Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Obama looking for 'whose ass to kick'
President Barack Obama bluntly defended his administration's response to the undersea gusher fouling the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, telling an interviewer he has met with experts to learn "whose ass to kick." "I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf," Obama told NBC's "Today" show in an interview that aired Tuesday. "A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be."
A variety of critics have accused Obama of being too cerebral in his reaction to the undersea gusher now fouling the Gulf of Mexico, of failing to put the full force of the administration and of putting too much trust in oil company BP. NBC's Matt Lauer asked Obama about the criticism that he should spend more time in the Gulf instead of with experts and "kick some butt."
Obama told NBC his deliberations have been more than academic.
"I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," Obama continued. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."
The disaster was uncorked by an explosion aboard the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 20 that killed 11 workers. The rig sank two days later, and estimates of the amount of oil pouring into the gulf from the undersea blowout grew rapidly in the following week.
Obama made a May 2 visit to the Coast Guard command center in Venice, Louisiana, warning during a rain-spattered news conference that the problem may take "many days" to solve. The Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior, which oversees offshore oil drilling, were already heavily involved with well owner BP in trying to corral the leak.But by then, conservative commentators -- some of whom had defended the Bush administration's lackluster response to 2005's Hurricane Katrina -- were billing the disaster "Obama's Katrina," and complaints about the pace and the amount of muscle the White House has put behind the cleanup have come from a handful of Democrats as well.

North Korea leadership changes strong on family ties
Dramatic changes in North Korean leadership this week appear to be paving the way for an eventual transfer of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, analysts say.

Jang Song Thaek, Kim's brother-in-law and long thought to be Kim's right-hand man, was promoted to vice-chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission at the Supreme People's Assembly, the communist nation's parliament, on Monday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency report.

Jang's appointment is crucial, according to Kim Sung-han, a professor at Korea University in Seoul, because he's seen as providing a support network for Kim's son and his nephew, Kim Jong Un. Not only is Jang family, but he's a top official in the military as the vice-chairman of the NDC.
His appointment signifies the power succession process is taking place and that he plays a key role as "liaison between the party and the military," said Kim Sung-han.
Parliament also named Choe Yong Rim as the country's new premier Monday, replacing Kim Yong Il. It was not immediately known why Kim, elected to the post in 2007, was removed in favor of Choe."The Prime Minister used to work with Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung. He is very close to the Kim family," said Han Park, a professor at the University of Georgia. "That has some succession implications.
"So, the fact that young Kim Jong Un, the presumed successor, is the son of Kim Jong Il and grandson of Kim Il Sung -- so that kind of legitimacy of authority stems from the family, as opposed to the person's capability or leadership ability," Park said.

Pak military provided Rs 110 billion more than bud estimates

Pakistan is planning to buy more fighter jets, surveillance planes and submarines and the nation's military has been allocated billions of rupees over and above the defence budget for making such high-end weapon purchases.
A part of the special funding for the defence will also go to provide more sophisticated weapons to the military for undertaking counter insurgency operations against Taliban militants in the country's restive north west.
Islamabad last week hiked defence spending for 2010-11 to Rs 442.2 billion ($ 5.18 billion) up from Rs 342.9 billion allocated in the last fiscal.
Besides the defence budget of Rs 442.2 billion for 2010-11, the government has allocated Rs 110 billion out of budget estimates for the Armed Forces Development Plan, ongoing anti-militancy operations and a key defence initiative.
The aim of this initiative is to enable the military to acquire fighter jets and surveillance aircraft, submarines and other weapons and technology to effectively counter external threats and terrorism.
Pakistan recently received upgraded F-16 fighter jets, P-3C Orion maritime reconnaissance and helicopter gunships from the US. But under new plans Islamabad wants to buy more submarines and other weapon systems.
Last year too, the government on the insistence of the military also provided an additional Rs 49 billion to meet the expenses of anti-militancy operations.
But now a whopping Rs 110 billion is being provided for military.
Media reports said, a sum of Rs 60 billion has been reserved for the Armed Forces Development Plan, which is aimed at equipping the armed forces with the latest technology and weapon systems. Islamabad has been reserving funds for the Armed Forces Development Plan for the past few years and the average annual allocation has been about Rs 100 billion.

Nato supply trucks torched by militants

Suspected Taliban gunmen torched 50 Nato supply trucks on the outskirts of Islamabad last night , killing at least seven people, in the most audacious assault yet on the military supply chain in Afghanistan.

Militants have regularly ambushed western supply convoys near the Afghan border, but this was the first attack near the Pakistani capital.

Police said at least 10 gunmen struck just before midnight at a depot in Tarnol, on the Grand Trunk Road that links Rawalpindi with Peshawar. They opened fire on the trucks, killing drivers and security personnel, before setting them alight.

Police arrived, sparking an exchange of fire, and the attackers escaped to the west on motorbikes and in small pickup trucks. At first light, six hours later, flames were still licking through the hulks of charred military vehicles and fuel tankers. Plumes of thick black smoke rose into the sky near the capital.

The assault called into question security arrangements in the capital, whose streets have become clogged with police and military checkposts since the Taliban stepped up their assault last year.

Police officers combing the area said they had arrested 26 suspects. "We are still trying to find out what happened," said Shah Nawaz, the police chief at Tarnol station.

Pakistani police often indiscriminately arrest people after major incidents only to release them later. The interior minister, Rehman Malik, ordered an inquiry within three days.

The convoy originated in the port of Karachi, 700 miles to the south, and was due to climb over the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. Over 75% of military supplies for western troops in Afghanistan and 40% of fuel needs pass through Pakistan.

The supplies include food and vehicle but not usually weapons or ammunition, which are ferried by air.

Ambushes on Nato convoys in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, have declined in recent months following concerted army operations in the nearby Khyber and Orakzai tribal areas.

The last attack was in April when militants torched a dozen trucks and killed four police in northern Punjab, between Islamabad and Peshawar.

Many of the Nato supply runs are managed by trucking families from the tribal belt, particularly Waziristan and Khyber. A police source in Karachi said they ensured safe passage by paying protection money to militant groups on the 1,200-mile route.

However, it is impossible to pay off every group along the road. "When you reach here, it's a free for all," said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a veteran journalist in Peshawar. "You can't pay everyone off; and some groups are ideologically committed and won't take money."

The attacks are a costly irritant to Nato and an embarrassment to Pakistani security forces, although they have a limited impact on western military supplies due to the high volume of traffic.

Still, the US has started to explore new trucking routes through Central Asia, although these may require compromise with Russia, the regional power.

Ambassadors laud Pak Army’s successful operation in Swat

MINGORA: The ambassadors of 13 Islamic countries visited Swat on Tuesday and highly lauded the successful military operation by the Pakistan Army against militants.
The ambassadors of Libya, Malaysia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, the UAE, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia visited Mingora Circuit House where they were received by the in-charge of Operation Rah-e-Rast, Major General Asfaque Nadeem, who briefed them about the latest security situation and the sacrifices made by the Pakistan Army for the establishment of the government’s writ in Swat and Malakand. The visiting dignitaries were also briefed about developmental projects and the reconstruction and rehabilitation programme.
The foreign dignitaries were warmly received by the people of Swat when they arrived at Wadodia Hall, Saidu Sharif. The Wadodia hall had been decorated with flags of the Islamic countries.
The ambassadors said that relations between Pakistan and their countries are deep-rooted, friendly, and that they will continue to support Pakistan. They said that Pakistan and their countries enjoyed very close, friendly and strong relations, which, they added, would further grow with the passage of time

NATO helicopter shot down in Afghanistan; 4 killed

KABUL, Afghanistan – A NATO helicopter was shot down in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing four troops, the alliance said.
The helicopter was brought down by hostile fire in volatile Helmand province, NATO said in a statement. It gave no other details.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility on behalf of the insurgents, saying militants shot down the helicopter with two rockets.
Helmand provincial government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said the attack occurred about midday in Sangin province.
Both U.S. and British troops are operating in Helmand, part of a band of provinces across southern Afghanistan that are the Taliban's heartland.
United States troops have been building in the south as part of President Barack Obama's surge strategy to try to bring an end to the nearly nine-year-old insurgency.
Obama last December ordered some 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and most of them are due to be deployed in the south.
U.S. commanders are planning a major operation in Kandahar that they hope will turn the tide of the war in time for American troops to begin withdrawing on Obama's stated timetable starting in July 2011. Helmand province abuts Kandahar.
Insurgents have stepped up attacks ahead of the Kandahar operation. The spike in violence has killed 28 NATO troops this month, including Wednesday's casualties.