Bin Laden could be in Afghanistan, Taliban fragmenting, U.S. commander
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Osama bin Laden may be sheltering in Afghanistan, while followers of the former ruling Taliban who once harbored the al-Qaida leader appear to be fragmenting, a U.S. commander said Monday.
Col. Gary Cheek, who controls U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, said bin Laden and other key militant leaders could be in his area of responsibility, a swath of the country flanking the rugged Pakistani border.
``Leaders like Hekmatyar, Haqqani, bin Laden could possibly be in our region, but any information we have on them would be very close-hold (closely guarded) for operational reasons,'' Cheek told The Associated Press.
Three years after the U.S. military entered Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and try to kill or capture bin Laden, American officials say they do not know where the al-Qaida supremo is. Meanwhile, a stubborn Taliban-led insurgency rumbles on.
Cheek said the number of foreign fighters facing his forces was not ``significant,'' and that most operated near the rugged Pakistani border, the zone most widely touted as a hiding place for bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Forces loyal to Taliban commanders such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, and to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who has joined the ousted militia in vowing to drive out foreign troops pose a larger military threat. However, Cheek said insurgent activity in the east had been ``sporadic over the past six months and does not appear tied to any specific strategy or agenda.''
``It would appear that the Taliban in particular may be fragmenting and that its central core of leadership is unable to direct coordinated actions,'' he said in an e-mailed response to an AP reporter's questions. ``I would guess that there are a lot of things the Taliban and others want to do, but their ability to do those things are limited.''
He said most of the leaders he was tracking are local commanders suspected of attacks and bombings. A roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier on Jan. 2 in eastern Kunar province, but Cheek suggested criminal activity was a bigger problem in that region, where Hekmatyar loyalists are believed to find sanctuary among sympathetic villagers.
Afghan militant group appoints new leader
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan, Jan 10 (Reuters) - An Afghan militant group that kidnapped three U.N. workers last year has appointed a new leader after its old chief was arrested by Pakistani security forces, its new head said on Monday.
The Jaish-e Muslimeen, a small Taliban splinter faction, abducted U.N. workers Annetta Flanigan from Northern Ireland, Kosovan Shqipe Hebibi and Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan in Kabul on Oct. 28. The three were freed unharmed on Nov. 23.
After reports that a ransom was paid and of a possible dispute among the kidnappers over sharing it out, Pakistan said it had arrested the group's chief, Syed Akbar Agha, in December.
"I have been made leader of Jaish-e Muslimeen," Ishaq Manzoor told Reuters by satellite telephone. "The decision was taken by our Shura (council) and military commanders ... following the arrest of Syed Akbar."
The 35-year-old from southern Kandahar province vowed to press on resisting U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. "We will carry out big attacks," he said.
Manzoor was chief of police in Badghis province in northwest Afghanistan under the Taliban, who were overthrown by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 for harbouring al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The Jaish-e Muslimeen has attacked trucks and set off bombs, mainly in southern Afghanistan. The fledgling Afghan National Army, backed by some 18,000 U.S.-led troops, is hunting remnants of the Taliban, mainly in the south and east along the border with Pakistan.
Pakistani security forces are deployed on their side of the rugged border to catch those who try to escape and have arrested a number of Taliban and al Qaeda suspects who had taken refuge in Pakistani cities.
The police chief of Uruzgan province, Roozi Khan, was injured in a bomb attack on his car in Deh Rawud, police official Haji Abdullah said on Monday. Uruzgan, and Deh Rawud district in particular, has been a hotbed of activity for Taliban guerrillas.
Officials complete Afghan heavy weapons collection in stronghold of famed anti-Taliban commander
By EMILIO MORENATTI
SHATAL, Afghanistan (AP) Officials began removing tanks and rocket-launchers from the mountain stronghold of a famed anti-Taliban commander on Sunday, the final leg of a drive to collect all the heavy weapons in Afghanistan and help draw a line under its violent past.
Under the watch of U.N. monitors, officials began rounding up 110 tanks, rocket-launchers, missiles and artillery pieces from the Panjshir Valley, the redoubt of famed commander Ahmad Shah Massood, who defended it against Soviet occupiers and the Taliban and was a key player in the country's ruinous civil wars.
Officials said it would take two weeks to bring the weapons out of the valley, completing a nationwide program to round up heavy armaments and make a renewed outbreak of large-scale hostilities impossible.
``We've been trying to get into the Panjshir for quite some time,'' Anil Nayer, a U.N. official, told reporters as shells were removed from a well-maintained Soviet-built tank and loaded onto a truck in the shadow of a steep mountain. ``The largest concentration of heavy weapons in the country is here.''
The weapons are to be moved to a containment site north of the capital, Kabul, controlled by Afghanistan's new U.S.-trained national army. Collecting weapons and disbanding regional militias was a key element of the peace plan worked out after U.S. and Afghan Northern Alliance forces, including the political heirs of Massood, routed the former ruling Taliban three years ago.
the disarmament program languished under the interim government of President Hamid Karzai, whose Cabinet was dominated by former warlord and militia leaders.
But it picked up steam ahead of a September presidential election which Karzai won convincingly, and officials have predicted it will be complete in time for a parliamentary vote in the spring.
A program to demobilize militiamen and retrain them for civilian jobs such as mine-clearing and teaching has so far processed about half of the estimated 40,000-60,000 fighters in the country.
Amnesty Weighed for Afghan Drug Smugglers
By STEPHEN GRAHAM
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Afghan leaders are considering offering amnesty to drug smugglers who get out of the country's booming narcotics industry and invest their profits in national reconstruction, senior officials told The Associated Press.
The proposed amnesty could blunt a U.S.-sponsored crackdown on traffickers and opium poppy farmers and raises tough ethical questions for a government also seeking reconciliation with followers of the ousted Taliban regime.
Under pressure from the United States and Europe, President Hamid Karzai has declared a ``holy war'' against the narcotics trade, which has grown rapidly since the Taliban fell three years ago after a U.S.-led invasion. Karzai has said it is his top priority during the five-year term he won in landmark September elections.
On Sunday, Karzai's office would not say whether an amnesty was being discussed. But two senior officials told the AP that debate on the proposal had begun.
Karzai was ``considering the issue,'' said Haneef Atmar, his rural development minister. ``He finds it extremely difficult to bring any kind of amnesty for these people. But as a very responsible leader, he is always looking at all policy options.''
Atmar, whose ministry will handle a chunk of the foreign money flowing into anti-drug programs, said the government would have to discuss the ethical issues together with its key foreign backers the United States, Britain and the European Union as well as with the Afghan people.
“Can you give amnesty to those people that have made their wealth out of the miseries of Afghans and the youth of the West?'' Atmar said. ``It's not a government policy yet. It's a debate that has been opened.''
Diplomats in Kabul said an amnesty could weaken a group using their wealth to subvert Afghanistan's democratic rebirth. The United Nations recently warned that Afghanistan is in danger of becoming a ``narco-state.'' A U.N. survey estimated that poppy cultivation jumped two-thirds last year and supplied 87 percent of the world's opium, the raw material for heroin. It valued the trade at $2.8 billion, or more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's 2003 gross domestic product.
Officials say they face a powerful cross-border network of drug producers, smugglers and corrupt officials and that regional warlords and militant groups, including the Taliban, take a cut of the massive profits.
Afghan and foreign officials are drawing up plans to eradicate crops and train police to smash laboratories and arrest top smugglers. The United States has earmarked $780 million for the counter-narcotics drive this year.
In interviews during the past week, key officials insisted that offering conditional amnesty to major traffickers would help that drive by allowing the country's fledgling security forces to focus on recalcitrant suppliers and free up more resources to rebuild an economy shattered by a quarter-century of war.
``We would ask them to join the government and use their influence and capital to help eliminate poppies and to support the economy,'' said Lt. Gen. Mohammed Daoud, deputy interior minister for counternarcotics.
Afghan tribe threatens to burn opium growers' houses
KHOST, Afghanistan, Jan 9 (AFP) - Tribal elders in southeastern Afghanistan have threatened to torch the houses of people found growing opium and make them pay a hefty fine in a bid to stamp out burgeoning poppy cultivation.
By far the most drastic suggestion yet offered for tackling the country's rampant drug trade, the punishment failed to win the approval of Afghan President Hamid Karzai despite his anti-narcotics stance.
But with tribal law replacing a non-existent justice system in the outer reaches of Afghanistan and without a clearly defined strategy for eradicating drugs, the extreme solution shows just how tough the battle against opium is going to be.
Backed by the United States and other western governments, Karzai vowed after his inauguration last month to launch a 'jihad', or holy war, against narcotics, which account for two-thirds of Afghanistan's economy.
The tribal council of southeastern Khost province appeared to have taken him at his word, announcing in a radio broadcast earlier this week that anyone arrested for robbery, setting explosives or growing opium would have to pay a 100,000 Afghani (2,083 US dollar) fine and would have their house burnt down.
'All the tribes agreed to obey this agreement and all tribes signed it, so ordinary people in each tribe will obey and respect it,' Sultan Mohammad Babrakzai, assistant Head of Tribes Affairs Department in Khost, told AFP.
Babrakzai added that the tribesmen would also burn down the houses of anyone who supports Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the region, which has been a hotbed for attacks on US and pro-government forces.
Khost's tribal elders made the headlines in September ahead of Afghanistan's first presidential election for threatening to burn the houses of any locals found not to be voting for Karzai, who later won the October 9 poll.
Now they are throwing their weight behind Karzai's drive to stem the growth of Afghanistan opium crop which jumped 64 percent over the last year and now accounts for almost 90 percent of the world's opium and its heroin derivatives.
Karzai distanced himself from the threats, saying that violence was an unacceptable way to tackle the problem. 'While welcoming the determination of many Afghans to rid the country of the curse of poppies and drug cultivation, the government asks all Afghans to abide by the constitution and laws. The Afghan government is opposed to threats of violence against any Afghan citizen,' Karzai's spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad told AFP.
Growing or trafficking opium is a jailable offence but across southeastern Afghanistan government structures are weak and ancient tribal law holds sway, enforced by young men belonging to tribal militias while local courts and police forces are not robust enough to tackle the problem through legal means.
'Tribal leaders and rules have a big influence among ordinary people in Khost, so this agreement of tribal leaders will have an effect on security, reducing Taliban activities and clearing poppy cultivation in the region,' Ghazi Nawaz Tani, the head of Tribe Unity Council told AFP.
He was one of the those who drafted the new declaration and said tribal support could play a positive role in dealing with the two major challenges for the Afghan government -- security and stemming poppy cultivation.
But the tribal ruling apparently fails to address the crux of the opium problem in Afghanistan -- offering an alternative money-spinner to despairing, near-destitute local farmers.
'I cultivated poppies on my own land and if they grow and sell it can lift me out of poverty. I don't have an alternative,' Khan Bad Shah, a 36-year-old local farmer from Khost province told AFP. If tribal militias eradicate his poppy fields Shah would struggle because opium generates around 10 times more income that wheat or other cash crops.
Khost province is not one of Afghanistan's main opium growing regions because of the climate and the soil, and cultivation is mostly limited to more remote mountainous regions.
However, unrest in southern Afghanistan linked to the government's drive to eradicate opium poppies has already begun with at least one government soldier working on eradication killed Thursday in Deh Rawood district in southcentral Uruzgan province.
The soldier, who was part of a convoy of 50 soldiers working on poppy eradication, was killed by two militants local authorities said were linked to the Taliban. The attackers were killed later by government soldiers.
Afghan Judge Said to Admit Housing Bombers
By AMIR SHAH
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) A judge arrested in connection with two bombings last year that killed about 12 people, including four Americans, has acknowledged that the suspected organizers of the attacks lodged at his house, a senior official said Sunday.
Naqibullah, a 60-year-old preliminary court judge, was detained about two weeks ago after two captured suspects said they had stayed in his Kabul residence while planning an Aug. 29 car-bombing at a U.S. security firm as well as a suicide attack in the city.
Officials have identified the alleged ringleader as a Tajik national called Mohammed Haidar and say he took his orders from an Iraqi al-Qaida member. They accuse Haidar and an Afghan accomplice of organizing the attacks.
``The judge said he gave them shelter and that he knew they were foreigners,'' Gen. Abdul Fatah, a senior Afghan prosecutor, told The Associated Press. He wouldn't say whether the judge knew of the men's activities.
Three Americans were among about 10 people killed in the attack on the office of Dyncorp, a contractor that provides bodyguards for President Hamid Karzai and helps train Afghan police. Two months later, a man laden with hand grenades blew himself up on a shopping street near a group of Icelandic peacekeepers, injuring three soldiers and killing an American woman and an Afghan girl.
Officials say Haidar confessed his leading role in both bombings and has identified his accomplice as Abdul Ahad. Ahad and Naqibullah are from the same district of Afghanistan's Kapisa province, Fatah said.
American military officials insist the re-emergence of the Afghan government and stepped-up counterinsurgency operations have put rebels on the defensive but caution that al-Qaida cells could still be operating in Afghanistan.
The U.S. military has said that American and Afghan forces killed nine people and detained at least 18 others in a monthlong sweep against al-Qaida suspects near the Pakistani border late last year.
US to help Afghan army recruit soldiers
KABUL, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- In an effort to accelerate the recruiting process in the fledgling Afghan National Army (ANA), the US military is going to help Afghan government open more recruitment centers across the country, US official said here Monday.
"Eleven more recruitment centers are set to open in the next few months, bringing the total to 35, including two centers in Kabul," Graig Weston, head of the Office of Military Cooperation in Afghanistan told reporters at a news conference.
These recruitment centers, he added would be established in the restive southern provinces of Helmand, Nimruz, Zabul and other regions. Under the historic Bonn agreement, the post-war Afghanistan would have 70,000 strong brand new national army, of those over 21, 000 have already been trained.
"Today the Afghan National Army has more than 21,000 soldiers, about 17,800 trained soldiers and more than 3,400 in training," he noted. The rebuilding of 70,000-strong Afghan army, according to the US-led coalition, will be completed by September 2007.
Wide-scale arrest of Afghan refugees in Iran
LONDON – In the past two weeks Iran's police arrested a large number of Afghan refugees in different Iranian cities mainly in Kerman, southeastern Iran and Mashad, northeast of the country, Iran Emrooz reported.
Although many of the detainees had illegally entered Iran, others reportedly held residence documents and even passports. They were taken to a camp and after around 4 days some were released. Some of the detainees who had apparently entered Iran through legal channels claim that they could get rid of the police through paying bribes. They say that they were beaten up and that even some of their fellow country men died as they could not tolerate the cold weather and the inhuman conditions of the jails in the camp.
The Afghanistan Consulate in Mashad criticized the move of Iran's police, calling for a probe into the issue.
In an interview with BBC, the Managing Director of Foreign Nationals' affairs in Iran's Foreign Ministry emphasized that 'what these Afghan immigrants claim is in direct contrast with Iran's policies toward its neighboring country, Afghanistan'. However Ahmad Husseini noted that he will further investigate the issue.
The Boston Globe 10/01/2005
Afghanistan confronts many problems, but none is harder to solve than the widespread cultivation of opium poppies and the smuggled exports of refined opium and heroin. The Afghan drug trade corrodes the institutions President Hamid Karzai's government needs to build, distorts economic activity and warps social structures.
Since Afghanistan shares porous borders with neighboring countries, the flourishing Afghan poppy crop also casts a long shadow over Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Russia and those European cities where 90 percent of the heroin consumed originates from Afghanistan.
Because of the American stake in helping Afghanistan escape the horrors of the past, the Bush administration cannot afford to allow post-Taliban Afghanistan to become a narco-state.
Karzai's government is striving to create the administrative bodies and law enforcement mechanisms to contain and eventually reverse the growth of the opium trade. But thus far, the government's programs, though well intentioned, have not been up to the task of sharply reducing the opium poppy crop and the smuggling of heroin across the borders with Iran or Tajikistan.
Enormous profits from the opium trade finance not only provincial warlords and their militias but also Taliban remnants and Al Qaeda terrorists, so nourishing the very forces that prevent Afghanistan from establishing a true rule of law, an open society with equal rights for women, and a stable democratic government.
As much as Afghans need reconstruction aid, they also need substantial resources to pay farmers for crop substitution and to support law enforcement efforts to combat the drug lords. This means a major investment over many years, but that is the price of preventing Afghanistan from becoming once again a failed state.
Pakistan's Musharraf in talks with top US general
Mon Jan 10
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - The head of the US Central Command was in Pakistan for a meeting with key Washington ally President Pervez Musharraf, officials said.
General John Abizaid, who arrived in Islamabad on Sunday, was to hold talks with Musharraf and other senior Pakistani military figures on "regional issues of mutual interest", US embassy spokesman Greg Crouch said.
The visit by Abizaid, whose military zone includes most of Central Asia, including Afghanistan, and the Middle East, was part of "regular consultations" between the two countries, the spokesman added.
Islamabad has stood side-by-side with Washington since US President George W. Bush launched the "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Abizaid was due to leave Pakistan later Monday. The US embassy spokesman said he did not have further details of the general's itinerary.
Pakistan has moved thousands of troops into tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to hunt Osama bin Laden and other fugitive Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, while US troops are scouring the other side of the frontier. Pakistan has captured around 600 Al-Qaeda men including key operatives but the most wanted figures have slipped the net.
On Friday the United States advertised rewards in a top Pakistani daily for information leading to the capture of 14 key militants including bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.
In Pakistan's tribal areas, women throw off the burqa
Mon Jan 10
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - Zuhra Nafees drinks in the sights and sounds of Peshawar's riotous marketplace with newfound enthusiasm. A year ago the grate of a burqa separated her from the outside world.
Now the late twentysomething is clad only in the traditional Muslim chador, the long cloth that covers her body from head to toe but leaves her face completely unobscured.
"As our men are no longer stressing that we wear the burqa, so we have now abandoned it," said Zuhra, who belongs to the Mohmand tribe and lives in the semi-lawless tribal areas in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
Women in her family used to wear the so-called shuttlecock burqa, named for its resemblance to the cone of feathers used in badminton, "but now many wear the chador for covering their bodies in public places," she said.
Burqa-wearing was common for centuries in the ultraconservative ethnic Pashtun heartland that straddles the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It gained international notoriety when the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban came to power in Kabul in neghbouring Afghanistan. The Taliban punished women for not wearing the burqa and it became a symbol of religious intolerance and sexual oppression.
When the regime was toppled in late 2001 it was partly billed as a victory for Afghan women, who could finally cast off the restrictive garments and show their faces to the world.
Now with the spread of education and exposure to the media, observers have also detected a sharp decline in the numbers of Pakistanis choosing to wear it in the last few years.
"This area is experiencing great change in many Pashtun traditions and abandoning the traditional burqa is no exception," said Shahida Parveen, a female journalist.
Young, educated women are at the forefront of the revolution, she said, backed by the relaxing of attitudes among male Pashtuns regarding purdah, or wearing the veil. It reflects the gradual increase in professional and personal freedoms that women are winning in Pakistan's tribal regions.
Saleswomen can now be seen in some large stores, while females have taken posts in banking, IT and businesses like carpets and gems. In politics, a number of local government seats are reserved for women and a majority of those come from an alliance of strict Islamic parties. The provincial president of the largest Pashtun political party is also a woman.
The area is not giving up its strongly-held social and Islamic traditions without a fight. Older women in particular still remain hidden from view beneath burqas of many colours.
The practice has always been largely confined to the middle classes in Pashtun society, who consider it a mark of social status, according to Slama Shaheen, director of the Pashtun Academy at the University of Peshawar.
"Pashtuns were very simple and women in rural areas often worked alongside their men in fields so it was very difficult for them to wear the burqa," she said. Despite this, burqas are now more popular in the countryside than in towns and cities, as rural regions are less exposed to westernizing influences, says Shaheen.
"Due to education and the role of the media, a cultural change has been witnessed even among the conservative sections of Pashtuns," she adds. Few have seen the effect as much as the people who make and sell the all-enshrouding garments.
"The young girls do not wear the burqa anymore. They all prefer the chador," says Salim Shah, who has sold the headgear for the last 15 years at the Kochi Bazaar in Peshawar.
He said Afghan refugees were his major customers as they remained more faithful to the old ways compared to people in Pakistan's northwest. Ironically the burqa's last bastion is rapidly becoming Afghanistan, where it has lost some of its stigma as an instrument of Taliban repression.
It has regained currency "as a traditional rather than a religious form of veil," said Yaqoob Sharafat, director of the Afghan Islamic Press news agency, which is based in Peshawar. "In the past, women in the elite and religious families wore burqas as they were considered as a sign of pride and dignity."
Whatever happened to Osama?
By Anwer Mooraj – Dawn (Pak) Opinion
By now every householder in Karachi who owns a DVD player has probably seen Michael Moore's controversial documentary 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and formed his own opinion on who was behind the attack on the Twin Towers.
However, not many of them could have read or heard of Craig Unger's highly readable treatise 'House of Bush, House of Saud', which uncovers a nest-egg of little known facts about the intimate relationship between members of the Bush family and their political collaborators with Saudi Arabia's elite, which probably provided the intellectual stimulus for Moore's film.
Not all the facts or observations in Unger's book are true, which prompted Amazon to withhold distribution of the book in Britain, in spite of the fact that some sections had been removed from the UK edition. The narrative is, nevertheless, full of information and sensational disclosures and provides answers to some searching questions that members of the thinking public have been asking during the last few years.
Like, why did the Bush administration in July 2003 not declassify 28 pages of the 900-page US Congressional report on 9/11 that referred to the Saudis? And why does the capture of Osama bin Laden no longer figure as top priority in the objectives of the American military?
According to Unger, in the weeks or so following the 9/11 attack on New York and Washington, a number of flights took off from various airports in the United States crammed with members of the Saudi royal family and two dozen members of the Bin Laden family and their entourage.
After an exhaustive analysis of arcane deals and policy decisions spread over twenty years, Unger suggests that the Bush family and its close political collaborators benefited to the tune of $1.4 billion from their special connection with the elite of Saudi Arabia - hardly a figure to be scoffed at.
It is a well-known fact that following the spiralling of oil prices in 1974, the Saudis became huge investors in the United States. The Bush family, along with Dick Cheney at Halliburton, James Baker, the president's close friend and confidante, John Connolly, the former Texas governor and others were supposed to have earned millions of dollars from the Arab money flowing into Houston.
The country as a whole also benefited from the relationship, as more than $850 billion of oil money was invested in the American economy.Some of the strategic and carefully selected investments made by the Saudis poured into companies connected with the Bush family. These included Harken Energy, the huge Carlyle Group, and a number of smaller enterprises.
The Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the brainchild of the late Agha Hassan Abidi, was also exhumed in the book. It was demonstrated how Connolly was inveigled into acting as a front man for Saudi investment in the Carlyle Group, through BCCI. This has been seen as one of the many ways in which the Saudis expressed their gratitude to the senior George Bush for defending their country in the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein.
The section on BCCI is not very flattering. The highly successful institution, which provided lucrative jobs to Pakistani bankers in a hostile western environment, was frequently criticized for its unorthodox banking practices and the fact that there never appeared to be any sense of urgency in getting the accounts audited.
The bank came in for some severe editorial drubbing in 1981 in a dramatic expose spread over three articles in The Spectator, a respected British weekly, in which the writer described, among other things, money laundering and how wealthy Arab investors arriving at Heathrow airport were whisked away by uniformed and peak-capped chauffeurs in Rolls Royce limousines to the flesh spots of London.
It was believed that South African and Jewish financiers were behind the attack. Though the journal was sued, resulting in an unconditional apology by the publisher and the editor being relieved of his duties, the damage was done.
And when the international financier Gaith Pharon decided to pull out his share of the investment, cracks began to appear in the bank's operations. The collapse of BCCI was unfortunate, especially as the activities of the bank were no different from those of the other financial institutions operating in Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Cayman Islands, which managed to survive.
The foregoing details are common knowledge and are known to intelligence networks and bankers around the globe. What many people do not know, however - unless they have read Unger's book or ploughed through Bill Clinton's exceptionally long autobiography - is that when Clinton tried to take action against Osama bin Laden in the rugged fastness of Afghanistan, he was repeatedly thwarted by the Bush camp. This detail pops up in more than one place in the memoirs.
Instead of scouring the Hindu Kush Mountains in an attempt to capture the Saudi rebel who was accused in graphic detail by the international media of having masterminded 9/11, Bush suddenly and inexplicably diverted world attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, with deadly long-term consequences for US foreign policy.
Few people today seriously believe that Osama bin Laden, who operated from a cave at the time, apparently without the aid of instruments of modern communication, and whose videos mysteriously surfaced in Qatar and were aired on the Al-Jazeera television network, was the architect of the devastating attacks on the Twin Towers.
Or that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the Al Qaeda network. It is a little late to ponder over this issue, after so many people, unconnected with the Baathist regime, have been killed.
The question that is agitating the minds of critics in this part of the world is: could the American hawks have known before the US unleashed its devastating air strikes on Baghdad, that the reports supplied by British intelligence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, were perhaps erroneous and based on pure conjecture?
If the answer to this query is that the hawks did know, and the findings were really quite irrelevant, it then becomes increasingly obvious that in wanting to continue its role as the world's policeman, the US is simply following the imperialist policy enunciated by past American presidents.
Between the end of the Spanish-American war and the dawn of the Great Depression, the United States had sent its troops to Latin American countries 32 times. To justify these interventions, it used the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.
In the corollary, Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed that the United States, because it was a "civilized nation," had the right to stop "chronic wrongdoing" throughout the western hemisphere. John Kennedy had widened the spectrum to include Viet Nam and the two Bushes had extended the doctrine to the Middle East.
"Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship," Teddy Roosevelt said. "Chronic wrongdoing, however, may force the United States to exercise an international police power."
There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a chronic wrongdoer who needed to be removed. It is the methods that the US has employed in ousting him that have been condemned by world opinion.
Why couldn't the marines have opted for a swift, efficient, surgical Mossad-like operation, instead of killing over a hundred thousand civilians who had no connection whatsoever with the Baathist regime?
Some letter writers have wondered how long it will be before the US labels Pakistanis as being chronic wrongdoers. Pakistan did not figure at all well in the US list of free democracies that grant political rights and civil liberties to their citizens.
On a scale of one to 10, where the higher the number the worse the assessment, the country scored a six for political rights and a five for civil liberties. The issue of Dawn dated Jan 7 carried a story that naturalized Americans could be deported to their country of origin if involved in anti-state activities.
This must have sent a shiver down the spine of the hundreds of thousands Pakistani Americans, many of whom are fiercely law-abiding, but because of 9/11, feel more vulnerable than other immigrants.
As it is, they couldn't be very happy with President Bush's nominee for attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who faced blistering criticism at a Senate confirmation hearing for his role in formulating policies that led to the torture of terror suspects, many of them Pakistanis.
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).