France, Germany endorse Obama’s Afghanistan plans
DEBORAH SEWARD • Associated Press Writer • April 4, 2009
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — France and Germany fully endorsed President Barack Obama’s new Afghan war strategy but continued to firmly resist U.S. demands for more combat troops today in a rift that overshadowed symbols of unity at NATO’s 60th-anniversary summit.
Obama told NATO leaders the alliance should remain open to new members, another stance that is likely to meet resistance from his allies. Germany, France and many other NATO nations believe that any more eastward expansion will further damage ties Russia that the alliance is trying hard to mend.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and two dozen other NATO leaders walked across a bridge separating Germany and France in a moment of unity before the summit began. The leaders met French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the halfway point on the Europa bridge spanning the Rhine river — a symbolic departure from the enmity that once tore apart Europe and a setting aside of current differences, at least for a few minutes.
NATO’s ability to succeed in Afghanistan is seen as a crucial test of the power and relevance of the alliance founded to counterbalance the Soviet Union and now fighting a rising insurgency far beyond its borders. European leaders and voters remain deeply skeptical about whether more troops can stabilize a country devastated by decades of war.
As the summit itself got under way, Obama took a moment to welcome Albania and Croatia to being alliance membership to 28. Obama said he looked forward to the day when Macedonia will join NATO. Macedonia’s accession to NATO has been blocked over a dispute the country has with Greece.
Obama also said that “the door to membership will remain open” for countries that meet NATO standards and can make a meaningful contribution to allied security. He did not specify whether future members could come from the former Soviet Union, which Russia opposes.
“We cannot afford to lose,” Sarkozy said in opening remarks, “because there (Afghanistan), some of the freedom of the world is at stake.” Merkel, the summit co-host, said that Afghanistan was a “test” case for the alliance.
Good will toward Obama, who worked the room patting leaders he had just met on the back, was in ample evidence.
“We trust him,” Sarkozy said. “We were expecting and waiting for the words we heard.”
However, both Merkel and Sarkozy stressed the need for Afghanistan’s government and security forces to shoulder an increasing share of the burden. They gave no sign they were prepared to send more troops. Both countries believe civilian aid and training for police are what is needed to stabilize Afghanistan.
“What we need to do is to understand Afghanistan is a test case for all of us,” Merkel said. “We need to promote Afghanization.”
At the summit’s opening on Friday, Obama promised to repair damaged relations with Europe and asked for support of his new strategy, which has him adding 21,000 U.S. troops to the force of 38,000 struggling against Taliban advances alongside a like number of European, Canadian and non-NATO forces
Obama said upon his arrival in Strasbourg on Friday that Europe should not expect the United States to bear the combat burden alone.
“This is a joint problem,” Obama said. “And it requires a joint effort.”
But Afghanistan remained at the heart of the summit. Sarkozy and Merkel again stressed their support for the new strategy on Afghanistan that Obama was formally unveiling.
“Provision to stop supporting terror in India by Pakistan as proposed in US bill is not sufficient one to check sponsored terrorism” – alertpak analysis.
Washington: A US bill seeking to triple non- military aid to Pakistan to a massive USD 1.5 billion annually has asked Islamabad to stop supporting Terror groups active in India, recognising that certain elements in its establishment, specially ISI, have aided and trained such organisations over the past few decades.
The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act, carrying bi-partisan support, has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Howard L Berman, Chairman of powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.
An identical bill is scheduled to be tabled in Senate soon. The bill aimed at trippling the aid to Pakistan to USD 1.5 billion per annum for the next five years is part of the new Af-Pak policy of US President Barack Obama.
Unlike the Bush Administration wherein there was no accountability of the USD 10 billion given to Pakistan post 9/11 attacks, the new bill not only tends to make Islamabad accountable for the every penny spent, but also lists out do’s and don’ts for the Islamabad Government.
Noting that certain elements in Pakistani establishment, especially ISI, have supported, aided and trained organisations to carry out terrorist activities in India over the past few decades, the PEACE bill imposes condition on Pakistan not to “support any person or group that conducts violence, sabotage or other activities meant to instil fear or terror in India.”
Without directly naming disgraced Pakistani scientist A Q Khan, the bill asks Islamabad to ensure access of US investigators to individuals suspected of engaging in worldwide proliferation of nuclear materials and restrict such individuals from any travel or any other activity that could result in further proliferation, the 59-page bill, a copy of which has been obtained by the PTI, enjoys bi-partisan support. Besides Berman, it has been co-sponsored by Congressmen Ron Kirk (Republican from Illinois), Gary Ackerman (Democrat from New York), Edward Royce (Democrat from California), Sheila Jackson-Lee (Democrat from Texas), Brad Sherman (Democrat from California) and Robert Wexler (Democrat from New York).
The bill has the support of Obama, who last week urged the Congress to approve USD 1.5 billion per annum non-military aid to Pakistan for the next five years at the earliest.
Among other prominent conditions imposed on Pakistan in lieu of the massive US aid are closure of madrassas having links with terrorist organisations and a strict scrutiny and control of the syllabus of these madrassas, which have been a breeding ground for terrorists.
Pakistan, particularly the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, as well as areas under central Government authority such as Quetta in Balochistan and Muridke in Punjab remain a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and affiliated groups from which these groups organise terrorist acts against Pakistan and other countries, the bill says.
Making it tougher for Pakistani Army to organise another military coup, the bill calls for a strong parliamentary democracy and independent judiciary. The US aid after January 1 next year could be received only by the civilian government constituted through a free and fair election.
It expects Pakistan to take steps to improve counter- terrorism financing and money-laundering laws and redouble its efforts to prevent the presence of the Taliban and Taliban- affiliated groups in Pakistan that support insurgents in Afghanistan.
The bill rules that every year before the USD 1.5 billion non-military aid is released, the US President would have to certify to the Congress that Pakistan has made progress with regard to “ceasing support, including by any elements within its military or intelligence agency, to extremist and Terror groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against US or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory of India or the people of India.
ISI’s links with Haqqani, Hekmatyar a matter of concern: US
4 Apr 2009, 1434 hrs IST, PTI
WASHINGTON: United States has said it was concerned about the ISI’s contacts with the extremist groups including those led by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani network.
“The ISI’s contacts with some of these extremist groups — with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Haqqani network, Commander Nazir and others — are a real concern to us, and we have made these concerns known directly to the Pakistanis,” Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview to Afghan TV.
While top officials of the Obama Administration have now started publicly acknowledging the connection between ISI and extremist networks, this is possibly for the first time in recent times that the Defence Secretary has himself named the terrorist groups that have links with the ISI.
According to transcripts of the interview made available by Department of defence, Gates hoped that the Pakistani establishment would put an end to this nexus between ISI and extremist groups.
In response to a question, Gates said the US would continue with its drone attacks.
“The President has made clear that we will go after al-Qaida and their planning cells and their training centers, wherever they are in the world,” he said
Al-Qaida leadership resides in Pak tribal areas: US
4 Apr 2009, 1508 hrs IST, PTI
WASHINGTON: Al-Qaida’s top leadership is hiding in Pakistan’s troubled north-western tribal region, “harboured and supported” by the Taliban, a key US military commander has said, declaring that defeating the terrorist network is the principal focus of the Obama administration.
“Their leadership resides in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the western border of Pakistan,” said Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Al-Qaeda leadership is “harboured, supported, given areas to rest and train by the Taliban,” who move across that border freely, Mullen said in his address to the Hudson Union Club yesterday.
“While we have a democratically elected government in Afghanistan, it is very important that over the next couple of years for sure, we’re able to turn around what is a trend of increased violence in security for the Afghan people so that they can essentially vote out and eliminate the Taliban from their country, as well,” he added.
Pakistan’s Afghan border regions world’s most dangerous place: Obama
Fri, Mar 27 09:45 PM
Washington, March 27 (ANI): The U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said that Pakistan’s Afghan border regions had turned into “the most dangerous place in the world.
Obama pledged a major effort, including through a spike in economic assistance, to bring stability to Pakistan, warning that its Afghan border regions had turned into “the most dangerous place in the world.”
The President made such observations while unveiling his new Pak-Afghan strategy on Friday.
Obama ordered 4,000 extra troops and a major boost in the civilian presence in Afghanistan, vowing to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” the Al-Qaeda extremist network.
Obama said that Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to root out Al-Qaida.
“We cannot and we will not give a blank cheque to Pakistan,” said Obama, adding: “extremists are a cancer that is killing Pakistan from within”
“We will pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan,” Obama added.
The US President has proposed 1.5 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan. (ANI)