Zawahiri urges support in Pak tribal areas: SITE

Al-Qaeda's number two Ayman Zawahiri

— Al-Qaeda's number two Ayman Zawahiri called Thursday on Pakistanis to support jihadists in the country's tribal areas, saying it was "the" battle against the American "crusaders," said the US-based SITE Intelligence group.
Zawahiri's comments were delivered in a video called "Path of Doom" posted on jihadist websites and monitored by SITE, a private group that follows jihadist activities on the Internet.
"The war in the tribal areas and Swat is an inseparable part of the Crusaders' assault on the Muslims the length and breadth of the Islamic world," Zawahiri was quoted as saying.
"This is the battle, briefly and plainly; and this is why anyone who supports the Americans and Pakistan Army -- under any pretext, ploy or lie -- is in fact standing with, backing and supporting the Crusaders against Islam and Muslims," he said.
He argued that the US military was using the Pakistani army as its proxy in the tribal areas and Swat as a means to defeat the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.
The video, which SITE said was produced by Al-Qaeda's media arm as-Sahab, took the form of a 22-minute, 30-second documentary with English subtitles.
Zawahiri appeared with a bookshelf to his back as he has in previous videos.
Its release follows the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and an Al-Qaeda ally, in a US missile strike, and reports of a struggle to succeed him.
Hakimullah Mehsud, a young commander, this week claimed leadership of the militant group.
US drone attacks in the tribal areas have intensified this year, with the latest one on Thursday reportedly killing eight Taliban militants in the northwestern Khyber tribal region.
READ MORE - Zawahiri urges support in Pak tribal areas: SITE

Preparing to Mark 60 Years of Communist Rule, China Worries About Terrorism

Two People’s Armed Police officers stand guard in front of the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. (AP Photo)
( – As China deploys heavy security ahead of a massive celebration to mark 60 years of communist rule, officials have reportedly approached Pakistan about keeping in check Islamists linked to China’s restive Xinjiang region.

Anxious to avoid both terror attacks and public unrest of the type that occurred in Xinjiang over the summer and in Tibet last year, officials in Beijing at the weekend raised the capital’s security level, increasing to 6,000 the number of police officers on regular patrol.

Hundreds of checkpoints first set up ahead of last year’s Olympic Games have been reactivated, with people and vehicles entering and leaving the city coming under close scrutiny, security officials told state media.

Security has also been tightened at important sites and infrastructure. including bridges, tunnels and the subway system.

Beijing police officials also plan to involve hundreds of thousands of civilians, from college students to retirees. They will don red armbands and be tasked to keep an eye out for strangers or suspicious activities in their neighborhoods.

Much of the focus will be in and around Tiananmen Square, where a huge parade is scheduled to mark National Day on October 1. President Hu Jintao will give a keynote speech, followed by a military parade, according to a spokesman for the Beijing municipal government’s committee in charge of the event.

A mass pageant, involving some 200,000 citizens and 60 floats, will explore the theme “Motherland and I Marching Together,” and kick off three days of parties, gala functions and fireworks displays, as well as a large musical event at the Great Hall of the People.

An already security-conscious government was shaken by protests early last month by Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang which left almost 200 people dead. Sparked by anger over the deaths of two Uighurs elsewhere in China, the protests in the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi, turned violent, with some Uighurs attacking ethnic Han Chinese and clashing with police.

Paramilitary police officers patrol in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, on July 13, 2009. (AP Photo)
Beijing blamed Uighur activists abroad for provoking the unrest, targeting in particular the U.S.-based head of the World Uighur Congress (WUC), Rebiya Khadeer, who denied the accusations.

‘International mujahideen movement’

Beijing has long sought to blur differences between Uighur groups wanting greater autonomy and violent separatists such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Shortly after 9/11, China published a document linking separatists in Xinjiang with al-Qaeda, and the U.S. subsequently named ETIM under an executive order designed to disrupt funding to terrorists by freezing groups’ assets in the U.S.

While not officially designated a “foreign terrorist organization,” ETIM appeared in the State Department’s 2002 report on terrorism as a group “linked to the international mujahideen movement – and to a limited degree al-Qaeda – beginning with the participation of ethnic Uighur mujahideen in the Soviet/Afghan war.”

The department’s 2003, 2004 and 2005 annual reports also named ETIM, with the latter saying it was “linked to al-Qaeda and the international jihadist movement” and noting that ETIM members had fought alongside al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

In December 2003, ETIM leader Hessian Machismo was killed by Pakistani troops during a raid on a suspected al-Qaeda hideout in Waziristan, a district in the tribal belt adjacent to the Pakistan-Afghan border.

In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China blamed several bombings in various parts of the country on Uighur militants. Islamist groups threatened attacks during the games but despite a deadly attack on policemen in Xinjiang days before the games opened the event itself went off without any security incidents.

A People’s Armed Police officer patrols a neighborhood in Urumqi, Xinjiang province on July 9, 2009. (AP Photo)
After last month’s violence in Urumqi, Islamic reaction ranged from expressions of concern from the Organization of the Islamic Conference – which this month sent a delegation to investigate – to threats from militant groups including an al-Qaeda affiliate in North Africa which vowed to attack Chinese targets. (Khadeer’s WUC distanced itself from al-Qaeda and condemned the threat.)

Mumbai-type attack

China’s 60th National Day celebrations would be an enviable target for terrorists wanting to punish Beijing.

Citing reliable reports from police sources in Pakistan, India-based analyst and former counterterrorism official Bahukutumbi Raman said the Chinese ambassador in Islamabad has urged the host government “to step up vigilance on the Uighur elements in Pakistan and particularly on the activities of [ETIM] based in North Waziristan.”

Raman, the director of the Institute for Topical Studies in India, said China’s public security ministry had been “caught napping” in Urumqi in July, as it had been in Lhasa, Tibet in March 2008.

Raman said China’s nervousness has been heightened by the fact that Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, runs over the weeks in the run-up to the National Day events.

“Restrictions on the movements  and gatherings of Muslims become very difficult during this period and often prove provocative,” he said. Ramadan ends on September 19-20.

A recent anti-terror exercise in Beijing suggested that one of the potential threat scenarios authorities are considering is a complex, multi-target attack like the one in Mumbai last November. More than 170 people were killed by terrorists from Pakistan during the 60-hour assault in India’s commercial capital.

“While widespread disturbances of the kind seen in Lhasa and Urumqi would require dozens of law-breakers, a terrorist attack of the kind witnessed in Mumbai required less than a dozen well-motivated and well-trained terrorists,” Raman noted.

He said ETIM boasts such members, “and could create havoc if they manage infiltrate into Beijing.”

October 1 marks the day in 1949 when Mao Tse-tung, speaking in Tiananmen Square, declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, after defeating the Nationalist Kuomintang government. The Nationalists fled the mainland and set up government in Taiwan.
READ MORE - Preparing to Mark 60 Years of Communist Rule, China Worries About Terrorism

Baitullah Mehsud Killed In US Strike, Pakistani Taliban Admit

This Nov. 26, 2008 photo taken in Orakzai tribal region of Pakistan shows Hakimullah Mehsud who has become the leader of Pakistani Taliban faction after death of Baitullah Mehsud. The Pakistani Taliban acknowledged Tuesday that the militants' top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was dead, ending weeks of claims and counterclaims over his fate following a U.S. missile strike on his father-in-law's home this month.(AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud)

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Pakistani Taliban commanders acknowledged Tuesday that the militants' top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was dead, ending weeks of claims and counterclaims over his fate following a U.S. missile strike on his father-in-law's home this month.

Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, two of Mehsud's top aides and reportedly rivals to succeed him, called The Associated Press to say that their leader had died Sunday of injuries from the Aug. 5 strike in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

"He was wounded. He got the wounds in a drone strike, and he was martyred two days ago," Hakimullah Mehsud said. Rehman later repeated the same claim.

The Taliban had insisted for weeks – in periodic, sometimes contradictory telephone calls to media from various commanders – that Baitullah Mehsud was still alive following the missile strike, while U.S. and Pakistani officials said he was almost certainly dead and a leadership struggle had ensued.

Hakimullah Mehsud and Rehman denied the reports of infighting in their Tuesday evening call to AP, repeating an earlier Taliban announcement that Hakimullah Mehsud now leads the Pakistani Taliban and adding that Rehman would head the al-Qaida-linked movement's wing in South Waziristan.

They said they were calling together – handing the telephone back and forth to each other at an undisclosed location – to dispel reports of disunity. They spoke to an AP reporter who had interviewed both and recognized their voices.

"Our presence together shows that we do not have any differences," Rehman said.

The loss of Baitullah Mehsud – Pakistan's most-wanted militant – is a significant blow to the Taliban. His Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistani Taliban Movement, had provided a degree of unity among an array of regional and tribal factions, and under his leadership, posed a growing threat to the Pakistani government. He was suspected in dozens of suicide bombings and other assaults, including the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He was also accused of mounting attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

His death is a boost for both Pakistan and the U.S., which has relied heavily on the CIA-controlled missile strikes to take out militants in Pakistan's wild northwest.

Analysts said Tuesday's announcement was a sign that a new Taliban leader had finally emerged after the reported power struggle over who should succeed him.

Mahmood Shah, former government security chief of Pakistan's tribal regions, said Hakimullah Mehsud had apparently won the infighting over the succession.

Shah dismissed the militants' claim Baitullah Mehsud had only recently succumbed to his wounds, saying he had very likely been dead all along.

"This is just a public relations exercise to satisfy themselves," he said.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had announced Friday that Hakimullah Mehsud would lead the group because Baitullah Mehsud was ill. Members of the Mehsud clan use the same last name.

Hakimullah Mehsud, 28, had a reputation as Baitullah Mehsud's most ferocious deputy. He is known for his ruthless efficiency in staging attacks, but he also has a reputation as a hothead and it is unclear whether he can hold together the disparate factions among the Taliban movement.

He commanded three tribal regions. He first appeared in public to journalists in November 2008, when he offered to take reporters on a ride in a U.S. Humvee taken from a supply truck heading to Afghanistan.

He claimed responsibility for the June 9 bombing of the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar, and the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier this year.

He also threatened suicide bombings in Pakistani cities in retaliation for a recent army offensive in the Swat Valley, which has been winding down in recent weeks.
READ MORE - Baitullah Mehsud Killed In US Strike, Pakistani Taliban Admit

Pakistan must 'exploit Taliban leadership rifts'

An heir apparent, Hakimullah Mehsud, has emerged in the battle to succeed Mehsud

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan must exploit rifts among Taliban commanders jostling to inherit the brutal legacy of rebel chief Baitullah Mehsud, analysts say, or risk the power vacuum being filled by Al-Qaeda.
An heir apparent, Hakimullah Mehsud, has emerged in the battle to succeed Mehsud after his reported death near the Afghan border, but analysts and officials told AFP that infighting continued despite the claims and swirling rumours.
On August 5, a missile from a US drone slammed into a house deep in the mountains of South Waziristan where Mehsud was said to be receiving medical treatment, with Pakistani officials certain the feared warlord died.
Desperate to salvage unity among Taliban footsoldiers, the Islamist militia insists he is simply ill, but that has not stopped a fierce battle breaking out for the reins of power and command over his fighters.
"There is a possibility they (the Taliban) could split if the government and the military and the intelligence agencies exploit the situation. It is a window of opportunity," defence analyst Talat Masood told AFP.
The infighting also comes after a military operation against the Taliban in northwest Swat valley, where the army claims to have "eliminated" extremists.
But the consequences of not taking further action could be dire, analysts say, with either a new militant boss emerging and staging spectacular attacks in a show of strength, or a dangerous power void opening up in the tribal belt.
"In the beginning, each one of them -- in order to consolidate his power -- will probably commit ruthless acts," said Masood.
And if no clear leader emerges from the fray and the government does not step in, other militant groups could take advantage of a lawless hideout straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"Al-Qaeda fills in the vacuum of leadership," Masood warned.
"They could exploit the situation as they did in Afghanistan and more or less took over the responsibility of leadership during Mullah Omar's period," he said, referring to the 1996-2001 Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Analyst and columnist Shafqat Mahmood said that Al-Qaeda also had the advantage of access to funds from overseas.
"When you have too much internal squabbling, sometimes somebody from outside can become the least unwelcome person," he said.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella militant group has been blamed for hundreds of deadly attacks across Pakistan since Mehsud took the leadership in July 2007 and began commanding the Islamists from his tribal fiefdom.
There are a handful of contenders to succeed him, with TTP deputy Maulvi Faqir Mohammad last week briefly claiming leadership, before anointing senior Mehsud henchman Hakimullah Mehsud to the top spot.
But analysts and officials say that another Taliban faction wants to see top commander Wali-ur Rehman at the helm.
"Various signals indicate that the battle for succession is still on. There is still a confusion, nothing is clear," said Brigadier Mahmood Shah, former security chief of Pakistan's northwest tribal areas.
Confirming the rifts with the Taliban themselves is difficult, with militant commanders only calling reporters when they want to comment.
So far, there has been no word from Rehman and his faction.
But speaking on the condition of anonymity, one Taliban commander from the tribal areas told AFP that Mehsud named Rehman as his successor in his will.
Masood said the government and military must play a clever game to further rip at the fabric of the militant structure, with a sustained military presence in the tribal belt coupled with intensified intelligence efforts.
Writing in London's Evening Standard newspaper, veteran Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid said that the government now had an "unprecedented opportunity to turn the tide against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda."
Rashid advocated a similar assault in the tribal belt to the one in Swat earlier this year, and said there was strong US pressure for such action.
But columnist Mahmood cautioned against too much interference in the fiercely independent tribal areas.
"If they are killing each other, I don't think the government should have any problem with that. If they introduce an outside element it's quite possible they stop fighting each other and start fighting the government," he said.
READ MORE - Pakistan must 'exploit Taliban leadership rifts'

Insurgents killed in Pakistan military attack

Pakistan's military has been involved in a months-long campaign against militants in the northwest tribal belt.
Pakistani security forces have killed 12 militants and destroyed several of their hideouts in an operation in a restive tribal region near the Afghan border.

The operation against the militants was carried out in the Michni area in Mohmand tribal region on Friday.

"Twelve militants were killed and four of their hideouts destroyed during the operation," the paramilitary Frontier Corps said in a statement. "The troops also seized heavy arms, ammunition and explosives during the operation."

Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan is home to hundreds of pro-Taliban insurgents who use it as a stronghold to carry out deadly attacks in the country.

The military says it has been involved in a months-long campaign against militants holed up in North West Frontier Province and claims it has already cleared the three districts of Swat, Lower Dir and Buner.

The US is also carrying out frequent drone attacks in the violence-ridden region, in defiance of repeated calls by the Islamabad government.

Earlier on Friday, a missile fired from an un-manned US drone killed at least 12 people near Miran Shan, capital of North Waziristan tribal district.

The air strikes allegedly target militants, but Pakistani media outlets say only 10 out of the 60 raids have managed to strike militant hideouts.
READ MORE - Insurgents killed in Pakistan military attack

Seven killed in Pakistan strike

US drone
Pakistan has been critical of the US drone attacks
At least seven people are reported to have been killed in north-west Pakistan in a suspected US missile strike.
One or two missiles targeted a compound in the village of Dande Darpa Khel in the tribal region of North Waziristan, Pakistani officials said.
The village is believed to be frequented by associates of an Afghan Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
There have been dozens of such drone strikes in the past year in the restive region, which borders Afghanistan.
Residents of the main town in the region, Miran Shah, reported hearing a huge blast which shattered windows and blew out doors, said the AFP news agency.
Officials said some people had also been wounded in the attack.
The US military does not routinely confirm drone attacks but the armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are believed to be the only forces capable of deploying drones in the region.
Pakistan has been publicly critical of drone attacks. The government says that they fuel support for the militants.
Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, is though to have died in a similar drone strike on 5 August.
But some Taliban elements have denied he is dead.
READ MORE - Seven killed in Pakistan strike

Pakistan denies al-Qaida targeting nuclear facilities

British academic claims nuclear infrastructure targeted three times in two years, but Pakistan says targets were military

Pakistan's military has strenuously rejected allegations by a British academic that al-Qaida is targeting the country's nuclear facilities in an attempt to obtain weapons for use against the west.

In an article for a US military journal, Professor Shaun Gregory, of the University of Bradford, said al-Qaida and the Taliban had targeted the country's nuclear infrastructure three times in the last two years.

Gregory cited suicide attacks on a "nuclear missile site", a "nuclear airbase" and a munitions complex at Wah, close to Islamabad, described as "one of Pakistan's main nuclear weapons assembly sites".

"The risk of the transfer of nuclear weapons, weapons components or nuclear expertise to terrorists in Pakistan is genuine," he wrote.
A military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said Gregory's claims were "factually incorrect" and part of a western propaganda campaign to "malign Pakistan and its nuclear facilities".

The bases at Wah, Sargodha and Kamra were used to manufacture conventional weapons, ammunition and fighters jet, he said. "There are military facilities, not nuclear installations."

The suicide attacks were widely reported when they occurred and generally were not linked to Pakistan's secretive nuclear programme, which has an estimated 60 to 100 warheads.

Gregory cited a US website, the Long War Journal, as the source for his claims, the most contentious of which surrounds the Wah complex. When it was bombed in August 2008, a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, saying it was retaliation for army-inflicted civilian deaths in the tribal belt.

Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst who ran the factory for eight years in the 1980s, said the nuclear link was "absolute nonsense".

The only known overt Taliban strike against Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure occurred last month, when a motorcycle-riding suicide bomber hit a bus carrying employees of Kahuta Research Laboratories, a major uranium enrichment facility, as it passed through Rawalpindi. Up to six people were killed.

Pakistan's nuclear programme is a source of both immense national pride and sensitivity. According to a popular conspiracy theory, the US is fomenting the Taliban insurgency to create an excuse for American troops to disarm the warheads.

In recent years as the country plunged into turmoil, the Pakistani military has reached out to stress the security of its atomic assets. The Strategic Plans Division, which oversees nuclear operations, regularly briefs visiting diplomats and journalists about safeguards it describes as world-class.

One element is the personnel reliability programme, modelled on a similar US initiative, which regularly screens nuclear workers for "Islamist sympathies, personality problems, drug use, inappropriate external affiliations, and sexual deviancy," according to Gregory. The army has jealously resisted US efforts to assert control over its security measures.

Meanwhile, reports emerged that at least 70 people have been killed in fighting between tribal factions in the wake of Baitullah Mehsud's apparent assassination a week ago.

The clashes occurred in Jandola, a town on the edge of South Wazisitan, between forces loyal to Mehsud and the pro-government tribal leader Turkistan Bhittani. Mehsud is thought to have died in a US drone strike on 5 August. Taliban commanders insist he survived but have produced no proof to back their claim.
READ MORE - Pakistan denies al-Qaida targeting nuclear facilities

Russian President orders navy to hunt for missing 'piracy' ship Arctic Sea

An undated file picture sees container ship 'Arctic Sea'.
(DPA/Press Association)
The Arctic Sea: it had a Russian crew and £1m of timber on board
President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the Russian navy to join the hunt for a cargo ship which disappeared after passing through the English Channel.
Warships and nuclear submarines have have been told to “take all necessary measures to find and free” the ship and its 15-man Russian crew amid fears that it has been seized by pirates.
The mystery surrounding the Arctic Sea has deepened after further details emerged of the “missing” four days after the ship was reportedly raided by armed men off the Swedish coast.
There was speculation that the ship had been seized by the Russian Mafia as part of a dispute over arms or weapons smuggling
The ship, carrying a cargo of timber, made a routine call to Dover coastguard on July 28 saying it was preparing to enter the Channel’s busy shipping lanes.
Its location beacon appeared to show the 3,988-tonne ship sailing along the English south coast before the signal was lost about 50 miles off Penzance on July 30. It was due to dock in Algeria on August 3.
Swedish police said today that they had been in telephone contact with the crew on July 31, but refused to give any details.
Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian navy, told the state news agency Itar-Tass today: “Under the orders of President Dmitry Medvedev all Russian naval ships in the Atlantic have been sent to join the search for the Arctic Sea.”
Russia’s radar systems and satellites are also also searching for the ship amid unconfirmed reports that it was heading towards Africa.
A Defence Ministry spokesman told the RIA Novosti agency: “The main task lies with the patrol combatant vessel Ladnyy of the Black Sea Fleet, which passed through the Strait of Gibraltar on 12 August and is following the set course.”
The large amphibious warships Azov, Yamal and Novocherkassk were also reported to have entered the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar, suggesting that ships on a pre-arranged military exercise have now received a signal from Moscow to join the hunt for the Arctic Sea.
The cargo ship was loaded with £1.13million of timber at the Finnish port of Jacobstad on July 23. The following day the ship was allegedly boarded by a group of armed men claiming to be Swedish police searching for drugs in the Baltic Sea.
The crew said they had been tied up for 12 hours while the ship was searched, but the Swedish authorities have denied any knowledge of the operation.
Malta Maritime Authority officials said today that during the armed boarding, crew members were subjected to “hard” questioning related to drug trafficking, possibly pointing to a narcotics feud. “Members of the crew were allegedly assaulted, tied, gagged and blindfolded and some were seriously injured,” said a spokesman.
There was then a gap of four days before the the Maltese-flagged ship entered the Dover Strait. The delay has led to speculation that the ship’s crew could have been coerced into picking up an illicit cargo, such as weapons.
Before collecting its cargo of timber the ship had been repaired at the Pregol shipyard in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave notorious for smuggling.
A Portuguese coastal spotter aircraft is reported to have seen the Arctic Sea some distance of its coast at the 41st North degree of latitude on August 1.
Commander João Barbosa, a Portuguese Navy spokesman, said in a carefully worded statement: “We have been monitoring the situation and can confirm that this ship is not and never has been in the Portuguese jurisdiction.”
This suggests that the Arctic Sea was deliberately sailing well away from normal shipping channels to avoid entering waters where it could be challenged.
Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, managing director of Dryad Maritime, an intelligence company specialising in piracy, said that if the ship may have been the victim of a new kind of piracy.
“If this is a criminal act, it appears to be following a new business model. It seems likely that the vessel will head to the west coast of Africa,” he said.
Mark Dickinson, general secretary of seafarers’ union Nautilus International, said: “It is alarming that, in the 21st century, a ship can apparently be commandeered by hijackers and sail through the world’s busiest waterway with no alarm being raised and no naval vessel going to intercept it.
“It is unbelievable that a ship can sail around for more than a fortnight with no one seemingly knowing its precise location or who is in control.”
Nick Davis, chief executive of Merchant Maritime Warfare Centre, raised the prospect of a commercial dispute.
“It’s not carrying a valuable cargo, so I strongly suspect this is a commercial dispute with its owner and a third party and they have decided to take matters into their own hands,” he said.
READ MORE - Russian President orders navy to hunt for missing 'piracy' ship Arctic Sea

U.S. Marines Fight for Strategic Taliban Stronghold

Editor's Note: A combined force of 500 Marines and Afghan soldiers have begun an air and ground assault called Operation Eastern Resolve. The Operation is aimed at liberating a key town in Northern Helmand province of Taliban control and to secure a strategic pass used by Taliban fighters. A town, Dahaneh has never seen coalition forces. The hope is a polling station can be established in time for the elections. FOX News' Greg Palkot is the only reporter traveling with the Marines in this area, and what follows is his dispatch.
The Taliban took an explosive hit in the northern Helmand province today. Gulf Company marine 2/3 is leading a joint U.S. and Afghan force of some 500 in Operation Eastern Resolve, aiming to clear out the Taliban from the town of Dahaneh - a crucial resupply and regrouping base for the militants.

It is a town coalition forces have long avoided, for good reason. Just as the marines reached Dahaneh and set up a commend center in a compound they were hit by a barrage of Taliban fire: small arms, rpg's mortars, even IEDs. The marines answered back, fighting relentless sniper fire and the searing heat.
Click here for photos from the U.S. Marine offensive.
The Marines have been on the ground for about four hours. They say they've neutralized at least some of the Taliban but there are more out there and the marines are ready for the kill.
According to the marines the Taliban are victimizing locals in town, threatening and extorting them. If the Taliban can be removed, the hope is that Afghan government and security can be established, maybe even a polling station for next week's presidential election here.
Estimates on the ground are that several Taliban have been killed in fighting today. There have been no U.S. or Afghan causalities. What is hard to estimate is the exact reaction of the people of the town. They remain holed up in their houses. The fighting here is not over yet.
READ MORE - U.S. Marines Fight for Strategic Taliban Stronghold

Al-Qaeda seeking Mehsud's successor: TV

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 11  -- Al-Qaeda is reorganizing its activities in northwest Pakistan and wants to make its member as new chief of Pakistan Taliban after the claimed killing of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, local TV channel reported Monday.
    According to Pakistani Interior Ministry sources, Al-Qaeda is reorganized in northwest Pakistan's tribal areas and is seeking to appoint a member as new leader of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the private TV channel DAWN News reported.

Baitullah Mehsud (R) is seen after a meeting with security forces in Sara Rogha, located in Pakistan's South Waziristan in this February 7, 2005 file photo.
Baitullah Mehsud (R) is seen after a meeting with security forces in Sara Rogha, located in Pakistan's South Waziristan in this February 7, 2005 file photo. (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)
Photo Gallery>>>

    Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik also said in an interview with BBC radio that Pakistan worries that Al-Qaeda is trying to find out somebody to install him as the "chief terrorist" in that area.
    Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday said that the Taliban militants were on the run, the differences between them were widening and they would soon be eliminated.
    Mehsud, chief of TTP, was reportedly killed during the United States drone missile strike Wednesday in South Waziristan tribal agency.
READ MORE - Al-Qaeda seeking Mehsud's successor: TV


HILLARY CLINTON<br/>Hoping for better relations.
Hoping for better relations.

WASHINGTON -- One week after North Korea released two imprisoned American journalists, the Obama administration announced its willingness yesterday to hold direct talks with the rogue nation over its nuclear weapons.

"The ball is in their court," said America's UN ambassador, Susan Rice, on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with the rest of the administration, insisted that former President Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea to secure the release of the two journalists was not a negotiation with the country, led by dictator Kim Jong Il, but she said she hoped it would improve relations with them.

"What we're hoping is that maybe, without it being part of the mission in any way, the fact that this was done will perhaps lead the North Koreans to recognize that they can have a positive relationship with us," Secretary Clinton said on CNN's "GPS."

Taliban in turmoil as rivals draw guns at each other in fight for leadership

Baitullah Mehsud
Baitullah Mehsud: the battle to replace him as leader of the Pakistani Taleban has reportedly become bloody

The Pakistani Taleban appeared to be in turmoil last night after reports of a fatal gun battle between rivals to replace its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by a CIA missile strike on Wednesday.
Government and intelligence sources said that Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur Rehman became increasingly angry with each other at a shura, or tribal council, called to choose a new head of Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (Taleban Movement of Pakistan).

Guns were reportedly drawn and sources suggested that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed and Wali-ur Rehman was seriously injured.

However, Taleban commanders denied any infighting and tried to present a united front, while Pakistani officials struggled to confirm local intelligence reports.
One local cleric told The Times that Mr Hakimullah grew angry at the shura when the majority of those there declared their support for Mr Rehman.

Mr Rehman, who is in his early thirties, is a former spokesman for Mehsud and was one of his closest confidants, but he has a reputation for being intelligent and far-sighted rather than aggressive. He also has the advantage of being highly qualified in Islamic teaching.

Intelligence officials said that Afghan Taleban and al-Qaeda figures had been trying to mediate between the two camps at a series of shuras in South Waziristan — apparently to no avail.

A spokesman for a Taleban group opposed to Mehsud also reported that supporters of the former Pakistani Taleban leader were turning on each other.

“Differences have arisen between the followers of Mr Mehsud: that is why they are claiming that he is not dead,” the spokesman, Maulvi Saifullah Mehsud, said.

“They were at loggerheads with one another. This is going to grow in the coming days. God willing, the infighting will get worse.”

However, Mr Rehman telephoned several reporters yesterday to deny personally that the shura, or the shooting, had taken place.

He added that Mr Hakimullah was alive and would soon speak to them.

Mr Hakimullah has not done that, even though he contributed to the confusion on Saturday by telephoning a reporter to deny that Mehsud was dead.

Qari Hussain, another of Mehsud’s key lieutenants, has also denied the militant leader’s death.

Taleban commanders now say that the Government is fabricating reports of dissent within its ranks to try to undermine the movement.

The Government, meanwhile, accuses the Taleban of deliberately sowing confusion and has challenged the commanders to provide evidence supporting their claims.
It is impossible to verify either the Taleban’s or the Government’s version of events as most of the tribal regions are off-limits to journalists and government officials.

“We need to see the dead bodies, we need to do some DNA, and we need to have something solid,” Rehman Malik, the Pakistani Interior Minister, told local television over the weekend.

Nonetheless, the United States is giving greater credence to the reports both of Mehsud’s death and the subsequent Taleban infighting.

Jim Jones, President Obama’s National Security Adviser, told a television news programme yesterday that the White House believed that Mehsud had been killed.

“We think so,” Mr Jones told Fox News Sunday. “The Pakistani Government believes he is, and all the evidence we have suggests that.”

However, Mr Jones said that he could not confirm that there had been a gunfight between Mehsud’s potential successors. “We’ve heard stories about that. I can’t confirm it,” he said. “It certainly appears there is dissension in the ranks. That’s not a bad thing for us.”

Many analysts also say that the Taleban’s denials are probably part of a strategy to maintain unity. In the past, the Taleban has denied the killing of other leaders.

“There is, I think, a struggle going on for the leadership, and Hakimullah Mehsud is one of the contenders,” said Mahmood Shah, a former security chief for the tribal regions.

Mr Hakimullah, also a former spokesman for Mehsud, was put in charge of fighters in the Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions despite being only in his twenties.

The leader of a faction called Fidayeenal Islam, he burnished his reputation as a ruthless fighter by leading a series of attacks last year on convoys carrying supplies to American and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

He is a cousin of Qari Hussain, who is in charge of training Mehsud’s suicide bombers.

Mr Hakimullah acknowledged on Wednesday that Mehsud, who had been ill with diabetes, had not been in hands-on control of the movement’s affairs for the past three months.
READ MORE - Taliban in turmoil as rivals draw guns at each other in fight for leadership

Israeli Warplanes Bomb Gaza Smuggling Tunnel

JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes bombed a smuggling tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border early Monday in response to Palestinian rocket and mortar fire, in a brief flare-up of violence at a time of relative quiet in the volatile Palestinian territory.

Such exchanges of fire, once routine, have become rare in recent months. Rocket fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza has largely subsided since a fierce Israeli offensive against militants early this year.

There were no reports of casualties in any of the attacks.

On Sunday, Gaza militants launched mortar shells at a border crossing between Gaza and Israel just as Palestinian patients were being transferred into Israel for medical treatment, according to Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry.

Hassanain said it was a "miracle" that no one was hurt.

According to the procedure, Palestinian patients are brought to the crossing in local ambulances, transferred to Israeli ambulances and taken to hospitals inside Israel.

Two small Palestinian militant factions said they fired 12 mortars at the Erez crossing. The Israeli military said about six shells exploded near the crossing as the transfer was in progress.

The military said Monday's airstrike came in response to the renewed militant fire and targeted a smuggling tunnel running underground between Egypt and Gaza.

Gaza has been subject to a blockade by Egypt and Israel since Hamas seized power in the territory two years ago, with Israel allowing in only vital supplies. Gazan smugglers use the tunnels to bring in everything from gas to livestock, clothes and weapons.
READ MORE - Israeli Warplanes Bomb Gaza Smuggling Tunnel

Baittulah is dead, who is next?

Baittulah is dead in a CIA missile attack. Drone hits target on specific information. CIA has been using some insiders to locate commanders by leaving micro chips in the vicinity on the basis of which drone hits the target.

BAITULLAH MEHSUD was killed in a CIA missile attack on Wednesday (July 5), itself in drone attack in which his second wife was reported to have been killed. This news was deliberately not leaked into the media for simple reason, because Mehsud’s aide wanted to bury him and not let his body be handed over to Pakistani or US authorities.

Kafayut- Ullah, a close aide to Mehsud reported to have had told some foreign media that Mehsud has been killed in Wednesday’s missile attacks in south Waziristan and has been buried in Nargosai village in Zanghara area of south Waziristan. According to some reports, Mehsud was suffering from kidney ailment and was lying sick with intravenous medical equipment in a farmhouse of his father in law, where he was hit by a hellfire missile fired by drone, a pilotless plane notorious for such attacks.

Mehsud, the most dreaded and notorious commander of Taliban came in lime light when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated allegedly by him, an allegation he never accepted. Baitullah got his title mehsud because he belonged to the tribe mehsud who hails from South Waziristan. Since 9/11, he gained in strength and grown in stature. He is said to have organised and set up one Tahrike- Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) in 2007 and raised some 20,000 hardcore militants who are ready to do any thing for the sake of his master’s voice. Mehsud took shelter and made South Waziristan as his hideout because areas like Ladha, Sararogha, Angoor adda, Shakai, Wana. Jandola etc in South Waziristan are safe heavens for militants and the writs of the Pakistani government do not run in these areas.

Mehsud came to world wide media and government attention when red mosque of Islamabad was besieged by his militants. Fierce fighting took place leaving hundreds of civilian and security forces dead. In recent times, his notoriety had gained such proportions that US special envoy Richard Holbrook had treated him as the most dreaded militant of the region. Some people believed that he had become more powerful than Osama-Bin-Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar themselves.

The reports coming from Pakistan suggest that TTP militants have cordoned off surrounding Makeen area and group’s top leaders are meeting to elect successor of Baitullah Mehsud. Reports also suggest that one Hakimullah Mehsud, a hardcore and trusted commander of Baitullah, is likely to be elected as the new chief of TTP.

Hakimullah is also from mehsud tribe and hails from Orakzai tribal region in South Waziristan.

With this chapter coming to an end, now Pakistan must prepare itself for much more vigorous retaliation because these terrorists are not going to allow, what they call ‘kurbani’ or sacrifice of their leader Mehusd, in vain.

The matter that is not coming out in media is that drone reapers or predators hit targets on the basis of some concrete information. There are apprehensions that some militant leaders had become jealous of Baitullah Mehsud due to his ascendency in the ‘terror ladder’. Five million USD bounties on his head is the testimony that USA regarded him most dreaded. His unprecedented and meteoric rise in the world of terror had made several enemies in the Islamic Jehadi world also; therefore possibilities of leakage of some information to USA leading to US drone attack cannot be ruled out. If this theory has some facts, there may be some more specific drone attacks and some more killings of Taliban commanders.
READ MORE - Baittulah is dead, who is next?

The Bundeswehr Abroad: Don't Shoot, We're German!

By Eric Chauvistré
Germany's Bundeswehr army is being transformed into an international intervention force. Advocates are more convinced than ever that objectives can be achieved by force. It is high time for a forthright debate, but is it welcome?
It is October 16, 2008 -- a perfectly normal day in Afghanistan. Once the day's missions are completed, a US Air Force officer summarizes the successes in a brief report entitled "Oct. 16 airpower summary." Nothing is secret: A-10 Thunderbolts fired at "enemy fighters ... attacking coalition forces with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades near Kabul." In the vicinity of Lashkar Gah in Helmand, "coalition aircraft" dropped a guided bomb onto "enemy fighters firing upon friendly forces with small arms." US Navy Super Hornets dropped "a GBU-12 and GBU-38s onto a compound containing enemies of Afghanistan." Additional A-10 and F-15F fighter jets conducted a "show of force to deter enemy activities near Kabul." US Navy F/A-18Es and "coalition aircraft" are deployed for the same purpose in the vicinity of Lashkar Gah.

The German flags on every Bundeswehr vehicle in Afghanistan have a clear message for locals: We're not the ones dropping the bombs.
The German flags on every Bundeswehr vehicle in Afghanistan have a clear message for locals: We're not the ones dropping the bombs.
The very next day, the report is made available to all interested parties, not only German federal ministers and members of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, but journalists and the general public as well. Everyone can have a precise idea of the scale of the attacks. The air raids documented in these US airpower summaries are part of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) activities in Afghanistan, and they are routine. October 16, 2008, is also a perfectly normal day in Germany. The Bundestag is due to meet in Berlin with the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan once again on the agenda. Members of parliament will vote on a motion submitted by the government to extend Germany's participation in NATO-led ISAF, an operation that has been going on since late 2001. The mandate is up for renewal for the ninth time, and there are plans to beef up the force. At the end of the session, the representatives will give the government permission to send 1,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan as part of ISAF, bringing the total number of German troops to 4,500.
We Take Care of Things
Anyone who has been following the parliamentary debates on the ISAF mission and who takes the time to read the government's motion will find it hard to believe that the subject matter is the same as that in the Pentagon's daily reports. The bombing attacks described in great detail in the US Air Force summaries are not mentioned in the motion or in statements by the government. Furthermore, the bill provides parliament with no information on the scope of the violence or the number of people killed by NATO weapons or rebel groups. There is also no mention in the seven-page document of the air war that ISAF is fighting. The daily air strikes appear to be completely irrelevant to Germany, although it is the third largest military power in Afghanistan after the United States and Great Britain.

With regard to other developments, however, the government is all too happy to provide detailed information. In a passage praising its own work and that of ISAF, it emphasizes that "nearly 75 percent of all boys and 35 percent of all girls" are now attending school. The government also toots its own horn when it writes that "85 percent of the population has access to basic medical care." Given these figures, the reader might forget that the government is applying for permission to extend a mission by armed German forces. Instead of fighting, it would seem, Germany's job is to take care of things. It takes care of "establishing state institutions" and "the rule of law," of "improving living conditions" and ensuring "compliance with human rights." What could anyone possibly have against that? Thunderbirds and Super Hornets, fighter jets and laser-guided bombs simply do not fit into the picture.
According to the government, the situation in Afghanistan has little to do with a violent struggle or an armed conflict. In fact, the German government appears to have blacklisted the word "war." Anybody who suggests that something like war is happening in Afghanistan risks being rebuked, especially if he or she suggests that the Bundeswehr is participating in this war as part of the NATO-led ISAF. German soldiers "are not waging war there," says Green politician Jürgen Trittin. "They are only securing the reconstruction effort. That's a fact."
Whereas the government does cautiously concede that there are "deficiencies even in the security situation," this falls far short of admitting there is a "war," never mind acknowledging that the Bundeswehr has anything to do with it. And of course these "deficiencies" must not be allowed to detract from the Bundeswehr's successful track record so far. To explain why, the government offers a two-pronged argument just to be on the safe side. On the one hand, "the international military presence and Afghan security forces" are still in a position to "prevent wide-scale coordinated action by forces hostile to the government." In other words, the government considers it a success that the military groups fighting ISAF do not control any contiguous regions and are unable to attack in large formations. Although these forces have made it their goal to drive international troops out of Afghanistan and depose the elected government, "they usually avoid open confrontation, conscious of their inferiority."
Now that almost sounds offensive. Unlike men of honor -- such is the tenor of the government's analysis -- enemy troops refuse to fight out in the open. Rather, they take "an asymmetrical approach aimed at intimidation and attrition." Consistent with this strategy, they "attack civilians, kill government representatives, and carry out bomb and arson attacks."
Guerilla Warfare for Dummies
The latest analyses cited to explain why ISAF cannot gain control of the country are banalities that reveal a superficial knowledge of guerilla warfare. Did anyone at the Defense Ministry really expect anything different? In what way, if not "asymmetrically," could rebels fight the most powerful military alliance in the world? And could anyone really have expected the military groups in Afghanistan to arm themselves with the latest high-tech weapons and take on the ISAF troops as equals?
If the German government really means to suggest that the mission would be a success were it not for this "asymmetrical warfare," it is high time for its members to rethink their antiquated idea of war. As British political scientist and activist Mary Kaldor writes, the Iraq war illustrates "the dangers of not adapting one's own idea of war to new global conditions." This is also true of the war in Afghanistan.
The government's second line of argument is that problems are mainly encountered in "the south and east of the country, where more than 90 percent of security-related incidents are concentrated." In other words: the problems occur outside the area for which the Bundeswehr is responsible, and we therefore have nothing to do with them. There might be something like war in the south and east of Afghanistan but our soldiers are far removed from it, and parliament need not worry that members of the Bundeswehr are affected by these "security-related" incidents. The self-praise in these passages is unmistakable: in the north, where the good Germans are stationed, there are fewer incidents than in the south and east, where the Americans call the shots. The modus operandi and presence of the Bundeswehr are not the problem. Unfortunately the Americans and some other allies -- the British, the Canadians, and the Dutch -- are not doing as good a job.
There are two ways to interpret this insistence on distinguishing between northern Afghanistan and the rest of the country. The first is that the German government really does not see itself as part of ISAF. After all, ISAF is responsible for all of Afghanistan, and the attacks on alleged or actual Taliban positions also take place in the framework of ISAF operations. But if this is really the government's view, its efforts to justify the Bundeswehr mission by emphasizing the need for international solidarity have no foundation.
The other possibility is that the German government regards the north as one country and the south and east as another. In this case, it would have a more or less plausible reason to emphasize the positive developments in its operational area in the north, but this view is hardly compatible with the declared goal of creating a single Afghan state.

If the differences between the north and other parts of the country were only a matter of "greater sensitivity," it would only be consistent if the Germans temporarily traded places with units stationed in the south and the east in order to show the NATO forces operating there how to do the job right. Of course, this will never happen. The reason it is quieter in the north is not because Germans are there. It is the other way around: Germans are stationed there because it is quieter than the south. The Bundeswehr is largely surrounded by friendly forces and by the warlords who profited from the US and NATO-led invasion of the country. In contrast, the NATO troops in the south and east face groups that currently play the unfortunate role of being considered enemies of the United States -- instead of being on its payroll. The vast majority of figures in government, think tanks, and the media do not just cling to an antiquated idea of war. They are also fond of suggesting that the Bundeswehr is doing a superior job to the US Armed Forces. The very same people who have been preaching the inviolate "brotherhood in arms" with NATO and the United States for years are now exploiting anti-American sentiment in the broader population to further their cause. This is not only true of the mission in Afghanistan, but of the political promotion of the Bundeswehr as a whole.
America drops bombs and the Bundeswehr rebuilds the country. The large German flags on every Bundeswehr vehicle in Afghanistan have a clear message: Please don't shoot, we're not Americans! We might support the ISAF operations, but we're doing it the right way. We're stationed in Afghanistan, but we aren't like the others.

Part 2: The Greatest Absurdity in the German Debate

This attitude is key to understanding one of the greatest absurdities in the German debate on military policy: the nearly cult-like insistence on a separation between the ISAF mission on the one hand and the participation in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) on the other. The relationship between these two missions was highly unusual from the start.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is the name that the U.S. government gave to all activities that were allegedly directed against "international terrorism" after the attacks on September 11, 2001. OEF's main focus was the war in Afghanistan. In November 2001, the Bundestag approved German participation in OEF in a mandate that included, among other things, the deployment of special forces, the presence of naval units off the Horn of Africa, and the stationing of chemical reconnaissance vehicles in Kuwait. In doing so, it cited the right to self-defense granted every state under Section 51 of the United Nations Charter. By formal definition, Germany has deployed its special forces in Afghanistan and frigates off the coast of Djibouti in order to defend against a military assault on the territory of the United States. Seven years after the attacks in New York and Washington, this link can still be found in Bundestag resolutions for the mandates. Accordingly, the Bundeswehr is still engaged in defending the United States.
In December 2001, the Bundestag passed the mandate for the ISAF. Its objective was not only to defend the transitional government established in the wake of the Afghanistan Conference at Petersberg in Bonn, but also to protect international personnel in Kabul. The mandates of the UN Security Council and the Bundestag were strictly limited to the Afghan capital. This restriction was loosened in 2003, when the Bundeswehr set up an outpost in Kunduz, and was ultimately lifted in 2005. Ever since, the ISAF has operated throughout Afghanistan, and a large number of US and British troops are now under ISAF instead of OEF command. Their operations have not changed.
The parallel existence of OEF and ISAF in Afghanistan has been absurd from the start. On the one hand, ISAF installed a so-called protection force in the country. On the other, many of the same states that took part in ISAF continued to fight the war launched against Al Qaeda in October 2001. The only difference is that they are now under a formally separate command. In other words, the UN Security Council ordered a protection force to be deployed by the very same states that were engaged in an offensive military operation in the country.
The justification presented in the Bundestag mandates for German participation is equally absurd. The OEF mandate cites not only Section 51 of the UN charter, but also Section 5 of the NATO Treaty, which contains the alliance's collective defense clause. Nevertheless, as an organization, NATO has had nothing to do with implementing OEF. After September 11, the alliance invoked the mutual defense clause, but paradoxically, NATO is not involved in waging war. So far OEF has been carried out outside the NATO framework by a loose "coalition of the willing" under US command. The opposite is true of the ISAF, which has been organized by NATO. Unlike OEF, though, no attempt has been made to legitimize the ISAF by citing the mutual defense clause in Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. Rather, NATO sees itself here as a sub-contractor of the UN Security Council. Strictly speaking, the ISAF has nothing to do with the "war on terror."

If we accept this extraordinary definition of the Bundestag mandate at face value, the OEF is actually a mission of defense. But even the politicians who routinely pass the mandate every year do not seem to believe this. How else can one explain their verbal contortions and distancing efforts? And yet, the question remains: what exactly is going on here? The Bundestag approves participation in a mission that has been submitted by the government. So far, so good. A few weeks later the government applies for an additional mission, and the motion also passes the Bundestag. Now, we can be opposed to either mission. That is irrelevant here, and up to this point the government makes a plausible case. But then, whenever the ISAF mandate is up for renewal, Berlin attempts to drum up support by arguing that this mission has nothing to do with the other one -- the OEF -- which was approved by the same government a few weeks apart.
Autoimmune Response
In a kind of political autoimmune response, the executive and legislative are putting a significant amount of their political energy into distancing themselves from a military operation to which they have contributed. The politicians who demand that one mission be distinguished from the other are in reality attempting to divorce themselves from their own resolutions. There are only two possibilities: either parliament supports the objectives and tactics formulated in the OEF mandate, in which case there is no reason to hide behind a supposed difference between the two missions, or it does not, in which case German lawmakers must vote it down.
The problem facing many parliamentarians is that they have read a great deal into the mandates for foreign missions, and they are now confusing this with their actual contents. There is, however, a simple remedy: they could finally take the time to carefully read the resolutions they have passed. After all, the mandate for OEF contains a clear description of the mission: "The goal of this operation is to render terrorist command and training facilities inoperative, to combat, capture and put terrorists on trial, and to keep third parties from providing support for terrorist activities."
A military mandate can hardly go further than the explanations in the Bundestag mandate for OEF. They provide tremendous leeway when it comes to structuring the mission. The only thing they do not impose are restrictions. "Render inoperative" -- this means, in cases of doubt, destroying facilities, and killing enemy fighters. It also means the targeted killing of suspected terrorists. If the armed forces of other nations were to engage in such actions, one would hear criticism in Germany of unacceptable "target killings." But it is apparently acceptable to give such orders to German troops. Bundeswehr soldiers have in fact never been deployed in this manner, but the mandate does make such missions possible. Strictly speaking, the mandate would not be fulfilled if the Bundeswehr did not perform these tasks.
This applies to the rest of the Bundestag resolution as well. After all, "fighting" means exactly that: armed battle. And even the goal of capturing and putting terrorists on trial is described with unmistakable clarity.
When members of the Bundestag vote on mandates for foreign missions, it is "on the record." Such recorded votes are otherwise only used for a small number of parliamentary bills and resolutions. The decision made by every member is clear for all to see and is entered into the minutes. Even if members of the Bundestag cannot be expected to carefully read every single bill they consider in a legislative period, they should certainly be expected to do so for recorded votes. Nevertheless, many representatives have apparently not read the OEF mandate with particular care. In October 2006, Claudia Roth, chairwoman of the Greens, stated: "It is intolerable to me that German soldiers should participate or watch when people are tortured or brought to camps without legal counsel." At this time, media coverage was dominated by reports about Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen who accused members of German special forces of torturing him in a US camp in Afghanistan. One undisputed fact that emerged from these charges is that German soldiers have been deployed in such camps, which is probably sanctioned by the mandate.
Roth's statements reveal the grave illusions that many leading German politicians harbor about Bundeswehr missions. Were there not reliable media reports as early as 2002 describing conditions in the camps run by US forces for those prisoners identified as "enemy combatants" or terrorists? And how can a politician truly be horrified about the deployment of German special forces in such U.S. camps when he or she gave them the mandate to "capture terrorists" in the framework of the OEF resolution? After all, it follows from the parliamentary motion that German special forces would either take prisoners themselves, as is specified in the mandate, or participate in US operations to hunt down actual or suspected terrorists. What other duties were the OEF troops in Afghanistan supposed to have?

Part 3: 'We Germans Do not Fight Wars'

Friendly Indifference
Like most members of the Bundestag, the majority of the population regards the debate on the Bundeswehr as a tedious side issue. On the 50th anniversary of the Bundeswehr in 2005, German President Horst Köhler aptly described this attitude as "friendly indifference." According to the president, though the Bundeswehr was "acknowledged in society," it was not exactly clear what this meant. One rarely observed a "real interest in the Bundeswehr."
With this statement the German president qualified a phrase that was often repeated in the run-up to Bundeswehr anniversary celebrations. On such occasions one often hears talk of the Bundeswehr's "broad social acceptance" and standing as a respected institution in the Federal Republic. It may very well be true that the Bundeswehr enjoys social acceptance. There is, in any case, very little evidence that Germans generally reject it. Surveys conducted by the Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences confirm this finding, and it is one that the Ministry of Defense also likes to emphasize.
However, the Bundeswehr that most people have in their heads when they are questioned has increasingly little to do with the real Bundeswehr. In fact, there is probably no other state institution that has undergone such radical change and whose new role is so poorly understood by the public. The image of the German armed forces that influences these positive evaluations has very little in common with their changed structures and mission plans. Furthermore, the data paints a very different picture -- a picture that would be more evident to the public if the interviewers dared to delve beyond blanket assessments. The Bundeswehr may be acknowledged in German society, but the same cannot be said of its military missions. Although interviewers hired by the Bundeswehr Institute mistakenly called the ISAF a "United Nations peacekeeping force in Afghanistan," only 30 percent of respondents said they fully supported the mission.
The discrepancy between the positive image of the Bundeswehr as a whole and the more negative views of specific missions is no accident. Rather, it is result of a strategy that has aimed to slowly make the German public accustomed to German soldiers taking part in military operations-a public that, until 15 years ago, believed the best place for soldiers was in the barracks and the purpose of the military was to defend the country.
The makeover began when a few medics were sent to Cambodia in 1992 and a small contingent of troops was stationed in Somalia in 1993. These missions involved little risk. The Bundeswehr was presented as a troop of lightly armed Red Cross helpers in uniform. This policy of gradual change met with no significant resistance. The public became accustomed to these harmless Bundeswehr missions. However, there was collateral damage for the advocates of intervention. The idea of no risk that was initially disseminated to promote the missions stuck in the public's mind, and the population now began to believe that all foreign missions are generally safe.
Orwellian talk of "peace enforcement," "high-intensity operations," and "robust missions" has primarily encouraged one thing: robust illusions. The advocates of intervention are more convinced than ever that they can achieve any objective by force. Among the many people who have given the subject little or no thought, this sort of euphemistic talk has led to the idea that the Bundeswehr is a charity organization that distributes wool blankets and canned food.
Such views can even be heard in parliament. During the first debate on the deployment of Bundeswehr Tornado fighter jets in Afghanistan, a few members of a governing party expressed their fear that the Bundeswehr could be drawn into military actions. And during a debate in 2008 on the formation of the German Quick Reaction Force within ISAF, one Social Democrat is even said to have asked the military policy expert in her own party to promise that "they won't fire any shots down there." One might feel inclined to laugh out loud, but it in fact only takes the government line seriously, without realizing that the government's goal has always been to play down events in Afghanistan.
A Question of Promotion
One contradiction has emerged in this context that no advocate of intervention has been able to resolve. On the one hand, there are more and more complaints, some made publicly, that the majority of the population does not support the foreign missions of the Bundeswehr. On the other hand, members of the Bundestag are often heard saying that decisions as important as those on the Bundeswehr should not be dependent on public opinion.
The foreign policy spokesman of the Social Democrats, Gert Weisskirchen, said: "Anyone who abstains from voting or does not vote to extend the government's mandate strengthens the Taliban." In doing so, he declares the critics of a Bundeswehr mission to be the actual enemy. A real democratic debate works differently. Politicians cannot complain that citizens of a democratic state are not convinced of the necessity of the Bundeswehr mandates that the great majority of parliament has passed while at the same time pretending that the high art of foreign and military policy is unsuitable for public debate.
It is therefore questionable whether there is a real desire for a forthright debate on military policy in Germany, all complaints about the public's "friendly indifference" notwithstanding. When criticism of the Afghanistan mission grew louder in early 2008, the leading military policy experts in the Bundestag apparently felt there had been enough discussion. "I could imagine greater PR efforts to communicate the reasons for the mission to the people," said Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, at the Munich Security Conference in 2008. FDP politician Birgit Homburger also called on fellow Bundestag members to improve PR: "Above all, we must attempt to make people in Germany understand why the Bundeswehr has been deployed in Afghanistan."
Green politician Jürgen Trittin has even complained about the use of a word that most reserve for major, drawn-out conflicts. "It is a fundamental error," said Trittin before the Bundestag, "that 'war' is being waged in Afghanistan." So the Pentagon and US Congress use the word "war" -- to Trittin it is still a fundamental error. The counterview he proposes is that the coalition partners are "attempting, on the basis of a UN mandate, to rebuild a country that has plunged into war as a result of irresponsibility, the intervention of other powers, and its own failings." War is thus something that is waged by other "powers." Ditto for interventions. There cannot be war in Afghanistan, or so we are told, because there is a UN mandate for the mission. Using Trittin's logic, one would also have to say that there was no Gulf War in 1991 because the action was based on a UN mandate. And it also follows that there was no Korean War, which was also fought by a UN force authorized by the UN Security Council.
Strange Neologisms
Ironically, it took a military leader to initiate a debate in Germany about whether or not the incidents in Afghanistan ultimately constitute something akin to war. In September 2008, the head of the German Bundeswehr Association broke the taboo among military policy experts by stating that the ISAF mission was a "war against fanatical opponents who would stop at nothing." Nevertheless, the German defense minister continued insisting that it was not a war. At a funeral ceremony held in October 2008 for two soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Jung did talk of "fallen" soldiers, but, according to him, soldiers can now "fall" in both wars and "missions for peace."
If the German government were in fact to use the word "war," it would face far-reaching consequences. From a legal perspective, it could no longer plausibly argue that there is a distinction between the foreign military interventions and the scenario of national defense as described in the German constitution. In this case, the Bundestag could not be reelected and command of the Bundeswehr would pass from the defense minister to the chancellor. The gradually and laboriously constructed illusion of a Bundeswehr fighting a "robust" mission for peace would collapse.
The political debate on the Afghanistan mission is based on the following military policy rationale: We Germans do not fight wars. And even if we do, they are someone else's wars, or at least wars for a very good cause. This standpoint is certainly worthy of discussion, and one might even come to the conclusion that in some cases fighting a war is necessary and commendable. But nothing of the sort is happening. Almost no one dares to look beyond strange-sounding neologisms such as "robust mission" or "mission for peace." At the moment, the transformation of the Bundeswehr is in full swing. Weapons are being procured that will make it easier for future political leaders to send troops on missions of war, and political structures are being created that will make it more difficult for parliament and the public to stop such deployments. And none of this is secret.
Eric Chauvistré is the author of "Wir Gutkrieger: Warum die Bundeswehr im Ausland scheitern wird" ("We the Good Warriors: Why the Bundeswehr Will Fail Abroad"). This article is an excerpt.
READ MORE - The Bundeswehr Abroad: Don't Shoot, We're German!

China Refuses Hijacked Afghanistan Plane Landing at Urumqi Airport

Dinesh Singh - Rawat

image China Refuses Hijacked Afghanistan Plane Landing at Urumqi Airport

Urumqi : An Afghanistan Hijacked plane moving towards Xinjiang province in western China capital Urumqi was forced by China backed to Kandahar on Saturday.

The suspected hijacked plane has landed in Kandahar in early morning.

According to information, the Urumqi airport was ordered by Chinese higher authorities to disallow the plane from landing as plane was heading towards city.

The city of Urumqi, which recently saw the worst communal violence in decades between Muslim Uighurs and major Han Chinese people has become center stage point of Muslim militants
READ MORE - China Refuses Hijacked Afghanistan Plane Landing at Urumqi Airport

‘Drones may kill leaders but not eliminate the Taliban’

Lahore, Aug. 8 : The US missile strike that killed Baitullah Mehsud may not be sufficient to eliminate the Taliban from Pakistan's tribal belt.

The terror outfit has intertwined the ethnic identity, religion and politics with extremism, and it will take decades to undo, the Guardian reports.

Behind the rise of Pak-Taliban chief Mehsud in Pakistan lie factors that are not going to be resolved easily.

"Firstly, there is the fusion of Pashtun tribal identity with a radical Islamic identity. The latter has only ever really thrived when grafted onto a sense of local belonging. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were Pashtuns from the Pakistani side of the frontier that has split their tribal lands for over a century," the report said.

Second issue is that the Pashtun tribes of the FATA have the lowest levels of literacy, economic development and infrastructural development of anywhere in Pakistan, it observed.

They are not considered full citizens. Pushed to the margins, they are, in one sense, trying to fight their way into the centre of national political and economic life, the report added.

Finally, there is religious homogeneity: the conservative southwest Asian Deobandi strand of Sunni Islam that has established itself with its system of mosques and free schools across the region, it says.

Put all this together and it is fairly clear that drones may tackle symptoms but not causes. It is also clear why, as my colleague Declan Walsh points out elsewhere on this site, another Mehsud may well emerge soon, it concludes.
READ MORE - ‘Drones may kill leaders but not eliminate the Taliban’

Baitullah Mehsud still alive, claims close aide

London, Aug 8 : A lieutenant of Pakistan''s enemy no. 1 Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday rejected reports of the Pak-Taliban chief's death in a US drone strike.

BBC quoted Commander Hakimullah Mehsud - who some analysts suggest may be positioning himself to succeed Baitullah Mehsud - as saying that the reports of Mehsud's death were the work of US and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

"The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies. We know what our enemies want to achieve - it''s the joint policy of the ISI and FBI - they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target," Mehsud said.

He said the Pakistani leader had decided to adopt the tactics of Osama bin Laden and stay silent. He said he would issue a message in the next few days.

The US has said that it is increasingly confident that its forces had managed to kill Mehsud, while Pakistan''s foreign minister said on Friday he was "pretty certain" Baitullah Mehsud had been killed.

Neither side has provided evidence to back up their claims so far.

The missile fired by the US drone hit the home of the Taliban chief''s father-in-law, Malik Ikramuddin, in the Zangarha area on Wednesday.

On Friday, another of Baitullah Mehsud''s aides had told the press by telephone that his leader had been killed along with his second wife in the attack.

The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, on Friday said that the Pakistani people would be safer if he was dead.

"There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead," he told reporters.

Believed to command as many as 20,000 pro-Taliban militants, Mehsud came to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad.

He has been blamed by both Pakistan and the US for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country, as well as suicide attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.
READ MORE - Baitullah Mehsud still alive, claims close aide

Is he dead?

The leader of the Taliban in Pakistan is said to have been killed

HOW significant would the death of Baitullah Mehsud, the supreme leader of the Pakistani Taliban, be to the fortunes of Pakistan? According to American and Pakistani officials, Mr Mehsud was probably killed in South Waziristan tribal area on Wednesday August 5th by an American missile fired from an unmanned aircraft. It is thought that he died in the attack along with his wife and bodyguards. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, suggests that “to be 100% sure, we are going for ground verification”. However, even with the use of DNA sampling, it may be impossible to be confirm that he has been killed.
Mr Mehsud, who in 2007 declared himself to be the leader of the Pakistan Taliban, a group of around 13 factions in the northwest, was a formidable opponent and a serious threat. He was chiefly responsible for the suicide-blasts that have ripped through the country’s main cities in recent years, terrorising Pakistanis and banishing foreign investors. The Americans placed a $5m dollar bounty on him, but his position appeared relatively secure, as he was backed by a bellicose tribe in remote terrain. The CIA and Pakistan’s former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, accused him of being behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, in December 2007, but he denied it.

Over the years he proved to be a formidable opponent of the Pakistani army. A former gym instructor, he was one of the last tribal militant commanders with whom the armed forces parleyed and even earned the title of “good Taliban” from one general. But he also led his militants in a guerrilla war that pushed much of the army out of South Waziristan, at one time capturing more than 200 soldiers captive on a single day, holding them hostage for several months. Mr Mehsud did not send soldiers to fight coalition forces inside Afghanistan (his territory was not contiguous with the Afghan border) preferring to attack Pakistani forces. The Pakistani army accused India of providing him with support.

In 2008 he survived an attack by Pakistani forces, who had corralled him in his fief and appeared poised to capture or kill him. Instead, it appears that the army high-command struck a deal for him to escape. Over the years, by keeping ever more dubious company, he generated a lengthening list of enemies. American intelligence officers accused him of hosting al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in his stronghold. He was also associated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Punjabi sectarian group that has provided al-Qaeda's recruits in Pakistan, along with Uzbeks and other Central Asian fighters. One of his lieutenants, Qari Hussain, a particularly barbarous individual, became adept at turning young Pakistanis into suicide bombers.
His death would be a cause for great celebration within the Pakistan, demonstrating that the Taliban’s leaders are vulnerable to the combined efforts of Pakistani and American forces. The army had been blockading his area with at least six brigades of infantry. These may continue to try to strangle his network, rather than carry out a big ground offensive in difficult terrain.
For the past three months the army has waged a campaign against militants in Swat Valley (farther north), but had failed to kill or capture any important leaders. For the United States, the death of Mr Mehsud would not directly influence the conflict within Afghanistan but matters given his role in spreading instability within Pakistan.
Among militants within Pakistan operating in the tribal areas, the death of Mr Mehsud would open the field for machinations. Senior militants from his umbrella group Tehreek-e-Taliban were said by locals to be gathering in his South Waziristan after his reported death. It is unclear what influence the Taliban in Afghanistan might have. Some analysts suggest that he had fallen foul of the Taliban leader in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar. Mr Mehsud became the most iconic Pakistani Taliban leader but like his predecessor, Nek Mohammed, who was killed by a missile strike, he will be replaced by another tribal militant pursuing jihad, loot or renown.
READ MORE - Is he dead?
Copyright © Chief Of War
Powered by Sinlung