Archive for January, 2012

Nato supply closure costing US 6 times more

WASHINGTON: The US is paying six times as much to send war supplies to troops in Afghanistan through alternate routes after Pakistan’s punitive decision in November to close border crossings to NATO convoys, the Associated Press has learned.

Islamabad shut down two key Pakistan border crossings after a US airstrike killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in late November, and it is unclear when the crossings might reopen.

Pentagon figures provided to the AP show it is now costing about $104 million per month to send the supplies through a longer northern route. That is $87 million more per month than when the cargo moved through Pakistan.

While US officials have acknowledged that using alternate transportation routes for Afghan war supplies is more expensive and takes longer, the total costs had not been revealed until now. The Pentagon provided the cost figures to the AP on Thursday.

January 20, 2012 Posted Under: News update   Read More

U.S. Military Leader Meets Israelis After Delay of Exercise

By Gwen Ackerman and Jonathan Ferziger

(Updates with Barak statement in third paragraph.)

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) — Israeli leaders held talks with the top U.S. military commander, General Martin Dempsey, who arrived after the postponement of a joint exercise that was to be the biggest ever for the two allies.

Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met today with his Israeli counterpart, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, on his first visit to the country as the Obama administration’s top military adviser. He also met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and was scheduled to hold talks with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we’ll all be,” Dempsey told Barak, according to an e-mailed statement from the Defense Ministry.

U.S. and Israeli officials have described Dempsey’s visit as a routine consultation between allies, dismissing speculation that it is focused on coordinating strategy against Iran. Barak said Jan. 18 that he doesn’t think the U.S. general’s trip is aimed at pressuring Israel against striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The military exercise was moved to the second half of 2012 for “a variety of factors” to promote “optimum participation by all units,” Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said last week in an e-mail. “We remain dedicated to this exercise and naturally want it to be as robust and as productive as it can be.”

Unilateral Strike

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other U.S. officials have repeatedly warned Israel not to take action against Iran alone, including during the defense secretary’s October visit to Tel Aviv. Should Israel decide to undertake a unilateral military strike against Iran, Panetta said the first U.S. priority would be protecting American troops in the region.

The U.S., its European allies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have said that while Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, there are indications it may still be trying to build a nuclear weapon. They have challenged the government in Tehran to prove that its nuclear research is intended only for energy and medical research, as Iranian officials maintain.

U.S. sanctions imposed last year seek to cut off dealings with Iran’s banking system, making it difficult for consumers to buy the country’s oil. European Union officials meet Jan. 23 to discuss an oil embargo that may be delayed by six months to give some members time to find alternate supplies, two EU officials said.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio Jan. 15 that while Congress had shown itself determined to place tougher sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration “appears more hesitant out of fear that oil prices might rise.”

–With assistance from Viola Gienger in Washington. Editors: Louis Meixler, Ben Holland, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

 

January 20, 2012 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Four French troops killed by Afghan soldier

FOUR NATO troops were killed today in eastern Afghanistan when an Afghan soldier opened fire, with a local security official saying the victims were French.

“Four International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] service members were killed today in eastern Afghanistan by a member of the Afghan National Army,” the NATO force said in a statement. “The suspected shooter has been apprehended.”

The ISAF statement did not provide any further details of the incident, and the nationality of the soldiers was not released.

An Afghan security official said all four of the soldiers were French, AFP reported.

“A man wearing Afghan army uniform opened fire on French nationals, killing four and injuring 16 others this morning in Tagab district of Kapisa province,” the official said.

The incident came a day after six US Marines were killed in southern Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed.

January 20, 2012 Posted Under: News update   Read More