Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Afghanistan President Demands US Cease Civilian Slaughtering Air Strikes

Afghanistan's president Karzai is finding it all but impossible to excuse the ongoing slaughter of civilians by American and NATO air strikes, supposedly targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

Karzai has told Aghan media that he has taken his demands to cease the use of air strikes to President Bush himself.

More Afghani civilians have been killed by American/NATO air strikes in 2007, some 300 or more, than have been killed by Taliban or Al Qaeda terror attacks, and the horrific injuries suffered by survivors of the air strikes have become key news stories for Afghanistan's surging mainstream news shows and tabloids.

The argument raised by many Afghanis on talk back radio and in letters pages is a simple one : when Al Qaeda explode a bomb and kill civilians, it's called terror, so why isn't it terror when the Americans explode bombs and kill civilians?

President Karzai is clearly sick of having to answer such difficult questions, and his fury at the civilian slaughter from air strikes has grown only more intense as the civilian death toll mounts.

From the Times Of India :
Karzai told a television network that he had recently delivered the message privately to President George W Bush.

Asked if he was asking the American government to roll back the strikes, he replied, "Absolutely. Oh, yes, in clear words".

The United States and the Coalition Forces, he said, are not doing that (killing civilians) deliberately.

"The Afghan people understand that mistakes are made. But five years on, six years on, definitely, very clearly, they cannot comprehend as to why there is still a need for air power," Karzai explained.

A correspondent, who investigated at least one incident, said they were surprised to hear that while the "enemy" has killed hundreds of civilians the year, a similar number have been killed by American forces.

"With relatively few troops there, the US and NATO rely on air power. The number of civilians killed in air strikes has doubled," he reported.

But the telling example of increasing hatred against Americans because of rising civilian casualties came in a village in which nine members of a family were killed when the American warplanes were trying to target the head of the family suspected to be a Taliban supporters who was not in the structure destroyed.

For The First Time Since 2001, Taliban Fighters Reach The Outskirts Of Kandahar

Japan's Prime Minister Forced To Withdraw Backing For Afghanistan War - Japan's Role In Afghanistan War Draws Closer

America's War On Afghan Poppy Crops Puts Lives Of Australian, Dutch Soldiers At Greater Risk
Masters Of War Plan For A Century Of Conflict In The World's Slums

An absolutely remarkable story from reporter Nick Turse, which appeared in the Asia Times, about a conference he attended where preparations were made and discussed for a coming 100 year long fight to take control of the world's urban slums and inner cities.

While Turse makes the obvious point that preparations are made for battles and conflicts that don't yet exist, raising the question of how military and weapons contractors know what's coming, there is an equally obvious conclusion to be reached that those who benefit the most from endless war will find a way to make their profitable fantasies into reality.

Excerpts follow, but you can read the whole story here. The details of the kinds of weapons these urban warfare planners are hoping to deploy in the United States, along with many other cities of the world, show that they are not waiting for urban warfare to break out beyond Iraq and Afghanistan :
Duane Schattle doesn't mince words. "The cities are the problem," he says. A retired marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at US Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq's cities as the prototype for tomorrow's battlespace. "This is the next fight," he warns. "The future of warfare is what we see now."

He isn't alone. "We think urban is the future," says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. "Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment." And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle's operation, has a similar assessment, "We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years."

In his tour de force book Planet of Slums, (Mike) Davis observes, "The Pentagon's best minds have dared to venture where most United Nations, World Bank or Department of State types fear to go ˇ­ [T]hey now assert that the "feral, failed cities' of the Third World - especially their slum outskirts - will be the distinctive battlespace of the 21st century." Pentagon war-fighting doctrine, he notes, "is being reshaped accordingly to support a low-intensity world war of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban poor".

In Planet of Slums, Davis notes that the Rand Corporation, a non-profit think-tank established by the US Air Force in 1948, has been a key player in pioneering the conceptual framework that has led to the current generation of what's called, in the jargon of this meeting, "urban operations", or UO.

On the technological front, the Pentagon's blue-skies research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), sent its grandfatherly-looking deputy director, Robert F Leheny, to talk about such UO-oriented technology as the latest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sense-through-walls technologies that allow troops to see people and objects inside buildings. While Leheny noted that 63% of DARPA's US$3 billion yearly budget ($600 million of it dedicated to UO technologies in the coming years) is funneled to industry partners, DARPA is only a part of the story when it comes to promoting corporate assistance in this 100-year-war growth area.

As you might imagine, smaller contractors are eager to climb aboard the urban warfare gravy train. At the conference, Lite Machines Corporation was a good example of this. It was vigorously marketing a hand-launched, low-flying UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) so light that it resembled nothing more than a large, plastic toy water rocket with miniature helicopter rotors. The company envisions a profitably privacy-free future in which urban zones are besieged by "swarms" of such small UAVs that not only peek into city windows, but even invade homes. According to a company spokesman, "You could really blanket a ground area with as many UAVs as you want ... penetrate structures, see through a window or even break a window," in order to fly inside a house or apartment and look around.

DARPA'S Leheny also extolled hovering UAVs, specifically the positively green-sounding Organic Micro Air Vehicle which brings to mind the "spinners" in Blade Runner or, even earlier in blow-your-mind futuristic movie history, V.I.N.CENT from Disney's The Black Hole. This drone, Leheny noted, has "perch and stare" capabilities that allow it to lie in wait for hours before fixing on a target and guiding in extended-line-of-sight or beyond-line-of-sight weapons. He also described in detail another DARPA-pioneered unmanned aerial vehicle, the WASP - a tiny, silent drone that spies on the sly and can be carried in a soldier's pack. Leheny noted that there are now "a couple hundred of these flying in Iraq".

During their PowerPoint presentation, the men from Lite Machines, for instance, showed a computer rendering of their micro-UAVs attacking an unarmed crowd gathered in a town square with a variety of less-than-lethal weapons like disorienting laser dazzlers and chemical gases (vomiting and tear-gas agents), while a company spokesman regretfully mentioned that international regulations have made it impossible to employ such gases on the battlefield. Undoubtedly, this was a reference to the scorned Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been binding for the last decade.

While the various speakers at the conference focused on the burgeoning inhabitants of the developing world's slum cities as targets of the Pentagon's 100-year war, it was clear that those in the "homeland" weren't about to escape some of its effects either.

For example, back in 2004, marines deploying to Iraq brought the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) with them. A futuristic non-lethal weapon alluded to multiple times at the conference, it emits a powerful tone which can bring agonizing pain to those within earshot. Says Woody Norris, chairman of the American Technology Corporation, which manufactures the device: "It will knock [some people] on their knees."

That very same year, the LRAD was deployed to the streets of the Big Apple (but apparently not used) by the New York Police Department as a backup for protests against the Republican National Convention. In 2005, it was shipped to "areas hit by Hurricane Katrina" for possible "crowd control" purposes and, by 2006, was in the hands of US Border Patrol agents. In that same year, it was also revealed that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had begun testing the use of remote-controlled surveillance UAVs - not unlike those now operating above Iraqi cities - over their own megalopolis.

With their surprisingly bloodless language, antiseptic PowerPoint presentations, and calm tones, these men - only one woman spoke - are still planning Iraq-style wars of tomorrow. What makes this chilling is not only that they envision a future of endless urban warfare, but that they have the power to drive such a war-fighting doctrine into that future; that they have the power to mold strategy and advance weaponry that can, in the end, lock Americans into policies that are unlikely to make it beyond these conference-room doors, no less into public debate, before they are unleashed.

These men may be mapping out the next hundred years for urban populations in cities across the planet. At the conference, at least, which cities, exactly, seemed beside the point. Who could know, after all, whether in, say, 2045, the target would be Mumbai, Lagos, or Karachi - though one speaker did offhandedly mention Jakarta, Indonesia, a city of nine million today, as a future possibility.

All of these UO experts are preparing for an endless struggle that history suggests they can't win, but that is guaranteed to lead to large-scale destruction, destabilization, and death. Unsurprisingly, the civilians of the cities that they plan to occupy, whether living in Karachi, Jakarta, or Baghdad, have no say in the matter. No one thought to invite any of them to the conference.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Putin To US : Attack Iran And You Attack Russia

US Like A "Madman Waving Knife" Over Iran Threats

Caspian Summit A Triumph For Iran-Russia Alliance

Russian president Vladimir Putin has fired up his attack on BushCo. over its threats against Iran, likening them to a "madman waving a knife" and repeatedly stating that Iran poses no threat to the US, Europe or Middle East nations. Putin's raising of the rhetorical volume in support of Iran follows the historic events of the recent Caspian Sea states summit.

Some more details from a comprehensive Asia Times report on the summit, where Putin and Iran's president firmed up their alliance, and showed utter defiance in the face of NeoCon demands for air strikes on the joint Iran-Russia nuclear facilities, and a cascade of anti-Iran propaganda from the American media. The message from Putin to the Caspian states was a loud 'You don't need America anymore, and you don't need to fear their threats either'. It was a monumentally historic event, strategically and diplomatically, and the true importance of the summit has barely registered in the western media. As usual :
The two day summit, coinciding with twin nuclear crises and escalating US-Iran tensions relating to Iraq and the Middle East, is bound to be regarded as a milestone in regional cooperation, with serious ramifications for a broad array of issues transcending the Caspian Sea region.

Billed as a "great leap toward progress" by Mehdi Safari, Iran's eputy Foreign Minister in charge of Iran's Caspian affairs, the summit has been a great success for Iran as well as Russia and the other participants (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), and Tehran is likely to capitalize on it as a stepping stone for full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), considered a security counterweight to NATO and US "hegemony".

Indeed, it is as much shared interests as common worries and concerns, eg, the US's unbounded interventionist policies, that have now brought Iran and Russia closer together and to the verge of a new strategic relationship. After all, both Iran and Russia are today objects of American coercion, their national security interests and objectives imperiled by the US's post-9/11 militarism and its feudalistic ossification of the international order.

The upshot of the Caspian summit is, in fact, a prominent message about the need to democratize the international order by erecting effective barriers to the American "leviathan", as shown by specific agreements reached at the summit, including prohibiting other countries from using the littoral states for attacks on one another "under any circumstances'', and disallowing any ship not flying the national flag of a littoral state on Caspian waters.

...Moscow is now poised to enter into a new strategic relationship with Iran that will serve the geostrategic, security, and other shared interests of both nations.

"Iran is an important regional and global power," President Vladimir Putin said after his initial meeting with Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has been much vilified in the West and yet is respected in the Third World and beyond as an assertive leader of a developing nation standing up to world-domineering policies.

A major achievement for Iran's diplomacy and particularly for Amadinejad's embattled foreign policy team, the "good news" summit will likely serve as the hinge that opens new breathing space for Iran's diplomacy, and not just toward the Caspian, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Iran's Persian Gulf policy is also bound to benefit from the improved image of Iran in the Middle East, making more attractive Iran's role as a corridor to Central Asia which the Arab world in general and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in particular can take advantage of in their external trade and energy policies.

...Russia's commitment to complete Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, represents yet another significant development for Iran, which has defied the UN Security Council's resolutions calling for a suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. By stating on record that there is no evidence to support the allegations of a nuclear weapon ambition on Iran's part, Putin looks to have provoked Washington's fury, as seen in Condoleezza Rice's instant counterpunch that Iran has been "lying" about its nuclear program. Yet more importantly Putin has signalled the beginning of the end of Rice-crafted "diplomatic consensus" vis-a-vis Iran.

Putin has held his ground against his Washington detractors, wooing various European leaders such as Germany's Angela Merkel and snubbing the pro-US Nicolas Sarkozy, while working on a new model of Russia-EU relations that is not dominated by US prerogatives. There is undoubtedly an element of risk here and Putin's new Iran policy may backfire, particularly if he does not generate more Iranian cooperation on the nuclear issue.

The "lonely superpower" that Samuel Huntington once wrote about now appears dangerously on the verge of losing its "coalition of the willing" against Iran, both inside and outside the United Nations. The only choice is either stubborn refusal to make the necessary policy adjustments toward Iran, along the lines of a non-threatening civil diplomacy, or to face what is certain to be a diplomatic defeat in the global arena.
More from Putin on his "madman" with a "knife" allegory about US sanctions against Iran, and the storm of 'Bomb Iran' demands clogging up the American media :

"To run around like a madman waving a knife is not the best way forward,'' Putin said...

"Why drive the situation into a dead end?''

Putin was in Iran last week for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and leaders of all other countries with a Caspian Sea coastline. They agreed none of the Caspian states would allow their territory to be used to launch an attack on Iran. Putin told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow Oct. 9 there's no evidence Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.

"We are categorically against breaking all norms of international law,'' Putin said today. Putin has repeatedly said that only the United Nations is empowered to take further action to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions.

More on Russia's claims that Iran poses no threat, while US 'missile defence' in Europe certain does.

Pepe Escobar explains the 'Attack Iran And You Attack Russia' paradigm.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pakistan Sends Thousands Of Troops Into Borderlands 'Owned' By Militants

Massive Blast In Military Convoy Kills 30

Pakistan is now rapidly approaching Iraq as the most terror-struck region in the world. More than 400 people have been killed in terror attacks in the past few months, and suicide bombers and car bombers are striking military and civilian targets with increasing frequency.

Less than 24 hours after Pakistan sent more than 2500 troops into the north-west provinces controlled by a Taliban-allied militant group, a massive blast has torn apart a military convoy, killing more than 30 people, dozens more were wounded :

The attack in scenic Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province was the latest in a wave of violence targeting the military since government troops stormed the Al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.

The truck -- carrying paramilitary soldiers and packed with ammunition -- was travelling on a road outside the valley's main city of Mingora when the explosion occurred, the security official said.

"Thirty people were killed in the explosion including 17 paramilitary soldiers. The damage was high because the truck was packed with ammunition," the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The blast was so powerful that it destroyed 10 shops and hit a three-wheeler (rickshaw) killing all passengers inside it," he added.

Security sources said a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives near the truck...

Most of the attacks in Pakistan since the Red Mosque raid have been suicide blasts that have killed more than 400 people, according to an AFP tally.

Local home secretary Badshah Gul Wazir told a news conference in the provincial capital Peshawar that the TNSM group was also trying to seize control of dozens of villages.

TNSM was banned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002 after it sent more than 10,000 volunteers to fight in Afghanistan against US forces who led an invasion to oust the country's hardline Taliban regime.

Hundreds of Taliban militants fled back over the Afghan border into Pakistan's nearby tribal areas after the fall of the extremists in 2001.

Most Deadly Terror Attack In Pakistan's History "May Never Be Solved" - No Group Has Claimed Responsibility For Bhutto Blasts

US Forced To Consider 'Plan B' For Pakistan As Key Ally In 'War On Terror' Fades From Power, Influence

Bhutto Bombings Began 'War On US' Plans By Militants To Stop Regime Change In Pakistan

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

US Military Thinks Cheney & Bush Are 'Out Of Control'

Iraq War Is Being Lost Under A Tide Of Unstoppable IED Attacks

Some highlights from an interesting interview with military historian Gabriel Kolko, who wraps up some of the latest news about the revolt fermenting against the American president and vice president inside its own military. Attacks on Iran, of course, are the key to this rising
rebellion :

"The American military is stretched to the limit. They are losing both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything is being sacrificed for these wars: money, equipment in Asia, American military power globally, etc. Where and how can they fight yet another? The Pentagon is short of money for procurement, and that is what so many people in the military bureaucracy live for. The situation will be far worse in the event of a war with Iran.

Many in the American military have learned the fundamental dilemma of modern warfare: More money and better weapons don't mean that you win. IEDs, which cost so little to make, are defeating a military which spends billions of dollars per month. IEDS are so adaptable that each new strategy developed by the United States to counter them is answered by the Iraqi insurgents.

"Many in the US military think Bush and Cheney are out of control. They are rebelling against Bush and Cheney. Washington Post reporter Dana Priest recently said in an interview that she believed the US military would revolt and refuse to fly missions against Iran if the White House issued such orders.

"CENTCOM [US Central Command, the military grouping whose responsibilities include the Middle East] commander Admiral William Fallon reportedly thwarted Cheney's wish to sent a third additional aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. One paper wrote that he "vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM."

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, in charge of US forces in Japan, told the Associated Press last week that the Iraq war had weakened American forces in the face of any potential conflict with China. He was quoted as saying, "Are we in trouble? It depends on the scenario. But you have to be concerned about the small number of our forces and the age of our forces."

"All the significant economic journals (Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.) recognize that the American and European economies are now in a crisis, and it may be protracted. The dollar is falling; Gulf States and others may abandon it (as an investment currency). A war with Iran would produce economic chaos because oil would be scarce. There are states which the United States wishes to isolate, like Russia and Venezuela, who can develop great influence through their ability to sell oil in such a crisis. The balance of world economic power is involved, and that is a great issue.

...I regard the Israelis as opponents of a war with Iran which would involve them. They certainly noticed how during the war with Lebanon the Palestinians in Gaza used the opportunity to increase pressure on Israel from the south. Israelis opposed the Iraq war because it would lead to Iranian domination of the region, which it has.

Hence, the report that Cheney is trying to use Israel, if it is true, shows that he's confused and quite mad -- but also unusually isolated.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush Attacks Maliki Over Iran's Influence On Iraq's Security And Future

Iran is now taking key roles in Iraqi reconstruction and the economy, by signing up to build billions of dollars worth of power plants, to be centred in prominently Shiite locales.

President Bush is taking offense at Iran cutting key energy deals with Iran, and has attacked prime minister Nuri al-Maliki for recent statements that Iran was not a dangerous presence in Iraq and could play a "constructive" role in bringing security to the world's terrorism capital.

From Al Jazeera :
The US president has rebuked Iraq's prime minister for speaking too favourably about Iran. "If the signal [from Nuri al-Maliki] is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the prime minister. Because I don't believe they are constructive," George Bush said.

Al-Maliki had thanked Iran for its "positive and constructive" work in "providing security and fighting terrorism in Iraq" on a visit to Tehran, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iranian leaders told the visiting al-Maliki that they wanted Iraq's friendship and would do all they could to boost Iraqi security.

Al-Maliki's talks appeared to confirm the increasingly warm relations that have emerged between majority Shia Iraq and overwhelmingly Shia Iran following the fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.

Bush is making a habit of insulting the leaders of nations the Americans are supposed to be liberating from the clutches of Al Qaeda and terrorists.
He warned Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, on Monday during a visit to the US presidential retreat at Camp David to be more suspicious of Iran after the Afghan leader had brushed aside US accusations that Tehran was arming the Taliban.

Iran, with a majority of Shia Muslims like Iraq, has been an important political player in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. Tehran denies Washington's accusations that it is supplying weapons to fighters to fuel violence, and instead blames the US military presence.

Baghdad has urged both countries to negotiate and not fight out their differences on Iraqi soil.

That fight would appear to be already well underway.

Bush Raises Threat Of "World War 3" Over Iran Gaining "Knowledge" To Make Nuclear Weapons

Caspian Sea States Issue Statement Opposing Iran Strikes By US, Israel

From The Last Days Of President Bush blog :

President Bush casually discussed the possibility of World War III breaking out over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions today, with a few chuckles thrown in to 'lighten' the mood at the press conference.

His warning that Iran had to be stopped from gaining "the knowledge" of how to building nuclear weapons was directed primarily towards Russia and China, both of whom have opposed further sanctions on Iran, and resisted even talk of military action.

President Bush now finds himself squaring off with only Israel as a fully committed anti-Iran alliance member against the full might of an unofficial alliance comprised of Iran, Russia and China, who now have dozens of other countries, including Pakistan, India and Afghanistan on side under umbrella trade and economic alliances. Putin recently warned the states bordering the Caspian Sea not to allow the United States to launch air strikes on Iran from their territory. Putin reportedly faced little resistance from the 'stans.

Both Russia and China have hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade interests and energy deals with Iran at the moment, and both had have warned the United States and Israel not to go to War On Iran.

Remarkably, President Bush has now backed almost completely away from NeoCon-pumped propaganda claiming Iran already has nuclear weapons, or is only a year or two away from developing them.

President Bush clearly said his interest was to stop Iran from gaining "the knowledge" to build nuclear weapons, not that they had them already, or were close to getting them.
"I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so.
"I told (world leaders) that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. And I take this very -- I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously."

World opposition to the United States and/or Israel striking Iran is now overwhelming. Yesterday, an alliance of Caspian Sea states issued a statement voicing their opposition to the growing tide of threats from the US, Israel and France toward Iran :
Russia, Iran and other Caspian Sea states have issued a declaration warning other nations against using their territories for launching military action against any one of them.

The statement came at the end of a summit of leaders of the five nations, and is believed to refer to a possible US strike on Iran launched from Azerbaijan.

Putin has said that no Caspian Sea state should let its soil be used to attack a fellow coastal country.

"The parties underline that under no circumstances would they allow other nations to use their territory for waging aggression or other military action against any of the parties," the declaration said.

Putin had said earlier: "We should not even think of making use of force in this region."

Although the mostly manufacture 'Iran Crisis' is helping to distract Americans from the unfolding tragedy of the War On Iraq, in the rest of the world the growing alliance between Iran, China and Russia, and a host of other nations, united in their opposition to NeoCon-led demands for air strikes on Iran, is making the United States look weak and decidedly like a rogue nation.

More rogue, at least, than Iran for the time being.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Putin Warns US Not To Go To War On Iran

Russia's Strategic Bombers To Patrol The World's Skies For Rest Of October

Putin : Iran Is Not Afraid Of US, Israel "Believe Me"

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, has received a warm welcome during his visit to Iran, and he again warned the United States not to attack Iran. To back up his warning, and to make clear that airstrikes on Iran will draw his promised "consequences", Putin has placed his arsenal of strategic, long-range bombers on airborne stand-by for the rest of the month.

Link :

At a summit of the five nations that border the inland Caspian Sea, Putin said none of the nations' territory should be used by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region. It was a clear reference to long-standing rumors that the U.S. was planning to use Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

"We are saying that no Caspian nation should offer its territory to third powers for use of force or military aggression against any Caspian state," Putin said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also underlined the need to keep outsiders away from the Caspian.

The warning from Putin to the US grabbed most of the headlines around the world, but the significance of his warning to the Caspian states Russia and Iran are now economically, and strategically, allied with, is probably the bigger story. Putin is telling the oil and gas rich Caspian sea states that they don't need, and should not pursue, military alliances with the United States. This is obviously a remarkably important development :

"The Caspian Sea is an inland sea and it only belongs to the Caspian states, therefore only they are entitled to have their ships and military forces here," he said.

Putin, whose trip to Tehran is the first by a Kremlin leader since World War II, warned that energy pipeline projects crossing the Caspian could only be implemented if all five nations that border the Caspian support them.

Putin did not name any specific country, but his statement underlined Moscow's strong opposition to U.S.-backed efforts to build pipelines to deliver hydrocarbons to the West bypassing Russia.

"Projects that may inflict serious environmental damage to the region cannot be implemented without prior discussion by all five Caspian nations," he said.

Other nations bordering the Caspian Sea and in attendance at the summit are: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

Putin has warned the U.S. and other nations against trying to coerce Iran into reining in its nuclear program and insists peaceful dialogue is the only way to deal with Tehran's defiance of a U.N. Security Council demand that it suspend uranium enrichment.

"Threatening someone, in this case the Iranian leadership and Iranian people, will lead nowhere," Putin said Monday during his trip to Germany. "They are not afraid, believe me."

The Russian president underlined his disagreements with Washington last week, saying he saw no "objective data" to prove Western claims that Iran is trying to construct nuclear weapons.

Putin emphasized Monday that he would negotiate in Tehran on behalf of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members _ United States, Russia, China, Britain and France _ and Germany, a group that has led efforts to resolve the stalemate with Tehran.

From RIA :
Russian strategic bombers will conduct October 16-30 a series of long-range training flights, with simulated bomber raids and missile launches, an Air Force spokesman said on Monday.

"Russian strategic bombers Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M3, and Il-78 aerial tankers will conduct flights over the Arctic region, the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, and the Black Sea, with simulated bombing raids and firing of cruise missiles at testing grounds in northern and southern Russia," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said.

Colonel General Alexander Zelin, the commander of the Russian Air Force, will supervise the exercises.

Moscow announced in mid-August that regular patrol flights by strategic bombers had been resumed, and would continue on a permanent basis, with patrol areas including commercial shipping and economic production zones.

The U.S. administration expressed concern about the resumption of patrol flights by Russian strategic bombers.

"I think the rapid growth in Russian military spending definitely bears watching," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with ABC News on October 14.

"And frankly, some of the efforts - for instance, Bear flights in areas that we haven't seen for a while - are really not helpful to security."

Russia, however, obviously believes they are helpful to security. The security of Iran.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Afghanistan President Wants To Make Peace With Taliban

But Warnings Sound Of Rise Of A Cross Pakistan-Afghanistan Taliban State

In a remarkable interview on Australian TV, Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai said it is likely that peace talks already begun with the Taliban will be successful, as tried to dispel some of the NeoCon-led media mythology that position the Taliban as yet more 'New Nazis' and a key enemy of 'The West'.

Karzai carefully explained that the Taliban are not primarily Al Qaeda, and that the terrorists within the ranks of the Taliban are actually in the minority. He noted that many of the Taliban terrorists are mostly funded and controlled by foreign Al Qaeda agents, and denied that the opium and poppy trade was a chief source of their financing.

Karzai said some Taliban are students, some are radicals, some extremists, and a few were terrorists, but he stated his desire for the war's focus to remain solely on the terrorists, and for the NATO forces to work towards reconciliation with the less extreme ranks of the Taliban.

Karzai also confirmed that President Bush's decision to shift the 'War on Terror' away from Afghanistan to Iraq, beginning in the early 20002, meant that his people had "suffered' from the law of "unintended consequences." This comment is very typical of the extremely polite and diplomatic Hamid Karzai. He means that after US and Australian special forces smashed the Taliban leadership, the country was all but abandoned in the race for the War On Iraq.

He said that international forces, led by the US, had the chance to destroy "terrorist nests" after the Taliban lost control of key Afghani cities, but when President Bush shifted his nation's military focus to Iraq, Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists were given breathing space to re-supply, recruit and retrain.

President Karzai also said that Afghanistan and Pakistan are close allies, despite the claims of friction between the countries in the Western media, and said that the war in the borderlands of Waziristan, was slowly being won.

President Karzai urged peaceful reconciliation with the Taliban, and noted that peace talks have been underway for many months, and that progress was being made.

You can view the interview with President Karzai here.

Al Qaeda authority, Jason Burke, writing in the UK Observer, portrays a far more dangerous and deadly rise of the 'New Taliban', stretching across Afghanistan, through the border 'badlands' of Waziristan and into the heart of Pakistan.

Not a 'new Taliban' group as such, but a state :

For some, the ongoing violence in south-west Asia is simple to explain: the Taliban, reconstituted after the defeat of 2001, and with the help of al-Qaeda's Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al-Libi, are battling their way back to power in Afghanistan and, perhaps worse, fast making progress towards seizing power in nuclear-capable Pakistan.

But the reality is far more complicated. It is hard to make sense of one of the most confusing conflicts of modern times, a war with no defined fronts, waged with tactics that range from those of the dynamite-throwing anarchists of the late 19th century to those of the Western Front trench stalemate in 1916, and sometimes to state-of-the-art 'fourth generation' 21st-century warfare.

Across an area that stretches through Pakistani cities such as Peshawar, Islamabad and Karachi, through Kabul and Kandahar, to remote villages and Nato bases in southern Afghanistan, it is possible to unpick the intricate detail of the battle for the strategic centre of the War on Terror. What emerges is a picture not of a single movement or insurgency called 'the Taliban', but of a new state without formal borders or even a name, a state that is currently nothing more than a chaotic confederation of warlords' fiefdoms spanning one of the most critical parts of the world and with the potential to escalate into a very real presence - with devastating consequences for global security.

Go Here For The Full Story

Afghanistan Suicide Last Kills 9, Wounds More Than 29

Don't Destroy Afghanistan's Opium - Buy It : Hundreds Of Millions Cry Out For Painkillers

The Border War - 20 Dead In Fierce Clashes

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Putin : Iran Poses No Nuclear Threat, No Proof They Seek Or Possess Nuclear Weapons

Russia's Vladimir Putin has destroyed any last hope that BushCo. and the NeoCons had for a further hammering of Iran through the United Nations Security Council.

Although the position taken by Putin in the below story is being presented as something new, or recent, it has in fact been Putin's position for at least two years :

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday there is no proof Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, but emphasized that Tehran must be encouraged to make its nuclear program fully transparent.

"We are sharing our partners' concern about making all Iranian programs transparent," Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"We agreed yesterday, and the president confirmed it, that Iran is making certain steps toward the international community to achieve that."

Putin is to make his first visit to Iran early next week for a summit of Caspian Sea nations.

Russia has opposed the U.S.-push for tougher sanctions against Iran and called for more checks and inspections of Iranian facilities by International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"We have worked cooperatively with our partners at the United Nations Security Council, and we intend to continue such cooperative work in the future," Putin said. But he said that with no "objective data" showing Iran is developing nuclear weapons, "we proceed from an assumption that Iran has no such plans."

Israel, the United States and the UK will now rush to say that the Russian position and view is also their own.

The NeoCons, meanwhile, will seethe with fury that their hopes of Iran being bombed sometime in the next year are dying by the day. NeoCon propaganda will continue, and will probably grow more desperate, but the United States and Israel, even with the backing of France, faces formidable opponents in Russia and China, both of whom have made clear that attacks on Iran will not be tolerated.

Kremlin Faithful Prepare For Second Coming Of President Putin

Iran Woos, Wins Over Leaders In Latin America

Bigger Than NATO : Russia-Led Alliance And China-Led Alliance 'Link Up'

Iran To Resume Talks With International Atomic Energy Agency Team

An Independent Kosovo "Uannceptable", Says Russia

Russian Security Chief Says Spies Attempting To Break Up Russia, UK Singled Out

Monday, October 08, 2007

The 'War On Terror' : What A Disaster

You don't hear leaders in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia talking about the 'War on Terror' all that much anymore. They'll talk about "the war" or "the fight" or "battling the extremists", but even President Bush has pulled away from trying to umbrella the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the border regions of Pakistan and the new fighting breaking out in Africa under the ubiquitous WoT banner.

President Bush recently gave an hour long interview to an Arab TV news channel and didn't say "War On Terror" once. He barely even used the word "terrorists" favouring "murderers" instead.

In the UK, the British government has all but banned the use of 'War on Terror' and the Australian government is likewise starting to define the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as separate events.

Why this widespread departure from the 'War on Terror' script? Could it be because military experts and intelligence agencies around the world now view the 'War on Terror' as having failed in its key mission - to stop terrorism?

A reputable British think tank has now released a report which sums up what many in the world's military and intelligence circles already : The War On Terror is a failure, but worse than that, it has been an outright disaster and played directly into the hands of Al Qaeda.

From SkyNews :

The study by the Oxford Research Group think tank claims Iraq has become a training ground for violent jihadists - and advises that British and US forces withdraw from the country immediately,

It also warns of the dangers of military action against Iran.

....the think tank's report - Towards Sustainable Security: Alternatives To The War On Terror - calls for a complete withdrawal from Iraq.

Report author Paul Rogers said: "Every aspect of the War On Terror has been counterproductive in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the loss of civilian life through to mass detentions without trial.

"In short, it has been a disaster. Western countries simply have to face up to the dangerous mistakes of the past six years and recognise the need for new policies."

From AFP :
The US-led "war on terror" has been a "disaster" and Washington and its allies must change their policy in Iraq and Afghanistan to defeat Al-Qaeda, an independent global security think tank said Monday.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) said in a report that Western strategy since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States had failed to extinguish the threat from Islamist extremism and even fuelled it.

The report's author Paul Rogers said :

"Western countries simply have to face up to the dangerous mistakes of the past six years and recognise the need for new policies."

"Going to war with Iran will make matters far worse, playing directly into the hands of extreme elements and adding greatly to the violence across the region," he added.

"Whatever the problems with Iran, war should be avoided at all costs -- the mistakes already made will be completely overshadowed by the consequences of a war with Iran."

Chief among the report's criticisms is that the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was a "grievous mistake", which had created a combat training zone for extremist elements linked to or inspired by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda.

The report, "Towards Sustainable Security: Alternative Approaches to the War on Terror", said the situation was comparable to the rise of the mujahedin that rose against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

On Afghanistan, the ORG said ousting the hardline Taliban from power in late 2001 had been of "direct value" to Al-Qaeda and militia sympathetic to its violent Islamist ideology were now re-invigorated, it added.

In addition, mass detentions of suspected extremists, torture, prisoner abuse and the "extraordinary rendition" of suspects for questioning in third countries outside US legal jurisdiction was a useful propaganda weapon.

Among the ORG's recommendations are the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq and an increase in diplomacy, including with Syria and Iran; greater civil aid to Afghanistan, a scaling down of military action and talks with militia.

Will the NeoCons listen and do what needs to be done to stop fueling the cycles of terrorism?

Well, first you have to believe that the NeoCons actually want the 'War on Terror' to end sometime before 2020.

And why would they want that? The NeoCons have deep ties with American, European and Israeli weapons and defence contractors, and the 'War on Terror' has seen profits soar year on year since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Why would they want to see American defence budgets fall from some $500 billion a year?

The 'War on Terror', as a separate entity to democracy movements, has mostly been successful in getting taxpayers dollars in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia diverted from health and education spending and into the pockets of defence and arms contractors.

From that perspective, the 'War on Terror' has not been a disaster, or even a failure, it has been a spectacular success, which many explain why so many NeoCons repeatedly state the war is "working" and has been "successful".
Pakistan : 175 Militants, Soldiers Killed In 48 Hours Of Fierce Fighting

President Musharraf may well remain in control of Pakistan, following controversial elections last weekend, but the pressure on him from the United States to rein in militants in the Afghan border regions will only intensify.

The war in the tribal border regions is growing more deadly for Pakistan's military by the week, and speculation is now rife inside Pakistan's military that India may be fueling the fighting by feeding weapons and cash to militants via proxies inside Afghanistan.

The AFP is reporting that some 130 militants, and dozens of Pakistani soldiers have been killed in fighting near the Afghan border in the past two days :

The fighting raged throughout Sunday and Monday in the troubled tribal region of North Waziristan, which the United States has pinpointed as the new breeding ground for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda extremist network.

The army said the pro-Taliban rebels were unusually well-trained and were getting support from Afghanistan, where the Taliban movement has waged a fierce insurgency since being toppled in late 2001.

The unrest puts extra pressure on key US ally Pervez Musharraf two days after he swept a presidential poll, the result of which the embattled military ruler must wait to have confirmed by the Supreme Court.

"The clashes broke out after militants set off IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and conducted ambushes on the security forces" on Sunday, top military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP.

"The forces retaliated and killed 130 militants in air strikes and ground attacks. Forty-five security personnel were also martyred."

Most of the fighting has been near Mir Ali, the second-biggest town in rugged North Waziristan, where Musharraf admitted earlier this year that Al-Qaeda had a presence.

Local residents said four civilians also died, including three women, although the army could not confirm this. Around 30 houses were destroyed or badly damaged as troops and rebels exchanged heavy weapons fire, they said.

Violence has spiked in the northwestern region since Pakistani security forces besieged and then raided the Al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July -- an operation that bin Laden has urged militants to avenge.

The fighting was some of the bloodiest since Musharraf pushed tens of thousands of troops into the tribal zone to tackle militants who fled over the border into Pakistan after the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban regime.

Nearly 300 people in Pakistan have died in attacks since the Red Mosque crisis, most of which have been suicide bombings.

Sixteen 'Foreign' Fighters Killed In Clashes Near Afghan Border

US Blamed For Pakistan's Insecurity

15 Killed By Suicide Bomber In NorthWest Pakistan

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

US Military Vs BushCo. Over War On Iran

Reality Of An American Military Coup Against BushCo. No Longer In The Realms Of 'Outrageous Conspiracy Theory'

'Revolt Of The Generals' Reaches The Most Senior Ranks Of US Military

If BushCo. and the NeoCons try to launch nuclear strikes on Iran, would the dissenting retired and serving generals of the US military intervene? Could it really be true that there is a movement within the US military to stop the War On Iran that BushCo. and the NeoCons seem so intent on starting?

The idea that there is a growing mutiny against the Bush administration within the American military has been kicking around the message boards of conspiracy. military and alternate news sites for more than two years. A lot of this speculation has come from the very real 'Revolt Of The Generals' - a grouping of multi-star retired generals who began speaking out against the War On Iraq in late 2004.

But what was once the domain of mostly anonymous gossip and conspiracy sites is now hitting the mainstream media. And it would appear the speculation may have not been all that far from the truth.

Blogger Glenn Greenwald points out that the very credible Dana Priest, of the Washington Post, recently had this to say during an online Q & A :
West Chester, Pa.: History seems to be repeating it self as the drumbeat for war with Iran, based on accusations not backed up by any facts, intensifies. Do you think the Bush administration will launch a war (perhaps sending only the bombers) against Iran and if they do what are the likely consequences for the Middle East?

Dana Priest: Frankly, I think the military would revolt and there would be no pilots to fly those missions. This is a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. Just look at what Gen. Casey, the Army chief, said yesterday. That the tempo of operations in Iraq would make it very hard for the military to respond to a major crisis elsewhere. Beside, it's not the "war" or "bombing" part that's difficult; it's the morning after and all the days after that. Haven't we learned that (again) from Iraq?

Greenwald says there has been a number of "extraordinary reports" on what he calls the "virtual refusal of senior military officials to permit a war on Iran." He's playing it safe. There is nothing virtual about it. The revolt within the US military against BushCo. and the NeoCons going to War On Iran is clearly a very real event, and all but unprecedented in more than a century of American history.

It's a shocking, and extremely sad, fact to soak up that one of the biggest stories of the new age of American war has barely been reported at all.

Greenwald also points out that CENTCOM Commander, Admiral William Fallon, was successful in his attempt to block efforts by Vice President Dick Cheney, and BushCo. NeoCons to move a third aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf. Fallon found few mainstream media headlines for his historical show of dissent when he declared, privately, "there would be now war against Iran" as long as he was chief of CENTCOM :
At a mid-February meeting of top civilian officials over which Secretary of Defence Gates presided, there was an extensive discussion of a strategy of intimidating Tehran's leaders, according to an account by a Pentagon official who attended the meeting given to a source outside the Pentagon.

The plan involved a series of steps that would appear to Tehran to be preparations for war, in a manner similar to the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But Fallon, who was scheduled to become the CENTCOM chief Mar. 16, responded to the proposed plan by sending a strongly-worded message to the Defence Department in mid-February opposing any further U.S. naval buildup in the Persian Gulf as unwarranted.

"He asked why another aircraft carrier was needed in the Gulf and insisted there was no military requirement for it," says the source, who obtained the gist of Fallon's message from a Pentagon official who had read it.

Fallon's refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch".

Further, Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, was recently quoted as saying that despite what BushCo. and the NeoCons desired, no new military conflicts would be possible, as the US Army had been dangerously depleted by six straight years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan :
The Army's top officer, General George Casey, told Congress yesterday that his branch of the military has been stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it can not adequately respond to another conflict -- one of the strongest warnings yet from a military leader that repeated deployments to war zones in the Middle East have hamstrung the military's ability to deter future aggression.

In his first appearance as Army chief of staff, Casey told the House Armed Services Committee that the Army is "out of balance" and "the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."

Officials said Casey, who appeared along with Army Secretary Pete Geren, personally requested the public hearing -- a highly unusual move that military analysts said underscores his growing concern about the health of the Army, America's primary fighting force.
It's a stunning admission. The top officer in the US Army says America's primary military force was so damaged and worn down that it could not respond to another conflict. No doubt it's true, but it's clear that by demanding the public hearing, Casey was making sure that BushCo. and the NeoCons would not be able to censor, or undermine, his revelations, before they went out on live TV.

The 'Revolt Of The Generals' is no longer a collection of retired generals, voicing their dissent on cable news shows.It has now become a very real revolt, and growing force of actionable dissent, within the most senior ranks of the American military.

As we said, a truly mind-blowing event in the history of American war, and in the history of the nation itself.

The American military is now fighting, if only by word and declaration for now, to stop itself from going to War On Iran.

There was a fairly popular conspiracy theory kicking around in early 2003 that BushCo. and the NeoCons wanted to go to War On Iraq, with the full knowledge that such an action would all but destroy, or at least, utterly degrade the fighting strength of the US Military. To destroy the American military by sending it into a war that it could not win. That it was never given a chance to win in the first place (by BushCo.'s refusal to follow overwhelming advice that 350,000 to 500,000 troops would be needed to actively, and successfully, secure Iraq).

It's a shocking state of affairs to now see so many wondering, and speculating, whether or not the above conspiracy might actually hold some truth. As horrible as that reality might be.

It's also interesting to speculate that if BushCo. ordered, as commander in chief, his forces to attack Iran and they outright refused to follow his orders - a reality some senior rankers already appear to be preparing for - would the majority of the American people oppose a military coup against the NeoCon-infested Bush administration?

Such strange and troubling times.

Some further reading on all this :

US Military Commanders Insist Striking Iran Would Be A Disaster

December 2006 : Join Chiefs Of Staff Tell Bush They Are "Unanamiously Opposed" To Air Strikes On Iran's Nuclear Faciltiies

Bush Now Has "Inherent Authority" Under Constitution To Attack Iran

"The Most Effective Anti-War Movement In America Is Inside The Walls Of The Pentagon"

Pakistan Forced To Pull Back From Chasing Down Al Qaeda

"Iraq Style" War Grows In Borderlands Between Pakistan Army And Violent Islamists

Pakistan's First Female Suicide Bomber Kills 14

President Musharraf appears to have plenty more to keep him occupied right now than worrying about whether or not he is a "good ally" in the US-led 'War on Terror'. For starters, Osama Bin Laden (at least the audio tape Bin Laden) has officially declared war on him for being an ally of the United States, and his recent crackdowns on borderland jihadists and an Islamabad mosque filled with radicals have eaten away at his popularity amongst Pakistanis.

The LA Times reports that "Political turmoil and a spate of brazen attacks by Taliban fighters are forcing Pakistan's president to scale back his government's pursuit of Al Qaeda..."

US intelligence officials now believe the Al Qaeda network will be free to plot fresh attacks and rebuild.

Musharraf's crackdown on Al Qaeda in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan was seen as a "pillar of the US counter-terrorism strategy". The theory went that the more pressure Musharraf packed on to the disparate groupings of Al Qaeda inspired terrorists, the harder it would be for them to plot, plan and carry out new attacks.

President Musharraf faces defeat in elections on the weekend, and his military "has suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks at the hands of militants in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures are believed to be hiding."

In the ancient borderlands, Pushtan chiefs are now warning of a growing "Iraq style" war between the Pakistan Army and violent Islamists :
Pashtun tribal chiefs, who for centuries have held sway in the Hindu Kush mountain range along the border with Afghanistan, say they are being thrust into an Iraq-style war between violent Islamists and the Pakistani army.

"It's there. Bombs going off every day," said Haroon-ur-Rasheed, one of eight tribal leaders who drove for hours to the regional capital of Peshawar to speak with a reporter and photographer for The Washington Times.

The leaders described a violent tribal area in which Islamic militants routinely behead women suspected of adultery and use bombs to destroy schools for girls — so far only on Sundays, when no students are present.

Pakistani army forces who venture into the area are also being targeted with rockets, mortars and roadside bombs modeled on those being used to attack American troops in Iraq.

In the latest incident yesterday, a burqa-wearing terrorist detonated herself in the town of Bannu on the fringe of the tribal areas, killing 14. Wire agencies said it appeared to be the first instance of a female suicide bomber in Pakistan.

The leaders were particularly concerned about occasional raids by U.S. forces based in Afghanistan who have pursued Taliban insurgents across the border into Pakistan.

The tribal leaders scoffed at U.S. claims that Arab terrorists and other foreign fighters are hiding in the tribal areas. The only foreigners, they said, were fellow ethnic Pashtuns from Afghanistan.

"There never has been a full-fledged border. People are related, by blood. Members of the same family cross back and forth every day. It's been like this for centuries," said Mohammed Ameen. "The Americans see these people going back and forth and think they see the Taliban. To say they are Taliban is just as false as those chemical weapons in Iraq."

More on the American perspective from the LA Times :
U.S. intelligence officials said the conditions that have allowed Al Qaeda to regain strength are likely to persist, enabling it to continue training foreign fighters and plot new attacks.

"We are worried," said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official who closely monitors Pakistan's pursuit of Al Qaeda in the rugged frontier region. The official, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

"I think the prospect for aggressive action . . . is probably not good, no matter what," said the official, referring to the federally administered tribal areas where Al Qaeda is particularly strong. If Musharraf is removed from office or agrees to a power-sharing arrangement with political foes, the "change in government could well mean a diminution of cooperation on counter-terrorism," the official added.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said Pakistani retrenchment appears to have begun.

"We're already beginning to see some signs of that," the official said, citing a recent series of reversals by the Pakistan military.

"In the next few days, we're probably going to see a withdrawal of forces that the Pakistanis put there," the intelligence official said, adding that the move could solidify a "safe haven, where the [Al Qaeda] leadership is secure, operational planners can do their business, and foreigners can come in and be trained and redeploy to the West."

Over the years, Musharraf's commitment to rooting out elements of Al Qaeda and the Taliban has sometimes been questioned. Last fall, the president struck a peace agreement with tribal leaders in North and South Waziristan, scaling back military operations in return for a pledge that the tribes would rein in foreign fighters.

Instead, American intelligence officials said, the deal took pressure off Al Qaeda at a critical time, enabling it to regroup and reestablish ties with terrorist affiliates in other parts of the world.

In recent months, Musharraf has sent troops to the tribal areas, particularly after a series of suicide bombings by militants who vowed revenge after government forces in July stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad, the capital.

Polls in Pakistan suggest that Bin Laden is more popular than many of the Muslim nation's politicians, and analysts say it is extremely difficult for the beleaguered Musharraf to remain aligned with the U.S.

"From a domestic politics perspective, sustained Pakistani action against Al Qaeda in [the tribal areas] would be suicidal," said Seth Jones, an expert on terrorism and Pakistan at Rand Corp. "It would only increase hatred against his regime at the precise moment when he is politically weakest."

That political turmoil could cost the Bush administration cooperation from a key ally in the Islamic world, one that has nuclear arms. Musharraf has been praised repeatedly by President Bush, and Pakistan has received more than $5.6 billion in aid over the last six years, most of it meant to reimburse the country for counter-terrorism efforts.

Under new pressure from Washington, Musharraf sent military divisions back into the tribal areas this summer. Initially, the forays appeared to catch Al Qaeda by surprise, U.S. intelligence officials said, prompting the organization to pull back.

But the government's border troops recently have been subjected to a series of suicide attacks and kidnappings, the U.S. intelligence official said. Overall, dozens of Pakistani soldiers and hundreds of extremists and foreign fighters have been killed.

"The whole purpose of [U.S.-Pakistani] operations is to eliminate people who primarily target the United States and the West," the senior counter-terrorism official said. That means Musharraf ends up being seen as "complicit in killing or capturing people who many Pakistanis think should be treated as heroes."

The United States has provided significant intelligence assistance for Pakistan's pursuit of Al Qaeda, including the deployment of CIA teams and Predator surveillance drones.

Pakistan's central government has never had substantial control over the border region. Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures fled to the rugged area after being flushed from Afghanistan. U.S. officials said the terrorist network was seen as increasingly isolated and in a financial crunch until Musharraf's peace accord with the tribes last fall.

Yesterday, at least 14 people were killed in a bomb attack on a van in the North Waziristan province of Pakistan. The bomb was detonated by remote control, but no group has yet claimed responsibility.

Re-Elect Me And I'll Step Down As Army Chief, Musharraf Promises

Pushtan Chiefs Rail Against Being Pushed Into An "Iraq-Style" War Between Pakistan Army And Violent Islamists

Militants Claim They Have Kidnapped 21 Pakistan Army Soldiers

Condi Rice Says "Moderate Forces Must Unite", Says Musharraf Pulled Pakistan Back From Brink Of Being Over-run By Extremists
North Korea Agrees To Wind Back Nuclear Ambitions

Could it be true? Does diplomacy, and millions in cash and oil 'incentives', really work to wind back a potential 'rogue' nuclear threat?

From the Associated Press :

North Korea will provide a complete list of its nuclear programs and disable its facilities at its main reactor complex by Dec. 31, actions that will be overseen by a U.S.-led team, the six nations involved in disarmament talks said Wednesday.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said that as part of the agreement, Washington will lead an expert group to Pyongyang "within the next two weeks to prepare for disablement" and will fund those initial activities.

"The disablement of the five megawatt experimental reactor at Yongbyon, the reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and the nuclear fuel rod fabrication facility at Yongbyon will be completed by 31 December 2007," said Wu, who read the statement from the six nations to reporters, but did not take any questions.

The Bush administration welcomed the agreement, calling it significant progress.

"These second-phase actions effectively end the DPRK's production of plutonium — a major step towards the goal of achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council.

The complex at Yongbyon has been at the center of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs for decades and is believed to have produced the nuclear device Pyongyang detonated a year ago to prove its long-suspected nuclear capability.

Since then, Pyongyang rejoined the six-nation disarmament negotiations that involve the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea as well as North Korea. Under a broad agreement reached in February, North Korea pledged to disable its nuclear programs in return for 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or other assistance.

(A statement said) the U.S. and North Korea will "increase bilateral exchanges and enhance mutual trust" but did not set a specific timetable for when Washington will remove Pyongyang from a list of countries that sponsor terrorism — a key North Korean demand. Arrangements will be made in future meetings between the two on normalizing their relations, the statement said.