Randy's Corner Deli Library

29 June 2008

The Taliban's Advance Threatens Pakistan

While US forces are bogged down trying to keep Shi'ia in Iraq from killing each other and keeping Sunni from killing Shi'ia and vice versa, 25% of Pakistan - the Peshawar province - is months from falling to the Taliban. You remember them, right? They and like thinkers crashed planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. This is most disconcerting. The below is from an Abu Dhabi outlet.

Randy Shiner

The Taliban's advance threatens Pakistan
Paul Woodward, Online Correspondent

Last Updated: June 29. 2008 5:13PM UAE / June 29. 2008 1:13PM GMT "The security situation in Peshawar is grim. Officials in the home department, who evaluate the situation on an almost daily basis, believe declaring a state of red alert is now only a matter of time," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"With militants knocking at the gates of the capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), even the more circumspect government and police officials now grudgingly concede that Peshawar, too, could fall in a few months.

"'Peshawar is in a state of siege and if Peshawar falls, the rest of the districts in the NWFP would fall like ninepins', a worried senior government official told Dawn."

Pakistan's Daily Times noted: "These days Taliban fighters do not sneak in to Peshawar. They arrive in broad daylight on the back of pick-up trucks, brandishing automatic weapons, and threatening owners of music stores to close down. 'They had long hair and flowing beards, and were carrying Kalashnikovs. They told me to close down the shop or face the consequences,' said Abdul Latif, a clean-shaven 20-year-old, whose video store received a visit from the vigilantes last week. 'I asked police for help but they said they are helpless,' he said."

The New York Times said: "With the militants crowding in, the national government called a special meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation.

"The day before, a sympathizer of the Taliban, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, shocked the National Assembly when he said that the entire NWFP, including Peshawar, was on the brink of being engulfed by extremism.

"The government's control, he warned, was 'almost nonexistent' in the province, an integral part of Pakistan and one of just four in the country. The specter of the fall of Peshawar threatens the fabric of the country."

McClatchy Newspapers reported: "Baitullah Mehsud, based in South Waziristan in the tribal areas, heads Pakistan's version of Afghanistan's Taliban, with a following of warlords across the tribal belt and in Swat, but some Islamist militants such as Mangal Bagh are independent operators.

"Mangal Bagh and his Lashkar-e-Islam movement, which appears to have thousands of militia members, most immediately threatens Peshawar from the Khyber area to the West, while the Taliban-infested districts of Mohmand and Darra Adam Khel lie to the city's north and south.

"Until the bolstering of security this week, 25 villages around Shabqadar, that lie between Peshawar, Mohmand and Charsadda, had become too dangerous to patrol, said [Malik Naveed] Khan, the [provincial] police chief."

Pakistan's The News said Mr Mehsud: "has threatened to end the peace talks and scrap accords if the government does not stop action against the Taliban and launches fresh military operations in the settled areas of the NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

"Through his spokesman Maulvi Omar, he said in a statement conveyed to The News that the Taliban were not planning an attack on Peshawar. He accused the government of sponsoring propaganda about an impending attack on the city to justify new military operations against the Taliban.

"'Peshawar isn't Srinagar that we want to capture it. Taliban cannot think of damaging their beloved Peshawar, which is the capital and identity of our province,' Baitullah Mehsud claimed in his statement."

Nevertheless, Mr Mehsud said that the Taliban would not tolerate any new military operations against them in the NWFP and the Fata and that if the government continued such actions they would face retaliatory attacks in the cities of Pakistan.

The New York Times said: "The threat to Peshawar is a sign of the Taliban's deepening penetration of Pakistan and of the expanding danger that the militants present to the entire region, including nearby supply lines for Nato and American forces in Afghanistan.

"For the United States, the major supply route for weapons for Nato troops runs from the port of Karachi to the outskirts of Peshawar and through the Khyber Pass to the battlefields of Afghanistan. Maintaining that route would be extremely difficult if the city were significantly infiltrated by the very militants who want to defeat the Nato war effort across the border.

"Nato and American commanders have complained for months that the government's policy of negotiating with the militants has led to more cross-border attacks in Afghanistan by Taliban fighters based in Pakistan's tribal areas."

On Saturday, in an operation aimed at pushing militants back from Peshawar's perimeter, Pakistani security forces shelled two bases of Lashkar-e-Islam leader, Mangal Bagh. The operation was limited to the locally-manned Frontier Corps while the army was being held 'in reserve,' according to a military spokesman.

US moves to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe
"President Bush announced Saturday that the United States was moving to broaden its sanctions against Zimbabwe, for the first time aiming at the government itself as well as a lengthening list of members of its governing elite, because of what he described as 'a sham election'," The New York Times reported.

"The president said in a statement released by the White House that he was instructing the State and Treasury departments to develop sanctions against what he called 'this illegitimate government of Zimbabwe and those who support it.'

"The United States will also be pushing at the United Nations for an arms embargo against Zimbabwe and a ban on travel by officials of its government. These proposals are virtually certain to run into opposition from South Africa and other governments, but the American sanctions against the government can be carried out unilaterally."

The Independent, reporting from Harare said: "Two lines of people at dawn yesterday told the story of an unwanted election in Zimbabwe. The first queue stretched in an L-shape, more than 200 strong, waiting for bread. In the adjacent lot four policemen guarded a polling station where three people waited to vote.

"The crowds that gathered from dawn til dusk three months ago in the hope of voting freely stayed away yesterday from a 'one-man election' that has been almost universally condemned as a charade."

In The Guardian, Chris McGreal wrote that the ruling party: "Zanu-PF set up tents close to some polling stations in Harare where people were expected to show their identity cards so their names could be ticked off as having voted.

"But some people remained defiant. 'I refuse to vote,' said Blessed Manyonga in Chitungwiza. 'If they ask me I will say I lost my identity card. I will not vote for my own oppression.'

"Others said they spoiled their ballot papers. 'I put a question mark next to Robert Mugabe,' said a man who gave his name only as Tendai. 'It's a joke.'

"In Harare, one man said he had not voted at all and instead smeared his finger with ink from a ballpoint pen. But in many rural areas people were being driven en masse to the polls and left in no doubt about what they were expected to do."

The New York Times said: "Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for South Africa's Foreign Ministry, explained that while South Africa's own liberation movement sought international sanctions against the apartheid regime, Zimbabwe's opposition has not asked for them.

"Mr Mamoepa said it did not make sense to impose sanctions now when both sides were already willing to enter negotiations for a political settlement.

"Zimbabwe's opposition spokesman, Mr Chamisa, asked if his party favored sanctions, would say only that it sought intensified international pressure.

"It seems likely that the opposition is reluctant to demand sanctions for fear of playing into Mr Mugabe's hands. The state media incessantly, daily, in story after story, blames the limited sanctions imposed by the United States and Britain on the Zimbabwean elite for having led to the country's economic ruin."

US eases sanctions on North Korea
"With a formal announcement in the Rose Garden that he is easing sanctions against North Korea, President Bush on Thursday marked a milestone, albeit mostly symbolic, in the years-long struggle over the communist nation's nuclear weapons programmes," the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Pyongyang, in an orchestrated exchange of concessions, provided details about its main nuclear efforts. In turn, US officials will no longer brand North Korea a sponsor of terrorism and will free it from a few economic restrictions.

"The most dramatic gesture of all was set for today in view of foreign TV crews, when North Korean officials were to demolish the cooling tower at the main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, the heart of the country's decades-long march toward becoming a nuclear power."

The New York Times noted: "The tower is a technically insignificant structure, relatively easy to rebuild. North Korea also has been disabling - but not destroying - more sensitive parts of the nuclear complex, such as the 5-megawatt reactor, a plant that makes its fuel and a laboratory that extracts plutonium from its spent fuel.

"Nonetheless, the destruction of the tower, the most visible element of the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, affirmed the incremental progress that has been made in American-led multilateral efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes.

Helene Cooper said: "In the internal Bush administration war between the State Department and Mr Cheney's office over North Korea, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top North Korea envoy, Christopher R Hill, won a major battle against the Cheney camp when President Bush announced Thursday that he was taking the country he once described as part of the 'axis of evil' off the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"The administration sought to portray the move as a largely symbolic, reciprocal move, made in return for North Korea's long-delayed declaration of its nuclear program to the outside world. It is the first step in what will be a long, drawn-out diplomatic process that is meant to lead eventually to establishing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula."

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