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Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Ilyas Kashmiri reported killed in drone strike in Pakistan

Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of the al Qaeda-linked Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), has been reported to have been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan in Pakistan. He had been pronounced dead before in 2009, only to have his death disproved through an interview he gave to the late Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. So any assessment of the significance of his death needs to carry a big health warning.

That said, there appears to be rather more evidence this time around of his death, including a statement faxed to Pakistani media from someone who claimed to be a spokesman for HUJI. And if accurate, it would be very significant for reasons which go far beyond one man.

For a start, it would be the first clear result of renewed and redefined cooperation between Pakistan and the United States after the May 2 killing by U.S. forces of Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.  Pakistani officials, who publicly condemn drone missile strikes while condoning them in private, have said these are effective when carried out in coordination with Pakistani intelligence. Those carried out by the CIA acting alone have been blamed for causing the civilian casualties that help make these strikes deeply unpopular in Pakistan. A Pakistani intelligence official said that Ilyas Kashmiri was killed following a tip-off from local intelligence.

Ilyas Kashmiri inhabited the netherworld between Pakistan's former jihadi proxies once cultivated for use against India and the Arab "outsiders" from al Qaeda. Though HUJI  was affiliated to al Qaeda, it was never clear how far it had been integrated into the organisation. Yet it is precisely that netherworld that is the source of many of the  "double-game" allegations levelled at, and denied by, Pakistan - that its security establishment, or parts of it, maintain links to some militans while fighting others. 

Party wins big in Vietnam, but with a few twists

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As has happened every few years since the mid-1940s Vietnam’s Communists won parliamentary elections last month by a landslide, claiming 91.6 percent of the chamber’s 500 seats, officials announced on Friday. No surprises there. The Communist Party has a constitutionally-mandated monopoly on power.

We noted in a story on election day that the vote was rigged to retain party control although the outcome would allow for the legislature’s role in policymaking to continue to grow incrementally.

from Afghan Journal:

Stirring the hornet’s nest in Pakistan’s northwest

The United States has a set of expectations  that it wants Pakistan's government to meet, Secretary of State of  Hillary Clinton said ahead of her short trip to Islamabad  last week, the kind of language Washington has frequently employed to bring its conflicted partner in the war against militant Islam to heel, each time  there has been a crisis. Clinton didn't elaborate, saying only at the end of her meetings in Islamabad that she expected Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.

But on Monday, Pakistan's The News reported that the military was preparing to launch an air and ground offensive against militants in North Waziristan, a demand that the United States has repeatedly made over the last two years. It said the decision was taken during discussions that Clinton and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State Admiral Mike Mullen had with Pakistani government and military leaders.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India hold talks on Siachen

Of  the many issues dividing India and Pakistan, resolving the conflict in Siachen has always been seen as potential game-changer. Compared to the big intractables like Kashmir and what India calls the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, the Siachen conflict is easier to solve. 

But the conflict is also a big enough cause of tension that its resolution would give real momentum to the peace process revived by India and Pakistan this year. An agreement on Siachen, moreover, would allow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make a long-awaited visit to Pakistan, giving him something of substance to announce during his trip.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

U.S.-Pakistan ties and the curse of secrecy

When President Barack Obama telephoned Pakistan's president to say U.S. forces had found and killed bin Laden, he offered him a choice. He could say Pakistan helped find bin Laden, or that it knew nothing, according to a senior western official. Pakistan initially chose to stress the former - that it had helped - but later shifted to condemning what it called the U.S. violation of its sovereignty. 

The story illustrates the complicity between the United States and Pakistan in their deliberately ambiguous relationship. This ambiguity has its uses. It allows Washington to keep working with Pakistan in the face of angry questions at home about why Osama bin Laden was living there. And it lets Pakistan cooperate with the United States, for example on drone attacks, while trying -- not particularly successfully -- to minimise the domestic backlash.

from Afghan Journal:

In Pakistan’s Gwadar port, Chinese whispers grow

First, China helped develop Pakistan's Gwadar port from scratch on the Baluchistan coast to take the pressure off the country's main port of Karachi, a few hundred miles to the east. Now Pakistan's defence minister has said that it would like its long-time ally to build a naval base at Gwadar, which sits on the doorstep of Gulf shipping lanes, less than 200 kms from the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz.

China, which provided more than 80 percent of the port's $248 million development cost, has moved quickly to distance itself from Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar's remarks about a naval base in Gwadar. The foreign ministry said China was not aware of any such proposal.

from Reuters Investigates:

The Britain Obama won’t see

Security tops the agenda as Barack Obama visits Britain, with a tighter relationship on the cards between the United States and the UK:

"Ours is not just a special relationship, it is an essential relationship - for us and for the world," Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan military: the enemy within ?

The breach of security at a major Pakistani navy base in the southern city of Karachi has, inevitably, raised questions of complicity, which must be the greatest worry once the night-long siege by the militants ends and the military has finished counting its losses.

That a group of 15 or more attackers armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades could gain access to the inner perimeter of the Mehran base and succeed in  blowing up one U.S.-supplied P -3 Orion maritime aircraft and damaging another aircraft, while holding off security forces for more than 12 hours speaks of a large, complex attack that needs some level of help from within.   One former Pakistani navy official told a TV channel that the attack appeared to have been planned from a map of facility.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Taliban talks – a necessary but not sufficient condition for peace

We have known for months that the United States has begun direct talks with representatives of the Taliban. And as I wrote in this story, the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 2 should make it easier for the Taliban to break with al Qaeda, a fundamental requirement for including them in any eventual political settlement in Afghanistan. But lest anyone should think these talks, combined with bin Laden's death, would somehow produce an early end to the Afghan war,  it is important to remember that engaging with the Taliban is only a necessary but far from sufficient condition for a political settlement.

As Thomas Ruttig  writes at the Afghanistan Analysts Network,  any deal between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai that was simply meant to open the exit door for foreign troops would not serve the interests of Afghans.  "... they need an end of the bloodshed that will also physically reopen spaces for economic and political activities, a debate about where their country is going. A deal which does not address the main causes of the conflict (namely the monopoly over power of resources concentrated in the hands of a small elite, then possibly with some additional Taleban players) will not bring peace.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan : four probes and a killing

Pakistan has launched four separate investigations into the life and death of Osama bin Laden on its soil, according to U.S. Senator John Kerry. The army, the air force and the intelligence establishment are running a probe each while parliament last week ordered an investigation by an independent commission to be set up for the purpose.

It's not entirely clear who is investigating what but a common theme running through the probes is to find out how did the United States launch a heliborne  operation so deep in the country, hunt bin Laden down in his compound after a shootout in the outer wing  and fly away with his corpse, without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities. Indeed the military and the government only got to know about it after the Americans told them once they were safely out of Pakistani airspace.

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