Sunday, May 23, 2010

Clinton Sees U.S. Pavilion at China Expo
By all accounts, the United States would have been a no-show at the Shanghai Expo had Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton not opened her Rolodex and raised about $60 million in private cash to finance a pavilion here. So it seemed fair that Mrs. Clinton got a rousing cheer from a group of Chinese children when she visited the building on Saturday.
But the house that Hillary built is unmistakably the house that corporate America paid for.
After touring the pavilion — with its Citibank- and Pfizer-sponsored theaters, gauzy eight-minute videos featuring representatives from Chevron, General Electric, and Johnson & Johnson, environmentally friendly features sponsored by Alcoa, and a gift shop with licensed merchandise from Disney — Mrs. Clinton seemed less inspired than relieved that the project was done.
“It’s fine,” she said to a reporter asking her what she thought of the pavilion. “Can you imagine if we had not been here?”
With its gunmetal-gray walls and convention-center aesthetics, the pavilion hardly stands out in a fairground studded by beguiling structures like Britain’s Seed Cathedral, a cube with 60,000 sprouting transparent rods that make it look like a dandelion ready to be scattered to the winds.
Still, the American organizers say the pavilion has drawn long lines and 700,000 visitors since the Expo opened May 1, which attests either to the enduring attraction of the United States or the wisdom of Woody Allen’s observation that 80 percent of success is showing up.
For Mrs. Clinton, scratching together the money for the project was a simple matter of avoiding a diplomatic snub. The Chinese government spent $45 billion buffing up this glamorous but gritty metropolis to play host to a world’s fair, and it is treating the six-month-long event with almost the same importance it attached to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
America’s participation was in jeopardy because Congress restricts the spending of public money on world’s fairs, and under the Bush administration, the project had virtually no private financing. On Mrs. Clinton’s first visit as secretary of state last year, Chinese officials implored her to do something.
“It’s like a coming-out party for countries and cities,” Mrs. Clinton said, referring to world’s fairs of the last century in Chicago and St. Louis. “There’s a real historical significance to this.”
To avoid violating federal rules, Mrs. Clinton assigned most of the one-on-one fund-raising to two longtime Clinton fund-raisers: Elizabeth F. Bagley and Jose H. Villarreal, both of whom were on hand.As she walked in this morning, Mrs. Clinton greeted Indra K. Nooyi, the chief executive of PepsiCo, and senior executives from Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, and General Electric, each of which kicked in $5 million. She met major sponsors again at a dinner on Saturday night.Mrs. Clinton also toured China’s pavilion, a monumental deep-red building with a traditional Chinese inverted roof. “It would have to be very big to fit all the provinces of China in it,” she told Shanghai’s mayor, Han Zheng, who thanked her for making sure the United States had a presence.
Nearly 200 countries are represented at the Expo, which stretches along both banks of the Huangpu River. Two countries branded as rogue nations, Iran and North Korea, are conveniently located next to each other.
Among the North Korean attractions is a video of a rocket launching intercut with pictures of children in a classroom.Iran has gathered examples of its technology, including a primitive satellite and a stuffed goat, which was identified as the country’s first cloned goat. “Only a few countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada, and China have a cloned goat in their list of achievements,” a placard said.Neither country made any mention of its nuclear program, which in both cases is fueling tension with their neighbors and the United States. But then, the U.S.A. Pavilion does not mention the American political system, the Constitution or the founding fathers.Instead, visitors are treated to a video of Americans struggling to speak Chinese, testimonials about sustainable energy, water conservation, and family values — each presented by a corporate sponsor with interest in those areas — followed by a video about a young girl planting a garden in a garbage-strewn lot. At one point, the seats shake and the audience is sprayed with mist.The highlight at the pavilion is 70 student ambassadors, drawn from universities around the United States, who speak fluent Mandarin, and entertain the long lines of visitors.
Franklin L. Lavin, a former American ambassador to Singapore who is the chairman of the pavilion’s steering committee, said the organizers stayed clear of messages about free speech or democratic institutions in favor of the simple virtues of civic-mindedness.
“We wanted to talk about what works in American society, not what doesn’t work in other societies,” Mr. Lavin said.

Pakhtuns killings a conspiracy

MARDAN: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti Saturday condemned target killing of Pakhtuns in Karachi and termed it a conspiracy to widen the gulf of differences between Hazarawals and Pakhtuns.
“Hazarawals are our brothers, we are living in one province and there is no issue between Hazarawals and Pakhtuns that could pit them in an armed action against each other,” said the chief minister while talking to journalists during inaugural ceremony of several projects and a function arranged by Malik Saad Sports Trust at Mardan Sports Complex.
The chief minister distributed sports prizes among players and also announced Rs50 million fund for the sports complex.
Haider Hoti said some people declared the Karachi killings an issue of Hazarwals and Pakhtuns, but said it was a wrong notion.
He said that on the one hand target killings of Pakhtuns continued in Karachi, while on the other some elements were defaming Pakhtuns through various tactics.
Haider Hoti said police played a key role by maintaining peace in province as they rendered sacrifices, which would be written in the Pakistani history in golden words.
Strict security measures were taken in Mardan city during the chief minister’s visit. Vehicles were banned on some roads being used by the chief minister’s cavalcade. During his visit, he inaugurated several schemes including Bank Road.

Egypt and Pakistan to boost trade

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that his country plans to boost trade with Egypt, during a visit to Cairo where he met with President Hosni Mubarak.Qureshi, who was accompanied on his trip by several ministers and a large delegation of businessmen, praised the "excellent" relations between Pakistan and Egypt, the official MENA news agency reported.During talks with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit on Saturday, the two diplomats agreed to set up a ministerial level committee to oversee bilateral trade that would meet every two years, Qureshi told MENA.
The two countries would also hold political consultations once a year, Qureshi said.
The talks focused on "exploring new trade opportunities between the two countries, including exporting Pakistani wheat as well as medical and surgical equipment to Egypt," MENA said.
The two sides also looked into exporting Egyptian goods to Pakistan, including fertilizers," it said.
The annual volume of trade between Egypt and Pakistan currently stands at four million dollars, according to MENA.

Germany's Birth Rate Hits Historic Low

Germany is shrinking - and fast. New figures released on May 17 show the birth rate in Europe's biggest economy has plummeted to a historic low, dropping to a level not seen since 1946. As demographers warn of the consequences of not making enough babies to replace and support an ageing population, the latest figures have triggered a bout of national soul-searching and cast a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel's family policies.

According to a preliminary analysis by the Federal Statistics Office, 651,000 children were born in Germany in 2009 - 30,000 fewer than in 2008, a dip of 3.6%. In 1990, German mothers were having on average 1.5 children each; today that average is down to 1.38 children per mother. With a shortfall of 190,000 between the number of people who died and the number of children who were born, Germany's birth rate is well below the level required to keep the population stable.
"The German birth rate has remained remarkably flat over the past few years while it has increased in other low fertility countries, like Italy and the Czech Republic," Joshua Goldstein, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, tells TIME. "Women are continuing to postpone motherhood to an older age and this process of postponement is temporarily lowering the birth rate." According to Goldstein's research, Germany has the longest history of low fertility in Europe.
To explain Germany's low reproduction rate, Steffen KrÖhnert, a social scientist at the Berlin Institute for Population Development, points to a number of factors. Many German women decide not to have children because of poor state-run childcare facilities. Most schools in Germany finish earlier than in other parts of Europe - some as early as 1pm - leaving parents struggling to find and afford sufficient day care. And often women who take up part-time jobs to try to juggle work and family life end up paying a high financial price. "Many German women have to stop work and end their careers if they want to have kids," says KrÖhnert. It doesn't help that German mothers are still often branded RabenmÜtter - "raven mothers" - a pejorative label that accuses them of being bad mothers if they decide to put their children in nurseries and continue working.
As Germany feels the demographic crunch, the country's plummeting birth rate has become a contentious political issue. Over the past few years, Chancellor Merkel has introduced a number of family-boosting incentives, including a new parental allowance for couples which pays a parent who chooses to stay home 67% of his or her income for the first year after their child is born (with a cap of $2,300 per month). The measure is aimed at encouraging fathers to take a more active role in raising their children and, in that respect, it appears to have paid off. One-in-five fathers now stays home to look after the kids.
Merkel's new center-right government has also pledged to expand the number of nursery school places, setting itself the ambitious goal of providing one-in-three children under 3 with state-funded childcare by 2013. But it remains to be seen whether that new initiative will motivate Germans to make more babies. "There are many reasons why couples don't have children," said Family Minister Kristina SchrÖder in a statement. "The economic crisis and job fears play a role. We have to help people combine work and family, especially in these difficult economic times."

And that help has to come soon; the predictions of Germany's demographic future make for uncomfortable reading. The Federal Statistics Office says Germany's population of 82 million could drop by up to 17 million over the next 50 years. Demographers fear a shrinking workforce will stymie growth and struggle to foot the bill for a rapidly ageing population. "Germany's working age population is likely to decrease by 30% over the next few decades," says KrÖhnert of the Berlin Institute for Population Development. "Rural areas will see a massive population decline and some villages will simply disappear - Germany will become a weak economic power in the future."
KrÖhnert says that while society has become more modern and more women are choosing both career and kids, German politicians have reacted too slowly to the country's falling birth rate. With the recent multi-billion dollar bailout for Greece and the euro-zone rescue package straining Germany's already stretched public finances, Merkel is coming under increasing pressure from within her own conservative party to make cuts. The powerful governor of the state of Hesse, Roland Koch, recently suggested the government could save on education and childcare, although Merkel quickly distanced herself from his remarks, insisting that those areas would be spared the axe. But the Chancellor was elected last September on her promise to reduce taxes, a pledge she has been forced to put on ice for the next few years. As Germany battles to bring its spiralling budget deficit under control, it may have trouble convincing its citizens to add to the family for the good of the country.

Moscow furious, says US not pushing drug war in Afghanistan

Moscow's new drug czar, Viktor Ivanov, claims Russia is being flooded with cheap heroin and charges that the US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan are reluctant to pursue a drug war that could drive poppy farmers into the arms of the Taliban.
A gruff and graying veteran of the Soviet Union's disastrous military intervention in Afghanistan, he recently made his first return visit to that country. When he came back to Moscow, he had harsh words for the Western alliance, charging that it is enabling a drug-fueled hurricane of destabilization that is now sweeping across former Soviet Central Asia and Russia.
He wants the war in Afghanistan to be a proper drug war. Why?
Mr. Ivanov says the flow of narcotics from the fields of Afghanistan into Russia has increased by 16 percent in the past three years alone, spiking urban drug addiction. He alleged in a March press conference that drug barons are uniting with Islamist militants to seize power in vulnerable Central Asian states – and that the North Atlan­tic Treaty Org­ani­zation's (NATO) failure to deal with Afghan­istan's burgeoning drug production threatens to create a security nightmare for Russia and its regional allies.
"We do not believe the principal aims of the NATO security operation in Afghanistan have been achieved," Ivanov said at a press conference. "Of course the struggle against terrorism should take precedence, but what about liquidating drug production? How does it happen that almost 10 years after NATO occupied this country, Afghanistan is not only the world's largest producer of opium, but also of hashish, surpassing the traditional global leader, Morocco?"
In recent years, Russia and NATO have run a school for Afghan antidrug police in the Moscow-region town of Domodedovo, turning out hundreds of graduates. But despite that cooperation, experts say Moscow is increasingly dubious about NATO's ability to impose order in Afghanistan, and may be seeking ways to expand its influence in Central Asia against the day the United States decides to leave. Some analysts suggest that the Kremlin's recent backing of a coup in Kyrgyzstan could be a sign of more assertive behavior to come.
"The former Soviet states of central Asia are our own backyard," says Tatiana Parkhalina, director of the independent Center for European Security in Moscow. "Moscow doesn't want to stand by while the Taliban and terrorist networks convert the financial resources from drug trafficking into arms and political influence... There is a practical alliance taking shape between drug traffickers and terrorists, and it is a very big threat."
More heroin addicts?
Ivanov says there are now at least 2 million heroin addicts in Russia, but other experts claim the number is higher. "The inflow of drugs from Afghanistan via Central Asia into Russia is increasing exponentially, as is consumption," says Stanislav Belkovsky, president of the Kremlin-connected Institute of National Strategy. "The only thing Ivanov exaggerates is the will and ability of the state to struggle against this threat."Yevgeny Roizman, a former Duma deputy who founded an independent drug treatment center in his Ural hometown of Yekaterinburg, claims Russia has as many as 6 million drug addicts. "Drugs are coming into the country in huge bulk, from Afghanistan via the gateway states of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan which, to this day, have no visa regime with Russia. I have the deepest sympathy for the US and its goals in Afghanistan, but there is no doubt this problem for us has multiplied ... since they arrived" in the region, he says.Russian analysts allege that NATO turns a blind eye to Afghan poppy production as part of a strategy to keep the loyalty of local warlords and win over peasants who depend on the crop for income.US destroys coca, not poppies?
"We have sent requests to the US, asking them to intensify the struggle against drug production, but they respond that they are still analyzing their options and worry about driving the peasants into the arms of the Taliban," says Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chair of the State Duma's security commission. "Their excuses are very slim indeed."
Ivanov told journalists that he can't understand why the US advocates destruction of coca plantations in Colombia, but seems reluctant to take the same measures in Afghanistan.
"OK, we differ over whether to destroy poppy plantations," Ivanov says, "but why doesn't NATO target the laboratories? There are more than 200 giant laboratories in the Afghan mountains, which produce more and more concentrated drugs, and they are not touched. Our conclusion is that there is no struggle against drug production going on at all."
The issue could portend trouble for the fledgling "reset" in US-Russia relations, say some analysts. "There is a suspicion in Moscow that the lack of interest in fighting drugs in Afghanistan is connected with the US strategy of creating safe conditions for withdrawal from the country before the next US presidential elections in 2012, and not in permanently resolving the problems," says Dmitry Suslov, who is with the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies, an independent Moscow think tank. "This naturally creates anxiety over what kind of Afghanistan NATO will leave behind, and how big a problem it is going to be for Russia."
But a few Russian experts say the Kremlin is hyping the drug issue as a pretext for becoming more assertive in Central Asia.
"The Russian state drug service tends to overestimate drug consumption in Russia; there is no independent confirmation," says Andrei Sol­da­tov, editor of, an on­line journal about security issues. "All of a sudden we hear a lot of declarations about how the threat is dire, and growing, and something has to be done. But it looks to me like conven­ient political theater, and I find it very difficult to trust all these claims."

Obama says diplomacy, military go hand in hand

The U.S. must shape a world order as reliant on the force of diplomacy as on the might of its military to lead, President Barack Obama said Saturday as he outlined a foreign policy vision that repudiated the go-it-alone approach forged by his predecessor, George W. Bush.Addressing nearly 1,000 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, many of whom will likely head to war in Iraq and Afghanistan under his command, Obama said all hands are required to solve the world's newest threats: terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, climate change and feeding and caring for a growing population.The U.S. military is the "cornerstone of our national defense," but Obama said the men and women who wear America's uniform cannot bear that responsibility by themselves. "The rest of us must do our part," he said."The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone," the commander in chief told graduates in gray and white uniforms seated on the field at Michie Stadium.Diplomacy and muscle must work together, he said in calling for "renewed engagement" from diplomats, along with development experts, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and first responders.
Obama acknowledged that the U.S. is "clear-eyed" about the shortcoming of the international system, but he said America had not ever been successful by "stepping out of the currents of cooperation."
"We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face the consequences when they don't," the president said.
Bush's "my way or the highway" approach alienated some allies and damaged U.S. standing around the world. Obama has promised to restore America's reputation, and he said Saturday that he aimed to do that by forging new alliances, maintaining old ones and helping to shape stronger international standards and institutions.
At the same time, Obama said the U.S. will fight to protect "those universal rights that formed the creed of our founding" and will lead by example by staying true to the rule of law and the Constitution, "even when it's hard, even when we're being attacked, even when we're in the midst of war."
"We should not discard our freedoms because extremists try to exploit them," he said in an apparent reference to policies sanctioning torture and domestic spying that Bush adopted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Nearly the entire graduating class of 2010 became second lieutenants in the Army, with most expecting to serve eventually in Iraq or Afghanistan, a fact that Obama said "humbled" him.
"I assure you, you will go with the full support of a proud and grateful nation," he said.
Noting that he came to West Point in December to announce his military policy in Afghanistan, Obama told the cadets "a long and hard road awaits you. ... Your service is fundamental to our security back home."
Despite that warning, the newly commissioned officers said they were ready to serve.
"This is the reason I came here," said Bradley Marren of Charlotte, N.C.
Annie Odom, of Ware Shoals, S.C., said she was following in her father's footsteps. She said he was sent to Iraq in 2003, and now it was her turn.
"My father did it ... and I want to do my service for my country," Odom said. "When that day comes, when I have to go to combat, I'll be ready and God will be on my side. That's all I have to know."

N.Y. bomb plot probe shows radicalism might be on the rise among Pakistani elite

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- A crescendo of violence has steadily cramped the lifestyles of well-heeled Pakistanis and expatriates in this tidy city by targeting elite hotels and eateries. Now militancy may have infiltrated one remaining social reserve of those groups: private, canapé-laden parties in manicured compounds.
A Pakistani intelligence official said Saturday that the U.S.-educated co-owner of a catering firm to swanky events, including American Embassy functions, might have given money to the suspect in the Times Square bomb plot and been asked to aid attacks on diplomats' gatherings. Salman Ashraf Khan, 35, is among several detained in a widening Pakistani probe into the attempted bombing in New York that has netted a former army major, a computer salesman and other professionals.
Khan's suspected involvement prompted the U.S. Embassy to warn Americans to avoid the catering company. The arrests added to evidence that the terrorism threat in Pakistan emanates not just from cave-dwelling radicals but also from the Western-oriented upper crust -- and that those groups might overlap.
"It's not just an individual pulling strings," a Western official said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "There are an awful lot of people connected."
The precise ties between those recently detained in Pakistan and Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American accused of the New York bomb attempt, have not been established, and the intelligence official said none had confessed to roles in the bomb plot. But Khan and at least two of them knew Shahzad -- a product of Pakistan's urban elite -- and all had lambasted "anti-Muslim" U.S. policies during interrogations, the official said.
In the United States, investigations of Shahzad, an American citizen, and other terrorism suspects have prompted concern about extremism among "assimilated" middle-class Muslims. Muhammad Amir Rana, a terrorism researcher in Islamabad, said his recent surveys indicate that radicalization is rising among privileged Pakistani youth, who relate neither to the West nor to Pakistan's impoverished masses.
"They feel alienated," said Rana, director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, who added that such feelings have rarely led to violence. "So they try to identify themselves through religion."
Combating Islamist radicalization is a focus of a new surge in U.S. aid money to Pakistan, where polls repeatedly reveal deep anti-Americanism.
The Pakistani intelligence official said Khan and Shahzad were friends and probably met during Shahzad's trip to Pakistan earlier this year. Another man detained, Shoaib Mughal, owns a small computer-sales firm in Islamabad and is suspected of linking Shahzad with the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas. A third is Khan's business partner; the two provided food to the cafeteria of the headquarters of Mobilink, a cellphone company, according to Khan's father.
The official said a former army major was also arrested on suspicions of links to the plot. But another senior intelligence officer, echoing military statements, said that arrest was unrelated to the Shahzad probe. The senior officer played down the Islamabad detentions, saying investigators were questioning and releasing many people.
But the rare U.S. alert on Friday about terrorists' ties to Hanif Rajput Catering Services, Khan's firm, indicated that investigators were looking at him more seriously. The family business caters more than 200 events a month for military, government and diplomatic circles in the Islamabad area, and the intelligence official said militant organizations might have sought to "use" Khan for access to them.
In an interview Saturday, Khan's father, Rana Ashraf Khan, called that idea "absurd." He said it was possible that his son, who graduated from the University of Houston in 2001, met Shahzad in the course of business. The elder Khan said his son was religious but displayed no extremist tendencies, nor did he have any connections to the Western regions populated by militants.
He said his son, who lived at his parents' home with his wife, also had no relationship with Mughal, the computer shop owner whom the Pakistani intelligence official said was the key focus of investigators. Merchants near the shop, Infinix Quality Services, described Mughal as devout but gentlemanly.
"He is a regular prayer-offering guy," said one business owner, who said he feared being quoted by name. "To me that doesn't suggest he is a militant."
Salman Khan vanished on the morning of May 10, and his father said the embassy alert confirmed the family's suspicions that he had been picked up by security agencies. The father said Khan's business partner "disappeared" the same day.
Rana Ashraf Khan said his son occasionally expressed a belief that American policies in Pakistan caused "suffering," but that he was "full of praise" about his five years in the United States and enjoyed Western movies.
"We are educated people. Not extremists. Not fanatics," the elder Khan said of his five children, who include two physicians living in the United States. "There was nothing in Salman that could have tempted him to even be sympathetic to people bent on the destruction of the United States."

Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves
The Obama administration's campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan's second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed.
The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration's Afghanistan strategy.
There is no Plan B.
The deadline for results is short: Administration officials anticipate that the operation will form the centerpiece of a major strategy assessment due in December and will justify the first withdrawals of U.S. troops from elsewhere in Afghanistan in July 2011. Although operations initiated last winter in southwestern Helmand province will continue, and new troop deployments are scheduled this year for northern and eastern Afghanistan, little else will matter if the news from Kandahar is not good.
The urgency and the difficulty of the task were illustrated Saturday when the Taliban launched an unprecedented rocket and ground attack against the Kandahar air field, NATO's largest installation in southern Afghanistan and the headquarters of the upcoming offensive. Several coalition troops and civilian employees were wounded when rockets sailed over perimeter fortifications, but gunmen who tried to fire their way inside through a gate were unsuccessful, the U.S. military said.
Officials have described the offensive's blend of civilian and military operations as the first true test of the counterinsurgency doctrine adopted five years ago on the eve of the 2007 surge in Iraq, but since only imperfectly applied. As troops battle insurgent forces entrenched among the population on the outskirts of the city, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, U.S.-mentored Afghan police will establish a presence in the relatively secure center.
There will be no "tanks rolling into the city," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said May 13, adding that care will be taken so that the effort "doesn't destroy Kandahar in the effort to save Kandahar."
A delicate balance
"Shaping" operations for the offensive began late last winter as Special Operations forces began killing or capturing insurgent leaders. The Taliban has also begun an assassination campaign against people working for foreigners or the Afghan government. U.S. civilian officials are simultaneously trying to wrest control from local power brokers and to correct imbalances that favor one tribal group. They plan to set up 10 administrative districts, each with a representative council and money to spend.
Success has been only vaguely defined, and progress will be monitored through what the military calls "atmospherics reporting," including public opinion polls and levels of commerce in the streets. A senior military official said the central question, which the administration will pose and answer for itself, is: "Are we moving toward a solution in Kandahar that the people support?"
Public descriptions of the balance between the offensive's military and civilian aspects have fluctuated in response to Afghan sensibilities in a region that is arguably more hostile to foreign intervention and the government in Kabul than to the Taliban.
Senior U.S. military officials briefing American reporters in Kabul early last month described extensive "clearing operations" planned in the outlying Kandahar districts of Zhari, Argandab and Panjwai, where the Taliban is entrenched.
But Afghan President Hamid Karzai said last week that military force would be used only "if and when and where needed . . . in consultation with the community." Although the administration has pledged to consult with Karzai every step of the way, and Karzai with Kandaharis, it remains unclear whether consultation equals a veto. "It's not a military operation in the normal sense of the word," an administration official said. "Maybe they just should have done it," and not talked about it first, "but you couldn't . . . bring so many troops in" without an explanation, he said, referring to the 10,000 additional U.S. troops that have begun to flow into the Kandahar area.
The name of the offensive -- Hamkari Baraye Kandahar, or Cooperation for Kandahar -- was carefully chosen to avoid the word "operation," which suggests violence. The administration official described it benignly as a "military presence" and Karzai has defined it as a "process." Last week, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, called the offensive "a unique challenge."
"I actually think the U.S. military would love to find an enemy that was dug in on a piece of terrain, that we could establish a D-Day and we could attack with no civilians around," McChrystal said, "because that would play to every strength that the coalition has."
Instead, the Kandahar operation might highlight areas of traditional U.S. and Afghan government weakness. Avoiding the civilian casualties that have plagued U.S. operations elsewhere will be particularly difficult in and around Kandahar, an urban and farming area of 2 million people.
The offensive requires Afghan police to demonstrate, arguably for the first time, competence and integrity. It assumes that Americans, both military and civilian, can sort through complex tribal politics to ensure that power and funding go to the right people, and that Kandahar's chieftains will relinquish some control and support U.S. aims.
The perils underlying all these assumptions, and the pitfalls of getting it wrong, were outlined in an 80-page, unclassified analysis prepared this spring by McChrystal's command as a sociological primer on Kandahar.
"Of all the districts and cities in Afghanistan," the March 30 analysis said, "none is more important to the future of the Afghan government or the Taliban insurgency than Kandahar City."
'Significant risks'
Despite initial indications that the Taliban would not challenge the U.S. troop buildup and would lie low until the withdrawal begins, the analysis said, "There are signs the Taliban leadership believes it cannot afford to remain idle as a surge of foreign troops and the largest influx of development aid in modern Afghan history are focused on establishing governance in the Taliban's birthplace and former capital."
Military and civilian momentum in Kandahar, it concluded, "will probably compel the Taliban to make a political compromise with the Afghan government or to wage a climactic campaign of violence in Kandahar City (or perhaps even both)."
Statistics in the analysis are grim. Of 784 uniformed police in Kandahar city and the surrounding area, only 25 percent to 30 percent have been trained, although new forces are scheduled to arrive for the offensive. Of 87 slots for local judges, nine are filled. Saraposa prison, the main detention facility in Kandahar, is overpopulated and is considered less than secure, and the offensive is expected to produce "far more" prisoners than it can handle.
Among the "significant risks" the strategy poses, the analysis said, huge U.S. expenditures in Kandahar -- including 80 percent of U.S. Agency for International Development resources designated for Afghanistan this year -- could "undermine, rather than create, stability." Citing the "unsettling" results of research being conducted at Tufts University, it noted that little link has been established between aid and stability, and that most Afghans think more aid would simply contribute to the corruption seen as the primary fuel for insurgency.
The strategy envisions quickly "wrap[ping] Kandahar City in a circle of assistance and development projects," some of them up and running by June 1, "followed by an influx of new projects in the city itself," the analysis said. But, it said, "There is a risk that ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] will exacerbate the popular perception that powerbrokers are the only real beneficiaries."
Finding Afghans to run new development projects, it said, is problematic: "An ironic side-effect of the U.S. civilian surge in Kandahar is that, because we have hired many of the best educated and motivated Afghans to support us, fewer talented Afghans are available to work for the Afghan government itself in Kandahar City."
The influence of Kandahar's chief power brokers, presidential brother Ahmed Wali Karzai and former governor Gul Agha Sherzai, far exceeds the portion of the region's tribal makeup they represent, yet their competition is the dominant fact of political life there. Early this year, the two separately approached the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, the U.S. civilian headquarters, "to promote themselves as the preferred figure to bring the Taliban to the table to strike peace deals," the analysis said.
Rather than directly challenge them, U.S. planners will try to boost more representative alternatives appointed to district councils. That, too, presents a significant risk of failure, the analysis said. "The problem is that the Afghan central government . . . wants to nominate the district positions and staff from Kabul," the report said.
"Experience suggests this will not work," it said.