Tag Archives: NATO

Defense Spending In 'New Europe' Is Collapsing

By Mark Adomanis, Contributor

It wasn’t all that long ago that NATO was supposedly going to be rejuvenated by the influx of post-Communist  nations, nations that had previously been a part of the Warsaw Pact (or in the case of the Baltics, the Soviet Union itself). With fresh memories of Russian imperialism these countries would take their membership in NATO seriously, and in their role as NATO policy-makers would help ensure the commitment of the spineless French, Germans, and Italians. “New Europe,” in short, understood that NATO wasn’t some knock-off version of the European Union but was a serious military bloc with serious military responsibilities that demanded a serious commitment of political will and economic resources. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest

Pentagon Afghanistan Report Says Afghan Forces Will Need Help Beyond 2014

By The Huffington Post News Editors

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan’s military is growing stronger but will require “substantial” additional training and foreign financial aid after the American and NATO combat mission ends next year, the Pentagon told Congress on Tuesday.

The Pentagon’s assertion comes amid debate about the White House’s reluctance to announce how many – if any – U.S. forces should remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to help Afghan forces hold off the Taliban.

Read More…

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Huffington Post

Afghan Women’s Rights At Risk In Peace Process: UN Watchdog

By The Huffington Post News Editors

* U.N. body warns of possible set-back to women’s rights
* Calls for women to have meaningful role in peace talks
* Increasing Taliban attacks on schools, suspected poisonings
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, July 29 (Reuters) – Women’s rights in Afghanistan risk being further undermined in the fragile country’s peace process due to entrenched patriarchal attitudes, a United Nations watchdog warned on Monday.
Afghan women have made hard-fought gains in education and work since the collapse of the Taliban government in 2001, but fears are growing these could suffer a reversal when most foreign forces leave by the end of next year.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said the Afghan authorities had promised it that women would be able to participate in the peace talks, thereby rejecting Taliban demands for them to be excluded.
“We have had official assurances … I would like to consider a government’s word as credible,” Nicole Ameline, committee chair, told a news briefing.
But the committee of independent experts voiced concern that “women’s interests and needs may be compromised in the peace negotiations due to deep rooted patriarchal attitudes”.
In addition, meaningful participation by women in the peace process is jeopardised by the fact that there are only nine women in the 70-member High Peace Council, the Afghan body created in 2010 to broker peace with the Taliban.
“We have 18 months (before the NATO withdrawal) that consist of a turning point and we have to be absolutely mobilised,” said Ameline, a former French minister.
“There could be backsliding and we cannot accept that.”
The committee said there was already an increasing number of attacks on girls’ schools by Taliban groups opposed to their education, with girls falling ill in school from suspected poisoning in some instances. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Huffington Post

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of Baltic Leaders

By The White House

President Obama looks forward to welcoming President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, and President Andris Berzins of Latvia to the White House on Friday, August 30. This joint meeting will highlight the significant transformations the Baltic states have undergone since restoring their independence two decades ago. Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia are valued NATO allies, and the four leaders will discuss a broad range of mutual interests, including regional cooperation on shared challenges, energy security, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, defense, and cyber cooperation. The Presidents will also discuss joint efforts to advance human rights and democratic values, including development assistance for emerging democracies around the world.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at The White House Press Office

Afghan Program's Failure Likely Cost American Lives

By Kate Seamons

This morning brings the news that three NATO service members were killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan today. An Afghan official tells NBC News they were Americans—a fact that, if true, dovetails sadly with a new report that indicates that a failed program in the country may… …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Newser – Home

Bomb kills Afghan woman, five children in Taliban home

A bomb killed five young children and a woman when it exploded after being made at the home of a Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan, a government official said Friday.

The device detonated on Thursday while children were playing with it after the Taliban commander, identified only as Abdullah, left the house, a spokesman for the local government in Paktika province said.

“Yesterday morning a Taliban commander, Abdullah, was making a bomb in his home to plant along the road and kill Afghan forces,” spokesman Mokhlis Afghan told AFP.

“After a while, Abdullah left home, and the children came and played with the mine, and it detonated inside the house.”

He said a woman and five children, aged three to seven, were killed.

Roadside bombs are the weapon of choice for Taliban insurgents fighting against Afghan government troops and their NATO military allies.

But civilians and children are also often killed and wounded by the attacks.

According to the United Nations, civilian deaths rose by 24 percent in the first half of 2013.

It registered 2,499 civilian casualties between January and June, attributing 74 percent to anti-government forces and nine percent to pro-government forces.

Children accounted for 21 per cent of all civilians killed and wounded, and casualties caused by roadside bombs had risen 41 per cent, it said.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Afghan customs fines hike cost of US military pullout

A customs dispute between the Afghan and US governments has disrupted the withdrawal of American military equipment, dramatically inflating the cost of the drawdown, defense officials said.

With Afghan authorities insisting the United States owes millions of dollars in customs fines and trucks carrying hardware being blocked at border crossings, the Americans have started flying out most equipment by air at great cost.

“The cost is five to seven times more” by aircraft than over land through neighboring Pakistan, a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The Afghan government is insisting that US forces pay $1,000 for each shipping container leaving the country that lacks what it calls a valid customs form.

And authorities now claim the Americans owe $70 million in fines, even though the United States contends that Kabul’s stance contradicts previous agreements, said US officials, confirming a report that first appeared in the Washington Post.

The US Congress was warned in May by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction that Kabul was exacting exorbitant customs fees and taxes in violation of previous agreements regulating imported goods and the status of US forces.

In some cases, Afghan officials were blocking commercial trucks from delivering food and fuel to US forces due to the customs dispute, the inspector general said.

Afghan authorities, however, claim that US contractors transporting equipment failed to file proper documents for large amounts of gear shipped into the country since 2010.

To collect fines that Washington allegedly owes Kabul, “the only way is to stop all trucks from crossing the border,” Najibullah Wardak, the director general of the Afghan Customs Department, told the Washington Post.

“What else can we do?”

The Pentagon in a statement acknowledged “challenges” with the withdrawal at Afghan border crossings.

The disputes are “typically centered on the interpretation of Afghan customs processes,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bill Speaks said in the statement.

NATO-led force commanders are talking with Afghan officials and “we are confident that the situation will be resolved soon,” he said.

With a massive drawdown of military equipment due between now and the end of 2014, US officers had counted on moving most of the equipment by land routes through Pakistan.

Recent tensions with Pakistan have previously forced the US and its NATO allies to transport large amounts of cargo by air and by a longer, more expensive route through Central Asia.

Over the past month, only 36 percent of US equipment has been driven out by land routes, the Post wrote, citing a Pentagon official.

The disagreement over customs fines threatens to undermine difficult negotiations over a possible future US military presence after 2014. ddl/adm

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Ex-CIA agent convicted in Milan in kidnapping held in Panama

A former CIA base chief convicted in the 2003 abduction of a terror suspect from an Italian street has been detained in Panama after Italy requested his arrest in one of the most notorious episodes of the U.S. program known as extraordinary rendition, Italian and Panamanian officials said Thursday.

Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA chief in Milan, entered Panama, crossed the border into Costa Rica and was sent back to Panama where he was detained, according to an Italian official familiar with Italy’s investigation of the rendition of Cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case.

A Panamanian National Police official said Lady, 59, had been detained Wednesday on the Costa Rica-Panama border. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization to discuss the matter.

The government of Panama, which maintains one of the region’s closest relationships with the U.S., was officially silent on the case. Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino told The Associated Press that he was unaware of Lady’s detention and the press office of the National Police — which works with Interpol, the international police agency — said it had no information. The CIA also declined to comment.

Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was hustled into a car in February 2003 on a street in Milan, where he preached, and transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany before being flown to Egypt. He alleged he was tortured in Egypt before being released.

Italy conducted an aggressive investigation and charged 26 CIA and other U.S. government employees despite objections from Washington. All left Italy before charges were filed in the first trial in the world involving the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, under which terror suspects were abducted and transferred to third countries where many were subjected to torture.

All the U.S. suspects were eventually convicted but only Lady received a sentence — nine years in prison — that merited an extradition request under Italian legal guidelines. Two former Italian spy chiefs were also convicted this year for their role in the cleric’s kidnapping.

The case caused tensions between Rome and Washington, two traditionally stalwart allies. In April, Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, pardoned a U.S. Air Force colonel convicted in the rendition case, a move Napolitano hoped would keep American-Italian relations strong, especially on security matters.

Napolitano said he granted the pardon in hopes of resolving an affair that the United States considered unprecedented because a U.S. military officer for NATO had been convicted for deeds committed on Italian territory.

The colonel, Joseph Romano, was security chief of the Aviano air base in northern Italy, where Nasr was taken on his way to Egypt.

In issuing the pardon, Napolitano’s office said the president had taken into consideration the fact that Obama, immediately after his election, had put an end to George W. Bush administration anti-terror practices that both Italy and the European Union considered to be “not compatible with fundamental principles of rule of law.”

Lady, who …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Pakistan to try to mend fences with Afghanistan

Pakistan is sending a top official to the Afghan capital this weekend to try to mend fences with its uneasy neighbor, and hanging in the balance are U.S. efforts to arrange peace talks with the Taliban.

The trip comes roughly two weeks after the Taliban closed their newly opened political office in the Gulf state of Qatar following angry complaints from Afghanistan that the Islamic militant movement had set it up as a virtual rival embassy, with a flag and sign harkening back to the days they ruled the country.

The political office was part of a U.S. plan to launch peace talks with the Taliban to end the protracted war, with American and other NATO combat troops scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year. But the talks ended before they could even begin amid the uproar last month.

Pakistan, which had helped persuade Taliban to agree to sit down with the Americans — and possibly with the Afghans after that — now contends that intransigence, suspicion and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reluctance to invite his political opponents at home to the negotiating table in Qatar is hobbling efforts to start the talks.

“They (Taliban) listen to us. We have some influence but we can’t control them,” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s special adviser on national security and foreign affairs, told The Associated Press in advance of his trip to Kabul on Saturday.

“But they (Taliban) also say that the High Peace Council is not fully representative,” Aziz said, referring to Karzai’s 80-member negotiating team. “President Karzai should invite other people to join them.”

Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council, told the AP that if the Taliban were making wider representation on the negotiating team a condition to restarting talks, then it “would be worth considering.” But he was suspicious of Pakistan, wanting assurances first that the demand was from the Taliban and not Pakistan.

Rancor and suspicion between Pakistan and Afghanistan run deep. Kabul blames Islamabad for not cracking down on Taliban militants who use the border area as a base to carry out attacks on Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan. For its part, Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of sabotaging peace efforts with its provocative statements, overtures to India and refusal to acknowledge the bloody war Islamabad is waging in its border regions.

One …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Afghanistan's only Olympian bows out over accusations

Afghanistan’s only Olympic medallist, taekwondo star and national hero Rohullah Nikpa, announced Tuesday that he would boycott international competition unless reforms root out discrimination and mismanagement within the sport in his country.

The 26-year-old said he would not compete in this week’s WTF World Taekwondo Championships in Puebla, Mexico, to protest against poor management and discrimination within Afghanistan’s Taekwondo Federation (ATF).

“It has been there, discrimination and mismanagment. It is like a clique, a group of people have taken over the ATF and are doing whatever they want with no regard to athletes’ needs,” Nikpa told AFP.

“This situation has negatively affected our abilities – both physically and psychologically… I hereby announce I will no longer represent Afghanistan on the international stage unless serious reforms are made in the ATF,” he added.

The decision by the twice Olympic bronze medallist will be viewed as a step backwards for the war-torn country. As a member of the minority Hazara community, he is seen by Afghans as a unifying figure.

The ATF rejected Nikpa’s allegations, saying that the athlete had informed the organisation a month ago that he would not go to Mexico because of injury.

No Afghans are competing in Mexico, because they were denied visas in India, officials have confirmed.

“All his wins since 2009 were under the current ATF leadership. We cannot understand why he is making these accusations,” secretary general Mirwais Bahawi told AFP.

Nikpa denies pulling out due to injury, saying that a recurring knee problem did not stop him from competing and winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Trainer Mohammed Bashir Taraki also resigned recently, telling AFP it was to protest against mismanagement, favouritism and poor selection decisions within in the ATF.

“He (the head of the ATF) brings people from his own taekwondo club to the federation regardless of their capabilties and professionalism, and sends fighters fom his own club to take part in international competitions, not the people who really deserve it,” he said.

The ATF says it has documents to disprove all the allegations.

Nikpa is a fairytale hero in a war-ravaged country.

As a 10-year-old obsessed with Bruce Lee and martial arts movies, he followed his brother to the taekwondo club while civil war raged in Afghanistan.

He was 14 when the Taliban regime fell at the end of 2001 and began training in Kabul in earnest while a bloody insurgency against the government and its NATO allies raged throughout the country.

Partly thanks to Nikpa, taekwondo has become one of the most popular sports in Afghanistan. Around 25,000 competitors — up to 38,000 according to Bahawi — practise in hundreds of clubs around the country, though facilities are sometimes basic.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Afghan suspect blames US commandos for civilian murders

An Afghan accused of torturing and murdering civilians while working for US special forces denies the charges and says he followed American orders, according to a report obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

Zakrya Kandahari, who worked as an interpreter, was arrested by Afghanistan’s premier intelligence agency around six weeks ago.

According to a copy of a report confirmed as authentic by a security official, intelligence agents have a video showing Kandahari beating a prisoner.

Afghan authorities are investigating allegations that armed Afghans working with US special forces harassed, tortured and murdered civilians in Wardak province, a Taliban flashpoint on the doorstep of Kabul.

President Hamid Karzai ordered US special forces to leave Wardak in February, although a compromise deal later announced that they would leave only Nerkh, one of eight districts in Wardak and the district where Kandahari worked.

“Zakrya himself has denied the accusations, saying he was under the command of others,” said a copy of the report obtained by AFP.

Instead he blamed the murders on three Americans, whom he named as Dave, Hagen and Chris, and whom he said were fluent in Afghanistan’s two main languages Dari and Pashto.

“‘I was simply a low-rank translator and did not have authorisation to roam around inside the base, or (go) to interrogation sections,” the report quoted Kandahari as saying.

Kandahari told interrogators that he had worked for foreigners for nine years, most recently as an interpreter for US special forces in Nerkh.

He was picked up in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban, and moved to Kabul for interrogation, officials said.

US investigations have found “no credible evidence” to substantiate any allegations of abuse by either NATO or US forces, a military spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.

But the military is co-operating with the Afghan government and US Army criminal investigators are also looking into the claims, said Lieutenant Colonel Will Griffin from the US-led NATO force.

“The allegations were taken very seriously and we just want to ensure that every possible outcome is thoroughly investigated,” Griffin told AFP.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Pakistan Taliban say no shift to Syria

Pakistani Taliban commanders Tuesday rejected suggestions they were sending fighters to Syria, saying some have gone there independently but the movement’s focus remained in Pakistan.

They said some militants, mainly Arabs and Central Asians, had gone to fight the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, but a senior Taliban leader dismissed reports of them setting up camps in Syria.

The lawless tribal areas of northwest Pakistan along the Afghan border have long been a magnet for militants from across the Muslim world eager to fight US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, foreign jihadists have flocked to Syria, where disparate rebel groups are seeking his downfall.

Some media reports in recent days have claimed scores or even hundreds of Pakistani Taliban are among them and that they have set up camps in Syria.

A senior commander who sits on the shura or ruling council of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told AFP there was no tactical shift and no decision had been made to send forces to Syria.

“There is no reality in these reports, we have far better targets in the region, NATO troops headed by the Americans are present in Afghanistan,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“We are already in a war with Pakistani troops. We support the mujahideen’s struggle in Syria but in our opinion, we have a lot more to do here in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

The TTP is an umbrella group for numerous factions trying to bring down the Pakistani state and impose sharia law. It has ties to the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

“The great evil (America) is here in Afghanistan, troops from 30 kafir (non-believer) countries are attacking innocent people in Afghanistan, so Bashar al-Assad is not that important for us,” the TTP commander said.

“Obama is the big evil, Americans are a much bigger evil for us. The Taliban shura has never discussed sending mujahideen to Syria.”

Another mid-ranking TTP commander in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district which is a hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity, said some fighters had gone to Syria “in a personal capacity”.

A third senior TTP cadre said those who had gone were mostly Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad erupted, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai dismissed claims of the TTP setting up camps in Syria as “a publicity campaign” by some of the militants.

“But we cannot deny the fact that they are quite ambitious and want to send a clear message to the world that they are still very strong and have strong linkages with other local and international groups,” he said.

Ismail, an Arab fighter from Al-Qaeda, told AFP in northwest Pakistan that he planned to join the fight against Assad.

“I am going to Syria in the next few days, my family will stay here,” he said.

“Our mujahideen are going not only to Syria but also to Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab countries.”

Saifullah Khan Mahsud, the executive director of the FATA Research Centre …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Official says bomb kills 2 Afghans in east

An Afghan official says a bomb planted on a bicycle in eastern Nangarhar province has killed two civilians and wounded three others.

Provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai says the incident took place early Tuesday on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Nangarhar’s capital.

He says the target of the bomb is unknown.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but most such bombings are carried out by the Taliban.

NATO also says one of its service members has been killed in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday from a “direct fire” attack.

It provided no other details or the nationality of the service member.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Afghans investigating how NATO killer escaped

Afghan officials say they’re trying to determine how an Afghan army soldier who opened fire on Slovakian NATO troops, killing one and wounding six, was able to escape from custody.

Afghan Gen. Abdul Hameed said Monday that suspect Lamber Khan had help from at least one other Afghan soldier in fleeing Sunday morning.

Hameed says the soldier took Khan from detention to a military hospital saying he needed medical attention, and fled with him from there. Authorities are trying to determine if others aided in the escape.

NATO-forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Heinz Feldmann says the coalition has “full confidence” the Afghans will recapture Khan.

The Slovakian soldier killed in Kandahar last week was the ninth NATO service member killed by Afghan forces this year, according to an Associated Press count.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Afghan escapes custody after shooting NATO soldier

An Afghan soldier held on suspicion of killing a NATO soldier from Slovakia has escaped from prison on a heavily guarded military base with the help of a guard, officials said on Monday.

The escape will raise new questions about the capacity and professionalism of the Afghan army as the remaining 100,000 foreign troops in the country prepare to leave next year.

The soldier was arrested last Tuesday after opening fire on foreign troops. The Slovakian died and six other soldiers were wounded at a military base in the southern province of Kandahar.

“An Afghan army soldier who opened fire on Slovakian soldiers last week has run away from detention,” General Abdul Hameed, the top Afghan army commander in the south, told AFP.

The general said another soldier, who had guarded his prison cell, assisted his breakout and also absconded.

The pair managed to sneak off the base by pretending that the detainee was sick and needed to be taken to a military hospital, the general told AFP.

General Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry, told reporters that the soldier escaped on Sunday.

“Unfortunately he ran away yesterday with the help of an officer who was guarding the prison. We have launched an investigation and we will release more details later,” he said.

The Taliban said the shooter, whom they named as Isanullah, had links to the Taliban and was helped by a fellow soldier to escape.

In 2012 around 60 NATO troops were killed in insider attacks in Afghanistan, breeding fierce mistrust and threatening to derail efforts to replace NATO combat troops with local forces next year.

The Taliban often claim that Afghan soldiers who kill their NATO allies are linked to the militant group.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News