Archive for October, 2011

US missiles kill four in Pakistan

A US drone strike killed four militants in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, the third such attack in 48 hours against Taliban hotbeds in Waziristan near the Afghan border, officials say. 

The drone fired two missiles into a vehicle as it drove through Darpa Khel village about four kilometres west of Miranshah, the main town in the district of North Waziristan, the Pakistani security officials told AFP.

‘The US drone fired two missiles,’ one of the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

‘Four militants were killed in the attack, they were all in the vehicle,’ he added. The identities of the dead were not clear, but the village is a stronghold for militants fighting against US troops in Afghanistan.

Covert CIA drones are the chief US weapon against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who use Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas as launchpads for attacking US troops in Afghanistan and plotting attacks on the West.

A US official in Washington described a commander in the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network who was killed on Thursday as ‘the most senior Haqqani leader in Pakistan to be taken off the battlefield’.

Pakistani officials reported 10 militants killed in two US drone strikes on Thursday and named the Haqqani commander as Jamil Haqqani, a coordinator for the Afghan Taliban faction in North Waziristan.

The US official said he was known as Jamil and as Janbaz Zadran, accusing him of having ‘played a central role in helping the Haqqani network attack US and coalition targets in Kabul and southeastern Afghanistan’.

Pakistani officials said the slain commander was not a relative of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Afghan warlord who founded the Taliban faction, but had been close to his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who now runs the network.

The United States blames the Haqqanis for fuelling the 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan, attacking US-led NATO troops and working to destabilise the Western-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The US military has accused Pakistan’s premier intelligence outfit, the ISI, of having close ties to the network and of being involved in a 19-hour siege of the American embassy in Kabul on September 13.

After that attack, which killed 14 Afghans, Washington significantly stepped up demands on Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network.

But Pakistan has refused to launch a sweeping ground offensive in North Waziristan, the Haqqanis’ leadership base, leaving American response largely limited to US drone strikes.

More than 50 have been reported in Pakistan so far this year including dozens since Navy SEALs killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad, close to the capital Islamabad, on May 2.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said for the first time that the United States was waging ‘war’ in Pakistan against militants, referring to the covert CIA drone campaign that Washington refuses to discuss publicly.

October 14, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Should Israel Have Agreed to Exchange Terrorists for a Kidnapped Soldier?

The Israeli government has agreed to release hundreds of properly convicted Palestinian terrorists in exchange for one illegally kidnapped Israeli soldier. This decision, understandable as it is emotionally, dramatically illustrates why terrorism works. By agreeing to this exchange, Israel has once again shown its commitment to saving the life of even one kidnapped soldier, regardless of the cost. And the cost here is extremely high, because some of the released terrorists will almost certainly try to kill again.

Leaders of terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, fully understand this cruel arithmetic of death. As Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, put it: “We are going to win because they love life and we love death.” Democratic societies that value the life of each citizen are more vulnerable to emotional blackmail than societies that are steeped in the culture of death. Terrorists understand what history has shown: that democratic societies, regardless of what they say about not negotiating with terrorists, will, in the end, submit to emotional blackmail. They will release their terrorist prisoners in order to obtain the release of their own kidnapped or hijacked citizens. Accordingly, the threat of deterrence against terrorists is weak, because every terrorist knows that regardless of the prison sentence he receives, there is a high likelihood that he will be released well before he has served it. This not only encourages more terrorism, but it also incentivizes kidnappings and hijackings that provide the terrorist with hostages to exchange for captured terrorists.

Accordingly, from a pure cost-benefit perspective, it may well be wrong to agree to such disproportionate exchanges. But democracies do not operate solely on a cost-benefit basis because the families of kidnapped or hijacked citizens have a right to present their emotional case in the court of public opinion, as Gilad Shalit’s family, especially his mother, so effectively did. They can influence policy against a simple cost-benefit calculation and in favor of a more humanistic approach. Israelis know Gilad Shalit. He is everyone’s son. They do not know those who may someday be killed by the released terrorists. They are faceless and nameless statistics — at least for now. The pleas of the Shalit family resonate with every Israeli who loves their children.

Contrast the pleas of the Shalit family with the plea of Zahra Maladan. Maladan is an educated woman who edits a women’s magazine in Lebanon. She is also a mother, who undoubtedly loves her son. She has ambitions for him, but they are different from those of most mothers in the West. She wants her son to become a suicide bomber. At the funeral for the assassinated Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mugniyah — the mass murderer responsible for killing 241 marines in 1983 and more than 100 women, children, and men in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 — Ms. Maladan was quoted in the New York Times offering the following admonition to her son: “If you’re not going to follow the steps of the Islamic resistance martyrs, then I don’t want you.”

Nor is Ms. Maladan alone in urging her children to become suicide murderers. Umm Nidal, who ran for the Palestinian Legislative Council, “prepared all of her sons” for martyrdom. She has ten sons, one of whom already engaged in a suicide operation, which she considered “a blessing, not a tragedy.” She is now preparing to “sacrifice them all.”

It is impossible, of course, to generalize about cultures. There was genuine joy among many in Gaza when the deal was announced and when it became evident that their loved ones, despite their terrorist activities, would be returned. All decent people love their children and want them to live good lives. It is their leaders who prefer death (though not their own) over life and who make their followers feel guilty for not acting on that perverse preference. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, urge their citizens to act in the interests of life and who see death as a necessary evil in fighting against even greater evils.

While the preference for life over death may appear to be a weakness in the ability of democracies to fight against terrorism, in the end it is a strength. It is a strength because it signals a democracy’s commitment to value the life of every single one of its citizens. Israeli and American soldiers go into battle knowing that their countries will do everything in their power to rescue them, even if it means taking extraordinary risks. Nations that are committed to such humanistic values tend to have superior armies, as the United States and Israel do.

An important goal of terrorists is to force democracies to surrender their humanistic values. Israel’s values include never leaving a soldier behind, whether he is alive, as Shalit is, or dead, as have been other soldiers whose bodies have been exchanged for prisoners. Israel, by agreeing to exchange hundreds of terrorists for one soldier, has shown the world that it will not compromise on its value system which proclaims that “he who saves one human being, it is as if he has saved the world.”

October 14, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Report: U.S. officials met with Haqqani network

October 5, 2011

As the Haqqani network was stepping up attacks in and around Kabul, U.S. officials met secretly with the militant group tied to al-Qaida and Pakistan, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The meeting, which took place before the group launched a high-profile, 20-hour assault on the U.S. embassy last month, was intended to start discussions on the way to wind down the war. Pakistani and U.S. officials told The Journal that the early effort has so far “yielded little.”

U.S. leaders have come down hard on the Haqqani network, which has displaced the Taliban as the best-trained, most ruthless American adversary in Afghanistan – and on Pakistan, which gives the armed group financial and military aid. Before he retired last week, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen testified on Capitol Hill that Pakistani officials must stop their support for and protection of the Haqqani network, which he said was a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Mullen went so far as to say the country was “exporting terrorism.”

Pakistan’s spy agency set up the meeting, “a fact that the Americans said confirmed their suspicions of Pakistani ties to the Haqqanis,” The Journal reported.

October 5, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Pakistani panel questions bin Laden’s 3 widows, 2 daughters

ISLAMABAD — An independent Pakistani commission investigating the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden questioned three detained widows and two daughters of the slain al-Qaida leader, a government statement said Wednesday.

The commission also interviewed Pakistani spy chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and a doctor accused of helping American intelligence run a phony vaccination program that tried to obtain a DNA sample from bin Laden and his family, the statement said.

Investigators interviewed Pasha, who heads the country’s powerful spy agency, known as the Inter-Services Intelligence, on Wednesday, and planned to meet with him again meet with him on Thursday, the commission said, without elaborating.

The women and Dr. Shakil Afridi were questioned on Tuesday.

Islamabad says that the U.S. special forces raid on May 2 that killed bin Laden violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Pakistani government set up the panel to probe the raid the in northwestern city of Abbottabad, as well as how bin Laden managed to hide there.

Bin Laden’s widows and the accused doctor have been in Pakistani custody since shortly after the raid. So far, the commission has visited bin Laden’s compound, and questioned civil and military officials.

In July, Pakistani officials showed willingness to extradite bin Laden’s Yemeni-born Amal Ahmed Abdullfattah to her country. But the commission barred Pakistan from extraditing bin Laden family members so that it can question them.

Later, the commission imposed a similar restriction on the doctor after Washington tried to get him released. There has been speculation that Afridi and his family may leave Pakistan if he is freed.

The commission’s latest hearing comes at a time of heightened tensions between Pakistan and the United States following a recent claim by top U.S. military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, that Pakistan’s main spy agency backed militants who carried out attacks against American targets in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has denied the allegations.

October 5, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More