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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obama administration prepares public opinion for Yemen attacks

US involvement in Yemen has been going on under the radar for some time. Recent events have made US actions more obvious. My guess is that the US is also helping Yemen against the Houthis as they have reported being bombed by US planes. In return Yemen has agreed to go after Al Qaeda. The result will likely be further destabilising of an already weak government facing opposition now on three fronts. This in turn will create a demand for more US involvement. This will then lead to Obama's third surge, more debt, and more cutbacks in the US social safety net. This is from wsws.


Obama administration prepares public opinion for attack on Yemen
By Patrick Martin
31 December 2009
Five days after the unsuccessful attempt by a Nigerian student to set off a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound passenger jet, US military and intelligence officials are said to be preparing expanded military action against targets in Yemen, the Arab country where the student allegedly received terrorist training and was equipped with an explosive device.


A series of US media reports suggest that new US-backed military attacks inside Yemen are imminent. Citing “two senior US officials,” CNN reported: “The US and Yemen are now looking at fresh targets for a potential retaliation strike.”

The network said the officials “both stressed the effort is aimed at being ready with options for the White House if President Obama orders a retaliatory strike.” CNN continued: “The effort is to see whether targets can be specifically linked to the airliner incident and its planning. US special operations forces and intelligence agencies, and their Yemeni counterparts, are working to identify potential Al Qaeda targets in Yemen, one of the officials said.”

The network said the Obama administration and the long-time Yemeni dictator, Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh, had reached an agreement to allow the US to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets and armed drones, used for remote-control assassinations, in Yemeni airspace. Talks were still ongoing on whether Saleh will give permission for the entry of US helicopter-borne Special Forces.

The report comes after a series of statements by top administration officials, including Obama himself, pledging that “all elements of US power” will be used in response to the failed attack on Northwest Flight 253. The White House has been under heavy fire from its Republican opponents over the evident security failure, and a military action would serve to divert public attention from the ongoing revelations of how the CIA and other US agencies ignored warnings about the impending attack.

Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al Qirbi, told the BBC that his country was seeking stepped up military aid, presumably as part of a package deal—in effect, a bribe for allowing the country’s territory to be turned into a battlefield for US commandos.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration was discussing nearly tripling its military and counterterrorism aid to Yemen in the coming year. US aid jumped from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million this year, and would rise to as much as $190 million in 2010, according to “a senior military official.”

Reuters, citing unnamed “defense and counterterrorism officials,” reported that “the Obama administration was exploring ways to accelerate and expand US assistance to Yemeni forces to root out the Al Qaeda leadership in the country, while keeping the role of the US military and intelligence agencies as behind the scenes as possible.”

The news agency reported a clash between Yemeni security forces and Al Qaeda fighters in the western Hudaydah province, around the town of Deir Jaber.

The Los Angeles Times cited a Yemeni terrorism expert as the source of an estimate that Al Qaeda has “as many as 2,000 militants and sympathizers exploiting the country’s economic and political chaos to create a base for jihad at the edge of the Persian Gulf.” This is ten times more than other media estimates of the number of such militants in Yemen, and 20 times the number of Al Qaeda forces said by US officials to be in Afghanistan now.

The Times report is part of an effort by the US media to portray Yemen as a lawless hotbed of terrorism and a major threat to the United States, in order to justify in advance an American attack, or even a full-scale invasion.

It was followed by an even more apocalyptic comment by “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson, interviewed Wednesday morning on CBS’ “Early Show.” He said that while the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was still “number one” for terrorist activity, the area surrounding the Gulf of Aden, including Yemen and Somalia, was “fast coming up the ladder.”

“Yemen possibly could surpass Pakistan in the next year, given the terrorist trajectory for providing a haven for Al Qaeda,” he claimed. In light of the fact that the Obama administration is mobilizing 100,000 American troops as well as hundreds of warplanes and drones for combat along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, such a comparison is extremely ominous.

Emerson took particular note of “literally scores of American Muslim students studying and being trained in Yemen to this day…. There’s a pool of potential terrorists out there that have Western passports that can board planes without visas.”

The clear goal of such far-fetched claims is to create a pogrom atmosphere directed against all young American Muslims, particularly those of Arab or East African origin.

These comments were made one day after press reports of an alleged abortive attempt by a Somali man equipped with explosive powder and a syringe to board a passenger jet in Mogadishu, the capital city. This is the same modus operandi as that of the Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aboard Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day. The Somali was arrested by African peacekeeping troops on November 13 and never succeeded in getting on the plane.

The Washington Post, the leading newspaper in the US capital, published an editorial Wednesday noting that in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt, allegedly originating in Yemen, “some are asking whether the United States should launch a military offensive in that impoverished Arabian nation.” The editorial continued: “The answer, of course, is that it already has.”

Citing a series of raids conducted by Yemeni and US forces, the Post praised the Obama administration for having “significantly stepped up US counterterrorism operations in Yemen,” including the dispatch of CIA and Special Forces personnel. But it warned: “Still, Yemen’s steady slide toward failed-state status in recent years means that it, like nearby Somalia, will probably demand concerted and multifaceted US engagement for years to come. More than Special Forces and missile strikes are needed.”

While declaring that “US ground troops are not needed, for now, in Yemen or Somalia,” the newspaper suggested that such forces may well be required in the future. It declared, “in those countries, as in Afghanistan, a strategy limited to counterterrorism will not eliminate the threat.”

Once again, as in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, American imperialism is preparing a military bloodbath in an impoverished country, using a terrorist attack—in this case a failed attempt—as the pretext. According to reports by the UN and Yemeni government statistics, some 35 percent of the adult population of the country is unemployed. Yemen is the poorest of the Arab countries, has exhausted its very limited oil export capacity, and now faces severe water shortages.

But Yemen possesses, like Afghanistan and Iraq, a highly strategic geographic location, adjacent to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and the Red Sea, controlling access to the Suez Canal. Yemen also borders on the Gulf of Aden, the shipping route for much of the oil leaving the Persian Gulf.


US military forces are already deployed across the strait of Bab el Mandeb in Djibouti, the former French Somaliland, which remains a virtual French colony. Djibouti hosts thousands of French and US troops who could quickly move into Yemen if so ordered by Paris and Washington. A large US and NATO war fleet patrols shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and south along the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yemen: One more surge.

At one time not so long ago Obama was opposed to a surge, the one in Iraq. Now that he has seen that surge worked, or sort of worked, he is keen to start as many of his own as he can. First there was the surge in Afghanistan, then the drone surge in Pakistan, and now the surge in Yemen. I guess Somalia cannot be far behind. It doesn't really matter that Al Qaeda seems to be actually a very small group globally or that much of their attempted attacks are botched, for they will help keep the US spending more and more when its debt increases are unsustainable. More and more restrictions will be placed upon citizens so that the government will look more and more like Big Brother and the rights that are so proudly trumpeted as the jewels of the free world will have all have been lost sold out to fund the war on terrorism.

- News From Antiwar.com - http://news.antiwar.com -

Obama Vows ‘Accelerated Offensive’ in Yemen

Posted By Jason Ditz
Taking time out from his Hawaii vacation to comment on last Friday’s lap bombing on a Detroit bound airliner, President Barack Obama vowed an “accelerated offensive” against militants in Yemen.

The president said he would not rest and would commit “every element of national power” to the new mission of attacking those speculatively accused of some vague complicity in the failed bombing.

Several Congressmen are already chomping at the bit to use the lap bomber as a justification for a war in Yemen, and the Yemeni government, which would presumably be further aided in its assorted civil wars by the US, eagerly declared that the attacker had been to Yemen.

With the scent of terrorism in the air, President Obama will likely be able to parlay the lap bomber into a justification for anything and everything he might want. Officials are already talking of scrapping plans to close Guantanamo Bay over it, and America’s role in the attempted assassination of US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last week can now readily be justified on speculation that the bomber’s alleged al-Qaeda links can be combined with Awlaki’s alleged al-Qaeda links to form alleged links between the two.

Of course, the Awlaki assassination bid and the US attacks on Yemen have been going on since before a Nigerian set his lap on fire on an airplane, and we’re only now starting to get the full extent of the war in Yemen the Obama Administration is already covertly fighting. The failed bombing is just a nice Christmas present for the president, giving him easy cover for the assorted wars he is already fighting and further wars he might plan to start in the future.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

US Special Forces in Afghanistan kill 10 Afghan civilians

So much for McChrystal's concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Since regular forces are withdrawing from remote areas Special Forces are now operating to try and disrupt Taliban leadership in the areas but this is the result. The forces operate clandestinely and with impunity it would seem. They are in effect part of the department of dirty tricks. McChrystal led these forces formerly. He will use them in areas where regular forces have withdrawn no doubt along with air support that will cause even more civilian casualties. Drones are also part of this grab bag of new programs that are part of a new offensive. The drone attacks kill even more civilians but probably much less than Pakistani attacks in the tribal area which seem to involve a scorched earth policy that kills many civilians and causes massive refugee problems. But who cares about that except for the Taliban who find the camps good grounds for recruiting.

News From Antiwar.com -
NATO Forces Kill 10 Afghan Civilians, Mostly Children

Posted By Jason Ditz

NATO forces engaged in a raid in the remote Kunar Province of Afghanistan killed at least 10 civilians, eight of them schoolchildren, according to numerous Afghan officials including President Hamid Karzai.

NATO officially denied having any information about any operations going on in Kunar, but western officials privately conceded that US special forces have been operating in the Taliban-heavy area. A spokesman for the NATO forces promised to “look into” the reports.

Provincial police could provide only sparse details about the killings, and said that a full investigation would take several days, owing to the difficulty in even traveling to the area of the incident. US officials have yet to comment at all.

Though the Taliban has established a growing presence in the province, Kunar has been comparatively ignored by international forces since this summer, when provincial officials accused a US soldier of throwing a hand grenade into a crowd of civilians in a marketplace. The grenade killed two people and injured 56 others.

Monday, December 28, 2009

US missiles kill 13 more in Pakistan

Obama certainly deserves to be called the war president. The Afghan war is now the Af-Pak war with the US and Pakistani forces both involved in operations in Afghanistan but the US limited to drone attacks but also no doubt with some intelligence operatives and perhaps special forces and even contractors such as Xe (Blackwater).
Every official statement claims only militants were killed but local accounts almost always claim that civilians were killed or even only civilians were killed. This is from presstv.

US missiles mow down 13 in Pakistan

US drone attacks continue to claim lives in the Pakistani border area of North Waziristan amid Washington's failure to push Islamabad into major offensives on the area.

The surveillance aircraft on Saturday attacked the Saidgi village in the tribal area reportedly killing 13 people, AFP reported. The raid marked the third of such attacks over the past ten days.

Quoting a local intelligence official, CNN said the projectiles had hit a militant hideout and that the mortalities had all been militants.

Local Pakistani news outlets, however, said the missiles struck the “residential compound of” a local tribesman, Asmatullah.

Islamabad has launched major offensives in the neighboring South Waziristan as well as the other northwestern areas of Khyber and Swat under pressure from the US, whose large-scale military presence in Afghanistan is blamed to have sent the militants across the border into Pakistan.

The ongoing military hostilities in South Waziristan have prompted 80,000 people to flee the area. The United Nations has warned that 170,000 others could be rendered homeless during the battle that started in mid-October.

North Waziristan, which is yet to see such government action, has witnessed a rise in the US missile raids as the entire tribal belt is being allowed less and less of a respite from the drone attacks.

Since August 2008, at least 69 such strikes have killed about 663 people. Pakistani media outlets say civilians comprise a large part of the mortalities.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi on Tuesday condemned the attacks as "counterproductive and unhelpful in our joint efforts towards winning hearts and minds, which is essential to succeed against violent extremism."

Reports, however, allege that US drones take off from airbases located inside Pakistan's territory, pointing to suspected compromises on the part of Islamabad.

Egypt delaying Gaza aid.

You would think the caravan was trying to get permission to travel through Israel given the troubles that Egypt is making for them. Egypt certainly does not seem to be much a friend of the Palestinians. It is much more interested in good relations with the US and even Israel. This is from presstv.

Egypt using 'bureaucracy' against besieged Gazans

British lawmaker and anti-war activist George Galloway says Egypt is using bureaucracy as a pretext to impede humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Galloway and 449 other human rights activists who are part of the Viva Palestina aid convoy are currently stuck in Jordan, since Cairo has denied them permission to Egypt via the Red Sea.

Galloway said "it does not seem sensible to allow hundreds of tons of medicine to go off and to be spoiled and vital equipment for ill and injured people in Gaza to be stopped just because of a bureaucratic and technical difference."

The Egyptian authorities have barred the convoy from taking the most direct route into Egypt by entering the country via the Red Sea, directing the activists towards the el-Arish port on the Mediterranean coast — which is hardly accessible for the group.

"They say that we are welcome, but we have to go by certain routes. That route cannot be achieved from where we are and where we always intended to be," Galloway added.

Originally christened Lifeline 3, the convoy, the third international one headed to Gaza, comprises 210 trucks laden with basic food items and medical supplies.

Galloway, however, said, "We hope to persuade Egypt to find a way through, underlining that "There are sensitive negotiations and there are many parties involved…the government of Turkey, the government of Malaysia and the Viva Palestina Convoy itself."

He had earlier reminded that "the Turkish prime minister personally appeared on live television in Damascus three days ago and asked the Egyptian government to facilitate this convoy; so this is a slap in the face, you can say, to the Turkish government."

The Gaza Strip has endured more than two years of an Israeli-imposed blockade, which has deprived the Gazans of their most-direly-needed requirements.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holbrooke: US spies but no troops in Pakistan.

Of course there is no reason to believe Holbrooke. In the war on terror or whatever it is now called the first casualty as the saying goes is truth. In an drone attacks it is always militants and even leaders who are killed not civilians. Usually the opposite is probably the case. Some leaders seem to be like cats with nine lives. The response of course makes no reference to contractors such as Blackwater (Xe) and if there were special forces in operations which there probably are this would not be mentioned either.

US spies, not combat troops in Pak: Holbrooke
Dec 26 04:20 PM
Washington, Dec. 26 (ANI): US President Barack Obama's Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke has admitted that there are American spies on Pakistani soil, but has rebuffed reports about the presence of any combat troops inside the troubled country.

"There are no American troops in Pakistan, but there are members of our intelligence services in every country in the world," Holbrooke said during the Charles Rose show on the PBS.

Holbrooke's statement contradicts media reports that suggested that there were over 70 US 'military advisers and technical specialists' in Pakistan, who were helping Pakistani forces against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

When asked to evaluate the impact of the US drone attacks in the lawless tribal region of Pakistan along the Afghan border, Holbrooke parried the question, saying he would 'not try to give a grade to a work in progress.' (ANI)

Friday, December 25, 2009

US govt-run radio fears coup in Pakistan

No doubt the US already has plenty of contacts and feelers out both to the generals and to the opposition politicians. There does not seem to be any big hurrahs from the US as the judicial system restores constitutional order in Pakistan. The decision to void the amnesty simply makes things more difficult for the US and weakens Zardari's government as both he and some of his key ministers were covered by the amnesty. Given that the US seems to be upping drone attacks it may be difficult for any overtly pro-US government to govern successfully in Pakistan.


US govt-run radio fears coup in Pakistan



Wednesday, December 23, 2009
WASHINGTON: “Conditions in Pakistan have been ripening, like the mango fruit eaten there, for another military coup d’etat. The economy has slumped, corruption is rampant, and terrorism is endemic. People are losing faith in the officials they brought to power,î US Congress funded Radio Free Liberty (RFE) said in a political commentary on Pakistan on Monday.

RFE is supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a bipartisan federal agency overseeing all US international broadcasting services. It is funded by the US Congress and broadcasts in 28 languages to 20 countries.

Written by Jamsheed K Choksy, a professor of Central Eurasian, Indian, Iranian, Islamic, and international studies, the commentary said: “This time, the soldiers may not have to use guns and tanks. They can bide their time until the elected government descends into chaos, then march in as national saviours. But the country’s judiciary is swiftly becoming a player to be reckoned with too.”

It said: “On December 16, Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The NRO was an amnesty granted in October 2007 by former coup leader, and subsequently president, General Pervez Musharraf, to politicians facing corruption and other criminal charges filed between January 1986 and October 1999. With that decision, all hell broke looseÖ”

“Even President Asif Ali Zardari faces the possibility of 12 corruption charges being reinstated. Worse, the Supreme Court has suggested that the government ask Switzerland to reopen a money-laundering investigation against him that was dropped on grounds of poor mental health. Under Pakistani law, Zardari — mocked as a highly corrupt ‘Mr 10 Per cent’ — cannot be prosecuted while he is president.

“But the calls for him to resign or be removed are mounting. So are demands by political opponents and the general public that his inefficient administration be stripped of power. A cabinet reshuffle is unlikely to placate either his opponents or the general public. Even before the latest debacle, Zardari had ceded his presidential role in the nation’s nuclear chain of command — yet another sign of his ever-weakening authority.

“Pakistan’s military has regained some of its prestige through considerable success in recent combat against Islamic militants within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“The generals remain one group — the other is the judiciary — seen as largely untainted by the political chaos that is engulfing the country. In recent months, they have been demonstrating their independence from the United States and loyalty to the nation of Pakistan by resisting demands to expand foreign involvement in counterinsurgency endeavors. Not unexpectedly, the military once again faces mounting pressure to restore order in Pakistan, even at the expense of democracy.

“So Pakistan’s armed forces often are expected to lead the nation in times of political uncertainty. As the generals remain silent, it is left to the government of President Zardari to deny the possibility of its ouster. Even if the civilian government survives the current legal crisis, it might not have long left in running Pakistan owing to the other mounting problems there.

“Zardari’s administration has been reduced to threatening people for SMS texting jokes about its corruption with jail terms of up to 14 years. This complicates matters for the United States, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently declared “supporting democracy and fostering development are cornerstones of our 21st-century human rights agenda.”

“As Pakistan’s primary ally and aid donor, the United States may indeed face the distinct prospect of having to deal directly yet again with a military leadership in a strategically important and nuclear-armed state. That relationship is already tense, owing to ‘issues that continue to fester’, by the US deputy assistant secretary of defence’s own admission.

“Yet the United States is in the midst of waging a war against terror there and across the border in Afghanistan that is ‘not only necessary but morally justified’ as President Barack Obama said when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Hence, the US government dares not suspend either military-technology or civilian aid lest it risk losing Pakistan’s already somewhat-reluctant assistance.

“So, despite its avowed aim of promoting democracy and human rights worldwide, the current US administration may soon be stuck with having to accept an illegitimate Pakistani government led by generals trying to restore order.

“Such, if the past is an accurate indicator, will be the hefty price of realpolitik for both Pakistan and the United States. Not all comes up tails, however. In late July, Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared illegal an earlier state of emergency declared by the military. It is likely to do so again. “An increasingly independent judiciary bodes well for democracy in Pakistan — over the long term.”

International Crisis Group lay blame on Arroyo government for patronage of Ampatuan clan.

While the Arroyo government is not directly to blame for the alleged Ampatuan massacre certainly it is so indirectly. The government both supported the clan rule and also the arming of what are in effect private Ampatuan militia. The government obviously looked the other way when the clan used strong arm tactics not only against rebels but also against any people who mounted any opposition to their rule. The ICG is not that far off the mark. This is from ABS-CBN.


ICG ‘stretching logic’ in report, says Palace


By Aytch S. de la Cruz

12/23/2009

Malacañang yesterday described as a “stretch of logic” the report of the Brussels-based Inter-national Crisis Group (ICG) blaming President Arroyo’s government’s political pat-ronage of the Ampatuan clan for the massacre of 57 individuals in Maguindanao last Nov. 23.

The ICG report said Arroyo’s patronage of the clan allowed the Ampatuans to amass great wealth and unchecked powers, including the possession of a private arsenal with mortars, rocket launchers and state-of-the-art assault rifles.

Presidential spokesman Gary Olivar yesterday described claims by the ICG of the Arroyo adminis-tration engen-dering a climate of impunity as merely “stretching logic” with no evidential proof for it.

The ICG came out the other day with a policy report entitled “Philippines: After the Maguindanao Massacre” denouncing the culture of impunity in Maguindanao and called on the government to bring all the perpetrators to justice, particularly those belonging to the Ampatuan clan, whose members are suspected of masterminding the gruesome mass murder of mostly women and journalists.

The main suspect, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. has been detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila and faces multiple charges of murder. Several other Ampatuans were arrested with the imposition of martial law.

ICG pointed out that the Ampatuans’ “exercise of absolute authority” was made possible not only by political patronage from Manila but also by laws and regulations permitting the arming and private funding of civilian auxiliaries to the army and police.

.....Lawyer Gwendolyn Pimentel, daughter of Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., said the self-confessed hit man of the Ampatuans should be made to tell all on what he knows on the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre to render justice to the victims and make the culprits pay for their heinous crimes.

Pimentel, a former solicitor in the Office of the Solicitor General and a Child Rights Advocate, said she was shocked and outraged as fellow Filipinos upon hearing the revelation of Abdul (not his real name), an alleged professional assassin in the employ of the Ampatuans who executed hundreds of persons upon orders of his masters.

In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN Channel 2, Abdul recounted that he was only l2 when he was recruited by the Ampatuans and trained on weaponry and combat tactics to undertake the assassination of their political enemies and other individuals.

He said that he and 30 other young boys were brought to the mountains of Upi, Maguindanao where they underwent training from foreign and local experts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Greenwald: Cruise Missile Attacks in Yemen

While these attacks are condemned in reports in the Muslim world they are praised in the west, for example by Admiral Mullen. The attacks represent a clear escalation in the conflict and of US involvement.
Cruise Missile Attacks in Yemen At the same time Defence Secretary Gates is pressing for a 2 billion dollar fund to help stabilise unstable regimes. This is from informationclearinghouse.

By Glenn Greenwald

December 21, 2009 - "Salon" -- Given what a prominent role "Terrorism" plays in our political discourse, it's striking how little attention is paid to American actions which have the most significant impact on that problem. In addition to our occupation of Iraq, war escalation in Afghanistan, and secret bombings in Pakistan, President Obama late last week ordered cruise missile attacks on two locations in Yemen, which "U.S. officials" say were "suspected Al Qaeda hideouts." The main target of the attacks, Al Qaeda member Qasim al Rim, was not among those killed, but: "a local Yemeni official said on Sunday that 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed in air strikes against Al-Qaeda, which he said were carried out 'indiscriminately'." Media reports across the Muslim world -- though, not of course, within the U.S. -- are highlighting the dead civilians from the U.S. strike (one account from an official Iranian outlet began: "U.S. Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama has signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores of civilians, including children, have been killed, a report says").

Health care in U.S. will suffer from cuts and will be starved of funds rather than grow.

The health care industry has hundreds of lobbyist in Washington who understand and can manipulate the system. Given that this is the case there is simply no way that the system can be reformed so as to give more equitable coverage at lower cost as happens in every other developed nation. This situation is vastly aided by the fact that many Americans believe that it is government involvement not the corporate interests that is the problem. It is almost certain that the government will cut programs and increase copays in areas where it is now involved. This is one point upon which protesting seniors have it right but then the solution is not for the government to get out of the area and let private enterprise take over. If that happened their costs would be even higher for no private insurer is going to insure high risk seniors by offering bargain premiums!

Rupert Russell

Healthcare to suffer fate of Welfare, not Medicare or Social Security

Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage — and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it’s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans.

Paul Krugman, Pass the Bill, NYT, 12/18/09

The latest installment of conventional wisdom to emerge from liberal writers who support the current health care bill argues that the best entitlement programs come from bad bills. This caterpillars-into-butterflies narrative boasts Medicare and Social Security as the templates for how this flawed bill could form the cornerstone for single-payer, or something like it.

Yet, what they ignore is that so many entitlement programs enacted by Democrats, even the popular ones, are starved of funding, stripped of their authority, delegated to the states and left to fall by the wayside. Nothing exemplifies this more than the welfare programs enacted under the Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. From the moment of its inception it was slowly defunded and shrunken down only to be killed off – or rather ‘reformed’ (sound familiar?) – by the big-government ending Bill Clinton. A decade later, facing record unemployment, the federal government is compelled to re-authorize welfare payments to the states to stave of state bankruptcies and mass starvation.

And the current health care reform package in the Senate looks far more like a welfare program for the poor than Medicare or Social Security. Whereas Medicare and Social Security make the middle class stakeholders in a government run system, and entirely dependent on that system working properly and delivering results, the current reforms are selective in their effects, largely sidestepping those with employer based insurance. Instead, like welfare, the benefits are exclusive in nature, in this case targeting only those who are barred from the current insurance market, and thereby don’t give the middle class a stake in its success. Without bringing these stakeholders into the policy it is far more likely to likely to follow the fate of welfare than Medicare or Social Security as services for the poor always become poor services.

With the Medicare buy-in and public option off the table there is no ‘entitlement’ or ‘social insurance’ program that can grow and expand. Instead there are subsidies to private insurance for those currently left out which are more likely to shrink over time than grow. For the liberals’ argument to hold true, that the bill would get better over time, Congress would have to vote to increase the size of the subsidies at a rate higher the inflation of the price of health insurance. Given that nobody seriously believes this bill to “bend the curve” of costs, those subsidies would have increase greatly year-on-year just to remain at parity. The likely outcome is that the growth in subsidies will fall behind the rising cost of insurance, making health insurance more expensive, more regressive and less progressive as time goes on.

Without bringing the middle class into a new entitlement program, the health reform bill is only going to get worse over time, and not better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Billions of earmarks in Defense Bill

The system of earmarks seems really odd to an outsider. Things totally unrelated to a bill get added on just to please important legislators or buy votes. I guess the practice is not banned simply because such means of distributing pork is found of great use in keeping constituents happy and ensuring re-election of more pork barrel politicians.

Billions in earmarks inflate defense bill's cost
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer



The Department of Defense didn't ask for money to update the old officers club in San Francisco's Presidio into a visitors information center and exhibition space. Neither did any other member of Congress - except House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Her $5 million earmark request for the Presidio Heritage Center was approved by the Senate on Saturday as part of the $626 billion defense appropriations bill, the largest of the end-of-year government spending measures.

The bill, which includes $128 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to be signed by President Obama.

Pelosi's request was one of 1,720 earmarks - including several from Bay Area legislators - worth $4.2 billion in the measure.

That comes on the heels of Congress passing a $447 billion spending bill Dec. 13 that included 5,224 earmarks totaling $3.9 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group. The earmarks include $54 million for a flood-control project that will raise two trestles used by the Napa Valley Wine Train.

'Pork-barrel project'
Watchdog organizations say money for the Presidio project is "curious" defense expenditure at best, and pork-barrel politics at its worst. The Presidio closed as a military entity in 1989 and was transferred to the National Park Service five years later. In March, Pelosi tucked $1.75 million for the center into a different spending bill.

"It is the epitome of what a pork-barrel project is," said David Williams, vice president of policy for Citizens Against Government Waste, a taxpayer watchdog group. "If this were a project that was meritorious, then why didn't the Pentagon request it?"

After the defense spending bill passed the House this week, Pelosi issued a statement praising the measure for making "critical investments in the success, health, well-being and training of our men and women in uniform."

Pelosi mentioned that the bill included a pay raise for military personnel and resources for everything from treating troops suffering from traumatic brain injury to money for "first-class equipment and armor."

But she didn't mention the money for the Presidio Heritage Center.

It is "curious" but not surprising why such a project would be in the defense appropriations bill, said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "It's because you wouldn't get a $5 million earmark in the Department of the Interior (appropriations) bill. It would stick out like a sore thumb."

...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iran and Iraq agree to clear up oil well fracas.

This is interesting in that Mottaki the Iranian foreign minister seems to be denying that Iran actually seized the oil well involved although the use of weasel wording implies that something happened. The Iraqi claim was obviously not based on simply rumours! It is rather surprising that Iran would take any action that might provoke friction between Iran and Iraq at this time. Iran needs all the support and good relations in the area it can get right now and it had won a tremendous advantage as a result of the US invasion. The Shia majority in Iraq is powerful in the new Iraqi government unlike the situation under Hussein when the Sunni minority predominated. Iran has a Shia majority as well and good relations with many Iraqi politicians. This is from presstv.

Iran, Iraq agree to clear up oil well misunderstanding


Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (L) and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari (R) held a phone conversation on Saturday.
Iran and Iraq have decided to establish an arbitration commission to clear up the misunderstanding between the two countries over an oil well in the border region.

In a telephone conversation between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday, the two sides stressed the importance of implementing agreements to settle border disputes.

The two foreign ministers said that strengthening relations between the two regional powerhouses would be beneficial to the interests of the two nations and would help efforts to establish regional stability and peace.

They also said that Tehran and Baghdad would pay no heed to the enemy's clamor and would continue their joint consultations in line with their common interests.

The conversation between Mottaki and Zebari came after Iran rejected reports that its troops had taken over an oil well in Iraqi territory.

Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Haj Aziz claimed that Iranian troops had seized an oil well in the Fakkeh border region on Thursday night.

In a phone interview with Press TV on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast described the reports as an attempt to harm the close relations between Tehran and Baghdad.

"Some media outlets are using incorrect language in these reports. This choice of words is not in line with Iran-Iraq ties," Mehman-Parast told Press TV.

SF/SS/HGL

Monday, December 21, 2009

Afghan Killing and a Karzai family feud

I don't usually report stuff such as this. What is significant is the degree to which there is voluntary silence about all this in most of the press. It would seem that the Afghan government is in coverup mode as well. What is of more general interest in the article are the details about family members being involved in lucrative government contracts Hashmat Karzai being a good example. The article is from the NewYorkTimes.



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December 20, 2009
Afghan Killing Bares a Karzai Family Feud
By JAMES RISEN
WASHINGTON — On Oct. 16, four sport utility vehicles barreled into Karz, Afghanistan, the hometown of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, and pulled up to the home of one of his cousins, Yar Mohammad Karzai.

Teams of armed guards blocked the street and herded passers-by into a nearby mosque while seizing their cellphones, then removed the front door of the house, according to Karzai family members and several people from the mosque. A man in traditional white Afghan robes, accompanied by two security guards, walked inside and found two of Yar Mohammad Karzai’s children, 18-year-old Waheed and his 12-year-old sister, Sona, doing their schoolwork in their bedroom.

The girl later said that she remembered the robed man raising a pistol and shooting Waheed three times as she shouted: “Don’t kill my brother! Don’t kill my brother!”

As the intruders fled, firing their weapons, a cousin, Zalal Karzai, 25, came running from elsewhere in the house and saw Waheed stagger from the bedroom. “What happened to you?” Zalal Karzai recalled asking.

“ ‘Hashmat shot me!’ ” he said the youth screamed back.

Waheed Karzai, who relatives say provided the same account to other family members before dying two days later at an American military hospital in Kandahar, was referring to Hashmat Karzai, 40, a first cousin of the president and the owner of a private security company that has close ties to the Afghan government and millions of dollars in contracts with the United States military.

The murder in Karz, the identity of the man accused of being the killer and the fact that the episode involves Afghanistan’s most prominent family make for a dramatic — and divisive — tale, one that has not been previously reported. The killing has set off a bitter split within the family in Afghanistan and the United States, with charges, countercharges and claims of a cover-up by Afghan officials.

Some relatives said they believed that the death was vengeance for an “honor killing” of Hashmat Karzai’s father nearly 30 years ago by Yar Mohammad Karzai. For his part, Hashmat Karzai denies any role in Waheed’s death, instead saying that the boy was shot by drug dealers intending to harm someone else.

“They mixed up the houses and killed the boy by mistake,” Hashmat Karzai said in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he is staying with his family. “I had nothing to do with it.”

There has been no investigation of the shooting by the Afghan government nor any mention of it in the press. The F.B.I. questioned Hashmat Karzai a month ago, he acknowledged, but it is not clear whether American investigators are pursuing the matter. An F.B.I. spokesman declined to comment.

While some family members accuse the Karzai government of stonewalling, they do not claim that the president played an active role in blocking an investigation. Instead, they blame several of his brothers, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, the political boss of Kandahar and southern Afghanistan, for trying to hush up relatives and forestall an official inquiry, perhaps with the president’s knowledge.

“Not a single soul has come to investigate,” Yar Mohammad Karzai, 62, said in a recent telephone interview. “I told one local official, what do you want me to do, knock on Obama’s door?”

Noor Karzai, 40, a cousin who lives in Maryland, expressed similar disappointment. “They are protecting Hashmat,” he said. “He is sitting in Kabul getting money from the U.S. government. No one will touch him. We are sending billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money to Afghanistan, and this is how the government operates.”

A spokesman for the Afghan president said that the case was a criminal matter and denied that the president sought to interfere. Reached by telephone on Saturday, Ahmed Wali Karzai declined to comment on the matter, as did officials at the United States Embassy in Kabul.

Frustrated by the seeming inaction on the killing, nearly a dozen family members agreed to be interviewed for this article. Some, including Yar Mohammad Karzai, Sona Karzai and Zalal Karzai, who witnessed aspects of the shooting or its immediate aftermath, also provided documents about the killing. They include a complaint that Yar Mohammad Karzai filed with the Dand district police in Kandahar Province naming Hashmat Karzai as Waheed’s assailant, the boy’s hospital records and a death certificate stating that he died of gunshot wounds.

Other family members, saying they feared retribution, agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, as did three witnesses from the Karz mosque. All three said they heard the shooting across the street; one identified Hashmat Karzai as the robed man he saw exiting the house.

The death of Waheed Karzai came after the Afghan election in August, in which President Karzai’s government was widely accused of electoral fraud and attacked for corruption.

The activities of the president’s family have fed some of the criticism. Afghan and American officials, for example, have said that Ahmed Wali Karzai has been involved in or benefited from drug trafficking, while another brother, Mahmoud, has been accused of exploiting his family name to get lucrative business deals. Some relatives said they believed that news of the fatal Karzai family feud would have been an embarrassment for the president.

According to family members, the roots of the dispute go back to when Yar Mohammad Karzai was about 5, and his father arranged a marriage between him and another Karzai cousin. But when the girl grew up, she left Karz, became a teacher, married another man and eventually settled in the United States.

Relatives say Yar Mohammad Karzai was angered by the woman’s rejection and her family’s failure to make amends by offering a formal divorce or an apology. To punish her family, relatives said, Yar Mohammad Karzai fatally shot Khalil Lula Karzai, the girl’s brother, in 1982 or 1983 in Quetta, Pakistan, where both men were then living.

In an interview, Yar Mohammad Karzai declined to say whether he had killed Khalil Karzai, who was Hashmat’s father. He was never charged in the death, though he said he was briefly arrested in 1997 or 1998 when Hashmat Karzai pressed the Taliban government to detain him. Because the crime occurred in Pakistan, however, the Taliban soon released him. Both men went to Quetta, where family members pressed Hashmat to drop the matter and mediated a peace deal between the men.

But, Yar Mohammad Karzai said, he knew it was not over.

“I never felt comfortable with the closing of this story,” he said. “And neither did Hashmat.”

Hashmat Karzai disputes that. “The father killed my father, we captured him more than 10 years ago and brought him to Pakistan, and we chose to have forgiveness,” he said. “In Islam, I have the right to kill him, but I chose not to do so.”

After Khalil Karzai’s murder, his family moved to the United States and settled in Maryland. Hashmat, the oldest son, became an American citizen, and until 2007 worked at a Toyota dealership in Virginia.

He returned to Afghanistan, where his younger brother, Hekmat, 36, runs the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, a Kabul-based research organization that supports the Karzai government. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Hekmat was a student and worked in restaurants in the Washington area.

After the American invasion of Afghanistan, he served as a political officer at the Afghan Embassy in Washington. In 2006, he moved back to Kabul to start his research group. He said he briefed American military officials on his research. Several family members described him as an informal adviser to President Karzai and said they believed that his influence helped his brother’s rise in Kabul.

Soon after arriving in Kabul, Hashmat Karzai took over the Asia Security Group, a company that now employs 500 to 600 guards, he said. In recent months, Asia Security has been awarded $16.2 million in five contracts with the United States military to provide security for five American bases in Afghanistan, according to Col. Wayne M. Shanks, an American military spokesman.

According to its Web site, Asia Security also has other major American customers in Afghanistan, including DynCorp International, a Virginia-based firm with large contracts with the American government in Afghanistan. Hekmat’s Karzai’s research center is also an Asia Security client, the Web site said.

This year, Hashmat Karzai began building a large house in Karz, near Yar Mohammad Karzai’s home. Some relatives say they believe that Waheed Karzai was singled out as a way to inflict deep pain on his father.

“If he had killed Yar Mohammad Karzai, it would have been wrong, but we would have understood,” said Mohammad Karzai, a cousin from Maryland. “The family would have been silent about it. But instead, he killed an 18-year-old boy who had nothing to do with this feud.”

Hashmat Karzai agrees that Waheed was an innocent victim, but he attributed his death to drug dealers. He said that Yar Mohammad Karzai and his brothers were involved in the drug trade — an allegation that Yar Mohammad rejects — and that one brother cheated some dealers. Intending to kill that man’s son, they mistakenly shot Waheed, Hashmat Karzai said.

He said he told President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai that he played no part in the crime. He added: “Why would I do a killing there, right where I am building a house? That would be stupidity.”

The village of Karz is in Kandahar Province, about three miles outside the city of Kandahar, where Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, wields enormous political power. But after Waheed’s killing, government officials in the Kandahar area were strangely unhelpful, according to Yar Mohammad Karzai and other family members.

Immediately after the shooting, Yar Mohammad Karzai said, he called the nearest police station. But no one answered the phone, he recalled. He soon realized that the convoy had come to the shooting scene and gone without having to stop at a police checkpoint on the road into Karz.

Frantic to get help, Zalal Karzai said he called a friend working for President Karzai in Kabul, who gave him a private number for Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar. Reaching someone in that office, he reported the killing. Later that night, some police officials went to the scene of the shooting, collected some shell casings and left. Yar Mohammad Karzai said they had not returned since then.

Meanwhile, at least three of President Karzai’s brothers — Ahmed Wali, Mahmoud and Qayum — have been urging family members to allow relatives to deal with the killing privately without bringing in the police, said Noor and Mohammad Karzai, the brothers from Maryland.

“My mom talks to Qayum and Ahmed Wali every day,” said another family member in the United States. “They have both told her, ‘Why don’t you keep quiet and we will take care of it?’ ”

Yar Mohammad Karzai said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had come to his house to offer his condolences. “But he never mentioned what had happened or who did it,” he said. “Later, when a family member asked him about the killing, he said, ‘You know who did this, why do you need to hear it from me?’ ”

Some family members in the United States have become so Americanized that they are unwilling to abide by Afghan traditions and have gone to the United States authorities about the case. Mohammad Karzai said he contacted the F.B.I. Later, he said he got an angry call from Hashmat Karzai, who reported that an F.B.I. agent had interviewed him. Hekmat Karzai, who also said his brother did not kill Waheed, acknowledged that he was questioned by the F.B.I. as well.

The shooting has left the family badly shaken, especially Sona.

“I can’t sleep in my room anymore,” she said in a telephone interview from Karz. “I sleep with my parents now.”

Suspected Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen escapes raid.

Most headlines I have seen in other media note the claim that the deputy leader was killed. Of course there is no mention of any civilians being killed. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable the so-called collateral damage is not mentioned. The media usually but not always co-operates in this silence campaign. Note that the Yemen govt. denies that the US was involved in the attack. This is standard as the US is not exactly favored by many Yemenis.


Suspected al-Qaida leader in Yemen escapes raid

Yemeni official: US didn't fire missiles in strike against al-Qaida; deputy commander killed

Staff
AP News

Dec 19, 2009 07:23 EST

A military strike on al-Qaida's network in Yemen killed the deputy commander of the terrorist network's cell in Abyan province, the Yemeni government said.

Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha identified the dead man as Mohammed Al Kazimi, but said suspected al-Qaida leader Qasim al-Raymi, the intended target of this week's raid, escaped.

Al-Raymi is one of 23 militants who broke out of a prison in San'a in February 2006 and is at large. ....
The U.S. provided firepower and other aid to Yemen for the strike this week against suspected al-Qaida hide-outs and training sites within its borders, according to a New York Times report.

President Barack Obama approved the military and intelligence support, which came at the request of the Yemeni government.

Albasha denied the U.S. launched missiles in the attack.

Officials said at least 34 militants were killed in the Yemeni strike on Thursday in what was an unusually heavy assault as the Obama administration presses the unstable country for tougher action against al-Qaida.

Witnesses put the number killed at over 60 and said the dead were mostly civilians, including women and children. They denied the target was an al-Qaida stronghold, and one provincial official said only 10 militant suspects died.

..
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Seymour Hersh: Pakistan, defending the arsenal

This is a detailed insightful article on how the US attempts to gain information about Pakistan's nuclear weapons and make sure that it does not fall into the wrong hands. However, Hersch makes it clear also that US policy could actually further radicalise Pakistanis. The Pakistanis are rightfully suspicious of the US and its intentions many thinking that the US would love to destroy Pakistan's nuclear capability. As the Pakistanis note the US does not seem to have the same worries about India's nuclear weapons -nor those of Israel of course! Obama's increase in drone strikes may also serve to furth radicalise parts of Pakistan. This is from the New Yorker..the rest is at that site.


Defending the Arsenal
In an unstable Pakistan, can nuclear warheads be kept safe?
by Seymour M. Hersh
America’s dealings with Pakistan may be increasing the risk of radicalization.

TalibanIn the tumultuous days leading up to the Pakistan Army’s ground offensive in the tribal area of South Waziristan, which began on October 17th, the Pakistani Taliban attacked what should have been some of the country’s best-guarded targets. In the most brazen strike, ten gunmen penetrated the Army’s main headquarters, in Rawalpindi, instigating a twenty-two-hour standoff that left twenty-three dead and the military thoroughly embarrassed. The terrorists had been dressed in Army uniforms. There were also attacks on police installations in Peshawar and Lahore, and, once the offensive began, an Army general was shot dead by gunmen on motorcycles on the streets of Islamabad, the capital. The assassins clearly had advance knowledge of the general’s route, indicating that they had contacts and allies inside the security forces.

Pakistan has been a nuclear power for two decades, and has an estimated eighty to a hundred warheads, scattered in facilities around the country. The success of the latest attacks raised an obvious question: Are the bombs safe? Asked this question the day after the Rawalpindi raid, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We have confidence in the Pakistani government and the military’s control over nuclear weapons.” Clinton—whose own visit to Pakistan, two weeks later, would be disrupted by more terrorist bombs—added that, despite the attacks by the Taliban, “we see no evidence that they are going to take over the state.”

Clinton’s words sounded reassuring, and several current and former officials also said in interviews that the Pakistan Army was in full control of the nuclear arsenal. But the Taliban overrunning Islamabad is not the only, or even the greatest, concern. The principal fear is mutiny—that extremists inside the Pakistani military might stage a coup, take control of some nuclear assets, or even divert a warhead.

On April 29th, President Obama was asked at a news conference whether he could reassure the American people that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could be kept away from terrorists. Obama’s answer remains the clearest delineation of the Administration’s public posture. He was, he said, “gravely concerned” about the fragility of the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari. “Their biggest threat right now comes internally,” Obama said. “We have huge . . . national-security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.” The United States, he said, could “make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure—primarily, initially, because the Pakistan Army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons’ falling into the wrong hands.”

The questioner, Chuck Todd, of NBC, began asking whether the American military could, if necessary, move in and secure Pakistan’s bombs. Obama did not let Todd finish. “I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort,” he said. “I feel confident that the nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. O.K.?”

Obama did not say so, but current and former officials said in interviews in Washington and Pakistan that his Administration has been negotiating highly sensitive understandings with the Pakistani military. These would allow specially trained American units to provide added security for the Pakistani arsenal in case of a crisis. At the same time, the Pakistani military would be given money to equip and train Pakistani soldiers and to improve their housing and facilities—goals that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of the Pakistan Army, has long desired. In June, Congress approved a four-hundred-million-dollar request for what the Administration called the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, providing immediate assistance to the Pakistan Army for equipment, training, and “renovation and construction.”

The secrecy surrounding the understandings was important because there is growing antipathy toward America in Pakistan, as well as a history of distrust. Many Pakistanis believe that America’s true goal is not to keep their weapons safe but to diminish or destroy the Pakistani nuclear complex. The arsenal is a source of great pride among Pakistanis, who view the weapons as symbols of their nation’s status and as an essential deterrent against an attack by India. (India’s first nuclear test took place in 1974, Pakistan’s in 1998.)

A senior Pakistani official who has close ties to Zardari exploded with anger during an interview when the subject turned to the American demands for more information about the arsenal. After the September 11th attacks, he said, there had been an understanding between the Bush Administration and then President Pervez Musharraf “over what Pakistan had and did not have.” Today, he said, “you’d like control of our day-to-day deployment. But why should we give it to you? Even if there was a military coup d’état in Pakistan, no one is going to give up total control of our nuclear weapons. Never. Why are you not afraid of India’s nuclear weapons?” the official asked. “Because India is your friend, and the longtime policies of America and India converge. Between you and the Indians, you will fuck us in every way. The truth is that our weapons are less of a problem for the Obama Administration than finding a respectable way out of Afghanistan.”

The ongoing consultation on nuclear security between Washington and Islamabad intensified after the announcement in March of President Obama’s so-called Af-Pak policy, which called upon the Pakistan Army to take more aggressive action against Taliban enclaves inside Pakistan. I was told that the understandings on nuclear coöperation benefitted from the increasingly close relationship between Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kayani, his counterpart, although the C.I.A. and the Departments of Defense, State, and Energy have also been involved. (All three departments declined to comment for this article. The national-security council and the C.I.A. denied that there were any agreements in place.)

In response to a series of questions, Admiral Mullen acknowledged that he and Kayani were, in his spokesman’s words, “very close.” The spokesman said that Mullen is deeply involved in day-to-day Pakistani developments and “is almost an action officer for all things Pakistan.” But he denied that he and Kayani, or their staffs, had reached an understanding about the availability of American forces in case of mutiny or a terrorist threat to a nuclear facility. “To my knowledge, we have no military units, special forces or otherwise, involved in such an assignment,” Mullen said through his spokesman. The spokesman added that Mullen had not seen any evidence of growing fundamentalism inside the Pakistani military. In a news conference on May 4th, however, Mullen responded to a query about growing radicalism in Pakistan by saying that “what has clearly happened over the [past] twelve months is the continual decline, gradual decline, in security.” The Admiral also spoke openly about the increased coöperation on nuclear security between the United States and Pakistan: “I know what we’ve done over the last three years, specifically to both invest, assist, and I’ve watched them improve their security fairly dramatically. . . . I’ve looked at this, you know, as hard as I can, over a period of time.” Seventeen days later, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “We have invested a significant amount of resources through the Department of Energy in the last several years” to help Pakistan improve the controls on its arsenal. “They still have to improve them,” he said.

In interviews in Pakistan, I obtained confirmation that there were continuing conversations with the United States on nuclear-security plans—as well as evidence that the Pakistani leadership put much less weight on them than the Americans did. In some cases, Pakistani officials spoke of the talks principally as a means of placating anxious American politicians. “You needed it,” a senior Pakistani official, who said that he had been briefed on the nuclear issue, told me. His tone was caustic. “We have twenty thousand people working in the nuclear-weapons industry in Pakistan, and here is this American view that Pakistan is bound to fail.” The official added, “The Americans are saying, ‘We want to help protect your weapons.’ We say, ‘Fine. Tell us what you can do for us.’ It’s part of a quid pro quo. You say, also, ‘Come clean on the nuclear program and we’ll insure that India doesn’t put pressure on it.’ So we say, ‘O.K.’ ”

But, the Pakistani official said, “both sides are lying to each other.” The information that the Pakistanis handed over was not as complete as the Americans believed. “We haven’t told you anything that you don’t know,” he said. The Americans didn’t realize that Pakistan would never cede control of its arsenal: “If you try to take the weapons away, you will fail.”

High-level coöperation between Islamabad and Washington on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal began at least eight years ago. Former President Musharraf, when I interviewed him in London recently, acknowledged that his government had held extensive discussions with the Bush Administration after the September 11th attacks, and had given State Department nonproliferation experts insight into the command and control of the Pakistani arsenal and its on-site safety and security procedures. Musharraf also confirmed that Pakistan had constructed a huge tunnel system for the transport and storage of nuclear weaponry. “The tunnels are so deep that a nuclear attack will not touch them,” Musharraf told me, with obvious pride. The tunnels would make it impossible for the American intelligence community—“Big Uncle,” as a Pakistani nuclear-weapons expert called it—to monitor the movements of nuclear components by satellite.

Safeguards have been built into the system. Pakistani nuclear doctrine calls for the warheads (containing an enriched radioactive core) and their triggers (sophisticated devices containing highly explosive lenses, detonators, and krytrons) to be stored separately from each other and from their delivery devices (missiles or aircraft). The goal is to insure that no one can launch a warhead—in the heat of a showdown with India, for example—without pausing to put it together. Final authority to order a nuclear strike requires consensus within Pakistan’s ten-member National Command Authority, with the chairman—by statute, President Zardari—casting the deciding vote.

But the safeguards meant to keep a confrontation with India from escalating too quickly could make the arsenal more vulnerable to terrorists. Nuclear-security experts have war-gamed the process and concluded that the triggers and other elements are most exposed when they are being moved and reassembled—at those moments there would be fewer barriers between an outside group and the bomb. A consultant to the intelligence community said that in one war-gamed scenario disaffected members of the Pakistani military could instigate a terrorist attack inside India, and that the ensuing crisis would give them “a chance to pick up bombs and triggers—in the name of protecting the assets from extremists.”

The triggers are a key element in American contingency plans. An American former senior intelligence official said that a team that has trained for years to remove or dismantle parts of the Pakistani arsenal has now been augmented by a unit of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the élite counterterrorism group. He added that the unit, which had earlier focussed on the warheads’ cores, has begun to concentrate on evacuating the triggers, which have no radioactive material and are thus much easier to handle.

“The Pakistanis gave us a virtual look at the number of warheads, some of their locations, and their command-and-control system,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “We saw their target list and their mobilization plans. We got their security plans, so we could augment them in case of a breach of security,” he said. “We’re there to help the Pakistanis, but we’re also there to extend our own axis of security to their nuclear stockpile.” The detailed American planning even includes an estimate of how many nuclear triggers could be placed inside a C-17 cargo plane, the former official said, and where the triggers could be sequestered. Admiral Mullen, asked about increased American insight into the arsenal, said, through his spokesman, “I am not aware of our receipt of any such information.” (A senior military officer added that the information, if it had been conveyed, would most likely “have gone to another government agency.”)

A spokesman for the Pakistani military said, in an official denial, “Pakistan neither needs any American unit for enhancing the security for its arsenal nor would accept it.” The spokesman added that the Pakistani military “has been providing protection to U.S. troops in a situation of crisis”—a reference to Pakistan’s role in the war on terror—“and hence is quite capable to deal with any untoward situation.”

Early this summer, a consultant to the Department of Defense said, a highly classified military and civil-emergency response team was put on alert after receiving an urgent report from American intelligence officials indicating that a Pakistani nuclear component had gone astray. The team, which operates clandestinely and includes terrorism and nonproliferation experts from the intelligence community, the Pentagon, the F.B.I., and the D.O.E., is under standing orders to deploy from Andrews Air Force Base, in Maryland, within four hours of an alert. When the report turned out to be a false alarm, the mission was aborted, the consultant said. By the time the team got the message, it was already in Dubai.

In an actual crisis, would the Pakistanis give an American team direct access to their arsenal? An adviser to the Pentagon on counterinsurgency said that some analysts suspected that the Pakistani military had taken steps to move elements of the nuclear arsenal “out of the count”—to shift them to a storage facility known only to a very few—as a hedge against mutiny or an American or Indian effort to seize them. “If you thought your American ally was telling your enemy where the weapons were, you’d do the same thing,” the adviser said.

“Let me say this about our nuclear deterrent,” President Zardari told me, when asked about any recent understandings between Pakistan and the United States. “We give comfort to each other, and the comfort level is good, because everybody respects everybody’s integrity. We’re all big boys.”

Zardari and I met twice, first in his office, in the grand but isolated Presidential compound in Islamabad, and then, a few days later, alone over dinner in his personal quarters. Zardari, who became President after the assassination, in December, 2007, of his charismatic wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, spent nearly eleven years in jail on corruption charges. He is widely known in Pakistan as Mr. Ten Per Cent, a reference to the commissions he allegedly took on government contracts when Bhutto was in power, and is seen by many Pakistanis as little more than a crook who has grown too close to America; his approval ratings are in the teens. He is chatty but guarded, proud but defensive, and, like many Pakistanis, convinced that the United States will always favor India. Over dinner, he spoke of his suspicions regarding his wife’s death. He said that, despite rumors to the contrary, he would complete his five-year term.

Zardari spoke with derision about what he depicted as America’s obsession with the vulnerability of his nation’s nuclear arsenal. “In your country, you feel that you have to hold the fort for us,” he said. “The American people want a lot of answers for the errors of the past, and it’s very easy to spread fear. Our Army officers are not crazy, like the Taliban. They’re British-trained. Why would they slip up on nuclear security? A mutiny would never happen in Pakistan. It’s a fear being spread by the few who seek to scare the many.”

Zardari offered some advice to Barack Obama: instead of fretting about nuclear security in Pakistan, his Administration should deal with the military disparity between Pakistan and India, which has a much larger army. “You should help us get conventional weapons,” he said. “It’s a balance-of-power issue.”

In May, Zardari, at the urging of the United States, approved a major offensive against the Taliban, sending thirty thousand troops into the Swat Valley, which lies a hundred miles northwest of Islamabad. “The enemy that we were fighting in Swat was made up of twenty per cent thieves and thugs and eighty per cent with the same mind-set as the Taliban,” Zardari said. He depicted the operation as a complete success, but added that his government was not “ready” to kill all the Taliban. His long-term solution, Zardari said, was to provide new business opportunities in Swat and turn the Taliban into entrepreneurs. “Money is the best incentive,” he said. “They can be rented.”

Zardari’s view of the Swat offensive was striking, given that many Pakistanis had been angered by the excessive use of force and the ensuing refugee crisis. The lives of about two million people were torn apart, and, during a summer in which temperatures soared to a hundred and twenty degrees, hundreds of thousands of civilians were crowded into government-run tent cities. Idris Khattak, a former student radical who now works with Amnesty International, said in Peshawar that residents had described nights of heavy, indiscriminate bombing and shelling, followed in the morning by Army sweeps. The villagers, and not the Taliban, had been hit the hardest. “People told us that the bombing the night before was a signal for the Taliban to get out,” he said.

Zardari did not dispute that there were difficulties in the refugee camps—the heat, the lack of facilities. But he insisted that the fault lay with the civilians, who, he said, had been far too tolerant of the Taliban. The suffering could serve a useful purpose: after a summer in the tents, the citizens of Swat might have learned a lesson and would not “let the Taliban back into their cities.”

Rahimullah Yusufzai, an eminent Pakistani journalist, who has twice interviewed Osama bin Laden, had a different explanation for the conditions that led to the offensive. “The Taliban were initially trying to win public support in Swat by delivering justice and peace,” Yusufzai said. “But when they got into power they went crazy and became brutal. Many are from the lowest ranks of society, and they began killing and terrorizing their opponents. The people were afraid.”

The turmoil did not end with the Army’s invasion. “Most of the people who were in the refugee camps told us that the Army was equally bad. There was so much killing,” Yusufzai said. The government had placed limits on reporters who tried to enter the Swat Valley during the attack, but afterward Yusufzai and his colleagues were able to interview officers. “They told us they hated what they were doing—‘We were trained to fight Indians.’ ” But that changed when they sustained heavy losses, especially of junior officers. “They were killing everybody after their colleagues were killed—just like the Americans with their Predator missiles,” Yusufzai said. “What the Army did not understand, and what the Americans don’t understand, is that by demolishing the house of a suspected Taliban or their supporters you are making an enemy of the whole family.” What looked like a tactical victory could turn out to be a strategic failure.

The Obama Administration has had difficulty coming to terms with how unhappy many Pakistanis are with the United States. Secretary of State Clinton, during her three-day “good-will visit” to Pakistan, late last month, seemed taken aback by the angry and, at times, provocative criticism of American policies that dominated many of her public appearances, and responded defensively.

Last year, the Washington Times ran an article about the Pressler Amendment, a 1985 law cutting off most military aid to Pakistan as long as it continued its nuclear program. The measure didn’t stop Pakistan from getting the bomb, or from buying certain weapons, but it did reduce the number of Pakistani officers who were permitted to train with American units. The article quoted Major General John Custer as saying, “The older military leaders love us. They understand American culture and they know we are not the enemy.” The General’s assessment provoked a barrage of e-mail among American officers with experience in Pakistan, and a former member of a Special Forces unit provided me with copies. “The fact that a two-star would make a statement [like] that . . . is at best naïve and actually pure bullshit,” a senior Special Forces officer on duty in Pakistan wrote. He went on:




I have met and interacted with the entire military staff from General Kayani on down and all the general officers on their joint staff and in all the services, and I haven’t spoken to one that “loves us”—whatever that means. In fact, I have read most of the TS [top secret] assessments of all their General Officers and I haven’t read one that comes close to their “loving” us. They play us for everything they can get, and we trip over ourselves trying to give them everything they ask for, and cannot pay for.



Some military men who know Pakistan well believe that, whatever the officer corps’s personal views, the Pakistan Army remains reliable. “They cannot be described as pro-American, but this doesn’t mean they don’t know which side their bread is buttered on,” Brian Cloughley, who served six years as Australia’s defense attaché to Pakistan and is now a contributor to Jane’s Sentinel, told me. “The chance of mutiny is slim. Were this to happen, there would be the most severe reaction” by special security units in the Pakistani military, Cloughley said. “But worry feeds irrationality, and the international consequences could be dire.”

The recollections of Bush Administration officials who dealt with Pakistan in the first round of nuclear consultations after September 11th do not inspire confidence. The Americans’ main contact was Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai, the head of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, the agency that is responsible for nuclear strategy and operations and for the physical security of the weapons complex. At first, a former high-level Bush Administration official told me, Kidwai was reassuring; his professionalism increased their faith in the soundness of Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and its fail-safe procedures. The Army was controlled by Punjabis who, the Americans thought, “did not put up with Pashtuns,” as the former Bush Administration official put it. (The Taliban are mostly Pashtun.) But by the time the official left, at the beginning of George W. Bush’s second term, he had a much darker assessment: “They don’t trust us and they will not tell you the truth.”

No American, for example, was permitted access to A. Q. Khan, the metallurgist and so-called father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, who traded crucial nuclear-weapons components on the international black market. Musharraf placed him under house arrest in early 2004, claiming to have been shocked to learn of Khan’s dealings. At the time, it was widely understood that those activities had been sanctioned by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.). Khan was freed in February, although there are restrictions on his travel. (In an interview last year, Kidwai told David Sanger, for his book “The Inheritance,” that “our security systems are foolproof,” thanks to technical controls; Sanger noted that Bush Administration officials were “not as confident in private as they sound in public.”)

A former State Department official who worked on nuclear issues with Pakistan after September 11th said that he’d come to understand that the Pakistanis “believe that any information we get from them would be shared with others—perhaps even the Indians. To know the command-and-control processes of their nuclear weapons is one thing. To know where the weapons actually are is another thing.”

The former State Department official cited the large Pakistan Air Force base outside Sargodha, west of Lahore, where many of Pakistan’s nuclear-capable F-16s are thought to be stationed. “Is there a nuke ready to go at Sargodha?” the former official asked. “If there is, and Sargodha is the size of Andrews Air Force Base, would we know where to go? Are the warheads stored in Bunker X?” Ignorance could be dangerous. “If our people don’t know where to go and we suddenly show up at a base, there will be a lot of people shooting at them,” he said. “And even if the Pakistanis may have told us that the triggers will be at Bunker X, is it true?”

In the July/August issue of Arms Control Today, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who recently retired after three years as the Department of Energy’s director of intelligence and counter-intelligence, preceded by two decades at the C.I.A., wrote vividly about the “lethal proximity between terrorists, extremists, and nuclear weapons insiders” in Pakistan. “Insiders have facilitated terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings have occurred at air force bases that reportedly serve as nuclear weapons storage sites. It is difficult to ignore such trends,” Mowatt-Larssen wrote. “Purely in actuarial terms, there is a strong possibility that bad apples in the nuclear establishment are willing to cooperate with outsiders for personal gain or out of sympathy for their cause. Nowhere in the world is this threat greater than in Pakistan. . . . Anything that helps upgrade Pakistan’s nuclear security is an investment” in America’s security.

Leslie H. Gelb, a president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I don’t think there’s any kind of an agreement we can count on. The Pakistanis have learned how to deal with us, and they understand that if they don’t tell us what we want to hear we’ll cut off their goodies.” Gelb added, “In all these years, the C.I.A. never built up assets, but it talks as if there were ‘access.’ I don’t know if Obama understands that the Agency doesn’t know what it’s talking about.”

The former high-level Bush Administration official was just as blunt. “If a Pakistani general is talking to you about nuclear issues, and his lips are moving, he’s lying,” he said. “The Pakistanis wouldn’t share their secrets with anybody, and certainly not with a country that, from their point of view, used them like a Dixie cup and then threw them away.”

Sultan Amir Tarar, known to many as Colonel Imam, is the archetype of the disillusioned Pakistani officer. Tarar spent eighteen years with the I.S.I. in Afghanistan, most of them as an undercover operative. In the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union, in the eighties, he worked closely with C.I.A. agents, and liked the experience. “They were honest and thoughtful and provided the finest equipment,” Tarar said during an interview in Rawalpindi. He spoke with pride of shaking hands with Robert Gates in Afghanistan in 1985. Gates, now the Secretary of Defense, was then a senior C.I.A. official. “I’ve heard all about you,” Gates said, according to Tarar. “Good or bad?” “Oh, my. All good,” Gates replied. Tarar’s view changed after the Russians withdrew and, in his opinion, “the Americans abandoned us.” When I asked if he’d seen “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the movie depicting that abandonment and a Texas congressman’s futile efforts to change the policy, Tarar laughed and said, “I’ve seen Charlie Wilson. I didn’t need to see the movie.”

Tarar, who retired in 1995 and has a son in the Army, believed—as did many Pakistani military men—that the American campaign to draw Pakistan deeper into the war against the Taliban would backfire. “The Americans are trying to rent out their war to us,” he said. If the Obama Administration persists, “there will be an uprising here, and this corrupt government will collapse. Every Pakistani will then be his own nuclear bomb—a suicide bomber,” Tarar said. “The longer the war goes on, the longer it will spill over in the tribal territories, and it will lead to a revolutionary stage. People there will flee to the big cities like Lahore and Islamabad.”

Tarar believed that the Obama Administration had to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban, even if that meant direct talks with Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader. Tarar knew Mullah Omar well. “Omar trained as a young man in my camp in 1985,” he told me. “He was physically fit and mission-oriented—a very honest man who was a practicing Muslim. Nothing beyond that. He was a Talib—a student, and not a mullah. But people respected him. Today, among all the Afghan leaders, Omar has the biggest audience, and this is the right time for you to talk to him.”

Speaking to Tarar and other officers gave a glimpse of the acrimony at the top of the Pakistani government, which has complicated the nuclear equation. Tarar spoke bitterly about the position that General Kayani found himself in, carrying out the “corrupt” policies of the Americans and of Zardari, while Pakistan’s soldiers “were fighting gallantly in Swat against their own people.”

A $7.5-billion American aid package, approved by Congress in September, was, to the surprise of many in Washington, controversial in Pakistan, because it contained provisions seen as strengthening Zardari at the expense of the military. Shaheen Sehbai, a senior editor of the newspaper International, said that Zardari’s “problem is that he’s besieged domestically on all sides, and he thinks only the Americans can save him,” and, as a result, “he’ll open his pants for them.” Sehbai noted that Kayani’s term as Army chief ends in the fall of 2010. If Zardari tried to replace him before then, Kayani’s colleagues would not accept his choice, and there could be “a generals’ coup,” Sehbai said. “America should worry more about the structure and organization of the Army—and keep it intact.”

Lieutenant General Hamid Gul was the director general of the I.S.I. in the late eighties and worked with the C.I.A. in Afghanistan. Gul, who is retired, is a devout Muslim and had been accused by the Bush Administration of having ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda—allegations he has denied. “What would happen if, in a crisis, you tried to get—or did not get—our nuclear triggers? What happens then?” Gul asked when we met. “You will have us as an enemy, with the Chinese and Russians behind us.”

If Pakistani officers had given any assurances about the nuclear arsenal, Gul said, “they are cheating you and they would be right to do so. We should not be aiding and abetting Americans.”

Persuading the Pakistan Army to concentrate on fighting the Taliban, and not India, is crucial to the Obama Administration’s plans for the region. There has been enmity between India and Pakistan since 1947, when Britain’s withdrawal led to the partition of the subcontinent. The state of Kashmir, which was three-quarters Muslim but acceded to Hindu-majority India, has been in dispute ever since, and India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over the territory. Through the years, the Pakistan Army and the I.S.I. have relied on Pakistan-based jihadist groups, most notably Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, to carry out a guerrilla war against the Indians in Kashmir. Many in the Pakistani military consider the groups to be an important strategic reserve.

A retired senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who worked with his C.I.A. counterparts to track down Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said that he was deeply troubled by the prospect of Pakistan ceding any control over its nuclear deterrent. “Suppose the jihadis strike at India again—another attack on the parliament. India will tell the United States to stay out of it, and ‘We’ll sort it out on our own,’ ” he said. “Then there would be a ground attack into Pakistan. As we begin to react, the Americans will be interested in protecting our nuclear assets, and urge us not to go nuclear—‘Let the Indians attack and do not respond!’ They would urge us instead to find those responsible for the attack on India. Our nuclear arsenal was supposed to be our savior, but we would end up protecting it. It doesn’t protect us,” he said.

“My belief today is that it’s better to have the Americans as an enemy rather than as a friend, because you cannot be trusted,” the former officer concluded. “The only good thing the United States did for us was to look the other way about an atomic bomb when it suited the United States to do so.”

Pakistan’s fears about the United States coöperating with India are not irrational. Last year, Congress approved a controversial agreement that enabled India to purchase nuclear fuel and technology from the United States without joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty, making India the only non-signatory to the N.P.T. permitted to do so. Concern about the Pakistani arsenal has since led to greater coöperation between the United States and India in missile defense; the training of the Indian Air Force to use bunker-busting bombs; and “the collection of intelligence on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal,” according to the consultant to the intelligence community. (The Pentagon declined to comment.)

I flew to New Delhi after my stay in Pakistan and met with two senior officials from the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s national intelligence agency. (Of course, as in Pakistan, no allegation about the other side should be taken at face value.) “Our worries are about the nuclear weapons in Pakistan,” one of the officials said. “Not because we are worried about the mullahs taking over the country; we’re worried about those senior officers in the Pakistan Army who are Caliphates”—believers in a fundamentalist pan-Islamic state. “We know some of them and we have names,” he said. “We’ve been watching colonels who are now brigadiers. These are the guys who could blackmail the whole world”—that is, by seizing a nuclear weapon.

The Indian intelligence official went on, “Do we know if the Americans have that intelligence? This is not in the scheme of the way you Americans look at things—‘Kayani is a great guy! Let’s have a drink and smoke a cigar with him and his buddies.’ Some of the men we are watching have notions of leading an Islamic army.”

In an interview the next afternoon, an Indian official who has dealt diplomatically with Pakistan for years said, “Pakistan is in trouble, and it’s worrisome to us because an unstable Pakistan is the worst thing we can have.” But he wasn’t sure what America could do. “They like us better in Pakistan than you Americans,” he said. “I can tell you that in a public-opinion poll we, India, will beat you.”

India and Pakistan, he added, have had back-channel talks for years in an effort to resolve the dispute over Kashmir, but “Pakistan wants talks for the sake of talks, and it does not carry out the agreements already reached.” (In late October, Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, publicly renewed an offer of talks, but tied it to a request that Pakistan crack down on terrorism; Pakistan’s official response was to welcome the overture.)

The Indian official, like his counterparts in Pakistan, believed that Americans did not appreciate what his government had done for them. “Why did the Pakistanis remove two divisions from the border with us?” He was referring to the shifting of Pakistani forces, at the request of the United States, to better engage the Taliban. “It means they have confidence that we will not take advantage of the situation. We deserve a pat on the back for this.” Instead, the official said, with a shrug, “you are too concerned with your relationship with Pakistan.”

Pervez Musharraf lives in unpretentious exile with his wife in an apartment in London, near Hyde Park. Officials who had dealt with him cautioned that, along with his many faults, he had a disarmingly open manner. At the beginning of our talk, I asked him why, on a visit to Washington in late January, he had not met with any senior Obama Administration officials. “I did not ask for a meeting because I was afraid of being told no,” he said. At another point, Musharraf, dressed casually in slacks and a sports shirt, said that he had been troubled by the American-controlled Predator drone attacks on targets inside Pakistan, which began in 2005. “I said to the Americans, ‘Give us the Predators.’ It was refused. I told the Americans, ‘Then just say publicly that you’re giving them to us. You keep on firing them but put Pakistan Air Force markings on them.’ That, too, was denied.”

Musharraf, who was forced out of office in August, 2008, under threat of impeachment, did not spare his successor. “Asif Zardari is a criminal and a fraud,” Musharraf told me. “He’ll do anything to save himself. He’s not a patriot and he’s got no love for Pakistan. He’s a third-rater.”

Musharraf said that he and General Kayani, who had been his nominee for Chief of Army Staff, were still in telephone contact. Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999, and remained in uniform until near the end of his Presidency. He said that he didn’t think the Army was capable of mutiny—not the Army he knew. “There are people with fundamentalist ideas in the Army, but I don’t think there is any possibility of these people getting organized and doing an uprising. These ‘fundos’ were disliked and not popular.”

He added, “Muslims think highly of Obama, and he should use his acceptability—even with the Taliban—and try to deal with them politically.”

.....

US Ambassador to Honduras meets Zelaya

This issue has gone completely off the press radar at least the anglophone press. Zelaya achieved absolutely nothing and the coup govt got absolutely everything they wanted. No word though about what the aid situation is. I expect the aid that was stopped has begun flowing from the US already. Many Latin American countries may not recognise the new elected president although we will see what happens. The US is no doubt happy except that it would like to do something to ensure that more countries recognise the new government. Of course countries such as Colombia , Panama and Costa Rica will do so. Costa Rica's recognition is sort of a bad joke since Micheletti snubbed and undercut Arias at every turn but then Arias no doubt is getting some goodies from the US for being such a nice guy! This is from presstv.

US Amb. meets Zelaya at Brazil embassy
Sun, 20 Dec 2009 14:05:00 GMT
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FWashington Ambassador to coup-hit Honduras Hugo Llorens has met with ousted leader Manuel Zelaya at the Brazilian Embassy in a bid to settle the political crisis in the Central American nation.

"Hugo Llorens came to the embassy and told Zelaya he would travel to the United States for Christmas. Steps to resolve the crisis will follow," AFP quoted Zelaya's advisor Rasel Tome as saying on Sunday.

"Efforts are ongoing at the Central American level and in the Dominican Republican for a dialogue in a neutral environment."

Zelaya, the constitutional president, was removed from power by his own army in a bloodless coup on June 28, and was subsequently sent into exile.

He secretly returned to his country in September and sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa.

Numerous rounds of talks failed to restore Zelaya to serve the remainder of his term and the nation went to polls to elect a new president on November 29, while coup leader Roberto Micheletti served as interim head of state.

Llorens had earlier praised the presidential election but had described it as 'not enough'.

"It is important to work looking ahead on the implementation of Tegucigalpa-San Jose Agreement, which it also makes a path, together with the elections, to solve this problem and bring the reconciliation of the Honduran people," Llorens told the press, Xinhua reported.

Initially Washington was in favor of Zelaya's reinstatement before the November vote. However, US support for the ousted leader cooled down with the White House insisting that Zelaya's restitution is an internal matter.

RB/MMN