War Death Toll for Afghan Security Forces Is Over 13,000

KABUL, Afghanistan — More than 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed during the war here, far more than previously known, according to Afghan government statistics.  Most of those losses occurred during the past three years as Afghan forces took over a growing share of the responsibility for security in the country, culminating in full Afghan authority last spring.  The numbers also reflect an increased tempo to the conflict. More clashes have taken place as insurgents test the government forces, without as much fear of intervention from the American-led coalition as it prepares to withdraw.

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Drone Lands Dispatch -Letter from Pakistan

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In the most heavily targeted parts of Pakistan’s tribal regions — the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in the northwest — U.S. drone strikes are but a single form of state-sponsored killing, alongside conventional airstrikes and ground operations by Pakistan’s military, insurgent bombings, tribal hostilities, and everyday criminality. But drones occupy a special category of their own. The strikes began in 2004; they have since killed a total of 2,500 to 3,500 people. Estimates suggest that several hundred of those killed were innocent civilians. Last May, U.S. President Barack Obama said that those deaths would haunt him and his advisers for “as long as we live.”

In Pakistan, the strikes have been a source of bitter political contention from the very beginning. Broadly speaking, one side focuses on the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty while the other — a sizeable group — maintains that drone strikes are the least bad option for maintaining some semblance of security in a restive region. For their part, the country’s politicians hold up victims of drone strikes to serve their own ends — to illustrate the tyranny of the United States or the unfortunate sacrifices that must be made in the name of security.

To find out how Pakistanis think about drones after living under their shadow for nearly a decade, I recently spent a month travelling to Pakistan’s large cities and small villages — places where most people’s concerns revolve around their day-to-day struggle to make ends meet. Talk to them, and you will find that the monolithic view in the West that all Pakistanis are enraged by drone strikes is inaccurate. In fact, further north — closer to the areas that bear the brunt of the strikes — it is not uncommon to encounter strong support for them.

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Pakistani Party Identifies Man It Says Is C.I.A. Station Chief

The political party of the former cricket star Imran Khan on Wednesday identified a man it described as the Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan, in an escalation of Mr. Khan’s campaign to end American drone strikes in the country.  In a letter to the Pakistani police, Mr. Khan’s information secretary, Shireen Mazari, accused the C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, along with a man identified as the agency’s Islamabad station chief, of “committing murder and waging war against Pakistan.”  In Washington, a C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment on the case.  Ms. Mazari demanded that the authorities prevent the station chief, whose identity has not yet been confirmed, from leaving the country so that he can face prosecution in a Pakistani court.

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Can Karzai Save Us?

After a year of talks over the post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan, the US administration announced last week that a new agreement had finally been reached. Under the deal worked out with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US would keep thousands of troops on nine military bases for at least the next ten years.  It is clear that the Obama Administration badly wants this deal. Karzai, sensing this, even demanded that the US president send a personal letter promising that the US would respect the dignity of the Afghan people if it were allowed to remain in the country. It was strange to see the US president go to such lengths for a deal that would mean billions more US dollars to Karzai and his cronies, and a US military that would continue to prop up the regime in Kabul.

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The Indo-Pak proxy war

Since the end of the 80s, and the early 90s, we have been hearing about the ISI of Pakistan being the root cause of some destabilising activities in Bangladesh. Many times the ruling Awami League government, some in the intelligentsia, and journalists, kept pointing fingers at the ISI for encouraging terrorist activities and Islamist groups in Bangladesh.  Awami League stalwarts even blamed BNP of conniving with ISI in anti-national security activities. Many of them pointed fingers at the ISI for the August 21, 2004 grenade attacks on the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina and her party. Indian senior politicians and civil bureaucrats also thought Bangladesh territory was being used by the ISI for anti-India activities and terrorism.

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Making sense of Pakistan drone death reports

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The tension arises from recent claims by international rights groups that a large number of civilians are being killed in drone strikes in tribal areas where Taliban and al-Qaeda militants have sanctuaries.  Ironically the issue seems to have put rights groups on the same page as the pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan.  Both are using what they call “high” civilian deaths as the centrepiece of their campaign to denounce the drone programme.  In contrast, the liberal elements in Pakistan and those living in tribal areas seem to be in greater agreement with the official American version, which plays down the number of civilian casualties in those strikes.  The latest twist in the tale came on Wednesday when the Pakistani government issued its own official estimates, putting civilian deaths since 2008 at a mere 67 – much lower than the estimates released by the international rights groups.  Recent investigations have placed estimates of civilian deaths in drone strikes at somewhere between 400 and 900. One by a British lawyer and United Nations rapporteur, Ben Emmerson, also estimated at least 400 civilian deaths from drones since 2004.

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China’s Brutal Crackdown in Xinjiang

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As the world celebrates Eid al-Adha, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, turbulence in Yarkand County, Xinjiang province continued earlier this week when five Muslim Uyghurs were shot, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). Other acts of violence and concentrated efforts to quell the troubled region are causing many to question whether or not China’s propaganda and security crackdowns are doing any good.  Yarkand (a.k.a. Shache in Chinese) entered its third straight week of violence, which began when three Uyghurs were allegedly shot and killed in two separate incidents on September 26. Later, on October 3, four more were killed when police fired on a private residence suspected of illegally convening the World Uyghur Congress—an avowed peaceful organization that China nonetheless considers hostile and the source of many of its woes in the region. The horrible violence of the summer shows no signs of easing.

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Hamid Karzai builds his power base as he prepares to step down

Hamid Karzai appears to be positioning himself at the center of power in Afghanistan, even though he has to step down as president.  A new power base is slowly taking shape in Kabul. Tucked beyond a sandbagged checkpoint and hidden behind a 15ft concrete – clad wall, builders are renovating an old British-style mansion. The rooms once used by the Afghan intelligence service are being restored and a reception hall is being built.  It stands in some of the most secure real estate in the Afghan capital, within the tightly patrolled perimeter of barbed wire and AK-47s that protects the presidential palace itself.  And it is the answer to one of the most asked questions in Kabul today – what will Hamid Karzai do when he steps down at the end of his second term as president next year?  An Afghan government official told The Sunday Telegraph the mansion and other buildings would become Mr. Karzai’s new home, in a location outside the presidential palace itself but close enough to keep him secure.  “The work has been going on for many weeks,” he said.  The home has long been a poorly kept secret in Kabul, and sparked speculation in some circles that Mr. Karzai is planning to do a “Putin”, stepping down while keeping a tight grip on the reins of power.

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US troops capture a senior Pakistan Taliban leader in Afghanistan

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians SyriaKABUL, Afghanistan —The U.S. confirmed on Friday that American troops are holding a senior Pakistani Taliban commander, a blow to the Pakistani Taliban who have waged a decadelong insurgency against Islamabad and were responsible for the failed 2010 attempt to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square.  Latif Mehsud, a leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, was captured by U.S. forces in a military operation, Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said in Washington.  “Mehsud is a senior commander in TTP, and served as a trusted confident of the group’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud,” Harf said. “TTP claimed responsibility, as folks probably know, for the attempted bombing of Times Square in 2010 and has vowed to attack the U.S. homeland again. TPP is also responsible for attacking our diplomats in Pakistan and attacks that have killed countless Pakistani civilians.”

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U.S. think-tank slams India’s alleged covert nuke trade

India’s alleged involvement in illicit nuclear trade networks came under fire in a detailed report issued by a major security-focused think tank here, the Institute for Science and International Security.  In its 114-page report on “Future World of Illicit Nuclear Trade,” authors David Albright, Andrea Stricker, and Houston Wood argued that India despite being a non-Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, was “expected to maintain or improve nuclear arsenals via illicit trade, in violation of originating state laws and international law.”  According to ISIS India was in fact among a group of “illicit nuclear trade suppliers of concern,” including China, Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Russia and a host of “rogue states” such as Iran, North Korea, Syria “and possibly a Khan-type network.”

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Pakistan explosion: Peshawar market blast toll rises to 42

The death toll from Sunday’s bomb blast that ripped through a historic market in the Pakistani city of Peshawar has risen to 42, hospital officials say.  Dozens were also wounded when a bomb exploded in the Kissa Khwani bazaar, setting shops and vehicles alight.  It was the third deadly blast to hit the city in a week.  Last weekend suicide blasts killed at least 81 at a church in Peshawar and on Friday, 19 people died when a bus carrying civil servants was attacked.  Peshawar, the main city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been hit by numerous bomb and gun attacks blamed on Taliban insurgents but it has rarely come under such sustained attack in recent years .

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Afghans prepare to run their own war

In a room with a great big map is one of Afghanistan’s lesser known success stories.  This is the Operations Coordination Centre – Provincial, or OCCP, where representatives of the Afghan army, police and security service mentored by Australian soldiers coordinate security activities for the entire province.  Each morning starts with a roundup of the night’s activities.  It hosts regular meetings of the provincial governor, chief of police, provincial army commander, head of intelligence and the commander of Combined Team Oruzgan, Australian Colonel Wade Stothart, to coordinate plans for upcoming events.  The big one on the horizon is the presidential election set for April 5, 2014.  Lieutenant Colonel Paul Duncan, who heads the Australian OCCP mentoring team, says this is working exceptionally well.  “The co-ordination of the various pillars of the Afghan National Security Forces that occurs here at the OCCP is great,” he told AAP.

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Suicide bomb attack kills 75 at Pakistan church

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two explosions outside a crowded church in northwest Pakistan just as Sunday services ended killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 100, authorities said, one of Pakistan’s worst attacks against Christians in years.  While officials placed the death toll at more than 60, humanitarian organizations reported handling at least 75 corpses. [Updated, 7:35 a.m. PDT Sept. 22: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Home Secretary Akhtar Ali Shah now said in his latest statement that the official death toll had reached 75.The dead and injured, including women, children and police officers, overwhelmed the emergency ward of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, the city’s largest hospital, where television footage showed hallways filled with corpses, badly wounded patients and women and children crying over the charred bodies of relatives. Many bodies were in such bad shape they could not be easily identified, doctors said.

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The Pipeline From Hell

During his trip to Pakistan last month, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry warned Pakistan that it could face U.S. sanctions if it continues to pursue plans to build a pipeline and import natural gas from Iran. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been reluctant to comply with Washington’s demand that it squash its pipeline plans, stressing Pakistan’s current energy crisis and the importance of repairing ties with Iran. Indeed, some in Iran and Pakistan have taken to calling the project the “peace pipeline.”  Initially conceived in the 1950s as the Iran-Pakistan-India Project, the 2,775 km natural gas pipeline runs from the South Pars gas field in Asalouyeh, Iran, to a number of delivery points deep inside Pakistan. After falling by the wayside for many decades, it was revived in the late 1980s by the Indian intellectual Rajendra K. Pachauri and Ali Shams Ardekani, a former secretary general of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, who proposed it to their respective governments in 1990. Since then, India has oscillated back and forth regarding its involvement in the pipeline project, ultimately dropping out in 2009.

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NATO exit may trigger ‘proxy war’ over Afghanistan

NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 is likely to have deep implications for South Asia. Experts say tensions between India and Pakistan might intensify, should the Afghan political reconciliation process fail.  Some 12 years after the NATO invasion of Afghanistan, combat troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014. But many questions linger about the nation’s future. According to experts, there are four major aspects that will play a key role in determining the prospects of the war-torn South Asian nation. These involve the number of allied troops set to remain in the country, the success of negotiations with the Taliban, the upcoming presidential elections and the willingness of neighboring countries to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process.

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Pakistan election: Nawaz Sharif set for victory

Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif has claimed victory in general elections.  Projections based on partial results suggest a big lead for Mr Sharif’s Muslim League (PML-N) party.  Saturday’s election saw a large turnout and should pave the way for the country’s first transition from one elected government to another.  The governing Pakistan People’s Party has lost many seats. It was one of several secular parties unable to campaign freely due to Taliban attacks.  Most of the remaining PPP seats look likely to be in its heartland of Sindh province.  The poll was generally seen as having passed off successfully, but violence on Saturday claimed at least 24 lives.

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Pakistan goes to polls in landmark election

The vote marks Pakistan’s first transition from one civilian government to another in its 66-year history.  However, the run-up to the election has been marred by violence in which more than 100 people have been killed.  Tens of thousands of troops are deployed at polling stations after the Pakistani Taliban threatened to carry out suicide attacks.  Hours before polls opened, Pakistan sealed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan in a bid to keep foreign militants at bay.  Officials said the borders would remain closed for the next three days.  Queues started forming before polling stations opened at 08:00 (03:00 GMT) on Saturday.  At one polling station in the capital, Islamabad, more than 200 people waited patiently to vote.

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Pentagon Demands To Keep Nine Bases In Afghanistan After 2014

KABUL: The United States has demanded nine permanent military bases in Afghanistan, something that has long fuelled concerns among regional countries, President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday.  In the bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) being negotiated between the allies, the president said: “The United States insists on its demands and interests and we stick to our own.”  Addressing a ceremony at the Kabul University, he said Washington had sought military bases in Nangarhar, Parwan, Balkh, Kabul, Paktia, Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces.

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Non-Muslim candidates largely absent in Pakistan’s election

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI Next) — Few non-Muslims are running in Pakistan’s planned May 11 election, a practice critics say reinforces non-Muslims’ status as a poor underclass in this predominantly Muslim country.  Pakistan’s major parties are ignoring Christians, Hindus and other minorities as potential candidates — neither the ruling Pakistan People’s Party of slain ex-leader Benazir Bhutto, nor its rival, the Pakistan Muslim League, the party of former premier Nawaz Sharif, have non-Muslims on their national parliamentary tickets.

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NATO looks for allies to station military contingent in Central Asia

Not much time is left until 2014, when the withdrawal of NATO anti-terrorism coalition troops from Afghanistan is expected to take place; however, it still remains unknown what type of military contingent will remain in Afghanistan and Central Asia thereafter and which countries of the region will be selected by the West for this purpose.  Not much time is left until 2014, when the withdrawal of NATO anti-terrorism coalition troops from Afghanistan is expected to take place; however, it still remains unknown what type of military contingent will remain in Afghanistan and Central Asia thereafter and which countries of the region will be selected by the West for this purpose.

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