Monday, April 5, 2010

Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms

New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons.

But the president said in an interview that he was carving out an exception for “outliers like Iran and North Korea” that have violated or renounced the main treaty to halt nuclear proliferation.

Discussing his approach to nuclear security the day before formally releasing his new strategy, Mr. Obama described his policy as part of a broader effort to edge the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete, and to create incentives for countries to give up any nuclear ambitions. To set an example, the new strategy renounces the development of any new nuclear weapons, overruling the initial position of his own defense secretary.

Mr. Obama’s strategy is a sharp shift from those of his predecessors and seeks to revamp the nation’s nuclear posture for a new age in which rogue states and terrorist organizations are greater threats than traditional powers like Russia and China.

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war. For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.

Those threats, Mr. Obama argued, could be deterred with “a series of graded options,” a combination of old and new conventional weapons. “I’m going to preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure,” he said in the interview in the Oval Office.

White House officials said the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.

Mr. Obama’s new strategy is bound to be controversial, both among conservatives who have warned against diluting the United States’ most potent deterrent and among liberals who were hoping for a blanket statement that the country would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Mr. Obama argued for a slower course, saying, “We are going to want to make sure that we can continue to move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons,” and, he added, to “make sure that our conventional weapons capability is an effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.”

The release of the new strategy, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, opens an intensive nine days of nuclear diplomacy geared toward reducing weapons. Mr. Obama plans to fly to Prague to sign a new arms-control agreement with Russia on Thursday and then next week will host 47 world leaders in Washington for a summit meeting on nuclear security.

The most immediate test of the new strategy is likely to be in dealing with Iran, which has defied the international community by developing a nuclear program that it insists is peaceful but that the United States and its allies say is a precursor to weapons. Asked about the escalating confrontation with Iran, Mr. Obama said he was now convinced that “the current course they’re on would provide them with nuclear weapons capabilities,” though he gave no timeline.

He dodged when asked whether he shared Israel’s view that a “nuclear capable” Iran was as dangerous as one that actually possessed weapons.

“I’m not going to parse that right now,” he said, sitting in his office as children played on the South Lawn of the White House at a daylong Easter egg roll. But he cited the example of North Korea, whose nuclear capabilities were unclear until it conducted a test in 2006, which it followed with a second shortly after Mr. Obama took office.

“I think it’s safe to say that there was a time when North Korea was said to be simply a nuclear-capable state until it kicked out the I.A.E.A. and become a self-professed nuclear state,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “And so rather than splitting hairs on this, I think that the international community has a strong sense of what it means to pursue civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes versus a weaponizing capability.”

Mr. Obama said he wanted a new United Nations sanctions resolution against Iran “that has bite,” but he would not embrace the phrase “crippling sanctions” once used by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. And he acknowledged the limitations of United Nations action. “We’re not naïve that any single set of sanctions automatically is going to change Iranian behavior,” he said, adding “there’s no light switch in this process.”

In the year since Mr. Obama gave a speech in Prague declaring that he would shift the policy of the United States toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, his staff has been meeting — and arguing — over how to turn that commitment into a workable policy, without undermining the credibility of the country’s nuclear deterrent.

The strategy to be released on Tuesday is months late, partly because Mr. Obama had to adjudicate among advisers who feared he was not changing American policy significantly enough, and those who feared that anything too precipitous could embolden potential adversaries. One senior official said that the new strategy was the product of 150 meetings, including 30 convened by the White House National Security Council, and that even then Mr. Obama had to step in to order rewrites.

He ended up with a document that differed considerably from the one President George W. Bush published in early 2002, just three months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Bush, too, argued for a post-cold-war rethinking of nuclear deterrence, reducing American reliance on those weapons.

But Mr. Bush’s document also reserved the right to use nuclear weapons “to deter a wide range of threats,” including banned chemical and biological weapons and large-scale conventional attacks. Mr. Obama’s strategy abandons that option — except if the attack is by a nuclear state, or a nonsignatory or violator of the nonproliferation treaty.

The document to be released Tuesday after months of study led by the Defense Department will declare that “the fundamental role” of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attacks on the United States, allies or partners, a narrower presumption than the past. But Mr. Obama rejected the formulation sought by arms control advocates to declare that the “sole role” of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack.

There are five declared nuclear states — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Three states with nuclear weapons have refused to sign — India, Pakistan and Israel — and North Korea renounced the treaty in 2003. Iran remains a signatory, but the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly found it in violation of its obligations, because it has hidden nuclear plants and refused to answer questions about evidence it was working on a warhead.

In shifting the nuclear deterrent toward combating proliferation and the sale or transfer of nuclear material to terrorists or nonnuclear states, Mr. Obama seized on language developed in the last years of the Bush administration. It had warned North Korea that it would be held “fully accountable” for any transfer of weapons or technology. But the next year, North Korea was caught aiding Syria in building a nuclear reactor but suffered no specific consequence.

Mr. Obama was asked whether the American failure to make North Korea pay a heavy price for the aid to Syria undercut Washington’s credibility.

“I don’t think countries around the world are interested in testing our credibility when it comes to these issues,” he said. He said such activity would leave a country vulnerable to a nuclear strike, and added, “We take that very seriously because we think that set of threats present the most serious security challenge to the United States.”

He indicated that he hoped to use this week’s treaty signing with Russia as a stepping stone toward more ambitious reductions in nuclear arsenals down the road, but suggested that would have to extend beyond the old paradigm of Russian-American relations.

“We are going to pursue opportunities for further reductions in our nuclear posture, working in tandem with Russia but also working in tandem with NATO as a whole,” he said.

An obvious such issue would be the estimated 200 tactical nuclear weapons the United States still has stationed in Western Europe. Russia has called for their removal, and there is growing interest among European nations in such a move as well. But Mr. Obama said he wanted to consult with NATO allies before making such a commitment.

The summit meeting that opens next week in Washington will bring together nearly four dozen world leaders, the largest such gathering by an American president since the founding of the United Nations 65 years ago. Mr. Obama said he hoped to use the session to lay down tangible commitments by individual countries toward his goal of securing the world’s nuclear material so it does not fall into the hands of terrorists or dangerous states.

“Our expectation is not that there’s just some vague, gauzy statement about us not wanting to see loose nuclear materials,” he said. “We anticipate a communiqué that spells out very clearly, here’s how we’re going to achieve locking down all the nuclear materials over the next four years.”

Zardari eyeing history, wants bill passed soon

ISLAMABAD: Despite prophets of doom, President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday saw himself on the verge of a place in history, for which he asked parliament to make no delay in passing proposed constitutional reforms that will take some of his key powers to empower itself and restore a genuine parliamentary democracy.
In his third address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate in one-and-a-half years of his presidency, he called himself custodian of the legacy of executed former prime minister and his father-in-law Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and assassinated wife Benazir Bhutto with “my eyes on history.”

“By standing in their shadows today and empowering the parliament, I hope to walk into the annals of history, InshaAllah,” the president said, referring to landmark constitutional amendments proposed by an all-parties parliamentary committee led by his ruling PPP and due to be taken up as the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Bill by the two houses during their new sessions beginning on Tuesday.

“I call upon the parliament to pass the eighteenth constitutional amendment bill without delay,” he said about the draft that, besides other things, seeks to clip the presidency of some of the usually prime ministerial powers arbitrarily assumed by former president Pervez Musharraf such as dissolution of the National Assembly and appointment of armed forces’ chiefs and provincial governors and to enhance provincial autonomy.

The implementation of these reforms — part of a 2006 Charter of Democracy signed by Benazir Bhutto and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif — would make Mr Zardari the first Pakistani president to willingly surrender powers to parliament to become a figurehead after widespread skepticism of critics about whether he would let it happen and waves of what his party sees as inspired adverse speculations about his political future.

“The people of Pakistan are keenly watching and waiting for this crucial reforms bill to pass,” said the president, who has often rejected such speculations and who seemed referring to his troubles with two previous regimes by recalling in his speech his own one-time remark that “I have walked from the gallows to the presidency. This initiative must lead to new beginnings.”

Mr Zardari’s 25-minute speech was repeatedly cheered by desk-thumping by members of the PPP and its allies though some opposition figures, such as PML-N’s opposition leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and PML-Q’s opposition leader in the Senate Wasim Sajjad, seemed unmoved even when the president repeatedly referred to a collective success in formulating the constitutional reforms during nine months of hard work by the 26-member parliamentary committee headed by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani.

“There were anxious moments when some people feared that we had failed,” he noted and said: “But collectively we were able to resolve differences, making history by restoring the 1973 Constitution, and more.”

The sitting was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, whom the president congratulated as the first woman speaker in the Muslim world to preside over such historic changes. The guests in the galleries included armed forces’ chiefs, provincial governors and heads of diplomatic missions in Islamabad.

The president cited the consensus on constitutional reforms, fight against militancy, a reforms package for Balochistan and a new National Finance Commission award as the most important achievement under the PPP-led coalition government — though he said the constitutional package was “not a favour to anyone” but a national duty for which he congratulated all parties in parliament for rising “above partisan politics in an unprecedented show of national solidarity.”

He recalled Pakistan’s history of subversions of the Constitution such as by military coups of 1977 and 1999 that toppled then prime ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — who was later executed — and Nawaz Sharif respectively, and “sadder still” validations by the “pillars of the state,” and, in reference to the amendments, said: “The nation can take pride that it has closed that sorry chapter.”

But he acknowledged difficulties in tackling economic problems with rising prices and squeezed incomes and power and water shortages.

Fight To The Finish

Calling militancy and extremism the “greatest threat to our national security in recent times,” he said: “I assure you we will fight to the finish.”

He reiterated the government’s policy to make peace with those willing to give up violence and use force against those challenging the writ of the state and said: “I assure you that the sovereignty of Pakistan has been protected and solemnly pledge that it will be safeguarded at all costs.”

Among some planned measures, the president said reforms for Fata and amendments to the British-era Frontier Crimes Regulations for the area had been finalised after consultation with “stakeholders” and “will be soon implemented.”

Also, modalities of giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in national elections “will soon be finalized,” he said.

Foreign Relations

The president said Pakistan sought a stable regional environment, with ties with China remaining “the bedrock of our foreign policy,” and would give strong support for an “Afghan-led reconciliation and reconstruction process” in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan considered it essential to normalise relations with India and wanted an honourable and peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes, including the water issue and the “core issue of Jammu and Kashmir”, and sought no arms race though “a disproportionate increase in military budget by the largest democracy does not help the cause of arms reduction.”

“We greatly value our relations with all Muslim countries and will continue to strive for enhanced ties with them,” he said.

The president said partnership with the United States and Europe had strengthened over the past year “in sharp contrast to the isolation we inherited,” adding that the strategic dialogue with Washington was aimed at “addressing core issues of Pakistan,” while he welcomed President Barack Obama’s “new initiatives towards Pakistan.”

Karzai’s Words Leave Few Choices for the West

KABUL, Afghanistan — As President Hamid Karzai made more antagonistic statements over the weekend toward the NATO countries fighting on behalf of his government, the West was taking stock of just how little maneuvering room it has.There are no good options on the horizon, many analysts say, for reining in Mr. Karzai or for penalizing him, without potentially damaging Western interests. The reluctant conclusion of diplomats and Afghan analysts is that for now, they are stuck with him. Many fear the relationship is only likely to become worse, as Mr. Karzai draws closer to allies like Iran and China, whose interests are often at odds with those of the West, and sounds sympathetic enough to the Taliban that he could spur their efforts, helping their recruitment and further destabilizing the country.
“The political situation is continuing to deteriorate; Karzai is flailing around,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul with long experience in the region. “At the moment we are propping up an unstable political structure, and I haven’t seen any remotely plausible plan for building consensus.”
The tensions between the West and Mr. Karzai flared up publicly last Thursday, when Mr. Karzai accused the West and the United Nations of perpetrating fraud in the August presidential election and described the Western military coalition as coming close to being seen as invaders who would give the insurgency legitimacy as “a national resistance.”
Despite a conciliatory phone call to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, his comments over the weekend only expanded the discord.
On Saturday, Mr. Karzai met with about 60 members of Parliament, mostly his supporters, and berated them for having rejected his proposed new election law. Among other things, the proposal would have given him the power to appoint all the members of the Electoral Complaints Commission, who are currently appointed by the United Nations, the Afghan Supreme Court and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The Electoral Complaints Commission, which reviews allegations of voting fraud and irregularities, documented the fraud that deprived Mr. Karzai of an outright victory in the presidential election.At the meeting, Mr. Karzai stepped up his anti-Western statements, according to a Parliament member who attended but spoke on condition of anonymity.“If you and the international community pressure me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban,” Mr. Karzai said, according to the Parliament member.
A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Waheed Omar, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
In a speech in Kandahar on Sunday, Mr. Karzai promised local tribal elders that coalition military operations planned for the area this summer would not proceed without their approval.“I know you are worried about this operation,” he said, adding: “There will be no operation until you are happy.”
Given his tone in the last few days, it was unclear whether he was literally extending the elders veto power over the offensive, or merely trying to quell their fears and bring them on board.
Interviews with diplomats, Afghan analysts and ordinary Afghans suggest that the United States and other Western countries have three options: threaten to withdraw troops or actually withdraw them; use diplomacy, which so far has had little result; and find ways to expand citizen participation in the government, which now has hardly any elected positions at the provincial and district levels.
Threatening to withdraw, which Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, called the “nuclear deterrent” option, would put the United States and other Western countries in the position of potentially having to make good on the promise, risking their strategic interest in a stable Afghanistan. Few experts think the country would remain peaceful without a significant foreign force here. Moreover, withdrawal could open the way for the country to again become a terrorist haven.Some Western critics of Mr. Karzai believe that the West has no choice but to threaten to leave.“There is no point in having troops in a mission that cannot be accomplished,” said Peter W. Galbraith, former United Nations deputy special representative for Afghanistan, who was dismissed after a dispute with his superiors over how to handle widespread electoral fraud and what senior U.N. officials later said was his advocacy of Mr. Karzai's removal. “The mission might be important, but if it can’t be achieved, there is no point in sending these troops into battle. Part of the problem is that counterinsurgency requires a credible local partner.” Diplomacy has so far failed to achieve substantial changes, although some analysts, like Mr. Biddle, who opposes the so-called nuclear option, believe that the West should demand concessions before spending any more money on development projects like digging wells and building schools.“We do millions of things in Afghanistan, and any of those things can become a source of leverage,” he said. “Far too much of what we do in Afghanistan we just do without asking for anything explicit in return.”That approach can backfire, some argue, hurting those the West most wants to help.
Greater power sharing, while promising, faces structural obstacles. Under the Constitution, provincial governors, local judges, district governors and most other offices are appointive rather than elective. In some areas, Afghan and American programs have begun to involve communities in local budgeting, but progress is slow and it would probably take several years to expand it to higher levels of government.
“There are no better angels about to descend on Afghanistan,” said Alex Thier, a senior Afghan analyst at the United States Institute of Peace. “Unless some drastic action is taken, Mr. Karzai is the president of Afghanistan, and he was just elected for another five years.”
That prospect leaves some Afghans uneasy. In interviews with more than a dozen people around the country, there was apprehension and dismay over Mr. Karzai’s clash with the international community, and the specter of renewed chaos it could lead to.
“Karzai delivered this speech based on his own difficulties with the foreigners,” said Gulab Mangal, a tribal leader in the Musa Khel area of Khost Province.
“When the international community criticized his brother, he started to raise these problems,” he said, referring to Ahmed Wali Karzai, a prominent figure in southern Afghanistan. “It shows the relation between Karzai and the international community is deteriorating day by day, and that should not be allowed to happen.”
Mehram Ali, a man from Wardak Province who was shopping in Kabul over the weekend, voiced a similar qualm. “We need the international community to keep supporting us and our government,” he said.“In this recent situation we do need foreign soldiers to help us in bringing peace and stability for our country, and if the foreigners leave us, then the people of Afghanistan will face adversity from every direction, and Afghanistan will return to what it was like 10 years ago when we had the Taliban government.”

US Consulate condemns Peshawar blasts

PESHAWAR: The US Consulate in Pakistan Monday condemned the blasts that apparently targeted the US Consulate building.The US Consulate official said the Consulate is garnering information about the blasts.Police and witnesses said at least three bombs exploded in quick succession close to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar.Gunfire was also heard close to the heavily guarded and fortified building in Peshawar, said police officer Aziz Khan.Two of the blasts took place around 20 yards (meters) from the main entrance to the building, an Associated Press reporter close to the scene said.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said it could not comment.
Local TV footage showed soldiers taking up defensive positions on the road outside the consulate. One soldier hit the ground in the middle of the road and began firing as a large explosion sent up a plume of gray smoke nearby.
Rescue workers carried at least one wounded man away on a stretcher, his clothing soaked with blood.Khyber Road where the US Consulate building is situated, is being air-monitored by the helicopters.

US consulate attacked as 40 die in Peshawar bombings

Militants targeted the US Consulate in Peshawar today with multiple bombs and gun attacks as renewed violence in north-western Pakistan left more than 40 people dead.
Gunmen wearing paramilitary uniforms opened fire outside the consulate from two vehicles before the explosions that shook the high-security district, which also houses key government offices. Bashir Bilour, a senior provincial minister, said at least four attackers were killed by the security forces. He said several unexploded suicide jackets and a large quantity of explosive was also recovered from the scene.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad said that the consulate was attacked, but gave no details. At least four US security guards were also injured. The US consulate has been attacked several times in the past.
Local television footage showed soldiers taking up positions around the consulate which was covered with grey smoke. Military helicopters circled the area which was cordoned off by the security forces. At least seven people were killed and several others injured in the attack.
The blasts in Peshawar came hours after a suicide bomb attack on a political party rally in lower Dir district killed at least 36 people. A lone suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the rally organized by Awami National Party, which rules the North Western Frontier Province. The rally was taken out to celebrate the renaming of the province to Kyber-Pakhtinkhawa.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The Pakistani Army seized the control of Lower Dir, a militant stronghold, few months ago. Mohammed Jamil, the regional police chief said the attack was thought to have been carried out by the Taleban.
Hundreds of people have been killed in past months in north-western Pakistan in violence carried out by al-Qaeda and Taleban militants. The violence has surged after the Pakistani army launched an offensive in South Waziristan, an al-Qaeda stronghold along the border with Afghanistan.

Blasts near US Consulate in Peshawar: 2 dead

PESHAWAR: Suspected militants attacked a Pakistani check-post near the US consulate in Peshawar on Monday, a witness and a doctor said.I saw attackers in two vehicles. Some of them carried rocket-propelled grenades. They first opened fire at security personnel at the post near the consulate and then blasts went off,” city resident Siraj Afridi told Reuters.Other residents said an initial blast went off in the neighborhood of the US consulate and they later heard two other blasts and rifle fire in the same area.
The US embassy in Islamabad confirmed the attack.
“We can confirm there has been an attack at the US consulate Peshawar facilities,” US embassy spokeswoman Ariel Howard told AFP.
She was unable to provide any details about the nature of the attack, possible damage or casualties.The causes of the blasts were not immediately clear, said the security official and local residents.Television footage showed a heavy mushroom cloud and smoke rising into the air over the garrison part of the city, close to the US consulate and the Peshawar headquarters of Pakistan's top spy agency in the Saddar area, bombed last November.Bursts of heavy gunfire could also be heard. According to DawnNews, police and army had resorted to firing and the Khyber Road area had been blocked. Several buildings had collapsed due to the intensity of the blasts. Officials said that many casualties were feared and the injured had been rushed to the hospital.


PESHAWAR: Like other parts of the country, the 31st death anniversary of founding chairman of Pakistan People’s Party and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was observed across the NWFP as ceremonies were held to commemorate the services of the leader on Sunday.Terming the hanging of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto a political murder by a military dictator, the participants of a seminar in Peshawar demanded reopening of the case.The demand was made at a function organised by People’s Youth Organisation (PYO), the youth wing of the party. The speakers lauded ZA Bhutto contribution to the cause of democracy and downtrodden segments of the society and said the leader gave a voice to the poor and neglected sections of the society.The 1973 unanimous constitution was a precious gift by ZA Bhutto to the nation, however, dictators disfigured it by constant amendments, they added. The speakers including former district nazim of Peshawar, Azam Afridi, Syed Ayub Shah, PYO provincial president Gohar Inqilabi, general secretary Misbahuddin, divisional president Kamran Haider, district president Tasbeehullah and People’s Doctors Forum’s Dr Siraj counted the achievements of PPP governments led by ZA Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.They said Bhutto was still alive in the hearts of PPP workers and people of Pakistan and leaders like him never died.The great leader sacrificed his life for the people of the country and democracy but neither compromised on principles nor succumbed to pressure tactics of the dictators. The speakers said the workers were an asset to the PPP and they would not hesitate to render sacrifices for the cause of democracy and strengthen democratic institutions in the country. It was untiring efforts of the PPP leaders that restored democracy and won right for the masses as well gave them a say in the decision-making, said the speakers.The speakers resolved to take forward the message and agenda of ZA Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and make the county prosperous. The Peshawar chapter of the PPP held a function at the Nishtar Hall where the local leaders complained that the genuine party workers in the province were being ignored by the high command. Syed Ayub Shah, Azam Afridi, Akbar Khan and others said certain new entrants to the party were conspiring against the PPP but the party leadership was looking the other way.The speakers paid tributes to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for standing up to the tyrants and laying down his life for the cause of democracy and his people. They said Benazir Bhutto carried forward the mission of her father but was killed by the enemies of democracy. They said the PPP was the party of the poor and could not be eliminated by the dictators.
NOWSHERA: Local leaders of the PPP demanded of the higher judiciary to reopen the case of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Addressing a gathering in Government High School-1, Nowshera Cantt, the PPP acting district president Malik Ghulam Hazrat, PF-12 general secretary Ilyas Khan, PF-14 Hidayat Khan and others said that their great leader had given constitution to the country and the nation and now its leaders gave name to the province. They also paid rich tributes to late leader for making Pakistan a nuclear power.
CHITRAL: A ceremony was organized in the Chitral town hall which was chaired by NWFP Minister for Population Welfare Saleem Khan besides district office-bearers and activists of the PPP. Addressing on the occasion, the speakers highlighted the sacrifices of Bhutto and his family for democracy in the country. They said Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the only politician who empowered the power masses.
MINGORA: Activists of the PPP observed the death anniversary of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at the residence of Dr Shamsher Ali. The speakers on the occasion lauded the leadership of Bhutto and his unforgettable services for the country.
KURRAM AGENCY: A ceremony was held in Parachinar to mark the occasion. Hamid Turi, Qurban Ali, Gulfam Hussain, Iftikhar Sherazi, Sardar Ali Shuhla lauded the services of the late PPP leader for the tribal areas. They urged President Asif Ali Zardari to visit Parachinar and announce a special package for the affected residents of the area.

Afghan president says NATO offensive may not go ahead

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday took another step away from the international coalition supporting him, suggesting NATO’s massive Kandahar province summer offensive may not go ahead.At a fractious “jirga” meeting of about 2,000 tribal elders, politicians and citizens from Kandahar province and neighbouring provinces, Karzai asked those assembled if they were worried about the operation, expected to be NATO’s largest-yet in Afghanistan."We are worried!" many shouted back. Karzai then assured them, "There will be no operation unless you are happy."His administration will engage in further consultation with the province’s people before deciding about the operation, Karzai promised at the meeting in Kandahar City.The president noted that instability in Panjwaii district — where Canadian troops operate from outposts and fortified bases — as well as in other rural areas, can prevent villagers from coming to the city to provide input.“Shura” meetings of local leaders and citizens must be held at the district level, so that "every tribe representative" can give their view on the offensive, said Karzai, who was accompanied to the jirga by U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.While Karzai has thrown the offensive’s fate into doubt, NATO nations fighting in Afghanistan are under pressure to ensure it goes ahead, said Walilullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies."I do think that the offensive will take place," Rahmani said. "The different nations that have troops in Afghanistan need to have support from their people. They want to convince their population that they are doing right in Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan needs their efforts and their soldiers here. This offensive is to give that picture."If the operation goes ahead, it will be based on intelligence rather than wide-ranging sweeps, said Kandahar province Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, a Canadian-Afghan who used to live in British Columbia."Our plan is to be very target-oriented," Wesa said. "We need exact intelligence . . . who to go after. I’m not thinking that we will be bombing villages (or) innocent people. We will try to make sure who is the wrong person in the village or in the area."Karzai on Sunday addressed the domestic perception that Afghanistan is under foreign control because it is accepting military and financial assistance from the international community.
"We will try to show people that this country is free of domination and has its own faith and system," Karzai said.
In discussing the offensive — considered the next phase of the U.S. Marines’ invasion of Marjah in adjacent Helmand province — Canadian and NATO brass consistently emphasize that they are working in partnership with the Afghan government.
"Afghan ownership of the Kandahar phase of the operation has already begun in the form of political outreach from Kabul to encourage dialogue with the province’s community leaders and power brokers," said Canadian Maj. Daryl Morrell.
"The success of the Afghan political-engagement process in Kandahar will determine the level of military involvement needed to separate the insurgents from the population."
Yet it is clear that concrete planning for the offensive is underway.
Canadian Lt.-Col. Simon Bernard said Friday the operation will focus first on bolstering a "ring of stability" around Kandahar City and its densely populated fringes, then push outward toward insurgency "hot spots," such as those just beyond two Canadian bases in Panjwaii."Based on accurate intelligence, of course, we will conduct disruptive operations," Bernard said.
McChrystal said last month he expected insurgents to resist the offensive mostly with improvised-explosive devices "to try to give a sense that Kandahar and the area cannot be secured."
Karzai on Sunday repeated an offer of reconciliation to the Taliban, but said he wouldn’t make peace with al-Qaida, and terrorists and those who kill children and pregnant brides "won’t be forgiven."