Global News Journal

from The Great Debate UK:

Past and present: a correspondent in Iraq

October 9, 2009

Tim Cocks-Tim Cocks is a Reuters correspondent in Iraq.-

This month we reported that the number of civilians dying violent deaths in Iraq had hit a fresh low since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion -- about 125 for September.

from Summit Notebook:

Everyone needs a private banker

October 7, 2009
Everyone needs a private banker. Full service means exactly that for one speaker at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit. The 'normal' range of extras that wealth managers are offering super-rich clients under the banner Lifestyle Management has expanded as they scramble to keep on board clients whose massive wealth was rendered a little less massive during the financial crisis.   Citigroup's private banking arm keeps an art curator on staff to make sure clients don't overspend at auctions and maximise the value of their collection - it's a real problem apparently.   But one of the smaller banks represented at the summit goes a lot further than that. "We do pretty much whatever they want." On further investigation this stops short of walking the dogs but it does include managing fleets of vehicles, relocation for tax exiles, school selection for the rich in-waiting, wine cellar stocking, art advice (of course) and payroll services for the hired help.   But what was the most unusual request he has ever had from a client? "We were once asked pick up some strange medication and we organised the redecoration of the interior of a private jet in questionable taste," said one private banker. He wouldn't say any more, but some might think that was too much detail already.

from Changing China:

Grandpa Wen, so happy to see you!

October 7, 2009

North Korea knows how to put on a show for honoured guests. Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was this week treated to a special performance of the "Arirang" mass games, the world's biggest choreographed extravaganza with as many as 100,000 participants.

Swine flu vaccination finally starts

October 6, 2009

  Swine flu vaccination is under way in the US, although the CDC admits it is a bumpy start .

Are Pentagon contracts funding the Taliban?

October 6, 2009

An Afghan contractor stitches name badges for German armed forces Bundeswehr and NATO allied forces at his shop at Camp Marmal, in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: Getting Waziristan right this time

October 6, 2009

U.S. defence officials, in a ringing vote of confidence, said over the weekend that Pakistan had the forces and equipment to launch a long-awaited ground offensive in South Waziristan. It could mount this assault without seeking more reinforcements, a U.S. official said, according to this Reuters report. Yet Pakistan had cited in recent months shortages of helicopters, armoured vehicles and precision weapons in putting off a Waziristan assault.So what has changed? Has the United States,  desperate to turn around a faltering war in Afghanistan, got ahead of itself in nudging Pakistan toward "the mother-of-all battles"? Some people are asking if the Pakistan Army is really ready to start what must be its bigest test yet since the militants turned on the Pakistani state. If the idea is to go in and linflict casualties on the Taliban in the hope of killing senior leaders, then it will be another punitive strike for which the force levels may well be adequate.But if the Pakistan Army plans to go into the Mehsud strongholds and occupy the region then the numbers are a bit worrying, says Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.  A Pakistan Army spokesman has said that  two divisions, or up to 28,000 soldiers, are in place to take on an estimated 10,000 hard-core Taliban. But Roggio says Waliur Rehman Mehsud, who heads the Mehsud Taliban forces in Waziristan, (Hakimullah Mehsud who surfaced at the weekend is the overall head of the Pakistani Taliban) is estimated to command anything between 10,000 to 30,000 forces.  If the army were to wage a full-scale counter-insurgency they and the Frontier Corps "would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size," he argues. And then there is the Haqqani network, as well as a sizeable contingent of Uzbek and other non-Pakistani fighters in the area. They may well join the fight, according to the Dawn newspaper.Pakistani expert Imtiaz Gul, who heads the  Independent Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, calls Waziristan a "blackhole" for security and intelligence forces. At least 800 pro-government tribal elders and intelligence officials have lost their lives to Taliban and al Qaeda assassins in Waziristan and adjacent tribal areas, most of them in the last four years, eroding Pakistani intelligence from the region and in turn forcing a greater reliance on U.S. drone surveillance and strikes, he says in a piece for the AFPAK channel for Foreign Policy.Gul reckons one of the prime objectives of the impending military assault would be to take out the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan entrenched there and whose powerful leader Tahir Yuldashev is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.Some others are saying there is actually no public estimate of the total number of Waziri fighters, and that the Pakistan Army might end up in a 1:1 ratio with the militants, which is far too low to sustain a counter-insurgency campaign, let alone win it. You can't help recalling again the oft-quoted words of Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the-century British Viceroy of India, who said : "No patchwork scheme will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine."And even if Pakistan were willing to run the steamroller it may just not be avaialble to it, not yet at least.Sameer Lalwani in a study for the New America Foundation says that the Pakistan Army is already overstretched with the Swat operation and lacks the capacity to  expand the fight. The study provides a fairly detailed assessment of Pakistani capabilities for a counter-insurgency campaign focussing on  1) the nature of the insurgency, including its strength, capabilities, tactics, and strategic objectives; 2) the terrain challenges posed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and 3) current and potential Pakistani potential military capabilites.  Here is the PDF of the full report.In short, Lalwani argues that 370,000 and 430,000 more troops would be needed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas  and the North West Frontier Province region to meet the minimum force-to-population ratios prescribed by standard counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, much higher than current Pakistani deployments of 150,000, and even this is no assurance of success given adverse conditions.It is too big for the army alone, and  would need the calling up of reserves and also greater reliance on the poorly-equipped Frontier Corps. And the Pakistan Army would resist redeployment of more forces from the Indian border because for it, the Indians remain an enduring threat.And as Roggio asks is the state ready for the blow back from a full-scale assault? The militants have repeatedly attacked cities each time they have come under pressure. On Monday, a suicide bomber breached the tightly guarded office of the United Nations World Food Programme in a residential part of Islamabad, killing five people.[Photographs of Hakimullah Mehsud and paramilitary soldiers] The Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size

from FaithWorld:

Bishops see more selfish Europe 20 years after Berlin Wall fell

October 4, 2009

referendum Photo; Irish "Yes" campaigners celebrate in Dublin, 3 Oct 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Europe has become increasingly selfish and materialistic in the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the heads of the Roman Catholic bishops' conferences across Europe said at the end of their three-day annual meeting at the weekend.  "The crisis sweeping Europe today is serious," they said in a statement after the session in Paris. They cited materialism, individualism and relativism as major challenges facing European society.

from Commentaries:

Ireland puts the EU show back on the road

By Paul Taylor
October 3, 2009

biffoThe EU show is back on the road. Sixteen months after Irish voters brought the European Union's tortured process of institutional reform to a juddering halt by voting "No" to the Lisbon treaty, the same electorate has turned out in larger numbers to say "Yes" by a two-thirds majority.

Western Afghanistan, a new worry ?

By Reuters Staff
October 3, 2009

       By Golnar Motevalli

Herat province in west Afghanistan is seen as one of the country’s safest areas. It is one of the largest, most prosperous Afghan provinces — its capital’s wide, smooth and tree-lined boulevards are a far cry from Kabul’s crumbling skyline.

Irish fly from Brussels to push through EU treaty

October 2, 2009

If this morning’s flight from Brussels to Dublin is an indication of how Irish people will vote in Friday’s referendum on the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty, then the result will be an emphatic Yes on Saturday afternoon when the final results are expected to be known.