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JFP 1/22: Afghan Insurgent Outlines Peace Plan
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 22 January 2010 - 7:45pm
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January 22, 2010
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1) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the three main leaders of the Afghan insurgency, has held out the possibility of negotiating with Afghan President Karzai and outlined a roadmap for political reconciliation, opening what could be the most promising avenue for Karzai's effort to peacefully resolve the conflict, the Wall Street Journal reports. Hekmatyar called for elections under a neutral caretaker government once U.S.-led forces withdraw, and said he would accept an impartial international peacekeeping force. Hekmatyar promised to support the Afghan president should he stop being subservient to his US backers. "Negotiations with the Afghan government will not be fruitful unless the foreigners give the Afghan government the authority to start negotiations independently-but unfortunately it has not been given this authority yet," Hekmatyar said.
2) As much as any logistical bottleneck, the US mania for "security" has slowed the distribution of aid in Haiti, writes Ben Ehrenreich in Slate. Air-traffic control in the Haitian capital was outsourced to an Air Force base, which, not surprisingly, gave priority to its own pilots. While the military flew in troops and equipment, planes bearing supplies for the Red Cross, the World Food Program, and Doctors Without Borders were rerouted to Santo Domingo in neighboring Dominican Republic. Aid flights from Mexico, Russia, and France were refused permission to land. Meanwhile, much of the aid that was arriving remained at the airport. Haitians watched US helicopters fly over the capital, commanding and controlling, but no aid at all was being distributed in most of the city. On Tuesday, a doctor at a field hospital within site of the runways complained that five to 10 patients were dying each day for lack of the most basic medical necessities. "We can look at the supplies sitting there," Alphonse Edward told Britain's Channel 4 News.
3) Defense Secretary Gates said the US recognizes that the Taliban are now part of the political fabric of Afghanistan, but the group must be prepared to play a legitimate role before it can reconcile with the Afghan government, the New York Times reports. That means that the Taliban must participate in elections, not oppose education and not assassinate local officials, Gates said. The defense secretary made his remarks in an interview with Pakistani journalists.
4) NATO forces in Afghanistan are preparing to limit night raids on private homes to curb rising public anger, AP reports. A NATO spokesman said a directive would be issued soon to set down the new rules. Nighttime raids on private homes have emerged as the Afghans' No. 1 complaint after Gen. McChrystal limited the use of airstrikes and other weaponry last year. "We're not going to be in a position to stop all that activity," the spokesman said, suggesting more operations could be carried out during the day in less dangerous areas.
5) The US will provide a dozen unarmed aerial spy drones to Pakistan for the first time as part of an effort to encourage Pakistan's cooperation in fighting Islamic militants on the Afghanistan border, the New York Times reports. But Pakistani military leaders, rebuffing American pressure, said they planned no new offensives for at least six months. US officials said that the drones would be for use in Pakistan's tribal areas and would be restricted to defensive rather than offensive operations.
6) In a scene "repeated often," US officials and Afghan civilians disputed whether militants or civilians were killed in a US night raid in the village of Baran, the New York Times reports. Several residents of Baran said that all the dead were civilians. "I have known all these people since my childhood, and they are civilians - they have no link to the Taliban or any militant group," a Baran resident said.
7) The Pakistani government told Secretary Gates it could not guarantee against terrorist attacks in India and the best safeguard against such strikes was de-linking of the peace process from action against terrorism and the resolution of Kashmir and water disputes, Dawn reports. "Pakistan is itself facing Mumbai-like attacks almost every other day and when we cannot protect our own citizens, how can we guarantee that there wouldn't be any more terrorist hits in India," Prime Minister Gilani was quoted as saying. Gates had warned that Pakistan-based militants were planning strikes in India with the hope that retaliation would lead to a new conflict. India, which had suspended the "Composite Dialogue" with Pakistan in the aftermath of Mumbai attack, has been refusing to resume it without 'credible action against alleged perpetrators' despite a commitment that the peace talks would be de-linked from action against terrorism. The Pakistani prime minister sought evenhandedness by US vis-à-vis Pakistan and India and stoppage of unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan's territory.
8) An Iraqi election official said the two biggest secular coalitions were hit hardest by this month's decision to bar about 500 candidates from parliamentary elections in March, the New York Times reports. Critics have warned that the disqualifications could damage the credibility of the March 7 vote.
9) An aide to President Zelaya said he will leave the Brazilian Embassy next week and travel to the Dominican Republic before settling in Mexico and planning his eventual return to Honduras, AP reports.
10) Police said a message threatening journalist Eduardo Maldonado, whose son was kidnapped earlier this month, was left on the body of a man gunned down in the Honduran capital, EFE reports. The message reportedly said, "Mr. Maldonado, if you don't get that dog out of there, the next one is going to be your son, dog, I hope you understand." Maldonado, who is close to President Zelaya, has hosted the news and commentary show "Hable como habla," which is broadcast on Radio Globo and Channel 12 television, for several years.
1) Afghan Insurgent Outlines Peace Plan
Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2010
Kabul - One of the three main leaders of the Afghan insurgency, mercurial warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has a long history of switching sides, and once fought against his current Taliban allies. Now, he has held out the possibility of negotiating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and outlined a roadmap for political reconciliation, opening what could be the most promising avenue for Mr. Karzai's effort to peacefully resolve the conflict.
It is far from certain that any talks with Mr. Hekmatyar will begin, let alone succeed. But in contrast to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and allied insurgent chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who refuse any talks with Kabul as long as foreign troops remain in the country, Mr. Hekmatyar took a much more conciliatory line in a recent video. "We have no agreement with the Taliban-not for fighting the war, and not for the peace," said Mr. Hekmatyar, who commands the loyalty of thousands of insurgents. "The only thing that unites the Taliban and [us] is the war against the foreigners."
Mr. Hekmatyar, who is 59 years old and lived in exile in Iran when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, built his movement over the last three years into a formidable force. His men dominate the insurgency in several eastern and central Afghan provinces, such as Kunar, Laghman and Kapisa, according to American intelligence estimates.
At the same time, a legal wing of Hizb-e-Islami, an Islamist party that Mr. Hekmatyar founded in the 1970s, participates in the Afghan parliament, with 19 of 246 seats. One of its leaders is minister of the economy in Mr. Karzai's new cabinet. Though the legal Hizb-e-Islami denies formal links with Mr. Hekmatyar, many of its senior members are believed to maintain communications with the grizzled warlord, and openly support the idea of bringing him into the government.
Mr. Hekmatyar's "reported willingness to reconcile with the Afghan government" has already become a key factor working against the militancy because it "causes concern that others may follow," the U.S.-led international forces' intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, noted in a recent presentation. In addition to subtracting fighters from the battlefield, such a reconciliation would boost the legitimacy of the Kabul government.
But, while Mr. Haqqani made a formal oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, recognizing him as his overall leader, Mr. Hekmatyar repeatedly refused to make such a pledge. In the tape, he said he spent "a couple of months" with Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahri in 2002, but insisted that he "had no direct or indirect contact with them since then."
He also said that the main reason he's fighting American forces is because the U.S. allied itself with his bitter Afghan enemies after the Taliban's downfall in 2001. "It's just a convenience for Hekmatyar to be with the Taliban," says Marc Sageman, a terrorism expert who, as a Central Intelligence Agency officer in Pakistan, worked with Afghan insurgent leaders in the late 1980s. "Hekmatyar's main goal is Hekmatyar. He'll do anything that will help him out-it all depends on the deal he's going to get."
In the tape, Mr. Hekmatyar outlined his political program, calling for elections under a neutral caretaker government once U.S.-led forces withdraw, predicting that Hezb-i-Islami will win 70% of the votes, and saying that he would accept an impartial international peacekeeping force. While the Taliban brand Mr. Karzai a traitor, Mr. Hekmatyar promised to support the Afghan president should he stop being subservient to his American backers. "Negotiations with the Afghan government will not be fruitful unless the foreigners give the Afghan government the authority to start negotiations independently-but unfortunately it has not been given this authority yet," Mr. Hekmatyar said in the tape.
After the U.S. overthrew the Taliban in 2001, it excluded the warlord-who was seen as a spent force-from the new Kabul government. In the following months, as an embittered Mr. Hekmatyar started voicing support for the Taliban and al Qaeda, he was expelled by Iran, and was nearly killed by a U.S. airstrike. In 2003, Mr. Hekmatyar was designated a terrorist by the U.S. and put on the United Nations blacklist alongside Mullah Omar and Mr. bin Laden.
These days, some American officials say, Mr. Hekmatyar has managed to rebuild his fortunes in part because of help from elements of the powerful Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Mr. Hekmatyar's movement uses the area around the Pakistani city of Peshawar, with its teeming Afghan refugee camps, as its logistics hub. His daughter and son-in-law reside in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Pakistan denies it is giving any aid to the Taliban or its insurgent allies. "Hekmatyar could be turned if the ISI wanted him to be turned," says Bruce Riedel, a Brooking Institution scholar and former senior CIA officer who oversaw President Barack Obama's Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review last year. "He is too closely tied to them to operate for us without their okay."
2) Why Did We Focus on Securing Haiti Rather Than Helping Haitians?
Here are two possibilities, neither of them flattering.
Ben Ehrenreich, Slate, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010
[Ehrenreich reported from Haiti in 2006 for L.A. Weekly.]
By the weekend, it was clear that something perverse was going on in Haiti, something savage and bestial in its lack of concern for human life. I'm not talking about the earthquake, and certainly not about the so-called "looting," which I prefer to think of as the autonomously organized distribution of unjustly hoarded goods. I'm talking about the U.S. relief effort.
Taking advantage of "our unique capacity to project power around the world," President Barack Obama pledged abundant aid and 10,000 troops.
Troops? Port-au-Prince had been leveled by an earthquake, not a barbarian invasion, but, OK, troops. Maybe they could put down their rifles and, you know, carry stuff, make themselves useful. At least they could get there soon: The naval base at Guantanamo was barely 200 miles away.
The Cubans, at least, would show up quickly. It wasn't until Friday, three days after the quake, that the "supercarrier" USS Carl Vinson, arrived-and promptly ran out of supplies. "We have communications, we have some command and control, but we don't have much relief supplies to offer," admitted Rear Adm. Ted Branch. So what were they doing there?
"Command and control" turned out to be the key words. The U.S. military did what the U.S. military does. Like a slow-witted, fearful giant, it built a wall around itself, commandeering the Port-au-Prince airport and constructing a mini-Green Zone. As thousands of tons of desperately needed food, water, and medical supplies piled up behind the airport fences-and thousands of corpses piled up outside them-Defense Secretary Robert Gates ruled out the possibility of using American aircraft to airdrop supplies: "An airdrop is simply going to lead to riots," he said. The military's first priority was to build a "structure for distribution" and "to provide security." (Four days and many deaths later, the United States began airdropping aid.)
The TV networks and major papers gamely played along. Forget hunger, dehydration, gangrene, septicemia-the real concern was "the security situation," the possibility of chaos, violence, looting. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of on-the-ground accounts from people who did not have to answer to editors described Haitians taking care of one another, digging through rubble with their bare hands, caring for injured loved ones-and strangers-in the absence of outside help. Even the evidence of "looting" documented something that looked more like mutual aid: The photograph that accompanied a Sunday New York Times article reporting "pockets of violence and anarchy" showed men standing atop the ruins of a store, tossing supplies to the gathered crowd.
As much as any logistical bottleneck, the mania for security slowed the distribution of aid.
Air-traffic control in the Haitian capital was outsourced to an Air Force base in Florida, which, not surprisingly, gave priority to its own pilots. While the military flew in troops and equipment, planes bearing supplies for the Red Cross, the World Food Program, and Doctors Without Borders were rerouted to Santo Domingo in neighboring Dominican Republic. Aid flights from Mexico, Russia, and France were refused permission to land. On Monday, the British Daily Telegraph reported, the French minister in charge of humanitarian aid admitted he had been involved in a "scuffle" with a U.S. commander in the airport's control tower. According to the Telegraph, it took the intervention of the United Nations for the United States to agree to prioritize humanitarian flights over military deliveries.
Meanwhile, much of the aid that was arriving remained at the airport. Haitians watched American helicopters fly over the capital, commanding and controlling, but no aid at all was being distributed in most of the city. On Tuesday, a doctor at a field hospital within site of the runways complained that five to 10 patients were dying each day for lack of the most basic medical necessities. "We can look at the supplies sitting there," Alphonse Edward told Britain's Channel 4 News.
Why the mad rush to command and control, with all its ultimately murderous consequences? Why the paranoid focus on security above saving lives? Clearly, President Obama failed to learn one of the basic lessons taught by Hurricane Katrina: You can't solve a humanitarian problem by throwing guns at it. Before the president had finished insisting that "my national security team understands that I will not put up with any excuses," Haiti's fate was sealed. National security teams prioritize national security, an amorphous and expensive notion that has little to do with keeping Haitian citizens alive.
This leaves the more disturbing question of why the Obama administration chose to respond as if they were there to confront an insurgency, rather than to clear rubble and distribute antibiotics and MREs. The beginning of an answer can be found in what Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell, calls "elite panic"-the conviction of the powerful that their own Hobbesian corporate ethic is innate in all of us, that in the absence of centralized authority, only cannibalism can reign.
But the danger of hunger-crazed mobs never came up after the 2004 Pacific tsunami, and no one mentions security when tornados and floods wipe out swaths of the American Midwest. This suggests two possibilities, neither of them flattering. The first is that the administration had strategic reasons for sending 10,000 troops that had little to do with disaster relief. This is the explanation favored by the Latin American left and, given the United States' history of invasion and occupation in Haiti (and in the Dominican Republic and Cuba and Nicaragua and Grenada and Panama), it is difficult to dismiss. Only time will tell what "reconstruction" means.
Another answer lies closer to home. New Orleans and Port-au-Prince have one obvious thing in common: The majority of both cities' residents are black and poor. White people who are not poor have been known, when confronted with black people who are, to start locking their car doors and muttering about their security. It doesn't matter what color our president is. Even when it is ostensibly doing good, the U.S. government can be racist, and, in an entirely civil and bureaucratic fashion, savagely cruel.
3) Gates Says Taliban Must Take Legitimate Afghan Role
Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, January 23, 2010
Islamabad, Pakistan - The United States recognizes that the Taliban are now part of the political fabric of Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here on Friday, but the group must be prepared to play a legitimate role before it can reconcile with the Afghan government. That means, Mr. Gates said, that the Taliban must participate in elections, not oppose education and not assassinate local officials.
The defense secretary made his remarks in an interview with Pakistani journalists at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson. Mr. Gates was on the second day of a two-day visit to the country.
American officials have given qualified support to a proposed Afghan initiative to provide jobs, security and social benefits to Taliban followers who defect. Mr. Gates has said there could be a surge of such followers willing to be integrated into Afghan society, but he has voiced skepticism about whether the Taliban leadership is ready to work peacefully with the Afghan government.
4) Facing Afghan Anger, U.S. To Curb Night Raids
Kim Gamel, Associated Press, Thursday, January 21, 2010; 6:43 PM
Kabul - NATO forces in Afghanistan are preparing to limit night raids on private homes, even if it means losing some tactical advantage, to curb rising public anger. NATO spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that a directive would be issued soon to set down the new rules.
Nighttime raids on private homes have emerged as the Afghans' No. 1 complaint after Gen. Stanley McChrystal limited the use of airstrikes and other weaponry last year. The U.S. and allied nations have made protecting the population a priority over the use of massive firepower as they seek to undermine support for the Taliban.
"It addresses the issue that's probably the most socially irritating thing that we do - and that is entering people's homes at night," Smith said Wednesday at his office in Kabul. He would not elaborate pending a formal announcement.
The U.S.-led force has become increasingly sensitive to complaints by Afghan civilians as part of a renewed effort to win support among the public and lure people away from the Taliban. Night operations risk offending Afghan sensitivity about men entering homes where women are sleeping.
Rafiullah Khiel, a Finance Ministry employee whose uncle was detained by NATO forces during a night raid last fall, said the distraught women and children in the compound were rounded up and locked in a watchtower for several hours while soldiers searched the dwellings. Khiel said the soldiers told the family that they had information that the uncle, a pharmacist, was treating Taliban fighters.
"This is just unacceptable to us, to our traditions," Khiel said, holding back tears as he recounted the ordeal during an interview in a home on the outskirts of Kabul. "These kinds of actions, these wrong decisions, just make people turn against them."
The inability of the Afghan government to stop what many of its constituents consider abuse in turn generates support for the militants.
Smith said complaints about civilian deaths from airstrikes had dropped sharply after McChrystal's order last year, but Afghans are "not seeing enough difference in our nighttime operations."
"We're not going to be in a position to stop all that activity," he said, suggesting more operations could be carried out during the day in less dangerous areas.
Regional officials welcomed the shift, saying it would help improve relations between the NATO forces, the government and civilians. "In the past we had several complaints because of civilian casualties during night raids," said the acting governor of the volatile Khost province that borders Pakistan, Tahir Khan Sabari. "If these things happen during the day, that won't happen as much. It's also good for relations between the government and the public."
According to a recent U.N. report, 98 Afghan civilians were killed last year during search operations - 16 percent of those killed by pro-government forces. The U.N. said the overall percentage of deaths attributed to Afghan and NATO forces dropped last year. The report credited the decline to NATO's new emphasis on protecting civilians and curbing airstrikes.
Still, the report singled out a late operation on Oct. 16 in Ghazni province in which a joint Afghan-international military force opened fire when entering house, killing an elderly couple, their 35-year-old son and a 10-year-old granddaughter.
"The conduct of pro-government forces during night raids and searches continues to be of concern, particularly regarding excessive use of force resulting in death and injury to civilians," the U.N. said. "Concerns have ranged from allegations of ill-treatment, aggressive behavior and cultural insensitivity, particularly toward women."
5) U.S. Offers Pakistan Drones To Urge Cooperation
Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, January 22, 2010
Islamabad - The United States will provide a dozen unarmed aerial spy drones to Pakistan for the first time as part of an effort to encourage Pakistan's cooperation in fighting Islamic militants on the Afghanistan border, American defense officials said Thursday. But Pakistani military leaders, rebuffing American pressure, said they planned no new offensives for at least six months.
The Shadow drones, which are smaller than armed Predator drones, will be a significant upgrade in the Pakistanis' reconnaissance and surveillance ability and will supply video to help cue strikes from the ground or the air.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is in Pakistan on a two-day visit, disclosed plans for the drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, in an interview Thursday with a Pakistani television reporter.
Asked if the United States planned to provide the Pakistani military with drones, something it has long requested, Mr. Gates replied, "There are some tactical U.A.V.'s that we are considering, yes." Other Defense Department officials later confirmed that the United States was making such an offer.
American officials have rejected giving Pakistan armed drones. The Shadow surveillance drone appears to be a compromise aimed at enticing Pakistan further into the war and helping the country's political leadership explain the drone strikes to a deeply suspicious and anti-American public. "It will have a very positive political impact," said Talat Masood, a retired general in Islamabad. "It will reduce the embarrassment of the political leadership."
American defense officials said that the drones would be for use in Pakistan's tribal areas and would be restricted to defensive rather than offensive operations. One major concern for the American military is the possibility that Pakistan could use the drones against India, its archrival in the region.
6) Loyalties Of Those Killed In Afghan Raid Remain Unclear
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 22, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - A group of American and Afghan soldiers swooped into a village in a Taliban-heavy district early Thursday, fired their guns and came away. And in a scene repeated often here, one side cried murder and the other side claimed success.
Late in the day, this much was clear: Just after midnight, a team of American and Afghan soldiers carried out an operation to detain a Taliban commander named Qari Faizullah in a village called Baran. The village is in the Qarabagh District of Ghazni Province, where the Taliban insurgency burns hot. Four males, including a boy, were killed in the raid, and another was detained.
But there the clarity ends. In a statement, the American command said four insurgents had been killed in the operation. Mr. Faizullah, the Americans said, was a "high-level Taliban commander" who helped lead attacks against American forces and smuggled fighters and guns.
The boy killed, the Americans said, was 15 and had reached for a gun and shown "hostile intent" when the operation was unfolding. "No innocent Afghan civilians were harmed in this operation," the statement said.
The police chief of Ghazni Province, Gen. Kial Baz Shirzai, supported the American account. "All those killed were definitely Taliban," he said. The boy, he said, was in fact 13 - but he, too, was Taliban.
But several residents of Baran said that all the dead were civilians. On Thursday morning, a large group of Afghans came to the provincial capital, Ghazni, to retrieve the bodies, which had been carried there by the soldiers. The villagers shouted anti-American and antigovernment slogans and called on Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to stop the attacks. In addition to those killed, two villagers were wounded in the operation, they said.
"I have known all these people since my childhood, and they are civilians - they have no link to the Taliban or any militant group," Abdul Manan, a Baran resident, said in a telephone interview. He joined the protest.
His description was matched by another protester, Hajji Shawali. "We are here to tell Mr. Karzai to listen to our problems," he said. "We are having problems with the Taliban. We are actually trapped by the fighting. We have no sympathy for the Taliban. We are poor people."
Operations like the one in Qarabagh - nighttime raids in which the exact course of events is unclear - occur regularly in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban dominate. American and Afghan soldiers prefer to carry out operations at night, when they have the advantage of surprise and night-vision equipment, and civilians are presumed to be asleep.
But night operations are unpopular among Afghans, even those who harbor no sympathies for the Taliban.
7) No Guarantee Against Repeat Of Mumbai-Like Attacks, Gates Told
Baqir Sajjad Syed and Iftikhar A. Khan, Dawn (Pakistan), Friday, 22 Jan, 2010
Islamabad - The government said on Thursday it could not guarantee against repeat of 26/11 like attacks in India and the best safeguard against such strikes was de-linking of peace process from action against terrorism and the resolution of Kashmir and water disputes.
"Pakistan is itself facing Mumbai-like attacks almost every other day and when we cannot protect our own citizens, how can we guarantee that there wouldn't be any more terrorist hits in India," Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was quoted by a source as having told the visiting US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who called on him. Pakistan suffered its worst year of terrorist violence last year, with more than 3,000 people killed.
Secretary Gates had in India warned that Pakistan-based militants, who had links with Al Qaeda, were planning strikes in India with the hope that retaliation would lead to a new conflict.
In his bid to raise pressure on Pakistan to act against militant groups targeting India, the secretary had said that New Delhi, unlike the restraint shown after Mumbai incident, was not apt to holding back if attacked again.
Prime Minister Gilani recalled the steps taken against militant groups saying they had been outlawed and their network was disrupted. In an apparent reference to Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who has been accused by India of masterminding the Mumbai attack but has been released on court orders, the prime minister said his government could not prosecute anyone without evidence.
India, which had suspended the Composite Dialogue with Pakistan in the aftermath of Mumbai attack, has been refusing to resume it without 'credible action against alleged perpetrators' despite a commitment at Sharm El Sheikh that the peace talks would be de-linked from action against terrorism.
Mr Gilani regretted India's obstinacy, stating that as long as India held the peace process hostage to progress on terrorism, forward movement in normalisation of ties was unlikely.
"Pakistan is committed to peace in the region and in this context has been making sincere efforts to resume Composite Dialogue with India, but the response from the other side has not been encouraging. Relations between India and Pakistan should not become hostage to the activities of terrorists.
For lasting peace in the region, both countries should resolve core issues, including Kashmir and water disputes," a statement by the prime minister's office quoted him as having said.
The prime minister presented a roadmap for bridging the trust deficit between Islamabad and Washington.
The prime minister's roadmap sought evenhandedness by US vis-à-vis Pakistan and India, stoppage of unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan's territory, immediate disbursement of Coalition Support Fund arrears and deletion of Pakistan from the list of countries whose nationals face special screening at US airports.
Mr Zardari expressed reservations over the new screening regime for Pakistanis, saying that it had caused resentment and called for a review.
About the drone attacks on Pakistani territory, the president said that it undermined the national consensus against the war on militancy and called for creating a mechanism whereby the drones were used by Pakistan's security forces rather than by foreign troops.
Mr Zardari said it was critical that national consensus on war against militancy was not allowed to erode and anything that tended to weaken it was avoided.
8) Barred Politicians Mostly Secular, Iraqi Says
Nada Bakri, New York Times, January 22, 2010
Baghdad - The two biggest secular coalitions were hit hardest by this month's decision to bar about 500 candidates from parliamentary elections in March, a top election official said Thursday, as efforts to resolve what has become a political crisis intensified.
The decision infuriated Sunnis and deepened their fears of being excluded from the political process. Critics have warned that the disqualifications, made on the grounds that the candidates promoted the Baath Party of former President Saddam Hussein, could damage the credibility of the March 7 vote, which is crucial to American plans to withdraw.
The government panel that made the decision, the Accountability and Justice Commission, contends it was merely applying the law. Opponents have called its move an attempt to settle scores, and said it focused on secular opponents of Iraq's religious Shiite parties, backed by Iran.
The head of the independent electoral commission responsible for organizing the vote, Faraj al-Haidari, said that the list of those disqualified that was compiled by the Accountability and Justice Commission had candidates from all religious backgrounds and political affiliations. Secular candidates represented the largest number of disqualifications, according to the list published in local newspapers, divided almost evenly between Sunnis and Shiites, Mr. Haidari said. "You could say it's 50-50," he said. [Given that Shiites are estimated to comprise 60% of the population and Sunnis 20%, this is hardly a convincing argument - JFP.]
The commission barred 72 candidates from Iraqiya, the coalition led by Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi; and Saleh al-Mutlaq, a leading Sunni lawmaker who was himself barred, Mr. Haidari said. It also disqualified 67 from another predominantly secular coalition, Iraq Unity, led by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, said Jinan Mubarak, a candidate from the group.
In an early effort to resolve the crisis, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. suggested that the list of the disqualified be set aside until after the elections, so that only those on the list who won would have to be examined for Baathist ties, according to Iraqi officials. Many politicians said that they supported this solution, but others questioned its legality and criticized Washington for interference in Iraq's affairs. Electoral officials have questioned the feasibility of such an idea.
"This is the best possible solution," said Shaker Kattab, a spokesman for Mr. Hashimi. If charges of promoting the Baath Party were proved, he added, then candidates would give up their seats to someone from the same coalition who did not win.
Mr. Hashimi has contested the legality of the commission, which is headed by Ali Faisal al-Lami, who until last August was in an American-run prison in Iraq on suspicions that he was involved in bombings that singled out Americans in Iraq, and Ahmed Chalabi, once one of Washington's top allies here, who is now believed to have close ties with Iran.
9) Zelaya plans Mexico stay, later return to Honduras
Freddy Cuevas, Associated Press, Friday, January 22, 2010; 12:29 PM
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Ousted President Manuel Zelaya will leave the Brazilian Embassy next week and travel to the Dominican Republic before settling in Mexico and planning his eventual return to Honduras, an aide said in an interview published Friday.
Zelaya seems destined to continue what has been a peripatetic existence since he was ousted in a June 2009 coup. After being hustled out of the country by his own soldiers, he traveled across much of Latin America seeking support for his reinstatement before sneaking back into Honduras in September and taking refuge at Brazil's embassy. "Zelaya will remain only briefly in Santo Domingo" before traveling to the Mexican capital, aide Cesar Ham told Tiempo newspaper.
Earlier this week, Ham represented Zelaya at the signing of an agreement giving him safe conduct to leave Honduras on Jan. 27, when President-elect Porfirio Lobo is sworn into office.
Another adviser, Rasel Tome, who is inside the embassy with the ousted leader, told The Associated Press that Zelaya would leave for the Dominican Republic "if the necessary conditions are provided." He did not give specifics, but Zelaya has previously rejected the idea of exiting without guarantees to respect his dignity and safety.
In a statement, Zelaya praised the deal - though he did not confirm that he would definitely leave under its terms. He said the agreement "allows me to maintain the dignity of my person and my office" as a guest of Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.
10) Message Threatening Honduran Journalist Left on Murder Victim
EFE, January 20, 2010
Tegucigalpa - A message threatening journalist Eduardo Maldonado, whose son was kidnapped earlier this month, was left on the body of a man gunned down in the Honduran capital, the National Police said. The body of 33-year-old Oscar Alejandro Nuñez Mujica was found on the side of a boulevard in the eastern section of Tegucigalpa, National Police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said.
A "message addressed to journalist Eduardo Maldonado" was left on the dead man's chest, the National Police spokesman said. The message, according to Radio America, said "Mr. Maldonado, if you don't get that dog out of there, the next one is going to be your son, dog, I hope you understand."
Unidentified gunmen took away Luis Jose Maldonado Martinez, 16, from the family's house in Tegucigalpa on Jan. 9. At least four armed men drove up to the house in an SUV, "burst inside and pointed weapons" at the journalist, other members of his family and servants, leaving them tied them up, Cerrato said earliert this month.
Maldonado, who is close to ousted President Mel Zelaya, has hosted the news and commentary show "Hable como habla," which is broadcast on Radio Globo and Channel 12 television, for several years. The journalist was a candidate in the ruling Liberal Party's 2008 presidential primary, losing to Elvin Santos.
The 16-year-old daughter of journalist Carol Cabrera, who hosts a show on state-owned Channel 8 television, was killed by gunmen on Dec. 15. Catherine Nicolle Rodriguez, who was eight months' pregnant, was riding in a vehicle with several other people when the attack occurred. Cabrera hosts a talk show on Radio Cadena Voces and another on Channel 8, which she joined after the June 28 coup that ousted Zelaya.
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