economic and social realities which have created an opening for the Taliban.

Its economy is in free fall, which fuels discontent. Inflation is double digit and jobs are scarce. Pakistanis, according to surveys, say things are getting worse, which bolsters the extremists’ leverage.

“The Taliban know only that when the government is unable to deliver services, and when there is unhappiness among the general population because food prices have gone up tremendously, gasoline is not available, electricity shortages are rampant, that it is much easier to convince the people that the Taliban have the solution rather than the government,” said Shuja Nawaz, a director with the Washington-based Atlantic Council.

Pakistan has hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who fled before the advancing Taliban. These people form temporary camps which drain government resources and create massive discontent which plays into the Taliban’s hands.

Pakistan is also home to more than 12,000 madrassas — Islamic schools — which for more than 20 years have fed and housed hundreds of thousands of children while pushing a militant brand of Islam. Madrassas offer no instruction beyond the memorizing of the Koran, creating a widening pool of young minds that are sympathetic to militancy.

Police in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, say more than two-thirds of suicide bombers had attended madrassas. That’s why Ibn Abduh Rehman, who directs the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, warned “We are at the beginning of a great storm that is about to sweep the country.”

Pakistan is a bomb, the fuse is burning and as Petraeus has said, time is short.

Pakistan is the center of gravity for the global war on terror. It harbors al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, provides safe haven for terrorist training camps and is the staging ground for terrorist operations across the globe. It’s also a snake-pit ripe for extremist recruiting.

Imagine how bad things could become if that 170 million person country were run by extremists. It would be worse than the pre-2001 Afghanistan — a country run by strict Sharia (Islamic) law, a training ground for hundreds of thousands of jihadists, home for laboratories for mass murder weapons and a country that comes equipped with a relatively modern military armed with nuclear tipped missiles.

Everyone should be concerned about Pakistan’s 60-100 atomic weapons and their ballistic and cruise missile arsenals. The Pakistani military assures the Obama administration the nukes are secure. But the Pakistanis have never shown the U.S. where and how the weapons are secured even though America gave Islamabad more than $100 million to create a secure arsenal.

We have every reason to question their assurances. The same Pakistani agency that created the Taliban now controls the atomic weapons. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence service, created the Taliban with American help in the 1980s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but the ISI continues to supply and employ Taliban services. Why should America trust the ISI, especially if its Frankenstein takes over the government?

The Taliban have also announced their terrorist intentions. Taliban commanders promise to welcome and support al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other militants aiming to oust Americans from Afghanistan. Imagine what al-Qaeda could do with a country like Pakistan which has a large Indian Ocean coastline — think Somalia with nukes.

America’s war in Afghanistan will suffer a serious set-back with extremists in Islamabad. We depend on Pakistan’s Karachi port and two main supply routes through that country to sustain operations in Afghanistan. A Taliban-run government would immediately sever those routes.

So what can the U.S. do to prevent Pakistan from being taken over and then what should we do should that happen?

There’s very little the U.S. can do to vaccinate Pakistan from the extremists. American leaders have already prodded Islamabad to fight back, and our promised economic and military aid will take months to begin arriving and may not be enough even then.

Our diplomats could appeal to India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, to withdraw forces from their common border. That would take pressure off Pakistan, providing them the freedom to shift some of their 250,000 forces now on the Indian border to the counterinsurgency fight.

But the best short term solution would be a military coup that replaces Pakistan’s weak government, declares martial law and quickly redeploys the army against the Taliban. Even that solution may be too late if the army doesn’t vigorously take charge.

The Obama administration must prepare for the worst — Pakistan falls into extremist hands.

Our first priority must be securing Pakistan’s atomic weapons. We should develop plans with and without Pakistan’s ISI and military to move all atomic weapons out of that country to a secure location like Kandahar, Afghanistan’s military air field. This risky operation depends on whether the ISI and or the military cooperate, which is far from assured.

We must find new resupply routes to Afghanistan. Our options are either look to the north accepting Russia’s pre-conditions and or turn to Iran which will demand a steep diplomatic cost as well. Unfortunately, we lack the aircraft to sustain our forces in land-locked Afghanistan.

With extremists running Islamabad, the Afghan war would expand to include Pakistan and quite likely morph into a broader regional war that includes India. It’s doubtful the U.S. and NATO will commit more forces to a Central Asian region-wide war. This could become justification to quit Afghanistan and bring our forces home and accept the consequences, such an atomic missile armed al-Qaeda.

Obama promised Afghanistan would be his first priority. The current crisis in Pakistan gives him the opportunity to act upon that promise.

 

 

 
——————————————————————————–
Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television and a senior strategist with the U.S. Army.

Two Weeks Left in Pakistan

May 7, 2009

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=31742 By Robert Maginnis Last week, General David Petraeus (commander of America’s Central Command, which covers all U.S. forces in the Middle East and south Asia), reportedly said Pakistan may be just two weeks from falling to Islamic extremists. There’s not much the U.S. can do to prevent that fall, and the implications for Pakistan, Central Asia, and the entire world could be catastrophic. Petraeus’ statement is based on current operations — the stuff reported in the press — and secret signal and human intelligence which expose the enemy’s true plans. Those secrets coupled with a disastrous set of circumstances apparently convinced Petraeus the Taliban intends to quickly consume Pakistan. The Telegraph, a British paper, reports Petraeus said that “the Pakistanis have run out of excuses” for failing to take on the Taliban. He is reported to have urged action to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks before the U.S. decides its next course of action. Petraeus’ pessimism is understandable. Pakistan’s government has shown weakness when dealing with the Taliban, a radical Islamist enemy allied with al-Queda. Pakistan naively surrendered land for Taliban promises of peace that were quickly broken. Now, the insurgents are methodically transforming Pakistan into an Islamic camp. The extremists are closing on the capital and promise to continue their march until all Pakistan falls. Pakistan’s military has been slow to counter the Taliban’s advance. Rather, it keeps most forces along the border with India. Besides, the army has performed poorly against the Taliban in part because it lacks counterinsurgency skills and equipment but also because it lacks the will to fight its own citizens. Petraeus is also aware that Pakistan has reached a tipping point because of economic and social realities which have created an opening for the Taliban. Its economy is in free fall, which fuels discontent. Inflation is double digit and jobs are scarce. Pakistanis, according to surveys, say things are getting worse, which bolsters the extremists’ leverage. “The Taliban know only that when the government is unable to deliver services, and when there is unhappiness among the general population because food prices have gone up tremendously, gasoline is not available, electricity shortages are rampant, that it is much easier to convince the people that the Taliban have the solution rather than the government,” said Shuja Nawaz, a director with the Washington-based Atlantic Council. Pakistan has hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who fled before the advancing Taliban. These people form temporary camps which drain government resources and create massive discontent which plays into the Taliban’s hands. Pakistan is also home to more than 12,000 madrassas — Islamic schools — which for more than 20 years have fed and housed hundreds of thousands of children while pushing a militant brand of Islam. Madrassas offer no instruction beyond the memorizing of the Koran, creating a widening pool of young minds that are sympathetic to militancy. Police in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, say more than two-thirds of suicide bombers had attended madrassas. That’s why Ibn Abduh Rehman, who directs the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, warned “We are at the beginning of a great storm that is about to sweep the country.” Pakistan is a bomb, the fuse is burning and as Petraeus has said, time is short. Pakistan is the center of gravity for the global war on terror. It harbors al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, provides safe haven for terrorist training camps and is the staging ground for terrorist operations across the globe. It’s also a snake-pit ripe for extremist recruiting. Imagine how bad things could become if that 170 million person country were run by extremists. It would be worse than the pre-2001 Afghanistan — a country run by strict Sharia (Islamic) law, a training ground for hundreds of thousands of jihadists, home for laboratories for mass murder weapons and a country that comes equipped with a relatively modern military armed with nuclear tipped missiles. Everyone should be concerned about Pakistan’s 60-100 atomic weapons and their ballistic and cruise missile arsenals. The Pakistani military assures the Obama administration the nukes are secure. But the Pakistanis have never shown the U.S. where and how the weapons are secured even though America gave Islamabad more than $100 million to create a secure arsenal. We have every reason to question their assurances. The same Pakistani agency that created the Taliban now controls the atomic weapons. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence service, created the Taliban with American help in the 1980s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but the ISI continues to supply and employ Taliban services. Why should America trust the ISI, especially if its Frankenstein takes over the government? The Taliban have also announced their terrorist intentions. Taliban commanders promise to welcome and support al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other militants aiming to oust Americans from Afghanistan. Imagine what al-Qaeda could do with a country like Pakistan which has a large Indian Ocean coastline — think Somalia with nukes. America’s war in Afghanistan will suffer a serious set-back with extremists in Islamabad. We depend on Pakistan’s Karachi port and two main supply routes through that country to sustain operations in Afghanistan. A Taliban-run government would immediately sever those routes. So what can the U.S. do to prevent Pakistan from being taken over and then what should we do should that happen? There’s very little the U.S. can do to vaccinate Pakistan from the extremists. American leaders have already prodded Islamabad to fight back, and our promised economic and military aid will take months to begin arriving and may not be enough even then. Our diplomats could appeal to India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, to withdraw forces from their common border. That would take pressure off Pakistan, providing them the freedom to shift some of their 250,000 forces now on the Indian border to the counterinsurgency fight. But the best short term solution would be a military coup that replaces Pakistan’s weak government, declares martial law and quickly redeploys the army against the Taliban. Even that solution may be too late if the army doesn’t vigorously take charge. The Obama administration must prepare for the worst — Pakistan falls into extremist hands. Our first priority must be securing Pakistan’s atomic weapons. We should develop plans with and without Pakistan’s ISI and military to move all atomic weapons out of that country to a secure location like Kandahar, Afghanistan’s military air field. This risky operation depends on whether the ISI and or the military cooperate, which is far from assured. We must find new resupply routes to Afghanistan. Our options are either look to the north accepting Russia’s pre-conditions and or turn to Iran which will demand a steep diplomatic cost as well. Unfortunately, we lack the aircraft to sustain our forces in land-locked Afghanistan. With extremists running Islamabad, the Afghan war would expand to include Pakistan and quite likely morph into a broader regional war that includes India. It’s doubtful the U.S. and NATO will commit more forces to a Central Asian region-wide war. This could become justification to quit Afghanistan and bring our forces home and accept the consequences, such an atomic missile armed al-Qaeda. Obama promised Afghanistan would be his first priority. The current crisis in Pakistan gives him the opportunity to act upon that promise. ——————————————————————————– Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television and a senior strategist with the U.S. Army.

Israelis to sue NATO for 1999 air strikes

May 5, 2009

TEL AVIV — The Israeli Almagor Terrorist Victims’ Association is about to file a lawsuit against NATO officials who gave the green light for the bombing of Serbia in 1999. The association elected to take the move in response to the decision by Judge Fernando Andreu of the Spanish Audencia Nacional (National Court) to launch an investigation into Israel’s bombing of Gaza in 2002, when one Hamas leader was killed and 14 people were wounded. In the suit, Almagor cites the names of a number of high-profile Spaniards, including EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, who was NATO secretary general from 1995 to 1999, as well as the names of certain officials from other European countries and the United States. Almagor Director Meir Indor told the media in Israel that the lawsuit would be completed shortly. He confirmed that the Serbian case might open a Pandora’s Box, which could make certain individuals think twice before deciding to accept any lawsuits that the Palestinians filed against Israel. “We see this as a case highlighting the double standards of Europeans who are accusing Israel of war crimes, while at the same time, those very same countries, as part of NATO, committed crimes that were a lot worse,“ Indor said. Continue: http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2009&mm=05&dd=05&nav_id=58945