Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

NATO summit sparks emotions in Germany

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Judging from their comments, this week’s NATO summit will be an emotional event for Germany’s leading politicians — some of whom grew up on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s first chancellor to have grown up in communist East Germany, praised the “historic dimension” of the summit, which marks the 60th anniversary of the military alliance and comes 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. ”Memories of Wall and barbed wire (make us realise) Germany has to thank NATO and its allies’ solidarity for a lot… Re-unified Germany celebrates 20 years of German and European happiness,” the 54-year-old told parliament. Merkel said the summit, held in the French city of Strasbourg and the German towns of Kehl and Baden-Baden across the river Rhine, would take place where “German and French once stood as bitter enemies… and are now united in friendship”. 

Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung, 60, who grew up in West Germany, revealed his memories of NATO and the Cold War this week, telling journalists about his feelings as a young German soldier when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. ”If something had happened then, Germans would have stood against Germans. We were in NATO and the people now living in Germany’s eastern states were in the NVA (the German Democractic Republic’s military). ”We were trained to stand against each other,” he said. “From there, we’ve come to create an army of unity in Germany. That’s a great achievement,” he said, referring to Germany’s growing role within NATO.

 

But although the NATO summit will be high on symbolism — its logo are elements of the bridge spanning the Rhine — the  leaders meeting from Thursday will also address issues which are likely to cause friction and heated debate.  NATO’s relationship to Russia is a disputed question. The alliance’s choice of a new head has already sparked vivid debate. And partners will discuss their strategy to solve the violent conflict in Afghanistan. U.S. President Barack Obama has already made clear he will seek fresh committments from partners for combat forces, trainers and equipment. And although the summit’s two hosts, Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have both praised the meeting as a symbol of Franco-German friendship, they have clashed on a serious of economic and foreign policy issues in past months.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Are the Pakistan Taliban charting an independent course?

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For some weeks now there have been persistent reports about Taliban leader Mullah Omar, asking fighters in the Pakistani Taliban to stop carrying out attacks there and instead focus on Afghanistan where Western forces are being bolstered.

The reclusive one-eyed leader had in December sent emissaries to ask leaders of the Pakistani Taliban to settle their differences, scale down activities in Pakistan and help mount a spring offensive against the build-up of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a report in the New York Times said as recently as last week.

Keeping an eye on the Taliban

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By Jonathon Burch
 
“Contact at Woqab. They’ve made contact,” says Devos calmly before running to the edge of the rooftop to have a better look into the distance with his binoculars.

“What do you mean they’ve made “contact”?” I ask, trying to see where his binoculars are pointed. “Small arms fire at Woqab,” he says pointing beyond a line of trees in the distance. Suddenly I feel exposed, standing in the open, three storeys off the ground.
 
The place is Musa Qala in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province and Devos is a 26-year-old soldier from Nepal serving in the British Army’s 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles. His job is to man the lookout on top of the British base inside the district centre, about a 30-minute helicopter flight across the desert from Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

How will Obama tackle militants in Pakistan?

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Read President Barack Obama's speech on his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and compare it to what he said a year ago and it's hard to see how much further forward we are in understanding exactly how he intends to uproot Islamist militants inside Pakistan.

Last year, Obama said that "If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot." Last week, he said that, "Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.  And we will insist that action be taken -- one way or another -- when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets."

from UK News:

Ghost of past failure haunts G20

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Stopping off in New York during a marathon, 18,000-mile diplomatic offensive before next week’s G20 summit in London next week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recalled a conference held in eerily similar circumstances in London 76 years ago.

Sixty-six nations gathered for the June 1933 London Monetary and Economic Conference which was aimed at lifting the world’s economy out of the Depression.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama takes Afghan war to Pakistan

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U.S. President Barack Obama set out his strategy to fight the war in Afghanistan on Friday, committing 4,000 military trainers and many more civillian personnel to the country, increasing military and financial aid to stabilise Pakistan and signalling that the door for reconciliation was open in Afghanistan for those who had taken to arms because of coercion or for a price.

He said the situation was increasingly perilous, with 2008 the bloodiest year for American forces in Afghanistan. But the United States  was determined to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan", he said, warning that attacks on the United States were being plotted even now.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Garrisons and force protection crowd out other objectives in Afghanistan

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- Joshua Foust is a defense consultant who has just spent the last 10 weeks embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He also blogs at Registan.net. Any opinions expressed are his own. -

It is a cliché that, in counterinsurgency, one must be among "the people". In Iraq, the U.S. Army did this to great effect under the leadership of General David Petraeus, moving large numbers of soldiers off the enormous bases and into smaller, community-oriented security outposts. As a result, in densely populated urban areas like Baghdad, an active presence of troops played a significant role in calming the worst of the violence. The Western Coalition forces in Afghanistan, however, face an altogether different problem. Kabul is not Baghdad - far less of Afghanistan's population lives there than in Iraq, and the insurgency is concentrated outside the country's largest urban areas. In many urban areas-Herat in the west, Jalalabad in the east, Mazar-i Sharif in the north-a westerner is far safer in the city itself than out in the countryside.

from Africa News blog:

France and Africa. New relationship?

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Before Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, he made clear he wanted to break with France’s old way of doing business in Africa – a cosy blend of post-colonial corruption and patronage known as “Françafrique” that suited a fair few African dictators and the French establishment alike.

He has made the same point during his past visits to the continent.

“The old pattern of relations between France and Africa is no longer understood by new generations of Africans, or for that matter by public opinion in France. We need to change the pattern of relations between France and Africa if we want to look at the future together,” Sarkozy said in South Africa early last year.

Chili’s owner Brinker dishes on global expansion

Brinker International which owns casual dining restaurants Chili’s Grill & Bar, Maggiano’s Little Italy and On the Border brands, says that outside the United States it’s on track to open about 300 outlets over the next five years which would bring it’s total overseas presence to about 500…many of those are already located in the Middle East and Mexico. Even though the company’s international president John Reale concedes there has been a slowdown in sales “they are still up in the high single digits” which is more than they can say in the U.S. where mid-tier chains across the board have seen comparable-store sales turn negative as consumers tighten their budgets. Reale says the biggest challenge for the remainder of 2009 is trying to understand consumer behavior, but he does see a bright spot. Prices for real estate around the world, which had prevented the company from opening in some locations, have come down “30 to 40-percent.” Click here to hear what Brinker International President John Reale had to say:
Reale interview from Reuters TV on Vimeo.

Business as usual as governments crumble in E.Europe

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HUNGARYThe Czech opposition toppled Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s minority cabinet on Tuesday in a no-confidence vote. Three days earlier, Hungary’s prime minister said he would resign to let someone else pull that country out of its economic mire. Although serious, the developments were far from surprising if complaints about the economic crisis by anti-government parties and disgruntled voters were anything to go by.

But don’t blame it all on the economic crisis. Even with unemployment on the rise and housing prices tanking, wobbly governments in this region are nothing new and political mayhem is still far off.

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