Sunday, December 30, 2007

US debates impact of Bhuttos death on Afghanistan

NEW YORK, Dec 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The impact of former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhuttos assassination on Afghanistan has become a focal point of debate in the build-up to the presidential ballot in the United States. Other issues including Iraq have been overshadowed in the process.

A tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy --Tariq Ali

An odd coexistence of military despotism and anarchy created the conditions leading to her assassination in Rawalpindi yesterday. In the past, military rule was designed to preserve order - and did so for a few years. No longer. Today it creates disorder and promotes lawlessness. --- Bhutto: 'I know exactly who wants to kill me' Special reports ..., --- Obituary

Pakistan expert: Jihadi nuke threat 'pure fantasy' -- by Frank James

Immigration Remains a Hot Topic for 2008

Diplomats expelled 'at behest of the US'

U.S. Strives to Keep Footing In Tangled Pakistan Situation

Bhutto's Son Chosen As Eventual Party Chief

KARACHI, Pakistan, Dec. 30 -- Speaking briefly but forcefully at a news conference in the Bhutto family's ancestral home, he said he would strive to honor his mother's legacy. "The party's long and historic struggle will continue with renewed vigor," he said. "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."

Pakistan: Bhutto Assassination a Tragedy (Human Rights Watch)

(New York, December) – Human Rights Watch called upon the Pakistani government to undertake an independent and transparent investigation into Bhutto’s assassination and fully cooperate with such an investigation.

Opinion : A Wise Man Looks at the World

Mr. Rumsfeld said [of Afghanistan], We don't do nation-building. We were telling him, Don't arm the warlords. [The Northern Alliance of former mujahideen driven out of power by the Taliban.] He said, anybody who will help us, we will work with them, because we don't care what is happening in Afghanistan.

Bhutto's son, husband to lead party -- LATimes

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told a news conference at the family's ancestral home in southern Pakistan: "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."

Another Bhutto in Pakistan -- Time

Bilawal read his mother's will to a closed meeting of senior party officials on Sunday afternoon. The document, which Benazir wrote two days before she returned to Pakistan last October, after eight years of self-imposed exile, apparently called for Zardari to take the reigns of the party.

Roger Cohen: Bhutto's death on America's watch -- Roger Cohen Published

Shots to head and chest followed by bombing bear the hallmark of a "shoot and destroy" attack, what British special forces would call a "double tap." It's suspicious that both the crime scene and her car were cleaned up before investigators had access.

Little hope for Afghans in 2008 -- BBC

After two years in which the violence in Afghanistan has become worse, it is hard to see signs of hope in 2008. --- The influential think tank, the International Crisis Group, speaks of the "failure of Kabul's diplomatic and donor community to engage fully in the fledgling process".

US home sales fall to 12-year low

Sales of new US homes declined much more in November than many analysts had expected, raising concerns about the state of the world's largest economy.

Bhutto's son named as successor -- BBC

Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal has been chosen to take over her Pakistan People's Party, after her assassination on Thursday. --- Bilawal, who will be a titular head while he finishes his studies at Oxford University said: "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge." --- Ms Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who will run the party day-to-day, said it would contest upcoming elections. -- Profile: Bilawal Bhutto , Mourners blame Musharraf

Canadians in Afghanistan battling against international terrorism

OTTAWA - The conflict in Afghanistan is about more than simply rehabilitating a small, war-battered country in southwest Asia, says Canada's top general. --- Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, says Afghanistan is a beachhead in a larger fight against the kind of international terrorism personified by al-Qaida.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My War with Charlie Wilson -- by Gary Schmitt

And Bill Casey's victory.

Bhutto's party to decide on successor, election

ISLAMABAD, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, is to read her will on Sunday but the Oxford law student is seen as too young to lead a dynasty whose history is entwined with that of Pakistan. --- A Bhutto Successor?, -- A Family Affair?

Bush Tries to Assure Families on Economy -- AP

Bush OKs Child Health Program Extension

Pakistan Rejects Help in Bhutto Probe - Associated Press-

Benazir, the steely and vulnerable -- By Lyse Doucet

"No, I am not pregnant. I am fat. And, as the prime minister, its my right to be fat if I want to." Benazir Bhutto, -- Final journey Images of Bhutto's burial at the family mausoleum

Afghanistan: Khalilzad Hopes Response To Pakistan's 'Huge Loss' Is Renewed Effort To Counter Extremism

The assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto prompted quick international condemnation, as well as intense examination of its effect on South Asia and the rest of the world. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan within hours of Bhutto's death.

How Bhutto Won Washington

BENAZIR BHUTTO always understood Washington more than Washington understood her.

U.S. fears spillover into Afghanistan

Bhutto said she'd blame Musharraf if killed

(CNN) -- Two months before her death, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto sent an e-mail to her U.S. adviser and longtime friend, saying that if she were killed, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would bear some of the blame. --- Bhutto wrote the e-mail on October 26, eight days after at least 130 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in Karachi by the suicide bombing that occurred as Bhutto's motorcade passed. --- Siegel forwarded that e-mail to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, with instructions he not report on it unless Bhutto was killed. Benazir e-mail implicates Musharraf in death, Bhutto Blamed Musharraf for Lack of Security - NPR

Benazir Bhutto: From the Oxford Union to her Last Rally in Rawalpindi

She was at Oxford. I was at Cambridge. And by a strange coincidence I became president of the Cambridge Union and she became president of the Oxford Union. The anomaly of two foreign women heading the two unions meant that we ended up debating each other around England on topics ranging from British politics to broad generalities about the impact of technological advance on mankind.

The Sad, Stormy Life Of Benazir Bhutto

(CBS/AP) Benazir Bhutto was many things - zealous guardian of her dead father's legacy, aristocratic populist, accused rogue, even one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people. And in the end, she was a victim of roiling passions in the nation she sought to lead for a third time. To the West, she was the appealing and glamorous face of Pakistan - a trailblazing feminist, the first woman to lead a Muslim nation in modern times - though her aura was dimmed by accusations of corruption. But to many Pakistanis, she was a leader who spoke for them, their needs and their hopes. --- Bhutto: A life in politics

Bhutto Aides Reject Government Claim

Pro-Taliban militants deny hand in Bhutto's killing - South Asia

NATO's Afghan Trials -- Council on Foreign Relations

Patience is at a premium among NATO allies in Afghanistan. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, frustrated by an inability to secure additional helicopters and soldiers, lashed out at member nations ahead of meetings in Scotland on December 15. Britain's top defense official, Des Browne, also has called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) "to share the burden" (BBC) in rebuilding. Those allies on the receiving end of such messages -- including Germany, which supplies the third-largest contingent of forces to the effort but refuses to conduct major combat missions -- responded coolly (Spiegel Online). The criticism will be "taken seriously," a spokesman for the German interior ministry said, "but is not entirely new."

Countries Condemn Bhutto Killing

Articles/Interviews: Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

Why the world needs democracy in Pakistan: Dictatorship fuels extremism, which reaches far beyond Pakistan -- By Benazir Bhutto - Christian Science Monitor: December 9, 2007
Bhutto: Time for Musharraf to go -- CNN, 13 November 2007

By Peter W. Galbraith: My Friend Died. Now Her Country May Not Make It.

Benazir Bhutto did not survive her last campaign to restore democracy to her country. After her murder, Pakistan may not survive, either. --- To understand why the country is in such jeopardy, Americans must get past our habit of thinking of Pakistan in our terms, as a front line in the war on terrorism and as the nuclear-armed rival of India. Pakistanis, by and large, see themselves through the prism of province and ethnicity. Bhutto was the only Pakistani politician with substantial support in both Punjab, the country's largest province, and her native Sindh, Pakistan's second most populous province.

Millions in Earmarks Purchase Little of Use -- By Robert O'Harrow Jr.

U.S. Fears Greater Turmoil In Region

Pakistan's Crisis Could Affect War In Afghanistan

Friday, December 28, 2007

US signals support for talks with Taliban

The US yesterday signalled its support for holding secret talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan despite a long-held publicly stated policy of never negotiating with the Islamic militant group.

Turmoil threatens Afghanistan relationship -- FT

‘Only democracy can defeat Pakistan’s extremists’ -- Benazir Bhutto

I did not come this far in life to be intimidated by suicide bombers. There is a battle raging in Pakistan for the hearts and minds of a new generation. It is a battle for the future of Pakistan as a democratic nation. -- Bhutto laid to rest as violence mounts

Benazir Bhutto Laid to Rest Amid Violence

Bhutto Knew a Return to Pakistan Was Risky ,
Profile: Benazir Bhutto
Timeline, Gallery: Bhutto's Turbulent Life
A Return Under Threat

Bhutto funeral held in Pakistan -- BBC

Grief-stricken mourners converged on the family mausoleum where she was buried next to her father near their home village in Sindh province.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan -- Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

Bhutto Blamed Musharraf for Lack of Security

All Things Considered, December 27, 2007 · In an e-mail she sent two months ago that was to be made public in the event of her death, Benazir Bhutto blames Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the nation's Intelligence Service for a lack of security and her ultimate death.

Suicide Attack Ends Benazir Bhutto's Controversial Life

MARK SIEGEL: Benazir talked about the possibility of being killed many, many times in our relationship, and with Husain as well. She understood that there were risks, but she was committed to public service. --- And we talked about it. She said to me that she -- she had great faith, and she believed, she really believed that God would take care of her, and she told me not to worry. She said she was in God's hands. And, today, she's in God's hands. --- She did, and she had reason to believe that was the case. She had asked for security for October 18 and 19. It was denied to her. --- And she continued to ask for security arrangements that were continually denied. She did believe that, ultimately, these things could not be happening if it wasn't for Musharraf directly.

Bhutto Assassination Sparks Violence in Pakistan

NPR News Special: Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

From The Times: Destiny’s daughter

The story of Benazir Bhutto is dramatic enough on paper but becomes almost fantastic in person. Her pampered-princess start in life, raised at her father’s knee in the ancestral estate on heady tales of the Bhutto family’s political dynasty; her education at Harvard and Oxford, where she was president of the Oxford Union; her heartbreaking return to Pakistan when she was unable to save her beloved father – despite intense international pressure – from being hanged in 1979 by General Zia’s military dictatorship, whose coup had toppled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s democratic government. Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The main suspects

Benazir Bhutto Remarks to Voice of America Reporter

The transcript of Benazir Bhutto's remarks:"I explained to President Karzai that the Pakistan People's Party hoped to win the elections and form the government and we look forward to working very closely with Afghanistan. We too believe it is essential for us both of our countries and indeed the large Muslim world to work to protect the interests of the Islamic civilization by eliminating extremism and terrorism."

Bhutto's Death Felt Keenly In Kabul

Karzai orders to flow Afghan national flag at half mast for Bhutto's death

Bhutto Death Puts a Spotlight on War in Afghanistan

The death of Benazir Bhutto is an ominous sign not only for the future of Pakistan but also for the course of the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan, U.S. military officers and other experts on South Asian security affairs said today.

Countries Condemn Bhutto Killing -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, who met Bhutto earlier on Thursday in Islamabad, said he was ''deeply pained'' by the assassination of ''this brave sister of ours, a brave daughter of the Muslim world''

In meeting with Karzai, Bhutto wanted peace, democracy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan: Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, in one of her final meetings before her assassination, told Afghan President Hamid Karzai early Thursday that she hoped for peace, democracy and good relations for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Karzai said. --- Karzai said he found Bhutto to be a brave woman with a clear vision "for her own country, for Afghanistan and for the region — a vision of democracy and prosperity and peace."

Text of Bush Comment on Bhutto -- By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Text of President Bush's statement Thursday regarding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions. --- Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Benazir Bhutto, to her friends, to her supporters. We send our condolences to the families of the others who were killed in today's violence. We send our condolences to all the people of Pakistan on this tragic occasion.

World: Bhutto Assassinated After Campaign Rally

"I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger. People are worried. We will bring the country out of this crisis.” Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan's Bhutto assassinated

Pakistan's Bhutto assassinated

Expelled EU, U.N. officials leave Afghanistan

KABUL, Dec 27 (Reuters) - A senior United Nations official and another from the European Union left Afghanistan on Thursday after the government ordered their expulsion, accusing both of holding talks with the Taliban and for paying cash to the group.

India calls Bhutto death terrible blow to democracy

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India said the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Thursday was a tragedy and a terrible blow to the democratic process.

Pakistan's Bhutto assassinated in gun, bomb attack (Reuters)

Benazir Bhutto killed in attack -- BBC

Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a presumed suicide attack. Obituary: Benazir Bhutto , In pictures: Bhutto's last rally , Life in pictures The life of Benazir Bhutto, the last of a political dynasty

Bhutto Assassinated at Rally

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 27 -- Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday at a political rally, two months after returning from exile to attempt a political comeback.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mortgage Probes Face Big Hurdles --By Carrie Johnson

The nation's largest banks are losing billions of dollars from the mortgage debacle. But will pain from bad housing bets be compounded by government investigations?

Karzai, Musharraf 'to co-operate' -- BBC

At a meeting in Islamabad, the leaders said terrorism had brought suffering to people in both their countries.

Brzezinski and Charlie Wilson's War -- By STANLEY HELLER

Imagine, they made a funny movie about how the US helped turn Afghanistan into a killing field. It's the film "Charlie Wilson's War, a ligthearted look of how a skirt-chasing Congressman and a no-nonsense CIA thug helped bring mountains of weapons and money to the fanatic, women-despising "freedom fighters" who gave us 9/11. It's certainly material for a "laugh riot". --- To be sure it was the Soviets who did most of the killing. From December 27, 1979 when they overthrew the government of Afghanistan until February of 1989 they ravaged the country. By the war's end there were a million dead Afghans, another 3 million injured, and a whole generation growing up to think that war and war crimes were the natural way of life. Soviet land mines still litter the country.

Health care for all in California?

The issue of universal health care looks set to become a key topic in the run up to next year's US presidential election.

UN push to stop Afghan expulsions in Taliban row

UN officials were last night working to prevent the expulsion from Afghanistan of two senior western diplomats who have been accused of holding illegal talks with Taliban leaders in the British theatre of operations in the southern province of Helmand.

Of course we must talk -- Jason Burke

Outrage over western officials' contact with the Taliban is predictable, contrived and harmful

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Transcript of key Daud-Kissinger meeting released

NEW YORK, Dec 23 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Nearly two and half decades before the US-led forces entered Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had told former Afghan president Mohammad Daud the Afghans had always made things difficult for foreign forces on their soil. --- "From what I know of Afghan history, you always gave a lot of difficulties to whoever came in here," Kissinger told Daud in a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on the afternoon of August 8, 1976. The meeting had lasted more than two hours. --- The remarks amidst laughter by Kissinger came after Daud observed that Afghanistan due to its peculiar geographical position had been faced with difficulties of one kind or another. The time that passed since the 1976 meeting proved right. First it was the Russian forces who were forced out and now NATO troops - despite support from the public and the duly elected government - are facing difficulties in Afghanistan. --- Daud responded in the same vein: "In fact they created difficulties for us! Others came to our house, not we to theirs." To this Kissinger replied: "But you didn't make things too comfortable for them." --- The transcript of the meeting released by the State Department this week gives an interesting insight into the mindset of Daud and indicates the then Afghanistan president had an inkling of a possible foreign intervention short of aggression -- and had sought help from the US government in terms of sharing advance information in this regard.

US refused to help Daud's govt against Soviet threat

BOSTON, Dec 23 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A few years before the Russian forces invaded Afghanistan, Washington had bluntly refused to supply arms and ammunition to Kabul to protect itself from a possible aggression, reveal classified documents made public by the State Department. --- In fact, such was the seriousness and a foreign threat perception considered by the Daud Administration that the Afghan president sent special envoy Mohammad Aziz Naeem to meet then US president Gerald Ford inWashington DC on July 1, 1976. --- The meeting - attended by former secretary of state Henry A Kissinger and then Afghan planning minister Ali Ahmad Khurram and the director-general at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - was held at the Oval office of the US president and lasted 46 minutes. --- The documents declassified by the State Department, in fact, show a kind of desperation by the Daud administration to protect the country from a foreign invasion and get closer to the United States rather than the Soviets.

Editorial : Failed state blooming

The Bush administration's decision to conduct a review of security, governance and economic development in Afghanistan reflects an overdue recognition that, six years after the overthrow of the Taliban, the country remains dangerously unstable. With Taliban attacks on the rise and the opium poppy crop increasing, Afghanistan is on the way to becoming a failed state, a narco-state or both.

Bush Makes Holiday Calls to Troops

Queen Elizabeth urges thought for less well off

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary last month, said on Tuesday that the family was the core of society and urged greater consideration for the vulnerable and marginalized.

Pope makes Christmas appeal for peace

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Tuesday said he hoped Christmas would bring consolation to those living in poverty, injustice and war and appealed for just solutions to conflicts in Iraq, the Holy Land, Afghanistan and Africa.

Finding Alzheimer’s Before a Mind Fails

“Alzheimer’s disease may be a chronic condition in which changes begin in midlife or even earlier,” said Dr. John C. Morris, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis, where Ms. Kerley volunteers for studies. --- Researchers are also using M.R.I. scans to look for early brain changes, and testing blood and spinal fluid for amyloid and other “biomarkers” to see if they can be used to predict Alzheimer’s or find it early.

Pope calls for end to conflicts -- BBC

He urged political leaders to have the "wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions" to "ethnic, religious and political tensions... [which are] destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations".

Urgent talks on Afghan expulsions -- BBC

Foreign officials in Afghanistan are in urgent discussions with the Afghan government over two diplomats who have been ordered to leave the country.

Robin Williams, Lance Armstrong in Kabul

Williams, a USO veteran making his fourth trip to Afghanistan, told the soldiers he woke up on Thursday in the desert sands of Iraq and closed out his day with snow in Kabul. "From sand to snow, mother nature is having hot flashes."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Interior Ministry Warns of Radicalization of Muslims

However, the authors concluded that the vast majority of Muslims in Germany reject religiously motivated terrorism and violence: Some 92 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that terrorist acts in the name of Islam were a serious sin and an insult to Allah. --- But the authors saw a potential threat in a small minority with Islamist leanings: --- Around 6 percent of those surveyed were classified as having "violent tendencies," while 14 percent of respondents had "anti-democratic" tendencies. --- Around 12 percent of the Muslims in Germany identified with a religious-moral critique of the West and supported corporal punishment and the death penalty. The report also concluded that religious beliefs are becoming increasingly important for young people. ---- According to Schäuble, the lack of integration of immigrants into German society is leading to a "fundamental religious orientation." --- The survey found that more than half of the respondents felt themselves excluded from German society and felt they were treated as foreigners. Around 20 percent had experienced some form of racism within the last 12 months.

What Does $6,500 Buy? A Healthier, Happier Village

QARABATUR is a small village nestled on a mountain in Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan. Like many Afghan villages, it is impossibly remote. --- The drive is trying, but well worth it. From the village, the view below is stunning: desert and soft mountain ranges, the sky topaz blue, the air still and cool. The village leader, Daoud, told me that in spring, the mountainside explodes with bursts of yellow, purple and red flowers.

Billions in Aid to Pakistan Was Wasted, Officials Assert

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After the United States has spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, some American officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money. The strategy to improve the Pakistani military, they said, needs to be completely revamped.

Economic gains critical for Afghan security-Gates

WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Facing rising violence in Afghanistan, NATO must translate military gains into economic progress next year by bringing development to the country's remote areas, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.

The Gunmen of Kabul -- CorpWatch

The September raid was one of the first attempts by President Karzai’s government to crack down on private security contractors in Afghanistan. Afghan police say they plan to shut down about 14 contractors, and so far, have closed 10 Afghan and foreign firms. --- In September, on a tree-lined street in the most expensive neighborhood in Kabul, dozens of men rolled out of armored vehicles in front of a little-known U.S. security company. Backed up by Blackwater guards, Afghan authorities and Americans from the FBI and the U.S. State Department quickly headed for the offices of United States Protection and Investigations (USPI). Once inside, they arrested four of the Texas-based company’s management team and confiscated 15 computers. The two Americans arrested were later released, while the Afghan managers remain in custody. ---- The private forces filling this security gap are funded by some of the nearly $20 billion in U.S. aid money that was allocated for Afghan “reconstruction.” To date, there is little security or reconstruction to show for the money spent. An undisclosed amount of the funds for projects assigned to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other donor nations appears to have simply gone to security contractors, according to aid project contracts that detail security costs. For almost every project, security is the highest expense.

Australia vows Afghan commitment -- BBC

Mr Rudd, who has said he will pull out combat troops from Iraq, stressed he was committed to reconstruction and stability in Afghanistan.

Poppies vs. Power in Afghanistan --- By Jim Hoagland

Call it the paradox of overwhelming but insufficient force. It is surfacing in a struggle in Afghanistan over the wisdom of chemically eradicating that nation's expanding poppy fields. They are the source of (1) the livelihoods of many Afghan peasants, (2) a record flood of heroin into Western markets and (3) funding for the Taliban and other terrorist forces.

Sarkozy warns of Taleban threat

Here there is a war against terrorism, against fanaticism, that we cannot and must not lose," Mr Sarkozy told reporters after his talks with Mr Karzai. --- "That is why it is important that we help with the emergence of an Afghan state that is legitimate, democratic and modern."

Italy's Prodi visits Afghanistan

"The Afghans must receive help from the international community," Mr Prodi told Italian news agency Ansa in Kabul upon his arrival.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Politics: Congress Funds War to Support Troops

French president in Afghanistan -- BBC

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has touched down in the Afghan capital Kabul on a visit to Afghanistan.

Warning over Pentagon war funding

Congress this week approved $70bn (£35bn) - just half the sum that US President George W Bush had sought.

Comedic 'Charlie Wilson's War' has a tragic punch line

Sticking to His Guns (Charlie Wilson: The Wild Card Image Was The Real Deal)

He was married when he arrived in Congress, but that didn't last long. The '70s was the age of disco, and Wilson became part-owner of a flashy K Street dance club called Elan, which was not known as a hotbed of monogamy. "He had a love of whiskey and a love of the ladies," says his friend Larry L. King, author of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." In 1978, Wilson's lifestyle inspired a Washington Post profile headlined "Charles Wilson: Every Day's a Party for Him."

Afghanistan, Sharing Its Treasures (National Gallery to Host Nation's Ancient Artifacts)

The exhibit, which will be on display here for nearly four months before traveling to museums in New York, San Francisco and Houston, aims to provide a rare glimpse of the long-lost, creative melting pot that Afghanistan once represented -- centuries before it became known to most Westerners as a grim Cold War battlefield and a victim of horrific Islamic repression under the Taliban. Afghanistan's Lost Treasures

Karzai says Afghanistan needs foreign troops for 10 years

BERLIN (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview that his war-torn country will need foreign troops for at least another decade. --- "I believe it will take another 10 years, at least 10 years," he told Bild newspaper when asked for how much longer the country will need German troops. --- "We need more time. The destruction was massive. Rebuilding Afghanistan will take longer than we thought."

Afghanistans Präsident Hamid Karsai: „Wir brauchen euch Deutsche noch 10 Jahre“ -

Afghanistan in very difficult situation: Canada PM

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Afghanistan is in a "very, very difficult situation," in part because the international community wasted years before trying to stamp out the Taliban across the country, says Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Bush, Rice Concerned About Afghanistan

WASHINGTON -- President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern Thursday that the commitment of NATO allies in Afghanistan may be flagging and warned against allowing the country to again become a cauldron for extremism. --- "My biggest concern is that people say, 'Well, we're kind of tired of Afghanistan and, therefore, we think we're going to leave'," Bush said at the White House. "That would be my biggest concern."

Bush Is Upbeat About Economy's Prospects

The White House is betting that the steps it has taken to address the housing and financial crises will be enough to avert a recession without resorting to a major tax cut or new spending, as leading economists in both parties have urged, senior administration officials said.

HuffPost's LiveChat with Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Said T. Jawad

Bush Critiques Congress in News Conference, December 20, 2007 · President Bush gave qualified praise to Congress for voting to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and passing measures to freeze the alternate minimum tax, but he scolded members for allowing numerous spending earmarks. -- Listen: The White House News Conference

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Queen reaches oldest monarch mark -- BBC

The Queen will reach a new milestone when she overtakes Queen Victoria to become the oldest British monarch.

Person of the Year 2007

Vladimir Putin, TIME's Person of the Year is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse

Movie review: 'Charlie Wilson's War' romps through the Cold War

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the foxhole from which resistance seemed least likely was a Las Vegas hot tub, occupied by one naked United States congressman (Charlie Wilson, D-Texas) and several equally naked women (C-Cups). --- The movie hurtles along from one Middle East hot spot to another, getting hotter by the moment, as Wilson engages Egyptian arms dealers, Israeli spies and one particularly effective American belly dancer to build an unlikely alliance of support for the Afghan rebels.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hollywood visits Afghanistan

Hollywood has never had a whole lot of interest in Afghanistan, save for the occasional secondary terrorist character. But with the release of "The Kite Runner" last week and "Charlie Wilson's War" this week, moviegoers are about to get a shadow movie history of a longtime global hot spot.

US Commander Arrives in Afghanistan for Strategy Review

Editorial: Plenty of Blame for Afghanistan

Afghans are growing increasingly disillusioned both about their country’s government and its Western backers. -- Poppy production is also soaring as the Kabul government, Washington and Europe squabble over the best approach to eradication.

Muslims across Asia celebrate Eid, as Afghan leader says country not shelter for terrorists

KABUL, Afghanistan: Muslims across Asia observed the opening of the religious festival of Eid al-Adha on Wednesday, a multi-day observance that opens with the slaughtering of a farm animal to be distributed among family members and the poor. --- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in an address marking the first day of Eid in Afghanistan, urged the United States and its allies to take their fight against al-Qaida and Taliban beyond Afghanistan's borders and to attack terrorists' sanctuaries and training centers outside the country — an apparent reference to Pakistan.

HAJJ – Pilgrimage to the House of Allah in Mecca

Upon Whom Is It Obligatory To Perform Hajj : An adult Muslim of a sane mind, an able body and having means to bear the expenses must perform this act of worship once in his/her lifetime. There should be peace on the way to Mecca and there should be no hindrance or restriction in traveling to Mecca. Hajj is not obligatory for children, the sick, and those who are unable to bear the expenses for Hajj. --- Introduction Significance & Philosophy of hajj,
Upon Whom Is It Obligatory To Perform Hajj, What are the Timings of Hajj (Pilgrimage),
Pillars of Hajj

Afghanistan Review - Crisis In Kabul?

Despite the early success of toppling the Taliban in 2001, insurgent attacks are up to their highest levels since the beginning of the US involvement. And suicide bombings are up some 30% in some areas. This has led the Pentagon and NATO to start a series of reviews of operations in Afghanistan, which has started to highlight many problems for the forces there, including long-standing shortfalls in equipment. Reportedly, some Europeans officials are wondering if Afghanistan isn't becoming what it was for the British and the Russians: a doomed operation. Larry talks with Carlotta Gall, Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent for The New York Times, Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, and Larry Goodson, Director of Middle East Studies at the Army War College about the war in Afghanistan and where it's headed. [ Listen ] Click here: 89.3 KPCC AirTalk hosted by Larry Mantle

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Canada reconsiders role in Afghanistan -- LETTER FROM CANADA

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada has set up a panel that will offer its recommendations by Jan. 31. The possibility of a pullout troubles some of those who have been in the fight.

Exercise on the Brain -- SANDRA AAMODT and SAM WANG

For people whose work is unstimulating, having mentally challenging hobbies, like learning a new language or playing bridge, can help maintain cognitive performance. --- Exercise is also strongly associated with a reduced risk of dementia late in life. People who exercise regularly in middle age are one-third as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease in their 70s as those who did not exercise. Even people who begin exercising in their 60s have their risk reduced by half.

Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS

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Single-family housing starts hit 16-year low

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Economists said the data underscored the degree to which the deep housing sector slump was weighing on the economy, which some analysts fear is teetering close to recession.

Housing Starts, Permits Decline

It's politics that cements deals in Afghanistan -- Jim Landers

"Yet Afghanistan is an incredible market for an indigenous cement plant. It's one of the only countries in the world without its own cement industry, and there are tremendous opportunities for building materials."---- Across the country, Afghanis tell pollsters that they don't like the Taliban and their Pakistani-flavored fundamentalism, but they're also unhappy with the corruption within Hamid Karzai's government. ---- Whether in business or in politics, Afghanistan seems beset by powerful factions bleeding the wealth and vitality of the struggling country.

Ritter offers bleak outlook on Afghanistan

"Over in Afghanistan, there is great concern about the progress we've made in the past eroding," said Ritter, who visited Colorado troops in Iraq and Kuwait before ending his Department of Defense-sponsored trip in Afghanistan.

New Fed Rules to Protect Mortgage Holders

Restricting lenders from penalizing subprime borrowers who pay their loans off early. -- Forcing lenders to make sure that borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance. -- Prohibiting loans without proof of income. -- Stopping lenders from making loans without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.

Bush to Visit Israel, West Bank and Saudi Peninsula in January Mideast Tour

WASHINGTON — President Bush will visit Israel and the West Bank next month as part of a nine-day trip intended to nurture peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. -- Bush also will make stops in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He will leave Washington on Jan. 8 and return on Jan. 16.

Revitalizing U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan -- Lisa Curtis and James Phillips

Afghanistan is a crucial front in the global struggle against the al-Qaeda terrorist network and Islamic radicalism. The United States-led coalition was unable to transform an overwhelming military victory in 2001 into a stable postwar political situation because of Afghanistan's fractious politics and shattered economic, state, and civil society infrastructures; a minimalist American approach to committing military forces and foreign aid; Pakistan's failure to crack down decisively on Taliban forces that have taken refuge in Pashtun tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; the Afghan government's failure to expand its authority and deliver services to rural Afghans; and a shortfall of economic aid, due in part to many countries' failure to fulfill their foreign aid pledges to Afghanistan.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Germany to provide 8.5m euros for Afghan education sector

Khalilzad looks for life beyond ambassadorial slot

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The US envoy to the United Nations and the highest ranking Afghan-American in the Bush administration, Zalmay Khalilzad, has started looking for life beyond his ambassadorial assignment, which enters its last year in about a fortnight from now.

Health: Cancer Killed Almost 8 Million Worldwide in 2007

12 million new cases -- many preventable -- were diagnosed this year, American Cancer Society reports

From Bosnia to Afghanistan?

Amid rumours that Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, will take up a role as the international community's "super envoy" in Afghanistan, Gordon Brown has set out a new UK Afghan strategy. --- By many standards, Afghanistan's recent history is a story of progress. A progressive constitution has been adopted, elections have been held, and non-opium GDP grew at 8% in 2006. But the country is still at risk. Insurgents remain a threat, with violence reaching even the capital, Kabul. Reconstruction is uneven, the opium economy is growing and corruption is undermining the government. Rather than act, the president and parliament are locked in battle. Clearly, outright success is no longer possible. But it is still possible for Afghanistan to become a relatively stable, poor but developing, conservative Islamic democracy. So what should be done?

U.S. and allies review Afghanistan war as attacks soar

From Economist -- Afghanistan: A victory, but little to cheer

Afghanistan's bleak north-south divide

House Roll Call: Afghanistan funding -- The Associated Press

The 206-201 roll call Monday by which the House passed an amendment to the budget bill adding $31 billion for troops in Afghanistan. -- A "yes" vote is a vote to pass the amendment.
Voting yes were 201 Democrats and 5 Republicans.

Bush to start video chats with Karzai -- Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Bush will soon start holding periodic videoconferences with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a move that reflects growing concern over continued violence that is making this the deadliest year in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

U.S. Wants NATO to Step Up in Afghanistan

'Remembrances: Sky Soldier' Michael Gabel Killed in Afghanistan

"My brother believed in Afghanistan," David Gabel said. "He really wanted to see schools, jobs and opportunities brought to the country. It was his third tour in Afghanistan, and the job there was unfinished."

Senate Crafts New Rules on Warrantless Spying -- by David Welna

Now, lawmakers must decide two big issues: First, whether phone companies that provided information to the government without warrants should be given immunity from lawsuits. And second, how to protect Americans abroad from such surveillance.

Bush Faces Pressure to Shift War Priorities

Afghanistan is so poor and so starved for modern infrastructure, one senior administration official said, that it could well be "a longer, if not larger, challenge than Iraq." The senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the situation in Afghanistan is "not getting better. It's not getting worse. In a war footing, that's not good enough."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Crown jewels' glimpsed at Diana inquest -- BBC

The court was on a treasure hunt from the start. The prize was nothing less than the "crown jewels". That's what the private letters between Princess Diana and the Duke of Edinburgh have been dubbed. Diana inquest: Duke of Edinburgh letters --- Radio 1 - News - How do you remember Princess Diana?

Diana inquest: Duke of Edinburgh letters -- BBC

The jury at the inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales has seen extracts of letters between Diana and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Afghanistan allies 'must do more' -- BBC

Many Nato allies are failing to pull their weight in the battle with the Taleban in Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said. --- "I would like for all of the allies to be involved in a comprehensive strategy that involves both security and economic development," he said.

Lufthansa buys stake in JetBlue

German airline Lufthansa is buying a 19% stake in US budget carrier JetBlue Airways for $300m (£147m).

Afghans may miss huge Chinese copper investment - watchdog

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan may not reap the full benefit from the biggest foreign investment in its history, a copper mine to be built by a Chinese company, if full safeguards are not set in place, an independent watchdog said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Afghan women raise voices against violence through prayer

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The women of Afghanistan are seldom seen, let alone heard. But for a brief moment Wednesday, hundreds across the country made history by joining in a unique display of female solidarity.

Bhutto won't join with Islamic party

Israeli-Palestinian talks go nowhere

Behind the Controversial Scenes of 'The Kite Runner'

Life seems to dance along like the brilliant kites the boys flew in his hometown of Kabul before the Soviet invasion, before the Taliban, and before the boy at the heart of the story loses his homeland, much like Khaled Hosseini had himself.

We need to stay in Afghanistan – and we need to win -- LORD ROBERTSON

The NATO decision to take on the International Stabilization and Assistance Force in Afghanistan was on my watch as secretary-general. I have never, not for a moment, regretted that decision. The task was necessary and urgent, and NATO was the only organization in the world that could do it.

President Ogata visits Afghanistan to review reconstruction progress

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

U.S. to Cut 10 Percent of Diplomatic Posts Next Year

Diplomatic posts at the State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide will be cut by 10 percent next year because of heavy staffing demands in Iraq and Afghanistan, Director General Harry Thomas informed the foreign service yesterday.

U.S. to Cut 10 Percent of Diplomatic Posts Next Year

Diplomatic posts at the State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide will be cut by 10 percent next year because of heavy staffing demands in Iraq and Afghanistan, Director General Harry Thomas informed the foreign service yesterday.

Pentagon Critical Of NATO Allies, (Gates Faults Efforts In Afghanistan)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized NATO countries yesterday for not supplying urgently needed trainers, helicopters and infantry for Afghanistan as violence escalates there, vowing not to let the alliance "off the hook."

Brown setting out Afghan strategy -- BBC

Gordon Brown will outline his long-term strategy for Afghanistan to MPs later. --- The prime minister, just back from the country, is expected to announce more funding to develop democracy.

Brown: 'It's time to talk to the Taliban' -- By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor

Today, the Prime Minister will announce a major shift in strategy on Afghanistan. Could it mark the beginning of the end of a bloody six-year war? Or is it just spin?

Afghan Forces Retake Town From Taliban

(CBS/AP) Visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the victory in Musa Qala will have positive long-term results for the Afghan campaign. It also gives NATO a symbolic triumph in the deadliest year of fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 and boosts hopes the Afghan government can expand into a poppy rich area where it now wields little influence.

Russian Candidate Wants Putin As PM

Bush Wants Answers On Nukes From Iran

Iranian Leader Says Recent Report Good First Step; Bush: "Iran Is Dangerous"

John Edwards Makes His Case

John Edwards, In his second presidential campaign, Edwards is running as a populist, with a focus on poverty and health.

Fed offers modest rate cut

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve cut U.S. interest rates by a modest quarter-percentage point on Tuesday, disappointing Wall Street hopes for bolder action but offering some help to an economy facing credit strains and a deep housing slump.

Fed Expected to Cut Key Interest Rate

Exclusive: Inside The White House

Transcript: President Bush Speaks to ABC News' Martha Raddatz

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Former NPR Reporter Starts Afghan Cooperative

Interviews: Listen Now ---- The author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, Chayes wrote about her experiences starting the cooperative and selling beauty products in December's Atlantic Monthly.

NATO Commander Details Afghanistan Security, Reconstruction

This year has been the most violent in Afghanistan since the Taliban fell, with more than 130 suicide bombings and more than 2,600 dead. U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, discusses efforts to combat Taliban fighters.

Security and Reconstruction in Afghanistan

Click here: The Online NewsHour: Insider Forums PBS

Gates Seeks NATO Help in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that other NATO countries must fill gaps in the alliance’s Afghan mission, because the main focus of the United States had to be on Iraq.

Afghan Children, Hidden Suffering

Pentagon chief calls for appointment of a civilian overseer in Afghan aid effort

WASHINGTON: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated Tuesday that the lengthy search for a European official to coordinate the international aid presence in Afghanistan may be completed soon.

Brown commits British troops for the foreseeable future

Britain will retain a substantial military presence in Afghanistan for some time, Gordon Brown said yesterday, as he met President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to discuss the country's future. Military sources believe that British troops are likely to be there for a decade, albeit in reduced numbers in the later stages.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Waterboarding: Interrogation Or ?

(CBS) Waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning, dates back to at least the Spanish Inquisition, and has been used some of the world's cruelest dictatorships, according to Human Rights Watch.

U.S. Citizens Question Watch Lists

"No-Fly" And "No-Drive" Lists Hold Up Americans Crossing The Nation's Borders --- "I don't feel very welcome in my home at all," Reed tells CBS News. "In fact, I feel like I am not wanted in my country any more."

World 'divided' on press freedom

World opinion is divided on the importance of having a free press, according to a poll conducted for the BBC World Service.--- In the United States, Britain and Germany, only around 29% of those interviewed thought their media did a good job in reporting news accurately.

Watchdog Group Warns Of Spreading Afghan Corruption -AFP

KABUL (AFP)--Corruption in Afghanistan, which reaches up to deputy-minister level in an administration permeated by mafia-like structures, poses a danger to the nation's efforts at stability and security, a watchdog said Sunday. --- Mafia-like networks had spread in the administration with groups using their positions for their own gain, blocking reform and protecting their own, it said in a book containing a survey of Afghans in eight provinces.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

US backs Lord Ashdown for Afghanistan role

The United States is backing Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader who served as the international community's "high representative" in Bosnia, to be the United Nations new "super envoy" to Afghanistan.

UK's Ashdown Warns Over Afghanistan, No Comment On Job -AFP

LONDON (AFP)--The West is wasting resources by "fractured" action in Afghanistan, British politician Paddy Ashdown said Sunday, declining to comment on reports he is being lined up for a new coordinating job there.

Browne seeks Afghanistan support -- BBC

He said the demands set by commanders from Nato's International Security Assistance Force were not being met.

World 'must do more' for children -- BBC

More must be done more quickly to make the world fit for children by 2015, the UN children's agency, Unicef, has said.

Congress Calls for Hearings About CIA Tapes -- by David Welna

GOP Hopefuls Temper Anti-Immigrant Talk -- The Associated Press

Oprah tries to give Obama a lift with black voters

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) - Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has long been a role model for black women because of her rags-to-riches story, her status as a tastemaker and her message of self improvement.

Afghanistan too weak to go after rights violators: Karzai

President Hamid Karzai said yesterday addressing human rights abuses in Afghanistan's violent past would take years with his government still too weak to take on those behind the continuing atrocities.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bomb Blast Rocks Kabul -- By Jeffrey Stern | Newsweek

Visitors may think that Afghans are numb to violence, having witnessed so much. But the opposite is true. --- There are plenty of people on the streets of Kabul with guns, and the roar of an early-morning car bomb riles even the most war-weathered security guards. Kalashnikovs begin spitting rounds at nothing in particular. ---- Afghans tend to think according to their ethnic predispositions, and they will speak accordingly; no information from any source is without likely bias. Westerners have a hard time seeing the influence of ethnic allegiance, because Afghans pride themselves on hospitality, a central component of which is identifying what your guests want to see and then showing it to them. Racism is unappealing to Americans, who have little license for pride in their own history; to Germans, who generations later still harbor a collective, residual guilt; and to people from any of the other countries with a significant presence in Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN: UN prepares for repatriation of over half a million refugees

KABUL, 5 December 2007 (IRIN) - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has asked for about US$100 million from donors for its Afghan operations in the coming two years, according to UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009. --- "Insecurity and lack of land, shelter and livelihoods in Afghanistan are the main obstacles to return for refugees," said the Appeal, which was released on 4 December.

A Nation of Laws, Not Men -- The Huffington Post

I'm headed to the Senate floor right now to speak about startling news from today's newspapers: --- Senator Kennedy's prepared remarks can be read here.

Security Firms in Afghanistan: Part of the Problem?

Former commanders, ex-special forces, demobilised militias – at times it seems like the streets of Kabul are crammed full of strongmen looking to capitalise on their most marketable skill – the ability and readiness to fight.

Bush 'cannot recall' CIA videos -- BBC

US President George W Bush has said he has "no recollection" of the existence of video tapes of CIA interrogations and the plan to destroy them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Review of Iran Intelligence to Be Sought -- By Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler

As Conservatives Reject New NIE, Republican Senators to Urge Congressional Panel

World: 'Nuclear Jihadist' Tells of Dangerous Secrets

Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collinshe are the authors of The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...And How We Could Have Stopped Him.

Your Health: Even Minimal Fitness Can Stave Off Death

Significant Potential for Undiscovered Resources in Afghanistan

U.S. Lawmaker Questions Approaches To Pakistan, Afghanistan

In an interview at RFE/RL's broadcast headquarters in Prague, Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, California) said he thinks U.S. policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan have been misguided. -- He said the United States has been fooled into supporting military forces in Pakistan that only claim to be fighting radicalism -- but are actually allied with radical Islamists. --- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has depended in the past on conservative clerics for domestic political support in parts of Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. But he also depends on the United States for military and financial support in the counterterrorism effort.
Rohrabacher, a ranking member of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on International Relations, has experience on Afghanistan dating to the Cold War. --- In late 1988 and early 1989, before he was elected for the first time as a lawmaker, Rohrabacher hiked from Pakistan into Afghanistan with a group of mujahedin fighters who were battling Soviet forces. Those mujahedin fighters actually engaged Soviet troops in combat near the city of Jalalabad during the two months Rohrabacher was with them.
Rohrabacher -- who had been a speechwriter for U.S. President Ronald Reagan before his journey in Afghanistan -- now says he thinks Washington made a mistake during the 1980s by allowing Pakistan to decide which Afghan mujahedin fighters would receive U.S. aid money. ---"I would prefer the money to have gone to our friends in Afghanistan directly," Rohrabacher told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "Even during the war against the Soviets and our efforts to try to help the Afghan people drive the Soviet troops out, much of our aid was just handed to the Pakistanis who distributed it to who they saw fit. And the Pakistanis, through the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence agency], actually provided money to the worst-possible crazy people -- on both sides of the border, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. --- "People like [the renegade Afghan warlord] Gulbuddin Hekmatyar should not have been receiving the aid from the United States," Rohrabacher said. "There were more positive people there who were less crazy and less bloodthirsty than Hekmatyar and some of the others. And so others were short-changed. And the Pakistanis delivered the lion's share of this to radicals who even hated democracy in the West. So I've been upset with our policies toward Pakistan." --- Pakistan's 'Negative' Influence,
Rohrabacher said that instead of promoting a more moderate Muslim society, Pakistan has been a "negative force" on stability along its border with Afghanistan. --- President Musharraf's cooperation with the United States in the hunt for Al-Qaeda has angered conservative Islamists in Pakistan's border regions. The deployment of central government troops in the semi-autonomous tribal regions has fueled further tension between Musharraf and conservative Islamists.
Rohrabacher said he does not think the domestic political crisis in Pakistan will have any positive impact on the security situation in Afghanistan. "The only thing that would have a positive impact on the Afghan side would be if Musharraf just disappeared," Rohrabacher said. "Whether or not Musharraf is in a uniform is irrelevant. So what if he is not in a uniform and is wearing a suit? He's still giving orders to the people. And all along, it's been the Pakistan military that has been eating up resources in Pakistan that should have gone to pay for the education of their children. --- "Pakistan's children, their education and their health care, is abysmal," Rohrabacher said. "And yet they are spending all of these billions of dollars on their military. Perhaps if they had built up a more educated and healthier population in Pakistan, the radicalism that now is emerging would not have people who would be turning in that direction. So Musharraf, I think, and the military people he represents have failed over the years. --- Rohrbacher said Washington has made mistakes regarding Afghanistan since September 2001.
"What went wrong was that the United States drifted away from its original strategy in Afghanistan, perhaps, because there was too much focus on Iraq," he said in the interview on December 1. "We spent money in Iraq that should have gone toward rebuilding Afghanistan. Had we rebuilt the infrastructure so that ordinary people could earn a living without having to grow [illegal opium] poppies, it would have really gone a long way toward creating the positive situation for ordinary people which was our goal. But we spent those resources in Iraq instead. That was sad. --- He cited "some mistakes in not building a strong Afghan army" and noted that ethnic factors have complicated developments. --- "We know that half of the Pashtuns, at least, are in Pakistan, and I believe it has not been a positive role that Pakistan has played," Rohrbacher said. "I see the turmoil among Pashtuns as being a product, frankly, of the meddling by the ISI -- the Pakistani intelligence -- and by Pakistan. Had the Pashtuns been left alone and not been manipulated by Pakistan and outside forces, then I think that things could have been better [in Afghanistan]." --- Rohrabacher said that Afghans must, first and foremost, develop their security forces so that Kabul is able to defend its own interests instead of depending on the United States and NATO for help on security. If that happens, Rohrabacher said, foreign troops could start to withdraw from Afghanistan and additional aid could be used to help build the economy instead of supporting a foreign military presence.
Christa Meindersma, an international lawyer who specializes in peace-talk issues from The Hague Institute of Strategic Studies, told a recent London conference of military and civilian experts on Afghanistan's future that she thinks the country is "at a tipping point" that the international community can influence. "Either Afghanistan will move towards stabilization and some kind of a development of sustainable peace, or we may lose it again to Islamic extremism," Meindersma said. --- Meindersma was careful to criticize what she called an insufficient provision of aid and slow pace of reconstruction by coalition countries. She also complained of government corruption and a lack of military coordination.

Afghans Blame U.S. and NATO for War Casualties -- GARY LANGER

Over Half of Afghans Critical of U.S. and Allies' Efforts in Their Country

Bush Announces Mortgage Agreement

The president urged those homeowners distressed by rising mortgage payments to call a federal hot line for advice. The number is 1-888-995-HOPE.

Afghanistan's humanitarian needs growing: EC

KABUL (AFP) - Worsening security in Afghanistan is pushing up the need for humanitarian help while increasing risks for aid workers, 41 of whom have been killed this year, a European Commission aid official told AFP.

Bush Lays Out Plan to Help Homeowners

In a bid to stanch the swell of home mortgage foreclosures, the Bush administration said Thursday it will freeze interest rates for up to five years on more than a million subprime mortgage loans.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Legal Affairs: High Court Hears Detainee-Rights Case

Morning Edition, December 5, 2007 · The U.S. Supreme Court is due Wednesday to hear arguments on the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, marking the third time it has taken up the matter.

Children caught in the carnage as er targets Afghan soldiers

Leaked aid map of Afghanistan reveals expansion of no-go zones

Almost half of Afghanistan is now too dangerous for aid workers to operate in, a leaked UN map seen by The Times shows. --- The unpublished map, acquired by The Times in Kabul, is for UN staff and aid workers and illustrates risk levels across the nation. It shows a marked deterioration in security since 2005, when compared with a similar map from March of that year.

Bush to unveil details of mortgage plan

Rates would be frozen for five years on many adjustable loans

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Danger rules lawless Highway 1 in Afghanistan

EUROPEAN PRESS: 'The West Must Distance Itself from Putin's Swindle'

The European press reacted on Monday to Vladimir Putin's landslide victory with a mix of criticism and, in a few instances, praise. But most papers agree that the power struggle within the Kremlin is only just beginning.

From Foreign Affairs: Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century -- Hillary Rodham Clinton

To lead, a great nation must command the respect of others. America has been respected in the past as a powerful nation, a purposeful nation, and a generous and warm-hearted nation. In my travels around the world as senator and as first lady, I have met people from all walks of life. I have seen firsthand how many of our past policies have earned us respect and gratitude.

World faces food shortages, price rises - report

(Reuters) - The world is eating more than it produces and food prices may climb for years because of expansion of farming for fuel and climate change, risking social unrest, an expert and a new report said on Tuesday.

Election 2008: Iran Sparks Fireworks at Democratic Debate, December 4, 2007 · Democratic presidential candidates clashed over Iran and tackled trade and immigration issues Tuesday during a live radio debate from Iowa.

An Assessment Jars a Foreign Policy Debate About Iran

Bush Says Iran Still a Danger Despite Report on Weapons

Is America Abandoning Afghanistan? -- By BARNETT R. RUBIN

''Everyone is failing us.'' I heard these words recently from a senior adviser to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, at a private dinner in Kabul. His was just the most blunt expression of a spreading concern. United Nations officials, who had relied on assurances of American support, also wondered if the United States would soon turn its attention elsewhere.

Karzai: Afghan Military Needs Equipment

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Afghanistan military needs more trainers and equipment in order to gain control of the country's security, President Hamid Karzai and his defense chief told Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Tuesday.

Afghans' hopes and fears for the future (Afghan voices, by the BBC)

President Karzai's administration is not fair towards its people. You have to know someone in the government in order to get something done. Otherwise, you have to pay bribes. --- Afghanistan's current leaders are not aggressive towards corruption, ism and crime. They are only excited about filling up their pockets. ---The foreign forces are supposed to work to improve the situation, but they kill people. People are very angry about this.

Bush says Iran remains a threat -- BBC

Iran remains a threat to the world despite new intelligence saying the country may not be building nuclear weapons, the US president says.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Iran Quit Nuclear Weapons Work, Intel Report Says

Pentagon chief in Afghanistan as al Qaeda regroups

KABUL (Reuters) - More than six years after a U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power, Gates said he was concerned about the rising but he did not think Afghanistan was moving backward.

Afghan optimism for future fading -- BBC News, Kabul

It was ex-US President Bill Clinton back in 1992 who popularised a simple political truth with the slogan: "It's the economy stupid." ---- The Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai blames the international failure to invest in Afghanistan for continuing economic problems. "The international community and our donors decide things for us.

US report plays down Iran threat -- BBC

The declassified summary of the report, which draws together information from the US's 16 intelligence agencies, says with "high confidence" that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 "in response to international pressure". --- A senior advisor to President Bush said the report was "positive" but the risk of a nuclear Iran remained "serious".

Kremlin insists election was fair -- BBC

The Kremlin has rejected concerns about Sunday's parliamentary election which gave President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party an overwhelming victory.

US hails Chavez referendum defeat -- BBC

Pakistan rivals plan poll demands

Afghans 'still hopeful on future' -- BBC

But the poll suggests that Afghans are slightly less optimistic than a year ago, and are frustrated at the slow pace of reconstruction efforts.

Gates in Kabul amid al-Qaeda fears

Amid growing US concerns that al-Qaeda may be regrouping in Afghanistan as it is weakened in Iraq, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, arrived in Kabul on Monday for meetings with US commanders and government officials aimed at assessing security conditions.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

THE DOLLAR NOSEDIVE: Why America's Currency Is the World's Problem

The ailing US economy seems to be driving the exchange rate of the dollar inexorably downward, with serious consequences for the global economy. Politicians and central bankers are looking on helplessly as the economic outlook worsens by the day and European companies rack up huge losses.

Don’t Give Up on Afghanistan

The fact that Afghans haven't is all the more reason for us to stay engaged.

No Man's Land

Where the imperialists' Great Game once unfolded, tribal allegiances have made for a "soft border" between Afghanistan and Pakistan--and a safe haven for smugglers, militants and terrorists.

Putin wins majority in election

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Election monitors reported widespread cases of ballot fraud, and the Communist Party, which is likely to be the biggest opposition force in the next parliament, said it would contest the election in the courts.

Afghan army to 'treble in size' -- BBC News, Kabul

The ministry said this was to dissuade Afghanistan's neighbours, Iran and Pakistan, from interfering, as well as to provide better internal security.

The Troubled Afghan-Pakistani Border - Council on Foreign Relations

Afghanistan shares borders with six countries, but the approximate 1500-mile-long Durand Line along Pakistan remains the most dangerous. Kabul has never recognized the line as an international border, instead claiming the Pashtun territories in Pakistan that comprise the Federally Administered Tribal Lands (FATA) and parts of North West Frontier Province along the border. ----- The region that is today known as Afghanistan was long torn by ethnic and tribal rivalries. It started evolving as a modern state in the early nineteenth century when the British East India Company began expanding in the northwest of British-held India. This was also the time of the “great game”—the geopolitical struggle between the British and the Russian empires. The British held the Indian subcontinent while the Russians held the Central Asian lands to the north.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bush Working On Plan To Help Homeowners

Economy: State of the Economy Check In

Weekend Edition Saturday, December 1, 2007 · The country's economic future continues to be a hot topic. Is a recession looming? Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of Moody's talks with John Ydstie about how the Federal Reserve is responding and White House attempts to convince lenders to help those with Adjustable Rate Mortgages.

Remembrances: Hyde Leaves Complex Legislative Legacy

Former Congressman Henry Hyde Dies at 83

EU leadership on narcotics strategy in Afghanistan

An important step in the right direction of Europe’s policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan has unfortunately gone unnoticed: with an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament recently adopted a recommendation to the European Council calling for a scientific pilot project to further investigate the possibilities for strictly- controlled morphine production in Afghanistan.

Military hires former Afghan fighters as security guards

KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan -- The Canadian Forces have hired a former Afghan warlord to provide private security guards at one of Canada's remote forward operating bases deep in the heart of Taliban country, CanWest News Service has learned. --- In January, the Defence Department awarded a $168,150 contract to a vendor identified as "General Gulalai" to provide security guards at an undisclosed forward operating base.

Facts For Consumers: Privacy Choices for Your Personal Financial Information

What Can You Stop--and What Can't You Stop?
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