Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan warned the United States on Tuesday to stop accusing it of playing a double game with Islamist militants and heaped praise on "all-weather friend" China.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, speaking exclusively to Reuters, said any unilateral military action by the United States to hunt down militants of the Haqqani network inside Pakistan would be a violation of his country's sovereignty.
However, he side-stepped questions on the tense relations with the United States and offered no indications of any steps Pakistan might take to soothe the fury in Washington.
The outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, last week described the Haqqani network, the most violent faction among Taliban militants in Afghanistan, as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's ISI spy agency and accused Islamabad of providing support for the group's September 13 attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
"The negative messaging, naturally that is disturbing my people," Gilani said in the interview from his office in Islamabad. "If there is messaging that is not appropriate to our friendship, then naturally it is extremely difficult to convince my public. Therefore they should be sending positive messages."
Since Mullen's comments, Pakistan has launched a diplomatic counter-attack and attempted to drum up support from its strongest ally in the region, China.
Pakistani officials have been heaping praise on China since its public security minister arrived here on Monday for high-level talks.
"We are true friends and we count on each other," Gilani said in separate comments broadcast on television networks after talks with Meng Jianzhu on Tuesday.
The military, Pakistan's most powerful institution, also said it appreciated its giant Asian neighbor's support. Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani thanked Meng for China's "unwavering support".
China and Pakistan call each other "all-weather friends" and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence across the region.
"They (the Pakistanis) are trying to use their diplomatic options as much as possible to defuse pressure on them. They hope China will help them in this crisis," said security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.
Asked why the United States had suddenly ratcheted up its criticism of Pakistan, Gilani implied that it reflected Washington's frustration with the war in Afghanistan ahead of a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in 2014.
"Certainly they expected more results from Afghanistan, which they have not been able to achieve as yet," he said. "They have not achieved what they visualized."
Rejecting allegations that Islamabad was behind any violence across its border, he said: "It is in the interest of Pakistan to have a stable Afghanistan".
The United States has been pressing Pakistan to attack the Haqqani network, which it believes is based in North Waziristan near the Afghan border. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the group, says it is no longer based in Pakistan and feels safe operating in Afghanistan.
Analysts say Pakistan sees the Haqqanis as a counterweight to the growing influence of rival India in Afghanistan and is highly unlikely to go after the group.
The United States seems frustrated at its inability to influence Pakistani policy on militants.
In a meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, at the United Nations on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Beijing to open a dialogue with Washington on Pakistan.
"We have stated this before, but there's clearly an urgency given recent developments and also given the close relationship that exists between Pakistan and China," a State Department official said in a briefing to reporters.
CHINA MORE POPULAR
China is vastly more popular in Pakistan than the United States, which is seen as fickle and favoring India.
Much of the Pakistani public believes that since the end of the Cold War, the United States has tilted toward India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since the violent partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
In a demonstration of that distrust, hundreds turned out on Tuesday for anti-American rallies in Pakistani cities.
In Hyderabad, they burned pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama and Mullen, while in Karachi they protested in front of the U.S. consulate and the headquarters of the Pakistan People's Party. In Landikotal in the Khyber agency near the Afghan border, about 1,000 people turned out for a rally organized by the religious party Jamaat-e-Islami.
Also on Tuesday, a suspected U.S. drone strike on a house in Azam Warsak village in South Waziristan's tribal region on the Afghan border killed at least three alleged militants, local intelligence officials said.
Gilani pointed out that Washington did not help itself when it struck a deal on civilian nuclear cooperation with New Delhi but not Islamabad.
"There is an acute shortage of electricity in Pakistan. And there are riots. And the opposition is playing to the gallery because there is a shortage of electricity," he said.
"But they (the United States) are doing the civilian nuclear deal not with Pakistan, but with India. Now how can I convince my public that they are your (Pakistan's) friends and not the friends of India? ... the perception matters."
In a tit-for-tat deal in May, Pakistan inaugurated its second Chinese-made nuclear power reactor. China is building two more reactors at the same site, despite international misgivings about risks to nuclear safety and the integrity of non-proliferation rules.
China has also helped build the deep-sea Gwadar port on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast, partly with a view to opening up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf to western China, and has been a major supplier of military hardware to Pakistan.
(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Robert Woodward)
Monday, September 26, 2011
By Mirwais Harooni and Emma Graham-Harrison | Reuters
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan employee of the U.S. government opened fire inside a CIA office in Kabul on Sunday evening, killing an American and injuring a second, U.S. and Afghan officials said, in the second major breach of embassy security in two weeks.
The killing adds to a sense of insecurity already heightened by a 20 hour-siege of the diplomatic district in mid-September, and the assassination a week later of the top government peace envoy, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.
The CIA compound inside the Ariana hotel is one of the most heavily guarded in Kabul, and has been off-limits -- along with the road that runs beside it -- for almost a decade, since shortly after the Taliban's fall from power in 2001.
It also lies at the heart of the capital's heavily guarded military, political and diplomatic district, a virtual "green zone" that is almost impossible for ordinary Afghans to enter.
It was not clear if the U.S. citizens were victims of a rogue employee who had been won over to the insurgent cause, or just the escalation of an argument in a city where tensions are high and many people carry guns. There are precedents for both.
The "lone attacker" was killed, and the injured U.S. citizen was taken to a military hospital, U.S. embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall said on Monday.
"There was a shooting incident at an annex of the U.S. embassy in Kabul last night involving an Afghan employee who was killed. The motivation for the attack is still under investigation at this time," Sundwall said.
Sundwall declined comment on whether the annex housed the CIA, but Kabul Police Chief Ayub Salangi said there had been an exchange of fire at the Ariana hotel, which he described as a CIA office. He declined further comment on what happened in an area where access is restricted even for Afghan forces.
TURNED BY THE TALIBAN?
The shooting follows a string of attacks by Afghan security forces against their NATO-led mentors carried out either by "rogue" soldiers and police or by insurgents who have infiltrated security forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid could not immediately be reached for comment, but a senior Taliban commander reached by phone from Pakistan said the man had secretly joined the insurgents after a group of Taliban approached him to remind him "of his moral and religious duty as an Afghan."
"He used the enemy's weapons against the enemy and that's what we have been doing everywhere in Afghanistan," said the Taliban commander, who is operating in Afghanistan and asked for anonymity for security reasons.
"This place is at the heart of Kabul and we wanted to tell the Americans that we can chase them anywhere," he added.
The Ariana hotel is just a few blocks away from the Presidential Palace and the U.S. embassy, and has been used by ruling regimes for many years.
Waheed Mujhda, of the Afghan Analytical and Advisory Center in Kabul, questioned the Taliban's claim of responsibility and said the incident characterized the level of mistrust between the United States and its Afghan allies.
"This is a big security concern for the Americans and it shows they can't fully trust their Afghan staff. But the Americans never want to accept that there are serious trust and cooperation issues and they have encountered that in their security operations with Afghan forces."
HISTORY OF ATTACKS
The CIA suffered the second deadliest attack in its history on an Afghan base at the end of 2009, when a would-be informant blew himself up, killing seven CIA officers.
The agency has acknowledged "missteps" and "shortcomings" that included failing to act on warnings about the assailant from Jordanian intelligence or take security precautions.
Suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi tricked the CIA into believing he could be a useful tool in the battle against al Qaeda, and was invited inside a well-fortified U.S. compound in Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.
The CIA director at the time, Leon Panetta, made 23 changes after that attack, but noted that counterterrorism work still required working with "dangerous people in situations involving a high degree of ambiguity and risk."
Sunday's shooting came the same month that insurgents took over an unfinished high-rise near the city's heavily guarded military, political and diplomatic heart and showered rockets down on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters.
That attack lasted 20 hours, and the United States has blamed it on the Haqqani network of militants, who were long based in Pakistan's lawless frontier regions although they now say they have moved back into Afghanistan.
Washington accused Pakistan's spy service of offering them support. Pakistan has strongly denied the allegations.
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR, Mark Hosenball in WASHINGTON and Martin Petty in KABUL;)
Sunday, September 25, 2011