Friday, January 31, 2014

After billions in U.S. investment, Afghan roads are falling apart --- SAYEDABAD, Afghanistan — They look like victims of an insurgent attack — their limbs in need of amputation, their skulls cracked — but the patients who pour daily into the Ghazni Provincial Hospital are casualties of another Afghan crisis. -- They are motorists who drove on the road network built by the U.S. government and other Western donors — a $4 billion project that was once a symbol of promise in post-Taliban Afghanistan but is now falling apart. -- Western officials say the Afghan government is unable to maintain even a fraction of the roads and highways constructed since 2001, when the country had less than 50 miles of paved roads. The deterioration has hurt commerce and slowed military operations. In many places, the roads once deemed the hallmark of America’s development effort have turned into death traps, full of cars careening into massive bomb-blast craters or sliding off crumbling pavement. -- “There’s been nothing. No maintenance,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. -- Since 2012, the United States has refused to fund the Afghan government’s road maintenance projects because it has no faith in the country’s ability to perform even simple tasks, such as dispatching a contractor to fill in a pothole or repaving a stretch of highway. -- Despite those concerns, the U.S. government is still building new roads in Afghanistan, multimillion-dollar projects whose funds were allocated years ago. -- The Afghans say they are doing some maintenance but claim the cutoff in U.S. funds has left them hamstrung. -- “We don’t have enough money to work as they did,” said Mohammad Aref Raiskhel, the director of maintenance at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Works. “I beg them to help us once again.” --- Before the U.S. invasion in 2001, almost all of Afghanistan’s roads — mostly Soviet-built — had been destroyed by war and neglect. The new, U.S.-built highways seemed to be a godsend for this impoverished nation. But the projects became notorious for their exorbitant costs and poorly implemented contracts. Sometimes, money landed in the hands of the Taliban in exchange for a tacit cease-fire during road construction. -- Now the rapid deterioration of the roads could come to symbolize a failure to preserve key gains. - More, Kevin Sieff, washingtonpost, at:

یونسف نسبت به قاچاق اطفال افغان ابراز نگرانی کرد --- یونسف نسبت به قاچاق اطفال افغان ابراز نگرانی کرد -- سالانه شماری از اطفال و نوجوانان در افغانستان از سوی قاچاقبران انسان به منظور انتقال و رساندن به کشور دیگر و یا هم برای استفاده از نیروی کار ارزان و بهره برداری های جنسی قاچاق می شوند. -- یونسف یا صندوق وجهی سازمان ملل متحد برای اطفال در افغانستان می گوید که از وضعیت اطفال آسیب پذیر به خصوص پدیدهء قاچاق اطفال و نوجوانان در این کشور نگران است. -- عزیز فروتن مسوول بخش معلومات یونسف در افغانستان در صحبت با رادیو آزادی گفت که اطفال افغان برای مقاصد متعدد قاچاق شده و در معرض بیشترین خطر قرار می گیرند. -- آقای فروتن از حکومت افغانستان خواست تا در راستای مبارزه علیه قاچاقبران انسان اقدام جدی نماید: -- « مسأله ترافیک اطفال در افغانستان وجود دارد و خطرات و مشکلات هم از همان زمانی که یک خانواده اطفال شان را به قاچاقبر می سپارند آغاز می گردد. در بسیاری موارد امکان دارد این طفل در ولایت دیگری مورد استعمار اقتصادی قرار بگیرد، امکان دارد مورد استفاده جنسی قرار گیرد و یا هم از سوی پولیس به زندان افگنده شود. امکان دارد در کشورهای دیگر مورد خرید و فروش قرار گیرد و یا هم از آنان در کارهای شاقه استفاده شود و حتی جان های شان را از دست بدهند. ما از این ناحیه تشویش داریم.» -- هر چند آقای فروتن احصایهٔ دقیقی از قاچاق اطفال از افغانستان را ارایه نکرد، اما افزود که عدم آگاهی خانواده ها بیشتر سبب شده تا این پدیده همچنان منحیث یک معضل بزرگ اجتماعی باقی بماند. -- ادارات بین المللی در افغانستان می گویند، اطفالی که در این کشور قربانی قاچاق می شوند در بسیاری موارد متعلق به خانواده های فقیر و کم درآمد اند. -- "IOM" یا اداره بین المللی مهاجرت در افغانستان می گوید، بر علاوه انتقال اطفال از سوی قاچاقبران انسان به بیرون از سرحدات این کشور، قاچاق اطفال به منظور استخدام و سایر بهره برداری ها رو به افزایش است. -- به گفتهء مسوولان این اداره، تنها در سال 2013 میلادی به تعداد 246 قضیه قاچاق اطفال از سوی آنان به ثبت رسیده اند. --- در همین حال وزارت امور داخله افغانستان می گوید که گروه های مافیایی داخلی و منطقه یی در قاچاق انسان به خصوص اطفال در افغانستان دست دارند. -- صدیق صدیقی سخنگوی این وزارت از تلاش های ارگان های امنیتی در زمینه شناسایی و دستگیری قاچاقبران انسان می گوید: -- « گروه های در منطقه هستند که قاچاق انسان را از یک کشور به کشور دیگر انجام می دهند، متاسفانه اتباع افغانستان و کشور های همسایه هم هستند که در این قضایا دست دارند. در سال روان 45 قضیه را پولیس افغانستان توانست کشف نماید. نزدیک به 100 نفر که متهمین اصلی هستند و در این قضایا دست دارند ما دستگیر کردیم و آنها را به نهاد های عدلی سپردیم.» - رادیو آزادی

Afghanistan Must Protect Its Most Precious Achievement: Free Media -- KABUL, Afghanistan -- When my brothers and I returned to our native Afghanistan in 2002 following the fall of the Taliban, we encountered a country suffering from crushing poverty, ethnic divisions, and worst of all, a pervasive lack of access to information that had helped sustain a brutal dictatorship for years. -- Within five years, we were astonished and proud to see that Afghanistan had transformed itself from one of the most repressed nations into one that boasted the freest media sector in the region. This transformation had also allowed for civil society to flourish and to challenge the establishment in ways that were unimaginable in neighboring countries. -- According to research by Roshan, the country's largest telecom company, 60 percent of Afghans regularly watch television and 95 percent listen to the radio. A third of Afghan viewers watch two or more hours per day of television -- a statistic that defies logic given the limited access to electricity. How could Afghanistan -- one of the world's most impoverished and undeveloped countries -- achieve what no one else has regionally? Three factors have led to the success of media in our beleaguered nation, and show that its success has been far from accidental. -- First of all, the 2001 Bonn Agreement, the basis for our future constitution, implicitly protected media by recognizing Afghanistan's 1964 constitution, which enshrined the right to free expression. Such early initiatives of Afghan politicians working in conjunction with the international community established press protections that allowed the likes of my company, MOBY Group, to set up Afghanistan's first free media outlet when it established radio station Arman FM in 2003. --Secondly, credit must go to President Hamid Karzai and his long-serving Information and Culture Minister, Sayed Makhdoom Rahin, who have both helped to empower Afghan civil society. Though we have had our share of problems with both men, the fact that no television or radio station has been permanently shut down is a testament to their commitment to free press. -- Thirdly, Afghanistan's youthful population, with 60 percent under the age of 20, has allowed us to grow with the population. A young, aspirational viewership harboring limited or no bias and possessing an insatiable appetite for entertainment, news, and current affairs content, has stimulated Afghanistan's many outlets to churn out thousands of programs annually to meet this demand. -- Afghan channels have been surprisingly pioneering, in many cases years ahead of the region's Arabic channels. Reality show formats such as Tolo TV's "The Candidate" featured youths discussing hypothetical political candidacy and being voted into "office" by audience text message votes. -- The development of Afghanistan's media has gone hand in hand with the explosion of mobile phone use. Two-thirds of Afghanistan's population -- some 20 million people -- uses mobile phones, including nearly half of all women, according to a 2012 USAID study. --- While many would argue that progress is irreversible, we believe that in order to sustain Afghanistan's greatest achievement we must remain committed to protecting free media. This would entail the international community placing conditions on aid and protecting the press in a post-2014 Afghanistan. My country has come a long way in the last decade, but Afghan politicians, commentators, academics and leaders must not take freedom of expression and media for granted. We need to take ownership of our own issues and not let go of our greatest accomplishment since 2001. - More, Saad Mohseni.- Huffingtonpost, at:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Amanda Knox found guilty of murder again by Italian court --- Florence, Italy (CNN) -- An Italian appeals court convicted former exchange student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito on murder charges Thursday night. -- Prosecutors said the couple had killed Meredith Kercher in November 2007. They were convicted two years later of murder, but those charges were overturned on appeal in 2011. -- A judge said Thursday that Knox, also convicted of slander, was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison. Sollecito's sentence was 25 years. --- Knox, an American, said her conviction would bring no consolation to the Kercher's family -- "I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict," she said in written remarks. "Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system. The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. ...There has always been a marked lack of evidence." -- She called the legal proceedings a travesty. -- "This has gotten out of hand. Most troubling is that it was entirely preventable," she said. "I beseech those with the knowledge and authority to address and remediate the problems that worked to pervert the course of justice and waste the valuable resources of the system." --- It is unlikely that Knox, who lives in Seattle, Washington, will return to Italy to serve additional prison time because U.S. law dictates that a person cannot be tried twice on the same charge, a legal expert told CNN. He believes that if Italy were to ask for extradition, U.S. officials would deny the request. -- "She was once put in jeopardy and later acquitted," said Sean Casey, a former prosecutor who is now a partner at Kobre & Kim in New York. "Under the treaty, extradition should not be granted." -- Presiding judge Alessandro Nencini has 90 days to write his arguments behind the jury's ruling. Once that is out, lawyers have 90 days to appeal. - More, CNN, at:

Churchill, Obama and Afghanistan --- The young Winston Churchill was under no illusions about the enormous challenge of waging war in Afghanistan. "Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Militarily it is an open question, and politically it is a blunder." -- Churchill wrote these words in 1897 when, as a young cavalry officer, he found himself fighting the great-great-grandfathers of the modern Taliban movement. Churchill came very close to losing his own life during the six weeks he spent on the border of what is now modern Pakistan, and his summary of the British effort in the 19th century eerily echoes the sentiments many Western soldiers must now feel as they seek to wind down combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of this year. -- So much has changed in the century or so since 2nd Lt. W.S. Churchill fought the region's "wild, rifle-armed clansmen," as he called them. But the lessons of his first proper taste of military combat are just as relevant for those participating in the modern campaign as they were for the Victorian era. -- Churchill, like any other junior officer of his generation, initially approached his participation in the punitive campaigns of the 1890s with great relish, and every confidence that the military superiority of the British would easily prevail over the primitive tribesmen. --- But after six weeks of intense fighting, during which he came under fire "10 complete times" and on several occasions came within a whisker of losing his life, Churchill had changed his tune. War was a gory spectacle, the young Winston concluded, and it was unlikely that the Pashtun tribesmen, whom today form the backbone of the Taliban movement, could ever be beaten by military might alone. -- This certainly seemed to be the conclusion that former U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the retired commander of the decade-long NATO mission in Afghanistan, reached when he devised his counterinsurgency strategy for defeating the Taliban. In an interview in 2011, Gen. Petraeus told me that, during his research on how to deal with the Taliban, he had read Churchill's account of his first war and had studied the British experience. -- He went on to explain that he believed the conflict in Afghanistan could not be won by military force alone. "You cannot kill or capture your way out of an industrial-strength insurgency," Gen. Petraeus explained. "You have to do some of that, but you need to include a political dimension." --- But, as NATO forces prepare to end all combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of this year, the prospect of finding a political solution to a conflict that has dominated the international landscape since September 2001 remains as remote as ever. To achieve a political solution in Afghanistan you need political resolve—especially on the part of Western politicians and U.S. President Obama, who have the responsibility to make sure their campaign reaches a successful conclusion. The fundamental problem today is that the political will to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table is nonexistent as far as the Obama administration is concerned. -- Rather than seeing the campaign through to the bitter end and ensuring that the sacrifices of thousands of American soldiers will not have been in vain, the Obama administration has decided instead to opt for a policy of "cut and run," with all the implications that is likely to have for American security in the years to come. - More, Con Coughlin, Wall Street Journal, at:

U.S.: Afghanistan can't 'keep deferring' decision on security pact --- (Reuters) - The United States and its allies cannot continue to put off decisions about a post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, urging Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a pact allowing U.S. troops to stay beyond this year. -- "You can't just keep deferring and deferring, because at some point the realities of planning and budgeting and all that is required collides," Hagel told reporters late on Wednesday, aboard a military aircraft en route to Poland. -- Hagel said President Barack Obama was personally examining what a possible post-2014 U.S. force in Afghanistan might look like, should the security pact be finalized this year. -- The U.S. military has advocated keeping a modest-sized force of around 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to anchor a post-2014 mission that would focus on training and supporting Afghan forces and conducting counter-terrorism activities. --- Hagel said his counterparts from NATO nations were likewise concerned about the delay in finalizing their plans for Afghanistan beyond this year. "They have parliaments, they have budgets, they have their citizens," he said. -- Hagel said that while officials continued to urge Karzai to finalize the deal, there were limits to what the United States could do. -- "(Karzai) is the elected president of a sovereign nation, and our ability to influence whatever decisions an elected president and leader of a sovereign nation makes on behalf of their country is limited," he said.

Chuck Hagel Hints At U.S. Impatience With Hamid Karzai --- WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hinted Thursday at growing U.S. impatience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for not signing an accord permitting American troops to remain in his country after the U.S. combat mission ends in December. -- Hagel told reporters flying with him to Poland that at some point Karzai's indecision will interfere with Washington's need to plan the post-2014 military mission that Karzai himself has said he favors. -- "You can't just keep deferring and deferring, because at some point the realities of planning and budgeting — it collides," Hagel said aboard his plane. -- He said U.S. officials, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, have pressed Karzai and "talk with him constantly." -- Hagel said he respects Karzai's right to decide the matter as he sees fit, and noted that the United States' ability to influence Karzai's decision-making is "limited." -- He added that U.S. allies who are willing to help train and advise Afghan forces beyond 2014 also are eager to know if there will be a U.S.-Afghan security agreement soon. -- The U.S. now has about 39,000 troops in Afghanistan but would reduce that figure to zero by year's end unless a security accord is signed in the months ahead. -- Hagel was visiting Warsaw to consult with Polish officials on Afghanistan and other security issues. - HuffPost

Karzai’s top aide hopeful to finalize Afghan-US security deal soon --- The national security advisor to president Hamid Karzai, Rangin Dadfar Spanta said Thursday that serious negotiations were in progress between Afghan and Us officials to finalize the signing of the bilateral security agreement between the two nations. -- Spanta told reporters that the bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington will help peace and stability in the country. -- He assured that the security agreement will be signed and hoped that the agreement will be signed before the presidential elections which is due to be organized in April. -- In the meantime, Spanta expressed concerns that further delay in signing the security deal will further destabilize the country. -- However, he emphasized that the government of Afghanistan is keen to sign a sold substantial deal with Washington, and a sophisticated and confusing pact will not ensure peace and stability in the country. -- According to Spanta, a contradiction is noted in the foreign policies of world powers including United States of America, since Washington is keen to have strategic relations and cooperation both with the aggressors and victims. --- He specifically pointed towards Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan during the past 12 years, which is supporting the militant groups in Afghanistan by sending suicide bombers, besides continuing cross-border shelling in eastern provinces of Afghanistan. -- He also added that Pakistan is directly interferring in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, if Islamabad is looking to suspend the Afghan peace talks until Afghan elections are organized. -- Spanta urged Washington to specify the barriers which prevents the Afghan peace talks to become successful. - More, Khaama Press

During Speech, Obama Softens Tone On Afghan Pullout --- ZALMAY KHALILZAD: I think the administration has decided not to go for the so-called zero option, which was to use Karzai's refusal to sign the agreement now and say: We wanted to stay but Karzai has refused, so we're coming home. That would have been the popular thing to do. But that would have been, I think, dangerous, certainly for Afghanistan because - and they need U.S. military support and, most importantly, financial support. And besides, it would have also had negative effects on our ability to conduct counter-terror operations against the remaining al-Qaida elements in Pakistan. -- KHALILZAD: I think that has been a problematic approach, to put it diplomatically, because we have set deadlines and then those deadlines have passed and that had emboldened Karzai and has led him to believe that Afghanistan is the single most important piece of territory for the United States in the world and no matter what he does, we will accommodate his concern. -- I've told him when I've seen him in recent times, look, don't overplay your hand. -- KHALILZAD: What is needed, what is appropriate in my view, is to have a posture that the United is willing to sign it with the current government or wait two months. There is an election coming and there will be a new president of Afghanistan. All the major candidates have said they will sign the agreement because the agreement is very popular. -- KHALILZAD: Yes, there is. He was a great partner at the beginning, but a number of things have brought about changes in Karzai's behavior, and I think it largely has to do with Pakistan. Karzai, from the very beginning, has been despondent about the situation with Pakistan, which is regarded an ally of the United States, has been a sanctuary for the Taliban. -- Now he's become conspiracy theorist where he thinks we are in collusion with Pakistan to allow this to justify our presence, put at risk... KHALILZAD: And otherwise why would the U.S. not use its enormous leverage, as he sees it... KHALILZAD: ...and tell Pakistan this will not do, this has to stop. --- KHALILZAD: A lot has already been achieved. Look at the number of kids going to school, including girls. Look at the infrastructure. Life expectancy has gone up. No doubt we've made some mistakes. Afghan corruption, there have been some resources wasted, but it would be a mistake to believe, in my judgment, that we have not achieved anything in Afghanistan. We have achieved a lot. - More, Morning Edition, at:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The South’s disastrous response to the winter storm, in pictures --- Students slept in school gyms. Workers slept in the aisles at CVS. Commuters wouldn’t have missed much if they fell asleep in their cars. -- Winter Storm Leon, which left about two inches of snow covering the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, hit Atlanta particularly hard. Late Tuesday, the National Weather Service said 2.3 inches was recorded at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, AP reported. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

Obama’s six big foreign policy points in the State of the Union --- President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night did not dwell extensively on foreign policy. Obama offered no new proposals and seemed to talk around some of the toughest challenges. But he did discuss the United States' role in the world, particularly in the Middle East. Here are the big quotes from his speech, what they mean and what they left out. -- (1) Pushing hard for the nuclear deal with Iran -- (2) We're pulling out of Afghanistan -- (3) We're still going to fight terrorists, though -- (4) Sunny thinking on Syria -- (5) A nod to nuclear disarmament -- (6) The Arab Spring and pivot to Asia fall by the wayside --- All in all, it's no wonder we didn't hear much about foreign policy last night. - More, Max Fisher, Washingtonpost, at:

In Obama's State of Union Address, a Warning on Iran --- Speech Outlines National-Security Policy Reliant on Diplomatic Influence Backed by Military Strength -- WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that talks with Iran over its nuclear program will be difficult and "may not succeed," but said that for the sake of national security, the U.S. must try to negotiate a deal with Tehran. -- In his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama defended the U.S. overture to Iran, his most important foreign-policy push of the year and one of the few new foreign-policy initiatives in a speech heavy on domestic proposals. --- Mr. Obama in the speech also outlined a view of national-security policy that relies on diplomatic influence backed by military strength. He stressed his skepticism of overseas entanglements, in one of his clearest articulations to date on the issue. -- "I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it's truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts," Mr. Obama said. "We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us—large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism." -- Mr. Obama also said Tuesday he would keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014, if the Afghan government agrees to a bilateral security arrangement. --- In glancing comments, he said the U.S. would continue with its focus on Asia, keep pressuring the Syrian regime over the civil war, and maintain support for democracy proponents in Myanmar, Ukraine and elsewhere. He skipped over political turmoil in Egypt, voiced hope for talks between Israelis and Palestinians and said he would work to restore confidence in U.S. surveillance programs at home and abroad. --- "President Obama is relaxing Iran sanctions at a time when public intelligence predicts Iran will have the means to build and launch a nuclear weapon that could hit the United States by 2015—only a year away," Mr. Inhofe said in a statement. -- Mr. Obama placed the negotiations in a historical context: "If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today," Mr. Obama said. --- In Afghanistan, the U.S. military has said it would like to see 10,000 U.S. troops remain in place—at least for a short period—after the formal end of combat this year. Military officials have said if Mr. Obama doesn't want to send 10,000, they would advocate drawing troop levels down to zero, saying that fewer troops would be unable to carry out meaningful operations. -- Mr. Obama still could opt for a force smaller than 10,000, although U.S. officials have said they believe the White House understands the military's objections to doing so. -- Military planners also have proposed drawing down any "follow-on force" relatively quickly, potentially leaving only a handful of troops in Afghanistan by the end of Mr. Obama's term. -- Any long-term presence in Afghanistan would require a new bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai so far has refused to sign one. - More, Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal

اوباما: در صورت امضای موافقت‌نامه امنیتی، تعدادی از نیروهای ما در افغانستان باقی می‌مانند --- باراک اوباما رئیس جمهور ایالات متحده امریکا، در سخنرانی سالانه خود خطاب به همشهریان امریکایی گفت در صورتی‌که موافقت‌نامه امنیتی میان دولت‌های افغانستان و ایالات متحده به امضا برسد، بخشی از نیروهای امریکایی پس از سال ۲۰۱۴ در افغانستان باقی می‌مانند. -- به گفته‌ی آقای اوباما، ماموریت اصلی نیروهایی که پس از ۲۰۱۴ در افغانستان حضور خواهند داشت، آموزش نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان و کمک به این نیروهاست. رییس جمهور امریکا همچنین گفت که این نیروها در ماموریت‌های مبارزه علیه تروریزم و القاعده نیز سهم خواهند گرفت. -- آقای اوباما که صبح امروز به وقت افغانستان در کنگره امریکا سخنرانی سالانه خود را ایراد می‌کرد، افزود که ماموریت نیروهای بین‌المللی در افغانستان پایان سال جاری میلادی خاتمه می‌یابد و مسوولیت‌ها را نیروهای امنیتی افغانستان به عهده می‌گیرند. -- رییس جمهور امریکا که در این سخنرانی خود بیشتر به موضوعات داخلی ایالات متحده به ویژه روی مسایل اقتصادی پیچید، جنگ افغانستان را طولانی‌ترین جنگ ایالات متحده امریکا توصیف کرد. آقای اوباما گفت از افغانستان به عنوان یک کشور متحد نام برد و گفت ایالات متحده امریکا از یک افغانستان متحد پس از ۲۰۱۴ حمایت می‌کند. -- رییس جمهور ایالات متحده امریکا تاکید کرد که رابطه میان افغانستان و ایالات متحده امریکا تغییر خواهد کرد اما چیزی که تغییر نمی‌کند این است که دیگر اجازه حمله تروریستان به ایالات متحده امریکا داده نمی‌شود. --- مساله هسته‌ای ایران، خشونت‌های جاری در سوریه، شورش‌ها در سومالیا، اختلافات میان اسراییل و فلسطین از جمله دیگر موضوعات مورد بحث آقای اوباما در سخنرانی سالانه‌اش در کنگره بود. آقای اوباما از تلاش‌های اخیر کشورهای غربی برای حل مساله هسته‌ای ایران حمایت کرد و از کنگره خواست تا از اعمال تحریم‌های بیشتر علیه ایران به منظور نتیجه بخش شدن تلاش‌ها خودداری کند. --- این سخنرانی که سه شنبه شب به وقت امریکا و صبح چهار شنبه به وقت افغانستان ایراد شد، از رسانه‌های مهم بین‌المللی به صورت زنده نشر می‌شد. - هشت صبح

Text and Video of Obama’s State of the Union Address --- The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs. --- So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across- the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. -- I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people. --- Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. Give them that chance. Give them the chance. They need our help right now, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families. And in fact, this week many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. -- Tonight I ask every business leader in America to join us and do the same because we are stronger when America fields a full team. -- Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education. - More, NYTimes, at:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In State of the Union Address, Obama Vows to Act Alone on the Economy --- WASHINGTON — After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday as he vowed to tackle economic disparity with a series of limited initiatives on jobs, wages and retirement that he will enact without legislative approval. -- Promising “a year of action” as he tries to rejuvenate a presidency mired in low approval ratings and stymied by partisan stalemates, Mr. Obama used his annual State of the Union address to chart a new path forward relying on his own executive authority. But the defiant “with or without Congress” approach was more assertive than any of the individual policies he advanced. -- “I’m eager to work with all of you,” a confident Mr. Obama told lawmakers of both parties in the 65-minute nationally televised speech in the House chamber. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” -- The president’s appearance at the Capitol, with all the traditional pomp and anticipation punctuated by partisan standing ovations, came at a critical juncture as Mr. Obama seeks to define his remaining time in office. He touched on foreign policy, asserting that “American diplomacy backed by the threat of force” had forced Syria to give up chemical weapons and that “American diplomacy backed by pressure” had brought Iran to the negotiating table. And he repeated his plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan this year and threatened again to veto sanctions on Iran that disrupt his diplomatic efforts. -- The most emotional point of the evening came with the introduction of Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger the president had met both before and after he was ravaged by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. As Sergeant Remsburg, blind in one eye and having to learn to walk again, made it to his feet in the first lady’s box, lawmakers of both parties gave him an extended ovation. --- But Mr. Obama’s message centered on the wide gap between the wealthiest and other Americans as he positioned himself as a champion of those left behind in the modern economy. “Those at the top have never done better,” he said. “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. --- “The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone to get ahead,” he added. “And too many still aren’t working at all. So our job is to reverse these trends.” - More, PETER BAKER, NYTimes, at:

President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. --- Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over. --- After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country. --- The fact is that danger remains. While we've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we'll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we'll keep strengthening our defenses and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions. --- We have to remain vigilant. -- But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone. As commander in chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles --- that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us -- large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism. –- So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks, through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing. That's why I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. --- That's why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay -- because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world. --- You see, in a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power -- including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. -- Here is the complete transcript of his remarks -- Washington Post, at:

Ice and snow bring chaotic commutes to much of South --- (CNN) -- Cars stuck in ditches. Children stranded at schools that parents can't reach. Icy roads and snow that shows no sign of stopping. -- As a winter storm slammed into a broad swath of the South on Tuesday, authorities warned drivers to stay off the streets. -- "This is a very dangerous situation," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in the afternoon. "People need to stay at home. They need to stay there until conditions improve." -- Motorists in major metropolitan areas including Atlanta sat trapped in gridlock as schools and offices shut down, unleashing hordes of vehicles onto slushy roadways. -- While Northerners may laugh at their Southern friends' panic over a dusting of snow, the threat is real: With relatively few resources to battle snow and ice, public works crews may have a difficult time keeping up with any significant accumulation. -- Add to that the fact that millions of Southern drivers aren't used to driving on snow or ice, and things were getting tricky fast. - More, CNN, at:

Half of Afghan children suffer irreversible harm from malnutrition --- Afghanistan is raising a stunted generation whose hobbled development could spell disaster for the country's feeble economy and undermine the impact of billions of dollars in aid poured into health, education and other areas. -- More than half of Afghan girls and boys suffer damage to their minds and bodies that cannot be undone because they are poorly nourished in the crucial first two years of life, doctors and other experts say. The finding raises serious questions about the legacy of more than 10 years of western involvement in Afghanistan. --- "After the age of two years, stunting is largely irreversible, and has an impact on growth and development and cognitive function," says Carrie Morrison from the World Food Programme. "Over the longer term, it can have a very damaging effect on the national economy. Young people are not able to attain what they should be able to attain. Women who marry young and are stunted themselves give birth to a small infant and the cycle goes on." --- Children who are not getting enough nutrients from their food suffer from what is known as chronic malnutrition. The problem afflicts poor countries worldwide, but in Afghanistan it is particularly widespread and persistent. --- A decade after the fall of the Taliban government, 55% of the country's children are stunted because of inadequate food, Afghan government and UN data shows. -- The statistic is a damning one for western powers that have poured billions into Afghanistan to fund development and reconstruction. The US alone has spent $90bn (£54bn). Such funding aimed to modernise Afghanistan, but return on the spending seems to have been low. --- As foreign troops prepare to head home, violence is spreading and Afghanistan remains one of the world's poorest countries, with low life expectancy and poor healthcare for mothers and young children. The malnutrition problem is caused by the basic poverty of those who cannot afford healthy food, as well as poor hygiene and healthcare, the tradition of child marriage, and a web of other issues. --- But poverty is also a pressing problem, in a country where a third of all citizens do not always know where their next meal will come from. A recent UN study found that even a minimally healthy diet was beyond the reach of the majority of Afghans; in some provinces, only one in five could afford regular balanced meals. --- Extreme poverty and a harsh climate mean many Afghans go hungry. One-third of the population do not get enough food to live healthy, active lives, and another third hover around the borderline of "food insecurity", or not knowing where their next meal will come from. But the food shortages are particularly damaging to young children, who need to develop fast. --- International studies show that children who are properly fed can earn between a third and a half more as adults than those who did not get a proper diet, the World Food Programme's Morrison says. -- And overall malnutrition shaves 2%-3% off Afghanistan's national income each year, the World Bank says. That's around half a billion dollars lost to an already very poor country. - More, Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian, at:

«اگر تلاش های امریکا برای صلح ناکام شده، دلایل آنرا اعلان کند» --- حکومت افغانستان می گوید، اگر امریکا نمی تواند تلاش های صلح را به گونه عملی در افغانستان آغاز کند باید دلایل آن را رسماً اعلان کند. -- به باور مقام های افغان، با اعلام دلایلی که امریکا چرا نمی تواند در افغانستان تلاش های عملی صلح را آغاز کند، طرف اصلی جنگ در برابر حکومت افغانستان مشخص خواهد شد. -- ایمل فیضی سخنگوی رییس جمهور کرزی عصر روز دوشنبه با تعداد محدود از خبرنگاران در کابل گفت، امریکا تا حالا تلاش های عملی صلح را آغاز نکرده است. -- آقای فیضی افزود که ایالات متحده تا حالا بالای طالبان مسلح و پاکستان نیز فشار های لازم را وارد نکرده است که بتواند در روند صلح این کشور مفید واقع شود: -- « ما اقدامات لازم را در ارتباط به آغاز عملی و علنی پروسهء صلح ندیدم. اگر شما می گوید که کوشش خود را کرده اید و تلاش های شما کامیاب نشد، دلیل این ناکامی را باید شما رسماً اعلان کنید.» -- بیشتر از دو ماه می شود که میان حکومت افغانستان و ایالات متحده در مورد امضای توافقنامه امنیتی تنش ادامه دارد.-- امریکا می گوید که این توافقنامه باید هر چه زود تر امضا شود اما حکومت افغانستان بر پذیرفتن شرایط اش در این قسمت تاکید می کند. --- آغاز پروسه عملی صلح، تالاشی نکردن خانه های افغان ها توسط نیرو های خارجی و عدم مداخله در انتخابات آینده در افغانستان از شرایطی عمده حکومت این کشور برای امضا کردن سند امنیتی و دفاعی با ایالات متحده خوانده شده است. -- اما مقام های امریکایی گفته اند که شرط حکومت افغانستان در بخش آغاز عملی تلاش های صلح درازمدت بوده و در وقت کم عملی نیست. --- از سوی هم ایمل فیضی سخنگوی رییس جمهور کرزی می گوید که طالبان مسلح در جنگ موجود افغانستان صرف یک نام هستند و بیشتر حملات در این کشور از سوی حلقات استخباراتی کشور های منطقه انجام می شود. -- ایمل فیضی به افزایش حملات انتحاری و انفجاری در شهر کابل و بعضی از ولایات افغانستان نیز اشاره کرده و گفت که این حملات بیشتر به هدف فشار سیاسی بر حکومت افغانستان صورت می گیرد. -- « برعلاوه طالبان مسلح حملات اخیر عوامل دیگری نیز دارند و دست های بیرونی دیگر نیز در عقب این حملات موجود اند. درعقب بعضی حملات در افغانستان طالبان مسلح دست دارند و همچنان کشور های دیگر و سازمان های استخباراتی بیرونی نیز در این حملات شامل اند.» -- رادیو آزادی

Obama to raise minimum wage for government contract workers --- President Obama will announce in the State of the Union address Tuesday that he will use his executive power to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on new government contracts, fulfilling a top demand by liberal lawmakers and groups, according to a White House document. -- Obama will also renew his call for Congress to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2015. But the president is taking the executive action with no clear timeline for Congress acting on the broader legislation. Previously, the White House said it wanted to concentrate on the legislative route for boosting the minimum wage. -- “Hardworking Americans — including janitors and construction workers — working on new federal contracts will benefit from the Executive Order (EO),” the White House said in a statement. “Some examples of the hardworking people who would benefit from an EO include military base workers who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry.” -- An estimated 2 million Americans work on federal contracts, though the number of workers receiving the minimum wage would be a fraction of that. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

Afghanistan’s Outcome a Mystery That Obama Can’t Resolve With His Speech --- President Barack Obama proclaimed in his State of the Union address last year that “our war in Afghanistan will be over” by the end of 2014. When he speaks again tonight, he won’t be able to say how it will end. -- Plans to announce a continuing U.S. presence in the country have been frustrated by President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign an agreement for some troops to stay, as he has made a succession of demands, hurled accusations questioning American actions and intentions and ordered the release of prisoners the U.S. and allies call dangerous insurgents. -- While Obama administration officials had said Karzai needed to sign the troop agreement by the end of last month, they should wait until after Afghan’s presidential elections in April and deal instead with his successor, according to David Sedney, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. -- “I hope the president leaves the door open for continued discussions” in his State of the Union speech, Sedney said in an interview. “Because the question that Afghans are asking is why can’t we wait for the next Afghan president?” - More, Gopal Ratnam, Bloomberg News, at:

Democrats hope Obama’s State of Union speech will be start of populist agenda --- In recent weeks, some Democratic lawmakers and strategists have urged the White House to focus less on academic-sounding discussions of income inequality and to simplify Obama’s message to reflect the everyday concerns of Americans. White House officials say they have long planned to emphasize such issues. -- The approach is notable because raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for domestic initiatives was a centerpiece of Obama’s first-term economic agenda — a move aimed squarely at shrinking income inequality. In speeches over the past year, the president has bounced between wonky discussions about inequality and practical speeches on helping the middle class. --- Obama is planning to follow the State of the Union address with trips to Maryland’s Prince George’s County and to Wisconsin , Tennessee and Pennsylvania before an event later this week focused on long-term unemployment, which is one of the nation’s most persistent economic problems. The president is expected to announce that he will take executive actions to address a wide range of economic challenges, aides said. -- Republicans are preparing a counterattack, warning that Obama will compromise his ability to get anything done in Congress if he goes it alone. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

Karzai suspects U.S. is behind insurgent-style attacks, Afghan officials say --- KABUL — President Hamid Karzai has frequently lashed out at the U.S. military for causing civilian casualties in its raids. But behind the scenes, he has been building a far broader case against the Americans, suggesting that they may have aided or conducted shadowy insurgent-style attacks to undermine his government, according to senior Afghan officials. --- But Karzai believes it was one of many incidents that may have been planned by Americans to weaken him and foment instability in Afghanistan, according to the senior palace official, who is sympathetic to the president’s view and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He acknowledged that his government had no concrete evidence of U.S. involvement and that the American role had not been formally confirmed. -- U.S. officials, who have been informed of some of the claims, have reacted with incredulity and anger to the idea that they are trying to debilitate Afghanistan’s government, which they have supported with hundreds of billions of dollars. -- “It’s a deeply conspiratorial view that’s divorced from reality,” U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham said Monday. He suggested that one reason for the allegations might be to “throw us off balance.” -- The revelation of Karzai’s list helps explain why it has been so hard to conclude a security agreement that would leave thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the formal end of American military operations this year. Many U.S. and Afghan officials believe that accord is vital to this country’s long-term stability, but the Afghan leader has not signed it. -- The senior palace official said that the president began keeping the list several years ago to catalogue what were seen as suspicious incidents that might involve the U.S. government and that he added a slew of new ones over the past year. -- “It flies in the face of logic and morality to think that we would aid the enemy we’re trying to defeat,” said Cunningham, who added that he was aware of such allegations but had not directly heard such charges from Karzai. --- Privately, many U.S. officials wonder whether Karzai even believes his most incendiary contentions or if they are part of an effort to gain politically by demonizing American troops and diplomats. -- “Any suggestion that the U.S. has been involved in any way in suicide attacks or deliberate attacks on Afghan civilians is ludicrous,” said Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. “We have spent 12 years trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan in the face of threats from terrorist and insurgent networks . . . to suggest otherwise does a grave disservice to those who have sacrificed for the people of Afghanistan.” -- The one point both the Afghan and American sides seem to agree on is that relations have deteriorated during the last months of Karzai’s presidency. Congress recently sharply curtailed development aid and military assistance plans for Afghanistan ahead of the U.S. pullout. -- While his skepticism of the U.S. mission appears to have reached a fever pitch, Karzai has long been known for controversial public statements. Last year, he appeared to imply that Americans were collaborating with insurgents, claiming that a recent Taliban attack had “showed that [insurgents] are at the service of America” in attempting to destabilize Afghanistan. - More, Kevin Sieff, Washingtonpost, at:

Spy Agencies Scour Mobile Phone Apps for Personal Data --- When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spies could be lurking in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents. -- In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up. -- According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from the smartphone identification codes of users to where they have been that day. --- The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address books, buddy lists, telephone logs and the geographic data embedded in photographs when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other Internet services. --- The eavesdroppers’ pursuit of mobile networks has been outlined in earlier reports, but the secret documents, shared by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica, offer far more details of their ambitions for smartphones and the apps that run on them. The efforts were part of an initiative called “the mobile surge,” according to a 2011 British document, an analogy to the troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. An N.S.A. analyst’s enthusiasm was evident in the breathless title — “Golden Nugget!” — given to a slide for a top-secret talk in 2010 that described iPhones and Android phones as rich resources, another document noted. --- President Obama announced new restrictions this month to better protect the privacy of ordinary Americans and foreigners from government surveillance, including limits on how the N.S.A. can view the metadata of Americans’ phone calls — the routing information, time stamps and other data associated with calls. But he did not address the information that the intelligence agencies get from leaky apps and other smartphone functions.--- The agencies have long been intercepting earlier generations of cellphone traffic like text messages and metadata from nearly every segment of the mobile network — and, more recently, computer traffic running on Internet pipelines. Because those same networks carry the rush of data from leaky apps, the agencies have a ready-made way to collect and store this new resource. The documents do not address how many users might be affected, whether they include Americans or how often, with so much information collected automatically, analysts would see personal data. -- “N.S.A. does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission,” the agency wrote in response to questions about the program. “Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in N.S.A.’s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process.” Similar protections, the agency said, are in place for “innocent foreign citizens.” - More, NYTimes, at:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Frederick W. Kagan: - Obama Flirts With Losing the 'Must Win' War --- Withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a defeat for America and a victory for al Qaeda. --- The Soviet-installed government of Najibullah fell three years after the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan—and mere months after the Soviets stopped supporting it financially. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved against his Sunni political opponents within 24 hours of the departure of the last American soldier, starting to set the conditions for the loss of all the gains purchased with much American and Iraqi blood. Yet Washington is full of leaks that the Obama administration is planning to end America's military presence in Afghanistan in 2016. And Congress has already slashed U.S. financial assistance to the fifth-poorest country in the world. -- It seems we are about to repeat the mistakes of the past vainly hoping for a different outcome. We will be disappointed. -- Candidate Barack Obama declared in 2008, "we will not repeat the mistake of the past, when we turned our back on Afghanistan following Soviet withdrawal. As 9/11 showed us, the security of Afghanistan and America is shared." He was right about the urgency. He was a poor prophet of his own future policy. --- Our security remains tied to Afghanistan's. Al Qaeda leadership remains battered but defiant (and still operational) in Pakistan despite Osama bin Laden's death. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are enormously larger and more competent than they were when Obama took office, but they are still unable to function independently against an insurgency that remains lethal and determined. Afghanistan remains unable to survive financially without massive infusions of international support. It is preparing for its first peaceful transition of power in many decades. It is impossible to argue for withdrawal on the grounds that Afghanistan no longer needs help. -- Many Americans think Afghanistan no longer wants our help. President Hamid Karzai fuels that belief almost every time he speaks, ranting about American abuses, reviling the U.S., and refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that would give legal basis to continued U.S. presence. Who could possibly want to help a man like that or the country for which he pretends to speak? -- But Mr. Karzai is not Afghanistan. On the contrary, the gathering of influential elders and leaders he convened in November to consider the Bilateral Security Agreement emphatically endorsed it and called on him to sign it quickly. Almost every major candidate running to succeed Mr. Karzai has supported signing the agreement. Advertisements are running on Afghan television stations calling on Mr. Karzai to sign. -- Mr. Karzai's refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement has virtually no support among Afghans. He does not speak for them. And in a few months he will not be leading them. It would be worse than folly to base policies touching long-term American interests on the outbursts of a jaded politician fading gracelessly from the scene. --- The only reason that remains for abandoning Afghanistan is the belief that the cause there is simply lost. It is clear that many advisers to the president such as Douglas Lute have long thought so, opposing a counterinsurgency strategy on the grounds that it cannot succeed and is not necessary. Possibly President Obama himself has come to the conclusion that the strategy he endorsed and partially resourced in 2009 was mistaken. -- The facts do not support this belief. Eight years of a very light-footprint, development-oriented, targeted-strike-focused strategy in Afghanistan left the Taliban on the verge of seizing Kandahar City and almost all of Southern Afghanistan in 2009. Mr. Karzai then was in reality little more than the mayor of Kabul, whose approaches the Taliban controlled or contested. There were fewer than 100,000 members in the ANSF—police and army combined—for a country of 32 million. They were equipped with rifles and pickup trucks. The Afghan Air Force did not fly a single aircraft. --- And Afghanistan still matters to American national security. Mr. Obama was right in 2008 when he called Afghanistan "a war that must be won." The al Qaeda franchises growing around the world threaten the U.S. more imminently than their confederates in Afghanistan or possibly even Pakistan. But they are all looking expectantly to the defeat of another superpower in South Asia. They intend to re-establish themselves in the land where bin Laden founded their organization and from which he hurled planes like thunderbolts at the American foe. History matters to these people and it should matter to us. -- Withdrawal from Afghanistan, whether financial or military or both, will be a defeat for the U.S. and a victory for al Qaeda. It really is that simple. -- Politicians on both sides of the aisle can speechify and expound arguments about how we are winning and losing simultaneously, and how, either way, we should leave now. They may persuade themselves and the American people. But they will be just as wrong as George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were to ignore Afghanistan in the 1990s, to our great pain and suffering. -- We have seen many times what will happen if the U.S. adopts the policy now being leaked. We can be sure that it will end very badly for us. - More, Wall Street Journal, at:

Pakistan urges U.S. to tread carefully in Afghan withdrawal --- (Reuters) - A senior Pakistani official urged the United States on Monday to ensure the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan does not leave a vacuum that threatens regional stability and Pakistan's own security. -- "Although the war in Afghanistan may be winding down, just as in the past, Pakistan will have to face the brunt of any instability that may engulf Afghanistan after 2014," said Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's national security and foreign affairs adviser. -- Aziz and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered prepared remarks before opening discussions in Washington that are part of a 'strategic dialogue,' which have sought to move bilateral relations beyond crisis-driven security concerns to cooperation on trade, energy and education. -- The United States has long said that violence in its long war in Afghanistan has been driven in part by militants' ability to rest and resupply in western Pakistan. American ties with Pakistan have been further strained by U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan. -- Kerry paid tribute to the high price Pakistan has paid in fighting extremism. -- "I think few have suffered more at the hands of terrorists and extremists than people in Pakistan," Kerry said. --- With violence in Afghanistan continuing, including a January 17 suicide bombing that killed 21 civilians at a Kabul restaurant, the future of the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan remains uncertain.--- Aziz said the United States should consider Pakistan's security when making its next moves in Afghanistan, something he said Washington did not do when withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in the early 1990s or returned after the attacks of September 11, 2001. -- "We have to ensure that Afghanistan successfully transitions into a period of stability and that past mistakes are not repeated," Aziz said. -- Kerry acknowledged those concerns and assured Pakistan that Washington valued its continued cooperation on fighting terrorism and on nuclear security. -- "We recognize that Pakistan is a vital partner in supporting a secure Afghanistan," he said. "And we know how closely Pakistan's own security is linked to Afghanistan's success." -- Despite such assurances, the strained relationship between the countries seeped through. Aziz said a prerequisite for a strategic partnership is mutual trust. -- "Once this trust is restored, then any unexpected incident or accident or disagreement on a policy or a tactic will not be able to derail the relationship," he said. -- Both sides welcomed a move toward warmer relations signified by the strategic dialogue and discussed increased investment in trade and energy. Kerry highlighted education and initiatives for the economic advancement of women in Pakistan. - More, Doina Chiacu

FEULNER: A smarter strategy needed in Afghanistan than just exiting --- A residual force would prevent return to terrorism sanctuary, More, Ed Feulner, at:

U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Resumes After Three Years --- Senior U.S. and Pakistani officials have met in Washington for their first "strategic dialogue" session in more than three years. -- Secretary of State John Kerry met with Pakistani foreign-affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz. -- The "strategic dialogue" process was halted after 2010 as relations between Washington and Islamabad plunged over issues including the 2011 U.S. raid inside Pakistan that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. -- Kerry said on January 27 that Pakistan had the capability to rebound from its economic stagnation and become what he called a "tiger economy for the 21st century." - He backed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's economic reforms. -- Aziz was quoted as saying Pakistan hoped Washington will start looking at Pakistan as a more significant partner, and not just through the lenses of the antiterrorism fight and neighboring Afghanistan. - rferl, RadioFreeEurope

Afghanistan Exit Is Seen as Peril to U.S. Drone Mission --- WASHINGTON — The risk that President Obama may be forced to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year has set off concerns inside the American intelligence agencies that they could lose their air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region. -- Until now, the debate here and in Kabul about the size and duration of an American-led allied force in Afghanistan after 2014 had focused on that country’s long-term security. But these new concerns also reflect how troop levels in Afghanistan directly affect long-term American security interests in neighboring Pakistan, according to administration, military and intelligence officials. -- The concern has become serious enough that the Obama administration has organized a team of intelligence, military and policy specialists to devise alternatives to mitigate the damage if a final security deal cannot be struck with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has declined to enact an agreement that American officials thought was completed last year. -- If Mr. Obama ultimately withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, the C.I.A.’s drone bases in the country would have to be closed, according to administration officials, because it could no longer be protected. -- Their concern is that the nearest alternative bases are too far away for drones to reach the mountainous territory in Pakistan where the remnants of Al Qaeda’s central command are hiding. Those bases would also be too distant to monitor and respond as quickly as American forces can today if there were a crisis in the region, such as missing nuclear material or weapons in Pakistan and India. -- A senior administration official, asked about the preparations, responded by email on Sunday that as the possibility of a pullout “has grown in Afghanistan, we have been undertaking a methodical review of any U.S. capabilities that may be affected and developing strategies to mitigate impacts.” -- The official added that the administration was determined to find alternatives, if necessary. “We will be forced to adapt,” the official said, “and while perhaps less than most efficient, the United States will find ways necessary to protect our interests.” -- The issue is coming to the fore after the Pentagon recently presented Mr. Obama with two options for the end of the year. One option calls for a presence through the end of Mr. Obama’s term of 10,000 American troops who could train Afghan troops, conduct counterterrorism raids and protect the American facilities, including those in eastern Afghanistan where drones and nuclear monitoring are based. -- Under the other, so-called zero option, no American troops would remain. The United States has said that if it is unable to reach a final security arrangement with Mr. Karzai, it is prepared, reluctantly, to pull out completely, as it did in Iraq in 2011. -- Mr. Obama has made “no decisions” on troop levels, said Caitlin M. Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We will be weighing inputs from our military commanders, as well as the intelligence community, our diplomats and development experts, as we make decisions about our-post 2014 presence in Afghanistan,” she said. --- In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, however, Mr. Obama is expected to say that by the end of this year the Afghan war will be over — at least for Americans — slightly more than 13 years after it began, making it the longest in American history. -- Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Pakistan’s foreign and national security policy adviser, Sartaj Aziz, here on Monday, and counterterrorism operations are to be a major subject of discussion, a senior State Department official said Sunday. Talking with Pakistan about its nuclear program is especially delicate. --- “You hear about the president’s decision of the ‘zero option’ in the context of the future of Afghanistan, but this is really more about Pakistan,” said one former senior intelligence official who has consulted with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about the problem. “That’s where the biggest problem is.” - More, NYTimes, at:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Obama’s State of the Union talking points. No. 5: Ending the war in Afghanistan --- State of the Union addresses during President Obama’s five years in office have never had the question of America’s place in the world as a centerpiece. This State of the Union will be no different given that it begins the last year Obama can plausibly expect real progress on his domestic agenda, at least when it comes to working with a divided Congress. -- But on Tuesday night before a prime-time audience, he will be able to highlight a milestone in America’s long post-Sept. 11, 2001, period of war and terrorism – a stretch of time he once called “a season of fear.” The U.S. military’s participation in the Afghanistan war – this nation’s longest - will conclude at the end of the year. -- Obama is still hoping his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, will sign the negotiated agreement setting out the U.S. military role beyond 2014. That could include leaving as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to serve a mostly training and counter-terrorism mission. It is uncertain whether Karzai will do so, and if not, the U.S. military departs in full by default. -- Ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan – after doing the same in Iraq two years ago – will be a part of Obama’s historic legacy. Both nations are still fragile, violent, and politically fraught. But the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, at least as it has been fought for the past dozen years, will likely mark a promises-kept note in the State of the Union and a warning of sorts to Karzai. - More, Scott Wilson, Washingtonpost

کاهش کمک‌ها زنگ خطر جدی --- کنگره ایالات متحده امریکا کمک‌های غیرنظامی این کشور را به افغانستان به نصف کاهش داده است. اداره توسعه‌ای ایالات متحده در سال جاری میلادی، با پنجاه درصد کسری بودجه برای افغانستان روبه‌رو است. گفته می‌شود که کاهش این کمک‌ها انگیزه سیاسی دارد، دوام جنجال میان ارگ و کاخ سفید در پیوند به امضای سند همکاری‌های امنیتی و دفاعی، سبب شده است که کنگره امریکا به اختصاص پول بیشتر به افغانستان، علاقه‌مند نباشد. اداره توسعه‌ای ایالات متحده امریکا، بسیاری از پروژه‌های عمرانی کشور را تمویل می‌کند. -- کاهش بودجه این اداره به‌معنای تعطیل شدن برخی از پروژه‌های عمرانی، افزایش بی‌کاری، کم‌رونق شدن اقتصاد و گسترش فقر است. در وضعیتی اقتصادی که ما قرار داریم، کاهش یک درصد کمک فاجعه است، چه رسد به پنجاه درصد آن. متاسفانه وضعیت به سمتی روان است که ما از حمایت امریکا و متحدان آن، در شرایطی که به آن سخت نیاز داریم، محروم می‌شویم. این هشداری است که هر روز برای ارگ داده می‌شود، اما به‌نظر می‌رسد که رییس‌جمهور کرزی، به این هشدارها چندان وقعی نمی‌نهد. ما یک اقتصاد مصرفی وابسته استیم. با تاسف که در ده‌سال گذشته هیچ نوع اندیشه و فکری برای توسعه‌ی اقتصادی کشور و ایجاد یک اقتصاد پویا و تولیدی، مطرح نشد. -- حکومت آقای کرزی فاقد اندیشه و فکر برای توسعه اقتصادی بود. اسنادی مثل استراتژی توسعه ملی افغانستان هم موارد بسیار کلی را در بر دارد و بیشتر توسط متخصصان خارجی، ترتیب شده است. این وضعیت سبب شد که در این دوازده سال، به کمک‌های خارجی بیشتر متکی شویم. در چنین وضعیتی کاهش کمک‌های خارجی، معنای دیگر غیر از تعطیلی پروژه‌ها، تنقیص تشکیلات شرکت‌ها، بی‌کاری و آسیب دیدن اقتصاد خانواده‌ها ندارد. ارگ باید در محاسبه‌هایی که کرده است، کاهش کمک‌های خارجی را به هم مورد نظر قرار دهد. این درست است که از دوستان بین‌المللی خود ثبات بخواهیم، اما باید متوجه این نکته هم باشیم که وضعیت به سمتی نرود که از حمایت‌های مالی و امنیتی بین‌المللی محروم شویم. وقتی امریکایی‌ها هشدار می‌دهند که کمک‌های‌شان را قطع می‌کنند، باید هشدارشان را جدی بگیریم. -- با دوام تنش روی امضای سند همکاری‌های امنیتی و دفاعی، مراجع کمک‌دهنده بین‌المللی دیگر علاقه‌ای به دوام کمک‌های‌شان نشان نمی‌دهند، آن‌هم در شرایطی که پشتیبانی از افغانستان، حامیان زیادی در غرب ندارد. دوام شورش طالبان و الگوی نامطلوبی که آقای کرزی از حکومت‌داری به نمایش گذاشت، از عوامل اصلی کاهش توجه جامعه جهانی به افغانستان است. حالا دوام تنش روی امضای سند همکاری‌های امنیتی و دفاعی نیز مزید بر علت شده است. شاید ارگ‌نشینان زیاد از کاهش کمک‌ها ضرر نکنند. آنان بسته‌های پول را از مراجع گوناگون دریافت می‌کنند، اما روند جاری سیاسی در کشور و مردم افغانستان، بهای کاهش این کمک‌ها را می‌پردازند. --- از سوی دیگر کشورهای حامی افغانستان از جمله ایالات متحده امریکا هم نباید از کاهش کمک‌ها به‌عنوان وسیله فشار استفاده کنند. این وضعیت کل روند جاری را آسیب می‌زند. یکی از اشتباه‌های جامعه جهانی از آغاز این بود که روی زیربناسازی در افغانستان سرمایه‌گذاری نکرد. از همان آغاز، اقتصادی در افغانستان شکل گرفت که مبنای آن خدمات‌رسانی به نیروهای بین‌المللی، قراردادی‌ها و کار در پایگاه‌های نظامی بین‌المللی بود. هیچ نوع تلاشی برای شکل‌دهی یک اقتصاد تولیدی پویا صورت نگرفت. نباید با کاهش کمک‌ها، اقتصاد کم‌رونق افغانستان را بیشتر از این آسیب‌پذیر ساخت. - هشت صبح

Governor Brown Delivers 2014 State of the State Address --- SACRAMENTO – Committing to "pay down our debts and remember the lessons of history," Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today delivered his annual State of the State address, highlighting California's comeback while vowing to establish a solid rainy day fund to help maintain the state's fiscal stability. -- The Governor also renewed his call for all Californians to conserve water, laid out the key elements of the state's long-term water plan and noted the work ahead to fight climate change and build on historic reforms to the state's school funding and criminal justice systems. -- Photo captions and the text as prepared for delivery are below: - More,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dozens Dead in Widespread Violence in Egypt -- Hundreds Arrested in Clashes Marking Revolution's Anniversary --- CAIRO—The third anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising was marred by widespread violence on Saturday when at least 29 people were killed and hundreds detained in clashes around the country between police and supporters and opponents of the revolution. -- In addition to the 29 dead, at least 176 people were injured, the Health Ministry said. Authorities had deployed security forces in large numbers to try to tamp down violence on the anniversary. More than 400 people were arrested, according to state media. -- Early Saturday, a small bomb exploded in front of a police training center in the Cairo neighborhood of Ain Shams, according to Egyptian state media. No casualties were reported. -- On the eve of the anniversary, 18 people were killed in clashes between police and supporters of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, who was ousted in a military coup last year, and a string of bombings in Cairo.-- In the weeks leading up to Saturday's commemoration, political parties with widely divergent views sought to lay claim to the day. On Saturday, they took their fight to the streets, sparking clashes between those who support the new military-backed regime and those who see it as a reversal of a once-hopeful revolution. -- Several of the deaths occurred in Cairo and neighboring Giza. Tahrir Square was heavily secured but the streets immediately surrounding it were the site of numerous clashes. Other cities also reported widespread violence. - More, Wall Street Journal

West must remain a partner to Afghanistan, says Gen McChrystal --- Retired Gen Stanley McChrystal stressed the country must not be left alone, or could fall back into civil war -- Afghanistan should accept the West's help after the withdrawl of troops in order to avoid a return to its civil war days, the American general who led Nato troops there has said. -- Gen Stanley McChrystal said the US and the Britian should continue to have some role in the country beyond the end of the year. -- "They must know we are reliable long-term partners," he said. "They must now they won't be on their own". -- The retired general told the BBC that while he did not think that the Taliban had the strength to take over all of country, however a civil war could erupt as different groups vying for power. -- When asked about whether the country's security situation had improved over the last decade he said: "The ability of a nation to defend itself is partly in the number of the security forces it has but it is also in the fabric and sinew of its society and the confidence of its people," he said. -- "I think that would be the part that I would worry most about - that eroding confidence would cause people not to join the army, not to join the police, not to support local government - that would be the most dangerous scenario." -- He also said of that the US should continue its drone programme and increase the number of strikes. -- However, while the general said that while they were "effective tools", they can also "create a tremendous amount of resentment" - with a perception of helpless people being shot at by thunderbolts from an omniscient and omnipotent entity. - More, Josie Ensor, Guardian

President calls Bagram a Taliban-making machine --- KABUL (Pajhwok): President Hamid Karzai on Saturday characterised the Bagram prison in central Parwan province a Taliban-creating machine, where innocent Afghans were being held. -- Addressing a press conference in Kabul, the president said: “As far as I know, the Bagram prison is a Taliban-creating machine; it’s a place where innocent Afghans are being held.” -- The detainees were being provoked against their government and country, Karzai alleged, recalling that he had suggested in a 2008 meeting with prominent US senators Joe Biden and Bill Graham that the prison should be closed. -- “Graham had then acknowledged they imprison a big number of Afghans even on the slightest of doubt, but I told him it’s what Russians were doing in Afghanistan. That resulted in jihad. He told me they are building big installations in our country then they need to detain more people.” Karzai added. -- According to Karzai, he had told the American lawmaker that they would never be allowed to have their way in Afghanistan. But he quoted Graham as saying: “You are a single person and can’t stop us.” -- His administrations did not allow outsiders to use the prison against the country, Karzai said, accusing the US of detaining Afghans to realise their own objectives and provoke them against their homeland. -- The Bagram prison is located 40 km north of Kabul and its control was handed to Afghanistan in 2013. -- In response to a question regarding released suspects rejoining the insurgency, Karzai said: “This is West’s propaganda.” Some of them might have returned to militancy because of the hatred they were taught in jail,” he believed. - More, Pajhwok, at:

French President Hollande confirms Trierweiler split --- French President Francois Hollande has confirmed his separation from his partner Valerie Trierweiler. -- He told the state-run AFP news agency that their "shared life" had ended. -- Ms Trierweiler spent a week in hospital after the revelations. On Saturday evening she tweeted her thanks to the "wonderful staff" at the Elysee Palace. -- She said she "would never forget their devotion or the emotion at the time of departure". --- Mr Hollande, who has never denied having an affair with Julie Gayet, had admitted to a "difficult moment" in his relationship with Ms Trierweiler. -- At the time of the revelations, he promised to clarify the situation before his official visit to Washington on 11 February. - Mr Hollande told AFP on Saturday that he was speaking in a personal capacity and not as the head of state. -- "I am making it known that I have put an end to my shared life with Valerie Trierweiler," he said in a phone call to the agency. -- Ms Trierweiler and Mr Hollande have never married. -- She announced their relationship six months after he left his previous partner, one-time French presidential candidate Segolene Royal, with whom he has four children.- More, BBC

Afghan president says U.S. should start talks with Taliban or leave --- (Reuters) - President Hamid Karzai appeared to stiffen his resolve on Saturday not to sign a security pact with Washington, saying the United States should leave Afghanistan unless it could restart peace talks with the Taliban. -- "In exchange for this agreement, we want peace for the people of Afghanistan. Otherwise, it's better for them to leave and our country will find its own way," Karzai told a news conference. -- The president said pressing ahead with talks with the Taliban, in power from 1996-2001, was critical to ensure that Afghanistan was not left with a weak central government. -- "Starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms," he said. --- Most diplomats now agree that Karzai is unlikely to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would allow for some form of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, when most troops are due to leave. -- Along with reviving peace talks with the Taliban, Karzai is also demanding an end to all U.S. military operations on Afghan homes and villages, including strikes by pilotless trones. More, Mirwais Harooni, at:

Afghanistan cracks down on commercials that favour U.S. troops --- (Reuters) - The Afghan government, increasingly at odds with Washington, is cracking down on advertisements that promote keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and has already shut down a spot aired by the country's most widely watched broadcasters. -- The commercials - some funded by a U.S. organisation - have drawn official criticism because they urge President Hamid Karzai to abandon his refusal to sign a security pact with the United States that would enable the troops to stay. -- Broadcasters, which ran the spots for several weeks, came under investigation on grounds that their source of funding was unclear. All have pulled the advertisements off the air. -- "We have launched an investigation into broadcasters to find out where they receive money from for such advertisements," Basir Azizi, a spokesman for the attorney general, told Reuters on Wednesday. -- Despite Karzai's refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) unless several conditions were met, many Afghans are uncertain the army is able to fend off Taliban insurgents without help from the NATO-led ISAF coalition of troops.-- The commercials often include interviews with rank-and-file Afghans calling on Karzai to sign the accord immediately. -- In one spot, the head of a cultural association tells the president: "You should accept the people's demand and sign this as soon as possible." -- The crackdown is the latest symptom of Karzai's hostility to Washington. Last week, he cited a deadly attack on a restaurant to accuse the United States of doing too little to fight terrorism. --- Broadcasters were aware that the spots were funded by ISAF or related groups, but saw "public service" advertising as a source of revenue. - These include media groups like Radio Killid. -- "Killid Radio is being paid 400 to 500 euros by ISAF per minute to air adverts for the BSA on a daily basis," Najiba Ayubi, the director of Radio Killid, told Reuters. -- Afghanistan's most popular channel, Tolo TV, is paid by Ads Village to run the spots, according to industry sources. The company says it is funded by ISAF and the U.S. state aid agency -- Industry sources said that Tolo TV paid $700-$1,000 a minute to air the spots several times over a 24 hour period. -- he ISAF declined to indicate how much it spends on advertising, saying: "Public information released... is intended to inform and educate the public on the mission and operations of ISAF and our Afghan National Security Forces partners." - More, Hamid Shalizi

U.S. eyes options for Afghanistan after Congress cuts aid --- (Reuters) - The Obama administration is considering ways to ensure future financial assistance for Afghanistan after U.S. lawmakers halved development aid to the country. -- In a massive spending bill signed into law on Friday by President Barack Obama, lawmakers provided $1.12 billion to Afghanistan for fiscal 2014 for overall civilian assistance, a 50 percent reduction from the previous fiscal year. It was still unclear, however, how much aid the country would actually receive for 2014. -- U.S. officials said they were looking at the details of the bill, and would also explore if they could use unspent money from the previous year or from elsewhere in the budget to increase the amount of funding for Afghanistan. --"While overall levels for the major civilian assistance accounts have been reduced, the bill itself does not include any specific cap for Afghanistan," an official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on condition of anonymity. -- "Over the next few months, we will finalize bilateral assistance totals for the fiscal year," using a summary that accompanied the legislation as a guide, the official said. -- The summary also suggests that USAID and the State Department could supplement the $1.12 billion with unspent funds from fiscal 2013, but it was not immediately clear how much flexibility that might give them. -- "While everyone was expecting a cut, no one was expecting it to be 50 percent. That sets a dangerous precedent that might be hard to reverse in coming years," said Andrew Wilder, who directs Afghanistan and Pakistan programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace and spent years working in the region. -- USAID, which along with the State Department administers development and assistance programs overseas, had asked for $1.67 billion for Afghanistan in the administration's budget request for fiscal 2014. The overall aid request for fiscal 2014 for Afghanistan was $2.19 billion, according to U.S. officials. -- A major cut in U.S. assistance could endanger plans to continue health, education, farming and other aid programs in the desperately poor country. It could also stoke uncertainty as the United States and other NATO countries move to end their long war in Afghanistan, and as Washington seeks an agreement that would permit some U.S. forces to stay there beyond 2014. - More, Missy Ryan

کرزی: بگرام کارخانه طالب‌سازی است --- حامد کرزی رئیس جمهوری افغانستان با انتقاد شدید از آمریکا، بازداشتگاه بگرام را "کارخانه طالب‌‌سازی" خوانده و گفته که "ابداً زیر فشار" حاضر به امضای توافقنامه امنیتی با آمریکا نیست. -- آقای کرزی روز ۵ دلو/بهمن در نشست خبری در کاخ ریاست جمهوری گفت: "براساس معلوماتی که من دارم، بگرام کارخانه طالب‌سازی است. بگرام جایی است که مردم بیگناه آن جا آورده می‌شوند و به آنها علیه خاک خود و دولت خود نفرت سپرده می‌شود... از راه توهین، شکنجه و آزار. زندان بگرام جایی است که مردم بیگناه افغانستان انداخته می‌شوند و از آنجا علیه کشور خود بسیج می‌شوند." -- او افزود که در سال ۲۰۰۸ در جریان سفر یک هیات مجلس سنای آمریکا به افغانستان، یک عضو این مجلس به او گفت: "ما اگر شک کوچکی به کسی داشته باشیم او را زندانی می‌کنیم. من گفتم که این کاری است که شوروی‌ها در افغانستان کردند و باعث بلوا و بغاوت عظیم و جهاد در افغانستان شد. گفت که نخیر، ما تاسیسات بزرگتری می‌سازیم و مردم زیادتری از خاک شما را زندانی می‌کنیم. من گفتم که نمی‌گذارم که شما این کار را بکنید. گفت: تو یک آدم هستی، نمی‌توانی جلو ما را بگیری." --- آقای کرزی که در این کنفرانس خبری دیدگاه خود را در قبال موافقت‌نامه امنیتی با آمریکا یکبار دیگر به خبرنگاران توضیح می‌داد، تاکید کرد تا زمانی که آمریکا زمینه مصالحه با گروه طالبان را فراهم نکرده، به هیچ صورت حاضر به امضای این موافقتنامه نیست. -- او "صداقت" آمریکا را در مورد زمینه‌سازی برای صلح زیر سوال برد و گفت: "روند صلح افغانستان به دست آمریکا و پاکستان است. سهم پاکستان را فراموش نکنید. اگر گروه طالبان از پاکستان کار می‌کنند، پس پاکستان در آن دخیل است. اگر طالبان در داخل افغانستان هستند و از همین جا کار می‌کنند، این امر یک موضوع داخلی ما است. پس در آن صورت آمریکا حق عملیات نظامی ندارد. ما می‌دانیم و طالبان." -- رئیس جمهوری افغانستان افزود که آمریکا برای مبارزه با تروریسم به افغانستان آمده و "پایگاه تروریسم در پاکستان است". به باور آقای کرزی، "اگر آمریکا و پاکستان صادقانه عمل کنند و خواسته باشند، در کشور ما صلح می‌آید و روند صلح آغاز می‌شود. اگر یکی از این کشورها صادق نیست، دیگرش بیاید و بگوید که همکار ما در این مورد صادق نیست تا ما بدانیم که که در این پروسه همکار است یا نیست." --- آقای کرزی از لحاظ "فشاری" که بر او وارد می‎شود، وضعیت خود را با وضعیت امیر عبدالرحمان خان در ۱۸۹۳ میلادی در هنگام امضای معاهده دیورند مقایسه کرد و گفت که به همان صورتی که بریتانیاییها پادشاه پیشین افغانستان را برای امضای این معاهده تحت فشار قرار دادند، حالا تحت فشار آمریکا قرار دارد. -- عبدالرحمان خان یکی از پادشاهان سلسله بارکزایی در افغانستان که متهم به قتل‌ عام‌های گسترده در هفده جنگ داخلی در این کشور است، از بریتانیا اسلحه و پول می‌گرفت و در سال ۱۸۹۳ با امضای معاهده 'دیورند' با هنری مارتیمر دیورند وزیر خارجه هند بریتانیایی، خط مرزی بین افغانستان و هند بریتانیایی را مشخص کرد. در حال حاضر دولت افغانستان این مرز را به رسمیت نمی‌شناسد. -- آقای کرزی تاکید کرد: "با درسی که آموختیم از گذشته خود، با قراردادهایی که در گذشته کردیم و با عواقبی که از آن قراردادها در گذشته دیدیم، ابداً افغانستان زیر فشار حاضر به امضای چیزی نیست. نه فشار، نه تهدید. جنگ روانی علیه مردم ما، ما را مجبور به آن خواهد کرد که قرارداد امنیتی را امضا نکنیم. اگر می‌روند، خدا حافظ‌شان، امروز بروند. ما به زندگی خود ادامه می‌دهیم. " -- او افزود: "اگر آمریکا به ما می‌گوید که با ما پیمان امضا کن و ما معاش (حقوق) عسکر شما را می‌دهیم تا عسکرتان در دهات خودتان در جنگ باشند، ابداً قبول نداریم. این خود یک فریب است که از یک طرف ناامنی ایجاد کند و از طرف دیگر ما را معاش دهد تا وطن و لشکر خود را در داخل وطن در حال جنگ داشته باشیم." -- حامد کرزی که تا پایان دوره کارش چند ماهی بیشتر نمانده گفت که دلیل این که او به تامین صلح در کشور به عنوان پیش شرط امضای موافقت‌نامه امنیتی تاکید دارد، این است که می خواهد مطمئن شود که پس از امضای این موافقت‌نامه در افغانستان "وضعیت ملوک‌الطوایفی" به میان نمی‎آید. -- این وضعیت به تعریف او، وضعیتی است که "حکومتی ضعیف" در کابل و "اقمار تحت کنترل خارجی‌ها" در ولایت‌ها به وجود آید. آقای کرزی افزود که کشورش عملاً در چند سال گذشته چنین وضعیتی را "تجربه کرده است". - More, BBC, at:

Hamid Karzai toughens stance on Afghanistan security deal with US --- President Hamid Karzai appeared to stiffen his resolve on Saturday not to sign a security pact with Washington, saying the US should leave Afghanistan unless it could restart peace talks with the Taliban. -- "In exchange for this agreement, we want peace for the people of Afghanistan. Otherwise, it's better for them to leave and our country will find its own way," Karzai told a news conference. -- The president said pressing ahead with talks with the Taliban was critical to ensure that Afghanistan was not left with a weak central government. "Starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms," he said. -- Most diplomats now agree that Karzai is unlikely to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would allow for some form of US military presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, when most troops are due to leave. Along with reviving peace talks with the Taliban, Karzai is also demanding an end to all US military operations on Afghan homes and villages, including strikes by pilotless drones. -- The US has threatened to pull all of its troops out unless a deal is signed in good time, but embassies are examining alternative solutions behind the scenes that would enable the Nato-led mission to remain. -- Karzai's defiant tone struck a chord with those in the west who have already decided that further discussion with the Afghan president may be pointless and waiting for his successor to be elected is the best option. -- "The more people speak about it being signed after the election, the more irrelevant he becomes," said one diplomat. "Sad as it is, we might have to bank on the next guy." --- In his comments to reporters, the Afghan president also denounced the use of advertising – some paid for by the US – that lobbies for signature of the BSA. -- "To harm the psyche and soul of the people of Afghanistan, there is serious propaganda going on," said Karzai, referring to the advertisements broadcast for weeks by local media but now taken off the air. "No pressure, no threat, no psychological war can force us to sign the BSA. -- “If they want to leave, they should leave today. We will continue our living." - Guardian

Friday, January 24, 2014

Top general to ask Obama to keep more troops in Afghanistan --- Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who commands all international forces in Afghanistan, wants 10000 U.S. troops to remain past 2014. -- More, latimes - at:,0,3666615.story#axzz2rNzpbPKd

Congress cuts U.S. military and development aid for Afghanistan --- With no perceptible opposition from the Obama administration, Congress has quietly downscaled Washington’s ambitions for the final year of the Afghan war, substantially curtailing development aid and military assistance plans ahead of the U.S. troop pullout. -- As congressional appropriators put the final touches on a huge spending bill in recent weeks, they slashed Afghanistan development aid by half and barred U.S. defense officials from embarking on major new infrastructure projects. After making a bid last year for $2.6 billion worth of “critical” capabilities such as mobile strike vehicles for Afghan security forces, the Pentagon agreed it could do with just 40 percent of what it had sought. -- The prevailing sentiment in Washington toward President Hamid Karzai, who has thus far refused to sign a security agreement that would keep U.S. troops and funding in Afghanistan beyond 2014, was even codified in the Afghan portion of the spending bill, which was drawn up without significant public debate. -- “The bill prohibits the obligation or expenditure by the United States government, of funds appropriated in this or any other act, for the direct personal benefit of the President of Afghanistan,” appropriators wrote, an unprecedented move that President Obama signed into law last week. -- U.S. officials said the cuts and restrictions might appear starker than they actually are because agency heads will retain significant flexibility to use unspent funds from previous years or draw from other sources. But many see the reductions as the unmistakable end of an era of wartime largesse. --- “I think this reflects a congressional mood and will have an impact on the ultimate levels of support,” James F. Dobbins, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in an interview. -- Referring to Karzai’s position on a security agreement, Dobbins said, “This is an example of the price Afghanistan is paying for delay.” - More, washingtonpost, at:

Bolton: Obama Wants US Out of Afghanistan, but Terrorists Remain --- Bolton said American troops should remain in Afghanistan ...President Barack Obama is using the same playbook in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as he did in Iraq, and that's because he doesn't .. - More, newsmax

U.S. Markets Tumble as Fear Spreads --- U.S. stocks tumbled Friday to their biggest loss in more than seven months, extending a global selloff that investors fear signals turmoil to come as financial markets adjust to a pullback in central-bank stimulus. -- The declines extend a dark beginning of the year for equity investors world-wide, a jarring drop for markets that climbed imperviously through 2013. -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 318.24 points, or 2%, to 15879.11. The Stoxx Europe 600 lost 2.39%, and Germany's DAX, down 2.48%, had its sharpest fall in months. The Nikkei also fell 1.94%. -- While those drops were dramatic, much of the pain of investors' readjustment is landing on developing economies, from Brazil and India to Thailand and South Africa. - More, Wall Street Journal

Pakistan’s Musharraf wants heart treatment abroad --- ISLAMABAD — Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wants to leave the country to undergo medical treatment for a heart condition abroad, defense lawyers in his high treason trial said Friday. -- The military hospital treating Musharraf submitted a second report Friday about his medical condition to the court hearing his case. It also was given to his lawyers, but was not made public. -- Two defense lawyers said the board recommended Musharraf urgently undergo an angiography — a medical imaging technique used to visualize the blood vessels of the heart to look for heart disease. One of the lawyers said Musharraf had doubts about the quality of medical care he could receive in Pakistan. -- The lawyers spoke on condition of anonymity as the report had not been made public by the court. --- Prosecutor Akram Sheikh said Musharraf simply wants to leave the country and railed against the retired general for not trusting the military hospital treating him. Sheikh called Musharraf “hale and hearty.” - More, Associated Press, at:

U.S. and Iran Offer Clashing Accounts of the Civil War in Syria --- DAVOS, Switzerland — Secretary of State John Kerry and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran offered clashing accounts on Thursday of the civil war in Syria, and the role that Tehran is playing in the conflict. -- The contrasting assessments illustrated the chasm that still separates the United States and Iran on Middle East issues even as they have agreed on a temporary accord to freeze much of Iran’s nuclear program. --- In an interview here with the news agency Al Arabiya, Mr. Kerry said that it was time for Iran to match its words about the need for a peaceful solution to the war in Syria with deeds. If Iran wants to play a stabilizing role in Syria, Mr. Kerry suggested, it should stop sending paramilitary forces there and rein in its proxies who are fighting with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the rebels. -- “All of us should work to push terrorists out of Syria,” Mr. Rouhani said in an address to the World Economic Forum in this Alpine village. Though he described the insurgents who had taken up arms against the Syrian president as “ruthless killers,” Mr. Rouhani made no mention of the arms or personnel Iran had sent to Syria or of Hezbollah’s role. - More, NYTimes, at:

Former Times Interpreter Killed in Afghanistan --- KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Noor Ahmad Noori, an Afghan interpreter who formerly worked for The New York Times in Afghanistan, was found beaten and stabbed to death, wrapped in a sack and dumped on a roadside late Thursday outside Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, where he lived, government officials and family members reported. -- The relatives said Mr. Noori, 29, a well-known local journalist who was engaged to be married, had been abducted by armed men earlier on Thursday and had been missing for nine hours. -- There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing, and it was unclear whether it was a criminal or personal matter, or possibly connected to the Taliban insurgency. -- A spokesman for the governor of Helmand Province, Omar Zwak, said Friday that the police had found the body north of Lashkar Gah, and that he had been “beaten severely until he died.” -- Mr. Noori’s elder brother, Rasiullah, said he also had multiple stab wounds on his head and body and might have suffocated.--- Mr. Noori first went to work for The Times in 2010. He left by mutual agreement early last fall. Mr. Noori also worked for Bost, a local Helmand radio broadcaster. -- He was well known to many people in the local government as well as to the civilians working with the United States military mission there. Mr. Noori had worked with a number of different news organizations in Helmand and spoke some English. - More, NYTimes, at:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records provides only minimal benefits to countering terrorism, is illegal and should end, a federal privacy watchdog said in a report to be released on Thursday, according to media reports --- The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government agency, has shared its conclusions with President Barack Obama, according to reports in the New York Times and Washington Post. The board was not immediately available for comment. -- Its conclusion goes further than Obama, who said in a speech on Friday that he thought the NSA's database of records should be moved out of government hands but did not call for an outright halt to the program. -- .Members of Congress are divided about the value and legality of the program, which collects data on millions of phone calls made in the United States but not the content of the calls. The report could add ammunition to those lawmakers seeking an end to the program. --"We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counter terrorism investigation," the board said, according to the newspapers. - more, at:

The eye condition 70% of adults have without knowing --- The average American spends 6 to 9 hours every day staring at some type of computer screen, whether it's a tablet, a laptop, or a smartphone. And we're guessing you do, too. -- If so, you may join the ranks of the nearly 70% of adults who suffer from "digital eye strain" -- a progressive condition that could eventually lead to serious eye diseases, concludes a new report from The Vision Council, a nonprofit organization that supports the optical industry. -- Digital eye strain is an escalating health issue. Your eyes aren't made to stare at a fixed point for hours and hours on end, especially one that emits high-energy visible light, a.k.a., artificial "blue light." -- Overexposure to this type of light -- and the fatigue of focusing on the same middle-distant point for a third or more of your day -- can strain your eyes and cause dryness or redness, blurred vision, "tired" eyes, headaches, and back or shoulder aches in the short term, the report authors say. (Take a break from staring at the computer screen and soothe eye strain with these yoga eye exercises. -- More, Markham Heid, MSN, at:

Solidify the U.S.-Afghanistan Alliance --- Former ISAF commander General John Allen and Michael O'Hanlon call for patience and resoluteness in American policy towards Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond, writing that Washington should be willing to wait for a Bilateral Security Agreement with the Afghans until the spring, if necessary.-- The United States should remain steady in its Afghanistan policy—despite all the challenges associated with doing so. In the crucial years ahead, a time of great transitions, we need to sustain an adequate American Enduring Force, as well as support for a robust Afghan army and police. President Hamid Karzai’s continual introduction of hurdles to the signing of a U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is surmountable. Maintaining a U.S. troop presence after 2014 is critical to Afghanistan’s ability to build on the success that we have had in recent years. But the Afghanistan mission has become unpopular domestically; sustaining it will require resolve and an investment of your political capital. -- The BSA is needed to provide the legal foundation for a sustained American, and thus NATO, military presence in Afghanistan after the current International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ends this December. We need to stay patient and wait Karzai out—signing the BSA, if need be, with his successor in late spring or even early- to mid-summer. The last increment of some 10,000 U.S. troops, what is currently envisioned as an Enduring Force after 2014, could, if necessary, always be redeployed back home in the latter half of this year if Karzai’s successor proves unwilling to sign. Such a change would not be trivial, but it would not be insuperable either. -- The risks associated with this course are minimal. Moreover, nearly all the candidates for Afghanistan’s presidential election scheduled for April support the BSA, as well as a sustained international military presence after 2014. We believe that we will get the BSA that we need to maintain a U.S. and NATO presence. - More, John R. Allen and Michael E. O'Hanlon, Brookings - at:

Afghanistan Can Use a Strong Dose of Morale Optimism --- The threat for Afghanistan these days is that America will withdraw all assistance and promised aid if the Afghan government does not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement "in weeks, not months." In practical terms, no financial aid and military support means the collapse of the Afghan State and return of the Taliban. -- The question that comes to my mind when I see this kind of "we don't care" attitude is that why did America intervene in Afghanistan in the first place if they were to hand it over to its enemies at the end? Why lose so much blood and treasure over a lost cause? These questions particularly disturb me when I interact with Americans who have lost loved ones in hopes to liberate Afghanistan. Among them, one works in my office, and I get to interact with him on daily basis. His son was killed in my hometown Kandahar. -- Afghanistan is not a lost cause and America does have substantial interests in the country; otherwise, it would have not intervened there in the first place. It was an intervention of necessity not only because Afghanistan was serving as a global hub for terrorism, but also because America wanted to bring liberty and freedom to a war-torn nation. If there is one war in American history where America could have a positive legacy, it would be the war in Afghanistan. Therefore, America should not put the future of a whole nation at stake for the sake of one agreement. -- When the new era started in late 2001, Afghanistan was a divided nation full of grievances and anger. The atrocities of the Taliban era had especially divided the Pashtun and non-Pashtun ethnic groups. In addition, three decades of war had eliminated Afghanistan's human capital. Almost everyone was illiterate. Those still alive from the king era in the 1970s were among the only educated workforce left, but almost all of them were struggling from mental illnesses due to what they had endured over three decades of war. -- In other words, the Afghans started a new government with deep divisions, zero workforce, no institutions, no infrastructure, and a deep-seated insurgency. In addition, Afghanistan had to deal with dozens of NATO-led countries that wanted Afghanistan to be governed based on their terms. The Afghans had no (and could not) influence over foreign assistance or armed forces. This was an excellent opportunity for the war profiteers to rip the benefit of absence of checks and balances in Afghanistan and sell services to the allied forces ten to twenty times higher than what it should have actually cost. --- All of these achievements might sound very basic, but for a country that started well below zero, this is a substantial progress. If one was to compare the pictures of pre-2001 Afghanistan to today, chances are he/she would not identify it as the same country. We need to recognize that Afghanistan is still building the very basic infrastructure to run a state and the country is slowly acquiring skilled workforce direly needed to run a state. It can't be done overnight, and one decade is not close to sufficient. It will be a long journey for Afghanistan to be financially independent. Afghanistan's challenges in terms of instability, week governance and lack of capacity, and corruption will also not disappear overnight. Therefore, the right strategy for Afghanistan would be to appreciate the progress made, stay committed to the work ahead, and remain greatly optimistic. -- Instead of further demoralizing Afghans by releasing extremely pessimistic predictions from sixteen U.S. agencies about the country, the United States should offer a bold firm commitment of partnership to Afghanistan in order to demoralize the insurgents, not vice versa. This pessimism hurts progress in Afghanistan more than any other challenges and has had a direct impact on the economy and growth of the insurgents. -- If America wants a strong Afghanistan, the priorities for stable Afghanistan are straight forward and cost effective. Among them are 1) first and foremost helping Afghans conduct legitimate elections this year with integrity without tempering with the results; 2) providing state of the art training and equipment to the Afghan armed forces; 3) based on the commitments of the Tokyo and Chicago summits, providing adequate long-term and predicable financial and military support to the Afghan government; and 4) finally helping facilitate a peace deal with the Taliban. - More, Sharif Azami. HuffPost at:

U.S. eyes options for Afghanistan after Congress cuts aid --- (Reuters) - The Obama administration is considering ways to ensure future financial assistance for Afghanistan after U.S. lawmakers halved development aid to the country. -- In a massive spending bill signed into law on Friday by President Barack Obama, lawmakers provided $1.12 billion to Afghanistan for fiscal 2014 for overall civilian assistance, a 50 percent reduction from the previous fiscal year. It was still unclear, however, how much aid the country would actually receive for 2014. -- U.S. officials said they were looking at the details of the bill, and would also explore if they could use unspent money from the previous year or from elsewhere in the budget to increase the amount of funding for Afghanistan. -- "While overall levels for the major civilian assistance accounts have been reduced, the bill itself does not include any specific cap for Afghanistan," an official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on condition of anonymity. -- "Over the next few months, we will finalize bilateral assistance totals for the fiscal year," using a summary that accompanied the legislation as a guide, the official said. -- The summary also suggests that USAID and the State Department could supplement the $1.12 billion with unspent funds from fiscal 2013, but it was not immediately clear how much flexibility that might give them. -- "While everyone was expecting a cut, no one was expecting it to be 50 percent. That sets a dangerous precedent that might be hard to reverse in coming years," said Andrew Wilder, who directs Afghanistan and Pakistan programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace and spent years working in the region. - More, Missy Ryan, at:

Neiman Marcus Data Breach Worse Than First Said --- The theft of consumer data from Neiman Marcus appears far deeper than had been disclosed originally, with the luxury retailer now saying that hackers invaded its systems for several months in a breach that involved 1.1 million credit and debit cards. -- The malware installed on terminals in Neiman Marcus stores seems to be the same malware that infiltrated Target’s systems and exposed information from as many as 110 million customers, according to a person briefed on the investigations who spoke on the condition of anonymity and is not authorized to speak publicly about the attacks. -- Investigators have not revealed whether the same cybercriminals are suspected in both breaches, although investigators and security specialists have described a loose band of hackers from Eastern Europe as the likeliest suspects in the Target theft. Security specialists working with the authorities have said that the hackers were considering several major retailers as potential targets. -- In a statement posted on its website Wednesday night, Neiman Marcus said that the malware had been “clandestinely” put into its system and had stolen payment data off cards used from July 16 to Oct. 30. MasterCard, Visa and Discover have told the company that about 2,400 cards used at Neiman Marcus and its Last Call outlet stores have since been used fraudulently. - More, NYTimes, at:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

آرمان ملی - امریکا بیرون می شود، این را مسخره گی تلقی نکنید --- امضای پیمان امنیتی با امریکا از داغترین مسأله یی است که در محراق توجه همه قرار گرفته و آگاهان سیاسی در مورد این موضوع بسیار جنجالی، تحلیل های خود شان را دارند. یکی از توطئه امریکا با حکومت کرزی سخن می زند و دیگری امتیاز طلبی تیم رئیس جمهور را مانع امضای این پیمان می داند و . . . اما موضوع بسیار قابل تأمل این است که زمان کم برای امضای این پیمان باقی مانده است. -- گفته می شود رئیس جمهوری امریکا در اخیر ماه جنوری برنامه ها و سیاست هایش را در کانگرس امریکا توضیح داده و از آن دفاع خواهد کرد که در این جلسۀ بسیار مهم مسأله خروج کامل نیرو های امریکایی هم مطرح شده و تصمیم نهایی اتخاذ خواهد شد و اگر در این مدت بسیار کوتاه حکومت آقای کرزی تصمیم نگیرد به احتمال قوی و اغلب، امریکا بر خلاف نظر تیم رئیس جمهوری کشور، نیروهایش را از کشور ما بیرون می کند و این تصمیم بچه ترسناک و زیر فشارقراردادن حکومت کرزی که بار ها از آن یاد شد، نه خواهد بود -- تیم رئیس جمهور در رسانه های شان و خود رئیس جمهور در مجالس گوناگون استدلال کرده اند که نیروهای امریکایی از افغانستان بیرون نمی شوند و آنها مسألۀ کار ساخت و ساز در سفارت امریکا مقیم کابل را مطرح می کنند و مثال می دهند که گویا امریکا برنامه های طویل المدت در کشور ما دارد و تصمیم بر آمدن را ندارد. برخی از تحلیلگران چنین استدلال تیم حاکم را پوشالی و دور از واقعیت می دانند و همانگونه که نیروهای امریکایی از عراق بیرون ساخته شد، از افغانستان هم بیرون می شوند. -- امریکا به عنوان یک دولت مقتدر و با اعتبار در سطح جهانی قصد مسخره گی را ندارد و نباید این رفت و آمد های مقامات امریکایی و اعلام مواضع شان را بچه ترسناک و مسخره گی تلقی کنیم و آن را جدی نگیریم. بیشتر تحلیلگران و آگاهان سیاسی باور دارند که اگر حکومت کرزی در همین چند روز تصمیم نگیرد و پیمان را امضا نکند، نیرو های ناتو از افغانستان بیرون می شوند و آنگاه مسؤولیت آینده و خرابی هایی که صورت می گیرد و خون هایی که ریخته می شود همه بر دوش رئیس جمهوری کشور است و مردم کشور از وی خواهند پرسید که چرا؟

Military Plan Seeks Shorter Afghan Stay --- WASHINGTON—U.S. military leaders have presented the White House with a plan that would keep 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but then start drawing the force down to nearly zero by the end of President Barack Obama's term, according to senior officials. -- The request reflects a far shorter time frame for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan than commanders had previously envisaged after the current international mission ends this year. The new approach is intended to buy the U.S. military time to advise and train the Afghan army but still allow Mr. Obama to leave office saying he ended America's longest war, the officials said. -- Military leaders told Mr. Obama that if he rejects the 10,000 troop option, then it would be best to withdraw nearly all military personnel at the end of this year because a smaller troop presence wouldn't offer adequate protection to U.S. personnel, say officials involved in the discussions. -- Any U.S. troop proposal could be shot down by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has so far refused to sign a security accord that would clear the way for foreign troops after 2014. -- The Obama administration has said it wants an enduring presence in Afghanistan to support the Afghan army and to prevent any regrouping of Islamist militants that could once again threaten the U.S. from the country, officials say. -- The Pentagon's approach, discussed in White House National Security Council meetings last week, encountered pointed questions from some NSC officials who asked what difference 10,000 U.S. troops would make on such a temporary basis, U.S. officials said. -- Vice President Joe Biden has been a leading skeptic within the administration about keeping troops in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan forces after 2014, officials say. -- A senior administration official declined to characterize Mr. Biden's position on the new Pentagon proposal, saying only that he "has asked questions and listened carefully to presentations" about possible troop levels. The official said Mr. Biden will make his recommendation to Mr. Obama "at the appropriate time." -- Mr. Biden has advocated deploying special operations forces to Afghanistan for counterterrorism missions, officials say. --- Afghan officials in Washington didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the new Pentagon proposal. -- As an important boost to the request, the 10,000-troop proposal has the backing of intelligence agencies and the State Department. They have told the White House that their activities on the ground inside Afghanistan will depend on whether the Pentagon gets the troops it says it needs to secure bases where military advisers, spies and diplomats would do their work. - More, Wall Street Journal

Iran blames U.S. for blocking it from Syria peace talks in Geneva --- TEHRAN —Iranian officials on Tuesday blamed the United States for a last-minute decision by the United Nations to bar Tehran’s participation in a peace conference on Syria, and denied that Iran had agreed to preconditions for attending the talks. -- “The U.S. put pressure on [U.N. Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon, and he was forced to cancel this invitation, which shows this international body is still under the influence of big powers, headed by the U.S.,” said Allaedin Boroujerdi, head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iran’s parliament. -- Ban’s last-minute decision to invite Iran, the primary military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a key Middle East power broker, infuriated the Syrian opposition and was strongly opposed by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who personally lobbied the U.N. chief to change his mind. -- After Ban revoked the invitation on Monday, the main Syrian opposition bloc announced that it would join the long-delayed talks, which are set to begin Wednesday. -- The United States opposed Iranian participation unless Tehran endorsed ground rules set in 2012, which state that the goal of the peace talks is a transitional government in Syria, established by the mutual consent of the Assad government and political opponents. - More, Washingtonpost

Storm hits its stride as temperatures drop --- WEATHER GANG | Although the snow shows signs of letting up, it will likely continue falling for several more hours around the Washington region. -- •When will it be the worst? Through 8 p.m. or so this evening, when strong winds and very cold temperatures accompany snow; possible hazardous travel -- •When will it end? 8-11 p.m., from west to east, but strong winds and frigid temperatures follow storm. Subzero wind chills are likely late tonight and Wednesday morning. -- 7:40 p.m. update: It’s still snowing moderately across the region. Even as the snow shows signs of letting up a little, it’s likely to continue falling for another couple hours around the D.C. metro region. I promised SchoolCast and FedCast… so here goes: - More, at:

Kidnappers holding 60 mine defusers in Afghanistan --- Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The prospect of being blown up makes defusing landmines dangerous work, particularly in Afghanistan. But that is just one of many dangers that explosives workers face there. -- On Tuesday, armed men abducted 68 mine defusers who were on their way to clear explosives in the western province of Herat, on Iran's border, a spokesman for the mine disposal organization that employs them said. -- Eight of the abducted were able to flee, said Dr. Farid Homayoun of Britain's Halo Trust. --- The organization has 150 mine defusing teams and employs more than 3,000 Afghans, it says on its website. It also destroys other munitions. -- Since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, multiple warring parties have laid landmines, bringing the total number of mines to as many as 640,000 Halo Trust reports. --The kidnappers first took the explosives workers -- all Afghan natives -- their vehicles and their equipment to a village. Then the abductors forced the captives to go into the mountains, Homayoun said. --- No one, including the Taliban, has taken responsibility for the kidnapping, Homayoun said, and no ransom demands have been made. - More, CNN, at:

U.S. credit cards, chipless and magnetized, lure global fraudsters --- U.S. banks and retailers, a decade behind in deploying the secure, high-tech credit cards used elsewhere in the world, may take years longer to switch to a system that all but eliminates common types of fraud. -- Under pressure from credit card companies, major banks and retailers have begun to roll out the cards, which carry a computer chip and advanced security software that keeps the customer’s account number and other details invisible, even if crooks manage to steal records from a store or bank. -- But the conversion could take years to reach critical mass amid a squabble over who will foot the estimated $8 billion bill, and despite fears that scammers have been targeting the United States because of its outdated technology. U.S. credit card fraud rates, once the lowest in the world, have doubled in the 10 years since chip cards spread through Europe. --- Fraudulent purchases using fake credit cards or stolen numbers can be a nightmare for individuals. Consumers are protected under federal law from paying for the purchases but must still deal with the potential damage to their credit record and worry about the risk of more serious forms of identity theft. -- Across the country’s sprawling retail economy, however, the cost has been relatively small — as little as $1.1 billion a year lost to the fraudulent transactions chip cards are most likely to prevent, according to U.S. Federal Reserve data, an amount that businesses have been willing to absorb rather than invest in a new system. -- The result: While the rest of the world has sped forward, U.S. shoppers remain at risk in a system where old-school magnetic-stripe cards will remain the norm for perhaps several more years. Unlike the chip-bearing cards, data from magnetic strips are easily read and exploited by hackers, who can use the information to make fake purchases, produce counterfeit cards or use in other identity-theft schemes. -- Banks typically are introducing the new cards as old ones expire, which means it could take as long as three years to complete the process, given the usual replacement cycle. The larger card-issuers have announced no plans to speed up the process following the Target breach. --- In western Europe, where the chip technology first developed, more than 90 percent of retail terminals and 80 percent of cards have been shifted to the chip-based system. -- The technology has not eliminated all fraud, but it has lead to a dramatic reduction in some staple criminal tactics. Chip cards are all but impossible to counterfeit, for example, and even if records are stolen from a central company computer or “skimmed” from a store terminal, the consumer’s information is inaccessible. -- “Even if you do a systems breach, it makes the data much less valuable,” said Jack Jania, senior vice president for Gemalto North America, the U.S. subsidiary of a Dutch card-manufacturing company that makes about 2 billion credit, debit and other cards a year. Jania said stolen records from transactions involving chip-bearing cards sell on the black market for perhaps a tenth of what criminals will pay for records derived from magnetic strips. -- “The U.S. is being targeted for these kinds of breaches specifically because you can clone our cards. And on the card black market, the fraudsters are sophisticated enough to know that.” - More, Washingtonpost, at:

The Front Lines: Germany's Difficult Year in Africa and Afghanistan --- It won't be an easy year for new Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. The German military is facing a new mission in Africa while at the same time orchestrating a challenging withdrawal from war-torn Afghanistan. Potential pitfalls are numerous. -- Domröse, the highest-ranking German NATO officer, didn't have much good news for the new minister. The situation in Afghanistan, he said, was tense three months before the presidential election in April. He also voiced his concern about the withdrawal of German troops because it remains unclear whether the Bundeswehr, the German military, will contribute up to 800 soldiers to a planned training mission in Afghanistan starting in 2015 after the withdrawal has been completed. First, US President Barack Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai must come to an agreement on the ensuing mission -- and such an agreement is nowhere in sight. -- Domröse warned the minister that every passing day without a decision makes it harder for NATO to plan the mission. And if no troop agreement is reached with Kabul, the Bundeswehr will have to make a complete withdrawal. --- Berlin is concerned that the US could limit its presence to a minimal force in Kabul, if they stay at all. "In such a situation, we and our partner countries in the north (of Afghanistan) would be the losers," Jäger wrote. Civilian development cooperation would also suffer, he noted. "We have to prevent that." -- Planners have begun considering every scenario as they prepare for the coming months, including the "Zero Option," as a complete withdrawal is referred to. All countries with troops in Afghanistan have begun reducing the size of their contingents. Every day, oversized cargo planes full of weapons, vehicles and other materiel take off from Mazar-e-Sharif, Kabul and Kandahar on their way home. Should the order come for a complete withdrawal, the Bundeswehr would need several million euros for additional transport capabilities, General Domröse told Defense Minister von der Leyen in their meeting earlier this month. --- US intelligence has already forecast what the consequences of a complete withdrawal and a cessation of the billions of dollars in aid payments would be. A 2013 National Intelligence Estimate, compiled by all 16 US intelligence agencies, notes: "The complete loss of financial assistance would accelerate devolution to an unmanageable pace." It says that "by 2017, the Taliban would probably control nearly all of the south and east and would contest the Kabul area." - More, Der Spiegel, at:

Winter storm set to 'go bananas' across Northeast --- A wintry double whammy is descending on the Northeast on Tuesday, bringing as much as a foot of snow and another blast of arctic air. -- The latest blow to a weather-beaten region promises to snarl airports and interstates, has closed schools and shuttered much of the nation's capital. Initially forecast to be a modest blurt of cold weather, the system is now packing a real punch. -- “Every once in while these little winter storms go bananas, and we think this might be the one,” said Kevin Roth, a lead meteorologist with the Weather Channel. -- "Cities from Philadelphia to Boston could face a pretty bad commute home,” Roth said. “We’re expecting a good six to 10 inches. It will be snowing pretty hard.” -- Blizzard conditions are expected along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor. Washington, D.C., is set to see about a half-foot of snow and wind gusts of 30 mph, while Boston could see around 8 inches and wind gusts up to 40 mph. -- A winter storm warning was in effect for New York City and the surrounding areas by the National Weather Service from noon Tuesday through Wednesday morning, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has activated all of its emergency preparation systems, according to NBC New York. --- While the eastern U.S. struggles with the snow, the West Coast will remain high and dry, Roth said. The ongoing drought in California has created ideal conditions for wildfires. -- “Perhaps next week we can talk about rain coming to California,” Roth added. - More, NBC News, at:

Oxfam: World's Richest 1 Percent Control Half Of Global Wealth --- Just 1 percent of the world's population controls nearly half of the planet's wealth, according to a new study published by Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. -- The study says this tiny slice of humanity controls $110 trillion, or 65 times the total wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion people. --- — The world's 85 richest people own as much as the poorest 50 percent of humanity. -- — 70 percent of the world's people live in a country where income inequality has increased in the past three decades. -- — In the U.S., where the gap between rich and poor has grown at a faster rate than any other developed country, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of post-recession growth (since 2009), while 90 percent of Americans became poorer. -- "Oxfam is concerned that, left unchecked, the effects are potentially immutable, and will lead to 'opportunity capture' — in which the lowest tax rates, the best education, and the best healthcare are claimed by the children of the rich," the relief agency writes. "This creates dynamic and mutually reinforcing cycles of advantage that are transmitted across generations." -- In other words, Oxfam says that if trends continue, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. -- "[People] are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown," the report says. -- The World Economic Forum is scheduled to hold its annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, beginning Jan. 22. --- In September, a University of California, Berkeley study found that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by 31.4 percent over the period 2009 to 2012, while the other 99 percent experienced just 0.4 percent growth. Last month, the Pew Research Center published a study that found income inequality in the U.S. was at its highest since 1928, the year before the start of the Great Depression. - More, Scott Neuman, NPR

A Promise Unfulfilled: 1962 MLK Speech Recording Is Discovered --- Last fall, curators and interns at the New York State Museum were digging through their audio archives in an effort to digitize their collection. It was tedious work; the museum houses over 15 million objects. But on this particular day in November, they unearthed a treasure. -- As they sifted through box after box, museum director Mark Schaming remembers: "They pull up a little reel-to-reel tape and a piece of masking tape on it is labeled 'Martin Luther King, Jr., Emancipation Proclamation Speech 1962.' " -- It's audio no one knew existed. -- That year — 1962 — fell in the midst of the Civil War centennial. At one commemorative event, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller proposed a focus on the Emancipation Proclamation and invited King to speak. No one had heard his speech since. When Schaming listened to the audio, he found it still relevant. "It's 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation is released, and this promise is still unfulfilled, very much as it is still today in many ways," the museum director says. -- At the end of the speech, King quotes a slave preacher who he says "didn't quite have his grammar right but uttered words of great symbolic profundity." -- "Lord, we ain't what we oughta be. We ain't what we want to be. We ain't what we gonna be. But, thank God, we ain't what we was." --- The passage, Schaming says, is so powerful it must be heard to be appreciated. You can hear the full speech and explore King's typewritten speech at the New York State Museum's online exhibit. - More, Theo Balcomb, NPR, at:

زنان زندانی: جرم ما سنگین تر از زندانیان طالبان نیست --- صدای داد و فریاد زنان زندانی از اتاق های زندان بلند است. آن ها می گویند جرم شان به مراتب سبک تر از زندانیان طالبان در بگرام است که اخیرا از سوی حکومت رها شدند. -- س از آن که حکومت افغانستان 650 زندانی طالبان را از زندان بگرام رها کرد، شماری از زندانیان زن در زندان بادام باغ کابل دست به اعتصاب غذایی زدند. -- به زندانیان زن اجازه داده نشد که با خبرنگاران مصاحبه کنند این زندانیان در هنگام سخنرانی مقام ها، فریاد سر می دهند و اعتراض می کنند: «از زندانی های بگرام کرده هم بالاتر هستیم؟ نیستیم. ما بازهم اعتصاب می کنیم و همه اتاق ها را آتش می زنیم.» -- این زنان زندانی می گویند اتهام هایی که علیه زندانیان طالبان در بگرام وجود داشت، به مراتب سنگین تر از اتهام زنان زندانی است ولی حکومت بجای این که زنان را عفو کند، طالبان را از زندان رها می کند. -- ضیا گل یک زندانی می گوید جای کافی در زندان وجود ندارد. این زندانی نگران دو کودکش است که با او یکجا در زندان بزرگ می شوند و به خدمات آموزشی دسترسی ندارند: «شش سال زندان را چگونه این جا بگذرانم؟ شش اولادم به دشت مانده، تشناب ها پر از زندانی است. حکومت بیاید و بازخواست کند، نوکری والان با ما بدرفتاری می کنند.» -- این زندانی می گوید به دوسیه های زندانیان رسیدگی نمی شود: «آمره ما با ما همکاری نمی کند. ما می پرسیم که دوسیه های ما به کجا رسید اما می گویند ما خبر نداریم. این چگونه قانون است؟» - صدای آلمان

7 Healthy Foods that Turned Out to Be Unhealthy --- If you are struggling to lose weight in spite of consistent and genuine efforts, it may be the case that you have some misconceptions about what constitutes healthy eating. While things like fried chicken and cheeseburgers are widely know to be bad for your body, it is unfortunately true that dozens of foods and drinks with a reputation for being healthy can nonetheless cause people to pile on the pounds. -- Here are seven of the very worst offenders, and some smart food substitutions that you can make in order to shed excess weight and attain the slim figure you desire. - More,, at:

Monday, January 20, 2014

EU and Afghanistan: Mission Accomplished, Women Abandoned? --- UK Prime Minister David Cameron may feel that his country’s Afghanistan mission is “accomplished,” but Afghan women paint a much bleaker picture. -- Despite 12 years of armed conflict, investment and capacity-building by foreign governments in Afghanistan, including by European Union governments and the EU itself, women's rights remain in peril. -- Violence against women and forced marriage are rife, while high-profile female government officials and civil society activists face threats and attacks by the resilient Taliban insurgency. -- All too often, the government appears unable or unwilling to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes. Worse, in the last year Afghan government officials have themselves attacked some of the most basic legal safeguards for women. -- On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November, news broke that Afghan government officials had participated in preparing a draft law that would have reinstated the Taliban-era punishment of execution by stoning for adultery. -- This is only the latest example in a recent string of serious setbacks or attempts by government officials and parliamentarians to roll back women's rights. -- These attacks threaten to unravel the fragile but important advances in women’s rights in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. -- Those gains are real and deserve recognition, particularly in the areas of education, health care, and the role of women in government and politics. But delivering long-term, sustainable improvement in the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan is still a distant goal: literacy and female school attendance remain low while maternal and infant mortality remain high. --- The threats to women’s rights in Afghanistan demand meaningful EU action. -- On 20 January, EU foreign affairs ministers have an opportunity to take concrete steps to address the threat to Afghan women’s rights when they meet in Brussels to discuss the EU's Afghanistan strategy. -- This matters because the EU institutions, together with the 28 EU member states, have significant influence in Afghanistan, both politically and financially. -- As we told ministers in a recent letter, at this crucial time the EU and its member states need to make it absolutely clear that women’s rights are a non-negotiable, core aspect of the EU's relationship with Afghanistan. -- The EU has committed itself to women's rights often enough. -- High Representative Catherine Ashton and other officials have stressed that a country cannot be safe and secure unless its women are, and that “women are essential to democracy.” -- Now is the time to put those words into action. - More, Gauri Van Gulik and Heather Barr, Human Rights Watch, at:

Resurgent Afghanistan drug trade threatening US goals, Pentagon warns --- The drug problem in Afghanistan is growing, and it threatens to undermine the US war effort of building a stable country there, top Pentagon officials say in some of the sharpest warnings they have ever issued on the topic. -- The lucrative opium trade has been surging in recent years, even as less of the crop is being seized, officials and recent reports say, and with the US military presence in the country winding down, prospects for keeping the illicit business in check are dwindling. -- Just how to take on Afghanistan’s opium poppy trade, however, has long been a tricky proposition for the US military. -- Destroy the crops – a sizable source of income for poor farmers in a desperately poor country – and risk the ire of Afghan locals, who may turn to violence to protect their livelihood. -- But the poppy trade, which supplies the world’s heroin dealers, is also an important source of income for the Taliban – an estimated one quarter of their $400 million annual budget comes from the crops, according to the Department of Defense. -- The drug also contributes to corruption within the Afghan government, which in turns alienates the population, making them more open to ideas of alternate sources of government like the Taliban is offering. - More, Anna Mulrine, Staff writer, csmonitor, at:

Thousands of Afghans face cold, hungry winter as aid goes missing --- (Reuters) - Thousands of homeless Afghans are huddling on the sides of freezing roads this winter with little shelter and nothing to eat, not far from warehouses stuffed with food. -- The government's inability to help - through mismanagement, corruption, or factors beyond its control - threatens the future of a united Afghanistan after an April presidential election and the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of this year. -- It also leaves poor Afghans open to more exploitation and suffering, and makes them ideal recruits for insurgents. -- "Warlords are coming at night, asking us for sheep and chickens. We are poor, we cannot afford this," said Ghollam Hassan, part of a cluster of people who have been living for weeks by the side of a road in Herat, one of Afghanistan's few relatively prosperous provinces near the border with Iran. -- "I hope the government gives us shelter, tents to protect the children from the cold and snow." -- The taskforce meant to respond to emergencies has failed to distribute supplies and, in some provinces, money to transport it has gone missing. Elsewhere, warehouses have been emptied without Kabul's knowledge, Afghan and U.N. officials say. -- So thousands of desperate people have abandoned their homes in dangerous provinces and flocked to Herat, many of them with just a blanket for shelter from Afghanistan's harsh winter. -- The crisis became so dire that the United Nations and international aid agencies stepped in with emergency provisions, but there is not enough to go around. --- Government stocks, mostly paid for with the billions of dollars of foreign aid that have poured into Afghanistan, should have been distributed by the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), a government taskforce. -- But precious little has gone out because thousands of tonnes of supplies are missing or are stuck in warehouses. -- "There have been significant delays," Bo Schack, the head of the U.N. refugee agency in Afghanistan, told Reuters. -- "I have neither an excuse nor a reason for why this has not been distributed yet." -- Mohammad Aslam Sayas, deputy ANDMA director, acknowledged there was a problem with distributing aid across Afghanistan, but denied it was because of graft in one of the world's poorest and most corrupt countries. -- "It is a point of concern, because if there is a natural disaster and we need food, there is no food left," he said. - More, Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni, at:

Afghans and expats alike suffer in deadly attack on Kabul oasis --- (Reuters) - The newly-weds were buried side by side beneath a dried mulberry tree in a graveyard in the shadow of a mountain in the south of Kabul. Hundreds of relatives gathered in silence to pay their respects to an Afghan couple killed as they celebrated their love by eating out in a restaurant. -- "He was a pure Muslim," said Haji Amin's brother, touching the hair of the 25-year-old inside his coffin. "He went to Mecca before his marriage and was advising everyone to do good deeds. God will never forgive those who killed this couple." -- The young couple were among eight Afghans and 13 foreigners killed at La Taverna du Liban, a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul's diplomatic district that was attacked by a Taliban suicide bomber and gunmen. --- "Like so many who had the privilege of knowing Kamal, I am absolutely devastated that he's gone," Soraya Nelson of U.S. National Public Radio wrote in a tribute. "I will raise a tea cup filled with red wine to you, habibi (dear friend). You won't be forgotten." -- The restaurant was one of about a dozen places in Kabul that welcomed both middle-class Kabulis and many of the thousands of foreigners who have come to work in the capital in the 12 years since the Taliban were pushed from power for harbouring Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. - More, Mirwais Harooni, at:

Obama Believes 2014 'Can Be A Breakthrough Year For America' --- WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he believes 2014 can be a breakthrough year for the country. -- In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says the U.S. is primed to bring back jobs lost in the recession or to overseas competitors. But he says to make that happen, the U.S. must act to create good-paying jobs and increase economic opportunity. -- Obama says he wants to work with Congress. But he says when Congress doesn't act, he'll act on his own. He's pointing to a new manufacturing innovation institute the government helped launch in North Carolina. -- In the Republican address, Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman says Democrats have focused on "making it easier to live without a job." - More, HuffPost, at:

U.S. Condemns Deadly Taliban Attack In Afghanistan --- WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is condemning a deadly Taliban attack in Afghanistan, saying there is "no possible justification" for killing people who worked to help Afghans achieve a brighter future. -- The U.S. also is renewing its call for the Taliban to lay down its weapons and begin peace talks with the Afghan government. --- White House spokesman Jay Carney says such a move is the surest way to bring a peaceful end to the conflict in Afghanistan. -- The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday's attack on a popular restaurant in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital and largest city. Twenty-one people, including two American citizens working for the American University of Afghanistan, were killed. -- The Taliban said the attack was in retaliation for an Afghan military operation earlier in the week. - HuffPost

د جمعې د ورځې په برید کې وژل شوي افغانان څوک وو؟ --- محمد امین او وژمې څلور میاشتې مخکي واده کړی وو او د جمعې په ورځ لبناني رسټورانټ ته د ماښام د ډوډۍ دپاره ورغلي وو چې ناببره پر رسټورانټ باندي د ترهګرو له خوا برید وشو او دواړه میرمن او خاوند د ۱۹ نورو میلمنو سره چې بهرنیان او افغانان په کښي شامل وو، ووژل شول. محمد امین یو بې طرفه افغان سوداګر و. -- محمد علي ډریور و. هغه د برید په مهال د رسټورانټ د باندي خپل آمر ته منتظر و. محمد علي په دغه ځانمرګي برید کې ووژل شو. همدا راز ذبیح الله هم چې د جلال آباد د ښار د ګمرک د حفظ و مراقبت د ریْس ډریور و په پېښه کې د نورو سره یو ځای ووژل شو. -- امرالله او اکرام الدین د لبناني رسټورانټ ساتونکي وو چې د میاشتې یې ۱۰ زره افغانې معاش درلودی. د امرالله څخه څلور لوڼي او یو زوی یتیمان پاته شول. امرالله د خپلې کورنۍ یواځنی نفقه برابرونکی و. -- محمد وسیم په رسټورانټ کې ګارسون و او د پېښې په وخت کې په رسټورانټ کې دننه موجود و. هغه هم د نورو په څیر په برید کې د ترهګرو له خوا ووژل شو. په پېښه کې د سټورانټ افغان آشپز هم ووژل شو چې د پېښې په وخت کې دننه په رسټورانټ کې و. -- همدا راز په برید کې د رسټورانټ مدیر عبدالمجید ټپی شوی دی. - دامریکا غږ

Afghanistan blames ISI for 'sophisticated and complex' Kabul restaurant attack --- Afghanistan's National Security Council has blamed 'foreign intelligence services' of being behind deadly attack on a restaurant in Kabul on Friday. -- The council said that ordinary Taliban could not have carried out such sophisticated and complex attacks. -- The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in central Kabul, which killed 21 people, including the local IMF chief and citizens of at least nine nationalities. -- According to the BBC, the attack saw a suicide attacker detonate explosives outside the gate of the heavily fortified Taverna du Liban, and then two gunmen entered the restaurant and started shooting. -- The gunmen were eventually shot dead by the security forces when they arrived at the scene. - More, ANI, at:

An Attack on Westerners Helps Bridge a Divide in Kabul --- KABUL, Afghanistan — His suicide vest packed with steel pellets the size of musket balls, the Taliban bomber walked down the potholed street to the entrance of the Taverna du Liban. Behind the thin steel door, in a small guardroom, three men huddled for warmth from the cold Kabul winter. -- They had no chance to respond before the explosion from the vest blew through the restaurant’s entrance. The gunmen who followed the bomber stepped over the guards’ bodies and headed for the dining room. -- At the same time, Shukraan, a dishwasher who goes by a single name, stumbled into the dining room, filled with the heavy smell of explosives. Someone shouted “Intehari, intehari.” Suicide attack. Shukraan made a beeline for the staircase to the second floor, leaving behind a room full of diners bloodied by the shattered glass. A few diners stood frozen. Others cowered beneath tables. None would make it out alive. -- By the time the police overcame the attackers, about two hours after the initial blast, a room of bodies was all that remained, revealing a massacre that struck at the heart of Western life in Kabul. All told, 21 people, 13 of them foreigners, were killed in Friday’s attack, making it one of the deadliest against Western civilians here since 2001. Among the dead were a mix of nationalities and job descriptions: an American professor, Afghan newlyweds, an aspiring British politician, a Lebanese restaurateur. -- In the days since, the attack has helped bridge an emotional divide between the few thousand Westerners here, who live an often cosseted and protected existence, and ordinary Afghans, who have borne the brunt of the war’s violence. - More, NYTimes, at:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

قصرسفید حمله شام جمعه بر شهر کابل را تقبیح کرد --- قصرسفید طی بیانیه یی حملۀ دیشب در کابل را تقبیح کرده و گفت که هیچ توجیهی برای کشتن افراد بی گناه ملکی بشمول امریکائیان که برای کمک به افغانستان حضور دارند وجود ندارد. در همین حال بن کی مون، منشی عمومی ملل متحد و حامد کرزی رئیس جمهور افغانستان حمله دهشت افگنی شب گذشته را به شدیدترین الفاظ محکوم کردند. -- اریل گیتانیس سخنگوی ملل متحد تائید نمود که در میان کشته شدگان وابل عبدالله نماینده صندوق بین المللی پول در افغانستان و سه کارمند ملل متحد شامل است. آقای گیتانیس گفت از این حادثه شدیداً حیرت زده می باشد." بسیار متاثر استیم، برای ما یک روز دشوار است. ما در این حمله چهار کارمند ملل متحد را از دست دادیم. می توانید حدس بزنید که برای کارمندان دیگر ما چقدر دشوار خواهد بود. این نوع حملات بر افراد ملکی غیرقابل قبول بوده و باید متوقف گردد." گیتانیس می افزاید: "این حمله تعهد ملل متحد در برابر افغانستان را تغییر نمی دهد." - صدای امریکا

Stephen J. Hadley - In Afghanistan, an alternate approach to a security pact --- Most experts believe that without residual forces the billions of dollars in financial support promised for Afghan security forces and for Afghanistan’s economic development will not materialize. Few believe that any Afghan government would survive long without this assistance. So the stakes are high — for Afghanistan and for preserving the investment of lives and treasure that the United States and its coalition allies have made over the past 12 years. -- Initially Karzai said he would sign the agreement after a loya jirga, a traditional congregation of Afghan leaders, approved the pact. The loya jirga approved the deal in November, but Karzai demanded further concessions: an end to counterterrorism raids into Afghan homes at night, active U.S. support for the peace process with the Taliban and non-interference in the April presidential election that will determine Karzai’s successor. Lately, he has threatened to leave the matter to his successor. - U.S. officials have responded by pressuring Karzai directly and indirectly. They have set a succession of deadlines and said the agreement must be signed in “weeks, not months.” So far, nothing has worked. -- U.S. officials need an alternative approach. --- One option would be for President Obama to make a public statement praising Afghanistan’s progress in assuming responsibility for its security; improving the education, health and well-being of its citizens; and preparing for the April election. To support that progress, Obama would say, he has directed U.S. forces to curtail all but essential night raids. He is committed to facilitating the peace process, he would note, and will pledge full support for an election free from all outside influences. -- These statements would not represent a major U.S. policy change, but together they would offer Karzai a face-saver if he wishes to sign the security agreement. -- Next, Obama could announce the number of troops that he is prepared to leave in Afghanistan post-2014 and direct the Pentagon to develop plans on that basis. He would call on our NATO allies to announce similar force commitments. -- This step would go a long way toward reassuring Afghan presidential candidates, and the Afghan people, of the United States’ post-2014 presence. The lack of such reassurance has become a source of serious instability, threatening the election and the morale of Afghan security forces. For similar reasons, Obama should resist any pressure to set a date for the termination of the post-2014 U.S. deployment. -- Third, Obama could state that while he is willing to sign the bilateral security agreement with Karzai, he also is willing to sign it with the next Afghan president. U.S. officials should stop pressuring Karzai — or anyone else — for a signature before the April election. Such pressure only strengthens Karzai’s hand, encourages further delay and makes the United States look desperate. --Obama should make clear that his commitment of troops is dependent on the bilateral security agreement being signed. But a signing by a new Afghan president would give more than enough time to complete the necessary U.S. military planning before year’s end. Indeed, experts say that even without the deal, U.S. forces could remain in Afghanistan after 2014 under the existing status-of-forces agreement, though our allies would have to negotiate new agreements for their forces with the new Afghan government. -- Washington Post-ABC News polling last month suggested that more than 60 percent of Americans believe the Afghan war was not worth fighting. But the same poll also found that 55 percent support leaving some U.S. forces for training and “anti-insurgency” operations. And lawmakers’ public statements suggest that a post-2014 deployment would have bipartisan support in Congress. --- Obama should avoid any suggestion that he might embrace a “zero option” and leave no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. Almost every Afghan expert believes that would destabilize Afghanistan, threaten the outcome of the election and risk the collapse of Afghan security forces. This would profoundly affect U.S. security interests. Afghanistan again would become a haven for terrorists — who, history shows, would attack U.S. interests and territory. Afghanistan would contribute to destabilizing a nuclear-armed Pakistan. And the Afghan people would forfeit the progress they have made, with our help, in building a more tolerant, inclusive, secure and prosperous society. -- Afghanistan’s presidential election is less than three months away. U.S. policy must not be based on frustration with Karzai’s mercurial behavior but on ensuring the election of a legitimate successor to Karzai with whom the United States can sign a security agreement that is overwhelmingly in the interests of both countries. - More, Washington Post

The end of an era in Kabul: Taliban attack on cherished restaurant shatters illusion of oasis --- On a recent Friday evening in Kabul, I gathered with friends at the Lebanese restaurant that had long been a convivial and secure oasis in a harsh and unpredictable country. The occasion was a farewell meal before I left for the States — a cherished ritual in my many visits to Afghanistan over the past decade. -- As always, after an abundant assortment of mezze, we raised our discreet cups of “white tea” and promised to meet there next time. As always, the proprietor, Kamel Hamade, a dapper businessman from Beirut, refused to let us pay. “Give the money to help the animals instead,” he would insist. --- On Friday evening, that illusion was violently shattered. At 7 p.m., the busiest dinner hour of the week, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated himself outside the front gate, right next to Jeff’s pen, and two gunmen shot their way inside, raking the dining room with gunfire. By the time Afghan security forces stormed the premises and shot them, at least 21 people were dead, including Kamel and dinner guests from half a dozen countries. So was Jeff. -- I was back in Washington by then, working at my desk, when a colleague called unexpectedly from Kabul, then a friend e-mailed. A loud blast had been heard. More messages and news bulletins followed, the focus narrower, the details still sketchy but horrific. It was La Taverna. There was shooting and commotion outside but no news, nothing, from inside. -- I reached an Afghan friend whose brother was a cook. He had escaped over the back wall and had seen Kamel running into the dining room with his gun. My stomach knotted in dread. I imagined him plunging into a scene of chaos and screams and blood, defending his guests and his property to the death. -- Within two hours, those fears were confirmed. My friend was dead, my convivial war-zone sanctuary a charnel house. I also knew this attack had changed everything for me, my friends and the entire international community in Kabul. -- I also thought about the dozens of wonderful evenings over the past decade I had shared at La Taverna with friends and colleagues and fellow animal rescuers — a veterinarian from Maine, an aid supervisor from France, an engineer from Prague, a security contractor from Australia, a diplomat from Canada, a nurse from Nashville, a lawyer from Ireland, an anthropologist from Rome, and many Afghan friends and co-workers. Now, the Taliban had made sure we would never meet there again. -- On Saturday, I found my e-mail inbox flooded with messages from these now-scattered friends, some wondering if I was safe, some recounting memories of Kamel’s attentiveness to us and his beloved four-legged companions. -- One close friend in Kabul wrote what we were all thinking: “Is this a horrid, isolated incident, or does it have greater long-term consequences and ramifications?” - More, Pamela Constable, Washingtonpost, at:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

India rejects ‘exit’ strategy for Afghanistan --- New Delhi, Jan 16: Rejecting an “exit strategy” for Afghanistan, India today pitched for “closest international support” to prevent decade-long achievements from going “waste” in the war-torn country, where the US plans a total pull-out by this year end in absence of bilateral security agreement (BSA). --- Addressing the meeting of International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan-Pakistan, attended by representatives from 53 countries, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Afghanistan was at a critical juncture and required steadfast support from the international community. -- Reiterating India’s support for peace and security in Afghanistan, he said what faces that country was “not anymore intrinsic tribal differences” of ethnic divisions but it was “clearly terrorism and continuability of some armed opposition groups to launch attacks on innocent civilians and legitimate Afghan government“. -- Asserting that the focus of the international community should be that these “terrorist groups and inspiration and support that they get from outside Afghanistan must be curtailed and contained”, Khurshid said there should not be lack of will by international community to tackle the surge of terrorism and it should not be allowed to hide behind alibis and allow the achievements of 12 years to “go to waste” or “slip away“. -- Nothing justifies terrorism and “closest international cooperation” was required to defeat this scourge, he said and asserted that “India is and will remain committed to Afghanistan for all times to come, even beyond 2014 which is critical year for many.... People may have many strategies but one strategy India rejects is an exit strategy for Afghanistan.” -- Later, addressing a press conference, US Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan Laurel Miller said the US has been consistently maintaining that the BSA should be signed promptly and that her government strongly backs the peace process in the war-ravaged country. -- “Our position remains that this agreement should be signed promptly,” she said. -- Laurel said delay in signing of the pact would erode the confidence of the Afghan people as well as create uncertainty among the international community. -- “If the agreement is not signed promptly, we, unfortunately, will be in a position in which we will need to plan for the possibility of having no military presence in Afghanistan after 2014. That is not an outcome that we desire. - More, at:

Obama to set up Af-Pak strategic partnership office --- Washington, Jan 18: Ahead of the drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, US President Barack Obama has announced to establish an Af-Pak Strategic Partnership Office (APSPO) to oversee smooth transition and promote normalised diplomatic presence in both the countries. -- In an executive order, Obama said the APSPO has been tasked to perform the specific project of supporting executive departments and agencies in facilitating a partnership with the two South Asian countries. -- Obama said this is a temporary office and would be based in Washington, Islamabad and Kabul. It would promote security and stabilisation and transitioning to a normalised diplomatic presence in both the countries, Obama said in his executive order. -- In addition to coordinating the final drawdown of the Department of State’s civilian field operations and staff in Afghanistan, Obama said that the office would support agencies in transitioning to a partnership with the governments of the two countries in the economic, diplomatic, cultural, technology, and security fields, particularly in the areas of program management, rule of law, and program oversight. -- Meanwhile, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki reiterated that the Afghanistan Government needs to sign the bilateral security agreement as soon as possible. -- “We continue to press for the Afghan Government to sign the BSA given how important it is for planning for the United States, for our NATO allies,” she said. -- “Obviously, as time goes on, we may approach a point where we’ll need to plan for a post-2014 presence or no post-2014 presence. That has consistently been our view,” she said. - thehindubusinessline

سلمان خورشید: افغانستان با تضاد قومی نه، بل با تروریزم مواجه است -- هند از به خطر افتادن دست آورد های 12 ساله درافغانستان هشدار داد --- هند، با رد ستراتیژی خروج کامل نیرو های امریکایی از افغانستان به هدف حفظ دستآورد های 12 سال گذشته، خواستار حمایت جامعه جهانی از این کشور شد. سلمان خورشید وزیر خارجهء هند، در سخنرانی اش در اجلاس گروه بین المللی تماس برای افغانستان و پاکستان گفت، افغانستان در یک چهار راه حساس قرار گرفته و به حمایت دوامدار جهانی نیاز دارد. -- نشریه آنلاین هند بنام بیزنس لاین، بر اساس گزارش پرس ترسیت آف اندیا خبر می دهد که وزیر خارجه هند با تاکید از حمایت این کشور از تامین صلح و ثبات در افغانستان می گوید، افغانستان با اختلافات قومی و تضاد های قبیلوی نه، بلکه با تروریزم و حملات دوامدار گروه های مخالف مسلح روبه رو است که افراد بیگناهء ملکی، حکومت مشروع این کشور را هدف حملات شان قرار می دهند. سلمان خورشید وزیر خارجهء هند تاکید کرد که جامعه جهانی باید برای از بین بردن تروریزم و منابع که از خارج آن را تمویل می کند، تمرکز نماید. وزیر خارجه هند در ادامه صحبت اش گفت، علاقمندی جامعه جهانی برای سرکوب تروریزم نباید کاهش یابد و نگذارد که تروریزم در عقب بهانه ها پنهان شود. وی افزود، نباید اجازه داد که دستآورد ها و پیروزی های 12 سال گذشته در افغانستان نقش برآب شوند. -- نشریه بزنس لاین در ادامه گزارش خود می نویسد، وزیر خارجه هند هم چنان گفت، تروریزم هیچ توجیه ندارد و جامعه جهانی برای از بین بردن آن نیاز به همکاری های نزدیک با هم دارد. سلمان خورشید اضافه کرد، هند همین اکنون و پس از سال 2014 با افغانستان متعهد بوده و همیشه متعهد باقی خواهد ماند. او گفت، شاید نزد هر کسی یک ستراتیژی موجود باشد. اما ستراتیژی که هند آن را رد می کند، ستراتیژی خروج کامل نیرو های بین المللی از افغانستان می باشد. -- معاون نماینده خاص امریکا در امور افغانستان و پاکستان، بعد از اجلاس گروه بین المللی تماس برای افغانستان و پاکستان در دهلی جدید که در آن 53 نماینده کشور های مختلف اشتراک داشتند، در یک نشست خبری گفت، ایالات متحدهء امریکا به طور متداوم تقاضا کرده است که قرارداد همکاری امنیتی و دفاعی بین واشنگتن و کابل هر چه زودتر امضاء شود. لوری میلر گفت، موقف امریکا تغییر نکرده است، یعنی این قراداد باید هر چه زودتر امضاء شود. وی افزود، تاخیر در امضاء آن به اعتماد افغانان لطمه وارد کرده و جامعه جهانی را نیز بی باور می سازد. -- خانم میلر هشدار داد که اگر این قرارداد به زودی امضاء نشود. امریکا در وضعیتی قرار خواهد گرفت که مجبور شود، پلان پایان حضور نظامی اش را بعد از سال 2014 میلادی در افغانستان ترتیب نماید ولی وی افزود که آنها نیز چنین حالتی را نمی خواهند. معاون نمایندهء خاص امریکا در امور افغانستان و پاکستان گفت، امریکا از پروسهء صلح در افغانستان قویاً حمایت می کند و در اهداف هر دو جانب کدام اختلاف اساسی به مشاهده نمی رسد. - گزارش نامۀ افغانستان

Taliban attack on restaurant in Afghan capital kills at least 21 --- KABUL — At least 21 people, including two Americans, were killed Friday evening in a commando-style attack by Taliban insurgents on a popular Lebanese restaurant in the Afghan capital, local officials said Saturday. -- The attack, one of the deadliest in Kabul in years, began when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the restaurant gate just after 7 p.m. Friday, according to the Interior Ministry. Gunmen then entered and started shooting in the busy dining room. -- After a sporadic exchange of gunfire that lasted nearly two hours, security forces said they had shot dead the two attackers inside. -- “The U.S. Embassy has confirmed that at least two private U.S. citizens were among the victims of last night’s terrorist attack in Kabul,” officials said in a tweet on Saturday. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

IMF and UN officials killed in Kabul restaurant attack --- A senior IMF official and four UN employees were among 21 people killed in a suicide bomb and gun attack on a restaurant in Kabul, officials say. -- Wabel Abdallah, the head of the IMF's Afghanistan office, and the UN civilian staff died in what UN chief Ban Ki-moon said was a "horrific attack". -- Canadians, Lebanese, Britons and Americans were among the 13 foreign victims; the other eight were Afghans. -- The Taliban said they carried out the attack late on Friday. --- A suicide attacker detonated his explosives outside the gate of the heavily fortified restaurant, Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said. -- He said two gunmen then entered the restaurant and started "indiscriminately killing" people inside. -- The UK Foreign Office confirmed that two British nationals were among those killed in the incident. -- At least two US citizens died in the attack, the US embassy in Kabul said. --- Kamal Hamade, the well-known Lebanese owner of the restaurant, and five women were among the dead. A number of people were injured. - More, BBC, at:

Two Americans among 21 killed as Taliban targets popular Kabul restaurant --- KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a popular Lebanese restaurant in Kabul on Friday that killed at least 21 people, including two Americans and 11 other foreigners. -- The U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirmed early Saturday that Americans were among the dead. -- International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said in a statement that Wabel Abdallah, 60, the fund’s resident representative in Afghanistan, was also killed. -- A United Nations spokesperson said three U.N. employees were killed in the attack, "along with a number of those from other international organizations." -- Sediq Seddiqi, the spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior, told NBC News on Saturday that the death toll included 13 foreigners and eight Afghans. The foreigners include Germans, Canadians, Russians and Lebanese. He said they included diplomats, but he would not give any further details. --- Security remains a major concern as Afghanistan and the United States struggle to agree on a key bilateral security pact, raising the prospect that Washington may yet pull out all of its troops this year unless differences are ironed out. - More, NBC News, at:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Obama calls for significant changes in collection of phone records of U.S. citizens --- President Obama called Friday for significant changes to the way the National Security Agency collects and uses telephone records of U.S. citizens, moving to transition away from government control of the information and immediately require authorities to obtain a court order to access it. -- After more than six months of controversy over U.S. surveillance policies, Obama said that — barring a specific threat — he has ordered an end to eavesdropping on dozens of foreign leaders and governments who are friends or allies, a move the White Hope hopes will restore trust in the intelligence community and in the government’s ability to balance national security and privacy interests. -- Obama also said he is taking steps to protect the privacy of foreigners by extending to them some of the protections currently given to Americans. -- In a speech at the Justice Department, the president said the NSA’s data-collection program remains a critical tool for U.S. intelligence agencies to root out and prevent terrorist activities. He made clear that he has not seen any indication of abuse in the NSA phone program, but said he recognizes the potential for abuse and is asking for reforms aimed at those concerns. -- Calling for a “new approach” to the collection of phone records, Obama said he was “ordering a transition that will end the . . . bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.” - More, Washingtonpost, at:

Text of Obama's Speech on N.S.A. Surveillance --- Following is the prepared text of President Obama’s speech on National Security Agency data collection programs, as provided by the White House. - More, NYTimes, at:

With Afghan drawdown ongoing, U.S. to set up center in Bahrain to continue anti-drug efforts --- As the United States shrinks its civilian presence in Afghanistan, limiting its ability to combat the country’s booming drug industry, U.S. officials intend to establish an intelligence center in Bahrain to continue fighting the trade.-- The center in the tiny Persian Gulf nation, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, will be an “integral part” of the Defense Department’s post-2014 strategy in Afghanistan, Erin Logan, who oversees the Pentagon’s counter­narcotics efforts, said Wednesday afternoon. -- “The center will help fill the gap where space for personnel on the ground in Afghanistan is no longer available,” she told a Senate panel on narcotics control. -- Lawmakers and the inspector general overseeing reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan said they were alarmed that a problem that Washington has spent billions of dollars trying to combat is likely to worsen and further destabilize Afghanistan at a critical time. -- John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said that during a recent visit to the country, Afghan and U.S. officials conveyed to him that Afghanistan’s drug problem is “dire, with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond,” after the end of the U.S. combat mission. --- “The narcotics trade is poisoning the Afghan financial sector and fueling a growing illicit economy,” said Sopko, who has launched an audit of U.S. counternarcotics efforts. “This, in turn, is undermining the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, nourishing criminal networks and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.” - More, Ernesto Londoño, washingtonpost at:

Associated Press - Suicide bomber attacks popular Afghan restaurant --- KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber blew himself up Friday outside a restaurant in central Kabul that is popular with officials, foreigners and business people. At least two men were shot dead in the vicinity of the restaurant, officials said. -- Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said the attack took place just after dark against the Lebanese restaurant Taverna in the diplomatic quarter. A single, loud explosion could be heard, followed by automatic weapon fire around the restaurant for about 20 minutes. -- Deputy Interior Minister Ayoub Salangi said that the suicide bomber died in the attack and two other men were shot and killed in the vicinity of the restaurant. -- Salangi added that “there were a number of people wounded, including drivers and people waiting outside and in neighboring houses.” -- There are a number of embassies, foreign non-governmental organization and Afghan officials living in the area. The restaurant itself was heavily fortified. - More, at:

Fareed Zakaria, Opinion -- Making things worse in the Middle East --- Over the past few months, the Middle East has become an even more violent place than usual. Iraq is now once again home to one of the most bloody civil wars in the world, after Syria of course, which is the worst. Watching these horrors unfold, many in the United States are convinced that this is Washington’s fault or that, at the very least, the Obama administration’s “passive” approach toward the region has allowed instability to build. In fact, the last thing the region needs is more U.S. intervention. -- The Middle East is in the midst of a sectarian struggle, like those between Catholics and Protestants in Europe in the age of the Reformation. These tensions are rooted in history and politics and will not easily go away. --- Three factors have led us to this state of affairs. First, the structure of Middle Eastern states. The modern Middle East was created by the colonial powers at the end of World War I. The states the British and French created, often with little forethought, were composed of disparate groups that had no history of being governed as one entity. Iraq, for example, was formed by putting together three Ottoman provinces that had little in common. -- The colonial powers often chose a set of rulers who came from a minority group. (It was a cunning strategy. A minority regime always needs the help of some outside force to rule.) Thus the French, when facing a nationalist insurgency in Syria in the 1930s and 1940s, recruited heavily from the then-persecuted Alawite minority, which came to dominate the army and, in particular, the officer corps of the country. -- The second factor at work has been the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Its causes are various — the rise of Saudi Arabia and its export of puritanical Wahhabi ideas, the Iranian revolution and the discrediting of Westernization as the secular republics in the region morphed into military dictatorships. -- The most important states in the Middle East — Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, for example — were not sectarian; in fact, they stressed their secular mind-set. But over time, as these regimes failed, they drew increasingly from particular tribes that were loyal to them. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq went from mildly sectarian to rabidly so by the 1990s. -- Often the new sectarianism reinforced existing patterns of domination. When you travel in the Middle East, you often hear that these Sunni-Shiite differences are wholly invented and that people always lived happily together in the old days. These comments are almost always made by Sunnis, who assumed that their Shiite brethren, who were rarely seen or heard in the corridors of power, were perfectly content with their subordinate status.-- The third factor is one involving Washington deeply: the invasion of Iraq. If a single action accelerated the sectarian conflicts in the Middle East, it was the decision of the George W. Bush administration to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, dismantle all structures in which Sunnis had power and then hand over the Iraqi state to Shiite religious parties. --- Washington in those days was consumed with the idea of transforming the Middle East and paid little attention to the sectarian dimensions of what it was unleashing. I met with the current prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, in 2005 when he held no office. I described him then as “a hard-line Shiite, unyielding in his religious views and extremely punitive toward the Sunnis. He did not strike me as a man who wanted national reconciliation.” It was also clear that, having lived in exile in Syria and Iran for almost two decades, Maliki was close to both those regimes, which had sheltered him and his colleagues. Bush administration officials dismissed these concerns and told me that Maliki believed in democracy and pluralism. -- The consequences of these policies are now clear. The Shiites proceeded to oppress the Sunnis — seemingly with Washington’s blessings. More than 2 million Iraqis — mostly Sunnis and Christians — fled the country, never to return. The Sunni minority in Iraq, which still had delusions of power, began fighting back as an insurgency and then became more extreme and Islamist. These tribes are all tied by blood and kinship to Sunni tribes in their next-door neighbor, Syria, and those Syrian Sunnis were radicalized as they watched the Iraqi civil war. -- As violence has flared up in Iraq again, a bevy of Bush administration officials has risen to argue that if only the United States were more actively involved in Iraq, had a few thousand troops there, fought against Sunni militants while pressing Maliki more firmly, things would be very different. Not only does this perspective misunderstand the very deep nature of the conflict in the Middle East but it also fails to see that Washington choosing one side over another made matters substantially worse. One more round of U.S. intervention, in a complex conflict of religion and politics, will only add fuel to the fires in the Middle East. - Washingtonpost, at:

Alkaline Food Plan -- 25 Alkaline-Promoting Foods --- Toxic acid-promoting foods include refined carbs, dairy and meats and poultry. These foods create the kind of acidic environment in your body that puts stress on your kidney and liver and may even increase the risk of diabetes. Foods that produce alkaline compounds in the body, however, help neutralize these effects. Knowing which foods are acid-promoting and which are alkaline-promoting is the first step to balancing your diet. -- The typical American diet is full of foods like meat and dairy products that tend to increase the acidity of your blood. Recent research suggests that eating too many acid-promoting foods could potentially damage your kidney and your liver and might even raise diabetes risk. But you can help negate acid’s negative effects on the body by balancing your diet with foods that promote an alkaline body environment. --- Adding more of these 25 foods into your diet could help support organ health and trim your body mass. The foods are ordered from most neutral to most alkaline-promoting. You can also check if your favorite foods could be filling you up with acids with this list of 25 acid-promoting foods. - More, doctoroz, at:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Biden Seeks Deep Cut in U.S. Afghan Force --- WASHINGTON—Vice President Joe Biden has resumed a push to withdraw virtually all U.S. troops from Afghanistan at year's end, arguing for a far-smaller presence than many military officers would like to see, said officials briefed on the discussions. -- The White House convened a meeting of top national-security officials on Thursday to discuss the war and the future of the U.S. troop presence. -- Mr. Biden has lost previous debates on Afghanistan, but his arguments for a smaller force, likely of 2,000 to 3,000 troops, have gained traction within an administration increasingly frustrated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement allowing American forces to remain in small numbers after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission there formally ends this year. -- Some U.S. defense officials, preferring a remaining post-2014 U.S. force of 9,000-12,000, are skeptical of the smaller troop presence Mr. Biden and others advocate. Such a force would be so limited that a full pullout would make more military sense, the officials said. - "We are coming to grips with the potential for zero," said a military official. -- A senior administration official said Mr. Biden hasn't advocated for any specific number of forces. -- "He has not rejected any specific troop level," the official said. "He has asked questions and listened carefully to presentations and he will make his recommendation at the appropriate time." --- The resumption of the administration debate and the push by Mr. Biden and his allies in the administration for a limited force concerns members of groups who advocate for continued U.S. engagement. They fear a debate focused on a small force would offer little appeal to the Afghan government, prompting Mr. Karzai to refuse to sign the security agreement and the Obama administration to withdraw all U.S. forces -- "Pulling the rug out from under Afghanistan really risks collapse," said Andrew Wilder, vice president of South and Central Asia programs at the United States Institute of Peace. "We're in the endgame with Karzai, hopefully, and we really risk blowing it by announcing a 'zero option' based on our frustrations with negotiating with a president who should soon be gone." --- Officials said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is supportive of the recommendations of his military leaders, including the belief that a force smaller than 9,000 would be ineffective. - More, Walll Street Journal, at:

Pakistan Ex-Chief Wants Out --- ISLAMABAD—Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who faces criminal charges related to his years in power, on Thursday asked a court to be allowed to leave the country for treatment in the U.S. of a heart condition. -- The government brought treason charges against Mr. Musharraf in December but the former army chief isn't expected to be convicted in a country dominated by its military. An exit from the country on medical grounds could be a face-saving way out of an politically incendiary case for the courts, the government and the military. -- Mr. Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999 and ruled until 2008, when democracy was restored and he went into exile. He had become an ally in the U.S. fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban after 2001. He returned to Pakistan in March 2013, hoping to contest elections but instead the courts barred him from standing in the polls and placed him under house arrest, over a series of cases dating back to his period in power. -- He was Pakistan's fourth military ruler in its 66-year history. None of them have been punished by the courts for seizing power. -- In court Thursday, his lawyers submitted a letter written by a doctor in Texas stating that he needs urgent medical treatment in the U.S. -- "It is my professional opinion that he be transferred at the earliest to our medical facility," said the letter written by Arjumand Hashmi of the Paris Regional Medical Center in Texas, which added that Mr. Musharraf could suffer from a "major myocardial infarction (heart attack) if left untreated." --- A senior government official told The Wall Street Journal that the government was eager to make an example of Mr. Musharraf by bringing the treason charges, but it didn't want to see him executed and would eventually allow him to leave with some kind of special dispensation. - More, WSJ, at:

ناتو از تاخیر امضای سند امنیتی با کابل مایوس شده است --- شماری از دیپلومات ها و مقامات کشور های غربی می گویند، تاخیر در امضای توافقنامه امنیتی میان کابل و ناتو، آنها را مایوس ساخته است. به گفته مقامات، تاکید حکومت افغانستان برای پذیرفته شدن شرط های تازه، حمایت اروپا را از توافقنامه امنیتی با خطر روبرو می سازد. مقامات غربی متحد با امریکا می گویند، از تلاش های حکومت افغانستان که می خواهد شرط های تازه اش به خاطر امضای توافقنامه پلان شده اش با ناتو پذیرفته شود، مایوس شده اند. آنها هشدار می دهند که هرگونه تاخیر در امضای این سند، حمایت اروپا را از توافقنامه امنیتی ناتو با افغانستان مشکل می سازد. -- در حال حاضر ناتو در گفتگو با کابل قرار دارد تا در نتیجه آن، شماری محدود از نیرو های سایر کشور ها در ماموریت های آموزشی، در کنار نظامیان امریکایی در افغانستان مستقر باشند. ماموریت فعلی آن ها، در ماه دسمبر سال 2014 به پایان می رسد. روزنامه وال ستریت ژورنال در این مورد می نویسد، توافقنامه امنیتی با ناتو، هم مانند سند امنیتی با امریکا در حالت تقریباً بی سرنوشتی قرار گرفته است، زیرا رئیس جمهور کرزی از امضای توافقنامه امنیتی میان کابل و واشنگتن تا حالا خودداری کرده است. مقامات غربی می گویند، از این تصامیم حامد کرزی خیلی متعجب شده اند. -- کرستوفر چمبرز سخنگوی موریتس یوخیمز نماینده ملکی ناتو در افغانستان به روز چهارشنبه گفت: "به هر فرصت زود که مذاکرات در مورد امضای سند امنیتی با ناتو نهایی شود، به همان اندازه برای پلان های آنها در مورد ماموریت تازه آموزشی نیرو های افغان بهتر خواهد بود." به گفته مقامات، شاید بعضی تفاوت های کوچک در سند امنیتی میان ناتو و افغانستان وجود داشته باشد، اما در مجموع، این سند هم مشابه اهدافی است که در توافقنامه امنیتی میان کابل و واشنگتن در نظر گرفته شده است. -- یک دیپلومات غربی که از وی نام برده نشده، گفته است، اگر در اخیر ماه فبروری امسال روی امضای سند با ناتو توافق نشود، بسیاری از کشور ها نیرو های شان را از افغانستان بیرون می کنند و هیچ ماموریتی پس از سال 2014 در این کشور در نظر نخواهد بود. به گفته همین دیپلومات، آن ها می خواهند به همه بگویند که به هرقیمت می خواهند در افغانستان باشند، اما مردم از این همه خسته شده اند و اعضای پارلمان ها می خواهند تا دروازه را به روی افغانستان ببندند. رئیس جمهور کرزی در گذشته امضای توافقنامه امنیتی با امریکا را هم معطل ساخته و بار ها روی پذیرفته شدن شرط هایش توسط ایالات متحده تاکید کرده است. حالا مقامات سایر کشور های عضو ناتو می گویند، آنها هم با عین مشکل در مورد آینده ماموریت افغانستان روبرو شده اند. - رادیو آزادی

Afghan Leader Hamid Karzai Feels Betrayed by His U.S. Allies --- Beware an ally betrayed. Unlike an enemy, you can’t fight them openly or cast them off as they wait, planning from up close, to settle the score. A little-noticed passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new memoir about “a clumsy and failed putsch” sheds new light on how Afghan President Hamid Karzai has become just such a scorned partner, backing his longstanding claims that the United States actively tried to manipulate his country’s 2009 election to remove him from power. -- Gates’s book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, provides rare insights into the war cabinet and decision-making process of a sitting president. While passages where he questions Obama’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan and harshly criticizes Vice President Biden’s foreign policy judgment have drawn headlines here, in Kabul the news has been his frank admission that high-ranking administration members, including Richard Holbrooke—the famed formed ambassador who was appointed special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009—colluded to oust Karzai. -- Describing President Obama’s directive to Holbrooke to persuade President Karzai to delay the 2009 Afghan elections, Gates writes, “For Holbrooke and others at the table, it provided the time necessary to identify a viable alternative to Karzai, who they thought had to go. If the Afghan constitution was an impediment to achieving this goal, the hell with it.” --- The bid to find and presumably then boost a contender who could block Karzai from getting a majority of votes, forcing him into a runoff where he could be defeated, sprang from American leaders’ deep distrust of him. Senior officials, including President Obama, who Gates writes, “can’t stand Karzai,” regarded him as a weak leader, tainted by his nation’s corruption (the NGO Transparency International ranks it the world’s most corrupt country, along with North Korea and Somalia) and his own family’s, and incapable of executing the ambitious state-building plans that were a cornerstone of U.S. policy. - More, Jacob Siegel , Daily Beast, at:

American watchdog says Afghanistan risks becoming 'narco-state' --- American watchdog says Afghanistan risks becoming 'narco-state' -- Nato-led forces will end combat operations this year leaving a fragile government in Kabul and its security forces with the task of keeping Taliban insurgents at bay. -- In a sobering assessment, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has warned senators that the narcotics trade is stoking corruption and providing support to militant groups, threatening the entire mission to leave behind a stable country. -- Britain has led costly international efforts to stamp out the trade for much of the past decade, but the inspector warned Afghanistan was now at risk of becoming a “narco-state”. -- “In sum, the expanding cultivation and trafficking of drugs is one of the most significant factors putting the entire US and international donor investment in the reconstruction of Afghanistan at risk,” said John Sopko, in evidence presented to the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control on Wednesday. - More, Guardian, at:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

U.S. forces killed 8 civilians in Afghanistan, mostly children, in new incident, Karzai says --- KABUL — Relations between the U.S. military and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are being tested once again after Karzai accused American troops of killing eight civilians, including seven children, during a military operation in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday. -- According to Karzai and the governor of Parwan province, the incident occurred about 1 a.m. Wednesday when U.S. Special Forces attempted to enter a home. A gun battle ensued, resulting in a coalition airstrike that killed the children as well as a female relative in the home, they said. -- In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition confirmed that an incident had taken place during a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in an area known for Taliban activity, some linked to the Haqqani network. Officials said the troops were fired upon “from two compounds” as they hunted militants wanted for recent attacks on Bagram air base, located north of Kabul. -- The coalition “regrets that civilians were killed” during the operation, the statement said. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers --- WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks. -- While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials. -- The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target. -- The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user. --- The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level. - More, NYTimes,

Golden Globes Red Carpet Fashion --- From left, Berenice Bejo in Giambattista Valli; Kristen Connolly in Lorena Sarbu and Alberto Parada jewelry; Lupita Nyong’o in Ralph Lauren and Fred Leighton jewelry; and June Squibb in Tadashi Shoji. - More, NYTimes, at:

U.S. has recent 'proof of life' video of POW Bowe Bergdahl --- The United States has obtained a "proof of life" video of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and is the only U.S. service member held captive by enemy forces, officials said Wednesday. --- The video — which was on a thumb drive intercepted by the U.S. last week — shows a frail, shaky Bergdahl making a reference to the recent death of South African leader Nelson Mandela, the officials said. -- Although the Taliban has offered to release Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, U.S. military officials told NBC News they believe he is being held hostage by the Haqqani network in neighboring Pakistan.-- Bergdahl disappeared when he reportedly walked away from a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009, carrying only a compass and a bottle of water. -- Those holding him have released several videos of Bergdahl in captivity, but the last one was more than three years ago. The latest video is proof that he is still alive, U.S. military officials say. -- Bergdahl's parents reacted to the development in a statement released by the Idaho National Guard. -- “Naturally, this is very important to us and our resolve to continue our efforts to bring Bowe home as soon as possible," it read. -- “As we have done so many times over the past 4 and a half years, we request his captors to release him safely so that our only son can be reunited with his mother and father. -- “BOWE — If see this, continue to remain strong through patience. Your endurance will carry you to the finish line. Breathe!” - More, NBC News, at:

U.S.-Afghan Tensions Increase as Airstrike Kills More Civilians --- KABUL, Afghanistan — A coalition airstrike in a province north of Kabul killed at least two Afghan villagers Wednesday morning, prompting President Hamid Karzai to order an official inquiry and escalating tensions yet again between the allies over civilian deaths. -- While details of the fighting in the Seya Gerd district of Parwan Province remained sketchy, officials confirmed that a strike had been called in after Afghan and coalition soldiers took heavy fire during a mission to clear the area. The gunfight, which took place in an insurgent stronghold used to carry out attacks on Bagram Air Base, claimed the life of one coalition soldier, at least 10 Taliban fighters and several civilians, though the exact number was not yet clear, coalition and Afghan officials said. - AZAM AHMED, NYTimes

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Unemployment benefits won’t be extended until at least late January as Senate deadlocks --- Negotiations to extend emergency benefits for the long-term jobless deadlocked in the Senate on Tuesday. That leaves more than 1.3 million people without federal unemployment aid at least until late January, when lawmakers are likely to resume consideration of the legislation. -- Democrats and Republicans accused each other of bad-faith negotiations, and by late Tuesday they had rejected each other’s latest proposal. After parliamentary votes to advance the legislation failed, senators moved on to debating the bill to fund government agencies through 2014. Congress leaves town Friday for a weeklong recess and will return Jan. 27, the earliest that new talks could provide a breakthrough on an unemployment plan. -- “There may be a faint detection of a pulse somewhere, but we’ve got a patient in very critical condition now,” said Sen. Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), one of nine GOP senators who had been promoting an alternative bill. -- Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the lead sponsor of the legislation, told reporters, “We’re not giving up.” -- Democrats and Republicans accused each other of bad-faith negotiations, and by late Tuesday they had rejected each other’s latest proposal. After parliamentary votes to advance the legislation failed, senators moved on to debating the bill to fund government agencies through 2014. Congress leaves town Friday for a weeklong recess and will return Jan. 27, the earliest that new talks could provide a breakthrough on an unemployment plan. - More, Paul Kane, - Washingtonpost, at:

افغانهای مهاجر برای دومین بار در بلجیم دست به راهپیمایی زدند --- صدها مهاجر افغان با گذشتاندن دوشبانه روز از بروکسل، بتاریخ ۱۳ جنوری سال جاری به شهر که بزرگترین کلیسای این کشور، که ۶۶ کیلومتر دور تر از پایتخت واقع است، راه پیمایی کردند تا خود را نزد پاپ برسانند و حمایت وی را نسبت به ایشان جلب نمایند. - این راهپیمایی همزمان با رسیدن سردی زمستان و بارش دوامدار باران، آغاز شد که پناهجویان افغان را یک تعداد باشندگان بلژیک نیز همراهی می نمودند و ۶۶ کیلومتر را طی کرده خود را به شهرگینت که در شمال این کشور واقع است، رسانیدند. --- این پناهجویان می‌گویند تا زمانیکه حکومت بلجیم برای شان وعده و همچنان ضمانت ندهد که ایشان را می پذیرد و در پهلوی آن از دوباره فرستادن شان به افغانستان خود داری نکنند، راه پیمایی شان را ادامه خواهند داد . -- مقامات شاروالی شهرفلیگین برای این معترضین جای بود وباش آماده نموده بودند، ولی با آنهم افغانها شب سردی را در مرکز سپورت سپری کردند . -- جان فرانسوا از حزب سوسیالست و یکی از تنظیم کنندگان این برنامه به اژانس خبری وخت گفت که این راه پیمایی به خاطر حمایت و تعین سرنوشت افغان های که بیش از ۷ الی ۸ سال، در این کشور بدون اسناد زندگی می کنند؛ راه اندازی شده است. -- موصوف علاوه کرد: تازمانی که "حکومت بلجیم به افغانها رحم نکند" و درمورد شان تصمیم مثبت نگیرد، این راه پیمایی ها ادامه خواهد داشت، چون وی خوشبین است که چنین تظاهرات نتیجه خوب در بر خواهد داشت. -- او گفت: کشورش برای این افراد باید اجازه زندگی و بودباش را بدهد و تازمانیکه افغانستان آرام نشده است باید انها را در کنار خود داشته باشند، و بازگشت آنها را توقف بدهد. - More, وخت

US slams Israeli defense minister attack on Kerry --- Washington — A senior US official on Tuesday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly disavow a complaint by Israel's defense minister that John Kerry has a messianic "obsession" with Middle East peace. -- The official made the highly unusual demand as fresh tension erupted between the governments of President Barack Obama and of Netanyahu after the minister, Moshe Yaalon, was quoted as branding the US secretary of state, who has made 10 trips to Israel since March, a nuisance. -- "We expect the prime minister to put this right by expressing publicly his disagreement with the statements against Secretary Kerry, the negotiations with the Palestinians and Kerry's commitment to Israel's security," a senior State Department official told AFP. -- Yaalon's remarks were also condemned by Kerry's spokeswoman and then in an apparently coordinated rebuttal to Israel, taken up by the White House. -- "The remarks of the Israeli defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. -- "Secretary Kerry and his team have been working nonstop in their efforts to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the deep concern the United States has and the deep commitment the United States has for and to Israel's future and the Israeli people." -- "To question Secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally." -- Israel's top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted Yaalon as expressing the hope that Kerry would end his peace push and focus his energies elsewhere. - More, AFP, at:

Here’s what it means to be Afghanistan’s ‘most honest man’: Low pay and no promotion --- KABUL — The veteran traffic policeman walked to the stage, taking his place in front of a banner in Dari that said “CORRUPTION” with a red “X” through the word. After 24 years on the job, Abdul Saboor had been deemed the most honest man in Afghanistan. -- He posed for photos with the interior minister. He gave interviews to local newspapers. Then he went back to the five-room home he shares with 28 people. -- Saboor, 52, might be a better symbol for the sacrifices that an honest man must make in Afghanistan to follow the law. In two decades, he has received only one minor promotion. His salary, unaided by bribes, is $200 per month. His toes are black after being run over several times. His throat is perpetually sore from Kabul’s dust and pollution, but he struggles to afford medicine or hospital visits. --- Afghanistan is the world’s most corrupt nation (tied with North Korea and Somalia), according to Transparency International. It’s a country where public officials have embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars, most of it foreign aid, and where petty corruption pervades daily life. -- Although Western donors have funded anti-corruption programs and agencies, many Afghan institutions not only tolerate corruption but implicitly encourage it. Saboor has become a famous figure, but few Afghans are likely to follow his example. -- “If they don’t take bribes, they will suffer like Saboor,” said Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Network, an Afghan watchdog that joined with other civil-society groups to bestow the award last month. --- In a city with poor roads and more than a million cars, where traffic lights were installed and promptly ignored, Saboor is famous for both his incorruptibility and his theatrics. He’s known to thousands of Afghans as “Uncle Traffic” or “Uncle Saboor.” - More, Kevin Sieff, Washingtonpost, at:

کودتای ناکام امریکا برای براندازی کرزی --- کتاب خاطرات رابرت گیتس- صرف نظر از بحث‌ها و جنجال‌های سیاسی‌ای که پیرامون آن به‌میان آمده- سندی است دال بر این‌که اداره اوباما تلاش کرده بود تا حامد کرزی در انتخابات سال ۲۰۰۹ ریاست‌جمهوری، شکست بخورد. به‌نظر می‌رسد که گیتس خود با این اقدام اداره اوباما مخالف بود، به همین دلیل است که آن را «کودتای ناپخته و ناکام» توصیف کرده است، از نظر گیتس این امر به روابط امریکا- افغانستان آسیب جدی زد. --- بی‌اعتمادی کرزی به اوباما، در کنار علت‌های دیگر، سبب شده است که حکومت امریکا، در تلاش‌هایش برای وادار سازی آقای کرزی به امضای سندی که حضور نظامی ایالات متحده را پس از سال ۲۰۱۴، در افغانستان قانونمند می‌سازد، موفق نشود. پس از این‌که گفتگوها پایان یافت، مقام‌های امریکایی اعلام کردند که اگر سند به‌زودی امضا نشود، تمامی نظامیان ایالات متحده را از افغانستان، بیرون می‌کنند.-- به نوشته رابرت گیتس، مجریان پشت پرده برنامه براندازی حامد کرزی، ریچارد هالبروک نماینده ویژه وقت امریکا، در امور افغانستان- پاکستان و کارل آیکن بیری، سفیر وقت ایالات متحده در کابل بودند. -- گیتس می‌نویسد، هالبروک مرتب در مورد لزوم ایجاد فرصت‌های برابر برای همه نامزدان در میدان بازی صحبت می‌کرد. او می‌گفت نیاز است تا همه «حضور متوازن در میدان بازی» داشته باشند. او می‌خواست مطمین شود که همه نامزدان انتخابات ریاست‌جمهوری، امکانات لازم امنیتی و ترانسپورتی را در اختیار دارند و می‌توانند در سراسر کشور همایش‌های انتخاباتی برپا کنند. او هم‌چنان می‌خواست، نامزدان انتخابات ریاست‌جمهوری، پیام‌های‌شان را از طریق روزنامه‌ها، رادیوها و تلویزیون‌های افغانستان، به مردم آن کشور برسانند. گیتس نوشته است، هالبروک تنها در پی ایجاد فرصت‌های برابر برای همه نامزدان در میدان بازی نبود، بلکه در کنار آن می‌خواست همه‌چیز را بر ضد کرزی جهت دهد. -- گیتس نگاشته است «هالبروک تمام توانایی‌های خود را به کار بست، تاموجبات شکست کرزی را در انتخابات فراهم کند.» گیتس در ادامه نوشته است «چیزی را که او ]هالبروک[ واقعا می‌خواست این بود که نامزدان پرنفوذ زیادی به میدان بیایند، تا کرزی رای زیادی در دور اول نیاورد و انتخابات به دور دوم کشیده شود. به‌نظر او در دور دوم امکان شکست کرزی بیشتر بود.» -- گیتس نوشته است که این دو مرد ]ریچارد هالبروک و کارل آیکن بیری[ به‌صورت آشکار با نامزدان مخالف کرزی، ملاقات کردند، با آنان عکس گرفتند، در همایش‌های انتخاباتی آنان شرکت کردند و در مواردی به این نامزدان به‌طور سری مشوره دادند. گیتس نگاشته است که کرزی به زودی از تلاش‌های امریکایی برای برکناری‌اش، اطلاع یافت و در نهایت با جنگ‌سالاران کشورش دست به معامله زد تا حمایت آنان و هواداران‌شان را در انتخابات با خود داشته باشد. -- نتیجه این تلاش‌ها یک انتخابات کثیف بود. انتخابات ۲۰۰۹ حتا بر مبنای معیارهای افغانستان، بسیار آلوده بود. در آن انتخابات، صندوق‌های زیادی با آرای تقلبی پرشدند. یافته‌های ارزیابی ناظران بین‌المللی بعدها نشان داد که تقریبا یک سوم آرا، تقلبی بود. همان‌طوری که آقای گیتس توضیح داده است، تلاش‌های عمدی امریکا برای کنار زدن کرزی ناکام ماند. او نتوانست در دور اول، بیشتر آرا را ازآن خود کند، اما به‌نظر می‌رسید که در دور دوم، رای می‌آورد. -- به نوشته گیتس «همه این‌ها زشت بود. دست‌های ما آلوده شد و متحدمان رییس‌جمهور حامد کرزی، بدنام.» --- روایت گیتس از زمان ماموریت اش در اداره اوباما، به‌ویژه انتقادهای تند او از جوبایدن، معاون رییس‌جمهور، واکنش تند برخی از مقام‌های پیشین و برحال امریکایی را برانگیخته است. یکی از این مقام‌ها بانو کیتلن هایدن یکی از سخنگویان کنونی کاخ سفید است. او که در سال ۲۰۰۹ در کابل وظیفه داشت و به کارل آیکن بیری مشوره می‌داد، گفت اتهام‌های آقای گیتس مبنی بر تلاش‌های امریکا برای کنار زدن کرزی «در مجموع نادرست است.» به‌گفته او «نفع امریکا در یک افغانستان باثبات و برگزاری یک انتخابات شفاف و دموکراتیک بود، نه کمک برای برد و باخت یک نامزد مشخص.» - More, منبع: فارین پالیسی - هشت صبح, at:

Obama Responds to Gates Memoir --- WASHINGTON–President Barack Obama, responding personally for the first time to a stinging critique delivered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a new memoir, said he did question his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. -- "Part of your job as commander in chief is to sweat the details," Mr. Obama said when asked whether he'd lost faith in his war strategy in Afghanistan, a direct criticism in Mr. Gates's new memoir "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War." Mr. Gates wrote that the president lost faith in his policy, approved in 2009, to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan to turn the tide of the war. -- The president said the surge was the right strategy. "I think that what's important is that we got the policy right but that this is hard and it always has been," Mr. Obama said while responding to a question during a meeting in the Oval Office with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. -- The memoir has sparked questions about the president's war policies and commitment to foreign policy in the Middle East, and detailed feuding between the White House and military. --- In the interview with NPR, recorded last week, Mr. Gates said he was troubled that the reporting on his book initially lacked nuance, criticizing reports that suggested Mr. Obama approved the 2009 Afghanistan strategy thinking it would not work. -- Mr. Gates said when Obama made the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, he believed the troop surge would work. -- In his NBC appearance, Mr. Gates said his memoir has been "hijacked" by the very polarization of politics he criticizes in his book and says is responsible for making it difficult to get things done in Washington. -- Mr. Gates specifically criticized reports that said he had written that Mr. Obama's opposition to the Iraq surge in 2007 was political. He said he wrote that the president had conceded that opposition to the surge was political, not that Mr. Obama's opposition was political. - "His opposition was consistent with his opposition to the war all along," Mr. Gates said on NBC. - Jared A. Favole, WSJ, at:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Obama Praises Gates, Says He Still Has Faith in Afghan Mission --- President Barack Obama called former Pentagon chief Robert Gates an “outstanding” Defense Secretary Monday but refuted Gates' suggestion that he lost faith in the mission in Afghanistan. -- “Just as I have continued to have faith in our mission, most importantly, I’ve had unwavering confidence in our troops and their performance in some of the most difficult situations imaginable,” Obama said during a meeting with Spanish President Mariano Rajoy Brey. “And that job is not yet done.” -- Adding that part of the president’s job is to question the details of military strategy, Obama said that his team – including Gates – “got the policy right.” -- “War is never easy, and I think that all of us who have been involved in that process understand that,” he said. --- In a new memoir, Gates criticized the White House for being overly sensitive to politics and wrote that the president was “skeptical if not outright convinced” that the strategy in Afghanistan would fail. -- “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn't trust his commander, can't stand [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his," Gates wrote. "For him, it's all about getting out." -- Obama would not comment on whether Gates should have waited to publish the book until after the president left office in 2017. -- "During his tenure here, Secretary Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine, and I'll always be grateful for his service," Obama said. - NBC News, at:

پروژه سیاه و خطرناک --- برخی از رسانه‌های ایرانی و پاکستانی گزارش داده‌اند که عربستان سعودی و پاکستان توافق کرده‌اند، به‌صورت مشترک پروژه تقویت، آموزش و تسلیح شبکه‌ای موسوم به جیش‌المسلمون را به پیش ببرند. این شبکه در سوریه علیه دولت بشار اسد می‌جنگد. جیش‌المسلمون یک گروه افراط‌گرای سلفی است و ظاهرا به نیابت از ریاض در سوریه می‌جنگد. ظاهرا ارتش پاکستان برای این جنگجویان، اردوگاه‌های آموزش جنگ چریکی، برپا می‌کند و این گروه را مسلح می‌سازد. بر مبنای گزارش‌هایی که در این مورد منتشر شده‌اند، ریاض وجوه مالی این پروژه جنگی را تامین می‌کند. به‌نظر می‌رسد که متحدان غربی ریاض و اسلام‌آباد نیز با این پروژه مخالف نیستند. --- گسترش سلفیت بخشی از سیاست خارجی عربستان سعودی است. ریاض هزاران مدرسه را در پاکستان تمویل می‌کند که به شاگردان‌شان، افکار بنیادگرایانه سلفی را آموزش می‌دهد. هم‌چنین گروه‌هایی چون لشکر، جنگوی، لشکر طیبه و سپاه صحابه پاکستان نیز از سوی ریاض تمویل می‌شود. به‌نظر می‌رسد که پس از ناآرامی‌های سیاسی در کشور‌های عرب‌زبان که رسانه‌های جهانی از آن به بهار عربی تعبیر می‌کنند، ریاض در پروژه گسترش ایدلوژی سلفی در این کشورها فعال‌تر شده است. گروه‌های سلفی در حال حاضر در لیبیا، سوریه و اخیرا در عراق ظهور کرده‌اند و می‌جنگند. -- به‌نظر می‌رسد که عربستان سعودی نگرانی‌های امنیتی جدی دارد. این کشور می‌خواهد در اطراف مرزهایش، برای خود ساحه نفوذ ایجاد کند و آن را به‌وسیله گروه‌های افراط‌گرای سلفی کنترول کند. ارتش پاکستان نیز در این راستا متحد ریاض است. به‌نظر می‌رسد که عربستان سعودی و پاکستان، برخی از کشورهای غربی را قانع ساخته‌اند که پروژه آنان، منافع غرب را تهدید نمی‌کند. گزارش‌ها از مناطق قبایلی پاکستان هم حاکی است که جنگجویان گروه‌های افراطی از وزیرستان و مناطق اطراف آن، به حمایت از مخالفان بشار اسد به سوریه می‌روند. -- باری خبر باز شدن جبهه طالبان پاکستانی در سوریه نیز رسانه‌ای شد. ناآرامی‌های عراق نیز با عربستان سعودی ربط دارد. ریاض از مخالفان دولت عراق حمایت می‌کند. عربستان سعودی حتا در سال‌های حضور نظامی امریکا در عراق از بابت قدرتمند شدن متحدان حکومت ایران در بغداد ابراز نگرانی کرده بود. پروژه ایجاد ساحه نفوذ از طریق گروه‌های نیابتی، چیزی است که ریاض با جدیت آن را دنبال می‌کند. اما تجربه نشان داده است که راه‌اندازی پروژه‌های سیاه و خونین این‌چنینی، پیامدهای خطرناک برای طراحان آن دارد. طالبان نیز چنین پروژه‌ای بودند. -- بی‌نظیر بوتو، نخست‌وزیر فقید پاکستان، پس از حملات تروریستی یازدهم سپتامبر در یک مصاحبه اعلام کرد که پروژه طالبان، در ذهن مغزهای متفکر استخبارات بریتانیا، طراحی شد، عربستان سعودی آن را تمویل کرد و پاکستان آن را اجرا کرد. بانو بوتو گفته بود که امریکایی‌ها هم در جریان بودند. با سقوط کابل به‌دست طالبان، در سال ۱۹۹۶، واشنگتن اعلام کرد که این تحول را به فال نیک می‌گیرد. برخی از دیپلومات‌های امریکایی نیز مقاله نوشتند و طالبان را چیزی شبیه حکومت عربستان سعودی معرفی کردند که برای منافع امریکا، تهدیدی نیست. روشن بود که کشورهای پاکستان، عربستان سعودی و متحدان غربی‌شان با اهداف گوناگون پروژه طالبان را راه انداختند، اما در پایان کار همه ضرر کردند. - More, روزنامه هشت صبح - at:

CBS - Robert Gates' "Duty" -- In first network TV interview about his memoir, former defense secretary discusses his surprisingly frank account of war under two presidents, what he says was Obama White House micromanagement, and an "egotistical" Congress. --- Washington has been abuzz this past week over the new memoir by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Now Secretary Gates speaks for himself in his first television interview about his book. Our Cover Story is reported by Rita Braver: -- After a week filled with leaks, excerpts, and pundits holding forth, it's clear that Gates' new memoir, "Duty," has caused a sensation, and will likely go down in history as one of the most candid assessments ever written by a former Cabinet official. --- Take his view of the majority of Congress: "Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic Constitutional responsibilities, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical . . . too often putting self and reelection before country." - More, CBSNews, at:

Obama defends himself from Gates' book criticism --- (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday rejected criticism from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who questioned whether the president supported his own policy toward Afghanistan. -- Answering questions during an Oval Office appearance, Obama said Gates was an outstanding defense secretary and that because of the strategy that the Obama administration formulated, the United States will have concluded combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of this year. -- "I think what's important is that we got the policy right but that this is hard and it always has been," Obama said. --- "Just as I have continued to have faith in our mission, most importantly I've had unwavering confidence in our troops, in their performance in some of the most difficult situations," Obama said.-- He said the United States and its coalition partners still have troops in harm's way and "we need to see this job all the way through." -- After Obama was elected in 2008 to succeed Republican President George W. Bush, Gates agreed to Obama's request that he remain as defense secretary, becoming the first Pentagon chief to serve presidents of different parties. -- Obama has made no secret of wanting to extract U.S. troops from Afghanistan. - More, at:

Transcript: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Interview With NPR --- GATES: Well, And as I said, I — as I say in the book, you know, if there were an outright threat to the United States or to our interest or our allies, I would be the first in line to argue for the use of military force. It just seemed to me that some of the areas where we were looking at potential conflict were more in the category of wars of choice. And it was those that I was trying to protect the troops from. If there were a threat to the United States, I'd have no hesitation to throw everything we had at our adversary, and including our troops. But it was in these gray areas, where there was no direct threat to the United States, but potentially our interests were involved, where I was leaning hard to the side of not using military force, in part because of the strain on our troops. --- GATES: — in Afghanistan within days, if not weeks, of becoming president. And I think that that attitude of suspicion of what the military was trying to do had its roots in that — in that discussion in February and March of 2009. And when it came to Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter but mainly Afghanistan, fed a suspicion that the military was always trying to box the president in and force him into significant troop increases and so on. -- And so there was this feeling — and because of various public comments made by senior military officials, by the chairman, by General Petraeus later, by General McChrystal and others, the feeling that they were trying publicly to put the president in a position where he had no alternative but to approve what they wanted. And as I write in the book, looking back I always tried at the time to persuade the president that this was no plot, that the military didn't have a plan, if you will, to try and box him in. And, frankly, I don't think I was ever able to persuade him that that was not the case, again primarily when it came to Afghanistan. --- GATES: I think that this is one of those unfortunate circumstances where a series of unconnected events gave the impression of a pattern. And I write in the book that I felt that the senior military had come to speak too often, too publicly about issues that were under consideration in a way that could only increase tensions between them and the president. And to tell you the truth, as I make clear in the book, President Bush had the same problem with some of the senior military in terms of their comments with respect to Iran and Afghanistan versus Iraq and so on. So this was not unique to President Obama. - More, NPR, at:

Former US defence secretary Robert Gates insists memoir 'hijacked' by Barack Obama's critics --- Former US defence secretary Robert Gates has insisted his new memoir is "even-handed", accusing opponents of president Barack Obama of misrepresenting it to score political points. -- Mr Gates's book has been widely portrayed as an attack on Mr Obama's war leadership, but the author himself said he had in fact agreed with the major decisions the US president made on Afghanistan. -- He told NBC's Today show he was "disappointed that the book has sort of been hijacked by people along the political spectrum to serve their own purposes, taking quotes out of context". -- And Mr Gates, who served as defence secretary between 2006 and 2011, insisted his memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War, was not an attack on the commander-in-chief. -- "I think the book is very even handed. I don't vilify anybody," he said. -- "I make it clear, I have a lot of respect for both President (George W) Bush and President Obama," said Mr Gates, who served under both men as Pentagon chief. -- He said that "what has been lost in the news media is that I actually agreed with virtually every decision President Obama made" on how to handle the US war in Afghanistan. -- But "some people who have a narrative on Obama and the war got out there early with their take on ... what I've written," he told National Public Radio (NPR). - More, at:

How many U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan? --- Roughly 38,000 American service members remain in Afghanistan, the U.S. military told CBS News Thursday, as troop levels hang in the balance with a U.S.-Afghan security agreement still unsigned. -- The military said that at the start of 2014, about 38,000 total U.S. personnel are in country, with just over 27,000 of those troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The remaining U.S. troops are supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. -- The number of American troops reached 101,000 in June 2011 – the peak of the U.S. military presence in the war, according to Pentagon figures. As of Jan. 7, 2014, at least 2,164 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. -- As of Dec. 1, 2013, ISAF had closed nearly 280 bases and transferred more than 460 fully functional bases to the Afghan government and Afghan National Security Forces. -- The military also told CBS News that the number of American troops will be down to 34,000 by February and the drawdown process remains on track while they continue to train, advise and assist Afghan partners. -- President Barack Obama wants to leave up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, extending what already has become the longest U.S. war. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has delayed signing the the Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S., which would allow American troops to remain there. Without a signed deal, all U.S. and NATO forces would have to withdraw from Afghanistan. - More, CBS News, at:

Bruce Riedel - Al Qaeda’s Next Comeback Could Be Afghanistan And Pakistan --- Al-Qaeda has staged a remarkable comeback in Iraq in the last year. Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones has called it “al-Qaeda’s renaissance.” This year, most if not all American forces and those of our allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will finally come home from Afghanistan. Will al-Qaeda have another renaissance in South Asia? -- There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before 9/11—the terror organization moved into Iraq only when Osama bin Laden saw George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were getting ready to invade Iraq in 2003. He set a trap. By 2006 Al-Qaeda in Iraq had plunged the country into civil war, pitting Shia against Sunni. Only the brave efforts of American Marines and GIs prevented the complete collapse of the state. Now al-Qaeda has come back in Iraq, raising its black flag over territory once fought over so hard by Americans. -- Can the same tragedy be repeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan? The longest war in American history will largely end for Americans this year. It will not end for Afghans or Pakistanis. Pakistan will continue to be the principal supporter and patron of the Afghan Taliban, the enemy that we have been fighting for so long. Pakistan provides the Taliban with safe haven and sanctuary to train and recruit its fighters and protects its leaders, including Mullah Omar. The Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, helps train and fund the Taliban. --- Once American forces are gone from Afghanistan the drone war will be more difficult to prosecute. If we reach an agreement with President Karzai on signing the bilateral security agreement already negotiated, a residual U.S. counter-terrorism capability can remain in Afghanistan. If there is no bilateral security agreement, it will be much harder if not impossible to conduct counter-terror missions inside Pakistan. Kabul simply won’t allow it. - More, Daily Beast, at:

د احمد شاه مسعود ترور د قسیم فهیم ،ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله او استاد عبدالرب رسول سیاف په طرح شوی دی --- هغه تازه او دقیق اسناد چي د امریکا غږ شبکې ته رسېدلي ، په ښکاره توګه جوته کوي چي مارشال قسیم فهیم ، استاد عبدالرب رسول سیاف او ډاکټر عبد الله عبدالله د احمد شاه مسعود د ترور اصلي طرحه کونکي وه . -- د هغو شواهدو پر اساس چي لاس ته راغلي د احمد شاه مسعود د ترور انګیزه هغه وخت را منځ ته شوه چي د احمد شاه مسعوداو د هغه د مرستیال جنرال فهیم تر مینځ نا څاپه مخالفتونه را منځ ته شوه . -- د قسیم فهیم او احمد شاه مسعود تر مینځ هغه وخت ناندرۍ راپورته شوې چي فهیم د احمد شاه مسعود په نا خبري د یوه روسي شرکت په مرسته افغاني پیسې چاپولې . خلیل فروزي چي فهیم پلوه شخص وو او د افغاني بانک نوټونو د چاپ دنده یې په غاړه وه ، د احمد شاه مسعود له سخت غبرګون سره مخ شو . په دې وخت کي ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله د »سي آی اې« له شبکې سره اړیکي نیولي او له هغوی سره یې د ملاقات ژمنه کړې وه . د ډاکټر عبد الله عبد الله او »سي آی اې« تر مینځ د خبرو او ملاقاتونو په اړه کوم اسناد او شواهد په لاس کي نه شته .-- له دې نیټی نه یوه اونۍ وروسته استاد سیاف جنرال فهیم ته ځیني عربي ژورنالیستان ور وپېژندل . په پایله کي د کال ۲۰۰۱ د سپټمبر په ۹ نېټه احمد شاه مسعود ترورو شو .-- کیسه داسي وه چي داحمد شاه مسعود د مقاومت په کلونو کي هیڅ یو ځواک ونه شوای کولای چي د احمد شاه مسعود سیمي ته ( د پنجشېر دره) ور ننوزي . امریکا فکر کاوه چي د مسعود په شتون سره به ونه شي کولای په افغانستان کي د خپل قدرت په ټینګولو بریالۍ شي . ځکه امکان موجود وو چي احمد شاه مسعودد امریکا نظامي ځواک سره د مخالفت په صورت کي د پنجشېر دره د امریکا لپاره یولوی ګواښ شوی واي . له همدې کبله د سي آی اې خاص استازي دموضوع په اړه له احمد شاه مسعود سره څو څو ځله لیدني او کتني وکړې ، خو موافقې ته نه وه رسېدل . -- کوم وخت چي امریکا د احمد شاه مسعود د ملګرو په مینځ کي له اختلاف نه اګاهي و موندله ، د مسعود له مخالفینو سره یې په پټه توګه د راتلونکي دولت پر پستونو او چوکیو خبري وکړي . د امریکا له نظره پستونه داسی ویشل کېدل چي جنرال فهیم د دفاع د وزیر په توګه ،ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله د بهرنیو چارو د وزیر په توګه ، استاد عبدالرب رسول سیاف د ولسمشر د لمړي معاون په توګه ، خلیل فروزي د مالیې د وزیر په توګه او داسی نور ..... -- ویل کېده هغه کسان چي احمد شاه مسعود یې باید ترور کړی وای ، لمړۍ شپه یې د استاد عبدالرب رسول سیاف په کور کي تېره کړه او په دویمه ورځ د مسعود د ترور په نیت روان شول . -- یادونه : په دې اړه اسناد او شواهد د امریکا غږ په مرکزي اداره کي پټ ساتل شوي دي . -- ددې لیکني اصلي دري متن دلته کتلای شئ . - زلمی مومند – د امریکا ږغ

Sunday, January 12, 2014

'Lone Survivor' outmuscles 'Hercules' to win U.S. box office --- (Reuters) - "Lone Survivor," the true story of a failed U.S. Navy SEALS mission to capture or kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan, collected $38.5 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales, topping movie "Frozen" to win the weekend box office race. -- The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell, the only one of four SEALS to return from the mission and who wrote the 2007 book on which the movie is based. -- "Frozen," a Walt Disney Co animated film and last week's box office winner, was second with ticket sales of $15.1 million from Friday through Sunday, according to estimates from Rentrak. -- "The Wolf of Wall Street," a tale of greed starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was third with $9 million, while this week's other new major release, "The Legend of Hercules," starring fashion model and actor Kellan Lutz, was just behind, selling $8.6 million in tickets. -- "Hercules" was tied for fourth place with "American Hustle," an awards-season favorite directed by David O. Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. -- "Lone Survivor," directed and written by "Friday Nights Lights" director Peter Berg, was the subject of a Hollywood bidding war in 2007 won by Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures. The movie cost $40 million to make, Universal said. -- The heavily marketed film far exceeded industry projections of about $23 million in domestic sales, including theaters in the United States and Canada. It was the second biggest January opening weekend ever, behind only "Cloverfield," which made $40 million, according to Rentrak. - More, Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud, at:

On GPS Sunday: What went wrong in Iraq? --- On GPS this Sunday: Amid an intensification of violence in Iraq, Fareed looks at what went wrong. Is it mostly Washington's fault, or does it have more to do with the region's history? A panel including Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, Columbia University Prof. Rashid Khalidi, former Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan Meghan O'Sullivan and CNN security analyst Peter Bergen discuss what could have been done differently. - More, "Fareed Zakaria GPS," - CNN, at:

By Fareed Zakaria: Why Iraq is in turmoil --- Here's a startling statistic: more than 8,000 Iraqis were killed in violent attacks in 2013. That makes it the second most violent country in the world, after its neighbor Syria. -- As violence has spread and militants have gained ground in several Middle Eastern countries, people have been wondering how much this has to do with the Obama administration and its lack of an active intervention in the region. The Wall Street Journal and a Commentary magazine opinion piece have both argued this past week that the Obama administration's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq is directly responsible for the renewed violence in that country. They and others have also argued that because it has stayed out of Syria, things there have spiraled downward. --- From March through June of 2003, in the first months of the occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration made a series of catastrophic decisions. It authorized the disbanding of the Iraqi army and signed onto a policy of deBaathification, which meant that anyone in Iraq who had been a member of the top four levels of the Baath Party – the ruling party under Saddam Hussein – would be barred from holding any government job. -- This meant that tens of thousands of bureaucrats and hundreds of thousands of soldiers – almost all Sunnis – were thrown out of work, angry, disposed, and armed. This in turn meant the collapse of the Iraqi state and of political order. But it also sparked the rise of a sectarian struggle that persists to this day. -- The Bush administration went to war in Iraq to spread democracy. But in fact it spread sectarianism – displacing the Sunni elite who had long ruled the country and replacing it with hardline Shia religious parties that used their new found power to repress the Sunnis – just as they had been repressed. -- Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been utterly unwilling to share power with the Sunnis – who comprise about 20 percent of Iraq – and that has driven them into opposition, extremism, and terrorism. During the surge the prime minister made several promises to change his ways and over the last few years has reneged on every one of them. -- This sectarian power-struggle is the origins of the civil war that has been ongoing in Iraq for 11 years. It is the cancer that has spread beyond Iraq into other countries, from Syria to Lebanon. -- The Bush administration seemed to have made the massive strategic error almost unthinkingly. There is for example a report that a few months before the invasion, President Bush met with three Iraqi exiles and appeared unaware that Iraq contained within it Sunnis and Shias. An Arab leader confirmed to me that in his meetings with the president, it was clear that Bush did not understand that there was a difference between the two sects. Others in the administration, better informed, were convinced that the Shia would be pluralists and democrats. Those of us who warned of these dangers at the time were dismissed as pessimists. -- So if we're trying to understand why we see a Sunni-Shia battle unfolding across the Middle East, keep in mind that the primary cause is not that the Obama administration didn't intervene in Syria. It's because the Bush administration did in Iraq. - More, CNN, at:

Robert Gates: Pakistan ‘Really No Ally At All’ --- Robert Gates doesn’t trust Pakistan and neither should the United States. -- Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been making splashes in the media ahead of the release of his memoir of his time in office, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. While much attention has been drawn to Gates’ critiques of the Obama administration, including the president’s leadership style, relatively little attention has been given – at least in the U.S. press – to Gates’ thoughts on the ever-troubling U.S.-Pakistan alliance. Gates reveals that in the final years of his tenure, he was convinced of Pakistan’s pursuit of objectives that were directly contrary to U.S. interests, including supporting the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and anti-India terror groups. -- Gates describes how his thinking changed even earlier – in March 2009 – when President Obama “held a series of meetings” to discuss a report on the Af-Pak situation, authored by former CIA analyst and South Asian expert, Bruce Riedel. Gates writes that the report “recommended disrupting the terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan, promoting a more effective government in Afghanistan, developing the Afghan security forces, ending Pakistan’s support for terrorist and insurgent groups, enhancing civilian control in Pakistan, and using US diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels to reduce enmity and distrust between Pakistan and India. It was breathtaking in its ambition.” - More, Ankit Panda, The diplomat - at:

Pakistan not an ally of US: Robert Gates --- Robert Gates, the former U.S. Defence Secretary who was the strongest supporter of Pakistan, believes that Islamabad is not an ally of America and it will not give up its policy of supporting terrorists. -- “Although I would defend them in front of Congress and to the press to keep the relationship from getting worse -- and endangering our supply line from Karachi -- I knew they were really no ally at all,” Mr. Gates writes in his forthcoming book titled ‘Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’. -- Referring to his visit in January 2010 -- his second and the last one to Pakistan -- wherein he met the then President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Mr. Gates writes that he returned convinced that Islamabad would not give up its policy of supporting terrorists. -- “No administration in my entire career devoted more time and energy to working the Pakistanis than did President (Barack) Obama and all his senior team,” Mr. Gates, who was the defence secretary from December 2006 to July 2011, writes. -- “My message was consistent: we were committed to a long-term strategic partnership; we needed to work together against the ‘syndicate of terror’ placing Afghanistan, Pakistan and India at risk; we needed to remove safe havens on both side of the border; Pakistan needed to better control anti-Americanism and harassment of Americans; and the Pakistani army’s ‘extra-judicial killings’ (executions) were putting our relationship at risk,” Mr. Gates writes in his memoir. -- “I returned convinced that Pakistan would work with the U.S. in some ways -- such as providing supply lines through Pakistan, which were also highly profitable -- while at the same time providing sanctuary for the Taliban and other extremists, so that no matter who came out on top in Afghanistan, Pakistan would have influence. If there was to be any reconciliation, the Pakistanis intended to control it,” Mr. Gates said. -- “Pakistan was described as the biggest, most dangerous situation,” he writes. --- “I worried that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence was aware of where Bin Laden was and that there might be rings of security around the compound that we knew nothing about or, at minimum, that 1ST might have more eyes on the compound than we could know,” he wrote. -- The worst-case scenario was that the Pakistanis could get a number of troops to the compound quickly, prevent extraction of our team and take them prisoner, he writes. -- When he asked his Vice Admiral William McRaven what he planned to do if the Pakistani military showed up during the operation, he said the team would just hunker down and wait for a “diplomatic extraction.” -- “They would wait inside the compound and not shoot any Pakistanis. I then asked what they would do if the Pakistanis breached the walls: ‘Do you shoot or surrender?’ Our team couldn’t surrender, I said. If the Pakistani military showed up, our team needed to be prepared to do whatever was necessary to escape,” Mr. Gates writes. -- After considerable discussion, there was broad agreement to this, and as a result, additional MH-47 helicopters and forces were assigned to the mission,” he says. -- Mr. Gates writes that ahead of the Abbottabad raid no one inside the administration talked about seeking Pakistani help in killing bin Laden. - More, The Hindu, at:

ګېټس: پاکستان مو ستراتیژیک دوست نه دی ځکه چې د طالبانو ملاتړ کوي --- د امریکا د دفاع پخواني وزیر رابرت ګېټس ویلي، امریکا هیڅکله پاکستان د خپل ستراتیژیک متحد په توګه نه مني ځکه چې امریکا له طالبانو سره په جنګ ده او اسلام اباد د طالبانو ملاتړ کوي. -- ګېټس په خپل کتاب کې، چې لا له چاپه نه دی راوتلی، ویلي دي چې امریکا په ځلونو پاکستان ته له خبر ورکولو پرته د ترهګرو پرضد اقدام کړی چې تر ټولو څرګنده بېلګه یې د بن لادن د وژلو لپاره د ایبټ اباد عملیات و. -- د امریکا د دفاع پخواني وزیر رابرت ګېټس همداراز لیکلي:«امریکايي چارواکي پوره ډاده ول چې د القاعده شبکې مشر اسامه بن لادن د پاکستان د پوځ د استخباراتي ادارې (آی ایس آی) له لوري پټ کړای شوی دی او موږ په دې پوهېدو چې که پاکستاني چارواکو ته ووایو چې د بن لادن د وژلو لپاره عملیات کوو، هغوی د امریکايي پوځیانو د نیولو هڅه کوله او بیا به د دغو امریکايي ځواکونو د خلاصولو لپاره باج ورکولو ته مجبورېدو.» - ده ټینګار کړی چې امریکا او پاکستان هیڅکله پر یو بل باور نه درلود. -- ګېټس ویلي چې امریکا په افغانستان کې په جګړه بوخته ده او پاکستان هم د تروریستانو او سخت دریځو ملاتړ د دې لپاره کوي چې په افغانستان کې خپلې ګټې خوندي کړي. -- ګېټی دا هم ویلي چې پاکستان لا هم له طالبانو سره اړیکې نه دي پرې کړي خو له دې سره سره د امریکا په کانګریس کې د پاکستان ملاتړ کوي څو د ناټو اکمالاتي لار پرانستې وي. - تاند

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Neiman Marcus confirms data breach, some customers at risk --- Neiman Marcus confirmed Saturday that its customers are at risk after hackers breached the Dallas company’s servers and accessed the payment information of those who visited its stores. -- The news comes on the heels of a disclosure from Target that a similar data breach at its stores may ultimately affect up to 100 million customers, far more than originally feared. The Neiman breach was first reported Friday by cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs, who said that there had been a spike in fraudulent credit and debit charges on cards that had been used at Neiman Marcus stores. -- “The security of our customers’ information is always a priority and we sincerely regret any inconvenience,” the company said in a statement. -- Neiman Marcus operates 79 retail locations and reported total sales of $1.1 billion in its most recent quarter, which ended Nov. 2 — ahead of the peak holiday shopping season. - More,Hayley Tsukayama, Washingtonpost

Exclusive: More well-known U.S. retailers victims of cyber attacks - sources --- (Reuters) - Target Corp and Neiman Marcus are not the only U.S. retailers whose networks were breached over the holiday shopping season last year, according to sources familiar with attacks on other merchants that have yet to be publicly disclosed. -- Smaller breaches on at least three other well-known U.S. retailers took place and were conducted using similar techniques as the one on Target, according to the people familiar with the attacks. Those breaches have yet to come to light. Also, similar breaches may have occurred earlier last year. -- The sources said that they involved retailers with outlets in malls, but declined to elaborate. They also said that while they suspect the perpetrators may be the same as those who launched the Target attack, they cannot be sure because they are still trying to find the culprits behind all of the security breaches. -- Law enforcement sources have said they suspect the ring leaders are from Eastern Europe, which is where most big cyber crime cases have been hatched over the past decade.-- Only one well-known retailer, Neiman Marcus, has said that they too have been victim of a cyber attack since Target's December 19 disclosure that some 40 million payment card numbers had been stolen in a cyber attack. On Friday, Target said the data breach was worse than initially thought. -- An investigation found that hackers stole the personal information of at least 70 million customers, including names, mailing addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses. Neiman Marcus said it was not sure if the breach was related to the Target incident. -- Most states have laws that require companies to contact customers when certain personal information is compromised. In many cases the task of notification falls on the credit card issuer. -- Merchants are required to report breaches of personal information including social security numbers. It was not immediately clear if that was the case with the retailers who were attacked around the same time as Target. - More, at:

Foreign Policy: - Robert Gates: US Tried Oust Karzai in 2009 Elections --- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long accused the Obama administration of trying to secretly engineer his political downfall. Turns out he may be right. -- Lost in the political controversy surrounding former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir is a fascinating account of a failed administration attempt to ensure that Karzai was defeated in the 2009 Afghan elections. Gates is harshly critical of the move, which he derides as a “clumsy and failed putsch” that did significant damage to the U.S.-Afghan relationship. -- The central players in the backchannel effort to unseat Karzai, according to Gates, were Richard Holbrooke, then the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Karl Eikenberry, then the U.S. ambassador to Kabul. -- Gates writes that Holbrooke regularly spoke about the need to create “a level playing field” that would ensure all presidential candidates were given protective details, transportation to campaign events throughout the country, and the ability to convey their messages to independent Afghan newspapers, radio stations and TV outlets. In reality, Gates writes, Holbrooke didn’t just want a level playing field. He wanted one tilted against Karzai. -- “Holbrooke was doing his best to bring about the defeat of Karzai,” Gates writes. “What he really wanted was to have enough credible candidates running to deny Karzai a majority in the election, thus forcing a runoff in which he could be defeated.” -- The two men, according to the former Defense chief, held highly publicized meetings with Karzai’s opponents, attended their rallies, made a point of being photographed with them, and even offered them unspecified advice. Gates writes that Karzai quickly became aware of the U.S. efforts to unseat him and ultimately cut deals with the country’s warlords to win their support in the vote. --- “It was all ugly: our partner, the president of Afghanistan, was tainted, and our hands were dirty as well,” Gates writes.-- Gates closes his description of the purported administration move to unseat Karzai with an account of a tense exchange with the special United Nations Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide. The two men were seated next to each other during a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization devoted to the Afghan elections. -- "Before speaking publicly, he whispered to me that while he was only going to say that there was blatant foreign interference in the election, he wanted me to know he had in mind specifically the United States and Holbrooke," Gates writes. - More, Yochi Dreazen, at:

Saudis In Pakistan – Analysis --- In Pakistan, the expansive influence of Saudi Arabia is unmatched except occasionally by the Americans and Chinese. As a Wikileaks cable from the Saudi ambassador in Islamabad in 2007 told us that his embassy is not an “observer” in Pakistan, but a “participant” in Pakistan’s politics. This was not an empty boast. Saudis have often helped Pakistan manage difficult problems at home and abroad. Whether it is tidying over a balance of payments crisis, subsidising oil purchases, financing the nuclear weapons programme or resolving ticklish domestic political disputes, the Saudis always ride to the rescue of Pakistan. -- When the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al Faisal, landed in Islamabad this week, there was much speculation in Pakistan that the visit was about facilitating the exit of former president and army chief, Pervez Musharraf, now facing a variety of charges in Pakistan. Recall that Saudis had given political shelter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after he was ousted from power in an army coup and imprisoned by Musharraf in 1999. Under a deal brokered by the Saudis, Sharif agreed to stay away from Pakistan for 10 years. When an impatient Sharif broke that promise and flew into Pakistan, a Saudi plane was on the tarmac to fly him back. But when the Americans arranged a deal between Musharraf and Benazir in Bhutto 2007, the Saudis put Sharif back in the Pakistani play. - More, C. Raja Mohan, at:

With Release of Prisoners, Afghan Leader Again Defies U.S. Wishes --- KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday ordered the release of dozens of prisoners accused of having American blood on their hands, saying there was not enough evidence to hold them and intensifying his showdown with Obama administration officials after weeks of warnings that he risked losing American troop support. -- The move threatened to plunge relations to a new state of crisis even as a broader, long-term security agreement between the two countries has been held up for weeks. -- American officials have said that the prisoners to be released are dangerous Taliban militants and that freeing them without trial would violate an agreement on detainees reached last year. -- That detention authority deal was considered a prerequisite to the security pact, known as the bilateral security agreement, which would allow for a continued American troop presence and aid past 2014. -- Still, just a week after some American officials insisted that such a prisoner release would prove that Mr. Karzai could not be trusted to honor a security deal, the initial American response on Thursday was cautious. Officials were critical of the release, but also careful to say that the move would not harm the security deal and that they were still trying to get a full accounting for the decision. -- “We don’t tie it to B.S.A.,” one Obama administration official said, referring to the security agreement and noting that it was a “separate deal,” while speaking on the condition of anonymity. - More, MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NYTimes, at:

Obama's Insincere War in Afghanistan --- Robert Gates has roiled the Beltway with perhaps the least surprising bombshell ever to appear in a tell-all Washington memoir. Did anyone believe that President Barack Obama was passionately committed to the…- More, Rich Lowry, NewsMax - at:

Ariel Sharon, Whose Life And Career Shaped Israeli History, Dies --- Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a towering figure in the history of Israel as a soldier and politician, died on Saturday. He was 85.-- His death was announced by Shlomo Noy, the director of Sheba Medical Center where Sharon was being treated. Sharon had been in a coma since he suffered a massive stroke in January 2006 during the last Israeli election campaign, in which he was assured of re-election. -- Sharon's career spanned the birth of the nation and most of the essential turning points in its history. Israelis had a love-hate relationship with Sharon that was beginning to soften only shortly before his death.-- "His career was defined by doing the dirty work that was necessary for the state of Israel both to be born and to survive," said Mark LeVine, professor of contemporary Middle East history at the University of California, Irvine. --- Ariel Sharon was born in 1928 in what was then Palestine under the British mandate. His parents, Shmuel and Devorah Scheinerman, had been Jewish immigrants from Russia after World War I. - More, Mike Shuster, NPR, at:

جیمز کنینگهم: شاید امضای سند امنیتی را کرزی به حکومت آینده محول کند --- سفیر امریکا در کابل می گوید، او مطمین نیست که رئیس جمهور کرزی، به زودی توافقنامهء امنیتی را با ایالات متحده امضا کند. -- جیمز کنینگهم در یک پیام مخابره یی تازه گفته است که شاید امضای این سند از سوی حامد کرزی به حکومت آینده افغانستان محول شود. -- وی به اداره رییس جمهور بارک اوباما هشدار داده که تلاش های آنها برای تشویق رییس جمهور افغانستان جهت امضای توافقنامه امنیتی میان کابل و واشنگتن براساس جدول زمانی تعیین شده از سوی امریکا، شاید ناکام شود.-- روزنامهء واشنگتن پوست به نقل از مقام های امریکایی گزارش میدهد که در یک پیام محرمانه، جیمز کنینگهم سفیر امریکا در کابل نوشته است که او فکر نمیکند رییس جمهور کرزی، پیش از انتخابات اپریل یعنی شانزدهم حمل، به امضا توافقنامه امنیتی با ایالات متحده توافق کند. - کنینگهم از مدت ها به اینسو، بحیث نماینده امریکا با مقام های افغان روی توافقنامه امنیتی دو جانبه گفتگو کرده است. -- جنرال جوزیف دانفورد قوماندان عمومی نیرو های بین المللی در افغانستان دیروز از مقام های افغان خواست تا توافقنامه امنیتی را به زودی با امریکا امضا کنند. -- دانفورد هشدار داد که اگر این سند در یک فرصت زود امضا نشود، نیرو های بین المللی مستقر در افغانستان، حمایت پارلمان های کشور شانرا از دست خواهند داد. -- قوماندان ارشد ناتو همچنان گفت: توافقنامه امنیتی میان کابل و واشنگتن، یک چهارچوب برای ماموریت آینده نیرو های بین المللی در افغانستان است. -- قصر سفید به روز دوشنبه گفت، ایالات متحده می خواهد تا اگر حکومت افغانستان خواهان حضور نظامیان امریکایی پس از سال 2014 در این کشور است، باید در چند هفته، توافقنامه را امضا کند. -- در صورتیکه این سند امضا نشود، گمان می رود ایالات متحده تمامی نظامیانش را از افغانستان بیرون کند و در چنین وضیعت، نیرو های امنیتی افغان، شاید در جنگ با طالبان تنها بمانند. -- رییس جمهور کرزی گفته که پس از برگزاری انتخابات ماه حمل و روی کار آمدن حکومت نو، رییس جمهور تازه افغانستان می تواند این سند را با امریکا امضا کند که این اظهارات تا حالا برای ایالات متحده قابل پذیرش نبوده است. - رادیو آزادی

Karzai not seen meeting U.S. deadline on security deal --- (Reuters) - U.S. efforts to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a long-term security agreement according to Washington's timetable will likely fail, the lead American negotiator has warned the Obama administration, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. -- In a classified cable that the Post said was transmitted in recent days, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham wrote that he did not think Karzai would agree to sign the agreement before Afghanistan's presidential election in April, the newspaper said, citing U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. - More, at:

Karzai is unlikely to meet deadline on signing long-term security deal, U.S. envoy says --- The lead American negotiator in talks over a long-term security agreement with Afghanistan has privately warned the Obama administration that its efforts to persuade President Hamid Karzai to sign the document on the U.S. timetable are likely to fail, according to officials. -- The assessment, if borne out, could raise the chances of a hasty and messy troop withdrawal by the end of the year and would leave the administration with little time to assemble a military coalition to remain in Afghanistan after the pullout. --- The assessment, transmitted in recent days in a classified cable by U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham, follows the administration’s repeated extension of the deadline for an agreement it originally said it expected to complete early last fall. The White House said this week that the document must be signed within “weeks, not months.” -- In the cable, Cunningham said he did not think Karzai would agree to sign the pact before a presidential election scheduled for April. -- The ambassador’s conclusion is a stark indication of how acrimonious discussions between the two countries have become. On Thursday, in a separate blow to relations, Karzai’s government said it will release 72 high-profile Afghan detainees, turned over by the U.S. military for trial, despite American insistence that they pose a threat to Afghan and U.S. security forces. --- After a year of testy negotiations, the U.S. inability to complete the security accord could open the administration to charges of “losing” Afghanistan if all U.S. troops have to leave. Senior Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio), charged Thursday that President Obama was largely responsible for the ongoing upheaval and al-Qaeda gains in Iraq, where the administration was unable to complete a similar agreement before the final departure of American troops from that country at the end of 2011. -- In an assessment circulated last month, the U.S. intelligence community judged that a total American military withdrawal from Afghanistan would lead to a rapid collapse of central government control to the Taliban and other power brokers in wide swaths of the country. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

Stability proves elusive in troubled Afghanistan --- It is said that life in a war zone is cheap, but conditions in southern Afghanistan in the last century have been singularly difficult. -- In a style marked by smoothness as well as clarity and exceptional detail, Canadian foreign correspondent Graeme Smith describes the stressful state of conditions in Afghanistan, particularly the southern part. -- He was 26 and full of optimism when he arrived in the troubled country in 2005 with his Globe and Mail assignment. He hoped to find Canadian and other NATO troops supporting some kind of democratic lifestyle. - More, Reviewed by: Ron Kirbyson, at:

Neiman Marcus Says Hackers Stole Credit Card Data --- Upscale retailer Neiman Marcus isn't yet saying how many customers might be at risk, but it is confirming that a breach of credit card data took place. The company says it learned of "potentially unauthorized payment card activity" before Christmas. The company says it is working with federal investigators, and a forensics team is trying to determine the size of the breach. -- The digital security expert Brian Krebs wrote about the stolen credit card data today: -- "Earlier this week, I began hearing from sources in the financial industry about an increasing number of fraudulent credit and debit card charges that were being traced to cards that had been very recently used at brick-and-mortar stores run by the Dallas, Texas based high-end retail chain." -- Krebs also says that a Neiman Marcus representative says there's no sign that the hack is related to the attack on Target, which said today that information about up to 70 million people may have been stolen. --- Here's a statement Neiman Marcus spokesperson Ginger Reeder sent to NPR's Sonari Glinton: -- "Neiman Marcus was informed by our credit card processor in mid-December of potentially unauthorized payment card activity that occurred following customer purchases at our Neiman Marcus Group stores. -- "We informed federal law enforcement agencies and are working actively with the U.S. Secret Service, the payment brands, our credit card processor, a leading investigations, intelligence and risk management firm, and a leading forensics firm to investigate the situation. On January 1st, the forensics firm discovered evidence that the company was the victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion and that some customers' cards were possibly compromised as a result. We have begun to contain the intrusion and have taken significant steps to further enhance information security. - More, Bill Chappell, NPR, at:

$1.35 Billion In Losses Reported By Nevada's Major Casinos --- Nevada's big casinos are on a losing streak. For the fifth straight year, the state's largest casinos are reporting net losses – in this case, a total of $1.35 billion in the most recent fiscal year. That's the news from a report released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board Friday, which focuses on casinos that gross at least $1 million in gaming revenue. -- The most recent data showed 263 such casinos in the state, generating gaming revenue of $10.4 billion (up 1.1 percent) and total revenue of $23 billion. -- As a group, the large casinos have not reported a profit since 2008, The Las Vegas Sun reports, citing a state official. We'll note that according to the Gaming Board, the casinos' fiscal year ends on June 30. So, the newly released numbers reflect data up to last summer. -- "Statewide, slot machines accounted for 64.9 percent of the gaming win of $10.3 billion. Table games produced 31.7 percent of gaming revenues," The Sun reports. "Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip produced $15.5 billion in total revenues, with 37 percent coming from gaming. The net loss on the Strip was $1.4 billion, or 13 percent less than 2012." - More, NPR, at:

Friday, January 10, 2014

US 'tried to oust Hamid Karzai by manipulating Afghan elections' --- The US government tried to oust the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, by manipulating elections in 2009, in what amounted to a "clumsy and failed putsch", the former defence secretary Robert Gates has been quoted as writing in his memoir. -- Karzai has long claimed that the US tried to manipulate the poll to remove him from office, while Washington insisted it was an impartial supporter of democracy. The revelations in Gates's account of his years in power, which is published next week and covers the war in Afghanistan, appear to vindicate the Afghan leader's suspicions. --- The top US diplomat Richard Holbrooke supported Karzai's rivals in the hope of pushing the poll to a second round that the incumbent would lose, Foreign Policy magazine reported. -- "It was all ugly: our partner, the president of Afghanistan, was tainted, and our hands were dirty as well," Gates is quoted writing. -- Karzai has cited concerns about foreign interference in a vote to choose his successor later this year as one reason for the delay in signing a long-term security pact with Washington to keep troops in the country after their combat mission ends later this year. -- The deal is unlikely to be signed on the timetable the US government would like, the ambassador to Kabul warned in a secret cable leaked to the Washington Post. -- US politicians and the military want it sealed early this year to allow for a smooth withdrawal and planning for next year if any troops stay on. -- Ties with Kabul have been strained by a string of disagreements over civilian deaths, election planning and other issues, including the release of dozens of men Karzai says are innocent and the US claims are a serious security threat. --- Holbrooke, who died in December 2010, was the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and played a key role in 2009 efforts to remove Karzai from power. He paid public lip-service to the idea of a level playing field, but was working behind the scenes to ensure the opposite, Gates writes: "Holbrooke was doing his best to bring about the defeat of Karzai… What he really wanted was to have enough credible candidates running to deny Karzai a majority in the election, thus forcing a runoff in which he could be defeated." -- Tactics included advising candidates, attending their rallies and organising high-profile photo opportunities, the memoir claims. Karzai soon noticed the efforts, it adds. - More, Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian, at:

افغانستان به هشت میلیارد دالر برای اعمار سیستم کانالیزاسیون نیاز دارد --- در کابل و دیگر شهرهای افغانستان برخی مردم آب آشامیدنی خود را از چاه های شخصی به دست می آورند. این چاه های آب در نزدیکی چاه های بدرفت (سیپتیک) قرار دارند و امکان آلوده شدن آب آشامیدنی به مواد فاضله انسانی بالاست. -- به دلیل نبود سیستم آب رسانی و کانالیزاسیون مردم با مشکلات محیط زیستی و صحی مواجه اند. اما در سال های اخیر در این عرصه نه تنها کاری صورت نگرفته بلکه در در چندین شهر، شهرک های جدیدی بدون سیستم کانالیزاسیون معیاری ایجاد شده اند. -- از سالیان متمادی به دلیل نبود وعدم تطبیق ماستر پلان شهری، شهرها به صورت غیرمعیاری ساخته شده اند. مسوولان اداره آب رسانی و کانالیزاسیون به این فکر می کنند که چگونه می توانند در شهرها بهبود بیاورند، در غیر آن ممکن نیست که این شهرها ویران شده و دوباره از نو ساخته شوند. -- در عین حال مسوولین اداره آب رسانی و کانالیزاسیون از تطبیق پروژه های آبرسانی در سال 2014 میلادی در شهر کابل خبر می دهند. انجنیر بهیر می گوید در شهر کابل حدود 71 میلیون دالر از سوی آلمان، فرانسه و امریکا برای این پروژه ها هزینه می شود. با تطبیق این برنامه 50 هزار خانوار از نعمت آب صحی بهره مند خواهند شد. - صدای آلمان

By Robert M. Gates: The Wars of Robert Gates --- On Afghanistan, Obama was caught between his generals' advice and his advisers' political worries -- I had been the secretary of defense for just over two years on Jan. 21, 2009, but on that day I again became the outsider. The Obama administration housed a web of long-standing relationships—from Democratic Party politics and the Clinton administration—about which I was clueless. I was also a geezer in the new administration. Many influential appointees below the top level, especially in the White House, had been undergraduates—or even in high school—when I had been CIA director. No wonder my nickname in the White House soon was Yoda, the ancient Jedi teacher in "Star Wars." -- For the first several months, it took a lot of discipline to sit quietly at the table as everyone from President Obama on down took shots at President Bush and his team. Sitting there, I would often think to myself, Am I invisible? -- During these excoriations, there was never any acknowledgment that I had been an integral part of that earlier team. Discussions in the Situation Room allowed no room for discriminating analysis: Everything was awful, and Obama and his team had arrived just in time to save the day. -- Our discussions soon turned to the war in Afghanistan. My years in the Bush administration had convinced me that creating a strong, democratic, and more or less honest and competent central government in Afghanistan was a fantasy. Our goal, I thought, should be limited to hammering the Taliban and other extremists and to building up the Afghan security forces so they could control the extremists and deny al Qaeda another safe haven in Afghanistan.-- At the Obama administration's first National Security Council meeting on Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 2009, there was much discussion of the lack of a coherent strategy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had previously asked to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan to deal with the Taliban's expected summer offensive and the country's upcoming presidential elections—a request eventually pared back to about 17,000 troops and an additional 4,000 "enablers," troops for countering roadside bombs, ordnance disposal, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and medics. -- This pressure for an early decision on a troop increase had the unfortunate and lasting effect of creating suspicion in the White House that Obama was getting the "bum's rush" from senior military officers—especially the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, and Gen. David Petraeus, who was then running the U.S. Central Command—to make a big decision prematurely. I believed then—and now—that this distrust was stoked by Vice President Joe Biden, with Deputy National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and some of Obama's other White House advisers joining the chorus. --- A March report on the Afghanistan situation by Bruce Riedel, a seasoned and very capable Middle East expert who had advised the Obama campaign, proved breathtaking in its ambition. It recommended disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, promoting a more effective Afghan government, ending Pakistan's support for terrorist groups and working to reduce enmity between Pakistan and India. Most significantly for the conflicts to come between the White House and the U.S. military, the report called for a "fully-resourced counterinsurgency campaign" to let us "regain the initiative" from the Taliban. -- All of Obama's national security principals—except Biden—agreed with Riedel's recommendations. But the vice president argued that the war was politically unsustainable at home. I thought he was wrong—and that if the president remained steadfast, he could sustain even an unpopular war, as President Bush had done with a far less popular war in Iraq. The key was showing that we were succeeding militarily and that an end was in sight. -- The president embraced most of Riedel's recommendations and announced his new "Af-Pak" strategy in a televised speech on March 27, including 21,000 more soldiers to "take the fight to the Taliban." There would now be some 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan. - More, The Saturday Essay, Wall Street Journal, at:

Marcus Luttrell's 'Lone Survivor' Is A Brutal Tribute To Navy SEALs --- NEW YORK (AP) — Marcus Luttrell, the former Navy SEAL whose deadly mission in Afghanistan has been turned into the film "Lone Survivor," strides into a hotel room for an interview, trailed by his service dog, Mr. Rigby. -- The tall, hulking, goateed Navy Cross recipient greets a journalist with a rock-hard grip, and nods to director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg, who plays him in the film. This is clearly not what he wants to be doing. -- Based on Luttrell's best-selling 2007 memoir, "Lone Survivor" is about a 2005 four-man operation in northeastern Afghanistan's Kunar province that fell apart when a trio of goat herders stumbled upon the staked-out SEALs. --- "Lone Survivor," which opens like a recruitment video with documentary footage of intense SEAL training, is the latest in a series of films that pays tribute to the Navy's special forces: In messy, uncertain wars, they're elite practitioners of precision. In the era of the superhero film, the Navy SEALs have inspired filmmakers as the genuine article. - More, JAKE COYLE, at:

Half of Congress Members Are Millionaires, Report Says --- WASHINGTON — It is hardly the kind of news that lawmakers in Congress would want to highlight during a week when unemployment benefits expired for more than a million Americans. But Congress has achieved something of a milestone. -- For the first time in history, more than half the members of the House and Senate are now millionaires, according to a new analysis of financial disclosure reports filed last year. -- The median net worth for lawmakers in the House and Senate was $1,008,767 — up 4.4 percent, according to the analysis, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which examines the influence of money on politics in Washington. -- Over all, at least 268 of the 534 current members of Congress had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, which is the year covered by the reports that each lawmaker had to file in 2013. - More, ERIC LIPTON, NYTimes, at:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Afghanistan to free most inmates seen by U.S. as threat --- (Reuters) - Afghanistan has enough evidence to try only 16 of 88 prisoners that the United States considers a threat to security and plans to free the remaining detainees, the president's spokesman said on Thursday. -- The move will further strain relations between the two countries that are already near breaking point over President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a security deal to shape the U.S. military presence after most foreign troops leave this year.- Without a deal, Washington could pull most of its troops out after 2014.--- The United States is strongly opposed to their release because it says the prisoners, being held in Afghanistan, have been involved in the wounding or killing of U.S. and coalition troops.-- State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday the United States considers 72 of those detainees dangerous. -- "These 72 detainees are dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices, the largest killer of Afghan civilians," Psaki said at a news briefing. -- She said "time will tell" whether the release of the detainees will affect the signing of the agreement. Psaki said it was in the interest of the Afghan people and its government to sign it. --- She said "time will tell" whether the release of the detainees will affect the signing of the agreement. Psaki said it was in the interest of the Afghan people and its government to sign it.-- "We cannot allow innocent Afghan citizens to be kept in detention for months and years without a trial for no reason at all," Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told Reuters.-- "We know that unfortunately this has been happening at Bagram, but it is illegal and a violation of Afghan sovereignty and we cannot allow this anymore."-- The president's decision came after the head of Afghanistan's spy agency presented the cases against the prisoners at meeting on Thursday morning. - More, at:

امریکا د بګرام د ۷۲ بندیانو پر خوشي کېدو اندېښنه ښکاره کړه --- د امریکا د متحدو ایالتونو د بهرنیو چارو وزارت د افغانستان د حکومت له لوري د بګرام د ۷۲ بندیانو، چې واشنګټن یې خطرناک بولي، د خوشي کېدو پر پرېکړې اندېښنه څرګنده کړه. -- د افغانستان د ملي امنیت ریاست نن په ارګ کې په عدلي او قضايي غونډه کې ولسمشر کرزي ته په یوه راپور کې اعلان وکړ چې د بګرام د محبس د ۸۸ بندیانو د دوسیې له څېړلو وروسته ورته څرګنده شوه چې ۴۵ تنه یې هیڅ راز جرمي شواهد نه لري، د ۴۵ تنو نورو په اړه یوازې عادي اطلاع موجوده ده خو ۱۶ تنه یې هغه بندیان دي چې د هیواد په امنیتي ادارو کې د هغوی په اړه د جرم اسناد موجود دي. - پر دې اساس به له ۱۶ بندیانو پرته پاتې ۷۲ بندیان خوشي شي. -- غونډې ته د بګرام په زندان کې د هغو ۸۸ تنو بندیانو په اړه چې د بګرام د بندیانو د دوسیو د بیاکتنې بورد او امریکا ترمنځ یې د سبرخلیک په باب د نظر اختلاف موجود دی، د ملي امنیت د لوی ریاست د سرپرست انجنیر رحمت الله نبیل لخوا راپور وړاندې شو. -- د رویټرز خبري اژانس د راپور له مخې د امریکا د بهرنیو چارو وزارت ویندویې جین ساکي (Jen Psaki) د افغانستان د حکومت د پرېکړې له اعلانېدو وروسته نن وویل:«دا ۷۲ تنه بندیان خطرناک جنایتکاران دي چې له تروریستو جنایتکارانو سره د دوی د اړیکو او د سړک د غاړې په بمي چاودنو کې د دوی د لاس لرلو په اړه موږ کره او کلک شواهد لرو.» -- اغلې ساکي د هغو سلګونو نورو بندیانو په اړه څه ونه ویل چې په کلونو– کلونو په بګرام بند کې ساتل شوي ول او دوی د هغوی د توقیفولو په اړه هیڅ راز شواهد او اسناد نه لرل - تاند

Prisoner release threatens U.S.-Afghan ties --- KABUL — The Afghan government said Thursday it will release 72 high-profile detainees, a decision that defies pleas by U.S. officials and deals a massive blow to U.S.-Afghan relations just as the two countries attempt to complete a long-term security agreement. -- U.S. officials say the prisoners pose a threat to both Afghan security and American service members based here, claiming their exoneration proves not only the dysfunction of the Afghan judiciary, but also the government’s inability to cooperate on even the gravest matters. -- President Hamid Karzai declared Thursday that the evidence against the 72 men — which had been collected by both the Afghan intelligence service and the U.S. military — was insufficient to warrant formal trials, according to a statement from the presidential palace. - More, Kevin Sieff, washingtonpost, at:

Afghanistan to Free Prisoners Accused of Killing Americans --- KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday ordered the release of dozens of prisoners accused of having American blood on their hands, intensifying his showdown with Obama administration officials after weeks of confrontation and warnings that he risked losing American troop support.-- The move instantly cast more doubt on the prospects of a long-term security agreement between the two countries that has been held up for weeks, and threatened to plunge relations to a new state of crisis. American officials have said that releasing the prisoners without a trial would violate an agreement on detainees last year that was considered a cornerstone of the broader security deal now up in the air. -- “This is certainly not the end of the story,” said the aide, Aimal Faizi, in an interview on Thursday. “There are certainly others that we need keep looking at because they have been in some cases for years for unknown reasons.” -- As for the 72 detainees ordered freed on Thursday, “we have the right to release the men,” Mr. Faizi said. “The Americans know very well they do not have anything that is solid against these detainees.” He characterized some of the evidence as being nothing more than fingerprints on guns, noting that almost everyone in Afghanistan owns a gun. -- The announcement from Mr. Karzai’s office came late Thursday afternoon, the last day of the Afghan working week, and American officials said they were trying to get a full accounting of the decision and figure out how to react. - More, MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NYTimes, at:

In Norway, everyone is now a millionaire, thanks to oil --- Everyone in Norway became a theoretical millionaire on Wednesday in a milestone for the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund that has ballooned thanks to high oil and gas prices. -- A preliminary counter on the website of the central bank, which manages the fund, rose to 5.11 trillion crowns ($828.66 billion), fractionally more than a million times Norway's most recent official population estimate of 5,096,300.-- It was the first time it reached the equivalent of a million crowns each, central bank spokesman Thomas Sevang said. -- Set up in 1990, the fund owns around 1 percent of the world's stocks, as well as bonds and real estate from London to Boston, making the Nordic nation an exception when others are struggling under a mountain of debts. --- Not that Norwegians will be able to access or spend the money, squirreled away for a rainy day for them and future generations. Norway has resisted the temptation to splurge all the windfall since striking oil in the North Sea in 1969. -- Norway has sought to avoid the boom and bust cycle by investing the cash abroad, rather than at home. Governments can spend 4 percent of the fund in Norway each year, slightly more than the annual return on investment. -- Still, in Norway, oil wealth may have made the state reluctant to make reforms or cut subsidies unthinkable elsewhere. Farm subsidies allow farmers, for instance, to keep dairy cows in heated barns in the Arctic. - It may also have made some Norwegians reluctant to work. "One in five people of working age receives some kind of social insurance instead of working," Doerum said, despite an official unemployment rate of 3.3 percent. - Reuters Facebook / nbcnews

Unemployment in Europe Stays High Amid Signs of Recovery --- PARIS — Europe’s labor market remained stagnant in November, but analysts saw reason for hope elsewhere in the economy, including a surge in retail sales. -- The unemployment rate in the euro zone stood at 12.1 percent, a stubbornly high level that has held since April, Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, reported on Wednesday. -- As the sovereign debt crisis seized the region and economic malaise set in, the jobless rose from just under 10 percent in early 2011 to the current record level. The November rate was in line with economists’ expectations. -- For the full European Union, made up of 28 member states, the jobless rate was unchanged at 10.9 percent. Eurostat estimated that 26.6 million people across Europe were unemployed and seeking work, 19,000 more than in October. - More, DAVID JOLLY, NYTimes - at:

Robert Gates: The Iraq War Undermined U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan --- The former secretary of defense also says that American foreign policy is too militarized and that politicians can't be trusted to do what's right. -- President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009. -- With Obama ... I joined a new, inexperienced president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election. Domestic political considerations would therefore be a factor, though I believe never a decisive one, in virtually every major national security problem we tackled. The White House staff—including Chiefs of Staff Rahm Emanuel and then Bill Daley as well as such core political advisers as Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs —would have a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced (but which, I'm sure, had precedents). -- Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran's nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents. Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. -- On the left, we hear about the "responsibility to protect" civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. - More, Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Does Robert Gates memoir hint at Obama's next Afghanistan moves? (+video) --- Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he witnessed a president making the right decisions and following the right strategy in Afghanistan, but not really believing in them. -- In his new memoir spanning his years as secretary of Defense, Robert Gates offers a harsh assessment of President Obama’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan – the war that, in comparison to the Iraq war, the president always said he considered a necessary war to safeguard America from terrorist attacks. -- What Mr. Gates says he witnessed in the Obama White House was a president making the right decisions and following the right strategy, but not really believing in them. -- “I believe Obama was right in each of [his] decisions” on Afghanistan policy, Gates writes towards the end of “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” set to be released next week. That would include Mr. Obama’s decision in late 2009 to “surge” 30,000 additional troops into the war to stabilize Afghanistan before a US pullout. - More, csmonitor, at:

سعودي عربستان په خپله خاوره کې طالبانو ته د دفتر د پرانستلو لپاره له پاکستانه مرسته غوښتې --- د پاکستان یوې ورځپاڼې د دغه هیواد د چارواکو په قول وویل چې د سعودي عربستان د بهرنیو چارو وزیر د اسلام اباد په وروستي سفر کې له پاکستانه غوښتي چې په سعودي کې د طالبانو لپاره د دفتر په پرانستلو کې مرسته وکړي. -- نوای وقت ورځپاڼې پرون /چهارشنبه/ د پاکستان د بهرنیو چارو د مرستیال وزیر اعزاز احمد چودري له خولې لیکلي چې په همدې لړ کې به د امریکا د بهرنیو چارو وزیر جان کیري هم ژر اسلام اباد ته ورشي. -- ښاغلي چودري وویل، ټاکل شوې ده چې سعودي عربستان، پاکستان او امریکا ډېر ژر د طالبانو د دفتر د پرانستلو او نورو سیمه ییزو چارو په تېره بیا د افغانستان د حالاتو په اړه له یو بل سره خبرې وکړي او په دې برخه کې جوړجاړي وکړي. -- د سعودي عربستان د بهرنیو چارو وزیر سعود الفیصل، چې د خپل هیواد د پاچا ملک عبدالله یو خاص پیغام یې د پاکستان ولسمشر ته وسپاره، پرون په یوه خبري غونډه کې وویل چې افغانستان له یوې خورا سختې مرحلې د تېرېدو په حال کې دی او باید د ناټو پوځیان له دغه هیواده ووځي. -- ده په عین حال کې چې د ناټو ځواکونو د بې جنجاله وتلو غوښتنه وکړه پر دې هم تاکید وکاوه چې ترهګر باید بیا په افغانستان کې واک ته ونه رسېږي. -- فیصل دا هم وویل چې پاکستان او عربستان په دې موافقه کړې چې له افغانستانه د بهرنیو پوځیانو له وتلو وروسته باید په افغانستان کې هیڅ راز تشدد دوام ونه کړي او په دغه هیواد کې د واک هیڅ ډول تشه رامنځته نه شي. -- سعود الفیصل د پاکستان په دوه ورځیني سفر کې له صدراعظم نوازشریف، ولسمشر ممنون حسین او د ملي امنیت سلاکار سرتاج عزیز سره وکتل. - تاند

U.S. wants Afghanistan to sign security deal in 'weeks not months' --- (Reuters) - The United States wants the Afghanistan government to sign a bilateral security agreement in matter of weeks if a contingent of U.S. troops is to remain there after 2014, the White House said on Monday. -- The Afghan government had ignored U.S. demands for it to sign a framework security agreement by the end of 2013, after protracted negotiations that have strained relations between the two countries. -- U.S. officials say unless a deal is reached to keep upwards of 8,000 U.S. troops inside the country after 2014, the United States might instead completely withdraw from the country. -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has expressed skepticism at the U.S. threat for a complete withdrawal. -- "Our position continues to be that if we cannot conclude a bilateral security agreement promptly, then we will be forced to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.- More, at:

Gates’s criticism of Obama in ‘Duty’ shows risks of initial ‘team of rivals’ approach --- In reminiscing about his time in office and the advice he has received along the way, President Obama often cites an early warning passed on by the Washington veteran he decided to keep in his first Cabinet: Robert Gates. -- “Every day,” Gates told Obama in the first weeks of his presidency, “someone, somewhere, in the federal government is screwing up.” -- Now it turns out that Gates often believed that person was Obama — or, at least, some of those very close to him. -- With the impending publication of a memoir that is critical of the president and some of his top advisers, Gates has highlighted the risk Obama took by building a jostling, ambitious, big-intellect “team of rivals” to advise him. -- The former defense secretary, a holdover from the George W. Bush administration, has called into question Obama’s commitment to his Afghan war policy, criticized how political calculation influenced national security decisions and complained about the president’s distrust of the uniformed military command. -- Conservatives see a politically motivated White House and a president who couldn’t decide what to do in Afghanistan, choosing a half-measure and escape plan instead of a strategy to win. Liberals see a president unafraid of the military and eager to reflect the country’s growing antiwar sentiment, focusing instead on economic problems at home. --- White House officials say the feeling in the West Wing about Gates’s assertions is a sense of disappointment more than betrayal. The book is a distraction at a time when postwar Afghanistan plans are in flux, fallout from National Security Agency disclosures are roiling diplomatic relations and Iraq is surging with violence, they say. -- More, Scott Wilson, Washingtonpost, at:

50 years later, war on poverty has new battle lines --- WASHINGTON — Fifty years later, LBJ's audacious promise in his first State of the Union Address may be resounding again. -- On Jan. 8, 1964, just seven weeks after John F. Kennedy's assassination propelled him into the Oval Office, Lyndon B. Johnson described to a Joint Session of Congress the plight of Americans who "live on the outskirts of hope" because of poverty or race. "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," he declared in his Texas twang, voice rising. Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and more would follow in a historic rush of legislation. --- LBJ set the goal high. "It will not be a short or easy struggle; no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won," he declared in his speech, 50 years ago Wednesday. "The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it." --- Many of those programs were launched by LBJ. During his administration, a pilot program for food stamps became permanent. The federal government established the Head Start program for preschoolers, began to help finance elementary and secondary school education, and started college aid and loan programs. Social Security benefits were raised and Medicare and Medicaid were created. -- "Nobody talked about poverty since then the way he did," says Califano, who would later serve as secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Carter administration. "Poverty and civil rights were the driving forces of his presidency." When Johnson read through speechwriter Ted Sorensen's draft of that first State of the Union address, he added several words to the key sentence on poverty — writing in "today" and "here and now" — for emphasis. --- "The American people are angry; they are hurting; they are sick and tired of Wall Street and the very rich becoming richer while the middle class disappears," says Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a political independent who caucuses with the Democrats. He says income and wealth inequality have "reached obscene proportions." - More, Susan Page, USA TODAY - at:

War on Poverty: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Office of Economic Opportunity --- When President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared an "unconditional war on poverty" fifty years ago in his State of the Union speech, it marked the first time the federal government had ever launched an aggressive program to eliminate poverty. Sadly, it was the last time an American President turned out to be a strong advocate for poor people. -- With a starting budget of $1 billion in 1964, the Office of Economic Opportunity(OEO), the flag ship of the Johnson anti-poverty initiative, created a large number of new programs and services, many of which still exist today. These programs--Head Start, the Job Corps, Legal Services, community health centers, community development corporations, Volunteers in Service to America(Vista) and Community Action Agencies-- continue to provide vital assistance to millions of people in need throughout the country. -- Other projects like the Neighborhood Youth Corps, summer youth programs, manpower training programs, senior centers and family planning clinics were eventually discontinued but later picked up in some form by other agencies, both state and federal. A robust research and demonstration division tested new ideas and projects, resulting in efforts such as early computer programs for middle school students, the creation of a Navajo community college and model comprehensive community service centers. -- The programs managed by OEO were accompanied in 1964-65 by Medicare and Medicaid, the introduction of food stamps, the Civil Rights Act and the expansion of social security benefits. All these efforts combined to provide a successful comprehensive approach to poverty reduction. The poverty rate in the U.S. declined from approximately 19% in 1964 to 10.1% in 1973, a reduction --contrary to the view of conservative critics-- largely due to federal intervention. -- The most controversial, politically sensitive and creative part of Johnson's anti-poverty program was the creation of community action agencies(CAA's) , local organizations with independent boards and budgets that provided social services and advocacy assistance to poor residents of both cities and counties as well as Indian reservations. State economic offices were also established to help coordinate and supplement the work of CAA's. --- The latter left an enormous legacy and moral obligation for the country. But, unfortunately, this challenge has remained unfulfilled. The Presidents and Administrations that have followed proved themselves unwilling or incapable of making the fight against poverty a national priority. Instead, they have slowly rolled back the safety net, leaving the country's poor--by today's definition 15% of Americans-- increasingly vulnerable and unprotected, preferring instead to enhance benefits for the rich and stressing middle class needs. Presidents Clinton and Obama, with one exception by President Clinton, never mentioned poverty in their state of the union speeches. And now the Congress is shutting down unemployment benefits and cutting back on food stamps for poor families in a time of financial stress. -- Our politicians should be ashamed of themselves. What type of leadership are they exercising not only in this country but throughout the rest of the world? For the richest country on the globe to demonstrate so little Interest and compassion for our neediest populations is a dishonor to our noble tradition of democracy and human rights. Might the 5oth anniversary of the Johnson anti-poverty programs commit President Obama to the cause of poverty he once rhetorically espoused but to date has done so little to implement? Let us hope so. - More, Pablo Eisenberg. Huffpost, at:

Obama's War Policies Tested From Mideast, Afghanistan --- WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is confronted with a recent burst of strength by al-Qaida that is chipping away at the remains of Mideast stability, testing his hands-off approach to conflicts in Iraq and Syria at the same time he pushes to keep thousands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. -- In Afghanistan, Obama already has decided to continue the fight against extremists, as long as Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs off on a joint security agreement. Obama seeks to leave as many as 10,000 troops there beyond December, extending what already has become the longest U.S. war. But officials say he would be willing to withdraw completely at the end of this year if the security agreement cannot be finalized. -- Despite the renewed fighting in Iraq, administration officials argue that keeping a few thousand forces in Afghanistan after the war formally ends later this year would help stabilize the country. The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency have warned that a withdrawal will turn the country into a lawless al-Qaida haven. - More, Huffpost, at:

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

مبارزه مهاجران افغان در بلجیم علیه اخراج --- صدها مهاجر افغان که درخواستی پناهندگی شان در بلجیم رد شده است، در وضعیت ناگواری به سر می برند. آنها از مدتی به این سو علیه این تصمیم حکومت بلجیم مبارزه می کنند و در جاهایی مثل کلیسا زندگی می کنند. -- این مهاجران افغان از ماه ها به این سو اعتراض هایی را به راه انداخته اند. آنها از حکومت بلجیم برای اخراج شان به افغانستان تقاضای یک مهلت قانونی می کنند. دست کم چهار تن از حامیان آن ها به اعتصاب غذایی پرداخته اند. -- همچنان برخی از افغان ها ساختمان های خالی را در بروکسل اشغال کرده اند و می گویند که جایی دیگری برای زندگی ندارند. از اواخر نوامبر به این سو به یک گروه بزرگ در کلیسای "بیگیناژ" پناه داده شده است که در مرکز شهر قرار دارد. خیمه ها و توشک های کمکی این کلیسای کوچک سرد را پر کرده است. این ها به شکل گروهی جمع شده اند تا تصمیم بگیرند که اقدام بعدی چه باید باشد. در حالی که کودکان از چوکی ها بالا می روند، زنان دور یک بخاری جمع شده اند -- نیروهای جنگی ناتو برای 12 سال در افغانستان حضور داشته اند اما تا پایان سال 2014 در حالی از این کشور خارج می شوند که شورشگری طالبان هنوز ادامه دارد. اما مقام های بلجیم مدعی اند که برخی مناطق افغانستان برای بازگشت پناهجویان امن و مصون می باشد. -- ماژی دوبلوک، وزیر دولت برای پناهجویان تا حال علامتی مبنی بر خواست این افغان ها از خود نشان نداده است. او که سیاستمدار مشهوری در منطقه فلاندر بلجیم است، برای انتخابات عمومی سال روان در مرکز توجه قرار دارد. -- خبرگزاری بلجیمی "بلگا" گزارش داده است، پس از آنکه در ماه دسمبر افغان ها به سمت جنوب به سوی شهر "مونس" راه پیمایی کردند، دوبلوک و الیو دی روپو نخست وزیر بلجیم از پناهجویان دعوت کردند تا درخواست های پناهندگی شان را دوباره تسلیم کنند. به آن ها وعد شد تا دوسیه های شان «با دقت زیاد» ارزیابی شود. -- ایزابل مارشال که اخراج این پناهندگان را از ساختمان های اشغال شده عکس برداری می کرد، مقام های بلجیمی را متهم ساخته و می گوید که راستکار نیستند و به دلایل انتخاباتی علیه مهاجران چنین برخورد می کنند. او می گوید که برای مقام های حکومتی رای دهندگان دست راستی که مخالف پناهندگان اند، بیشتر ارزش دارند. -- خانم مارشال می گوید: «با بحران اقتصادی مردم از کار شان ترس دارند. ما نمی توانیم چاره بدبختی همه جهان را بکنیم... اما حقوق بشر در این جا به بازی گرفته می شود». - More, صدای آلمان - at: DW.DE

Statement: White House Responds to Robert Gates’s Memoir --- Following the publication of excerpts from the forthcoming memoir by former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (read an exclusive WSJ excerpt here, and a rundown of top revelations here), the White House released a statement attributed to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden: -- The President deeply appreciates Bob Gates’ service as Secretary of Defense, and his lifetime of service to our country. Deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the President has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year. As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies. The President wishes Secretary Gates well as he recovers from his recent injury, and discusses his book.” -- “The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.” - Wall Street Journal, at:

By Robert M. Gates - The Quiet Fury of Robert Gates --- All too often during my 4½ years as secretary of defense, when I found myself sitting yet again at that witness table at yet another congressional hearing, I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else. It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch. -- Much of my frustration came from the exceptional offense I took at the consistently adversarial, even inquisition-like treatment of executive-branch officials by too many members of Congress across the political spectrum—creating a kangaroo-court environment in hearings, especially when television cameras were present. But my frustration also came from the excruciating difficulty of serving as a wartime defense secretary in today's Washington. Throughout my tenure at the Pentagon, under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, I was, in personal terms, treated better by the White House, Congress and the press for longer than almost anyone I could remember in a senior U.S. government job. So why did I feel I was constantly at war with everybody? Why was I so often so angry? Why did I so dislike being back in government and in Washington? -- I was brought in to help salvage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—both going badly when I replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. When I was sworn in, my goals for both wars were relatively modest, but they seemed nearly unattainable. In Iraq, I hoped we could stabilize the country so that when U.S. forces departed, the war wouldn't be viewed as a strategic defeat for the U.S. or a failure with global consequences; in Afghanistan, I sought an Afghan government and army strong enough to prevent the Taliban from returning to power and al Qaeda from returning to use the country again as a launch pad for terror. Fortunately, I believe my minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq and remain within reach in Afghanistan. -- President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009 -- For his part, President Obama simply wanted to end the "bad" war in Iraq and limit the U.S. role in the "good" war in Afghanistan. His fundamental problem in Afghanistan was that his political and philosophical preferences for winding down the U.S. role conflicted with his own pro-war public rhetoric (especially during the 2008 campaign), the nearly unanimous recommendations of his senior civilian and military advisers at the Departments of State and Defense, and the realities on the ground. -- The continuing fight over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration led to a helpful, steady narrowing of our objectives and ambitions. Still, I witnessed a good deal of wishful thinking in the Obama administration about how much improvement we might see with enough dialogue with Pakistan and enough civilian assistance to the Afghan government and people. When real improvements in those areas failed to materialize, too many people—especially in the White House—concluded that the president's entire strategy, including the military component, was a failure and became eager to reverse course. --- Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. On the left, we hear about the "responsibility to protect" civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do—and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response. -- This is particularly worth remembering as technology changes the face of war. A button is pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Mosul. A bomb destroys the targeted house on the right and leaves the one on the left intact. For too many people—including defense "experts," members of Congress, executive branch officials and ordinary citizens—war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless. But my years at the Pentagon left me even more skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain. - More, Wall Street Journal, at:

Former US defense secretary criticizes Obama administration in new memoir --- Strained relations between the White House and its military leaders have been laid bare by former US defense secretary Robert Gates, who accuses President Barack Obama and his top civilian advisers of lacking faith in their own strategy for conducting the war in Afghanistan. -- In a forthcoming memoir leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post that threatens to exacerbate current criticism of US policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gates – who was first appointed to his post by former President George W Bush – reveals, in a series of swipes that are surprisingly combative coming from such a senior former official, problems between the White House and the Pentagon that have made for troubling relations at the very highest levels. -- “All too early in the administration,” adds Gates, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials – including the president and vice-president – became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.” -- “The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out,” writes Gates. -- Obama's policies toward both Afghanistan and Iraq are under fresh scrutiny this month, as Karzai has refused to sign a deal to retain a US military presence after the bulk of troops are withdrawn this year, and Iraq has faced renewed al-Qaida militancy. --- On Tuesday, the White House defended its strategy, insisting it was up to both countries to ensure their own future stability. And in a statement released about the book, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: -- Deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the President has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war... As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies. The President wishes Secretary Gates well as he recovers from his recent injury, and discusses his book. - More, Guardian, Dan Roberts - at:

Taliban deny sending 10-year-old girl on Afghan suicide bomb mission --- The Taliban have denied that they dispatched a 10-year-old girl to carry out a suicide attack against Afghan police after the girl said her brother wrapped her in an explosives-packed vest but that she refused to blow herself up at a checkpoint in Helmand province. -- Border police in the southern Afghan province arrested the girl's father, Abdul Ghfar, and were searching for the brother, a police commander said. The girl, who was detained on Monday and identified herself only as Spozhmai, said her brother was a Taliban commander. -- But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahamdi on Tuesday denied any involvement in the alleged plot, which he dismissed as government propaganda. - "We never do this, especially with girls," he said. - More, Guardian, at:

Obama Lost Faith in Afghan Strategy, Book Asserts --- In His New Memoir, Robert M. Gates, the Former Defense Secretary, Offers a Critique of the President -- WASHINGTON — President Obama eventually lost faith in the troop increase he ordered in Afghanistan, his doubts fed by top White House civilian advisers opposed to the strategy, who continually brought him negative news reports suggesting it was failing, according to his former defense secretary, Robert M. Gates. -- In a new memoir, Mr. Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration who served for two years under Mr. Obama, praises the president as a rigorous thinker who frequently made decisions “opposed by his political advisers or that would be unpopular with his fellow Democrats.” But Mr. Gates says that by 2011, Mr. Obama began expressing his own criticism of the way his strategy in Afghanistan was playing out. -- At a pivotal meeting in the situation room in March 2011, Mr. Gates said, Mr. Obama opened with a blast of frustration over his Afghan policy — expressing doubts about Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander he had chosen, and questioning whether he could do business with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. -- “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates writes. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” --- “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” is the first book describing those years written from inside the cabinet. Mr. Gates offers more than 600 pages of detailed history of his personal wars with Congress, the Pentagon bureaucracy and, in particular, Mr. Obama’s White House staff over the four and a half years he sought to salvage victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. -- The “controlling nature” of the Obama White House and the national security staff “took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level,” Mr. Gates writes. -- Under Mr. Obama, the national security staff was “filled primarily by former Hill staffers, academics and political operatives” with little experience in managing large organizations. The national security staff became “increasingly operational,” which resulted in “micromanagement of military matters — a combination that had proven disastrous in the past.” -- A former C.I.A. director who served eight presidents in all, Mr. Gates is most critical of what he views as the inappropriate growth in size and power of the National Security Council staff. -- Mr. Gates describes his running policy battles within Mr. Obama’s inner circle, among them Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Tom Donilon, who served as national security adviser; and Douglas E. Lute, the Army lieutenant general who managed Afghan policy issues at the time. -- Mr. Gates calls Mr. Biden “a man of integrity,” but he questions the vice president’s judgment. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Mr. Gates writes. -- He discloses that he almost quit after a dispute-filled meeting with these advisers over Afghan policy in September, 2009. “I was deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation — from the top down - of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war,” he recalls. “I came closer to resigning that day than at any other time in my tenure, though no one knew it.” -- Mr. Gates is a bipartisan critic of the two presidents he served as defense secretary, George W. Bush and Mr. Obama. He holds the Bush administration responsible for misguided policy that squandered the early victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, although he credits Mr. Bush for ordering a troop surge in Iraq that contributed to averting collapse of the mission. - More, THOM SHANKER, NYTimes, at:

Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama’s leadership in ‘Duty’ --- In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.” -- Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.” -- As a candidate, Obama had made plain his opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion while embracing the Afghanistan war as a necessary response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, requiring even more military resources to succeed. In Gates’s highly emotional account, Obama remains uncomfortable with the inherited wars and distrustful of the military that is providing him options. Their different worldviews produced a rift that, at least for Gates, became personally wounding and impossible to repair. -- Gates’s severe criticism is even more surprising — some might say contradictory — because toward the end of “Duty,” he says of Obama’s chief Afghanistan policies, “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.” That particular view is not a universal one; like much of the debate about the best path to take in Afghanistan, there is disagreement on how well the surge strategy worked, including among military officials. - More, Bob Woodward, Washingtonpost, at:

Senate moves ahead with measure to extend long-term unemployment benefits --- The Senate voted narrowly Tuesday to move ahead with a measure to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, despite Republican demands for corresponding budget cuts. -- Immediately after the surprise vote, President Obama urged Congress to quickly finish the job of providing “a vital economic lifeline” to millions of Americans, part of a public and private campaign to sway wavering Republicans to come aboard. “We’ve got to make sure this recovery leaves nobody behind,” he said, stressing that the deep recession that gripped the nation at the beginning of his first term “was so devastating that there are still a lot of people who are struggling.” -- On a 60 to 37 roll call vote, Democrats just cleared the hurdle needed to set up a full debate of the legislation. Six Republicans voted with 54 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the cloture motion that permits the measure to move ahead. -- The procedural vote in the Senate came as the two parties jockeyed over the political issue of rising income inequality, with Democrats pushing more aid for the jobless and an increased minimum wage. Obama’s Tuesday speech will be followed later this week by several prominent Republicans touting conservative alternatives around the 50th anniversary of the launch of the “War on Poverty”. -- The final outcome of the benefits extension will be determined during negotiations over the next few days. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) will need to clear a second 60-vote hurdle to bring the measure to a final vote. - More, washingtonpost, at:

Monday, January 06, 2014

Angela Merkel injures pelvis in skiing accident --- The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has fractured her pelvis during a skiing holiday in Switzerland, forcing her to cancel several meetings and trips scheduled over the next three weeks. -- Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday the chancellor had fallen while cross-country skiing in Engadin near St Moritz in the Swiss Alps, suffering severe bruising and a "partial fracture of the left interior pelvic ring". -- Merkel at first thought she had just suffered bruising, and only realised the extent of her injuries after seeing a doctor upon her return to Berlin. A full recovery will require lots of resting and may take up to six weeks, medical experts said. - More, Guardian at:

Drug trade could splinter Afghanistan into fragmented criminal state – UN --- Afghanistan's booming narcotics trade risks splintering the country into a "fragmented, criminal state" if the government and its western allies do not step up efforts to tackle opium production and the illicit economy it supports, a senior UN official warned. -- Opium farming in Afghanistan, the world's main producer of the drug, hit a record high last year, with farmers harvesting a crop worth nearly $1bn (£610m) to them, and far more to the traffickers who take about four-fifths of the profit. -- There are no miracle cures. A transformation of the corrupt economy could take up to two decades, and opium production is likely to climb beyond 2013's worrying levels before it falls again, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, outgoing head of the UN office on drugs and crime in Afghanistan. -- But he still sees cause for hope in the transformation of the narcotics police into a disciplined and relatively well respected force, an increase in treatment for Afghan addicts, and the government's recent crackdown on powerful officials linked to the drugs trade including the arrest of a top police officer. -- "If no appropriate action is taken, then Afghanistan runs the risk of becoming a fragmented criminal state, ruled by an illicit economy," Lemahieu told the Guardian after five years grappling with Afghanistan's narcotics problem, as well as interlinked issues from government corruption to other criminal enterprises like illegal logging. "It is not too late, but we need to act decisively." - More, Guardian, at:

دبریتانیا دپوځ دوه پخواني چارواکي وايي، طالبان به بېرته ځینې سیمې لاندې کړي --- دبریتانیا دپوځ دوو پخوانیو چارواکو خبرداری ورکړ، سره له دې چې صدراعظم ډیوید کامرون په وروستیو کې اعلان وکړ چې دافغانستان ماموریت یې بشپړ شوی، خو کېدای شي دافغانستان دجنوب ځیني سیمې دطالبانو لاس ته ولوېږي. دبریتانیا دخاصو هوايي ځواکونو پخواني قومندان ریچارد ویلیمز پرون ټایمز ورځپاڼې وویل، په هلمند ولایت کې مخکې تر مخکې دطالبانو، افغان پوځیانو او سیاستوالو ترمنځ دهمکارۍ دزیاتېدو شواهد رابرسېره شوي دي. دفرانس پریس خبري آژانس دراپور له مخې ویلیمز ټایمز ورځپاڼې ته همداراز وویل:«ډېر به حیران شم چې که دهلمند راتلونکی والي له هغو کسانو سره ډېر نژدې نه وي چې موږ یې طالبان بولو.» ده دا هم وویل: «موږ به ناوړه حالت وروګرځو، او خلک به وايي چې موږ ماتې وکړه. زموږ نژدې پنځه سوه پوځیان ووژل شول، اکثره یې په هلمند کې وژل شوي، ددې ټولو په پای کې موږ هلمند بېرته دطالبانو خواخوږي والي ته وسپاره.» -- کامرون تېره میاشت هلمند ته دسفر په ترڅ کې بریتانیايي پوځیانو ته وویل چې په افغانستان کې د ناټو پوځي ماموریت یې بشپړ شوی دی. دده پر څرګندونو سخت اعتراضونه وشول. بریتانیا چې د ۲۰۱۳ کال په لومړیو کې په افغانستان کې ۹۰۰۰ سرتېري لرل، حاضردمه یې پنځه زره دوه سوه سرتېري پاتې دي او په پام کې لري چې دسږ کال په پای کې ټول محارب سرتېري وباسي. ډیویډ ریچارډز، چې تر تېر کال پوري دبریتانیا دپوځ لوی درستیز و، په دې کې شک لري چې افغان امنیتي ځواکونه دې دنړیوالو ځواکونو له وتلو وروسته حالات کنټرول کړای شي. دی وايي چې دمخالفانو په وړاندې دافغان امنیتي ځواکونو وړتیا به ژر کمزورې شي. ده همداراز وویل، په افغانستان کې داعتماد کمېدا به ددغه هیواد پر اقتصاد ویجاړوونکې اغېزې وشیندي او په دې توګه به دسخت دریځو زیاتېدو ته لاره اواره شي. - More, تاند -

Afghanistan and beyond: US foreign policy challenges in 2014 -- ISTANBUL-- A rocket exploded in the jagged, rocky hills just outside the American outpost at Torkham Gate, the gap in the mountains of the historic Khybar Pass that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. It was a bad shot. Rockets fired by the Taliban generally aren’t guided. -- Soldiers rushed to a shelter when the rocket detonated, but didn’t launch a mission to chase down the militants who’d fired at the base. They didn’t scour the Khybar Pass. They didn’t kick down doors in the nearby villages, or use metal detectors in Afghan homes and on suspected militants to find hidden weapons. American soldiers have been doing all these things in Afghanistan for years. But as we saw during this incident on Thanksgiving, things have changed. -- Technically, American troops in Afghanistan are trainers now. They’re supposed to advise and assist the Afghan security forces. For the Taliban, it’s quite a change. Now, they fight U.S. troops who generally don’t fight back. -- This year — 2014 — will be critical for the future of both Afghanistan and America’s longest war. U.S. forces will be entering into a strange limbo-period as they scale down from about 50 thousand in Afghanistan to a residual force of a few thousand. There may end up being no residual force at all if Washington and Kabul fail to agree to a bilateral security agreement. -- And it’s anyone’s guess how this transition will go. Afghanistan could return to civil war as it did when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. U.S. troops could become targets as they drawdown and increasingly have to fight a hardened adversary by remote control. -- Sitting in that bunker over Thanksgiving, I wondered what would have happened if that rocket had exploded in the center of the base. What if a few dozen American soldiers had been killed? What would they have died for? Who are they fighting now, and why, and how? Who wants to be the last soldier to die in a war where Americans are not supposed to be fighting, but where the enemy is still fighting them? -- The U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan will be tested in 2014, but this won’t be only challenge to U.S. foreign policy. Not even close. - More, NBC News, at:

An Up-Close Look at the Wrong End of War in Afghanistan --- The idea for my embed in Afghanistan this summer came from a breakfast meeting in April. I was part of a group of reporters who sat down with British army Brig. Gen. Stuart Skeates, the deputy commander for a U.S. Marine unit that had just returned from a deployment to the notoriously violent Helmand Province. When asked about the most important work facing the coalition as it prepares to leave Afghanistan, he was adamant and clear: training the Afghans to evacuate their wounded. -- "I can't emphasize enough how important it is to get these right," he said plainly, adding that work is now "the absolute exclusive focus" of the region in which from which he had just returned. - More, Paul D. Shinkman, usnews, at:

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Pakistani official complicates NATO’s Afghan war plans --- ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For years, American officials have tried to persuade Pakistan’s military chiefs and prime ministers to cooperate with U.S.-led war plans in neighboring Afghanistan. - But now it is a politician in a far-flung province who is standing in the way. -- Angered by U.S. drone strikes, Imran Khan has effectively halted NATO convoys through northwest Pakistan, a vital crossing point for trucks carrying supplies to and from landlocked Afghanistan. -- Khan, an Oxford-educated millionaire and former cricket star, has no real power in the national government. But his party controls the local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which NATO convoys must pass through to reach the northern border crossing. - More, Washingtonpost, at:

عصمت الهی از کدام آدرس سخن گفته است؟ --- اخیرا جلسهٔ با میزبانی مرکز جامعه‌المصطفی (مرکز وابسته به حوزه قم) در ایران برگزار شد. در این جلسهٔ که با موضوع افغانستان و چشم‌انداز حضور امریکا برگزار شده بود، مهمانانی از داخل افغانستان نیز حضور داشتند. یکی از سخنرانان این جلسهٔ آقای هاشم عصمت اللهی، مشاور رئیس‌جمهور کرزی بود. وی در بخشی از سخنان خود گفته است: «همان‌گونه که قیام مردم افغانستان در برابر شوروی سابق از افتخارات ماست، باید در برابر امریکا نیز این‌گونه باشیم» وی در بخشی دیگر از سخنان خود گفته است «امروز امریکایی‌ها در افغانستان دین را نشانه گرفته و برای ضد دینی کردن مردم تلاش می‌کنند، با حضور آن‌ها رسانه‌هایی طراحی شدند که به نفع غرب کار کرده و افکار عمومی افغانستان را به طرف غرب سوق می‌دهند.» وی در بخشی دیگری از سخنان خود گفته «رسانه‌هایی که در حال حاضر در افغانستان فعالیت می‌کنند با ۳ محوریت دین‌ستیز، دین‌گریز و دین محور بوده که متاسفانه دین‌ستیزها در راس قرار داشته و تاثیرات بیشتری با تبلیغات گسترده ‌تر بر افکار عمومی می‌گذراند.» --- جمهوری اسلامی ایران در هر سال چندین نشست را با حضور افراد هم‌سو با نظام ایران در مسایل افغانستان برگزار می‌کند این نشست‌ها در قالب مسایل مختلف اما در راستای سیاست منطقه‌ای ایران برگزار می‌شود. سوال اساسی این است که افراد شرکت‌کننده در این نشست‌ها با هماهنگی دولت افغانستان و وزارت خارجه است یا خیر؟ -- هشت صبح - at:

Violence against Afghan women more frequent, brutal in 2013: official --- (Reuters) - Violent crime against women in Afghanistan hit record levels and became increasingly brutal in 2013, the head of the country's human rights commission said on Saturday, a sign that hard won rights are being rolled back as foreign troops prepare to withdraw. -- Restoring women's rights after the Taliban was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition of troops in 2001 was cited as one of the main objectives of the war. -- Under Taliban rule, women were required to wear the head-to-toe covering burqa and barred from leaving their homes without being escorted by a male relative. Schools for girls were shut down. -- "Killing women in Afghanistan is an easy thing. There's no punishment," Suraya Pakzad, who runs women's shelters in several provinces, told Reuters in her office in the western city of Herat. -- She cited recent cases in which women had been publicly stoned as Afghan troops looked on. -- "Laws are improved, but implementation of those laws are in the hands of warlords... I think we are going backwards." - More, at:

Afghanistan rejects grim U.S. intelligence forecast as baseless --- (Reuters) - Afghanistan on Monday rejected as baseless a U.S. intelligence forecast that the gains the United States and allies have made in the past three years will be significantly rolled back by 2017. -- The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate also predicted that Afghanistan would fall into chaos if Washington and Kabul failed to sign a pact to keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014. -- President Hamid Karzai's spokesman dismissed the U.S. forecast, reported by the Washington Post on the weekend, and suggested there was an ulterior motive for it. -- "We strongly reject that as baseless as they have in the past been proved inaccurate," Faizi told Reuters. - More, at:

Saturday, January 04, 2014

تنها راه‌حل دوام گفتگوها است --- سناتوران امریکایی و رییس‌جمهور کرزی ملاقات‌شان را سازنده و مثبت توصیف کردند. لیندسی گراهام و سناتور جان مککین، در مصاحبه‌های رسانه‌ای‌شان تلاش کردند، رییس‌جمهور کرزی را یک سیاستمدار وطن‌دوست معرفی کنند. آنان هیچ حرف تندی به آدرس آقای کرزی نگفتند. پیش از این مقام‌های امریکایی حرف‌های درشتی به نشانی آقای کرزی می‌گفتند. مثلا مشاور امنیت ملی بارک اوباما که پس از پایان جرگه مشورتی به کابل آمد، گفت واشنگتن عصای جادویی ندارد که با تکان دادن آن، ثبات افغانستان را تضمین کند. اما سناتوران امریکایی بدون این‌که حرف تندی بزنند، گفتند که موافقت‌نامه امنیتی دوجانبه می‌تواند ثبات افغانستان را تضمین کند و کمر طالبان را بشکند. تضمین ثبات در واقع چیزی است که رییس‌جمهور کرزی می‌خواهد. ظاهرا آقای کرزی فکر می‌کند که ایالات متحده امریکا و متحدانش در سازمان ناتو، اگر اراده کنند، می‌توانند وضعیت را به سمتی ببرند که پایان جنگ افغانستان تضمین شود. شاید آقای کرزی تصمیم گرفته است که با استفاده از ابزار موافقت نامه امنیتی، سیاست ایالات متحده را به آن سمت بکشاند. سناتوران امریکایی آن‌طوری که در مصاحبه‌شان با تلویزیون طلوع گفتند، موضع کشورشان را به رییس‌جمهور کرزی توضیح دادند و آقای کرزی هم به سخنان آنان گوش داده است. همین که دو طرف مواضع و دیدگاه‌های‌شان را به‌صورت واضح به هم‌دیگر توضیح داده‌اند، یک گام به پیش است. حل هر نوع اختلاف نظر مستلزم درک دقیق مواضع یک‌دیگر است. - More, روزنامه هشت صبح

Kim Jong Un's executed uncle was eaten alive by 120 hungry dogs: report --- BEIJING -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle was stripped naked, thrown into a cage, and eaten alive by a pack of ravenous dogs, according to a newspaper with close ties to China's ruling Communist Party. -- Jang Song Thaek, who had been considered Kim's second-in-command, was executed last month after being found guilty of "attempting to overthrow the state," North Korea’s state-run news agency reported. -- The official North Korean account on Dec. 12 did not specify how Jang was put to death. -- Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po reported that Jang and his five closest aides were set upon by 120 hunting hounds which had been starved for five days. - More, NBC News, at:

Obama Urges Congress to Restore Unemployment Benefits --- WASHINGTON — President Obama, seeking the upper hand with Congress as he heads back from his Hawaiian vacation, insisted on Saturday that lawmakers make restoring unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans who are out of work their “first order of business” in the new year. -- An emergency program providing up to 47 weeks of supplemental payments to the long-term unemployed expired last month after Congress did not include an extension in a two-year budget deal passed before it left town for the holidays. Mr. Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday that he would sign legislation renewing the benefits for another three months. -- Mr. Obama said the program helped parents trying to feed children while they looked for work. “And denying families that security is just plain cruel,” the president said in the address, which was taped before his scheduled departure for Washington on Saturday night after two weeks on Oahu. “We’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough; we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.” -- Mr. Obama added, “Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.” - More, NYTimes

Afghanistan’s Worsening, and Baffling, Hunger Crisis --- LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — In the Bost Hospital here, a teenage mother named Bibi Sherina sits on a bed in the severe acute malnutrition ward with her two children. Ahmed, at just 3 months old, looks bigger than his emaciated brother Mohammad, who is a year and a half and weighs 10 pounds.-- In another bed is Fatima, less than a year old, who is so severely malnourished that her heart is failing, and the doctors expect that she will soon die unless her father is able to find money to take her to Kabul for surgery. The girl’s face bears a perpetual look of utter terror, and she rarely stops crying. Half of the other children in the ward are crying as well, a cacophony that rarely pauses. -- Afghan hospitals like Bost, in the capital of war-torn Helmand Province, have been registering significant increases in severe malnutrition among children. Countrywide, such cases have increased by 50 percent or more compared with 2012, according to United Nations figures. Doctors report similar situations in Kandahar, Farah, Kunar, Paktia and Paktika Provinces — all places where warfare has disrupted people’s lives and pushed many vulnerable poor over the nutritional edge. -- Even the capital has seen an increase. “In 2001, it was even worse, but this is the worst I’ve seen since then,” said Dr. Saifullah Abasin, head of the malnutrition ward at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul. - More, NYTimes, at:

هیات کانگرس امریکا: توافقنامهء امنیتی و دفاعی بزودی امضا خواهد شد --- یک هیات سه نفری کانگرس امریکا می گوید که در ارتباط به امضاء موافقتنامه امنیتی و دفاعی میان افغانستان و امریکا اختلافات اندک باقی مانده است و این توافقنامه به زودی امضا خواهد شد. هیات کانگرس امریکا پس از دیدار با رئیس جمهور کرزی می گوید، که موافقتنامه امنیتی و دفاعی میان افغانستان و امریکا در چند روز و یا چند هفته آینده به امضا خواهد رسید. این سناتوران می گویند که روابط افغانستان با امریکا در مرحله حساس قرار دارد و در این شرایط امضاء توافقنامه امنیتی و دفاعی اهمیت حیاتی دارد. -- جان مککین یکی از این سناتوران گفت که در دیدار با رئیس جمهور کرزی بسیاری اختلافات در ارتباط به موافقتنامه امنیتی و دفاعی هموار شده اند: «ما فکر می کنیم که این موافقتنامه برای آینده افغانستان و برای امنیت افغانستان و منطقه اهمیت حیاتی دارد. ما اختلافات داریم اما در ملاقات با رئیس جمهور کرزی در مورد اختلافات زیادی صحبت کردیم. من فکر می کنم که این اختلافات کم شده است. این بسیار مهم است که ما موافقتنامه را زود امضا کنیم به عوض اینکه آن را به تاخیر بیاندازیم. نه می خواهیم چیزی را که در عراق گذشت، در افغانستان تکرار شود. ما آنجا جنگیدیم، ولی صلح را از دست دادیم. چرا که ما همه عساکر خود را از آن کشور خارج ساختیم.» - More, رادیو آزادی

Explosion hits Afghan capital, no casualties --- KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan says an explosion has occurred near one of its bases in central Kabul. -- A coalition spokeswoman said the explosion occurred Saturday evening “in the vicinity” of Camp Eggers, a coalition base that is close to Afghanistan’s presidential palace and many embassies. -- The spokeswoman said the cause of the explosion was still being investigated and that it caused no casualties. - More, Associated Press,

Afghan prisoner-release plan said to risk ‘backlash’ in U.S. Congress --- KABUL — The Afghan government’s plan to release 88 high-profile detainees without trial “would have an unbelievably negative impact” on U.S.-Afghan relations, according to two of Congress’s biggest advocates for an enduring American presence here. -- During a visit to Kabul on Thursday, Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said that although their differences with Afghan President Hamid Karzai were narrowing on many issues, the prisoner release threatens to undermine bilateral ties at a critical moment — as the deadline for a long-term security agreement looms. -- In March, the United States transferred control of the Parwan prison next to Bagram air base — with its roughly 3,000 detainees — to the Afghan government. Since then, Graham said, the Afghans have released 560 detainees without trial, and “some of those have gone back to the fight.” - More, Washingtonpost, at:

Lindsey Graham, John McCain Visit Hamid Karzai, Urge Him To Sign Bilateral Security Agreement -- KABUL, Jan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. senators visited the Afghan president on Thursday to try to push forward talks to sign a crucial bilateral security deal and halt the release of prisoners the United States considers a threat to security. -- Afghanistan plans to release hundreds of prisoners from Bagram prison, which was handed over from U.S. control only after a deal was reached in March after intense negotiations because Washington feared dangerous inmates would be freed. -- The disagreement further strains relations between the two countries, which are already at breaking point over President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security deal to shape the post-2014 U.S. military presence in the country. -- Without the pact, Washington could pull most of its troops out after this year, when most foreign troops are due to exit. -- The senators told Karzai that releasing dangerous prisoners would irreparably damage ties with the United States, but stopped short of saying it would prompt a full military withdrawal after 2014. -- "If these releases go ahead it will do irreparable damage to the relationship," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters at a news conference in Kabul on Thursday. -- Washington considers 88 of some 650 prisoners marked for release a serious threat to security, saying they are responsible for wounding or killing 57 Afghans and 60 U.S. and coalition troops. - More, Huffpost, at:

Pentagon urges Afghanistan to sign agreement on US military presence --- Karzai yet to sign deal to keep US troops in country after 2014 -- As the war in Afghanistan becomes the most unpopular conflict in US polling history, the Pentagon reiterated a plea for the Afghan government to entrench an enduring American military presence. -- Afghan president Hamid Karzai has so far declined to sign an accord called the Bilateral Security Agreement, upending plans for some US troops to stay in the country after the war formally ends in December 2014. The US has unsuccessfully urged other Afghan government officials to bless a long-term presence that has already stretched into its 13th year. -- "We urge the government of Afghanistan to sign the agreement promptly. If we cannot conclude a BSA promptly, we will be forced to initiate planning for a post-2014 future that does not have a US troop presence there.” - More, Gaurdian, at:

Friday, January 03, 2014

مخالفت شدید سناتوران امریکایی با آزادی 88 زندانی بگرام --- هیئت مجلس سنای امریکا در سفر به کابل به حامد کرزی هشدار داده است که آزادی زندانیان خطرناک از زندان بگرام می تواند بر مناسبات دو کشور تاثیر منفی بگذارد. آنها هم چنان به امضای موافقت نامه امنیتی به زودی تاکید کردند. -- سه تن از سناتوران برجسته ایالات متحده امریکا، جان مک کین، لیندسی گراهام و جان براسو، روز پنج شنبه (12 جدی/ 2 جنوری) با حامد کرزی رئیس جمهور افغانستان در کابل در مورد امضای موافقت نامه امنیتی کابل و واشنگتن گفتگو کردند. -- جان مک کین گفت که در این سفر برعلاوه ملاقات با جوزف دانفورد، قوماندان عمومی نیروهای امریکایی و ناتو در افغانستان، با دو تن از نامزدان انتخابات ریاست جمهوری نیز دیدار کرده است، اما فاش نساخت که با کدام نامزدهای انتخابات دیدار داشته است. - More, صدای آلمان

NSA seeks to build quantum computer that could crack most types of encryption --- In room-size metal boxes ­secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world. -- According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md. - More, washingtonpost, at:

From NASCAR to wind power: Congress just let 55 tax breaks expire --- This is becoming an annual tradition of sorts. Every year, there are a raft of "temporary" tax breaks, credits, and deductions that expire on Dec. 31. Lawmakers usually plan on extending them. But they don't always get to it on time. -- This year, Congress let about 55 different tax breaks expire on Dec. 31. The full array includes everything from a credit for corporate R&D to tax relief for underwater homeowners. The list also includes a batch of energy tax breaks, like a credit for wind farms that generate electricity or a deduction for commuters who take the bus to work. Those are now gone. - More, washingtonpost, at:

Winter storm brings snow, kills at least 9 --- BOSTON — A storm dropped a blanket of light, powdery snow across the Northeast and ushered in frigid temperatures Friday that were unusual even for cities accustomed to blasts of winter weather. The storm, which shut down major highways temporarily and grounded flights, was blamed for at least nine deaths in the eastern half of the country. - More, washingtonpost, at:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Reasons to be cheerful as we welcome 2014 --- Pessimists have an aura of wisdom; optimists risk looking naive. There is a natural temptation to err towards gloom when surveying the prospects for a new year, especially when the centenary of global catastrophe provides a reminder of the perils of cheerfulness. Yet there are good reasons to believe that the world turned a corner of sorts in 2013 and most of our fellow human beings will probably become safer and more prosperous in 2014. --- Elsewhere, Afghanistan – that other graveyard of Western hopes – will see the final withdrawal of foreign forces, testing whether any of their achievements can be sustained. Europe, for its part, is now divided between a stagnant eurozone and steady recovery in those countries fortunate enough to be outside. - More, Telegraph, at:

Report suggests US gains in Afghanistan of last three years will be rolled back by 2017 --- US intelligence estimate predicts Afghanistan will swiftly fall in to chaos if Washington and Kabul fail to agree a security pact and warns recent gains will be lost even if some US troops remain -- The classified report by 16 US intelligence agencies lays out an even darker outlook if the two countries fail to complete current tense negotiations for a security pact to maintain a limited international military contingent and guarantee billions of dollars in aid after next year. - More, Telegrqaph, at:

2014 - A year to fight the fear in Afghanistan --- 2014 has at last arrived and for Afghans it's more than just another year. -- A decisive political moment in their tortuous history is being called everything from a phobia to a syndrome. -- But no sooner had the clock struck midnight than the fight-back began, with a volley of hashtags on social media. - More, BBC, at:

مروری بر رویدادهای مهم سال ۲۰۱۳ در افغانستان --- حکومت افغانستان در جریان این سال پیمان های همکاری ستراتیژیک را با بریتانیا، ایرلند شمالی، فنلند، دنمارک و اندونیزیا امضا کرد. حسن روحانی رئیس جمهور ایران نیز با حامد کرزی، رئیس جمهور افغانستان روی امضای سند همکاری ستراتیژیک توافق کرده اند. با آنکه امضای توافقنامه امنیتی و دفاعی دوجانبه میان افغانستان و ایالات متحده از سوی لویه جرگه مشورتی تایید شد، اما رئیس جمهور حامد کرزی امضای آنرا مشروط به آغاز عملی روند صلح با طالبان و توقف فوری عملیات نیرو های خارجی بر منازل افغان ها کرد. -- سال ۲۰۱۳ برای کودکان افغان، یک سال دیگری پر آزمایش بود. طبق گزارش کمیسیون مستقل حقوق بشر افغانستان، حدود ۵۱.۸ درصد کودکان افغان کارگراند. از این میان ۴۵ درصد شان به دلیل فقر اقتصادی مجبور به انجام کارهای شاقه شده اند. محیط کاری نامطلوب و عدم تسهیلات در محل کار از مهم ترین آزمایش های اطفال کارگر عنوان شده است. -- کارهایی که کودکان افغان انجام می دهند با وجود آنکه شاقه است، در شرایط بسیار بد، دستمزد بسیار اندکی دارد. -- تذکره های جدید که قرار بود در جریان سال ۲۰۱۳ میلادی توزیع شود، از اثر موجودیت مخالفت ها پیرامون ذکر ملیت و قومیت به تعویق افتاد. بنیاد انتخابات آزاد و عادلانۀ افغانستان نیز از تأخیر در روند توزیع تذکره های جدید اظهار نگرانی کرده است. تذکره های جدید میتواند، پروسۀ رای دهی را تسهیل بخشد و از تلقب و دستبرد ها تا حدی جلوگیری کند. شورای ملی افغانستان بار ها برای نهایی ساختن موضوع ذکر قومیت در تذکره های جدید تشکیل جلسه داده اما تمام آنها بدون نتیجۀ به پایان رسیده است. اکثریت افغان ها، کشور های همسایه را به دخالت در این موضوع متهم می کنند. با وجود آن که سال ۲۰۱۳ به پایان رسید، اما تذکره ها هنوز هم توزیع نشده است. -- کودکان در بسیاری جا ها مجبوراند تا دیرهنگام روی جاده ها به کار هایی مانند خرده فروشی، پاک کاری یا حمالی، شاگردی، دستفروشی، موترشویی، بافندگی و گدایی بپردازند. -- در جریان سال ۲۰۱۳ حوادث و وقایع خشونت علیه زنان به گونۀ فجیع رخ داد. در آخرین خشونت ستاره، یک زن افغان از سوی شوهرش که ادعا میشود معتاد به موادمخدر است مورد خشونت قرار گرفت و پس از لت و کوب گوش ها، بینی و لبش را قطع کرد. هم چنان در یک رویداد دیگر در ولایت هرات، یک زن 19 ساله از سوی شوهرش حلقه آویز شده، کشته شد. -- قانون محو خشونت علیه زنان که هنوز هم در محدودۀ فرمان تقنینی رئیس جمهور افغانستان قابل اجرا است، نیز نتوانست در جریان سال ۲۰۱۳ در شورای ملی افغانستان تصویب شود. رئیس کمیسیون امور زنان ولسی جرگه میگوید که برخی از قانونگذاران حتی نمی خواهند در این رابطه صحبت کنند اما بعضی از تحلیلگران و فعالین مدافع حقوق زنان ادعا میکنند که قانون محو خشونت علیه زنان به یک منبع تجاری و جلب کمک های خارجی مبدل شده است. -- More, صدای امریکا