Monday, November 20, 2006



The War On Afghanistan is not going well, and UK PM Tony Blair is spinning his black little heart out. At the same time, a covert war on Pakistan by Western intelligence agencies, led by the CIA, is already underway.

From the London Times :
Tony Blair pledged Britain's continuing support for war-torn Afghanistan until after the Taleban is defeated during a press conference in Kabul today with President Karzai.

The Prime Minister flew into Afghanistan this morning amid tight security in a show of support for the UK force which has seen some of the heaviest fighting by British troops since the Second World War.

His visit, in which he earlier met British troops at Camp Bastion this morning, makes him the first Western leader to meet Mr Karzai in Kabul.

During the joint press conference, Mr Blair stressed the importance of international support to stabilise and rebuild the country following the ousting of the Taleban five years ago.

"We believe that Afghanistan rather than being abused as a haven for terrorists and for the Taleban to oppress people, that Afghanistan and its people deserve the chance to increase their prosperity and to live in a proper democratic state.

"We will be with you in this endeavour. Our commitment remains that whatever challenges, whether of security or reconstruction or development, we are up to meeting those challenges with you."

Mr Blair used the press conference, ahead of a Nato summit in the Latvian capital Riga later this month, to urge that "now is the time to bring into sharp focus the need to stay with Afghans as they make their journey to progress."

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan including around 5,500 Britons.

British troops in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan have suffered the brunt of the heavy fighting and casualty rates are now higher than those in Iraq, with 36 killed since the beginning of this year.

A total of 41 British soldiers have been killed while serving in Afghanistan, of those 20 have been killed in action and 21 as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents.

Asked whether the West had lost focus on Afghanistan, Mr Blair accepted that recent Taleban resistance had been stronger than expected over the summer but that it was important to show the progress that had been made.

"I think certainly from our perspective it’s important that we show the progress that’s being made to reenergise people, that it’s something that’s worth doing," he said.

Mr Blair said called the problem of opium farming in Afghanistan a "big, big challenge". Mr Karzai acknowledged that harvests of the drug in some parts of the country had increased, but said that it was "naïve" to think it can be wiped out overnight.

Mr Blair arrived in the country at Camp Bastion, the main UK base in the southern province of Helmand in a RAF Hercules transport aircraft.

It is Mr Blair’s second visit to the country. On the previous occasion in 2002 - shortly after the fall of the Taleban government - he was restricted to the Bagram air base.

His trip comes just a day after the West was accused by Pakistan of pursuing a failing strategy in Afghanistan by concentrating solely on military tactics.

But the West’s strategy in Afghanistan was attacked by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan yesterday, who and said that the task could not be achieved by military action alone.

He added that only Pakistan was implementing the right strategy. He called on the West to implement a plan of billions of dollars of aid to rebuild Afghanistan, just as the US spent billions of dollars rebuilding Europe after the Second World War.

Mr Blair flew to Pakistan on a mission to step up the battle against terrorism and gave warning that that it was a global battle that would take a generation to win.

In talks with General Musharraf , Mr Blair offered £480 million to combat the preaching of hatred in Pakistani religious schools and the two leaders agreed further co-operation against Taleban militants in Afghanistan.

But Mr Musharraf said that the war "cannot be won through military action alone, you have to come up with a broader strategy. This strategy must involve a political element and reconstruction or development."

Reacting angrily to accusations that he was not doing enough to stop the Taleban crossing the border to safe havens in Pakistan’s largely lawless northwest provinces, Mr Musharraf turned the tables on Britain and America by declaring:

"We are the only one who are trying to implement the whole strategy, which means military, political, and also reconstruction. More action is required on the Afghanistan side, because the war will be won on the Afghan side, because the Taleban problem is on the Afghan side."

He added: "I have indicated to the Prime Minister also that we believe there is a requirement for a massive inflow of developmental funds there, some kind of a Marshall Plan, some billions of dollars."

Mr Blair agreed that reconstruction had to go hand in hand with the military action, but said that despite suffering enormous casualties at the hands of British troops, the Taleban would still try to take back control of some parts of the country. "The Taleban will try to get a foothold back, they will, that is what we expect, but our will has got to be superior to theirs," he said.

He insisted the strategy was right, declaring that in the War on Terror, "we begin to win when we start fighting properly, and I think we are now fighting properly, but we have got to do more".

But in a gloomy prognosis, he said that the global battle against terrorism "took a generation to grow and will take a generation to defeat".

His spokesman said that the amount of aid was not the problem in Afghanistan, but that the fighting made it difficult to carry out reconstruction.

Britain alone had given £500 million while $10.5 billion was pledged at the International Donors Conference in London in January "The problem is not the lack of financial aid available. The problem is getting the physical infrastructure and government infrastructure in place to spend that money," Mr Blair said. He added that in Helmand province, Britain had built 13 health clinics, 89 reservoirs, 423 wells and eight classrooms.

From Rueters :

The security of the world will be decided on the desert battlefields of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told his troops on the frontline of an increasingly bloody war on Monday.

"Here, in this extraordinary desert, is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out," Blair said in remarks barred from publication until he flew out of Camp Bastion in Helmand province.

Afghanistan's western allies say the Taliban is on the run, despite a resurgence, but Blair's long-planned visit has been kept in strict hour-by-hour secrecy due to security fears.

"You may not know this, but people back home are very proud of what you do, regardless what they think of political leaders," he told troops in the desert province that is a Taliban stronghold and the opium capital of the world's main producer.

Fighting in Afghanistan this year is the bloodiest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban's hardline government exactly five years ago. The British troops in Helmand and other NATO troops in the south have been at the forefront of the combat.

And with the rise in fighting and a redeployment to the Taliban's southern heartland, British casualty rates here are now higher than those in Iraq, with 36 killed since June.

From the UK Independent :

The paraphernalia of death were laid out on the table - shrapnel, detonators, bombers' manual, false identification cards. "Enough for four, five suicide attacks" said General Ali Shah Paktiawal of the Afghan police.

"We are not allowed to blame Pakistan directly of course. But the men we caught were from Pakistan, these things were bought there. Look, they have even kept receipts."

This was Kabul yesterday, the capital of a country from which Tony Blair famously promised "this time we will not walk away", a land now torn by violence and wide-scale corruption, the heroin supplier to the world despite millions of dollars spent on eradication.

Five years after the American-led invasion, the infrastructure still lies shattered, with accusations of international aid being squandered. Meanwhile, the rights of half the population, women, are being steadily clawed back under the burqa.

Afghanistan is also where Western forces, in large numbers, are fighting a war which George Bush and Mr Blair had declared won with the fall of the Taliban regime as they moved the "war on terror" to Iraq.

The Taliban are back with a vengeance now and there is little talk of victory. Nato troops have inflicted heavy casualties on the insurgents, but military commanders talk of reinforcements coming from across the Pakistani border.

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has accused Pakistan of sheltering the bombers and its intelligence service, the ISI, of arming and training them. Mr Bush and Mr Blair have raised the claims with Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who vehemently denies them.

General Paktiawal was poisoned while in a government ministry four months ago, an example of the long reach of a ruthless enemy. He received emergency treatment abroad and is still on medication. He said: "Who did it, the Taliban, al-Qa'ida, the ISI, working together? I do not want to say. What I do know is that I will be surprised if they do not try to kill me again.

"You cannot end terrorism quickly, especially when there are outside forces involved," he added. "I accept we have big problems."

From the UK Independent :
Tony Blair declared that Islamic terrorism would go on for at least a generation as he was urged by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to back a new "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister admitted that a change of strategy by the West was needed to secure victory against Islamic extremists by winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Britain.

Speaking in Pakistan yesterday, Mr Blair promised a doubling in aid to £480m for Pakistan, partly intended for madrassas - Islamic schools - to help fight Islamic fundamentalism against the West. But he appeared to admit that the past strategy led by US policy had failed to stop the rise in terrorism.

"We begin to win when we start fighting properly. I think we are now fighting properly but we have got to do more," Mr Blair said. "This is about ideas and we have got to make our ideas powerful. It is about justice and where there is injustice we have to deal with it."

His remarks signalled a scaling back of expectations on the "war on terror"that launched with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, aimed at bringing down the Taliban and destroying Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida training camps. He said: "This took a generation to grow. It will take a generation to defeat."

Speaking in Pakistan during his tour of South Asia, after meeting moderate Muslim clerics, Mr Blair said: "In the end security measures are important but they can only take you so far. You have got to win hearts and minds as well. That is where we have got a lot more work to do." Mr Blair flew to the region to prepare for more wide-ranging measures to stop the collapse of Afghanistan, and to bolster support for the West's key ally in the area, President Musharraf, who is facing a Muslim backlash in his country for supporting the West.

President Musharraf said a modern-day Marshall Plan was needed for Afghanistan. The Marshall Plan - which was named after the US Secretary of State in the Truman government - spearheaded the post-war recovery of Europe with billions of dollars from America. Speaking after hour-long talks with the Prime Minister, including 20 minutes on their own, President Musharraf said they were united on all the key issues.

"We believe that there is a requirement for a massive inflow of development funds there. Some kind of Marshall Plan, some billions of dollars could be put in there for the reconstruction effort for the south-eastern region of Afghanistan which is under turmoil. Unless we understand the environment correctly, our strategy will never be correct."

Senior officials travelling with the Prime Minister made it clear that Mr Blair had not signed up to a massive increase in spending on Afghanistan. They pointed to a conference in London in January at which $10.5bn (£5.5bn) was pledged for reconstruction.

"In terms of a Marshall Plan we have always said you have to have the reconstruction going with the security. But it goes at different places. The security problem in the south-east is the greatest," said one official. "The problem is not having the money available, it is getting the infrastructure to spend that money."

President Musharraf admitted Pakistan had to "put our own house in order", with tougher measures to cut off support for the Taliban, but defended the border deals which have allegedly left the Taliban untouched in some areas. He insisted Pakistan would oppose the "Talibanisation" of Afghanistan or tribal areas of Pakistan.

Fact or fiction?

* BLAIR'S BOAST: 4.6 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan in the last five years.

* REALITY: Many have quietly left again, uncounted. Thousands more are internally displaced.

* BOAST: 25 per cent of MPs are now women.

* REALITY: Women MPs are targeted by the Taliban and fear for their lives.

* BOAST: 37 per cent of pupils at school are girls.

* REALITY: Entire provinces now give girls no education because schools have been burnt down, teachers killed and parents intimidated.

* BOAST: 60 per cent increase in the number of health clinics.

* REALITY: Many patients have to provide their own medicine and surgical equipment to qualify for treatment.

From the UK Independent :

Tony Blair flew into Pakistan last night on a mission to seek more co-operation from Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, on the war in terrorism in Britain.

Mr Blair announced a doubling in aid from £236m to £480m over the next three years to the Pakistan Government to support "moderate" schools in Pakistan. It is part of a strategy of undermining the hardline madrassas which are alleged to have brainwashed students in extremist forms of Islam and to have provided radical converts for al-Qa'ida operations in Britain.

The Prime Minister is also seeking improvements in intelligence-sharing between MI6 and Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, the ISI, in spite of suspicions - denied by President Musharraf - that they have sympathies with the Taliban. British sources said it was intelligence from Pakistan that led to arrests and the summer alert over an alleged plot to blow up about 10 airliners bound for the United States from British airports.

One million people in Britain are of Pakistani origin. Two of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up in London on 7 July last year had visited Pakistan shortly beforehand, and a British national, Rashid Rauf, is still held in Pakistan over the alleged airliner plot.

High on Mr Blair's agenda for talks with President Musharraf today will be the need to stop the flow of men and weapons across the leaky border with Afghanistan, where the resurgent Taliban are attacking British forces. There have been 36 British casualties this year, many in the lawless Helmand province, where British forces were deployed to protect reconstruction schemes but have become bogged down in a vicious war with the Taliban.

Senior British officials admitted the accuracy of the assessment by Tom Koenigs, the German diplomat heading the UN mission in Afghanistan, that Nato forces could not win without the backing of Afghan troops. "We have tactically defeated the Taliban, as one Nato general said, but we recognise that there are difficulties. It has to be a combination of military action and reconstruction," said one official with Mr Blair's party.

British commanders have complained of shortages of helicopters and armoured vehicles to protect against roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Mr Blair, determined that Afghanistan does not become a second Iraq, is urgently seeking reinforcements, and Britain will be calling for more support at a Nato conference in Riga. Although 37 nations are contributing to the Afghan force, many have rules of engagement which prevent their deployment in southern Afghanistan and Nato is still awaiting troops for a rapid reaction force there.

In his talks with President Musharraf, Mr Blair is almost certain to raise the question of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'ida leader believed to be hiding on the border, but officials made plain he would not be criticising the Pakistani leader in public. When they last met, at Chequers on 28 September, Mr Blair had to apologise privately for a leaked defence report - later dismissed as "research notes" - which said there was still considerable support for the Taliban in the ISI.

"Pakistan is not a banana republic," President Musharraf reportedly told the German magazine Focus last week. "We have an extremely loyal and disciplined army. The secret service is made up mainly of military men."

Mr Blair has little alternative but to accept the assurances of his key ally in the region.

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