Home > News > News in Brief: 3 December 2009

News in Brief: 3 December 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Blackwater: Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy. Erik Prince, recently outed as a participant in a C.I.A. assassination program, has gained notoriety as head of the military-contracting juggernaut Blackwater, a company dogged by a grand-jury investigation, bribery accusations, and the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees, set for next month. Lashing back at his critics, the wealthy former navy seal takes the author inside his operation in the U.S. and Afghanistan, revealing the role he’s been playing in America’s war on terror. (Vanity Fair)

Pakistan’s Karachi the Taliban revenue engine – mayor. Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub of Karachi is the revenue engine of the Taliban who pose a threat to the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan from city no-go areas, Karachi’s mayor said on Wednesday. The city of 18 million people generates 68 percent of the government revenue and 25 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product but it is vulnerable to both militant attacks and political violence, said mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal. (Reuters)

Azerbaijan looks past Turkey. Azerbaijan is casting around for more export routes for its gas, while bogged down in talks on terms to supply gas for use in and transit through Turkey. An agreement with Bulgaria poses ambitious technical challenges, while Iran appears to have no upper limit in its potential requirements. (Asia Times)

Somali hotel attack kills ministers. Hotel attack in Somali capital targets country’s transitional government ministers. (Al Jazeera)

NATO chief: Allies will provide 5,000 more troops. European and other U.S. allies will contribute more than 5,000 new troops to the international force in Afghanistan, NATO’s chief said Wednesday, declaring that the war is not America’s alone. (AP)

Analysis: Obama borrows Soviet’s Afghan endgame. The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan bears ominous similarities to the disastrous Soviet war there 20 years ago, when a modern army was humbled by small guerrilla bands and the invaders struggled to prop up an unpopular government in Kabul… While more than 850 members of the U.S. military have died as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, those losses still represent a fraction of 14,500 Soviet deaths in Moscow’s Afghan adventure… Dark assessments of the West’s chances in Afghanistan typically dwell on Moscow’s setbacks while ignoring its successes, including the creation of a relatively stable Afghan government and a 300,000-strong army. Afghanistan’s Communist regime defied all predictions and outlasted the Soviet Union, collapsing only after post-Soviet Russia halted massive economic aid. (AP)

Obama rings the curtain on Pax Americana. The most profound part of President Barack Obama’s new strategy on Afghanistan is that it bids farewell to the neo-conservative agenda for United States foreign policy. Obama has thrown out of the window the baggage of regional initiatives, international conferences and grand bargains, and zeroed in on the heart of the matter – Afghan people view the Americans as occupiers and it is time to consider an exit strategy. (Asia Times)

President Obama’s Afghanistan Election Speech. There was an important honesty in one aspect of President Obama’s speech. All claims that the U.S. war was bringing democracy to Afghanistan, modernizing a backward country, and liberating Afghan women, are off the agenda — except when the Pentagon identifies them as possible “force multipliers” to achieve the military goal. And that goal hasn’t changed — “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.” So now it’s official. It’s not about Afghanistan and Afghans at all — it’s all about us. (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Anthropologists at war. One document that has been circulating lately among supporters of the tribal strategy is a paper called “One Tribe at a Time”, by Major Jim Gant of the Army’s special forces. Major Gant has spent years fighting in Afghanistan, and developed a close relationship with a tribal leader in a town he deployed to in 2003, whom he nicknamed “Sitting Bull”. (Er…no comment.) His paper sings the praises of the Afghans he lived with, and of their tribal institutions, and—well, goes a bit overboard: “A tribe is a “natural democracy.” In Afghan shuras and jirgas (tribal councils), every man’s voice has a chance to be heard. The fact that women and minority groups have no say in the process does not make it less effective nor less of a democracy to them.” … This is highly similar to the methods of colonial administration through local “traditional” proxies deployed by the British throughout South Asia and Africa. It is also similar to American attempts to enlist “traditional” local power structures (churches, highland ethnic tribes, etc) in counterinsurgencies in Vietnam and elsewhere. (The Economist)

Kuwait Requests US ACE Assistance to Build $700M Air Force Facilities. On Nov 23/09, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Kuwait’s formal request for the design and construction of Kuwait Air Force facilities and infrastructure. The estimated cost of the project is $700 million. (Defense Industry Daily)

MIDEAST: Palestinians Say No to Crumbs. The Palestinian Authority (PA) appears to be successfully countering the Israeli government’s refusal to work towards a two-state solution to end the decades- long conflict. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s declaration to establish a Palestinian state within two years, with or without Israel’s approval, is gaining international momentum. (IPS)

Iraq: Hashimi insists to use his right to veto. Iraq Vice President Tarek Al Hashimi is still insisting on using his right to veto if he deems that the law does not guarantee the rights of Iraqis abroad. (Alsumaria)

IRAQ: Oil Companies Look to the Future. More than six and a half years after the United States-led invasion here that many believed was about oil, the major oil companies are finally gaining access to Iraq’s petroleum reserves. But they are doing so at far less advantageous terms than they once envisioned. The companies seem to have calculated that it is worth their while to accept deals with limited profit opportunities now, in order to cash in on more lucrative development deals in the future, oil industry analysts say. (CorpWatch)

Ukraine struggles to find the right pitch in bid for EU membership. When Ukraine won its bid to co-host the 2012 European Championships, it saw the decision as its pass to EU integration. But since then, Kiev has done more to floodlight its incompetence than its credibility. (Deutsche Welle)

Kyrgyzstan: Former Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev is approved as SCO Secretary General. On December 1 Muratbek Imanaliev was approved as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Secretary General by the signatures of member-states leaders… Muratbek Imanaliev will start on January 1, 2010 and will hold this position within 3 years. (Ferghana)

Turkey warns on EU sanctions over Cyprus. Turkey warns that its EU membership talks could suffer irreparable damage if EU leaders impose sanctions next week in retaliation for Ankara’s refusal to open ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic. (FT)

Somalia force ‘let down’ by troop no-shows. The head of the African Union’s troubled Somalia peacekeeping force expressed frustration on Wednesday at the failure of countries to honour troop commitments. (Hiiraan)

Putin tells Russians he’s here to stay. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he would not leave Russian politics any time soon, telling a questioner asking about his departure: “Do not hold your breath.” Putin’s future has been the subject of speculation since Dmitry Medvedev replaced him as president in May last year. Some analysts have predicted he will quickly return to the Kremlin while others have suggested he could gradually leave politics. (Reuters)

Blast at Pakistan Navy hq. suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gates of the Pakistan Navy headquarters here on Wednesday, killing the navy policeman who challenged him and wounding 11 others. The naval headquarters is a few hundred metres from the office of the World Food Programme, the U.N. organisation that was hit by a suicide bombing in October. (The Hindu)

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