Friday, July 28, 2006

Afghans despair over slow rebuilding pace

Over half of Afghanistan's 31 million people live below the poverty line and 40 percent are unemployed. Electricity and water shortages are acute, while illicit crops like opium represent up to one-third of the country's GDP. Afghanistan relies on foreign aid, about $10.5 billion of which was pledged at February's donor conference in London.

Frustrated Karzai toughens stance

"And for two years I have systematically, consistently and on a daily basis warned the international community of what was developing in Afghanistan and of the need for a change of approach in this regard."

Israel urged to shun cluster bomb -- US-based Human Rights Watch

The law of war requires you to distinguish between soldiers and civilians, so when you are using an outdated, unreliable weapon in a populated area, it is likely that the attack violates international humanitarian law. Bonnie Docherty, Human Rights Watch

Denmark 'happiest place on earth'

A nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels. Wealth and education were the next strongest determinants of national happiness.

Saudi king offers Lebanon $1.5bn

The Saudi monarch warned that Israel's military offensives in Lebanon and Gaza could ignite a war in the region. "Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other option but war," he was quoted as saying by state media.

Plenty of money for guns, but why does compassion appear to be in such short supply?

Why don't they have to appeal to the public to send in donations to buy bombs? After all, they have to beg for the money to provide food and shelter. BBC News 24 reported on Tuesday that the UN had asked for $$78m in emergency aid to ease the plight of 2,000,000 people in Afghanistan facing drought and starvation. That's a fraction of the money being poured into the country every month by Britain, the US, Canada, Australia etc. in the form of helicopter gunships and tanks and guns.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sanitizing American news

LAWRENCE PINTAK: You cannot overemphasize the impact that images have. American television is sanitized. We don't see the real blood and gore of war. Now, it's a cultural thing, sure, but you turn on the television in the Arab world, you are seeing the disemboweled babies, you are seeing the burned children, you are seeing the pieces of flesh in the streets. And that has a visceral impact. Americans, we talk about this plethora of prisms now in the Arab world with this media revolution, but Americans in many ways still live in an information ghetto, because we are not seeing the images coming out of the Arab world.

Homeland Security Contracts Abused

The multibillion-dollar surge in federal contracting to bolster the nation's domestic defenses in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been marred by extensive waste and misspent funds, according to a new bipartisan congressional report.

Officials Urge Law to Allow Eavesdropping

Overseas Tensions Force Bush to Change Direction

Afghanistan's hidden war

The scale of the fighting in southern Afghanistan has dramatically increased over the past few months.

Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Spanta Visits Washington

The Foreign Minister held productive meetings with senior US government officials including Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Putin lashes out at West's Afghan role

MOSCOW — The West's decision to fund Islamist guerrillas against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan has backfired two decades later, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, setting an uncompromising tone as he prepared to welcome leaders for Group of Eight talks.

Afghanistan: Foreign Minister Attacks Pakistani Support For 'Terrorism'

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta used an appearance before the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee in Brussels today to appeal for greater international support. Spanta identified intensified insurgent attacks -- mainly in the south of the country -- as the main danger. He also made it clear Kabul thinks Pakistan is behind what he described as "terrorists" bent on destroying his country.

A Nuanced U.S. Position on Israel and Hezbollah

Most European states believe Israel's response to the July 12 Hezbollah attack has been excessive. Images of devastated Lebanese towns and cities and thousands of internally displaced people have underscored the impact this cross-border conflict has had on civilians.

U.S. Says It Knew of Pakistani Reactor Plan

The Bush administration acknowledged yesterday that it had long known about Pakistan's plans to build a large plutonium-production reactor, but it said the White House was working to dissuade Pakistan from using the plant to expand its nuclear arsenal.

Ex-Taliban Envoy to Pakistan Releases Book

Zaeef says he suffers from depression and anxiety as a result of his time in U.S. custody, which according to his book was marred by physical and mental abuse such as long-term sleep depravation. ``The treatment by the Americans during my detention was inhumane,'' he said during a visit to his heavily guarded west Kabul home. ``So many times we were naked, punished, weren't allowed to sleep for 10 days, 20 days, one month.''

Israeli Cluster Munitions Hit Civilians in Lebanon

Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians. They should never be used in populated areas. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

Monday, July 24, 2006

How compatible are U.S. weapons for Israel and U.S. humanitarian aid for Lebanon?

Let me see if I understand the question. The U.S. is sending weapons to Israel so they can bomb Lebanon. Then, we're sending aid to Lebanon to help clean up the mess that we, in part, helped create. Are you really asking if the administration has lost their minds? I'd have to say yes. -- Amy

Rice Outlines Proposal to Deploy Force In Lebanon

But Siniora pressed Rice for an immediate cease-fire. The United States is coming under growing Arab and European pressure because of the humanitarian crisis, with about 750,000 displaced people in Lebanon, a country of 4 million people.

Lebanon says Rice's comments 'not encouraging'

Jobless Face Grim Future

Analysts argue about how much the state is directly responsible for providing its citizens with jobs, but they agree that people at the bottom of the heap - many of whom have recently returned from years in exile - have been let down by flawed policies and empty promises.

Afghanistan wakes to false dawn

SUDDENLY Afghanistan is a mess. Against the daily grind of bad news from Baghdad, Kabul had been a more optimistic beachhead for Washington. New roads cut through man-eating deserts and leapt treacherous mountains; girls were joyfully back in the classroom.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saudi Arabia Asks U.S. to Intervene in Lebanon

In an Oval Office meeting yesterday afternoon, Prince Saud al-Faisal said, he delivered a letter to Bush from Saudi King Abdullah asking for U.S. help in arranging an immediate cease-fire, a stance U.S. officials have repeatedly rejected on the grounds that it is premature. U.S. officials would not comment directly on the request, saying only that the two sides discussed the humanitarian situation, reconstruction and how to end the violence.

Refuge from the real Afghanistan

Analysis: NATO`s crisis in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The United States handed over primary responsibility for peacekeeping in Afghanistan to NATO. It seemed like a good idea at the time. However, now the policy has fallen apart and presented the alliance with its greatest crisis in a quarter-century.

DYER’S POINT, Afghanistan : Same War, Different Players

1839, 1878, 1979, 2001: Four foreign invasions of Afghanistan in less than 200 years. The first two were British, and unashamedly imperialist. The third was Soviet, and the invaders said they were there to defend socialism and help Afghanistan become a modern, prosperous state. The last was Ame-rican, and the invaders said they were there to bring democracy and help Afghanistan become a modern, prosperous state. But all four invasions were doomed to fail (although the last still has some time to run).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rice Plans Talks on Crisis With Mideast Leaders

Afghanistan close to anarchy, warns general

Corrupt local officials were fuelling the problem and Nato's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan were sending out conflicting signals, Gen Richards told a conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "The situation is close to anarchy," he said, referring in particular to what he called "the lack of unity between different agencies".

Lebanon/Israel: Israel Must Allow Civilians Safe Passage

(Beirut, July 21, 2006) – Israel must allow civilians safe passage out of Lebanon’s embattled south, Human Rights Watch said today. Warnings by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to civilians that they must evacuate southern Lebanon within 24 hours do not absolve Israel of the duty to avoid attacks likely to cause indiscriminate or disproportionate loss of civilian life.

Afghanistan: a Tale of never ending Tragedy -- by Prof. John Ryan

It must be recalled that the mujahedeen had been initially created by the CIA to fight the USSR. They were later defeated by the Taliban and were confined to about 10 percent of the country in the north. But in 2001 they were recruited by the USA as allies, and were renamed “the Northern Alliance,” and so they came back in the wake of US bombing to take over the country. But these people are basically the same as the Taliban, just a different variety. These new found "allies" who helped to rout the Taliban are the same forces that had routed the Soviet army in the 1980s. And they are also the forces who, upon defeating the Afghan Marxist government in 1992, launched a campaign of rape and pillage, and the torture and execution of government supporters, then turned their guns on one another. In the ensuing four-year fratricidal war more than 50,000 people were killed and Kabul was reduced to the ruins of a Stalingrad – and it’s still largely in that condition.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

House Passes Resolution Backing Israel

REP. NICK RAHALL: Well, let's be clear where Israel is hitting in Lebanon. Yes, they've hit the airport, not once, but come back a second time, and totally destroyed the infrastructure of the Beirut airport. I hardly think there were Hezbollah rockets hidden there, nor do I think Hezbollah would be so open as to use the Beirut airport to transport their hostages out and/or arms out or into the country. The Christian suburb of Beirut called Achrafieh, very pro-Christian, very anti-Hezbollah, hit late yesterday. I hardly think there were Hezbollah missiles or Hezbollah even sympathizers in that neighborhood.

NATO committed to Afghanistan, Secretary-General says

Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also urged world donors to keep Afghanistan as a top priority.

Annan demands Lebanon ceasefire

'No refuge from the bombs'

BBCNEWS -- How does the world ignore the destruction and murder of innocent people by Israel - and even thinks Israel is the victim? Zebqine resident

Bush Thwarted Probe Into NSA Wiretapping

The eavesdropping program, begun after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and revealed in news reports last December, allows the NSA to intercept telephone calls and e-mails between the United States and locations overseas without court approval if one of the parties is suspected of links to terrorist groups.

Stem Cell Bill Gets Bush's First Veto

President Bush issued the first veto of his five-year-old administration yesterday, rejecting Congress's bid to lift funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research and underscoring his party's split on an emotional issue in this fall's elections.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lebanon 'has been torn to shreds'

Fouad Siniora said more than 300 people had been killed and 500,000 others displaced in a week of Israeli attacks.

Ceasefire now -- Menzies Campbell

We are witnessing the serious destabilisation of the Middle East. It has the potential to deteriorate still further. My view is that the security council of the United Nations must call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hizbullah is wholly unacceptable, as is the targeted destruction of the infrastructure of Lebanon by the Israeli government. While these activities persist there is scope only for the violence to escalate.

Zaeef's book review: 'Your Excellency, you are no more Excellency'

"Your Excellency, you are no more Excellency. You know America is super power, none can combat it. None can dare to be rude before the Americans. They were in need of you for investigation. We want to hand you over to America, just to get its favour and to save Pakistan from threat," were the words of one of those Pakistani officials that met the 39-year-old at his home, writes Zaeef. Some officials of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) then shifted him to Peshawar in a car that was vibrating with music all the way and was escorted by two other four-wheelers, the ex-ambassador writes.

Afghanistan another fine mess

With Israeli bombs blasting Lebanon and dozens of daily killings defining Iraq's civil strife, it's easy to forget Afghanistan, except when a Canadian gets killed and our media blanket the story.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Switzerland vows to donate $1.03m to Afghanistan

Maintaining order in Afghanistan

Once again, foreigners are turning their backs on Lebanon.

Brzezinski, Kissinger Debate U.S. Role in Mideast Crisis

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Security and survival of Israel for obvious historical reasons. The right to dignity, independence, no longer a humiliating treatment for the Palestinians. These are legitimate concerns to which we have to be responsive.

Israeli, Syrian Ambassadors to the U.S. Speak Out on the Middle East Crisis

Lebanon evacuees speak of terror, minister says Israel is aiming to bring famine to Lebanon

Amnesty urges UN to protect Mideast civilians

"The past few days has seen a horrendous escalation in attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. Yet the G-8 leaders have failed conspicuously to uphold their moral and legal obligation to address such blatant breaches of international humanitarian law, which in some cases have amounted to war crimes," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East program.

Congress drafts pro-Israel resolutions

Both chambers of the US congress were working on drafts of resolutions expressing support for Israel in its war against the Hizbullah. The House of Representatives was expected to vote Wednesday on their version of the resolution, which is sponsored by majority leader John Boehner (R-OH) and minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Afghanistan: Vice and Virtue Department Could Return -- Human Rights Watch

A proposal to reestablish the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Afghanistan raises serious concerns about potential abuse of the rights of women and vulnerable groups, Human Rights Watch said today.

Afghanistan: Vice and Virtue Department Could Return

(New York, July 18, 2006) ? A proposal to reestablish the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Afghanistan raises serious concerns about potential abuse of the rights of women and vulnerable groups, Human Rights Watch said today. President Hamid Karzai's cabinet has approved the proposal to reestablish the department, and it will go to Afghanistan's parliament when it reconvenes later this summer. It is not clear what the department's enforcement power would be.


The Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is to be reinstated in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Tolu Television reported on July 13, quoting an unmanned deputy minister within the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs.

World moves slowly to defuse crisis

BEIRUT: French President Jacques Chirac on Monday backed the idea of an international force to restore order in Lebanon and described Israel's offensive as "aberrant," as his premier paid an emergency visit to the Lebanese capital.

Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah-(Human Rights Watch)

Transcript: Full Text of Bush's Private Exchange at G-8 Summit

Bush's Bull Session: Loud And Clear, Chief

ST. PETERSBURG, July 17 -- President Bush should know that in Russia, someone is always listening. In this case, it was the rest of the world.

G8 blames Mid-East 'extremists'

Leaders of the G8 nations have blamed extremist forces for the latest crisis in the Middle East, but called on Israel to end military operations.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Time for America to put its diplomatic muscle where its mouth is

Hope Shines Through Afghanistan's Struggles

Today, the capital Kabul is a city of jarring contrasts — with brand new, western-style malls surrounded by bleak poverty, and new mansions for the city's wealthiest next door to slums built from scrap.

As Tensions Rise, U.S. and Moscow Falter on Trade

Meanwhile, in Other Wars

Cascading crises must not distract the administration from Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Russia, Putin, Bush Put On a Brave Face

Putin seized on that remark. "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly," he said, provoking laughter from the Russian side.

Israel Steps Up Attacks on Lebanon

Israel continued a fourth day of airstrikes on Lebanon Saturday, causing more civilian casualties and prompting Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the Arab League to call on the U.N. to intervene.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bush Defends Israeli Attacks in Lebanon

"Israel has a right to defend herself," Bush said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life."

Karzai urges farmers to switch from poppies to pomegranates

ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai boasts that Kandahar's pomegranates are the best in the world; others say they contain the Almighty's miracle cures. Desperate poets liken their shape to the breasts of their veiled lovers. The fruit is found everywhere in Afghanistan, from the suburbs of Kabul to the green valleys of Kunduz, from lawless Paktika to prosperous Parwan.

Sealed with a Kiss and a Barrel of Fish

It's been a long time since German-American relations were this heartfelt.

Sightseeing Afghanistan

Pashto Shrek

Karzai Orders Probe Into Afghan Killings

Brits Worried About Afghan Deployment

Israel Blockades, Bombs Lebanon While Hezbollah Rains Rocket Fire

US Sees Three More Years in Building Afghan Army

Text: Bush, Merkel News Conference

Bush Will Allow Court to Review N.S.A.

Israel pursues strikes on Lebanon

Israel is continuing to subject Lebanon to strikes by land, sea and air, following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants.

Democrats Debate Political and Military Strategy for Iraq

Israel-Lebanon Fighting Broadens Middle East Conflict

THEODORE KATTOUF, "I think the price is too high. I don't think it's necessary for Israel to have struck the airport and be going into Beirut right now. This is a real serious escalation."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Israel blasts Beirut airport and Gaza ministry

President Bush in Germany visit

US President George W Bush has arrived in Germany for a two-day visit en route to the G8 summit in Russia.

Zidane Says 'Harsh' Insults By Italian Led to Head Butt

"I apologize to all the children," Zidane, a French national hero, said in an interview on France's Canal Plus television channel, his first public comments since Sunday's World Cup final that was won by Italy. "Because I have kids and I know what it is. I'll always tell them not to let people step on their toes, but also to avoid this kind of thing."

Options for U.S. Limited As Mideast Crises Spread

Zidane contrite for headbutt, cites insults of family

"I would rather have taken a punch in the jaw than have heard that," he told the Canal Plus channel, stressing that Materazzi's language was "very harsh," and that he repeated the insults several times.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Quick guide: Afghanistan conflict

Afghanistan is strategically placed between the Middle East, central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. For centuries, foreign armies have fought over it and tried to conquer it.

It's déjŕ vu in Afghanistan

Very quickly, the war was claimed to have been a great success. We were asked to believe that the entire country was now united after the liberation, the Taliban decisively defeated, when, in fact, it had mostly disappeared. The world's attention turned elsewhere, and Afghanistan, we were told, was now OK.

U.S. Shifts Policy on Geneva Conventions

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Holds a Media Availability in Afghanistan

So I can assure you that the United States will continue to be interested, committed and involved to success here.

U.S. Shifts Policy on Geneva Conventions

U.S. Renews Vow to Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, July 11 — Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld promised Afghan officials Tuesday that the Bush administration would not lose interest in stabilizing Afghanistan, even as the United States transfers a larger combat role to NATO in coming months.

Rumsfeld Arrives in Afghanistan

Rumsfeld, on his 11th trip to Afghanistan, was set to meet U.S. commanders and President Hamid Karzai to discuss the violence and plans for NATO to take over military operations from a U.S.-led force in the south this month.

Series of Bombs Explode on 7 Trains in India, Killing Scores

The Zidane mystery: what set him off?

The Paris-based anti-racism advocacy group SOS-Racism issued a statement Monday quoting "several very well informed sources from the world of football" as saying Materazzi called Zidane a "dirty terrorist." It demanded that FIFA, soccer's world governing body, investigate and take any appropriate action.

The Zidane Mystery: What Set Him Off?

"The Italians did everything they could do to provoke Zidane," France defender William Gallas said.

The War in Afghanistan Is Only the Beginning -- by Eric Margolis

The U.S./NATO campaign is increasingly directed against warlike Pashtun tribes like the Afridi and Orokzai, and their civilians, rather than against so-called "Taliban terrorists." However, distinguishing between "Taliban militants" and ordinary farmers or merchants is extremely difficult from fast-flying fighter aircraft and attack helicopters. The U.S./NATO policy seems to be shoot or bomb first, then label the casualties as "terrorists" or "collateral damage caused by Taliban hiding in civilian homes."

Karzai meets Japanese emperor, vows to restore peace

Japan has been a major contributor to Afghanistan's efforts to rebuild after three decades of war ended with the Taliban's fall to a US-led coalition in late 2001.

U.S. Giving Afghans $2B Worth of Weaponry

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The United States is giving $2 billion worth of military weapons and vehicles to modernize Afghanistan's national army, a U.S. general said Monday.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Beware Afghanistan: First basic rule

In the 19th century, Afghanistan was the scene of the "Great Game" played between the British and Russian empires on the doorstep of India.

Scurity in Asia-- The Trouble With Pakistan

It would not be fair to blame Pakistan for everything that is going wrong in Afghanistan. The government of Hamid Karzai is weak and corrupt; because of the West's continued failure to live up to its promises, much of the country, outside the big cities, is in the grip of bandits and warlords. But Pakistan's contribution to Afghanistan's chronic insecurity should not be underestimated.

Italy Defeats France for Fourth World Cup

Italy Defeats France in Penalty-Kick Shootout

Italy 1-1 France (aet)

Italy beat France 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out to win the World Cup after an absorbing 1-1 draw in Berlin.

Winning in Afghanistan means telling home truths

The battle in Afghanistan is one that must not be lost. It is a fight to stop the country becoming a base for international terrorism, to show that democracy can be built in one of the most inhospitable countries in the world, to sustain the battered credibility of the entire international community. Victory, however, will not be easy and will require much clever diplomacy, military will, deft handling of Afghan politics and, above all, a far greater commitment than the West has so far shown.

Hard Times for Hamid Karzai

Official corruption and continuing economic woes are mounting for Afghanistan's former great hope

Bush plans $5 billion arms sale to Pakistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush Administration said on Monday that it planned to sell Pakistan up to 36 advanced F-16 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in a weapons package that could be worth more than $5 billion.

How to Help Afghanistan

A Global Response to the Crisis

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blood-Stained Hands

Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity

Blasts hit Afghan buses, more than 40 hurt

Attacks in Kabul are rare but on Tuesday two similar bomb attacks wounded about 10 people.

Germany's 'Dream Didn't Come True'

"They all had a big dream; they all had a big goal to reach that final in Berlin," Klinsmann said. "The dream didn't come true and it will take them some time to swallow it."

Israel Approves Expanded Operation in Gaza

French Connect, Oust Portugal to Advance

North Korea Test-Fires Seventh Missile

Japan and U.S. Condemn Action

Administration Should Try Suspects in U.S. Courts

We welcome the Supreme Court’s repudiation of a system that failed to meet basic standards for a fair trial. The Bush administration should now focus on properly prosecuting terror suspects and providing justice for their victims. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

Europe: Shrinking Safe Haven for War Criminals

(Brussels, June 28, 2006) – Prosecutors in Europe are using the concept of universal jurisdiction to pursue foreign war criminals in national courts, a strategy that is gaining momentum across the continent and should be expanded, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for UN Secretray General

Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister dropped from the government by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has been mentioned by Afghan expert Rahimullah Yusufzai for the high office in an article in The News.

Afghan politician for UN top post?

Ghani, who has extensive experience of the UN system, "has good chances of winning crucial US support for his candidature in case other candidates are cancelled out by the big powers", Yusufzai said.

Afghanistan as an empty space

The perfect Neo-Colonial state of the 21st century. Part one. See parts two, three and four.

Pulling the rug out:

Afghanistan as an empty space, part two. See parts one, three and four.

The "Present Danger" War Parties

On three occasions since the end of World War II—in 1950, 1976, and 2004—elite citizen committees have organized to warn the nation of what they viewed as looming threats to U.S. national security.

Rice Strives to Close Afghan-Pakistani Rift

Rice Says U.S. Strongly Backs Afghan President Karzai

“[W]e're going to back him and back him fully. And when he has problems, we're going to sit with him and we're going to find ways to resolve those problems,” she said.