Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pakistan city centre 'destroyed'

The scale of the war damage to the main city in the Swat valley has become clear, as fears are expressed about the humanitarian situation in the region.

Taliban rebels were driven out of Mingora on Saturday by Pakistan government troops.

The defence secretary says operations in the whole Swat valley region should end in the next few days, though military chiefs are more cautious.

A BBC correspondent who went to Mingora has reported widespread damage.

Rifatullah Orakzai, reporting for the BBC's Urdu Service, said that all the buildings and shops in the town square had been completely destroyed.

However, local people have now been able to seek supplies in the town's market after the lifting of a curfew.

Pakistan's army said essential services were being restored to the city.

The International Red Cross said it was "gravely concerned" by the humanitarian situation in Swat.

Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical facilities had stopped operating and food was scarce, it said.

"The people of Swat need greater humanitarian protection and assistance immediately," said Pascal Cuttat, head of the organisation's delegation in Pakistan.

Fawad Hussein, of the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs, said:

"Since there is no electricity supply, the wells are not working. People are forced to use alternative water sources, which is causing water-borne diseases. There is no electricity in any of the health facilities."

Some 2.5 million people have fled their homes since military operations began in Swat more than a month ago.

Army operations

Earlier, the Pakistani Defence Minister, Syed Athar Ali, told a meeting of Asian nations in Singapore that only "5% to 10% of the job" of clearing the Taliban from the Swat valley remained.

But an army spokesman said it was not possible to predict when the military operation would be completed.

Meanwhile, 40 militants were killed in an attack on a Pakistani army base near the Afghan border, officials said.

Officials said four soldiers were also killed in an eight-hour gun battle at the camp in South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold.

"Militants came in force and attacked a paramilitary camp and fighting lasted for eight hours," an intelligence official in the region told Reuters news agency.

'Elusive enemy'

The army has said it will pursue "hardcore" rebels after recapturing Mingora, the main town in Swat.

Mingora was home to 300,000 people before the fighting began.

"The main cities in the Swat valley stand clear today. The operation is being conducted in the countryside to the right and left of the valley and to the North... so the operation is ongoing and it will take a little more time," army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told the BBC.

But while Maj Gen Abbas said the remaining militants were being hunted down, he could not confirm when the army's operation in the area would be complete.

"It's difficult to give a timeline because this is an elusive enemy that has strongholds in the countryside," he said.

The US is giving full backing to the Pakistani operations, which are linked to its own offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Heading to Texas, Hudson’s Toxic Mud Stirs Town

EUNICE, N.M. — There are not many towns in America that would welcome the 2.5 million cubic yards of toxic sludge being dredged from the bottom of the Hudson River in New York, but to hear Mayor Matt White tell it, Eunice is one of them.

Storing waste nobody else wants means more jobs, Mr. White said, and the oil workers here are used to living with hazards. After all, there are several oil wells in the town itself. One of them is a block from City Hall.

“We have deadly gases in the oil fields,” he said. “It’s more deadly than any of the stuff they are going to put in the ground out here.”

From the edge of town, one can see huge berms at the landfill where General Electric plans to bury the dried sludge that is tainted with 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. They flowed into the upper Hudson from two G. E. factories for three decades before they were banned, in 1977. In high doses, the chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in animals and are considered a probable carcinogen in people.

The landfill lies five miles away in Texas, right across the state line, and belongs to Harold C. Simmons, a Dallas billionaire who was a large campaign contributor to former President George W. Bush and Gov. Rick Perry. (He also helped finance the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race and the advertisements linking President Obama to William Ayers in 2008.)

Not only has Mr. Simmons’s company, Waste Control Specialists, landed a lucrative contract to take the Hudson River sludge to Texas, but this spring it won a permit from the state to store low-level radioactive waste as well.

Some environmentalists warn that the landfill is too near the giant Ogallala aquifer to store such hazardous materials, an assertion the company says is a lie. The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s office in Dallas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have sided with the company in the debate over the aquifer. But some confusion remains, and three state environmental officials have resigned in protest over granting the company permits for the radioactive waste.

A little closer to Eunice, just inside New Mexico, an international consortium is building a uranium enrichment plant, with the blessing of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Not everyone in Eunice is overjoyed by these developments.

Rose Gardner, 50, a florist, has been fighting the landfill and the uranium enrichment plant for years, but she says it has been hard to get others to rally to the cause. Local business leaders and politicians on both sides of the state line fully support the projects, and some residents are afraid to speak out against the authorities, Ms. Gardner said.

“I’m all for economic development, but why do we have to sacrifice our health and the environment?” she said.

Nellie Franco, a school librarian, said she and her husband, George, were considering moving after having spent their entire lives here. She can see the landfill from her front yard, past a corral with horses in it. “I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up here,” she said as she watered her front lawn. “They say, ‘It’s safe, it’s safe.’ What if they have a spill?”

Some residents complained that there had been no public hearings on the plan to haul the toxic sludge to the site. Eddie Joe Harper cursed when he was told the sludge would travel on railroad tracks running next to his property. “I hadn’t heard that,” he said. “They keep it all hush-hush.”

But like many residents here, Mr. Harper, who works for a company that does environmental cleanups in oil fields, worries more about leaks from the uranium plant than from the landfill. “It don’t take but one leak and, boom, it would be over with,” he said.

Still, many people in Eunice say the landfill and the enrichment plant were bringing new jobs into a local economy that used to be buffeted by the rise and fall of oil prices. Some even said they considered it a patriotic duty to accept the Hudson River waste, to help clean up America.

“We are not uncomfortable with it at all,” said Lynn White, a barber who publishes the local newspaper, Eunice News. “There is just not a whole lot to fear about the deal.”

Even without the landfill and the uranium plant, Eunice is hardly a garden spot.

For miles around the town, pump jacks bob their mechanical heads like great birds pecking the earth. Power lines run like stitches over the high plains scrubland to power the pumps. The air is sour from the gases emitted by the wells and by three natural gas plants in town.

“We already have chemicals in the air here,” said Rocio Araujo, 18, who works at a coffeehouse and said she did not mind the PCB plan because the waste disposal business had infused new money into the oil economy. Beatrice Fabela, a barista at the coffee shop, grimaced when asked about the sludge. “I just hope it doesn’t end up another Erin Brockovich story,” she said. “I didn’t know about that being there. It’s kind of scary to think about.”

Tom W. Jones III, a vice president of Waste Control Specialists, said the Hudson River sludge would be wrapped in heavy plastic, like a burrito, loaded onto open railcars and shipped to the landfill in trains at least 80 cars long. By the third year of the five-year plan, which has been approved by the E.P.A., two to three trains a week will arrive.

At the landfill, Mr. Jones said, excavators on platforms will rip open the bags and transfer the sludge to 110-ton mining trucks, starting in late June. The transfer will take place in a hangarlike building to shield the contaminated soil from the wind. The trucks will haul the sludge into a pit dug 75 feet into red clay and lined with two layers of heavy polyethylene. Then it will be covered over with at least three feet of clay.

Neil Carman, the director of the Lone Star Sierra Club, said the plan is fraught with dangers. A rail accident could spill contaminated soil along the route, and G. E. has so far refused to say what route the trains will take. Mr. Carman also said the winds whipping across the high plains of West Texas could spread the poisoned soil before it is buried.

“We could be a major public health concern and an environmental disaster if this should be spilled out,” he said.


You get what you pay for.

In War Zone, Soldier Uses Blog to Teach

LA CENTER, Ky. (AP) — Sixth-grade social studies students at Ballard County Middle School know what time it is in Afghanistan and what the weather is like there on a given day.

The students have become acquainted with the country though Aaron Connor, a Ballard Memorial High School graduate now serving near Ghazni City, Afghanistan, with the Illinois National Guard. Mr. Connor answers the students’ questions through a blog.

Ashley Bodell, a teacher at the middle school who graduated with Mr. Connor in 2001, arranged the correspondence between him and Cathey Seaton’s social studies classes. Ms. Seaton set up a blog so all the students could contribute.

“Initially, I was going to have them write a hard letter,” she said. “This way each kid can do it here or if they have computer access at home. They ask questions and he responds. We’re putting in pictures of class activities so he can see different faces.”

A student, Logan Pickett, helped design the blog. He included a photograph of an ice storm in January and a local weather map.

Mr. Connor called Ms. Seaton’s classroom on April 30 and spoke to the students on speaker phone.

“We asked him what he does over there,” said Haley Bond, a student. “He goes on missions or trains people to be police officers.”

Breanna Jones, another student, wrote a report about the class project and mentioned the risks Mr. Connor faced every day.

On the blog, Mr. Connor wrote: “I make mention about our little shootouts not to scare folks, but because I want people to know that this is a dangerous country. People hear about ‘safe’ parts of this country. There is no such thing. There are only places with more or less a degree of danger.”

Mr. Connor, 26, will most likely be overseas until fall. His mother, Beverly Connor, a preschool teacher, said he had joined the 33rd Infantry Battalion because it was the same unit that his grandfather and uncle served with.

Ms. Connor said her son loved educating the students. “He feels it’s a very worthwhile cause,” she said.


Taliban’s arms coming from Afghanistan: ISPR

LAHORE: Military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas has said that “many of the Taliban’s arms are coming across the border from Afghanistan ... the US should stop worrying about Pakistan’s nukes and start worrying about the weapons lost in Afghanistan”, a private TV channel reported on Friday. In an interview with a foreign news channel, the ISPR director general said the current conflict in Swat was intricately linked to the situation in Afghanistan. He said that Swat was a political problem, which could only be partially solved by military intervention. He estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of the Taliban in the Swat valley and its adjacent areas were foreign fighters. He said Mingora could be secured in 48 hours, but it may be “much, much longer” before the area was totally pacified. He also said that there was “no plan, date or time for the launch of an offensive in South Waziristan”. daily times monitor

US Military Base Closed After Wave of Suicides

WASHINGTON.- The US Army has temporarily closed down Fort Campbell in an effort to control the situation sparked off by a wave of suicides at this military base, CNN has reported.

According to the news network, at least 11 soldiers have taken their own lives this year at this base in Kentucky, headquarters of the 101 Air Transport Division.

The base will be shut down for three days, in which time the navy will conduct anti-suicide exercises, the report adds.

Unit head General Stephen Townsend met with 19,000 soldiers belonging to Division 101 – troops that participated in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan – as part of measures undertaken by the leadership at the base.

In 2007, 115 Pentagon soldiers took their own lives, while 143 did so in 2008.

Camp Lejeune vets suffer from drinking water contamination

The last years of Marine Corps veteran Ian Colin MacPherson's life were spent fending off one puzzling ailment after another.

Rashes. Headaches. Vertigo. Nausea. And finally, the abnormally aggressive prostate cancer that killed the Riverview man at age 46 in 2004.

MacPherson always figured he must have been poisoned. But by whom?

His widow, Jody MacPherson, believes she found the culprit last year: MacPherson's beloved Marine Corps.

"They killed him," she said.

Camp Lejeune, a sprawling Marine base on the North Carolina seaboard, is the site of what some scientists call the worst public drinking-water contamination in the nation's history. Its water wells were tainted with cancer-causing industrial compounds for 30 years, ending in 1987.

An estimated 500,000 to 1 million people — including Marines and family living on base housing — drank, bathed and cooked using that fouled water.

Congress has dubbed ill Marines "poisoned patriots," and in 2008 lawmakers ordered the Marine Corps to notify those who might have been exposed.

So far, almost 10,000 affected Floridians have registered with the Marine Coprs to take part in a health study, the highest total for any state except North Carolina. About 1,500 claims have been filed against the government seeking $33.8-billion in damages.

"This is worse than any Love Canal," said Jody MacPherson, 47, referring to the New York neighborhood that became notorious in the 1970s as a toxic waste site. "This is worse than Hurricane Katrina. And nobody knows anything about it."

Her husband was born on the base in 1957 and then served there as a Marine for a decade ending in 1985. Nobody ever told him he had been exposed to carcinogens, his wife said. She discovered news of the water contamination on the Internet three years after his death.

"He died never knowing what poisoned him," MacPherson said.

Among the chemicals detected in high concentrations at Camp Lejeune are a metal degreaser, trichloroethylene (TCE) and a degreaser and dry-cleaning agent called tetrachloroethylene (PCE).

PCE appears to have been dumped by a private dry cleaner near one of the water wells, while the TCE was dumped by the Marine Corps, according to documents and investigators.

"It is certainly a huge contamination," said Dr. Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist at Boston University who studied the Woburn, Mass., water contamination made famous by the book and movie, A Civil Action.

Federal limits on the chemicals are 5-parts-per-billion. The highest level of Camp Lejeune water for TCE was about 1,400-parts-per-billion. PCE was found at levels over 200-parts-per-billion.

This is the largest mass exposure from one water supply in the nation's history, Clapp said.

No definitive and comprehensive epidemiology study has been conducted on Camp Lejeune veterans and their families to see if their rates of illness are significant, though two studies are expected to be completed in coming years.

One will look at the potential effects on those exposed to contaminants in utero, a particular concern because the compounds have been linked to childhood leukemia and birth defects.

Critics fault the Marine Corps with a decades-old campaign to either hide the contamination or minimize dangers and then doing too little to alert people.

Just last month, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry took the rare step of withdrawing a 1997 health assessment that said Marines and their families faced little or no increased risk of cancer from the water.

The agency did so because the report contained scientific inaccuracies and omissions.

For example, it did not note that high levels of the carcinogen benzene were found in Camp Lejeune water in 1984.

The Marine Corps discovered the water contamination in 1980, yet waited four years to close contaminated wells and then minimized the danger to Camp Lejeune residents, critics say. Two wells were later reopened for almost two years during a water shortage.

In 1985, Lejeune's commander told residents "minute" levels of contaminants had been found, failing to disclose that a lab had informed the Marine Corps that water was "highly contaminated."

Lt. Brian Block, a Marine spokesman, denied that the Marine Corps misled anyone. He insisted the wells were closed immediately when contamination was confirmed.

"Since the contamination was first documented, we've taken steps to share all our information," Block said. "Our first priority is to take care of our Marines, active and retired."

He noted that the contaminants were not regulated at the time they were discovered, a point the Marine Corps has emphasized through the years.

That's not entirely true. Regulations promulgated as early as 1963 by the Navy, which also applied to the Marine Corps base, barred any harmful contaminants in drinking water.

Jerry Ensminger, 56, a 24-year Marine Corps veteran and former drill instructor who lives in North Carolina, said his 9-year-old daughter, Janey, was conceived at Camp Lejeune and died in 1985 of leukemia he believes was linked to the water.

"I always instilled in my new Marines our motto, Semper fidelis, always faithful," said Ensminger. "We took care of our own. But nobody could be more disillusioned with the conduct of the Marine Corps than I am."

Charles Corbett, 55, a St. Petersburg man who is a former program analyst at Florida Power, served at Camp Lejeune from 1974 to 1976. He said he has since been diagnosed with a neuro­logical disorder that causes vision problems, fatigue and headaches.

He said he can't get help for medical care from the government because his illnesses have been deemed non-service connected.

"We're all dying," Corbett said of Camp Lejeune veterans. "And the government is turning its back on us."

Regular gas was $2.57 this morning, and the streets were deserted. It was strange for a summer weekend, usually the streets are buzzing, but not today. You think people don't look up at that price and react? I think they have learned their lessons, at lest for the moment, and they are going to use less gas to force the price back down.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ghosts of the '60s in Germany

The past can never be predicted, and perhaps never more so than when it comes to the German left. Two years ago, we learned that Nobel Laureate Günter Grass -- the literary scourge of all things fascist, especially America -- had himself been a member of the Waffen SS. Now comes another zinger that casts the radical political and social upheavals of the late 1960s in new and revealing light.

The historical surprise concerns a turning point whose ripple effects were felt in Europe and beyond. On June 2, 1967, a West German policeman fatally shot an unarmed, 26-year-old literature student in the back of his head during a demonstration in West Berlin against the visiting Shah of Iran. Benno Ohnesorg became "the left wing's first martyr" (per the weekly Der Spiegel). His dying moments captured in a famous news photograph, Ohnesorg galvanized a generation of left-wing students and activists who rose up in the iconic year of 1968. What was a fringe soon turned to terrorism.

To them his killer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was the "fascist cop" at the service of a capitalist, pro-American "latent fascist state." "The post-fascist system has become a pre-fascist one," the German Socialist Student Union declared in their indictment hours after the killing. The ensuing movement drew its legitimacy and fervor from the Ohnesorg killing. Further enraging righteous passions, Mr. Kurras was acquitted by a court and returned to the police force.

Now all that's being turned on its head. Last week, a pair of German historians unearthed the truth about Mr. Kurras. Since 1955, he had worked for the Stasi, East Germany's dreaded secret police. According to voluminous Stasi archives, his code name was Otto Bohl. The files don't say whether the Stasi ordered him to do what he did in 1967. But that only fuels speculation about a Stasi hand behind one of postwar Germany's transformative events.

Mr. Kurras, who is 81 and lives in Berlin, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he belonged to the East German Communist Party. "Should I be ashamed of that or something?" He denied he was paid to spy for the Stasi, but asked, "What if I did work for them? What does it matter? It doesn't change anything." Mr. Kurras may be the monster of the leftist imagination -- albeit now it turns out he is one of their own.

To answer his last question, this revelation matters. It belies yet again the claims of the '68 hard left, passed on to our times as anti-globalization riots, that a free market and liberal democracy are somehow "fascistic." This brand of intolerance is at core prone to violence. The true, ruthless heirs to National Socialism and the Gestapo were the East German regime and the Stasi, the Soviets and the KGB. And in turn, some of the terrorist groups that emerged from the radicalization of the 1960s.

Present in Berlin that June day in 1967 were Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin, who went on to found the "Baader-Meinhof Gang," aka the Red Army Faction. From 1968 until 1991, the RAF carried out dozens of kidnappings, bombing and murders -- all to fight the "roots of capitalism" and a "resurgent Nazi state." As 1968 historian Paul Berman notes, the most famous terrorist organization born in this era was the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The analogue in the U.S. became the Weather Underground.

Some '68ers grew up and peeled away. Others took time to see its dark side. An early reveille came at the 1972 Munich Olympics, when PLO gunmen aided by a leftist German group, the Revolutionary Cells, took hostage and killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. The 1974 publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" was another. So was Pol Pot, the Vietnamese boat people; the list goes on.

Historical amnesia makes us vulnerable to repeating mistakes. Particularly in an America, where many quickly forgot the lessons of the Cold War and of 9/11. More than most nations, Germans are condemned to a living history. That turns up the kinds of surprises that force a hard re-examination of the past and the present.


Iraq's Sadr wants 'depraved' homosexuality eradicated

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has ordered the "depravity" of homosexuality be eradicated but warned against the anti-gay violence that has recently erupted, a spokesman said on Friday.

"The purpose of the meetings is to fight the depravity and to urge the community to reject this phenomenon," said Sheikh Wadea al-Atabi, referring to a Thursday seminar attended by clerics, tribal leaders and police.

"The only remedy to stop it is through preaching and guidance. There is no other way to put an end to it," he said, stressing that the movement could not resort to violence after a series of killings of gay men in Baghdad.

"Al-Sadr rejects this type of violence ... and anyone who commits violence (against gays) will not be considered as being one of us," Atabi said.

In the sprawling Baghdad Shiite district of Sadr City, police last month recovered the bullet-riddled bodies of three men said to have been homosexuals.

Another three men were found dead on the outskirts of Sadr City, with police saying an additional four men were found tortured but alive.

Also in April, a group calling itself "Brigades of the Righteous" posted signs around Sadr City listing alleged homosexuals and threatening to kill them.

The recent persecution prompted rights group Amnesty International to write a letter to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last month urging government protection of homosexuals.

It said that as many as 25 boys and men had been killed in Baghdad alone because they were either gay or believed to be amid concerns that religious leaders may be inciting violence against Iraq's gay community.

Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam, frowned upon in Arab society and illegal in many Middle Eastern countries. Iraq has no law against homosexuality but prominent religious authorities have harshly condemned it.

At Thursday's seminar, which was held in Sadr Cirty, Al-Sheikh Dawud al-Enezi, a Sadr movement leader, said "we must correct the morals of the nation. Homosexuality "is a disaster that has come to the community."

Abu Hussein, a tribal leader in Sadr City, said: "Everybody has to work to preserve the morals of young people from the corrupt phenomena of the West."


That's the call for Sadr's militia to regroup, dig out the guns.

Leap in U.S. debt hits taxpayers with 12% more red ink

Taxpayers are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
The 12% rise in red ink in 2008 stems from an explosion of federal borrowing during the recession, plus an aging population driving up the costs of Medicare and Social Security.

That's the biggest leap in the long-term burden on taxpayers since a Medicare prescription drug benefit was added in 2003.

The latest increase raises federal obligations to a record $546,668 per household in 2008, according to the USA TODAY analysis. That's quadruple what the average U.S. household owes for all mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt combined.

"We have a huge implicit mortgage on every household in America — except, unlike a real mortgage, it's not backed up by a house," says David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general, the government's top auditor.

USA TODAY used federal data to compute all government liabilities, from Treasury bonds to Medicare to military pensions.

Bottom line: The government took on $6.8 trillion in new obligations in 2008, pushing the total owed to a record $63.8 trillion.

The numbers measure what's needed today — set aside in a lump sum, earning interest — to pay benefits that won't be covered by future taxes.

Congress can reduce or increase the burden by changing laws that determine taxes and benefits for programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., says exploding debt has focused attention on the government's financial challenges. "More and more, people are worried about our fiscal future," he says.

Key federal obligations:

• Social Security. It will grow by 1 million to 2 million beneficiaries a year from 2008 through 2032, up from 500,000 a year in the 1990s, its actuaries say. Average benefit: $12,089 in 2008.

• Medicare. More than 1 million a year will enroll starting in 2011 when the first Baby Boomer turns 65. Average 2008 benefit: $11,018.

•Retirement programs. Congress has not set aside money to pay military and civil servant pensions or health care for retirees. These unfunded obligations have increased an average of $300 billion a year since 2003 and now stand at $5.3 trillion.



Where Are All Them Civilian Surgers At?

"Gareth Porter was recently interviewed by Real News Network about the implications of General Stanley McChrystal’s appointment as the senior military man in Afghanistan. He told Paul Jay that a civilian component to a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is now essentially empty talk."
Retink Afghanistan

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't Trouble Your Head

So do you want to be water-boarded?

"It seems to be all the rage these days. This came from HERE.

It is a mind-game, it is a motivator, but it is not torture in this one blogger’s opinion."

Military Pundits

Non vi virtute vici

"It's hard to go more than a few weeks without seeing a headline about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Sadly, we seem to keep making the same mistakes. Whatever the reality is as far as exact totals and Taliban using them as human shields, the perception is that we keep killing innocent people.

I hadn't been in this country two weeks before I had go to the local village alone but for a handful of Afghan soldiers and explain to an angry group of 50 Afghan males why a unit in the area had shot a missile from the sky that ended up killing two adolescents. Having little information on the incident itself at the time, I stated that the incident was unfortunate, but that innocents always die in war, and that the local people should get on our side so that we can put an end to the conflict. A heated but controlled argument ensued where I heard the villagers say things like "Your technology is so good, we know you can tell if it's a child or not that your shooting" and "How can we support people that kill our children?". Thankfully, my Afghan platoon commander stepped in and calmed them down as I learned it's a losing proposition to argue with an angry mob, especially when you don't speak their language."
Embedded in Afghanistan

We will counter India's AWACS with 500 US missiles: Pak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has voiced concern over the acquisition of Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft by India and said it would counter the threat by inducting 500 American Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.

Claiming that induction of AWACS by India would trigger a new arms race in the subcontinent, Pakistan's Air chief Air Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said Islamabad would match this capability by acquiring its own AWACS by September this year.

This, when a US Congressional report has said that Pakistan with about 60 nuclear warheads; primarily targeted towards India, is continuing production of fissile material for weapons and adding to its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles.

The Air chief told newsmen in Risalpur that Pakistan was also procuring more US-made F-16 fighter aircraft.

Suleman was commenting on reports that India had inducted the first of its three Phalcon AWACS into the Indian Air Force.

Pakistan is proposing to buy a Swedish SAAB Ericsson AWACS, which however, have a limited range as compared to the Phalcons.

The Air Chief said PAF was supporting the military in its ongoing operations in Swat and Malakand in NWFP. "PAF had destroyed several Taliban hideouts and caches of ammunition to pave the way for rapid advance by ground forces in Swat."

Asked about whether Pakistan had capability to shoot down drones, Suleman said "definitely" and cited the shooting down of an Indian surveillance plane in 2002near Lahore.

Times of India

Residents seethe as Pakistan army destroys homes

SULTANWAS, Pakistan (AP) — When Pakistan's army drove the Taliban back from this small northwestern village, it also destroyed much of everything else here.

F-16 fighter jets, military helicopters, tanks and artillery reduced houses, mosques and shops to rubble, strewn with children's shoes, shattered TV sets and perfume bottles.

Commanders say the force was necessary in an operation they claim killed 80 militants. But returning residents do not believe this: Although a burned-out army tank at the entrance to Sultanwas indicates the Taliban fought back, villagers say most fighters fled into the mountains.

Beyond any doubt is their fury at authorities for wrecking their homes — the sort of backlash the army doesn't want as it tries to win the support of the people for its month-old offensive against the Taliban in Pakistan's northwest frontier region near the border with Afghanistan.

"The Taliban never hurt the poor people, but the government has destroyed everything," Sher Wali Khan told the first reporting team to reach the village of about 1,000 homes.

"They are treating us like the enemy," he said as he collected shredded copies of a Quran from the ruins of a mosque, one of three that were damaged, possibly beyond repair.

The anger in this village is an echo of recent years, when previous army offensives against the Taliban in the northwestern frontier area caused widespread civilian casualties and damage to homes. The military's heavy-handed approach here shows it may still be more equipped to fight conventional war with India than guerrilla warfare in the shadows of mountain villages and towns, where militants use civilians as cover.

The Associated Press traveled to Sultanwas on Wednesday after the Pakistani army briefly lifted a curfew in the Buner district to allow residents to return.

But the fight for the region is clearly not over. Just beyond the village, a makeshift army checkpoint shows where its control ends. Beyond that, the army and villagers say the Taliban are in charge, patrolling streets on foot and in pickup trucks.

The United States wants a resounding victory against insurgents who are threatening not only the stability of this nuclear-armed country, but also the success of the American-led mission in neighboring Afghanistan.

The army launched its operation in April to take back the northwest after the militants lost popular support across the region partly because of their defiance of a peace deal with the government. The Taliban have also carried out atrocities in the northwest and claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians elsewhere in Pakistan.

But residents of Sultanwas say the militants in their village threatened no one.

Khan, a 17-year-old who is quick with a smile and hopes to attend medical school, said about five militants occasionally came to a mosque. There, he said, they preached an ultraconservative brand of Islam and called for overthrowing the government because it was not implementing Islamic law. He said he did not agree with either position.

Khan fled with his family and most other residents when the army warned them last week to get out because the offensive was about to reach them.

The Taliban entered Buner last month from the Swat Valley, an advance that triggered the military's offensive. There was very little damage to buildings in the road leading to Sultanwas, which military officials said used to be one of the Taliban's major strongholds in the district.

The army says it is making every effort to avoid damaging buildings in the offensive. Reporters on a military-escorted trip to part of the Swat Valley last week saw no significant destruction.

But the army used helicopters, F-16 jets, tanks and artillery in the battle for Sultanwas. While the military says this tactic reduces army casualties by "softening up" areas before troops move in, critics question its effectiveness against a small and, for the most part, lightly armed insurgent force moving in and out of towns.

Khan and others insisted the militants were not living in their homes either before or after the attack.

There were no bodies, blood or obviously buried corpses in the rubble, which spans an area the size of two football fields, roughly a third of the village. A reporter could find no sign any rebels had dug in there or used the area as a base. Residents said the same.

"When the operation started, the Taliban all ran away from the area," said Rosi Khan, citing an account from the only three villagers who he said stayed behind. He could not say where those villagers are now.

Spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said fleeing villagers had told military officials that militants were using Khan's house and others nearby. He said 80 insurgents were killed in the operation, and that other militants apparently removed their bodies.

But two officers involved in the Buner operations said most of the roughly 400 fighters believed to be there escaped to the mountains — terrain they know far better than do army troops trucked in from elsewhere in Pakistan. The two officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give information to reporters.

It is a pattern the military says the outgunned and outnumbered militants are following elsewhere in the region, including in the main Swat Valley city of Mingora.

A defense attache for a Western embassy said the Swat operation appeared to be better organized and more coordinated than earlier ones in the northwest. But he questioned whether the 15,000 troops deployed against roughly 4,000 militants were enough to secure the region.

Besides Swat, Pakistan needs to keep troops elsewhere in the border region where al-Qaida and other militants are strong. But most of its roughly 700,000-member army is stationed on or close to the border with India, the country's traditional rival.

To claim victory, the government will have to ensure the militants do not return to the Swat Valley and Buner, and that the 2.4 million people who fled the fighting stay on the government's side when they come home.

The army is appealing for refugees to return to Sultanwas, but as elsewhere in Buner, few were heeding the call.

A week after the battle for this village ended, there was still no police, electricity or civilian administration.

"The political leadership is not here, there is no police," said a senior army officer, who asked not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "How can you expect them to return?"

An AP photographer saw several people looting food and drinks from a damaged store in Sultanwas. They stopped only when other villagers reprimanded them.

At a checkpoint in Sultanwas, young men riding in buses from Taliban-controlled Pir Baba were ordered to lift their shirts and be searched, but there was little sign they were making serious checks of all those leaving the area.

In Pir Baba, Taliban fighters armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles are patrolling the streets, said Mohammed Yusuf, a 50-year-old farmer who was leaving but intended to return after buying vegetables at the nearest open market, several miles away.

"They are on the streets in the morning and evening," Yusuf said. "They are friendly. Some of them I know from my area."


Gates Says Taliban Have Momentum in Afghanistan

American public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves "a perceptible shift in momentum," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview.

Mr. Gates said the momentum in Afghanistan is with the Taliban, who are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country.

The defense chief has been moving aggressively to salvage the war in Afghanistan, signing off on the deployments of 21,000 American military personnel and recently taking the unprecedented step of firing the four-star general who commanded all U.S. forces there. Mr. Gates, speaking in his cabin on an Air Force plane, said the administration is rapidly running out of time to turn around the war.

"People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we're making headway," he said. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."

Mr. Gates, a Bush administration holdover, also waded into the debate over the Guantanamo Bay prison and Bush-era antiterror tactics. He said critics of the Obama administration's plans to close Guantanamo and move some prisoners to the U.S. were guilty of "fear-mongering."

"If people begin to absorb the fact that we've got several dozen very dangerous terrorists in our jails right now...maybe a little greater perspective would be brought to the issue," he said.

Colin Powell, a former secretary of state and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in Republican administrations, on Sunday told CBS News's "Face the Nation" that he had lobbied former President George W. Bush to close the facility and that Mr. Bush had wanted to close it but "couldn't get all the pieces together."

Mr. Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said government interrogators should be limited to the techniques contained in the Army Field Manual and barred from using harsher methods.

"We have as high a motive to get information that will prevent attacks on our soldiers as anybody does," he said of the military. "And yet we find the methods that we use are sufficient."

The defense chief sided with Mr. Obama in his debate with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who defended the Bush administration's interrogation tactics and criticized the president in a speech last week. "Having been in this business a long time, I think that you never can underestimate the power of American values," Mr. Gates said.

The interview comes as Mr. Gates is trying to fundamentally change how the military prepares for and fights its wars. Mr. Bush brought him in to calm the waters in late 2006 after Donald Rumsfeld's contentious reign. Some predicted an unremarkable and fairly short tenure, but three years later, Mr. Gates has become one of the most powerful defense chiefs in decades. He has cut billions of dollars in high-tech weapons systems and fired a raft of high-ranking generals and senior Pentagon officials.

Mr. Gates also is driving the armed services to drop their traditional preoccupation with conventional wars and focus on counterinsurgencies like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latter is now Mr. Gates's top priority. Earlier this month, the defense chief made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan and fired Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander there. Several senior officers have complained privately that Mr. Gates was wrong to fire Gen. McKiernan without specific cause.

In the interview, Mr. Gates said the move reflected lessons learned in Iraq. When the Bush administration decided to implement a new counterinsurgency strategy there, Mr. Gates ousted Gen. George Casey, who was then the Iraq commander.

With the Obama administration recently unveiling a new Afghanistan strategy, Mr. Gates said it made sense to put new commanders in place there as well. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a veteran of the military's secretive special-operations community, will assume overall command in Kabul. Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, one of the Army's top experts on counterinsurgency, will run day-to-day operations.

Mr. Gates also said Iran was harming U.S. interests in Afghanistan by sending weapons to the Taliban and other armed groups. He expressed particular concern that Tehran might step up its shipments of explosively formed penetrators, powerful roadside bombs capable of punching through even the strongest armor.

At the suggestion of some of his staff, Mr. Gates has begun referring to himself as the "secretary of war," saying that shows he and his department have no higher priority than the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The reality is we have two major wars going on and I feel that very strongly," he said. "That's what makes me impatient."


Recession brings cuts to veterans' service groups

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The wail of bagpipes at Memorial Day events honoring servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan rang hollow for some military veterans this year.

In Michigan and elsewhere, once-sacrosanct veterans' programs are no longer safe from the knife as tax revenues continue sliding in the recession.

In a recent budget-cutting order, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and legislators slashed $1 million, or 25 percent, of funding for 11 groups that help veterans through a maze of paperwork and bureaucracy to get disability and pension benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The cut is forcing layoffs and likely will be carried over to the next budget, too.

"It's a travesty," said Daniel Crocker, Michigan service director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which had to eliminate four jobs. "The greatness of a nation will be judged by how it treats its veterans."

South Carolina plans to cut aid to the VFW, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans in the next budget. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently outlined a "doomsday" budget that would close all four of the state's veterans' homes if an income tax increase is not passed, leaving more than 1,000 veterans without care.

Thirteen veterans' groups in Ohio got 10 percent less than promised this year after state cuts.

Funding for veterans' service organizations, or VSOs, is a fraction of multibillion-dollar state budgets that support schools, prisons and health care for the poor. But a $27,000 reduction means the South Carolina VFW will not be able to pay its lone service officer when she returns from medical leave.

The public is most familiar with veterans' groups for their baseball tournaments, bingo nights and participation in parades. But veterans and widows of veterans rely on service organizations for help with benefits, especially in states that give money to the groups instead of hiring their own employees to help file claims.

Vietnam veteran Dennis Wayne, 62, of suburban Detroit, became so upset about Michigan's cuts that he protested last week at the state Capitol.

Wayne, who wore dog tags to the rally, says he was turned down after requesting service-connected disability benefits by himself. He sought help from the Livonia chapter of Disabled American Veterans, and benefits ultimately were approved.

"It's very difficult. There's a lot of red tape," said Wayne, who served in the Marines.

Veterans say the cuts could not come at a worse time.

President Barack Obama is moving to remove combat troops from Iraq in 2010, and they will return with physical and psychological problems. Fort Jackson already has an outfit full of injured soldiers recuperating from combat, training injuries or other illnesses, says Albert Landsperger, senior vice commander/adjutant for the South Carolina VFW.

"They're all going to need assistance putting in claims with the VA," he said. "We're going to need more service officers than we've got now."

Sean Wood, 23, served in Iraq last year with the Michigan National Guard's 126th Calvary Squadron. The Lowell resident hopes to go to Afghanistan in the future.

"Why would you take away from the guys who are willing to put their life on the line?" he said. "The veterans deserve to get their wounds healed."

And it's not just younger soldiers who need help. Older veterans are being laid off and losing their health insurance coverage, forcing them to seek assistance from the VA for the first time.

Granholm spokeswoman Megan Brown says Michigan's Department of Military & Veterans Affairs overall is not experiencing any harsher cuts than other state departments. She says the state is preserving "essential" services for veterans.

"We understand how painful this is. These are very, very painful economic times, and we've had to make some very painful decisions on the budget," Brown said.


Iraq PM says Saudi not interested in better ties

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday Iraq's efforts to build diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia had not been reciprocated and more would be "useless" without a change of heart from Riyadh.

Iraq has tried to repair ties with neighbours damaged during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

The country enjoys better relations with Syria, Iran and some smaller Gulf states since the 2003 U.S.-led ousting of Saddam, but relations with Saudi Arabia have deteriorated.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of Sunni Islam and is deeply suspicious of Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and Maliki's Dawa party, which has its roots in a call for Shi'ite political revival and enjoys links to Iran.

"We succeeded in opening ourselves to many countries, but Saudi has negative positions," Maliki said in a statement on the Iraqi government's website.

"We rushed to create not just a normal but positive relation (with the Saudis), but the initiative was mistakenly understood as a weakness."

Maliki has in the past year played down his Shi'ite Islamist roots, reaching out to Sunni Arabs by cracking down on Shi'ite militants in Baghdad and south Iraq, forging ties with Sunni Arabs in parliament and abandoning an overtly sectarian stance in his campaign for provincial elections this year.

"We continue to be ready for any Saudi initiative but we have used up initiatives from our side and it would be useless to repeat them unless Saudi has a clear intention to (improve) these relations," Maliki said.

The United States has urged Iraq's neighbours to upgrade diplomatic ties to Iraq. But visits by top officials from Arab states, which have been reluctant to extend full legitimacy to Iraq's U.S.-backed government, remain rare. Saudi Arabia has yet to appoint an ambassador to the country.

Riyadh has said it would consider writing off 80 percent of Iraq's debt to it, which it estimates at $40 billion, but which Iraq says is only $15 billion. Saudi Arabia has taken no action so far.

Iraqi Oil Rights May Stoke Hostilities

KIRKUK, Iraq — Sheik Habih Shawqi Hamakan peered through his binoculars on a recent afternoon at a sight he considers, despite the rising columns of black smoke that blot out the sun, pure beauty.

As far as the eye can see are oil fields, among the most productive in Iraq. He turned, gesturing to his rambling two-story house with its garden of blossoming pink and yellow rosebushes. That, too, sits on an oil field.

The sheik is one of thousands of Kurds who have moved to Kirkuk, an unstable oil town in northern Iraq, since the 2003 United States-led invasion and claimed plots of land not theirs to build houses. Some of the homes, illegal facts on the ground aimed at furthering Kurdish claims to Kirkuk, sit a mere half mile from towering flames of natural gas among the oil fields.

Their presence is one of many pressure points converging at a critical time in Kirkuk, as rights to those fields are scheduled to be awarded to the highest bidding international oil company next month as part of Iraq’s larger effort to bolster its slumping economy by nearly tripling oil production over the next six years.

Kirkuk Province, wedged between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq, is smaller than Connecticut but produces as much oil as Alaska. It is believed to possess as much as one-sixth of Iraq’s total petroleum reserves.

Both Kurds and the central government have long claimed Kirkuk as their own — and many residents and Western observers fear that the awarding of the contract, along with the bonanza of jobs and cash expected to follow, may decisively stoke hostility among the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens who live here. Many worry this may tear at Iraqi unity and embroil the disputed territory in greater violence. At worst, it could bring the open ethnic warfare that many have predicted since security for the province was handed over to Kurdish forces after the 2003 invasion.

Any dispute over Kirkuk is of concern to Turkey, Syria and Iran, each with a minority Kurdish population, and could ignite simmering Arab-Kurdish tensions throughout northern Iraq, the country’s most restive region.

Still, even though the status of Kirkuk remains unresolved and it is unclear how much oil actually lies beneath it, many of the world’s largest oil corporations are competing for the contract here. It is one of eight large but underperforming oil and gas fields throughout Iraq for which the government is scheduled to award production rights at the end of June.

“By opening bids on fields in Kirkuk, Prime Minister Maliki is clearly poking the Kurds in the eye by asserting Iraqi sovereignty over oil in territories whose status is constitutionally in dispute,” said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert at the International Crisis Group.

In recent weeks, even after a summit meeting in Berlin among Kirkuk’s Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians, violence in the province has increased. This spring, Kirkuk city has been rocked by car bombings, shootings and suicide attacks that have killed at least a dozen police officers, three Assyrian Christians, a high-ranking Arab police official and workers going to the oil fields.

Kirkuk’s predominately Kurdish security forces say they need help controlling the violence, but not from the largely Arab Iraqi Army troops stationed on the city’s outskirts. The American military held a series of meetings with Arab and Kurdish political leaders and security forces this month without reaching an accord to allow an Iraqi Army unit to operate in the city.

“We hope it is not going back again to very serious violence, but all signs are that it will,” said Maj. Gen. Turhan Abdul Rahman Yasif, deputy chief of the province’s police force.

A United Nations report last month offered several recommendations to reduce tensions, including making Kirkuk a region jointly administered by Iraq and Kurdistan. Residents would ultimately hold a referendum to decide their future.

Kirkuk’s population of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrian Christians generally live apart from one another in mutual suspicion. The other groups accuse the Kurds of seeking to annex Kirkuk and its oil wealth into the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, which could give Kurdistan the economic underpinning to become an independent state.

But there has been almost no oil exploration in Iraq for decades. The Oil Ministry says Kirkuk contains about 15 billion barrels of oil, or 16 percent of Iraq’s total, and 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.

But most oil industry estimates put Kirkuk’s reserves at between 5.5 billion barrels and 10 billion barrels.

Revenue Watch Institute, a New York-based nonprofit natural resources policy group, estimated in a 2006 report that 62 percent of Kirkuk’s petroleum had already been extracted.

“That means this super giant field is at the final stages of its life,” the report said.

But Mena’a Abdullah Alubaid, director general of Iraq’s North Oil Company, a branch of the Oil Ministry that oversees Kirkuk’s fields, insists that the fields will last until 2074.

Wayne Kelley, managing director of RSK Ltd., an independent oil engineering firm, said the petroleum company that ultimately wins the Kirkuk field would face issues including the potential for violence and the likely contamination of part of the field with waste oil.

“Nowhere in the world has a field of anywhere near this size been so grossly mismanaged,” he said.

Another significant impediment could be the growing population of Kurdish settlers, many of whom have built homes on land that the Oil Ministry says is not theirs.

The families say they were forced out of Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein’s government, which bulldozed their villages. They call the contested city their “Jerusalem,” and some said they would take up arms to stay.

Sheik Hamakan, 60, said that after years of exile in Iran and elsewhere he had finally satisfied his longing to be home. He will not, he vowed, stand aside for government bulldozers to raze his family’s house a second time.

“I won’t leave,” he said. “It would be up to them to demolish the village on my head.”


Photos show rape and sex abuse in Iraq jails-paper

LONDON, May 28 (Reuters) - Photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse which U.S. President Barack Obama does not want released include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday.

The images are among photographs included in a 2004 report into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison conducted by U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba.

Taguba included allegations of rape and sexual abuse in his report, and on Wednesday he confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that images supporting those allegations were also in the file.

"These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency," Taguba, who retired in January 2007, was quoted as saying in the paper.

He said he supported Obama's decision not to release them, even though Obama had previously pledged to disclose all images relating to abuses at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.

"I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one," Taguba said. "The sequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

"The mere depiction of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it."

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others are said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

The photographs relate to 400 alleged cases of abuse carried out at Abu Ghraib and six other prisons between 2001 and 2005.


CIA deputy chief in Yemen for talks on al-Qaida

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) - The CIA deputy director coordinated with Yemen's president Thursday on fighting al-Qaida and also discussed the fate of some 100 Yemeni detainees locked up in Guantanamo Bay.

Stephen Kappes made an unannounced visit to the country to meet President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, about 170 miles south of the capital San'a. Saleh's office said they discussed security cooperation and combatting terrorism.

The impoverished country on the tip of the Arabian peninsula, a U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism, has re-emerged as a potential base for al-Qaida. Two Saudi former Guantanamo detainees are believed to be leading Yemen's branch of al-Qaida.

The country has also been rocked by a recent flare-up of violence in the south, where separatist sentiment is mounting against the central government. Southerners accuse the central government of marginalization. The north and south fought a civil war in 1994.

Kappes and Saleh also talked about the fate of the Yemeni prisoners in Guantanamo, said security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

President Barack Obama wants to close Guantanamo, a Navy detention center that houses suspected terrorists. But the discussions over where to send the Yemeni detainees have delayed plans to close it.

The Yemenis are the largest national group among the 241 detainees still at the prison. Obama's administration has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia and Yemen for months to send them to Saudi terrorist rehabilitation centers.

Earlier this month, Obama spoke directly with the president of Yemen about the detainees and also discussed how their countries could work together on counterterrorism policy.

Saleh has resisted the idea of sending the detainees to Saudi Arabia, saying his country would set up its own rehabilitation centers. But his office said Thursday he is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks on security issues and other matters.

U.S. officials have made a strong push for Yemen to endorse the Saudi plan, which would reduce the number of detainees that would be relocated to the United States. Senior security official John Brennan visited Yemen in March. Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed the plan with Saudi officials during a recent trip.

Gates at the time said that Saleh could be "reluctant to speak out openly and say that this would be a good idea, in part because he may feel that it reflects an inability in Yemen to handle the problem."

Few dispute that Saudi Arabia has one of the most successful jihadist rehabilitation programs in the world. Thousands of extremists, including Guantanamo detainees, have received job training, psychological therapy and religious re-education before being sent back to society. The vast majority have not rejoined the fight, according to Saudi officials and terrorism experts.

Yet some have. In an embarrassing episode for the kingdom, Saudi officials announced in February that 11 former Guantanamo detainees who went through the rehab program are now on its government's most wanted terrorist list for their connections to al-Qaida. Among them is Said Ali al-Shihri, who emerged as a leader of Yemen's branch of al-Qaida after being released from the Saudi program a year ago.

And the U.S.-Yemeni relationship has other problems as well.

Yemen infuriated the United States in 2007 by releasing Jamal al-Badawi, the convicted mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing that killed 17 American sailors. Al-Badawi was set free after turning himself in and pledging loyalty to Saleh. He has since been taken back into custody after pressure from Washington.

Kirk Lippold, who commanded the USS Cole when it was attacked, has sharply criticized the plan to turn the detainees over to either Yemen or Saudi Arabia as an unacceptable compromise to U.S. national security. He said Yemen has proved to be an untrustworthy and unreliable partner in the war on terror.


Multiple Blasts in Pakistan After Taliban Warning

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Multiple bombs exploded in two Pakistani cities on Thursday, just hours after Taliban groups warned people to evacuate several large cities, saying they were preparing “major attacks.” The groups also claimed responsibility for a bloody attack in Lahore a day earlier that killed at least 26 people.

Three bombs detonated in Peshawar, northwest of Pakistan’s capital, and one exploded in Dera Ismail Khan, in the country’s troubled west, killing at least 11 people and wounding dozens.

The attacks were reminders of the potency of militants in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed American ally that is fighting a war against the Taliban in its north and west. Pakistan is central to American policy in this region; militants in its lawless tribal areas cross the border into Afghanistan, where the United States is fighting a similar insurgency.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a young Taliban commander and lieutenant of Baitullah Mehsud, the chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, said that more attacks would follow the one in Lahore, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported. Hakimullah Mehsud, who spoke from an undisclosed location, claimed responsibility for the Lahore bombing.

“We want the people of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Multan to leave those cities, as we plan major attacks against government facilities in coming days and weeks,” he was quoted as saying in a telephone call to Reuters.

He said the Lahore attack was a response to Pakistan’s military campaign against the Taliban in Swat, an area northwest of the capital, which was overrun by militants this year. “We have been looking for a target from the day the military launched the operation in Swat,” he said.

Another Taliban group, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, also claimed responsibility, saying Thursday in a posting on a Turkish militant Web site that it had staged the assault in Lahore.

The leader of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was in Lahore on Thursday, said in a statement that the country would not be terrorized and that the army remained committed to defeating insurgents.

The state minister for information, Sumsam Bokhari, said the attacks were a sign of insurgent weakness. “We are winning the war, and that is why they are resorting to these desperate measures,” he said by telephone.

A copy of a preliminary police report on the Lahore bombing, obtained by The New York Times, said six attackers in a white Toyota van had fired at officials in a building that housed an emergency-response unit. Three attackers escaped while the other three detonated the explosives-laden van, the report said, killing themselves.

The first of the triple bombings in Peshawar occurred at 6:30 p.m., at a secondhand electronics market. Minutes later in the same area, a bomb on a motorcycle exploded near an ice cream shop. The two bombs killed 5 people and wounded 73, the authorities said. The bomb disposal squad’s chief, Shafqat Mehmood, said both bombs were on timers.

The police said they chased two men they believed to be responsible and killed them.

Later, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into a police checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, killing three police officers and wounding three more.

The police noticed another man advancing suspiciously toward the checkpoint, said Safwat Ghayyur, a police official. “Our men warned the young man approaching the post to stop, and when he did not they fired at him, killing him on the spot,” he said.

In Dera Ismail Khan, a bomb planted in the city’s town hall killed three and wounded seven, Dawn News reported.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said “such cowardly acts could not weaken the government’s resolve to stamp out terrorism.”


Al Qaeda Shadow Army camps located in northern Helmand

As Afghan and US forces complete an operation that targeted a Taliban stronghold in northern Helmand province, another area is identified as a Taliban safe haven that hosts al Qaeda training camps.

The Baghran district in northern Helmand hosts several camps run by al Qaeda's paramilitary Shadow Army, several military and civilian sources told The Long War Journal. Hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters have rotated through the Baghran camps. The Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil, is al Qaeda’s paramilitary force that closely operates with the Taliban and other jihadi groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army'].

The trained fighters are then sent to conduct operations against Afghan and Coalition forces in Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces. "Some relatively well-trained Talibs come out of these camps," an intelligence official said. "They are trained to operate in small units, and expertise on IED [improvised explosive devices or roadside bombs] and suicide attacks are passed on to some fighters."

Some of the complex attacks in Kandahar and Uruzgan are thought to have been carried out by fighters trained at the Baghran camps, including the Feb. 2 suicide attack inside a training center for police reservists in the town of Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province. Twenty-one Afghan police were killed and seven more were wounded in the suicide attack.

Baghran, the northernmost district in Helmand, is located in a remote and mountainous region, and serves as an ideal sanctuary for the Taliban and al Qaeda operating in southern Afghanistan. There are no Coalition forces present and the region is largely unpatrolled.

The district was the scene of a major US airstrike in August 2007 that targeted what the US military called a "sizable meeting of senior Taliban commanders." Hundreds of Taliban fighters and leaders were said to be gathering in a village in Baghran to conduct a public execution of two "spies."

Mullah Dadullah Mansour, at the time the military commander in the south, and Mullah Abdul Rahim, a senior commander in Helmand who operates from Pakistan, were both reportedly in attendance. Both leaders survived the strike. Locals claimed that more than 50 civilians were wounded but the US military maintained that only Taliban fighters were killed or wounded.

Nearby Nad Ali district also an al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold

The district of Nad Ali in Helmand also serves as a safe haven for the Taliban and al Qaeda and hosts camps for the Shadow Army.

In that district, Afghan and Coalition forces recently completed a four-day operation in the village of Marja, which was described by the US military as a "key militant and criminal operations and narcotics hub in southern Afghanistan" and "a main command node." According to Quqnoos, an English-language Afghan news outlet, Marja has been under Taliban control for more than a year and a half [see LWJ report, Afghan and US forces battle Taliban in northern Helmand stronghold].

The military said more than 60 Taliban fighters were killed during the operation as the Taliban "mounted an ineffective and uncoordinated defense" of the village. No Afghan or US troops were reported killed during the fighting, and more than 223 tons of narcotics and 37 tons of materials used to make explosives were seized.

Afghan and Coalition forces cordoned the town's main bazaar, where Taliban command and control centers and narcotics and bomb factories were located, and then called in airstrikes to destroy the buildings.

US and Afghan military officers deemed the operation a major success. "The commandos thoroughly demolished a vital operational, logistical, and financial hub for the enemy and completed this mission victorious as the militants and criminals crawled away defeated and operationally-neutered," Ministry of Defense spokesperson Major General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said in a US military press release..

But Afghan and US forces did not remain in Marja to deny the Taliban and al Qaeda the opportunity to reestablish control of the region, according to a report in Quqnoos.

"The troops have left the area after the operation and the area is again under the control of the Taliban," said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the governor of Helmand.

US Marines moving into Helmand in force

A US military officer said the raid in Marja is the best that can be done at this time because too few forces are available to secure all of the territory in southern Afghanistan.

"Until the additional troops are available, search and destroy operations like the one in Marja are the best we can do," the officer said. "The operation succeeded in its limited objective, and that command center needed to be taken out, but we won't make serious headway in the south until we can hold the ground in places like Marja."

This summer, the US will send an additional 17,000 troops to help stabilize the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. More than 8,000 Marines and 9,000 soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan by this summer. The bulk of these troops will be deployed to the eastern and southern provinces where the Taliban control wide swaths of territory.

The fighting in Helmand is expected to intensify as the Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade are deploying in the province and will also be operating in neighboring Farah province. The Marines have established two bases, Camp Dwyer and Camp Leatherneck, to support operations in the south.

Camp Dwyer is a forward operating base that will host the majority of the Marine forces. Leatherneck will host a battalion of Marines and the brigade's air combat element, which has more than 60 Harrier and Hornet attack aircraft, 12 Cobra attack helicopters, and more than 90 transport helicopters.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

National Security Advisor Outlines Pres. Obama's Strategy

"Days after North Korea announced its second nuclear bomb test, National Security Advisor General James L. Jones (USMC, Ret.) gives his perspective on the Obama Administration's approach to U.S. security. The U.N. and other world powers have not yet taken specific action against North Korea."

Obama announces White House changes to create new "National Security Staff"

WASHINGTON, May 26 (KUNA) -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced that he would fully integrate White House staff supporting national security and homeland security into a new "National Security Staff" that will support all White House policymaking activities related to international, transnational and homeland security matters.

Establishment of the new National Security Staff, under the direction of the National Security Adviser, "will end the artificial divide between White House staff who have been dealing with national security and homeland security issues," Obama said in a White House announcement.

The President also announced that he would maintain the Homeland Security Council as the principle venue for interagency deliberations on issues that affect the security of the homeland such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), natural disasters and pandemic flu.

"The Homeland Security Council, like its National Security Council counterpart, will be supported by the National Security Staff," he said.

In addition, Obama said he would establish new directorates and positions within the National Security Staff to deal with new and emerging challenges associated with cybersecurity, WMD terrorism, transborder security, information sharing and resilience policy, including preparedness and response.

Obama said he would retain the position of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism as principal White House adviser on these issues, "with direct and immediate access to me."

"The security of our homeland is of paramount importance to me, and I will not allow organizational impediments to stand in the way of timely action that ensures the safety of our citizens," he said.

The President also announced creation of a new Global Engagement Directorate "to drive comprehensive engagement policies that leverage diplomacy, communications, international development and assistance, and domestic engagement and outreach in pursuit of a host of national security objectives, including those related to homeland security." The actions were based on a review of findings and recommendations in a Presidential Study Directive that Obama ordered last February to determine how the White House should be organized to deal with homeland security and counterterrorism issues, he noted.


LDP panel largely agrees on proposing ability to hit enemy bases

A defense panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party largely agreed Tuesday to propose that Japan acquire the capability to take out enemy bases under new National Defense Program Guidelines.

The proposal, which is in large measure a response to North Korea's nuclear test on Monday and its April 5 rocket launch, is likely to be controversial given that some government officials and lawmakers have expressed reservations about making the leap.

Kyodo News

Beware the sleeping samurai

Taliban ‘staring defeat in the face’

LAHORE: The Pakistan Army has rejected the Taliban’s vow of “no shooting in Mingora” as a “ploy” by the defeated Taliban by which to gain a respite and escape. Observers said the move could be a ruse designed to gain breathing space, and that was not a formal ceasefire. Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan’s vow to not fire “even a single bullet” came after a series of setbacks for the Taliban in street-to-street battles over the past week. “Our aides will remain there in Mingora, but we will not attack, we will not fire shots,” he said.

Muslim Khan is one of the two senior Taliban commanders believed to be still in Mingora along with an estimated 1,000 fighters. While a slew of mid-level commanders have been killed, The Independent noted on Tuesday that the Taliban leadership remains at large. Maj Gen Athar Abbas, the chief army spokesman, dismissed suggestions that it halt its operation in response. The Taliban, he said, were “staring defeat in the face... They are now remembering the civilians whom they used to behead and decapitate”. Taliban are said to be fleeing Mingora and heading towards their stronghold in Kabal, across the Swat river. The army pushed into Kabal from a base in the town of Kanju but has conceded there was “stiff resistance”. Meanwhile, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the number of people displaced by the fighting had risen to 2.3 million. daily times monitor


Pakistani army takes the war to S Waziristan

Pakistani troops have reportedly entered South Waziristan just days after President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to extend army offensives against militants beyond Swat.

Media reports on Tuesday said the troops, backed by helicopter gunships, had consolidated their positions in the troubled northwestern district and would soon start a major operation in the area.

Earlier, President Zardari had said in an interview with Britain's Sunday Times that government forces would extend their operations in Swat toward Waziristan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where militants have long thrived.

"We're going to go into Waziristan, all these regions, with army operations," Zardari told the British daily, adding, "Swat is just the start. There is a larger war to fight."

Pakistan's ruling party says that the military campaign against the militants is a national struggle and not part of a proxy war fought on behalf of Washington.

Press TV

Senior Muslim cleric assassinated in Russia

LONDON: A senior Muslim cleric was shot dead on Monday in the capital of Russia’s volatile southern region of Dagestan, Interfax news agency reported.

Akhmed Tagayev was deputy mufti of the Clerical Directorate of Muslims of Dagestan and was considered a leading opponent of “religious extremism” among Muslims, the agency said. “An unknown criminal shot Tagayev in the head from a pistol at about 2235 hours...and escaped, probably in a motor car. The deputy mufti died on the spot from a head wound,” Interfax quoted a local interior ministry spokesman as saying

Dagestan borders Chechnya, where Russia has fought two wars since the mid-1990s to crush Muslim separatists. As security in Chechnya has improved, instability has worsened elsewhere in the region, where poverty and violence provide a fertile recruiting ground for militants and rebels. Russia’s Vesti television reported separately on Monday that four policemen from Chechnya had been killed in a special operation in Ingushetia, a neighbouring republic of Russia’s troubled North Caucasus. reuters


The religion of Love

Iraqis who fled return — as U.S. soldiers

BAGHDAD — In the fall of 2007, Forat Aldawoodi fled Iraq through a special visa program for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government. He landed in Pawtucket, R.I., where he soon became a New England Patriots fan, traveled to the Atlantic Ocean and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Today, after a year’s absence, Aldawoodi is in Iraq again — this time as an American soldier.

In fact, until recently transferred to a post outside Baghdad, he was assigned to a unit patrolling his former neighborhood, Dora, in southern Baghdad.

“I know it might sound a little strange that I am back in Baghdad so soon after leaving here,” Aldawoodi said in an interview at Forward Operating Base Falcon in Baghdad. “But I knew before I came [to the U.S.] that the Army was something I wanted to try.”

Aldawoodi, who is an Army interpreter, is one of at least eight Iraqis who fled to the United States in the midst of the war, only to have returned home as members of the U.S. armed forces, according to Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, a Pentagon spokesman. Melnyk said the figure likely understates the actual number of Iraqis in the U.S. military because personnel records don’t require recruits to list their nationality.

“Most of us had worked with the U.S. Army for a long time, so we had a good idea of what it’s like to be a soldier and what life is like in the Army,” said Aldawoodi, who had been a civilian interpreter for the Army before enlisting. He said two other Army recruits who went through training with him are also serving in Iraq.

Aldawoodi’s dual identity has provided an interesting dynamic in interactions with his countrymen. Many Iraqis, he said, see the U.S. uniform and assume he’s just another American soldier. As soon as they learn of his background, though, they become suspicious of him.

He recalled a recent discussion with an Iraqi police officer speaking candidly to him about possible criminal activity by other police officers. When it dawned on the officer that Aldawoodi was Iraqi, he expressed concern about speaking too freely. Many officials in the security forces are reluctant to speak out about corruption within their ranks for fear of retaliation, Aldawoodi explained.

“I reminded him that I am an American soldier, and that he had nothing to fear from me,” Aldawoodi said.

Soldiers with something extra
The U.S. Army has long relied on civilian interpreters in Iraq, but they don’t provide the same professionalism as a U.S. soldier, said Lt. Col. Dave Bair, the commander of Aldawoodi’s 82nd Airborne Division battalion.

What makes Aldawoodi so valuable is his familiarity with the area and a native understanding of Iraqi culture, Bair said. On almost every mission, Aldawoodi accompanies him, according to Bair. After meeting with a community leader or local Iraqi security force commander, Bair usually calls Aldawoodi into his office to get his impressions and thoughts on what was said between the lines.

When not on patrol, Aldawoodi spends much of his time on the phone, reaching out to Iraqi leaders on behalf of Bair or calling friends to get a better sense of the mood on the street.

Though Aldawoodi is barely a year out of boot camp and holds a junior rank, Bair said he considers him a trusted adviser. “I have to remind myself that he’s just an E-4 [specialist],” Bair said. “I load him up just as much as I do some of my officers. I can’t stress how valuable he’s been to us here.”

At boot camp, Aldawoodi said there was initial resistance to him from some military instructors. The drill sergeant would refer to him and two other recruits who signed up to be interpreters as “09 Lima,” the U.S. Army’s code for their occupational specialty, instead of calling them by their last names, as he did with the other recruits. After a while, Aldawoodi said, the instructors came to respect him and the other 09 Limas because they were among the most disciplined soldiers.

Three rules for success
When he served as a civilian interpreter, he learned there were three basic rules to success in the Army: Be on time, be in the correct uniform and always do the right thing. “Still, it’s far different to come here as a U.S. soldier,” Aldawoodi said. “With everything we do or say, there is much more at stake.”

Despite having lived more than a decade in Dora, Aldawoodi said he didn’t feel nostalgic patrolling his former neighborhood. Soon after he arrived in Baghdad, an officer took him on a patrol and insisted that Aldawoodi show him where he lived. When they got to the house, Aldawoodi said, the officer asked him if he wanted to knock on the door and meet the new occupants. Aldawoodi declined. “That was the past,” he said.

Last year, Aldawoodi’s parents joined him in Pawtucket, arriving in the United States just two days before he left for his Iraq tour.

Aldawoodi’s father, Kamel, said in a telephone interview that he and his wife try to avoid asking their son too many details about what’s going on in Dora. “We try hard to hold our tears back,” Kamel Aldawoodi said. “We are very proud of him. It was his decision, and we are very happy that he’s found himself in such a good position.”

On July 4, Aldawoodi is scheduled to take his oath to become a U.S. citizen at a naturalization ceremony in Baghdad. He plans to return to Pawtucket in the fall to resume his life as an American — and U.S. soldier.

“When I get back, I’d like to try for the Special Forces or maybe something else,” he said. “I think the Army will offer me the best options.”


New Investor Worry: Treasury Selloff Spiking Interest Rates

The stock market is watching the bond market, wary a spike in interest rates will derail a fragile economic recovery and snuff the market's rally.

Stocks tumbled Wednesday, but the real drama was in Treasurys and mortgages.

A selling spree in Treasurys pushed rates higher, taking the yield curve to its steepest on record as spreads between the 2-year and 10-year widened by over a dozen basis points on Wednesday alone.

The 10-year saw its yield move above 3.70 percent, after trading at 3.55 percent the previous day. The selling wave hit bonds shortly after 1 p.m., even after the auction of $35 billion in 5-year notes was well received.

"It was a great auction. It was just the follow through that was a problem," said Brian Edmonds, head of interest rate trading at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Traders are bracing for more of the same Thursday. The Treasury is auctioning another $26 billion in notes, this time 7-years.

The heavy issuance - more than $100 billion this week alone - has been pressuring the market.

Some key data will also get the market's attention Thursday, including weekly jobless claims, durable goods and new home sales.

"Now we're going to be glued to Treasury auction results," said Art Hogan of Jefferies.

Hogan said the lull in the earnings period has left the stock market "catalyst light," making the Treasury action even more important for stocks.

He said rising yields hurt stocks both because they create an attractive alternative investment and because they could potentially hurt the outlook for an economic recovery, which stocks have been trading on.

The Dow Wednesday fell 173 or 2 percent to 8300, while the S&P 500 was off 17, or 1.9 percent at 893.

Traders said selling in Treasurys this week was exaggerated by "convexity" selling, or mortgage related hedging, which causes traders to sell Treasurys as a hedge as mortgage prices move lower and rates go higher.

The Fed, meanwhile, has been an active buyer of mortgages in an effort to keep rates lower, and until the last couple of days, selling in Treasurys did not ripple into the mortgage market.

On Wednesday, mortgage spreads widened sharply. In the last couple of days, there have been some dramatic changes.

For instance, David Ader of RBS said a Fannie Mae mortgage with a four-year duration has seen its duration extend to 5.7 years as rates moved higher in just several days.

To hedge that move, traders would sell long-dated Treasurys, forcing yields even higher.

"The bear market that has been in Treasurys has finally had an impact on something and that's a big deal," said Ader, who heads rates strategy at RBS. "It means mortgage rates are going up, and that brings into question and challenges the housing market recovery...and the economy."

"What it also does, I think, is prove something of a problem for the Fed because the Fed has spent a lot of money to buy mortgages and keep mortgages rates down, and spent a little money to buy Treasurys and ease the sell off," he said.

"They feel the housing market is fragile and this could hurt its recovery, and it will. It may encourage them to be more aggressive at buying Treasurys. We are, not deliberately, but provocatively, challenging the Fed here."

Edmonds said he believes the Fed needs to reassess its quantitative easing program and may need to increase it and aim it at different sectors of the curve.

"You can't have a spike in interest rates in the long end without it impacting the economy," he said. "That's why the Fed has been a supporter of the quantitative easing. They have a choice. They could walk away from it or they could increase it to the point where it's meaningful. The $300 billion is not effective...You've got to start to talk trillions," Edmonds said.

CNBC's Rick Santelli reported that a big reason for the strength in the 5-year auction was the presence of foreign central banks, also big buyers in Tuesday's 2-year auction.

Some traders have speculated that China is among the buyers, coincidentally ahead of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's upcoming China trip this weekend.

Santelli also said the fact that the 5-year auction was "hugely underwater" within hours of the auction results shows that some of the aggressive buyers turned into sellers across the curve.

He said some investors had been more aggressive holders of mortgage products recently because of the Fed's purchase program. But an unintended consequence of the program was that those investors were forced into becoming unwilling sellers as mortgage spreads widened.

Oil Drill

Oil rose $1 or 1.6 percent Wednesday to $63.45 per barrel on the NYMEX.

Meanwhile, OPEC meets in Vienna Thursday. It is not expected to take any action.

OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri told CNBC's Melissa Francis that OPEC could live with $75 to $85 a barrel oil prices but has problems making investments when oil falls below $70 per barrel.

"The reaction that we're seeing is reaction to the troubles in the bond market. It's such a harbinger of the coming inflation wave. It's a direct effect of the quantitative easing regime and stimuli," said John Kilduff, senior vice president at M.F. Global. "OPEC blew it. They should have raised production because it looks like supplies are tightening more than people think."

What Else to Watch

Target [TGT 39.60 -1.40 (-3.41%) ] , facing a proxy challenge from Bill Ackman, holds its annual meeting in Minneapolis.

Sanford Bernstein holds its Strategic Decisions Conference, featuring dozens of CEOS in New York.

Morningstar holds its investment conference in Chicago, and the "D" conference on all things digital continues in Carlsbad, Calif.

Mortgage bankers release their delinquency survey in the morning , and Dell reports earnings after the bell.

As General Motors [GM 1.15 -0.29 (-20.14%) ] moves closer to bankruptcy court Monday, it plans to make monthly payment Thursday to its parts suppliers to ensure the GM assembly will not be shut down when the company enters bankruptcy.

They just played the audio of a taped telephone call
Between Roland Burris and Blago's brother, arranging the sale of the Senate seat.

C-SPAN said they would have it on the web, but I cant find it yet.

World Zionist Organization Rejects Yemeni Jews Transfer to New York

The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday that a dispute has broken out among Jewish communities in the United States about the intention of moving Yemeni Jews to an anti-Zionist community in New York.

The source cited the World Zionist Organization (WZO) executive and co-chair of the Jewish Agency's Immigration and Absorption Committee, Paula Edelstein as saying "The common umbrella of American Jewry is to stop the fundraising effort meant to transfer Yemeni Jews to a Satmar community in Monsey, New York."

"Bringing Yemeni Jews to the Satmar community is an anti-Zionist activity, because it's bringing Jews to a place that doesn't really recognize the State of Israel," Edelstein said.

We have made a strong call for the United Jewish Communities (UJC ) to stop its activities cheering the immigration of Yemeni Jews to the US," WZO spokesman Gil Litman said.

A Jewish Agency Official who spoke in anonymity said that Some 113 Yemenite Jews are expected to leave Yemen for the United States in the coming weeks, aided by the US State Department and Jewish refugee agencies in the US. Many of the remaining 160 or so Jews in the country are expected to eventually come to Israel, Jewish Agency officials believe

Yemen Post