Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Afghan Journal:

On the Afghanistan-Pakistan border : cutting off the nose to spite the face

Pakistan's defence minister has threatened to move forces away from the Afghan border, where they are deployed to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban, if the United States cuts off aid to the cash-strapped country. Ahmed Mukhtar's logic is that Pakistan is essentially fighting America's war on the Afghan border, and if it is going to put the squeeze on its frontline partner, then it will respond by not doing America's bidding.

But  apart from the issue of whether Pakistan can really stand up to the United States  is the question of whether Islamabad can afford to pull back from the Afghan border for its own sake. This is no longer the porous border where movement of insurgents is confined to members of the Afghan Taliban travelling across to launch attacks on foreign forces in their country. Over the past few weeks, the traffic has moved in the reverse direction, with militants crossing over from Afghanistan to attack Pakistani security posts, Pakistani officials say.  These are not armed men sneaking across in twos and threes , but large groups of up to 600 men armed with rocket launchers and  grenades flagrantly crossing the mountainous border to attack security forces and civilians in Pakistan. (It also stands Pakistan's strategy of seeking strategic depth versus India on its head; now the rear itself has become a threat.)

It is not very clear who these raiders are  - which adds to the anxiety - but one obvious  guess is that they could be members of the Pakistan Taliban who have come under pressure in their mountain redoubts in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) from the military and may have found sanctuary just over the border in eastern Afghanistan.  The umbrella organisation is sworn to fighting the Pakistani state and is mainly behind the wave of suicide bombings in the country over the past three years, stepping up the momentum even more after Osama bin Laden's killing, with an audacious attack on a naval base in the southern city of Karachi.

Indeed, the Pakistani military's offensives have been focused on crushing the Tehrik-e-Taliban, and  it is inconceivable that they would thin out on the Afghan border which is where the threat is coming from, at the moment.

from Afghan Journal:

Drone strikes are police work, not an act of war?

Launching an air strike in another nation would normally be considered an act of aggression. But advocates of America's rapidly expanding unmanned drone programme don't see it that way.

They are arguing, as Tom Ricks writes on his blog The Best Defense over at Foreign Policy, that the campaign to kill militants with missile strikes from these unmanned aircraft, is more like police action in a tough neighbourhood than a military conflict.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s Shamsi base : a mystery wrapped in a riddle

Pakistan Defence Minister Mukhtar Ahmad's comments this week that the government had ended U.S. drone flights out of Shamsi air base deep in southwest Baluchistan province has injected new controversy in their troubled relationship. U.S. officials appeared to scoff at Mukhtar's remarks, saying they had no plans to vacate the base from where they have in the past launched unmanned Predator aircraft targeting militant havens in the northwest region.

Washington's dismissal of the Pakistan government's stand is quite extraordinary. Can a country, even if it is the world's strongest power, continue to use an air base despite the refusal of the host country ?  The United States is effectively encamped in Pakistan using its air strip to run a not-so-secret assassination campaign  against militant leaders including Pakistanis while Islamabad fumes.

from FaithWorld:

Will the Arab Spring bring U.S.-style “culture wars” to the Middle East?

(From left: Olivier Roy, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Martino Diez of the Oasis Foundation at the conference on San Servolo island, Venice, June 20, 2011/Giorgia Dalle Ore/Oasis)

Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Taliban talks: the new mirage in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just said in public what many have been saying for months in private, that the United States is holding talks with the Taliban to try to reach a settlement to the decade-long war in Afghanistan.  "Peace talks are going on with the Taliban. The foreign military and especially the United States itself is going ahead with these negotiations," he said in a speech in Kabul.

We have been hearing reports about these talks for months. In the climate of disinformation that threads through the Afghan war, it is hard to say exactly when they started, but I first heard last November that the Americans had begun direct talks with representatives of the Taliban and if that was correct, they must have begun some time before that. 

“Fearsome risks” driving policy over-reactions

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In China, where a rash of protests, sometimes violent, have recently flared up and been slapped down, echoes from this year’s ‘Arab Spring’ of rebellion against iron-fisted rulers in the Middle East and North Africa are resonating loudly.

Not so much among the people, who in the main want reform and social justice rather than revolutionary overthrow, but in government, where much of what it does is driven by worry about threats to its control.. Authorities are scared foreign political unrest might inspire trouble at home, but instead of engaging with ground-level grievances, the Chinese government’s method of addressing discontent is the heavy hand.

from Afghan Journal:

Ten years on, still trying to frame the Afghan War

U.S. President Barack Obama is in the midst of a wrenching decision on whether to quickly bring home the 100,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan or stay the course in the hope that the situation will stabilise in the country.

The problem is it is still not clear what the huge operation estimated to cost $100 billion a year is intended to do.  Here is what Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said last week when asked what would constitute success : “I think we’ll have a much better fix in terms of clarity towards the end of this year in terms of longer-term … potential outcomes — and when those might occur — than we do right now."  The military were in the middle of the fighting season and once that ends when winter arrives, they would be in a better position to make a call. But how many fighting seasons has the military gone through already in Afghanistan ? Their logic is that the 30,000 additional troops that Obama sent in December 2009 have started to turn things around in the southern bastions of the Taliban, and more time is needed to extend the gains in the east where the insurgency is just as stubborn.

from Reuters Investigates:

No room at the Inn … but maybe a job in the Outback

By Rebekah Kebede

You wouldn't think you'd have to make hotel reservations months ahead of time in Karratha, a small, dusty town on the edge of the Outback  a 16-hour drive from  Perth, the nearest city. But with Australia’s commodities boom, Karratha is bursting at the seams and nowhere is it more apparent than when trying to find a place to stay.

(Above photo: A kangaroo stands atop iron ore rocks outside the remote outback town of Karattha in Western Australia. Reuters/Daniel Munoz)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

A slow-burning revolution in Pakistan

Rarely does the perennial struggle for power between civilian and military authority punch to the surface quite so openly in Pakistan, yet thanks to the increasing use of the internet, it is now being played out in public across websites, Twitter, blogs and online newspapers. It is a struggle that is every bit as important as those taking place in the Middle East,  and like those of the Arab spring, one that has the potential to tip the country into even greater instability or steer it onto firmer ground.

The renewed and very public debate started with the May 2 raid by U.S. forces which found and killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. That unleashed an unprecedented wave of criticism against the military -- both for failing to find the al Qaeda leader, and for apparently failing to detect and react to a U.S. raid in the heart of the country.  The anger rose after militants attacked a naval air base in Karachi, and swelled further when the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was accused of beating to death Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad - an allegation it denied.

from The Great Debate:

What is the best strategy against Chinese cyberattacks?

By Ian Bremmer
The views expressed are his own.

All eyes should be peeled on China, but not for the reason you think. While the biggest structural risk right now is global rebalancing, especially between China and the U.S., there is another important threat from China: cyberwars. Cyberattacks are one of the biggest fat tails (along with climate and North Korea).

It’s no surprise that the latest Google hack attack came from China. The presumption is that the vast majority of cyber attacks hitting the U.S. are coming from the Chinese government. It’s very hard to know where threats are originating – country-wise and/or person-wise -- because it’s very difficult to go back and figure out the paper trail. But at a minimum, there is an environment in China that tolerates cyber attacks.

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